Friday, 26 February 2010

War on Science

From Deltoid:
Clive Hamilton has written a five part series on the attacks on climate science in Australia:
Bullying, lies and the rise of right-wing climate denial. I already mentioned this one
Who is orchestrating the cyber-bullying?. Andrew Bolt gets a special mention for his hate mongering.
Think tanks, oil money and black ops. The think tanks in Australia promoting denial and delay are Lavoisier, the IPA, the CIS and now the Brisbane Institute.
Manufacturing a scientific scandal. Jonathan Leake's concoctions are well covered.
Who's defending science?. The Australian's War on Science and how the CSIRO, the Bureau of Meteorology and The Australian Academy of Science are missing in action.
Oddly enough the anti-science movement is still going strong despite the numerous articles/blogs debunking their nonsense. I keep saying about this specific infectious disease that "there is no cure for stupidity."

As we know this type of delusional disorder, in which the inflicted are resistant to all sorts of evidence countering their believes, is not limited to Global Warming denialists. Not to mention the tendency to support  all that oppose science.

Interestingly, Mark Crislip, for Science-Based Medicine, discusses the influence of climate(change) on the prevalence of infectious diseases.
Maybe its just the weather, the season, and not climate change that is causing the change in the epidemiology of infections.  I do not think so.  I think these infectious disease associations lend credence to climate change. Another line of converging evidence in support of global warming.
Steven Novella explains the concept of scientific consensus and how the anti-science movement misrepresents or misunderstands what science does:
Generally, non-experts tend to accept or reject anthropogenic climate change based upon their politics and world-view. That is a strong indication that most people are not assessing the science objectively, but are simply fitting the science to their ideology.
Update: The methods, and arguments, used by Global Warming denialists are eerily similar to those that we saw during the there-is-no-relationship-between-smoking-and-cancer-lobby.

Today's campaigners against action on climate change are in many cases backed by the same lobbies, individuals, and organizations that sided with the tobacco industry to discredit the science linking smoking and lung cancer. Later, they fought the scientific evidence that sulfur oxides from coal-fired power plants were causing "acid rain." Then, when it was discovered that certain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were causing the depletion of ozone in the atmosphere, the same groups launched a nasty campaign to discredit that science, too.
Later still, the group defended the tobacco giants against charges that second-hand smoke causes cancer and other diseases. And then, starting mainly in the 1980s, this same group took on the battle against climate change.
So, again, monetary incentives trump science. I for one am shocked.

Update II: In a previous post I mentioned more reading material for those that remain science-resistent. Then there is the article in The Guardian denouncing this fake scepticism.

Update III: This video should help too. (h/t Deltoid)

Update IV: Skeptical Science reminds us of the tediousness of the "debate:"
The Skeptical Science list of skeptic arguments is one of the larger compilations going around, currently numbering 91 different arguments. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Whenever I encounter a skeptic argument, I add it to the database which currently contains 242 skeptic arguments. The 91 are those which I've found the time to research and write a summary of what the peer-reviewed science says on the topic. Now all 242 arguments have been categorised and displayed on a new Global Warming Links page. And just to open up a potentially huge can of worms, you can add to the list of skeptic arguments yourself! 
Update V: In case you missed it, the anti-science movement has no problem fabricating a controversy by claiming a multitude of scientists oppose the idea of human influence in global warming. "The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) published their Petition Project, a list of names from people who all claimed to be scientists and who rejected the science behind the theory of anthropogenic (human-caused) global warming (AGW)." The problems regarding this collection of alleged scientists are discussed by Brian Angliss. He observes:
While it’s not possible to test the validity of OISM list directly, it is possible to test the conclusions that have been drawn from the OISM list. Specifically, we can test what percentage the 30,000 “scientists” listed on the OISM petition represent when compared to the total number of scientists in the U.S. And we can then compare that to the percentage represented by the 2000 IPCC AR4 WG1-associated scientists as compared to the estimate number of U.S. climate-related scientists.
It’s clear that the OISM names don’t represent a significant number of scientists when compared to either the total number of science graduates in the U.S. or to the number of practicing scientists who work in likely relevant fields. But that’s not all.
To conclude:
Ultimately, The OISM petition will continue to rear it’s ugly head until its fabricated credibility has been thoroughly demolished. Social conservatives and libertarians, each of which has their own ideological reasons to push the OISM petition, have been effective at keeping the “30,000 scientists reject warming chicken-littleism of IPCC” meme circulating throughout conservative media outlets, even as climate disruption-focused media have worked at limiting the damage from the OISM petition. But given the fact that the science supporting a dominantly anthropogenic cause for climate disruption is overwhelming, it’s only a matter of time before the OISM petition wilts in the heat.

Friday, 19 February 2010

If science fails you resort to old-fashioned bullying

In the past I have written about the tendency of the scientifically challenged to stifle debate through legal threats. The virus is spreading. Now we have yet another case of criticism, this time about Christopher Maloney, that is disallowed. PZ Myers identifies the genius behind this attempt at censorship:
The Prime Quack has been identified: Andreas Moritz. He has admitted to getting Wordpress to pull Michael Hawkins' blog, and is also threatening me, now.
Here is the way Orac feels about this nonsense.
Seemingly, whenever a quack or a crank encounters serious criticism, the first reaction is almost never to try to argue based on facts, reason, and science, but rather to try to silence the person doing the criticizing. The tactics are many and varied, but the end goal is always the same: Suppress the criticism by any means necessary.
He goes on to list several examples from his own experience to illustrate the point.

Update: Skeptico has discovered this "debating technique" too.

Update II: Apparently WordPress has decided to allow valid criticism once more and the original blog is up and running again. In a new post Michael Hawkins thanks all those that put pressure on WP.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Wakefield leaves Thoughtful House

It appears that following the removal of what was left of his authority, within the scientific community, Wakefield is no longer part of the money making machine called Thoughtful House. Trust Orac to speculate on the reasons behind this move.

Monday, 8 February 2010

The Vaccine Illuminati

It appears the "Vaccine Illuminati" have intervened to stop The Truth from being told. Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey, eternal inspiration to the infectious disease promotion movement, have reacted to that vile act of ruling against Andrew Wakefield, and retracting his unscientific article. Orac discusses, and disects, in detail the merites behind their logic and exposes them as fearmongering conspiracy loons.

Update: Of course, they conspicuously ignore those that have died as a result of their appeal to emotion.

Update II: Aggregate of links to the retraction here.

Chris Mooney: Science has to be more unscientific

Chris Mooney, after failing to lower the heat in other topics of science, has proposed his solution to all "controversies." Scientists should play nice and stop invoking facts and reason when confronted with the infectious disease promotion movement. Weird Things notes:
Previously, he’s done this with the evolution/creationism manufactroversy and scientific literacy. Now, after managing not to resolve either problem and missing the fact that blaming scientists for a culture which rejects science and expertise as a manifestation of elitist snobbery doesn’t actually accomplish anything, he’s off to make friends with the anti- vaxers and implore doctors and epidemiologists to build bridges with zealots who demonize their critics as baby-eating monsters.
He concludes:
His suggestions for all those involved in a big public dustup over science to sit around a campfire and sing Kumbaya, are born from a lack of consideration for the psychology of both sides and the environment from which they come, and if they really worked, he wouldn’t even have to write about militant anti-vaxers and creationists in the first place.
Regarding this way of thinking Orac points out that Mooney:
appears utterly unaware that scientists have been trying to reach out and build bridges to leaders of the anti-vaccine movement for years, if not decades. It hasn't worked. It doesn't work. As Mike Stanton pointed out in a comment, public health bodies courted Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center (whom I've discussed recently here, here, and here). The only result is that it raised her profile. She hasn't budged an inch; she is still as anti-vaccine as ever. One recent example that stands out in my mind occurred in 2007, when Sallie Bernard of SafeMinds participated as a consultant in the design of a large study designed to ask whether there was a link between thimerosal containing vaccines and neurodevelopmental disorders other than autism. Unfortunately for her, the study failed to find a link. All investigators found were a handful of correlations, both positive and negative, that occurred at a frequency consistent with random chance. In a case of sour grapes, Bernard disowned the study before it was published and then, after it was published, launched attacks against it, even going so far as to write a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine criticizing it.
So, countering a misinformatiion campaign by sitting round a campfire, and holding hands, is the last we need to do. "Every attempt to do so is viewed by them as a sign of weakness or vindication of their crank views, never as an opportunity for compromise." Therefore, science should simply continue to call out the factual errors, and well-known lies, the anti-science groups use to spread their cult. We don't debate the shape of the earth, the aetiology of AIDS, whether our neighbour is in league with Satan, et cetera, either.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Evidence-Based Medicine vs. Science-Based Medicine

The medical profession has adopted Evidence Based Medicine (EBM), and its use of Randomized Controlled Ttrials (RCT's), as principal method to use when looking for the best way to diagnose and treat a certain disorder. Kimball Atwood, for Science-Based Medicine, points out that
several of us [at Science-Based Medicine] consider EBM to be incomplete in its gathering of evidence 
He also observes
that human RCTs, as good as they are at minimizing bias or chance deviations from population parameters, cannot ever be expected to provide, by themselves, objective measures of truth. There is still ample room for erroneous conclusions. Without using broader knowledge (science) to guide our thinking, we will plunge headlong into a thicket of errors—exactly as happened in parapsychology for decades and is now being repeated by its offspring, “CAM” research.
In his view EBM, at present, is a "subset of Science-Based Medicine (SBM), because EBM by itself is incomplete." When it incorporates all the evidence EBM and SBM will be "interchangeable."

Update: Evidence in Medicine discusses EBM and its limitations too.