Return of the Rake

In Fumento's latest article he accuses the leading science journals of delivering "Political Science". His examples are a mixture of genuine problems discovered by others (like the Korean stem cell fraud) and bogus problems "discovered" by Fumento. Like this:

Fast forward to September 2005, right after Hurricane Katrina. Activists -- including those in white lab coats -- saw a grand opportunity to tie the exceptionally violent hurricane season to global warming. A study in Science declared, "A large increase was seen in the number and proportion of hurricanes reaching categories 4 and 5."

But again, the researchers simply cut off their data at 1970, although public statistics go back to 1850. As with the gender ratio study, using the full data set would have reversed the conclusion. Why did the editors and peer-reviewers at both JAMA and Science not insist on use of the full data set? Because slicing off inconvenient data is a time-honored tool of advocacy science -- precisely what these and other "scientific" journals now promote.

Fortunately Fumento provided links so anyone can see how he screwed up. The study in Science examined all the hurricanes in the entire world, while the data that goes back to 1850 is just for hurricanes that strike the US, which comprise a tiny fraction of hurricanes in the world. Did the researchers cut off their data at 1970? Here's what they said:

we conducted a comprehensive
analysis of global tropical cyclone
statistics for the satellite era (1970-2004).

So they used all the available satellite data. If you just look at the hurricanes striking the US mainland, it doesn't matter whether you start at 1970 or not -- the number of category 4 and 5 hurricanes striking the US mainland has not increased since 1970.

But that's not the best bit of Fumento's column. Who can ever get tired of seeing Fumento step on a rake? Observe:

Some journal editors are completely unabashed about their chicanery. In 2004 The Lancet released ahead of publication and right before the 2004 U.S. presidential election an outrageous report claiming 100,000 Iraqi civilians had been killed since the U.S. invasion. Yet other calculations showed a range of 15,000-24,000 -- and even bin Laden claimed just "over 15,000."

His link goes to one of Fumento's innumerate critiques of the Lancet study which I dealt with here. As for the rest, Fumento does not seem to realize that the "other calculations" were measuring a different subset of deaths over a different time frame.

And guess who picked up on Fumento's piece? John Hinderaker, whose ignorance about science is legendary. Hinderaker comments:

The moral of the story is that the leading scientific journals have been taken over by liberals who value politics over truth. So any time you see a news report on a "scientific" journal article that ostensibly has political implications, you should greet it with skepticism.

No, the moral is that every time you see an article by Fumento, you should greet it with skepticism. And optionally with some derisive laughter.


More like this

Yesterday Tim did a very nice blog post in which he took apart a Michael Fumento column attacking scientific journals. I contributed a smidgeon to the debunking in the comments section. I was very proud of myself. But little did I know (mainly because I didn't read to the end of Tim's post) that…
Powerline. Round about these parts, that name is pretty much a synonym for stupid, and I see they're doing a good job of maintaining their reputation. You'd think they'd learn that whenever they step into the domain of science, their level of ignorance is even more palpably apparent than usual.…
Welcome to the 2004 Deltoid awards. Today we are giving out the Golden Rake Award, named in honour of Sideshow Bob and the rakes in the Simpsons Cape Feare episode: How many other series would waste valuable prime-time real estate by showing a man whacking himself in the face…
I really don't know where to begin with this anti-Lancet piece by Michael Fumento. Should I start with the way Fumento describes Kane's paper as "so complex" that it "may cause your head to explode" while being utterly certain that Kane has demolished the Lancet study? Or with his assertion that…

Just one other point to add. In the first quotation provided, Fumento suggests that the paper in Science was timed to exploit Katrina. Anyone familiar with the scientific publication process knows that it takes months for a study to go through peer review and then come out. It's a safe bet that when these authors first submitted this work the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season hadn't even started, or had only barely started.

From Science article...

Received for publication 22 June 2005. Accepted for publication 18 August 2005.

It's not just about science. It's about the ongoing attempts by the far right to create their own hermetically sealed epistemological system. They work to dismiss all possible alternate sources of authority as "liberal." This allows followers to dismiss any contrary source of facts as "biased."

It's funny, sort of, and worth the derisive laughter you mention. But it's also creepy and scary. There's something truly fucked up about a democracy in which a fairly large portion of the citizenry has walled themselves off from exposure to reality.

By David Roberts (not verified) on 28 Feb 2006 #permalink

It's sobering to realize that there is still a large subsegment of the population in the industrialized world which plainly still believes in superstition, magical thinking, that certain concepts are in themselves inherently good or evil (i.e. socialist, communist, terrorist, etc. etc). Of course, the Law of Irony states that this would be the segment of the population least likely to accept parallels with primate sociology....

Good thing that Fumento "has not yet begun to write" - laughter is the best medicine.

The moral of the story is that the leading scientific journals have been taken over by liberals who value politics over truth. So any time you see a news report on a "scientific" journal article that ostensibly has political implications, you should greet it with skepticism.

I want to buy guns. Lots of guns.

Mr. Fumento has done an excellent job, over the year's of debunking the common misconceptions put forth by statists and others, in which they try to twist actual science and data to back up their viewpoints. He did a good job, along with John Stossel, of refuting the hype surrounding Erin Brockovich.

While he may be wrong about Gulf War Syndrome, Mr. Fumento is an excellent writer and analyst. The fact that he seems to have the Establishment upset shows that he is on the right track.

"The moral of the story"

is that what passes for conservatism these days has been taken over by a pack of braying idiots of whom none have the intellectual capacity for a career in the sciences, or any other field where the correct results of lots of intense thinking are the road to success, rather than the ability to outshout and out-insult some "opponent".

Aakash said: "He did a good job, along with John Stossel, of refuting the hype surrounding Erin Brockovich."

I think you should do a little more reading on this subject. The paper used by Chemrisk in support of PG&E was shown to be fraudently writen by them.


"[The journal's editor] Brandt-Rauf began investigating the paper after being alerted by the The Wall Street Journal and Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group, that the paper was actually compiled and written by employees of a consulting company called ChemRisk, rather than the Chinese physicians JinDong Zhang and ShuKun Li, who were listed as sole authors."

More nonsense from Fumento.

Ian Forrester

By Ian Forrester (not verified) on 23 Sep 2006 #permalink

"The fact that he seems to have the Establishment upset"

An odd time, when those who are in opposition to the administration running the US are known as the 'Establishment'. Did we establish something, and if so what, or were we established, and if so when and by whom?