Thursday, June 12, 2014

Defending Science from Morons

So tired of defending science from morons. You accept science, even if you don't like it, or you SHUT UP.
I posted these words last week and almost immediately regretted it.  I posted the following semi-retraction shortly afterwards:
On second thought, replace 'SHUT UP' with 'find a better way of doing things and prove it to the world, jackass.'
Not much of a retraction, eh?  I figured I should explain myself more thoroughly than 120 characters would allow, hence today's blog post.  The day I wrote the posts, I was feeling good about science.  John Oliver had released a video about climate change denial.  If you haven't seen it yet, you should:

Oliver's video is funny, informative, and completely irrelevant.  Saying a majority of anyone believes anything is meaningless, because beliefs can be wrong.  A majority ofAmericans believe God played a role in evolutionA majority of dentists believe you should chew Trident gum.  Who cares?  It's a belief.
Some beliefs are wackier than others.
I have some friends who are both smarter than me and don't accept anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (AGW).  They gleefully pointed posted about the logical flaws in Oliver's argument.  I jumped in to argue with them.

What's important, I said, is the evidence.  There are thousands and thousands of scientific papers that support AGW.  Each paper counts as a piece of evidence, and that's a heck of a lot of evidence.

Those papers were funded by the green energy industry, they said.
Evil, anti-science forces.
That's a logical fallacy, I said, called Ad Hominem.  It doesn't matter who funded the studies; what matters is the studies themselves.  If you disagree with a paper, you produce a counter-study or you point out failures in methodology.

I was told, by someone who claimed he was a scientist, I was spouting rhetoric.  I got disgruntled and left the thread.  Then I got on another thread where people were talking about the surge of childhood diseases due to people refusing to vaccinate their kids. 
Children not sacrificed to herd immunity.
I was, as you may have guessed, a little annoyed at this point.  I called anti-vaxers stupid.  I was told I was trying to "poison" their kids and "sacrifice them for herd immunity."  And so, I posted the comments at the top of the page.  So, let me just make three points, and then I'll quit:

Point One
Every scientific study is a piece of evidence.  If you don't think the evidence is true, you attack it for that way it was produced or find counter-evidence.  You don't attack the person who collected or presented the evidence. 

Sir Isaac Newton traded in slaves; that doesn't mean gravity is false.

Point Two
If the evidence points overwhelmingly to a conclusion, you accept it.  You don't keep pointing at the same tiny shreds of discredited data over and over.

Yes, CO2 is a terrible insulator and the spike in temperatures hasn't gone up as much as predicted.  On the other hand thousands and thousands of studies support AGW.  Yes, there were studies that linked vaccines and autism.  Every single one was discredited on methodological grounds.

Point Three
If you can't accept the truth, you SHUT UP.

I think marijuana is harmful, but I don't have evidence so I SHUT UP.

I can't imagine fracking causes burning water and earthquakes.  However, I haven't looked into the evidence so I SHUT UP.

Thousands and thousands of tons of GMOs have been consumed worldwide without a single, verified instance of harm.  So, I...  Oh, wait, I can talk about that.  Never mind.

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