Monday, December 30, 2013

It was only this morning that we talked of trolls...

Sou | 3:31 PM Go to the first of 14 comments. Add a comment

It was only this morning when a worthy contributor at HotWhopper remarked on an article in the Telegraph, in which Tom Chivers referred to this sort of ugly response to the ice-bound ship in Antarctica as trolling.  We then observed how anyone who discusses science at WUWT is commonly referred to as a troll.

Is it pure coincidence that the first thing I see when I check WUWT is:
Peer Review; Last Refuge of the (Uninformed) Troll
And the first sentence I read in that new article is this?
It has become a favorite tactic amongst trolls to declare their belief in peer reviewed science.  

It just goes to show, doesn't it :D

Anthony Watts has put up an article (archived here) by David M Hoffer (who believes that scientists ought to be diminished to an "it").  David Hoffer appears to be trying to make an argument that the fact that fake sceptics have not managed to publish anything credible to prove any one of their various weird and wonderful theories, doesn't mean that any one of their weird and wonderful theories that we're heading for an ice age or whatever won't hold up.  He continues:
With this simple strategy, they at once excuse themselves from the need to know anything about the science, and at the same time seek to discredit skeptic arguments on the grounds that, not having been published in peer reviewed journals, they may be dismissed out of hand.

Which is a funny thing to say.  First of all, David fails to spell out anywhere in his article just which of the myriad conflicting fake skeptic arguments he believes are credit-worthy.  Secondly, if "trolls" (aka scientists and others) accept peer-reviewed science it's quite likely that:

  • it's their own research, which they've published in a peer-reviewed journal and/or
  • it's science they've read in a peer-reviewed journal and/or
  • they understand science well enough to know whether a particular paper accords with or conflicts with the wider body of scientific knowledge and/or
  • they are sensible enough to realise that if 97% of the thousands of experts agree, then it's probably wise to pay attention.

The "argument" hinges (precariously) on an ancient Greek (and a less ancient Italian)

David's argument goes something like this, although he doesn't go into nearly as much detail:

In the fifth century BC (ca. 495–435 BCE), there was a philosopher physician poet whose name was Empedocles. Empedocles was a very important influence and features in the work of Plato and Arisotle among others.  He posited that we see objects because they emanate colour which is perceived by the eye.  It's a fair bit more complicated than that.  David Hoffer describes it as "Empedocles theorized that one could see by virtue of rays emanating from one’s eyes."  However from what I've read (here and here) it was the other way around.  And it wasn't "rays" it was effluences, which to my mind has a slightly different meaning. It's more like objects emanate effluences of different colours which are received by the eyes.

Now David claims:
Falsifying this notion required no more than pointing out that one cannot see in a dark room.  

Well, that might be okay if David's notion of Empedocles' ideas was correct and complete.  However from what I've read, Empedocles was quite a clever chap and I don't think that he would have come up with a notion that could be so easily dispelled.  So I think it much more likely that Empedocles notion may be more as described by Katerina Ierodiakonou  (p 22 onwards).  It's a thoughtful treatise and one which I am not in a position to judge as to accuracy, not being a scholar of ancient Greece. I'm drawn to the similarities with our knowledge of light and vision, rather than the differences.  And I have to admit that the dreamer in me is attracted to the merging of philosophy and natural sciences.

Before I get too carried away, best return to the mundane.  David has raised this flawed "argument" before as you may recall.  The nuts and bolts of it is, if a single Greek philosopher physician and poet could be mistaken about light and vision back in the fifth century BC, then today all the scientists in the world must be wrong about modern physics, chemistry and biology.

We could extend that and argue that all the physicians and medical researchers in the world are wrong about vision.  And all the physicists in the world are wrong about theories of light.  In fact, all modern science could be wrong.  It could even be that Empedocles is correct after all, couldn't it?

Just because there is no peer-reviewed paper proving that pigs can fly...

What it boils down to is that David M Hoffer is arguing that pigs might fly.  Just because there isn't a peer-reviewed paper proving that pigs can fly doesn't mean that they can't.  

David makes a very good point.  As he writes, who are we to:
...retreat to authoritarian arguments in the face of dead simple observations.

Galileo proves something or other ...

David calls on Galileo Galilei to support his notion that all the scientists in the world have had it wrong for decades. This is rather odd, because Galileo was a scientist who was battling with fake sceptics who didn't like him or his science largely because of political ideology (the Church and politics were intertwined back then).  Just like all the fake sceptics at WUWT.  So it's not at all clear why David would call on him for support.  If Galileo were alive today he'd be horrified to discover the anti-science mob claimed him as one of their own.

Move over Tom Wigley, there's a new ruler in town

Another thing, David M Hoffer disputes the fact that Tom Wigley is the ruler of the world.  He reckons that its Kevin Trenberth, who he says is "arguably the most politically powerful climate scientist on earth".  They are a fickle lot this anti-science crowd.  Maybe there'll be a stand-up fight between David M Hoffer and Tim Ball.  Who's going to place a bet?

David M Hoffer's "evidence"

Finally David puts up his dead simple observations as "evidence" that all the physics, chemistry and biology is wrong.  Well, I know who's acting like a dead simpleton and it's not the scientists.  Here are David's "dead simple" notions:

  • stolen emails (Good grief - not that furphy!)
  • the models are wrong (No they aren't!)
  • the models didn't indicate that the oceans would warm up with global warming (What nonsense! What did he think would happen? That the oceans would cool down with global warming?)
  • Roy Spencer says the Earth emits radiation to space (If it didn't, we'd have combusted long before we evolved.)
  • the models didn't suggest that the Arctic would warm faster than other places (Every projection in the IPCC reports shows the Arctic warming faster.)

David M Hoffer's most sensible conclusion

David concludes his wondrous non-peer reviewed bit of nonsense with:
But you need not believe me in that regard.
That's a relief.  You'd be much better to do as David finally and sensibly suggests:
Just the peer reviewed science by the foremost climate scientists on earth.
Thank goodness.  We now have David M Hoffer's permission to go back to peer-reviewed science.  I bet he had you all worried for a minute or less :)

From the WUWT comments

The first few comments I'll show are a sample from the paid up "dead simple" scientific illiterati (archived here):

GlynnMhor says:
December 29, 2013 at 4:08 pm
‘Peer review’ may become ‘pal review’, or less politely a ‘circle jerk’ of like-minded colleagues boosting one another’s fortunes.

Janice Moore says:
December 29, 2013 at 4:32 pm
Well done, David M. Hoffer (if I may, smile). Glad to see an article by you. When I saw you were this post’s author, I even came off my WUWT vacation to read it. You (and other WUWT science giants) certainly provided irrefutable demonstrative evidence of your above assertion in your valiant attempt last week to educate that troll-of-contrived-ignorance whose name I will NOT give the benefit of even mentioning ( = home for a legion of rabbits, going nicely with Monckton’s hive metaphor in the post below which your comments appeared).

Bob Tisdale says (did you doubt he would?):
December 29, 2013 at 4:33 pm
Thanks, David. Well put!

Andrew Thomas says (excerpt):
December 29, 2013 at 4:51 pm
Warmist “peer review” is as dishonest as their pseudo-scientific religion. 

mosomoso says (excerpt):
December 29, 2013 at 6:18 pm
Peer reviewed climate science seems to be little more than the art of ignoring one’s ignorance for the greater good of the clique. Maybe five percent of the hydrosphere has been visited? Never mind. Almost all of the hot, plasticky ball called Earth unvisited, unexamined? Bor-ing. Get to all that later. Gotta publish.

The next few are from readers who can demonstrate they are alive and probably have at least half a brain, some have a whole one.  They are outnumbered by around ten to one, which in itself is quite a remarkable achievement for WUWT where the ratio is generally closer to 99 to one:

Juice says:
December 29, 2013 at 6:52 pm
Is there some law that says if you’re having an argument about science and you compare yourself to Galileo you automatically lose?

cd says:
December 29, 2013 at 4:53 pm
Anthony Watts
I try to actually introduce as many of my friends to your excellent website as a focus of general science (which it does a better job than fully dedicated ones) but when ironic S@*te like this appears it dilutes some of the excellent pieces posted here.

climateace says:
December 29, 2013 at 5:41 pm
D Hoffer
Oh dear – a paper which starts by defining anyone who dares question the views of the author as a ‘troll’. The beauty of this bit of sophistry is that the author virtually sets up, and automatically ‘wins’, a circular argument: trolls are wrong and bad. Hoffer is not a troll.
Therefore D Hoffer is right!
Verbal alchemy – logical dross into gold!


  1. Wow, he has finally jumped the shark hasn't he?

    On that stupid article on Gavin Schmidt I found this excellent example of the same attitude from someone with the screen name "profitup01":

    I debated a NASA Ph.D for two years over AGW and fossil fuels – he was a committed GRANT SCIENTIST – Next I introduced logic – how could you assume the sun emits the exact same amount of energy each minute and over the millions of years, where is any evidence to support that hypothesis. He had none but called names and went to peer reviewed consensus scientific papers all support AGW.

    Apparently this guy's (unfortunate) interlocutor had no evidence so he went to the peer reviewed literature ... apparently published studies of the temperature record don't count as evidence! Truly these people are off in another world ...

    1. I can only imagine the poor scientist shaking his head as he wondered what rock "profitup01" crawled out from under - with "the sun emits the exact same amount of energy each minute and over the millions of years" nonsense. It's little wonder he didn't bother to engage.

  2. I suspect David M Hoffer has been emboldened by the two loony delusional ramblings on 'citizen science' by Mike Haseler over at http://scottishsceptic.wordpress.com/. Mike apparently can't bear to call a scientist a scientist, and instead has to refer to them as 'scientist', like we're something make believe, and that because of the internet people like him can do 'science' without scientists/'scientists'. Or something.

    It's insane, anyway (LOL/IMO/IMHO/my views are my own and not necessarily representative of the tax-payer funded 'scientific' institution within whose walls I carry out my 'science' in secret, etc., etc....)

    1. Two things about Scottish Sceptic. That Latin quotation at the top of the page reads, in full (not cherry picked)

      "Nullius addictus iurare in verba magistri,
      quo me cumque rapit tempestas, deferor hospes.
      I am not bound over to swear allegiance to any master; where the storm drives me I turn in for shelter.
      Book I, epistle i, line 14. Horace, Epistles"

      He also seems to forget that citizen scientists have been around for ages and have made significant contributions. In astronomy, for instance, the Hale-Bopp comet was co discovered by Thomas Bopp, an amateur. Patrick Moore was an amateur who mapped the Moon's edge well enough to interest both US and Soviet space programmes. Best of all, the first radio map of the sky was done but Grote Reber, another amateur.

      What Scottish Sceptic describes is an armchair expert - someone who,learns just enough to be dangerous.

    2. How amusing. Can't even find a Latin tag without blatant cherry-picking. Well spotted Catmando.

      Someone else (I curse my failing brain) possibly Ian Forrester made me laugh the other day by referring to our mutual friend as "Scottish" "Sceptic". The full set ;-)

      In case others are unaware, he is an Englishman.

  3. Sou, thanks once again for wading through the WUWT sewer. Your janitorial diligence has lifted some of the burden off this dumb scientist. I'm grateful.

    Just for the record, I think David M. Hoffer should be referred to as "he" because referring to a person as "it" is dehumanizing. Furthermore, I hope David M. Hoffer becomes famous and lives a long time.

    1. Funnily enough, DS, I find myself wishing exceptionally long lives on charmers like DMH. May they last until at least mid-century. Such interesting things will be happening by then.

    2. Add my voice to those who fervently wish to see these people surpass their centenaries.

      In this lot I include the current crop of Coalition politicians - and before anyone wails about the cost of their pensions, I dream of a time where a successful law suit finds them to have wilfully and deliberately abbrogated their professional duties and responsibilities that they promised under oath to uphold, and that their post-parliament payments and privileges are ceased and perhaps even claimed back...

      That would be justice indeed, especially for centenarian denialists.

      Bernard J.

  4. "Well, that might be okay if David's notion of Empedocles' ideas was correct and complete. However from what I've read, Empedocles was quite a clever chap and I don't think that he would have come up with a notion that could be so easily dispelled."

    You almost certainly have a bad argument if you need to assume that a scientist or philosopher was stupid.

  5. One of the most distressing aspects of WUWT is the pervasive tone of mockery, scorn and disdain which runs through the comments. There is no respect, only belittling of rational conversation, name calling, bullying and a seeming delight in misfortune (as above).

    It would be fascinating to run a sentiment analysis program against the comment texts for WUWT posts to see how it characterizes the tone of the conversations. You could do the same at realclimate and I'd bet you'd see a distinct difference in the emotional content. I looked for a free program online but could not find one.

    If someone with access to a university program could run some tests it would be fascinating. Of course they'd say it was rigged...but what do you expect

  6. Janice Moore's "You (and other WUWT science giants) ..." is extremely ironic given Newton's iconic statement "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." (which sentiment was expressed over five centuries earlier by Bernard of Chartres as "We are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants"). The reality is ... the WUWT science gnomes are standing on the toes of giants by posting their self-serving nonsense and likening themselves to a modern day Galileo Galilei.

    1. they're standing on the shoulders of giants just so they can piss more easily into their ears.

    2. Ah, but by standing on the toes of giants, it is easier to piss on their leg:

      Bob Tisdale pisses on leg, claims it’s raining

  7. As I've posted elsewhere (I don't think it was on this site) to Christopher Monckton everything is 'blindingly obvious', which is one of his favourite phrases. I think it's he who has legitimised the idea on WUWT and other denial sites that to just 'go with your gut' is the proper way to react to climate science. As proof can I suggest searching, Lord Monckton "blindingly obvious". It receives 192,000 hits. Even surprised me.


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