The Condescending Tone

I post on a number of topics, and sometimes I obtain feedback in the form of comments posted by readers. Some of the responses are helpful—they fill in where I failed to provide adequate coverage, and sometimes a comment will set me straight on an error I have made.

Many of the comments I receive are from people who reject completely the point I am attempting to make, and on rare occasions these comments are thought out and well put. It’s the “rare” aspect that worries me. Too often the person so terribly offended is:

  • Completely fact-deprived and indicates no knowledge of the topic under discussion.
  • Knowledgeable, but nonetheless skilled in making his point.
  • Comes off as completely unhinged.

It is this last case I want to discuss. The example for today relates to a post from last July. The original post carries the title 44 Reasons Why Evolution Is Just A Fairy Tale For Adults. My post does not provide 44 reasons evolution is a fairy tale. The title is from an item posted by Michael Snyder on a site called D.C. Clothesline and subtitled “Airing Out America’s Dirty Laundry.” How this site came to be a vehicle for a creationism-oriented rant is a guess for somebody else. I felt it worth a response.

Snyder did list 44 reasons, and I (read the original post) took each of the 44 and penned a short response. Many of my responses reduced to stating that Snyder had not provided any evidence to support his point. He had quoted somebody else, and following  which he went on to his next point. My response to such attempts was to point out this fact and to note that repeating what somebody said in the past does not count for evidence in science. An example is Snyder’s point number 3. My reply is the bold text following Snyder’s point:

#3 Even some of the most famous evolutionists in the world acknowledge the complete absence of transitional fossils in the fossil record. For example, Dr. Colin Patterson, former senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History and author of “Evolution” once wrote the following

“I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them …. I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”

Again, it’s interesting to note that Colin Patterson said this, but again speech is not scientific evidence.

Anyhow, that has been out there for several  months, receiving one helpful comment almost immediately, and finally another one today. Here it is, exactly as posted:

idiot..i have one thing ti say…al the hearsay and lack of evidence you attack the writers of the article you were going after, you did as well. i can quote several times you didn’t explain..give examples…evidence…but guess what..just spoken or “written” words in your case. you did nothing and achieved nothing for most of this long article. also..you use circle reasoning thru-out, of which im sure you will use again to rebuttal this. asking some one to use evolution based world view foundation to disprove evolution or else anything said is wrong by inherent basis is like me requiring you to use creation based world view ” as the science is the same, just different world views direction how evidence is interpreted or rationalized”, to completely disprove creation. neither theory can be proven or disproved via the scientific method of observable and repeatable”,and neither are fact. where we get pissed of is your blind faith and enforcement of your theory as fact…when only reason you do so is cause the only other option besides everything made it self is some one else made everything.

In the past I have refuted people’s arguments and have been accused, in turn, of using condescending language. Here is an excerpt from a previous post. I had previously obtained a copy of Ben Shapiro’s small book How to Debate Leftist and to Destroy Them. Shapiro considers the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a leftist (his term) agenda, and he frets that leftists attack by calling their opponents stupid, mean, corrupt, and maybe all of the preceding. Here’s how the discussion unfolded earlier this year:

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

It’s that latter part that is critical. I found Dan taking the same stance Shapiro does. In point, Dan makes a completely ludicrous statement, one that galls the intellect. Then when somebody responds by pointing out the obvious, Dan comes back by chiding the other party for being condescending. And other terms. That’s what we are about to have here.

Snyder, in responding to my argument, appears to  have gone completely off the rails, beginning with a typographical monstrosity before settling down to a face-deficient rant. It’s usually at this point that I begin to become condescending.

I am not going to call Snyder a creationist nut case, partly because the phrase contains an obvious redundancy. My object is to approve his comment as posted and then allow it to hang out there as evidence of whatever anybody wants to conclude about Snyder.

After approving Snyder’s comment I sent him an email asking him if he would care to elaborate, hopefully to improve, on his comment. If ever I hear back from Snyder I will revisit the matter in another post.

There may be more to come. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on my soul.

Psychic Frauds

The term surely must be redundant. On Friday ABC Nightline presented a segment titled Psychic Detective, featuring “psychic detective” Troy Griffin:

Griffin is a self-proclaimed psychic detective. Shunning the crystal ball, tarot cards and tea leaves of his fellow intuitives, he says he uses his psychic powers to solve crimes.

“I’ve worked on … about a 100 cases overall,” Griffin said.

He says he’s built a business out of bringing the paranormal into police work, charging up to $250 an hour for his investigative work.

He recently worked a missing person’s case that gripped the nation. Kelsie Schelling, 21, was eight weeks pregnant and disappeared in February 2013 after making a late night drive from her home in Denver to see her boyfriend in Pueblo, Colorado. Her family never saw or heard from her again.

[Emphasis added]

And Kelsie Schelling is still missing, despite all the efforts of psychic detective Troy Griffin.

skepticism-psychicdetectives-01

His claim to have worked “100 cases” does not pan out. Local police have no knowledge of his working  with them.

skepticism-psychicdetectives-02

The show also featured phony psychic Silvia Browne. Browne died over three years ago, but before that her damage became lasting. She famously declared dead a missing woman named Amanda Berry.

But psychic readings, especially those in the public eye, have not been exempt from scrutiny. One example was a 2004 reading famed psychic Sylvia Browne performed on “The Montel Williams Show” for the mother of then-missing girl Amanda Berry. Browne told Berry’s mother that her daughter was dead, but nine years later, in May 2013, she was found alive.

skepticism-psychicdetectives-03

Berry’s phone call to police and the rescue of two other missing women held captive by a deranged man failed to dim Browne’s candle:

Prior to her death in November 2013, Browne released a statement saying in part, “I have been more right than wrong. If ever there was a time to be grateful and relieved for being mistaken, this is that time.”

skepticism-psychicdetectives-04

Wrapping up for those who live on this planet is well-known paranormal investigator Joe Nickell.

skepticism-psychicdetectives-05

Skeptical fans will be interested to know that Joe Nickell is still going strong. Originally from Kentucky, he apparently now lives in Buffalo, New York. His Wikipedia entry has additional information of interest:

In late 2003, Nickell reconnected with his college girlfriend, Diana G. Harris, and learned he had a daughter, Cherette, and two grandsons, Tyner and Chase. Harris and Nickell married in Springfield, Illinois on April 1, 2006. Harris has assisted Nickell in his investigative work. Cherette had always been told that her biological father was her mother’s first husband, although she questioned the lack of family resemblance. On her wedding day, one of the guests mentioned that her parents weren’t married when she was conceived. Later Cherette asked her mother about her father and sensed an equivocation in the answer. More conversations with her mother and a DNA test proved that Nickell was her father. Nickell used his daughter’s claim that her search was the result of an intuition as the basis for an article on the unconscious collection and processing of data. Nickell concluded,

Wow! Even skeptics have interesting lives. I have touched on the endeavors of Joe Nickell previously. Follow the link.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

altmed-placeboextrastrength

I set aside Tuesday to commemorate those who (mostly) die due to false belief. Here is another case from Quack Watch:

My Wife’s Death from CancerSubmitted by Richard Craven of Pelham, New HampshireIn the summer of 1997, my wife Lucille detected a small lump. She obtained a biopsy in the early winter. She met with an oncologist who diagnosed a small, pea-sized carcinomatous breast tumor. He recommended mastectomy and lymphectomy with a course of chemotherapy. She concealed her meetings with her physicians and her diagnosis from me and our children, and from members of her own family. I recall an argument I had with her in that period when she stated she did not want to ‘be cut, burned, or poisoned’ in the event she was ever diagnosed with cancer.

Lucille consulted a physician in another city, a physiatrist, with whom she had an acquaintance. This physician urged her to obtain a second opinion, which she did. The second opinion was the same, but Lucille was determined to obtain nontraditional treatment. She prevailed upon her physician acquaintance to find an individual to provide such a treatment. Together they visited a naturopath who claimed to cure cancer. However, at their meeting he requested an advance payment in full of many thousands of dollars as well as agreements signed by all family members excusing him from any liability.

Lucille determined to find another person to treat her illness. She began to read books with titles like “The Cure for All Cancers” and “The Cancer Encyclopedia.” One such book was by a chiropractor in a nearby state. Lucille sought treatment at his clinic. After their first meeting, she believed he could cure her cancer. She began to visit his clinic on a regular basis, although it was almost 150 miles away. She wrote him frequently to keep him updated with the progress of her disease. During her visits, he extracted blood and examined it in a dark-field microscope, showing her the field of view. At some point, he recommended that she use 714X, an injectable medicine promoted by a Canadian doctor. So she sent for it and began giving it to herself.

Meanwhile she continued to consult her physician acquaintance who examined her periodically, sold her homeopathic remedies, and provided blood irradiation services (a technique of extracting blood into a quartz vessel illuminated by ultraviolet light).

She continued to conceal both her disease and the true purpose of her homeopathic treatment from all in her family. She described her behavior as a search for a healthy lifestyle. I witnessed a gradual buildup of dozens of homeopathic remedies and the conversion of our family to organic-only food; and finally I discovered her self-injection treatments. She knew I disapproved strongly of these and of her visits to the chiropractor. I began to print and leave around articles which I found at the CDC website on the dangers of nonlicensed medicine. In hindsight, this was far too little, too late. However, being married for 33 years to this woman who was wonderful in other ways made me too tolerant.

Eventually her untreated cancer broke through to the surface of her breast. Her physician acquaintance explained that the cauliflower-like nodules were “carbuncles” caused by an excess of lymph. Her self-treatment became even more extreme and she purchased a device with two headlights on wands at a cost of many thousands of dollars. The instructions with these show a diagram of the human lymphatic system and they were intended to “promote lymphatic flow.”

By this time, two years had passed since the initial diagnosis. The chiropractor stated that he couldn’t help her any more and suggested she go to Germany to be treated there. Lucille discovered through a casual remark by his staff that his other patients were receiving chemotherapy. Lucille felt misled by him because he had caused her to believe that chemotherapy was harmful and not desirable.

The growing tumor had metastasized and Lucille’s left arm developed extreme lymphedema (swelling caused by blockage of drainage of the lymphatic system). This was not concealable, and I began to question her. Eventually she disclosed her condition and within a few days I convinced her to see another physician both of us had worked with and whom she also trusted. He arranged for immediate admission to his hospital and for the case to be taken over by an excellent oncologist. We obtained her cooperation to this ‘conventional’ treatment. Her oncologist did not criticize her homeopathic, naturopathic health providers even as he gave us a prognosis of months. She was released from the hospital on a fearsome regimen of chemotherapy. A surgeon consultant and radiation therapist consultant found her untreatable; and she died approximately 4 months later — a few days short of her 55th birthday.

At this point no more needs to be said. A collection of similar stories is on-line at What’s The Harm?

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

altmed-homeopathyairguitar

Another Tuesday and another death due to reliance on unwarranted belief. From Quack Watch comes a story of death by cancer:

My good friend Debbie Benson died July 15, 1997, at age fifty-five. I had known her for thirty years. Her official diagnosis was breast cancer, but she was really a victim of quackery. Conventional treatment might have saved her, but she rejected the advice of her oncologist and went to “natural healers.”

Debbie was a registered nurse at the Kaiser hospital in Portland, Oregon, but she had a deep distrust of standard medical practice. She didn’t have a mammogram for nine years, and when she did — in March 1996 — it showed a cancerous lump in her breast. She had the lump removed, but she refused the additional treatment her doctor recommended. Instead she went to a naturopath who gave her — among other things — some “Pesticide Removal Tinctures.”

Readers, when you’re dying Jesus will not come to save you, and it’s for certain medical quackery won’t either.

Dying to Believe

Some more of the same

altmed-davidwolfe

This is old stuff. Nearly 25 years ago medical charlatan Charlotte Gerson came to town, peddling what was then called “the Gerson cancer cure.” The North Texas Skeptics newsletter reported on it at the time:

Max Gerson seems to have been a very self-reliant man. At an early age he found he could cure his own migraine headaches by controlling his diet, and as a medical doctor he found diet to be a cure for a multitude of other complaints. The list is impressive. According to the flier distributed by the Gerson Institute, the Gerson Therapy can cure or prevent: cancer, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, arthritis and “other diseases of civilization that kill and cripple us.” Just wait until the AMA hears about this.

Max’s daughter, Charlotte Gerson, is living proof of the effectiveness of the Therapy. At age seventy, she looks the picture of perfect health. Slim and vigorous and very neat looking with white hair and wearing white sandals and slacks with a blue blouse and a string of pearls. She looks the way you would like your grandmother to look (or the way you would hope your wife looks at that age). You would never believe that 58 years ago her father cured her of “incurable” bone tuberculosis. Indeed, the only sign of malady she exhibited (that could not be attributed to seventy years) was a “Band-Aid” patch on the middle finger of her right hand.

Charlotte’s free lecture was presented at the Unity Church of Dallas on Forest Lane.

And there was more.

Anyhow, run the tape forward 12 years, and the Gerson therapy was still alive and well, this time with the moral support of high royalty:

Now Charles backs coffee cure for cancer

Angry doctors warn of dangers as Prince of Wales lends support to controversial alternative treatment. Health Editor Jo Revill reports

Prince Charles has never made a secret of his love affair with alternative medicine. Now he has infuriated the medical profession by backing a controversial cancer treatment which involves taking daily coffee enemas and drinking litres of fruit juice instead of using drugs. Charles gave an enthusiastic endorsement last week to the Gerson Therapy, which eschews chemotherapy in favour of 13 fruit juices a day, coffee enemas and weekly injections of vitamins.

Cancer specialists have told The Observer that there is no scientific basis for the theory and that it can be dangerous because patients who are seriously ill often come off their normal treatment to try something unproven which may leave them badly dehydrated.

The problem with scams like the Gerson cure is threefold: They don’t work. They entice patients to avoid therapies that do work. They are expensive beyond all reason and worth. For any and all of these reasons, avoidable death can be a consequence.

The Guardian article by Jo Revill notes, “An estimated 1,000 people are following it worldwide, but the cost of the injections – more than £20,000 a year – means many cannot afford the treatment.” Tragedy reaches to the highest levels of society:

Another of Charles’s associates, the hereditary peer and crossbencher Lord Baldwin of Bewdley, went to the Tijuana clinic in 1996 when his wife Sally was seriously ill with breast cancer. She spent eight weeks at the clinic, followed by another two years of using the regime at home. Her disease recurred and she died three years ago.

Keep reading, and always keep Jesus close to your heart.

The Age Of Embarrassment

Update: I fixed some flawed language in this posting.

Sixth of a series

science-agw-scottadamsmodel

This keeps coming up. Makes my day. Dan Kuttner likes to jump on items supporting the denial of AGW (anthropogenic global warming). For that I am thankful.

This time it relates to a post on the Scott Adams blog. Scott Adams, if you recall, is the cartoonist/commentator who has for over two decades ragged American corporate structure and our idiosyncratic social fabric. No scientist, himself, he likes to take on AGW, which he appears to doubt. Here’s the item in question:

SCOTT ADAMS’ BLOG

I keep hearing people say that 97% of climate scientists are on the same side of the issue. Critics point out that the number is inflated, but we don’t know by how much. Persuasion-wise, the “first offer” of 97% is so close to 100% that our minds assume the real number is very high even if not exactly 97%.

That’s good persuasion. Trump uses this method all the time. The 97% anchor is so strong that it is hard to hear anything else after that. Even the people who think the number is bogus probably think the real figure is north of 90%.

But is it? I have no idea.

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

Notice I am avoiding the question of the measurements. That’s a separate question. For this challenge, don’t let your scientist conflate the measurements or the basic science of CO2 with the projections. Just ask the scientist to offer an opinion on the credibility of the models only.

Remind your scientist that as far as you know there has never been a multi-year, multi-variable, complicated model of any type that predicted anything with useful accuracy. Case in point: The experts and their models said Trump had no realistic chance of winning.

Your scientist will fight like a cornered animal to conflate the credibility of the measurements and the basic science of CO2 with the credibility of the projection models. Don’t let that happen. Make your scientist tell you that complicated multi-variable projections models that span years are credible. Or not.

Then report back to me in the comments here or on Twitter at @ScottAdamsSays.

This question is a subset of the more interesting question of how non-scientists can judge the credibility of scientists or their critics. My best guess is that professional scientists will say that complicated prediction models with lots of variables are not credible. Ever. So my prediction is that the number of scientists who ***fully*** buy into climate science predictions is closer to zero than 97%.

But I’m willing to be proved wrong. I kind of like it when that happens. So prove me wrong.

I pasted as much as I consider pertinent on the possibility it will be withdrawn in the future.

As you can see above, I posted a response to Dan’s posting on Facebook, inquiring whether he felt safe in venturing into this wilderness again. This considering his performance in a prior exchange:

In a previous conversation Dan made some claims related to atmospheric science. One went something like this (I do not have the exact quote), “Carbon dioxide weighs [some number] more than the rest of the atmosphere.” That statement struck me as odd to the extreme. The German physicists Wolfgang Pauli is noted as having said something like, “Das is nicht einmal falsch,” that is not even false (wrong).” It related to something so absurd that it went beyond not being true. Dan’s statement regarding carbon dioxide and the atmosphere is such a statement. Some explanation.

Carbon dioxide is a chemical compound, not a physical object. The atmosphere is a physical object. Any statement comparing a non-physical object with a physical object is beyond false. In this case there was no way for me to respond to Dan’s statement. The conversation unraveled from there.

So Dan has asked, “Did you answer his challenge?” I responded that I am in the process now, which is what this is. I need to answer Scott Adams’ challenge.

But first, what is his challenge? That may take some deciphering. The critical language is:

So today’s challenge is to find a working scientist or PhD in some climate-related field who will agree with the idea that the climate science models do a good job of predicting the future.

A trivial response to Adams’ challenge would be to find “a working scientist…” who will naively proclaim the models do a good job of predicting the future. I will not go that route. The matter concerning AGW is worth more attention than that. It is also worth more attention than Adams’ challenge. As stated, it would be impossible to address. For example, we would all have to agree on the meaning of the word “good” used to assess the quality of the models. Everything breaks down from there.

If Scott Adams will propose a challenge with more precise, even lucid, wording, it would be something everybody could work with. Something that would have to go would be any requirement that a model predict frequency and severity of hurricanes, future drought or flooding with great accuracy. Once again, an unquantifiable adjective is “great.”

Scott Adams’ challenge is really a phony challenge. Less than what he demands would be adequate. All Scott Adams needs to do to challenge the reality of AGW is to refute demonstrate one of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide, methane, and other such gases do not trap heat from solar radiation in the atmosphere.
  • The concentration of these gases is not increasing and has not been steadily increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Human activity is not contributing significantly to the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Specifically, human activity is not responsible for the increase of carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere represented by the Keeling Curve.
  • The temperature of the combination atmosphere and hydrosphere is not increasing and has not been increasing for the past 50 years and more.
  • Events beyond human control are alone responsible for the warming.

An additional point that is not part of the science behind AGW is the following:

  • The increase in global temperatures will have little or no impact on human well-being.

And all of this has nothing to do with models.

Update

As I was in the process of working this up, additional comments came in. Here is one:

David Varner The idea of constructing models without measurements sounds like something Dilbert’s pointy haired boss might have come up with.

As a retired scientist and engineer I  take exception to David’s remark. Properly, constructing a model does not rely on measurements. I have constructed models, computer simulations, that presuppose initial conditions. The idea of the model is to determine the consequence of a set of initial conditions, the measurements.

If by “measurements” David means measurements of the atmosphere and such to assess the validity of models, then he has not been keeping up with the science. Atmospheric/oceanographic models are constantly assessed against progressive measurements.

Update:

Dan posted a comment on the Scott Adams blog:

I challenge your basic assumptions.

1. The term “Fossil Fuels” was coined by John D. Rockefeller. He wanted to emphasize the supposed scarcity of oil in order to inflate its price.

2. Many old “dry” oil wells are filling up FROM THE BOTTOM. There’s evidence going at least back to Immanuel Velikovsky that petroleum has a non-organic origin, probably low in the Earth’s mantle.

What is to be said of this? I hope it is meant as a joke.

  1. What difference does it make who coined the term and for what reason? Petroleum, natural gas, and coal are fossil fuels. Fossil is a well-defined scientific term.
  2. Citing evidence going back to Immanuel Velikovsky is like citing evidence going back to Miguel de Cervantes. Does anybody care to follow up on that?

This post, and the ones in this series are titled The Age Of Embarrassment for a reason. Let’s not take that as a challenge and try to outdo each other.

The American Way

highspirits-01

I was headed back home from vacation on Thursday, and it was a new month and a new issue of the airline magazine. It featured a short item, see above:

Shut Eye, the drama that debuts on Hulu this month, is not a flattering portrayal of the L.A. psychic trade. The show, in  fact,  depicts a world whose foundation is trickery and greed, which is a very long  way from the view held by real-life Hollywood medium Fleur.

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

Before responding to writer Derrik J. Lang’s glowing depiction of the Los Angeles psychic trade, I pulled up the first episode of Shut Eye and gave it a look. True enough, the show depicts the psychic business as a deep and hardened criminal enterprise, with David Zayas as brutal Gypsy gangster Eduardo Bernal in charge.

shuteye-01

Gypsy gang leader Bernal in Shut Eye

With that in mind, it is interesting to see how Derrik Lang interprets the psychic trade. Apparently Fleur is not one of those phony psychics (redundancy alert). Fleur, we are told is “a six-year veteran,” working out of a West Hollywood office and “not under a neon sign.” Guess what, that appears to describe the psychics in the Shut Eye criminal enterprise. None of them work under a neon sign.

Fleur’s clients include Lana Del Rey and Emma Roberts, two people I would not have known existed were it not for Derrik Lang and American Way magazine.

We learn more about Fleur:

Fleur is also unfazed by the perception of storefront scam artists like those in Shut Eye. “I’ve definitely had people come in who are extremely skeptical—even cynical—and after a session have sad, ‘Well, you must have hired a private detective.'” Even if she wanted to pull such a stunt, she says with a sigh, she couldn’t afford to.

Fleur doesn’t bother debunking the doubters, but she does point to one ability that suggests she is for real: a knack for multilingual communication that she doesn’t posses in daily life. “”The spirit world doesn’t speak in language, it speaks in energy,” she explains. “So I can read anywhere; China, India, Germany. It makes no difference.” Fleur recalls a hospital stay, still fuzzy from anesthesia, when she effortlessly chatted with a nurse’s deceased Filipina mother. “I don’t even remember saying any of this stuff.”

[American Way, December 2016. p39]

My own experience with phony psychics (redundancy) differs from that of Lang’s. In 1992 Mike Sullivan of The North Texas Skeptics checked with local (Dallas) psychic Bette Epstein:

Mike Sullivan
The Skeptic Newsletter Editor
P.O. Box 111794
Carrollton, TX 75011-1794
(214) 746-3288 Day
(214) 492-8998 Evening

January 28, 1992

Betty Epstein
North Central Tejas Chapter
American Society of Dowsers
5409 Farquhar Dr.
Dallas TX 75209

Dear Ms. Epstein:

I found The Dallas Morning News article on January 24, 1992 about you and your Society’s recent convention in Dallas quite informative. The abilities claimed by dowsers in the article are truly incredible, Ms. Epstein, and The North Texas Skeptics are interested in seeing if you or any other dowsers can back up those claims with proof. We are willing to provide you with a public forum in which you can submit those claims to open inquiry.

The North Texas Skeptics is an all-volunteer, non-profit, tax-exempt scientific and educational organization dedicated to scientific inquiry and the examination of extraordinary claims. As part of our educational efforts, we present a series of free public programs on a variety of topics involving science and scientific inquiry. We would be delighted to have you or another of you members speak at one of our meetings. I’m sure our members and guests would welcome the chance to hear first-hand about your claimed dowsing skills or those of others. We have openings in our program calendar throughout 1992 for your presentations.

If you are not able to speak at one of our meetings, perhaps you would care to submit an article about your claimed skills and the evidence you have to support your claims. We would be happy to provide space for your article in our monthly newsletter, The Skeptic. I have enclosed a copy of a recent issue for your review.

You or one of your dowsing colleagues may also be interested in our $2,000 cash award. We have a standing offer to pay $2,000 cash to anyone who can prove a paranormal effect under scientifically controlled conditions, and we promise to publish the results of all such tests regardless of the outcome. If you or another dowser can prove the locating powers claimed in the newspaper article, the money will be yours, or you may wish to donate it to a charity of your choice. Please contact me if you are interested so I can forward complete details of our $2,000 challenge.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Mike Sullivan

Interestingly, we received a response:

January 28

Ladies and Gentlemen … 

Well … that was a real nice invitation … for me to do show and tell for your group.

But … I must decline.

You see … I have been blessed with lots of money and a wonderful practice of hypnotherapy … and I tithe to my favorite charities on a regular basis … so I don’t need your money to give to them. And … I’m not at all competitive about the dowsing thing. It is not the least bit important to me that anyone else believe it. I believe it .. I know it … It is a vital part of my life on a daily basis and is as real to me as breathing. I would never degrade my other senses by proving to your group that I can see, smell, hear, taste or feel … and I wouldn’t need to prove to you that I have a well-developed sense of energies that surround me.

So … thanks for the invite. I will pass this letter on the national headquarters and they can re-print it in the quarterly if so deemed. There will probably be someone who will take you up on your offer … someone with a different value system about dowsing than I have.

However … if your club would one day like to have a lesson in dowsing so that they, too, can develop their gifts of the spirit … I am an excellent teacher and am offering my time to you.

May the most joyous days of your past be the darkest days of your future.

Bette Epstein 
5409 Farquhar Lane
Dallas, Texas 75209

Sadly, nobody ever took us up on our offer. Bette Epstein did offer to have her young daughter submit to evaluation by us, but we demurred. It was Ms. Epstein who interested us, and we were a mite off-put at the vision of a crowd of grown men grilling a young child.

Since about the time of that NTS newsletter item we have had a $10,000 (now $12,000) award payable to anybody who can demonstrate the kind of thing Fleur brags about doing. That’s over a quarter of a century, and in that time we have been approached numerous times by claimants seeking the prize. Nobody has ever brought us anything to test, and we still have our money. You can read about these cases in a section devoted to the NTS Paranormal Challenge.

Thinking back, I am considering the money Barbara Jean and I paid for our American Airline tickets on our recent vacation. I am thinking I shouldn’t have to pay that much to have my intelligence insulted.

Myopia Writ Large

Reposted from The North Texas Skeptics

A review of the video Remote Viewing.

I’m going to recommend all skeptics watch this. It dates from 2009 and is only 20 minutes. I was able to watch it for free on Amazon Prime Video. Of course you have to have an Amazon Prime subscription, however you can watch it on YouTube by paying $1.99. Call it $2.00. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0rlgcSCLzaA

You’re going to see some people you recognize, so I will start out with a cast of characters:

RemoveViewing-08

RemoveViewing-01

RemoveViewing-02

RemoveViewing-03

RemoveViewing-12

Charles Tart you are going to know for sure. He’s been familiar to the NTS for decades:

Charles Tart was a “parapsychologist” doing research at the University of California at Davis. He used a machine called a “Ten-Choice Trainer” (TCT) to help people with psychic ability improve their scores on tests for same. The test worked like this:

A sender in one room viewed a panel with ten playing cards, ace through ten. A randomizing mechanism would select one of the ten cards and would activate a light next to the card. The sender would then push a button, causing a signal to be sent to the receiver. This told the receiver that the sender was now looking at the selected card. The receiver would then turn a dial to select the correct card. The dial position was fed back to the sender in real time, allowing the sender to mentally direct the receiver to the correct card. Finally the receiver would select a card by pushing a button next to the card. If the receiver’s choice was correct, a chime would sound. This would provide positive reinforcement and would help the receiver to learn and to sharpen his extrasensory perception (ESP) skills.

Tart wrote a book describing his work, Learning to Use Extrasensory Perception, published by Chicago Press in 1976. In the book he claimed scores considerably better than could be expected by chance. He heralded his results a “breakthrough” in ESP research.

Came time for Gardner to review the book in 1977 for NYR, and he, as was his practice, went beyond checking for spelling and grammar. As Gardner reports, three of Tart’s colleagues at UC Davis wrote a critique of Tart’s experimental method. They had read Tart’s book and asked to see the raw data. Reviewing the data they realized, for one, the randomizer was not exactly random. They likened Tart’s protocol to a chemist using a dirty test tube and obtaining anomalous results, and they suggested that Tart repeat his experiments after fixing the problem of the non-random random number device.

Gardner saw an additional flaw in Tart’s technique. If the sender, subconsciously or deliberately, delayed sending his signal to the receiver, the receiver might pick up on this idiosyncrasy, and this could become a signaling path from the sender to the receiver. The receiver could pick cards depending on the amount of delay and could improve his score above chance.

Gardner also points out a finding by the mathematicians who examined the data. There is an unexplained absence of doublets. Not so many 2, 2 and 7, 7 sequences, for example, as one should expect. The TCT recorded only the receiver’s score, not the entire sequence of random numbers. This led to the possibility that the sender was hitting the send button a second time whenever the new number was the same as the previous number. The receiver could significantly increase his score by never choosing the same card twice in a row.

Wait, there’s more. The sender and receiver were in nearby office cubicles, and one sender, Gaines Thomas, revealed he would sometimes orally coax his own display of the receiver’s actions as he monitored them on his display. He would curse when the sender appeared about to stop on the wrong card. Whether the receiver was ever cued by these sounds coming from the sender’s cube is not known.

In response to the criticism, Tart revised his technique and repeated his experiments. He published his results as “Effects of Immediate Feedback on ESP Performance: A Second Study” in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.1 Gardner tellingly quotes a significant statement in the paper: “There is no evidence that more percipients scored significantly above chance than would be expected if no ESP were operating.”

Rather than admit the initial results were due to his own faulty technique, Tart, as Gardner reports, attempted to explain away this lack of success. Principally, there was a lack of ESP talent for the follow-up experiment. “In the last year or two, students have become more serious, more competitive, more achievement-oriented than they were at the time of the first experiment.” And more.

Tart asserted the results of the first experiment were so significant they could not be ignored. As Gardner comments, Tart could not reconcile that the first experiment demonstrated his failure as a scientist. Rather, his earlier results put the results of the second experiment into doubt. Gardner, and the reader, are dumfounded at the audacity. Not speaking for Gardner, I would add I am not in the least surprised by Tart’s reasoning.

The information I have on Lyn Buchanan may be stale:

Leonard (Lyn) Buchanan is the Executive Director of Problems>Solutions>Innovations(P>S>I) which started as a small data analysis company in the Washington, D.C. area in 1992 after Lyn’s retirement from the military.

In late 1995, when the US government declassified their Remote Viewing project, information became public about Lyn’s prior involvement with that project as one of the unit’s Remote Viewers, Database Manager, Property Book Officer and as the unit’s Trainer. Public demands for training and applications became great, and P>S>I moved into the remote viewing field full time, bringing with it Lyn’s extensive databasing capabilities. At the present time, P>S>I possesses the most complete body of data on the applications of remote viewing in real-world applications.

Major Ed Dames:

The world’s foremost remote viewing teacher, and creator of Technical Remote Viewing, Major Edward A. Dames, United States Army (ret.), is a thrice decorated military intelligence officer and an original member of the U.S. Army prototype remote viewing training program. He served as both training and operations officer for the U.S. government’s TOP SECRET psychic espionage unit.

Edward Dames is a ROTC Distinguished Military Graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. Between 1979 and 1983, Major Dames served as an electronic warfare officer and scientific and technical intelligence officer.

In 1982, Ingo Swann, under the direction of Dr. Harold Puthoff, head of the Remote Viewing Laboratory at Stanford Research Institute, realized a breakthrough. Swann developed a working model for how the unconscious mind communicates information to conscious awareness. To test the model, the Army sent Major Dames and five others to Swann as a prototype trainee group.

The results exceeded all expectations – even those of Swann. In six months, Major Dames’ teammates were producing psychically-derived data with more consistency and accuracy than had ever been seen in similar intelligence projects using even the best ‘natural’ psychics. In late 1983, the team parted company with Swann. As the new operations and training officer for the unit, Dames took this breakthrough skill, dubbed ‘Coordinate Remote Viewing,’ and began a new phase of research, testing, and evaluation in order to both uncover its true capabilities, and to perfect its application to fit crucial intelligence collection needs.

Dr. Dean Radin:

Dean Radin, PhD, is Chief Scientist at the INSTITUTE OF NOETIC SCIENCES (IONS) and since 2001 has periodically lectured at Sonoma State University and served on doctoral dissertation committees at Saybrook University and the California Institute for Integral Studies. His original career track as a concert violinist shifted into science after earning a BSEE degree in electrical engineering, magna cum laude with honors in physics, from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and then an MS in electrical engineering and a PhD in psychology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. For a decade he worked on advanced telecommunications R&D at AT&T Bell Laboratories and GTE Laboratories. For three decades he has been engaged in frontiers research on the nature of consciousness. Before joining the research staff at IONS in 2001, he held appointments at Princeton University, University of Edinburgh, University of Nevada, Interval Research Corporation, and SRI International.

He is author or coauthor of over 250 peer-reviewed scientific and popular articles, three dozen book chapters, and three popular books including the award-winning and bestselling The Conscious Universe(HarperOne, 1997), Entangled Minds(Simon & Schuster, 2006), and a 2014 Silver Nautilus Book Award, SUPERNORMAL (Random House, 2013). These books have been translated into 14 foreign languages, so far. His technical articles have appeared in journals ranging fromFoundations of Physics and Physics Essays to Psychological Bulletinand Journal of Consciousness Studies; he was featured in a New York Times Magazine ARTICLE; and he has appeared on dozens of television shows ranging from the BBC’sHorizon and PBS’s Closer to Truth toOprah and Larry King Live. He has given over 350 interviews and talks, including invited presentations at Harvard, Stanford, Cambridge, Princeton, and the Sorbonne, for industries including GOOGLE and Johnson & Johnson, and for various US government organizations including the US Navy and DARPA.

Dr. Jessica Utts:

Jessica Utts (born 1952) is a parapsychologist and statistics professor at the University of California, Irvine. She is known for her textbooks onstatistics and her investigation into remote viewing.

In 2003, Utts published an article in American Statistician, a journal published by the American Statistical Association, calling for significant changes to collegiate levelstatistics education.[3] In the article she argued that curricula do a fine job of covering the mathematical side of statistics, but do a poor job of teaching students the skills necessary to properly interpret statistical results in scientific studies. The argument continues that common errors found in news articles, such as the common misinterpretation that correlative studies show causation, would be reduced if there were significant changes made to standard statistics courses.

Utts was elected to serve as the 111th president of the American Statistical Association, with her term as President-Elect to commence in January 2015, followed by her term as president in 2016.

Up front be prepared to be impressed by the power of the mind and the remarkable phenomenon known as remote viewing. Lyn Buchanan asks, “Do you want the party line history, or do you want the real history?” Of course, we want the real history. And it is remarkable.

Being able to pinpoint a target anywhere on the globe within 35 feet. Locate terrorists, their hostages… We’ve been finding information that saved lives.

Folks, this is good stuff.

RemoveViewing-14

It was necessary for our government to engage in this research, because the Soviets were making great strides. They may have possessed the ability to beam some sort of energy at President Reagan during his participation in the SALT negotiations, thereby clouding his mind and putting the United States at a disadvantage.

Stop for a moment at this thought. There are many of the opinion that President Reagan’s mind did not require additional clouding, but that’s beside the point. We were concerned the Soviets were taking the lead.

RemoveViewing-07

This is not woo-woo stuff. The video shows actual hardware. We see what may be two large electrolytic capacitors, and if you have ever dealt with those, you know how dangerous they can be, what with their ability to store large amounts of electric charge at high voltage.

RemoveViewing-06

Proof of the ability of the human mind to work miracles is also demonstrated. Here are two shots from the video in sequence. Please observe the salt shaker has definitely moved.

RemoveViewing-04

RemoveViewing-05

Additional benefit was derived from this research when participants were asked to review satellite imagery from a site in Siberia. The remote viewer said there was a very large shed there, and the Soviets were building a huge submarine vessel. Officials scoffed until such day as the end of the shed was opened and the submarine was rolled out. The Soviets thereupon constructed a canal and floated the boat to the “North Sea.” I regret that my search of the Internet has failed to learn anything regarding a large Soviet submarine constructed in Siberia. I’m also having difficulty with this geography, because my impression has always been that no part of the North Sea touches Siberia.

RemoveViewing-09

There have been scoffers. A book by Jon Ronson, The Men Who Stare at Goats, pokes fun at this kind of nonsense. That was in 2004. A subsequent film came out in 2009, staring George Clooney.

RemoveViewing-11

And all that is just a preamble to the real substance: What is the truth behind remote viewing and the research that purports to support it? Some discussion:

RemoveViewing-13

Start with the ganzfeld effect:

The ganzfeld effect (from German for “complete field”) or perceptual deprivation, is a phenomenon of perception caused by exposure to an unstructured, uniform stimulation field.[1] The effect is the result of the brain amplifying neural noise in order to look for the missing visual signals.[2] The noise is interpreted in the highervisual cortex, and gives rise to hallucinations.[3]

It has been most studied with vision by staring at an undifferentiated and uniform field of colour. The visual effect is described as the loss of vision as the brain cuts off the unchanging signal from the eyes. The result is “seeing black”,[4] an apparent sense of blindness. A flickering ganzfeld causes geometrical patterns and colors to appear, and this is the working principle for mind machines and the Dreamachine.[5] The ganzfeld effect can also elicit hallucinatory percepts in many people, in addition to an altered state of consciousness.

Ganzfeld induction in multiple senses is called multi-modal ganzfeld. This is usually done by wearing ganzfeld goggles in addition to headphones with a uniform stimulus.

A related effect is sensory deprivation, although in this case a stimulus is minimized rather than unstructured. Hallucinations that appear under prolonged sensory deprivation are similar to elementary percepts caused by luminous ganzfeld, and include transient sensations of light flashes or colours. Hallucinations caused by sensory deprivation can, like ganzfeld-induced hallucinations, turn into complex scenes.[5]

The effect is a component of a Ganzfeld experiment, a technique used in the field of parapsychology.

Remote viewing is often associated with the ganzfeld effect. The viewer is subjected to sensory deprivation, typically by having halves of ping-pong balls taped over his eyes to completely obscure vision without blocking ambient light. White noise is played into headphones the subject wears.

Next, an agent goes to a remote place and at a specified time views the surroundings. And takes a photo. The subject—the viewer—is then asked to make a drawing of what the agent sees. Next, an independent referee is shown photos of what the remote agent saw and compares these photos with what the viewer drew. Also shown are photos from disparate scenes. The referee is required to pick the photo what most closely resembles what the viewer drew.

While some experimenters have claimed remarkable success, my own observation of these experiments leaves me unsatisfied. A healthy degree of rigor seems to be lacking. We at the North Texas Skeptics have engaged in what we consider to be more controlled studies, one of which was related to our Paranormal Challenge.

A few years back Rechey Davidson contacted us:

Thanks for your response. Sorry for having a “bad” subject line. I was just told to contact you. Mr. Kramer has my application and letter of explanation of what ability I have. His letter said the application was accepted for preliminary testing. His letter seemed to indicate he was forwarding you the necessary information. Am I just needed to contact you to arrange for testing. What is the next step now? Do we meet or what? From the Challenge Instructions, it sounds like you want me to resubmit my description to you. If so, do I just e-mail you or mail you a letter? Do I tell you what I can do and you draft something back?

Briefly, I have been able to dowse maps of people’s homes (Or other locations) where they have lost specific items and have been able to tell them where the item is. They have, so far, been able to verify they found the item where I said it was. This has happened even if I have never been to their home. Do I just need to submit more detail and suggest how to test this or what? Thanks. Rechey Davidson

This is not exactly remote viewing, but it illustrates the methods we employ:

I scanned in the builder’s floor plan for my house and labeled the major rooms with capital letters. I sent Mr. Davidson a link to the scanned image, and he printed it out. He said he was satisfied with that, and we got started.

The object of our affection was my Nikon digital camera. I chose that because I only have one like it, so Mr. Davidson would not have the problem of dowsing for one of several identical objects.

We got started in early September and finished up two weeks later. Each day or so Mr. Davidson would send me an e-mail telling me in which room the camera was placed, and I would record his score and move, or not move, the camera to a different room. Here is the result:

  • Test 01: 7 September 2004, Camera placed in B, Davidson called E
  • Test 02: 8 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called G
  • Test 03: 13 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called L
  • Test 04: 14 September 2004, Camera placed in D, Davidson called F
  • Test 05: 15 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called H
  • Test 06: 16 September 2004, Camera placed in J, Davidson called E
  • Test 07: 17 September 2004, Camera placed in G, Davidson called B
  • Test 08: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in A, Davidson called B
  • Test 09: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in F, Davidson called E
  • Test 10: 18 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called J
  • Test 11: 19 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called B
  • Test 12: 20 September 2004, Camera placed in E, Davidson called D

We all found it remarkable, but not impossible, that Mr. Davidson scored absolutely zero in twelve trials.

I have long considered how we would do a remote viewing experiment. It would go something like this:

  • Start off as before, sensory deprivation or whatever the remote viewer claims to require. The onus is on the remote viewer to perform.
  • Completely isolate the remote viewer from the remote agent. The agent is expected to be at a site of his choosing, unknown to anybody else conducting the experiment, at a given time.
  • At the given time a phone call verifies the agent is at the site, and is taking the photo.
  • The remote viewer is told to visualize what the agent sees and to make the drawing.
  • The agent produces additional photos of disparate sites.
  • The agent brings a collection of images, five or more, back to the location of the experiment. The photos are given to a referee with no evidence of when the photos were taken. The referee is given the drawing.
  • The referee must pick exactly one of the photos that best matches the drawing. All other photos are discarded.
  • If the chosen photo is not the one associated with the drawing, the test results are determined to be negative. There is no second guessing.

This latter point is something I find missing in descriptions of remote viewing experiments that show positive results. There is typically such language as, “This one was my second choice, and it’s the one taken when the viewer had the vision.” Or, “The referee chose this one, but it also resembles this one.” It’s this kind of stuff that points out the bad experimental procedure associated with remote viewing research.

The Jon Ronson book would make for a good review. I will obtain a copy and do a review. Watch for it in the next few months. The movie, as well.

Friday Funny

One of a series

Science-DeepakChopra-01

I just caught this. Apparently Deepak Chopra will be in Melbourne next month giving us the lowdown on Super Genes. He has to be the go-to guy on this topic. For example (you have to scan to the second page):

Either disingenuous or ignorant of these facts, frequent criticism doesn’t seem to deter Chopra from spouting microbiome misinformation. While discussing yoga during his interview with Chopra, Mark Hyman gushed, “I love yoga, and I do it, and I always feel transformed, and it’s amazing that not only your genes are listening to your thoughts, but your microbiome, the bacteria are listening to your thoughts.” Yoga can be a great form of exercise, but this is a bit of a stretch.

But Chopra agreed with Hyman: “Yeah, the bacterial genes are listening to your thoughts.”

You think that’s funny? Then how come nobody’s laughing?

The Comical Conservative

Updated to correct an error in wording that reversed the meaning of a paragraph.

Don’t get too excited about the title. I’m reusing it to maintain continuity. This is going to be about the Comical Environmentalist.

Sometime back I reposted a Rick McKee cartoon from Facebook and used that as a starting point for a discussion about anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Here’s the cartoon:

Climate-Change-Resized

I have referred to this cartoon in multiple posts. After the most recent post Rick posted a lengthy comment, and I initiated an email dialog with him. And I agree with him on one point. From his comment:

So, I have a question for you: Can you not see how a reasonable person, having been bombarded with all of this contradictory, false and alarmist information for all these years, could be skeptical of anything to do with the topic of climate change, which, in fact, was the point of the cartoon?

And my answer is yes, I can see how environmental activists are sometimes their own worst enemy. You can have a noble cause. You can have a just cause. Your cause can be right. That is, it can be factually correct. And all of that can be undone by extremism in the name of conviction.

In a previous post I took the cartoon to task for oversimplifying a complex issue. A problem with the cartoon is it makes use of—as required by the cartoon medium—hyperbole and shallow presentation. I figure it’s no good to find fault without remedy. And I propose to provide remedy by doing better. I can do the cartoon one better. I can provide substance and detail. Where to start?

Let’s start with something Rick mentioned:

Ecologist Kenneth Watt stated, “The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

All right, I tried to run that one down. The references I found could not confirm that Watt actually spoke those words. Neither did he say anything like that:

Best Answer:  I’m not sure. Each and every single website I see, as you found too, merely gives the quote and no link to the transcript of the speech, or any further context besides “He once said in a speech at Swarthmore…” Of course, we all know how easily stories are taken and repeated without any sort of analysis at their validity.

I had graphed temperature data from NASA’s GISS, NOAA, and HadCRUT3v together a little while ago. I’m not sure what data Watt presumedly [sic] looked at, but there was no discernible trend during the “twenty years” he allegedly referred to. Temperatures actually began their descent in 1940, and leveled out after 1945 until they began to rise again in the seventies. Why would he claim that that trend would produce 4˚C cooling in 20 years? And 11 in 30?
http://www.flickr.com/photos/56645614@N0…

Nobody’s saying Kenneth Watt never said it. It appears to be completely apocryphal, with no contemporaneous account of such a speech. The Wikipedia entry for Earth Day includes the quote, but there is no associated link. However, it is the kind of thing Watt might have said, taking into account some of his other proclamations:

Watt also stated, “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil.”

Neither does that one have a home, and readers are invited to help me find a link.

A problem with Internet research is the fluidity of the information. Often the provenance of sources is incomplete, and this is particularly true of sources that date from before the time everything started getting put on the Internet. More particularly, this applies to sources from deep history. An example, one of the references Rick cites, is this:

The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot…. Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone… Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds. – Washington Post 11/2/1922

Yes, we’ve seen this one before, and it was on this blog:

Second, Tom neglected to put the Post article into perspective. The article is based on an item in Monthly Weather Review, a publication of the American Meteorological Society. Here is the original article from the AMS:

And readers can go to the previous post and read the full context. It’s a context that is typically left out when enthusiasm gets the better of rigorous scholarship. The full context shows this was not some alarmist prediction from 1922 but was a report on a local climate anomaly observed in the vicinity of “Spitzbergen and Bear islands under the leadership of Dr. Adolf Hoel, lecturer on geology at the University of Christiania.”

What a serious writer will do is obtain access to contemporaneous sources—newspaper clippings, journal reports, correspondence.

Especially, newspaper reports are beyond value—they are next to impossible to forge. Somebody can print up a fake news clipping, but it can be exposed by matching it with any number of other copies of the same issue. Also of worth is the time value of a clipping. A news item published immediately after an event has credibility over something that finds print days, weeks, or years later. Additionally, corroboration can be obtained by comparing clippings from separate publications.

Journalistic sources published on the Internet are equally valuable, provided they are contemporaneous. Although Internet publications can be altered by a few keystrokes, the reputation of the source will preclude attempts at fraud. Absence of fraud is in no small part due to the thousands of readers who keep tabs on Internet news and place pages into archival storage.

The case of the 1922 Washington Post item is an example of obvious fraud. What happened is somebody scanned the clipping, did not follow up and obtain the complete context, and then posted the item on the Internet (or somewhere else) to highlight an argument against AGW. Subsequent users forwarded the fraudulent story without realizing the fraud, or caring. This is often the case when a story tells somebody what they want to believe. And it’s done by both sides of any divisive issue.

Rick McKee responded to my previous post with 124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions. I count 92 separate references in Rick’s comment, including the one relating to the 1922 Washington Post item.

Some others of the 92 are worth mentioning. I have made slight edits to Rick’s list, adding item numbers and such, and have produced a PDF. Readers can refer to the enumerated list, which I have posted on-line.

Take number 1:

Is our climate changing? The succession of temperate summers and open winters through several years, culminating last winter in the almost total failure of the ice crop throughout the valley of the Hudson, makes the question pertinent. The older inhabitants tell us that the Winters are not as cold now as when they were young, and we have all observed a marked diminution of the average cold even in this last decade. – New York Times June 23, 1890

What’s this all about? It appears to be a news report about weather changes of interest. If you’re like me, you’re going to have difficulty reconciling this with “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions.”

Items 2 and 3 appear to discuss a coming ice age. Here is number 2:

The question is again being discussed whether recent and long-continued observations do not point to the advent of a second glacial period, when the countries now basking in the fostering warmth of a tropical sun will ultimately give way to the perennial frost and snow of the polar regions – New York Times – February 24, 1895

The word “failed” has no apparent relationship with these two items. These are newspaper articles discussing the projected repeat of the previous ice age. Although AGW may turn out to forestall the next ice age, nobody 100 years ago was thinking about this. For your viewing, here is a chart of historical global temperatures relating to previous ice ages:

Here’s number 5:

Scientist says Arctic ice will wipe out Canada, Professor Gregory of Yale University stated that “another world ice-epoch is due.” He was the American representative to the Pan-Pacific Science Congress and warned that North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes, and huge parts of Asia and Europe would be “wiped out.” – Chicago Tribune August 9, 1923

“North America would disappear as far south as the Great Lakes.” Yes. Just as in the previous ice age.

Number 8:

“Gaffers who claim that winters were harder when they were boys are quite right…weather men have no doubt that the world at least for the time being is growing warmer.” – Time Magazine Jan. 2 1939

As with a number of the others, it’s difficult to see how this is an argument for or against the current science related to AGW.

Here are numbers 76 and 77:

“Globally, 2002 is likely to be warmer than 2001 – it may even break the record set in 1998. – Daily Mirror August 2, 2002

Next year(2003)may be warmest recorded: Global temperatures in 2003 are expected to exceed those in 1998 – the hottest year to date – Telegraph UK- December 30, 2002

 

Would you believe these two predictions turned out to be pure bullshit. Actually not. They were only partially bullshit. An analysis of the top ten warmest years on record include 2002 and 2003. Both were warmer than 2001, which means the first prediction was true. But 2002 and 2003 tied for hottest years on record, meaning 2003 average temperatures were the same, not greater than, 2002. It might be interesting for readers to go to the NOAA site and check out the numbers.

Number 78 is a problem for climate scientists as well:

(The) extra energy, together with a weak El Nino, is expected to make 2005 warmer than 2003 and 2004 and perhaps even warmer than 1998 – Reuters February 11, 2005

Oops! Check with the NOAA page. 2005 turned out to be warmer than 1998, 2003, and 2004.

And I’m getting tired of playing this game. While I suspect there are some other clinkers among the 92, I’m going to spot Rick this, and agree that many of his references are accurate and pertinent. That allows me to avoid having to diagnose each of the 92 and to get back to the topic of this post. Sidestepping matters of AGW, here are some major fubars related to environmental issues:

By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth’s population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people. – Paul Ehrlich

Yeah, you have to wonder what Ehrlich was thinking, if he was thinking, at all. It is comments like this and others that should have cost Ehrlich dearly in the marketplace of ideas. To give you an idea of how little effect this kind of silliness can have, I subsequently heard reference to “respected scientist Paul Ehrlich.”

Here are some additional silly comments by people who should know better:

“[Inaction will cause]… by the turn of the century [2000], an ecological catastrophe which will witness devastation as complete, as irreversible as any nuclear holocaust.” Mustafa Tolba, 1982, former Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program

“We’ve got to pause and ask ourselves: How much clean air do we need?” Lee Iacocca, CEO/Chairman, Chrysler Corporation, 1979-1992

It isn’t pollution that’s harming the environment. It’s the impurities in our air and water that are doing it. Dan Quayle

Approximately 80% of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation, so let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards from man-made sources. Ronald Reagan

Rick McKee is right. We should be skeptical of what gets pushed into the nightly news or posted on the Internet.

In real science, as in real life, it’s not what what people say that matters, it’s what is that matters. In the end, facts trump opinion. People may, if they choose, post “124 years of Failed Climate and Environmental Predictions,” but that does not make an argument. What makes an argument is a statement of fact.  I’m going to restate something from previous posts:

I have been following the topic of AGW for over 20 years, and a recurrent observation is that people opposed to the science rely on quotes and opinions, some from real scientists, and not so much on the basic science. What any opponent to the science needs to do to refute AGW is to demonstrate one or more of the following:

  • Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not absorb infra red radiation.
  • Carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not increasing dramatically.
  • Increases in carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere are not due to human activities.
  • There are natural sources to the increased concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that supersede the human contribution.

I have put this out before, and nobody has come back at me on it. Keep reading.