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Personal attacks in science denial

Orac, of Respectful Insolence, has a post about how global warming wasn’t "invented" by Al Gore, contrary to what many global warming deniers seem to think. However, the part I find especially interesting in his piece is his explanation of why denialists tend to attack people.

Here’s an excerpt:

If there’s one characteristic of denialists of all stripes, it’s that they have a strong tendency to personalize their dislike of their particular bete noir science.


The reason, of course, is that cranks can’t attack the science using good science and, of course, it’s far easier to attack a person than well-supported science. After all, all people have flaws that can be ridiculed or used as the basis of ad hominem attacks.

Like Orac, I’ve seen this from global warming deniers, anti-vaxxers, religious fundamentalists, and anti-evolution creationists. Whatever motivates them in their denial, it seems they share this common tactic of attacking the messenger.

…any messenger.

Ken Ham is upset again

I’m not sure that’s accurate. I think it would probably be more accurate to say that he’s upset “still.” In the latest issue of the Answers in Genesis newsletter answersupdate, Ham laments that the Assemblies of God denomination, which had adopted a “evolution is nonsense because the bible says so” stance back in 1977, has now changed its tune and  says…

The advance of scientific research, particularly in the last few centuries, has raised many questions about the interpretation of the Genesis accounts of creation. In attempting to reconcile the Bible and the theories and conclusions of contemporary scientists, it should be remembered that the creation accounts do not give precise details as to how God went about His creative activity. Nor do these accounts provide us with complete chronologies that enable us to date with precision the time of the various stages of creation. Similarly, the findings of science are constantly expanding; the accepted theories of one generation are often revised in the next.

As a result, equally devout Christian believers have formed very different opinions about the age of the earth, the age of humankind, and the ways in which God went about the creative processes. Given the limited information available in Scripture, it does not seem wise to be overly dogmatic about any particular creation theory.

(source pdf)

For a theological position, that sounds pretty reasonable. But of course Ham doesn’t think so. He’s particularly aggrieved by the part about science expanding and changing. Says Ham…


Poor Ken Ham still doesn’t get it

I just got the latest Answers In Genesis newsletter today. I’m on the list because I ordered some of their videos on their site (one of which I reviewed here). This is the first one I’ve received and I can tell it’s going to be a monthly source of amusement and bewilderment.

The lead story in this month’s newsletter is titled “The Emotional Age Issue.” The gist of Ham’s point is that secular folks who obviously don’t have a scientific leg to stand on when it comes to the age of the Earth, get all angry and emotional about the issue when the AiG folks “prove” that the Earth is only about 6,000 years old. I kid you not. There are some wonderful quotes in here that I’d like to share with you (with comments, of course!).

Ken says that, in his years of ministry, he’s found that the age of the Earth and the universe is an “extremely emotional topic for secularists.” For biblical creationists, of course, it’s issue that should lead Christians to a “real zeal for the authority and accuracy of the Word of God.” It’s an amazing twist… and one that Ham and other creationists make on a constant basis… trying to make scientific data into an emotional issue while portraying biblical mythology as scientific fact.

Ham says…


Catholicism, Lessons in Irony & Hypocrisy

With all the Catholic sex scandal news as of late, I have been doing a lot of reading. I started thinking about all the hypocrisy and irony in Catholicism. I know these are not all original thoughts but I wanted to start compiling some. If you have more add them to the comments!

1 ) Why do Catholics have to get pre-marriage counseling from a  celibate priest?

2 ) The Pope refers to the blessed mother Mary with reverence and awe but won’t allow women to take any leadership roles within the church.

3 ) The Pope promotes abstinence as a form of birth control but worships Jesus Christ who was born of a virgin?

4 ) A church full of closet bound homosexual priests won’t recognize the basic rights of homosexuals?

5 ) Jesus lived a simple life and preached to the meek against opulence.  The Pope lives in an opulent palace located in a freakin’ church owned sovereign city, adorned with gold jewelry and robes so flamboyant they would make make Liberace jealous.

6 ) God has given mankind free will to determine it’s own fate. The Catholic church historically used the point of a sword to “help” native cultures determine their own fate.

7 ) If everything happens according to God’s plan, why did God allow thousands of kids to be raped by his “employees”? Was that his plan? If so…it sucked.

8 ) Catholicism is a religion that is famous for it’s guilt, so why doesn’t the Pope seem to have any?

9 ) Catholicism preaches against belief in the occult but worships a Trinity that is 1/3 ghost, 1/3 zombie & 1/3 zombie’s omnipotent dad.

10 ) Where does the Pope get off dispensing medical advice to an AIDS ravaged Africa about the incorrect science of how STD’s can pass through the pores in condoms when it wasn’t even until 1992 that the Vatican admitted that Galileo was right about the Earth orbiting the Sun. Epic fail, fellas.

11 ) The Church that brought you the Inquisition, thinks the current media attention investigating Pope Ratzinger’s ignoring the rape of minimally a couple hundred children is unfair and hurtful.

Rachel calls bull-pucky

Phil Plait is a Rachel Maddow fanboi and I can’t say I blame him. Though Rachel is fallible and has made mistakes before, more often than not, she hits the proverbial nail on the head, so when she gave her commentary on Climategate, the ACORN “scandal,” and other right-wing, anti-reality nonsense, Phil couldn’t resist linking to her video (and commenting on it…worth a read)… and I couldn’t resist watching it.

Another dead-on hammer-strike.

Phil rightly comments that the far right doesn’t have the copyright on nonsense, but the Republican “unholy alliance” it has formed with fundamentalist religion has led it to its pervasive anti-reality stance.

He concludes with this…

Global warming is real. Evolution is real. Vaccines do not cause autism. Homeopathy doesn’t work. These are facts, and they don’t care whether or not denialists spin, fold, and mutilate them. Until we face up to reality, however, they will spin, fold, and mutilate us.

I’ll drink to that.

Anderson Cooper Keeps Scientology Honest!

Scientology - It must be real, they use beakersKudos to Anderson Cooper. There are few members of the main stream media who are willing to confront the "nuttery" of the church of Scientology directly. For those of you who have not been watching Anderson Cooper’s 5 part series, here is a video:

I highly recommend watching this series. Anderson not only discusses violence in Scientology, but he directly calls out it’s leader, David Miscavige. I found this series particularly interesting because I have had the opportunity to speak to a member of the Sea Org myself. The gentleman I spoke to over six months ago, confirmed that violence was a regular occurrence with the church. This former member personally described seeing a violent attack perpetrated by a ranking member of the church. As this person described, he witnessed an attack in a computer room within the celebrity center. Check out the video!

Intelligent Design… Fail!

From James McGrath of Exploring Our Matrix, I found these cartoons by Gordon Glover about Intelligent Design.

The accuracy of the depiction of Intelligent Design is amazing… and amusing!

Satire is a beautiful thing

Amazingly enough, there are still people who claim to understand the science behind global warming, yet make the mistake of thinking localized cold temperatures, such as the recent snowstorms in the Eastern United States, are somehow a refutation of global warming. It’s almost as if they don’t understand the meaning of the key word “global.”

Jon Stewart captures it (and mocks it) perfectly in this Daily Show clip.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Unusually Large Snowstorm

That bit makes fun of the “local versus global” aspect of global warming denialism and it is amusing, but at its heart is a serious issue… the denialist combination of ignorance and arrogance fueled by political and/or religious ideology. It’s a combination that inspires deniers to manufacture evidence, take evidence out of context, twist and distort evidence, and cherry pick evidence in their attempts to bolster their cause.

What makes it worse is that the denialist propaganda seems to be having its intended effect. Despite overwhelming evidence showing that our planet is warming faster than what natural cycles would indicate and that the warming is strongly affected by human activity, fewer and fewer people accept the science. What makes the denialist position so successful? Is it because their “evidence” is valid? …because their position is somehow warranted? Or is it, perhaps, that climate science is complicated… and therefore boring to a lot of people? Could it be that it takes too much effort to research the basics in order to gain a modicum of understanding of the science? …that real science is hard?

Here’s a hint. It’s not because denialist “evidence” is valid (and yes, the scare quotes are warranted).

Certainly, it’s far, far easier to look out the window at an above-average snowfall and conclude that no warming is occurring… and if that nicely-boxed conclusion is spruced up by your strongly-held ideology or by a level of (perhaps understandable) apathy that makes you susceptible to the loud voices of denialism, then it’s fairly easy to consider the matter closed and ignore any further evidence to the contrary.

That’s the scary result of politics trying to invalidate science… or religion trying to invalidate science. People get bad information and then they get the idea that there’s a controversy (where none should exist), or they start to think that scientists are full of crap, or that a biologist is the same as an astrophysicist (ie… a scientist is a scientist is a scientist), or that politicians have some sort of special “in” when it comes to the truth. People start to think that the scientific process is broken, or that a single mistake invalidates years (or even decades) of research, or that a scientist in a bitchy mood indicates that scientists are corrupt, or that scientists should be automatons who never get cranky when quote-mined by some junk-science-peddling politician.

The denialists’ position against global warming science is political, pure and simple. It can be summarized by the idea that, because the fix would be a hassle (or expensive), they want nothing to do with it. On that foundation is built their structure of misinformation… with twists, distortions, and lies… that only continues to stand because they yell loudly, they yell repeatedly, and they yell authoritatively. They do it with a self-righteous arrogance, implying that anyone who disagrees is not only wrong, but unpatriotic and stupid… perhaps socialist, too. They set up towering straw men to burn to the ground with their trite arguments, paying no mind to whether the argument is scientifically valid.

Despite all the denialists’ blustering, the thing they lack is truth. Perhaps truth isn’t important to them as long as they get their way, but truth is the intended destination of science.

The scientific process is self-correcting. Mistakes are sometimes made, but through the process, those mistakes are found and corrected. Science moves on, leaving behind an understanding of our world that is just a little bit better than before. That’s what science does. It moves. It progresses. It refuses to settle. It refuses to stop.

…and all the denialist blustering in the world won’t keep it from moving ahead.

Consistency is irrelevant to denialism

I follow the Skeptical Science blog and I took special interest to today’s post by John Cook about a debate featuring Ian Plimer and Christopher Monckton versus Barry Brooks and Graham Readfern. I’ve only heard Monckton speak before and he has shown himself to be mostly full of schlock conspiracy theories, smoothly twisting (or fabricating) facts to make his climate change denialist points.

However, aside from the debate summary, what I found interesting was one of the statements in Cook’s conclusion, which fits the denial-o-sphere so exceptionally well. Cook was explaining that, though Plimer and Monckton were both deniers, they reached their conclusions through contradictory points, one basing his conclusion (basically) on the idea that our climate is sensitive and the other basing his conclusion on the idea that it’s not sensitive. Both speakers got applause from the deniers in the audience when presenting their contradictory arguments.

Cook says:

In a sense, their combined approach perfectly encapsulates the way skeptic arguments are used to mislead. Layering argument upon argument, regardless of whether they display any internal consistency, isn’t about furthering scientific understanding but proving the preconceived notion that humans can’t be causing global warming. Two skeptic arguments can contradict each other, even on the same debating stage, so long as the common enemy of man-made global warming is refuted

Replace the topic of “global warming” with the topic of “evolution” and his conclusion is just as valid. To the deniers, consistency… or scientific evidence… or reality… isn’t important. What is important to them is to mislead… to twist the argument any way they can… to repeatedly bring up claims, regardless of whether the claims have long since been refuted… to use emotional or political arguments that have nothing to do with the science… to distort, cherry pick, and fabricate evidence in whatever way possible in their attempts to inject unwarranted doubt into the issue.

Why? Because they so want reality to conform to their pre-conceived political, ideological, or religious notions that they’re willing to use virtually any means at their disposal to keep their fortresses of self-delusion from tumbling down. I’ve seen that in action. I’ve heard deniers admit as much. What makes it worse is that they vigorously spread their misinformation, drag others down with them, and hobble any notion of having an intellectually honest discourse.

…because honesty… like consistency… like truth… is irrelevant to them.

Those stupid scientists!

Calamities of Nature - Hot Debate From Calamities of Nature comes this comic (the image here is just the first panel). I don’t want to spoil it for you, but I’ve heard a similar argument made by Sam Harris concerning the word “elite” in a Newsweek essay about Sarah Palin and politics last year. Not exactly the same argument, but related.

The comic brings up a valid point (though highly simplified to fit into three panels) and I’ve commented on it before… with no small amount of disdain. The point is relevant to more than the topic addressed and I’ve encountered the same seeming inconsistency-of-thought regarding evolution, the age of the Earth, cosmology, and a few other science-related topics.

It’s an attitude that science is great… unless it conflicts with your political or religious ideology… that it’s better, in that case, to trust someone who’s not too educated, not too intelligent, not too well informed, not too “elite”… rather than someone who is highly trained in the related field.

Here’s the excerpt from Sam Harris’s article (to save you the time of searching the Newsweek article for it):

Ask yourself: how has “elitism” become a bad word in American politics? There is simply no other walk of life in which extraordinary talent and rigorous training are denigrated. We want elite pilots to fly our planes, elite troops to undertake our most critical missions, elite athletes to represent us in competition and elite scientists to devote the most productive years of their lives to curing our diseases. And yet, when it comes time to vest people with even greater responsibilities, we consider it a virtue to shun any and all standards of excellence. When it comes to choosing the people whose thoughts and actions will decide the fates of millions, then we suddenly want someone just like us, someone fit to have a beer with, someone down-to-earth—in fact, almost anyone, provided that he or she doesn’t seem too intelligent or well educated.

It’s a huge problem in this country today.