Dec 04 2017

The Causes of Science Denial

Over the last few decades the challenges we face promoting science and critical thinking have become greater, but so have the tools at our disposal. The “science of anti-science” has been progressing nicely, and we now have a much more nuanced view of what we are up against.

Carl Sagan was fond of saying that, “Pseudoscience is embraced, it might be argued, in exact proportion as real science is misunderstood.” That was the conventional wisdom among skeptics at the time (quote from Demon Haunted World, published in 1997) – that the problem of pseudoscience or science-denial was essentially one of information deficit. Correct the deficit, and the science-denial goes away. We now know that the real situation is far more complex.

To reduce the acceptance of pseudoscience or the rejection of real science, we need to do more than just promote scientific literacy. We also need to understand what is driving the pseudoscience, and we need to give critical thinking skills.

A recent publication of a series of studies looking at the roots of science rejection is a nice cap on this research: Not All Skepticism Is Equal: Exploring the Ideological Antecedents of Science Acceptance and Rejection.

The researchers looked primarily at three forms of rejection of science: climate change denial, vaccine rejection, and skepticism about GM technology. They also looked at a number of possible correlating factors: political ideology, moral purity, religiosity, support for science, faith in science, and scientific literacy.

There are a lot of details here, and if you want to delve in deeply it’s best to just read the original study (it’s pretty accessible). I will give a summary of the overall findings here.

They found that climate change denial was predicted mainly by political ideology, but not by low scientific literacy. Vaccine rejection was predicted by low scientific literacy and low faith in science, and also by religiosity and moral purity. Distrust of GM food was predicted by low scientific literacy and low faith in science. Neither vaccine or GM food rejection were predicted by political ideology.

Further, there was a lot of interplay among these various measures. For example, religious orthodoxy was the main driver of low faith in science and support for science.

One lesson from all this is that belief is very complicated, and it is difficult to tease apart all the various influences. A study, for example, that only looked at political ideology and science rejection would miss a massive part of the picture. We also have to consider direct vs secondary effects – does religious orthodoxy directly lead to rejection of vaccines, or more through a desire for moral purity and an overall lack of faith in science?

We also have to think about what factors this study did not examine. I noticed the distinct absence of any measure of conspiracy thinking. There is plenty of evidence that a tendency to accept conspiracy theories also predicts rejection of science in the right context. I would also be interested to see how faith in government and corporations also plays into science rejection, and if these are independent variables at all or completely predicted by political ideology.

The possible permutations are endless. The best we can do is pull out some general trends as they apply to specific beliefs. For example, these studies suggest that scientific literacy itself will do nothing to combat rejection of the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change, but it may be very effective in reducing unwarranted skepticism toward GM technology, and go a little ways toward mitigating vaccine rejection.

Here is one way I would put this all together – we have to understand acceptance and rejection of science as part of an overall narrative. People have a certain world view, or narrative by which they make sense of an overwhelmingly complex world. This is understandable, even necessary. We need to organize our knowledge into manageable bits that hold together with a common thread.

The trick is understanding one’s own narratives and how they color and filter the world. Further, we need critical thinking skills in order to constantly test our narratives for internal consistency, logic, and factual consistency with reality. We need to be able to step back from our own narratives, so that we can use them as a tool, rather than being enslaved to them.

So one way to make sense of all the complex interacting variables, only some of which were examined in these studies, is to see how they fit together into a common narrative, or more likely multiple overlapping narratives. We might think of these as archetypes (or less charitably as stereotypes). For example we might have someone whose narrative is dominated by the notion of purity – moral purity, clean eating, freedom from corporate greed and the moral and physical “toxins” of modern society. There may be religious and secular versions of this narrative, with varying levels of scientific literacy, but not aligned to any particular political ideology.

Alternatively another archetypal narrative might be the conspiracy theorist – someone with an extreme distrust of power, who themselves feel powerless, who understand the world as a struggle between those in control and the sheep. In such a worldview, the only defense is paranoia and distrust, and anything less is naive.

Part of what we skeptics have been trying to do over the years is identify and understand the various common narratives that seem to get in the way of science acceptance or that drive the embrace of pseudoscience. While I think we have made good progress there, the far harder part is then mitigating the negative effects of those narratives. Again – simply promoting scientific literacy is not enough (although it often helps).

In fact there is recent research which shows in order to change someone’s beliefs about science we need to replace their existing explanatory narrative with another one. We can’t just take away their blanket – we need to give them a new way to make sense of the world.

What I take from all this is that what skeptical activists need to do, in order to make the world a more skeptical place, is to not only promote science, support for science, and overall scientific literacy, but all increase critical thinking skills. Further, we need to promote a narrative of scientific skepticism – we need to explain how skepticism provides a useful and accurate way of making sense of the world.

This means that people need to identify as critical thinkers, to identify with prioritizing the accuracy of their beliefs over all else. Being correct is more important than supporting your tribe, or reinforcing your ideology. Until we get to that point – we will lose to the existing narratives.

96 responses so far

96 thoughts on “The Causes of Science Denial”

  1. MaryM says:

    Just this morning on twitter it came up about food and evolution. A lot of people are using quasi-creationist arguments about how we can’t mess with food because it evolved this way. And a lot of people talk about GMOs as “god moves over”. I think there is a religious component to some of this, in a fundamentalist way, but isn’t organized religion really.

    But yeah, the conspiracy part is very extensive on the GMO issue too.

    Thanks for highlighting this paper, on my way over to read it now.

  2. Lobsterbash says:

    Steve, in addition to science literacy and critical thinking skills, we have a dire need right now to show people how destructive their intellectual tribalism is. I think motivation for in-group identification and acceptance drives a large portion (most?) of figure 1 in your linked research. People seem to believe that once they identify a group that is more correct, they can sit in the back seat and let that group drive the car. People are incredibly intellectually lazy and do not want to spend the time or effort working out complex issues INDEPENDENTLY. However, this is where the critical thinking skills and science literacy comes in, because too much independent thinking + ignorance = crank ideas, conspiracy thinking, etc. And then victims of that thinking just join the conspiracy tribe.

    It’s all quite discouraging.

  3. michaelegnor says:

    The term “science denial” is deeply offensive. It equates disagreement about science with Holocaust denial, which is obviously the reason “denial” rather than “disagreement” is used. It is nasty and insulting, and no decent scientist should use the term. It has Orwellian overtones.

    Was Einstein a physics denier, because he rejected the luminiferous ether? Was Copernicus an astronomy denier? What disgusting ways to refer to people with whom you disagree.

    There are disagreements about science among scientists and laymen, and many people disagree with what appear to be majority views among scientists. Some of the opinions are well-informed (rejection of global warming hysteria), some opinions aren’t well-informed (belief that vaccines cause autism).

    Science is inherently a debate. It is the constant testing of models against reality, and terms like “consensus” should be avoided, as they are political terms, not scientific terms.

    Furthermore, the use of psychological studies to study “science denial” is odious. People who hold different opinions, well-informed or not, should not be treated like mental patients or insects pinned to a cork-board. They disagree on the science, and they should be respected. Disagreements that are based on evidence should be debated openly and respectfully.

    The scientific profession doesn’t understand how much damage it is causing to itself by calling people who disagree with them “deniers” and treating them like mental patients. My opinion of scientists has plummeted since this garbage began, and millions of people share my views.

  4. bend says:

    Dr. Engor, “denial” is accurate. Any negative association is subjective. If you choose to interpret the term as derogatory, maybe you harbor secret doubts about your positions. I’d never take offense if someone accused me of “flat-earth denial” or “young earth denial” (the latter of which which has actually happened). FWIW, in contrast to the author and likely most of the commentators on this blog, I find “skeptic” similarly accurate to describe those who don’t accept established science. Their skepticism may be unwarranted, but the definition of the word does not belong only to those who’d use robust evidence to support their positions.

  5. DanDanNoodles says:

    Was Einstein a physics denier, because he rejected the luminiferous ether? Was Copernicus an astronomy denier? What disgusting ways to refer to people with whom you disagree.

    That is a ludicrous false equivalence. Science deniers are not “people with whom you disagree”. They are people who ignore basic, established facts because those facts conflict with their preselected view of the truth. It is not “disgusting” to refer to a Flat Earther, or a Young Earther, as a denier. It is not “disgusting” to apply the label to anti-vaxers, who knowingly and deliberately misrepresent facts to further their arguments. It is a simple, and completely accurate, way to refer to them.

  6. Michael – you have made it clear that this is your narrative, but it is total bullshit. As I have explained in detail before, science deniers are not just doing science but have a different and equally valid opinion. they are engaged in a suite of activities that are not science and are legitimately characterized as denial.

    This is similar to the difference between pseudoscience and science. Deniers start with a conclusion and then use invalid methods to support their desired conclusion, which is the denial of established science. They further then try to muddy the waters with false equivalency.

    Finally, studying correlations among various influences of belief is NOT equating belief to mental illness. That is absurd. What is shameful is how eagerly you will take an anti-intellectual and anti-scientific position for rhetorical effect.

  7. MosBen says:

    I’ve heard this complaint before, that science deniers don’t like the implication that they are in any way like Holocaust deniers, and the conclusion that I came to was “tough”. Calling someone a climate change denier is not to say that they support Nazis and the eradication of Jews. It is to say that in the same way that Holocaust deniers reject evidence out of hand if it supports the mainstream consensus on the amount of deaths caused by the Holocaust and rely on conspiracy theories to support their own beliefs, climate change deniers reject evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change out of hand and rely on conspiracy theories to support their own beliefs.

  8. michaelegnor says:

    Steven,

    I actually like your use of “denial”, because it expresses so clearly your contempt for people who don’t share your blind faith in materialism and scientism. The use of “denialism” for doubts about the Darwinian narrative, the AGW narrative, etc is very useful to my side, because it demonstrates the contempt and frankly totalitarian instincts that are so much a part of your ideology.

    It does engender anger to be compared to Holocaust deniers, especially by people who subscribe to the Darwinian materialist ideology that made the Holocaust possible.

    And the public should be angry at “scientists” who make materialism and scientism their religion. I merely commented to point out to you the damage you are doing to the reputation of science, which deserves to be damaged, given the low quality of advocates that scientists tolerate.

  9. Lobsterbash says:

    SGU should start a kickstarter fund to pay for Egnor’s remedial science education.

  10. JoeMamma says:

    It’s fascinating to get a real-time, tangible look at exactly what motivated reasoning looks like and Michael Egnor never fails to deliver.

    My guess is that somewhere deep down the guy harbors some doubt about the ridiculous claims he makes. At the very least he’s got to itch just a tiny bit when he uses his logical fallacies and cheap tactics to make his points.

    There’s a part of me that sympathizes to a degree. This is all assuming the guy is thinking at all and not just sweeping anything contrary to his narrative under the rug without any examination, but the mental gymnastics you have to employ to subscribe to an idea like “global warming is bullshit” in light of the overwhelming plumes of evidence – and the well established scientific consensus to the contrary – have to be a bit exhausting.

  11. SFinkster says:

    michaelegnor “The term “science denial” is deeply offensive.”.

    Poor baby. Cry us a river.

  12. Johnny says:

    To be fair to Sagan, he also wroye in that same book, though he does not go as far as you do in your post and elsewhere.:

    “All of us cherish our beliefs. They are, to a degree, self-defining. When someone comes along who challenges our belief system as insufficiently well based – or who, like Socrates, merely asks embarrassing questions that we haven’t thought of, or demonstrates that we’ve swept key underlying assumptions under the rug – it becomes much more than a search for knowledge. It feels like a personal assault.”

    I think many people underestimate the role that ideology and tribalism plays in science denial. I don’t think people are creationists or global warming deniers because of ignorance, in many cases. There are plenty of people who are ignorant of the sciences surrounding these subjects, yet who accept the scientific consensuses regarding these subjects because they are not invested in ideologies in which rejection of the scientific consensus is a part.

  13. Johnny says:

    @michaelegnor: “It does engender anger to be compared to Holocaust deniers, especially by people who subscribe to the Darwinian materialist ideology that made the Holocaust possible.”

    You want to link the Holocaust to evolution and atheism, but it doesn’t stand up to the facts.

    Look up the German Freethinkers League on Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Freethinkers_League

    “By 1885 the group had 5,000 members. The first organization of its sort founded in Germany, by 1930 the German Freethinkers League had a membership numbering some 500,000. The League was closed down in the spring of 1933, when Hitler outlawed all atheistic and freethinking groups in Germany. Freethinkers Hall, the national headquarters of the League, was then converted to a bureau advising the public on church matters.”

  14. tb29607 says:

    Actually, Hitler was a creationist:

    “For it was by the Will of God that men were made of a certain bodily shape, were given their natures and their faculties. Whoever destroys His work wages war against God’s Creation and God’s Will.”
    Volume 2, Chapter 10 of Mein Kampf by Adolf Hitler

    State directed selective breeding has been recommended as far back as Plato (The Republic, book5).

    Killing those deemed “inferior” is also an ancient practice as demonstrated by the Spartans when they committed infanticide (“exposed”) on newborns deemed deformed.

    Eugenics is actually anti-Darwinian as it reduces the variability of the gene pool and is a way to potentially self select our species for extinction.

  15. Willy says:

    This is just too rich. Dr. Egnor is offended at a label. ROFLMAO!!! The very same man who throws around insults as easily and often as Michael Jordan threw basketballs. Dr. Egnor, you routinely call people “asshats”, f*cktards” and many more slurs. Further, you are a staunch supporter of the most vulgar man ever to be POTUS. Hypocrisy, thy name is Egnor.

    Speaking of Trump, you still haven’t made an attempt to defend your 3-D chess player’s ludicrous opinions on healthcare. I’ll repeat them below to save you trouble of looking them up.

    On May 11, 2017, Trump said: “But in a short period of time I understood everything there was to know about health care. And we did the right negotiating, and actually it’s a very interesting subject,”

    In his July 19, 2017 NYT interview, Trump said: “So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.”

    However you respond, Dr. Egnor, please don’t call me an asshat. It would simply devastate me and leave me with no adequate comeback to such an intellectual, sophisticated challenge.

  16. Michael,
    What I find contemptible is that you frame everything as part of a culture war. Sometimes, however, it’s actually about the science. But you have utterly lost in the arena of science, so you are desperately trying to change the venue to a culture war so you can rail against the “elites”, incoherently call them “totalitarian” and stoke hatred of science and scientists.

    You lost, and you can’t deal with it so you would rather burn the whole system down. You exploit cultural tensions to do so.

    The cherry on top, as others have pointed out, is that you have the nerve to preen about tone and take offense and your perceived (incorrectly so) insults when you are, bar none, the most insulting person in these comments. And you do all of this while trying to don the moral mantle of a good Christian. Truly amazing.

  17. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] I actually like your use of “denial”, because it expresses so clearly your contempt for people who don’t share your blind faith in materialism and scientism. The use of “denialism” for doubts about the Darwinian narrative, the AGW narrative, etc is very useful to my side, because it demonstrates the contempt and frankly totalitarian instincts that are so much a part of your ideology.

    Ha! You must not own any mirrors.

    Take a casual survey of your past comments and look at the steady stream of vindictives you slur at any person or position that disagrees with you.

    “Science” is an epistemological method. Following that method to establish scientific facts is not “scientism,” it is science. Presenting a belief not arrived at by that method as a scientific fact, especially where that belief contradicts established evidence, is denialism.

    The moment a science denialist realizes there is insufficient evidence to advance a preferred belief as a valid scientific argument out come the crocodile tears and cries of “materialism, totalitarianism, scientism, atheism, Darwinism,” and so forth. However, the thing about objective evidence is that it is objective. Its objectivity and repeatability does not rely on the ideological preferences of the observer.

  18. jimvic48 says:

    At times I almost feel like giving up on trying to achieve some sort of meaningful dialogue with people who are strongly influenced by motivated thinking. I am agnostic and have a relative who is a conservative Christian. We were both raised in the same conservative way BTW. He said in an email “there is no way I will ever consider “…. your views. I have gently said to him in a talk since then that there is really no reason to discuss evidence because his comment literally means that evidence is irrelevant for him. I conclude — if a person is not willing to doubt/question anything and honestly look at evidence, he/she cannot learn new things. So how can you get people to even be willing to doubt. Often you can’t.

  19. MosBen says:

    You guys, several people have all written well-made points about how Egnor’s posts are hypocritical and deeply misleading, so it’s about time for him to disappear from the comments to avoid confronting them, just as he always does. But eventually someone will engage him on the merits, which is almost always a mistake, which he can use to traipse down his usual nonsense arguments. But when called on his posts being without enough merit to be worth consideration, he vanishes in a plume of smoke.

  20. MosBen says:

    jimvic48, I’ve had similar discussions with some conservative friends, especially Trump supporters. Recently I commented on Facebook that Trump’s recent tweet about having to fire Flynn because he had lied to the FBI may or may not itself be enough for an obstruction of justice case against Trump, but at the very least it should put to bed the idea that he’s some kind of 3D chess playing genius that is always three steps ahead of everyone. There’s no benefit to him by making that tweet, or really most of his tweets, and indeed all that it does is create potential problems for him. And yet, not a day later a conservative friend send me a story about how ABC News had retracted a story about Trump accompanied by Trump 3D chess memes. So what’s the point, that Trump had somehow orchestrated an error in an ABC news pieces such that it was retracted, but still leaving a field of really problematic facts that aren’t resolved yet? It really just shows that to his biggest fans there is no evidence that will dissuade them from the idea that is a literal genius.

  21. Willy says:

    Since “elitism” has been mentioned above, I’d like to point out that Dr. Egnor is actually quite the elitist. Consider that the ONLY person with whom he attempts to have a “polite” conversation herein is Dr. Novella, whom he evidently feels is a peer. The rest of us, he treats like so much dirt, even though he has no idea as to our backgrounds and even though no one treats him as badly or viciously as he treats others.

  22. Robney says:

    @ Egnor,

    I think most people would agree that “denier” shouldn’t be used as a blanket description for any criticism of a prevailing scientific viewpoint. But it is, perhaps, and appropriate label for someone who egregiously ignores scientific evidence to cling onto a particular belief, or denies the validity of science as it relates to their belief. They are literally denying science.

    The word ‘denier’ does however have some unfortunate historical connotations so we should be very careful about using it. I think the comparison being drawn is the denialist aspect of the behaviour, not any specific comparison to holocaust denial. But the connotation is there regardless of intentions so perhaps it would be better to not use the ‘denier’ label at all. There are other ways to communicate the same concept without the appearance of trying conflate scepticism of scientific authority with holocaust denial.

    Similarly, would you agree that describing evolutionary biologists as “evolutionists” is a cheap rhetorical trick to paint evolution as an ideology?

  23. MosBen says:

    Willy, of course you’re right, but at the same time, something that Steve says to Egnor can be used by Egnor in whatever science denying, Trump-loving circles that he runs in. He can say that he got famed science communicator Steven Novella to say that evolution is supported by scientific evidence, and then they can have a laugh about it, I guess. It’s just not quite the same when some random person in the comments gets him tied up in knots. As he’s said, in true troll fashion he’s just here to rattle the “monkey cages”.

  24. Robney says:

    Reading a few more comments, it does seem inconsistent to act indignant about the semantic similarity between “science denial” and “holocaust denial” but then argue that the holocaust was only possible because of evolutionary theory/social Darwinism (or whatever you were hinting at).

    Is it acceptable to criticise ideas by associating them with the holocaust or not?

  25. Robney says:

    Or to refine my thoughts a bite more. Its apparently okay to argue that a scientific theory directly contributed to the holocaust, but it crosses some kind of ethical line to describe a human behaviour that in some instances can cause people to deny the holocaust?

  26. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    ‘The rest of us, he treats like so much dirt, even though he has no idea as to our backgrounds and even though no one treats him as badly or viciously as he treats others.’

    Michael Egnor knows that I’m a retired anatomical pathologist with medical qualifications and a higher medical degree which is more science-based than the mechanics of neurosurgery. He uses abusive terms for me too, calling me an idiot at times. Whenever I respond to his comments, I just call his opinions idiotic, which isn’t the same.

    Michael Egnor,

    ‘Holocaust denial’ takes many forms, ranging from denying that it ever happened, to it being not as extensive as depicted, to being minor, to Hitler not being ordering it or even being aware of it. It involves ignoring or distorting evidence that it happened for ideological or worldview reasons.

    ‘Science denial’ also takes the same range of forms, including denying that science has any role in establishing truth and ignoring or distorting evidence that doesn’t fit with ideology or worldview.

    You’re a science denier at least regarding distortion of science, with your repeated mis-characterisation of evolution as ‘things change and survivors survive’ and ‘RM + NS’ not explaining evolution.

    And your inaccurate reporting of what Benjamin Libet wrote, including his agreement that ‘free will’ exists (he argued that it’s actually ‘free won’t’) and that the mind back times conscious awareness of touch sensations to the moment the skin is stimulated (he didn’t – he demonstrated that the unconscious mind is aware that the skin is stimulated once action potentials reach the brain producing an evoked potential in the brain, and is capable of producing an unconscious response. And then the conscious mind becomes aware of the stimulus when the evoked potential lasts 0.5 seconds. And conscious awareness is then back timed to the start of unconscious awareness).

    You distorted Libet in order to provide some evidence for your delusion that the mind is immaterial and not confined by location. That the mind perceives objects at their origin (including the tree in the backyard and the Moon) and not in a few cubic centimetres of cortical tissue.

  27. Ivan Grozny says:

    “these studies suggest that scientific literacy itself will do nothing to combat rejection of the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change, but it may be very effective in reducing unwarranted skepticism toward GM technology, and go a little ways toward mitigating vaccine rejection.”

    Ever thought of the possibility that this might be due to the fact that vaccine scepticism and GMO denial are obvious and easily provable nonsense whereas climate change scepticism is a credible position that many scientifically literate people (including some of the leading scientists) accept?

  28. Robney says:

    That’s exactly what a scientifically literate climate change denier would say!

  29. bachfiend says:

    Ivan the Terrible,

    ‘whereas climate change scepticism is a credible position that many scientifically literate people (including some of the leading scientists) accept?

    Including Roy W Spencer, whose global warming scepticism appears to be religiously motivated, being as he is a prominent member of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation?

  30. Grant Jacobs says:

    @1 MaryM,

    “A lot of people are using quasi-creationist arguments about how we can’t mess with food …”

    I had an experience recently with one person writing in my blog comments about GM legislation in New Zealand. His arguments fell to almost _exactly_ the same pattern as arguments I can remember from creationists opposing evolution many years ago. The parallel was very striking. I don’t think the guy is religious (I could ask, but he’d probably object…), but he’s using the same lines in logic. It left me wondering where this deep ideology is coming from.

  31. BillyJoe7 says:

    Ivan Grozny,

    “Ever thought of the possibility that…”

    …your opinion on climate science is based on the fact that you are a climate denier?
    Thereby neatly exemplifying one of the points of the article.

  32. Grant Jacobs says:

    re “The term “science denial” is deeply offensive.” etc.

    I know people object to be called denialists, in a more ordinary way, but I’ve never see it equated with the Holocaust. Sounds almost like a version of Godwinning to me.

    Clearest example I’ve seen a guy who joined a (private) skeptics group. Bothered some people about GM, then asked for a cost-benefit analysis of one new (GM) variety. Someone pointed him to a paper offering just that. Spent the next several weeks making excuses to not read it despite having asked for it.

    FWIW, I’ve usually treated “in denial” is the same as when a patient has an illness, but doesn’t want to face it – i.e. in denial of the evidence of their illness.

    Also, it seems to me that science denial (of various forms) goes back well before the Holocaust. Denial of germ theory might be an example.

  33. hardnose says:

    We KNOW that GM technology is perfectly safe. It has been in our food for decades and Americans are extremely healthy, and just keep getting healthier. If GMOs were bad for health, we would know it, because Americans would be sick.

    Oh wait …

  34. Kabbor says:

    That logic would hold if the food intake today were to previous generations. GMO food production is not the driver of the change from traditional home cooked meals to quick meals, fast food and the dramatic increase in junk food consumption. If you think it is a simple apples to apples comparison, you are deceiving only yourself.

  35. Johnny says:

    @hardnose: “We KNOW that GM technology is perfectly safe. It has been in our food for decades and Americans are extremely healthy, and just keep getting healthier. If GMOs were bad for health, we would know it, because Americans would be sick.

    Oh wait …”

    Correlation does imply causation: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Correlation_does_not_imply_causation

  36. Willy says:

    hardnose: I dunno, I think a case can be made that chemtrails are responsible…or, perhaps, the increase in organic products available in out markets.

    I am curious, is this one of your “good arguments” that Dr. Novella is trying to is desperate to keep off of his blog? It might be a better argument if you could explain how GE foods would lead to sickness. But, no, blind assertions are good enough for you.

  37. daedalus2u says:

    HN, There has already been multi-generational “research” showing no adverse effects of GMOs. Maybe it doesn’t show that they are “perfectly safe”, but what has been shown to be “perfectly safe”?

    Here is one of the largest studies ever done, and which shows no adverse results. It looks at the entire US population of farm animals, which have been eating mostly GMOs for the past number of years. It covers over 100,000,000,000 animals (100 billion).

    https://dl.sciencesocieties.org/publications/jas/articles/92/10/4255?highlight&search-result=1

    By every measure the animals appear to be healthier over time, as GMO content of their diet increases. I am not claiming that GMOs in the diet are responsible for the improved health, but there is no hint that GMOs are producing any ill effects.

    Genetic modification is a technique. Its use in food only remains controversial for those who do not understand the science.

  38. BillyJoe7 says:

    Hardnose once again illustrates his inability to reason, his lack of critical thinking skills, and his ignorance of simple logic. It’s amusing how, in every comment he makes, he insists on displaying his abject personal failures. Of course, he’s oblivious to them. Ten years of blissful and willful ignorance.

  39. michaelegnor says:

    It’s pretty funny to read a bunch of science-worshipers prattle on about “deniers” and the irrationality of questioning the scientific consensus, when recent history is full of very bad and even dishonest science that was very much consensus.

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html

    https://overpopulationisamyth.com/episode-1-overpopulation-the-making-of-a-myth/

    https://healthcare.utah.edu/the-scope/shows.php?shows=0_2afdowlt

  40. PunctureKit says:

    @michaelegnor
    The above are not equivalent to the denialism in question here. Some far better examples:

    Flood Geology has it that ALL sediments were laid down during a global flood. It follows that aeolian sediments cannot exist. Despite well established geological data including fossil dunes, river beds etc, YEC researchers have expended great efforts to “prove” these aeolian sediments are actually marine. This is denial.

    YEC cosmologists tie themselves in knots, by gaming Special Relativity, to prove that distant starlight needn’t be ancient, and cosmological redshift isn’t real. In ignoring vast bodies of evidence that independently indicate an ancient universe, they are exercising denial.

    Common descent is conspicuous in every genome, but creation science propaganda seeks to cast doubt on it, not through serious criticism of genuine research, but to reassure a conservative non-technical audience that “the science” supports biblical creation. Denying that yet more vast bodies of data are irrelevant is, well, denial.

    There are myriad other examples. I could go on at great length.

  41. michaelegnor says:

    Quote:

    “The sugar industry paid scientists in the 1960s to play down the link between sugar and heart disease and promote saturated fat as the culprit instead, newly released historical documents show.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/13/well/eat/how-the-sugar-industry-shifted-blame-to-fat.html

    Of course, although scientists were whores in the 1960’s, they are all above reproach today, and we should do whatever scientists say, or we’re ‘deniers’.

  42. PunctureKit says:

    I meant “…vast bodies of evidence are relevant…”

  43. Nidwin says:

    @michaelegnor

    What’s fascinating is that it’s all part of Massive Intelligence’s intelligent design’s perfection that only makes sense to Massive Intelligence and his worshipers like you.

    As often written and many times repeated. Academia is far from perfect but it’s only science that properly corrects scientific mistakes or wrongdoing.

    I’ve had a lot of intelligent people tell me that they actually don’t care if what they choose to believe to be correct or not. It’s their right to have their own beliefs and we all have to believe into something, they say. Logic and critical thinking isn’t going to be enough I think, but it couldn’t hurt for sure.

  44. PunctureKit says:

    I take it Michael alludes to climate scientists drawing a salary? If there’s a net profit in a grand climate hoax, he might care to explain the business model? And how it’s so much more lucrative than oil and gas corporations protecting their bottom line by lavishly sponsoring science whores of their own?

  45. michaelegnor says:

    @nitwit:

    [Academia is far from perfect but it’s only science that properly corrects scientific mistakes or wrongdoing.]

    Actually, the criminal justice system is perfectly suited to deal with scientists who lie, hide and misrepresent data, fake data, take money from industries to peddle lies, etc.

    Scientists feed at the public trough, and most of their money comes from taxpayers (ie, denialists, creationists, fundies, etc).

    Let scientists pay their own way, if they have such contempt for the “denying” masses.

  46. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] It’s pretty funny to read a bunch of science-worshipers prattle on about “deniers” and the irrationality of questioning the scientific consensus, when recent history is full of very bad and even dishonest science that was very much consensus.

    We’re going right down the list of denialist tropes, I see. First proclaim scientists “ideological” (or “science-worshippers”) for demanding scientific methodology. Then complain, “but science has been wrong before!”

    Of course, as Nidwin points out, it is more correct to state, “but science corrects itself as better evidence comes to light.” The scientific consensus may be (and has been repeatedly) properly challenged and overturned. There are no fiat decrees, only production of more and better evidence.

  47. Nidwin says:

    @michaelegnor

    “Scientists feed at the public trough, and most of their money comes from taxpayers (ie, denialists, creationists, fundies, etc).”

    Same for religious institutions, money from taxpayers who, like me, aren’t relligious or whos religious institutions don’t get any money from the state.

    I’ve no issues that part of my paid taxes goes to religious institutions. I’ve no issues that part of my salary goes to the medical/social global/national coverage. I’ve no issues that part of my taxes goes to scientific research.

  48. michaelegnor says:

    [it is more correct to state, “but science corrects itself as better evidence comes to light.”]

    So scientists aren’t accountable to anyone except other scientists?

    Do you apply that reasoning to doctors, teachers, police, pilots, politicians, etc?

    Why are scientists so… special?

  49. michaelegnor says:

    Are people who question the actions of police officers “law enforcement deniers”?

    Are people who question teachers “education deniers”?

    Are people who question doctors “medicine deniers”?

    Actually, the only profession that is not accountable to the public is the priesthood.

    It’s almost like science is a religion for some people, and scientists think they are a new kind of priesthood…

  50. michaelegnor says:

    Ironically, this post is titled “The causes of science denial”, and you dolts have just pointed out a major cause of science denial. When you claim that the scientific profession is above accountability, that is reason for intensive scrutiny.

    Many people who “deny” science are fed up with arrogant scientists who think they are above accountability to the public.

    Scientists deserve the same accountability as doctors, teachers, pilots, government workers, etc, all of whom are accountable to people who are not members of their profession.

    Many scientists (eg you) are arrogant bastards, and a lot of people don’t trust you, for good reasons.

  51. MosBen says:

    Since it seems that Michael has not yet pulled his classic running away technique yet, let’s revisit how his initial argument in this thread was that it was oh so terrible to call someone a science denier because there’s also the term “Holocaust denier”, and the fact that those terms sound somewhat alike makes calling people science deniers so offensive. And then in his latest flurry of post he calls people in the thread dolts and arrogant bastards. Because Egnor is a terrible hypocrite, and his arguments are just the same empty talking points over and over.

  52. michaelegnor says:

    [And then in his latest flurry of post he calls people in the thread dolts and arrogant bastards.]

    That is, admittedly, over the top, and an unfair comparison.

    My apologies to dolts and arrogant bastards, who are so often unfairly equated with you.

  53. Steve Cross says:

    michaelegnor,

    Do you even read the gibberish you spout?

    Nowhere in the phrase you quote (“but science corrects itself as better evidence comes to light.”) does it say, or even imply, that ONLY traditionally acknowledged “scientists” have the only right to correct errors.

    Nope — that is purely your own straw man argument. The literal essence of the scientific method is validation and self-correction. And it doesn’t matter where the new evidence comes from. There are plenty of examples of non-scientists overturning the conventional wisdom. The ONLY thing that matters in the long run is the quality of evidence.

    But realistically, in almost any field of endeavor, the trained practitioners of that field will be the most likely to discover (or even understand) any new or disconfirming evidence. Even so, amateurs are welcome to try, and if they actually do have solid evidence, it will eventually triumph.

    As for accountability, scientist, doctors, law enforcement, etc. are ALL accountable to reality. Regardless of who first discovers (and verifies) the way the world actually works, eventually reality becomes undeniable.

    Except for the notable exception of the priesthood. Which arrogantly denies accountability and ignores all evidence. It seems that you are projecting the arrogance of your own world view upon the rest of the world, especially scientists. Science is self-admittedly not perfect, but it is far more humble than true-believers such as yourself.

  54. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] So scientists aren’t accountable to anyone except other scientists?

    What?

    There are two separate notions you are, perhaps innocently, conflating. There are the scientists and there is the science.

    The scientistsare accountable to the same laws and institutions as any other professional. Publish fraudulent or even merely shoddy research and face sanction, loss of credentials, loss of employment, loss of funding, loss of credibility, etc.

    The science is what can be objectively demonstrated. The field is competitive. Accumulating more exacting and expansive evidence, especially where doing so overturns prior conceptions, is how knowledge (and a career) is advanced. Independent critical analysis and replication is how research is validated.

    Do you apply that reasoning to doctors, teachers, police, pilots, politicians, etc?

    Yes. When the evidence concerning outcomes contradicts professed intent there are professional consequences.

  55. PunctureKit says:

    @michaelegnor
    You don’t appreciate just how competitive scientists are! The scientific method requires full disclosure of all data, methodology and assumptions. One’s peers on the other side of the world are able to pick over the detail of one’s work in ways that practitioners in other walks of life would be terrified of. If you think this isn’t accountability, then you have a different understanding of the word.

  56. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor, you offer ZERO evidence to suggest that AGW is incorrect. You point to the sugar industry as one example of crooked scientists when you should be fingering the industry itself (aren’t you a big capitalist?). More to the point, was there a worldwide scientific consensus that lots of sugar made for a healthy diet? A worldwide scientific consensus that smoking was a healthy habit?

    Your arguments are especially weak in that you make no attempt to address the actual science, about which you are undoubtedly ignorant. If you could explain why an almost 50% increase in CO2, a known greenhouse gas, WOULDN’T affect climate, people might listen. But no, you instead bring up irrelevant factoids. It’s as if the only arguments I could muster against religion and the existence of god were: But Jimmy and Tammy Faye Bakker. But pedophile priests. But the Inquisition.

    Address the SCIENCE, Doc. Show us how it’s wrong. Provide EVIDENCE! You can’t, so you do nothing more than obfuscate.

    I won’t accuse you of giving “arrogant bastards” a bad name, because you are simply the poster boy for arrogant bastards, who deserve their bad reputation. As a ‘thinker”, you are a joke.

    Finally, why, oh why, won’t you comment on your 3-D chess player’s “thoughts” (LOL) on healthcare?

  57. michaelegnor says:

    [You don’t appreciate just how competitive scientists are! The scientific method requires full disclosure of all data, methodology and assumptions. One’s peers on the other side of the world are able to pick over the detail of one’s work in ways that practitioners in other walks of life would be terrified of. If you think this isn’t accountability, then you have a different understanding of the word.]

    It’s taken me a few minutes to respond because I can’t stop laughing.

    There is massive unwillingness to disclose data and methods in many areas of science, especially the fraudulent areas like AGW.

    https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2017/feb/5/climate-change-whistleblower-alleges-noaa-manipula/

    The Climategate frauds discussed evasion of FOIA, hiding unfavorable data (“hide the decline”), rigging peer review, ostracizing journalists and scientists who didn’t toe the line, and destroying data.

    And all of the major scientific guilds defended this fraud.

    To cite an obvious example, the scientists who took sugar industry money to skew dietary research to blame fats rather than sugar for metabolic syndrome have never been punished or even publicly criticized. They have killed millions of people with their fraudulent research (diabetes is an epidemic, and clearly linked to high carb/sugar diet), and there has never an accounting.

    Science is a dirty profession, and many people in it belong in a courtroom.

  58. PunctureKit says:

    @michaelegnor
    Controversy over one paper invalidates an entire academic discipline? Really?

    You’ve still not explained the business model for a hoax climate crisis industry.

  59. PunctureKit says:

    “Science is a dirty profession”
    Without which this conversation would not be possible. You and / or your close relatives may well owe your lives and good health to it. You certainly owe your prosperity to it! And I expect your car slows down when you apply the brakes, and that bridge PROBABLY won’t collapse next time you drive over it.

  60. michaelegnor says:

    Science is important, which is all the more reason to demand integrity from scientists. It is particularly important fields, like science, where life-and-death decisions are made (as with medicine, aviation, etc) that we need rigorous accountability.

    Your demand for unaccountability and your disgusting comparison of people who question your “science” to Holocaust deniers, is a stain on science and an insult to the public.

    You will get more scrutiny, not less, because of your arrogance and dishonesty. We need to treat scientists the same way we treat financial professionals: if you lie or in any way misrepresent your work, you go to jail. We need a Science Commission just like the Securities and Exchange Commission, to monitor and prosecute scientists who lie, defraud and mislead.

    I assure you, the Commission would be very busy.

  61. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] To cite an obvious example, the scientists who took sugar industry money to skew dietary research to blame fats rather than sugar for metabolic syndrome have never been punished or even publicly criticized. They have killed millions of people with their fraudulent research (diabetes is an epidemic, and clearly linked to high carb/sugar diet), and there has never an accounting.

    I notice your critique of “science” focuses on those who seek to circumvent the scientific processes or suppress evidence, just as science deniers would do.

    That sounds like an endorsement.

    How do you know the aforementioned research was fraudulent? By what process did contradictory evidence overturn prior convention? How do you know the current consensus is the (more) correct one and not the product of a vast conspiracy?

  62. michaelegnor says:

    @puncture:

    [You and / or your close relatives may well owe your lives and good health to it…]

    So you’re saying that because science is crucial to life and safety, it should be less accountable to the public?

    Great argument you got there.

  63. PunctureKit says:

    I was being facetious. The climate hoax business model please?

  64. michaelegnor says:

    @chi:

    Distrust of scientists is not “science denial”. Distrust of scientists is rational experience-based judgement, fully justified by decades of scientific malfeasance.

    You seem uninterested in an obvious scientific scandal–the skewing of research to implicate fats, rather than sugars, as dangerous. This fraud has misled public health policy and has killed millions of people. you don’t give a sh*t, and are only interested in covering up the crimes of the scientific profession.

  65. michaelegnor says:

    @puncture:

    [I was being facetious. The climate hoax business model please?]

    Pick one:

    Hype AGW, get more money and advance career.

    Tell the truth about AGW, lose money, destroy career, and get compared to a Holocaust denier.

    Even someone as stupid as you can see the business model there.

  66. PunctureKit says:

    Even someone as stupid as me knows that the bulk of climate research funding comes from governments, but I’m not quite clever enough to discern what this would profit them. Please explain to me how this works, and who benefits by how much. You must have this information to hand, given your certainty on this matter?

  67. michaelegnor says:

    [Even someone as stupid as me knows that the bulk of climate research funding comes from governments, but I’m not quite clever enough to discern what this would profit them.]

    Oh. You can’t figure out how regulating/taxing the air we exhale might be of profit to government…? It’s the totalitarian’s dream.

    Stupid on stilts.

  68. michaelegnor says:

    Regulation of carbon use is the most lucrative imposition of government power imaginable. Power and money flow like a tsunami.

    How do you think Al Gore got so rich?

    All the governments and their industry cronies need is cooperative scientists, who, with sufficient grant money, are easily purchased.

  69. michaelegnor says:

    @puncture:

    If you can’t figure out how AGW hysteria can be used to leverage money and power, I have a warning for you: those Nigerian prince emails you get aren’t on the up-and-up. Be careful out there.

  70. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Distrust of scientists is not “science denial”. Distrust of scientists is rational experience-based judgement, fully justified by decades of scientific malfeasance.

    You seem uninterested in an obvious scientific scandal–the skewing of research to implicate fats, rather than sugars, as dangerous. This fraud has misled public health policy and has killed millions of people. you don’t give a sh*t, and are only interested in covering up the crimes of the scientific profession.

    No Michael, I am pointing out that good evidence subjected to the scientific process outweighs and overcomes the influence of bad actors, even when backed by wealthy and motivated corporate interests. You could also cite the Herculean attempts of the tobacco industry to undermine the scientific community…which also ultimately failed.

    Trust in the process is not the same as trust in individuals. To attempt to paint the entire discipline as a “malfeasance” by citing only exceptions to and corruptions of the process speaks more to your motivations. That any of these “scandals” were brought to light is evidence that the consensus of the scientific community is ultimately beholden to the process itself.

  71. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    Should scientists be accountable to the public for their work?

  72. MosBen says:

    You guys are barking up the wrong time. Egnor will not play out a line of argument to give you a better understanding of his position on a given topic, nor will he consider your well-considered criticisms or rebuttals. Egnor will post whatever expedient, pithy, contentless thing he can pull from his bag of standard talking points, no matter how much it conflicts with other things he has said, nor how much it relies on bad arguments. And eventually he’ll disappear from this thread and then pop back up in the next thread about some related topic, spouting the same points that you have dutifully rebutted here. He’s one tiny step up from a chatbot. The best response is to simply point out how ridiculous his positions are without engaging with him directly.

  73. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    What sanctions have been taken against the scientists and institutions who participated in this scientific fraud about dietary fats/sugars? What sanctions have been taken against the scientists who followed in this work, who didn’t question the recieved wisdom, who continued to perpetrate this crime against the American public?

    Were there sanctions against the eugenicists, or the population bomb hysterics, or the DDT hysterics? Who pays for the millions of people whose lives were harmed or who were killed by this fraudulent consensus science?

    Tell me again why “deniers” should trust scientists and take them at their word?

  74. michaelegnor says:

    [The best response is to simply point out how ridiculous his positions are without engaging with him directly.]

    That’s your only response. That’s all you’ve got.

    Care to answer my questions about the history of scientific accountability?

  75. PunctureKit says:

    Rational governments have ambitions for a carbon-free future. Or at least that’s how I read the current tea leaves! You assert that they regard carbon emission as a cash cow. Yet they’re cheerfully embarking on a program to kill it off entirely.

    It’s a good thing you’re not trying to carve out a living as a lawyer or logician.

  76. PunctureKit says:

    Rational governments have ambitions for a carbon-free future. Or at least that’s how I read the current tea leaves! You assert that they regard carbon emission as a cash cow. Yet they’re cheerfully embarking on a program to kill it off entirely.

    It’s a good thing you’re not trying to carve out a living as a lawyer or logician.

  77. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor: To quote you ” care to answer my question” about your 3-D chess player’s uninformed, ignorant, and down right stupid “opinions” on healthcare?

  78. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] Should scientists be accountable to the public for their work?

    Scientists are accountable for their work. “The public” is not in a position to assess that work any more than “the public” should determine what procedures are the most efficacious in the operating room.

    You are evading the question of scientific denialism. Citing outliers and bad actors is not an indictment of “science,” it is an acknowledgement that the scientific process is self-correcting and capable of identifying missteps, whether they be caused by innocent mistakes or intentional deceit.

    Denialism is is not the same as scientific skepticism. The one denies the role of evidence whereas the other priorities it.

  79. michaelegnor says:

    chi:

    [Scientists are accountable for their work.]

    To whom?

    [“The public” is not in a position to assess that work any more than “the public” should determine what procedures are the most efficacious in the operating room.]

    That’s exactly what happens when patients decide on surgery, and what happens in a malpractice trial. Doctors are continuously accountable to the public for their work. I explain myself to laymen every day.

    ]Citing outliers and bad actors is not an indictment of “science,”]

    Eugenicists, over-population hysterics, DDT nuts and sugar/fat fraudsters aren’t “outliers”. They were mainstream consensus scientists. The “deniers” who doubted eugenics, overpopulation hysteria, DDT hysteria and fat hysteria were the outliers.

    [the scientific process is self-correcting and capable of identifying missteps, whether they be caused by innocent mistakes or intentional deceit.]

    Actually, the correction of these frauds owes more to journalists and the public than to the scientific community, which has tended to defend frauds until the headlines make it untenable to continue.

    [Denialism is is not the same as scientific skepticism]

    Denialism: what the other guy believes.

    Scientific skepticism: what I believe.

  80. michaelegnor says:

    A frighteningly clear example of the depravity and unaccountability of the scientific community was the Tuskegee Study, in which hundreds of men (mostly poor black men) with syphilis were deliberately left untreated until death, despite the availability of effective antibiotics, so the course of the disease could be studied scientifically. The study began in 1932, and treatment was deliberately withheld for decades. Throughout that time, the ongoing results of the study were published in many journals, and the results were presented orally in annual meetings, over a period of 50 years. The medical/scientific community was well aware of what was going on, and there was virtually no protest. What little protest there was was quickly squelched.

    The scientific study came to an end in 1972 when a single whistle-blower (Peter Buxton– who had been trying to stop the study for a decade) finally got the press (the Washington Star) to publish a story on it.

    Buxton (a “denier” )had complained to the PHS and to other scientists for years, but the AMA and the scientific establishment, who were fully aware of the study, demanded that it continue.

    Scientists can be remarkably dishonest and corrupt. It didn’t begin with AGW. And science rarely “self-corrects” its own malfeasance. Scientists merely cover their as*es when the fraud makes it to the press, and pretend nothing ever happened, and make sure no one is really held accountable.

    Tell me, chi, what were the consequences for the scientists–thousands of them–involved in the Tuskegee Study?

  81. BillyJoe7 says:

    I agree with Mosben.

    ME is a liar:

    “Hide the decline…Eugenicists…over-population hysterics…DDT nuts…sugar/fat fraudsters…evolution”

    All lies. All previously corrected. All corrections simply ignored. All lies repeated again and again. ME is a rubber duck. Perhaps we should save the corrections and simply post them whenever he repeats his lies. Perhaps we should just ignore this ignorant uneducable fool except to talk about him. Then again, do we talk about human excrement or do we simply flush it down the sewerage.

  82. bachfiend says:

    Michael,

    Scientists are required to declare conflicts of interests in their published papers, which includes source of funding and employment by industry.

    The ‘corruption’ of science you refer to, sugar in the diet, had an obvious conflict of interest with funding of a very small number of scientists by the sugar industry. I’d also add the denial of the harm of tobacco smoking with funding of a small number of scientists by cigarette companies.

    I’m curious. Where is the conflict of interest regarding concerns about the harm of DDT? Or over-population? Or global warming? Who’s paying scientists considering these issues? I can think of only one conflict of interest with scientists such as Richard Lindzen being funded by companies such as Peabody Coal.

  83. BillyJoe7 says:

    Yes, the only scientific frauds are among the climate denying scientists – ME’s backyard – and previously those in the employ of the tobacco and sugar industries.

  84. chikoppi says:

    [michaelegnor] To whom?

    To their institutions, to their profession and peers, to whatever board(s) govern their credentials. If an actual crime is committed, to the justice system.

    A research paper is a claim that can be tested, not an edict. The methodology can be assessed, replicated, and if replication fails, ignored. Researchers with a history of poor methodology or questionable results find themselves marginalized pretty quickly.

    That’s exactly what happens when patients decide on surgery, and what happens in a malpractice trial. Doctors are continuously accountable to the public for their work. I explain myself to laymen every day.

    You explain. A trial proceeds on whether or not proper care was admistered in accordance with the the best available evidence as determined by the medical profession. At no point does the layman dictate to you what your expert opinion should be. At no point do you agree to a dangerous or untested proceedure because it is a fashionable notion of public opinion.

    Eugenicists, over-population hysterics, DDT nuts and sugar/fat fraudsters aren’t “outliers”. They were mainstream consensus scientists. The “deniers” who doubted eugenics, overpopulation hysteria, DDT hysteria and fat hysteria were the outliers.

    And THE SCIENTIFIC PROCESS ULTIMATELY TRIUMPHED against errant conclusions and bad actors, as it will continue to do.

    Consensus is overturned by ever more and ever more rigorous evidence subjected to expert scrutiny and replication, not denial of that evidence.

    DENIALISM: I ignore or slander evidence I don’t like or make assertions without evidence or regard for the scientific process. (I can’t ever be demonstrated to be wrong.)

    SCIENTIFIC SKEPTICISM: I weight provisional conclusions based on the totality and quality of evidence available, including the consensus of expert opinion. (I can be demonstrated to be wrong and must revise my conclusions as new evidence emerges.)

  85. BillyJoe7 says:

    Didn’t take him long to fall back on Tuskegee. At least the reprobate knows when he’s losing an argument by lying.

  86. Willy says:

    Dr. Egnor continues to attack straw men and irrelevant historical events. He never addresses what is actually incorrect about the science of AGW because he hasn’t the foggiest idea about the science. He will certainly reject claims that the Church is wrong based on citing historical evidence of their gross misbehavior: support of slavery, persecution of Jews, protection of Hitler, the Inquisition, pedophile priests being protected, etc., and yet this is the only kind of “evidence” he presents against climate science. He is an ideologue of the first, and worst, order and he hasn’t the integrity nor the intellectual chops to recognize his blindness. He point-blank states that Trump is a “3-D chess player” as compared to his political opponents who are only “playing checkers”, yet he refuses to defend Trump’s hopelessly ignorant statements about healthcare and “nuclear”.

    Here’s the truth, Doc. The only area in which Trump exhibits a well developed skill is his ability to feed his followers the red meat they demand. He’s a first class hustler with over 4,000 lawsuits in his career. He even acknowledged he was a con artist when he noted that his followers were so gullible that they’d stay with him even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue. Welcome to the bottom of human thought, Doc. You are a charter member in good standing. Jesus would be proud of you for supporting a philanderer who brags about having gold plumbing.

  87. Willy says:

    “I explain myself to laymen everyday”

    The difference, dear blind one, is that there isn’t a large political movement out there claiming that neuroscience is a fraud. I have talked to, and listened to, several climate scientists at agriculture conferences. They were all more than happy to discuss things with laymen and to present their evidence and conclusions during their talks.

  88. chikoppi says:

    Scientists can be remarkably dishonest and corrupt. It didn’t begin with AGW. And science rarely “self-corrects” its own malfeasance. Scientists merely cover their as*es when the fraud makes it to the press, and pretend nothing ever happened, and make sure no one is really held accountable.

    Tell me, chi, what were the consequences for the scientists–thousands of them–involved in the Tuskegee Study?

    Tuskegee is your justification for scientific denialism? Really?

    The evidence must stand or fall on its own merit. Evidence drawn from faulty methodology or research that cannot be replicated gets ignored. Evidence that is incomplete gets revised or replaced as new evidence becomes available. The professional community within a specific field is in the best position to assess the totality of that evidence.

    At no point is evidence you don’t like summarily dismissed because “Tuskegee.”

    The entire medical profession isn’t indicted because physicians once thought prescribing cocaine and inducing orgasms were effective treatments, nor is it judged solely by the fact that some physicians are caught breaching ethics or recommending non-essential (but lucrative) procedures.

  89. MosBen says:

    Billy, that’s why I refuse to engage with him anymore. I’ll point out his hypocrisy, or the flimsiness of his arguments, but that’s for the benefit of the rest of us in the comments. As others have said, he often represents the perfect example of the sorts of cognitive biases and logical fallacies that skeptics discuss, and there’s value in using his posts as examples. But that doesn’t require us to actually engage with him, ask him questions, or present him with evidence or counter-argument. He’s proven that he doesn’t care about these things, so trying to engage with him is just a waste of time. Like any troll, his only goal is to talk in circles until he believes that he has succeeded in frustrating the person to whom he is speaking.

    I would never suggest that he be blocked or banned because it’s useful to have a sort of logical fallacy chatbot around to train ourselves in what bad arguments look like, but to engage someone in a discussion which we know is pointless seems like a massive waste of time to me.

  90. bachfiend says:

    MosBen,

    Agreed. It’s usually a waste of time trying to engage with Michael Egnor. He often refuses to address comments and questions directed at him, refuses to acknowledge or refute arguments against positions he takes based on his worldview (such as those regarding global warming, DDT and overpopulation) and then trots out the same assertions in following threads as if they’re fact not supposition.

  91. Willy says:

    ModBen: We agree–to a point. I think it is VERY useful, especially to people who lurk but don’t comment, to see Dr. Egnor repeatedly refuse to answer questions that he obviously isn’t capable of answering, such as Trump’s views on healthcare. Most of my comments are either directed at pointing out his errors and/or hypocrisy or asking questions he can’t or won’t answer. I certainly do not expect to ‘covert” him, nor do I wish to get involved in a tit-for-tat with him. My hope is to expose his unwillingness to think, to consider. Plus, it’s just good damned fun to poke at him as he is so utterly clueless and so arrogant. I agree that he is a textbook case for skeptics to study and, to that end, I hope I am helping just a wee bit. One might even say he’s a “gift from god”. LOL

    FWIW, he ain’t going away, so let’s use him and enjoy it. I can only wonder what the administration at Stony Brook would say if they knew their fine faculty member behaved so childishly.

  92. bachfiend says:

    Silly,

    I have pointed out on several occasions that Michael Egnor isn’t above distorting science in order to justify his worldview.

    On EvolutionNews he wrote an article dated December 1, 2015 entitled ‘Do Perceptions Occur in Your Brain’ in which he misreported the research of Benjamin Libet, in order to give some ‘evidence’ for his delusion that the mind is immaterial.

    EvolutionNews doesn’t take comments, otherwise he would have been called out on this.

    Michael Egnor has refused to respond here to correct his inaccuracy, despite being challenged to do so. Science denial takes many forms, including the habit of distorting facts as to what scientists report in order to justify a worldview.

  93. Willy says:

    Welcome back, Dr Egnor! I hope you are feeling great today and are well enough to finally explain how Trump’s statements on healthcare are representative of a man who plays 3-D chess while his opponents are barely capable of playing checkers. Once you’ve clarified my misunderstandings on this topic, perhaps you can also explain to me how Trump’s thoughts on “nuclear” show wisdom and understanding. You know, help me, a dumb old checkers player, understand how a genius (good genes, very good genes) could get well into his 30s before figuring out that “nuclear is powerful”. And, after that, we could discuss Trump’s numerous appearances on the Howard Stern Show (certainly a show that was important to devout Christians and, maybe, even Anglicans?) where he agreed that Ivanka was a “piece of ass” and boasted that her “parts” were “real”. Then we could discuss STDs—Trump’s personal Viet Nam. So many topics, so little time!

    It’s a new day, Doc! You can do so much today to help a dumb old checkers player. What say we get started?

  94. Eddie says:

    You have to look to higher education itself to the squelching of critical thinking skills in favor of supporting the group ideology. Referred to as Post Modernism /Cultural Marxism.

    http://quillette.com/2017/11/29/politics-science-scientists-might-not-say-evidence-supports/?utm_content=bufferf7dd4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    i

  95. bachfiend says:

    Willy,

    I apologise for the slip of the finger that caused me to identify you as ‘Silly.’ It wasn’t intended.

    I wonder if Egnor has now dropped out of the ‘debate’, until he returns with the same unsupported assertions in future threads?

  96. Willy says:

    bach: I didn’t think you meant me.

    We’ll see what the Doc does. Always fun.

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