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How to spot “alternative scientists”.

Filed under: — rasmus @ 12 August 2020

Recently, a so-called “white coat summit” gave me a sense of dejavu. It was held by a group that calls itself ‘America’s Frontline Doctors’ (AFD) that consisted of about a dozen people wearing white coats to the effect of achieving an appearance of being experts on medical matters.

 

The AFD apparently wanted to address a “massive disinformation campaign” (what irony) and counter the medical advice from real health experts. This move has a similar counterpart in climate science, where some individuals also have claimed to be experts and dismissed well-established scientific facts, eg. that emissions of CO2 from the use of fossil fuels results in global warming.

 

Climate science is not the only discipline where we see confusion sown by a small number of “renegades”. A few white-coated scholars have disputed the well-established danger of tobacco. We see similar attitudes among the “Intelligent Design” community and the so-called “anti-vaxxers”.

 

Statistically speaking, we should not be surprised by a few contrarians who have an exceptional opinion within a large scientific community. It is to be expected from a statistical point of view where there is a range of opinions, so there should be little reason to make a big deal out it.

 

On the other hand, there are some fascinating stories to be told. Sometimes there are individuals who can be described as “crackpots” and “quakesalvers” (e.g. a scholar believing in dowsing rods among the climate renegades and some within the AFD who talk about demons). Hollywood has even realized that some scientists may be mad, which has given us the familiar term “mad scientist”. But all “renegades” may of course not necessarily be mad.

 

Nevertheless, according to Snopes, the background of the individuals of the AFD is rather colourful. And there is nothing in the background provided about them that gave me any confidence in their judgement. On the contrary.

 

A sign that should trigger a big warning is that Snopes found it difficult to see who the AFD really are or where their conclusions really come from. The transparency is lacking and their story is murky. Especially so if the results have not been published through renowned peer-reviewed scientific journals. This is something we have seen time and again with climate change contrarians.

 

Any claim would be more convincing if colleagues independently are able to replicate the work and get the same results (without finding anything wrong with the process). This would require transparency and openness.

 

Another sign that should make you skeptical is if the claims have a dogmatic character. The AFD address is all dogma. This is also typical among the science deniers.

 

It’s also typical that the extreme fringes cannot falsify the established science and therefore move on to conspiracy theories. In the case of AFD, it is the alleged “massive disinformation campaign”.

 

Should we take such fringe views seriously? This type of “infodemics” seems to become a growing problem as described in a feature article in Physics World July 2020: ‘Fighting flat-Earth Theory’. The term “infodemic” reflects the fact that false information is just as contagious as an epidemic. Imposters dressed in white coats peddling false information can cause harm if people take them seriously.

 

The damage caused by erroneous information and conspiracy theories is discussed in the HBO documentary ‘After truth’, and the wildest claims can spread like a rampant disease as shown in that film.

We have witnessed how misinformation and lack of trust of true medical sciences have caused bad situations in some countries, while in others (eg. New Zealand, Canada, and some Nordic countries) the pandemic has been kept under control because the general public in general has followed the scientific health advice.

 

There is a common denominator when it comes to the AFD, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, “intelligent design”, chem-trail evangelists and those dismissing climate science. I think it may be useful to join forces within the broader scientific community to help the general public understand the real issues. This effort should also be on more general terms. People have a right to reliable and truthful information. Everybody should understand that anyone who spreads bullshit or lies also shows you a great deal of disrespect. The same goes for platforms spreading disinformation.

 

So what can we do to make people understand how science works and enhance the general science literacy? Is it better to teach people how to spot these “alternative scientists” (the term is inspired by “alternative facts”), conspiracy theories, and falsehoods, if we show a range of examples from different disciplines? We can probably learn from each others. There seems to be a lesson to be learned from the pandemic.

249 Responses to “How to spot “alternative scientists”.”

  1. 201
    Al Bundy says:

    Philip M: WHO got this one wrong, being very late to move from the position that masks should only be worn by those caring for the ill and those who knew they were ill.

    AB: Not really. The issue was triage. Given an inadequate supply of masks, masks should [at that moment] be used by those who are most at risk.

    I see NO contradiction not any evidence that suggests that the WHO has ever thought that if masks grew on trees you shouldn’t use one.

    That said, masks can add danger. First, they give folks a feeling of protection that can encourage risky behavior.
    And they’re of variable utility depending on usage. Got a beard? Glasses fog up? Both are signs that you’re doing it wrong.
    And they can encourage mouth breathing. Noses not just filter out baddies, but they are a less tasty place than lungs, so by “taking the first punch” your nose can give your immune system a chance to build up defences for more critical organs.

  2. 202
    Al Bundy says:

    RadgeH H: you’re making a Very Important Point. In fact it may be right up there with whether or not your bowl of breakfast cereal can be considered soup.

    AB: the formula is:
    Cereal + milk + time = soup.

    and KW is saying that “five times more than 20 is 20 + (5 * 20) = 120″.

    Now, KW,if you were on a game show and asked,”For on million dollars, Average Joe has written a number on a sheet of paper. He says it is five times more than 20. What number did Joe write?”

    DUH, you’d not guess 120.

    Simplistic and silly word games can be fun. But they add little else.
    And deliberately misinterpreting something that has obvious intent is a sign that the hearer isn’t interested in anything productive.

  3. 203
    Astringent says:

    #198 Robert Manley. I would say that your experience is almost perfectly congruent with accepted theories of ‘dowsing’. You didn’t ‘find’ a pipe – you were shown where a pipe was and you then felt the rods move. The gas engineer had a) presumably looked at a map and b) spent years locating buried pipes that c) would be buried in predictable ways and d) would presumably leave some trace in the topography or vegetation of a field. Experiment after experiment has shown that in proper double blind experiments, where neither you nor the observer know where the pipe is, you would do no better than chance.

  4. 204
    John Pollack says:

    Robert Manley @198 At least in the U.S., many companies run an electric current down their pipes to prevent corrosion. This would induce magnetism in nearby metal rods, and might make the pipeline detectable through your “antenna.” A magnetometer would be even better.

  5. 205
    Jim Eager says:

    Astringent, the example given wasn’t the classic form of ‘dowsing’, i.e. for subsurface water. I suspect the *steel* welding rods, the *steel* pipe, perhaps a weak electromagnetic field induced by the gas moving through the pipe, and earth’s magnetic field had something to do with the gas engineer’s success in locating the gas pipe.

  6. 206
    John Pollack says:

    Mr. Know It All @190 – Think about it. If 5G at 60 GHz (or whatever other frequency) was strongly absorbed by oxygen, the signal would never make it very far, due to the oxygen concentration of the atmosphere. The frequency would be totally unsuitable for communication.
    Even at the somewhat lower frequencies proposed for the US, such as 25 GHz, there is a problem with water absorbing the signal. That’s the big reason that they need so many transmitters compared to 4G. That means the 5G signal won’t penetrate into your body, since your surface would absorb it, if your clothes don’t. It also means that if you’re using 5G to control a car, and you drive through a rainstorm that wets the car, you might not have any control left. We had that problem with weather radar at the higher frequencies, which were still below 5G frequencies. If the radar dome got wet, the radar signal was attenuated.

  7. 207

    Just to clear up the incorrect paraphrasing of my arguments, I am not arguing for “five times more than 20 is 20 + (5 * 20) = 120” or that anything is ten times closer than anything else, or 100 times lighter, or 50 times less.

    I am pointing out the ambiguity of such statements. We have perfectly good language for such instances that does not lead to ambiguity.

    I would like to think most regular commenters here consider themselves “scientific”. Part of that is being clear in your communications.

  8. 208
    Richard Creager says:

    The Randi Challenge sat open for 50 years, would have paid a cool million bucks to anybody who could have demonstrated dowsing under controlled conditions. Nobody took the money. Nuff said.

  9. 209
    Bruce Frykman says:

    Expertise can not be claimed by way of education or group affiliation. We must be wary of anyone claiming such expertise in lieu of verifiable demonstration of such expertise.

    Climate change is a phrase that can mean anything to anyone. Historically we have observed that long term LOCAL climate (largely precipitation and/or temperature epochal shifts) change has occurred only to return to more predominate weather patterns. Viking populated Greenland, Medieval warming, Anasazi civilization collapse due to prolonged drought, the 100 year drought that caused mass starvation along with the collapse of the Old Kingdom in ancient Egypt circa 2000 BCE are all such examples.

    Within this framework are the slow and steady monumental hemispheric climate changes brought on by ice age advances and retreats. These are induced by predictable Earth orbit geometry variations known as the Milankovitch cycles. The shortest and most recent of these influences known as the 26000 year precession of the equinoxes that is now moving slowing away from the most recent maximum glaciation extent that occurred some 13,000 years ago in the Northern hemisphere.

    Against this backdrop, a politically funded industry of monitoring, measuring, and prediction of long term trends of something called “Global Climate Change” has emerged, presumably linking human activities to changes in something called “Global Climate Change.” The remedy for such reputed and presumably deleterious change being the restrictions of the freedoms of human populations by increasing the political and economic power of politicians and the Global Climate Change industry they fund over these populations.

    Our suspicions are naturally aroused anytime anyone wants to sell us cures for diseases we don’t appear to be suffering. These suspicions elevate to alarm status when a voluntary sales job transmogrifies to political force underwritten by forceful indoctrination of the youth in the name of “education.”

    First let us dispense with the notion of a “global average surface temperature” that can be quantified by instrument to a claimed accuracy of +/- 0.01 degrees K over the past century and a half. This is a claim so boldly unbelievable that it screams for complete scrutiny. There are no “global temperature instruments” to observe and therefore no one can “record” their value. What the industry has done instead is to model “global temperatures” with undisclosed and constantly changing computer algorithms using an abject paucity of real records representing an admixture of both haphazardly collected spacial and temporal record distributions to drive these models.

    The public has been so dumbed down by media propaganda that a majority now accept that one decade/year/month is judged “hotter” than a previous example on face value. Even a cretin should be tempted to ask by how much and what are the error bars. It is never stated, much less a disclosure of the means by which such claims are made.

    I will be happy to offer cogent rebuttal to any counter claims provided that we stick to actual records and eschew all argumentation based on some claimed authority or expertise. These are both examples of logical fallacy.

  10. 210

    BF 209: The remedy for such reputed and presumably deleterious change being the restrictions of the freedoms of human populations by increasing the political and economic power of politicians and the Global Climate Change industry they fund over these populations.

    BPL: Straw man argument. The solution is to switch away from fossil fuels to renewables, and stop cutting down forests. The solution you say we’re proposing is conspiracy-theory nonsense.

    BF: Our suspicions are naturally aroused anytime anyone wants to sell us cures for diseases we don’t appear to be suffering. These suspicions elevate to alarm status when a voluntary sales job transmogrifies to political force underwritten by forceful indoctrination of the youth in the name of “education.”

    BPL: You don’t like education?

    BF: First let us dispense with the notion of a “global average surface temperature” that can be quantified by instrument to a claimed accuracy of +/- 0.01 degrees K over the past century and a half. This is a claim so boldly unbelievable that it screams for complete scrutiny. There are no “global temperature instruments” to observe and therefore no one can “record” their value. What the industry has done instead is to model “global temperatures” with undisclosed and constantly changing computer algorithms using an abject paucity of real records representing an admixture of both haphazardly collected spacial and temporal record distributions to drive these models.

    BPL: Wrong again. It doesn’t require computers at all, just averaging, and in theory it can be done with paper and pencil. The idea of a mean global annual surface temperature is quite a coherent concept and you can’t dismiss it because you don’t like the political implications. Which has a hotter surface, Venus or Earth? Earth or Pluto? The answers are clear and obvious.

  11. 211
    Ray Ladbury says:

    @209: And Bruce Frykman chimes in with an opinion from circa 1944, long before the science and then the evidence of anthropogenic climate change became irrefutable.

    Sorry, Bruce. Once you catch up with the last 70 years of science and evidence, we’ll be happy to have a discussion. For now, hows about you read this.

    https://history.aip.org/climate/index.htm

  12. 212
    Bob Loblaw says:

    Not that defending Keith Woollard comes naturally to me, but I find the “five times less” sort of verbiage to be pretty sloppy. Sure, it’s common. Sure, I can figure out what someone means when they say it. I wish people didn’t use it, but if wishes were fishes I could feed the world.

    I prefer more accurate use of words. “Times” implies multiplication. “X times less” as a substitute for division is sloppy. Mathematics invented fractions for such situations. “X is 1/5 of Y.” translates to “X is 0.2 times Y”, not “X is 5 times less than Y”.

    Call me a purist. I still own a dictionary that does not contain the word “flammable”. Something that burns easily is “inflammable” (root: inflame), and the opposite is “non-flammable”. Now, due to common usage, flammable means the same thing as inflammable. Go figure.

    Thirty degrees C is not “twice as warm” as 15 degrees C. (Is 86 degrees Fahrenheit twice as warm as 59 degrees Fahrenheit?) The difference between 14 degrees C and 12 degrees C is not 2 degrees C – it’s 2 Celcius degrees. One Celcius degree is 1.8 Fahrenheit degrees, but 1 degrees C is 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit. But that battle is lost in “common usage”.

    Please try to be accurate in language usage. Please don’t make it a federal offense when people aren’t.

  13. 213
    Mal Adapted says:

    Bruce Fykman:

    Our suspicions are naturally aroused anytime anyone wants to sell us cures for diseases we don’t appear to be suffering.

    We’ve got ourselves another doughty culture warrior. All rational responses to Mr. Fykman’s Gish gallop have long since been made, on this very blog inter alia. I chose just one of his revealing disclosures, and will let Aldo Leopold‘s response be mine:

    An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.

    Expanding “ecologist” to include “climate scientist”, we see the problem RC’s principals and their peers are facing, in a community that encompasses literally everyone.

  14. 214

    Bruce Frykman said:

    “Within this framework are the slow and steady monumental hemispheric climate changes brought on by ice age advances and retreats. These are induced by predictable Earth orbit geometry variations known as the Milankovitch cycles. “

    The word climate derives from the Greek word klima, which according to Mirriam-Webster means inclination or latitude. This immediately connects climate to the obvious orbital configuration leading to the earth’s seasonality.

    The physics behind AGW is just about as obvious as the reasons for the seasons, and so when you say this “claim (is) so boldly unbelievable that it screams for complete scrutiny” it would be nice if you actually had any science to add to the discussion. Then maybe we would pay attention.

  15. 215
    Radge Havers says:

    @~209
    Where Bruce Frykman strings together old, debunked denialist talking points; conflates sophistry with cogency; and adopts a smug, superior tone in the hopes that this will fool people into thinking that he knows what he’s talking about while he tries to rationalize the use of alt facts.

    Seriously, if you’ve spent some time here over the past decade or so, you’d know that all this has already been covered ad nauseam. Try to keep up.

    Also see Skeptical Science, Getting Skeptical about Global Warming Skepticism
    https://skepticalscience.com

  16. 216
    Ian Forrester says:

    Bruce Frykman at 209 gives us a perfect example of how to spot an alternative scientist. His post is full of sciencey sounding words but are either meaningless or completely wrong.

  17. 217
    Jgnfld says:

    Who, exactly, has published a scientific paper in a recognized journal that purports to measure “global mean temperature”.

    The relevant measures are anomalies. ANY commenter who is not aware of this is a scientific idiot.

    You should also study the Central Limit Theorem which invalidates most of what you are ignorant of.

  18. 218

    BF, #209–

    Expertise can not be claimed by way of education or group affiliation.

    Yet expertise cannot be attained without education, and attaining is often attending by the recognition of others.

    Climate change is a phrase that can mean anything to anyone.

    Only in the sense that that last sentence can mean anything to anyone.

    … a politically funded industry… reputed and presumably deleterious change being the restrictions of the freedoms of human populations…

    Rhetoric, much?

    Our suspicions are naturally aroused …

    “Our”, kimo sabe?

    …forceful indoctrination of the youth in the name of “education.”

    God only knows what is actually meant by that.

    First let us dispense with the notion of a “global average surface temperature” that can be quantified by instrument to a claimed accuracy…

    Yes, let’s. Anyone remotely numerate realizes this isn’t an empirically measured quantity, but a calculated metric. So?

    …undisclosed and constantly changing computer algorithms…

    In many if not all instances, the code is available either for the download or the asking. And though I think algorithms are actually pretty stable, why, pray tell, would you expect them never to change?

    Even a cretin should be tempted to ask by how much and what are the error bars. It is never stated, much less a disclosure of the means by which such claims are made.

    I’m not sure you know what the word “cretin” actually means–or meant. However the first two sentences of my first search result–the GISS webpage on the 2005 summation–say this:

    “The highest global surface temperature in more than a century of instrumental data was recorded in the 2005 calendar year in the GISS annual analysis. However, the error bar on the data implies that 2005 is practically in a dead heat with 1998, the warmest previous year.

    https://data.giss.nasa.gov/gistemp/news/2005/

    I will be happy to offer cogent rebuttal to any counter claims provided that we stick to actual records…

    I think I already disposed of the one ‘cogent’ claim you actually made. Care to try again, preferably without the pretentious and empty verbiage?

  19. 219
    William B Jackson says:

    #209 Well well a “new” very strongly opinionated denier surfaces and insults actual science and actual scientists. I am so impressed that I will forget that I live 75 miles farther north than where I grew up and that it is averaging so much warmer than it did 50 or 60 years ago. I will forget the reality of the changes I have seen because this dude is so strong in his denial! LOL!!!!

  20. 220
    Astringent says:

    Bruce F @209 What demonstration do you offer of your expertise on climate? And indeed, short of meeting in person and you sitting an invigilated exam in my presence why should I believe you have anything of value to offer up in this debate (with the exception of another tediously predictable example of argument from personal incredulity)? In every aspect of our lives our base standard for judging expertise is education and/or group affiliation. If you want a doctor you select one on he basis of his/her education and where they work. If you want a plumber you expect them to be a member of a trade body.
    Given that you are not a climate scientist, nor a physicist or engineer with expertise in temperature measurement, discussing the technicalities with you would be as of much value as discussing the merits of mauve or fuschia curtains in a shuttered room – of fleeting interest to the people doing the arguing, but of no relevance or import to the real world.

  21. 221
    Astringent says:

    Jime Eager @205. I have come across the suggestion that dowsing for pipes is based on electromagnetic fields, with the ‘rods’ in some way triggering muscle contraction in the hands of the practitioner. This has, I believe, been subject to tests – for instance asking dowsers to locate energised cables as against unenergized cables and once again no skill has ever been shown in a double bind experiment. Two factors that argue against this being a mechanism are that some dowsers claim success using non-conductive implements – and equally that if the level of electric field present from a buried pipe a couple of metres away induced muscular reaction – why are we not all continually twitching as we go about our normal lives -e.g. holding knives and forks in the kitchen close to power lines or wearing wrist watches or metallic bracelets just about anywhere?

  22. 222
    zebra says:

    Bruce Frykman #209,

    Bruce, I’m always trying to get people here to have rational dialogues free from logical fallacies. But I am having a hard time figuring out what your “claims” are that can be “countered”. Before you can disagree on something you have to figure out what you agree about, and employ a common language.

    Your statement that “there is no global mean surface temperature” makes no sense, since scientists have defined it and how it is determined. Therefore, it exists, and your assertion to the contrary is illogical.

    Maybe you could try writing a more concise and scientific statement, without all the editorializing, so people can figure out what point you are trying to make.

  23. 223
    Mack says:

    Well said , Bruce @ 209

  24. 224

    Battling the alternative science of people like Bruce Frykman is

    https://youtu.be/hShxpYG_ql0

    and then everyone else piles on

    https://youtu.be/zIn079xbAgk

    “I just wanna get involved in the action too!”

    But when it comes to discussion with potential scientific peers presenting a cogent argument, it’s cold feet.

    Oh well, continue on with the “ten-trillion-times less” research. I’m sure someone will make a breakthrough.

  25. 225
    Jim Eager says:

    Astringent, I said nothing about triggering muscle contraction in the hands of the practitioner, but I think it would be nonsense. What I suggested was simple magnetic attraction of the steel welding rods, but it was pure speculation on my part, though. I have no interest what so ever in investigating dowsing.

  26. 226
    Jim eager says:

    Bruce Frykman wrote…. a 500+ word salad containing little more than unsubstantiated assertion and personal incredulity, which we all know is not an argument at all but rather a logical fallacy in and of itself.

    Climate science denial is certainly scraping the bottom of the barrel these days.

  27. 227
    Russell says:

    “There is a common denominator when it comes to the AFD, anti-vaxxers, flat-earthers, “intelligent design”, chem-trail evangelists and those dismissing climate science.”

    And that’s just half the problem:
    https://vvattsupwiththat.blogspot.com/2020/09/cancel-culture-as-chinese-finger-trap.html

  28. 228
    John Monro says:

    Hello, this is what I wrote to our national radio programme, Radio NZ, the other week, following a discussion on conspiracy theory and the Covid pandemic.

    Dear panel,

    “I think it’s really quite simple, conspiracy theory is like a weed that overruns fertile soil when it hasn’t been seeded with the valuable and desired crop. The soil is our population, the valuable seed is science and truth. . The valuable crop in regard to Covid and immunisation is a population that has been taught and knows about Dr Jenner, the cow Blossom, the boy James Phipps and the milkmaid Sarah Nelmes and is as aware of them as any Kardashian or Hollywood star. . That knows that Jenner’s discovery of vaccination has saved literally hundreds of millions of lives from smallpox, which had a fatality rate of 30% generally and 60% in infants. A population that has never heard of Pasteur, Lister, Koch, Salk and Snow, and all those others whose insights ultimately saw the end to TB, diphtheria, poliomyelitis, tetanus, cholera, congenital rubella, measles etc. is a population fertile for misinformation. Leave a society ignorant, as we do, and reap the rampant weeds. Simple, really” .

    Yours faithfully John Monro.

    I think you could say much the same about the subject of these pages, global warming. The level of ignorance of basic science, indeed basic knowledge, in much of the population is a wonder to behold. But why be surprised? Schools perhaps do their best but give it not many years, and such knowledge “vanishes like snow upon the desert’s dusty face” (Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam) In the US, commercial television and commercial radio are as information shallow as any desert mirage, and the “social media” as barren of nourishing mental fare as any Saharan sand dune

    An ill educated public – which I believe is a deliberate policy of many large corporations and many political parties – is as noted above the bare but potentially fertile soil on which any number of rampant weeds will flourish if untended. After all the political and economic extremism of neoliberalism is entirely based on any number of provably mistaken assumptions about human behaviour and the reality of our place in our environment, in other words is the biggest lie of all. No wonder those that subscribe to this absurdity would wish the population to be as ignorant as possible, in case they seriously started to question those assumption. In addition, wasn’t it Margaret Thatcher herself, the high priestess of neoliberalism, who once fatuously stated “There’s no such thing as society…” No wonder then that the economic system she introduced should fail to nourish what it can’t even recognise.

  29. 229
    John Pollack says:

    Bruce Frykman #209
    I’m going to consider the following paragraph as an example of your expertise:
    “Within this framework are the slow and steady monumental hemispheric climate changes brought on by ice age advances and retreats. These are induced by predictable Earth orbit geometry variations known as the Milankovitch cycles. The shortest and most recent of these influences known as the 26000 year precession of the equinoxes that is now moving slowing away from the most recent maximum glaciation extent that occurred some 13,000 years ago in the Northern hemisphere.”

    Unless your “years” are 18 months long, the last glacial maximum ended 19 to 20 thousand years ago, at a time when the intensity of solar radiation in the Northern Hemisphere summer had started to increase from its last Milankovitch minimum. DOI: 10.1126/science.1172873

    The precession of the equinoxes now has us in another minimum, with the Earth farthest from the Sun in the early Northern Hemisphere summer – around July 4. If the primary driver of climate change at the moment was precession of the equinoxes, we would be cooling off, the arctic sea ice would be expanding, and glaciers would be growing rather than shrinking.

    Your assertions don’t fit the facts.

  30. 230
    Radge Havers says:

    Russell @ 227

    “half the problem”

    I am so stealing “semiotic self-isolation” (would I be semiotically self-isolating if I did that?) but I’m not sure how you apportion the problem, or at least how you apportion blame for it. Our kleptocrats certainly have a vested interest in sowing confusion and exploiting division in one way or another, and they are doing so with gusto. It’s fertile ground for them here.

    “How… does gagging people differ structurally from kneeling on their necks?”
    [‘gagging’ essentially meaning shouting people down]. Yeah, you’re probably right to apologize to XKCD for that.

  31. 231
    Jim Eager says:

    Leave it to Mack to think that the nonsense that Bruce Frykman wrote was well said.
    Quelle suprise.

  32. 232
    Jim Eager says:

    Paul Pukite, part of the cause of the “pile on effect” is simply the long moderation delay. Multiple reply comments can be posted before the first one shows up.

  33. 233
    Mal Adapted says:

    From Russell‘s link @ 227:

    Ask them how in the name of critical theory does gagging people differ structurally from kneeling on their necks?

    Well, assuming by “gagging people” you mean rudely disinviting them to propagate pernicious nonsense, it differs in that they’re still breathing.

  34. 234

    Apparently, you can now look for “alternative scientists” in senior positions at NOAA:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa

  35. 235
    MA Rodger says:

    Kevin McKinney @234,
    That NOAA appointee David Legates does occasionally say sensible stuff about climate. Only last October he reportedly said:-

    “I do not believe humans are responsible for most of this warming as many other factors exist to cause climate to change. So, to create a Climate Change Action Plan to ‘stabilize’ the Earth’s climate is like trying to keep the Sun from shining.”

    And there is no denying that if you did “keep the Sun from shining,” the Earth’s climate would become quickly very stable and bereft of any significant warming.

    So here is a man who maybe knows what he is talking about sometimes, although he might also have the attention span of a fat fruit fly as he preceded that quote with the comment that:-

    “Historically, civilization has thrived under warmer conditions and struggled when global temperatures plummeted.”

    and a few sentences later added:-

    “But mean global air temperature is not that which is important.”

  36. 236

    Kevin McKinney said:

    “Apparently, you can now look for “alternative scientists” in senior positions at NOAA:

    https://www.npr.org/2020/09/12/912301325/longtime-climate-science-denier-hired-at-noaa

    Goodbye to responsibly-funded climate research should Trump get re-elected. There’s a wave of anti-science apathy spreading through the USA driven by an administration disinformation campaign, which will eventually suppress interesting findings – twitter thread last several days

  37. 237
    Vendicar Kahn says:

    Climate science denier appointed to top position at NOAA
    Situation Room

    David Legates, a longtime climate change skeptic, has been appointed by the Trump administration to help run the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the federal agency charged with producing “much of the climate research funded” by the government, The Washington Post reports.

  38. 238
    Radge Havers says:

    @ 236

    I’m afraid the crazy won’t end even if Trump is gone. Since the situation is decades in the making and runs deep, it will take decades to fix. If we have the fortitude.

    Purging the wingers and kleptocrats from congress would be a good start– for that matter, from McConnell all the way down to your local dog catcher.

  39. 239

    Radge Havers said:

    “I’m afraid the crazy won’t end even if Trump is gone. Since the situation is decades in the making and runs deep, it will take decades to fix.”

    The AGU and Scientific American have made political statements that are sure to inflame the conservative readership contingent. So kudos to the AGU for being risk-takers, just as they often take risks in publishing bleeding-edge research findings.

  40. 240
    Dennis Horne says:

    Dowsing. It’s possible wild animals have a knack for finding water. I would suggest employing one rather than a dowser. A bull sounds about right, but be careful – they can become very wild.

    Like certain climate deniers commenting here.

    Note. “Climate denier” is defined in the online Oxford dictionary.

  41. 241
    Mr. Know It All says:

    239 – Paul Pukite
    “The AGU and Scientific American have made political statements that are sure to inflame the conservative readership contingent.”

    Nah, speaking for myself only, I don’t read biased leftist propaganda.

  42. 242
    Mr. Know It All says:

    240 – Dennis Horne
    “Dowsing. It’s possible wild animals have a knack for finding water. I would suggest employing one rather than a dowser. A bull sounds about right, but be careful – they can become very wild.”

    Nah, cattle can’t smell water very well:

    https://extension.oregonstate.edu/ask-expert/featured/can-cows-find-water-smell#:~:text=A%3A,using%20existing%20livestock%2Fwildlife%20trails

    But a horse can smell it 12 miles away:

    https://www.horsebackridingworldwide.com/did-you-know-that-horses-can-smell-water/#:~:text=Horses%20however%2C%20have%20a%20different,find%20the%20next%20watering%20hole

    Or try some of these animals:

    https://animals.mom.com/far-can-elephant-smell-water-2883.html

    ;)

  43. 243
    Ray Ladbury says:

    So, Mr. KIA, AGU and Scientific American are “biased leftist propaganda,” but Breitfart, Faux News, OANN (a Russian propaganda network)and Zerohedge (really, Zerosense) are credible. I think we can understand how you got so stupid.

  44. 244

    KIA: I don’t read biased leftist propaganda.

    BPL: Referring to “Scientific American.” As Colbert said, reality has a liberal bias!

  45. 245

    Mr. Know It All says:

    … all this inane stuff about “biased leftist propaganda” and a horse’s olfactory ability …

    but he doesn’t seem to realize that humans are very good at smelling BS.

  46. 246
    Russell says:

    244
    The biases of lit crit and STS have little to do with reality
    SciAm is far too glum to be confised with Colbert, having socailly reconstructed itself to span the ideological spectrum from The Guardian to Jacobin, by way of the Nation Institute

  47. 247
    Russell says:

    233

    Mal, the structure in question is the Foucaultian conception of power that frames cancel culture and other authoritarian approaches to the constraint of free expression.

    And I don’t mean the guy with the pendulum.

    To see the difference, try Umberto Eco’s marvelously funny book dealing with both Foucaults

  48. 248
    Al Bundy says:

    Paul P: but he doesn’t seem to realize that humans are very good at smelling BS

    AB: Good point, but I kinda disagree. Yes, humans are very good at SMELLING BS, but you forget that GOPpers loooovvvveeeee BS. Catnip for cats; lies, bs, and single-level hypotheses with tons of evidence proving that they are waaaaaaaay wrong are GOPpers’ catnip.

    Trust me. Take any hypothesis that has been totally discredited BUT agrees with a GOPpish axiom and Kia will defend it to death.

    The key is that GOPpers don’t care about people or the planet. They only care about winning. Caring is an incredible burden to carry into battle.

  49. 249

    Here’s a first from the alternative side of science — a paper published in The British Medical Journal written by a climate change blogger

    Rice, K., Wynne, B., Martin, V. & Ackland, G. J. Effect of school closures on mortality from coronavirus disease 2019: old and new predictions. BMJ m3588 (2020) doi:10.1136/bmj.m3588.