Sunday, 17 August 2014

Not listening - deniers are like teenagers

Well, a lot like this one anyway.


The loss of rational thought - hmm.  I'm not sure deniers actually lose that power, they just mangle it up.  The power of logic is commonly harvested by scientists and mathematicians to progress their work.  Deniers, on the other hand, twist logic into strange knots and accept the answers it gives, even if the answers are complete rubbish.
Let me show you an example of how using pure logic badly can yield ridiculous results:


 Time for a real world example.  Regular readers of this blog might know that Christopher Monckton is a common target for ridicule.  Let me not, therefore, be accused of anything like originality by mocking the Lord Monckton again.
This time it is not for his panacea snake oil substitute, or for his downright wrong views on climate change or his odd comments on academic behaviour.  No, I'm talking about Monckton the birther.
For those who live on the real planet Earth, a birther is someone who, for some reason, doesn't believe that Barack Obama was born in the USA.  So far as I can understand, this is the result of the man's skin not being the required flesh tone, and his politics not being the required fruitcake teabagger kind.  I won't bother explaining why the birther movement is wrong.  It's just so stupid.  No, I want to use a moment of supreme stupidity to explain why deniers are like teenagers.
Monckton wrote an article for the slightly deluded World Net Daily (correction of title 17/8/14) with the headline Obama eligibility odds: 1 in 62.5 quintillion.  The guff under the headline says that Monckton has crunched the numbers.  Well, he certainly crunches some numbers but you know one thing about those numbers just by looking at them.  I won't spoil it for you.  Go and have a look.
On second thoughts, since its Monckton, don't bother.  Just look at this, a list of some probabilities that Monckton created from thin air deployed in his calculation of the probability that Obama's birth certificate is genuine:
He cites:
  • The fact that the registrar’s signature-stamp on the electronic form can be moved about: 100:1 against.
  • Registrar’s date-stamp ditto: 100:1 against.
  • Multiple 1-bit monochrome layers and one 8-bit color layer: 60:1. (Experts twice found no such pattern in 600 file-optimization programs: I allow for 10 anomalous programs to exist.)
  • “Lavishly funded bureaucracy uses wonky typewriter:” 10:1
  • Human error: Certificate number out of sequence: 25:1
  • Incorrect birth date of father: 40:1
  • Use of “African” contrary to written form-filling rules and 20 years before the term came into common use: 25:1
  • Miscoded statistical data: 25:1 (official government estimate).
  • White halo around letters: 10:1
  • Chromatic aberration absent: 100:1
  • Other identity documents: Anomalously worded abstract on short-form birth certificate: 100:1
  • Two-digit year on selective service stamp against DoD written rules: 100:1 (actually impossible: no two-digit example other than that of Kenya’s “son of the soil” is known)
  • Non-citizen of Connecticut holds Connecticut social security number: 100:1.
Now, any number of things should give the game away that these numbers are not, shall we say, real.  They have no basis in reality.  My favourite is the last one.  A 100-1 chance that a non-citizen of Connecticutt holds a Connecticutt social security number would imply that 1% of all Americans would have such a thing.  That would be something like 2 million Americans.  I think the minions in local government in that state might have some explaining to do. 
The point is, of course, that the birth certificate was produced because the birther movement demanded it as proof or otherwise that Obama was born in the USA.  When it was delivered, the birther movement would not accept it.  They poured over it in microscopic detail to find anomalies that the rest of us would accept as those little accidents that life throws up.  As a for instance, my uncle, who died in 1982, had his name misspelled on his coffin lid.  The mistake was only noticed after the coffin had been lowered into the grave.  These things happen.  You can do what I did when I read that a "lavishly funded bureaucracy uses a wonky typewriter" - laugh and wonder who said it was a lavishly funded etc and why wouldn't a typewriter be wonky.  Inkjets and laser printers have made pecking at a typewriter a thing of the past, along with their imperfections.
Back to teenagers.  Those of us who encounter them on a regular basis know that, just like Kevin, between the ages of 13 and 19, teenagers commonly know everything and they know it best.  Deniers do that too.  I will grant that some teenagers are knowledgeable, just as some deniers are.  But that does not make them infallible.  Many teenagers are firmly sure they are infallible.  Deniers are just like that.  Confronted by the truth, deniers just dig deeper and deeper in an effort to find another flaw.
One of the great things about being human, in my opinion, is finding out that the centre of the Universe lies some distance away from me.  That there is so much more to explore than just the backyard.  You also learn that things don't always go as planned.  Some days it rains and you can't play in the garden.  And you learn that making stuff up doesn't always work.
I won't debunk Monckton's drivel.  That is done eloquently here and here.  Just to say it is indicative of his mindset and that of lots of deniers, if not all of them.  The denier thinks that just asking awkward questions is enough, and that making stuff up is acceptable.  But most of all, the denier thinks that reality is something that can be ignored.
When told the truth, deniers live up to their name.  They deny.  I first encountered the idea of deniers when I stepped innocently into the so-called Apollo moonlanding conspiracy.  There wasn't one.  The evidence is mountainous that NASA did land men on the Moon.  Six times.  That seems to be forgotten.  And the ignorance of the deniers is something that doesn't diminish.  No matter how often they get told, deniers don't learn.
I have maligned teenagers by comparing them with deniers.  Teenagers are actually more like octopuses - putting their tentacles out in all directions, learning in the same way a sponge absorbs water.  They don't act like deniers - they question because they don't know, not because they are trying to score points all the time. 
I've used Monckton's mathematical fantasy to illustrate the mindset of a denier - no matter what the truth is, they will still deny it.  As Monckton says of his own mental maths:
Don’t be misled by the simplicity of the method. It’s simple but sound. The result is solid.
How wrong he is.





Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Watt to see in England

So, Anthony Watts is coming to England to heckle see a couple of talks, one by John Cook and one by Michael Mann, in Bristol in September.  Since I gave Willis Eschenbach some advice on what to look for on his tour of the UK, I thought I might do the same for Willard.

The first thing to look out for is the fact that we, here, in England are extremely keen on thermometers.  Willard will see them everywhere.  Here are just a few examples:

 
 
 
Willard might notice that thermometers outside of churches even a mile apart are giving entirely different temperatures (in non-F units too which could confuse him) and that should give him more ammunition for his village heat islands project.
 
 
He may also like to go to Fenny Drayton in Leicestershire.  This is the geographical centre of England and therefore the place where the Central England temperature series is recorded.  I am sure he will find the thermometer outside the church where they are traditionally placed in England.
 


Having visited Central England, it is essential that Willard takes a trip to see the House Of Lords and play spot the Monckton.  That's right.  He isn't there.

There is a chance, however, that Willard will not be able to tell the difference between the Lords and Lord's.  To help him, here is a picture of the latter.  The game they are playing involves a bat, a ball and some fielders, only one of who has gloves.

So with a little preparation, Willard should enjoy his trip.  And if he keeps his mouth shut at the talks, he might even manage to look intelligent too.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Revealed - the leaked memo from the BBC's Head Of Crackpots

TO: Head of BBC News
From: BBC Head Of Crackpots

Subject: Crackpots providing balance to BBC news stories

Sir or Madam

I write in reply to your request for information on sources of information that could be used to balance news stories on scientific matters. 

Any mention of the Longitude Prize should require someone from the Flat Earth Society to be present to give the counter-balancing argument that although there is a consensus about the shape of the Earth, the science is not settled and I feel the BBC should recognise this fact.

The planned programmes celebrating the 45th anniversary of the first Moon landing should have a Moon landing denier present on the Breakfast sofa to counterbalance the space historians and retired Buzz Aldrin that will be there because, as we know, there is considerable doubt amongst some people who really ought to get out more or learn to use the Internet better and I feel the BBC should recognise this fact.

Talking of space, there must be a heliocentric solar system denier present whenever any astronomy programmes are talking about the planets.  Get rid of Brian Cox from Starwatching Live and replace him with someone who adheres to the Ptolemaic system.  I feel the BBC should reflect the doubt.

And on a similar subject, when the news covered the gravity waves left over from the Big Bang story a few weeks back, there was no fundamentalist Christian quoting Genesis.  I feel the BBC should reflect this point of view.

Evolution - do we need to have only scientists discussing stories about fossils and missing links.  What about Ken Ham to provide some counterbalance?  He knows his stuff, has a good line about bananas and is available at the drop of a hat.  I think the BBC should reflect this line of thinking.

But on the subject of climate change, I think it is right that we abandon the crackpots and idiotic thinking that this subject seems to attract.  Why do we think we can just bring on anyone who has opened a copy of the Mail On Sunday and proclaims themselves a climate change expert when there have been scientists who have been studying this all their adult lives and actually know what they are talking about?  I mean, that interview with James Delingpole just showed him up as an ignorant buffoon.  Nigel Lawson just comes across as a pompous twerp and God help us if we ever book Upper Class Twit Of The Century Christopher, Lord Monckton.  I feel the BBC would be going too far if we reflected their ill educated views.

I welcome your response.

Signed

Elias Mooseblaster
Head of Crackpots


Sunday, 6 July 2014

Of dowsing, Malta and the claims of Lord Monckton

As anyone with half an ounce in their skull knows, dowsing is the ancient art of making yourself look stupid with a couple of sticks.  I have done some controlled experiments myself on dowsing and have read enough on the subject to know that, alas, it is false.

Put bluntly, in most countries of the world, you can find water by digging a random hole anywhere you like.  Dig it deep enough and it will collect water in the bottom.  And that introduces confirmation bias.

Which brings me headlong into the testimony of Lord Christopher Monckton (again).  He says at WUWT the following (archived):
Niklas Mörner, the sea-level expert, has had his page got at on the ground that he sometimes dowses for water or other underground treasure. My late father once did that for the Maltese Government, and found three lost Punic tombs and a fine marble head of Seneca from the first century AD. My drawing of it (in the day before digital cameras) is probably still to be found somewhere in the Museum of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. But I never had the knack for dowsing myself.
As far as I can discern, the only source for this claim of finding three lost Punic tombs is the current Lord Monckton.  There are two separate mentions of it at WUWT and one anywhere else (translated) that I can find:
"I can't do it at all-I've tried-but my dad could do it, and I saw him actually doing it once, because he had been summoned by the Maltese Government to find some Punic tombs, which we knew was in an area where there should be a way. We wanted to make sure that there is no led the way straight through the tombs. So my dad went up and down the fields with its attic, and suddenly there were translated, and he said ' grave here ', and they dug, and they found the Punic grave Chambers, among others. the most beautiful senecanske head, as I drew, and the drawing is now at the Museum of Classical Archaeology at Cambridge. There is the evidence, and you can even check it, but you can of course not like evidence, if they are not in accordance with your argument. I understand that you are more of a believer than a scientist. "

  Major General Monckton's obituary in the Daily Telegraph had this to say:
 Young Gilbert was educated at Harrow before reading Agriculture at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he converted to Roman Catholicism under the influence of Monsignor Alfred Gilbey.
This led him to become a founder member of the Strafford Club, in honour of Charles I’s minister who was beheaded for alleged subversion, and also to discover his talent as a diviner.
He used to win bets in pubs by playing a game in which he was challenged to find a signet ring under one of four caps; when friends tried to trick him by putting rings under every cap his rod defeated them by saying yes at each one.

A pretty story perhaps, but barely as dramatic as finding three Punic tombs that had been lost, for the Maltese government.

What of the tombs themselves?  There are 650 listed George Said's PhD thesis in 1994.  The late Lord Monckton discovered, according to his son, 0.46% of them.  Perhaps that's a goodish quantity. But wait.  The translated bit of Swedish Monckton says they were looking where they thought they would find them anyway.  So, if I were to go to a site where, for example, we might expect some ploughed out round barrows and I dowsed, there's a good chance I would find those barrows.  We are not talking tiny metal finds.  We're talking substantial structures.
The tombs here are cut into the cliff face
Here's one the archaeologists examined

By the way, Said has no mention of Monckton.  That's not really a surprise but, like so many of the other things the present Lord Monckton says, they are desperately hard to check.  Other clues besides just the twitching of rods could have been used - there does seem to be a pattern to where these tombs are found. 

So if his Lordship should alight here, perhaps he would be so good as to give a little more detail. Where, when, would be very useful bits of information. 

By the way, Niklas Morner has some very out of the way ideas.  He's like a quack archaeologist and was once reprimanded for damaging an iron age site in Sweden in his "researches".



Friday, 4 July 2014

Lord Monckton, the Wowbagger of the legal world

Lord Monckton, the third earlobe of somewhere no one has actually been to, has threatened so many people at the tiresome and recursive website WattsUpWithThat with legal action that, like Wowbagger of the Tertiary phase, he appears on a mission to personally confront every sentient being in the Universe.

You can imagine the scene at his solicitors when they open at 9.00am.

Phone rings several times, then goes to the answering machine.

"I'm sorry there's no one here to take your call at the moment, but if you have threatened to sue someone you have only ever met on an internet blog, our advice is to stay away from those sites.  We will send our invoice to the usual address."

Just in case his lordship arrives here.  This is satire.  You know, the stuff Juvenal did (and that you tried clumsily at WUWT).  And here is my mate George to make the most pertinent comment:


Friday, 20 June 2014

Awards Night

I would like to let all my readers know that tomorrow night is awards night at the Starlight Ballrooms, Las Paranoias (off junction 3 of the M25).  The night is being organised by the Non-International Commission On Denying Science (NICODS) and is their 0th annual awards evening.  Remember that evening wear is required and there is a vegetarian option if you don't want the chicken in a basket.

So on to the awards.

For literature -

There could be no one other than James Delingpole BA (Oxon), who is recognised for his magnum opus, Kumquats: Why The International Socialist Agenda 21 World Governance Climate Scientists Conspiracist Are Like Various Bits Of Fruit In My Fruit Bowl (£0.99 from The Works).  Delingpole, in ten heavily referenced to a crank website in New Guinea pages, explains why he is a paranoid tin foil hat wearing non-scientifically trained fruitcake, though that's not what he intended to do.
Form an orderly queue please ladies, he is British

For music -

Once again, no one came close to the latest whacky adventure in a long line of whacky adventures by Viscount Christopher Monckton, the world's only fruitcake sponsored by a chocolate biscuit.  Monckton's latest venture has been a remake of a famous sixties American sitcom, although he changed the title slightly.  In the States, Hey Hey We're The Moncktons, has been a rip roaring success and the first single from the album of the series has hit number 2 (although I may have misheard that and actually it is number twos). Anyway, I urge you to follow this link to hear Christopher Monckton sing "I'm A Disbeliever". dead link


For science -


It might be getting a little recursive here to say it but only Jim Steele could win this one.  How on Earth can someone so intelligent and knowledgeable(TM) be so, I don't know, grumpy about a cheese. In this case parmesan.  At least he provided some of the cherries for Delingpole's fruit bowl.

For economics -

The gremlins that ruined Professor Richard Tol's reputation and the 2009 paper on which financial wizard and sometime science writer Matt Ridley based his attempt to win his own prize and the NICODS award for literature at the same time.  Quite when those gremlins struck, why and how badly they have screwed up Tol's reputation remains to be seen.  The WUWT thought police, Smokey and the DBStealey Bandit, are expected to finger the collar of a man, namely Michael Mann, anytime soon on a stitched up charge of doing conjuring tricks at children's parties.
Tol's gremlins settle down with some snacks to watch the awards ceremony
dbstealey greeting a climate science realist

For international relations -

None other than Murry Salby who has made a name in international relations that Henry Kissinger and Prince Andrew can only envy.  Firstly he skips to Australia when he feels the hot breath of authority uncovering his unusual financial arrangements, then he finds himself stranded in Europe when the credit card he is using is frozen as he is off on a jaunt when a lecture hall full of students are trying to catch up on their sleep while listening to him drone on about zzzzzzzzz.
Salby, undecided which gesture to give

For jurisprudence -

[Please note, our lawyers, Sou, Grabbit & Runne, have reminded us that the Michael Mann v Mark Steyn case is ongoing and we should not comment on the idiocy of [redacted] comparing [redacted] to a child [redacted] because that may just influence the outcome of the case.]

For philology (that's something to do with studying words) -

Dr Roy Spencer, he of the jolly hair cut (though not as jolly as Richard Tol who, though he can't be here tonight, has combed his hair tonight in honour of his gremlins). Spencer, you may remember, got hot under the collar about the word denier, correctly pointing out that it was associated with the libertarian philosopher and pioneering sociologist and namesake, Herbert Spencer, 150 years ago, therefore being coupled in many people's minds with the Potato Famine deniers.
Crazy hair, crazy lack of knowledge

For philosophy -

None other than Dr Timothy Ball whose constant striving to join the dots and cross the teas of the world's conspiracy theories has meant that he has proven than Michael Mann was born in Kenya and therefore cannot be a professor at an American university while demonstrating that Richard Lindzen shot JR.

What's wrong with this picture?  The entire second line.

For social inclusiveness -

Willard Anthony Watts, resident of California, who keeps a bit of seaweed in his garage and uses that to make decisions on the climate.  Watts has won for his brilliantly effective method of maintaining polite discourse - insulting commenters to his site that contradict or correct him then deleting the comments where those commenters defend themselves, correct the lies about them or the misinformation.  This way there is no dissent, no arguments and definitely none of that antisocial yobbish behaviour that you might get if two people were allowed to discuss their disagreements.  And then there's dbstealey if the rational commenter looks like they might be winning.
That bloke off Fox News explains to Willard how he'd like to make him hot under the collar

Oh, and Watts thinks people might just not to taken in by this piece (archived) at his award [sic] winning science [sic] site.

Please note - we originally asked Seth McFarlane to host our awards, you know, so he could make some very tasteful jokes about clothes like he did at the Oscars the other year, but then he went and made that science series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson and included a programme that said global warming was real and caused by humans so we had to sack him on the grounds that his views and our did not quite coincide.  He naturally said that was McCarthyite censorship on every media outlet he could find.  Well, actually he didn't, but if he were a science denier he would have done because that way you can guarantee to get lots of noise for very little truth.

So instead, we got the only person qualified to do justice to our little awards ceremony, the peer without peer, the drama queen without a seat in the House Of Lords, Viscount(TM) Christopher Monckton.

Late update - Monckton can't make it because he is currently in negotiations with a major pharmaceutical company trying to persuade them to stop laughing at his attempts to claim he has found a cure for all known ills.  So instead, we have turned to Lamb Chop, the sock puppet of the late Shari Lewis.
Oh, look, there's dbstealey again (on the right - Mod.)
 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Has Anthony Watts been surrounded by idiots at his site for so long he thinks everyone is an idiot?

Short answer - yes.

Long answer.

This is how WattsUpWithThat works,

Anthony Watts puts up a post.  There are three kinds. Some basic bits of uncontroversial reportage which are uncommon.  Reposts of press releases with a short bit of non-commentary by Watts and often no link to the full story/paper to which he is referring. The third kind are the desperate pseudoscientific posts, usually guest posts by the likes of Tim Ball, Willis Eschenbach, Christopher Monckton and Jim Steele of the cherry picked, highly slanted and easily debunked variety. These are common.

The posts gather comments. Usually these begin with a brainless thumbs up. Sometimes someone will notice that the post has a flaw or, more likely, is a pile of fetid dingo's kidneys. The recursive idiots on the comment thread have their pickings of the rancid meat while the commenter who actually has a handle on reality tries to fend off the increasingly personal attacks.

In wades dbstealey, aka David Boehm, aka Smokey, aka mod.  From his privileged position, totally protected by Watts, he can make whatever comment he wants and usually he twists the words of the rational one, makes things up and ups the ante. He does not listen to reason, draws a comment that is a response to his insults and uses his moderator hat to shut down any discussion. Oh, did I mention that his hypocrisy knows no bounds. It is the climate change supporters who censor and shut down discussion.

Meantime the choir of idiots continues to sing to the organ grinder's unscientific tune.

And that, my friends, is how it works.

It is recursive and asymmetrical. You can't win by using reason because you're not allowed to. And Anthony wonders why real scientists would rather cross an eight lane highway rather than breathe the same air as him.

Should anyone arrive here from WUWT wishing to have their fourpennorth, here is my comment policy.  Unless you are trying to part me and my money over erectile dysfunction matters or have found a long lost relative in Nigeria who, fortunately, has popped their clogs and left a fortune for me, if only I forward you my bank details, then I don't delete comments. If someone wants to make a prat of themselves, I prefer to leave it on the Internet for everyone to see.