Skeptics' Circle 102 at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes

Please check out this week's skeptics' circle at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes.

Of note, I liked Dr Austs' post on the human toll of HIV/AIDS denialism, it is stirring. I also found the Skeptic's field guide particularly interesting. I would have two suggestions. One would be to prioritize by frequency of use or rhetorical appeal rather than alphabetical, and second would be to include a section on conspiracy (like the ones the Lay Scientist and Dubito Ergo Sum describe in this issue ), which I believe is the hallmark of all denialist arguments. If you need a non-parsimonious conspiracy theory to explain your beliefs, well, you should re-think your beliefs.

And speaking of conspiracies, I forgot to blog the hysterical interchange between Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi - author of The Great Derangement, and David Ray Griffin, 9/11 truther crank. The whole thing is instructive in the lesson of not arguing with cranks, but it doesn't get interesting until part II when Taibbi starts to figure this out for himself.

As you've noticed, I struggled for quite some time with the question of how to answer your responses. Mainly this was because I was unsure of whether to treat this exercise like a comedy (because it's certainly hard to take seriously any "debate" with a person who believes that Rudy Giuliani would conspire to blow up the densest slice of taxpaying real estate in the world, the New York City financial district, in order to save his city the cost of an asbestos cleanup) or whether to aim higher and treat it like a serious political argument. I tried it both ways and neither way seemed to fit. Treating this like an absurdist comedy, I realized, I'm making it hard for readers to see how monstrous and offensive your arguments are -- but then again, when I take you seriously, spending paragraph after crazed paragraph grandstanding against you and your book, suddenly I'm the one who looks ridiculous.

Then it hit me, and probably far too late: the correct play here is to ignore you and your arguments entirely. There are many things about your work that are outrageous and offensive, but the very worst thing about you and other 9/11 conspiracists -- and, I guess, lately anyway, me -- is that you're/we're a distraction from the real problem.

It gets better. Taibbi really nails the fundamental problem with all of the false-flag arguments the truthers always lay out against reality:

This same public -- the same public that stood meekly by when its manufacturing economy was exported overseas, that cheered when our government pledged to "get tough" with China by demanding that it allow us to weaken our currency vis a vis the Yuan, that twiddled its thumbs when Wall Street played Keno with the nation's homeowner savings, that has consistently voted overwhelmingly to deprive itself of its right to litigate against powerful companies -- this is the public you think George Bush and Dick Cheney needed to blow up downtown Manhattan for, in order to get them on board with a war against Iraq, the Patriot Act, and whatever else.
All of this 9/11 Truther stuff, it's a silly distraction. A country whose economy is about to go down the shitter, to the brink of depression, thanks to three-plus decades of routinely-ignored Wall Street deregulation just can't afford to be wasting its time arguing about thermite reactions and "morphing technology." Captivated by the comic possibilities of Truther literature, I realized this too late. As you'll see below, I even spent a lot of time pulling what's left of my hair out over your answers to questions that even I admit now go beyond inane. I admit in advance to looking silly for doing so, and hereby make a promise to God that I won't do it again, at least not as long as we have other things to worry about. All the same, some of the stuff you came up with, Professor sheesh! And I thought I was loony!

Freaking awesome. I'm sorry I didn't write about it when it came out. His final diagnosis of Griffin's writing was beautiful:

In the end it all comes down to what you believe. If you believe that events in life tend to have simple explanations, then you're not going to be very impressed by Griffin's arguments. If on the other hand you think that the people running this country spend their days plotting to create phantom civilian jet-liner flights, disappearing whole fuselages full of passengers, and then shooting missiles into the Pentagon in broad daylight in order to cover up embezzlement schemes if you think, in other words, that our government is run by the same people who cook up second-rate French spy movies or your mind instantly produces the word "crossbow" when asked to produce A MURDER WEAPON by a Mad Libs script well, then, you're probably going to enjoy Griffin's books.



More like this

Our recent discussions of HIV/AIDS denial and in particular Seth Kalichman's book "Denying AIDS" has got me thinking more about the psychology of those who are susceptible to pseudoscientific belief. It's an interesting topic, and Kalichman studies it briefly in his book mentioning the "suspicious…
And it may even be more when one considers that there is likely non-overlap between many of these conspiracies. It really is unfortunate that their isn't more social pushback against those that express conspiratorial views. Given both the historical and modern tendency of some conspiracy theories…
Ever since I started Your Friday Dose of Woo (YFDoW) back in June, I had always intended that someday I wanted to expand this loving deconstruction of various forms of woo beyond just medical woo and quackery. True, having a little fun with woo that claims to treat disease or restore health is…
I've sort of alluded to it, but grant fever took over the last couple of days as the deadline approaches. Unfortunately, it happened right around the time when the GMC ruling on Andrew Wakefield came down and came down hard on him and his unethical behavior. Oh, well, as they say, it looks like I…

" the correct play here is to ignore you and your arguments entirely."

If you ignore them then they'll trumpet the fact that nobody has bothered with their idiocy as "nobody has debunked what I've said." A more useful option might be to take the middle ground and engage the argument(s) while ignoring the crank. That way people confronted with these arguments know that they are bogus while depriving the cranks the attention they crave.

Personally, someone should create a talkorigins type website for dealing with 9-11 truthers. Curious people will get good information, smart people can cut and paste information answers from it to answer the charges of cranks, and cranks spend their time debating in forum posts and chat rooms rather than polluting the world with their idiocy.

Mark, the link that should lead to Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes actually links right back to this post.

I can find Happy's place easily enough on my own, but you might want to fix that link for other readers' convenience.

By Ktesibios (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Personally, someone should create a talkorigins type website for dealing with 9-11 truthers.

Sounds like a job for an AI -- they're repetitive enough that it shouldn't be all that hard to crank up an anti-ELIZA type program.

After a few months of arguing with a bot, when they brag about it someone should clue them into the fact that they were proud of "outsmarting" a script.

By D. C. Sessions (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink

Even we global warming "denialists" laugh at the 9-11 "truthers".

On the subject of Web resources dealing with 9/11 deniers, I can highly recommend Mark Roberts' near-exhaustive compendium of information at:

Mike Williams in the UK has also compiled a great deal of useful knowledge at 9/11 Myths:

By Ktesibios (not verified) on 18 Dec 2008 #permalink…

The views of Dr. Duesberg, Dr. David Crowe, Dr. Charles Geshekter, and other disidents who dispute the infectious model for AIDS are summarized below.

1) All viruses are harmless after antibody immunity. Disease is caused before the antibodies are created, because it is the antibodies that neutralize the pathogen and enable the host to recover. When people test positive for the antibodies, that means they have developed resistance, �immunity� to the virus. No microbe causes disease only after antibodies have appeared, as HIV is claimed to do. Why develop a vaccine for people who already have the antibodies to the disease? Duesberg: �there is no virus in AIDS patients, only antibodies.�

2) Retroviruses, which are one type of virus, do not kill T-cells. They do not kill the cell they infect�ever. (AIDS is diagnosed partly by a deficiency of T-cells.)

3) HIV does not infect enough T-cells to cause disease.

4) No retrovirus causes disease and there is no logical reason why they should.

5) Viruses replicate quickly; there is no such thing as a slow virus. If a host cannot mount an immune defense quickly enough, the virus will overwhelm and kill the host in a matter of days or weeks. Yet we are told that HIV can cause up to 30 different diseases ten years after initial infection. None of these diseases are specific to AIDS; all existed prior to the �discovery� of AIDS.

6) HIV is not a new virus. When a virus is new in a population that has never been exposed to it, it explodes exponentially. But this is not what we see with AIDS. The number of AIDS cases hasn�t changed since 1985.

7) It fails Koch�s Postulates, which require four steps to verify that an infectious agent is the cause of a disease.

1. the agent must be found in all cases of the disease;

2. it must be isolated from the host;

3. it must cause the same disease when injected into a healthy host; and

4. it must then be found growing again in the newly infected host.

HIV fails all of these tests. Although theoretically it can be found and isolated from a host, this is in practice very difficult to do, since the HIV virus is not found in humans; only antibodies to HIV are found.

The history of medicine has many examples of diseases which were assumed to be infectious but later proved not to be. Scurvy is caused by a vitamin C deficiency, Beriberi is caused by a thiamine deficiency, and pellagra is caused by a niacin deficiency. All failed Koch�s postulates and all ultimately proved to be non-infectious dietary deficiencies.…
notiz=HIV/AIDS denialists don't get to use our site to spread lies.

Wow. It burns.

Yes. It burns. From the site of Sheila Casey, above:

The NWO plan for a global dictatorship was described 38 years ago


The world is ruled by a Satanic cult

Rothschild family? Illuminati? CIA assassins? It's all there. Serious nutjob, this one.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

Oops! Forgot to fill in my info! That was me up there.

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 19 Dec 2008 #permalink

I would have two suggestions. One would be to prioritize by frequency of use or rhetorical appeal rather than alphabetical

I agree. Alphabetization is great for indexes, but throws information away by putting things in an order not naturally related to the material. I would try grouping them by similarity (failures of logic, irrelevant attacks, false authority/evidence, etc), then perhaps by frequency of use.

It's just amazing: *even* with disemvowellment, I can still read "Duesberg".That's power for you!

By Denice Walter (not verified) on 22 Dec 2008 #permalink

In the denial of complete 911 investigation, you display the mindset of the Catholic's treatment of Galileo.

You call fellow Americans "loonies." Galileo was imprisoned for a large part of his life. Are you going to imprison all the Americans who want a scientific investigation of 911?

Your choice is between scientific empiricism or inexplicable dogma. The choice is yours. History will judge us.

By charles thomson (not verified) on 11 Jan 2009 #permalink

“Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment; you must also be right.” (Robert Park)

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. What do you have? Anything?

By LanceR, JSG (not verified) on 12 Jan 2009 #permalink