The Public and Science

Mike Dwyer

Mike Dwyer is a former writer and contributor at Ordinary Times.

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622 Responses

  1. Will Truman says:

    There is, of course, an ancillary explanation which is that people understand their chosen faiths’ theology even less than science. Afterall, we all had science class at some point but how often does our pastor or priest discuss science from the pulpit?

    I think this is quite right. I also think a lot of it comes down to signalling where one stands when science and religion do conflict. I know some people very firmly believe in YEC, but with a lot of others I think it’s a vague cognitive dissonance.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Will Truman says:

      I think YEC is essentially a non sequitur of the proposal.

      “It is never a question of belief; the only scientific attitude one can take on any subject is whether it is true. The law of gravitation worked as efficiently before Newton as after him. The cosmos would be fairly chaotic if its laws could not operate without the sanction of human belief.”

      <— snip —>

      “The Adam and Eve story is incomprehensible to me!” I observed with considerable heat one day in my early struggles with the allegory. “Why did God punish not only the guilty pair, but also the innocent unborn generations?”
      Master was more amused by my vehemence than my ignorance. “Genesis is deeply symbolic, and cannot be grasped by a literal interpretation,” he explained. “Its ‘tree of life’ is the human body. The spinal cord is like an upturned tree, with man’s hair as its roots, and afferent and efferent nerves as branches. The tree of the nervous system bears many enjoyable fruits, or sensations of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch. In these, man may rightfully indulge; but he was forbidden the experience of sex, the ‘apple’ at the center of the bodily garden.
      “The ‘serpent’ represents the coiled-up spinal energy which stimulates the sex nerves. ‘Adam’ is reason, and ‘Eve’ is feeling. When the emotion or Eve-consciousness in any human being is overpowered by the sex impulse, his reason or Adam also succumbs.
      “God created the human species by materializing the bodies of man and woman through the force of His will; He endowed the new species with the power to create children in a similar ‘immaculate’ or divine manner. Because His manifestation in the individualized soul had hitherto been limited to animals, instinct-bound and lacking the potentialities of full reason, God made the first human bodies, symbolically called Adam and Eve. To these, for advantageous upward evolution, He transferred the souls or divine essence of two animals. In Adam or man, reason predominated; in Eve or woman, feeling was ascendant. Thus was expressed the duality or polarity which underlies the phenomenal worlds. Reason and feeling remain in a heaven of cooperative joy so long as the human mind is not tricked by the serpentine energy of animal propensities.
      “The human body was therefore not solely a result of evolution from beasts, but was produced by an act of special creation by God. The animal forms were too crude to express full divinity; the human being was uniquely given a tremendous mental capacity– the ‘thousand-petaled lotus’ of the brain– as well as acutely awakened occult centers in the spine.
      “God, or the Divine Consciousness present within the first created pair, counseled them to enjoy all human sensibilities, but not to put their concentration on touch sensations.18
      These were banned in order to avoid the development of the sex organs, which would enmesh humanity in the inferior animal method of propagation. The warning not to revive subconsciously-present bestial memories was not heeded. Resuming the way of brute procreation, Adam and Eve fell from the state of heavenly joy natural to the original perfect man.
      “Knowledge of ‘good and evil’ refers to the cosmic dualistic compulsion. Falling under the sway of maya through misuse of his feeling and reason, or Eve-and Adam-consciousness, man relinquishes his right to enter the heavenly garden of divine self-sufficiency. The personal responsibility of every human being is to restore his ‘parents’ or dual nature to a unified harmony or Eden.”

      As Sri Yukteswar ended his discourse, I glanced with new respect at the pages of Genesis.

      Paramahansa Yogananda
      from Autobiography of a Yogi
      Ch. 16


  2. NewDealer says:

    I always find it interesting that conservatives can so easily cast themselves in the brave and noble role of the skeptic and liberals as the silly, childish, optimists.

    Perhaps the 38th attempt to appeal Obamacare will be the successful one?Report

    • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

      i find it very hard to believe that either american liberals or american conservatives really find it “interesting” that a large chunk of their Other is stupid.

      that said, i have a simpler answer for mr. dwyer as to the young earth gap – because it is utterly meaningless to almost all of our everyday lives.

      very few of us can explain how paypal gets money from my credit card to the japanese puke porn provider which in turn sends me a download key for kyoto yakkers 7, and yet we use some of these services every day. the age of the earth is even more meaningless than that.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

        I meant interesting in a dry sort of way with a slight raise of the eyebrow.

        Perhaps I should have used scare quotes.Report

        • I find it interesting “interesting” that you say that.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

            I know that you come from an evangelical-conservative background and still retain have a lot of warm and sincere relationships with conservatives. And I get feel like from time to time you are upset and frustrated when I get antagonistic against this background.

            But I see no reason why I should take “we are just being skeptical” at face value when I think it causes deep damage to public policy on many fronts. I am sure that many evangelical conservatives are great and decent and kind people. It doesn’t make it less galling to be paternalized like that in the name of wrong policy and because the more religious among them are trying to witness me or whatever to save me from hellfire.Report

            • Fair enough, and probably a kinder response than my passive aggressive comment deserved.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                This is how I see the issue:

                1. There are countless religions in the world. Some are no longer practiced by many and some have yet to start.

                2. There are good people and “bad” (for lack of a better word) people in all religions.

                3. Most people in all religions will have chaotic and messy lives where we do really good, kind, and compassionate things but also do things that are mean, greedy, self-centered, that we regret, etc. Because this is the human condition. We are not perfect and will never be perfect.

                4. At some point people need to realize this and question what kind of belief system or what kind of Deity would punish people to an eternity of pain just because they did not believe in him or her or that Jesus is the Messiah or whatever.

                5. Number 4 goes for all religions.

                6. I suppose you can just say that these people believe in an irrational God that would do such things but I don’t know how many are willing to say that out loud.Report

              • I agree with your critique of no. 4, but I do think it, along with no. 5, contains an unstated assumption, namely, that some (or all) of the religions in question necessarily are reducible to “you are punished for eternity for not believing in x.”

                There are certainly a large number of people in most religions–and perhaps exhibit A is evangelical Christianity–where people believe or speak as if they believe that way. But I do think a lot of religions that are, not without reason, interpreted by non-believers as saying “believe in x or go to hell,” can be interpreted differently, perhaps along lines analogous to “if you choose to believe or practice x, you might be happier/more fulfilled/healthier/etc.” or (what I prefer) “x, y, z–and probably a whole bunch of others–offer ways to achieve happiness/fulfillment/health/etc., and being open to them might be helpful.”

                Perhaps I am referring to an idealized notion of what religion can be. And no. 3 being true, perhaps we are all (or most of us are) prone to our bigotries. Also, I realize that there’s a certain arrogance in claiming, “do this because it’ll make you happier/healthier” when, in fact, you might not feel exceptionally unhappy or sick to begin with.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Perhaps many people think like that but then if they were Evangelicals, they would clearly be going against their own Protestant background.

                I am not a new Atheist or a Dawkins-ite. If someone does feel that there life is all the better or more enriched because of Christianity, all the power to them. Still this does not give them the right to:

                1. Be perplexed that others might feel differently. I am happy being Jewish but I don’t think that being Jewish is better than being Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Pagan/Wiccan, Buddhist, Hindu, Shinto, etc. It is just different.

                2. Enforce policies that are demonstatedly bigoted or not true because it conflicts with their Christianity. See Tod’s post last week on the guy at St. Andrew’s who said that to be Christian means you must support slavery because slavery is in the Bible.Report

              • Well, I agree with your two points.

                Still, I wouldn’t reduce all “protestant background” or even all of what could be called “evangelicalism” to the view that god punishes disbelief with hell. That view is there and is and has been widely shared, but it’s not universal, even among at least some people (e.g., C. S. Lewis) who might plausibly be called evangelical. (Of course, I’ll grant that Lewis is not the standard issue of what people think of as “evangelical.”)Report

              • Kimsie in reply to NewDealer says:

                You really think Reverend Wright thinks this sort of shit? He may be a pompous windbag, but…
                (Evangelical is a term. it is not synonymous with conservative).Report

        • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

          yeah i know i was being a dick. who doesn’t believe themselves to be in “the brave and noble role “? outside of the honest nihilists, i mean, god bless them.Report

          • NewDealer in reply to dhex says:

            I don’t necessarily think that all my beliefs are always right. At the very least I try to think of potential negative consequence.

            Still in Mike’s narrative as I explained to him below: “Conservatives=Adults”, “Liberals=Children with good intentions but they still need the brakes put on by the conservative adults.” This is patronizing and I don’t see why I need to accept it at face value.Report

            • dhex in reply to NewDealer says:

              i can see why you see it as such, but i think his general point isn’t as stark as you make it, though i’m not personally convinced. if one is the gas and one is the brake, that doesn’t imply a parental dynamic. the brake is useless without the gas.Report

              • Glyph in reply to dhex says:

                Bingo. Both sides would appreciate one another more if they saw & respected their opposite numbers as complementary forces in the system; instead, each side sees the other as asserting superiority.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Glyph says:

                Both should emulate libertarians; the humility and modesty so evident in their advocacy makes them beloved by moochers and looters alike.Report

              • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                THANK YOU! About damn time someone recognized our humility & modes…

                Oh, wait, you were being facetious. Well 😛Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I, personally, don’t see the libertarians as asserting superiority or authority all that often. At least the ones I identify with, anyway.

                They’re more like the surly teenagers, tired of getting whipped by the belt of the authoritarian Right while the nagging Left keeps saying “Eat your vegetables…eat your vegetables…why oh why won’t you eat your vegetables, we LOVE you SO MUCH…” OH YEAH MOM AND DAD?! WELL I DON’T HAVE TO LISTEN TO YOU ANYMORE, WHY CAN’T YOU JUST LEAVE A GUY ALON-

                …sorry. That got weird.Report

              • greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                Glyph-fwiw. I hear Libertarians asserting their superior understanding of freedom, the glittering wonder of the Free Market and their clearly better logic all the time.Their purity is unsullied by engaging in politics and their clarity of thought is a beacon to us lesser folks.

                I’m not saying this to start a pissing match, just to point out different perceptions. I agree with many points made by libertarian types and think they add a lot to the conversations here. I’ve learned quite a bit from the smarter ones. But the smug superiority evinced by many, although certainly not all, is quite evident. I’m not particularly referring to those here, but on other places i read.Report

              • Glyph in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                greginak – no, I hear you – and not just that, but I’ve certainly seen libertarians get all wounded and shirty and “don’t condescend ME, man”, when they feel they are being deprecated by someone. I didn’t mean for that to come across as a “everybody ELSE does that thing that *I* never do”.

                To go back to my original sign-on to dhex’s comment, it seemed to me that Mike Dwyer is explicitly acknowledging the equality – nay, necessity and high value – of the liberal worldview, so as to move society forward; he simply believes that it needs to be tempered with a conservative (cautious) bent as a countervailing or stabilizing safeguard.

                Whether you accept his framing or not, that anyone would read that framing as a patronizing slight, or as an assertion of conservative superiority, is strange to me; it seems to seek offense where none seems intended. From where I sit it looks kind of like an olive branch proffered, but set afire by its intended recipient.

                But I am just a small-l libertarianish guy, who mostly thinks people should mostly leave other people alone, and that most everybody could usually stand to take themselves slightly less seriously than they do, so what do I know?Report

              • greginak in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

                I agree Glyph. I also agree that we benefit from having competing influences, a progressive force pushing for change and a conservative restraint; communitarian vs individualistic.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Glyph says:

                Probably but the trick is how to do this especially on policy issues where there is no compromise.

                Gay Marriage is a good example as any. You are either for it or against it. I don’t see why a fair compromise is the state-by-state approach that allows some gay couples to live in freedom and others are given the choice of creating a new home somewhere else, possibly away from loving family.Report

              • trumwill mobile in reply to NewDealer says:

                I think that state by state is a problem from a Faith and Credit standpoint, but if it weren’t for state by state, gay marriage wouldn’tbe legal anywhere.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                I think that state by state is a problem from a Faith and Credit standpoint,

                It wasn’t for interracial marriage. That got overturned because the whole prohibition was unconstitutional, not because a marriage that was legal in New York wasn’t in Virginia.Report

              • That’s true. Interracial marriage had an even stronger constitutional leg to stand on than FFC. However, even if it hadn’t had that leg to stand on, I think FFC should have applied. The FFC relationship with marriage remains unresolved, but I have a hard time with the notion that relocation from one state to another creating a defacto dissolution of marital rights not being a constitutional problem. It’s a significant barrier to interstate travel, commerce, etc.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                No doubt that FFC should apply to marriage, but historically it hasn’t always. Divorce, on the other hand has: which is why quickie Reno divorces weren’t challenged by states with more restrictive laws.Report

              • Like I said, it’s still unresolved. It hasn’t been applied to marriage yet, but as far as I know the Supreme Court has not actually said that it doesn’t. Has it?

                I didn’t know that about divorce, but it makes sense. And it’s hard to argue that it applies to divorces but cannot apply to marriages.

                (I am still not entirely comfortable how I parse out Virginia being forced to accept New York marriages but not Arizona plural marriages if that were to come to pass. But I make it work at least internally as plural marriage imposes a burden on Virginia that gay marriage does not.)Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                The thing is, it’s not a new question. Interracial marriages were recognized in some states but not others until 1967 and FFC was, as far as I know, never applied.Report

              • But was it ever challenged on a basis of FFC? It seems to me then, as with now, the aim was to get the whole enchilada rather than the FFC middle-ground.

                If the whole enchilada fails this time around, I’d be pretty surprised if the FFC route isn’t tried. And, since it’s never been explicitly shot down (to my knowledge), I think it would have a good chance of success. I understand why SSM proponents didn’t go there first (why try half when you can go for the gold?), but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if that’s the half-measure that a consensus is built around this time around. Or if that’s not the second effort if this one fails.

                I could be way off-base here. I agree with others that the most likely consensus result is that gay marriage will be legal in California, but it won’t be nationwide.Report

              • Rod Engelsman in reply to trumwill mobile says:

                Well, if the deal is challenged on FFC grounds and the pro-ssm side wins, then really for all intents and purposes, we’ll have ssm nationwide. Because all you would have to do if you live in a non-ssm state is travel to a pro one and get hitched and it would still apply when you got home. At least I suppose that it would, unless I don’t understand how FFC would really work. It would be more like 3/4 loaf than a half-loaf.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to dhex says:

        But it matters because YECs force themselves onto school boards, bake their non-facts into the curriculum, which they pervert with evolution and AGW denial. We then have kids growing up rejecting or fundamentally misinderstanding these concepts. As such, they are ill prepared to take part in conversations about medical science or emissions regulations because, hey, viruses don’t evolve and people don’t impact climate.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

          Were there any perversions that arose from a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution?Report

          • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

            I think he’s saying that they might try to teach the missionary position.

            What I regard as odd is this:
            Proponents of evolution get ticked that these folk might have to run for elective office.
            It seems to me that, did they truly believe in evolution theory, they would view this as a natural evolution of the school boards in question, etc.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

            I don’t jnderstand this question.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

              If I asked you to come up with some bad things that might happen from someone believing in Young Earth Creationism rather than evolution, I’m sure that you could provide examples from the last 100 years.

              I’m asking if you can think of any examples from the last 100 years of bad things happening because someone believed in, but didn’t properly understand, Evolution.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

                I think you phrased it better.
                I think there are several things which still aren’t properly understood in evolution theory; such as why distinct species exist, rather than every creature being at some indeterminate point on some sort of continuum between species, the phenomenon of hybrid vigor, et al.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Will H. says:

                Yeah, but we’re getting there. Most dog species are less than a few thousand years old. If we can get pursedogs and great danes from the same ancestors? We’re figuring out the answers to the various W questions related to that question.

                We’ll get there.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Dog species? No. All dogs are from the same species, Canis. You mean breeds.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The problem is that the species concept is fluid. Consider, if we only had great danes and chihuahuas, they would not be able to produce viable offspring outside a lab. In time, the complete separation would ensure that they would not be able to produce viable offspring even artificially. But since they have such different sizes and come with such different markings and do not naturally reproduce together, we would not think they are part of the same species. However, since we see big dogs mating with slightly less big dogs which in turn mate with medium sized ones all the way to small ones, we supose that they are all part of the same species.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:


              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Consider, if we only had great danes and chihuahuas, they would not be able to produce viable offspring outside a lab.

                Not really. A male chihuahua and female great dane would do fine. A female chihuahua could mate with a male great dane, but would need a C-section to deliver the pups.

                And, to be precise, canis is a genus. The species to which dogs and gray wolves belong is canis lupus. Other species in this genus include coyotes and jackals (but not foxes).Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I was largely thinking in terms of how vast differences in size may fish up the mechanics of quadripedal mechanics and assortative mate choice.Report

              • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And I was thinking of how, when bees carry the pollen of apple trees over to walnut trees, we don’t get walnut that taste like apples, or the size of them; nor do we get apples hard as walnuts.
                Differentiation of cultivars seems especially important in the plant kingdom.Report

              • George Turner in reply to BlaiseP says:

                But often bees screw up (they’re not very bright) and we get a whole new type of plant. 🙂Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Dammnit I ment the mechanics of quadripedal matingReport

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Why does every single thread we have devolve into a discussion of quadripedal mating?Report

              • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I echo the Dammit of Murali above.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                When I was Googling this (which confirmed my suspicions that the real problem was pups too big for their mother) some of the links I found purported to be videos demonstrating that the mechanical difficulties were not prohibitive. I am going to try forget that.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to BlaiseP says:

                And how could I forget the little dog with giant paws from the Freak Brothers:

                “My dad was a chihuahua and my mon was a Great Dane. That makes me a Great Wawa. If you think I’m funny-looking you should see my big brother. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking. He used a chair.”Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                My sister had a Great Dane/Something mix and it lived a very short life. His brain grew to be juuuust a little bit bigger than the inside of his skull and he started having seizures.

                I always felt bad about that. Like the breeders should have known better.Report

              • “some of the links I found purported to be videos demonstrating that the mechanical difficulties were not prohibitive. I am going to try forget that.”

                I don’t even want to imagine it.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                Bad things aplenty happened and you know it. The war on science features plenty of martyrs, all on the side of science. Here’s the fundamentally bad thing: science is based on the scientific method and not revealed truth from Heaven or the Pulpit. Young Earth Creationism is yet another dishonest pseudo-Thomist attempt to squeeze Physics into Metaphysics. And it’s bullshit from top to bottom.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The war on science features plenty of martyrs, all on the side of science.

                There were a handful of thoughts with regards to “eugenics” that made for a handful of problems. This wasn’t Young Earth Eugenicism either.

                I’d also fail to put such (recent!) books as “The Bell Curve” on the “Creationist” side of the ledger.

                Young Earth Creationism is yet another dishonest pseudo-Thomist attempt to squeeze Physics into Metaphysics. And it’s bullshit from top to bottom.

                No doubt. I suspect that, as top to bottom bullshit goes, however, it’s mostly harmless and will be dispelled easily from any student capable of understanding The Method… who will be the ones we want doing science in the first place.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

                That’s going nowhere with me, Jaybird. You asked for what harm came of believing in YEC and I told you scientists were persecuted for it. That may not meet your standards of harm. It meets mine. That is all.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Actually, Blaise, what I asked for any harm that came from believing (or, specifically, misunderstanding) evolution.

                I’m totally down with the problems of believing in Young Earth Creationism. The problems of misunderstanding something false aren’t anywhere near as interesting as misunderstanding something true, when it comes to this particular corner of science.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                No. You asked first if there were any perversions that arose from a fundamental misunderstanding of evolution. You were given an answer.

                Then you asked for any examples from the last 100 years of bad things happening because someone believed in, but didn’t properly understand, Evolution. The Scopes Monkey Trial comes to mind immediately. You do know Scopes lost, don’t you? He was found guilty and fined. On the strength of that conviction, we’ve had a war against science ever since.

                What you really want, it seems to me, is for someone to admit these YEC types are not very dangerous, that they can interfere in the teaching of science and should be allowed to preach any old stupid Biblical Bullshit or Qur’anic Quatsch in the context of a science classroom. No harm will come of it, you say. Plenty of harm has come of it. Open war on freethinkers, a wholesale reversion to dogma — and now cometh Dwyer before the Court of Public Opinion to say Science ought to stand up for itself, that Liberals should quit trying to pass laws against lead poisoning. And good old Wardsmith, to argue from some specious pseudo-contradiction about which scavengers are dying from lead poisoning. It won’t fly with me. It’s as I have described it, pseudo-Thomism.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to BlaiseP says:

                You were given an answer.

                Indeed I was. And I am skeptical about that answer.

                I believe that Sailerite Bullshit comes from believing (or, specifically, misunderstanding) evolution. The Bell Curve provides another awesome example.

                As do one or two notable events from the middle of the 20th Century.

                There seems to be a *LOT* more involved in this debate than just figuring out how to best apply the method. There’s a dialectic. Ignoring the dialectic is not to our benefit. If we want to move on In The Name Of Science, this dialectic needs to be addressed.

                Seriously, the non-scientific types cheerleading The Right Answers to the test questions for non-scientific reasons are responsible for the lion’s share of the non-scientific pushback. They are not allies of Science.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Dialectic, my ass. At some point, someone has to say, “No, the evidence no longer backs your position. You’re no longer welcome to preach in our science classrooms.”

                The hallmarks of crank science resolve to a dismissing any evidence which contradicts their positions, much bellyaching about how there’s a conspiracy afoot.

                Steve Sailer is a crank. There is nothing to gain from discussion with his unscientific ass. You know how the old truism goes: “Never get into an argument with an idiot: a bystander might not be able to tell the difference.”

                There’s no rational discussion with a dogmatist.Report

              • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I think this is the same as the “Hitler loved dogs/ painted beautiful landscapes” argument; that if I eat from a fork touched by a black, then I will become darker, possibly overnight.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “Never get into an argument with an idiot: a bystander might not be able to tell the difference.”

                So how do we go about justifying the correct position to the bystander? Because the bystander matters right? Her or she is not just a body for your side to add to the tally of the Who’s Winning? game right?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                What did I say about physics and metaphysics, Murali? Do you want me to say, as I tried with my own parents, “Look, if God is about truth, surely scientific truth and the rules of the universe are also God’s rules.”

                It didn’t go anywhere with them. The Bible was right and Darwin was wrong. Smart people, you’d think. They just weren’t up to the challenge of sorting out truth from dogma.

                Murali, there is no convincing a dogmatist of anything. Either you approach the world through the scientific method, where theories are only as good as the supporting evidence, discarded or amended in the light of new evidence — or you fight progress every inch of the way, only abandoning the very worst aspects of dogma under the direst pressure.

                Conservatives have shown themselves to be the enemies of science. There’s enough evidence through history to reach that conclusion without a moment’s hesitation. When I see even one Conservative, especially a religious conservative, say “okay, the only valid approach to truth is via evidence and proof via the scientific method.” — then I might take these presently-dogmatic unscientific bastards seriously. Not one minute before. The only solid approach to a crank is to hit him, hard.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                So what if conservatives are the enemy of science? All sorts of people can be dogmatic about all sorts of things. People can have all sorts of cognitive dissonance going on. Besides you’re missing my point.

                I’m not talking about who has better belief formation mechanisms. I’m talking about how we can live together in a pluralistic society especially, a society where people have different and incompatible comprehensive doctrines.

                Saying that you are correct and have the evidence on your side and have the correct belief forming practices and the other guy doesn’t is not a practical maxim that can resolve such differences even when you are in fact objectively correct about the state of evidence and your belief formation practices. Because, ultimately, practical principles of action are put into practice by the agents themselves and the relevant evaluative standards are the agent’s own. Any practical principle, in order to both be effectively action guiding and be able to resolve the conflicting claims people advance against each other, should not rely on the beliefs being relied on being true.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Are you kidding? I can tolerate many sort of dogmas. But when dogma lashes out against reason, reason is well within its right to knock the teeth out of dogma, armed with the club of evidence. Those who will not accept facts are the enemies of mankind. You may call it cognitive dissonance if you wish.

                Should you and I decide to sit down and discuss the Hindu cosmology, a gorgeously baroque set of concepts, we could happily discuss the Rigveda for many hours. I would consider it a productive discussion. I live for such discussions.

                But I hope, somewhere along the line, we could get around to the brilliant additions to scientific cosmology and number theory by Indian scientists and spend some time on the word Moksha. Moksha, freedom from enslaving ignorance, Viveka, the ability to discern truth from error, the real from the unreal.

                I simply will not accept, nor will I tolerate in any form, excuse-making and cheese-eating on this subject. Stupidity is curable. But those who refuse to learn cannot be taught: in this case, the patient must first want to be cured. They remain trapped in slavery of ignorance.

                If we are to live in a pluralistic society, we will take our best guidance from the scientists and the ancient philosophers who gave rise to the search for knowledge, over and against the dogmatists and theologians whose religions have always preached the unity of man but whose actions have shown the exact opposite. Though we are all at liberty to our own opinions, we are not at liberty to choose our own facts.

                I am a Christian, you are a Hindu. There is no contradiction in believing as we do: in some ways, Hindu cosmology beats the Christian cosmology hands-down and gave rise to a spirit of scientific inquiry unknown in the West. It certainly gave rise to better mathematics and astronomy. If a pluralistic society is ever to work, we will argue from facts, and dogma will be ejected, vigorously and with intense prejudice, from the discussion of what is real and what is not.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                BlaiseP, you are not a stupid man, so I guess we need to ask why you are intentionally not addressing Social Darwinism and eugenics.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Heffman, when it comes to abuses of statistics and scientific evidence, or abusive snark, nobody but me has dared to say that Science is not the Private Project of Liberals nor are our legislative efforts Pet Projects. I considered that fairly abusive and I’ve taken out the Ugly Stick to beat it within an inch of its mendacious life. I consider it a job well done if you do not.

                Social Darwinism was a mere recapitulation of a far older philosophy of elitism and racism. That is provable from history and philosophy. Those who’ve actually read Origin of Species know it showed how the diversity of life arose from a common ancestor.

                Social Darwinism was, in a very real sense, a contradiction of what Darwin had written. If we arose from a common ancestor, if the strong had reproduced where the weak had failed, the Social Darwinists would have never embraced racism or the idea of superior breeds of humans. They would have known, as does every geneticist, that endogamy within a culture brings out recessive genes, that the Nazi Übermensch with his blonde hair and blue eyes was in fact a prima facie case for what recessive genes produce.

                But ever was pseudoscience the province of the bigot and the innumerate. The untutored, too. The very fucking idea that someone would attempt to snidely insert “Eugenics”, within quotes, and say it Had a Lot of Play for a while, as if this were an outworking of what Darwin had said, or what the geneticists had said, would be amusing if it weren’t so horrifically stupid.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                Why don’t you make that list, if you think it is relevant.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Because if we’re talking about science, I can trust you to come up with a dispassionate list for yourself that we can agree upon and agree that there have been excesses galore and discuss the dynamic behind this… whatever it is… that does this much harm in the name of something that, ideally, just tells us What Is.

                If, however, “winning the argument” is more important than dispassionate truth-telling, then I’m pretty sure that my point has been made.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:

                My argument is that we should care what people do or do not know or believe or think about certain topics for the reasons I outlined. I was disputing dhex’s stance that it doesn’t matter who knows what.

                Do you think I’m wrong about the importance of people being dead wron on certain issues? If so, construct that argument.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sure: the 20th Century has more piles of bodies underneath ideologies that attempted to politicize evolution than under ideologies that politicized young earth creationism.

                Do you deny this or is this one of those things where we’d like to point out that what those ideologies were politicizing were complete misunderstandings of evolution and thus fall outside of the discussion we’re having?Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                Please give examples of those ideologoies that turned evolution into murder. I’m not familiar with any.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Have you heard the word “Eugenics”? It had a lot of play there, for a while.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Kazzy says:

                Stop that, Jaybird. The Eugenics cranks began long before evolution. Plato was a big fan.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yet eugenics was the pinnacle of Darwinian science applied to human populations. The biggest backers were the doctors.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                And the more recent ones are ones who use “science!” (“evolution!”) to justify the conclusions they’ve leapt to.

                I’m not advocating Young Earth Creationism, Blaise. I am, however, pointing out that if you don’t teach The Method, only the answers, you’re going to find yourself with some unwelcome bedfellows.

                Because, like it or not, there’s a lot more going on here than hypothesis test evaluate retest evaluate retest and so on. A *LOT* more.Report

              • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

                Eugenics may have existed well before the late-19th/early-to-mid-20th century eugenics movement, but that doesn’t mean that those later eugenicists weren’t influenced by evolution, nor does it mean that they didn’t use it as a means to justify and lend credibility to their projects. I don’t think this says quite what Jaybird thinks it does, though I suspect I know where he’s coming from — creationists have used social Darwinism and the eugenics movement as an argument against evolution for as long as I’ve been around them, because it is consistent with what they believe to be the inevitable consequences of a non-Biblical worldview that puts humans on the level of the rest of the animal kingdom.

                What it does say, though, is that science is no more immune from misuse and misappropriation than any other human institution, and that any sufficiently broad idea can be used to justify just about anything.Report

              • Alan Scott in reply to Kazzy says:

                Jaybird, that’s a great argument for teaching the scientific method, and not just teaching science as trivia facts.

                But the creationists are 100% pro science-as-trivia-facts. They have to be. When their beliefs are exposed to the scientific method, they collapse. When these people advocate the teaching of wrong science, they are also advocating the teaching of sloppy science. They support teaching children to think incoherently. (Check out my post further downthread for examples).Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Kazzy says:


                Are you saying belief in evolution caused (or was a partial cause of) genocide in the 20th century?

                This link points out a lot of the obvious:

                “What’s more, many of the most enthusiastic promoters of the eugenics movement in the US, which led to policies such as compulsory sterilisation, were evangelical Christians. As Mary Teats explained in her book The Way of God in Marriage: “The great and rapidly increasing army of idiots, insane, imbeciles, blind, deaf-mutes, epileptics, paralytics, the murderers, thieves, drunkards and moral perverts are very poor material with which to ‘subdue the world’, and usher in the glad day when ‘all shall know the Lord’.”

                As for the Holocaust, the murder of able-bodied and able-minded people solely on the basis of their religion can hardly be called eugenics. It is incredible to blame Darwin while overlooking the role of Christianity in fostering anti-Semitism over the centuries.”


              • George Turner in reply to Kazzy says:

                Sorry, but eugenics was sold as science. People might think that maybe the world would be better off without certain other people in it, but by the 20th century none of them had any real religious convictions about it, nor would they find any ecclesiastical support from other churches. The Lord is never very happy about killing people, much less mass murder, and it is extremely difficult to get ministers on board. Heck, most of the ministers preach pacifism like sheep. The Lutheran church can be especially irritating in this regard.

                The big backers of Hitler’s early rise were German doctors. They had always been irritated by Jewish doctors, who most rich Germans preferred. Combine that with the usual leftist suspicion of Jewish bankers, and wrap it all in the science of treating the race as an organism that needs cleansing, just like a body (Nazi propaganda was extremely good and extremely logical). The Nazi propaganda archives are full of translations of period works, and they relied totally on science, not religion, for their grounding. They even derided religious Germans, along with those who were prudish (much of Nazism was about hot blonde nekkid chicks).Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Kazzy says:


                Have you been drinking?Report

              • George Turner in reply to Kazzy says:

                No, I just read a lot of history, including the Nazi propaganda archives. I also got a kick out of all the blonde nekkid chicks in the Panzer tank manuals.

                When you read a lot of their propaganda you get a really good feel for what they believed, because they were very good at conveying it to large numbers of people. They did not try to keep it a secret. They described themselves as futuristic, socialistic, scientific, brave, selfless, and loyal, fighting the forces of exploitive capitalism, communism (a heresy), and racial degradation, through strength of will, determination, destiny, blah blah blah.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Are you saying belief in evolution caused (or was a partial cause of) genocide in the 20th century?

                I am saying that a “belief” in a misunderstanding of evolution helped bolster many of the 19th and 20th century eugenics movements. They argued that their beliefs were based on science.

                Now, if you’d like to say that they didn’t base their beliefs on science because they were the same Progressive Christians that supported Progressive Movements such as Alcohol Prohibition, then… well, I guess you’re not understanding what I’m arguing.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Kazzy says:


                So now you’re saying believing false things that aren’t scientifically supported is bad for society.

                And before you suggested that politicized evolution had piles of bodies under it. Now, you say maybe the creation of those piles was just “bolstered” by a false belief.

                The main cause of the Holocaust was Christian anri-semitism. Hitler’s main influence here was Martin Luther.

                If you want a biologist to blame, you could blame Mendelian genetics, which was much more widely known, and provides a much easier way to make a crazy basis for racism.

                The causal connection between Darwin and eugenics, and/or eugenics and the Nazi holocaust is tenuous at best. You’ve been duped by the right wing about history, which is not science, but another thing they don’t do well with all of the time.

                Read this:


            • Will H. in reply to Kazzy says:

              Alternative phrasing (if I may):
              So what exactly were all the terrible things that people were doing pre-Lamarck that makes belief in evolution of such urgent necessity in daily life?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

                Burning scientists and freethinkers might qualify.Report

              • Will H. in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I was really hoping for “slavery,” or “lack of voting rights for women.”
                Though “didn’t have video games” might have scored match point.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Will H. says:

                The Glorification of Dogmatic Dumbassery takes many forms. These mouthbreathers have been gawping and jeering at scientists forever — and anyone who wants to pass a law to eliminate a demonstrable problem is damned as some Do Gooder Statist.

                I remember when these same horse’s asses were all upset about removing lead from gasoline. Somehow we survived as a species. And somehow, these Conservative Hunter Types will adapt to steel shot in like manner.

                Bad ideas have consequences.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Bad ideas have consequences

                Right, so, in order to stave off bad consequences, we should make sure everyone thinks only good ideas? Got that!Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Basically, yes. No evidence, no admittance to the academy.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

            Schools should only teach things that cannot be misunderstood or misused. For example, so only as there are obscenities and racial epithets, the alphabet is out.Report

            • Kazzy in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Schools shouldn’t teach thungs that are demonstrably wrong. Triangles are not circles and a curriculum that taught counter to that would be a bad one. Likewise with Young Earth Creationism.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Kazzy says:

                And if we learn that something we thought was true isn’t, we should adjust curriculum accordingly. Curriculum need not be perfect or infallible. But it certainly shouldn’t be knowingly wrong.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Kazzy says:

                Schools shouldn’t teach thungs that are demonstrably wrong.

                Schools should teach The Method. Let students apply The Method and let them discover for themselves how many planets there are and why.

                If you’re just going to ask people to memorize the answers to multiple-choice questions they’ll never against think about, it doesn’t matter what you ask them to memorize.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Jaybird says:


              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                Schools do teach the Sci Method. They also teach the accepted body of knowledge. Its not an either vs or situation. You can’t really have every HS student replicate the discovery of the periodic table and the spectra of each element, etc, etc, etc, now can you.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

                No body of knowledge is “accepted”. There are no “facts” in science. There’s only evidence and the theories which explain the evidence.

                Education doesn’t have to replicate every discovery. It has to demonstrate the evidence. I remember once, when we were being taught the structure of the atom, raising my hand and asking how two positive protons could stay together in the same nucleus. The teacher said “You’ll learn why in college. It’s called the Strong Force. It’s about 100 times more powerful than the magnetic force.”

                That’s where the Conservatives utterly fail, philosophically. With them, doubt is a bad thing. They can’t provisionally accept anything on the basis of the evidence. It has to conform to something they accept at a metaphysical level. I guess it must be because when they were little kids, when they asked “Why?” they were told to shut up and accept the Accepted Body of Knowledge and they just kept on that track in life. With them, every new theory is a direct assault on their core belief structure. It must be a scary world for them.Report

              • greginak in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Yes Blaise there are no absolute facts, but there is certainly “here is all the stuff we know up until now.” That stuff has different levels of certainty, but needs to be mastered if you are going to get additional training in a science. Doubt and the ultimate possibility of being wrong are absolute keys to science and are things many people absolutely can’t deal with.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Well sure. And that’s why I cannot accept any of the smarmy, cheap talk and ignorant hectoring about how the Scientific Community needs Better PR. No it bloody well doesn’t. The Conservatives need to quit glorifying ignorance. All this cone-pone bullshit about Integrity angers me right down to my bones. Dumbing stuff down so these morons can understand how lead stacks up in haemoglobin — I’ll be damned if I or anyone else should have to stand there like Johnny trying to explain what sort of aircraft it is as a big pretty white plane with red stripes, curtains in the windows and wheels and it looks like a big Tylenol.

                I’m sorry that Conservatives never got enough of an education to know what haemoglobin is or how lead poisoning works. I’m sorry their heads are full of dogmatic nonsense. I’m sorry they can’t adapt to life in modern times. I’m sorry they can’t argue from the facts and try to tell me other birds aren’t dying of lead poisoning, or how lead and mercury stack up in the food chain. I’m sorry they’re all afflicted with the dumbass and seem terribly proud of this fact. That is not my problem.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

            The question isn’t are there consequences in the past of people falsely believing such and such, but rather could there be cosequences of having the false belief going forward.

            Kids probably wouldn’t be harmed by telling them that John Adams was actually from outerspace. They could even go and be medical doctors while believing it.

            But the fact is that we don’t know how belief in evolution (or macro evolution specifically) will become important amd/or which individuals it will be important for. That is why we try to spread true belief about evolution as wodely as possible.

            Teach about creationism and teach that it is demonstrably false and/or unscientific. Tell the students it is ignorant and ridiculous to believe it. Tell the students the truth.Report

            • Murali in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              That is why we try to spread true belief about evolution as wodely as possible.

              Teach about creationism and teach that it is demonstrably false and/or unscientific. Tell the students it is ignorant and ridiculous to believe it. Tell the students the truth

              The problem is that there isn’t an obvious limiting principle at work here ast which true beliefs to include or exclude. If we think that we should root out all false beliefs or especially, we should use the public school system to root out all false beliefs, then we get to an illiberal place very quickly. At the very least we seriously violate liberal neutrality.

              Let me pose the same objection that I posed BlaiseP:

              Saying that you are correct and have the evidence on your side and have the correct belief forming practices and the other guy doesn’t is not a practical maxim that can resolve such differences even when you are in fact objectively correct about the state of evidence and your belief formation practices. Because, ultimately, practical principles of action are put into practice by the agents themselves and the relevant evaluative standards are the agent’s own. Any practical principle, in order to both be effectively action guiding and be able to resolve the conflicting claims people advance against each other, should not rely on the beliefs being relied on being true.


              • Shazbot5 in reply to Murali says:

                Not sure I understand the quote.

                One limiting principle is this:

                If a scientific theory is well confirmed, not falsified, and accepted by a massive consensus of scientists, teach it as factual. If a scientific theory fails the previous test, teach it as a living controversy.

                I get that it will be harder to create limiting principles to avoid teaching ethical beliefs and metaphysical beliefs that shouldn’t be taught as facts. (Though even in these cases, there is very rarely a consensus of experts, so they would be ruled out as something to teach as factual by something like the prior principle.) But this is clearly science, so the prior principle will do.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                The snag is what you do with a scientific theory that has been falsified, or is non-falsifiable (and thus doesn’t even belong in a science class), is not confirmed, but is still accepted by what’s claimed to be a massive consensus of scientists who deride skeptics as non-believers, heretics, and shills.

                What do you do when science quits being science and becomes math voodoo and acolytes preaching apocalyptic doomsday if we don’t repent?Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:

                Not sure why I’m asking, but do you have such a theory in mind?Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Well, I was thinking of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming in particular, but there are other examples where ideas gain wide scientific acceptance without much, if any, testing because the ideas confirm previously held beliefs or biases. Quite a lot of psychology over the years would fall into that category, as something that “every educated person knows” gets frequently tossed in the trash, sometimes because nobody actually even tested the idea at all, or someone made it up out of whole cloth and nobody even bothered to try to replicate it because it was such a novel idea that it simply had to be right.

                Scientists are human. All humans are subject to crowd phenomenon, group-think, peer-pressure, the need to conform, and are sometimes subject to blind conviction, religious type thinking, and ardent support of orthodoxy. Maintaining that scientists somehow aren’t subject to these traits is to argue that scientists are not in fact human.

                That’s why they went to the method of rigorous testing of ideas through experiment, and making sure those experiments were repeatable by anyone qualified to take the same measurements. Prior to that academics (natural philosophers) just argued, without evidence, for the correctness of their own beliefs. As soon as you remove experiments from their toolkit, they are back to arguing with nothing to back it up. A white lab coat doesn’t convey truth like an ecclesiastical robe, the stuff happening in the test tube does.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:

                Uh huh.

                That’s why we should listen to a consensus of scientists. They are doing the experiments.

                I am pretty sure we should teach students about anthropogenic global warming.

                Not sure what you mean by catastrophic global warming as something that an overwhelming consensus believed in. We should teach that there is still and for a long time has been some dispute about what will happen as the planet warms and how much it will warm, but the worry is how awful/catastrophic this will be and over what time frame.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                And how exactly are they doing these experiments? Are they adding and removing CO2 with a period that’s perhaps contains frequency components based on prime numbers (in years)? Nope, they’re not doing that. They’re writing Sim-Earth in badly written FORTRAN, using endless fudge factors. They admit to that in the UEA e-mails.

                And the step you mentioned at the bottom was totally skipped. Why shouldn’t we be debating whether global warming will be a boon, instead of awful/catastrophic? They never actually asked that question, much less answered it. It’s assumed with no evidence in favor, and almost all evidence in opposition. Life on Earth thrives when it’s warm, and thrives more when it’s very warm, both in the historical record and today. Where it’s cold life struggles, and struggles mightily.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:

                Uh huh.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

                Oh, sure, remember child: don’t fly in Boeing jets. Same people doing sims for both. But if they haven’t done the sims right, the Boeing jet’ll explode.

                So, sure, prove to me you don’t believe in AGW. Go buy some land in Florida.Report

        • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

          I attended a Christian school briefly. The science cirriculum drew a distinction between microevolution (the kind that’s observable in laboratories) and macroevolution (speciation and development of major new traits), the former being acknowledged and the latter being denied.

          For all its silliness, young earth creationism really doesn’t matter as much as you’d think. It’s the ancient history stuff they get wrong, and that doesn’t really have much practical applicability. I’d be surprised if young earth creationists were any more likely to get the practical stuff wrong than non-creationists with comparable scientific education.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            Why teach any of it then? If one’s understanding of evolution is largely unimportant, lets scrap the whole thing and give that real estate over to something that does matter.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

              For the same reason we teach them math they’re never going to use!

              More seriously, it’s because some of those students will actually go on to science – and could be inspired by evolution to go into science – and, since you don’t know which ones those are, you teach it across-the-board. There’s also the “human knowledge is a good thing.” Even if a lot of people do get by with pretty substantial blind spots, we’d prefer they not have the blind spots.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                Since it might not have been clear, I don’t actually advocate no teaching evolution. We should teach it and should teach it right, plain and simple.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Kazzy says:

                Oh, I figured as much. I was just answering your question from the perspective of one who pretty much agrees with Dhex that the existence or non-existence evolution doesn’t matter to most people.Report

              • Kazzy in reply to Will Truman says:

                But there is a broader issue at play. If we teach YEC or unscientific skepticism of evolution, we teach kids that facts don’t matter, conviction does. That is a real problem.Report

              • Murali in reply to Kazzy says:

                Well, for most people most of the time what the facts happen to be about a large number of things have no practical import.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Kazzy says:

                Yeah, but we don’t know which people will become scientists. We prepare everyone to have some chance at becoming a scientific expert. Are you saying we shouldn’t do that?

                Moreover, there are public policy decisions that voters need to make based on the best available knowledge of the facts. Cap and trade is one such policy question. I do think -as I explain nearer the bottom of this thread- false beliefs about evolution cause people to believe changes to the environment are less dangerous than they are. “God is in control of what species exist, and so he will prevent a mass extinction that could harm us.” And there could be policy decisions that will be amde poorly if people believe false things about evolution, too.

                We don’t know how we will need knowledge in the future, but we will. This is why we always want more knowledge, and knowledge dispersed as widely as is feasible.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Will Truman says:

                I’ve heard this argument before, and I don’t buy it.
                First, Darwin himself was never taught evolution in school.
                Secondly, a shortage of medical staff around Darwin’s time is not widely reported.
                Third, there is evidence against the suggestion that teaching people everything needed to become a doctor while they’re in high school is really necessary, in that we currently have doctors.
                Fourth, the issue of degrees is relevant.
                Fifth, current unemployment among college graduates suggests that such concerns of adequate manpower in years to come are overblown.

                By and large, I believe it’s best for people to be only slightly more intelligent than they’re ever required to be, just in case an emergency situation pops up. Otherwise, excess of intelligence only leads to problems.Report

            • Brandon Berg in reply to Kazzy says:

              Why teach literature, for that matter?

              I think that there’s some value in teaching about evolution, because it provides an alternative to religion as a way of explaining the origin of man. While it doesn’t matter that much as far as scientific applications go, it may make people less religious, and result in more liberal social policy. While I personally like that, I do worry about whether it’s something that government should be doing.

              Actually, I’m going to walk that back just a bit. It does matter a bit, but indirectly. Religious scientists are more likely to have objections to working with embryonic stem cells, and probably therapeutic cloning. So it does matter in that way, but it’s not because they don’t understand the science.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                I would counter that ethics is especially important in the medical field, where issues of life and death may arise.
                Further, development of technology serves no useful purpose other than to serve man.
                As to which man it should serve is properly the realm of ethics; as is the question of to what extent it is permissible to cause harm to others in the course of such service.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

                Actually macroevolution may become very important. Macroevolution includes studies of mass extinction and how surving species adapt.

                Given that we are currently in a large extinction period, this could become very important. Suppose X publishes a paper saying Y will happen if such and such species die because of global warming, because that is what we have seen in past extinction periods. And suppose Y will be catastrophic. Well, if 50% of people refuse to believe X because animals weren’t even evolving back then and there is no truth to “macroevolution” that could be a serious problem.Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shazbot, what percentage of species have gone extinct? 99.999% or more?Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Over 100% have gone extinct.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            It does matter. A lot. Either an education teaches the student to doubt productively, as in requiring evidence for beliefs, or it teaches nonsense as fact. Science doubts, evidence in hand. Dogma believes, with no evidence.

            All these YEC types want to turn our schools into madrassas, teaching dogma and not science. It’s a violation of the principle of the Separation Clause.Report

          • Thanks, Brandon. You mentioned what I was going to, that opposition to evolution is typically opposition to macro-evolution with allowances for micro-evolution.

            I do want evolution taught in schools, and would vote on that basis, but a whole lot of very functional people – people in the medical profession, even – believe in creationism. It’s not the indicator of intelligence or competence that people make it out to be.Report

            • Will,

              That’s pretty much where I stand. Speaking for myself, sometimes I actually kind of get a little chip-on-shoulder-y with the pro-teaching-evolution-in-school crowd because I detect sometimes a certain arrogance that annoys.

              Having said that, the arrogance I “detect” is probably at least as much a function of me looking for it than its actually being there. And I’m less bothered by the arrogance of a lot of believers in YEC. I can’t claim to be objective about this, although at the end of the day, I do support teaching evolution.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Sort of where I stand as well.
                Except that I would say that much of my objections could easily be overcome in the teaching of the development of evolution theory, as opposed to merely stating, “This is where we are now;” in much the same manner that I learned of the four elements in chemistry class.Report

              • I’m not sure I quite understand what you’re saying here. But yes, I think it is healthy to discuss the history of evolutionary theory and some of its starting assumptions, as long as such discussion doesn’t become a proxy for saying that “all views are equally valid” and therefore it could’ve all come about as the product of a creative designer.

                Having said that, I’m not a teacher at the moment (and I’ve never taught elementary, middle, or high school), so I imagine doing that well in those circumstances would be very difficult.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Pierre Corneille says:

                Kind of hard to pinpoint, I’ll admit.
                Maybe it’s something more along the lines of maintaining a healthy skepticism and a willingness to rethink things previously accepted are important elements to the development of science.
                The theory of evolution has taken some interesting turns from the time of Darwin (and Lamarck). There are still a few gaps in there remaining to be discovered.
                It comes out more interesting as history than a collection of facts anyway.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

              A “whole lot” (I’m hoping it isn’t so many) of medical doctors believe in Obama trutherism, the JFK conspiracy, and that that vaccines are too dangerous.

              That’s hardly a defense of teaching dangerous (I’ll address Jaybird about how this is dangeorous above) unscientific idiocy. Yes, you can be a medical doctor and believe in stupidly unscientific stuff. Doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach you not to believe it.Report

          • Alan Scott in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            I’d be surprised if young earth creationists were any more likely to get the practical stuff wrong than non-creationists with comparable scientific education.

            Isn’t “comparable scientific education” doing a whole lot of work here? If were were actually comparing a two folks who got top-notch science educations, one of which had macro-evolution edited out, I don’t think there would be any consequences.

            But that’s not really what’s happening. Consider this creationist science test that’s recently gone viral. Now compare these two tests: the first two non-creationist results that showed up when I googled “fourth grade science test”.

            Ignore for a moment the fact that the creationist test is asking students to say that the earth is only thousands of years old and that man and dinosaurs co-existed and so forth. Instead, look at the quality of thinking demanded by each test. the questions asked by the other tests aren’t just different because they’re not asking students to believe creationist lies. They’re different because they demand that the students have a developed understanding of the concepts they cover.

            It’s not a choice between good science education that includes evolution and good science education that instead promotes creationism. It’s a choice between good science education that includes evolution and inferior science education that accepts sloppy thinking.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Brandon Berg says:

            “that doesn’t really have much practical applicability”

            That depends on a whole lot. The truth is we can’t know what will matter in the future. Who knew that the Michelson-amorley experiments would be so important. Who knew that the germ theory of diseases would be important. We should try to disseminate true belief precisely because we don’t know when if and how important it will be at some point.

            Widespread ignorance about even macro-evolution could cost us.Report

            • Murali in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              Technological advances brought about by improvements to our stock of knowledge do not require ordinary people to have the correct beliefs to operate. About the only thing that seems relevant is the germ theory of disease as ordinary people need to know germ theory in order to wash their cuts and maintain other kinds of good hygiene standards. But that is one belief out of so many. The expected payoff of trying to know most of the relevant scientific facts is very low unless you happen to be curious about such stuff for its own sake or for the sake of one’s future career. And it seems rather costly in terms of time and cognitive resources to acquire the correct kinds of beliefs, especially those counterintuitive ones that require much study.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                Math class is tough, Murali. Biology too. The payoff, in these cases, is keeping our species going in this little aquarium we call Planet Earth.

                If you think education is costly, try sizing up the cost of ignorance.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                What other than vague social malaise can you attribute to the cost of ignoranceReport

              • BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                Where to begin? The subject is vast. The failure to educate girls has led to much human suffering and overpopulation: educate a girl and she will have fewer children, have them later in life, educate those children and they will have fewer children. The best birth control device is a schoolbook in the hands of a girl.

                The spread of AIDS and other sexually-communicated diseases through the lack of proper sexual education.

                Water-borne diseases: lack of knowledge leads people to drink unboiled and therefore unsafe water. It’s the greatest killer of children.

                The list is very long. I could write this list for days.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Murali says:

                Oh, a quick PS: the anti-vaccination crowd is the only reason we haven’t eliminated polio in our lifetime. Ring that up as a Cost of Goods Sold from the anti-science crowd.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “the anti-vaccination crowd is the only reason we haven’t eliminated polio in our lifetime.”

                This is the part where you explain how YEC and anti-vax are specifically related beliefs that specifically cause each other to exist. (Unless you’ve got some kind of evidence that Jenny McCarthy is actually a snake-handling fundamentalist.)Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                No, Heffman. This is the part where you explain why it’s not the case. From the evidence, please. I’m not here to carry water for you.Report

              • Murali in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Polio only seems endemic in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria; places which are complete basket cases politically. In the US, Polio is exceedingly rare and associated with the oral live vaccine.



                educating girls has more to do with a broadly vocational goal of education. i.e. educating girls so that they are able to have the same opportunities to for financial independence is what reduces fertility rates.

                The germ theory of disease is the one exception I think. Without it, we won’t know that we should boil water or wear protection and not share needles. (Though someone could know that they should do those things without understanding why. But I will concede that adherence rates would probably be lower)Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                The education of women goes to a far deeper problem, one of gender equality.

                As for Nigeria and Af/Pak, the problem resolves to a rumour wherein vaccinations will make people Christians. Islam has a lot to answer for on that one.Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Ring that up as a Cost of Goods Sold from the anti-science crowd. Whooping cough and other diseases are making a strong comeback thanks to the LIBERALS in Boulder, CO. Sorry that I elegantly destroyed your (nonfactual) conservative bias arguments)Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                “This is the part where you explain why it’s not the case. ”


                I’m not the one making the positive claim, here, bro

                “Here is my statement, if you can’t disprove it then it’s automatically true” is not how argument worksReport

              • Wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Jim, Blaise will answer you right after he answers me. After all, it is the LIBERALS in Colorado (and elsewhere) who are refusing inoculation (and passing laws allowing them to continue to do so). Blaise seems to think (rim shot)

                that it is only conservatives who are “anti-science’Report

              • Stillwater in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Ward, you might find it interesting that “Boulder, Colo., is getting good grades from Forbes: It ranked as the No. 1 city in the magazine’s annual list of America’s Smartest Cities.”Report

              • Will Truman in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Still, which may kinda go to show that intelligence and science-skepticism are not always mutually exclusive. (And my theory that a lot of intelligent people devote their intelligence to justifying difficult-to-justify positions.)Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Oh, Ward. Michelle Bachmann, noted Librul, will tell you all about it.Report

        • dhex in reply to Kazzy says:

          “It it matters because YECs force themselves onto school boards, bake their non-facts into the curriculum, which they pervert with evolution and AGW denial.”

          my point isn’t about the political angle – that’s why it matters on that level. but why it matters that – regardless of whether someone “believes” in evolution or not, they don’t actually (generally) have the ability to explain it. you can grab any gang of yoekels at a downtown high end theatuuuuuurrrrr right before some dude goes off half cocked throwing cell phones hither and yon and ask them to explain the basics of evolution – i betcha a gazillion dollars that though most, if not all, would say they “believe” in evolution, maybe 1 out of 10 could actually explain it in a manner that would allow them to pass a nyc public high school quiz on the subject.

          they’d all be high earners, perhaps even social leaders in some cases. and it’s because the topic simply never will matter to their day to day lives in any real way.

          the “belief gap” is a political symptom, but the actual ignorance goes well beyond (and predates, ha ha ha) the rise of the young earth dingalings.Report

          • Will Truman in reply to dhex says:

            i betcha a gazillion dollars that though most, if not all, would say they “believe” in evolution, maybe 1 out of 10 could actually explain it in a manner that would allow them to pass a nyc public high school quiz on the subject.

            Check out NaPP tomorrow.Report

        • Chris in reply to Kazzy says:

          We’ve had this conversation before around here, with mostly the same participants saying mostly the same things. I agree with Jaybird that belief in creationism, young or old earth*, is pretty much harmless. Even the YECs these days believe in “microevolution,” they just don’t believe in speciation. Not coincidentally, many of the hardcore YECs I’ve known have had a much richer knowledge of the mechanisms of microevolution than many of the hardcore “pro-science” types I’ve known, because for the former, unlike many (which is not to say all) of the latter, this is not just a culture war issue. They actually care.

          That said, I think teaching evolution at the secondary level, in biology classes, is pretty important. There are two reasons for this importance: first, most if not all of the people who will go into fields in which understanding evolution is important (like medicine) will take high school biology courses. Second, evolution is so central to understanding modern biology that, without understanding it, all one will have is a bunch of largely disconnected facts, which, to the extent they are integrated, will be integrated through our deeply flawed (from a modern scientific perspective), teleological folk biology.

          I do think teaching evolution prior to secondary school biology courses can be beneficial, not because I think anyone who doesn’t take high school biology is really going to remember the details of how evolution works, but because it is one of the most straightforward and elegant examples of how facts on the ground lead to theory, and how that theory is then used not only to explain the facts on the ground that produced it, but other facts including those that weren’t even known at the time the theory was produced. I’m not sure it’s taught that way in elementary and middle school, though.

          *I always want to ask, “What about the dinosaurs?” (I actually did ask this the first time a friend of mine told me she was a YEC, in 10th or 11th grade. To this day, I am traumatized by her answer.) Hard core YECs have an answer (dinosaurs walked with man, basically), but most of these people have probably never thought about the two things at the same time. I have an odd feeling that a lot of these people who answer that they think God created the Earth at some point in the last 100,000 years would have no problem agreeing to the fact that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago, because all of this knowledge is merely factual, and it’s not integrated into any kind of systematic representation of, well, any of it. I think Jaybird’s making a similar point with his bit about mnemonics.Report

          • dhex in reply to Chris says:

            fwiw, i certainly agree that teaching biology in american high schools is important. my fixation is on the whys of certain beliefs people have. it is, unfortunately, a no-cost belief for americans to have as it doesn’t interfere in their daily lives, has signalling value to their social group, and is otherwise opaque to them. no one is going to turn down penicillin because of their beliefs in the origins of life, etc.

            american folk biology drags a lot of trunks around. some really really negative, like the anti-vaxxers, and some fairly benign/merely fashionable (juice cleanses, the general fixation on “toxins”, some segments of the high end gourmet/organic food market).Report

    • Mike Dwyer in reply to NewDealer says:

      “I always find it interesting that conservatives can so easily cast themselves in the brave and noble role of the skeptic and liberals as the silly, childish, optimists.

      New Dealer, I don’t think you actually read all of my post. If you had, you would have noticed this:

      “I have long argued that we need both extremes in our system of government and also in our daily lives. The two sides serve to check each the other and maintain a sort of centrism that is necessary for most organizations to function properly over the long term.”

      I see conservative skepticism and liberal optimism as the yin and yang of our political system and in no way did I suggest one was superior to the other. If anything I pointed out that the answer is often in the middle. Maybe this is a case of you making assumptions based on your own ideological preferences?Report

      • NewDealer in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        I did read that part but I still think this “Burkean skepticism” is a great and noble lie that conservatives even those who think liberalism is necessary tell themselves because it still puts conservatives in the “adult” role.

        Liberals are still the “children” always rushing forward and conservatives get to think of themselves as applying proper breaks.

        I don’t see why I should be required to follow this analogy and see conservatives as being the real adults and allowing progress at the proper pace, etc.Report

  3. BlaiseP says:

    Phrases such as “Extremely Complicated” annoy me. The impact of CO2 and global warming is well understood and absolutely undeniable.Report

    • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I’m with BlaiseP on this one: the ‘extremely complicated’ part is the details of modeling what results from increasing CO2 levels; not that CO2 levels increase.

      So you get results like scientists saying more/larger storms will happen as a result, but unwilling to say that any particular storm is a result. They speak of trend lines, not individual events. The problem here is not what scientist say, but the general publics dismal comprehension of statistics and scientific method.Report

      • Will H. in reply to zic says:

        My understanding is that is has to do more with convergent trends; and to what extent effects may be attributed to which trend.
        I believe that, generally, the conclusions are flawed by that segment typically acknowledging such diversity of effect. I tend more toward the unalterable implying extremely urgent necessity, whereas that portion we may have some manner of influence as indicating merely urgency.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to zic says:

        I am also annoyed by the suggestion that scientists must NDTyson-ify their arguments before they’re accepted. We know who’s blaming scientists. It’s the Conservatives. We know who has zero integrity in this debate. It’s the Conservatives. When it comes to Fights and Science, I’d really appreciate it if a few Conservatives weren’t fighting against science. It’s been a constant trend through history.

        I’m tired of having to dumb down these arguments about lead toxicity. Spent ammunition remains the primary cause of lead toxicity in condors and other scavengers. The science was not misused. None was presented, at all, by these SoCal Bowhunters. Condors don’t get sick from eating lead paint. Unscientific jackasses, every last one of them. Now here’s some science, goddamnit.Report

        • zic in reply to BlaiseP says:

          We also know that some of the most skeptical of scientists have pretty much reversed course and said, “Yes, the atmosphere is warming.”

          But they, like so many traditional conservatives economists, now wear the Cloak of Conservative Invisibility; like silly little monkeys, unseen, unheard, and unspeakable.Report

        • Wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Yup, it is the lead poisoning. Which is why we have the massive die off of other scavenger species such as the raven and turkey vultures… whoops.

          I bring you back to your regularly scheduled “consensus science”.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Wardsmith says:

            Yeah, yeah.

            The day you cite an actual scientific paper, Ward, there will be two moons in the sky.Report

            • Wardsmith in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Blaise, I don’t have a dog in this hunt (I don’t hunt animals) but I’m just examining the null hypothesis. Which is why I can’t find scholarly papers on the massive die-off of ravens. I /have/ found papers that talk about elevated blood lead levels during hunting season, but the same paper indicates that the levels go down when it isn’t hunting season. Apparently lead in the blood is not the proximate cause of death. In fact, when the ravens are fed a steady diet of (lead) bullet riddled carcasses their population tripled. Just sayinReport

              • Chris in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Science is just not your thing, Ward.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Wardsmith says:

                The only nullity in this discussion is your ignorant snark about who’s telling lies about what.Report

              • Patrick in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Ravens live 10-15 years in the wild. Condors live 60.

                If lead toxicity is accumulative, it’s pretty easy to see why you might expect one to be affected and one not to be.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Wardsmith says:

                But lead half-life in a birds is about two weeks.Report

              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                George, like Ward, you don’t know what you’re talking about.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Chris says:

                Well, I certainly have no idea what you’re talking about, but I’m not worried about it in the least.Report

              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                George, see what Blaise says below to know what I’m talking about. Lead in the blood is important, but only after it’s in the stomach, and before it’s in bone and tissue. If you think it’s only staying in the body for two weeks (instead of years, even decades), then you’ll understand (whether you’re worried about it or not).Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:


                Blood lead generally has a half-life
                of around two weeks in birds (e.g., 14 days in the
                California Condor, Fry et al. 2009 this volume),


              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                George, that’s not why I said you don’t know what you’re talking about.Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                This is what passes for argument from Blaise. Against the policy of the website, merely make persona attacks. For instance Blaise accuses me of not citing sources, which I have done countless times and did again here. Stepped outside, there weren’t two moons. Now I also quoted a SCIENTIFIC STUDY that noted the population of ravens increased by a factor of three during the study period, all while they were ingesting lead. This has not been disputed, instead I am personally attacked and told I’m ignorant. I suppose bullying has worked for him in the past and he figures it will work in the present too. It gets a bit old and one would think /he’s/ a bit old to be engaging in such tactics.

                Chris, it might interest you to know that science IS my thing. And no, I don’t consider psychology to be a science.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                No you didn’t. Blood lead doesn’t last long because it’s being persisted in bones and neurons. But you’d know that if you understood how heavy metal toxicology worked. So I’ll just dumb this down for you, as Dwyer wants, and cite wiki on this one.

                Elevated lead in the body can be detected by the presence of changes in blood cells visible with a microscope and dense lines in the bones of children seen on X-ray. However, the main tool for diagnosis is measurement of the blood lead level. When blood lead levels are recorded, the results indicate how much lead is circulating within the blood stream, not the amount being stored in the body.[2]

                Now just stop it. You’re dead wrong.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Ward, if science is your thing, I would hate to hear you talk about things that aren’t.

                Seriously, if you were a scientist (and you aren’t, as you’ve made clear on the subject of climate change), what sorts of questions might you ask if you found out that there was a bunch of evidence of lead poisoning from lead ammunition in condors, but saw the raven population growing at the same time? Would those questions end at the one you seem to be implying? Or might you ask about what differences between the habits and behavior, anatomy and physiology, habitats, diets, etc., of the two might result in differences in the effects of lead, and lead ammunition in particular, on the two species’ populations? If you’d done this, I might think science is your thing. But since, as you’ve tended to do (see, e.g., your linking to the article on the bad ev psych study the other day), ran with a facile, “confirms what I already believed” interpretation of (mostly media portrayals of) science, I’m going with science is not your thing.Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, I have made myself millions and for my corporations billions by looking into the edges where science has blinders and capitalized (literally) on those omissions with real inventions based on real science. Just because the herd goes in one direction doesn’t mean the herd is right, it just means it is a herd. You’re welcome to follow the herd, right off the cliff. If I march to my own drummer so be it.

                I suspect I’ve been involved with writing far more patents than you, developing far more software and circuits than you could even dream of and semiconductor cores that are statistically guaranteed to be in whatever device you are using to access this website. But I’m an idiot in /your/ mind so obviously /your/ mind rules (in your mind). Meanwhile George is correct, those who have made their living in the /hard/ sciences tend to look askance at what passes for science elsewhere.

                Charging off to find evidence that only bolsters your hypothesis while ignoring all else is not science. Perhaps condors are dying off because their habitat is shrinking, because they need to get drunk on a certain fermented mulberry before they can get ‘in the mood’ (they are hideously ugly after all). Or they are accumulating lead in their systems until it kills them. My null hypothesis statement was simply whether OTHER factors had an impact. It is intuitively obvious (for those who still know how to follow their intuition and haven’t prevaricated theirs into submission) that as scavengers having /more/ offal to scavenge would be a net plus. Vultures in India were dying because of a certain antibiotic fed to sick cattle, no lead needed. I’m not even saying here that lead bullets for hunting are GOOD, I’m just saying open your damn eyes before you jump to conclusions that may be false or simply may be limited. The population of ravens TRIPLED, obviously because they benefited from greater food supplies, granted them by hunters. Eliminate the hunters and you’ve eliminated the food.

                We could talk about spotted owls, and their demise, not caused by habitat destruction but predation from other owls. The worst thing about spotted owls is they don’t defend their nests. All you Darwinists should understand the problems with /that/.Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Ward, the reason I know you’re full of it is that you haven’t even looked for the evidence. If you made millions this way, well, I need to get into the business world.

                (And for the record, I have no patents, nor have I created any circuits. Hell, I get frustrated writing Matlab code.)Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                Haha. Don’t pat yerself on the back so sternly, Ward, yez likely to twist your shoulder out of joint there. It’s unseemly to be so affectionate with one’s own self in public and it’s illegal in some places if it’s taken too far.

                George: You pulled out one tiny extract from an otherwise-respectable paper about lead poisoning in terrestrial animals and attempted to pass it off as a statement about a two week half-life in birds. Allow me to finish up that quote for you, just so everyone can get a grip on how slenderly cited your quotation actually was:

                whereas liver and kidney tissues generally retain elevated lead concentrations for weeks to several months following absorption. Once deposited in bone, lead is far less mobile, and bone lead concentrations tend to remain elevated for months to years, reflecting lifetime exposure (Pain 1996). Several authors have suggested guidelines to help interpret tissue lead concentrations in different avian taxa (Franson 1996, Pain 1996, Table 2). Differences in sensitivity exist both among and within taxa (e.g., Table 2, Carpenter et al. 2003), and other factors, such as the duration and level of exposure, may influence the tissue lead concentrations at which effects are observed. There is no simple way of relating tissue lead concentrations to effect. However, the general conclusions on tissue lead levels associated with sub-lethal poisoning, toxicity, and death from lead poisoning that have been drawn from the vast field and experimental data reported in the published literature are useful guidelines.

                In short, George, you got caught out. Do you have any response to what I’ve pointed out? Care to retract that porkie wherein you would tell us lead half-life in a birds is about two weeks?Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, what evidence haven’t I looked for? Evidence related to my work or evidence related to YOUR work? MY work I’m /very/ interested in and no evidence passes by me. Other work, I’m far less interested in and am mostly concerned with methodology (or lack thereof) before I place too much credence in it. I’ve pointed out elsewhere the methodology issues with AGW and George has pointed out similar points below. IF climate science were my thing I could come up with dozens of rigorous /experiments/ to validate or invalidate contentions made. AGW “scientists” are universally disinterested in experiments preferring instead to base /all/ their conclusions on simulations (flawed) and reaching hyperbolic conclusions (e.g. everything Hansen has ever said .

                Now as to climate science, back when I naively believed it WAS science I wasted many hours trying to have a dialog with the scientists involved. What began as open minded questions quickly eroded into acrimonious debate for the kind of sniffing dismissiveness discussed right here in this OP. Giving up on sites like Realclimate I looked for open minded scientists in places like Physorg. Therein we had numerous scintillating discussions until someone (not a scientist) ended up in a position of authority on the site and deleted entire thread discussions at will, and ultimately outlawed /any/ discussion of climate whatsoever. This is called science by censorship I think. Blaise would be aghast, if Blaise were an honest agent and not just an ideologue with his own axe to grind.

                Funniest discussion on Physorg went something like the following (heavily paraphrased):
                Scientist 1: Now you all had better just listen to me, I have a Phd!
                commenters 2-20: I have a Phd too!

                In fact every single commenter was a Phd, all in physical sciences. But debate cannot be allowed, which is why Hansen (to pick on just one) has literally run away when confronted by a Phd wielding skeptic. Burning at the stake indeed.Report

          • George Turner in reply to Wardsmith says:

            Well, I’m not particularly upset by the lead ammunition ban because lead doesn’t make very good ammunition. It’s barely more dense than copper and everyone would be much better off with a variety of armor-piercing using copper-jacketed brass, tungsten, uranium, or bullets with optimized, engineering expansion based on jacketed bismuth (I love bismuth ammo) or ultra-low melting point alloys that go liquid on impact, which are quite inexpensive. We keep using lead because it’s cheap and it works, but at some point firearms need to improve their precision and lethality, and the lead ban is as good an excuse as any.

            We also need to move toward more efficient, higher velocity propellants, but gun cotton is likewise very cheap and simple and to make and thus hard to supplant. Hybrid propellants based on plastic-encapsulated oxidizers might fit the bill.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to BlaiseP says:

          Blaise – this is a lot to unpack and I hate fisking, but let me try to be thorough…

          “I am also annoyed by the suggestion that scientists must NDTyson-ify their arguments before they’re accepted.”

          I didn’t suggest that. What I suggested is that scientists need more spokepeople who can talk to non-scientists. It’s a very liberal attitude to say, “We shouldn’t have to water down our ideas and discourse for you,” but that is incredibly short-sighted. When I was an archaeologist we watered down science every single day for visitors to our site. My mentor was a master of this and as a result he secured public support AND a great deal of funding. That is what more scientists need to be willing to do. They also need to fight for their discipline by keeping politicians from bastardizing their research.

          “We know who has zero integrity in this debate. It’s the Conservatives.”

          I disagree. Misusing science for political purpose has been a problem with the Left. I call that a lack of integrity as well.

          “Spent ammunition remains the primary cause of lead toxicity in condors and other scavengers. The science was not misused. None was presented, at all, by these SoCal Bowhunters. Condors don’t get sick from eating lead paint.”

          Did you actually watch the video? There has been a ban on lead ammunition in the condor’s home range for some time now and lead levels haven’t changed at all. They have video of condors eating lead paint. There are mining operations in their area. And if this is the problem why aren’t we seeing the same problem in scavenger populations in other parts of the country?Report

          • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            There are more scientific studies of the effects of led on condor populations. The consensus is pretty clear. The conclusions in the video are wrong (and tendentious — which is, ultimately, where all anti-science comes from).

            That said, I think the “left,” by which I mean liberals and progressives (really the center, but that’s another conversation) has done itself no favors on the subject of science. They’ve used it as a cudgel, and while there are some very good and honest people at the front of the battles between science and creationism (particularly Intelligent Design creationism), it has spawned a whole culture of counterproductive “pro-science” zealots, particularly in the form of the “New Atheists,” who’ve spent as much time insulting the people whose children they want to educate as they’ve spent actually advocating for science, and confirming many of the things that make them suspicious of or even hostile to science (like conflating science with atheism). They’ve done as much to create the problem as it is today as they have to fix it.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Chris says:

              +1 on this comment. On my Facebook feed, “I Fishing Love Science” should almost be named “I Fishing Hate Religion.” The overlap between people who repost IFLS and people who go out of their way to mock religion is not 100%, but it’s not too far from it.

              As an aside, I’m not sure what it says about me that I have far, far more Facebook friends evangelizing anti-religion than religion, despite being from the south and despite having a Republican/conservative skew of my Facebook friend population. Or maybe I don’t have a skew anymore. I just remember at one point there was an app-quiz that showed a 57%/43% split (among those who list it, anyway). Maybe that’s changed, though.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

              Yes. 100%. This captures much of what I failed to communicate.Report

            • Roger in reply to Chris says:

              Add another plus 1 from me. The “brights” or “new atheists” or whatever the anti religious zealots are calling themselves now, are causing more harm than good.

              I’ve read a lot of Dawkins’ rants and am always struck by how unscientific his attack on religion and faith is. It seems like he thinks good is a subspecies of truth rather than the other way around.Report

              • Chris in reply to Roger says:

                I used to blog about the psychology of religion, and would get comments from the Myers and Dawkins crowd to the effect that we didn’t need to study religious psychology, because we already know that religion is just a delusion.

                If this is what being pro-science means, then I want nothing to do with it.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Chris says:

                Religious dogma has always been an enemy of science and really does belong in the Abnormal Psych domain. Religion is a fine thing, I consider myself a religious person, after my own fashion. It fulfils a need in my life.

                But I don’t let my religious beliefs interfere with my cognitive and reasoning abilities. The longer I live, the less useful religion has become in my life. It’s one of those semi-useful appendages, like the appendix, which only seems to attract attention when it’s inflamed.

                Which isn’t to say Militant Atheism isn’t a problem: it is. But where it has become a problem, it’s always been accompanied by some Great Leader, a sort of incarnate god, Stalin, Mao, the Kim-du-Jour in North Korea. They all observe the First Commandment, “I am the Lord thy God who led you out of bondage in [insert previous regime here]. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” — only written with themselves in mind.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                If this is what being pro-science means, then I want nothing to do with it.

                But the Myers people aren’t being pro-science when they make that argument. They’re making that argument because they’re pro-science and they believe (perhaps incorrectly) that empirical evidence supports the conclusion that there is no Old Man in the Sky. Or that a cracker is the body of Christ.

                From their pov, the question of whether religious beliefs of a certain type are based on a delusion (or confusion, or contusion) is already settled. But that doesn’t mean that they reject a study of the psychology of religious beliefs. From their pov the correct account of religious beliefs will be broadly psychological in nature. I don’t know why they’d reject that as a legitimate area of scientific study. I don’t think they have.Report

              • Chris in reply to Stillwater says:

                Still, my point is that they frequently did. In fact, any time I posted on the subject.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Chris says:

                Chris, can you link to any of those discussions? I’m a bit confused about what they were arguing. I mean, an inquiry into the psychology of religion doesn’t strike me as anything a pro-science person would – or could – be opposed to. Unless they thought the arguments beings advanced were offered as some sort of justification for religious beliefs.

                Were they confused? Were they just assholes? It doesn’t make any sense to me…Report

              • Chris in reply to Chris says:

                Still, I can’t find anything with a quick google search, but some of the old posts that were with Seed and are now with National Geographic can be hard for me to locate (I don’t have access to them from any back end anymore). I’ll look some more later (reading some of my old comment sections gives me the willies, I must admit).

                I don’t understand the mindset, either, but the justification provided was pretty simple, as I gave it above. Studying religion was a waste of time, because it’s just delusion or false ideas (maybe something about fear of the unknown or the afterlife or something).Report

          • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            And the PNAS paper itself says that some condors definitely got their lead exposure from eating lead paint.

            The PNAS paper has a great many shortcomings. It didn’t bother to map the natural environmental lead concentrations throughout California, much less in the condor’s range. It then didn’t dig down to get samples of the greatly varying lead isotope ratios in these various regions. California is a massive rift zone (it has massive amounts of uranium, gold, thorium, etc), and the isotope ratios in different areas will be wildly different. The PNAS paper pretended there was only one normal isotope ratio for the whole state.

            It also only included one isotope ratio, for Pb206/207. Other lead-sourcing papers always include the Pb204/206 ratio and the Pb206/208 ratio. Lead comes in plain (Pb204) and three transuranic breakdown products (206, 207, and 208) which are like red, green, and blue mixed in with “white”, which would be Pb204. The PNAS paper tried to establish definitive sourcing using only the red/green ratio. So, natural isotope ratios of California lead will vary wildly, depending on the source deposits. Isotope ratios of ammunition and paint also vary widely, since different manufactures use different sources of lead. One simple isotope ratio is sufficient to rule out a source, but not to rule one in.

            No attempt was made to measure the isotope ratios on various wildlife and farm animals that the condors would be feeding on, nor mapping how those vary and to what extent the ratios differ from the geologic ratios in the area. For better data, gathered in concert with ammunition companies, they should work at introducing shot and ammunition with a more distinctive isotope ratio, along with the possible inclusion of other heavy-metal trace elements. For example, if Remington and Winchester introduced a special California shot highly enriched in lead-208 (by selecting the source mines), and if the shot is what’s contributing to lead levels in condors, then the condor blood levels would show a jump in the lead 208 ratio, while all other environmental source ratios would’ve remain unchanged.

            The PNAS paper isn’t necessarily bad, and it may not be wrong, but it certainly isn’t the pinnacle of robust scientific investigations. It’s more like a good high-school science project where the kids had access to fancy equipment and a little bit of knowledge.

            Also, they took over a thousand blood samples from 150 condors. That’s probably really irritating to the birds. Who can think about breeding when there’s always a weird guy with a needle hanging around?Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            I’m with the other Mike on the need to be able to explain things to non-specialists. It is pointless and counter-productive to say at the same time “We need political decisions to be made on a scientific basis” and “presenting science in a way that people who aren’t scientists can understand it is beneath our dignity”.Report

            • Alan Scott in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Should the scientific community explain concepts in such a way that non-scientists can understand? Yes.

              Is it the job of the scientific community to compensate for willful or neglectful ignorance of scientific principles on the part of the public? No.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to Alan Scott says:

                The problem is that a lot of people in the scientific community seem to conflate the two. Any inability for a lay person to not understand scientific concepts is treated as willful or neglectful ignorance.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

                How did Barbie put it? “Math class is tough!

                It is wilful and neglectful ignorance.Report

              • LeeEsq in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I think that scientists should realize that not everybody is coming from their background and needs to understand things at a different level than they do. Its like the Four Sons from the Seder, the answer that works for the wise son is that the same as the one that would work for the other sons like the simple son. Too many scientists want everybody to be a wise son, so they do not have to think of ways to explain things in simpler language or terms.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to LeeEsq says:

                That simply won’t fly. What does the Wicked Son ask? He asks “What does this service mean to you?” That’s the problem here, Lee. The Wise Son asks a very different question, “What has HaShem commanded you to do?”

                The Wicked Son knows what’s happening. He knows what the Seder is. He stands in isolation from it, refusing to see the Seder for what it is, not about an individual going through the motions, but about a communal remembrance.

                And that’s where the problem begins, Lee. It’s not about me. It’s not about you. What’s the rebuke to the Wicked Son? “HaShem has intervened on my behalf when I left Eygpt”

                We’re all leaving Egypt. And no sooner do we leave, than we’re out there in the desert, pining for the onions of Egypt, recalcitrant, disobedient, worshipping some Egel Ha’zahav. And being punished for it.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            No, there hasn’t been a ban on lead shot in California. That’s simply not true. They are considering a ban on lead in ammunition. Get your damned facts straight.

            In plain talk, don’t be Makin’ Shit Up. And don’t be dragging your unscientific little hunting buddies’ videos in here. The troublesome part of talking to Conservatives about science is exactly this problem: you were 100% wrong on the issue of lead ammunition in California. Constantly having to turn around and say “You’re Makin’ Shit Up.” is tiresome. And it can’t be any fun for you, either.

            Lead toxicity will be a continuing problem. It’s leaching into the water supply. It’s appearing in the grass. It stacks up in the food chain, as one lead-poisoned animal predates or scavenges on another.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to BlaiseP says:

              Blaise – I don’t see why you are getting so nasty here but it’s unnecessary. My language in the post was a little off. The bill passed in the assembly.


              They already have a ban in effect in the condor range. It’s not a big jump to assume the bill will become law.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                I’ve already made it abundantly clear why I’m so angry about this post, Mike. None of this seems to resonate with you. The fact remains, lead ammunition is poisoning condors and many other predators. The fact remains, AGW is an undeniable problem. Clearly the “condor home range” is just a little larger than the present ban — or the problem wouldn’t still be with us.

                And you want Liberals to quit trying to stop these ongoing disasters and dumb this shit down for Conservatives? That’s how you ended this disastrous post. Calling this issue some little Pet Legislation grazing happily down at the Liberal Sacred Cow Ranch? You’re way out of line, buddy.Report

              • Mike Dwyer in reply to BlaiseP says:

                Let’s just talk logic here Blaise: How many dead animals are laying around their range with bullets in them? And beyond that, I will ask again, why isn’t this a problem in the other 49 states?

                Also, you are far too quick to dismiss the realties of already having a partial ban in place. There should have been at least a small decline in lead toxicity with 99% compliance. If they still have high levels of lead, then it’s something else.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                No. Here I’m going to rub your nose in it and ask you how many condors remain in the world today and how many are we losing to lead poisoning? And I have already pointed out lead poisoning is a problem in Minnesota in the bald eagle population and seems to be the case everywhere. More ignorant, begged questions — which I’ve already refuted.

                This is why talking to Conservatives is pointless, Mike. Conservatives aren’t amenable to facts. It’s got to be presented as some metaphysical Right ‘n Wrong Issue with you. Science doesn’t matter to you guys.Report

              • Dennis Sanders in reply to BlaiseP says:

                This is why talking to Conservatives is pointless, Mike. Conservatives aren’t amenable to facts. It’s got to be presented as some metaphysical Right ‘n Wrong Issue with you. Science doesn’t matter to you guys.

                Blaise, I’m really getting tired of your attitude. Mike doesn’t deserve the beating he is getting from you. So, you have different opinions. That doesn’t make Mike evil.

                You might think you are being brave for attacking conservatives in the way you do, but I think you’re acting rather small and petty. Can’t we disagree on something without being so mean?Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to BlaiseP says:

                It would be awful if it weren’t true. Do you think there’s any reason to believe Liberals are all about using science as a private tool, or that we’re all about Pet Legislation? Is that the point you’re trying to defend here, Dennis?

                It’s a sovereign fact: Conservatives are about Right and Wrong. They’re not amenable to provisional truth based on what evidence is at hand. It’s a liberal conceit, to think government ought to act on the basis of what we know about the danger of lead ingestion.

                As for what you may think of my attitude, I really do not give a shit. I will have some condescending twaddle foisted off on me, wherein the Friends from the Left are to stop considering scientific evidence part of their private toolkit for getting pet legislation passed. That’s patently offensive.Report

              • Chris in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                Mike, read the papers I linked to somewhere a little above this subthread. The problem does exist in other states. Those studies are in Arizona (with data from California and Utah as well). And the pellets and fragments are in the condors’ stomachs, so it’s not like we don’t know they’re getting lead from ammunition. We know it for a fact.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                “There should have been at least a small decline in lead toxicity with 99% compliance.”

                The scientists I cited in my link on this page are aware of this data and have rejected your conclusions, for a wide variety of reasons.

                One simple reason:

                “Finkelstein also thinks that the measures don’t go far enough. The problem is that condors are long-lived birds that come across a lot of carrion. Even if only 1 in every 200 carcasses contains lead, the condors would be virtually guaranteed to feed off a contaminated body in a given decade.”


                Why do you think the esteemed scientists I cited continue to believe as they do, when you easily saw how they were wrong? Are they lying? Stupid? Biased?Report

              • Patrick in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

                There should have been at least a small decline in lead toxicity with 99% compliance. If they still have high levels of lead, then it’s something else.

                This is an error, Mike. It assumes a very inelastic relationship between the environmental factor you’re trying to control and the result of that factor’s influence on the target population.

                There are lots of reasons why you could change an input and not see a result for some time. Depending upon the mechanisms involved, it could take generational switch. Then again, maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know enough about the issues in this particular problem space to say anything definitive myself.

                I’m not up on lead shot, nor condors, and I’m not going to go read a bunch of stuff on it because (at the moment) I ain’t got the time. But simple explanations and simple relations usually don’t express themselves readily in complex systems.Report

      • NewDealer in reply to zic says:


    • Mike Dwyer in reply to BlaiseP says:

      Blaise – the impact of CO2 and global warming is NOT undeniable as the latest data shows. If scientists are disagreeing about what this leveling effect means, then there isn’t consensus.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        The only disagreement at this point is where the chaos will take us. More statistics for you, Dwyer, and less of this unscientific pilpul.Report

      • George Turner in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        Well that would be true even if we’d never emitted an extra molecule of CO2. The climate is a chaotic system across all areas and timescales.Report

      • Jeff Masters has a nice summary chart from a recently published study of the literature. The consensus in the peer-reviewed literature is overwhelming that global warming is happening and human activities are making a large contribution. One result from the study is summed up nicely by this:

        In an interesting result, Cook and his team found that over time, scientists tend to express a position on climate change less and less in their research papers. This is likely a result of consensus — that if a scientific conclusion has been reached, there’s no need to continue to state that conclusion in new research. “Scientists tend to take the consensus for granted,” says Cook, “perhaps not realizing that the public still think it’s a 50:50 debate.”

        As Blaise says, somewhat rudely, any lack of consensus is over whether the results will be merely bad, or catastrophic.Report

        • Wardsmith in reply to Michael Cain says:

          Michael, I respect you, so how do you square Masters’ conclusion with this rebuttal? The money line is here:
          Here’s the genesis of the lie. When you take a result of 32.6% of all papers that accept AGW, ignoring the 66% that don’t, and twist that into 97%, excluding any mention of that original value in your media reports, there’s nothing else to call it – a lie of presidential proportions.Report

          • Michael Cain in reply to Wardsmith says:

            Yeah, it’s more complicated than my original statement, and more complicated than the rebuttal as well. A more correct statement would be, of papers that take a position, 97% accept AGW and 3% reject. The question is what to do about the approximately two-thirds of the papers in the sample that were deemed as “took no position on AGW in the abstract.”

            Over time, the number of papers in the “accept AGW” and “take no position” have increased steadily while the number of “reject AGW” papers has remained roughly constant. The number of “take no position” papers has increased more rapidly than the “accept AGW” papers, sharply so since about 2005. The authors in the Cook paper interpret this as indicating a settled consensus — that authors of papers on climate change no longer put positive “this paper accepts AGW” statements in the abstract because they believe that’s the consensus position in the field. The rebuttal disagrees, taking the position that unless the authors make that explicit statement, then they haven’t made up their mind.

            Anecdotes are not data, but… My interest in climate change has a fairly narrow geographic focus. The most recent paper I’ve read in detail regards the North American Monsoon and is still in pre-publication form. I suspect that it would fall into Cook’s category of “take no position”, depending on the exact classification scheme. Certainly the AGW phrase doesn’t appear in the abstract, although “increased greenhouse gas forcing” does. Nevertheless, the paper takes AGW as a given, and is an effort to make finer-grained predictions about how the monsoon will change as a consequence. I admit that there are two possibilities here: (1) the authors of the monsoon paper believe in AGW and are trying to refine our understanding of the consequences, or (2) the authors haven’t made up their mind but think that unless they behave as if they believe they can’t get published.

            Having wondered off topic, let me just say that I reject (2), and agree with Cook’s hypothesis. That is, the reason that the number of papers that don’t make a positive statement about accepting AGW is up is because there’s a broad consensus on the matter, that it’s reasonable to assume your readers accept AGW, and that we’re increasingly working on the details of the consequences.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

        PRUDENCE. isn’t that the hallmark of conservatives?
        Every single damn time the climate models are wrong, they’re too optimistic.
        (worry about the methane, son.)Report

    • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to BlaiseP says:

      I love you folks, so assured in your understanding of the complexity of the climate.

      Climate models are nowhere near capable of modeling the complexity of our climate. Too many energy sources & sinks to account for, too many we don’t fully understand, or even possibly know about. Modeling a nuclear explosion is easier.

      The impact of CO2 or CH4 is only understood in the sense that if concentrations go up & NOTHING else changes, more heat will be retained by the system. Too bad the climate is not a simple closed system.Report

      • Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        I think this is where it is really informative to say, “What would it take for you to change your mind?”

        If the answer is, “Nothing,” or something approaching that response, then you are not a scientist. Even if you are paid to be one.Report

        • Mad Rocket Scientist in reply to Kazzy says:

          For me? Simple – a climate model that can actually predict something with a fair amount of accuracy.

          To date, climate modeling is a game of catch-up & fix. Any given climate model is run, makes a prediction of the climate for a specified time frame, and when the prediction begins to fail a few years later, the scientists rush in to fix the model to account for new data. BTW This is not a bad thing! This is the way the modeling of poorly understood complex systems work, and if we keep plugging away at it, eventually we will get a set of climate models that deliver beautifully accurate results out to 50 years.

          And with computer processing power getting cheaper & cheaper, this whole process is happening faster & faster. We will get there, and probably pretty soon.

          However, when it comes to CFD (& climate modeling is one massive CFD & Statistical problem), we still have a ways to go. This link shows a picture from a massive CFD simulation that is modeling turbulent flow in a small pipe. It’s using 750K+ processors to do it. The resulting data will help to validate turbulence models so we can accurately simulate a similar system using a coarser mesh. But understand, this is a small section of pipe, & we’ve understood pipe flow for centuries.

          We do something very similar with climate models – we use models based upon physics & statistical methods to attempt to describe how the climate works. Believe it or not, for the macro climate model, you can pretty much use a smooth sphere to represent earth, and another smooth sphere to represent the atmosphere (for the scale in question, mountain ranges barely count as surface roughness that needs to be modeled in detail – it’s accounted for, just not as part of the geometry).

          The complexity comes from the fact that you have variable energy coming in from space (primarily via the sun, but also from deep space), you have energy reflected back into space from clouds, atmospheric pollution, & snow pack (which are tricky to estimate & constantly in flux), you have energy being stored in the ground & in the ocean, energy being released from the ground & the ocean, energy being stored & released from cities, etc. We have imperfect knowledge of how much is stored & released, and when, & where, & all of that is very important & changing every year. Add in chaotic events, like volcanic eruptions, or Odin-forbid & methane burp from the ocean, and the current model has to be re-run with new data.

          The complexity of the problem is massive on a scale that most people can not even comprehend, & right now, the state of Fluids modeling still sometimes has trouble accurately modeling simple systems we’ve understood well for decades.

          And understand, I don’t blame climate scientists who write papers that state that given certain inputs, their climate models predict X, Y, & Z. That’s just science. That’s how it works. I get annoyed when pundits & politicians use that prediction to push policy changes without understanding the caveats & shortcomings of the model. I get infuriated with other scientists who do know the caveats, & who should understand the shortcomings, but who sell the results as proof. Those folks would be like medical researchers who take the results of the latest cancer treatment methodology that looks promising in mice & sell it as a cure for cancer, without explaining that it so far only works in mice, & only against certain types of cancer, and only has a 60% success rate in mice, against the given cancers.Report

          • Kimsie in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

            Have you looked at the new data we’re getting? it’s always WORSE than the models. We’re being too fucking optimistic.

            Put your money where your mouth is, if you’re that fucking stupid. Go buy some land in Florida. Bets on how many years before it can’t be insured?

            Hell, have a fucking baby.Report

          • Kazzy in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:


            I’ll cop to not knowing the science well enough to really respond to the content of your post. But what I will say is the fact that you have a thoughtful response tells me you are someone worth engaging on the matter. You’re answer is not, “There is no convincing me.” Which is a poor tack to take no matter what side the individual is on.Report

          • However, when it comes to CFD (& climate modeling is one massive CFD & Statistical problem), we still have a ways to go.

            This is a completely valid point, and one which leaves me frustrated. My personal interest in climate modeling is the North American Monsoon — how it changes will have significant effects on how climate changes in the US Southwest. More or less rain? Change in location or timing? More daytime cloud cover (cools things) and/or more nighttime cloud cover (warms things)? But where/when the monsoon forms clouds and drops rain depends on factors that are far below the scale of the current climate models. In extreme cases, instability caused by specific wind directions at specific altitudes and the interaction with individual mountains.

            The summer of 2011 is a good example of why the monsoon matters. In 2011, the standard summer Great Plains high set up in a somewhat non-typical location. As a consequence, Texas got a crushing drought. In its location that year, the high routed the monsoon moisture straight across Colorado. Water use in some cities along the Front Range was down 50% from average. At my house, it rained every day from about July 2 to July 16 — an unheard of run of consecutive days with rain.Report

            • Kimsie in reply to Michael Cain says:

              High plains aquifer is dry in places (and running out pretty much everywhere).
              I’m not sure the Monsoon can fix structural issues.
              Brace for impact. 😉

              I know a climatologist (eh, he writes models), and he wouldn’t advise anyone to live in the American Southwest going forward. Too risky.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Mad Rocket Scientist says:

        This is why I never listen to the forecast for tomorrow.

        Nor do I believe that next summer will be hotter than next winter.


        You can’t read the climate and discern predictable patterns with any degree of certainty. Impossible.

        Jebus help us.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Part of the problem is that there is a dialectic going on with the science as well. Because Science! has demonstrated Phenomenon X, therefore we should act this particular way.

    If there were such a prescription due to the number of planets, we’d see arguments about the True State Of Pluto with the same vehemence as we see with Global Warming or Evolution.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Jaybird says:

      I think it’s more the idea that to react appropriately to Phenomenon X is going to get a bit spendy.
      That whole thing about not adding urine as an ingredient to toothpaste seemed to blow over pretty well.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

      You keep bring that up as if were about anything other than the definition of a particular word. Pluto didn’t go anywhere. Telescopes aimed at it didn’t start to see only stars. Spacecraft sent to examine it didn’t suddenly lack a destination.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

        And yet, children were taught “there are 9 planets” and made to memorize silly mnemonics about pizza. Now children probably memorize silly mnemonics about noodles.

        A huge amount of science is taught as if it’s little more than a collection of trivia to be memorized. Making sure that children parrot the proper mnemonics when asked is all well and good, of course… but when there is a political and social dynamic behind choosing this mnemonic over that one, it isn’t obvious to me that any given mnemonic is better than any other if the method isn’t explored and if we’re talking about something that will have as little impact upon anyone’s day to day life as into what category the people in white coats put that particular ball of ice and rock.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

          And building models of the Solar System out of marbles and string, which is not only fun, but gives a model for how it works and an idea what’s going on when people talk about things like manned expeditions to Mars. (“Geez, that’s a lot farther than the Moon is, especially when it’s on the other side of the Sun!”), or detecting planets of other stars (“Are they rocky ones like the Earth, or gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn?”). I don’t see why it’s so important that kids nowadays don’t need that little marble way out at the end.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            I don’t see why it’s so important that kids nowadays don’t need that little marble way out at the end.

            I’m not arguing that it’s important that they have that marble or not.

            I’m saying that it doesn’t matter because the way that science is taught is to master trivia rather than The Method.

            And why do I say that? Because when Pluto was recategorized, there was a hue and cry, and people complained. Over Pluto! Their outcry was not related to science but to their relationship to the silly mnemonics and that silly marble.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird says:

              That makes no sense. Even my kids, all those years ago, were taught that Pluto was a problem planet, long before the huffin’ and puffin’ about removing it as a planet.

              My son had to do a presentation on the planets. So I went out and got a roll of plain calculator tape. We put the planets on that tape at their proper size relative distance from the sun. There were the inner four, all bunched up together, barely visible, with arrows pointed at them so people could see where they were. Even the gas giants weren’t very large.

              And waaaay out there at the end was Pluto, which crosses the orbit of Neptune.

              That tape went the length of the classroom.Report

            • Alan Scott in reply to Jaybird says:

              I always saw the Pluto debate not between people who wanted 8 planets versus 9, but between those who wanted 8 planets versus 10, or 12, or 20. It was never really a question of “does Pluto belong in this category?” But instead “Should we consider this whole category of trans-Neptunian objects to be planets?”

              But then again, I’m someone who learned in school that Pluto had a different orbit than the others (and, during the period I was studying the planets, was closer to the sun than Neptune). Who learned its name (and the name of its largest ‘moon’), without the aid of a mnemonic, Pizza or otherwise. Who was excited (as were my classmates) about the possibility of Planet X.

              So maybe while for me the Pluto debate was just as much about Planet X (and Planet XI and Planet XII and so forth), for everyone else it was about making sure some nine-word sentence they learned in elementary school didn’t have to be re-written into an eight-word sentence. I sure hope that wasn’t the case.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

              When I was in grade school, we learned that Woodrow Wilson was heroic, because he kept us out of WWI as long as he could, and the Fourteen Points and the League of Nations would have made the world a better place. I understand now that he was an awful racist and a terrible, dictatorial president, but there’s still a little tug when I see him criticized, because it goes against things I used to believe. Pluto’s the same thing. People don’t like change.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Well he did appoint Brandeis to the Supreme Court.

                Though he also appointed McRenyolds……Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                And the Palmer raids…

                On the other hand he causes Glenn Beck to explode for some of his better policies like the Federal Reserve/Report

              • George Turner in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Yeah, more money for rich white folks, no jobs for black folks. He was a Democrat, but of the old Southern school, a reflection of attitudes that were common when we only had eight planets. Now we’re back to those times.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                That was nicely done.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Simple working class complaint commonly heard in protests for a hundred years asserted as truth. Simple statement putting the targeted person in a category with accusatory implications. Soften. Soften. Tie back into the as yet unmentioned topic in a seemingly unrelated reach, and then whip it back to the opening protest to make a harsh political statement about someone still in office.

                It’s like dancing. The unexpected dip at the end makes it work. 🙂Report

    • Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

      Science has demonstrated that germs cause disease, so doctors should wash their hands after touching cadavers.Report

  5. Jason M. says:

    If the term “skepticism” is broad enough to encompass “reflexively doubts any ideas or evidence that engenders psychological discomfort”, then we need a new word.Report

    • NewDealer in reply to Jason M. says:


      “Skeptic” and “Skepticism” have become distorted and propagandized by the right as a way of avoiding truths especially ones that “engenders psychological discomfort” as you phrase it.

      Someone calling themselves a skeptic nowadays is nothing more than cognitive dissonance in action.Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Jason M. says:

      No, I don’t believe that.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Jason M. says:

      Does anyone here read “The Skeptical Enquirer”? It was a magazine that debunked scientific hoaxes, frauds, and charlatans. Sometimes the Amazing Randi would contribute. Spoon benders, ESP, perpetual motion, and all sorts of other nonsense were addressed, and its maxim was “Scientists are easier to fool than children,” which is quite true.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

        Martin Gardner used to contribute too, though he’d been writing things like that as far back as 1952.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        Oh yes. I forgot that he was probably the main force behind it. I really miss his columns, but then like many people I really miss the old Scientific American that was focused on science instead of forming consensus and swaying public opinion. I liked Martin Gardners’ replacement, too, and used to correspond with him by e-mail sometimes. He really liked my idea for improving a field mill, which is a device that measures the Earth’s electric field (in volts per vertical meter).

        A field works by having two metal dishes with slots on an axis, one rotating at high speed to shield and unshield a highly insulated metal plate (held with Teflon), causing a tiny flow of charge in reaction to the way the plate is alternately dipping in and out of the Earth’s field. It’s just a way to make Faraday cage (the electrical “cone of silence!”) that turns on and off at high speed. They’re commonly used on golf courses to warn about conditions that could produce lightning strikes, since they measure increases in the volts per meter, warning of conditions where the charge between the clouds and the ground might reach the air’s breakdown voltage.

        My idea was to note that cadmium sulfide is an example of a material whose conductivity is light sensitive. It’s commonly used as a photocell (available at Radio Shack), and is a great conductor when brightly illuminated and an insulator when it’s in the dark (and in between in moderate light). In theory the sensor plate in the field mill could be shielded instead by a single layer of cadmium sulfide which is illuminated by a flashing, high-frequency LED, so that it transitions rapidly from insulating to conducting, thus opening and closing the Faraday cage in response to light, eliminating all the high-speed moving parts on a conventional field mill.

        Anyway, a few months after the field mill discussion the amateur scientist column was gone in an editorial revamp.Report

  6. Shazbot5 says:

    Not sure if wewant to have the “lead bullet poisoning” debate here.

    Some points on that debate.

    The video cited above has a presentation by two scientists. One is Don Saba. A quick note about Saba: he is an NRA board member. This isn’t an ad hominem, but when the question is what do a consensus of scientists believe, you need to eliminate the scientists who have strong reasons to be biased. So, when we are looking at whether there is a consensus that smoking causes cancer, we should eliminate people who work for the cigarette companies or organizations that take large donations from such companies.

    The other scientist is Erik Randich, who is more reputable. (I do think he is a paid consultant, for what it is worth.) The video is badly editted, so I can’t quite figure out what Randich says. But I think the idea is that lead isotope analysis is often misleading and so we can’t be sure that the lead in condors’ blood comes from bullets instead of paint, brass knobs, whatever. Veterinary and biological experts suggest that since condors are carrion eaters, the most likely source of lead exposure (regardless of isotope analysis) is from eating animals that were shot and died but were not captured by the hunter who shot them.

    Randich may be creating some room for skepticism about the isotope analysis in particular, but there is a lot of evidence about lead bullets at the link below as a source of toxicity in birds and humans who eat food killed with lead bullets. The consensus (this paper is written after the Randich-Saba skepticism) of very esteemed scientists (without paid affiliations to the NRA or anti-hunting groups) seems to be squarely in favor of banning lead bullets from use in the wild as a source of poison in humans and animals.

    • Wardsmith in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      This isn’t an ad hominem, but when the question is what do a consensus of scientists believe, you need to eliminate the scientists who have strong reasons to be biased.

      Thank you Shazbot for agreeing with me that the “consensus” of climate scientists can’t be trusted since they have strong reasons to be biased. After all, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair.Report

      • Morat20 in reply to Wardsmith says:

        By that definition, scientists would be least trustworthy in their own field of expertise.

        Which seems…odd, doesn’t it? Don’t ask a physicist about physics, don’t ask your GP about your cold, don’t ask your mechanic about your car….

        But DO trust your chiropractor’s advise about that weird sound your engine is making, ask your GP about quantum mechanics…Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Morat20 says:

          Heh. Scientists don’t ask us to trust them. That’s the stupidest part of this entire post. Science invites, indeed demands contradiction — from the evidence. Look at how many times Steven Hawking has genially paid up on bets he’s lost when the evidence goes against his conjectures.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Morat20 says:

          Hold this transmission fluid and see if your arm strength is lessened.Report

        • Mike Schilling in reply to Morat20 says:

          Do not trust biologists who profess belief in evolution: most have been brainwashed, and the rest know that telling the truth about it would destroy their chances of an academic position. Instead, listen to the open-minded non-partisans at the Discovery Institute, who share neither bias.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Schilling says:

            Auugh! ( clutches head, wanders about in pain) I feel a damned old Liberal Pet Legislation comin’ on. Worse than a migraine, these things. It must be a consequence of all that dabbling in that dangerous Liberal Toolbox called Science. Knowledge Poisoning.

            Maybe, like those condors, the knowledge poisoning will subside in a few weeks.Report

        • Wardsmith in reply to Morat20 says:

          Morat, you didn’t even read YOUR OWN WORDS! Naturally others followed your lead but the requisite part of the statement is the one about denying one’s self interest – or not as the case may be. Dr. Hansen is an excellent case in point. You’re more than willing to throw a scientist under the bus because he appears to be aligned with a special interest. When I threw YOUR OWN WORDS back at you, you went off in a totally idiotic direction, not even addressing YOUR OWN POINT. Sorry about the caps but I got the feeling you weren’t listening (to that voice in your own head).Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Wardsmith says:


    • Michael Cain in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Not sure if we want to have the “lead bullet poisoning” debate here.

      Sure we do. Not in the sense of direct lead poisoning, perhaps, but at least in the sense of in this day and age, with the US population at >300M and headed for >450M by the end of the century, is it smart to distribute tons of a potent neurotoxin in the environment? The most frequent argument I see from shooters about why they shouldn’t be forced to use alternatives to lead for slugs and shot is that of expense: that they aren’t able to shoot as much as they want, as cheaply as they want, unless we let them scatter refined lead across the landscape. Lead ammunition used in the field is not readily subject to recycling (as is required for batteries in many states), so is more likely to end up being banned (as it has been in components and solder for consumer electronics).Report

  7. zic says:

    We need to stop the war on science and at the same time, I would like to see our friends on the Left stop considering it part of their private toolkit for getting pet legislation passed.

    You know, it doesn’t need to be a ‘private’ toolkit; that’s not a choice made by Democrats, by the left, by Progressives, or by radical vegan feminists. That comment, which I know you didn’t mean to be snide, reeks. It just stinks, Mike. You don’t end the war on science by suggesting the other side retreat from using science to do the work it needs to do.

    I’ve been privileged to have known many great men, all Republicans, who built large companies, that became household-names. And those companies were based on science. Science used to designed super computers. Telecommunications. Medicine. Environmental safety engineering.

    How far conservatives have fallen. They’ve turned away from the things that made them successful business people in the post WWII world. It’s like they’re living in their own post-apocalyptic dreamworld, now, and the health of the future, our obligation to future generations of both man and other living things, has evaporated.Report

    • George Turner in reply to zic says:

      Um, no. Conservatives use science more than ever, it’s just that they’re picky about junk science. Often it’s the conservatives in very hard fields like electronics and aerospace who are the harshest in their skepticism of some of what liberals tout as “consensus.” Burt Rutan and Forest Mimms would be examples of those used to hard numbers who express grave concern about the alarming lack of statistical rigor, basic math, model design, confirmation, and other aspects of standard scientific practice, not to mention group think, noble cause corruption, and a complete lack of integrity.

      As a side note, something like 30% of all current scientific papers can’t be replicated even by the original author, and a great many of those get withdrawn, especially in the soft sciences like psychology or sociology. The data in these experiments passes the normal statistical tests for significance, yet the result is still spurious, an accident of chance. It’s likely to me that the underlying problem is that scientists aren’t counting their failed experiments in the statistics. For example, if you’re just running all sorts of tests looking for one that jumps out as significant, each test consisting of 10 trials, and you do 49 experiments that don’t show anything (“nothing to see in that one, so lets move along to the next experiment”) and one that does, it’s being looked at as a positive result in 10 trials, instead of a positive result in 500 trials. Another issue might be that in looking for anything significant (which is easy with computers), we’re really running a vast array of simultaneous tests. All the possible things you didn’t find should be included in the statistics of the sample, or some such.Report

      • Patrick in reply to George Turner says:

        The data in these experiments passes the normal statistical tests for significance, yet the result is still spurious, an accident of chance.

        This is true. This is why you don’t make sweeping generalizations based upon a single study, or even a group of them. A large scale evaluation of the literature is necessary to say anything general, and even then you need to be cautious.

        It’s likely to me that the underlying problem is that scientists aren’t counting their failed experiments in the statistics.

        True and not. While there is a publication bias towards positive results, particularly in physics and the more positivist fields, that publication bias is decidedly less in some social sciences. Because it’s easier to get published, in some fields, as long as you’re clear on your limitations. A good study with solid methodology that produces results that are against the grain gets published just fine in IS, for example. Case studies, things with limited or no generalizability whatsoever.

        Burt Rutan and Forest Mimms would be examples of those used to hard numbers who express grave concern about the alarming lack of statistical rigor, basic math, model design, confirmation, and other aspects of standard scientific practice, not to mention group think, noble cause corruption, and a complete lack of integrity.

        This is Ward’s general objection to social science, in a nutshell, I believe.

        All I can say about this objection is that you need to go to more conferences. People ruthlessly tear each other new assholes in conference presentations and poster sessions. If there’s “group think”, it’s usually limited to a particular PI’s group and their approach, and if you’re at a decent institution everybody else on the faculty knows of that PI and they talk smack about them all the time.

        Group think requires a monolithic approach that just doesn’t exist, George. Researchers in the U.S. skew much more towards, “I’m going to prove that guy’s results don’t generalize” than “Oooh, shiny!” The Ivory Tower isn’t a thing. If anything, it’s the feudal system writ large, Ivory Keeps with warring barons all with their own theories and no king to Towerize ’em.

        The real problem is that people not in science, both policymakers and reporters, are much, much more driven by “Ooooh, shiny!” than scientists are. They skew the public’s perception of both the breadth and depth of the literature. Like I pointed out during the Gun Symposium, the National Academy of Sciences reported on gun research back in 2004 and the findings were pretty squarely on the, “The data is inconclusive and none of the findings should be considered substantive enough to drive a policy decision”, but that hasn’t stopped policy folk and politicians on both sides of the aisle from grabbing the studies that they like and making all sorts of overblown claims about what they show.Report

        • Wardsmith in reply to Patrick says:

          Patrick, you’ll recall I bookmarked your (very intelligent) comment on dodgy proxies as a reminder to use against you should we ever discuss AGW again. Fortunately we’re not discussing AGW again. 😉Report

          • Patrick in reply to Wardsmith says:

            I think it’s best that we not.

            (Which comment?)Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Chris says:

                Someone with front-page authority corrected my missing ‘>’ and didn’t bother deleting my own correction. Meantime with no irony whatsoever Patrick can talk about flawed methodologies and proxies in one area, but give a complete pass to the same thing going on in his (pet) area. That was why I saved it for later and why Pat pretends “it isn’t the same!”Report

              • greginak in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Indeed Ward this is clearly evidence of a conspiracy that goes all the way to the top.Report

              • Chris in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Some astrologers use math. You know who else uses math? Physicists! The implications of this need to be explored before we accept the “consensus” that physics tells us something about our universe while astrology doesn’t.Report

              • Patrick in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Ward, from two comments down on that page: you haven’t explained why you’ll accept the National Academy of Sciences summary report on gun research, but you won’t accept the National Academy of Science summary reports on climate science.

                Because, you know, the National Academy of Sciences has multiple summary reports on climate science, just like guns.

                You can’t have it both ways, Ward. If you accept that the NAS can accurately sum up science in one field but reject it in another, it’s kinda on you to explain why climate science is the special case but guns aren’t. Otherwise, I’m going to stick with my unfortunate conclusion that this is a gaping cognitive dissonance hole for you (and you’re probably sticking with the same conclusion for me, so fair ’nuff).

                I’m not the one pretending two things that are different are the same. You’re the one pretending that two things that are the same are different.

                You know, since gun regulation is such a lefty issue, like tree huggers. How is it that the lefties have corrupted the NAS on climate science but not on guns?Report

              • Wardsmith in reply to Patrick says:

                Who says I accepted the NAS report on guns? As you so eloquently stated, the proxies are dodgy at best and gun crimes are uniformly under and mis-reported. There are some things that are intuitively obvious (such as a criminal avoids areas where he is likely to get shot or even face serious resistance) and IF the scientific method were used perhaps experiments could be constructed instead of trying to tease meaning from a tangled mess of statistics. This has been the fundamental flaw with social science from the beginning. I’m not sure there is an answer, humans are far too complex to neatly fit into summary theories.

                Meanwhile the dodgy proxies (falling apart daily – I am sure you’ve never heard of bristle cone pines) can’t give the NAS any greater sense of certainty about conclusions drawn concerning AGW, once self-interest is removed from the equation. After all, the liberals making up the bureaucracy of NAS are certainly less than enthusiastic about gun ownership but wouldn’t get invited to cocktail parties if they came down hard on AGW. And so it goes.Report

              • Patrick in reply to Patrick says:

                Ward, all I can say is I think you’re completely off-base in your assessment of scientists, as a class.

                The NAS summary report on guns said… exactly what I said. The proxies are dodgy, gun crimes are under-reported, defensive gun use has no meaningful measurement, etc.

                In other words, the NAS summary report said, “The science here doesn’t support any particular strong policy options” (barring the bits about suicide).

                Again, you think that “the liberals making up the bureaucracy of the NAS” are susceptible to liberal bias on AGW, but they’re clearly not susceptible to liberal bias on guns. Nor are they susceptible to liberal woo-meisters on GMO crops (another environmental issue), or organic foods, or vaccinations, or fracking (another environmental issue), or nuclear energy (another environmental issue), or any one of a number of other topics where the populist side of the the lefties anti-science bias is expressed.

                But they fall over backwards to rush to support AGW because they’re in the AGW-industrial complex’s back pocket or something?

                Sorry, Ward. I find your insistence that this is a conspiracy theory to be just freakin’ odd.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Patrick says:

                If there was a conspiracy, I’d know about it. [Seriously. Do you know where the Knights Templar are? How about the Illuminati? I’d quote some more recent/powerful conspiracies, but you probably haven’t heard of them].Report

              • greginak in reply to Wardsmith says:

                Ward’s link to Pat’s comment has convinced me gun control will not stop AGW or is it that guns don’t cause AGW.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

        Georgie thinks we don’t have programs to find real significance in massively multivariate solution spaces. AFNI will do it in seconds, sir.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Kimsie says:

          But they’re not multivariate solutions spaces when they’re thought of as separate studies. If each morning a mathematician wanders through a field of coins looking something statistically improbable, over his career breaking his searches up into distinct grant proposals and splitting them between departments, most of the years he’ll come up with nothing worth publishing, yet every couple of years one of those programs will find something extremely significant and completely unexpected given that particular program’s small sample size. Those finds will get published. His entire career spent searching for something worth publishing isn’t included in the write up, only the limited scope of the funded study is.

          As I said, this is a problem that scientists are noticing when they’re frequently unable to replicate even their own results.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    We need to stop the war on science and at the same time, I would like to see our friends on the Left stop considering it part of their private toolkit for getting pet legislation passed.

    A somewhat epistemologically closed culture (encompassing what they would say are the “right” sources, to be sure… and they might not be wrong about that) has certainly developed on the Left around what they see as public policy consequences of “science.” That said, I don’t see how that amounts to treating science like a private toolkit. “Science” is every bit as available to the Right to make use of as it is to the Left. What the Left has done is to use a public toolkit to build a private clubhouse. That’s very different.

    The conservative response has been what it’s been. I don’t want to wrongly characterize it, though I won’t disagree with Mike that part of the response has been to try to fight against the toolkit itself, rather than make use of it to build a better clubhouse (to run that metaphor through the proverbial meatgrinder). The response could be to do more of that, rather than to fight against the toolkit, or to create a toolkit that they like better (i.e. alternative science, e.g. intelligent design), but that doen’t build good cluhouses.

    The point is that the Left hasn’t run off with the toolkit and is not depriving the Right of its use. The Right can grab hold of it (it’s an infinitely replicating, nonscarce toolkit, or at least it mostly is), and use it – including to demonstrate that the Left has misused it.

    Now, if what you are saying is that you wouldn’t like anyone to build clubhouses using science, or at least private ones (the metaphor is breaking down a bit here, but I’d say that a clubhouse is a policy agenda, and private clubhouse is a policy agenda that’s somewhat extreme and tends to polarize the public, given the public’s current attitudes, to the extent it gains attention, an example being, say, aggressive carbon pricing schemes to combate climate change), well… that’s something different. We can agree at least that that’s happening (as opposed to the idea that the Left is somehow treating science as its “private toolkit”).

    I would strongly disagree that we don’t want the toolkit of science to be used to construct policy-agenda clubhouses. I would rather it be used to do that than not – and our political system rather guarantees that those clubhouses will be constructed one way or the other. I would hope that it’s obvious that if one metaphorical development company feels that the toolkit of science is being used to build up more subdivisions of clubhouses according to designs they don’t like (and is consequently gobbling up residential development market share), the response would be, since it’s in fact a public toolkit, to think, “Well, we’ve got to find ways to use that toolkit to build better clubhouse designs than we have so far.” And, as perhaps in the case of the lead ammunition ban, to point out ways in which the other company has built a faulty clubhouse design, even if they used the reliable toolkit (and maybe they didn’t in that case – the reliable toolkit is very good for demonstrating that if it’s true). Rather than to say, “We need to discredit using that toolkit and make a separate one (who cares if it makes clubhouses with leaky roofs,” or to claim, wrongly, that the other company’s use of the reliable toolkit (which is largely non-excludable, remember) makes it less available to them. I understand those reactions, but it would be much better if the reaction were to think that it’s imperative to work use the reliable toolkit better.

    But whatever the Right chooses to do, the Left has not made science its private toolkit. It makes a big show of its commitment to science – and often falls short of living up to that. But it doesn’t claim a private relationship. The Right could challenge the Left’s claim to be more committed to be guided by science in building its policy clubhouses that the Right is. In fact, it often successfully does that on particular issues, but as an overall PR matter continues to be weighed down by the freight of overt antagonism and the construction of pseudo-alternatives to science on its fringe. It would be great if we had two (or more) ideological movements in this country making a no-holds-barred effort to use science to support their agendas and keeping each other honest in the areas where the science is misused or misrepresented. In this I guess I dissent from a view that wishes politics somehow wouldn’t use science as a tool in its rhetorical-persuasive toolkit. It’s inevitable and in my view desirable – I’d rather science – or even “Science” – fill that role than a great number of other thing that might.

    What we need is for a competitive process to develop and be maintained that tend toward keeping those political uses of science relatively honest. Using good arguments about why “science really shows” that that political claim over there that claims to be supported by science really isn’t (of course, in any given instance it could very well just come down to values, but often the values are agreed upon, and it really is the facts that are in dispute) moves us in that direction. Attacking science; building alternatives to good science that don’t pass theoretical or empirical muster; or going into a crouch that sees the successful use of science (whether intellectually successful or politically successful, or both) by the ideological opposition as something that impedes one’s own side from making its own best possible use of science (including to rebut misuse by the other side) move us in the other direction. I hope the Right continues to move in the first direction.Report

    • Roger in reply to Michael Drew says:

      Here is an interesting article examining anti-science biases on both sides of the aisle. The author examines various controversial topics and notes which party seems most aligned with the current science.

      Climate Change –advantage left
      Evolution– advantage left
      Nuclear safety — advantage right
      Biotech crops — advantage right
      Synthetic chemical danger — advantage right
      Gun control and safety– small advantage right
      Vaccine safety– draw
      Video game violence — left
      Fracking — right
      Organic food — right
      Sex Ed. — left

      I agree with the author’s conclusion, namely that “As a libertarian, my cultural bias is toward keeping as many issues and problems out of the realm of collective action as possible. Scientific research may identify some problems that truly require a collective response—perhaps man-made global warming—but for social peace, the default response toward most issues should be social and political tolerance of individual choices.”

      When scientists get into advocacy, the science itself can suffer.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

        Heh. When scientists present evidence and present causal connections to ongoing disasters on the basis of that evidence, they’re accused of advocacy.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

        It’s a silly article (as you’d expect from Reason.) It pooh-pooh’s concern over pollution in general with data specifically about air pollution. Then it pooh-pooh’s concern over fracking because the issue is still being studied, and, if it does contaminate groundwater, there are ways to reduce (not eliminate: reduce) that. I mean, those stupid Democrats want to hold off on something that might poison drinking water rather than go ahead and figure out how to decontaminate it later.

        Now, why is air pollution down? EPA regulations. Who’s investigating fracking? The EPA. Who would enforce any change in fracking procedures to protect the water table? The EPA. What conclusion does Reason draw? That there’s too much reliance on collective action.Report

        • Roger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

          So the article is correct about the right’s faults, but wrong on the left’s faults? Good to know.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

            Wherein lie the faults of the Left on this front? Dwyer would tell us of Pet Legislation and how we use science as a Private Toolkit.

            Science is nobody’s private toolkit. The fact that the Libertarians and Conservatives find science of no use only means they don’t know how science works or how to read scientific papers. They certainly do not write any papers and are blankly ignorant of statistics. Reality, with its well-known liberal bias, really doesn’t care. Nor, frankly, do we Liberals. Your ignorance is not my problem. The outworkings of your ignorance become my problem when you start denying the evidence.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Roger says:

            Surely you’re not dismissing what I said purely because its conclusions support the wrong side.Report

            • Roger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              Odd comment considering your refusal to want to understand the motives of conservatives over the weekend. You certainly refused to feel obligated to consider they could possibly have good intentions or assumptions that just happened to differ from yours.

              No, I do not want to dismiss your serious comments. On fracking the question is whether the pros and cons of this method are superior to the alternatives when it comes to acquiring energy. I would agree with the author that the left is biased against fracking and selective application of the precautionary principle for various reasons absent any scientific consensus against it. Indeed, I believe there is a secular religion of environmentalism and that the true believers have some really interesting faith-based beliefs that use science extremely selectively.

              As to the author’s default position against coercive collective action. I think I have addressed that in my comment to Zic. Of course, you can also believe that my preference for voluntary action and default against coercion and exploitation are secular religions. I am willing to offer them up to critical scrutiny, and come here in great part to do so.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              First of all, motives aren’t relevant to what I said above. Second, your disagreement is based on your postulate that fracking is opposed only for religious (i.e. non-scientific) reasons, and there are no valid concerns about groundwater pollution. So only one of us is assuming motives.

              Also, I honestly don’t know what you mean by “voluntary action ” here. Say, for the sake of argument that water table pollution from fracking is a real concern. What voluntary action stops it when there’s money to be made?Report

              • Roger in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                I am sure there are scientifically valid concerns, pro and con, for many complex activities. The author was suggesting that the bias against fracking is not primarily based upon science. I agree.

                The question on voluntary action was answered in detail to Stillwater and Michael on a recent thread. I can link you to it if interested. In brief my position is not that there can be no coercion or rules, but rather that we should pursue, where practical, fair rules which are agreed to by the participants in advance.

                I am sure you and Zic can give examples where I will agree it is not practical. If fracking is shown to be consistently more costly, harmful or so on than alternative sources of energy and there are no practical ways to prohibit the negative externalities other than top down coercion, then I would support doing so.Report

              • Stillwater in reply to Roger says:

                Btw, those were some damn good answers, Roger. Thanks for taking the time to explain it.Report

              • Roger in reply to Stillwater says:

                Thanks. It is nice to know you read it, as you and I both obviously put real time into those comments and questions.

                One other comment, is I really appreciate Zic and Mike’s push backs on this thread. Very healthy.Report

      • zic in reply to Roger says:

        Your author’s conclusion:
        “As a libertarian, my cultural bias is toward keeping as many issues and problems out of the realm of collective action as possible. Scientific research may identify some problems that truly require a collective response—perhaps man-made global warming—but for social peace, the default response toward most issues should be social and political tolerance of individual choices.”

        Pretty much makes me want to barf. And this is what you think, too?

        See, I grew up on a farm; beautiful place, spanning a mile of shore on the Androscoggin River in Maine. During my childhood, this was one of the most polluted rivers in the country. Social and political tolerance led to that state; too. People wanted jobs, and the industries along the Androscoggin that polluted it provided jobs.

        My guess is that anyone who wrote such a thing is young enough not to have lived through the putrid results of ‘social and political tolerance’ that existed before the clean water and air acts were passed. And I’d point out that many of the suspected problems with the rampant pollution pre-1976 were never acted upon because the science could not, beyond shadow of a doubt prove a connection.

        A for instance: I had two sisters die of spinabifida as infants. I lived in a town of about 600, and over a three year period, there were about 20 such cases; and every family involved had a father working in the paper mills in one of three departments. There were clusters of cancers, as well. Despite some serious research, scientists were only able to show correlation, not causation. But that doesn’t mean cause wasn’t there, it simply means that they could not determine cause.

        It’s not all that hard to find good assessments of the problems that led to that collective action.

        But here’s the most interesting thing of all: despite the squawking and complaining about how collective action was going to kill the paper industry, the industry ended up increasing profits by cleaning up to meet Clean Air and Water requirements, because they ended up gaining significant efficiencies when they stopped flushing valuable resources out the drain pipe or up the smoke stack.

        So whenever I read something like what you’ve linked too above, I pretty much think it’s driven by ignorance of what things were like just a few years earlier.

        I am a liberal because of what I lived through on the Androscoggin River; despite my family’s long and deep history of Northeastern Republicanism.Report

        • Roger in reply to zic says:


          I think we are talking past each other. To be concise, I do not support pollution or spinabifida. There are techniques to address negative externalities that do not require coercive top down, master planned collective action. There are also voluntary, bottoms up collective action solutions. Finally, the quote itself clearly supported collective action in some cases where practical and where other alternatives won’t work.

          Yes, I strongly believe the “default position” should be to avoid coercive collective action, and to instead move toward institutions and protocols which solve problems in ways which are voluntary.

          Said another way. I am convinced we can often solve problems better than we do now. I think our knee jerk tendency to solve problems in a top down planned way (which implies coercion) often leads to suboptimal results.Report

          • BlaiseP in reply to Roger says:

            Were that the case, nobody would ever pollute. They’d all clean up their acts and the raptors and scavengers wouldn’t be dying of lead poisoning.

            What a marvellous world we would live in, were your notions even remotely congruent with human nature. Robberies would cease, people would be nice to each other, the prisons would empty out and become gruesome artefacts of a world before mankind was freed from these Onerous Top-Down Coercive Solutions. Force, fraud, things of the past.

            Dream on, Roger. It’s a very pleasant and compelling fantasy. Kafka said there are two main human sins from which all the others derive: impatience and indolence. It was because of impatience that mankind was expelled from Paradise; it is because of indolence that he does not return. Yet perhaps there is only one major sin: impatience. Because of impatience mankind was expelled, because of impatience he will not return.

            You don’t support pollution? Then stop making excuses for it.Report

            • Roger in reply to BlaiseP says:

              I have started participating in discussions at the League again in part because I was under the impression you (and MA) were gone. I see I was mistaken.

              Nothing good comes from disagreements with either of you. Without pointing fingers “someone” always resorts to lies, bullying, personal attacks and deceptive rhetorical tricks.

              Thus I will continue either to not read or at least not respond to (either of) your comments. If this becomes unwieldy I will again respectfully go back to lurker status out of consideration for both the league and my self.

              That said, I wish you well.Report

          • zic in reply to Roger says:

            Said another way. I am convinced we can often solve problems better than we do now. I think our knee jerk tendency to solve problems in a top down planned way (which implies coercion) often leads to suboptimal results.

            We can always solve problems better. That’s a given; any solution might have been improved in its formulation, implementation, and (most particularly) its evaluation. We fail horrifically on that last, don’t typically want to spend the money upfront and don’t want to do the work good evaluation would require after the fact. So we get bogus science like economic austerity spreading misery world wide.

            I’ve spent a good deal of time studying and reporting on the places where industry interface with EPA and state-level regulators. So I’d pretty much suggest that what you think should happen might already be happening, but I admit it’s ever so nice to have a knee-jerk tendency to repeatedly say that regulation is top-down and coercive and leads to suboptimal results instead of actually looking at what happens out in the real world.

            When regulation is coercive and unfair, it’s typically because it’s been captured by special interests; see most financial regulation. So I really struggle with what you’re saying. It seems pretty naive; whole lot of talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.Report

            • Roger in reply to zic says:

              I too spent some of professional life at the interface of commerce and state regulation, and though it had been a while, i am familiar with the good, bad and ugly. And yes, I agree that some of it is indeed good. Plenty of bad and some truly ugly though too.

              To the extent that what I suggest should happen is happening, then we have no disagreement. Right? To the extent that what is happening with collective action is the best option, we again have no disagreement, as I already agreed it should be considered as a last resort where nothing else can work.

              As for your last paragraph, regulation is inherently coercive unless agreed to unanimously. Once it becomes too complex and intrusive is virtually always captured by rent seekers and special interests and the intolerant. The game dynamics virtually make this a certainty as failure to play pretty much guarantees failure. See most financial regulation.Report

              • zic in reply to Roger says:

                I doubt anyone who thinks it’s okay to use a public waterway as an open sewer is going to agree to the expense of installing some sort of waste-water treatment infrastructure (like a septic system) without being coerced.

                Which leads to the next problem in your vision:

                If Person A has a pipe from his toilet to the stream, and Person B objects, it puts, without regulation, the onus on Person B to take legal action. So that regulation, which you call coercive, but must be adopted via the political process, prevents an undue clogging of the court systems. It also deals with the horrible potential of every instance of Person A fouling public waters being decided by a court, putting the whole framework of legal precedent, which the rule of law rests on, into question.Report

              • Roger in reply to zic says:

                Without trying to argue too much, if I agree with you that coercive regulations are superior to other alternatives, then I agree we should do them. Both the author quoted and I used the term default, not dogma.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

        “Gun control and safety– small advantage right”

        Uh, no. Most of the data we have suggests a causal connection between gun ownership and increased rates of homicide, suicide, and accidents. Unfortunately the NRA has spent a long time making it impossible for the governent to collect the data scientists need to know with more certainty.

        The right actively prevents research on gun control

        I’ll remind you that the AAP believes parents whouldn’t own guns if they have small children and should lock them if necessary. At the very least the AAP recommends that doctors talk to parents. Conservatives have banned this in some states..


        “Synthetic chemical danger — advantage right”

        Lead poisoning and crime. Chemicals are often dangerous. Not sure what you mean here. If the left is overly worried about this on occassion, maybe, but at best this is a draw.

        The right often believes what industry wants and industry is wrong more often than science. Who was more on

        “In the 1990s, the Heartland Institute worked with Philip Morris to question the link between secondhand smoke and health risks.[10][30] Philip Morris used Heartland to distribute tobacco-industry material, and arranged for the Heartland Institute to publish “policy studies” which summarized Philip Morris reports.[30][31] The Heartland Institute also undertook a variety of other activities on behalf of Philip Morris, including meeting with legislators, holding “off-the-record” briefings, and producing op-eds, radio interviews, and letters.[30][32] In 1994, at the request of Philip Morris, the Heartland Institute met with Republican Congressmen to encourage them to oppose increases in the federal excise tax. Heartland reported back to Philip Morris that the Congressmen were “strongly in our camp”, and planned further meetings with other legislators.[33]”

        This lead poison in bullets is just one more example. (Lead bullets will harm hunter’s children, too, BTW, as the post I cited suggests.)Report

        • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          I think you make some good points, Shaz.

          I certainly have no dog in the gun debate, and I agree with you that both sides use science selectively and that both sides are more than happy to suppress facts and studies if the results will harm their case. I also agree that corporations, political parties and interest groups will do everything in their power to suppress the truth if the truth harms their interests.

          Politicizing science in general does more harm than good. I understand the temptation or draw for scientists, but politics is a game more of power than truth, and to the extent politics reigns, the truth will tend to be the victim.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

            Thanks Roger.

            Again, I alwaysenjoy discussing things with you.

            I wouldn’t agree that both sides do it to the same degree, though.

            If you want general terms, I’d say something like this:

            The left is worried about what science might discover, e.g. that fracking fluid is toxic and in the water supply or that GMO foods are less plague-resistant in the oong term or something. So the far left sometimes fears things that science has yet (and may never) show to be harmful. The far left doesn’t say such and such scientific proof is not valid. They fear what science has yet to show.

            The right out and out disagrees with what scientists do say is harmful: e.g. too much CO2 release, lead bullet poisoning, etc. The actively disbelieve and denigrate science and scientists, as they actively disbelieve the theory of evolution and evolutionary biologists.

            The left is a bit overly dramatic and nervous. The right is intentionally ignorant. That’s how I’d characterize it.Report

            • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              I mean the science-denying right and the science-silly left,

              Obviously there are people on both sides who have the right attitude to science, and I suspect that you are in the right group of wise folks on the right, as are many here.

              But why anyone would want to defend the intentionally ignorant on the right, or the silly on the left, I don’t know. I do know the latter is far worse and more prevalent than the former.Report

              • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I am not sure of any way to measure the two biases. I will say that the right (which I am not one of) is more open and honest about what is and is not a religion. They openly admit their faith.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

                The right is more tolerant of Islam? (Or Judaism, in the past?)

                The right is more likely to accept Wicca as a religion? Or secular humanism? Or Satanism?

                Where are you getting that from and what do you mean? I don’t get it.

                I think you have mistaken the left’s criticisms (and also atheist’s criticisms) as an attack on religious tolerance. It isn’t. I am tolerant of all forms of idiocy. And science classes should only teach scientific consensus as fact. That doesn’t mean we aren’t tolerant of the people who don’t believe the facts.

                Another set of facts that the right has been denying: the biology and psychology of homosexuality, and the social science that says homosexuality and gay marriage constitute no harm to society.

                Some things are hard to quantify with numbers (e.g. how much suffering did the Iraq war cause) but we can still make rough and ready estimates, like “alot. I can’t tell you exactly how much worse the right is on being anti-science than the left, but I can tell you they are a lot worse.

                Also, if we want to talk social science, for a long time the empirical facts about effects of tax cuts and Keynsian stimulus have been in, but the right (or much of it) has had their head in the sand (up their butts?) about for a long time. As bad as the Marxists were, once upon a time.Report

              • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:


                Not sure if I wrote poorly or you misread me, but considering your comment on toleration, we are speaking past each other by a mile. I meant to write that the right is more open about the role of faith to themselves than those of us not on the right.

                I did not mean to argue that the right is more tolerant of other religions,

                However, I can quibble with your various statements…
                If a Christian believes that homosexuality condemns ones soul to eternal damnation, then they aren’t going to listen to atheistic social scientists, are they? It is still rational, based upon those beliefs, to oppose it. They are not denying facts, they are introducing a set of facts based upon faith which we disagree with.

                I also still disagree with you on the effects of Keynesian stimulus. I believe the long term effects of “excessive” government spending as a share of GDP leads to lower growth rates, and that over the long haul that lower growth rates trump just about everything, especially from a Rawlsian perspective. I’ve noticed that those on the left keep repeating the mantra that this is settled, but saying it more often with more conviction doesn’t mean much.

                Excessive is the key word, of course.Report

              • Shazbot3 in reply to Roger says:

                “they are introducing a set of facts”

                A wise robot once said “Something, something you don’t get to make up your own facts, something, something.”

                What is factual doesn’t change because some group thinks such and such. Facts are objective.

                Appreciate your skepticism about Keynsian stimulus. I meant to include monetary stimulus. Surely there are some points at which wither monetary or government stimulus is a good thing, no? You do agree to that?

                Again, I am enjoying discussion. I should withdraw the claim about stimulus.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Roger says:

                What’s excessive again? AFAIK, that’s just leveraging our current GDP… It’s not like we’re at 20 to 1 leverage, unlike the banksters. (yes, 20 to 1 is really dangerous, I think we can all agree on that. Iceland especially, which was at 50 to 1 leverage before the riots).Report

            • zic in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              Very nice, Shaz.

              I thought you said 3 was the smart one.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Michael Drew says:

      All this discussion under my comment, but none of it gives me any sense at all whether people feel I am “generally going in the right direction or […] feel [I] have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track…”

      I am disappoint.Report

      • Wardsmith in reply to Michael Drew says:

        Michael, Your points are worthy of their own OP rather than hidden among hundreds of comments. Science /has/ been treated as a sandbox, toolkit and clubhouse all at the same time. I think your concept of clubhouse is well worth fleshing out. The leaked East Anglia emails proved beyond any shadow of doubt that “the team” was a de facto clubhouse and that they felt it was their prerogative to deny admission to any and all they so chose. This is beyond question although the usual suspects will deny the evidence of the emails themselves, or pretend they are somehow open to “interpretation” to absolve “their team” of guilt.

        The problem once the press gets involved is the pace of science. For instance the world’s largest tortoise went through a 200 year argument over what to name it. It didn’t make the front page of the WSJ until the conclusion (it is now Testudo Gigantea). Zoology at that level can be quite boring so they aren’t likely to get much press. For a smart budding college student the choices are climate science and a reasonably good chance of seeing your name in the paper or zoology and perhaps getting something named after yourself that only other zoologists may ever know about. Humans crave attention after all, although certain personality types crave it more than others.Report

        • Michael Drew in reply to Wardsmith says:

          Thanks, Ward. You’re right; I probably should have submitted it as a GP. I was just making a joke about the fact that there is so much discussion linked to the comment, but all of it is about Roger’s link not my comment per se. Perhaps I will punch up the comment for submission.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Michael Drew says:

      “A somewhat epistemologically closed culture (encompassing what they would say are the “right” sources, to be sure… and they might not be wrong about that) has certainly developed on the Left around what they see as public policy consequences of “science.”

      … well, sir, when the alternative is genocide… (not a hypothetical, either!)Report

  9. Barry says:

    Mike, I suggest that you read

    Here’s a start:

    They link to here:

    I’d also add that IIRC, the decade 2001-10 was hotter than 1991-2000 (IIRC).
    You should also know that the 1998 El Nino was the most extreme El Nino documented
    (if you ever looked at surface temperature charts, you saw that spike in 1998); denialists have been using that blip to skew a trend ever since then.Report

  10. Barry says:

    Jaybird: “Sure: the 20th Century has more piles of bodies underneath ideologies that attempted to politicize evolution than under ideologies that politicized young earth creationism.”

    Please note that (a) ‘politicizing evolution’ is precisely a current right-wing concern (their specific concern is to deny science), (b) these ideologies in question were heavily into denying science.

    Also please note that the 20th century had a combination of population, technology, industry and organization which enabled horrific killing. Somebody once recommended reading about the 30 Years’ War (or the Napoleonic Wars) and imagining them conducted among belligerents with 10x the population and vastly increased industry and killing technology.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Barry says:

      Hrm… So even though the totalitarian regimes that committed the big genocides relied on politicized “pro-evolution” for justifications, the side that reacts with horror at the outcome and blames it on politicized pro-evolution is actually to blame for the genocides? You make baby Goebbels proud!

      The linkage between being pro-evolution and pro-genocide isn’t a horribly strong one, but most of the big genocides of modern times have been about constructing a new left-wing utopia with a better class of people in it, and evolutionary theory made a ready and accessible way for such regimes to explain what they aim to accomplish and convince others to go along with it. The basic pitch starts with “We’d be less burdened with defective people is we got rid of the defective people, …” and then gets continually more extreme as tenets get accepted ” … whether through sterilization, abortion, infant homicide, adult homicide, or …. screw it, let’s just round them up and kill them all.”

      Note that you can just jump straight to the last part, like Rwanda and more historical genocides, without going through the song and dance about evolution, and most of the genocides were more about eliminating economically inconvenient classes of people without regarding them as any kind of genetic breeding population.

      The right disagrees strongly with even the first part of the argument (See Sara Palin’s baby Trig), as do most on the modern American left (some, while celebrating the freedom to be different, don’t think anyone should be forced to have a baby that is different, and others aren’t all that averse to putting climate “deniers” into re-education camps).

      On the flip side, some on the right would really prefer to keep the country’s current racial mix and are anti-immigration, whereas the left has no problems with it, even though it will mean their party will probably become the party of big government Catholicism.

      One of the issues the American left still has is that it is reluctant to mix morality and science because it’s too busy trying to beat Conservative morality like a piñata, somehow backing itself into a corner from overuse of “science=good, religion=bad” arguments. Obama’s famous speech on fetal stem cells is a glaring example of the problem, mixing a profound ignorance of history with an obliviousness to the left’s own strong moral arguments about reining in many scientific practices, like animal testing, testing on prisoners, testing nuclear weapons, etc. Instead his speech was all about how the glories of science should never be fettered by our backwards religious morality – except for human cloning, which is just wrong!!! If the Bible had contained injunctions against cloning we’d be up to our eyeballs in baby David Axelrods by now.Report

      • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

        We don’t have to beat your morality. Today’s Conservative is evolving — just a bit slower. He’s coming around, just fashionably late to the party by — oh — fifty, sixty years too late.

        It’s good to see Today’s Conservatives embracing the notion of racial equality. That’s a fine step forward. They’re making some awkward steps towards befriending Nuestros Hermanos Heespanos, also a good sign. They’re not so big on gay marriage but hey, when that noxious bit of bigotry is too rude to bring up at parties, they’ll come ’round on that, too.

        All that Deregulatory Madness, the seat got a bit thin on that set of suit pants and when their shaggy asses started peeking through on that front, or rear, depending on which way you look at that problem of ventilation and/or revelation, people started laughing at them. They haven’t quite worked out how to deal with their corporate pimps when it comes to dealing with tax evasion and corporate chicanery, but they’re seeing the light on that subject, too.

        And there is that bit about the Iraq War. They were very angry when the Liberals told them that war was a bad idea. But again, they came around — after a while, not even the most ardent Conservative believed a thing the Bush43 administration had to say, mostly because he’d broken the First Rule of Conservativism: Thou Shalt Win Thy Battles. He didn’t give them victory.

        They’re good people, most of ’em. They do have an unfortunate tendency to believe what they’re told by Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, but really, I don’t blame them for their credulity. It’s a complex world out there and ordinary people want simple answers. But simple is always wrong when it comes to the real world. There are no hard ‘n fast truths to cling to in a world evolving this fast.

        I kinda pity the Conservatives in a way. All their lives they’ve been told about The Way Things Oughta Be, by a bunch of jumped up preacher types. They want a world where things are Clearly Right or Clearly Wrong. Well, Conservatives, old buddies old pals, we all do. Some of us are trying to make the world a better place. Where we Liberals are today, your Conservative Children will be in fifty years. Count on it.Report

      • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

        “The linkage between being pro-evolution and pro-genocide isn’t a horribly strong one, but most of the big genocides of modern times have been about constructing a new left-wing utopia with a better class of people in it, and evolutionary theory made a ready and accessible way for such regimes to explain what they aim to accomplish and convince others to go along with it. The basic pitch starts with “We’d be less burdened with defective people is we got rid of the defective people, …” and then gets continually more extreme as tenets get accepted ” … whether through sterilization, abortion, infant homicide, adult homicide, or …. screw it, let’s just round them up and kill them all.” ”

        Let’s see – Nazism was right-wing; communism denied evolution and relied on perfecting the New Man through cultural tools. Same with Cambodia. Rwanda – tribal hatred (unless you think that distributing ‘The Origin of Species’ caused that slaughter).

        And so on.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Barry says:

          Where do you get that Nazism was right wing? They were very explicit about explaining their socialist purity in great, great detail. They even stuck it in their name, “National Socialist Workers Party. As for communism, Karl Marx sent Charles Darwin an autographed copy of Das Kapital and used evolution to buttress his theory of social evolution through class struggle. The early Soviets rejected genetics not because they were anti-science, but because they thought it was fascist pseudo-science because it didn’t support their idea of improving the human lineage by beating people enough (or something), which they considered “scientific.” More conventional left-wing hedges about evolution center around various rejections of struggle, competition, fitness, and the death of the weak.Report

          • LWA in reply to George Turner says:

            The equation here is:
            Any expansion of state power= Left Wing;
            Any illiberal government- Expansive State Power
            Therefore any illiberal government= Left WingReport

            • NewDealer in reply to LWA says:

              I think all attempts to argue logic and reason with George Turner are for naught.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to NewDealer says:

                Again, even though I completely disagree with 99.5% of what Roger says, I apologize for ever getting him confused w/ either Turner or wardsmith.Report

              • Shazbot3 in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:


                Here’s another way of putting the same meta point about this thread. Liberals here are attacking the beliefs of Turner and Ward as clearly false and pernicious.

                The smart conservatives here sort of agree but feel compelled to defend the Wardsmiths and Turners of the world.

                “You liberals are being shrill in your criticisms. SHRILL!”

                “Liberals have their own people who take their ideas too far. Everyone does it, so don’t pick on Wardsmith and Turner’s ideas.”

                “Maybe there is some way in which we should be skeptical about the scientific consensus. So maybe Wardsmith and Turner are sort of right.”

                But if conservativism wants to succeed as a movement, there needs to be conservatives attacking Wardsmith and Turner in harsh terms. Otherwise, their views become a part of conservatism. They become tolerable in the movement, when they shouldn’t be.

                (Do liberals have a similar problem with tolerating its kooks? Maybe. Do they have that problem here? Not so much. I’ve put MA in his place here, as have others. Liberals here have hammered me pretty hard for my kookiness. And maybe Wardsmith and Turner have been hammered by conservatives here, but not on this issue, which they really, really should be.)

                Anyway, what happens here isn’t a big deal for conservatism in general, but I suspect that you see the same thing repeated at other blogs and amongst activists and at think tanks. Implicit approval that the ideas of Turners and Wardsmiths (and goldbugs and birthers and denialists and historical revisionists etc) are reasonable and need to be taken seriously.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                “(Do liberals have a similar problem with tolerating its kooks? Maybe. Do they have that problem here? Not so much. I’ve put MA in his place here, as have others. Liberals here have hammered me pretty hard for my kookiness. And maybe Wardsmith and Turner have been hammered by conservatives here, but not on this issue, which they really, really should be.)”

                We have argued this before. I think left-wing “kookiness” comes in less likely to do damage terms like a liberal-city passing a nuclear weapon ban. The worst liberals seem to be able to do is ban flouride in water and spill some nonesense against vaccines and western medicine. Most people tend to ignore this stuff.Report

              • Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

                The anti-vaccintion crowd is doing real damage. The 9/11 truthers? Mostly just made bad documentaries and silly graffiti.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to NewDealer says:

                Honestly, like Mad Men, food trucks, and libertarians, I think the anti-vax thing is a weird movement that only has gotten traction with a small subset of people, but seems like it’s bigger because we run into them a lot on the Internet.

                Your average single mom in Sheboygan or family in Georgia is still getting her kids vaccinated.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to NewDealer says:

                Belief that the government is at war with its own people increases the likelihood of right wing terrorism, as in OKC bombing. So 9/11 trutherism is a bad thing, yes.Report

              • George Turner in reply to NewDealer says:

                And what will the obvious use of the IRS and DoJ to intimidate and silence its critics lead to? People at the highest levels of government are now forced to ask this question.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to NewDealer says:

                Red Herring. Fallacy of distraction. 10 yard penalty, repeat second down.Report

              • Murali in reply to NewDealer says:

                I’m anti-vax myselfReport

              • George Turner in reply to NewDealer says:

                Murali, your link said

                We’ve temporarily gone away to do some essential maintenance. Don’t worry as we will be back as soon as possible. We’re sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.

                YOU’VE WON! They’ve given up! (Whatever they are). ^_^Report

              • Will H. in reply to NewDealer says:

                There for a minute, I thought you meant anti-VAX.
                That’s where I get all bent out of shape.Report

              • Chris in reply to NewDealer says:

                The anti-vaccination crow has had some real effects on herd immunity in certain areas like California and Colorado, whooping cough outbreaks corresponded with high rates of whooping cough outbreaks. I think that’s having an effect.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                I suspect that the whole harking on the “socialist” part of NSDAP is rather an American kink.

                I would say that almost all Americans (whether left or right) realize that in a representative democracy that their side needs to be seen as being for-freedom and liberty. Is there any place in the United States where someone could get elected by coming out against freedom, democracy, and liberty? Possibly but probably not.

                So the attacks in America are always and have always been about what does freedom mean and who is really against it or for it. There has always been a part of the right-wing and the Republican Party that has been against any form of welfare and regulation as being anti-freedom. You can go back to the old “liberty league” if not earlier.Report

              • Barry in reply to NewDealer says:

                I think that it’s a simple lie. Nazism gave extreme right-wing movements a bad name:) and the right in the USA has been trying to deal with that (by lying) ever since).Report

              • Roger in reply to Barry says:

                From a classical liberal viewpoint, seems like you guys are arguing semantics. Nazis and socialists are all about master planning. Granted the plans are a bit different, but that misses the essential point.Report

              • NewDealer in reply to Barry says:


                I’m Jewish and find it highly offensive when the Nazis call Democratic Party members or any other non-classical liberal as being like the Nazis. Or they stress the “socialist” word.

                The Nazis were not the UK Labour Party or Eugene Victor Debs/Norman Thomas. They were a far-right authoritarian party that had the backing of many of the old Prussian nobility and Industrialists/Bankers who were tired of Weimar Democracy.

                The right-wing in the United States were isolationist and in sympathy with the Nazi party and their anti-Semitic agenda. America First was racist and anti-Semitic to the core. Charles Lindenbergh accepted a medal and accolades from the Nazis, not Franklin Delano Roosevelt.Report

              • Roger in reply to Barry says:

                I appreciate that New Dealer. Again though, they do have something very, very important in common. They both line up on the side of top down command. That is the fundamental and shared mistake. They may have had different plans and even different goals, but what they shared is a belief in the supremacy of top down command and problem solving.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Barry says:

                There is nothing to choose between the Democrats and the Nazis; anyone who fails to see that simply doesn’t understand how Social Security and public schools lead inevitably to Auschwitz.Report

              • Roger in reply to Barry says:

                How did “socialists” get converted to “Democrats” in the course of three comments?Report

              • Roger in reply to Barry says:

                Meaning that my “they”has always been about socialists.Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            Call me when Democrats propose radically downsizing government and restricting its power.

            There can be repressive right-wing governments, usually Latin American or Pacific juntas, yet their model of government is almost universally the top-down hierarchical model largely inherited from the Catholic Church’s internal structure. Even if everyone in government hates communism, they’re still unknowingly operating in pretty much a top-down communist governmental structure, just devoid of all the stupid slogans.Report

            • LWA in reply to George Turner says:

              So there are right wing repressive governments.
              Except they are actually crypto-commies.
              So really, all repressive governments are communist.

              Because the right wing absolutesly hates authority and hierarchical top down structure.Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

            They even stuck it in their name, “National Socialist Workers Party.

            And East Germany was a Democratic Republic. (In other words, that’s the stupidest, tiredest word game ever.)Report

          • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

            Would you prefer lengthy quotes from famous Nazi propagandists in which they explain the glories of socialism in excruciating detail, along with echoing and expanding every bit of the far-left’s criticisms of capitalism? I can happily provide those.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

              Socialism isn’t the opposite of capitalism. If you can show that the Nazis, or any fascist government, socialized the means of production, sure, have at it. Otherwise you have the problem that the wealthier classes, in general, adored Nazis and fascists precisely because they were the antidote to socialism.Report

            • Jesse Ewiak in reply to George Turner says:

              If the Nazi’s were avowed socialists, then why were their main opponents in the aftermath of 1933 the actual Commies and Social Democrats, while they got enough votes to actually taken control of Germany from the Catholic and conservative parties of Germany?Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

                Why do you assume that everyone who calls themself “socialist” must inherently be on the same team?Report

              • Chris in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                All I know is that anyone who disagrees with me on any subject is on the side of the Nazis. That much is obvious.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Well, Occam’s Razor, looking at how the Nazi’s actually governed Germany, would show that they weren’t actually Socialists (yes, I know, they passed some social welfare programs) and branded themselves the National Socialist Worker’s Party for the same reason every pop star released a song with dubstep in the past two years…because it was popular.

                OTOH, you could believe that the Social Democrats and Communists public statements at the time against Hitler were all drummed up so left-of-center people would have the upper hand in arguments about Hitler 70 years later.Report

              • George Turner in reply to Jim Heffman says:

                Um, Hitler’s first choice for his party’s name was “Social Revolutionary Party.” When he’d joined it, it was called the Political Workers Circle, and was a worker’s party, not a middle class party. Part of the confusion you have perhaps stems from the fact that what’s called the far-right conservative movement in Germany was a movement to promote left-wing socialism. Weird, but true.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to George Turner says:

                Look, I get it. Right wingers in 2013 know better what Hitler was for than dirty German commies in 1933. It’s all cool.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Well, what us right wingers often do is bury a thread in direct quotes from Hitler, Goebbels, and other prominent Nazis until all the left-wingers puke and run away screaming. Shall I go for it?

                The “right-wing” part of their philosophy was their nationalism, which referred to their foreign policy of strength, assertiveness, and military might. This is in contrast to many of the socialist parties who emphasized togetherness, internationalism, and group hugs. Their domestic policy was all socialist, taking into account that Communism was a disaster and that the forces of production needed to be co-opted and forced to obey instead of simply purged, leaving the country weak and starving like Lenin did.

                The Nazis explained this all in great detail, and their words are on the Internets where anyone can access them.

                Put another way, if most all the Germans were voting left-of-center before the Nazi rise, and voting left-of-center after the Nazi collapse, what were they probably doing in between when they were giving their all to advance the German worker’s state and bringing true socialism to the entire world?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                Well, what us right wingers often do is bury a thread in direct quotes from Hitler, Goebbels, and other prominent Nazis

                We all get nostalgic now and then.Report

              • Jesse Ewiak in reply to George Turner says:

                George, go read up on modern day parties like the Jobbik’s in Hungray, the Golden Dawn in Greece, and other assorted nationalist right-wing parties that have risen up in the past few years. Notice they all talk about protecting public services from the evil EU. The idea that if you use the government to help the welfare of the people is only seen as socialism in America. After all, Bismarck created the first modern welfare state. In addition, at the same time that the Nazi Party platform had calls to break up the trusts, Hitler was trying to raise funds from those same businessmen. That’s not even getting into the fact that in all reality, Hitler didn’t give two craps about economics in general.

                Every single major party in Germany was talking about how they’d use the government to help the average worker in 1933. You weren’t going to get very far talking about cutting spending during a Great Depression.

                Also, the West German’s largely voted right-of-center for a long stretch after WW II. I mean, as a party, the Christian Democrat’s of the post-WWII era were probably to the left of everybody in modern American politics in economic matters, but they were on the right in the German spectrum.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Jesse, what you’re touching on is why so many people who don’t dig into the literature know very little of Germany’s economic policies. The subject is a virtual black hole because none of the left-leaning governments (the left was all in vogue throughout the 30’s) voiced any complaints about Germany’s economic policies, aside from Versailles Treaty issues and the general mayhem of the Great Depression. There wasn’t an outcry on that front because the US and many other countries were doing much the same things (nationalizing industries, giving companies monopoly or cartel powers in return for union contracts or wage guarantees, running massive public works projects as jobs programs, etc).

                So what most people are left knowing is that this evil man and his followers came to power in Germany. They liked weapons and were into occult crazy stuff. They dressed in snazzy uniforms. They tried to conquer the world. To a New Dealer or radical leftist, that’s about all there is to know because their economic philosophy seemed pretty sound. You could hand out Nazi political speeches to Occupy Wall Street and they’d read them from their group-consensus controlled microphone and they’d all cheer.

                Here’s the Nazi propaganda archive at Calvin University. Reading direct sources works much better than the Indian Jones version of cartoon villains.

                As an aside, the one part that OWS would find jarring, of course, is the Nazi wacko racial hatreds. But ironically, much of the left’s multiculturalism and tolerance comes from the chief philosopher of the Nazi party, who after the war argued that people can’t judge other cultures, which was his attempt to stem condemnation of the Nazis (he went to his grave thinking his work proved the might and truth of Nazism). That got picked up by the French philosophers whose works were the basis of 1968 student movements (they pointedly failed to mention the chief philosopher of the Nazi Party by title), and that spread to the US and infected all our campuses, and then the followers got tenure.

                As Paul Maud’dib would say, “Everything comes around in its changed form.”Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                long winded rants calling people nazi’s….solid 90%Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Those who don’t even read history are condemned to more than repeat it. They get mega-wedgies on the Internet.

                It’s all written down in much the same fonts as coverage of Kim Kardashian’s wardrobe malfunction, just one click away, and far more enlightening.Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                george…calling people nazis on the web jumped the shark years ago. its all about the lizard people now.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                I’m not calling people Nazis. I’m merely encouraging them to use some initiative and learn who the Nazis were and what they believed, as said in their own words, which they forced down everyone’s throats back in the day. It’s not like they were trying to keep it all a secret.

                The alternative is equivalent to hearing your grandchildren explain how the Boy Scouts of America was a 20th century LGBT organization of unionized National Parks workers who were dedicated to promoting smoking in Hollywood movies and who drove around in police cruisers handing out speeding tickets. There’s just no excuse for maintaining that kind of ignorance when such vast research tools are sitting right in our laps.Report

              • greginak in reply to George Turner says:

                Why is it that you can’t have a conversation with a conservative on the web without them talking about things being shoved down others throats.Report

          • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

            When somebody calls Nazism ‘left-wing’, it’s justifiable to stop arguing with them. Since they’ve proven themselves to be a liar.Report

            • Kimsie in reply to Barry says:

              It’s true. There’s a reasonable argument that Fascism is a centrist movement, but certainly none that would call it left-wing.Report

  11. Pinky says:

    No one here is addressing the silliness of the MIT study. It makes the assumption that the only reason a person would be sceptical of modern evolutionary theory is religion. One thing they ignore is the appearance of arrogance on their part, arrogance in assuming things like, well, the only reason a person would be sceptical of modern evolutionary theory is religion.

    Evolutionists are terrible at public relations. Let’s play a game – it’s called I belittle your intelligence until you agree with me. It’ll only take a few minutes, because everyone would rather change their minds than dig in their heels when challenged. Oh, by the way, my approach can’t explain the thinking of fully one-third of the US population, but I’m sure it’s because they’re as stupid about their religions as they are about science. Wait, where are you going? Why don’t you want to be my friend? I’m smarter than you!Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

      Let’s play another little game. It’s sorta like the Game of Telephone. In this game, the first person can say anything they like, be it ever so contradictory to evidence from the real world. The second person must come up with a theory to explain why the first guy is right. The third person can say something else and the fourth person must come up with a theory which accommodates both facts, until the circle’s gone round, everyone’s got either a theory or a statement. Each theorist can consult with the previous theorists but not with the subsequent even-numbered theorist until the circle’s gone round.Report

      • Pinky in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Am I missing something, or does that not address my comment at all?Report

        • BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

          You’re missing something. Not every statement in that little circle is truthful. The theories which explain them are equally specious. In the real world, some statements are not true and saying so does not belittle anyone’s intelligence. Evolution is true because it’s backed by evidence. I do not ask anyone to “believe” in evolution nor do I expect them to “believe” in the law of gravity or in Special Relativity. Glorifying anti-scientific bullshit with the honourable title of Skepticism is playing BlaiseP’s Game of Theoretical Telephone. As for PR, science isn’t interested in selling you anything. It’s a search for truth in a world full of self-deluded liars.Report

          • Pinky in reply to BlaiseP says:

            Obviously you’d prefer if people believed in truth. And I didn’t glorify anyone’s scepticism.Report

            • BlaiseP in reply to Pinky says:

              Your little game stinks, Plinko. Evolutionists are indeed, terrible at public relations. Let’s play a game – it’s called I present some scientific evidence and you can say I’m belittling the doctrines of your faith. It was played for centuries. And it was played for keeps. And it’s still being played.Report

              • Pinky in reply to BlaiseP says:

                I know there’s someone who posts here under the name of Plinko. I’m not him. (I’m thinking of changing my handle to avoid confusion.) But that’s just another demonstration that you’re replying to what you think I’m writing, rather than what I’m writing.Report

    • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky says:

      One thing they ignore is the appearance of arrogance on their part, arrogance in assuming things like, well, the only reason a person would be sceptical of modern evolutionary theory is religion.

      This is an interesting statement. Certainly the vast majority of the people who attack modern evolutionary theory do so on the basis of religion. What other grounds for skepticism are there? Or perhaps more precisely, what other scientific theories — and “aliens did it” is just as bad from a science perspective as “God did it” — are there for speciation other than evolution? Sure, evolutionary theory continues to, well, evolve. Eg, debate over punctuated equilibrium. And there are a number of hypotheses about how life itself originally arose, but that’s a tiny part of modern evolutionary theory, and most of the theorists will settle for “we don’t know… yet”.

      People seem to be touchier about biology, but the same problem exists in other fields of science. Pick an easy one from math: sometimes when you add up an infinite number of non-zero values, you get infinity; sometimes a finite value; explain when one happens and when the other. A sizable chunk of the general population will throw up their hands and say, “But that makes no sense!” I can give them simple examples of the idea: 1/2 plus 1/4 plus 1/8 plus 1/16 and I get closer and closer to one. But to explain how it works, and how to determine if a particular infinite series converges or not, well… it’s not that I’m smarter than they are, it’s that I’ve put in all the time to learn that much math.

      Personally, I think that the fundamental problem that a bunch of the population has is that they want it to be easy. But it’s not. And to blame the specialists who have spent years or decades learning how something works for not being able to make it easy is just silly. I’ll point out that scientists often have the opposite problem. After someone has spent two-to-five years working on a thesis, and understand it in excruciating detail, there’s a tendency to say, “But this is so obvious.”Report

      • Chris in reply to Michael Cain says:

        Maybe there are a bunch of protest Lamarckians.Report

      • Pinky in reply to Michael Cain says:

        You’re looking at this the wrong way. An atheist is virtually required to accept evolution. 11% of theists are required to reject it. 89% of theists have options, and they have a sense that both sides are too strident to be fully trusted. Any time you see two groups of people talking past each other, questioning each other’s motives, your instinct tells you that they’re both at fault. Just look at Blaise’s comments; he’s coming off as angry at religion. He sounds like a zealot. He’s casting this as religion versus science. He’s not explaining the science behind his position.

        Outsiders may know that there have been changes in timelines and proposed evolutionary paths. They may have seen press stories about discoveries that “change the way we think about evolution”. They may have heard outlandish objections from creationists that sound impressive, and never really heard those arguments disproven. They may also just be tired of being sneered at, and the second they hear a 26-year-old kid asking polling questions, they decide to pick every contrarian answer they’re allowed.Report

        • Michael Cain in reply to Pinky says:

          An atheist is virtually required to accept evolution.

          That sentence is absolutely true once you take “virtually” out. The atheist has no choice because science doesn’t allow them to say, “I don’t like evolution — offer me some equally good alternatives that don’t assume God, or aliens, or stuff like that.” Well, they can ask, but the (consensus) answer they’re going to get from the people competent to have an opinion is, “We’ve considered all the alternatives we can think of, and none of them explain a fraction as much as evolution does. TTBOOK, evolution is just how the world is, like it or not.”

          Quantum mechanics (and electron-slit experiments in particular) chased my out of my physics double major. I didn’t get to ask, “I don’t like QM; can you give me some alternatives?” QM is, to the best of the physicists’ knowledge, just how the world is.

          Just look at Blaise’s comments;… He’s not explaining the science behind his position.

          You want an explanation of evolutionary biology in a blog comment? Even popular treatments tend to run to hundreds of pages. Bergstrom and Dugatkin’s overview textbook comes in at around 700.

          Outsiders… may also just be tired of being sneered at…

          I suppose, “That’s an interesting idea, but it was thoroughly discredited in a series of papers published back in the 1960s. I don’t remember the details, but give me a minute and I can come up with the references,” comes off as sneering or condescending. It’s not intended as either — it’s a standard response that indicates “Oh, you’re really interested in the topic? Let me help!” The failure to communicate — at least in my experience — is that the outsider wants the answer to be easy to understand without doing the work. The scientist knows that it isn’t. And the evolution answer is getting harder all the time (eg, the discovery of hox genes and hox proteins). As a specialist told me shortly after the first of the human genome sequencing results were out, “This is just the first step. Maybe in another 50 years we’ll have a reasonable understanding of how the bag of protein chemistry that is a human being actually works.”Report

          • Fnord in reply to Michael Cain says:

            An atheist is virtually required to accept evolution.

            That sentence is absolutely true once you take “virtually” out. The atheist has no choice because science doesn’t allow them to say, “I don’t like evolution — offer me some equally good alternatives that don’t assume God, or aliens, or stuff like that.”

            It’s perfectly possible for atheists to fall into dogma, to refuse to accept the scientific evidence just like everybody else. As a practical matter, in this place and time, they tend not to do so about evolution specifically. But that doesn’t make it good practice to equate atheism with accepts science.Report

        • Shazbot5 in reply to Pinky says:

          Why is an atheist required to accept the theory of evolution?

          And what do you mean by “required?”Report

          • Mike Schilling in reply to Shazbot5 says:

            Required to be in a state of atheist grace, without which you can’t take atheist communion. If occasional doubts creep in, you can confess them and usually get off with a few Hail P.J.s.Report

            • Chris in reply to Mike Schilling says:

              While I still believe in the tenets of atheism, I was excommunicated as a Chamberlain apostate many years ago. I still sneak into the all-Latin masses every now and then, though.

              Also, I’ve known more than a few atheists who didn’t believe in evolution, or at least not Darwinian evolution, mostly new agers, but I remember getting into a conversation once, in a pub frequented by grad students, with this dude who uttered the word “epigenesis” approximately 2 gazillion times and made me read this. I’m still somewhat traumatized by the experience.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Chris says:

                I was excommunicated as a Chamberlain apostate

                They caught you with an umbrella?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                Here’s a little speech from Penn that tells me why he’s one of mine, at the same time that those that taught me remain one of mine.

                Dude (aka “to whom it may concern”): I miss you. I wish you and I could eat together once a week, and toast each other at least that often. I wish we could walk to the same places and complain about the same things. I wish we could go to the VFV on Wednesday nights for spaghetti dinners for $5 and drink Bud Lights for $1.50 and yell at each other in a society that respected the fact that we did not agree… because it did not matter.

                Thank God for Maribou, in the short term. Dude: I hope you have one.Report

              • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

                That was an interesting bit from Penn. He did use the word “fair” which of course warms my liberal heart like object. The last 45 seconds or so when he talks about getting along better with fund. Ch then with Lib Ch was fascinating, honest and , i have to admit, my first and second thoughts were, really fishin dumb. It seems like what he respects is confrontation or simplistic contradictory statements. There are plenty of religious people who have made serious beliefs out of the “many roads to the same place” idea he dismisses. Accepting that good people can have different beliefs, which he likes, is tolerance. What isn’t tolerance is trying to stamp out people who disagree. People with extreme beliefs respect other extreme beliefs but see non-extremests as just a squish.

                I like Penn btw. He says some smart things.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to greginak says:

                It’s a pitiful schtick, this Penn routine. This man should make more like his silent partner: shut up and stick to magic. His entire moneymaking proposition relies on illusion and delusion. Objective truth is beyond Penn.

                If my belief in God gives licence to every nut case who says “Thus saith the Lord” or “Allah has commanded it”, then from whence arises Penn’s need, indeed obsession, to tell people they’re wrong? It’s not a bit different. He just doesn’t require God to make such claims.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to Jaybird says:

                You have 32 feet of fencing with which to build a rectangular enclosure. What’s the most area you can fence off?

                That answer is 64 square feet, by making it square, 8 feet on a side. And you can prove that using geometry, algebra, or calculus. Many paths to the same truth. In fact, one consequence of truth being objective is that every path leads to it. If you think there’s only one path to truth, and your group is its owner, you’re part of a cult,

                In other words, Penn is full of it.Report

        • Barry in reply to Pinky says:

          “89% of theists have options, and they have a sense that both sides are too strident to be fully trusted”

          I just love all of these alleged ‘conservatives’ who hate ‘stridency’ about facts, theories,the scientific method, etc.

          You are all providing evidence that the sole reason that so many conservatives reject science is for no other reason than for inconvenient implications.

          It’s just Lysenkoism.Report

  12. Shazbot5 says:

    To get meta a bit, can I say something about the thread?

    This is what I see a lot at the league. A conservative (or libertarian) believes something or does something really unjustified and really pernicious. (Like say global warming denialism.)

    Then the hair splitting and the nitpicking begins, occasionally dotted by a more extreme comment by a George Turner or someone else. “It isn’t THAT bad.” “Liberals do something just as bad.” “It depends on the meaning of such and such.” “The causal case isn’t completely established.”

    Look, conservatives need to be embarrassed and shamed for their global warming denialism. Embarrassed badly. This isn’t a small issue, where there is a chance they might be partially right. This is cut and dry and the consequences are either big or huge.

    So, let’s agree. If you are a conservative AGW denialist, you are a fool. Case closed. If you are a conservative evolution denier, you are a fool. (Though this seems to matter less.) Case closed.Report

    • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      As a former life-long Democrat up until around ’07, it’s exactly this sort of thing that made me realize how far out of step I had become with the party.
      It’s the sort of thing that makes me see that they really don’t believe in any of those principles that they like to yak on and on about.
      It makes me wonder if the problem is more or less that I actually believe in the principles of the Left more than they do themselves.

      So, let me ask:
      How is it that you justify liberating the masses if your only point in doing so is to tell them how stupid they are?
      If all this stuff about Equality was really true, would you want equality for people who might believe in things other than what you yourself do?Report

      • Barry in reply to Will H. says:

        Will H. May 20, 2013 at 2:01 pm

        ” As a former life-long Democrat up until around ’07, it’s exactly this sort of thing that made me realize how far out of step I had become with the party.
        It’s the sort of thing that makes me see that they really don’t believe in any of those principles that they like to yak on and on about.
        It makes me wonder if the problem is more or less that I actually believe in the principles of the Left more than they do themselves.”

        In two thousand f*cking seven you left the Democratic Party?

        That’s sort of an odd time to do so?Report

        • Will H. in reply to Barry says:

          The time was ripe; overdue, in fact.
          I thoroughly detested the Bush presidency (and I distinguish between the president & his administration these days), and that kept me one the one side much longer than I should have stayed.
          It wasn’t what I would term an amiable departure either. I try to keep those feelings in check, but I wonder if they come to the front at times.
          I can’t deal with absolutists; and especially so when the various angles they’re playing aren’t cohesive. From an engineering standpoint, it’s bothersome.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Will H. says:

            So you waited until Bush was gone to leave the party over Bush?

            Sorry, I don’t mean to be critical. I appreciate your posts and comments. But that is kind of weird, right?Report

            • Kimsie in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              Leaving the Democratic party over the Republican president seems strange, doesn’t it?Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Kimsie says:

                Oh yeah, I totally misread that. Sorry Will. That is weirder than a thought, but not in the way I thought.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I might have messed that up with spelling errors and parentheses. 😉
                I wonder if I might have become an R five years earlier had 9-11 & Iraq not have gone the way that it did.
                Then again, maybe it was those events that brought that element of the Left to the front which made me want to disengage.

                I still consider myself to be more of an older style of D, though an older style of R is a fair fit as well.
                Maybe more Old Style, period.
                Or just Old.
                (I console myself with the thought that there are people much older than this in the world . . . )

                What’s odd is that I can talk with conservatives, understand them, and agree even though we differ– and I do so frequently.
                It seems like I’m losing the ability to do so with most of the Left. The odd thing is that even when the major differences are a matter of degrees, that can seem so significant that any manner of relation is shot.

                What really strikes me as out-of-whack is that a guy so enthusiastic to vote against Reagan in his first vote cast would end up as a conservative.
                Many turns along the trail between here and there.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will H. says:

                I thought you were a conservative, regardless of party?

                Forget about party ID, IMO. It is just misleading.Report

              • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Hrmm . . .
                Yeah, I guess I’m a conservative.
                Though I’m one of those conservatives who thinks the world of Eugene Debs.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Will H. says:

        I believe people deserve equal treatment.

        I believe people should have freedom of speech and thought.

        I think people who say they believe in creationism (or Astrology, say) are being foolish, even if they aren’t fools in other areas.

        I think science classes shouldn’t teach the controversy of whether Astrology is true.

        Where am I contradicting myself?

        Is this a convoluted form of the Sarah Palin argument? “You want to take away my freedom of speech by criticizing my beliefs.”

        I want people to be fred to believe anything they want. But I want them to believe obviously true things. No contradiction there.Report

        • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Let me lay this out for you, because I believe further illumination might be going somewhere.

          people deserve equal treatment
          I can’t agree to that.
          I think everyone should start with a clean slate, and from time to time errant marks should be erased.
          I can say that I believe in giving others certain considerations which are either unique to them, or to the perceived group of which they are members. But somehow, I also believe in fairness above those considerations. I’m not so sure it’s an entirely vertical ordering.
          People have significant differences; but the tall and the short both walk on the same ground.

          freedom of speech and thought
          Exercising these got me into a lot of trouble in my younger days.
          Kyle has a post up where he talks about “freedom” vis-a-vis “choices.” The two aren’t the same. Choices are a lot easier to generate than freedom.
          While I agree that people should have these freedoms, I believe the exercise of them should be done in a prudent fashion. Call that the lumps I got from the School of Hard Knocks.

          people who… believe in creationism (or Astrology, say) are being foolish
          I don’t believe that either.
          I’m a lot better at determining what is apparent rather than what is true.
          There are varieties of thought which I am unfamiliar with. There are thoughts concerning both of these, and others topics, that I don’t care to project my own understanding on others.
          Really, that Chapter 16 of Autobiography of a Yogi cited at length above* has a great deal to say about astrology as well, and it’s not the way I normally see astrology as being portrayed.
          I think there might be reasons other than Foolishness for a person to hold a belief.
          The manner in which the belief is assimilated seems especially important to me; perhaps a quirk of character.
          It seems as if I am unable to qualify any general statements I might make on this end to where I would be comfortable stating things as definite. There’s too much variation in this world.

          I don’t think teaching astrology in science class is a good idea, and I don’t believe Palin’s speech was significantly infringed provided she was still able to do so (and with national media outlets granting a huge audience, I might add).

          I’m not so sure what “obviously true” entails.
          I think it’s obviously true that I am wholly inadequate in a number of ways.
          I just hope that I’m a little bit better than yesterday, rather then trying to convince others of the obvious truth of that state.

          * Sorry for stepping on your comment, WillT; I should have posted that as a separate comment. I really had no idea this would become such a vibrant thread. And really, I didn’t remember that excerpt as being that long, and I was a bit surprised by that after I hit the Submit button.Report

        • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Wow. We disagree on a lot. I don’t want to nitpick you, but I want to explore some of your claims, because they seem very weird to me. That might not be so bad. Weird is often true and always interesting.


          “I think everyone should start with a clean slate, and from time to time errant marks should be erased.”

          Okay, my claim was meant to express a very broad philosophical principle that we could all agree to. I think you mean that treating people equally means treating them all by the same rules, not requiring that they all experience the same outcomes. (This is the intuition behind Nozick’s interesting, if not extreme, procedural account of justice.) I dod disagree with you, but I didn’t mean to rule out that as being what “equal treatment” required in this argument.

          I was just trying to show that I have a commitment to liberty and equality and all that, which isn’t in contradiction with my belief that YEC is foolish and shouldn’t be taught in schools as science or scientific controversy. Do you think my commitments (or beliefs or whatever) are in conflict?

          Moreover, I wonder how literally you mean what you say about “clean slates.” Do you think equal treatment requires that people all start out with a clean slate? Would this mean that inheritance shouldn’t be allowed to give some a leg up on others? What about private schools and elite private colleges where money is required for entrance? Life isn’t a game like Monopoly where everyone starts off with $500 and a clean slate. Not at all. Are you saying that is what we should aim at? (I could get on board, but it will be radically hard to get there and stay there, IMO.)

          Maybe we agree on free speech. Not sure. Your remarks are vague, to me anyway. Certainly it isn’t prudent to say racist things or cruel things, even of you have the right to do so and should be publically shamed (but not legally sanctioned) for doing so.

          Surely you think some things are obviously true. That you exist is one. That you live on planet Earth is another. That the heliocentric model of the solar system is true is another. That the theory of evolution is true is another.

          Admittedly, just as certainty comes in degrees that are hard to quantify, so does obviousness. But the fact that the line between obvious and controversial is sometimes fuzzy doesn’t mean there is no such distinction, just as the fact that we can’t determine how many hairs, precisely, you need to have to be not bald does not mean there is no distinction between being bald and being not bald.

          Do you really think belief in astrology isn’t foolish? What about moon-landing denialism? Surely you think that is foolish, yes?Report

          • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

            To hit on a few high points:

            I mean people are properly accorded different treatment.
            For example, I was sitting in a parking lot talking to my brother on the phone. I had just pulled up to go into a store, and I wanted to wrap up the conversation first. While I was sitting there, and old lady came out with a shopping cart and was loading bags into the back seat of her car. The wind caught the door, and the shopping cart kept rolling at her to where she was effectively stuck there. I called the conversation to a halt, explaining what was going on, and went over to pull the shopping cart away from her car so she could open the door. I even said something about, “Those things roll on me sometimes like that too,” when I did it, so she wouldn’t feel so bad about it. Then I went back to my car, and resumed the conversation.
            I used to shovel snow for a neighbor who was a Vietnam vet on disability. This guy was one that get caught in Agent Orange, and he was on oxygen.

            Now, those aren’t things I do for just anybody. But I did then, because I am cognizant of some manner of difference; that these are specific individuals, and not just general representations of persons.

            That’s what I mean when I say Equality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
            Rendering proper consideration is an important part of social interaction.

            When I referred to a clean slate, it was in reference specifically to persons, and not to property or position, etc.

            I don’t think YEC should be taught in schools, and I don’t think you’re wrong for advancing that position.
            I think you’re going about it in the wrong way. See below.

            YEC is essentially derived from the error of literalism; such issues as the city where Cain went after being cast out of the garden are accounted for in other ways.
            Still, at its source, this is a misunderstanding— no greater or less than the myriad of misunderstandings which the human species is capable of.
            So, calling this error Foolish runs against my principles of Fairness.
            I too misunderstand things at times, and often it has little to do with foolishness (though I admit, I have plenty of that too).

            The same with moon landing denialism.
            This error is derived from a deep mistrust of the government.
            Nothing wrong with that in itself; but at the extremes it causes issues, like moon landing denials.
            I don’t think it’s foolish so much as sad. But it’s not incomprehensible to me.

            No, I don’t think belief in astrology is foolish.
            I think some people that believe in it do some foolish things with that belief; but that’s another matter.

            Here’s Below:
            Everything is connected in this world, like it or not. Some are cognizant of that fact; others less so.
            Regardless of where you stand along that continuum, whenever you block out another person, you’re blocking out an element of yourself.
            Some of those people need to be avoided, and it’s important to do so. Some people are simply malevolent; if not generally, then in specific manners which might cause harm to you.
            In absence of impending malevolence to be avoided, blocking out another person causes harm to the one doing so. It really can’t be any other way.

            That’s one of those things which is obvious to me.

            Saying that people are foolish isn’t helpful.
            In fact, it’s avoiding the issue.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:


            Regarding equal treatment. All I meant is something like equal treatment under the law: equal voting, equal rights to a trial, etc. Really non-controversial stuff. Obviously, I also have more controversial views on egalitarianism too, but I didn’t mean to invoke them above. Just equality of legal treatment.

            I am glad you agree that it would be ridiculous to teach YEC in schools.

            I think perhaps you’re committed to the claim that no belief is foolish. You can define “foolish” in all sorts of ways with all sorts of different criteria for waht counts as foolish. But if you’ve defined it so that it applies to no one, it has lost all use, and no longer fits the use that it generally has in the community. It is foolish to smoke cigarettes. It is foolish to deny global warming. It is foolish to not vaccinate your kids. Etc.

            I’m not sure that I understand your Below quote. Listen, I think we all do and believe foolish things. When we do, we should be loved and understood, but also made to realize that our beliefs or behaviors are foolish. (IMO, ridicule shoud be part of that.Report

            • Will H. in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              Well, I agree that everyone should have equal treatment under the law, but I don’t think it’s actually going to happen any time soon.
              For the most part, those who act under the seal of the king (or the State, as it has evolved to) act with impunity, while the common man is only entitled to that degree of justice which he is willing to make with his own two hands.
              But as far as defining a goal to work toward, I can get on board with that.
              And it looks to me like the general tendency over the last 100 yrs or more has been ever-greater rights for more and more people.

              But I don’t think it’s ridiculous to teach YEC in schools. I think it’s misplaced.
              There’s a difference.

              And I’m not one to claim that no belief is foolish.
              I’m not even one to claim that foolishness is a bad thing in all cases.
              But I do draw a clear distinction between ignorance and stupidity; that of a passive state vs. an active state.

              I don’t think those things you name there are necessarily foolish.
              Of course, they can be; but they can also not be.
              And that’s what I’m saying: I can’t assume that everyone else is standing right where I’m at.
              In fact, it’s falsifiable: I’m right here, and no one else is occupying this space, which would be an impossibility.

              The thing-in-itself has no foolishness in it.
              The person attaining to that thing may do so for a foolish reason or a non-foolish reason.
              As Jaybird pointed out so well before, a belief in science can be predicated on foolishness every bit as much as a belief in witchcraft.
              Or you might say that Foolishness is a quality of movement.

              But seriously, I’m interested to here these views you consider to be more controversial.
              I don’t care to mock you; I intend to give them a fair hearing.
              Frankly, they’re probably things I’ve already heard before, and I wouldn’t be so shocked.
              In particular, I’m interested in: (1) the content of these views, (2) why you think that these are justified, (3) why you believe they are controversial, and (4) to see what sort of things you care about.
              I really don’t intend to agree or disagree. I might though. I get like that sometimes.Report

    • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      Can you also come up with a form of denialism that makes progressives fools? Murali offered twenty examples or so for libertarians.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to Roger says:

        Yes, indeed, Roger.
        To do so, I must peer into the murky future.
        But the progressive would deny the inevitability of genocide.
        Fools, indeed!Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

        1. I don’t like the word “progressive.” IMO, it means something about early 20th century Hegelian approaches to justice that aren’t really what I believe. I (and others here) are liberals. In politics, people are afraid of that term (for now, stupidly) but let’s be straight and not give in to their abuse of language.

        I do think liberals are more likely to attune their beliefs about what is factual to what scientists say. (In fact, one reason YEC or macro-evolution denialism is bad is because it makes conservatives somewhat more likely to deny scientific consensus in general. IMO.)

        I’m sure there are cases of liberal foolishness. They are just less likely to be as endemic or long-lasting as conservatives denialism. Many liberals believed (and neo-liberals still believe) that education (alone) can cure poverty. IMO that is foolish, though it is a bit more controversial than AGW.

        The outrageously foolish things are snuffed out more often on the left, though.Report

        • Kimsie in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          Not really.
          The left refuses to believe in the inevitability of genocide in the relatively near future.
          Damn pollyannas.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Kimsie says:

            The left, right, and the non-Kimsie’s all believe that.

            But the Kimsies know…

            Is that because Kimsie is planning the genocide?

            Bwahahahahaha BwahhahahahReport

            • Kimsie in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              Nah, a friend of mine’s about to get fired for putting together a plan that’s “too expensive” (ya know, because it doesn’t kill people).
              (and by relatively near future, I mean 20 years out, but hey…)

              And the US military certainly believes in resource wars (and is planning accordingly). Not for nothing that Clarke called global warming the greatest national security issue of this century.Report

        • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          You may be right,Shaz, especially since religious dogma is so powerful. Still, just to be argumentative, some of the stuff I hear from the left on food miles, and locavorism, and genetically modified food and organic seems pretty scientifically vacuous to me.Report

          • Bob2 in reply to Roger says:

            Positions on GMOs actually cross left and right
            Same goes for anti-vaxxers.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Roger says:

            Yeah, and there is some out and out refusal to believe science there. Usually, the left is worried about what science has yet to show, but every large group has its kooks. But our kooks are more kept in check than your kooks. Clearly. The is no equivalency here.Report

          • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Roger says:

            The difference is, whoever is in charge of the Health and Education Committee didn’t invite anti-vaxxers to speak on Capitol Hill in hearings, like Senator Infhoe (sp?) and the rest of the climate change deniers did when they held the majority in the Senate. Yes, there are some wacky people on the left who think dumb things. The difference is, their party ignores them. The right puts them in position of power or at least, is scared enough of them to agree with their statements.Report

      • Barry in reply to Roger says:

        Roger, you’re assuming balance and symmetry. IMHO, what happened is that a lot of the old liberal whackiness was rejected, and not tolerated as much on the left. It’s not the same as 30-40 years ago.

        On the right we still see creationism, lies about Nazis, Bell Curve BS, etc. Rick Perlstein (author of ‘Before the Storm’, about Goldwater, and ‘Nixonland’ about guess who) had an interesting column about old whackjob books. He said that he used to browse used bookstores in the 1970’s, and read all of the crazy conspiracy theory books, both on the left and on the right. He said that he had recently noticed that he was seeing many of the right-wing titles still for sale, in print on paper; the left-wing titles were not available as books (maybe on the internet, but that’s cheap and easy to do). And these were the exact same books – maybe newer editions, but the same titles with the same craziness by the same authors. (which brings up ‘The Late Great Planet Earth’, by Hal Lindsey – Rapture books are still big sellers, even 40-50 years after the post-WWII resurgence in End Times literature and preaching).

        I think that one factor is that right-wing craziness is very useful for the elites; these people can and will vote for the elites’ economic agenda, and the elites in general can live with their obedient peons’ craziness (or rather, the elites don’t have to live with it; they don’t live in the same parts of the same cities).

        BTW, I’m amazed at how this thread just keeps on giving, just like the one about the Heritage Foundation’s attempt to push the GOP’s share of the Hispanic vote to zero. The right-wingers here have been reduces to flat-out lies (Will Truman, George Tuner), or endless whining about science and facts and such not sparing their tender feelings.

        I’ve formulated the ‘Iron Law of Right-Wing Freudian Projection’, that right-wing propaganda is pure Freudian projection – they simply can’t accuse liberals of doing something unless they’re already doing it, and doing it 10x as much as they say liberals are doing it. And here we see right-wingers fulfilling the most extreme parody of people demanding that others stop dealing with facts if it hurts their feelings, and that others accord equal respect to hard-proven theories and massive accumulation of data on one hand, and feelings on the other hand.Report

        • Roger in reply to Barry says:

          Ok. I agree that there are some pretty extreme beliefs that require religious support to accept within modern society. The rapture books are pretty weird, and the virulence of the creationists is even more repulsive.

          That said, there is plenty of pseudoscience and economic voodooism going around in the various political parties. Where myths exist, political parties will play to the myth if it is to their advantage.

          Let’s just say there is too much of it on all our sides.Report

        • NewDealer in reply to Barry says:

          I remember that Perlstein column. Wasn’t he the one who also came out with the underestimate statistic that 27 percent or so of the voting population is going to be absolutely bonkers?

          “I’ve formulated the ‘Iron Law of Right-Wing Freudian Projection’, that right-wing propaganda is pure Freudian projection – they simply can’t accuse liberals of doing something unless they’re already doing it, and doing it 10x as much as they say liberals are doing it. And here we see right-wingers fulfilling the most extreme parody of people demanding that others stop dealing with facts if it hurts their feelings, and that others accord equal respect to hard-proven theories and massive accumulation of data on one hand, and feelings on the other hand.”

          Spot on. It goes hand in hand with my theory that the Internet is still the unrestrained ID for many people. Freud would have a field day with the Internet.Report

    • George Turner in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      So, let’s agree. If you are a conservative AGW denialist, you are a fool. Case closed.

      We know cooling is bad, even a little cooling is bad, from a host of historical records and endless scientific studies of ice ages, etc. AGW holds that warming is bad, even a little warming. Ergo, we happened to be living at the absolute peak of climate perfection exactly when we celebrated the first “Earth Day”, went to Woodstock, and pulled out of Vietnam, when the climate was magically perfect everywhere, from the tundra to the rain forests. It was ideal for everybody, everywhere (they have to stick that in, otherwise they’d have to admit that warming that could be worse for people in the equatorial areas might be better for people in the northern latitudes – where all the donors are). It’s as stupid as saying that all numbers are equal, assuming that the Earth must be at the center of the universe, or that God created the Earth in a state of perfection for the benefit of all mankind.

      I reject that belief, as do a great many esteemed climate scientists like Judith Curry.Report

      • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

        “I reject that belief, as do a great many esteemed climate scientists like Judith Curry.”

        First, you might want to actually read something about the effects of warming.

        Second, you might want to ask a friend about the meaning of the word ‘great many’; last I hear, she’s just about the only actual climate scientist left who denies AGW.

        In fact, how about posting that list. And I want to see a ‘great many esteemed climate scientists’, not a bunch of people without climatology degrees.Report

      • zic in reply to George Turner says:

        George, you’re getting into that time scale problem so common for anyone trying to understand both evolution and climate change.

        It’s not that change doesn’t happen naturally; it’s that it’s generally slow. That gives Earth’s native flora and fauna time to adapt. When things change fast — evidence of this in Earth’s history; meteor strikes, massive volcanic eruptions — there’s massive die off of species.

        The problem with man-made global warming isn’t necessarily the warming; it’s not that there’s some perfect temperature we should maintain for infinity, it’s the speed of the warming. Were that change to happen slowly, over thousands of years, life would adapt. When it happens rapidly, over a few centuries or even decades, this is not the case.

        So it’s not change that’s the problem, it’s the rate of change that’s the problem.Report

      • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

        Even a little cooling is bad? So we froze to death in the Little Ice Age?????????
        um, sorry. try again.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Kimsie says:

          Yes. We did. It’s estimated that hundreds of thousands of Europeans died from famine. Population growth went negative.Report

          • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

            Enjoy. The etiology of the deaths does not seem terribly correlated to the little ice age, as whatever was causing the deaths seems to have occurred beforehand, and caused roughly the same amount of devastation.

            Ah, and my science is off, in general. Apparently the whole thing about the Little Ice Age has been panned (as not generalizable to the entire earth).Report

            • Chris in reply to Kimsie says:

              Yeah, I just read that the “little ice age” and the “medieval warming period” may be bunk. This is depressing, because I liked the Discovery Channel documentary on the little ice age, particularly because it suggested that the little ice age is responsible for the proliferation of beer.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Chris says:

                The more fun way to play it is that beer is what’s responsible for the Germans not being hotheads anymore. For such an even-keeled, if not laconic people, it’s hard to remember that a lot of Germany was settled by Vikings and barbarian tribes.Report

        • Barry in reply to Kimsie says:

          Seconding George, please read ‘The Little Ice Age’. Yes, people suffered, because when there are year-after-year disruptions in agricultural weather, people died.

          I don’t mean to be insulting, but please learn *something* about what you’re talking about.Report

        • George Turner in reply to Kimsie says:

          Barry, don’t worry, you are far to ignorant to possibly insult me. I read text books on atmospheric ocean dynamics, the MATH versions – for fun, and have been reading endless academic papers on climatology for the past 15 years. That’s one of the reasons why I was getting e-mails from climate scientists whose names you’ve mentioned.Report

          • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

            That’s fascinating, because in your ‘I reject that belief, as do a great many esteemed climate scientists like Judith Curry’ comment, you (a) didn’t mention even two, and (b) the one you mentioned is – well, problematic.

            I’ll file this along with your statements about the Nazis being socialists.Report

      • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

        No, it’s not a rate of change problem because both the observed and projected rates of change are well within historical norms. Take a look at all the actual temperature plots, globally or by region. They vary tremendously by year, by decade, and by multi-decade periods, along with big swings marking major climatic shifts.Report

        • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

          George, I’d give the same advice to you. To start with, as an amuse bouche, look up the ratio of observed high-to-low temperature records.

          BTW, I live in Michigan. We got hammered very, very hard in 2012.Report

    • North in reply to Shazbot5 says:

      You sound impressively republican Shaz, albeit your orthodoxy is different.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to North says:

        I am orthodx about the world not being flat.

        What a Republican I am.Report

      • Shazbot5 in reply to North says:

        “Only a Sith deals in absolutes!”

        That was the weirdest line in that whole movie for me. And when I saw it, people cheered at that line. Yaay hard-core relativism? WTH?

        Oddly, the claim “Only a Sith deals in absolutes” is an absolute about The Sith, which also seems pretty intolerant of the Sith. If Ob-Wan was thinking in absolute terms, amd he says that, is he saying he is a Sith?

        Same thing to you North.

        But I get that I am not coming off well here, especially on the heels of my kidney stealing policy.Report

        • North in reply to Shazbot5 says:

          The coming off part is more of what I was trying to get at than anything else Shazbot. To be honest I don’t mind absolutism even if I don’t usually have much of it myself.
          But if you look at our own GOP here in this country your last paragraph is very much the way they’ve been talking for around 20 some years and I don’t think it’d done them very much good.
          And for the record I think quite highly of you. So we argue a lot, I’m not Freddie in that I do believe in having disagreements to the left of me but I do remember when the League was mostly lukewarm libs like me and a lot of libertarians and a few arch conservatives so I’m happy you’re here.Report

          • Barry in reply to North says:

            “But if you look at our own GOP here in this country your last paragraph is very much the way they’ve been talking for around 20 some years and I don’t think it’d done them very much good.”

            I disagree; the elites have done very well from this. And considering that they’re losing demographically, they’re doing extremely well. They’ll probably be successfully living off of 2010 Tea Party gerrymandering in dozens of states right up through 2020.Report

            • North in reply to Barry says:

              Ah but the elites are not the GOP as a whole. Yes, the elites have been doing well if you count doing well as maintaining their personal power, personal positions and especially enhancing their personal wealth. But the GOP over all and the conservatism that has attached to it has been and is being devastated by this. The GOP overall is smaller with dimmer prospects for the future and less dynamic internal debate and learning capacity. That some of the elites are using the somnolent carcass of the GOP to get up the personal ladder doesn’t mean that this strategy/style has been good for the GOP overall.Report

          • Shazbot4 in reply to North says:

            Thanks North,

            I was just starting to feel like a jerk. You made me feel better. I respect your opinion.Report

  13. Jaybird says:

    There’s a lot of stuff in here that has echoes of the past. “Do you deny Global Warming?” “Do you deny Christ?”

    Is it enough to say “I don’t know whether anthropogenic global warming is happening or not, there are some criticisms of it that I don’t think have been fully addressed but if the white coats are in agreement, there’s probably something there”?

    Would that instead result in claims of equivocation on the part of those looking for purity?Report

    • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

      The key difference for me is whether or not we will use evidence gained from science as one tool to guide public policy. I’d say yes, but then that appears to make me look like i’m apparently searching for purity If the answer is no, then how do we deal with public policy that involves externalities and physical phenomenon? Using science gives me an answer to this question, what are the other options?Report

      • Kimsie in reply to greginak says:

        Doing whatever Koch (or Exxon) wants.

        • Will H. in reply to Kimsie says:

          All the tobacco studies that the company execs cited in testimony to Congress comes to mind.Report

          • greginak in reply to Will H. says:

            Were the cig company studies published in peer reviewed journals? I really don’t know. Were they?

            What led people to realize the cig companies were full of dookie?Report

            • Barry in reply to greginak says:

              “What led people to realize the cig companies were full of dookie?”

              The vast majority of the guys in white coats who systematically and slowly put together data, theory and repeat. I’m sure that you can still hire a couple of genuine Ph.D.’s to say otherwise, but only a couple.Report

              • greginak in reply to Barry says:

                Well yeah, i know. That is the point. It was scientists who called BS on the cig companies and then proved it.Report

              • Will H. in reply to greginak says:

                Actually, it was fairly common knowledge well before those studies that cigarettes were pretty bad for you.
                One of the items of evidence they used in a wrongful death suit was the line from the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! where the guy referred to cigarettes as “coffin nails.”

                It makes me wonder how much our society would be different if eating acid were as prevalent as smoking cigarettes.
                I don’t think Marvel is going to use that idea for an issue of What If . . . ? though.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Barry says:

                Exxon hired rather a lot. Through a lot of murky channels.Report

              • Barry in reply to Kimsie says:

                No, Exxon hired a few. Read ‘Merchants of Doubt’; one of the things which surprised me was how the same names resurfaced over the decades, as experts in whatever the guys paying the bills needed at the time. Start with tobacco, move to pollution, Star Wars, and Global Warming denial.Report

              • Barry in reply to Barry says:

                One of the things which peeves me is that people blithely invoke large numbers of relevant experts on the denialist side, when there aren’t. For example, on AGW, from what I’ve gathered it’s come down to Judith Curry and possibly some guy from MIT.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to Barry says:

                I get a bit peeved by the “AGW is pushed by a [implicit] conspiracy of climatologists, because of course they have to say that to get funding!”

                Followed by “Ergo, we should believe [insert Exxon-paid study here]”.

                Which neglects the fact that (1) money for public research isn’t exactly tied to specific ends and (2) the best way to become a super famous scientist is to buck the common view and (3) Lots of scientists try for (2) even when they can’t pull it off due to lack of evidence.

                And yet climatologists? All on the same page, and increasingly strident about it. Even the skeptical, slow-to-react sorts are blinking in confusion and going “Awww….crap”.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Barry says:

                Like everything else, there’s feuds and fights (more global warming, less global warming). It’s just… scientists know how to read a fucking trendline! AGW has better evidence on its side than GRAVITY (ya hafta come up with some awful esoteric Dark Matter to make a consistent gravity make sense).Report

              • George Turner in reply to Barry says:

                When half of the people you claim are denialists have sent me personal e-mails, I conclude you are arguing from vast ignorance, as if I claimed that only Al Gore and Big Bird on Sesame Street had ever published anything in favor of global warming.

                You might want to mention Freeman Dyson, Richard Lindzen, Singer, Soon, Svensmark, Spencer, and Scafeta, just off the top of my head, and many of the supporters are now expressing profound reservations because all the theoretical projections have failed miserably. The Earth’s temperature as now fallen through the bottom confidence interval of just about every projection every made by the IPCC or other organizations.

                Of course unlike real science, no refutation of global warming is even theoretically possible, so this doesn’t matter to believers.Report

              • Morat20 in reply to George Turner says:

                Dyson’s a physicist, and Lindzer is a really bad choice for you to quote.

                He’s quite onboard with CO2 as a greenhouse gas, as it causing global warming, and that excess levels are the result of human activity.

                He merely thinks this won’t be a problem, mostly because of a pet theory about longwave radiation counteracting warming that he’s gotten pretty much no one to buy into. (And now admits is based on some ‘stupid mistakes’ in his 2006? 2009? paper). So yeah, first two: A physicist and a guy who admits AGW is real, just who thinks a countervailing process will prevail.

                Good choices. 🙂 I do recognize Scafeta too — isn’t he the guy that says, effectively, “it’s all the sun” but won’t release his computer data?

                I believe Singer is an actual climate scientist — Soon, wasn’t his paper on solar variability (also not a climate scientist) so bad the review board actually resigned for letting it get published? (And this is an astronomy journal, not some climatology journal).Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                And there’s your problem. The alarmists actively conspire to force editors to resign if they don’t toe the line on the new dogma. Science isn’t supposed to work that way. Fundamentalist religions, however, do.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:

                There it is: the conspiracy theory.

                Mark the time. 5:16 pm. Climatology is a conspiracy, heade by the reverse vampires, in conjunction with the RAND corporation.

                We’re through the looking glass here, people.

                I advise not talking to George about this. He seems like a nice guy, but this is hardly the forum for conspiracy theories about 9/11, climatologists, Obama’s birth certificate, etc.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to George Turner says:

                “Dyson’s a physicist”

                No *True* Scot would deny the reality of Anthropogenic Global Warming.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:

                Jebus Heffman,

                When you want to know what the experts think, you look for a consensus amongst those experts. If I wanted to know about AIDS transmission, I wouldn’t ask a physicist. If I wanted to know about special relativity, I wouldn’t ask a biologist.

                Here’s a new survey that surveys only relevant experts (published scientists who write on climatology, not MD’s or dentists or economists or philosophers, etc.) and finds that over 97% accept anthropogenic global warming.

                “In the scientific field of climate studies – which is informed by many different disciplines – the consensus is demonstrated by the number of scientists who have stopped arguing about what is causing climate change – and that’s nearly all of them. A survey of 928 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subject ‘global climate change’ published between 1993 and 2003 shows that not a single paper rejected the consensus position that global warming is man caused (Oreskes 2004).

                A follow-up study by the Skeptical Science team of over 12,000 peer-reviewed abstracts on the subjects of ‘global warming’ and ‘global climate change’ published between 1991 and 2011 found that of the papers taking a position on the cause of global warming, over 97% agreed that humans are causing it (Cook 2013). The scientific authors of the papers were also contacted and asked to rate their own papers, and again over 97% whose papers took a position on the cause said humans are causing global warming.”


                Game over.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to George Turner says:

                First: “Not on the team” isn’t the same thing as “wrong”. If someone is so tremendously uninformed on a subject, then their errors should be easy to identify and describe. (PS “came to the ‘wrong’ conclusion” is not an error.)

                Second: I believe that item 22 on the peer-review checklist is “Verify that the paper is a serious piece of science. Does the paper agree with the truth of AGW? If not, then it is clearly not a serious science paper. Publication denied.”Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Shazbot, you said.

                Game over.

                The paper you cite says:

                Each abstract was categorized by two independent, anonymized raters.

                But the independent, anonymized raters happened to be mods at Skeptical Science. And then in their many discussions about doing the rating, one said, “We have already gone down the path of trying to reach a consensus through the discussions of particular cases. From the start we would never be able to claim that ratings were done by independent, unbiased, or random people anyhow.

                And as it turns out the raters weren’t anonymous, John Cook published their names and almost all of them happened to be the same people who published the paper.

                That’s your science right there.

                Combine that with the fact that proof through consensus is anathema to the whole concept of the scientific process, and it’s easy to understand why NASA engineers, planetary scientists, physicists, and many climatologists don’t think global warming, as practices, is even remotely connected to science.Report

              • This is Pat, borrowing the wife’s computer.

                George, I know lots of people that work at JPL and at SpaceX. Planetary physicists are the meat and potatoes at Caltech.

                Most NASA scientists, rocket engineers, and planetary physicists are right on board with AGW, and to characterize it otherwise is disingenuous. Also kind of funny, since you keep saying that consensus doesn’t matter.

                If consensus doesn’t matter, why do the Anti-AGW people keep claiming AGW people for their own?Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Did you ever watch Burt Rutan’s hour-long video takedown of Global Warming science? The problem is that the math just isn’t there, nor are the methods, nor the integrity and a host of other things we commonly expect in science.

                And again, the problem is that they never bothered to establish why warming would be bad if cooling was also bad, creating the issue of us just happening to be alive when the climate was absolutely perfect, like we were balanced on a knife-edge of doom (which brings up a host of famous sermons).

                It’s the unexamined, reflexive assumptions that cause the most trouble, and one of those is that if mankind changes the environment, it must be called ______. Almost every Westerner would scribble in “damage” as the answer without any thought whatsoever. That’s what happened. The solution is of course to repent and forswear our sinful ways, donning sackcloth and ashes collectively to atone and try to appease the gods and win back their favor. There is not much science in it.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:


                The data is all published, IIRC. Go back and see if you can find a paper (or enough to invalidate the conclusion) that has (have) been miscategorized.

                Good luck trying.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                Burt Rutan is, to put it mildly, full of shit. Brian Angliss handed him his hat.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Shazbot, I watched that one get shredded the day it was published. Cooke is a joke. The paper goes on to cite Oreskes who even “the Team” think is an idiot (and said so in their e-mails). And, as I said, anyone who thinks counting papers (badly) is science doesn’t know anything about science.

                A bit part of the problem is that the climate alarmists don’t act like scientists. They conspire to silence their critics and fire editors who don’t treat them favorably (yes, they did that, and talked at length about it in the e-mails from the University of East Anglia, both batches of which were released). They commit identity theft and fraud to try to discredit their opponents (and are dumb enough to get caught at it). They torture data to try to force confessions out of it (and get ripped apart by the mathematical community). They try to argue that science is somehow conducted by a show of hands, as if they’ve never even had a class in the basic philosophy and practice of science (much less rules of ethical conduct).

                None of that would be remotely necessary if they actually had honest data that showed what they claimed. These are but some of the many behaviors and problems that are making more and more scientists skeptical. Real science doesn’t act like that.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to George Turner says:


                They don’t argue by authority. They write papers. I cite their papers as an argument from authority.

                The email conspiracy thing has been thoroughly debunked and you should know that.

                I suspect that you cannot be engaged on this and are immune to evidence and logic. Hopefully, if we all ridicule you, you’ll stop, or (more plausibly) at least there won’t be more people who believe like you over time.Report

              • George Turner in reply to George Turner says:

                Shazbot, please explain how the e-mail’s were “debunked.” They can’t be frauds because the scientists involved admitted they were real.

                And please, evidence and logic is the only thing that will sway me, not pseudo religious dogma about saving the kittens – or whatever. I’ve been reading CAGW papers and debates almost daily for about 15 years now. So have experts like Judith Curry who finds them unconvincing, and who is pushing for changes in how scientists conduct business to prevent further abuses.

                In other news, here’s a lay New Scientist article about a just-released paper by a whole bunch of lead authors on the upcoming IPCC AR5 report. (Am I the only one in this thread that actually reads those when they come out?)

                They’ve used new data and dialed the transient climate sensitivity down by 30%, to 1.3C, and dropped equilibrium climate sensitivity down to 2.0 C. The UK Met offices climate model’s transient sensitivity is 0.5C above the 95% confidence interval of the new estimate, and all of the CMIP5 models use sensitivities that are higher.

                As time goes on and the Earth’s temperature continues to stubbornly defy their predictions, they’ll have to dial the sensitivity estimates down still further to avoid more embarrassing graphs like the one the BBC was flaunting, showing how the planet’s temperature was about to drop below the low range of all the IPCC estimates going back all the way to 1991.

                In other words, the “scientists” you claim to support are moving to my position, but under duress due to the planet’s maddeningly disobedient temperatures.

                Oh, and here is one of the many take-downs of the “97% consensus”. Cook posted the raw data, and you can check his results for yourself. 65 papers in his sample, by his own count, strongly supported global warming. 78 disputed it. They were rated from 1 to 7 and you can count the categories yourself.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                This AGW thing has gone too far. Burt Rutan’s case has been demolished.


                This has become absurd. You refused to define a number of key terms. You ignored calls to explain inconsistencies in your own statements and between slides in your January 2011 presentation. You failed to acknowledge that I and others have made logical arguments that counter your own preconceived notions. You shifted goal posts several times on various subjects and appear to be in the process of trying to walk back your own claims about the hockey stick graph (“fraud” to “bias” to “deceiving”).

                And simply claiming, as you did in #304 above, that you are making changes to your presentation based on these comments isn’t good enough – it’s a breach of blog etiquette to say “you’ll all get answers in X months when I publish my updated presentation” without answering the charges in the comment thread itself. But more than that, it’s a breach of your own professional duty as an ethical engineer too. Any time I’ve made a mistake in my career, I’ve owned up to it and personally informed everyone who was impacted by my mistake, and I apologized if an apology was warranted. I expect that you demanded the same from your people when you worked at Scaled Composites, and I expect the same from you.

                Any further argument casting doubts on AGW are to be considered crankery. There is no saving Burt Rutan’s argument. I’m sick of League tolerating this sort of ongoing crap from the same crank customers, over and over. That means you, George. And you, Heffman. Either you come up with an alternate explanation of what’s happening to climate patterns which excludes human-generated CO2 as the cause — or STFU.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

                People are going to die (and a lot of them) because we can’t get our fucking shit together. Folks like these, who insist on sticking their heads in the sand, are part of the problem. But the bigger problem is that we would even consider genocide to be a potential answer.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                Kim, I think I’m about to leave League permanently, so I’m getting a few things out of my craw before I sign off. I kinda disgraced myself a while back and I lack any cred around here. I have other things to do with my life. I’ve wasted too much time here.

                But I’m really getting tired of your flavour, too. League has become a porch light with a host o’ cranks buzzing around it like so many irritating gnats and mosquitoes. Maybe League was always this way. Doubtless, I’m considered a crank, too. There’s a difference, I would hope: I did my research, at least for the posts I wrote.

                Too much heat, too little light. I woke up in the middle of the night and went through this post. This is the sort of post which gets all the comments. The stuff I write gets some nice kudos — but nobody has anything much to say. Chris Carr wrote something based on what I said, zero fucking comments.

                But a big old greasy mess like this, 490+ comments. If some chemist could extract the essence of it, they could sell it down at the Sporting Goods Store as Crank Bait. Sure get more strikes. Just not from fish.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to George Turner says:

                Wish you’d stay. Trollish posts always get all the comments. It’s the mark of a good post (and a solid argument) when you don’t get many.Report

              • North in reply to George Turner says:

                BP, I’d like to echo K in that I would be enormously grieved if you departed. It’s your decision of course but I hope you choose to stay. Maybe take a break if you wish, no one will gainsay you, but don’t go all together.

                All kinds of posts draw lots of posts, the commentariate loves to argue and we’re all collectively like nervous mice on the internet, we like to cuddle up and cluster to the heat but bright light makes us uncomfortable and doesn’t have much to debate.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                I don’t buy that conclusion. Solid posts around here don’t get any comments because the current commentariat prefers fulminating Dreckscheisse of the Populist Sort. This place doesn’t need better writers, there are plenty of good writers around here. This place needs to clean out the Augean Stables of its Chattering Class.Report

              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                L’enfer, c’est les autres.

                That said, if it makes you feel better about yourself to just insult the people here and storm off in a fit of self-pity, more power to ya. Good luck on your quest to find a place on the internet where the people are worthy of you.Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                Oh, this isn’t Goodbye Cruel League. Nor is it self-pity. It’s a plain statement of fact: the commentariat here is replete with atrocious cranks. And the leadership here goddamn well knows it. And nothing’s going to be done about it — certainly not by you, Chris. Make of that statement what you will.Report

              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                Blaise, like I said, more power to ya. I know this is something you do periodically — decide that the current home of your writing isn’t good enough for you or the writing, and storm off in a huff. It’s your thing, I get that. It helps you feel better about yourself. It’s a shame that, in order to do it, you have to insult the people with whom you’ve spent the what, last 2 or 3 years conversing (and what does that say about you, that you’ve spent the last 2 or 3 years with a bunch of cranks?), but whatever gets you through the day.

                And I’m not sure if you’re calling me a crank, there, or implying that the management thinks of me as one, but I can’t imagine I’d be worried about if if you were or they did. I’m pretty secure in who I am, which is why I don’t feel the need to periodically kick up a cloud of insults and self-pity and then storm off like a 6-year old on the playground. Bon voyage (see ya in a couple weeks).Report

              • BlaiseP in reply to George Turner says:

                You know, Chris, everyone knows that line from Sartre, l’enfer, c’est les autres And I’ll bet my socks you haven’t read another line of it or even know where it’s from. Let me put another little quote in, from Huis Clos.

                Seuls les actes décident de ce qu’on a voulu. alors ce qu’on est! On a rien d’autre que sa vie, que l’ensemble de ses actes!

                I will not be hectored on the subject of how six year olds act, certainly not by you. I see enough childish crap around here. You may translate the above passage at your leisure, if your French is good enough and derive what meaning you may from it. But you will not quote “l’enfer c’est les autres” without remembering it. I’ve brought my friends around here from other places I’ve written at, in hopes they’d stay. To a person, they’re repulsed by the idiocy of the commentariat.

                Defend your cranks, poor senseless, witless creatures that they are. Someone has to, I suppose. Might as well be you.Report

              • Barry in reply to George Turner says:

                George: “When half of the people you claim are denialists have sent me personal e-mails, I conclude you are arguing from vast ignorance, as if I claimed that only Al Gore and Big Bird on Sesame Street had ever published anything in favor of global warming.”

                Jeez. Are these people also posting the internal e-mail correspondence of the NDSAP?Report

              • Chris in reply to George Turner says:

                Blaise, I won’t pretend to be better read than you, but I will note that I have used the screen name “NoExit” for just about every game and forum I’ve played or participated in since I was 17.Report

              • Michael Drew in reply to George Turner says:


                2 or 3 things.

                1) I wish you’d stay. I know that won’t affect your decision, but it would be good for this place if you did. (It would even be good for it if you and Hanley could try to patch things up – in my view your fights were always good for the League, even if the cost to each of you was too high to ask you each to bear it. I’m not asking that; I’m just saying that the problem your interactions actually cause for the League in my view was always overstated.)

                2) For you to actually say out loud (as it were) that you disgraced yourself (I have no idea what that refers to) is incredibly humble, and big. Whatever it is that left you feeling this way, I feel like I can say with confidence that, if you were willing to let it, by and large the League will (if it hasn’t already) readily move past that and welcome you back, so long as, if there was an issue of some kind with your conduct that you acknowledge, you commit to working to address it. (I’m not saying this is something you should want to do. I’m just saying I suspect that you may be overestimating whatever reputational effect the incident in question actually with the People of The League. I’m also, obviously, not speaking in any way for management here, and whatever I say does not withstand whatever they say or have said that it contradicts.)

                3. To the particular question at issue in this thread, and the great degree of engagement over it in comments: there is a historical context here at the League in which these questions have to be situated to be understood. The intellectual currents and cleavages here have, since the very beginning, ensured that these issue, when they arose, would always be contentious and enthusiastically joined. It’s just that they have had a smaller place on the menu of topics that are highlighted here for, well, probably going on three years now. But this question of – actually famed almost exactly as the title of Mike’s post does here – were, for the first couple of years of the League, among the most hotly debated of all topics. The cast of characters doing the representing has changed significantly since then, but the representation of the viewpoints has stayed remarkably stable since then. This thread is a remarkable echo of what was discussed here three and more years ago, with a new name standing in for many of the people who would have voiced similar views.

                Maybe that doesn’t change your opinion of the current composition of the commentariat, but I hope it puts this thread in some context. And I hope you keep in mind that the citizenry here is an ever-shifting thing, and if you don’t like it this month, you can always check back in two or three. It might well be that a break is a good thing for you right now, but I hope you’ll allow the possibility that your sense that it will be a permanent break not a temporary one, is, however sincerely felt, not a perfectly prescient view of all the possibilities for you at the League. Your voice is one that benefits discussions here at the League (as is James Hanley’s, though I feel he doesn’t need us to say that to him and would rather I didn’t – that’s why I didn’t when he made the same announcement that you are making today). The fact that everyone makes mistakes and that perhaps you may made some yourself during your time here doesn’t change that.

                I wish you the best.Report

              • Jim Heffman in reply to George Turner says:

                Didn’t you already leave the League permanently a couple of times already?Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to George Turner says:

                Hell is people who say “l’enfer, c’est les autres”.Report

    • Kimsie in reply to Jaybird says:

      I’d count you on my side, Jay, and you know it.
      Because that’s the reasonable idea to have, if you haven’t done the research itself.Report

    • Shazbot5 in reply to Jaybird says:

      Jebus help us.

      So telling people “Denying X is foolish” is always wrong, no matter what we substitute for X?

      Quit looking for purity on the question of whether the earth is flat or whether we really did lamd on the moon.


      • Barry in reply to Shazbot5 says:

        Yes, if you don’t respect conservatives’ oh-so-fragile feelings, you are *oppressing* them!

        That’s what it’s come down to.

        Again and again and again, the right practices Freudian project – when they accuse others of something, it’s something that they do themselves (far more often and far worse). In this case, it looks like their accusations about touchy-feelly liberals prize egos over knowledge is something that they do themselves.Report

        • Shazbot5 in reply to Barry says:

          Yeah, these worries about tone are misplaced.

          Global warming denialism and YEC don’t deserve or need to be treated with nice rhetoric. Neutral rhetoric is fine: “obvioulsy false and unfounded.” Ridicule is warranted here as long as we’re nice to the sinners and not the sinful idea.

          I like some people (in my family) who, I suspect, happen to think that a large percentage of gay people are pedophiles. Love them, but their beliefs are pernicious, as a re false beliefs about global warming and YEC.Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

          One interesting thing here is our assumption that when we criticize creationism, we’re criticizing Republicans. We ignore its Democratic and independent contingent.

          Part of this is because Republican politicians have taken this baton and run with it while Democratic politicians rightly distance themselves from it. But some 30-40% of Democrats and liberals are on the wrong side of this. Which is lower than Republicans and independents, but not insignificant.Report

        • Shazbot5 in reply to Barry says:

          I suspect that is a largely conservative and southern Democratic contingent that believes in evolution.

          But yes, these claims like “liberals believe X” or “conservatives do Y” are pretty gross generalizations.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to Jaybird says:

      For what it’s worth, what you describe in the second paragraph is more-or-less my stated view, and I get comparatively little pushback from more strident believers of AGW.

      Now, where the rubber hits the roads, what policies I support to mitigate this threat, my views have shifted back and forth (from not doing anything due to a lack of certainty, to doing something, to a belief that collective action is possible and a skepticism towards unilateral economic disarmament). That’s where I get, or don’t get, criticism from the stridents.Report

      • Barry in reply to Will Truman says:

        “For what it’s worth, what you describe in the second paragraph is more-or-less my stated view, and I get comparatively little pushback from more strident believers of AGW.”

        Do you use the word ‘strident’ when talking about heliocentrists?Report

        • Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

          Huh. Well I guess Jaybird had a point. There are people who are primarily on the lookout for heretics and basic agreement isn’t sufficient if you use the wrong adjective.

          Duly noted.

          Not that “strident” actually is the wrong word, here. It’s a reference to volume and demeanor, and not a reference to strength of belief.Report

          • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

            When someone denies the Heliocentric model of the solar system in favor of the Ptolomeic, guven the data we have, you should use the same volume that is used against creationists.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              The volume you should deploy, and how you handle it more generally, depends on what you’re after, I suppose.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:


                To shame people who believe things that are intensely foolish like 9/11 trutherism, birtherism, the Ptolomeic model of the solar system, YEC, and AGW denialism you need a somewhat harsh tone. All of these views should be shamed, yes.


                I have addressed the dangers of believeing YEC (or denying macroevolution) elsewhere.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I don’t think all those situations warrant the same response. Or, perhaps I should say, I don’t think the same response to all of those is tactically productive. So if productivity changing minds is the goal, I don’t think shaming is always the ideal response to all foolish beliefs.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Will Truman says:

                Why won’t ridicule and shame work against the global warming deniers as well as it would the birthers and truthers.

                Should we engage the birthers and truthers more? (I am sure that you have tried this, as we all have, and discovered engagment doesn’t work.)

                Should we engage the global warming deniers more?

                I’m sorry that sounded snarky. I didn’t mean it to. Wanted to hear why you think ridicule is appropriate/valuable in the one case and not the other, or whether you think engaging conspiracy nuts is valuable. (I’ll remind you George has already mentioned a conspiracy once, and he is the only person defending the facts of denialism here.)Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I’m not sure the shaming against the birthers did actually work. The number of believers outstripped the evidence of their belief to the millionth power. To the extent that it did work, it’s because they were a minority within the general population.

                Ultimately, the argument against shame in this regard is that for shaming to work, the shamed cannot afford to be able to say “Screw you!”

                The polls simply do not support AGW to create the social force for that to be the case. Less than 50% believe that there is global warming and that it is mostly caused by humans. We’re still in “screw you” territory, regardless of the evidence.

                And the other reason I am skeptical of the tactic is personal. I came around to believing AGW belatedly. You know what didn’t convince me? Shaming. Being called moron or worse. Maybe I was a moron or worse! But that’s a lousy way to convince someone, especially when there is social room to say “screw you.”

                What did convince me was Ron Bailey basically laying out the evidence. It was easy to ignore the people who’d call me names for expressing doubts. It was harder to ignore to ignore Bailey, who was specifically catering to a skeptical argument.

                So at this juncture, I believe that the best approach is to hammer home the research and respond to the criticisms substantively. I’m not saying that critics of AGW-denialism don’t do that, but some don’t and some litter what they’re saying with unhelpful contempt (or shaming).Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                I’m with Alinsky on this one.

                “Ridicule is man’s (and woman’s) most potent weapon.”Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                But I recognize that I haven’t established that Alinsky and I are correct on this, and it would be a big thing to do that, probably too big for this old, solitary robot from the future.Report

              • Roger in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Glad you brought up Alinsky. I recently read Rules for Radicals. Awesome insights into his way of thinking. Lots of focus on the oppressor/oppressed paradigm.

                A liberal should do a post on his thought, or lead a book study. Fascinating stuff.Report

              • Kimsie in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                close, but no cigar.
                Creativity is man’s greatest weapon, and ridicule merely a sideshow.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot5 says:

                Shaming people for believing the wrong ideas seems like an incredibly illiberal and immoral thing to do. At best its an act of pointless cruelty; at worst, a desire for forced conformity.

                Shaming people for forcing the wrong ideas on people, or for lying to get other people to believe the wrong ideas, or for shaming people for not believing them? That makes sense to me, but just for believing? What the hell would you hope to accomplish, other than to alienate people who think differently form you?Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Chris says:

                I did not understand these arguments until I understood that they were *RELIGIOUS* arguments.Report

              • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

                A post I did find (but wish I hadn’t) from my old blogging days with Seed, when I was looking for the examples Stillwater asked for upthread somewhere, involved me calling a certain type of atheist “fundamentalist atheists.” That didn’t go over well.

                Ugh, doing another quick Google search, it looks like I did that several times back then. I have no idea what I thought I would accomplish.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

                You were planting seeds, dude.

                The Enlightenment works, if you let it.Report

              • Shazbot3 in reply to Chris says:

                I mean shame in the sense of how it is shameful to believe that gay people are very likely to be pedophiles. It is fine to be wrong. But to be so ignorant is shameful.

                Maybe shame is too strong a word. But you should feel the effect of ridicule and societal disapproval if you believe that global warming isn’t real or that evolution is wrong or that gay people are harmful to society or that cigarettes aren’t bad for you. You should feel a touch of embarrassment.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                What is the embarrassment supposed to accomplish? I mean, if they are feeling it, they recognize that they’re wrong, and therefore don’t believe what they’re supposed to be embarrassed about (I can imagine feeling embarrassed at once believing something silly, as I feel such embarrassment all too frequently). Or perhaps they’re embarrassed because other people have made them feel like fools and idiots for believing what they think to be is right, in which case, the most likely outcome is resentment and entrenchment. So, either you’ve already convinced them, and embarrassment is unnecessary (and pointlessly cruel), or you’ve made it even more difficult to convince them that they’re wrong.

                I just have a hard time believing that the shame and embarrassment you want them to feel is more for you than for them.

                Also, conflating YEC and the belief that pedophilia and adult male homosexuality are the same is a dishonest rhetorical ploy. While neither hurts anyone if it’s merely believed, the former doesn’t hurt anyone even if it’s voiced, while the latter certainly can. Shaming people for spreading misinformation about historically marginalized and persecuted people is a good thing. Shaming people for believing something wrong, simply because it is wrong, is something entirely different.Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                That should read:

                I just have a hard time believing that the shame and embarrassment you want them to feel isn’t more for you than for them.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Should people who deny the germ theory of diseases be ridiculed and embarrassed (At least a little bit)?

                I have argued elsewhere herein that global warming denial and evolution denial are harmful, and the harm is analogous to what would happen if you denied the germ theory of diseases.

                Or what about Scientology’s outright denial of psychiatry? (I mean, they aren’t justs skeptical about some aspects of psychiatry as many are.) What about belief in Dianetics. Aren’t these silly things that a person should be embarrassed about believing?Report

              • Chris in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Again, I see nothing that can come of embarrassing them, for the reasons I mentioned already.

                Granted, I see nothing harmful about belief in YEC. All of the YECers I’ve known in the last 20 years, and I’d bet a lot of money that I’ve known more than you, have believed in microevolution, so drug-resistant bacteria are not a problem. Few of them were politically active, so they weren’t advocating for the teaching of the “controversy” in public schools in any practically significant way (they might have said they’d be in favor of it, but that’s about as meaningful as me saying I’m in favor of giving everyone a cookie when they cross in the crosswalk). They do teach it to their children, but demanding that they not do so would be to start down a road that leads to some dangerous places (shaming them for doing so takes us pretty close to that road, too). I certainly haven’t seen it be an impediment to their children leading lives of quality. So where is the harm in believing it? When it gets to political action to force teaching it in schools? Then we can talk.

                Now, the germ theory is interesting, because the behavior that comes out of that, as opposed to YEC (or ID, or any other form of mainstream creationism), can be quite harmful in very obvious ways: not getting treated with modern medicine (harmful to oneself, and to others potentially as a carrier of infectious diseases), and not letting one’s children get treated, falls pretty directly out of such a belief, and that’s quite harmful. This is something different.

                If you want to start talking about the preachers, which is what you’re getting into in your talk about Scientology (anti-psychiatry beliefs can be harmful in ways similar to not believing in the germ theory, but let’s face it, it’s not much more harmful than the fairly mainstream stigmatization of mental illness), then again we’re onto a different subject, though there are nuances here too that make a blanket call for shaming problematic.

                Also, here’s another thing to consider. I’ve known several, and I mean several YECs who have spent much of their adult lives reading about, thinking about, talking about, and debating about, modern biology. You’re not a biologist, are you? If not, I’d wager that you haven’t spent a significant amount of time studying biology, at least since college. So I’d wager that some of the YECs I’ve known know a hell of a lot more about biology in general, and evolutionary biology in particular, than you (than me, too, and I do read a fair amount of biology, hell I’ve read Dawkins and Gould and Mayr, and I have a copy of Current Biology somewhere on my desk). In this case, they’re wrong, despite being more knowledgeable, because they’ve let other things influence what evidence they put weight on and what evidence they don’t, but they’ve done the work. Most of the people arguing here and elsewhere in such vehement and often counterproductive ways, that evolution is the only right way to think, and that the people who don’t accept it as fact should be shamed, came to that position through other people who’ve done the work. I just don’t have much respect for people like that.

                Being right is one thing. Deciding what beliefs are acceptable for everyone, even when many of the people who believe those things aren’t harming anyone in the process, and when most of you probably couldn’t even explain why the acceptable belief is acceptable in any real detail, is just a really, really bad and potentially harmful way to approach the world.Report

              • Shazbot5 in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Evolution denying (even macroevolution denying) makes you less likely to believe that climate change will be problematic.

                That alone is enough to call it dangerous.

                Bit all false beliefs should not be believed precisely because we don’t know how they will be dangerous in the future.Report

              • Murali in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Shaz, I’m sure the association is just tribal. After all, wouldn’t the opposite have a better story to tell? i.e. that if macroevolution is impossible*, then there is no way we could adapt to different climate conditions even if we give ourselves enough time.

                *Assume counterfactuallyReport

              • Patrick in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                Evolution denying (even macroevolution denying) makes you less likely to believe that climate change will be problematic.

                This is one of those times when the correlation is not causation thing jumps out at me.

                If you’re not inclined to do the work of rigorous evaluation, you’re the type of person who will believe lots of things due to lots of trust relationships that don’t have anything to do with science.

                You’re probably going to believe some things because this person told you, and you trust them because they’re a figure you trust, and some things because that person told you, and you trust them because they’re a figure that you trust.

                But the underlying thing going on isn’t religion poisoning your mind or woo making your brain soft, it’s the way you establish your trust relationships.

                I don’t think that this means that YEC people will be less likely to believe AGW. I think this means that YEC people will be the sort of people who accept religious authority figures as better authorities than guys in lab coats, and they’ll act accordingly.

                Like Chris says elsewhere on this thread, attacking their belief in AGW with shame… is attacking their trust relationship with the person that they trust, and it’s not likely to lead to results. Thinking “Oh, if I could just make them believe evolution, they’d believe global warming!’ misunderstands the nature of how they construct trust relationships in their heads.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to Shazbot3 says:

                The great thing about science is that it works.

                It’s testable, repeatable, and you can do stuff like “predict what’s going to happen”. Hell, if you predict wrong, you don’t take it personally because, hey, now you know how it *DOESN’T* work. Set up a new hypothesis and get to testing.

                If someone refuses to look in the telescope, then they refuse to look in the telescope. That’s fine. Publish anyway. Let peers review. Make predictions.

                If the predictions are wrong, set up a new hypothesis and get to testing.

                The second you inject “feelings” into any of that, you’re straying away from science… EVEN IF YOU GIVE THE RIGHT ANSWERS ON THE MULTIPLE CHOICE TEST. Science isn’t about asking O’Brien how many lights there are and then repeating it and mocking people for disagreeing with O’Brien.

                It’s about counting the lights.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Shazbot5 says:

              I know that some old naval guys argue for the Ptolemaic model as more useful for navigation. It allows for shortcuts that Heliocentrism doesn’t.

              Now, the flat-earthers? Their viewpoint isn’t even useful.Report

          • Barry in reply to Will Truman says:

            “Huh. Well I guess Jaybird had a point. There are people who are primarily on the lookout for heretics and basic agreement isn’t sufficient if you use the wrong adjective.”

            Bull fucking shit. Please stop lying.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Barry says:

              I trust everyone is now aware of the dynamics that, perhaps magically, appear in any given discussion between the people who have science on their side and the stupid, credulous people who do not.Report

            • Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

              Well, let’s see. I just made a comment demonstrating a perspective friendly to the belief in AGW and defending the notion that most strident AGW are in fact quite reasonable as long as you’re not really against them.

              Your response? Take issue with the adjective I used while defending your side.

              I really don’t know what else to say.Report

              • Barry in reply to Will Truman says:

                No, you demonstrated that when you dishonestly put words in my mouth, I don’t like it and will call you on it.Report

              • Will Truman in reply to Barry says:

                Did I or did I not write a post describing AGW supporters as being generally reasonable?

                Did you or did you not respond with criticism of an adjective I used?

                That struck me as just the kind of antagonism that I was talking about generally not being there. Your comment seemed to undermine my point, which I found kind of irritating. If my reading of your comment was uncharitable, that’s largely why.Report

  14. Barry says:

    Frankly, I’m amazed at this post, and the post Mike links back to. The reason that conservatives had problems with science comes down to science frequently says things that they don’t want to hear.Report

  15. Shazbot5 says:

    YEC and even macroevolution denialism are dangerous.

    Suppose we have to make a decision about whether some plague will wipe us out and we need to take action of such and such sort. The denialists say that God will evolve us forward so that we survive, because God determines macroevolution and he has intervened. Or the ID people will say that Nature/God’s design is that we live, so we will survive.

    I have heard people say that they aren’t worried about the possible (highly likely) impacts of climate change because God designed the world to work this way and so he wouldn’t let it fail to work this way, so we are safe. By contrast, if you believe in evolution (or macroevolution) you know that abrupt changes in environment can have disastrous consequences on species, including humans.Report

  16. Barry says:

    It’s interesting to observe the parallels between this post and the ‘Why Conservatives Can’t Win Non-White Votes, Heritage Foundation Edition’. A bunch of commenters came in like they had a duty to live down to right-wing stereotypes.Report

  17. Wardsmith says:

    Mike you’ve written a very controversial post which has elicited a very large number of (and counting) comments. Good job! I was wondering if you had read and/or considered The Genesis Enigma?

    At least when I went to school (parochial and Jesuit) the priests quite literally laughed at the young earth creationists and in their amusing way poked fun at all the stupidities of “the Protestants”. The entire young earth story only gained steam in the 17th century with the wide adoption of the Calvinist Bishop Usshers’s prognostications in a widely disseminated version of the Bible. I still remember Father M. reading aloud from his treatise to howls of laughter from the class. So let us not bunch Catholics (which I once was) in with less-informed Christians. Even Jesus said a day to God /could be/ as a thousand years to man. An eternal being would not be constrained by our linear time system whatsoever. In fact I’m counting on God transcending time/space or frankly he wouldn’t be much of a God.Report

  18. Mike Dwyer says:


    I’m commenting here to address your complaints upthread about this being a sub-par posts and you’re prose not getting enough attention:

    I write plenty of stuff that doesn’t get a lot of page views. Or a lot of comments. I write those for me and if other people like them, great. Sometimes I also like to write posts like this which are pretty off-the-cuff and just a snapshot of my opinion at any given moment. As soon as I hit ‘publish’ I knew the post would see some good traffic. 2,000+ visits later I think I was right. The reason people are visiting is not because what I wrote was brilliant. To the contrary you have made it clear in multiple comments that you think it is drivel and you are entitled to that opinion. But what I wrote provides two things that are key to blogging 1) Accessibility and 2) A conversation starter. It doesn’t require a master’s degree in philosophy or literature to read my posts. This one throws out a few points and then the conversation happened organically. Clearly you don’t like where those different threads went but the point is that people are talking and that was my goal.

    I’m sure your posts are brilliant and deserve a wide audience but I rarely make it through the first couple of paragraphs. As soon as you start using non-English terminology or quoting classic texts that I haven’t read, I check out. I suspect many readers do the same. And many of your comments are similar. This latest one makes my point well:

    ”You know, Chris, everyone knows that line from Sartre, l’enfer, c’est les autres And I’ll bet my socks you haven’t read another line of it or even know where it’s from. Let me put another little quote in, from Camera.

    Seuls les actes décident de ce qu’on a voulu. alors ce qu’on est! On a rien d’autre que sa vie, que l’ensemble de ses actes!

    I don’t know that quote. Either that means you are smarter than us or this isn’t the right forum for you if you want to write that stuff AND get a lot of feedback. Or come off like an arrogant ass. I value your comments when they are polite and I can understand them, but if you’re going to stick around you may just have to dumb things down for the rest of us morons. If you’re going to leave, just go.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      Ask ol’ Chris. He didn’t furnish a translation, either. Maybe he can help you along with a crib.

      Do you need everything Neil DeGrasse Tyson-ified, as you would tell us Liberals we must do, the better that the complex maybe rendered nice ‘n simple, cut up as a parent might cut up a bit of steak for a toddler? You will not get such treatment from me. I am all through raising children.

      English is my second language. I write what comes to mind, off the cuff, as you say. If I quote, I also translate. I didn’t this time, precisely because Chris didn’t bother to furnish a translation either. If I don’t get many comments, mercifully I don’t attract cranks, either. A small, saving grace, I suppose. Arrogant ass I might be — oh let’s be frank, Dwyer you can call me an arrogant ass and I’ll take that as a compliment, considering the source. Anyone who calls me an arrogant ass only confirms what I’ve been saying, that League is infested with cranks and one-note johnnies. And your stuff seems to attract the most of ’em.Report

      • Shazbot4 in reply to BlaiseP says:

        Yeah, quoting French philosophy to a guy who goes by the name “Blaise Pascal” is probably going to result in him quoting French philosophy back at you.

        Anytime someone calls someone else pretentious (or anything to that effect) for quoting something interesting and obscure, I hear George Bush’s voice and the seething love of ignorance.Report

        • Mike Dwyer in reply to Shazbot4 says:

          Shazbot – you miss my point. I could care less if Blaise wants to quote French philosophers or talk about anything else. One of the beauties of this site is that the authors are given carte blanche to write about whatever they want. Where I lose my patience with his complaints is when he writes what he wants and then complains about all of us not being smart enough to appreciate his brilliance or respond at the same intellectual level he thinks he deserves. THAT is arrogance. Behind the scenes I think all of us who write here have joked about how are best work goes ignored and throw-away posts generate hundreds of hits. It’s an old quirk of blogging. What I have never seen though is one writer complaining that his intelligent posts don’t get the same traffic as another post which he openly calls stupid. THAT is arrogance.Report

          • Shazbot4 in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

            It is true that it is a shame we don’t spend more time on the good posts, and on his good posts.

            It won’t change, but it is a shame.

            I think he thinks we are smart enough, but we are intentionally avoiding working to improve our knowledge, and are instead posting crappy debate points. I disagree to a degree, but he’s not entirely wrong.

            Is Blaise high on himself? Yes. IMO, he should be. He knows more about a lot than a lot of us. Is he crazy wrong sometimes and unfair in how he argues? Sure. But he knows a hell of a lot and shouldn’t pretend that he shouldn’t be proud about that.

            You should be impressed by Blaise. “Smarter” is the wrong word (“knowledgeable” is probably better), but in a way, he is smarter than us.

            I took 10 years getting a PhD and I don’t know half the shit he does.Report

            • Mike Dwyer in reply to Shazbot4 says:


              Intelligence is all relative. Many of my coworkers barely graduated from high school. I have two college degrees. But I don’t remind them of that gap because it doesn’t promote good relationships. I’m not disputing Blaise’s intelligence. I’m saying he has a problem with flaunting it. He can post whatever he wants here but he apparently also wants more attention for his writing. That is ego talking.Report