May 17 2016

John Horgan is “Skeptical of Skeptics”

NECSS2016This past weekend at NECSS 2016 we invited science journalist John Horgan to give a talk on “Skepticism: Hard Versus Soft Targets.” We’re always game for some critical introspection. It keeps things interesting if nothing else.

Unfortunately the talk, which he has now published on Scientific American’s website (which means it’s fair game), was more than a bit disappointing – not because he was critical, but because he does not seem to get skepticism with a small or a big “S.” The result was a string of cherry picked strawmen.

He begins:

“I hate preaching to the converted. If you were Buddhists, I’d bash Buddhism. But you’re skeptics, so I have to bash skepticism.”

That makes you a contrarian, not a skeptic. How about telling it like it is? Most ideas and movements are a mix of good and bad, and it often takes some effort and nuance to tease this apart. Or, you can just “bash” an entire philosophy simplistically because you fancy yourself an independent thinker. There is also nothing wrong with “preaching” to the choir – it’s not about conversion, but education.

He continues:

I’m a science journalist. I don’t celebrate science, I criticize it, because science needs critics more than cheerleaders. I point out gaps between scientific hype and reality. That keeps me busy, because, as you know, most peer-reviewed scientific claims are wrong.

Keep in mind, he titled the written version of his talk, “Dear “Skeptics,” Bash Homeopathy and Bigfoot Less, Mammograms and War More.” He is explicitly addressing skeptics and telling us what to do. When you do something like this, with all its presumption, be sure to know what you are talking about.

Specifically, don’t pat yourself on the back for pointing something out to someone, as if you are teaching them something new, when they have been shouting the exact same points for years. It makes you look intellectually lazy and extremely foolish.

Really – most science reporting is hype? That’s practically a weekly segment on the SGU. Most scientific claims are wrong you say? I must have missed that the first 30 times I wrote about it.

I wonder who these cheerleaders are he is talking about. Wait – does he think that skeptics are mindless cheerleaders for anything presented by the media as science? Does he confuse media reporting of science with the science itself? That can’t be because he is a science journalist. As he says:

“I’m a science journalist. I don’t celebrate science, I criticize it, because science needs critics more than cheerleaders.”

This is what we “skeptics” call a false dichotomy. You can simultaneously be a cheerleader for science, advocating scientific methodology, the power of science when it is done right, and marvel at the findings of science, and criticize bad science, problems with the institutions of science, and poor science reporting. As an example, see just about any skeptical podcast or blog.

It gets worse:

“The Science Delusion” is common among Capital-S Skeptics. You don’t apply your skepticism equally. You are extremely critical of belief in God, ghosts, heaven, ESP, astrology, homeopathy and Bigfoot. You also attack disbelief in global warming, vaccines and genetically modified food.

These beliefs and disbeliefs deserve criticism, but they are what I call “soft targets.” That’s because, for the most part, you’re bashing people outside your tribe, who ignore you. You end up preaching to the converted.

Meanwhile, you neglect what I call hard targets. These are dubious and even harmful claims promoted by major scientists and institutions.

This is the – don’t spend your time and effort on things you think are important, spend them on things I think are important – gambit. “Soft targets” are things that Horgan does not think are important, or does not understand the importance of. While “hard targets” are things he cares about, even if they reflect his personal political ideology.

In fact, he was surprised that Jamy Ian Swiss brought up Bigfoot in his defense of skepticism. This is because Horgan seems to be completely unaware of the “Bigfoot skepticism” meme. This is a meme he is repeating without realizing it, hence his confusion.

Horgan moves on to specific examples to illustrate his point:

First, physics. For decades, physicists like Stephen Hawking, Brian Greene and Leonard Susskind have touted string and multiverse theories as our deepest descriptions of reality.

Here’s the problem: strings and multiverses can’t be experimentally detected. The theories aren’t falsifiable, which makes them pseudo-scientific, like astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis.

Like most of his claims, this is wrong on multiple levels. First, Hawking and others have not presented string theory and multiuniverse theories as descriptions of reality, but as mathematical models. More to the point, the exact status of these theories has been hotly and deeply debated within physics and skepticism.

Horgan gives a very superficial analysis, in my opinion to the point of being wrong. He claims they are not falsifiable, therefore they are pseudoscientific, “Like astrology.” For those of you playing logical fallacy bingo, that is a false analogy. There are many problems with astrology that do not apply to string theory.

The “non-falsifiable” criticism has been raised, numerous times, by skeptics, and the implications of this have been discussed at length. Briefly, it is true that string theory and the multiuniverse theory are not currently testable, and therefore they are not complete sciences unto themselves. But they do attempt to give insights into what the deeper realities of the physical universe might be by exploring mathematical models for internal consistency, the ability to explain what we already know, and elegance.

They will ultimately come to nothing if we cannot find some way to test them, but that does not mean they serve no purpose now. Also, it is a contested point that they are not testable now, but I will leave that to the physicists and another day.

The main point is, Horgan’s summary was superficial to the point of being wrong, and betrays his utter ignorance about what skeptics discuss and what our actual position is on the examples he gives.

Physicists are even promoting the idea that our universe is a simulation created by super-intelligent aliens. Last month, Neil de Grasse Tyson said “the likelihood may be very high” that we’re living in a simulation. Again, this isn’t science, it’s a stoner thought experiment pretending to be science.

Again – this is a point of conversation among skeptics, including on the SGU. Horgan’s premise is that we do not examine the statements of our celebrity scientists. Wrong again. Not only do we do that, but some skeptics will criticize other skeptics for not doing it enough or in specific cases. I also don’t think that the simulated universe was ever meant to be anything other than a thought experiment. Horgan does not understand his own examples.

Horgan goes on to make the same mistake about the Singularity (and his summary is also not quite right). This is a hot point of debate among skeptics.

Horgan moves on to medicine:

But tests often do more harm than good. For every woman whose life is extended because a mammogram detected a tumor, up to 33 receive unnecessary treatment, including biopsies, surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. For men diagnosed with prostate cancer after a PSA test, the ratio is 47 to one. Similar data are emerging on colonoscopies and other tests.

Here are almost 40 articles from science-based medicine on overdiagnosis in mainstream medicine, including several articles on mammography. The pattern should now be clear – Horgan gives a simplistic summary of an issue, showing that he himself has a superficial understanding of the relevant points, accusing skeptics of not dealing with such issues sufficiently. Meanwhile, there is already an in-depth discussion of the issue in skeptical circles, which is much deeper that Horgan’s treatment.

It gets worse when he moves on to mental illness:

Psychiatric drugs help some people in the short term, but over time, in the aggregate, they make people sicker. Journalist Robert Whitaker reaches this conclusion in his book Anatomy of an Epidemic.

He documents the huge surge in prescriptions for psychiatric drugs since the late 1980s. The biggest increase has been among children. If the medications really work, rates of mental illness should decline. Right?

Instead, rates of mental disability have increased sharply, especially among children. Whitaker builds a strong case that medications are causing the epidemic.

If Horgan is a fan of Whitaker, then his confusion is easy to explain. Whitaker, like Horgan, criticized psychiatry from the outside without having an even basic understanding of the evidence he was using as a basis of his criticism. As one reviewer stated:

When it came to schizophrenia and antipsychotic drugs, however, Whitaker got it mostly wrong. He made so many errors it is difficult to know where to begin…

Whitaker cited evidence that antipsychotic medications make schizophrenia outcomes worse. In fact, the very evidence he cited showed that medications make outcomes better. However, shifting to a more narrow definition of schizophrenia give the illusion that outcomes are worse, because now we are only counting the most severe cases.

Horgan continues:

Over the past several decades, geneticists have announced the discovery of “genes for” virtually every trait or disorder. We’ve had the God gene, gay gene, alcoholism gene, warrior gene, liberal gene, intelligence gene, schizophrenia gene, and on and on.
None of these linkages of single genes to complex traits or disorders has been confirmed. None! But gene-whiz claims keep coming.

This is a good example of confusing the reporting of science with the science itself, a shocking error for a science journalist. The notion that there is a single gene for a complex trait is a fiction of the media. Some scientists may oversimplify the implications of their research, or not communicate it well, but generally this is not a delusion among geneticists.

Further, skeptics and science communicators have been at the forefront in pointing this out, correcting the silly science news reporting of a “Gene for X.”

Horgan finishes by talking about the hardest target of all, war. He begins by talking about the “deep-roots theory of war,” the notion that humans are an inherently warlike species. Horgan claims there “the evidence is overwhelming,” that war is cultural, but then links only to an article he wrote on one very narrow study of Japanese hunter-gatherers.

This is obviously a complex topic, but I don’t think any skeptics are arguing that war is genetically inevitable. Of course there is a huge cultural component. While Horgan cites Steven Pinker as an example of the deep-roots theory, he misses the point that Pinker is also arguing that war and violence have been steadily decreasing over historical time, and that we can rid ourselves of war, partly by understanding war in the first place.

While it is certainly simplistic to say that war is genetic, it is equally simplistic to dismiss human nature and argue that war is entirely cultural. It is likely both, like all human behavior, a complex interaction of nature and nurture.

Horgan then clearly wanders into his own personal political ideology. This is another deep can of worms within the skeptical movement, and Horgan is opening it without giving any evidence that he is aware this is a discussion that has been raging for years among skeptics. Of course, war is terrible and we would all like to eradicate war, but how to best accomplish that goal is a complex question without a clear scientific answer, and is mired in personal ideology and values.

Skeptics differ on the extent to which we should mix personal politics with our scientific skepticism. Horgan is simply taking one extreme position in this debate, unaware that the debate even exists.

Conclusion

The big lesson here is this – if you are going to criticize a movement, discipline, subculture, science, or group from the outside, to the point of telling them what they should be doing, you should at least have a working knowledge of that group.

After reading his article, it is safe to say that Horgan does not have the first clue about scientific skepticism. The result was a parade of straw men supported by cherry picked and often misinterpreted examples.

Scientific skepticism, like most other movements, includes a complex variety of opinions and approaches, and certainly has undergone a great deal of growing pains in the last decade. I, of course, cannot vouch for every self-described skeptic. But I have a fairly thorough knowledge of the major players.

Skeptics (despite what our critics claim) are thoughtful, self-critical, and not afraid to take on any fight. We have addressed all of the issues that Horgan raises, and in a much more sophisticated fashion than Horgan himself. We are already miles past the superficial framing that Horgan gives.

Horgan also misses several important points that skeptics have already made in defense of our chosen scope. We address the full range of issues within our purview, what Horgan would call soft and hard targets, because it is all useful. Sometimes we deconstruct simplistic and obvious pseudoscience because it provides a teaching moment, so that our audience will be better able to deconstruct more complex targets.

Further, some of what Horgan thinks of as soft targets are still hugely important issues within our culture. Homeopathy remains a mutli-billion dollar industry. Who is going to take it on if not skeptics? The greatest gap between scientific and public opinion is over the safety of GMOs. Again – who is slowly turning this ship around?

As a movement we have a certain expertise – an expertise in pseudoscience, mysticism, denialism, the organizations that promote these things, relevant regulations when applicable, and strategies to confront them.

Let us do our job, in the sweet spot of our expertise. If you think some other agenda is important, then feel free to make that your priority. Good luck to you.

But please do not presume to tell us what we do and what we should do when obviously you have not invested even the smallest amount of time trying to first understanding what it is we do, or engaging with us on the major premises of your position.

In short, Mr. Horgan, turn that skeptical eye onto yourself before you presume to turn it onto others. And for the record, yes, this is something we advocate that skeptics do also.

195 responses so far

195 Responses to “John Horgan is “Skeptical of Skeptics””

  1. MaryMon 17 May 2016 at 9:12 am

    I sat listening to this talk–and I was prepared to take it in with an open mind, livetweeting away. I sort of like bomb-throwers for driving discussion. But you have to be aiming at the right target.

    But I could barely type when the disconnect between what Horgan was saying, and who I knew was actually in this room and what they do–was so completely divergent. And so much of it flat out bogus.

    Especially the “gene for X” stuff, because that’s what I see so much of due to my work in genomics. We spend so much time un-shitting the headlines which are written by Horgan’s tribe–the media–that it’s practically a full time gig. It’s hard to stop war in the meantime.

    But he told me on twitter yesterday that he has no tribe. So we get all the blame for not having all these things he wants sorted. And his non-existent tribe has nothing to do with it all.

    It was by far the most baffled I’ve ever been in a conference session. And an unfortunate way to send off the attendees.

  2. idoubtiton 17 May 2016 at 9:15 am

    Yep. This is nothing new and is, in fact, what mystery mongers say as well because a skeptical viewpoint will “harsh their mellow”. I sent Horgan this on Twitter: http://doubtfulnews.com/media-guide-to-skepticism/

    In a nutshell, modern Skepticism is about approach and process, not particular subject areas.

  3. mlegoweron 17 May 2016 at 9:20 am

    All of the counterexamples given for how he is mischaracterizing the skeptical movement are all pointers back to SBM and Neurologica. So, I mean, kudos to you for doing it right, but isn’t it at least possible that there is a non-trivial segment of the self-identifying Skeptic population that doesn’t consume your content and may be accurately characterized by these criticisms? This is spot-on if you find/replace any reference to skeptics in his article with “Steven Novella” or even “The SGU”. But it’s only a straw man if there’s no real man. For real people like this, it’s a valuable message. Not a particularly original or novel message, as you have pointed out, but a valuable one.

    I honestly don’t know what fraction of self-identifying Skeptics would be accurately described by his caricature, nor do I know what threshold I would set for that fraction under which the argument becomes a straw man. But my over/under on the percentage of a given NECSS audience for which any of this was a revelation (“String theory is questionable science?! ‘Gene for X’ is an overly simplistic view of modern biology?!”) would be in the single digits. Maybe like 3%. Which I think would put this firmly in straw man territory under any reasonable definition.

  4. Guy Chapmanon 17 May 2016 at 9:21 am

    I read Horgan’s article, too. What struck me first and foremost was a point you noted, namely that this whole idea of “you must first fix bullshit X before you can legitimately attack bullshit Y” is an absolutely standard trope in debates around bullshit. Believers in bullshit Y will always want you to leave their bullshit alone until all other forms of bullshit in the world (including some which are actually not bullshit outside their fevered imaginations) are fixed.

    The response to that is and always should be: No. You don’t get to choose what forms of bullshit I find it interesting to critique. If you want to critique bullshit X then go right ahead. I might even join you. But I reserve my right to continue to critique bullshit Y if I want to.

    He also did not look to deeply into the reasons for addressing any specific kind of bullshit. Homeopathy is so obviously insane that anybody who is not too deeply down the rabbit hole can readily understand it, and that could give them a core of rational thinking when dealing with people selling homeopathy plus bullshit Z. If X is bullshit, and this person tries to sell my X plus Z, then maybe Z is bullshit too.

    Even bigfoot is worth tackling, because people’s beliefs in this kind fo thing tend in my experience to be weaker than their beliefs in alt-med bullshit, so there is not so much cognitive dissonance when you try to lead them tot he path of reason.

  5. mlegoweron 17 May 2016 at 9:25 am

    It’s important to note that my comment as written had “devil’s-advocate” html tags wrapped around the first paragraph, as a feeble attempt at humor. So the first paragraph of the above comment does not represent my actual views.

    Mental note: do not encode jokes in html because the WordPress engine can not distinguish joke tags from real ones.

  6. zen_arcadeon 17 May 2016 at 9:31 am

    While I missed NECSS this year I did read Horgan’s remarks and wasn’t all that surprised at how far off the mark they were.

    This is a journalist with a long history of making sweeping, hyperbolic generalizations and who has demonstrated his ignorance of how the institution of science works and is supposed to work many, many times (check out the C-Span clip from the 90s in which Stephen Jay Gould tells him as much). He fancies himself a provacateur but is closer to a hack. He’s not questioning “the tribe”, he’s telling us he has no idea what scientific skepticism is. Why haven’t we solved world hunger yet? Why aren’t we talking about how to solve the civil war in Syria? Why haven’t we created a utopia yet? Well, because we are pragmatic and think that addressing the real life consequences of scientific illiteracy and fostering critical thinking about things that directly impact people where we live will go a long way toward addressing those much larger collective action problems. These skills can be learned by reference to every day examples of sloppy thinking found among, for example, the writing of journalists like Horgan.

    I was half expecting the talk to be called “The End of Skepticism” or “The End of Conferences”. How about the end of taking this guy seriously and paying to have him speak to a crowd that is demonstrably more educated on these matters than he is?

  7. MaryMon 17 May 2016 at 9:34 am

    It’s actually funny about Bigfoot in a way, too. When my worlds collided as the “Bigfoot genome” was released, it was hugely helpful to have the institutional skeptic memory of the players in this. I had no idea where Melba Ketchum came from. But the whole thing became a teachable moment in crap sequence data as a result. And how if you buy a journal, the publication standards may not actually be the same. In fact, I’d argue that was a great opportunity to reach well beyond the skeptic community (whatever that is) because people were looking for understanding of the whole drama.

    I also remain completely perplexed at the claim that we don’t aim inside the tribe. I started my GMO science writing firmly within my librul tribe. And I was excommunicated for it. And even among other skeptics I’m always seeing challenges for the claims. I like to be challenged.

    At lunch one of the days, I was also discussing with skeptics that I would love to have seen a panel on Vaxxed. How did we do? What can we learn from this? I’m open to post-mortems. But they need to actually be aimed at what’s happened. Not some at some giant GMO strawman that died of cancer overdiagnosis.

  8. ccbowerson 17 May 2016 at 9:37 am

    “This is the – don’t spend your time and effort on things you think are important, spend them on things I think are important – gambit.”

    At best it is a “fallacy of relative privation,” aka “appeal to bigger problems.”

    At NECSS, I watched the first 5 minutes and it didn’t seem promising (at all), so i stepped out to get a drink of water. Julia Galef was out talking to attendees so I never made it back to this guy’s talk as I prefer conversation with people I respect intellectually. I have a difficult time listening to underinformed opinions, but now I really want to listen to this talk. I’m glad it is available online.

    From what you quote above, he clearly has no idea what he is talking about. Everything he criticized is a topic which has been explicitly discussed by skeptics and scientists for years. Except they were not done in the under-informed and intellectually lazy way that he is doing it. I wonder where guys like him get his strawmen. Are they mostly finding them and are too lazy to see if they are representative, or are they deliberately creating them to be contrarian? Of course a little from column A, a little from column B.

    And I’m sure that he will frame the reaction to his talk as hitting too close to home, or further evidence that what he is saying is correct. But most skeptics love argument, and I for one, far prefer arguments with people I respect intellectually. Which in practice means that I prefer engaging in disagreements with skeptics and scientists on these topics versus people who have opinions without knowledge. This is precisely the opposite of what John Horgon thinks is true. That is because he is in the ‘opinions without knowledge’ camp on this topic.

  9. Todd W.on 17 May 2016 at 9:42 am

    I could be wrong, but I think the point he was trying to make is that what he calls “soft targets” are easy to focus on, because they are so clearly wrong, while his “hard targets” take more effort, and could be uncomfortable or too onerous for skeptics (or at least, his version of skeptics) to take on. While I agree that it is important for skeptics to take on these so-called “hard” targets, and even turn their skeptical eyes on themselves, we already do that.

    Horgan’s examples, as Steve points out, are addressed by skeptics. I’d really like to see Horgan give some concrete examples, and not mischaracterizations, of these “skeptics” he’s talking about. Not to mention, despite his assertion that we should focus on “hard” targets rather than “soft” ones, he gives no solid justification for shifting focus and even implies that while criticizing things like GMOs or vaccines is all well and good, we shouldn’t put much effort into it.

    Ultimately, Horgan starts with a good point, but then loses it with poorly thought out arguments and what shows as a clear lack of diligent research.

  10. Todd W.on 17 May 2016 at 9:48 am

    I’ll just add that the concept of a simulated universe was a topic of dinner conversation one evening. And yes, we did talk about the value of such a concept, whether it was falsifiable, and so on.

  11. ccbowerson 17 May 2016 at 9:53 am

    “I’ll just add that the concept of a simulated universe was a topic of dinner conversation one evening.”

    This was also a topic at NECSS, in 2012, with David Kyle Johnsons on the Rationally Speaking live podcast.

    http://rationallyspeakingpodcast.org/show/rs59-live-at-necss-david-kyle-johnson-on-the-simulation-argu.html

  12. Todd W.on 17 May 2016 at 9:58 am

    And it’s odd that he appears to think that we should be investing a lot of energy in critiquing string theory or multiverses, but not so much on GMO or vaccine denialism. The latter has very real-world consequences, while the former primarily has implications within the realm of physics and cosmology (and philosophy), but anything coming out of them is still a long ways off.

  13. Belgarathon 17 May 2016 at 11:18 am

    Horgan’s twitter feed seems to be full of him responding to criticism as all skeptics are doing is defending their tribe. I’m sure he will dismiss Steve’s criticism as just defending his tribe….

  14. Ivan Groznyon 17 May 2016 at 11:27 am

    “Here’s the problem: strings and multiverses can’t be experimentally detected. The theories aren’t falsifiable, which makes them pseudo-scientific, like astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis.

    I stopped here. One of the favourite talking points among the pseudo-scientific crackpots.

  15. Ivan Groznyon 17 May 2016 at 11:35 am

    Tod W,

    the harder targets are harder because the people who promote them are right. Or at least the best scientists in the world think string theory is the most promising candidate for the theory of everything and multiverse is more likely than the universe. “Sceptics” have to be more informed about physics than Leonard Susskind, Cumrun Vafa, Polchynsky, Randall and others. Good luck.

  16. Todd W.on 17 May 2016 at 11:56 am

    Second what Ivan notes.

    There’s a great variety of backgrounds and expert knowledge depending on the subject. As I mentioned on Twitter about this, I focus on vaccines, because it’s a subject that I am reasonably informed about and can comment on with what I hope is at least some semblance of intelligence. I’m not remotely qualified to get into it on string theory or multiverses.

  17. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2016 at 12:26 pm

    I could also state it this way – Horgan is asking the wrong question (more evidence he is underinformed). He is asking a very basic question we get from those completely unfamiliar with skepticism – specifically, his premise is that the only meaningful criteria about the targets of our skepticism are, how scientifically complex or controversial are they, and are they within tribe or outside of our tribe. So why only attack the easy targets?

    There are other criteria, however:
    – Is this a useful teaching point
    – What are the real world impacts of this topic
    – What is my area of expertise (which includes scientific skepticism itself)
    – Is anyone else tackling this issue
    – Is this an area in which we can have an impact
    – What is the public appeal of this topic (do people care)

    Horgan’s unstated major premise dooms his hypothesis to immediate failure.

  18. GWDon 17 May 2016 at 12:52 pm

    I read this article earlier this morning and was very disappointed. Not only because it missed the mark but because it could have been a good opportunity to spread what you do at SBM about over diagnosis in “allopathic” (cringe) medicine. At least from what I have seen your material at SBM does not show up in some of the smaller skeptic blogs and facebook groups.

  19. idoubtiton 17 May 2016 at 1:11 pm

    It strikes me that if his message was to not hesitate to apply skepticism to the hard targets, that would have been better received. Instead, he came in looking to stir things up. I think ZenArcade hit the mark, and we have given Horgan the attention he wanted as a contrarian. Did the NECSS team expect him to talk on something different?

  20. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2016 at 1:15 pm

    We knew what he was going to talk about. We are happy to have such talks. The quality was disappointing.

  21. steve12on 17 May 2016 at 1:19 pm

    Horgan has always annoyed me. He does a better job than your average science writer in many respects, but he’s one of these people who needs to self-aggrandize as being the only one BRAVE enough to think the daring thoughts (!).

    To which I say, work out your personal problems with your therapist, and get to work getting it RIGHT.

  22. steve12on 17 May 2016 at 1:27 pm

    Re: M/string theory etc:

    I think we have no choice but to be critical of theories that can’t be tested. Of course, that doesn’t mean reject them either. I don’t understand the math, but there is a growing chorus of people who do who are sounding alarms here.

    I’m in no position to adjudicate who’s right. But the larger scientific community is under no obligation to say “good enough” w/o falsifiable predictions simply because it’s not our field. This isn’t just about this theory.

  23. steve12on 17 May 2016 at 1:30 pm

    Ivan:

    >“Sceptics” have to be more informed about physics than Leonard Susskind, Cumrun Vafa, Polchynsky, >Randall and others. Good luck.”

    HAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

    I know you are a teenager, but you are the least self-aware person on the face of the Earth.

    After telling us that we’re all hopeless ideologues (YOU!), now you want to play the expertise card?

    You have got to be fucking kidding me. Are you Borat? What is this?

  24. Oracon 17 May 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Unfortunately the talk, which he has now published on Scientific American’s website (which means it’s fair game),

    It would have been fair game even if it weren’t published on SciAm’s website. 🙂

  25. Johnnyon 17 May 2016 at 1:36 pm

    Apart from the issues you listed Steve, it seems that Hrogan confuses positions that individual skeptics take on issues that are at best tangential to skepticism (like Hitchens’ position on when military intervention is appropriate) with positions that apply to the skeptical movement as a whole (like the importance and value of scientific and rational inquiry).

    And as Belgarath wrote, Hrogan’s Twitter feed is now full of tweets telling skeptics who criticize him that they are just defending their tribe. Apparently only tribal affiliation could make someone take issue with his position.

    It also seems to me that skeptics are pretty much the only ones fighting the good fight when it comes to GMOs. As a movement, we are making an impact on society, however slowly.

  26. Oracon 17 May 2016 at 1:37 pm

    The charge of tribalism is one that provide people like Horgan an all purpose lazy refutation to any criticism of his arguments: You’re just “defending your tribe.” It’s a convenient excuse for someone like him not to look more closely at himself and do what skeptics do all the time: Ask himself if maybe he’s made a mistake or spoke about something he really wasn’t very familiar with. I saw his Twitter feed, too. That’s basically his all-purpose response to criticism.

  27. Steven Novellaon 17 May 2016 at 2:19 pm

    I only made the “fair game” comment because I am a NECSS organizer and I wanted to prevent any accusations that I am criticizing a speaker I invited. The fact that he published his talk on SciAm removes any ambiguity in this issue.

  28. Oracon 17 May 2016 at 2:34 pm

    OK, fair enough.

  29. Rogue Medicon 17 May 2016 at 6:45 pm

    This is useful as a teaching exercise.

    Horgan’s criticism shows that he is unfamiliar with the most prominent people in the skeptical community.

    Perhaps his title should have been Stupid things some people who consider themselves to be skeptics have mentioned to me, which have subsequently been exaggerated for comic effect.

    This is reminiscent of the Creationists who claim that scientists only accept dogma that supports pre-existing biological theories. They do not understand how theories work or how theories are modified.

    Perhaps Horgan, in spite of his own internet presence, is not aware of how much peer criticism is available on the internet.

    Peer review by blogs and podcasts may now be an essential supplement to the sometimes inadequate job done by those who volunteer to do peer review for science journals.

    If there is a new pro-homeopathy paper, or pro-acupuncture, or anti-GMO, or anti-evolution paper mentioned in the media and I do not have access to the full paper, or do not have the time to read the full paper, my first place to check is Science-Based Medicine.

    If I read the paper first, I will then check to see how much I agree with what was good/bad about the paper.

    Perhaps Horgan would appreciate a modification of the stage, so that it sinks into a pit of vipers as the argument gets weaker – or rises from the pit as the speaker makes valid points. Citations could be required for any such movement in order to maintain a truly skeptical approach.

    You could invite Mr. Horgan back to test out the apparatus.

    .

  30. ccbowerson 17 May 2016 at 7:46 pm

    “The charge of tribalism is one that provide people like Horgan an all purpose lazy refutation to any criticism of his arguments: You’re just ‘defending your tribe.’ ”

    The irony is that MR Horgan pleads that we examine our ‘own views skeptically.’ He seems to be incapable of doing just that as he has a built in shield for criticism.

    One aspect that is especially bothersome about John Horgan’s talk is that the topic itself is an important one: as a collective, we do need big picture analysis. Not to tell other people what they should be doing, but to identify which areas or topics are underrepresented by skeptics but could benefit from a skeptical approach. A way of assessing our progress in our culture, and changes in trends in society that could impact what is important. And in what ways we are achieving or not achieving the objective of the promotion of science, critical thinking, and skepticism.

    But this needs to be done by people who know what their talking about- people who are well informed on the issues and have a perspective of being constructive, not someone who comes across as a hack provocateur who thinks he is doing the world a favor by attacking superficial caricatures.

  31. DoctorAtlantison 17 May 2016 at 10:10 pm

    Horgan says he’s writing a rebuttal. I have to say I’ll be surprised if it as thorough or well reasoned as Steve’s – but I look forward to giving it a read.

    I can’t help but think it’s like he’s run into a room full of Astronomers and started yelling at them for using star charts to predict people’s future, mocking them for believing in the influence of planets over births, laughing at them for their nonsense and when informed that he’s thinking of Astrologers… well, I guess we’ll find out what happens next.

  32. jsterritton 17 May 2016 at 11:35 pm

    Invoking string theory and slamming experts like Hawking for diddling around with “pseudo-scientific” notions akin to “astrology” is like putting your ignorance on a circus train and touring the world. Why would Horgan even risk such a belly-flop? He must think he’s really clever to go up against cosmologists and astrophysicists by cherry picking the (currently) untestable predictions of string and M theories and ignoring the extraordinary successes of modern particle physics and cosmology (remember, these folks predominantly work from the standard model — the most highly predictive and successful science measurements ever made — and general relativity (100 years strong!)).

    And then he has the balls to complain that other (presumably lesser) minds than his are too preoccupied with testable claims about diet soda and GMOs. Can’t have it both ways, dummy!

  33. CKavaon 18 May 2016 at 12:32 am

    This really isn’t a surprise. Horgan has a pretty well established MO of presenting himself as the only truly independent thinker when it comes to science, endorsing some dubious positions, and promoting his personal assessments of entire fields as if they represent established facts. His ‘summary’ of research on historical evidence of warfare is a clear example of this and is a textbook illustration of interpreting research literature according to your ideological/political preferences.

    I don’t anticipate a self-reflexive turn in response to this article, rather I strongly expect we will see him doubling down on his views. It is a bit unkind to compare Horgan too closely with Alex Tsakiris (he certainly retains a lot more credibility) but their reasoning and arguments aren’t actually that far apart and they both see themselves as the brave lone critics who REALLY understand what the problems with science and skepticism are.

  34. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2016 at 6:34 am

    An example of hyperbole:

    John Horton:”Krauss’s book [A Universe from Nothing] doesn’t come close to fulfilling the promise of its title”

    In fact, Krauss shows how, given the laws of physics, matter can arise spontaneously in empty spacetime, and that spacetime, again given the laws of physics, can arise spontaneously from nothing.
    Then he shows how the the particular laws of physics in our universe, could have arisen – by something akin to evolution – in a Multiverse. and that the Multiverse is not just wild speculation but is part of the outworkings of inflationary theory. Which brings us to “why is there something rather than nothing?” to which Krauss responds “why should there be nothing rather than something?”. In other words, why should nothing necessarily be the default.

    Not entirely satisfactory, but you could hardly say that he “doesn’t come close”.

  35. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2016 at 6:36 am

    TAG FAILURE:

    An example of hyperbole:

    John Horton:”Krauss’s book [A Universe from Nothing] doesn’t come close to fulfilling the promise of its title”

    In fact, Krauss shows how, given the laws of physics, matter can arise spontaneously in empty spacetime, and that spacetime, again given the laws of physics, can arise spontaneously from nothing.
    Then he shows how the the particular laws of physics in our universe, could have arisen – by something akin to evolution – in a Multiverse. and that the Multiverse is not just wild speculation but is part of the outworkings of inflationary theory. Which brings us to “why is there something rather than nothing?” to which Krauss responds “why should there be nothing rather than something?”. In other words, why should nothing necessarily be the default.

    Not entirely satisfactory, but you could hardly say that he “doesn’t come close”.

  36. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2016 at 6:53 am

    An example of mischaracterisation:

    John Horton:
    “Some string and multiverse true believers, like Sean Carroll, have argued that falsifiability should be discarded as a method for distinguishing science from pseudo-science”

    But, either he has not read his own reference or he doesn’t understand it:

    Sean Carroll:
    “Every year we look forward to the Edge Annual Question, and as usual it’s a provocative one: “What scientific idea is ready for retirement?” Part of me agrees with Ian McEwan’s answer, which is to unask the question, and argue that nothing should be retired. Unasking is almost always the right response to questions that beg other questions, but there’s also an argument to be made in favor of playing along, so that’s what I did.”

    And, in the Sean Carroll’s actual response to the question on the Edge website:
    https://www.edge.org/response-detail/25322

    “The falsifiability criterion gestures toward something true and important about science, but it is a blunt instrument in a situation that calls for subtlety and precision”

    “Popper himself understood that theories should be falsifiable “in principle,” but that modifier is often forgotten in contemporary discussions”

  37. RickKon 18 May 2016 at 6:57 am

    Off topic – the preview for today’s “Today” show on NBC says Dr. Oz will tell us if those GMO foods are safe to eat. i can hardly wait.

  38. BillyJoe7on 18 May 2016 at 7:03 am

    The Multiverse according to John Horton:

    “…multiverses can’t be experimentally detected. The theories aren’t falsifiable, which makes them pseudo-scientific, like astrology and Freudian psychoanalysis….When high-status scientists promote flaky ideas like the…multiverse, they hurt science”

    The Multiverse according to Sean Carroll:

    “Consider the multiverse. It is often invoked as a potential solution to some of the fine-tuning problems of contemporary cosmology. For example, we believe there is a small but nonzero vacuum energy inherent in empty space itself. This is the leading theory to explain the observed acceleration of the universe, for which the 2011 Nobel Prize was awarded. The problem for theorists is not that vacuum energy is hard to explain; it’s that the predicted value is enormously larger than what we observe.

    If the universe we see around us is the only one there is, the vacuum energy is a unique constant of nature, and we are faced with the problem of explaining it. If, on the other hand, we live in a multiverse, the vacuum energy could be completely different in different regions, and an explanation suggests itself immediately: in regions where the vacuum energy is much larger, conditions are inhospitable to the existence of life. There is therefore a selection effect, and we should predict a small value of the vacuum energy. Indeed, using this precise reasoning, Steven Weinberg did predict the value of the vacuum energy, long before the acceleration of the universe was discovered.

    We can’t (as far as we know) observe other parts of the multiverse directly. But their existence has a dramatic effect on how we account for the data in the part of the multiverse we do observe. It’s in that sense that the success or failure of the idea is ultimately empirical: its virtue is not that it’s a neat idea or fulfills some nebulous principle of reasoning, it’s that it helps us account for the data. Even if we will never visit those other universes”

  39. Ivan Groznyon 18 May 2016 at 9:18 am

    Tod W.
    I am not a physicist either and am not competent to comment on it. But, physics seems to be the hardest of all hard sciences and very little subject to ideological and political distortions in pubic presentation. Little that I read about the topic shows that even the experts who do not necessarily style themselves as string theorists believe that it “has to be true at some level”, as Steen Weinberg said, because if its mathematical beauty. This is completely missing from H.s presentation. He seems to be parroting a talking point about string theory being “not even wrong” by one crackpot Peter Woit:

    http://www.amazon.com/review/R3PGUGKCPHDI39

  40. Ivan Groznyon 18 May 2016 at 9:46 am

    steve 12

    As usual you are wrong/incapable of thinking coherently. My take on climate change is based exactly on science and expertise, just as it is the field of physics. One critical example from climatology:

    I cited repeatedly on this blog (none of the commenters here contradicted me) 21 studies of climate sensitivity published in the literature in the last 6 years all showing sensitivity to be at or below 2 deg C, a traditional benchmark set by the IPCC for “dangerous climate change”. One new study (22nd), just fresh out of press, published by a AGU journal “Earth and Space Science” argues that climate sensitivity is even lower – about 1 deg C.

    http://www.reportingclimatescience.com/2016/05/16/climate-sensitivity-paper/

    These studies are published by literally dozens of leading experts in this field (a critical study Otto et al 2014 finding 2 degrees sensitivity was published by 15 lead authors of the IPCC!!!). They must all have come from the 3% who reject the “climate science” I suppose… But, they also must be very smart 3% as well, since none of the remaining “97%” of right-thinking folks managed to publish any contrary evidence thus far…

  41. Ivan Groznyon 18 May 2016 at 9:58 am

    …A true silent majority, if there ever was one…:)

  42. idoubtiton 18 May 2016 at 10:00 am

    This is the second recent kerfuffle about “skeptical of the skeptics”. Recall this piece in Five-thirty-eight: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/who-will-debunk-the-debunkers/ The intent was fair but Mike Sutton is a textbook crank who fashions himself as a “true independent thinker” like Horgan, and the piece ended up being a distortion of skepticism.

    I’ve also had two encounters with a “Fortean” commenter who thinks skeptics are all snooty science-worshippers blind to what is really going on. These types of jabs are nothing new but I’m wondering if they will gain more traction as media outlets salivate to produce clickbait controversy.

  43. Oracon 18 May 2016 at 10:02 am

    This really isn’t a surprise. Horgan has a pretty well established MO of presenting himself as the only truly independent thinker when it comes to science, endorsing some dubious positions, and promoting his personal assessments of entire fields as if they represent established facts.

    Yep. I hadn’t paid much attention to Horgan before he posted a transcript of his NECSS talk, but last night I went back and perused some of his previous columns, particularly the ones about cancer, mammography, and other cancer screening. To say Horgan lacks nuance in his interpretation of existing data with respect to cancer is an understatement. He definitely comes at the topic with a clear bias.

  44. Oracon 18 May 2016 at 10:05 am

    @idoubtit: I’ve seen a few howlers about medicine on Five Thirty-Eight as well.

  45. steve12on 18 May 2016 at 12:15 pm

    Ivan:

    You have ignored consensus opinion when it comes to geophysics (and have no scientific chops w/ which to make your own assessments)

    You have ignored consensus opinion when it comes to US Constitutional Law. (and have no legal chops w/ which to make your own assessments)

    (Anything else?)

    NOW, however, you wanna chide others for questioning the experts.

    Perform all the BS mental gymnastics you like. It’s not just absurd – it’s ri-godd@mn-diculous.

  46. Y. Exeteron 18 May 2016 at 2:01 pm

    Heads up, Horgan posted a response to the response today, titled “My Response to Responses to My Critique of “Skepticism”: Skeptics react with hostility and gratitude to a critique of their movement”, hot off the press:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/my-response-to-responses-to-my-critique-of-skepticism/

    I haven’t gotten a chance to read through it thoroughly yet, but a brief skim does pop the line that aside from the “Skeptics are more diverse and self-critical than [Horgan’s] critique implies” response, most of the criticisms made “aren’t worth responding to”, except the Robert Whitaker comments, which he defends by saying that Torrey has a “strong bias” against Whitaker.

  47. CKavaon 18 May 2016 at 2:13 pm

    Ivan,

    You are cherry picking studies and misrepresenting the conclusions- and I don’t think anyone on here should have the duty of doing basic critical research for you when you’ve shown absolutely no interest in critical evaluation of your beliefs in the past. Also, if you think there are no papers that have estimates above 2 degrees, you really aren’t looking at the literature.

    P.S. The Otto paper was from 2013 not 2014, not that it matters because you clearly aren’t reading the literature, you are just parroting denialist summaries. Here’s a telling quote from Otto discussing the implications of the study:

    “We would expect a single decade to jump around a bit but the overall trend is independent of it, and people should be exactly as concerned as before about what climate change is doing,” said Dr Otto.

    Is there any succour in these findings for climate sceptics who say the slowdown over the past 14 years means the global warming is not real?

    “None. No comfort whatsoever,” he said.

  48. Y. Exeteron 18 May 2016 at 2:29 pm

    I’m not entirely buying the defense Horgan tries to make for Whitaker in his response response. Torrey was far from the only one who criticized the book, after all — Daniel Carlat for instance, who wrote a similar book criticizing medication-based treatment in psychiatry, accused Whitaker of confusing correlation with causation.

    It really seems like his whole response to the criticisms he’s received is “Well my job is to provoke people into reconsidering their beliefs, not convince people to agree with me, so I got mine.” He does appear to accept that he “could have called it ‘Stuff You Care about Versus Stuff I Care About’,” though, so there’s that.

  49. Ivan Groznyon 18 May 2016 at 2:44 pm

    “You have ignored consensus opinion when it comes to geophysics (and have no scientific chops w/ which to make your own assessments)”

    Cmmon moron, refute what I said about climate sensitivity. I was citing the current consensus in the literature (by no means infallible), not my private opinions. Stop empty babbling.

    “You are cherry picking studies and misrepresenting the conclusions- and I don’t think anyone on here should have the duty of doing basic critical research for you when you’ve shown absolutely no interest in critical evaluation of your beliefs in the past.”

    No, I am not cherry picking, I am talking about EVERY study published in the last 6 years. It should be easy to refute me is I am so obviously wrong. There are papers with higher estimates but they are from before 2010.

    What the authors say for the media is useless: I was citing Otto et all finding that the equilibrium climate sensitivity is 2 degrees C, and that the IPCC says 2 degrees is not a problem. Earlier “best estimate” by the IPCC was 3 degrees. In the last assessment report they did not give the “best estimate” because it would have to be substantially lower than before, based on the more recent research. The fact that the authors are privately climate alarmists only strengthens my point.

    As for whether global warming is “real” or not, that’s sloppy thinking. Global warming happens very often and on all time scale, with or without human influence: the studies of climate sensitivity do not deal with whether CO2 is a greenhouse gas (the favourite scientific theory illiterate green Talibans heard of and believe is enough to refute “deniers) or for how long the global warming “paused” or “stopped” or not paused or stopped, but – how much warming one is to expect from doubling the CO2 concentration. That’s the topic of the discussion and by repeating lame and lazy talking points about CO2 causing warming you do not refute my claims.

  50. steve12on 18 May 2016 at 3:13 pm

    “Cmmon moron”

    Moron, ha? That’s funny. I have you pegged as a child, so this is consistent I suppose.

    BJ7 et al. have expertly gone back and forth with you re: the actual science. I see no reason to be duplicative.

    MAybe you can send more chart w/ expertly squelched Y-axes?

    The FACT is that you want to embrace expertise when it suits your IDEOLOGY, and you run away from it when it suits your IDEOLOGY.

    This makes you intellectually tawdry from my POV; a person who doesn’t give give 2 shits about truth. A whore of sorts, really…

  51. steve12on 18 May 2016 at 3:17 pm

    CKava nailed it:

    “I don’t think anyone on here should have the duty of doing basic critical research for you when you’ve shown absolutely no interest in critical evaluation of your beliefs…”

    Exactly.

  52. Todd W.on 18 May 2016 at 3:52 pm

    Interestingly, Michael Mann was one of the other speakers at NECSS this year. It was a good talk about his upcoming book that uses political cartoons to make the science more accessible to laypeople. Bill Nye, one of the other speakers, also spoke about climate change.

  53. MaryMon 18 May 2016 at 4:10 pm

    I didn’t expect this to make it to Nature News, but there we are. That’s my comment in there, used with my permission by the writer.

    http://www.nature.com/news/scientific-sceptics-hit-back-after-rebuke-1.19945

    Horgan has a further response, which I can’t be arsed to link to because it’s not much more than not everyone thinks I am clueless, so there. Not worth winding up inmoderation purgatory for that.

  54. Johnnyon 18 May 2016 at 4:16 pm

    I hope that Swiss’ “counter-speech” gets uploaded soon. It should be interesting, given the conversation this has resulted in so far.

  55. Oracon 18 May 2016 at 4:24 pm

    And Mr. Horgan has responded:

    http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/cross-check/my-response-to-responses-to-my-critique-of-skepticism/

    Disappointingly, it’s nothing more than the same old, same old, topped off with a heaping helping of self-congratulation for having “succeeded” at riling up a hornet’s nest by hitting it repeatedly with a stick.

  56. Todd W.on 18 May 2016 at 4:31 pm

    @Orac

    His post essentially boils down to an admission that he was just trolling, rather than interested in raising any valid critiques of (big or little S) skeptics. Kinda sad. He wasted an opportunity to admit his own errors and address the substantive criticisms that he’s received. And I do love how he describes Steve’s reply as “angry”.

  57. tmac57on 18 May 2016 at 4:33 pm

    Ivan, if climate sensitivity is about 2C, then why would that still not be a problem if we do not curtail Co2 emissions? We won’t hit 560 PPM one day, and the next day see it magically level off. How would 1120 PPM and 4C sound to future inhabitants?
    Your whole argument appears to be that 2C sensitivity is somehow benign as far as I can tell, but it is not.
    Also, that number is only a statistical (and still unproven) quantity. The range currently is about 1.5 to 4.5. See where the long tail is in that distribution? In other words, if it is not 2C , then it is statistically more likely to be higher than that rather than lower.

  58. Oracon 18 May 2016 at 4:43 pm

    @Todd W.: Indeed. My response was way more “angry” than Steve’s in that it was way more sarcastic. I notice how Horgan strategically leaves things out. For instance, Horgan dismisses Steve’s criticism that he cited Robert Whitaker and mentioned a negative review by E. Fuller Torrey, dismissing that review as simply being a product of Torrey’s bias and citing one of Whitaker’s rebuttals. He seemed to completely miss my mention of how Whitaker is beloved of quacks like Joe Mercola and Mike Adams and that any time someone is embraced by such people is a cause for skepticism about what that person is saying because it’s rare that Mercola will do fawning interviews of someone who is devoted to science-based criticisms of psychiatry.

  59. CKavaon 18 May 2016 at 10:25 pm

    @Ivan

    “No, I am not cherry picking, I am talking about EVERY study published in the last 6 years. It should be easy to refute me is I am so obviously wrong. There are papers with higher estimates but they are from before 2010.”

    This is the very definition of cherry picking, you are selecting an arbitrary time period (6 years) because you think the studies published suit your argument. What was the major scientific breakthrough that made studies pre-2010 unreliable? I’ll help you out, there wasn’t anything.

    But even ignoring that yes you are demonstrably wrong and a few minutes of googling (outside of denial websites) would alert you to the fact, I won’t be bothering to do your research for you again but here are a few relevant studies from post 2010 which support higher range estimates:

    PALAEOSENS Project Members. (2012). Making sense of palaeoclimate sensitivity. Nature, 491(7426), 683-691.
    Andrews, Timothy, et al. “Forcing, feedbacks and climate sensitivity in CMIP5 coupled atmosphere‐ocean climate models.” Geophysical Research Letters 39.9 (2012).
    Shindell, Drew T. “Inhomogeneous forcing and transient climate sensitivity.” Nature Climate Change 4.4 (2014): 274-277.

    You also seem to misunderstand that even the lower estimates of climate sensitivity do not resolve the problem, at best they give us a slower rise that will take 10-20 more years.

    In short Ivan you are an ideologue, you do not know the research literature and you repeatedly misrepresent studies and research based on parroting of standard denialist misrepresentations, you also appear to have little understanding of concepts like confidence intervals and ranges which will make it very hard to get any accurate appreciation of technical papers.

    And with that, I’m out.

  60. Spock Jr.on 18 May 2016 at 11:09 pm

    Fascinating. It is likely Richard Dawkins would have been a more intellectually compelling guest.

  61. ccbowerson 19 May 2016 at 12:28 am

    Mr Horgan’s response was underwhelming. He mostly dodged the criticisms without mentioning them, and was dismissive of the important criticisms. He says:

    “Other complaints of Novella and Gorski aren’t worth responding to.”

    Apparently he doesn’t think it important to be knowledgeable about topics prior to criticism. How anti-intellectual and (should be) embarassing. He’s supposed to be a journalist, right?

    Despite the reaction and well contructed cruticisms, he seemed to be pleased with himself. Perhaps he sets the bar pretty low:

    “Unlike the people I spoke to at NECSS, neither Novella nor Gorski give me any credit for raising any reasonable points. ”

    So, is that the level he was expecting for his talk? That he just wants credit for making any reasonable point? I guess if your only goal was to be provocative, and accuracy is secondary, this is the type of talk you get.

    Hey it is not the topic that is the problem, Mr Hogan. It is your lazy superficial treatment of it.

  62. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 7:42 am

    Steven Novella, you have serious comprehension problems. He’s not saying God, ghosts, heaven, ESP, astrology, homoeopathy and Bigfoot are not important. He’s saying they’re easy to refute and scarcely any of the scholarly community believe in them anyway. So why do so many skeptics devote their lives to criticising them? Criticise them, then move on to the harder targets.

  63. Damloweton 19 May 2016 at 8:42 am

    @ Ian

    Seriously, before you wade into a ‘comments’ section 60 strong to critique the primary article, it may pay to have a read of the other comments.

    The answers to your quandary lie in the comments.

    Damien

  64. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 8:55 am

    Billyjoe, do you actually ever say anything which has any merit whatsoever?

    The fact that Kruass can utilize the laws of physics to describe how matter can arise from empty space-time does not show how the Universe can come from nothing.

    For a kick off he fails to understand what science is, and its legitimate scope. Science only *describes* reality, it does not tell us anything about why physical reality is as it is, nor why it exists in the first place.

    The question of why there is a Universe rather than nothing at all, or how it came into being, lies outside the scope of science. It is a metaphysical issue.

  65. mumadaddon 19 May 2016 at 9:48 am

    “It is a metaphysical issue.”

    Therefore I can just make shit up and do not need any standard of evidence!

  66. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 10:42 am

    Ian, you’ve topped yourself.

    You make Grozny look like Feynman.

    “Billyjoe, do you actually ever say anything which has any merit whatsoever?”

    That’s great. To people here who are scientists, engineers, etc. , BJ7 is thought of as one of the most spot-on commentors. To Ian, he almost never gets it right. Draw your own conclusions.

    “The fact that Kruuss can utilize the laws of physics to describe how matter can arise from empty space-time does not show how the Universe can come from nothing.

    What do you mean by “space”?

    “For a kick off he fails to understand what science is, and its legitimate scope.”

    Krauss doesn’t understand what science is. Wardell does. Draw your own conclusions.

    “Science only *describes* reality, it does not tell us anything about why physical reality is as it is, nor why it exists in the first place.
    The question of why there is a Universe rather than nothing at all, or how it came into being, lies outside the scope of science. It is a metaphysical issue.”

    Right, but metatphysics = bullshit for people who don’t want to do math and want to believe that reality is creatred by their “feelings”. So there’s that.

  67. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 10:43 am

    “Therefore I can just make shit up and do not need any standard of evidence!”

    Once again, I am outdone and late….

  68. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 11:22 am

    BJ certainly isn’t spot on with his comments regarding perceptual “illusions”, or what nothing means, or the nature of science. Although kudos to him for understanding that materialists cannot believe in a persisting self.

  69. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 11:42 am

    Ian:

    “BJ certainly isn’t spot on with his comments regarding perceptual “illusions”…”

    HAHAHA! YES – HE WAS!!!!

    He spelled it out for you in detail, as did I. BJ7 did a great job. And I’m a cognitive neuroscientist who specialized in VISION for chrissakes.

    You just don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, yet refuse to let that stop you.

  70. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 11:42 am

    specializes…I’m not dead.

  71. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 12:06 pm

    Steve12, being a neuroscientist doesn’t entail you understand what perceptual illusions tell us about the nature of perception and what it implies about reality. It’s more of a philosophical issue, and scientists are notoriously hopeless when it comes to philosophy even though they seem to be wholly unaware of their cluelessness. God help you if you agreed with BJ on this . .

  72. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Ian:

    “Steve12, being a neuroscientist doesn’t entail you understand what perceptual illusions tell us about the nature of perception and what it implies about reality”

    Of course not. Most of my grad school and postdocs were centered around origami.

    “It’s more of a philosophical issue, and scientists are notoriously hopeless when it comes to philosophy even though they seem to be wholly unaware of their cluelessness.”

    I.e., it’s about bullshit.

    “God help you if you agreed with BJ on this . .”

    I do because he’s RIGHT. I teach that illusion in my class.

  73. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 12:48 pm

    steve12
    “I do because he’s RIGHT. I teach that illusion in my class”.

    This of course is one of the major detractions of “education”. Being taught by people who simply lack the requisite understanding.

  74. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 12:51 pm

    BJ linked to a youtube video depicting a 3D version of the illusion in question. But the effect was achieved by trickery. Hence it doesn’t relate to the standard 2D version. So it was a complete red herring.

    This was it I think? (if the link comes up)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Sen1HTu5o

  75. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Ian:

    ” Being taught by people who simply lack the requisite understanding.”

    Says the person who has appointed themselves as having the requisite understanding.

    You have no idea how that illusion works. We’ve been over it.

  76. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 12:58 pm

    In the 3D version, the shadows are painted on. So it simply doesn’t have any relevance to the original 2D version.

  77. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 12:59 pm

    Ian:

    What the hell does ‘trickery” mean regarding an illusion? Of course there’s a “trick”.

    You don’t want to understand the basics of perception, because that would take work, so you lazily appoint yourself the only one who understands to seem like a big-shot and call it “metaphysics”.

    Mystery solved.

  78. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 12:59 pm

    We’ve been over it? I can’t even remember talking to you. I think I simply despaired after BJ provided that link and I disappeared.

  79. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:09 pm

    The shadow is printed on, we are being deceived in this 3D version. In reality the shadow would not move with the squares!

    The 2D version is a representation of a real object. The “illusion” in the 2D version suggests that the colours we see often don’t correspond to the wavelength of the reflected light. In effect everything we see is a construct by the mind.

    This 3D version just screws everything up and serves to confuse people. You and BJ for a kick off.

  80. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Read Alexandre C’s comment on there from 9 months ago.

  81. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:13 pm

    Ian:

    Yes, several times. I remember you said that it couldn’t happen in 3D (not true, as BJ7 provided you a link). Then you were caught up w/ the fact that the shadow is painted on, which doesn’t matter a wit.

    None of the “trickery” matters. The “tricks” are there to push the system so that it’s properties can be revealed. That’s the whole point. In this case (w/o being too technical) it shows that the solutions the visual system finds favor relative constancy (for what’s ecologically important) over local or absolute veridicality to the physical stimulus in it’s reconstruction of the incoming signal.

    That you achieve this via “trickery” is of no matter for what the illusion seeks to achieve.

  82. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:14 pm

    “Read Alexandre C’s comment on there from 9 months ago.”

    I have no idea what this is in reference to.

  83. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:30 pm

    On that link to the 3D illusion. He says:

    “1) Quote from the last paragraph of the description: “But the trick is ..that when you move the square you are moving it WITH the shadow still PRINTED on the square.” The key words here are shadow and printed.

    2) As many people pointed out in the comment section, if the 2 tiles are isolated from the background, the colour is the same but it should NOT. As the shadow covers the moving tile, the colour “perceived” by our eyes/the camera should be darker.

    3) Let’s consider the checkerboard without the shadow. The tile that diagonally opposite the original position of the moving tile (in half-shadow) has the same colour than the original one. Then logically also has the same colour than the final position one. This setup is not possible. As a conclusion, the lighting is “fake” (at least not explicitly explained as staged) and the shadow is printed. Anyways, the description is not explicit enough about the staged nature of the installation. Purposely I guess, since half of the video presents the lighting, the shadow and the checkerboard (and the girl). The video misleads people in the understanding of the “Checker shadow illusion” of Adelson. In my opinion, this is intentionnal disinformation. And i hate it.”

    He’s right, it misleads people in the understanding of the original “Checker shadow illusion” of Adelson. This link of BJ’s is a complete irrelevance..

  84. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:34 pm

    And what Adam Robertshaw says on there:

    “what most people aren’t noticing is that in THIS version of the illusion the shadow is not a shadow but printed onto the paper, therefore the illusion is kinda half real half not. As Lilly said it is a staged version of the real illusion – there are many videos of people doing the real illusion utilizing the light source to cast the shadow”.

    Precisely!

  85. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:36 pm

    1) Quote from the last paragraph of the description: “But the trick is ..that when you move the square you are moving it WITH the shadow still PRINTED on the square.” The key words here are shadow and printed.

    But you perception of the color of the square CHANGES. It does not matter a wit that it was painted. None. Nada. 0. Null set.

    2. Don’t know what point your making.

    3. In my opinion, this is intentionnal disinformation.

    YES! It is “intentional disinformation”. You’re back with the “trickery” The trickery is the manipulation here.

    You really don’t get this? Why we use these illusions?

    Why don’t you reply to my post 19 May 2016 at 1:13 pm.

  86. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:38 pm

    Who sees a visual illusion and gets hung up on the fact that they “lied to”?

    I mean, really?

    Are you angry with your visual system for assigning different values to the square depending on where it is?

  87. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:41 pm

    What about this illusion Ian?

    No LIES! No TREACHERY!!!!

    http://www.psy.ritsumei.ac.jp/~akitaoka/scintillatinggridillusion-moto03HL.jpg

  88. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:44 pm

    “Why don’t you reply to my post 19 May 2016 at 1:13 pm”.

    Sorry, but how the heck does this relate to my original argument on my blog??

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/are-perceptual-illusions-always.html

  89. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:47 pm

    So when I say in that blog entry:

    “If this were a real 3D object and we were to approach it and view it from various angles, then we would see that squares A and B are very different colours. Indeed their intrinsic colours would be precisely as we perceive them in the illusion above”.

    It’s no avail to link to a 3D version, but one which involves *trickery*! :O

  90. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:48 pm

    Because your senses are “deceiving you” vis a vis physical reality.

    And this points out that slavish reflection of physical reality is not what the visual system evolved to reflect, or the color of the square would not be perceived to change.

  91. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 1:55 pm

    Oh Christ…

    “If this were a real 3D object and we were to approach it and view it from various angles, then we would see that squares A and B are very different colours. Indeed their intrinsic colours would be precisely as we perceive them in the illusion above”.

    If it were a regular 3D checkerboard, um, yeah. Who gives a shit about a regular checkerboard? Who gives a shit about situations where the visual reconstruction is seemingly veridical?

    You mean it wouldn’t be a visual illusion if we took the manipulation away? No shit Sherlock (Cumberbatch version only).

    What’s interesting is that you can push the system into a type of failure, and why that happens.

    Arguing against the presense of the pushing itself is nonsensical.

  92. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 1:57 pm

    I hope you don’t use the word “shit” all the time when teaching your students!

  93. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 2:00 pm

    Our vision is not failing us with this checker-square “illusion”. I explain that in my blog.

  94. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 2:02 pm

    “I hope you don’t use the word “shit” all the time when teaching your students!”

    Eh…sometimes. I also have them call me Steve – I’m informal.

  95. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 2:04 pm

    Anyway, s’long as you’d mark my blog entry about this “illusion” with a grade A.

  96. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 2:06 pm

    That’s OK, at school and uni I would’ve preferred my teachers and lecturers to say shit! Makes them seem more human. So long as the word isn’t directed at me all the time!

  97. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Oh, Ian:

    “Our vision is not failing us with this checker-square “illusion”. I explain that in my blog.”

    Ha! I’ll call a simple recapitulation that you’re right – in place of a point by point reply – a concession.

    Seriously, pick up an intro text on basic visual perception. It really isn’t that hard to understand.

  98. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 2:07 pm

    “So long as the word isn’t directed at me all the time!”

    Fair point!

  99. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 2:08 pm

    “Anyway, s’long as you’d mark my blog entry about this “illusion” with a grade A.”

    For effort, sure.

  100. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 2:37 pm

    See what’s happened now? Steven Novella has got so sick of this thread going off on a tangent about perceptual “illusions” he’s decided to write another blog entry!

    Suffice to say that BJ needed to link to a 3D checker-square *where no trickery is involved*. Where no shadow is painted on, but rather where the shadow is real. See what happens to the colours of the square then. I think you will find that squares A and B have the colours we perceive them as having. We were never deceived.

  101. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 2:44 pm

    It really is polite to reply to the other person’s posts in a discussion Ian. Nay, essential.

    I already answered this trickery business. If you think my answers were incorrect you can respond as to why, specifically.

    As I did to your posts.

  102. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 3:18 pm

    steve12
    “If it were a regular 3D checkerboard, um, yeah. Who gives a shit about a regular checkerboard? Who gives a shit about situations where the visual reconstruction is seemingly veridical?”

    The answer to that is I am. Indeed I’m *only* interested in regular checkerboards. I’m not interested in those that involve trickery.

    What I find bizarre is that I’ve been arguing about this illusion for well over 10 years, and scarcely anyone understands my argument!

  103. steve12on 19 May 2016 at 3:40 pm

    Ian:

    So you just don’t wanna answer. No worries.

  104. Ivan Groznyon 19 May 2016 at 4:08 pm

    tmac
    “Your whole argument appears to be that 2C sensitivity is somehow benign as far as I can tell, but it is not.”

    It’s not my argument, it’s an IPCC’s argument. You should correct them if you think it’s not “benign”.

  105. Ivan Groznyon 19 May 2016 at 4:21 pm

    ckava: “This is the very definition of cherry picking, you are selecting an arbitrary time period (6 years) because you think the studies published suit your argument. What was the major scientific breakthrough that made studies pre-2010 unreliable? I’ll help you out, there wasn’t anything.”

    If you read my posts before you would see that I was not claiming that the new studies are correct and the old studies were wrong. I was saying that if you rely on the “current consensus in the literature” you would have to go with the new studies and to say that the sensitivity is likely much lower. Above all, I wanted to dispel the uninformed talking point Steve Novella is repeating all the time that “scientific consensus” is that a dangerous climate change is imminent. If at least 22 studies of climate sensitivity in the last six years show it to be lower than IPCC previously defined as the cut-off line.

    As for the possible breakthroughs that led to this change, yes, there is one scientific breakthrough that explains the much lower sensitivity in recent studies: the advance in understanding the aerosol forcing. The aerosol cooling effect had been previously a “plug variable”, an adjustable parameter that the modellers used to cancel out as much of the excessive warming most of the models produced as needed simulate the observations. Most models typically gave you 2 or 3 times more greenhouse warming than observed. That was done in spite of the IPCC reports describing the level of scientific understanding of aerosols “low” or “very low”. In recent years the new studies have shown that the cooling effect of aerosols was much lower than previously hypothesized, so the scientists had to adjust the models. In order to simulate the observations you had now to lower the CO2 sensitivity of the models, since the magic wand of aerosols was taken away.

    So, the advances in monitoring and quantifying the cooling effects of aerosol were the main breakthroughs that led to the re-evaluation of climate sensitivity in the literature.

  106. tmac57on 19 May 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Ivan, I am reposting my response on the other thread which pertains to your last comment about the IPCC:

    Ivan said “If sensitivity is about 2 deg C even IPCC admits there would not be much problem. ”
    I think that you are conflating what the IPCC said about an absolute rise to 2C (which is even debatable) with climate sensitivity of 2C. To stop at 2C, the world would have had to cap Co2 at 560 PPM, and we are on track to that number by 2100 if linear trends continue, as they have done since the 1800’s.
    Notice that I said “cap”, which means that we would have had to, at that point, pretty much stopped all man made causes of Co2 and other man made green house emissions related to post industrial life, or have found a way to extract Co2 from the atmosphere.
    But doing nothing at all toward that goal would doom us to ever escalating surface temperatures, and all of the bad stuff that that entails.
    The IPCC is definitely NOT OK with a 2C climate sensitivity in a BAU world.

    So no Ivan, it is not the IPCC’s argument that a climate sensitivityof 2C is benign. They were not referring to climate sensitivity, but a 2C degree rise in average temperature but not beyond. Another doubling of CO2 (1120 PPM) would raise that to 4C. Is that clear?

  107. Ian Wardellon 19 May 2016 at 5:51 pm

    @steve12

    Have you seen this illusion by the way which has been on fb lately?

    http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2016/05/18/sometimes_a_cigar_isn_t_just_a_cigar.html

    What is amazing is that most people can’t see the cigar at first! Makes you question whether people might be in the presence of anomalous phenomena, such as apparitions, vastly more frequently than they are reported, but we simply cannot see them due to our implicit expectations about what’s out there.

  108. CKavaon 19 May 2016 at 8:18 pm

    “What is amazing is that most people can’t see the cigar at first! Makes you question whether people might be in the presence of anomalous phenomena, such as apparitions, vastly more frequently than they are reported, but we simply cannot see them due to our implicit expectations about what’s out there.”

    That’s a joke, right? A nice illustration of the limitations of our visual system doesn’t *really* lend credence to the notion= That explains ghosts!!! If anything it highlights that relying on eyewitness testimonies of ‘anomalous phenomena’ is hazardous because our visual systems did not evolve to provide a precise record of the natural world but rather to do things like avoid hazards/threats, detect nice things to eat, and allow us to navigate our physical environment.

  109. CKavaon 19 May 2016 at 9:02 pm

    “If you read my posts before you would see that I was not claiming that the new studies are correct and the old studies were wrong. I was saying that if you rely on the “current consensus in the literature” you would have to go with the new studies and to say that the sensitivity is likely much lower. Above all, I wanted to dispel the uninformed talking point Steve Novella is repeating all the time that “scientific consensus” is that a dangerous climate change is imminent. If at least 22 studies of climate sensitivity in the last six years show it to be lower than IPCC previously defined as the cut-off line.”

    Sigh… It’s not ‘much lower’, its just to the lower end of the predicted range and the recent lower estimates aren’t an established consensus. Do you remember claiming that there are NO studies with higher estimates post 2010 and challenging anyone to prove you wrong and did you note that I was able to do so after about 5 minutes of looking? That’s the kind of thing that should give someone who is genuinely interested in the science some pause… oh, how come I didn’t come across any of those studies when they are discussed in some of the very papers I am promoting? The answer= because you don’t read the studies you cite and you don’t care about the literature except for how it can be used to support your ideology driven conclusions. It is apparent in this thread and others that you don’t understand the science and are just regurgitating the talking points of denialists; hence, you misrepresent the conclusions of the studies you cite based on the standard denialist summaries and you also are clearly unaware about papers that don’t accord with your narrative.

    You also seemed to have misunderstood what the climate sensitivity models are about. The IPCC has never said that anything lower than 2 is no real issue. It’s a policy target that has been promoted for pragmatic purposes and, if met, would help to avoid some of the truly disastrous effects predicted under greater warming. However, most models (including many of those in the papers you are promoting) are not predicting that we won’t go above 2 degrees they are extrapolating from current trends that it will take a bit longer (in the best case scenarios). So that would mean we still need to make efforts to reduce our emissions or we will pass 2 degrees warming by the second half of this century…

    “As for the possible breakthroughs that led to this change, yes, there is one scientific breakthrough that explains the much lower sensitivity in recent studies: the advance in understanding the aerosol forcing. The aerosol cooling effect had been previously a “plug variable”, an adjustable parameter that the modellers used to cancel out as much of the excessive warming most of the models produced as needed simulate the observations. Most models typically gave you 2 or 3 times more greenhouse warming than observed. That was done in spite of the IPCC reports describing the level of scientific understanding of aerosols “low” or “very low”. In recent years the new studies have shown that the cooling effect of aerosols was much lower than previously hypothesized, so the scientists had to adjust the models. In order to simulate the observations you had now to lower the CO2 sensitivity of the models, since the magic wand of aerosols was taken away.”
    Ok so which paper or paper(s) specifically from 2010 or before are you referring to that introduced this breakthrough? I’m sure you are not referring to the Stevens paper that came out last year and was hyped up in the denialist blogosphere, right? Since, for that to be the breakthrough would require time travel… Also, from the 21 studies you cite how many of them had their models estimated primarily impacted by this change? Oh and btw what are the ranges mentioned in those 21 studies btw *not the median or modal predictions*? It would be troublesome to have to look at all the studies in depth now but since you are very confident in citing them I imagine you’ve read them closely already and are very familiar with their models and findings, so it shouldn’t take you much effort.

  110. CKavaon 19 May 2016 at 9:04 pm

    EDIT: I meant to say ‘in’ the second half of this century, not ‘by’.

    And the above is directed at Ivan. Sorry to everyone else for all the off topic denialism chat.

  111. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 6:45 am

    Certainly no joke. We literally might not be able to see that which lies outside our background implicit expectations about how the world is. Limitations of our visual system?? The mind does the best it can with the limited info it receives. If we were to see the world “as it really is”, we’d just see a flat 2D picture.

    I also suspect this also has a role in non-physical vision such as NDEs and OBEs. Our non-physical perceptions too are shaped and moulded by our implicit expectations, our cultural background etc

  112. MaryMon 20 May 2016 at 8:10 am

    So you can’t comment over at SciAm. A couple of us NECSS attendees commented on the Nature News piece.

    In an ultimate irony, Nature News removed the comments from two women who were actually at NECSS. The media tribe protects Horgan’s tender shell-like ears. He is able to insulate from any facts about who skeptics actually are and why they are irked by his pulled-out-of-his ass claims.

    My comment was much nicer than that.

  113. BillyJoe7on 20 May 2016 at 8:47 am

    Ian,

    This is the sum total of what you say in your blog regarding the checkerboard illusion:

    http://web.mit.edu/persci/people/adelson/images/checkershadow/checkershadow_illusion4med.jpg

    “I’m sure that all of us are astounded that the squares A and B are actually the same colour. It is the shadow cast over B by the cylinder which makes us think otherwise. What this suggests is a quite incredible illusion”

    You are looking at a 2D drawing and you’re talking about a shadow cast by a cyclinder!
    But it’s just a 2D drawing!
    There is no cylinder and no shadow. There’s not even a checkerboard!
    It may REPRESENT a 3D object, but it is NOT a 3D object.
    The TRICK that creates the illusion is as follows:
    Square A is surrounded by white squares. This makes square A look darker than it actually is. Square B is surrounded by black squares. This makes square B look lighter than it actually is. The result is that the identically coloured squares A and B look very different in colour.
    The fact that it REPRESENTS a checkerboard is irrelevant. We could simply have drawn a grey square surrounded by white squares on the left half of a sheet of paper and an identically coloured grey square surrounded by black squares on the right half. The TRICK would work just as well.

    “Let’s consider the “illusion” above again. If this were a real 3D object and we were to approach it and view it from various angles, then we would see that squares A and B are very different colours. Indeed their intrinsic colours would be precisely as we perceive them in the illusion above.”

    But it is NOT a 3D object.
    You can’t explain away the illusion in the 2D drawing by showing that something else (the 3D object) does not demonstrate that illusion.
    (Interestingly, the 3D object also demonstrates an illusion, but a slightly different one from the illusion demonstrated in the 2D drawing. The 3D object can be set up in such a way that the same wavelength of light is reflected off squares A and B, yet the colours of A and B will look completely different).

    “But in that case what justifies us in labelling it as an illusion? If this were a real object that we are seeing, then squares A and B are very different colours. Our senses are not deceiving us. Indeed if someone claimed to see the squares as being precisely the same colour, then it is doubtful that he could proficiently visually apprehend his environment”

    The 2D drawing very clearly IS an example of an optical illusion.
    The 3D object very clearly is NOT an example of that same optical illusion.
    You can’t deny the illusion in the 2D drawing by not finding that same illusion in the 3D object!

    —————————

    The 3D video:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9Sen1HTu5o

    This is, in fact, a fairly faithful reproduction of the 2D illusion in 3D.

    The 2D drawing has a dark area painted across it. The purpose of this dark area is to make the colour of B the same as the colour of A. However, the dark squares surrounding square B also have this dark area painted across them making them even darker. As a result, square B still looks lighter than square A, even though it is now the same colour as A.
    Likewise, the 3D video also has a dark area painted across it. likewise, the purpose of this dark area is to make the colour of square B the same as the colour of square A (as the hostess amply demonstrates). Likewise, the dark squares surrounding square B also have this dark area painted across them making them even darker. As a result, square B still looks lighter than square A, even though it is now the same colour as A.
    In the 2D drawing the green area is irrelevant to the illusion and, likewise, in the 3D object the green cylinder is irrelevant to the illusion (though both tend to distract you from what’s really going on)

    So, I’m not sure what the problem is!

  114. BillyJoe7on 20 May 2016 at 8:52 am

    Ian,

    “If we were to see the world “as it really is”, we’d just see a flat 2D picture”

    All I’d need to do for you to see the world as a 2D picture is to poke one of your eyes out! 😀
    But I’m pretty sure you’d not be seeing the world “as it really is” though. 😉

  115. BillyJoe7on 20 May 2016 at 8:59 am

    Slight correction regarding the video…

    “Likewise, the 3D video also has a dark area painted across it” should be “Likewise, the checkered board in the 3D video also has a dark area painted across it”.

  116. RickKon 20 May 2016 at 9:01 am

    Oh no… Ian is back on the topic of the checkerboard illusion? I thought we did that to death with the infamous blue dress.

    I do LOVE this: “What is amazing is that most people can’t see the cigar at first! Makes you question whether people might be in the presence of anomalous phenomena, such as apparitions, vastly more frequently than they are reported, but we simply cannot see them due to our implicit expectations about what’s out there.”

    So it’s not the occasional ghost sightings that are optical illusions, it’s our brains fooling us into NOT seeing the ecosystem of ghosts all around us.

    You can’t make this stuff up.

  117. Todd W.on 20 May 2016 at 9:04 am

    For those who are interested, here are the comments MaryM mentions were removed from the Nature News article:

    Mary Mangan
    2016-05-19 02:51 AM

    Heh. Yeah–imagine making evidence-free (aka “impressionistic”) claims in front of a room full of people who value evidence. Who could have predicted that?

    Sharon Hill
    2016-05-19 12:08 AM

    “Seething”? Not particularly. More like flummoxed as to how off-base Horgan’s statements were and why he would think it’s in his purview to talk down to an audience he obviously is neither involved with nor knows much about. Honestly, had he framed the points in a less smug and more encouraging manner, they would have been better received. Novella’s NeuroLogica piece is a fine rebuttal to Horgan’s fallacious rant. The whole episode told me more about Horgan’s self-serving agenda than anything else. Now, I’m going to go write about how people can avoid being taken in by deceptive advertising because I have done as much anti-war advocacy that I can think of today and we all can’t cure cancer.

  118. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 9:20 am

    Ian,

    At this point you do have the option of admitting that you were wrong about this. You might even consider removing or heavily revising your original blog post. Just putting it out there…

  119. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 9:42 am

    BillyJoe
    “You are looking at a 2D drawing and you’re talking about a shadow cast by a cyclinder!
    But it’s just a 2D drawing!
    There is no cylinder and no shadow. There’s not even a checkerboard!
    It may REPRESENT a 3D object, but it is NOT a 3D object”.

    You really are a silly Billy…

    Do you take this approach with all light that enters your eyes? Because we only perceive a 3D world at all since perception is a constructive process. Our minds mould and shape what’s out there. If we don’t take a picture depicting a 3D object seriously and just see it as a series of 2D lines and colours, so too should we do the same for photos, and so too should we do for everything we ever see. This is because if our minds were completely passive we would merely see a 2D plain when looking out into the word of 3D objects.

    @mumadadd, I have never been convinced by a “skeptic” that I’m wrong about anything, since invariably they simply fail to understand. That continues to remain the case.

  120. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 9:42 am

    Steve12 has made some responses on my blog.

  121. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 9:46 am

    Ian,

    “@mumadadd, I have never been convinced by a “skeptic” that I’m wrong about anything, since invariably they simply fail to understand. That continues to remain the case.”

    I thought so, just thought I’d get an appeal to humility on the record.

  122. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 9:49 am

    I mean, a 10 yr old could understand what bj7 laid out, and you’ve also had a vision specialised neuroscientist explain it to you. And yet… they just don’t get it.

  123. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 10:09 am

    I’ve never even ever studied psychology.

  124. BillyJoe7on 20 May 2016 at 10:10 am

    Ian,

    “Do you take this approach with all light that enters your eyes? Because we only perceive a 3D world at all since perception is a constructive process. Our minds mould and shape what’s out there. If we don’t take a picture depicting a 3D object seriously and just see it as a series of 2D lines and colours, so too should we do the same for photos, and so too should we do for everything we ever see”

    Can you say “diversionary tactic”?
    The first of these types of optical illusions used simple drawings like the one I mentioned in my post: Identical quares on light and dark backgrounds. The checkerboard illusion is just a more complex example of those drawings. The 2D drawing demonstrates an illusion regardles of whether or not it is a representation of a 3D object. And, to the extent that it can be interpreted as a representation of a 3D object, it more closely represents the 3D object depicted in that video, than an actual real checkerboard.
    Nice way to avoid responding to criticism though.

    “This is because if our minds were completely passive we would merely see a 2D plain when looking out into the word of 3D objects”

    To the extent that this has any meaning at all, if our brains were completely passive, we would not see anything at all!

  125. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 10:13 am

    I meant if our minds were passive in the act of perceiving so that our minds played no role in what we perceive. So in that scenario our eyes were just like windows and we just simply see directly what is out there. That’s the popular view, but it is hopelessly naive.

  126. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 11:30 am

    Ian

    “Steve12 has made some responses on my blog.”

    No, I did not. I see that you’re saying this here:

    http://ian-wardell.blogspot.co.uk/2011/03/are-perceptual-illusions-always.html

    But this is not true. This is not me.

  127. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 11:34 am

    Ian:

    You just don’t know much about visual perception. Much of what you’re saying is wrong (with some right sprinkled in) I mean no worries; you can fill many a library with what I don’t know.

    But you simply cannot admit when you don’t know something, or have something wrong. This is pigheadedness really.

    How can you learn anything when you can’t have an honest conversation re: what you know and don’t know?

  128. CKavaon 20 May 2016 at 1:05 pm

    “If we were to see the world “as it really is”, we’d just see a flat 2D picture.”

    I see so you think we live in a two dimensional world. I would hope this is you buying into recent highly speculative work about holograms but given you ghost comments, your failure to understand optical illusions, and your website, I expect I am giving too much credit.

  129. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 1:13 pm

    CKava:

    “I see so you think we live in a two dimensional world. ”

    No, he’s saying that our visual experience is a 3D reconstruction of a 2D retinal collection. Which is true, but is beside the larger point.

    As BJ7 said, this is a diversion – it has nothing to do with his other errors re: the illusion.

  130. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I find it utterly baffling that people can’t understand the most elementary stuff. What the heck is wrong with you people?? Why are you all immune to being able to understand the most simple stuff??

    Skeptics are rational?? It rhymes with clucking bell. You’re all bloody barking mad!

  131. BBBlueon 20 May 2016 at 1:18 pm

    A little tribalism can be a good thing. As has been discussed here in other contexts, thinking that one is part of a group increases the likelihood that they will think and act as the group thinks and acts. No harm there if the ideas are positive, and adherence to rational, science-based principles is certainly a positive idea. It’s when someone takes a position “just because” they are a member of a skeptic tribe (or believes they are) that is the problem. Given the nature of skepticism itself, I imagine such pseudo-skeptics are few and far between.

  132. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 1:23 pm

    Ian,

    You can’t win an argument by simply declaring that you did.

    What is you point? That illusions aren’t real if they employ tricks? That are visual experience is a veridical reflection of physical reality?

  133. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 1:23 pm

    SHoudl say:

    That illusions aren’t real illusions….

  134. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 1:26 pm

    The world is full of pseudo-skeptics. It’s now what the word “skeptic” means.

  135. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 1:43 pm

    “The world is full of pseudo-skeptics. It’s now what the word “skeptic” means.”

    Funny – this is how our discussion ended yesterday – you declaring yourself right but not taking any of those pesky questions.

  136. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 1:48 pm

    I explain everything on my blog. And I even supplied additional clarification in response to your questions on my blog. If you still don’t understand, there is absolutely nothing I can do.

  137. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 1:58 pm

    Ian

    “I explain everything on my blog. And I even supplied additional clarification in response to your questions on my blog. If you still don’t understand, there is absolutely nothing I can do.”

    OK – you’re just a crank. Nothing to be done about it. I’m sure you’re a nice guy otherwise.

    But you really shouldn’t attribute comments to people w/o knowing. I did not comment on your blg.

  138. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 2:09 pm

    Seeeeeeeeeeee my bloooooooooooooog!!!

  139. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 2:19 pm

    “I did not comment on your blg”

    It’s effing hilarious; on his blog, he writes, “for those of you don’t know, Steve is a neuroscientist…” Makes him seem more legit that he’s got neuroscientists commenting. But then it wasn’t even you.

    If I have kids one day and they ask me what hubris is, I will send them to Ian’s blog.

  140. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 3:04 pm

    Steve12, it’s only you that I’ve been talking to on this subject. And lo and behold a comment appears on my blog on the very subject with the same asinine arguments that you employ? Yet it’s not you?

    I really cannot be bothered with both your stupidity and mendacity.

  141. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 3:10 pm

    …and off he stormed in an indignant huff, managing to preserve his sense of superiority, having won another argument.

  142. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 3:18 pm

    ” And lo and behold a comment appears on my blog on the very subject with the same asinine arguments that you employ? Yet it’s not you?”

    It was me, Ian. I read S12’s comments here and I was bored… Or was it? Was it any of the other lurkers here? Somebody who’s never commented but follows the comments avidly and thought they would take on an easy target for fun? Maybe somebody who just happened by here a couple of days ago, read this exchange, and thought what a pompous twerp, I’ll go to his blog and argue with him?

    I know you’re not good with evidence though. And with that I’ll bid you adieu; I’m far too clever and important to waste my time arguing with somebody who won’t accept my materialist metaphysics and doesn’t realise that I’m smarter than the collective endeavours of thousands of experts’ methodic testing.

    Hufffffffffffff.

  143. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 3:19 pm

    PS: See my blog!

  144. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 3:27 pm

    HAHAHA!

    Ian – I am anonymous now. Why the F would I go to your blog and comment double anonymously and then deny it? That makes 0 sense.

    “Steve12, it’s only you that I’ve been talking to on this subject.”

    Right – and it was reasonable to think it was me until I told you otherwise.

    But I’ll let you in on a little secret Ian: other people can ALSO see what we say here! And one of THEM might have commented. Whomever that is will probably tell you shortly.

    This is the same kind of shitty reasoning that leads you to bad conclusions generally Ian.

  145. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 3:29 pm

    Once again, Mumadadd and I write essentially the same post but his is funnier.

    Oh well….

  146. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 3:50 pm

    It’s happened to everyone at least once, Steve12.

  147. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 4:09 pm

    Mr Anonymous says:

    “Try digging into a textbook on visual color perception. There’s over a hundred years of experimental research into this topic, you should familiarize yourself at least with the basics”.

    Earlier in this thread you say:

    “Seriously, pick up an intro text on basic visual perception”.

    So I thought it was highly likely to be you. However, I’ve changed my mind. He’s read your arguments and is repeating them. His style of writing is kinds slightly different from yours. So I apologise!

    That’s an apology for my accusation of mendacity only.

    mummadadd, if it was you, why not just use “mummadad”? It can get confusing with an endless list of anonymouses responding to each other (what the heck is the plural of anonymous??)

  148. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 4:13 pm

    What doesn’t go over your head, Ian?

    Ah, I know: things that support your narrative.

  149. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 4:18 pm

    It was definitely one of you people! It can’t be somebody ‘anonymous’, who I’ve never heard of!

  150. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Ian, for at least the last two years, I’ve not made an argument that I didn’t understand in order to appear clever. Therefore you can rule me out — I wouldn’t suggest that you read something I haven’t, and I wouldn’t try to appeal to something I didn’t know for the purpose of argument (unless that was the point of the argument). Satisfied?

  151. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 4:56 pm

    NO apologies required – I just didn’t understand why you’d think I’d lie.

    I will say this though: I know it was that bastard Mumadadd. I just know it.

  152. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 5:13 pm

    😉

  153. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 5:16 pm

    It was definitely steve12. I’d recognise his writing style (or should that be wronging style) anywhere.

  154. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 5:18 pm

    Right, s12, want to place a little wager on when IW will next comment on this blog?

  155. CKavaon 20 May 2016 at 5:29 pm

    @steve12

    I get that our ‘representation’ is a reconstruction of a two dimensional input. But what Ian said was “If we were to see the world “as it really is”, we’d just see a flat 2D picture.”

    To me that implied that, akin to how he suggests ghosts are probably all around us in the “world as it really is”, he thinks that independent from our representations the world is actually just a 2D picture. Are you sure he doesn’t believe this?

  156. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 5:32 pm

    CKava,

    Independent of s12’s comment, that’s what I took it to mean. Retina=flat, therefore 3D=added by brain.

  157. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 5:35 pm

    …although that’s inconsistent with the notion that colours exist independent of perception. But that’s nobody’s problem but Dr. professor Ian Wardell’s.

  158. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 5:48 pm

    CKava:

    I figured you knew that, but I wasn’t sure if you gleaned that that was what Ian was saying as it seemed a but convoluted.

  159. steve12on 20 May 2016 at 5:52 pm

    “Right, s12, want to place a little wager on when IW will next comment on this blog?”

    I’ll bet you a beer, if you ever make it Boston-way, that his next post will be in regards to the band: The Clockwork Clocks.

  160. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 6:05 pm

    Aight, I’ll bet you two if you ever make it Leeds way: it will be…

    42 hrs from now and about…

    How science can’t explain silly questions that are important because I can think of them/real questions that it can explain but I won’t acknowledge because scientists don’t understand science but metaphysics/philosophy can.

    Or: 3-6 months from now and about….

    How science can’t explain silly questions that are important because I can think of them/real questions that it can explain but I won’t acknowledge because scientists don’t understand science but metaphysics/philosophy can.

  161. The Other John Mcon 20 May 2016 at 6:27 pm

    For the life of me, I just can’t imagine who would harass poor Ian over at his blog, regarding misunderstandings of perception……anonymous bastard

  162. Ian Wardellon 20 May 2016 at 6:53 pm

    I don’t think the world in and of itself is 2D. We simply don’t know what it is like since it is forever beyond anything we could ever experience.

  163. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 6:57 pm

    P1; I don’t think the world in and of itself is 2D. We simply don’t know what it is like since it is forever beyond anything we could ever experience.

    Continue.

  164. mumadaddon 20 May 2016 at 7:12 pm

    Or rather: Is the world in and of itself is 2D?

    P1: We simply don’t know what it is like since it is forever beyond anything we could ever experience

    P1 is granted.

    Next.

  165. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2016 at 4:27 am

    Hey Ian,

    See if you can find an illusion in a 3D version of the following 2D illusion that is different from the illusion seen in the 2D version and then use that fact to explain why the illusion in the 2D version is not an illusion after all…because it is different from the one in the 3D version…or something

    😀

    https://richardwiseman.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/colors.gif?w=620
    (The blue and green spirals are actually the same colour!)

  166. BillyJoe7on 21 May 2016 at 5:06 am

    Ian,

    Still at it…

    “An illusion has to mean we are somehow not seeing what is out there. That we are actually perceiving something different from what is out there. But this is not the case with the checkerboard “illusion” since if it were a 3D object and we looked at it from different perspectives, we would indeed still perceive squares A and B as being the colours that we initially perceived”

    Let me repeat…

    The 2D drawing is NOT a 3D object.
    It is…um…a 2D drawing!
    Print the damn thing out and put it out there.

    Now that 2D drawing exists out there.
    And that 2D drawing demonstrates an illusion.
    Therefore that 2D illusion exists out there

  167. Damloweton 21 May 2016 at 7:37 pm

    @ ccbowers, I hold your sentiments exactly.

    Try this out (I know it is going to sound childish, but it seems to work for me) if you look at the image carefully, then squint to the point just before field of view is reduced to zero, those two squares in question appear to become visually the same colour. Not sure whether my brain is being un-fooled by limiting other colour information which bring those two tiles back to their appropriate colour, or its something else.

    Damien

  168. The Other John Mcon 21 May 2016 at 7:58 pm

    Make a paper cut out you can hold over screen. If you block out the surrounding context clues that there is a shadow, your brain no longer tries to compensate for the shadow and sees the squares as the same colors. Might also be worth trying upside down

  169. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2016 at 8:47 pm

    Doh!

  170. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2016 at 8:50 pm

    {facepalm}

    You people are unbelievable..

  171. Ian Wardellon 21 May 2016 at 8:55 pm

    It’s good to have the last word anyway. Goodbye thread.

  172. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 1:42 am

    ccbowers,

    (Note: In my description of the 2D drawing, I’m going to be pedantic and use the word “rhomboid” instead of “square”, and the phrase “shade of grey” instead of the word “colour”, because that is actually how they appear in the 2D drawing. Likewise, I will use the phrase “shade of grey” instead of the word “colour” in the description of the video. In the video, the tiles are squares (even though they appear to be rhomboids!), so I will continue to refer to them as squares)

    “the reason why this is an illusion, and it is a compelling one, is that we cannot see that the tile on the paper are the same shade, even after being told and shown that they are the same. It is fine that we can compensate for various lighting, but when we do that to the point that we see differences between none exists, that is an illusion”

    I’m not sure if you are referencing the 2D drawing or the video of the 3D equivalent of that 2D drawing, but it doesn’t matter because both show the same illusion:
    In the 2D drawing, rhomboid A and rhomboid B are perceived to be quite different shades of grey, but they can be shown by various means to be the exact same shade of grey; and in the video of the 3D equivalent of this 2D drawing, square A and square B are perceived to be quite different shades of grey, but as our hostess amply demonstrates, they are actually the exact same shade of grey.
    So, yes, contrary to what Ian says, the 2D drawing IS an optical illusion and the video IS indeed the 3D equivalent of that 2D drawing.
    And it is frankly bizarre that he stupidly uses a completely different illusion in a silly attempt to prove that the 2D drawing is somehow not an optical illusion.

    “I don’t quote understand the confusion”

    I don’t get it either.
    When Ian and I first discussed this a few years ago, I thought it would be a simple matter of pointing out to him where his personal blog entry about this illusion was incorrect. He did not respond in any meaningful way by either showing where my reasoning was wrong, or explaining his own reasoning. He simply doubled down, went on the attack with ad hominems, and then exited the thread. He has done this ever since and has done so again on this thread.
    Frankly, I would be happy to be proven wrong if that is the case because, as I’ve always said, everytime you are shown to be wrong, you learn something new.

    “Ian seems to be arguing that these are not really illusions, because in a 3D world the color of the ‘lighter tile’ is only as dark as the ‘darker tile’ due to the pretense of shadow, and that our brains are correctly processing this for the purpose of compensating for various lighting”

    Yes, bizarre!
    He is effectively trying to show that there is no optical illusion in the 2D drawing (and the 3D video equivalent) by referencing a different setup which demonstrates a different illusion! His optical illusion consists of a real chessboard with a real shadow cast by a real cylinder in front of a real light source. The illusion in this setup is that the squares appear to be different shades of grey (and can be demonstrated to be different shades of grey by simply removing the cylinder), but can be shown to reflect the same wavelengths of light into our eyes. That’s the illusion in this setup: same wavelengths of light, different shades of grey. It’s a different set-up demonstrating a different illusion and this can have no bearing whatsoever on whether or not the other two are examples of optical illusions, which they clearly are.

  173. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 2:01 am

    Just to add…

    Ian thinks that even his own setup is not an optical illusion – because you can remove the cylinder and voila! the squares are different colours just as they were perceived to be before the cylinder was removed! He doesn’t even realise that he has CHANGED the setup in such a way that the illusion actually disappears!

    In fact, he uses his so called demolition of his own setup to argue that the 2D drawing (and the 3D video version) is also not an optical illusion – which simply does not follow even if he had managed to demonstrate that his own setup is not an optical illusion (which he hasn’t).

    Yeah, quite bizarre!

  174. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 2:44 am

    If you’re not yet bored witless…

    There is yet another dimension to this illusion.

    Some commentators attribute the illusion in the 2D drawing to the fact that the combination of the green area (“cylinder”) and the dark area (“shadow”) represent a real life situation in which a cylinder casts a shadow. They even mention the fuzzy edges of the dark area being typical of real life shadows. The reasoning here is that our brains tend to keep colour constant even when a shadow cast over the object actually desaturates the colour.

    Some commentators attribute the illusion to the fact that the alternating light and dark squares (or rhomboids) represent a real life checkerboard, the reasoning being that, on a real checkerboard, we expect square A to be black and square B to be white, so that is how our brains interpret them in the 2D representation of a checkerboard.

    However, although it is possible that both of these features may enhance the effect, the “colour contrast” phenomenon is an adequate explanation. After all, the illusion is very striking even in the simple setup I mentioned previously – a grey square surrounded by dark squares and the same grey square surrounded by light squares. There are no light sources, no cylinders, and no shadows in this setup, yet the illusion is just as striking, if not as interesting.

  175. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 3:10 am

    Okay, one final entry into this tired debate…

    I’m only speculating now, but here goes:

    Ian’s motivation in all of this is to refute Materialism.
    Ian is an Idealist. An Idealist believes that the mind creates matter. And there is no reason for there to be illusions in Idealism. On the contrary, illusions fit in quite well with Materialism. Ian is really pissed off that we are not following, and swallowing, his illogic towards his goal of refuting Materialism.

    But I am speculating, because Ian is too busy trying desperately to refute Materialism to be bothered about explaining in any great detail his own Idealism.

  176. Ian Wardellon 22 May 2016 at 6:43 am

    Right, so next time I see a chess board (one in front of me), I’ll say there are no squares, just rhomboids. They might look like squares, but that’s an illusion. In fact everything I ever see is an illusion.

    BJ
    “Ian’s motivation in all of this is to refute Materialism”.

    You’re off your head!

  177. Ian Wardellon 22 May 2016 at 6:47 am

    And in the video they are squares for the lady depicted in the video, but rhomboids for the rest of the world watching the video. OK…

  178. arnieon 22 May 2016 at 8:11 am

    @ccbowers:”But the reason why this is an illusion, and it is a compelling one, is that we cannot see that the tile on the paper are the same shade, even after being told and shown that they are the same. It is fine that we can compensate for various lighting, but when we do that to the point that we see differences between none exists, that is an illusion.”

    Just curious — Are you saying that less compelling, and more transient, illusions, e.g., those that our brains can fully self correct after the lighting is better or after we look and think about it more, are not technically illusions? I wasn’t aware that an inability to self-correct, even when told and shown the actual nature of what we’re looking at, was a criterion for the definition of an illusion. If so, I’ve learned something there.

    BillyJoe7, I for one was neither bored nor tired of your contributions in that thread. You painstakingly and very thoroughly exposed IW’s confused and motivated thinking. I think we all know from long experience that his fundamental problem with most of the rest of us is not various “content” details that compel him to leap out of the woodwork periodically but his apparent incapacity to have his Idealism-based assumptions exposed for their inherent erroneousness. So I think your speculation on his motivation was well-founded as he needs to continue the dualistic delusion that his mind accurately interprets all perception of matter because MIND, not physical matter/energy, is the ultimate creator and judge (interpreter) of all reality, including matter. So I, for one, was appreciatively benightened by your hanging in there in that dialogue with him in spite of knowing there was no chance he would ever acknowledge, nor even open to seeing, his faulty assumptions and logic.

  179. arnieon 22 May 2016 at 8:14 am

    Whoops! I meant “enlightened”, not “benightened”. WTH did that come from?……..

  180. Ian Wardellon 22 May 2016 at 8:44 am

    Make your mind up arnie, am I an idealist, or a dualist?

    Anyway, this has nothing to do with idealism, dualism and materialism. Even some materialists don’t think it’s appropriate to call this “illusion” a real illusion.

    Jerry Coyne is a ardent reductive materialist, and presumably the people who comment on his blog entries are too.

    Look here:
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/do-we-perceive-reality-the-checker-shadow-illusion/

    Comment 5.

  181. The Other John Mcon 22 May 2016 at 9:11 am

    It’s an illusion Ian. You’ll just have to find some way to come to terms with it, and learn to accept. It’s a difficult period in life that we all must go through.

  182. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 9:16 am

    Ian:

    “Right, so next time I see a chess board (one in front of me), I’ll say there are no squares, just rhomboids”

    Nope.
    If you’ve got the chess board right in front of your eyes, you’re seeing squares.
    If, the chess board is over there on the table, you’re seeing trapezoids.
    If the board is rotated 45 degrees, you’re seeing diamonds.
    And, if you’ve got your eyes closed – which would be emblematic! – you’re seeing nothing at all. 😉
    Thanks for playing.

    “They might look like squares, but that’s an illusion. In fact everything I ever see is an illusion”

    Yep, but there are levels of illusion.
    But I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself – see you in a few years! 😉
    Well, okay then, lesson two:
    Colour corresponding to a particular wavelength would be like a first order illusion, and seeing that colour as different from that wavelength would be like a second order illusion.
    How does that sound?

    You obviously ignored this link:
    https://richardwiseman.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/colors.gif?w=620
    (The blue and green spirals are actually the same colour!)

    “And in the video they are squares for the lady depicted in the video”

    Depends on her vantage point, now doesn’t it? – go back to lesson one!

    “but rhomboids for the rest of the world watching the video. OK…”

    Well you got me there…I should have checked…they in fact appear to be a girl’s best friend.
    Congratulations for seeing that.
    And congratulations for missing the whole point once again. 😉

  183. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 9:36 am

    Ian,

    “https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/do-we-perceive-reality-the-checker-shadow-illusion/”

    Look at the explanation given in the blog entry.
    Sound familiar?

    The first trick is based on local contrast. In shadow or not, a check that is lighter than its neighboring checks is probably lighter than average, and vice versa. In the figure, the light check in shadow is surrounded by darker checks. Thus, even though the check is physically dark, it is light when compared to its neighbors. The dark checks outside the shadow, conversely, are surrounded by lighter checks, so they look dark by comparison.

    This is the colour contrast explanation.
    Now where have you heard that before?
    Oh yes:
    BJ: “the “colour contrast” phenomenon is an adequate explanation. After all, the illusion is very striking even in the simple setup I mentioned previously – a grey square surrounded by dark squares and the same grey square surrounded by light squares”

    A second trick is based on the fact that shadows often have soft edges, while paint boundaries (like the checks) often have sharp edges. The visual system tends to ignore gradual changes in light level, so that it can determine the color of the surfaces without being misled by shadows. In this figure, the shadow looks like a shadow, both because it is fuzzy and because the shadow casting object is visible.

    Oh yes, “shadow casting object [ie cylinder]”, “looks like a shadow” and “fuzzy” edges.
    Now where have you heard that before?
    Oh yes:
    BJ: “Some commentators attribute the illusion in the 2D drawing to the fact that the combination of the green area (“cylinder”) and the dark area (“shadow”) represent a real life situation in which a cylinder casts a shadow. They even mention the fuzzy edges of the dark area being typical of real life shadows. The reasoning here is that our brains tend to keep colour constant even when a shadow cast over the object actually desaturates the colour”

  184. BillyJoe7on 22 May 2016 at 9:37 am

    Ian,

    “https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2011/01/08/do-we-perceive-reality-the-checker-shadow-illusion/”

    Look at the explanation given in the blog entry.
    Sound familiar?

    The first trick is based on local contrast. In shadow or not, a check that is lighter than its neighboring checks is probably lighter than average, and vice versa. In the figure, the light check in shadow is surrounded by darker checks. Thus, even though the check is physically dark, it is light when compared to its neighbors. The dark checks outside the shadow, conversely, are surrounded by lighter checks, so they look dark by comparison.

    This is the colour contrast explanation.
    Now where have you heard that before?
    Oh yes:
    BJ: “the “colour contrast” phenomenon is an adequate explanation. After all, the illusion is very striking even in the simple setup I mentioned previously – a grey square surrounded by dark squares and the same grey square surrounded by light squares”

    A second trick is based on the fact that shadows often have soft edges, while paint boundaries (like the checks) often have sharp edges. The visual system tends to ignore gradual changes in light level, so that it can determine the color of the surfaces without being misled by shadows. In this figure, the shadow looks like a shadow, both because it is fuzzy and because the shadow casting object is visible.

    Oh yes, “shadow casting object [ie cylinder]”, “looks like a shadow” and “fuzzy” edges.
    Now where have you heard that before?
    Oh yes:
    BJ: “Some commentators attribute the illusion in the 2D drawing to the fact that the combination of the green area (“cylinder”) and the dark area (“shadow”) represent a real life situation in which a cylinder casts a shadow. They even mention the fuzzy edges of the dark area being typical of real life shadows. The reasoning here is that our brains tend to keep colour constant even when a shadow cast over the object actually desaturates the colour”

  185. ccbowerson 22 May 2016 at 12:25 pm

    “Just curious — Are you saying that less compelling, and more transient, illusions, e.g., those that our brains can fully self correct after the lighting is better or after we look and think about it more, are not technically illusions?”

    Well. I really meant to say that the persistence makes it compelling, but I rearranged the sentence which had a slightly different implication. But I do think there is a difference between illusions that persist and those that are transient, at least to the extent that we can categorize them differently, but it is also a clue that it taps into something more fundamental about our perceptions. And I think it is correct that since we are constructing our perceptions of reality via our senses, it does become a threshold issue – when does our perception deviate enough to categorize it as an illusion? We tend to call them illusions when they deviate from an external measure that can be verified by ourselves or others.

    Although this gets into issues of definition and categorization, which I think drives much of this “debate,” to the extent that we agree what is taking place when an illusion is happening. It is clear that Ian’s take on this is motivated, and I think BJ7’s explanation on his attachment to idealism is probably close. His response of “doh” and “facepalm” shows his inability to explain himself (was I wrong in my explanation of his argument?)

  186. arnieon 22 May 2016 at 2:54 pm

    CC, thanks for the clarification. Makes more sense. And I think there are different levels, or thresholds of illusions.

    I seems apparent that Ian’s problem is that his ideology is not ultimately defensible, explainable, or evidence based, and his frustration of those who effectively point this out drives him up a wall, repeatedly leaving him with nothing but insults to throw back followed by withdrawal from the thread.

  187. Oracon 22 May 2016 at 3:34 pm

    I called it first to compare John Horgan’s blather to Mike Adams:

    http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2016/05/18/john-horgan-is-skeptical-of-skeptics-or-homeopathy-and-bigfoot-versus-the-quest-for-world-peace/

    Apparently Mike Adams agrees:

    http://www.naturalnews.com/054105_science_skeptics_Scientific_American_cult_of_scientism.html

    🙂

  188. Oracon 22 May 2016 at 3:35 pm

    Here’s a hint. If Mike Adams writes approvingly about you’re criticisms, chances are that you’re doing it wrong. True, sometimes that’s not true, such as in the case of Adams glomming onto books that are critical of some aspect of modern medicine written by real doctors, but usually that’s not the case.

  189. Ian Wardellon 22 May 2016 at 5:59 pm

    The problem here is that people are supposing that wavelengths of light are literally colours. A wavelength of light is something which is purely quantitative. Colour, in stark contrast, is qualitative, it is a quale. Hence, *by definition*, a wavelength of light could not possibly literally be a colour.

    Not only that, but there isn’t even a one to one correlation between the wavelength of light and colour. We know that since otherwise the 2 squares would be the same colour; colours would change when they are in shadow, colours would change as the day progresses etc.

    And this is my last word on the subject. I’ve been attempting to explain this to so-called “skeptics” for the past 12 years or so. If people still don’t understand, then you simply do not have the capacity to understand.

    This is my last post on the matter. I will not be returning here to check for any responses.

  190. The Other John Mcon 22 May 2016 at 6:21 pm

    What you claimed, Ian, is that there is no illusion, or that the illusion somehow goes away in 3D. Wrong on both counts. You have also failed to get in the last word.

  191. ccbowerson 22 May 2016 at 9:53 pm

    “The problem here is that people are supposing that wavelengths of light are literally colours. A wavelength of light is something which is purely quantitative. Colour, in stark contrast, is qualitative, it is a quale. Hence, *by definition*, a wavelength of light could not possibly literally be a colour.”

    Whose definition? Yours? Color can refer to particular wavelengths of light or the perception of the same. We just have to be clear what we are talking about. I do not see the issue unless people are equivocating, which does not seem to be the issue.

    “Not only that, but there isn’t even a one to one correlation between the wavelength of light and colour.”

    So what? Some of that is limitations of the eye (e.g., not being able to distinguish red at 739nm vs 738nm). This is not the same as illusion. And the adjustments that people make with lighting can be inquired about (e.g. what color do you think this object is under typical lighting conditions?).

    For example, with the infamous blue and black dress (sorry for bringing that up), the different responses (white and gold) had a lot to do with how people perceived the lighting in the image. So in one sense, there was an actual color to the image (as it rendered on a screen), which did not match the actual dress in normal lighting, which resulted in people accounting for the lighting in different ways.

  192. grabulaon 08 Jun 2016 at 3:25 am

    Lol, I can’t believe you guys are still trying to talk sense into Ian. He’s been around for years and as Dr. Novella said on his latest podcast “won’t let facts hey in the way of his narrative”.

  193. grabulaon 08 Jun 2016 at 4:07 am

    Get in the way…

  194. mumadaddon 08 Jun 2016 at 4:10 am

    grabula — how the hell are you? I was wondering what had become of you. 🙂

  195. nivekogreon 27 Jul 2016 at 4:59 pm

    I agree that the argument he seems to make is “do what I think is important and not what you think is important”. However, that is not always such a bad thing. If it is true that skeptics debate all the time the priorities of the movement, than isn’t his talk simply an addition to the debate?

    But the bigger issue I see here is one I see from “both sides” (sorry for the dualism). There is a lack of evidence cited.

    His talk, although making note of a few published pieces that he disagrees with, does not once cite much evidence/data to back up his claims. If the skeptical community is spending too much time on X and not Y – how about some hard data to back up that claim. How many Big Foot articles were written in 2015 vs the number of articles on problems with pychopharma drugs?

    I appreciate the comment in this article about the “40 articles from science-based medicine on overdiagnosis in mainstream medicine”. And I would ask that to counter his talk, the author may consider doing much more of that. Using evidence and the scientific method to rebut seems the most appropriate way to rebut someone who is critiquing a scientific endeavour.

    Another problem with his position is that of taking an individuals ideas and ascribing them to the whole. He talks about the roots of war and those who hold a specific sense of those roots – however he fails to cite evidence that the theory is something that the majority of self described skeptics agree with. He fails to note any evidence that other self described skeptics perhaps disagree and share his ideas. He casts too wide a net without the evidence to cast it.

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