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Progressive Mythology

In their book Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left, Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell counter allegations of a Republican war on science by pointing out how political progressives are equally anti-science. According to Berezow and Campbell, progressives hold opinions that are not based on physical reality, and claim that their beliefs are based on science even when they are not.

I try to stay out of politics, but anti-science attitudes should be discouraged wherever they are found, and the mythology of progressives as described by Berezow and Campbell is very much like the thinking of alternative medicine:

  1. Everything natural is good
  2. Everything unnatural is bad
  3. Unchecked science and progress will destroy us
  4. Science is only relative anyway

I wasn’t clear on what “progressives” meant, but apparently progressives are similar to liberals in that they value economic authoritarianism and different in that they are also social authoritarians. Liberal economic authoritarianism favors higher taxes on the wealthy, more regulations on the marketplace, and social programs that redirect money to target social inequality. Conservatives want to limit such government interference with the economy; but they are social authoritarians like progressives, only on different issues. Where conservative social authoritarians want government to ban “immoral” things like sex and drugs, progressive social authoritarians endorse government control over the environment, food production, and education. Conservatives want to ban abortion; progressives want to ban plastic grocery bags. Here’s another definition:

…”liberals” in our current parlance are those who focus on using taxpayer money to help better society. A “progressive” are [sic] those who focus on using government power to make large institutions play by a set of rules…A liberal policy towards prescription drugs is one that would throw a lot of taxpayer cash at the pharmaceutical industry to get them to provide medicine to the poor; A progressive prescription drug policy would be one that centered around price regulations…

Republicans have been criticized for their anti-science stance on evolution, global warming, and stem cell research. There is an equally disturbing tendency for activists on the other side of the aisle to cherry pick, misinterpret, misrepresent, and abuse science to advance their ideological and political agendas. They have misused science to attack vaccines and genetically modified foods, to promote organic food, and to propose poorly thought out environmental protection legislation. When science is co-opted to serve ideology, science is degraded and the resulting public policies do more harm than good.

The authors present many examples of progressive ideology’s misuse of science and support of injudicious policies, for example:

  • One would think animal rights activists, conservationists, and food fetishists would all be enthusiastic about innovations to improve the future of food production, like laboratory-grown meat and technology to improve agricultural efficiency; but they typically reject them, perhaps because they think of them as “unnatural.”
  • “It takes 1 gallon of gas to make 1 pound of beef” is a false claim, as is the claim that walking to the store creates 4 times as much emissions as driving to the store. These claims are based on math and reasoning errors: they took a fact out of context, mixed terms, and guessed.
  • Mandatory low flush toilets have inconvenienced us all, and they have also caused sludge accumulation and odors so bad that San Francisco is spending $14 million to dump bleach into the sewers to combat it (and bleach is not exactly environmentally friendly). Domestic water use only represents 1% of total use and toilets are a small fraction of that; it would make far more sense to target efficiency in power plants (49% of water use) and irrigation (31%). The toilets were a typical “Band-Aid” fix that produced “feel-good” benefits for environmentalists but essentially accomplished nothing for the environment. Ironically, many of the same people who advocate the right to choose for vaccines were quite happy to legislate away our right to choose for toilets.
  • They lament the birds killed by wind turbines, which amount to only 0.006 percent of total bird fatalities; domestic cats kill about 500 times as many birds. Surely it would make more sense to reduce cat numbers than wind farm numbers (or to encourage cat owners to keep their pets indoors, which is healthier for the cat and increases its life expectancy by several years). But cats are “natural” and wind farms are not.
  • They worry about possible harm to caribou and to native cultures from oil development in Alaska. But the caribou population is nine times larger in Prudhoe Bay since oil was discovered there, and the local natives who depend on caribou strongly support responsible development.
  • Even Al Gore has admitted that corn for fuel was a mistake based on faulty science: it was worse for the environment and raised prices for poor people who needed corn for food.

Pragmatism is notably absent from progressive thinking. Environmentalists tend to be inflexible absolutists, unwilling to balance the trade-offs between protecting the environment and promoting economic development. They tend not to consider economic realities. They push the precautionary principle to an extreme without considering the costs of alternatives and the risks of adverse unintended consequences.

The chapter on “vaccines and Viagra” is pure music to the ears of science-based medicine. They agree that the anti-vaccine movement is based on outright lies, they call the Huffington Post a laughingstock of the scientific community for its endorsement of CAM, they call for the NCCAM to be abolished, they explain why presenting data about relative risks rather than absolute risks is misleading, and they point out that:

Just because a published paper presents a statistically significant result does not mean it necessarily has a biologically meaningful effect.

Scientifically studying gender or racial differences is discouraged, if not completely taboo. It would be politically incorrect to find evidence suggesting that abilities are not fairly distributed. A double standard is at work. The smaller percentage of women in science and math is seen as a problem, but the much smaller percentage of men in the social sciences is not. When social psychologists see women or minorities under-represented, they see unfairness and discrimination; but conservatives are under-represented among social psychologists by a factor of more than 100 and no one seems to be worried about that. Academic science has gradually become more representative in race and gender, but has become far less representative in politics: it has become dominated by progressives.

Progressive ideology has a simple fix for complex problems: more legislation. The progressive European Union strives to regulate even the irrelevant minutiae of its citizens’ lives. Science and common sense are casualties of what amounts to a bureaucratic war on reason.

The usual division of political views into two groups (liberal vs. conservative) or four (liberal, conservative, libertarian, and progressive) doesn’t work well. Individuals are more nuanced and don’t fit into well-defined pigeonholes. Berezow and Campbell propose another schema based on values: a triangle with freedom, fairness, and excellence at the corners. Science would fall close to the excellence point of the triangle and more on the freedom side. Fairness is less important to science: it would be silly to treat all scientists as if they were equally competent or to consider all research projects equally deserving of funding. Science must be a meritocracy.

The US leads the world in science, has the most Nobel Prize winners and more of the top 100 universities than any other country or region. Progressive European countries lag far behind. Even if we do worse than other countries on science and math tests, we seem to be better at creativity and independent thinking, and at getting results. We need to figure out how to best support those qualities rather than just throwing money at schools and trying to raise test scores.

Berezow and Campbell call for clear, unbiased thinking about public policies based on good scientific evidence rather than ideology-influenced distortions of science. They call for more basic research, more transparency, better communication of science to the public, more scientific rigor and pursuit of excellence. They offer practical proposals for improvement. Above all, they demand that we quit politicizing science. How could anyone disagree with that?

You may very well disagree with some of the opinions in this book, or even with the way it selects its facts, but it will give you food for thought about some very important issues. I recommend it. Especially if you have read Chris Mooney’s book The Republican War on Science.

 

 

Posted in: Book & movie reviews, Politics and Regulation

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101 thoughts on “Progressive Mythology

  1. Jeff Rubinoff says:

    I think “progressives” have long had a reputation for preferring earthy-crunchy feelgood vagueness to science. This is one reason I identified as a Republican when I was very young. The shocking thing about Mooney’s book is that the political group formerly known for its hard-headed support of reason now seems to have embraced its own flaky fringe and turned just as anti-science as the hippies, except with extra added hatred.
    Interestingly, this perspective of “progressive” anti-science is very different to actual Marxists, who nearly fetishize science, except when the findings contradict their ideology. Hmmm, maybe they aren’t that different from the market fundies…
    I do have some issues with Science Left Behind as presented by Dr Hall. I will tell you, the reason that the US does better in creating new science than Europe is almost certainly cultural and has squat to do with who is more bureaucratic. Education in most European countries has always been much more rote-memorization driven than in the US but that also reflects culture. Innovation is simply a deeper cultural value in the US than it is in most of Europe.
    I’d add that, based on conversations with many conservative friends, the reasons there are so few conservatives in social sciences are (1) there’s no money in it and (2) the subject matter is of limited or no interest. A possible exception may be evolutionary psychology, for obvious reasons.
    Having said all that, I’ve had plenty of arguments with “progressive” friends that echo exactly Science Left Behind. Everything made by a corporation is bad, the elite medical structure is suppressing the truth of homeopathy, fluoridation is a chemical company plot, etc etc ad nauseam. I think this is compounded by my friends thinking that they are following good science, because their political opponents are such swivel-eyed anti-science loons.

  2. ebohlman says:

    Just a couple observations:

    My understanding is that the gender gap in the social sciences is much smaller outside North America.

    Some of the complaints I’ve heard about scientists not being able to study racial/ethnic differences in ability are really complaints that the Pioneer Fund isn’t being taken seriously. A look at the Pioneer Fund’s history provides good reasons why they shouldn’t.

    Too many environmentalists reject the notion that if you want people to behave in more environmentally responsible ways, you should try to make it as convenient as possible for them to do so; zealots really seem to hate convenience. Also, IMHO, any attempt to use environmental concerns to promote an ideological agenda (e.g. animal rights) is as much a form of greenwashing as is the use of environmental concerns to promote an industry’s profits.

    Any discussion of left-wing vs. right-wing antiscience has to take into account the relative influence of each, and where that influence is targeted.

  3. David Gorski says:

    They have misused science to attack vaccines

    Yes and no. While it’s true that some of the more famous antivaccine voices (such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Bill Maher) would be considered “progressive” or “liberal,” it’s become very clear to me over the last couple of years that it’s just not true that antivaccine beliefs are primarily held by left-leaning individuals. The sort of argument made by Berezow and Campbell disingenuously conflates issues that are part and parcel of the right wing with issues that are in general fringe issues on the “left.” There’s a big difference, and this book clearly overstates its case, at least from what I gather from your review. In any case, antivaccinationism, at least, is clearly a bipartisan affair, and it is actually a myth that it’s primarily a “liberal” or “progressive” issue. Indeed, think back not that far. Representative Dan Burton was huge in the antivaccine movement and completely convinced that his grandson was made autistic by vaccines. Now, Darrell Issa appears to be taking up the mantle and holding antivaccine hearings.

    The “health freedom” movement tends to be an amalgam of right/libertarian types (for instance, General Stubblebine and Rima Laiblow) with some crunchy lefties. Hell, right wing icon Chuck Norris is quite antivaccine these days! (Actually, he’s anti-GMO, too!) And let’s not forget that Donald Trump is quite antivaccine. Then let’s not forget last year at TAM, where Steve Novella went to FreedomFest, a libertarian/conservative conclave, to a vaccine “debate” with Julian Whitaker hosted by the event. Later that same day, FreedomFest held a screening of the antivaccine film The Greater Good. And who moderated the debate? Leslie Manookian, the producer and director of that very movie! Meanwhile, the Texas Republican Party inserted support for supplements and “vaccine choice” as planks in its party platform last year.

    In fact, with respect to vaccines, I’m hard pressed to think of a single “liberal” politician who is rabidly antivaccine, the way Dan Burton was and Darrell Issa is becoming. Look at the Congressional “panel” that will be appearing at the antivaccine quackfest known as Autism One later this week:

    http://www.autismone.org/Congressional-Panel-Autismone-Conference-2013

    Nary a “progressive” among them, and they’re a key attraction of an antivaccine quackfest! Let’s just put it this way. For all the harm that Senator Tom Harkin (a Democrat) did when he pushed for the creation of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (something we all agree on, including Berezow and Campbell), I have as yet to find any evidence that he is antivaccine, the way that, for example, Dan Burton is.

    If the authors get it so unbelievably, incredibly wrong on the politics of the antivaccine movement, I have to wonder what else they got wrong. I suspect the answer is: A lot. I base this suspicion on their public writings and editorials, where they show a proclivity for leaving out key pieces of information in the service of their narrative. For instance, last fall the authors wrote an editorial lambasting the “antiscience left” and arguing that Democrats were just as bad as Republicans, if not worse, when it came to being antiscience. I remember it because I was going to blog about it at the time, particularly the huge omission in the article, and for some reason never got around to it. This comment thread allowed me to go and find it again. In this editorial, Berezow and Campbell mentioned Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. as a key “progressive” who promoted the false message that vaccines cause autism. The second person he mentioned? Unbelievably, he conflated RFK, Jr.’s fear mongering with then-candidate Barack Obama, whom he named as the second “progressive” to blame:

    On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama said, “We’ve seen just a skyrocketing autism rate. Some people are suspicious that it’s connected to the vaccines. This person included. The science right now is inconclusive, but we have to research it.”

    Wow. Pretty damning. Except for one thing. John McCain did exactly the same thing. No, actually what he said was arguably worse:

    McCain said, per ABC News’ Bret Hovell, that “It’s indisputable that (autism) is on the rise amongst children, the question is what’s causing it. And we go back and forth and there’s strong evidence that indicates that it’s got to do with a preservative in vaccines.”

    McCain said there’s “divided scientific opinion” on the matter, with “many on the other side that are credible scientists that are saying that’s not the cause of it.”

    But we’ll split the difference. Both Obama and McCain portrayed the science behind vaccines as a cause of autism as, to one degree or another, “not settled.” Shame on them both. In fact, on my not-so-super-secret other blog I lambasted them both, each in turn as they pandered to antivaccinationists. I also note that Berezow and Campbell, in blaming the government for vaccine shortages because it supposedly ordered only single-dose vials of H1N1 influenza vaccine because they had less thimerosal, didn’t mention that both single and multidose vials were approved in 2009. Both were on the market, and the government did not mandate a switch to single-dose vials.

    Given that background, I can’t help but think that I caught Alex Berezow and Hank Campbell lying by omission in their editorial. It turns out that all of the major candidates were pandering a bit to the mercury militia to some degree or other, something that, if mentioned, would pretty much destroy their claim that the “progressive” Obama was any more “antiscience” on the vaccine/autism issue than McCain. Indeed, arguably McCain was more blatant than Obama, who was relatively noncommittal, whereas McCain was more forceful in stating that vaccines could be a cause of autism. Fortunately, the story was only a minor blip on the campaign trail and not a theme that Obama (or, for that matter, McCain and Clinton) kept coming back to, but you wouldn’t know it from Berezow and Campbell’s editorial. I also note that when Obama said “this person included” he was almost certainly not referring to himself. He was referring to the person who asked him the question about vaccines and autism. Worse, he does this repeatedly. Just check out these slides he uses, in which, “Oops, he did it again!

    One wonders: If Berezow and Campbell are willing to leave out such key facts about what candidates said about vaccines and autism in 2008 (e.g., that McCain was arguably worse, that Hillary Clinton said it too, and that Obama was almost certainly not saying that he believed that vaccines cause autism), how else have they cherry picked data and events to spin their story?

  4. Alia says:

    Dr Hall writes: “The progressive European Union strives to regulate even the irrelevant minutiae of its citizens’ lives.”

    Well, I live in the EU and I don’t really feel this way. Most of regulations are more on the level of companies and local governments anyway. And it’s a comforting thought that when our own government, chosen by our own votes, tries to do something really stupid, we can turn to the higher authority, that is the EU.

  5. gingerbread says:

    Jeff Rubinoff writes: I will tell you, the reason that the US does better in creating new science than Europe is almost certainly cultural and has squat to do with who is more bureaucratic. Education in most European countries has always been much more rote-memorization driven than in the US but that also reflects culture. Innovation is simply a deeper cultural value in the US than it is in most of Europe.

    I don’t think that’s the case. EU consists of many profoundly different counties, there is no one culture in EU. For instance Scandinavian countries and Germany are very innovative and are high, just behind the USA, in innovation ranking. Don’t forget that higher education, including the most technologically advanced universities, are highly multicultural with many foreign born and educated researchers. So they don’t represent american culture for sure. For cultural reasons of innovation I would look at East Asia, like Korea and Japan.
    In my opinion the US success is a result of favorable history, which in turn results in great money in american high education and industry and hence attractiveness for the most gifted scientists and engineers from around the world.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreign_born_scientists_and_engineers_in_the_United_States

  6. elburto says:

    Yep, I’m with Alia. Non-Europeans seem to have an incredibly distorted view of how the EU actually affects lives in its jurisdiction. Is it oppressive to set levels of pollution which are unacceptable? Is it oppressive to rule that prisoners may not be kept in solitary confinement for years on end? Is it oppressive to set minimum safety standards on toys for children?

    I don’t think so. And funnily enough, it isn’t the EU that banned Kinder Eggs because children are apparently too stupid to differentiate between chocolate and plastic, and because adults can’t be expected to supervise their children.

    As to the first commenter, who is apparently a parody of a Republican. Cite proof that the many and varied European educational systems rely on rote-learning and box-ticking?

    Also, innovation is an American thing, is it now? And equality?

    That’s hysterically funny. Given the way that education is going in the USA at the moment, with religious myths being taught as facts, with abstinence-only policies helping to remove huge numbers of young women from even secondary education, let alone tertiary or higher education, your universities will be for one purpose – to temporarily warehouse Chinese students (with parents who can afford the exorbitant fee)s after which time they’ll return to China.

    Best of luck to them! American primary and secondary education is failing, and so short of money that parents have to stock the classroom supply cupboards. Those that fail to graduate high school can sit the GED, which is apparently aimed at twelve year olds.

    Higher education is collapsing in on itself, as it’s basically a pyramid scheme for lenders while offering patchy, often insubstantial learning. There are legions of unaccredited universities that churn out qualifications that can’t be used anywhere, there are the hilarious Fundie universities that teach science from a “religious perspective”, what a great advertisement for your country. Gotta love that “intelligent” design. Gotta love that Texas pretty much dictates what goes into textbooks all over the nation. Texas.

    When I was doing my MSc I tutored American undergrad students. By undergrad I mean “sitting a BA or BSc in the UK, often after doing postgrad courses back home”

    By “tutoring” I mean “trying to talk them down, dry their tears, and convince them that the failure of their education system was not their fault”. I’ve seen US exchange students that couldn’t wrap their heads around A-level course material, having received an MA (and about $200,000 of lifelong debt) back home.

    I haven’t even touched on the Fundagelical homeschooling bollocks.

    So keep dreaming Jeff, of wholesome young Americans being the scientific vanguard of the World. Back on Earth India and China will carry on making the rest of us look pretty slack. Somehow, I don’t think the country that bases so much of its politics and educational policies on “Evolution is a lie”, “Global warming is a liberal conspiracy” that there’s archaeological proof of the existence of Jesus, and that the Bible is the timeless, inerrant word of God.

    Keep dreaming.

  7. David Gorski says:

    Everything made by a corporation is bad, the elite medical structure is suppressing the truth of homeopathy, fluoridation is a chemical company plot, etc etc ad nauseam.

    All of which I have heard coming from libertarian/conservative “health freedom” loons many, many times over the years as well, except that they usually substitute suspicion of the government (mainly the FDA and FTC) for suspicion of pharmaceutical and medical device companies. Your point?

    In fact, at the risk of pulling a Godwin, I like to use this example just to show that love of “alt med” and “natural” cures is just as at home on the right as well as the left. Guess what? The Nazis were very much into homeopathy, naturopathy, and “natural” cures. In the 1930s, the regime very much promoted “volkish” medicine. I don’t point that out to try to claim that if you are a proponent of alt-med you must be a Nazi. Rather, I point it out to demonstrate that extreme far right wing ideologies can embrace the very same sorts of medical quackery that liberals and progressives do.

    I’m not saying that there aren’t forms of pseudoscience more likely to be embraced by people of different political persuasions or that “progressives” (or whatever you want to call them) aren’t prone to major helpings of dubious beliefs. I’m also not disagreeing that sometimes the “Republican war on science” meme has been taken beyond what the evidence will show. However, several of the counterexamples by Berezow and Campbell are disingenuously chosen and exaggerated, and, as I pointed out in my comment above, they appear to be prone to leaving out key pieces of information whose omission distorts the picture. As the old joke goes: What do you call the anti-GMO cranks, animal rights extremists, and antivaccine quacks in the Democratic Party? Its fringe. What do you call the creationists and AGW denialists in the Republican Party? Its base and leadership.

  8. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @ elburto

    The book goes into some of the areas where the EU seems to be problematic. Also, there’s a huge distinction between the popular movements opposing science and the actual scientists; in regards creationism, there is a large and well-organized body of scientists who actively lecture, tour and act as expert witnesses to prevent anti-evolutionary legislation from being passed.

    You really can’t judge anywhere by its extremes, they are often publicized because they are extreme. Fred Phelps doesn’t represent all, or even most baptist churches, any more than Michael Behe represents all or any biochemists.

    The biggest criticism ventured of the EU is the rabid opposition to genetic modification. Do you have any comments on that? I’d be interested in knowing what a real-life experience with GMO is, versus the crap I read about in the news.

  9. Alia says:

    @WLU Over here there is some strong opposition to GMO, but mostly on the level of anarchists, alterglobalists and peasant party activists. So we have anti-GMO demonstrations, combined with blatant promotion of “organic” food from “organic” farms. But we don’t have any anti-GMO laws – on the contrary, selling GMO seeds has been allowed by law since 2012.

  10. hanno says:

    I don’t deny that there’s a problematic tendency to anti-scientific viewpoints in parts of the political left. However, some of the examples mentioned seem somewhat odd to me. And I’d highly doubt that they are in any means comparable to the anti-science-views like climate”sceptics” or creationists.

    I’m very well aware that medical quackery is often found in left circles – in fact, I’ve been asked a couple of times how I can hold “green” political views and not support “alternative” medicine. However, as other commentators already mentioned, medical quackery is not only found on the political left.
    This probably differs from country to country, but e.g. in Germany the most outspoken antivaccine activists are often closely tied to a cult-like antisemitic group called “german new medicine”, others are related to a movement that believes the Third Reich still exists. Hardly anything to be called “politically left”.

    What I find also odd is that you mention biofuels. Maybe the discussion in the US is completely different there, but I’d consider it more to be a “right” political view to support such a thing – a “quick fix”/replacement for problematic fossil fuels without thinking the consequences. The “left” view on the issue would be rather questioning consumption habits and thinking about alternative ways of transport. I think pretty much everyone I know who’d consider themselves on the eco-left political spectrum would agree that replacing fossil fuels with biofuels was a big mistake. (and as far as I know the rise of corn fuel in the US started under the Bush administration).

    So from those examples it seems to me that someone here is at least partly arguing with a straw man.

  11. MTK says:

    There is a general mistrust of all our institutions by both sides of the political spectrum, whether that be the media, the government, big business, or science.

    And to many who distrust these institutions no amount of data or facts will matter since the data or facts were created or manipulated by the very institutions that can’t be trusted. If you believe those data or facts then clearly you’re a rube or in on the con yourself.

    It really is quite unassailable position.

  12. Joe Fusion says:

    It’s not clear to me which of the claims in the review are being made by Harriet Hall, and which come from the book. Some of these claims seem quite unscientific: “Progressive ideology has a simple fix for complex problems: more legislation. The progressive European Union strives to regulate even the irrelevant minutiae of its citizens’ lives. Science and common sense are casualties of what amounts to a bureaucratic war on reason.” Those are broad, vague, unsupported claims.

    I identify with many current progressive ideas in the US, and I don’t find this to be anti-scientific. I apply scientific reasoning to claims and proposed interventions, as with most any other aspect of my life. If it is progressive to think that centralized power can take actions for the common good, there is no reason those actions cannot be based in science.

  13. Rick says:

    While I agree with most of the progressive ideology, I do get into arguments with people on blogs and FB regarding the lack of science behind what is occasionally posted. For example today a meme was posted today about perchlorate (rocket fuel!) being in baby formula (see meme with flames shooting out of baby’s rear) http://www.antigmofoods.com/2013/05/rocket-fuel-chemical-found-in-baby.html. Then it went to discredit the CDC saying it isn’t an issue. I pointed out that a) perchlorate is also found in breast milk and b) that “the dose makes the poison). The same FB page posted yesterday that 1:50 children have autism now along with a number of other ratios. I pointed out that that was from a phone survey and not actual medical diagnosis and that the over diagnosis of ASD’s is around 20%. Most of the “source” of this infromation is the antiGMO blog (http://www.antigmofoods.com/2013/05/shocking-new-health-statistics-for-new.html) I’ve been banned from a few progressive/liberal sites due to my defense of immunizations and calling DC’s, homeopaths and naturopaths “quacks”.

  14. Harriet Hall says:

    @Joe Fusion,
    “It’s not clear to me which of the claims in the review are being made by Harriet Hall, and which come from the book.”

    They come from the book. I don’t claim they got the details right, but I agree with their overall thesis that anti-science attitudes are found on both sides of the aisle.

  15. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    Gorski

    The Nazis were very much into homeopathy,

    to the extent that they set up an extensive research program, in which the highest ‘regular’ medical authorities investigated homeopathy. The whole program was a spectacular failure for homeopathy. I have written about it here:
    http://www.kwakzalverij.nl/1050/A_total_disaster_for_homeopathy

    Nowadays Germany has many so-called Heilpraktiker, who might be called ‘naturopathic healers’. The German Wikipedia article gives a very thorough treatment. The English Wikipedia article is too short. In 1939 the profession of Heilpraktiker was tightly regulated in a law that was essentially a sunset law:

    “Those who are not physician, and who have until now not practiced medicine, in the future will get a permit as meant in section 1 of this law [i.e. a Heilpraktiker permit] only in thoroughly motivated exceptional cases.”

    So the Nazis thought well of naturopathy, but at the same time they thought that only university educated real medical doctors could be trusted to perform naturopathic treatments.

    But after the Nazis lost power the quacks gained the upper hand and in 1957 new permits for Heilpraktiker were handed out freely.

  16. stanmrak says:

    Hard for me to believe that intelligent people still think that genetically-modified food is a good idea, especially when virtually every claim made by Monsanto for the superiority of GM agriculture has been exposed as lies, over and over again. Not fewer pesticides and herbicides, but more — and more toxic varieties. New superweeds and superbugs, impervious to even harsher chemicals. Not more nutritious food, less nutritious. Not higher yields. Not more drought-resistant crops. Farm animals fed GM feed developing strange diseases and infertility… I could go on and on.

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GM_Feed_toxic_new_metaanalysis_confirms.php

    Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php

  17. The left has 2 big anti-science agendas:

    - Squashing any scientific debate on the global warming theory. While there is little doubt warming is occurring, I havent seen any solid science to prove we can actually reverse or stop this process. Skeptical scientists who question the value of anti-carbon crusade are not welcome in the academic mostly left-leaning circles.

    - Opposition to genetically modified anything (GMA) with a particular hatred for Monsanto corporation. This Luddite view is big in naturopathy community as well.

  18. David Gorski says:

    @Jan Willem Nienhuys

    Yes, I’m aware of that history of homeopathy in the Third Reich. Indeed, you yourself pointed out that it was the Nazi leadership that was enamored of homeopathy and pushed for its testing and implementation. In any case, my favorite treatment on the issue of “natural medicine” in the Third Reich is the chapter in Robert N. Proctor’s book Racial Hygiene: Medicine Under the Nazis, which describes how the Nazis were going to put “”natural healing” (“volk medicine”) on par with scientific medicine, but, as you point out, under the control of physicians. As Edzard Ernst also pointed out, to re-unify German medicine under the banner of ‘Neue Deutsche Heilkunde’ (New German Medicine), Nazi officials eventually decided to create the profession of the ’Heilpraktiker‘ (healing practitioner). Heilpraktiker were not allowed to train students and their profession was thus meant to become extinct within one generation; Goebbels spoke of having created the cradle and the grave of the Heilpraktiker. However, after 1945, this decision was challenged in the courts and eventually over-turned – and this is why Heilpraktiker are still thriving today. One can see a parallel with efforts on the part of physicians today who have drunk the Kool Aid of “integrative medicine” trying to freeze out the riff-raff; i.e., the non-physician practitioners, such as homeopaths, naturopaths, chiropractors, TCM practitioners, etc. What the Nazi efforts with respect to the Heilpraktiker imply to me is not so much a desire to get rid of “natural healing” that disappeared after the war but rather a desire by Nazi physicians to control and “professionalize” the discipline by “integrating” it into what physicians did and through the prevention of training new ones and letting the grandfathered-in Heilpraktiker gradually disappear.

  19. goodnightirene says:

    Well, Harriet, if the only thing to be gleaned from the book is that unscientific thinking comes from both sides of the aisle, then I also agree, but there looks to be a clear agenda on the part of the authors that puts them in the exact position that they doth protest too much.

    Honestly, flush toilets? If that isn’t a major right wing meme, I don’t know what is? Like another reader, though, I wasn’t sure if this was a point from the book you used as an example of something the authors used as an example of something they felt was anti-science.

    And maybe the reason the US has more top scientists is that they can afford to attract them financially from everywhere else resulting in a shameful “brain drain” that deprives other countries of talent needed to develop and sustain their own science communities.

    There are lots of leftie loons who won’t vax or eat GMO and love sCAM and there are lots of rightie loons who won’t vax, and love sCAM, and may or may not shun GMO–loons are loons and the entire population is mostly scientifically illiterate–that’s the problem, not how they vote.

    I wouldn’t bother with this book as it looks to have a clear agenda–one that is no more scientific than the state of affairs the authors lament.

  20. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    “professionalize” the discipline by “integrating” it into what physicians did

    to my feeling there is a difference between two kinds of integration: The modern kind, where all kinds of crazy ideas are adopted without change and the purveyors of these crazy ideas are seen as equals (‘doctors’) of MDs, and the Nazi kind where the political leaders labored under the illusion that some scientific basis could be found, so it could become part of ordinary medicine. Even the homeopaths were all MDs then.

  21. David Gorski says:

    Possibly, although I note that the more “science-minded” (or seemingly so) champions of “integrative medicine” like Barrie Cassileth, who has written scathing editorials against cancer “quackery,” behave similarly in that they clearly find some alt-med ideas too loony to “integrate” (hence the attack on cancer “quackery”) but staunchly hope and believe that the types of alt-med they like will soon be scientifically “proven” and, as you say, “become part of ordinary medicine.” In this, she, at least, is not accepting all loony ideas, only a certain subset of loony ideas that appeal to her.

  22. DugganSC says:

    I think goodnightirene has it aright in that the big takeaway is that unscientific thinking is multi-partisan.

    I’ll admit that I have no idea what the eventual sewage issues of low-flow toilets are, but I do know that they seem to clog more than the older ones, but that’s more annoyance than economic disaster.

  23. David Gorski says:

    Honestly, flush toilets? If that isn’t a major right wing meme, I don’t know what is? Like another reader, though, I wasn’t sure if this was a point from the book you used as an example of something the authors used as an example of something they felt was anti-science.

    Actually, the hilarious thing is that the federal law mandating low flow toilets was signed into law by that noted “progressive” icon of a President, George H.W. Bush. :-)

    The more I look into the claims in this book, the less impressed I am.

  24. Harriet Hall says:

    Regardless of who mandated low-flush toilets, it’s a good example of a Band-Aid fix that did little good and had unforeseen consequences. Take-home lesson for legislators: before you inconvenience all of us, try to find out how much the proposal will actually contribute to solving the problem, whether other efforts might accomplish far more, and what the downsides might be. Question for those who advocate freedom of choice: isn’t it inconsistent to want freedom for abortion or vaccine decisions while not allowing people the freedom to choose what kind of toilet to buy?

  25. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    a published paper presents a statistically significant result

    I would like to take the opportunity to point out that the term statistically significant ought to imply:

    1. prior to the experiment or test or investigation, there was a clear hypothesis to be supported or refuted.
    2. the experiment, including the method to evaluate the result, is designed with the specific purpose of deciding about the hypothesis.
    3. the experiment is performed according to the planned design.
    4. the prior probability of THE single outcome of the experiment is calculated under the assumption of the null hypothesis (which was provably formulated before any experimentation was done).
    5. this probability is less than 1/20, meaning that it seems worthwhile to figure out what is going on, duplicate the research (possibly by controlling better for all kinds of errors and unwanted effects).

    This means that if you see a paper in which more than 1 (one) outcome is examined for significance, you are dealing with an abuse of terminology. If you see a paper in which the supposedly significant outcome cannot be matched with a statement in a protocol (established before experimentation started) specifiying THAT particular outcome, don’t bother. The author probably knew which button to press for the computation but had no idea what it meant.

    If you see a paper in which hundreds of numbers have their p-value calculated there is only one proper reaction: a horse laugh. That’s worth ten thousand syllogisms. (H.L. Mencken)

  26. David Gorski says:

    This means that if you see a paper in which more than 1 (one) outcome is examined for significance, you are dealing with an abuse of terminology.

    Uh, no. If the outcomes to be examined were prespecified in the protocol (i.e., we’re not talking about post hoc subset analyses, for instance) and the appropriate statistical test was used to examine multiple outcomes and the appropriate post-test was used to correct for multiple comparisons, then examining multiple outcomes for significance is perfectly acceptable in medical research

  27. JBean says:

    Having practiced medicine in deep red Orange County and deep blue Santa Cruz, I’m inclined to agree with the view that there is a love of CAM on both sides of the aisle. Individual practices seem to vary with “political” views (which seem more tribal than informed for many), but the woo certainly has its admirers on both teams. OTOH there was a Pew poll in 2009 of PhDs in hard sciences. In that poll 55% identified as Democrats and 6% identified as Republicans. Mainstream R leaders reject settled science (looking at you, Sen. Inhofe!) and attempt to control funding for science research, but as the OP points out, Arianna Huffington’s blog/news organization is pro-woo and she’s kind of left leaning (this week) which is pretty much the same thing (not).

  28. Sawyer says:

    @ Jan

    I don’t know how often they are employed properly, but there are several ANOVA analysis techniques that can be used to accurately test multiple hypotheses in a single experiment/paper. These techniques are specifically designed to minimize things like p-value fishing.

  29. pmoran says:

    On not my favourite subject, Brisbane was gasping for water during a recent prolonged drought. In addition to half-flush toilets, now in use for many years in this relatively waterless country, the urgings towards water savings in other respects went as far as promoting a “if its brown, flush it down, if it’s yellow, be mellow!” policy. The amount of waste water going down the drains must have been at an incredible all-time low, without causing any problems that I heard of.

    The combination of policies was so successful that now that Brisbane is awash with water after recent floods (yes, floods!) the water companies are having to push up prices because they are now not selling enough to make ends meet. The water-saving habit has stuck, for now.

    So why the problems in San Francisco? Not poor science, I think. Simply old engineering?

  30. mousethatroared says:

    HH “isn’t it inconsistent to want freedom for abortion or vaccine decisions while not allowing people the freedom to choose what kind of toilet to buy?”

    No it’s not inconsistent – The distinction between these acts is usually made at who the choices impact. If a decision impacts a community in a meaningful way, then the community should have some ability to make rules to protect their surroundings/environment. This prevents people or corporations from using “free choice” to pour their personal sewage into the streets and the like.

    If a decision only impacts the individual making the decision, then privacy rights usually take precedence over the concerns of the community.

    I don’t see how low flow toilets could be considered anti-science. One could certainly make an argument that they were poorly executed science, though.

    Generally, I dislike these kinda of “liberals are like this” and “conservatives are like that”books. Which liberals, which conservatives? Not all liberals are avid environmentalists or into “natural” products, etc. It certainly makes sense to say if certain issues are being portrayed in a scientifically inaccurate way or if some political party’s platform is more or less anti-science, but beyond that it seems like over generalizations.

  31. Narad says:

    They lament the birds killed by wind turbines, which amount to only 0.006 percent of total bird fatalities; domestic cats kill about 500 times as many birds.

    *Sigh*

  32. JBean says:

    Just for grins, I googled the “low flush” toilet story — hypothesis testing and all that. The San Francisco water department believes that low flush toilets “may contribute” to the problem, but feels that there are other issues with the aged sewer system. The $14M was a contract for three years of supplies and only 20% or roughly $1M per year was for supplies to be used to treat the problem that is “possibly” related to low flow toilets. I suspect that much of the rest of the book is similarly misrepresented “facts”. Perhaps they are complementary and alternative facts?

    Normally I lurk here, but this just kind of got me riled up. Classically conservatives favor “small government”, but it does not follow that progressives then favor the mirror image of “large government”. In actual practice nominal conservatives and nominal progressives favor expanding and shrinking different areas of government. Dr. Hall’s statements about progressives are inflammatory and inaccurate and the book she is reviewing is just a silly book published by a right-wing publisher.

  33. DevoutCatalyst says:

    San Francisco’s water utility remains big on low flow toilets,

    http://www.sfwater.org/index.aspx?page=173

  34. Lost Marble says:

    I’m in agreement that scientific illiteracy is rampant on both sides.
    I take issue with people constantly lambasting ‘band-aid’ solutions. I prefer to think of them as the first step of many. Start somewhere, start small and then keep going.

  35. David Gorski says:

    Question for those who advocate freedom of choice: isn’t it inconsistent to want freedom for abortion or vaccine decisions while not allowing people the freedom to choose what kind of toilet to buy?

    That argument about freedom of choice for abortions versus toilet choice was first made, as far as I know, by Rand Paul and seems to have been the result of a fit of pique. There is, of course, a simple answer to this particular comparison. The choice of what sort of toilet is on sale is not a fundamental right according to law and the Supreme Court. Reproductive freedom and the freedom to control what goes into one’s body are. Rand Paul’s example is really comparing the proverbial apples and oranges. Freedom of choice for fundamental rights is a very different matter than the freedom to use all the water you feel you’re entitled to, particularly in places where water supply is constrained. One also notes that low flow toilets these days are very much better technologically (as the Straight Dope also points out) than they were; so it’s really not such an inconvenience.

    I must admit, though, that Harriet piqued my curiosity on the whole issue of the reported evils of low flow toilets. So I did a bit of Googling (always a dangerous thing). It turns out that the benefits in terms of water savings due to low flow toilets are, contrary to Berezow and Campbell’s assertions, quite substantial, as Peter Gleick calculates. (So are the potential savings from turning off the water while brushing your teeth, despite Berezow and Campbell’s ridicule of that idea, too.) Sure, even combined they won’t be more than a few percent, but a few percent savings here and a couple of percent savings there and soon you’re talking significant savings. Berezow and Campbell seem to have fallen for the fallacy of the perfect solution, wherein if the solution doesn’t produce immediate major effects it’s dismissed as crap and ridiculed. That fallacy is very good pretext to justify doing nothing, because all solutions to problems involve tradeoffs and many of them do not have large effects.

    It also becomes apparent that Berezow and Campbell’s estimations don’t tell the complete story. For instance, according to Harriet’s review they state that “domestic water use only represents 1% of total use and toilets are a small fraction of that; it would make far more sense to target efficiency in power plants (49% of water use) and irrigation (31%).” Actually, domestic water use is more like 12.6% (by my calculation from this link, although this link says 11%).

    Moreover, Berezow and Campbell’s claim that targeting efficiency in power plants would make a huge difference just doesn’t wash, because the vast majority of that water, after being used to cool the electricity-generating equipment, goes right back to the lakes and rivers where it came from, minus a small amount of evaporative loss. It is, in effect, nearly all recycled. Including it in the calculations serves only to make potential savings from other sources look smaller. If you remove the water used for power generation (which is nearly all recycled anyway), then irrigation makes up 61% of water usage, and domestic water use is more like 22-25%, a much more substantial fraction with which to work. Moreover, there is nothing to say that we shouldn’t be trying to conserve water in multiple areas of use. We could try to decrease domestic water use from public supplies and water use for irrigation.

    No, the more I look into Berezow and Campbell’s specific examples, the less compelling and the more dubious I find them. First they distort the politics of vaccine denialism, and now their assertions about how horrible low flush toilets are strike me as unconvincing. I wonder what I will find if I look into some of their other examples of “liberal antiscience.” I’ll give them GMOs, because I’ve written about the pseudoscience of GMO hysteria before and basically agree that it’s hysterics. But what about the rest?

    I suspect most of Berezow and Campbell’s examples will turn out to be like their examples of vaccines and low flush toilets, one-sided and distorted, but I’m too tired to do more investigation tonight. It also pains me to be this critical of a book that Harriet favorably reviewed, but just the examples described are full of problems to the point where I really highly doubt that the rest of the book is any better, particularly after reading some of Berezow and Campbell’s writings and talks elsewhere, which are clearly derived from the book.

  36. DevoutCatalyst says:

    Thank you David.

  37. Harriet Hall says:

    “Dr. Hall’s statements about progressives are inflammatory and inaccurate and the book she is reviewing is just a silly book published by a right-wing publisher”

    They are not my statements, but the statements of the book’s authors. I ended by saying “You may very well disagree with some of the opinions in this book, or even with the way it selects its facts, but it will give you food for thought about some very important issues.” I didn’t say you could believe everything the book says; I hoped readers could get beyond the politics, look into the evidence, and think for themselves about how to apply good science to complex problems facing our society.

    I endorse their contention that anti-science attitudes are prevalent on both sides of the aisle, and I concur with their call for clear, unbiased thinking about public policies based on good scientific evidence rather than ideology-influenced distortions of science. If they have distorted the science themselves due to their own ideology, that just reinforces the point.

  38. mho says:

    Dr. Hall,

    I also find the review isn’t entirely clear where the authors’ opinions begin.

    “I wasn’t clear on what “progressives” meant^, but apparently ^progressives are similar to liberals in that they value economic authoritarianism and different in that they are also social authoritarians.”

    adding ^ “to the authors” in one of those two places would help.

  39. Alia says:

    A bit more on low flush toilet problem. Over here low flush toilets are not mandatory – and yet, our utilities report that the sewage system is starting to clog. Why? Very simple, water is getting more and more expensive, so people try to save it – install low flush toilets on their own, buy more water-efficient washing mashines and dishwashers, turn off water while brushing their teeth, have short showers instead of baths, etc – you could say it’s a tryumph of market forces. So what we have here is an appeal not to clog the sewage system additionally, for example by throwing things not intended to go into sewage.

  40. Instead of a low flow toilet, consider upgrading to a squat toilet , it’s better for your rectal health. less strain on the bowel while evacuating the load. I recommend squat toilets for people with constipation problems, hemorrhoids, and generally at risk for colon disorders.

  41. JBean says:

    Dr. Hall, I apologize for misunderstanding that the OP was meant to be a quote. Since I’m not insulting you, I guess that I can say what I really think. ;)

    It’s hard to “get beyond the politics” when reading the work of a couple of polemecists who deliberately distort facts and use loaded language to describe their political opposition. It’s easy to go nutpicking in both the right and left blogs, but to represent the views of random blog commenters as the equivalent to Gov. Jindal or Sen. Inhofe is just plain dumb. This is a case of false equivalence of the highest order. Additionally, the twits who wrote this book seem to be mostly interested in smearing progressives rather than presenting any kind of coherent argument that I can see in the excerpt you have selected. The random claims about cats, toilets, and walking to the grocery store don’t represent the views of any progressive or conservative that I know or, I suspect, conservative Democrat Al Gore. The “definitions” of the terms “liberal”, “conservative”, and “progressive” are ridiculous and meant to be insulting.

    So no, I won’t be reading this book. It appears to be simply a smear job larded with made up “facts” rather than a coherent argument that examines the data and the ideas that Chris Mooney writes about.

    P.S. In the interest of full disclosure I am a liberal Democrat who believes strongly in walking to the grocery store, keeping cats indoors and low flow toilets.

  42. mho says:

    I attended a 2 hr. town hall (because I wanted to speak to my state Senator on another matter) on water use, presented by our regional water company.

    We have had drought conditions for several years so their conservation effort seem appropriate.

    The issue that seemed very silly to me was grey water. People want the technology to recycle their washing machine water toward their gardens. Our city recycles a large portion of its water after first use, and counts every drop in its water rights negotiations. I don’t want to have to do it myself–government is in a far better position technically to do it well. The water company did say that they were working with new developments to build the capabilites into their buildings, even though it wouldn’t result in a lot of saving ecologically or financially. They were interested in permeable concrete though, as a way to prevent overloads on drainage pipes and get rain water back to the water table more directly.

    We have a low water toilet, with a power flush that was supposed to conserve. The pump only worked well the first 4 months, so until we get it replaced, the improperly working shut-off mechanism costs far more than a regular toilet.

    As far as a squat toilet–forget about it if anyone in your house has arthritis or bad knees or any of a host of other conditions! But–I forgot– naturopathy could prevent those conditions. (not)

  43. David Gorski says:

    It’s hard to “get beyond the politics” when reading the work of a couple of polemecists who deliberately distort facts and use loaded language to describe their political opposition. It’s easy to go nutpicking in both the right and left blogs, but to represent the views of random blog commenters as the equivalent to Gov. Jindal or Sen. Inhofe is just plain dumb. This is a case of false equivalence of the highest order. Additionally, the twits who wrote this book seem to be mostly interested in smearing progressives rather than presenting any kind of coherent argument that I can see in the excerpt you have selected. The random claims about cats, toilets, and walking to the grocery store don’t represent the views of any progressive or conservative that I know or, I suspect, conservative Democrat Al Gore. The “definitions” of the terms “liberal”, “conservative”, and “progressive” are ridiculous and meant to be insulting.

    Indeed. One wonders whether there were the usual gratuitous, exaggerated, and fallacious attacks on Al Gore in this book. (I bet there were.) Because, you know, if Al Gore is mistaken about a single fact, if he’s hypocritical, or overweight, or if the beard he used to sport looked nasty, the entire edifice of lies that is AGW obviously must crumble. (Sorry. I couldn’t resist a bit of sarcasm.) At least, those seem to be the common fallacies used by AGW denialists, and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if they’re in this book.

    In any case, this book was obviously meant to be a political attack released a couple of months before the 2012 election designed to counter the meme that Republicans have a distressing tendency to be antiscience in key areas, such as human-induced climate change, evolution, reproductive health, and others, and that’s how it should be judged, not as a work of science, skepticism, or reason. Unfortunately, Berezow and Campbell demonstrate their desperation by their choice of examples, the very slanted way they describe them, and the information they leave out. The attack on Obama as being on par with the activities of antivaccine loon Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. because Obama did what all three major candidates in 2008 did and pandered a bit to the “vaccine skeptics” was the most blatant distortion, but I’m sure it wasn’t the only one. It was, as I pointed out before, lying by omission to imply that Obama’s behavior was of a piece with the antivaccine proclivities of RFK, Jr. while failing to note that John McCain said almost exactly the same thing during the campaign and, in fact, was arguably more credulous than Obama. That’s false equivalency (Obama’s pandering, as annoying as it was, was brief, not repeated, and certainly not on par with the sustained antivaccine polemics of RFK, Jr.) and leaves out a key bit of information to put the issue in context (namely, that John McCain said almost exactly the same thing).

    After I discovered that obvious misrepresentation, coupled with Berezow and Campbell’s highly superficial view of the antivaccine movement as being only “liberal” or “progressive,” everything else described in the book fell under suspicion as being similarly distorted. A quick analysis of the “low flush toilet” example showed the same sorts of propagandist techniques at play.

    The other thing going on here is false equivalence. As I pointed out before, the left wing/”progressive” loons attacked by Berezow and Campbell are at the fringes of the Democratic Party; they are not the leaders or the base. The right wing loons to which they are being falsely represented as equivalent are the base and leaders of the Republican Party. It’s easy to find antiscience loons on both sides of the political fence. They’ve always been there. The question that should be asked is: What is the relative influence of these loons in each party? The day you see Democrats routinely get up on the floor of the House or Senate to “rally the troops” by giving a blistering condemnation of vaccines or a passioned defense of animal rights against “vivisection” or the day Democrats routinely start campaigning on these issues as frequently and passionately as Republicans campaign on creationism and AGW denialism is the day that Berezow and Campbell might have a point about equivalency to Republicans attacking AGW, evolution, and the like.

  44. BillyJoe7 says:

    Well, the flush toilet is never going to catch on because “Americans are so fat and out of condition that they can barely stand from a sitting position let alone a squatting position” (:

  45. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    examining multiple outcomes for significance

    One can do that of course and it is not hard. Suppose you plan beforehand to look at outcomes A, B, C and D.
    Your null hypothesis is (for example) that they are all normally distributed with mean 0 and variance 1. (This means
    that the square of the deviation of each of them is distributed as chisquared with one degree of freedom.)

    You may decide that if any of them shows a ‘large’ deviation you will call that a ‘significant’ result. So you are
    still looking at a single computed probability P, namely the probability that at least one of the results deviates
    more than x from zero (above or below). If this P is less than 0,05 you are planning to call the result significant.

    The computation goes as follows. (0.95)^(1/5) equals 0.9897937, which is another way of saying (0.9897937) to the power 5 equals
    0.95. Now the probability that a normally distributed variable such as A,…,E will not differ from 0 more than 2.569 happens to be 0.9897937 or thereabouts. So the probability that all five stay within these bounds is (0.9897937) to the power 5, and that is 0.95.

    So if any of A,…,E will differ from 0 more than 2.569 you may call the set of outcomes significant.

    This seems fairly complicated, but somewhat simpler: if you take a risk of 5% that you are fooled by a chance result, then you should take for 5 different outcomes each a risk of 5%/5 = 1%. Note that the above computation actually allows you an
    individual risk of 1- 0.9897937, which is 1,02% . Big deal.

    If you use the second method (5% significance translates to a ‘significance level’ of 5%/N if you have N outcomes) you can impress your friends by claiming that you used the Bonferroni correction, and if you use the first method, you may say you use the Dunn-Šidák correction.

    You can of course adopt another plan. You just add the squares of the deviations, then you get a single outcome that is distributed as chisquared with five degrees of freedom.

    In all cases there is in the end a single test, yielding either ‘the set of all outcomes showed a significant deviation’ or ‘the set of all outcomes showed no significant deviation’.

    What you may not do is try both the chisquared and the Bonferroni and then pick whetever suyits you best.

    All this applies to the situation where the test is supposed to be some kind of definitive support for a claim. The problem in lots of research is that the researcher beforehand has no idea about the outcome(s). In this ‘context of explorative investigation’ it is very hard to give rules. According to me it is quite unknown where the 5%=significant rule comes from. In particle fysics and astronomy one reckons 0,0001% = the signal is clear enough for an official publication (corresponding to |z|>4.9). Fisher (who worked in an agricultural testing station) may have recommended 5% for explorative research on a basis of a cost benefit analysis: throwing out something that works is a loss of benefit and keeping something that doesn’t work is expensive too (because you have to test it again, for example). Nowadays one never (to my knowledge) does a cost benefit analysis to deduce the proper ‘significance level’. It seems as if the benefits of accepting a correct ‘significant’ result are much bigger than the costs of an incorrect ‘significant’ result. Getting a ‘significant’ result earns a publication and fame (and not at all the obligation to do a repeat to check the result), and if it later happens to be a dud the researcher merely says ‘oops’. He or she doesn’t have to pay back grants and subsidies received, for example.

  46. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    examining multiple outcomes for significance

    One can do that of course and it is not hard. Suppose you plan beforehand to look at outcomes A, B, C and D.
    Your null hypothesis is (for example) that they are all normally distributed with mean 0 and variance 1. (This means
    that the square of the deviation of each of them is distributed as chisquared with one degree of freedom.)

    You may decide that if any of them shows a ‘large’ deviation you will call that a ‘significant’ result. So you are
    still looking at a single computed probability P, namely the probability that at least one of the results deviates
    more than x from zero (above or below). If this P is less than 0,05 you are planning to call the result significant.

    The computation goes as follows. (0.95)^(1/5) equals 0.9897937, which is another way of saying (0.9897937) to the power 5 equals
    0.95. Now the probability that a normally distributed variable such as A,…,E will not differ from 0 more than 2.569 happens to be 0.9897937 or thereabouts. So the probability that all five stay within these bounds is (0.9897937) to the power 5, and that is 0.95.

    So if any of A,…,E will differ from 0 more than 2.569 you may call the set of outcomes significant.

    This seems fairly complicated, but somewhat simpler: if you take a risk of 5% that you are fooled by a chance result, then you should take for 5 different outcomes each a risk of 5%/5 = 1%. Note that the above computation actually allows you an
    individual risk of 1- 0.9897937, which is 1,02% . Big deal.

    If you use the second method (5% significance translates to a ‘significance level’ of 5%/N if you have N outcomes) you can impress your friends by claiming that you used the Bonferroni correction, and if you use the first method, you may say you use the Dunn-Šidák correction.

    You can of course adopt another plan. You just add the squares of the deviations, then you get a single outcome that is distributed as chisquared with five degrees of freedom.

    In all cases there is in the end a single test, yielding either ‘the set of all outcomes showed a significant deviation’ or ‘the set of all outcomes showed no significant deviation’.

    What you may not do is try both the chisquared and the Bonferroni and then pick whetever suits you best.

    All this applies to the situation where the test is supposed to be some kind of definitive support for a claim. The problem in lots of research is that the researcher beforehand has no idea about the outcome(s). In this ‘context of explorative investigation’ it is very hard to give rules. According to me it is quite unknown where the 5%=significant rule comes from. In particle fysics and astronomy one reckons 0,0001% = the signal is clear enough for an official publication (corresponding to |z|>4.9). Fisher (who worked in an agricultural testing station) may have recommended 5% for explorative research on a basis of a cost benefit analysis: throwing out something that works is a loss of benefit and keeping something that doesn’t work is expensive too (because you have to test it again, for example). Nowadays one never (to my knowledge) does a cost benefit analysis to deduce the proper ‘significance level’. It seems as if the benefits of accepting a correct ‘significant’ result are much bigger than the costs of an incorrect ‘significant’ result. Getting a ‘significant’ result earns a publication and fame (and not at all the obligation to do a repeat to check the result), and if it later happens to be a dud the researcher merely says ‘oops’. He or she doesn’t have to pay back grants and subsidies received, for example.

  47. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    outcomes A, B, C and D.
    correct that to
    outcomes A, B, C, D and E.

  48. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    (posting the same thing twice was not my intention. something went wrong)

  49. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    For me the book made the point that there are no angels on either side of the political divide, and that it’s absurd to believe that you can neatly split people into pro-science or anti-science merely by party affiliation. Which is an absurd thought anyway. The addition of progressive and conservative(?) “vertical” dimension to the hitherto left-right dimension definitely added something interesting, but still oversimplifies things. For me it comes down to a pretty basic idea – scientists and technical specialists are the best people to make these decisions, not politicians. I long for a scientific utopia. Unlikely to happen, and tremendous waste is engendered by basing decisions on grassroots (or astroturf) voices rather than empirical criteria. But still, much as I want my giant mecha, I also want my technocratic utopia.

    @Stanmrack

    Hard for me to believe that intelligent people still think that genetically-modified food is a good idea, especially when virtually every claim made by Monsanto for the superiority of GM agriculture has been exposed as lies, over and over again. Not fewer pesticides and herbicides, but more — and more toxic varieties. New superweeds and superbugs, impervious to even harsher chemicals. Not more nutritious food, less nutritious. Not higher yields. Not more drought-resistant crops. Farm animals fed GM feed developing strange diseases and infertility… I could go on and on.

    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GM_Feed_toxic_new_metaanalysis_confirms.php

    Open Letter from World Scientists to All Governments Concerning Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/list.php

    Just a point of note, you’re citing the “Institute for Science in Society. Now, while it looks like the Institute for Science and Society, an “international centre of excellence in Science and Technology Studies, based in the School of Sociology and Social Policy” based out of the University of Nottingham, to the point that they compete for google rankings, it’s actually qute different. The Institute for Science in Society seems to be primarily based on opposition to genetic modification, not to the general promotion of, or neutral examination of, science. For instance, they seem to be rather pro-homeopathy, which immediately undercuts any claim they might have towards scientific credibility. Dr. Colquhoun not a reliable source? Why don’t we go straight to the ISIS’s own words? Like this page. Then there’s the claim that “Science should contribute to the physical and spiritual well-being of all societies.” An interesting stance. You might also note on that page, that they list a series of publications – none of which seem to antedate 2000 (personally, I like my science to be less than 13 years old, but then again you don’t like science). They support organic food, and even worse – biodynamic food, which is based on mysticism rather than science.

    If we’re going for pop promotion of GMO, we could start with Mark Lynas’ 180 on the matter. Or we could ask what the World Health Organization thinks. But really it doesn’t matter – actual experts, the people who actually try to feed the world using technical solutions, think that GMO crops are adequate. No actual harms have been associated with them. No theoretical harms have played out in any empirical fashion. There is every reason to believe that GMO represents a powerful technology whose problems are mostly alarmism (and corporate control – a reason to write to your congressperson to sponsor open-source seed initiatives and research) rather than real. Vaccines actually went through a similar reactionary movement when first introduced (and, of course, you’re still living and breathing that reactionary movement, parasitic on herd immunity). Intelligent people have looked at GMO and found little to balk at, but much promise. Relatively wealthy first-world environmentalists have rejected them as unnatural. Sure, they’re not natural. But starving to death is quite natural. Fuck nature. Nature doesn’t care if we live or die. I’ll take my unnaturally long life, good health and delightfully unnatural internet access any day over the “natural” equivalents, thank you very much.

  50. David Gorski says:

    For me the book made the point that there are no angels on either side of the political divide, and that it’s absurd to believe that you can neatly split people into pro-science or anti-science merely by party affiliation. Which is an absurd thought anyway.

    It’s also a straw man, because no one (not even Chris Mooney!) is saying that there are angels on either side of the political divide or that you can neatly split people into pro-science or anti-science merely by party affiliation—no one, apparently, except for Berezow and Campbell characterizing their opponents criticizing Republicans for antiscience beliefs.

  51. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Hence the “absurd thought anyway” comment :) Berezow and Campbell basically wrote a book-length list of examples of scientific fallacies on the left. It’s an imperfect list (for it to be perfect, you’d need every section to be written by the world-class experts on the matter – who would be the first to admit their knowledge is flawed and tentative). I like “lists” of examples like this because it directly confronts your preconceptions with specific counter-examples. As the counter-examples pile up, your ability to write them off as anomalies gradually beings to erode.

    It all comes back to my belief that the people making the decisions aren’t equipped with the knowledge to do so. Politicians often make stupid, partisan decisions, generally without any reference to the empirical work on the matter (and if such reference is made, it’s often to a biased set of findings). The system incentivizes it. This is where a benevolant dictatorship would be a far better way of running a country. Now I just need to figure out a way to perfect the “benevolant” part…*

    *Until our robot overlords take over, all hail 00101001101010010101010, our great and benevolant electronic overfiend.

  52. David Gorski says:

    It’s an imperfect list

    That’s the understatement of the thread, given how deceptive and slanted at least two of their examples are! I’m still wondering how many other of their examples are just as deceptive and slanted. I just don’t have the energy to investigate all of them.

  53. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    If it makes people question their underlying preconceptions (i.e. things like “the democrats are the party of science”), I can only see it as a good thing. It tears apart a mental shortcut people use to organize their thinking about political parties, which hopefully will lead to a greater level of scrutiny of said parties and their platforms. Heck, it’s a bit of a meta-example of the purpose of the book: question your assumptions, question your facts, and above all – question the assumptions and facts of other people.

    I enjoyed it, but certainly wouldn’t use it as a firm foundation on which to develop specific opinions on specific topics. If I want to know what the actual risks of GMO are, I would dig into something by the NAS.

  54. ConspicuousCarl says:

    I think Gorski’s points are valid, possibly overstated as everything seems to be on this subject. Anti-science is definitely more fringey among democrats, just not quite as much as is implied by the summary of “fringe here, core there”. There may also be a slight disconnect between the politicians and salesmen and the beliefs of their voters and consumers.

    I don’t want this to sound like a recommendation, but maybe you haven’t spent enough time hanging out with left-coast-style everyday hippies who will, in the same conversation, declare modern medicine to be a sham and also whine about how horrible it is that poor people don’t get free health insurance.

    A few years ago, Whole Foods founder John Mackey criticized Obamacare (while suggesting we focus on prevention, presumably with the vitamins, homeopathy, and grass sludge for which his customers pay billions), and everyone (customers and others) told him how stupid it was for a store with left-wing customers to trash Obama.

    Democrats like Clinton may be OK with GMO, but a far-from-negligible portion of her voters are not. And consider it from their point of view: Monsanto is evil, but we accept a little corruption from someone who shares in other political views and is, after all, a politician. Then consider, possibly more likely, that they are clueless about their favorite Democrat’s positions on some things and merely assume agreement. How many current young Democrat voters know that both DOMA and DADT were approved by Bill Clinton? Why should they all be any more informed about Hillary’s view of GMO?

  55. JBean says:

    I don’t want this to sound like a recommendation, but maybe you haven’t spent enough time hanging out with left-coast-style everyday hippies who will, in the same conversation, declare modern medicine to be a sham and also whine about how horrible it is that poor people don’t get free health insurance.

    Absolutely nobody is arguing that there are no liberals/progressives/Democrats with nutty views about science. Hell, I even confess to owning a bottle of vitamin pills, but the Republican party platform at the national level explicitly rejects global warming and multiple state party platforms reject evolution. That is a problem. If my neighbor rejects evolution, I can roll my eyes and hold my tongue, but if the governor of my state or the board of education in my city reject evolution, then I have a real problem. Even if my governor is cool (and mine is), when children in other states are denied education, we all lose.

    CO2 levels have reached a scary high level and one party explicitly rejects not just the smallest attempt to address the problem, but even rejects the idea that the is a problem. Congress has passed laws that the CDC may not collect or analyze data about gun injuries. There are US senators that want to prohibit funding of certain areas of scientific research. In Virginia climate researchers have been the object of laws prohibiting their research and fraud investigations. That’s just not the same as people in Birkenstocks signing anti-GMO petitions.

    You should see my dogs. Talk about genetically modified organisms.

  56. Harriet Hall says:

    Even if you think a book is a biased, polemical book, it might still be worth reading. My recommendation was intended to get people thinking about important issues, and it seems to have done that.

    The very title of the book The Republican War on Science was polemical and one-sided. It is useful to point out that there are anti-science attitudes on the other side of the aisle, even if the authors were equally polemical and one-sided.

    As I said before, “they call for clear, unbiased thinking about public policies based on good scientific evidence rather than ideology-influenced distortions of science. If they have distorted the science themselves due to their own ideology, that just reinforces the point.”

  57. David Gorski says:

    As I said before, “they call for clear, unbiased thinking about public policies based on good scientific evidence rather than ideology-influenced distortions of science. If they have distorted the science themselves due to their own ideology, that just reinforces the point.”

    In other words, “Do as we say and not as we do”? Who knew Berezow and Campbell were so clever, to provide themselves as an example of the very thing they rail against in the very book in which they rail against it? :-)

  58. mousethatroared says:

    “they call for clear, unbiased thinking about public policies based on good scientific evidence rather than ideology-influenced distortions of science. If they have distorted the science themselves due to their own ideology, that just reinforces the point.”

    huh? Don’t the anti-vax groups do basically the same thing? (with their “safe vax” claiming to just want more, unbiased research) In my mind calling for clear and unbiased thinking, yet distorting the science to support their ideology only qualifies them for the titles of insincere and a dubious source for information.

    There’s lots of books by insincere authors who offer dubious information. What makes this one anymore valuable than the rest?

  59. ConspicuousCarl says:

    JBean on 22 May 2013 at 12:19 pm
    Absolutely nobody is arguing that there are no liberals/progressives/Democrats with nutty views about science.

    I like how you respond to me with a “nobody said ___”, and the ___ is something which I didn’t say anyone said.

  60. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    There’s lots of books by insincere authors who offer dubious information. What makes this one anymore valuable than the rest?

    Heh, you could replace “insincere” with its opposite and still be completely honest.

    My sense of much of the skeptical community is that it tends to tar Republicans as a party as antiscientific (mostly due to abortion, climate change and evolution) meanwhile the failings of left-leaners tend to be more “this individual is a nutjob”. There’s an asymmetrical perspective when it comes down to an entire political party. It’s easy to tar and feather “Republicans” as “antiscience” while “Democrats” are “pro-science” when the reality is there are pro-science Republicans, antiscience Democrats, and vice-versa. It should come down to individuals, individual issues and the like, but unfortunately it doesn’t.

    I still liked the book and am glad I read it! Probably the best book would be a mash-up of The Republican War on Science with Science Left Behind, based solely on well-sourced criticisms of specific issues.

    Or, of course, rule by despotic benevolent robotic overlords.

  61. This question has to be framed carefully if we’re ever going to answer it. Are we comparing the platforms of the Republican and Democratic parties; the legislative agendas of the two parties; the attitudes of the two parties’ respective electoral bases; or the attitudes of left wing vs. right wing Americans?

    If we’re comparing the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties, there is no question that the GOP is dramatically more hostile to science than the Democrats. Global warming denial is practically non-negotiable within the GOP. The party wrote all references to climate change out of its platform in 2012, eliminating language from 2008 implied (however tepidly) that climate change is real. During the Republican primary, not a single candidate dared to say he or she believed in evolution without qualification. I’m not aware of anything in the Democratic party platform that flies in the face of science in the same way. In terms of legislation and public statements, you don’t see many Democratic elected officials clamoring for alternative medicine or campaigning against GMOs. These are simply not mainstream views within the Democratic caucuses of the House or the Senate. These issues are not integral to the Democratic party’s agenda. Whereas, denying climate change is a bread and butter issue for Republicans. A friend of mine who covers climate science mentioned the other day that Republican lawmakers are refusing to talk to him about anomalous weather in their districts because they’re terrified that they’ll be tarred with the global warming believer brush.

    If the question is whether belief in woo is more widespread on the left or the right, that’s an empirical question. Does the book cite any research on this subject?

    Anecdotally, woo seems equally widespread on the far left and the far right. The worship of naturalness is as prevalent on the right as it is on the left. Fads, like “natural” childbirth and raw milk seem to have bipartisan fringe appeal. You’ve got crunchy granola lefties lining up beside Christian home schoolers. Lefties are more likely to be suspicious of GMOs, though if you run with the Alex Jones crowd, there are a fair number of black helicopter types who are just as terrified (and often heavily armed).

    If you go down Harriet’s bullet-pointed list of examples from the book, almost all of them involve fringe activists, not Democratic politicians, or prominent movement leaders. Has any Democratic elected official ever claimed that a pound of beef equals a gallon of gas? Are any Democratic legislators tilting against wind farms on behalf of songbirds? (The only people I know campaigning to keep house cats off the streets are pro-regulation lefty bloggers.) Far from rejecting high tech farming, elected federal Democrats tend to be very pro agribusiness. All politicians who want to get elected in farm states are! Whereas, lots of powerful Democratic lawmakers (and some Republicans) are in favor of alternative energy, including wind power. The final point on the list is the fact that Al Gore gave up on ethanol fuel because the plan was based on bad science. That example seems to undermine rather than reinforce the authors’ claim that progressives are driven by ideology rather than data. Gore stopped supporting ethanol when he realized that it was scientifically unsupportable. That’s what’s supposed to happen.

  62. Gore stopped supporting ethanol when he realized that it was scientifically unsupportable.

    Only a complete moron could dream up the idea of throwing cornstalks into the fuel tank as an energy generation idea. You dont need to be a scientist to figure the energy returned on energy invested on that one. Says a lot about Gore.

  63. ConspicuousCarl says:

    FastBuckArtist on 23 May 2013 at 6:04 pm
    “Only a complete moron could [...]”
    “You dont need to be a scientist to figure [...]“

    With such strength the devil doth tempt me.

  64. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    re: “At least, those seem to be the common fallacies used by AGW denialists”

    Unfortunately some people use the phrase “denier” as if it were akin to to a true believer decrying someone as a “heretic”. There are many skeptics that view AGW research as being akin to research about alternative medicine which publishes homeopathy and acupuncture journals which mimic the the scientific process. Nobel laureate physicist called such fields “cargo cult science” which superficially resemble real science but lack an appropriate ability to be skeptical of their own claims. The concept of a “paradigm shift” came about because it became apparent that since science is a human process it can potentially at times become dysfunctional and flawed and resist paying attention to critique. Unfortunately some folks who value science blindly assume without understanding much about the field that climate research is at the same level of quality as say particle physics.. rather than that a subset of it is poor quality despite the use of sophisticated computers. I’m sure a huge % of homeopaths consider proof for their discipline to be “settled”. Try expressing critiques of any aspect of AGW theory in many places and the reactions you get are similar to those you get expressing skepticism of any alternative medicine from practitioners, it doesn’t give evidence of being a healthy scientific discipline.

    Although there are many people researching various aspects of climate, the final conclusions are based on complex climate models that are the work of a fairly small field which is what many are skeptical of. It is easier for a small niche to go astray than a larger one. If someone created a system that claimed to forecast the dow jones average a year from today within 2 points, or the temperature a year from today within half a degree, it would be natural to be skeptical of such claims without sufficient proof that the complex processes were modeled sufficiently well to justify the claims. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

    Unfortunately polls of climate scientists show there are many areas they consider poorly understood. Yet magically they then express more certainty in the end results of the models done by a small subset of people, apparently assuming they are up to normal scientific standards. They seem to have difficulty with the concept of “garbage in, garbage out”, and with the notion that a group validating its own model is akin to a company auditing itself and claiming it found no trouble. Search for the American Meterological Society paper on the “Uncertainty Monster” by professor Judith Curry explaining a tiny fraction of the problems with the unwarranted claims of certainty in these models. The paper is an understatement, the ways they try to cover over uncertainty in measurements and the problem of sparse limited data are disturbing to those from other fields who look into them.

    Unfortunately it is natural that a scientific process might be subject to being skewed when its funding is politically driven. If there are 3 proposals for funding and one says “the sky maybe falling, you better fund me just in case” and another says “things are fine, but there is this cool thing that we should research” or “I want to show the sky is falling” then politically it makes sense that the “just in case” fear based one will be funded.

    The areas that aren’t well understood are modeled differently in different models, and therefore tweaks need to be made to them to get the end results to match data they are trained to match. So models with different physics get the same results, which should give pause and lead to the concern that essentially the poorly modeled areas leading to the need for tweaks turn these into glorified curve fitting tools rather than robust models. They are even based on incomplete data, they are essentially using warming as a flawed proxy for heat energy. To measure the heat energy of a quantity of atmosphere you need to know its humidity was well as its pressure, and not simply its temperature. They gloss over such factors, and over physical problems with the concept of how they combine average temperatures, search for a journal paper by Ross Micitrick on the problems with the concept of a global temperature average. There are long range patterns that aren’t sufficiently well understood that can overwhelm short term trends. If you study a few seconds of a wave headed down a beach you might conclude the water will keep heading out, being unaware of the pattern which will lead the water to come back up the beach, and unaware that the tide is coming in so it will come up even higher.

    Those used to computer models in other fields are aware many too easily trust the results of models without appropriate skepticism, and tend to be concerned at the many excuses AGW modellers try to make for why their field shouldn’t be held to the same standards of evidence and validation as other disciplines.

  65. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    oops, in the last post the last of the 3 proposals for funding the last should have been “I want to show the sky isn’t falling”. Sorry for the length of that post, I just a longtime skeptic with a background in physics and computer models who actually read the last set of IPCC docs with a skeptical eye.. to see the certainty in the conclusions was questionable given the underlying evidence containing weak links in the chain. I personally think we simply don’t know enough to have a clue where things will go in the future. I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the temperature may trend down again, or that it might trend up a bit but that we saved ourselves from an ice age that might have been worse… or that they are right and the temperatures will head up, but we need to apply more skepticism to their claims.

  66. Sawyer says:

    @CSB

    I don’t know if any of the contributors here are experts in climate science (you’re probably relying on the fact that they aren’t), but we all know how to spot an infamous “Gish Gallop” on any topic. Your above posts are shining examples. I suppose it is inevitable that climate change comes up in a post about politics and science, but you can’t throw out dozens of claims that would literally take hundreds of hours to dissect and pretend your having a legitimate discussion. If I can just offer one criticism without veering us off topic, I’d note that comparing homeopathy to climate science was an incredibly poor starting point for your rant. One field relies on accepting some simple tenets of 19th century chemistry and the other depends on denying them.

    Just because politics and science is a broad topic doesn’t mean we need to go off on every possible tangent. Can we stick to talking about subjects addressed in the book?

  67. @CSB

    The GW debate is so heavily politicised that honest science gets corrupted by politics. Researchers who try to publish something that doesnt agree with the party-line get hushed, peer-reviewed by partisan gatekeepers, have their tenures questioned. The political hacks in the academia stoop down as low as completely faking data if it serves their political goals.

    Not all republicans are GW-denialists. It’s not even a core agenda. Republican administration acknowledged global warming as a fact in state of the union speech years ago and even proposed plans to cut global emissions.

    The science on warming itself is compelling. Yes, the ocean is getting warmer. The pseudoscience starts at the question – what can we do about it? There is no scientifical evidence we have the smallest ability to reverse or even slow down global warming. This is where real scientists get their mouth shut by political hacks with an agenda.

  68. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    @Sawyer

    re:”I don’t know if any of the contributors here are experts in climate science (you’re probably relying on the fact that they aren’t), ”

    No. You seem to be. You provide no coherent argument against my points, merely generic disparagement, trusting people to blindly accept the quality of climate science merely because you use the phrase “science” in it and because the media goes along. To those in related fields it is like seeing journalists that go along with every latest fad article claiming homeopathy works.

    re: “Just because politics and science is a broad topic doesn’t mean we need to go off on every possible tangent. Can we stick to talking about subjects addressed in the book?”

    Several people referenced “denial” in climate change. The topic of the book was anti-science on the left, I brought up an example where many haven’t the slightest clue they are supporting a field which attacks those who dare disagree as “heretics” and comes across to those who are skeptical of its claims pretty much like alternative medical practitioners due to science based medicine advocates. I started reading Skeptical Inquirer back in the late 70s, and though I haven’t kept up with it I’ve paid a lot of attention to skeptical literature over the years.. and when dealing with climate types I find a similar culture among those that unquestioningly push the claim the “science is settled”.

  69. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    @FastBuckArtist

    Many here are critical of the view the mainstream media often has of alternative medicine. Yet then they don’t grasp when their views of AGW theory are driven by that same flawed media. Most people aren’t examining the evidence themselves but are trusting the scientific process, neglecting to consider whether that process is flawed in this case. Few have the ability or time to examine the science, and many from outside the field that try to do so are skeptical, and get dismissed as “heretics” for daring to challenge the true believers or to say actually ask for access to the data to analyze it. When the process is dysfunctional, trusting its results the way you trust other sciences is questionable.

    Back in the 70s there were high profile media claims of an imminent ice age and global famine that politicians were listening to. Climate researchers now scream bloody murder when that is brought up claiming “oh, that was only a subset of us”. The point is they prematurely declared a level of certainty beyond what was justified by the evidence. The public needs to be skeptical of whether or not they truly have the data now for their claimed level of certainty regarding the future, even if there has been some warming (with an arguable slow down/pause in it) that is far different from establishing a credible prediction of the future.

    re: “The science on warming itself is compelling. ”

    Many scientists from healthy fields too easily trust the results of this field, but some go and look into them. Among those that do I seem to see more skepticism from those coming from “hard sciences” like physics and math (since of course that relies purely on logic and doesn’t need to deal with uncertain data, it is the “hardest science” of them all) and less from those used to fields where there is more fuzzy data.. who should then consider whether they should be trusting climate research as if it were say particle physics.. or more like areas of science that are still in flux like many areas of medicine with flawed studies that aren’t replicated well enough or at all.

    re: “Yes, the ocean is getting warmer.”

    There is very limited sparse data over a small timeline which is questionably extrapolated to cover vast volumes with a questionable degree of certainty. In addition obviously there have been cycles of warming and cooling over long time scales in the past, and we don’t understand all the factors involved even if many try to push premature claims of certainty.

    The subject is under debate if people actually look into it, rather than being misled by e.g. a media report of 1 published paper which ignores other papers, and fails to grasp that paper publication is often merely the start of the review process. Many papers turn out to be flawed or are overturned in many fields.

    re: ” The pseudoscience starts at the question – what can we do about it?”

    There is also the question of what is an ideal temperature, and what the alternatives are (e.g. have we prevented a colder climate from kicking in and would that simply have done different damage, and if we are preventing a change can we “fine tune” it to keep a temperature steady or to we need to adapt to *some* change). There is the question of the cost/benefit of preventing a temperature change rather than adapting to a new temperature, and whether the claims of various impacts on ecosystems are warranted vs. unquestioned hyperbole riding on their coattails given the resilience of life and its adaptability. There is the question of whether there are geoengineering methods of countering any claimed human impact on climate and whether those methods are cheaper than the alternatives.

  70. gingerbread says:

    @CSB
    There are many skeptics that view AGW research as being akin to research about alternative medicine which publishes homeopathy and acupuncture journals which mimic the the scientific process

    If they truly think that then tey don’t deserve to be called sceptics, “deniers”/”denialist” is just right. After all is that really that hard to check what are these climatic journals, I mean who’s the publisher, what’s impact factor etc.?
    Actually what you say about journals is true for main denialist’s journal called “Energy and Environment”. Also the fact that Nobel laureate seys something, doesn’t mean it’s true. One should be more interested what specialists have to say about given topic than authorities.

    I’m sure a huge % of homeopaths consider proof for their discipline to be “settled”

    I’m also sure than huge % of astrophyscists think the same about The Big Bang or geologist think the same about plate tectonics.

    “AGW theory”
    Technically AGW isn’t a theory bu a phenomenon known based on observations and theories going back to XIX century and work of Fourrier, Tyndall and Arrhenius for instance (yes, idea of AGW is older than Al Gore ;)

    If you look for holes in climate science then check this out:
    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100120/full/463284a.html

  71. gingerbread says:

    Since I failed to quote properly, I repeat my comment

    @CSB

    There are many skeptics that view AGW research as being akin to research about alternative medicine which publishes homeopathy and acupuncture journals which mimic the the scientific process

    If they truly think that then tey don’t deserve to be called sceptics, “deniers”/”denialist” is just right. After all is that really that hard to check what are these climatic journals, I mean who’s the publisher, what’s impact factor etc.?
    Actually what you say about journals is true for main denialist’s journal called “Energy and Environment”. Also the fact that Nobel laureate seys something, doesn’t mean it’s true. One should be more interested what specialists have to say about given topic than authorities.

    I’m sure a huge % of homeopaths consider proof for their discipline to be “settled”

    I’m also sure than huge % of astrophyscists think the same about The Big Bang or geologist think the same about plate tectonics.

    “AGW theory”

    Technically AGW isn’t a theory bu a phenomenon known based on observations and theories going back to XIX century and work of Fourrier, Tyndall and Arrhenius for instance (yes, idea of AGW is older than Al Gore ;)

    If you look for holes in climate science then check this out:
    http://www.nature.com/news/2010/100120/full/463284a.html

  72. David Gorski says:

    There are many skeptics that view AGW research as being akin to research about alternative medicine which publishes homeopathy and acupuncture journals which mimic the the scientific process

    Wow. “CommonSenseBuilder” is anything but. I spotted more easily refuted AGW denialist tropes there than even my favorite AGW denialist Facebook friend Tim Slagle could cram into a single post. Well, done! Your trope/word ratio is approaching black hole density! And thanks for helping to make my point!

  73. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    The politics of climate change are separate from the science. The scientific consensus, which is imperfect, tentative, and always has outliers – but still represents the work of thousands of scientists who do little more than spend time thinking about their topics of expertise, far more so than anyone on this blog, editor or commentor – is still that climate change is occurring, and it is being driven by human activity. I’m going to listen to the real experts, thanks, not the talking points.

    The National Centre for Science Education has shifted its focus from creationism to climate change; they were always a good resource for debunking creationism and I have no doubt they’ll do equally good a job with climate change.

  74. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    @Gingerbread

    re: “Technically AGW isn’t a theory bu a phenomenon known based on observations and theories going back to XIX century and work of Fourrier, Tyndall and Arrhenius for instance (yes, idea of AGW is older than Al Gore”

    er no. Anyone making such a claim knows little about the topic. The existence of any warming is based on observations (though as Mickitrick’s paper point out, basic physics calls into question some of the way they aggregate that data), but the claimed cause is a theory (which is different than a “phenomenon” which seems to imply some higher level of assurance it is part of reality). There are vast numbers of processes going on, the issue is what level of impact humans are having (yes, they have some, the issue is how much, which is why it is a theory under debate).

    re: “If they truly think that then tey don’t deserve to be called sceptics, “deniers”/”denialist” is just right. After all is that really that hard to check what are these climatic journals, I mean who’s the publisher, what’s impact factor etc.?”

    All of which is completely irrelevant. So they cite each other, big deal. It is an inbred group, just like alternative medicien.

  75. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    @David Gorski

    You illustrate my point, you rely on mere disparagement claiming to see “denialist tropes”, when somehow I doubt you have read the IPCC working documents as I have in the past, and are relying on reciting the AGW “talking points” that are spread around for those that know little about the topic. Just like the talking points alternative med folks pass around. Read professor Judith Curry’s paper on the Uncertainty Monster, and Micktrick’s paper on the problems with a global temperature explaining basic physics, and professor Roger Pielke, Sr.’s work explaining the need to use things like moist enthalpy as a proxy rather than temperature. Or perhaps you can explain how temperature magically is the same as heat energy, when basic physics says it isn’t. Many of those in related fields that look into the computer modeling in climate research and find their claims of validation a pathetic joke, which you folks that know little about the topic blindly defend.

    Yes, many folks like you know little about computer modelling and validation (part of my background) and physics (also part of my background) and yet posture as if they are on the right side merely because they’ve been told that it is politically correct to be on that side by people that label themselves scientists. It is like seeing a hospital taken over by alternative medicine types who act as if they are the scientific ones, when they denounce anyone who brings up real science as a “heretic”, as you folks automatically do with the “denier” label.

  76. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    Here is nobel laureate Richard Feynman’s talk on “Cargo cult science”.

    http://neurotheory.columbia.edu/~ken/cargo_cult.html
    ” Yet these things are said to be scientific. We study them. And I think ordinary people with commonsense ideas are intimidated by this pseudoscience. A teacher who has some good idea of how to teach her children to read is forced by the school system to do it some other way–or is even fooled by the school system into thinking that her method is not necessarily a good one. Or a parent of bad boys, after disciplining them in one way or another, feels guilty for the rest of her life because she didn’t do “the right thing,” according to the experts.

    So we really ought to look into theories that don’t work, and science that isn’t science….

    I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science…

    But this long history of learning how to not fool ourselves–of having utter scientific integrity–is, I’m sorry to say, something that we haven’t specifically included in any particular course that I know of. We just hope you’ve caught on by osmosis ”

    Yet not all do. Skeptics need to grasp that science is a *human* process and can go astray, and that of course those stuck in a dysfunctional field will scream bloody murder that it isn’t.. even as scandals erupt about hiding and fudging data and trying to silence critics. I’m sure many in alternative medicine think “but vast numbers of people are using it, and there are many alternative practitioners, etc, etc, etc.”

    Science relies on a self correcting process, and people need to be concerned and skeptical when a field starts to denounce “heretics” who dare to question them as “deniers”. They need to consider whether perhaps dissent has been stifled. Yes, not all critics are right in any field. Some aren’t basing their critique on rational claims that have merit. But obviously most here would suspect a scientist in the middle of a homeopath convention being the sole one critiquing a talk might have merit even if he is in the minority. Obviously it is a tricky thing to assess, since you also don’t want to waste time with a homeopath in a science based medical conference trying to critique sound science. The issue is to partly to examine the culture.. and to see what those in related fields think (who in this case tend to get shouted down by climate folks for daring to critique them.. which isn’t a good sign).

  77. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    What was the actual conclusion of the IPPC working group? What did the actual, enormous group of experts from multiple disciplines and countries actually conclude? Did they use multiple lines of evidence? Did those lines of evidence converge on a common conclusion? Was that conclusion taht climate change is real? Did they think it was caused by human activities? Did they think it would have serious consequences for humans?

    The report is based on more than merely computer modelling and physics. While you might have experience in these areas, I highly doubt your day-to-day work, your full-time job, involves studying the impacts of human and non-human activities on the climate. Theirs. Is. So yeah, I’m going with the experts on this one, the real experts who live and breathe this stuff, and I’m not going to pretend anyone else has any credibility. Science isn’t common sense, it’s often counter-intuitive. It’s also far more correct than common sense. All the claims of conspiracy, that scientists are left-wing, that they’re doing this out of bias, these are the tactics used by denialists to protect themselves from cognitive dissonance, so they never have to change their minds or admit they were wrong.

    And even if you’re right, even if climate change is not caused by humans burning fossil fuels, it doesn’t change the end results for most of human behaviour. Fossil fuels are a one-shot deal. We don’t get to make more. They are a scarce and valuable commodity that will run out, so emphasis should be placed on efficiency, husbanding carefully so the last century doesn’t represent the peak of human accomplishments.

  78. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    How on earth can you compare climate change research to cargo cult science? Cargo cult science emphasizes never changing one’s mind in the face of new data, putting one’s conclusion before one’s premises irrespective the empirical data. The IPCC reports have been iterative, changing over time as new evidence becomes available and identifying areas of inadequate evidence in order to improve upon them. The human process goes astray when people ignore evidence, and there is no indication that this is the case with the IPCC and other efforts to assess the reality of climate change. The consensus and convergence of every single major scientific body is on the reality of climate change, and the role of humans in creating that reality.

    The data shows climate change is real, this is not cargo cult science, and “denialism” seems quite the proper appelation for your activities.

  79. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    re: “What was the actual conclusion of the IPPC working group? ”

    Those that actually follow details in this field at times are aware that there is a discrepancy between the level of certainty in the conclusions drawn compared to the body of work. Yes, there is a vast amount of work done on the details. The problem is that in reality there are *NOT* multiple lines of evidence for the end conclusions which are drawn by these models. At most other arguments can say it is plausible that human action have an impact, but there are large numbers of interacting processes and feedback looks going on. The *ONLY* quantification of the potential future of that impact is based on models which need to be validated against reality. Many AGW types will squirm and try to claim otherwise, but ultimately in science you need to deal with actual *predictions* and *testing* against reality of those theories.

    That is where they fall down. There are boxes within these models where the scientists *admit* they don’t have a good understanding of the phenomenon. Different models have different physics, which can’t all be right. Yet then they are tweaked to get similar results. That tweaking means they are *not* models based on a robust model of what is going on, but are essentially glorified curve fitting to work around those weakest links. Then they astonishingly act as if there were some apriori reason that their flawed models are necessarily going to be centered around the “real” result and use ensembles of a bunch of them combined (ala “the wisdom of the crowds” concept that a crowd may get an estimate right even if individuals within it don’t). Obviously there is no reason apriori to assume the distribution of those results will happen to center on reality since the reasons they are flawed may be correlated.

    I have been a skeptic for decades and observed the cultural aspects of cognitive dissonance and dysfunctional cultures that are akin to cargo cult science. All the signs are there that climate researchers and many that blindly parrot their views are falling into the same traps.

    The claims are of a flawed process, not a “conspiracy”, since it is a *human* process which *is* subject to dysfunction, as those that study the function of groups of humans realize (from the notion of “paradigm shifts” to e..g. in economics the study of how governments function in reality, regulatory capture and public choice theory (whose founders won nobel prizes) explaining how despite wishful thinking government can go astray in ways that are *NOT* conspiracy theories despite the simplistic attempt to denigrate the notion that human processes can go astray for *rational* reasons as being mindless conspiracy theories).

  80. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    re” How on earth can you compare climate change research to cargo cult science? Cargo cult science emphasizes never changing one’s mind”

    That is a flawed claim, Feynman was critiquing feels which did mimic science in certain ways and they do change their minds.. simply not easily enough and while being unwilling to be skeptical of themselves, as is often exhibited by even their defenders who may know little about the topic but blindly defend what they have been told is politically correct to defend.

    The real problem is that support for this is a an upside down pyramid balanced of many scientists at the top agreeing with it, but all balanced on a tiny point, it is based on a relatively tiny number of people doing computer modelling. That is where I think people are perhaps misled, since essentially all these folks are basing their views on a relatively small body of work that many of them are not equipped to evaluate and trust too easily, ignoring the weak links in that chain and not grasping the flimsy level of support this is based on. This isn’t a vast number of scientists who have actually examined the crucial bits in detail, it is a relatively small group of scientists/modellers that others feed data into. Others can provide supporting data, but *only* the models can concretely produce data that can be matched against reality to attempt to validate them.. with a limited pool of data despite dealing with some processes that operate over long periods of time. It is like accurately catching five seconds in detail of a wave of water moving down a beach.. though perhaps “accurately” is over stating the case when you are dealing with a sparse amount of data extrapolated to cover vast areas that aren’t measured, with questionable approaches to trying to propagate uncertainty.

    re: ” The consensus and convergence of every single major scientific body is on the reality of climate change,”

    Such bodies are political entities. Does the government endorsing licenses for alternative medical practitioners mean they are safe or competent?

  81. daedalus2u says:

    The issues with AGW are not about science, they are about policy. AGW denialists are distorting and lying about AGW science to prevent the adoption of policies that would mitigate the effects of continuing to put CO2 into the atmosphere.

    To the AGW denialists and the supporters of AGW denialism there are some “effects” of continuing to put CO2 into the atmosphere that they like and which they want to continue. Mostly those effects are the profits that they make from selling and burning fossil fuels, and the asset value of fossil fuel deposits which they can use as collateral to borrow money against.

    There are other advantages to low flush toilets in addition to reduced water consumption. The cost of sewage treatment depends more on the volumetric flow rate than on anything else. You need a certain residence time for things to biodegrade or settle, and that residence time depends on the volume of your equipment and the sewage flow rate.

  82. weing says:

    CSB,

    I know nothing about global warming science. You could be right. You could be wrong. I wouldn’t know the difference. I suggest you get in touch with scientists who are in that field and bring your concerns to them.

  83. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Indeed. CSB, when you’ve got a perfect form of science, modeling and prediction that we can use to know the future, that’ll be great. In the meantime, please forward your concerns to the IPPC, they have made a habit of addressing previous criticisms in subsequent reports. And man, it sure is a good thing that the climate scientists admit where they are uncertain, since that allows the work to go forward.

    In the mean time, I’m going to trust the IPPC, thanks.

  84. gingerbread says:

    The existence of any warming is based on observations (though as Mickitrick’s paper point out, basic physics calls into question some of the way they aggregate that data)

    M&M (I belive you’re reffering to M&M paper in E&E from 2003) point out nothing, what basic physics? Do you serioulsy value more one paper written by an economist (and some kinf of creationist) and a prospector from mining industry than thousents of papers written by specialist in the field? Don’t you know the M&M’s papers was debunked several times or do you simply deny this fact?

    but the claimed cause is a theory (which is different than a “phenomenon” which seems to imply some higher level of assurance it is part of reality)

    Wait, it just me ora you’re not familiar with meaning of worlds “theory” and “phenomenon”?

    There are vast numbers of processes going on, the issue is what level of impact humans are having

    Sure, that’s the way nature is – complicated. So what? Does it mean that every science is wrong?

    All of which is completely irrelevant. So they cite each other, big deal. It is an inbred group, just like alternative medicien.

    You mean like every other brand of science?
    As far as I know that’s the way modern science works – specialists cite specialists in their fields.
    Speaking of “inbred group”, how to you call a bunch of people citing over and over few papers from one or two crappy journals (like denialists do with e.g. M&M paper)?

    Btw, you’re desperately trying to compare AGW with altmed, but more appropriate would be compare it with theory of relativity or heliocentrism.
    http://www.physicstoday.org/FEWebservices/ImagesWebservice?id=PHTOAD000064000010000039000001&type=online&fid=4

  85. etatro says:

    Harriet mentioned Chris Mooney’s book, “Republican War on Science,” at the end of her post.

    I’d like to recommend two other books that are less charged (because they don’t name political parties, it’s not a “war on —” trope, and they are better reasoned).

    1. The Assault on Reason by Al Gore.
    1.2. I find some of its tangentials more interesting than its central thesis.
    1.2.1. Namely the one-way information transfer from government to people as a result of mass-communication (radio and television) which differed from two-way information transfer via the printing press of the Enlightenment …. and we’re in a new wave of two-way information transfer via the Internet — optimistic viewpoint.
    1.2.2. The second tangential that was interesting was the discussion on the neuroscience of attention, attention-span, thought, and decision-making (with respect to TV sucking in our attention, advertisements mesmerizing us, and emotions influencing what should be rational decisions).
    2. The Flight from Science and Reason (1996) (Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences).
    2.1. This takes on a lot of the academic left’s qualms with science that are noted in the book Harriet reviewed.
    2.2. Note that it’s a collection of papers from a conference, so it’s not as cohesive as it would be if it were all one author.

    It’s interesting because both of these publications may seem dated in their specific content & examples …. but the themes are the same. I wonder if we could take any lessons from this discussion about historical patterns, trends, and tendencies of human nature grappling with science & reason vs. our brutish selves ….. and NOT get bogged down in specifics.

  86. etatro says:

    After I wrote that post, I thought of the thesis from Battlestar Galactica, (presumably BSG universe takes the US Constitution / enlightenment principles), “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

  87. windriven says:

    I believe the correct acronym it is IPCC- Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or some such.

    @CSB

    “Those that actually follow details in this field at times are aware that there is a discrepancy between the level of certainty in the conclusions drawn compared to the body of work.”

    Many on both sides of this issue have overstated conclusions drawn from the available science. I have lingering concerns myself about the impact of much of what we don’t know and how that impacts projections.

    That said my favorite logical tool in cases such as this is reductio ad absurdum. If instead of, say, 400ppm CO2 we considered 4000ppm or 40000ppm, would that be without effect on the climate? I think anyone with a smidgen of climate science would agree that those levels would be dangerous. So the argument, like the old joke, isn’t about the fact it is about the price.

    The prudent course is to limit our discharge of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. How we achieve that is a political rather than a scientific problem.

  88. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Yup, I got it right the first two times, screwed it up on the last two!

    And unsurprisingly, when the details are examined it turns out that the climate change doubter’s doubts are in fact unsubstantiated, and the tu quoque is much more “moi, je ne suis pas correct”.

    Hmm…I think I’m mixing Latin and French…

  89. tmac57 says:

    The EPA doesn’t seem to share the idea that low flush toilets are a problem:

    http://www.epa.gov/WaterSense/pubs/flush_fact_vs_fiction.html

  90. ConspicuousCarl says:

    etatro on 24 May 2013 at 5:20 pm

    After I wrote that post, I thought of the thesis from Battlestar Galactica, (presumably BSG universe takes the US Constitution / enlightenment principles), “All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.”

    1. That line was their religious dogma.
    2. The concept of a constitution didn’t seem to get much respect for most of the series. Roslin and Adama functioned more like two negotiating emperors than a US-style structure. But a dash of military coup did stop the civilians from doing some incredibly stupid things.

  91. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    Unfortunately many here seem unable to grasp the possibility of a “cargo cult science” despite seeing examples like homeopathy. Unfortunately people don’t seem to go and examine *why* they believe in the claims of certainty of a complex modeling process that they have likely never examined. They trust the scientific process.. which things like ClimateGate and other scandals illustrate is dysfunctional in this field, even if true believers wish to go into denial since they wish to believe the same journalists that peddle alternative med stuff, or other politically correct sources.

    @weing

    re: “I suggest you get in touch with scientists who are in that field and bring your concerns to them.”

    You don’t seem to grasp this is like talking to a true believer homeopath. You don’t seem to grasp many scientists attempt to do just that, I referred to some. You folks seem unaware there have been scandals like ClimateGate and myriad bits of evidence showing a dysfunctional system. You turn a blind eye to the problems, just like homeopaths do. Those outside a field need to look for evidence whether it is a functional scientific culture to decide whether to trust it. This one isn’t, and it is unfortunate that people blindly trust it more than they trust homeopath.

    @WilliamLawrenceUtridgeon

    re: “In the meantime, please forward your concerns to the IPPC, they have made a habit of addressing previous criticisms in subsequent reports. And man, it sure is a good thing that the climate scientists admit where they are uncertain, since that allows the work to go forward.”

    The problem is that climate scientists admit the details they are uncertain about, but *NOT* the final conclusions, garbage in, garbage out. You seem to not grasp that much has been written about the dysfunctional IPCC process by those that have been part of the process, which despite your delusions, is not responsive to critique.

    @gingerbread

    re: “Don’t you know the M&M’s papers was debunked several times or do you simply deny this fact?”

    No, it wasn’t. NO ONE who knows basic physics and math would make that claim regarding the basic arguments in the paper which is why it was published, there was nothing controversial about it that the reviewers could have found fault with since it is explaining basic science for the benefit of those in a dysfunctional field. At most some hard arguments with some sample data, which said nothing about the basic arguments made, I haven’t bothered wading into the samples since they are completely irrelevant to the main point. No one who claims that paper was debunked has read it or grasps basic physics or calculus.

  92. CommonSenseBoulder says:

    @gingerbread

    re: “M&M (I belive you’re reffering to M&M paper in E&E from 2003)”

    No, I should have corrected that i the prior post. I said Mickitrick btw, I didn’t say “M&M”, it is common for true believers to assume one of their canned talking points apply. I should have pointed out I was referring to this paper
    http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/globaltemp/globaltemp.html
    “Essex, Christopher, Bjarne Andresen and Ross R. McKitrick. (2007) Does a Global Temperature Exist? Journal of Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics Vol 32 No. 1.”

    by a professor of physics at the Niels Bohr Institute, and a couple of mathematicians. Of course presumably you think that a Thermodynamics journal publishing a paper talking about basic thermodynamics for the benefit of those in climate research couldn’t possibly actually know something about thermodynamics despite being a far “harder” science. Let me guess, climate researchers get to redefine thermodynamics, just like alt med folks get to redefine energy?

  93. yizz says:

    Sigh. As an actual political scientist, I would like to analogize promoting this book as a new way to think about partisanship and science to something like The Monkey Cage promoting an interesting new book about vaccines by a Dr. Sears.

    There are actual social scientists who actually study the relationship between partisanship, culture, scientific literacy, and science-related policy preferences. One major inter-disciplinary project that not perfect, but accessible and interesting, is here: http://www.culturalcognition.net/

  94. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Dear CommonSenseBoulder,

    Wow, one paper from 2007. Clearly the entire IPCC is wrong. Thank you, that single paper has convinced me that thousands of scientists specializing in climate, weather, and related fields are wrong and an economist, physicist and a mathematician are correct despite the incredible number of actual fields, measures and complexities involved in attempting to assess climate change. It’s amazing scientists have been wasting time since 2007, since such a convincing single paper should obviously be sufficient to overturn decades of science and a rather strong scientific consensus. Particularly when it’s a paper basically wondering if you can come up with some sort of single temperature measure for the whole planet, and suggesting that perhaps you can do so in several different ways. Good thing there are no flawed assumptions in the paper. It’s also quite surprising that the thousands of scientists who are experts in anthropogenic global warming haven’t already adjusted for the issues raised in the paper. They haven’t, have they? And sweet Jebus, since all of climate change research is based solely on a single measure, a single indicator, a single line of evidence, then we don’t really need to do any more work, do we?

    Thanks,

    WLU

    p.s. All sarcasm. No research is ever debunked (or proven) by a single theoretical paper, and a mathematician, physicist and economist are not smarter than all the scientists contributing to the IPCC.

    p.p.s. Any claims about a topic being debunked by basic math are pretty much bunk as basic math is based on human preconceptions, independent of evidence; let’s not forget, math can be wrong vis. the flights of honey bees.

  95. weing says:

    @SCB,

    “You folks seem unaware there have been scandals like ClimateGate and myriad bits of evidence showing a dysfunctional system.”

    Can you explain what you mean by that? My understanding is that some emails were hacked and published out of context. Is that the dysfunction? Apparently 8 committees investigated the allegations and found no evidence of fraud or misconduct on the part of the scientists. You must mean that the fraud and misconduct was on the part of the hackers. How does that call into question the consensus?

    There appears to be agreement among experts on AGW. You say that you are an expert that disagrees with the other experts? What are your qualifications that we can check out whether you really are an expert, what your biases are, and your track record as an expert? Have you presented your concerns to the American Geophysical Union? Why waste your time trying to convert us, non-experts? How many of us believe or disbelieve you, won’t make you any more correct or incorrect.

  96. windriven says:

    @SCB

    What then is the upper limit on atmospheric CO2?

  97. windriven says:

    @SCB

    Essex, et. al. that you cited above is an interesting if abstract examination of ways to characterize changes in non-blackbody thermodynamic systems.

    “Statistics might go up or down, but the system itself cannot be said to be warming or cooling based on what they do, outside of special circumstances.”*

    One can read the paper and say, “fine.” But so what? Their argument attacks an artifact, not the principle.

    The temperature of a closed thermodynamic system will change in response to energy added and energy emitted. The entire point of the AGW argument is that increasing atmospheric CO2 levels reduce the amount of energy emitted by earth into space. Energy retained is energy not emitted and the necessary result is a positive change in temperature. We can argue endlessly about how we interpret the artifacts of that change but the fundamental thermodynamic principles remain.

  98. gingerbread says:

    @CSB

    No, it wasn’t. NO ONE who knows basic physics and math would make that claim regarding the basic arguments in the paper which is why it was published, there was nothing controversial about it that the reviewers could have found fault with since it is explaining basic science for the benefit of those in a dysfunctional field. At most some hard arguments with some sample data, which said nothing about the basic arguments made, I haven’t bothered wading into the samples since they are completely irrelevant to the main point. No one who claims that paper was debunked has read it or grasps basic physics or calculus.

    Still in denial I see.
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2004/12/myths-vs-fact-regarding-the-hockey-stick/
    http://www.geo.umass.edu/faculty/bradley/rutherford2005.pdf
    http://www.pnas.org/content/106/6/E11.full.pdf+html

    No, I should have corrected that i the prior post. I said Mickitrick btw, I didn’t say “M&M”, it is common for true believers to assume one of their canned talking points apply. I should have pointed out I was referring to this paper
    http://www.uoguelph.ca/~rmckitri/research/globaltemp/globaltemp.html
    “Essex, Christopher, Bjarne Andresen and Ross R. McKitrick. (2007) Does a Global Temperature Exist? Journal of Nonequilibrium Thermodynamics Vol 32 No. 1.”

    This is about something a bit different. But it’s false as well and shows no understand of topic they wrote about. That’s what’s happen when ideologically driven people try to write about something outside their field of expertise
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/does-a-global-temperature-exist/

  99. norrisL says:

    Not wishing to upset any of the people on SBM, but I truly think that I should be worried by what a lot of Americans think, do and say, whether it’s about vaccines, homeopathy, religion, or moving peoples’ internal organs about. Surely not all of you Americans are so …….what do I say? Silly? Are the people on SBM the only sane, sensible Americans? I am somewhat despairing of what I read from the US today.

    And what is it with Hollywood type people always having an opinion on things that they have no idea of, and then Joe Blow thinks, wow, that movie star said vaccines are dangerous, I won’t vaccinate my child.

    Anyway, Im sure that there are plenty of sane, sensible Americans trying to educate the deluded believers in various quackeries. There are, aren’t there? Yes?

    Last week I wrote a letter to the editor of the Sunshine Coast Daily in reply to an anti-vaccination letter. My letter was published in the top spot. I hope my letter gets a few more children vaccinated for pertussis. Now I am waiting for the
    upset reply.

    Also, the US does not have the only crazies, we have our (un)fair share of crazies too in the land of oz. ):

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