Crank Convergence

Keeping quiet for the last few days has given me the advantage of seeing patterns in my firefox tabs. I see news stories in my feed that I'm interested in, open them in tabs and figure maybe I can blog about them later.

Well, the result of doing this for the last week has led to a couple of nice crank convergences.

The first is this crank attack on scientific consensus from John West at ID the future. It follows a pretty standard crank script. First a misstatement of what scientific consensus means

Should the consensus view of science always prevail? Darwinists often claim science isn't democratic and that students should therefore learn only the evidence which supports Darwin's theory because that theory is held by the majority of scientists

Only the evidence that supports Darwin's theory? Here is the problem. The IDers are trying to oppose the scientific consensus on evolution, which would be acceptable, if they actually had evidence. But they don't. They just have promiscuous teleology.

The rest of the podcast consists of the same old nonsense. Consensus has been wrong before, therefore we should allow dissenting views be presented when the public believes something different yada yada. Which would be fine and scientists agree if those views were based on science.

West then lists three criteria used for silencing debate:

1. Majority of scientists support the theory.
2. Critics aren't scientists.
3. Critics are religious.

Of course, this is a total straw man attack, and no scientists who are fighting to prevent the teaching of cdesign proponentsists' nonsense in schools uses these criteria. Except the first of course, which is true, except that it is overly simplistic. The majority of scientists support the theory of evolution because that is what the data supports, it isn't just some silly belief like a magic man done it. The second two criticisms are frankly absurd. And we don't object to the religion of the opponents because of their religion, but rather that they are trying to insert religious ideas into the debate without any scientific data to back them up. If they had data, or a cohesive theory that presented a valid explanation for the existing data, we might be able to talk. Instead, cdesign proponentsists have nothing but religious ideology, dishonestly presented as science, with the goal of subverting legitimate scientific education. We here at denialism blog, who believe that debate should be squelched when it is the non-productive squealing of cranks who don't like science, have a real set of criteria for ignoring the misinformation campaigns of pseudoscience. None of those criteria are of course those that he lists, because it would be to difficult to argue with.

Noting all the recent attacks on the mere idea of consensus by the anti-AGW crowd, I am of course thrilled that the cdesign proponentsists are now also taking this tactic. Although, this is the underlying theme of all Galileo gambits and other crank views of persecution by some bizarre notion of dogmatic science.

The second convergence of crank thinking is also between cdesign proponentsists and AGW denialists, except in this case it's Denyse O'Leary and Tim Blair converging in their crankery.

Both are crowing about the recent correction by UN health officials of worldwide AIDS statistics, which were mistaken due to a sampling bias.

This is wonderfully consistent with what we know about how cranks operate. Any perceived slight to science is good news because they think it means that their particular brand of nonsense gains in legitimacy when mainstream science is proven wrong. This is of course absurd, this is science correcting itself, which is what legitimate science does. Only cranks react with glee to the denigration of science, a quality Blair has in spades. It's a sure sign of a crank, along with attacks on consensus, attack on peer review and a persecution complex which we noted long ago in our HOWTO. It's gratifying to see the consensus theory on cranks fit the data so nicely.

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"promiscuous teleology" is a great name for a band.
It sure isn't science.

By longsmith (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

This is wonderfully consistent with what we know about how cranks operate. Any perceived slight to science is good news because they think it means that their particular brand of nonsense gains in legitimacy when mainstream science is proven wrong.

Because of course if someone makes a calculation mistake, that automatically means all of science is flawed.

I read a lot of popular science books, written by both scientists and educated non-scientists and one things I notice in almost all of them is that when they discuss a theory they make it clear how well the theory is accepted amongst other scientists, and what disagreements there are. That is the honest thing to do of course and lets the reader know if the author favours a theory that is not the majority opinion. Creationists of course would view such admissions as a sign of weakness.

By Matt Penfold (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

Both are crowing about the recent correction by UN health officials of worldwide AIDS statistics, which were mistaken due to a sampling bias.

At least this is better than the assorted HIV Denialists that are crowing after the failure of HIV vaccine and microbocide trials. This means that a high number of people became infected with HIV despite the vaccines and microbocides. This is a tragic failure. It is morally reprehensible to celebrate the failure. These people that became infected will probably progress to AIDS and die. Even using denialist rethunk their HIV serostatus will mean being treated with "toxic" antiretrovirals.

At least the lower estimate is really good news. Fewer people are infected with HIV than were previously thought. 33 million is still a huge problem but it is better than 40 million.

By Chris Noble (not verified) on 21 Nov 2007 #permalink

Should the consensus view of science always prevail? Darwinists often claim science isn't democratic and that students should therefore learn only the evidence which supports Darwin's theory because that theory is held by the majority of scientists

Here's the other problem, that statement is self-contradicting. Science "isn't democratic," but learn about evolution "because that theory is held by the majority of scientists." He can't even keep his straw men straight.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Nov 2007 #permalink

Creationists of course would view such admissions as a sign of weakness.

Well, sort of - they wouldn't see it as a weakness of the hypothesis so much as a lack of faith on the part of the reporter.

By Caledonian (not verified) on 22 Nov 2007 #permalink

My tuppence worth.
So much quackery resembles religion in all the important aspects to such an extent that it is for all practical purposes religion. Leaders, bibles, commandments set in stone, disciples, warring factions, denial of evidence, anecdote masquerading as evidence... (look at homeopathy for a first class example).
Religion = faith. Faith = belief without evidence. If there were evidence to support religion it would be science. Where's the difficulty for anyone not addicted to absolutism?
I see the problem as one of overwhelming fear of the unknown on the part of the absolutist.

That's probably thruppence worth!