I imagine that quite a few people were upset by the title for this post, so let me explain what I mean, and please hear me out before you sharpen your pitchforks. The arguments used by all three of these groups, and indeed by science deniers more generally, are all fundamentally the same. In other words, the underlying logical structure is identical for the arguments used in support of all three of these positions. Thus, it is logically inconsistent to criticize one of these positions while embracing another.
You see, what I have observed over the past few years of blogging is that very few people like to think of themselves as “anti-science” or as a “science denier.” Those people certainly exist, and I do encounter them, but most of the people who visit my blog/page claim to love science…at least until it disagrees with their ideology. This puts them in a difficult position, because when a scientific result conflicts with their beliefs, they have to find some excuse or justification for why they don’t accept the results of science on that particular topic, and what I see over and over again is that everyone falls back on exactly the same excuses, regardless of what anti-science position they are trying to defend.
For example, on several occasions, I have seen people criticize anti-vaccers for appealing to the authority of a few fringe “experts.” Then, a few threads later, I see those same people appealing to the authority of a few fringe experts on topics like climate change and GMOs. Similarly, I see people ridicule climate change deniers for thinking that all climatologists have been bought off, but when the topic shifts to GMOs, suddenly those same people start claiming that Monsanto has bought off all of the world’s genetic engineers/food scientists. Do you see what I am getting it? You can’t criticize someone for using a particular line of reasoning, then turn around and use that same line of reasoning to support your own particular form of science denial. That’s not logically consistent, and it’s not how science operates. Science is a method. It either works or it doesn’t, and you can’t cherry-pick when to accept it.
I suspect that people are becoming more upset with me, rather than less upset, so if you are currently unhappy with me, then I want you to stop and carefully think about this before you read any further. I’m not attacking you, I’m not even ridiculing you, but I am trying to help you think rationally and consistently. If you truly love science, rather than simply liking it when it agrees with your preconceptions, then you should hear me out. You should take a good look at the arguments and examples that I am going to present, and you should make sure that you are actually being rational and logically consistent. I also want to clarify that I don’t think people who believe these views are unintelligent or even consciously denying science. As I’ve previously discussed, I used to be a creationist and a climate change denier, so I know first-hand just how easy it is for ideology to cloud your judgment and make you think that you are being rational, when you are actually just denying reality.
It’s not about the evidence
Before I go any further, I need to make it explicitly clear that none of these positions exist because of any actual scientific evidence supporting them. In every case, they are soundly defeated by a veritable mountain of consistent scientific results. On GMOs, for example, over 1,700 studies have been conducted, and they failed to find any evidence that GMOs are worse than traditional crops for either human health or the environment, and in some cases, they are better (Nicolia et al. 2013; also see Sanvido et al. 2006, Snell et al. 2012, Van Eenennaam and Young. 2014, and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine report 2016). This is, of course, also the conclusion that nearly 300 scientific organizations reached after reviewing the data.
Climate change is the same story. Because of carbon isotopes, we know that we have greatly increased the CO2 in the atmosphere (Bohm et al. 2002; Ghosh and Brand 2003; Wei et al. 2009), and thanks to satellite measurements, we know that our CO2 is increasing the amount of heat energy that the earth’s atmosphere traps (Harries et al. 2001; Griggs and Harries 2007). Further, studies of past climate clearly show that CO2 is a major driver of climate change (Lorius et al. 1990; Tripati et al. 2009; Shakun et al. 2012), and we have carefully studied the sun, volcanic emissions, Milankovitch cycles, etc. and none of them can explain the current warming, but including our greenhouse gasses in the analyses does explain the warming (Stott et al. 2001; Meehl, et al. 2004; Allen et al. 2006; Wild et al. 2007; Lockwood and Frohlich 2007, 2008; Lean and Rind 2008; Foster and Rahmstorf 2011; Imbers et al. 2014). Indeed, literally thousands of studies have all converged on the conclusion that we are causing the planet to warm, and peer-reviewed studies to the contrary are virtually non-existent (but see the next major point below). As a result, this is another topic that enjoys an extremely strong consensus among actual experts.
Similarly, vaccines have been studied thousands of times and have been shown to be extremely safe and effective. Indeed, they are the most well-studied treatment in medical history, and you can find trials that looked at pretty much whatever particular adverse event you are interested in. There are, for example, numerous studies that failed to find any evidence that vaccines cause autism, including a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children (Taylor et al. 2014). There are studies showing that vaccines don’t cause SIDs (Hoffman et al. 1987; Griffin et al. 1988; Mitchell et al. 1995; Fleming et al. 2001; Vennemann et al. 2007a; Vennemann et al. 2007b), studies showing that they don’t cause asthma or allergies (Schmitz et al. 2011; Grabenhenrich et al. 2014), studies showing that the flu vaccine doesn’t increase fetal or infant deaths (Mak et al. 2008; Pasternak et al. 2012a; Pasternak et al. 2012b; Fell et al. 2012; Haberg et al. 2013), etc. (you can find a non-exhaustive list of a bunch of other safety trials here).
My point here is simple: all of these topics have been extremely well studied, and they are as close to settled as science ever comes. Anyone who rejects anthropogenic climate change, the safety of vaccines, or the safety of GMOs is denying a massive body of evidence, which is why I am comfortable with calling them science deniers. This also creates the dilemma that I will focus the rest of the post on. Namely, most of the people who hold these positions don’t want to be considered science deniers, so they have to come up with some excuse for rejecting science, and interestingly, they all seem to have converged on the same excuses.
Note: Inevitably on these topics, when faced with thousands of studies, people start shifting the goal posts and going down ever narrowing side-tangents, but the reality is that these topics are so well studied, that even if you want to go down a ridiculously specific side topic, in the majority of cases, there are still studies on that. So, before you comment with something to the effect of, “but what about…” or “the real issue is…” check and make sure that it hasn’t been studied, because odds are that it has.
Cherry-picking small, poorly conducted studies
In an attempt to counter these mountains of evidence, many people rely on cherry-picking a handful of studies that appear to support their position, but this is problematic for a number of reasons. First, these topics have been studied so many times, that it is almost inevitable that there will be a handful of studies that reached a false conclusion just by chance (even if the studies were conducted flawlessly). This is a simple by-product of the statistical tests that we use (details here). Further, it is blatantly obvious that not all studies are equal. Bad research does sometimes get published. So, whenever you approach a scientific topic, you always have to look for a consensus among studies, rather than just cherry-picking the ones that agree with you. This is why systematic reviews and meta-analyses (like the ones that I cited earlier) are so useful. They condense the results of many papers into a single work so that you can see the overarching trends, rather than being deceived by the statistical outliers.
Additionally, you need to critically examine a study before you accept it. Ask yourself questions like, did it have a large sample size? Was it controlled properly? Did it use a robust design? Did it use the appropriate statistical tests? Was it published in a reputable journal? etc. These are really important questions, and they are questions that anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, and GMO opponents rarely ask. Indeed, these positions are famous for citing truly horrible studies. Just in the past few weeks, for example, anti-vax websites were singing the praises of a “new” study that claimed to show that vaccines were harmful, but in reality, the study was not set up correctly, it did not use the correct analyses, and it was so terrible that it was quickly retracted (details here).
Further, that is far from a one-off event. Sherri Tenpenny (one of the leaders of the anti-vaccine movement) created an online “library” that exists for the express purpose of cherry-picking anti-vaccine studies for you; that way you can just see the studies that agree with you, without having to be bothered with the mountain of high quality studies that disagree with you (details here). Indeed, she makes no attempt to hide the fact that her site exists to help you find information that confirms your biases rather than trying to figure out what is true. For example, one of her pages advertising her site says (the weird capitalization was in the original),
“Convinced that Vaccines are Unsafe but Need Scientific Proof? You need information that gives you ‘The Other Side of the Story.’”
Similarly, on the topic of autism, anti-vaccers eagerly share lists of 100+ papers that supposedly show that vaccines cause autism, but as I explained at length here, many of those papers aren’t on autism or aren’t on vaccines, and the ones that are on topic all used small samples sizes and weak designs that can’t establish causation. In contrast, there are several large cross-section and cohort studies and even a meta-analysis with over 1.2 million children, all of which consistently failed to find any evidence that vaccines cause autism.
It’s easy to poke fun at anti-vaxxers for this, but climate change deniers and GMO opponents are no better. They do exactly the same thing. For example, I still see anti-GMO activists citing Seralini’s infamous rat study that claimed that GMOs caused cancer in rats. You’ve almost certainly seen it at some point next to pictures of grotesque looking rats. If you look a bit closer though, you’ll see that they used a breed of rats that already has high cancer rates, and the cancer rates of the GMO-fed rats were within the expected rates for that breed. As with so many of these fringe papers, that one has been retracted for being awful, but GMO opponents have plenty of other small and equally terrible studies, some of which I have discussed here. I also recommend this study which showed that many of those anti-GMO studies failed to use the correct statistics (they didn’t control the type 1 error rate), and when you apply the correct methods, the evidence that GMOs are dangerous disappears (Panchin and Tuzhikov 2016).
Climate change denial is the same thing, but I think I’ve made my point by now, so I won’t dwell on it for long. I would, however, encourage you to read the following critique on many of the climate change denial papers (Benestad et al. 2017; the supplemental information is particularly useful). As you might have guessed, they found that the studies were riddled with problems, and their results couldn’t be replicated.
Appealing to a minority of fringe “experts”/inflating the conflict
Appealing to authority is another common tactic among all pseudo-science positions. All of these positions have a list of “experts” who they cite as evidence that their position is legitimate (Dr. Tenpenny and Dr. Mercola for vaccines, Dr. Soon and Dr. Spencer for climate change, Dr. Seralini for GMOs, etc.). After all, if someone has an MD or PhD they must know what they are talking about, right? Wrong!
Earning an advanced degree does not guarantee that you are smart, nor does it guarantee that you know what you are talking about. So the fact that you found some MDs/PhDs who agree with you does not in any way shape or form validate or legitimize your position. Further, if we are going to insist on appealing to authority, why on earth should I listen to a cherry-picked handful of scientists instead of the vast majority who disagree with them?
Additionally, in many cases, the “experts” being cited don’t have any relevant qualifications. Dr. Tenpenny, for example, is an osteopath. That hardly qualifies her as vaccine expert. Similarly, climate change deniers love to tout the “Oregon petition,” which is a fraudulent list of over 30,000 “scientists” who signed a petition saying that climate change isn’t real (because that’s how science works, we sign petitions on what is and is not a fact [sarcasm]). When you actually look at the signatures, however, it quickly becomes clear that most of the people on the list don’t have degrees in a field that is even remotely close to climatology, many of them aren’t scientists at all, and only around 0.3% were actually climatologists.
All of this is closely related to a logical fallacy known as an inflation of conflict. It occurs when you use a minority of experts to falsely claim that there is serious debate about a topic that is actually pretty well settled among experts. The classic news interview with one climate change denier vs Bill Nye is a great example of this. It makes it look like two even sides, when in reality, it should be one climate change denier vs. over 30 climatologists (yes, there is roughly a 97-99% consensus in both the literature and among climatologists; multiple studies have converged on that number, see details here and here). This same strategy of inflating the conflict is also at play when people cherry-pick a handful of papers while ignoring the majority of papers that disagree with them (see point above).
Finally, inflation of conflict fallacies also frequently occur when people present a minor disagreement as if it is a major one. For example, I frequently see people present the fact that climatologists and climate models disagree about the exact extent of warming that will occur as evidence that there is general disagreement about climate change, but that is totally false. Virtually everyone (and more importantly, all of the data) agrees that the planet is warming, we are causing it, and it will create problems. Similarly, people often take disagreements over precise safety levels or specific facets of GMOs and vaccines and act as if there is widespread disagreement about their general safety.
Inventing conspiracy theories
So, if cherry-picking papers and experts won’t work, then what is a science denier to do? Obviously, you invent a conspiracy. After all, why should you believe all of the studies/experts that say you are wrong when you can dismiss all of them in one fell swoop by blindly claiming that they were all paid off as part of some massive cover-up.
That may sound crazy (and it is) but it is exactly what people do all the time. When I present papers to science deniers, whether they are anti-vaccers, climate change deniers, anti-GMO advocates, homeopaths, etc. they almost always respond by blindly asserting that the study was funded by “Big Pharma,” Monsanto, etc. That response is not, however, logically valid. You can’t just assume that a paper is biased simply because you don’t like it. Further, scientific publications require authors to declare their conflicts of interest, so you can actually check and see if the paper was funded by a source that might have biased it. When you do that, you find that there are tons of independent studies that were conducted by researchers who aren’t affiliated with companies and didn’t receive funding from them.
On the topic of vaccines and autism, for example, I have previously shown that most of the papers that confirmed the safety of vaccines did not have a conflict of interest, and many of the low-quality anti-vaccine studies did have conflicts of interest. Similarly, roughly half of GMO safety trials are conducted by independent scientists. I don’t have exact numbers for climate change papers, but if you start looking at the funding sources as you will find that quite a few of them are independent as well (I talked more about the money trail for all three of these positions here).
When faced with this fact, people almost invariably go down the conspiracy route and insist that all the world’s climatologists, doctors, etc. are being paid off. This is, however, 100% an assumption. Indeed, it is what is technically known as an ad hoc fallacy. It is a logically invalid excuse that I would never accept unless I was already convinced of the position being defended. You cannot just invent conspiracy theories to get around the fact that thousands of studies demonstrate that you’re wrong.
Nevertheless, some people try to make their position sound more legitimate by claiming that it’s not actually a conspiracy, but scientists are just going along with it to get grant money. That doesn’t make sense, however, because grant agencies usually rely on a board of scientists to review applications. So, for this to work, you’d have to have every scientist in a given field agreeing to give money to crap projects just to keep the money flowing for everyone, which means that we are back to a conspiracy (also see the point below). Further, this claim is, once again, an assumption. You can’t state an assumption as if it is a fact, and you can’t use an assumption as an argument. Ask yourself this, is there any reason to think that this type of wide-spread corruption is happening, other than an ideological desire to reject these studies? No, there isn’t. There is no evidence whatsoever to support this baseless assumption.
Falsely claiming that scientists are going with the dogma of their fields
If being a conspiracy theorist doesn’t suit you, you might try claiming that many scientists actually know that climate change isn’t caused by us, know that GMOs are dangerous, etc., but they can’t go against the “dogma of their fields” because they’ll be ridiculed, won’t get funding, etc. That is, however, simply not how science works. In fact, it is the exact opposite of how it works. If this claim was true, then science would never progress, because no one would ever question the status quo, but science does progress because we constantly question the status quo. Indeed, challenging the accepted wisdom of our fields is the job description of a scientist. That’s what we do. No one is going to give you funding to test something that everyone already knows. You get funding for new and innovative ideas, for pushing boundaries, and for questioning what we think is true.
I’ve said this before, but it is worth saying again: every great scientist was great precisely because they discredited the common views of their day. As a scientist, just going along with the “dogma” of your field guarantees that you will have an unremarkable career and history will quickly forget you. If you want to get the big grants and go down in the history books, then you need to start discrediting some common views.
Indeed, for me personally, as a young biologist, nothing could possibly be better for my career than discrediting evolution. It would win me a Nobel price and my choice of universities to work at, and the same thing would be true for a young climatologist who discredited climate change, an immunologist who demonstrated that vaccines do more harm than good, etc. So, why aren’t eager young graduate students publishing these revolutionary data? Because those data don’t exist! Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and if you want to overthrow a common view, you are going to need some really solid evidence, and there simply is no extraordinary evidence to support positions like climate change denial.
Finally, this argument is an assumption, and you cannot use an assumption as evidence. Unless you can actually prove that scientists are doing this, you simply don’t have an argument.
Note: To be clear, I’m not suggesting that one study would change things overnight. Scientists are a critical bunch, and we would want several labs to confirm a major finding before we overturned our fields, but being one of the scientists involved in that overturn would guarantee you a place in the history books. As a result, any scientists would be crazy to sit on those data and not publish them.
Relying on secondary sources (blogs, Youtube videos, etc.)
At this point, we have exhausted anything even approaching a legitimate line of evidence or reasoning, but don’t worry, there’s always the internet. I’ll keep this one brief: if you want to claim that a massive body of scientific evidence is wrong, then you have to argue against it using the peer-reviewed literature. Nothing else will suffice. Nevertheless, anti-vaccers, GMO opponents, and climate change deniers all love to direct people to blogs, videos, etc. as evidence that their position is correct.
Appeal to anecdotes, personal experience, etc.
In keeping with the point above, anecdotes, isolated news reports, personal experiences, etc. simply don’t matter. I, quite frankly, do not care if you feel healthier when you don’t eat GMOs, observed an adverse event after a vaccine, don’t think it feels warmer now than it did in the past, etc. Science says you’re wrong (well, more specifically, scientific studies provide evidence showing that you’re wrong, since science itself is a method, but I digress). As I said above, for scientific topics, only scientific studies count as evidence. You simply cannot use an anecdote as evidence against a study.
I’ve talked about several specific cases of cherry-picking throughout this post, but it is probably worth mentioning that this is also employed as a more general strategy. In other words, people will cherry-pick isolated facts or instances and totally ignore the big picture. For example, anti-vaccers love to cite particular instances when a vaccine failed or when a problem was detected, while totally ignoring all of the times that they worked wonderfully and saved millions of lives. Similarly, anti-GMO activists will cite particular cases where a GMO hybridized with a wild plant or a pesticide had some negative effect on the environment, while totally ignoring all of the times that these things didn’t happen with GMOs or did happen with traditional crops. Yes, traditional crops (including organic) can be quite harmful for the environment as well. They can kill non-target species, damage the soil, hybridize with wild plants, etc. Indeed, when you look at the big picture, GMOs actually have fewer and less-severe impacts on the environment than traditional crops (see the sources in the first section, and also realize that I am necessarily speaking in crude generalities for the sake of writing a post rather than a book; there are lots of traditional crops and lots of GMOs and some are better than others, so I am talking about a general average effect, but it’s really better to compare two specific crops). Climate change deniers, of course, do exactly the same thing. They delight in pointing to blizzards or the Antarctic Sea ice, while totally ignoring the mean temperatures, heat waves, receding glaciers globally, etc.
Appealing to nature
This one is admittedly a bit more of a mixed bag. Anti-vaccers and GMO opponents do this very blatantly by claiming that vaccines/genetic engineering are bad because they are unnatural (which of course is a logical fallacy, because the fact that something is natural tells you absolutely nothing about whether or not it is good), but climate change deniers have their own form of appealing to nature as well. This occurs when they make the baseless and logically invalid assertion that the climate has changed naturally in the past, therefore the current warming is natural (see the sources in the first section for why we know it isn’t natural).
Again, for this one, the climate change denial argument is admittedly a bit different from the anti-vaccine/anti-GMO argument, but it is similar enough that I thought it was worth mentioning, and, indeed, I frequently see climate change deniers argue that global warming isn’t a problem because it is natural (which is a proper appeal to nature fallacy).
Claiming that science is flawed/science has been wrong in the past
When backed into a corner by the evidence, even those who claim to love science will frequently resort to some variation of the “science has been wrong in the past/they laughed at Galileo and Columbus/science said the earth was flat” argument. I’ve dealt with this argument several times before (here, here, and here), so I’ll be brief.
First, of course science has been wrong before. That’s how it works. It is a gradual process of testing ideas and replacing old ones with new, better ones. If science was never wrong, science would never advance. This brings me to the second point: every time that a scientific result has been shown to be wrong, it was discredited by scientists doing science, not by someone on Youtube, a personal anecdote, etc. As I have said several times now in this post, for scientific topics, you must present evidence from peer-reviewed studies.
Third, most of the common examples of science being wrong (e.g., a flat earth) pre-date modern science by quite a bit. Indeed, it is really hard to come up with an example in the modern era where something as well established as climate change, GMOs, or vaccines has been discredited. Oh sure, there have been plenty of times when a popular idea was debunked, but none of those had the literally thousands of studies that these three topics have (no, the idea that smoking was safe was never strongly supported by scientific evidence). About the best example you can come up with is Einstein’s theory of relativity replacing Newtonian physics, but that wasn’t really a replacement as much as an expansion (i.e., Newtonian physics still work under most circumstances, they just weren’t complete).
Finally, the fact that science has been wrong before does not in any way justify your particular brand of science denial. Again, you need actual evidence. Also, if you accept science on some topics, then you are being logically inconsistent. In other words, if you can use the fact that science has been wrong before as an argument against climate change, for example, then why can’t I use it as an argument against gravity or against the shape of the earth?
But science is never settled/I’m just asking questions
Finally, many people like to appeal to the inherent uncertainty that is built into science and claim that the fact that science is never truly “settled” somehow justifies their denial of the current body of evidence. Or, they might claim to be “just asking questions” or “asking for more studies.”
That sounds fine at first, but it is actually just disguised denialism, and here’s why. It is technically true that science is never “settled” in that any result can technically be overturned by future evidence. In other words, science tells us what is most likely true given the current evidence, not what is absolutely true. However, that does not mean that it is valid to reject the current evidence whenever you want to. For example, it is technically possible that we are wrong about gravity, but it would be crazy to assert that since science is never settled, I am justified in rejecting the concept of gravity. Even so, topics like vaccines, GMOs, and climate change (I’ll throw evolution in there as well) have been so thoroughly studied that it is extraordinarily unlikely that we are wrong about them. To put all of this another way, it is logically invalid to assume that the current evidence is wrong just because it technically might be wrong (that is an argument from ignorance fallacy). You have to provide actual scientific evidence that it is wrong, otherwise you are not adhering to the rules of logic.
Similarly, there is nothing wrong with asking questions. In fact, I encourage it, but, you have to use good sources to answer those questions, and you have to be willing to accept the answers. In other words, there is nothing wrong with someone who has never studied climate change asking questions like, “is there good evidence that we are causing it?” but, when they are presented with the mountain of studies that clearly show that we are causing it, at that point, they can no longer claim ignorance. If you continue to act like the evidence isn’t there after you have been shown the evidence then you are, by definition, a denier. The same thing is true for those who claim to just want additional studies. The reality is that these topics have been so thoroughly studied from so many angles that if the current evidence can’t convince you, then nothing will. If the current evidence isn’t enough for you, then the problem isn’t the evidence, the problem is your adherence to ideology.
As I have tried to demonstrate throughout this post, climate change denial, the anti-vaccine movement, the anti-GMO movement, and pseudoscientific positions in general are all fundamentally the same. They all ignore a large body of evidence while citing a few, cherry-picked, low-quality studies. Further, they all try to cast doubt on that evidence by appealing to a minority of “experts,” and they all invent baseless conspiracy theories and accuse scientists of blindly following the dogma of their fields. When you get right down to it, all of these positions are based on ideology, not facts. Again, to be clear, I am not attacking or even criticizing anyone. Rather, this is a plea for rational thought. A large portion of my readers seem to fully embrace the science on at least one of these topics, while rejecting the science on the other(s), but that is logically inconsistent. You can’t, for example, criticize an anti-vaccer for ignoring studies and inventing conspiracies, then turn around and ignore studies and invent conspiracy theories about climate science or GMOs. As I’ve said before, science is a method. It either works or it doesn’t, and you can’t cherry-pick when you do and do not want to accept the results that it gives.
Note: Inevitably someone is going to comment with something like, “I accept that GMOs are safe for humans and the environment, but I oppose them because food shouldn’t be patented, Monsanto is evil, etc.” (similar arguments exist for the other topics as well). If you are thinking about writing a comment like that, please don’t. If you truly fully accept the science, then for the sake of this post, I don’t have a problem with you. Most of those arguments do have countless logical inconsistencies and I think they are absurd, but for the sake of a post about denying the science itself, I don’t feel like discussing them here.
Note: Someone may be tempted to accuse me of a fallacy fallacy. This occurs when you say that a position is wrong because of the arguments that are used to support it (i.e., it happens when you reject the conclusion of a bad argument, rather than rejecting the argument itself). That is not, however, what I am doing. Climate change denial, GMO opposition, etc. are wrong because of the mountain of scientific evidence showing that they are wrong. So I am not saying that they are wrong because of the bad arguments. Rather, I am simply trying to explain why the arguments are bad.
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- Snell et al. 2012. Assessment of the health impact of GM plant diets in long-term and multigenerational animal feeding trials: A literature review. Food and Chemical Toxicology 50:1134–1148.
- Stott et al. 2001. Attribution of twentieth century temperature change to natural and anthropogenic causes. Climate Dynamics 17:1–21.
- Taylor et al. 2014. Vaccines are not associated with autism: and evidence-based meta-analysis of case-control and cohort studies. Elsevier 32:3623-3629.
- Tripati et al. 2009. Coupling CO2 and ice sheet stability over major climate transitions of the last 20 million years. Science 326:1394–1397.
- Van Eenennaam and Young. 2014. Prevalence and impacts of genetically engineered feedstuffs on livestock populations. Journal of Animal Science 92:4255–4278.
- Vennemann et al. 2007a. Sudden infant death syndrome: No increased risk after immunisation. Vaccine 25:336–340.
- Vennemann et al. 2007a. Do immunisations reduce the risk of SIDS? A meta-analysis. Vaccine 26:4875–4879
- Wei et al. 2009. Evidence for ocean acidification in the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. Geochimica et Cosmochimica Acta 73:2332–2346.
- Wild et al. 2007. Impact of global dimming and brightening on global warming. Geophysical Research Letters.
Reblogged this on The Logical Place.
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Yes!! Of all the deniers those who deny CLIMATE CHANGE are the worst. They deny the Mediaeval Warm Period, the Little Ice Age and Natural Causes of Climate Change.
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Climate scientists deny none of these. But what has that got to do with the fact that the main driver of atmospheric warming is currently human activity?
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Well, The Hockey Stick believers DO deny what I mentioned. Besides it is not at all certain that humans are the major cause of warming. There is only one certainty about climate: It changes and no one knows what all the causes are let alone how much each contributes.
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Well, The Hockey Stick believers DO deny what I mentioned.
That’s a myth. A complete and absolute myth that has been debunked so many times it’s past counting. Try reading Michael Mann’s The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars (2012) in which he discusses all three of these things.
Besides it is not at all certain that humans are the major cause of warming.
There is no measurable uncertainty about it except in the minds of paid shills, certain politicians and media bloviators (i.e., more paid shills), their useful idiots, and the underinformed.
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Nice set of insults. However, show me the MWP and LIA in the Hockey Stick Graph.
On the contrary, I haven’t insulted you at all.
So, I went and fetched Mann’s book — the nearest relevant one to hand — and looked at the copy of the hockey stick on page xv. There, right before my very eyes, were warmer temperatures during the period of the Medieval Climate Anomaly and cooler ones during the Little Ice Age.
What I think you may have come across are claims that the “Hockey Stick believers,” as you so insultingly put it, deny that the Medieval Warm Period was warmer than today. They do. Because it wasn’t.
Now, could you explain why a dozen or more different teams of climate scientists, all using different data bases and different criteria, have come up with graphs of past temperatures that very closely approximate the hockey stick?
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You were never insulted. You were corrected.
This is an insult: You are trash and your opinions are trash.
See, what he did was describe WHY your ideas were trash, without directly saying that. That’s called a sound argument.
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Well done. You fit the mold.
Funny enough, THAT could be considered an insult..
I fit my own mold and love it.
Now, this is sincere: May I inquire as to where your anger and aggression is coming from? Can I help? If I can’t, I really suggest you look into therapy. I’ve gone before, and it’s really helpful.
I will try and get you back on topic. Who are these “deniers” that you refer to?
You seem to have an issue with Hockey Stick temperature reconstructions so I will comment about that. The reconstructions do show the MWP, Little Ice Age and natural causes of climate change. I can post a reference if you are unable to Google it.
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Many thanks for yet another splendid essay.
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I love this, I was just blogging about how much it bothers me when people get facts wrong. There is one point I disagree with you on. Quantum Mechanics replacing classical physics and electromagnetism was far more radical than General Relativity replacing Newtonian gravity. Your point is still correct. All the situations where the old theory were found to work they still worked and are still used for practical purposes.
One actual mistake you made makes me like you even more. You wrote “through” when you meant “throw.” I do that all the time. I process the words phonetically when I type.
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I don’t know enough about quantum mechanics to agree or disagree with your assertion, but I am certainly willing to accept the possibility that there are legitimate examples that are more extreme than relativity.
I’ve fixed the typo. Thanks.
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There are hundreds of peer reviewed papers out there that cast severe doubts on the theory of CAGW. No one currently knows how much effect man is having on climate. That there is likely some is only denied by a small number of the people you carelessly call deniers. On the other hand how many papers are there supporting the anti vaxxers?
There are hundreds of peer reviewed papers out there that cast severe doubts on the theory of CAGW.
The “hundreds of” is a bit of a myth unless you go back a few decades. For (say) the past twenty years, you can find a few, some of which have since been retracted because of errors, some of which appear in dodgy journals. Compare them to the vast number of peer-reviewed papers that either reinforce AGW or assume it.
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A). There aren’t hundreds of papers that cast doubt on the idea that we are causing the planet to warm. http://www.jamespowell.org/PieChartI/piechart.html
B). Although there are a small number of contrary papers, they generally contain serious flaws (see post for details).
C). Even if there were hundreds, they would still be dwarfed by the thousands that show that we are causing climate change. As explained in the post, there will always be statistical outliers, so you have to look at the whole body of literature, rather than latching onto the subset that agrees with you.
D). There are actually quite a few anti-vaccine papers out there. Indeed, I would be absolutely shocked if there aren’t more anti-vaccine papers than anti-anthropogenic global warming papers (I honestly expect there to be more by at least 1 order of magnitude). As with the climate change papers though, they are mostly small, poorly conducted studies, and they are dwarfed by the thousands of much higher quality studies showing that vaccines are safe and effective (I have written several posts discussing the anti-vaccine papers, most of which are linked to in this post).
E). Finally, I would like to point out that you are doing exactly what I described in the post, and exactly what anti-vaccers do. You are clinging onto a tiny subset of cherry-picked papers, conflating those papers to suggest that there is a serious conflict, and ignoring the overarching body of literature.
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Check out the right hand side bar for “hundreds” of papers here: http://notrickszone.com/
Congratulations, you are demonstrating exactly the type of cherry-picking and motivated reasoning that I talked about. Actually look at the papers in those lists. Most of them do not in any way “cast severe doubt.” A huge portion of them are regional studies, and using regional studies as evidence against global climate change is exactly the type of cherry-picking that I described. Indeed, if you actually read the papers, you’ll find that in most cases, the authors affirm that global climate change is taking place and discuss the factors that are causing their particular site to respond differently.
Further, many of the studies simply don’t say what the author of that blog claims that they say. For example, I went to the list of 100+ papers that supposedly show that the sun drives climate. This is a quote from the abstract of the very first one. “Solar contribution is found to be minimal for the second half of the 20th century and less than 10% for the first half. The underlying net anthropogenic warming rate in the industrial era is found to have been steady since 1910 at 0.07–0.08 °C/decade.” So the study found that the sun has had a “minimal” effect on climate change and anthropogenic sources had a major affect, yet it is in the list that claims to show that the sun is the major driver.
Additionally, you have not addressed the numerous studies that I cited which actually directly tested the global effect of climate drivers and found that natural factors alone cannot explain the current warming.
Once again, this is exactly what anti-vaccers do. They cherry-pick studies and misconstrue results. The list you posted is no different from the anti-vaccer list of “100+ studies that show that vaccines cause autism.” Just like that list, the list that you posted contains numerous studies that don’t even address the topic at hand, as well as low quality studies, and studies that actually show the exact opposite of what deniers claim that they show.
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“Dr. Tenpenny, for example, is an osteopath. That hardly qualifies here as vaccine expert.”
If Tenpenney (who I agree is a bit out there) is dismissed because she has a DO and not an MD, are you saying that all MDs are automatically vaccine experts?
If MD, then Vaccine Expert
If not MD, then not vaccine expert
So, if DO, then not vaccine expert
If so, why are all MDs automatically considered vaccine experts; but DO’s are not vaccine experts?
My primary is a DO and she administers all our vaccines. And is quite knowledgeable about them. I’m curious why you wouldn’t consider her knowledge about vaccines as an expert in the field just because she has a DO and not an MD.
” are you saying that all MDs are automatically vaccine experts?”
I don’t think the author is implying that, even though he’s being a tad unfair to DOs whom as far as I’m aware have similar qualifications.
Full context:” Further, in many cases, the “experts” being cited don’t have any relevant qualifications. Dr. Tenpenny, for example, is an osteopath.”
I believe the author is just stating that Dr. Tenpenny does not have any qualifications to be cited as an expert, probably also taking in the fact that that unlike your DO, her opinion goes against scientific consensus.
So in short, dismissive of DOs, yes, implying all MDs are vaccine experts, not so much!
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Hi Sarah In Italy,
I can’t speak for the author but I believe the intent behind that comment was not that Tenpenney is dismissed because she is a DO and not an MD but rather that she is a DO and not an immunologist. While most DOs and MDs are knowledgeable they are still not as much of an expert as an immunologist involved in vaccine research. If I’m understanding correctly the argument would look more like:
If immunologist, then more of a vaccine expert than MD or DO
If not immunologist, not considered as much of an authority on vaccines.
I think the reverse is also true i.e. if I needed a medical procedure and I heard claims from an immunologist and also from a DO or MD I would not consider the immunologist as the expert on the matter; “Dr. Soandso is an immunologist. That hardly qualifies her/him as a cardiac expert”.
Anyway, that’s how I read it.
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Allow me to clarify. I would not say that most MDs are vaccine experts. They are certainly trained on vaccines and they are knowledgeable, but I would not cite them as experts. To consider someone a vaccine expert, I would want to see that they have actually done research in relevant fields, or, at the very least, received extensive training (beyond that of a normal MD) in immunology, epidemiology, etc. By way of analogy, most MDs are knowledgeable about cancer, but unless they are oncologists or cancer researchers, I would not consider them cancer experts.
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Thanks – I totally misread & appreciate the clarification.
I just received my teaching information packet from The Heartland Institute. The cover letter says, “A recent survey found most K-12 science teachers who address climate change in their classrooms treat the science as “settled” and focus on ways to reduce human emissions of greenhouse gas emissions. Perhaps you are one of those teachers? (I am he he!) I am writing to ask you to consider the possibility that the Science in fact is not “settled”. If that is the case, then students would be better served by letting them know a vibrant debate is taking place among scientists on How big the human impact on climate is, and whether or not we should be worried about.”
I used it as a teaching moment as to how we should always be skeptical about things and used your blog to show how their is no “vibrant debate” except by those who have a vested interest in pulling the wool over our eyes. Follow the money of the Heartland Institute and it will tell you all you need to know.
The whole thing reminds me of the Discovery Institute and their “debate over evolution!”
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The Heartland Institute’s product is propaganda. One of their strategies is to use the straw man of “science is not settled”. My point is science is never settled, it is provisional by definition. The scientific method allows for the possibility of new concepts or new evidence being discovered sometime in the future.
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With respect to the “science is never settled” argument, sometimes people cite the “fact” that Einstein’s law of Gravitation proves Newton’s law of Gravitation wrong, and then they argue that everyone believed Newton’s law but they were wrong. But this is a complete misunderstanding of these two laws of Gravitation. If you use Einstein’s equations with small gravitational fields and small velocities, the results are the same as with Newton’s equations, to within very very tiny limits. They give exactly the same results. In effect, Einstein’s law is a generalization of Newton’s law; or, to put it another way, Newton’s law can be considered a first approximation and Einstein’s law a second approximation, and the latter works better in cases of extreme gravity and/or velocity. Both are correct, within their domains of appropriate applicability..
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Another thorough and informative article — as usual, I’d say:-)
If I may contribute some amusing examples of antivaccine science denial which are actually based on accepting the exact same science that is denied:
– Claiming that better hygiene did away with most diseases long before vaccination (which is actually true for quite a few diseases such as cholera): and where do these people think the whole concept of hygiene and sanitation comes from? Well, my, I believe it was science… Yet when that exact same science proves that vaccination is a safe and effective way to prevent many other diseases (especially the highly contagious and/or airborne ones), it is totally wrong all of a sudden? Doesn’t make sense…
– “Toxins” in vaccines: how do these antivaccine activists know about toxicity? Well, by blindly accepting what science has to say about it(*), of course — but this is immediately followed by turning around 180 degrees and denying the part where the exact same science shows that very small amounts of those substances are totally harmless, and often even naturally present in the body…
And no doubt, some more examples can be found.
*: I strongly doubt that any antivaccine activists did any toxicological research themselves.
One of big drivers of Obesity epidemic in USA and world is GMO corn syrup; also US GMO corn has upset the economy of mexico which used to produce its own indigneous corn, leading in part to inequality , mass migration, maquelasdoras economy, and the drug trade.In India, alot of cotton farmers are abandoing GMOs because of pesticide resuistance—its too expensive.
Some science groups like Union of Cioncerened scientists are crritical of GMOs.
Too many scientists are uncriticfal of technology—they like and get paid doing it, and often dont deal with any negative side affects. Also alot of scientists are not really all that pro-scien ce outsisde their fields. I was into tueoretical biology—its often jnot easy to study that–instead big data, genome and other studies get the money—not the kind of stuff Turing studied.
NSF just decided to limit grants to some scientists who basically have monopolized alot of NSF money. . They are a bit financially and also mentally greedy.
If you would like to be taken seriously, use a grammar and spell check.
High concentrations of sugar, regardless of its source, is damaging.
The price of GMOs has no basis on whether or not GMOs are safe to eat.
Bad farming practices are bad regardless of whether the crops are GMOs or not.
You’re perfectly correct, but:
If you would like to be taken seriously, use a grammar and spell check.
High concentrations of sugar, regardless of its source, is damaging.
I was once a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists, but I canceled my support of the organization specifically because they do not follow the science on this issue. Other scientists have been specifically critical of UCS for the same reason, and it is suspicious that in their own literature they obfuscate their stance on GMOs until you have begun to subscribe to their magazine. They are not specifically science-only organization; they are an advocacy group with the word “science” in their name.
First, the topic of GMOs has nothing to do with corn syrup overuse. It would be being used regardless of whether or not the corn was a GMO.
Similarly, the situation with Mexico (which I have not fact checked, so I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, btw) is about capitalism and the free market, not GMOs. Do you take issue every time that a new technology gives one country and advantage and disrupts the economy of another? If not, then you are being logically inconsistent.
Of course consuming GMO corn syrup would cause obesity.
It’s every bit as full of sugar as regular corn syrup
Great article. It’s ironic that so many people are commenting using the exact logical errors that you explained so thoroughly. Science! It works, bitches! 🙂
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They are most definitely not the same. “The same” implies equal. Being stabbed in the head with an ice pick is the same as being stabbed in the head with a screwdriver; you die. Global climate change deniers can (and likely will) produce an outcome where being anti GMO or anti vaccination is irrelevant. One runs the risk of changing or even ending life on Earth. The other two do not.
If you really feel the need to lump the three together, how about “climate change deniers, anti vaxers, and anti GMO people have certain traits in common.”
You’re being quite nit-picky, and deliberately missing my meaning, but even so, you’re premise that “being anti GMO or anti vaccination is irrelevant” is incorrect. Diseases continue to re-appear when vaccination rates drop, often resulting in deaths that could have been prevented. Similarly, GMO opponents are attempting to block technologies that could provide vital nutrients to the most impoverished parts of the world. Plus, in many cases, GMOs are better for the environment and are more sustainable than traditional breeding methods (they let you grow more crops on less land and fewer resource, which lowers the carbon footprint, preserves the soil, protects the water, etc.). So I do not at all agree that climate change is the only one of these positions that are dangerous.
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I wish you could be in the room with me when I’m arguing with my friends who are convinced acupuncture is curing their ills. Maybe it is but so far has not been proven!
I think the fears of the anti vaxers are groundless, but when vaccines are used without corresponding birth control, and we go deeper into overshoot with using them, they have been used in a counter productive way. More and more people damaging the environment and likely to have a dieoff in the end, isn’t a good way to have better health for everyone.
There is a similar problem with GMOs being used in a similar way, with a short sighted goal of having us go deeper into overshoot. And I don’t think it is particularly smart to do things like create a plant with a pesticide or with herbicide resistance, when the insect(s) or weeds are very likely to evolve resistance. (and are doing so, the last I read about this) Nothing of lasting value is accomplished with this. We still have agriculture deeply dependent on fossil fuels- something we don’t want with regard to climate change.
When people deny Malthus, or the observations in the book “Limits to Growth”, saying that we have discovered ways around limits in the past, so we will do it in the future, they are typically not aware that they are confusing correlation with causation. Looking for solutions to problems doesn’t cause finding them. A way to solve a problem has to be possible, has to exist before it can be found. People can have blind faith that solutions exist to be found, but blind faith isn’t science. Confusing correlation with causation is the basis of superstition. Science deals with what is known to exist, deals with causation, not with imaginary things, imaginary relationships. Solutions may or may not exist, science doesn’t know. But when we go on increasing population and resource use per capita on a finite planet, obviously using resources in unsustainable ways,with the expectation that we will always find ways to continue this, that is an expectation based on blind faith that solutions do exist to prevent a dieoff. If our blind faith in finding solutions doesn’t work out, this civilization will crash the same as smaller ones in the past have done. We have bet society on blind faith about reality. And we have a lot of major problems to solve that have been intractable for a long time.
I think the recent disaster with war in Syria was a failure to find new resources when they were hit by drought and their oil fields were going past peak. That seriously stressed them and war was the result. Blind faith of things always being found didn’t work for them and it is seriously threatening the rest of the world that has made the same bet on reality. Personally, I think following science is a much wiser course, and you bet your life on things only after you have found them. But as you say, when science clashes with ideology, people often stick with ideology. I think there is a common ideology that solutions to problems can always be found using the methods of science, yet that clashes with the observations I’m making here.
Well, I could write a lot more on things related to this, and would welcome further discussion if you are interested, but for now I’ll stop.
Your population arguments have a serious flaw in that they assume that there are only a few variables involved. Population growth is not simply connected to reducing deaths – indeed as disease takes less of a toll on a population, over several generations, birth rates drop in most populations as fewer children are needed to replace losses sustained in childhood, thus keeping populations fairly constant. Additionally, the reduction in losses allows more resources to be devoted to education rather than chasing diseases around, trying to cure a small minority with limited resources. Education, in turn, particularly for girls is directly connected to reduced birth rates, which in turn helps reduce the population much more than the original diseases did, and increases both the standard of living for most of the population, as well as increasing how much of a positive impact each person can make.
The same holds true for GMOs – they are simply a tool that we are just now learning to use but it is not a new tool – we just suddenly got a lot better at doing exactly what we have been doing since the dawn of agriculture. The only difference is that we now know to a much greater extent what we are doing, and instead of changing thousands of genes randomly through breeding in the hopes of (maybe) getting one we want, we just change the one we want, and unlike in the past when disease resistance or pest resistance gradually was lost because only one gene was affected, we CAN engineer a multi-pronged solution that is unlikely to ever be affected by said disease (or pest) again, and when combined with modern breeding methods that ensures that every seed grows true, we are less likely to see any reversion to a susceptible crop. Most conventionally bred crops are the result of several pre-GE methods – which include exposing plants to radiation or poisons in an attempt to cause mutations. Some of these mutations are found to have beneficial traits and are bred back into the plants breeding stock, along with thousands of random changes whose effects are not tested, unlike GE crops, which are extensively tested to ensure the change expesses correctly. One of those conventionally bred changes is why we now have so many people with gluten problems, as a protein in wheat was altered many decades ago into a form many cannot digest, hence the rise in gluten intolerance and celiac disease. No GE crop is ever likely to result in such a problem because such changes as are made are specific and well understood, and unlikely to modify proteins as such a change is rarely beneficial. GE breeding methods promise to reverse these errors, if allowed to do so, as well as many others. Allergy-free peanuts are coming soon, potatoes without solanine, Almonds without cyanide, food that has flavour and nutrients AND doesn’t go bad quickly. Food that requires fewer passes with a tractor (and thus has a smaller CO2 footprint), food that requires less pesticide use, food that requires fewer acres of land to grow because less is lost to pests and diseases and drought and food that has nutrients so people don’t go blind from deficiencies (the first strains of golden rice are now going on the market). What will this newfound food security do? It will free resources to provide education that will reduce overpopulation in the poorest parts of the world, which will take us further from the Malthusian limits which never really existed anyway as it applied only to fixed resource limits, and agriculture has never really been that fixed. No land and need more food? Grow many crops in the same time and in less space indoors. Still not enough? Vertical farming.
Perhaps another point that could indicate a science denier is:
Attempts to cite retracted papers.
It’s one that I’ve encountered several times in the past. Which then leaves the quandry of how to explain the retraction of papers to people who don’t understand the basics of science.
Thank you for your thoughtful essay. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your summary of all the fallacies involved in science denial. The “keeping an open-mind” argument is another favorite fallacy. You certainly covered most if not all of the important denial types.
You might be interested to know (if you don’t already) that hyper-educated, uber-enlightened Boulder County is in the process of banning GMO crops from Boulder County farms, despite all the scientists’ and farmers’ protestations and arguments to the otherwise. Infuriating and exasperating!
Thanks again. I will certainly follow your posts.
There is a built-in contradiction in this article, the pot calling the kettle black. GMO proponents are agricultural engineers. They know the laws of Nature, and they know that the influence of man on climate is negligible if not nil : “Man is not more powerful than the sun”. AGW (Anthropogenic Global Warming) is a UN-endorsed political ideology, hardly backed by any science as the alarmist SPM is issued before the WG1 report itself ! Conversely the latter is very careful in its conclusions especially… when they don’t match observed facts and cycles. IPCC means Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change : it makes no mention of science or expertise, only of governments. With all due respect, this article does the same cherry-picking with the literature it quotes. Experts – especially in natural sciences – can very well be pro-GMO and anti-AGW. (Having no particular knowledge on vaccines, I will not comment on that part)
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“hardly backed by any science”? And all the papers I cited? Or the literally thousands of other papers I could have cited?
“IPCC means Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change : it makes no mention of science or expertise, only of governments.” Please actually read the reports that the panel writes and take a good look at the author list. They are packed with scientific papers, and written by a very large body of scientists.
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Political decision makers do not read dozens of papers but the 34 page SPM – tough enough – that was released in October 2013 i.e. well ahead of any update of runaway models (science, fiction, or SciFi ?) prior to COP21. And if we talk numbers, the Oregon Petition is no small thing. Politicians and media love alarmist GIGO modelized scenarios as it is their bread & butter, climate realists tend to privilege observations. In this respect, and of IPSL’s own admission, the current ‘hiatus’ (20-year old now) and other metrics like ice coverage or growing vegetation are rather big stones in their shoes, that they are trying to erase with NOAA’s and GISS/NASA’s help. Hopefully Scott Pruitt will put an end to this jerrymandering so that his EPA can revert back to practical environmental issues and supply the needy with fresh water and cheap energy.
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Could you possibly explain to me, Pierre Bouteille and papyboomer, why we’re supposed to reject the reasoned conclusions of the overwhelming majority of the world’s climate scientists in favor of the poorly expressed opinions of some guy commenting on a blog post?
Your use of the word “majority” shows that the issue is indeed political. Elections go by majorities, science goes by experimental proof of hypotheses. No need to quote once more Albert Einstein on that.
And the Oregon Petition, CO2 Coalition et al. are not “some poor guy commenting on a blog post”, please mind your judgment on the quality of signatories : this would be an insult to the Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Fritz Vahrenholt and all lead authors who have left the IPCC because of its tweaked “peer-reviewing”, without mentioning other scam victims like William Happer.
Then whose “reasoned conclusions” are these ? When thousands of scientists challenge the political mantra with inconvenient facts contradicting hollywoodian models, possibly there is something wrong/rotten in the whole process, don’t you think so ?
this would be an insult to the Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Fritz Vahrenholt
To be quite honest, I’m quite happy about insulting Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Fritz Vahrenholt and the rest. But at least they’re actually involved in climate science. The Oregon Petition is a joke, as you must surely know. Others of its signatories include Geri Halliwell (supposedly) of the Spice Girls and B.J. Hunnicutt of M*A*S*H, not to mention engineers and dentists galore, all of whose expertise in climate science is no greater than yours or mine.
In fact, of course, it’s worse than a joke. It’s a cynical sham mounted by Fred Seitz. Even the circumstances of its launch, using faked Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences formatting, were a sham.
Your use of the word “majority” shows that the issue is indeed political. Elections go by majorities, science goes by experimental proof of hypotheses.
You’re channeling James Delingpole here. It’s a good-sounding mantra, but it’s BS. All those climate scientists are, you know, doing their own scientific investigations: they’re not just following the herd.
If you are “quite happy about insulting Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Fritz Vahrenholt and the rest”, if you dismiss a Spice Girl or a M*A*S*H actor as non-experts in climate science while not indicting altogether movie moguls Al Gore or Leonardo DiCaprio, then maybe you misread the Comment Rules of this blog regarding ad hominem assaults.
I may as well quit this irrelevant dialog of the deaf.
Pierre, they signatories weren’t the Spice Girl or an actor. They were people signing themselves as a joke with the name of a then-prominent pop star and a character in a tv series. Think of people signing themselves “D. Duck.”
Hm. Anyone who had investigated the Oregon Petition with enough energy even just to look it up in Wikipedia wouldn’t have misunderstood my point.
And can the faux-outrage. As you very well know, there ‘s a big difference between people like Gore and DiCaprio accepting the best scientific advice and other laypersons having the arrogance to think they can lecture professional climate scientists on climate science. Dunning-Kruger, anyone?
There is so much wrong here that I don’t even know where to begin, but I guess I’ll start with the Oregon petition. I addressed this in the post itself, but you either missed or ignored it. Either-way, I suggest that you carefully re-read the post. To recap though, most of the signatures aren’t actually scientists (to sign it, you just needed a BSc in science), and among those who had advanced degrees, almost none of them were climatologists. Indeed, the list is populated by veterinarians, geologists, and other totally irrelevant fields. Only roughly 0.3% of the signers were climatologists. In contrast, actual surveys of the the literature reveal that there is an extremely strong consensus among climatologists, and, far more importantly, among studies. More details here https://thelogicofscience.com/2015/09/08/yes-there-is-a-strong-consensus-on-climate-change/
Second, the global warming “hiatus” is a myth. It only exists if you cherry-pick your data set, cherry-pick your dates within that data set, and fail to account for confounding factors. What’s more, even if you do all of that (none of which is statistically valid), the trend no longer exists after updating with 2016/2017 data. Starting in 1998 (as deniers like to do), and we take the monthly data up through the current month, you get a P value of 0.01739, which is, guess what, a statistically significant trend. Further, if you prefer to use the yearly means rather than the monthly data, then going up through 2016 (the last year that we have full data for), you still get a significant result (P = 3.15e-07). So no matter how you want to slice it, and even if you ignore the most basic rules of data analysis, you still get a warming trend. More details here https://thelogicofscience.com/2016/02/01/global-warming-hasnt-paused/
Third, I have no idea what you are going on about with politicians, the media, etc. I don’t give a crap what any of them think or say. I care about the science.
This brings me to my final point. You have not in any way shape or form addressed the papers that I cited. I have presented extremely clear evidence that our CO2 is driving climate change, and you are simply ignoring that evidence. You are doing exactly what I described in the post.
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Climate too polarized and political and money from governments drive consensus. Climate science not comparable to vaccine and OGM. You don’t know enough on that matter to comment and claim anything about climate
“You don’t know enough on that matter to comment and claim anything about climate”
And you are?
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When billions of dollars fall in the hands of scientists, it is easy to have the conclusions the governments want. All studies and researches you mentioned have been paid for. No surprise there except for your brainwash mind and chery picked documents that confirm your biases. You fell for all the traps you were trying to protect us from. We are not duped. Your long article does not hide your poor knowledge of the subject. Climate is not your cup of tea. Better stay with OGM and vaccins.
Please re-read the section about making up conspiracy theories and baseless assuming that scientists are just in it for the money, because you are doing exactly what I described.
Also, please read the scientific articles I cited that clearly show that we are causing climate change.
Finally, and most importantly, if you are going to claim that a scientific result is wrong, then you have to provide actual evidence. You cannot blindly dismiss thousands of studies just because you don’t like their conclusion. Whether you like it or not, you are doing exactly what anti-vaccers do. Your assumption that all climatologists have been corrupted by money is no different than anti-vaccers claim that all scientists/doctors have been bought off by Big Pharma.
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I liked the article better than the title but there are a couple of things I’d take issue with. First, with regard to GMOs, the conclusion of that National Academy of Science, Engineering, Medicine report states the following:
“Overall, the committee found no conclusive evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems. However, the complex nature of assessing long-term environmental changes often made it difficult to reach definitive conclusions”.
So environmental risks are not ruled out. The opinions we form, related as they are to issues such as our personal feelings about risk and as to how the risks and benefits are distributed, are not subject to scientific proof either way.
Second, while the appeal to authority is a wrong move if you’re trying to prove something, those of us who don’t have time to scour the peer reviewed literature on every subject of public concern have to somehow choose for ourselves what authorities to take seriously and how seriously to take them. Related to this, assuming that there is a hard core of genuine uncorrupted scientific study in all these areas, there’s also a huge amount of lay interpretation in published media and there are all sorts of economic, political cultural issues relating to what gets studied and which bits of scientific study are promoted and/or acted upon by which politicians, business people etc.
Thus people who campaign against both global warming and the spread of GMOs can be logically consistent if we confess imperfect knowledge of the science but note that the most powerful vested interests are behind GMOs and against meaningful action against climate change.
First, regarding the National Academy of Science, Engineering, Medicine statement, it’s important to realize that science is never 100% certain on any topic, and scientists are acutely aware of this, especially when making public statements. Thus, we usually try to hedge our statements, and it is always possible that there is something that we missed. However, the fact that it is always possible that a scientific result is wrong does not make it rational to assume that a scientific result is wrong. In fact, when that result has been supported by hundreds of studies, it’s not even rational to have reasonable doubts. So it is, in fact, science denial to say, “I’m not convinced by hundreds of studies because it is technically possible that they could be wrong.”
Second, even if we want to go down the appeal to authority route, on all of these topics, there is an extremely strong consensus among the people who are actually doing research in those fields. So it would be inconsistent to accept that consensus on one topic but ignore it on the other(s).
Finally, I’m not sure what you are getting at with your last paragraph. Beyond the fact that there is an extremely large amount of independent research (over half of GMO studies as noted in the post), you seem to be suggesting that the financial interest would be towards GMO safety and away from anthropogenic climate change. So wouldn’t it then be illogical to assume that money has corrupted one field but not the other? In other words, if GE researchers have been bought off, then why couldn’t massive oil companies buy off climate scientists?
I’m not assuming that any scientific result is wrong, I’m taking the authors at their word when they express uncertainty. Moreover their uncertainty regards environmental problems to date, which leaves plenty of room for uncertainty about environmental problems in the future from GMOs that haven’t been tried yet.
Neither did I say that the science had been corrupted, just that most of us get it through media and other organisations that don’t always have a scrupulous devotion to truth and balance. Thus real uncertainties regarding environmental risks from GMOs are widely shrugged off while those regarding AGW have been tremendously exaggerated.
My point is that a a statement of scientific uncertainty is not the same thing as a statement of uncertainty in the ordinary usage. To put that another way, based on all available evidence (which is hundreds of studies), GMOs are safe. Yes, it is always possible that something has been missed, but that is always true for any scientific result. Uncertainty statements like this pervade the scientific literature.
I can’t help wondering whether you’ve noticed that that was an argument from authority.
What do you mean? I am appealing only to the fact that hundreds of studies have failed to find evidence that GMOs are worse for the environment than traditional crops.
I was referring to your claim that the word ‘uncertainty’ has different ‘scientific’ and ‘everyday’ meanings and the implication that I need a representative of The Science such as yourself to explain to me what a sentence in English actually means.
You had already pointed out that ‘it’s important to realize that science is never 100% certain on any topic’, which I expect has something to do with the problem David Hume raised about inductive reasoning. The NASEM statement, on the other hand, attributes uncertainty to ‘the complex nature of assessing long-term environmental changes’.
Reblogged this on Lonely Power Poles and commented:
Ok this is amazing – a long read but very important
Brilliant essay, Fallacy Man. I intend to repost it. Good enough that it’s worth polishing…there are some typos. Here’s one (I would prefer to do this off-list, but don’t have contact info for you): “…and saved millions of times.” I’m pretty sure that you meant “millions of lives.” Would you like the other edits?
Thanks. You can message me on the TLoS facebook page, or just post them here.
The author is presenting a false equivalency. People have ample reason to doubt studies carried out or funded (no matter how remote the connection) by Monsanto or big Pharma, just as there is ample cause to doubt climate change impact studies by Exon or the IEA. Climate change science is “open source”: the model is sharing all available data and knowledge and peer review. The model pursued by bigPharma and Monsanto is proprietary and closed: Instead of sharing the available data and knowledge, their model is to guard their secrets and to exploit patents and knowledge as long as possible. The temptation to insert false data/interpretation is much greater in view of the stakes. Knowledge here advances via proprietary investments, not through sharing.
Software, science, and universities show us that “open source” is the better model: Advances are quicker, quality is higher, and the benefits go to humanity, not just a few owners.
Certainly with respect to what is a healthy diet the science in not settled, and controversy and parochial proprietary industry interests prevail. There is more than enough reason to have doubts as to the quality of many studies, for instance, about the efficacy and long-term implications of using SSRI’s (big Pharma) or statins or ritalin, or a host of other issues, medical and health related. Orthodoxies are still regularly being overturned.
Having doubts about GMO food is not science denial: One can readily acknowledge that GMO seeds produce crops, and that the crops are not toxic or possess commercial advantages, and still have doubts about the wisdom of interference in very complex ecologies. The science is far from complete. Climate change denialistas, on the other hand, literally doubt the physics of CO² and the temperature measurements.
There is every reason to think that GMO crops reduce resiliency, increase the demand for pesticides and fertilizer, and impoverish the soil. There are enough parties with expertise who argue that long-term sustainability implies moving away from industrial agriculture towards more ecologically balanced approaches.
Mankind has introduced hundreds of thousands of new compounds to the environment. Few of these have been given a clean bill of health, and even fewer have been studied exhaustively for long term impacts. Recent history is rife with stories about compounds which turned out to have negative effects that only came to light in often not very subtle ways after the public had been assured that all is well.
There is every reason to doubt our complete understanding of the interaction between certain compounds or food stuffs with human subects that each have their individual biome and flora and unique immune system. Of course, denying that starvation/malnutrition is related to the food stuffs ingested would be unreasonable.
You clearly did not read the post carefully, so please re-read it. As I explained, roughly half of the GMO studies are independent. Thus, you are assuming the existence of a hidden Monsanto agenda that you have no evidence for (i.e., you are doing exactly what anti-vaccers and climate change deniers do). Similarly, you are ignoring literally hundreds of studies that not only failed to find any evidence that GMOs are dangerous for us or the environment, but in many cases found that they were better. Ignoring the results of hundreds of studies is, by definition, science denial. As explained in the post, unless you can provide actual scientific evidence to show that those studies are wrong, you cannot deny them just because they conflict with your ideology (which is exactly what you are doing).
No, Webej is not “assuming the existence of a hidden Monsanto agenda”, s/he’s observing that Monsanto is a business, thereby almost by definition primarily interested in making money.
There is a huge difference between saying that a company is interested in profit and claiming that a company has enacted a massive conspiracy in which they bought off virtually of the worlds agriculture scientists. One of those is rational, and the other is an unmerited assumption.
It would have been fitting to include antinuclear activists in your list of dangerous science deniers. Antinuclearism is at least as great a scourge as the anti-GMO and climate denial activists in terms of the human suffering and environmental degradation they cause, directly and indirectly.
Of all the reasons why global co2 emissions have kept rising, the irrational fear of nuclear power created and nurtured on the basis of lies and half-truths by multi-million dollar antinuclear “environmental” organisations (Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, WWF, UCS, etc.) for decades is perhaps the biggest. The thousands of coal and gas power plants that have been built during this time should (and could) all have been nuclear power plants. That would have made the timely reduction of co2 emissions much easier. Additionally, millions of people who have been killed by air pollution due to burning fossil fuels and biomass could have been saved. The psychological health of millions has been negatively affected by irrational, extraordinary fear of radiation whipped-up after Chernobyl and – most recently AGAIN – Fukushima.
As it stands, antinuclearism is likely to go down in history as THE single biggest preventable cause of rampant co2 emissions, probably rating above climate science denialism itself (after all, France decarbonised it’s electricity system by using nuclear power for purely economic reasons, not co2 reduction, and all countries who chose fossil fuels instead of nuclear power could have done the same). Indeed, the IPCC concludes that nuclear power is a mature, low-carbon technology with low extranal costs and is an important part of solving the climate crisis. The IPCC sees a quadrupling of global nuclear power consumption as consistent with achieving minimum required co2 reduction goals going forward (AR5).
It is essential that the broader public begins to recognize, understand and denounce the dangerous anti-science activism of the antinuclear propaganda movement. Perhaps you care to do a write-up about this in a follow-up article?
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I agree with you, I just haven’t had time to personally study the topic well enough to really feel comfortable writing a post on it. I don’t like to write about topics that I haven’t thoroughly read the literature on.
The “climate change denier” is quite a strawman – not sure how many people are out there who fully believe that there is zero impact of human activity on the climate. The more usual types are the sceptics (myself among them) who have doubts about the degree (is it 50%? more? less?) of the impact and also about how many trillions USD or Euro should be spent to slow down (to what extent is it possible? is it going to work if e.g. Europe does all it can but India and China will keep burning coal?) the change, and whether the money should not be rather used for something that does more good (eradicate world poverty? help people adjust to changed climate if necessary?). Also, is it certain that the status quo is the “best possible” climate we may have? Cold periods were historically those full of famine and wars, warm periods were correlated with prosperity. Also, CO2 boosts agricultural yields and there are no deniers of this fact. CO2 is helping to fight world hunger… Also, the big difference between antivaxers and the climate discussion is the amount of real world data available. It is easy to to count how many vaccined people e.g. died, as opposed to judge some predictions that still did couldn’t have been verified, because they go decades and centuries into the future.
Also, CO2 boosts agricultural yields and there are no deniers of this fact.
There are plenty of deniers of this fact. You ought to read the science on the subject rather than just regurgitating the talking point. A low-level CO2 rise will indeed increase crop yields; higher levels reduce them. And, of course, a CO2-induced drought or massive flooding destroys them.
You are, by the way, displaying the classic symptoms of the professional (and I d mean “professional”) science denier: pretend to like science but sow the seeds of “uncertainty” while disseminating false and misleading info, such as the above and “India and China will keep burning coal” . . . oh, yes, despite the massive strides both countries are making in shifting to renewables.
whether the money should not be rather used for something that does more good (eradicate world poverty?
And that made me laugh aloud in disbelief. Just what do you think one of the major consequences of the climate disaster will be? I’ll give you a clue: the initials are W.P.
First, it is not a strawman fallacy because there are many people (including politicians and even a handful of academics) who fully deny climate change.
Second, although there is some uncertainty about the exact extent to which we are influencing the environment, there is, nevertheless, a strong consensus among studies that we are the primary factor driving climate change (several of the studies I cited include estimates, and I can’t think of any papers that I have read with calculations lower than 70%. There is also ample evidence that even slightly limiting the amount of warming that we cause would have enormous benefits (by which I mean, cause significantly less damage). http://www.earth-syst-dynam.net/7/327/2016/esd-7-327-2016.pdf
Regarding CO2 and plants, first, that relationship is complicated, because it also affects various aspects of the plants’ chemistry. Further, CO2 increasing plant growth is only part of the story, you also have to consider shifts in weather patterns (e.g., increased droughts in some areas, and increased floods in others). When you do that, the net effect on crop production is expected to be a negative one. Several forestry studies have already documented negative impacts of climate change on plants. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1469-8137.2012.04074.x/epdf
Click to access 1474.full.pdf
Click to access 15594.full.pdf
Further, crops are only part of the picture. You also have to consider the increased deaths from heat waves, declining fisheries due to the loss of coral reefs, etc.
Click to access 00b49516254ecbc78b000000.pdf
Again, this is why I am comfortable with using terms like “science denier.” You can sit there and try to exaggerate our uncertainty and spin fanciful tails about the benefits of CO2 all that you want, but hundreds of scientific papers show otherwise. They clearly document that we are the primary factor driving climate change, and that our actions are having serious effects that will only become worse if we don’t take action.
At the hypocrites’ ball you have Germany and China, that officially pledge to plough on with the Paris Treaty while building ever more coal-burning plants, carefully hidden behind useless wind farms and solar cells 🙂 And now we hear that Russia is coming to their rescue, when its economy is chiefly dependent on exports of fossil fuels :-)) What science is there behind all this “consensual” politicking ?
Mind you, there is fortunately nothing wrong with coal when burned under USC conditions. Conversely wind mills and solar panels cost the skin of the eye and work unpredictably 23% and 14% of the time i.e. are a mere costly nuisance promoted by water-melons who want to destroy our progressive economies. Fresh water and cheap electricity are indeed necessary to “do good” to the needy you mention, and fossil fuels are a widely available way – pending GEN4 nuclear – to help them develop according to their standards and wishes without interference from the UN’s or Brussels’ regulating class’ lectures.
“water-melons”? I think I can see where you are coming from. Before making a “scientific” argument, check that you are not really making a political statement that aligns with you own personal political ideology.
You read me right, Harry. That’s what worries me, and that’s why I concluded my introduction with : “What science is there behind all this politicking ?”, emphasizing the practical help to the needy of this world as opposed to a possibly hidden malthusian agenda.
“The more usual types are the sceptics (myself among them) who have doubts about the degree (is it 50%? more? less?)”
Your post appears to be a concern troll. If you have “doubts” about the scientific consensus, post credible citations, not just make unsupported statements of your own personal beliefs.
I agree of course, but why must you use so many personal pronouns? You keep referring to “I” and yet you are anonymous.
I would not lump anti GMO in with climate deniers and anti-vaccers. Each vaccine must go through extensive tests for safety and effectiveness before being deployed; to my knowledge testing GMO products is much less rigorous. If each GMO product were intensively tested, I would be a bit more comfortable with GMOs but the idea that all GMOs are safe is ludicrous. Obviously, inserting a gene to produce a poison would likely produce an unsafe product so the real question is not whether GMOs are safe, but whether any particular GMO product is safe. After spending many years in the computer software field I am very wary of people making changes to code that they don’t understand, or even changes to code that they do understand but without fully analyzing the consequences of the change. Genetic Modification is basically a software change to code that we only dimly understand and in fact the changes are often made in a very brute force manner, characteristics that would be very dangerous in modifying computer software and likely even more dangerous in modifying “biologic software”. Such changes will likely produce unintended consequences that might not be immediately obvious (look how long it took for us to recognize the dangers of CFCs). For this reason, I am very skeptical about GMOs in general but I don’t feel that my concerns about GMOs shares much similarity with the other two groups you mention.
First, GMOs are actually regulated by the FDA and do undergo safety tests before they are marketed. So they have that in common with vaccines. Also, like vaccines, beyond the FDA required safety tests, there are hundreds of tests conducted by independent scientists, and those studies consistently find that they are safe. This brings me back to the single most important point of the post. Namely, there are hundreds of studies showing that they are safe, and you are totally ignoring those studies based on your ideology and assumptions. That is, by definition, science denial, and it is no different from what anti-vaccers do.
Additionally, all of our agricultural methods result in changes to genetic codes, but all of them except for GE produce numerous uncontrolled and unplanned changes. Genetic engineering makes a few very specific changes, whereas every other method produces tons of random changes. So if we are going to make speculations about unintended consequences, you would expect far more of them from other methods. More details here
Finally, you said “Obviously, inserting a gene to produce a poison would likely produce an unsafe product” but that is completely untrue for multiple reasons. First, the dose makes the poison. Second, I assume that you are referring specifically to Bt toxin, in which case it is worth pointing out that it is a chemical that we use as a pesticide for non-GMO crops. So you get exposed to small amounts of it regardless. Finally, simply referring to it as a “poison” is incredibly misleading because of how it functions. It targets biochemical pathways that are specific to insects. So while it is a poison for them, it is safe for us (at least safe at anything other than an absurdly high dose; remember, even water is toxic at a high enough dose). So calling it a poison is extremely misleading unless you put that statement in context.
The french scientist is named Seralini, not Serlini. That said, very good article.