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Birds of a feather

March 4th, 2010

The similarity between creationist ‘scepticism’ about evolutionary science and rightwing ‘scepticism’ about climate science is obvious to nearly[1] everyone, whether pro-science or anti-science. So, it’s no surprise that creationists have sought to combine the two issues, and that, conversely, opponents of climate science have pushed ‘teach the controversy’ legislation modelled on those of the creationists. Here’s the NYTimes describing the US scene.

In Australia, Quadrant offers the whole package – anti-science climate delusionism, and historical revisionism as well as anti-Darwinism. This recent book review by DM Armstrong , echoing the ‘science is not settled’ line on climate change, says ‘let us not regard the case is closed’, gives a sympathetic reference to Behe, then rather bizarrely goes on to endorse sociobiology. In between he cites Ian Plimer against climate science.

Update An interesting feature of this process is the emergence of anti-vaccination as a cause embraced by the right, pushed by figures such as Glenn Beck and the unofficial leader of the US Republican Party Rush Limbaugh. As a commenter here pointed out, itseemingly started with vaccination of girls against HPV. The final trigger seems to have been the mass vaccination campaign against H1N1 flu, which hit even more hot buttons for these guys – big government, the WHO, preparation against something that might not happen and so on. Anti-vaccination used to be one area of anti-science thought where lefties predominated, and it still has some support on the fringes of the left, but not from anyone comparable in influence to Limbaugh. But it’s rapidly becoming part of rightwing orthodoxy.

In particular, Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they will get vaccinated

http://www.usnews.com/blogs/robert-schlesinger/2009/10/16/democrats-more-likely-to-get-h1n1-vaccine-than-republicans-2.html

fn1. Except in Australia, where lots of people who will accept just about any anti-science talking point on climate science get unaccountably riled when it is suggested, by consistent thinkers on both sides of the debate, that they ought to accept the parallel talking points on evolution (gaps in the data, alleged frauds by evolutionists, evolution as a religious belief etc etc).

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  1. smiths
    March 4th, 2010 at 17:36 | #1

    isnt it getting a bit like pauline hanson though,
    surely if the scientists and bloggers just get on with it and don’t reference the loons so much they will lose their momentum
    i remember someone here saying the same about murdoch papers, stop referencing them, stop linking to them, stop being outraged by them,
    because like the monsters in Monsters Inc, their energy comes from our screams

  2. Graeme Bird
    March 4th, 2010 at 18:08 | #2

    Its an empirical matter when all is said and done.

  3. Donald Oats
    March 4th, 2010 at 18:18 | #3

    This linkage has been going on for awhile now. The Intelligent Design manifesto aka the “wedge” document, pointed towards this approach with the use of ID first to make inroads against biology, and then to do the same against school science curricula more generally. Anything to do with cosmology – even though school kids might only get a lesson or two that briefly mentions cosmological ideas – is up for grabs among the ID crowd. Since geological evidence features strongly in paleontology, there are likely to be attacks upon it too. I wonder if Plimer and Carter will be happy about that?

    As we approach the Federal Election in Australia I’m (sadly) quietly confident that the Liberals will have an election policy on the right to import ID Mk II into the so-called “independent” schools. I hope they don’t go down that road; recent experience from 2005 and the promotion of ID by Abbott, Nelson, Howard and others was not encouraging on that front though.

  4. Fran Barlow
    March 4th, 2010 at 18:55 | #4

    And let us not revisit the genesis of the debate over Pasteur’s theory of pathogens … How robust was Pasteur’s science?

    It all goes to show that the whole idea of germs was a conspiracy between the catholic church and drug manufacturers …

  5. Anthony
    March 4th, 2010 at 19:02 | #5

    John, I’m not sure why you say climate change denialists in Australia get ‘unaccountably’ riled when it is proposed to them that they should accept creationism. If they accept the theory of evolution (which is a totally different form of science from that concerning global warning) then they should be riled if you try and pin on them an opinion they don’t hold. You seem upset that Australian climate change denialists don’t follow their US counterparts. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde, your fn 1 seem to be saying that the only thing worse than a denialist that rejects evolution is a denialist that accepts evolution.

  6. Uncle Milton
    March 4th, 2010 at 20:32 | #6

    Climate change denialism in Australia is not led by Quadrant, a miniscule journal of no significance, but by the Australian, which has never led the charge for Bible Right obsessions like creationism. Indeed the Australian thinks of itself as a model of Enlightenment rationality (insert horse laugh here).

    Politically, there is no Bible Right to speak of in Australia, unlike the US, with many right wingers proudly proclaiming their atheism (Christianity being mainly associated with soft left values in Australia, with some obvious exceptions.) I don’t know if Nick Minchin is a creationist, but I am sure he recognises that there is nothing to be gained politically by being one publicly. This is not true of US Republicans.

    And of course there is the commercial angle. There is money to be made in delaying action on action on climate change, but there’s no money in creationism.

  7. Alice
    March 4th, 2010 at 20:42 | #7

    @Fran Barlow
    “It all goes to show that the whole idea of germs was a conspiracy between the catholic church and drug manufacturers …”

    No it wasnt. It was a conspiracy between doctors not to wash their hands because they probably thought it beneath themselves to do so. Go ask an 18th century nurse. Go ask Lister – the first surgeon tpo open the abdominal cavity and who must have lsterine named after hime.

    Filthy elitists wouldnt wash their hands and its all gone back to the same old problems…nurses and orderlies with hair hanging out, dropping bacteria on to wounds…doctors and nurses who dnt handwash, nurses who cant clean bedside tables or take away rubbish..dirty tissues etc (not my job demarcation argument).

    Florence? Where are you??

    I shouldnt be too critical I suppose. Im sure the NSW Health suits know how hositals should be run.

  8. Neil
    March 4th, 2010 at 21:56 | #8

    Armstrong was an important figure in philosophy of mind; his work is still regularly cited around the world. Unfortunately he swallowed the whole Popper falsificationist idea (evolution is unfalsifiable by the Popperian standard; so is climate science). My guess is that this was motivated: Stove had similar ideological views as well as similar views about philosophy of science. Popper: bad philosophy, bad bedfellows. I’m not getting through, am I JQ?

  9. Nick R
    March 4th, 2010 at 22:13 | #9

    I believe that Popper retracted his claim that evolution was unfalsifiable. He held this position because he felt that there was no objective definition for fitness (in the sense of survival of the fittest) but changed his mind upon meeting with some eminent biologist whose name escapes me. At least this is what I have read…

  10. Neil
    March 4th, 2010 at 22:16 | #10

    He was wrong if he retracted, and Stove – his biggest fan – remained committed to the claim. Plausibly, there are no crucial experiments or obvservations, and nothing is falsifiable in the sense he intended.

  11. observa
    March 4th, 2010 at 22:24 | #11

    @Graeme Bird
    Well it appears the non-delusional among you are about to be hoisted on your own petard in that respect. Now hands up those of you who were duly outraged at James Hardie and epidemiological risk with asbestos? Like our outraged politicians and pontificating union reps, etc, you knew exactly the time and date when James Hardie knew categorically ‘they’ were all dealing in death. Never mind all the myriad of consumers who had absconded with the cheap private cost of its asbestos products. Nor the fact that despite JH ceasing all production of asbestos products in 1983, you and your Govts happily continued to use asbestos in brakes until its banning at the end of 2002. Yes as that deadline approached, motor parts dealers were flogging their asbestos stocks off to all and sundry, at or below cost, so some of you might still be depositing asbestos dust outside the kindys and schools as you drop off the kiddies. No ifs, buts or maybes, the current shareholders, management and workers must pay up until their pips squeak or they’re driven out of business. Sorry doesn’t cut it for these mass murderers and child-killers.

    Now at the time you were all cheering Bernie Banton and Co, yours truly was somewhat of the lone delusional skeptic in such matters. My take was that epidemiological risk, as distinct from known engineering risk, was somewhat greyer than the 20/20 hindsight lynch mob were prepared to accept at the time. Essentially my stance was that until ‘we’ as a society, democratically banned a procedure or product, any or all of us should be free to trade in same without any legal repercussions. How could anyone be so delusional and cold-hearted when faced with the pathos of a Bernie Banton and his caravan of true believers you may well ask?

    Well ask and ye shall be answered now it seems. Since you non-delusionals all know for absolute certain now, the science is settled on AGW, there will be an open and shut case for you all in the US Courts fairly soon, with the announcement Hurricane Katrina victims are preparing a class action case to sue any number of firms and corporations engaged in the fossil fuel industries. Welcome to your 20/20 hindsight and foresight folks!

  12. March 4th, 2010 at 23:47 | #12

    smiths wrote,:

    i remember someone here saying the same about murdoch papers, stop referencing them, stop linking to them, stop being outraged by them,
    because like the monsters in Monsters Inc, their energy comes from our screams

    To the contrary, I believe its important that the propaganda in them be analysed and understood. That is why, whenever I can I deconstruct that propaganda in my articles, as examples Courier-Mail spins news of 79% opposition to fire sale to reveal its privatisation colours of 11 Dec 09, The Australian laments outcome of Queensland local government elections of 30 Mar 08, Courier Mail misreports water recycling to demand early election of 5 Jan 09.

  13. assman
    March 5th, 2010 at 06:11 | #13

    “He was wrong if he retracted, and Stove – his biggest fan – remained committed to the claim. Plausibly, there are no crucial experiments or obvservations, and nothing is falsifiable in the sense he intended.”

    Evolution is falsifiable to the extent that it is predictive. Saying that evolution is not falsifiable is equivalent to saying its not predictive. Climate Science does make predictions and this is why it is falsifiable. Any theory that makes predictions can be falsified.

  14. jquiggin
    March 5th, 2010 at 08:11 | #14

    Neil :
    He was wrong if he retracted, and Stove – his biggest fan – remained committed to the claim.

    Did you omit the irony alerts? I assume we are talking about David Stove[1], author of Popper and After: Four Modern Irrationalists.

    Of course, to the extent that Popper believed in a single crucial experiment that could conclusively falsify a theory, he was wrong (Duhem-Quine and all that), and this probably encouraged his wrong (and as I also recall, ultimately retracted) claimed that natural selection theory (not evolution, which can clearly be seen in the fossil record) was unfalsifiable[2]. But the basic point about falsifiability, elaborated by Lakatos and others, remains valid.

    As regards climate change, there’s no question about falsifiability. Hansen made projections in 1998 which match the observed outcomes vary closely. At the same time Lindzen’s position implied that there should be no trend increase in temperatures. His current antics are a desperate attempt to pretend that his predictions have not been refuted.

    fn1. RJ Stove, a commenter here, wrote an interesting memoir of his father, which I can’t now locate. If you’re reading, Rob, a link would be good.

    fn2. You can test natural selection by making objective estimates of how phenotypic characteristics will contribute to relative survival and reproductive success in a given environment, then testing whether the genes associated with higher success are in fact more common. This is done all the time. Steven Jay Gould had some very good pieces on this point.

  15. Jean
    March 5th, 2010 at 09:11 | #15

    Stove was Popper’s fiercest critic – read “Popper and After” (reviewed in Quadrant as “Popper for Afters’; Armstrong is no special friend of Popper’s and a sympathetic reference to Behe is warranted because he is, unlike many of those who followed him, a serious scientist.

  16. March 5th, 2010 at 09:42 | #16

    “a sympathetic reference to Behe is warranted because he is, unlike many of those who followed him, a serious scientist.” Well, yes, but only if you believe that serious science can be done by someone using the science for a particular ideology. Or do you think that Lysenko was a serious scientist too?

  17. jquiggin
    March 5th, 2010 at 10:37 | #17

    Behe is, I think in the same position as Plimer and, now, Lindzen. That is, he is someone who has done real science and has a job title that reflects his past work, but has abandoned science in favor of anti-science advocacy.

    Lysenko was, I think, never a scientist, rather a ‘worker scientist’ of the type favored by Stalin and even more by Mao, at least as long as his results fitted the party line. McIntyre and Watts are the obvious analogs here.

  18. March 5th, 2010 at 10:44 | #18

    What’s interesting to me is how the touchstones of the so called “culture wars” in the US seep into the Australian political debate. Thanks to the interest, denialist propaganda and materials are easily circulated and picked up. One only has to look at Andrew Bolt’s blog: it’s a constant stream of republishing blog entries from “Watt’s up with that?”. Public acceptance in Australia for evolution, EBM and mainstream science is generally higher than in the US, but my concern is the success the denial industry may have. By knocking down climate science, it provides a model for other “anti-science” movements. I mean, if people accept the contention that “global warming” is a giant con – a conspiracy lead by scientists and greenies – then will start to listen to the other claims of conspiracies touted by creationists, the anti-vax movement and alternative medicine. INHO several things are stake: ensuring sufficient public support for policies mitigating climate change and the credibility of the scientific method.

  19. March 5th, 2010 at 10:45 | #19

    *Oops! “…Thanks to the INTERNET, denialist propaganda and materials are easily circulated and picked up.” My typo!

  20. jquiggin
    March 5th, 2010 at 10:46 | #20

    Looking at Google Scholar, Behe had one big paper in the early 80s, another well-cited paper in 1995, a bit in between, and nothing but creationist propaganda since. Lindzen’s track record is similar – he’s done very little serious work in the last decade except for the iris hypothesis, a failed attempt to provide a theoretical basis for a position to which he was already committed for emotional reasons. Plimer has three academic articles listed by Google Scholar in the last decade.

  21. JJ
    March 5th, 2010 at 11:32 | #21
  22. conrad
    March 5th, 2010 at 12:02 | #22

    “An interesting feature of this process is the emergence of anti-vaccination as a cause embraced by the right”

    I imagine if it catches so that a large enough percentage of the population decide not to get their kids vaccinated anymore, a lot of people will be learning about Darwin the hard way.

  23. March 5th, 2010 at 15:43 | #23

    Pr Q said:

    In Australia, Quadrant offers the whole package – anti-science climate delusionism, and historical revisionism as well as anti-Darwinism. This recent book review by DM Armstrong , echoing the ’science is not settled’ line on climate change, says ‘let us not regard the case is closed’, gives a sympathetic reference to Behe, then rather bizarrely goes on to endorse sociobiology. In between he cites Ian Plimer against climate science.

    Youv’e got to be joking to put D M Armstrong the same boat as the Tea Party-goers in the US. He is one of the founders of the Australian school of realist philosophers, along with John Anderson, J. L. Mackie, Ullin Place, J. J. C. Smart, Jim Franklin and David Stove (God bless him). Lumping him in with genuine nut-cases and crooks just proves his point, which is that the Left’s hyper-ventilations against AGW disbelievers are alienating supporters, me at least.

    Armstrong’s review, correct link here, has its faults but Pr Q’s paraphrase does not do anything like justice to it. At worst Armstrong is polite to a fault.

    He does not sign onto Behe’s Intelligent Design view of evolution, merely suggesting that Behe is an “informed and resourceful critic” of Darwinism. His “let us not regard the case is closed” comment was made in reference to “naturalistic explanations for the whole process of evolution” and had nothing to do with climate science one way or another. Here is the relevant passage quoted in full:

    For those who are Christians, as Franklin is, the topic of evolution is a little delicate…
    I had the good fortune some years ago to hear Behe talk, at a symposium on evolution at the University of Notre Dame. I thought at the time that Darwinians were lucky to have such an informed and resourceful critic as Behe. Let the chips fall where they may. I’d myself look for some naturalistic explanation for the whole process of evolution, but let us not regard the case as closed.

    Armstrong is not a true climate change denialist. At worst he is a fence-sitter urging more civility in the debate. Here he summarises and then quotes Franklin with approval:

    A glutton for punishment, Franklin takes on the climate change debate as well. His summing up on the two topics is worth quoting in full:

    In both evolution and climate change, the majority view of the scientific experts is well ahead. In neither case is there any known coherent alternative. But the complexities of the evidence are such that a higher standard of politeness to sceptics who raise serious problems would be well-advised.

    I, along with Andrew Norton, sympathise with this view. Although I do think that those who reject climate science are delusional I don’t think much is gained by caricaturing them as such in public. It only makes the general public, who are not much invested in this debate, tend to sympathise with the under-dogs. Better to rise above it, adopt a civil tone and most of all gets some workable policy solutions up and running.

    Although Armstrong does blot his copybook somewhat by praising Pilmer’s silly book:

    (I have just now been reading Ian Plimer’s newly appeared book Heaven + Earth, which seems to show that the case for the global warming hypothesis is very weak indeed.)

    But we can perhaps let him off with a warning on this since is only a book review.

    On the other side of the ideological coin, the post-modern Left’s abuse of proper intellectual norms is vulnerable to damning criticism. And here Pr Q persists in giving that Push a free pass for reasons that we can only guess.

    Quadrant’s stance on “historical revisionism” (which is actually re-revisionism) is perfectly defensible on scientific grounds. The “black-arm band” approach to history is a joke, which Australia’s greatest historian (Geoffrey Blaimey) was quite justified in dust-binning. Granted the Aboriginals were treated poorly both before and after 1967. But to obsessively focus on the one major blemish is just neurotic.

    Likewise Windschuttle poked gigantic holes in the even more absurd theory that the “Stolen Generations” was part of some genocidal plot to exterminate Aboriginals. Rather than the more prosaic interpretation, that this was a racist proto-DOCS program which used a little too much force.

    Armstrong is on solid scientific ground when he “endorses sociobiology”. Its cheeky for an economist to damn “sociobiology” as “bizarre”. The “debtquity and diversity” GFC recession proves that economics, of all scientific professions, is desperately in need of some anthropological realism in its assumptions. Black-Scholes is only the most egregious example of this.

    By contrast, “sociobiology” (or anthropological realism as it should be known) is no longer treading water with “just-so” stories. It is now progressing in leaps and bounds using the new technology of genomics tied to a revised understanding of the long-standing puzzle on group selection. Its hard to see this as “bizarre” unless Pr Q wishes to rope EO Wilson into the corral of cranks, in which case we may as well pack up stumps and call it quits.

    I am also deeply suspicious of the discipline currently sailing under the flag of anthropology and cultural studies. This whole domain is hopelessly infected with political correctness. The Cultural Left’s attacks on “sociobiology” (anthropological realism) have shredded its intellectual credibility amongst the realist man on the street in general and evolutionary scientists in particular. Its high time that proper social scientists made a start “clearing away some of the rubbish which stands in the way of knowledge”.

    FTR & FWIW I wholeheartedly endorse the mainstream natural scientific findings on evolution, climate science, smoking etc. I do not maintain that maintream “Blank Slate” social scientific models are “delusional”, but they sin gravely by omission.

  24. jquiggin
    March 5th, 2010 at 16:54 | #24

    Another gigantic comment on a two-sentence remark! I’ll ask people not to let this derail the thread, an merely respond to Jack’s suggestion that I have given a free pass to the postmodern left. Looking through my archives, the nicest thing I ever said about leftwing postmodernism was that it had three good uses:
    “(i) Therapy for recovering Stalinists
    (ii) A harmless target on which right-wing pundits can vent their rage
    (iii) Some theoretical content for degrees in “communications”

    Obviously I forgot the irony alert.

    At least five years ago, I observed that leftwing postmodernism was dead and that rightwing postmodernism, far more pernicious because it invokes relativism in support of those who are already rich and powerful, had taken its place. Jack doesn’t seem to have noticed this, but searching the site for “postmodern” and its derivatives will find plenty of examples.

  25. Fran Barlow
    March 5th, 2010 at 16:59 | #25

    As someone who had the benefit of Armstrong during the T & M days of Sydney Uni in 1978 youir description of his positions above does disappoint me. I had thought better of him than your present him here. His comment on Ian Plimer seems careless and indolent. “Disinterested philsophical inquiry” it isn’t …

    I’m not sure what you mean by arguing for greater civility towards the delusionals. Bya and large we are a lot more civil to them than they are to us. Thier wild abusive tirades against science don’t seem to be hurting them amongst their own constituency. Maybe we’cve been a little too polite. After all, if we are part of some evil conspiracy, we might as well get nasty.

    The bottom line is that while ignorant and unhinged people can beleive what they like — I came across someone touting someone saying the next Ice Age was upon us and that “magnetic reversals” caused the Asian Tsunami and explained evolution — apparently an ex-architect (but I’d say and ex-member of the reality-based community)— but there’s no rule that says people dribbling nonsense have to be respected.

    I’m amused that you refer to “Australia’s greatest historian (Geoffrey Blaimey)” and manage to get his name wrong. He spoke of the Tyranny of Distance, but how far were you from the internet when you typed this? Given your attitude to the migration question, I’m not suprised you’re spouting the Howardista black armband meme. You must itch at night clutching at those strawmen, surely.

    The whole point of assimilationist policy was to extinguish Aborgininality as a meaningful feature of the Australian life, and the Stolen Generation policy was an outgrowth of this ambition, whetever the people whop composed the boots on the ground supposed they were doing.

    It’s astonishing that anyone familiar with Australian history would deny this.

  26. Alice
    March 5th, 2010 at 17:40 | #26

    @Fran Barlow
    Oh please Fran…

    “It all goes to show that the whole idea of germs was a conspiracy between the catholic church and drug manufacturers …”

    This takes the cake of delusionism award from an old nurse like me.

    No.. germs, bacteria and viruses are not a conspiracy between the catholic church and the drug manufacturers. Antibiotics and antivirals have saved lives for decades, including mine.

    Tell your conspiracy theories to someone dying of septicaemia Fran or a kid with leukaemia. It happens everyday in our hospitals. Some live, some die, but more would die without the conspiracy that produced antibiotics.

    Or if you omitted the irony alert…please post it.JQs blog is full of far fetched ideas Fran. Your comment may be giving the wrong impression.

  27. March 5th, 2010 at 18:17 | #27

    Dear oh dear where does Jack Strocchi come from (although his support for Quadrant, Behe, and Windschuttle perhaps provides some clues)? I have rarely seen a post so full of bizarre interpretations of history.

    “Granted the Aboriginals were treated poorly both before and after 1967. But to obsessively focus on the one major blemish is just neurotic … this was a racist proto-DOCS program which used a little too much force …. I am also deeply suspicious of the discipline currently sailing under the flag of anthropology and cultural studies. This whole domain is hopelessly infected with political correctness.” One major blemish? Neurotic? A little too much force (reminds me of the “rougher than usual treatment” once said by a judge in a rape case)? I guess the political correctness would be in recognising that there was bad treatment (including a lot of murder, by various means, stealing of land, rape, deliberate cultural destruction, and so on) from virtually the moment Phillip landed to the most recent “intervention”.

    And “I’d myself look for some naturalistic explanation for the whole process of evolution, but let us not regard the case as closed.” Is Jack not aware that indeed “some naturalistic explanation” was found 151 years ago and has been confirmed ever since by tens of thousands of biologists as well as ancillary disciplines like geology? The case was closed by the end of 1859. And is he not aware that “Behe is an “informed and resourceful critic” of Darwinism” is based purely on the fact that Behe is a committed Christian who cannot believe in the evolutionary process for that reason and that reason alone?

  28. Alice
    March 5th, 2010 at 18:43 | #28

    @Mike
    So Mike …you didnt realise that extreme right wing think tanks were funding organisations in Australia like the CIS and the IPA? Its only been goiing on for decades now…so tell that to the subscribers.

    They too, can have a model of right wing US extremism that was so helpful to the U.S. They can have it all here if they want….just dont ask me to bail the mess out with my taxes to the extent they got to do in the US.

    But boguns follow the bogun sloguns that money gives them. They dont think. They subscribe.

  29. March 5th, 2010 at 22:58 | #29

    David Horton@#25

    Dear oh dear where does Jack Strocchi come from (although his support for Quadrant, Behe, and Windschuttle perhaps provides some clues)? I have rarely seen a post so full of bizarre interpretations of history.

    David Horton I was going to savage you for comment, which was a strong blend of silliness and falsity in equal measure. (“Support for Quadrant and Behe”?) But I see from the link to your blog that you are obviously a nice gentleman, perhaps a little bewildered and confused by the pace of post-modern events.

    I wish you all the best in your effort to come to grips with things.

  30. Peter Evans
    March 6th, 2010 at 08:32 | #30

    Two points on Jack’s stream above.

    It’s very hard to maintain politeness with the delusionist crowd because so many of them refuse to pay any attention. They;ll make some egregious claim (eg, no warming since 1995), and you’ll patiently explain why this claim is wrong and here’s the evidence, etc, and then they’ll just go on making the same claim. They (the very great majority) persistently ignore anything that is contrary to their beliefs. So their position is analogous to a religious style fundamentalism, clinging to certain ordained facts and damn the evidence. That’s hard to take seriously or politely after a while. I take your point that civility is required, but dealing with some who argues 1+1=3.8 is not easy!

    Also, a lot of delusionists I come across have strange ideas about what constitutes a “good” theory in science (assuming they know what a theory is in the first place). For many, if it’s not some bullet-proof, 100% guaranteed blockbuster, then they think it can be ignored, or belittled (or that’s their excuse). I work in science every day, dealing with and applying theories in a number of physics related fields, and I am pretty happy if I have something with about 70% predictive power. 90% and I am overjoyed. 100% never happens except in outlier circumstances (it’s always possible to destroy something!). Modern climate science is somewhere around the 90% mark say – that’s what I hear from climate scientists, and that’s pretty damn good. I’d be satisfied with 70%, because I know what that is like… Funnily enough, some of the worst offenders are retired scientists and engineers. It’s as though they’ve forgotten what they went through in their working lives, or in retirement they’ve set themselves to Working on the Big Picture and Sorting Out the World’s Messes. Well, hilarity ensues.

  31. March 6th, 2010 at 09:14 | #31

    I’v always envied John’s list of comments, especially, perhaps “‘More intelligent than Britney Spears’ Jason Soon”. Now, I can put on my blog “‘obviously a nice gentleman’ Jack Strocchi”. Eat your heart out John Quiggin.

  32. Alice
    March 7th, 2010 at 18:36 | #32

    @jquiggin
    Jack is still fighting the cold war…anything not right is left to him and I doubt he would really know what a postmodern left or right was….he somehow got stuck in a timewarp JQ and no-one has been kind enough to wake Jack up and we just get the same old left rv right views from him (and he doesnt seem at all perturbed that the right wing has moved to pluto and todays left are the new conservatives).

    In fact he hasnt noticed at all.

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