This post is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Hitchens, a remarkable man; not for any idea he ever held, but that he was honest enough to change his mind and tell eveyone why.
This is a prelude, a foundation to a later post, where Tim Steele and I will call into serious question the value of 16s rRNA sampling of the gut microbiome, after some time of both of us being “fanboys.” See, we did science and changed our views accordingly.
What the fuck is science, anyway? In today’s politicized world, it’s a bludgeon. It’s too often what one invokes in order to smear, dismiss, assert, or otherwise look the other way. It has—in modern use for too many—become a sort of “authority” one references in order to lay claim to legitimacy. And too often, it’s motivated by laziness, or a reluctance to dump a bad investment in shit that’s just wrong or in need of serious critical evaluation.
Good science is hard to do. Few are up to the task, and that may simply be for the reason that, having solved a huge number of plaguing problems in human quotidian history, we’re quibbling at nipping at heels. I don’t know, but I do know what science is:
Observation and experiment.
That’s all, fundamentally. But unfortunately, today, the lion’s share of what’s touted as such turns on ad hominem, ad verecundiam, and ad populum. That is, a focus on the man, the institution(s) with whom he or she is aligned, and public opinion. This is not science. In fact, science done right and with discipline is such a value that its history is a vaulted one of slicing through such fallacies like a cold knife through super-cooled nitrogen under vacuum.
There are important additional elements. Perhaps most fundamental is that observations be re-observable, and experiments be reproducible. That’s no too much to ask, right? ‘Let me know what you observed and what the results of your experiments were. I’ll do the same, so will a lot of other guys & gals, and if we do the same and find the same, then the hypothesis you have derived has more confidence that it may be true.’
But if we can’t, that’s a problem, a BIG FUCKING RED FLAG.
But this process goes off track too, because fallible folks get so invested in their pet ideas (they attain a level of bias) that they seek not observations and experiments that could count against their previous findings (in fact they often avoid them like the plague); but rather, pick things to observe, and experimental designs upon such observation that would tend to either confirm, or be inconclusive. If inconclusive, “more study is required.” Time for another grant.
Karl Popper advanced an idea specific to scientific propositions a long time ago that will always cut to the chase, but save for some realms of pure science, gets avoided like the plague: falsifiability.
Falsifiability or refutability of a statement, hypothesis, or theory is the inherent possibility that it can be proven false. A statement is called falsifiable if it is possible to conceive of an observation or an argument which negates the statement in question. In this sense, falsify is synonymous with nullify, meaning to invalidate or “show to be false”.
For example, by the problem of induction, no number of confirming observations can verify a universal generalization, such as All swans are white, yet it is logically possible to falsify it by observing a single black swan. Thus, the term falsifiability is sometimes synonymous to testability. Some statements, such as It will be raining here in one million years, are falsifiable in principle, but not in practice.
The concern with falsifiability gained attention by way of philosopher of science Karl Popper’s scientific epistemology “falsificationism”. Popper stresses the problem of demarcation—distinguishing the scientific from the unscientific—and makes falsifiability the demarcation criterion, such that what is unfalsifiable is classified as unscientific, and the practice of declaring an unfalsifiable theory to be scientifically true is pseudoscience. [emphasis added for global warming alarmists, who toss around the term pseudoscience as anything that seeks to question or falsify many highly biased, data compromised, authority-based “findings.”]
My favorite layman’s take on falsifiability is from Carl Sagan in The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. Here’s the whole short bit, but I’ll just put up the conclusion.
Now, what’s the difference between an invisible, incorporeal, floating dragon who spits heatless fire and no dragon at all? If there’s no way to disprove my contention, no conceivable experiment that would count against it, what does it mean to say that my dragon exists? Your inability to invalidate my hypothesis is not at all the same thing as proving it true. Claims that cannot be tested, assertions immune to disproof are veridically worthless, whatever value they may have in inspiring us or in exciting our sense of wonder. What I’m asking you to do comes down to believing, in the absence of evidence, on my say-so. The only thing you’ve really learned from my insistence that there’s a dragon in my garage is that something funny is going on inside my head. You’d wonder, if no physical tests apply, what convinced me. The possibility that it was a dream or a hallucination would certainly enter your mind. But then, why am I taking it so seriously? Maybe I need help. At the least, maybe I’ve seriously underestimated human fallibility. Imagine that, despite none of the tests being successful, you wish to be scrupulously open-minded. So you don’t outright reject the notion that there’s a fire-breathing dragon in my garage. You merely put it on hold. Present evidence is strongly against it, but if a new body of data emerge you’re prepared to examine it and see if it convinces you. Surely it’s unfair of me to be offended at not being believed; or to criticize you for being stodgy and unimaginative — merely because you rendered the Scottish verdict of “not proved.” [emphasis added]
Let me move on, to two places where I’ve experienced this all first hand, by way of example.
The Diet and Nutrition Wars
In 2007, I found I was a fat bastard at about 46 yoa. I used a variety of approaches: heavy lifting, intermittent fasting, low-carb, and Paleo to round things out. It worked marvelously and I lost about 60 pounds. Because I blogged it all and even changed the whole focus of that to nearly exclusive, I also became somewhat of a Who’s Who guy in the movement, got to speak at a few conferences, many podcast interviews, etc. I put out a little Paleo Diet Book and Nicholas Nassim “Black Swan” Taleb gave it 5 stars. Perhaps my best accolade.
But weird happened. When I got to my lowest weight point, 175—about 10 lbs more than my HS graduation weight—I kinda felt awful. Put on 10-15 pounds, and I felt good again. But, since I have a blog, I began to notice the very same thing from many commenters. Perhaps they read of my experience and felt comfortable to post at my place rather than others, where they would risk the typical dismissal: “you’re doing it wrong.”
But because I’m an abrasive, take no prisoners asshole who doesn’t give a runny shit what any other people think, I like to help people who look beyond my misanthropy and seek an opportunity to ask.
The solution was pretty easy for me and most: more carbohydrates. But I’m not talking Coca-Cola. I’m talking about potatoes, tubers, starches, legumes, etc. …And we later found out that these are all important gut bacteria food, so a dot get’s connected. The Second Meal Effect is science you can test on yourself at home if you have a blood glucose monitor.
The history is long, but it involved going to war over conventional wisdom and dietary dogma that was “settled.” There was “no question” that saturated fat and cholesterol in the diet was bad. It’s beyond the scope of this article to go into the details, but you can search various terms on the blog to see what was going on.
What I was dealing with was the compromised pimping and whoreing of science, just as I describe in the opening of this post. I was not trying to be right. I was showing, in various ways, how others were wrong, or were advancing conclusions that had critical flaws. But the shit was so institutionally established, settled, and simply taken for granted, that one was simply dismissed, labeled a “denier,” or whatever.
And if you’ve paid attention, the whole gig is pretty much up. Funny thing is, after thousands of studies and billions spent over decades, I think it really came down to anecdotes, virtue of the internet. You got to see thousands of people lose tons of pounds by basically ignoring all institutional dietary and exercise advice.
In other words, they did falsification at home.
Just a final aside thought. Even though more (real food) carbohydrate worked for me (and many others) in terms of providing a body composition I’m satisfied with, and a sense of well being and enjoyment of food that’s better for me, I would never in a million years steer anyone away from going low carb. It can be very effective, and you can futz with details later, after you’ve put most of the work behind you. I’d offer this specific bit of advice: ignore awful feelings starting out. Pay attention to them after you’ve lost a lot of weight.
…Moving on now, I recently posted about how I’m shifting some focusses going forward. So, while I’ve been reading historical accounts of how Muslims used to be regarded, I’ve also been scraping up various links from all over on climate change. The former is a social issue. Science doesn’t really apply, unless it is to acknowledge that Muslims are the most biting-the-hand-that-feeds society in the history of the planet.
Global Warming Climate Change
The latter is so strikingly similar to the now increasingly discredited, defunded, and disregarded saturated fat and cholesterol science that I just smell blood in the water, and intend to be a vicious shark, so as to shock people into curiosity. It’s working. In just a couple of weeks trolling around various commenting places, I’ve been called everything. Of course, I’m a misogynist. Yep, called three cunts cunts, yesterday. It took like 5 minutes for the M-word to come out. Just testing.
There is a distinction I have to be careful with, though. In the dietary wars, there were always falsifying populations. No matter what your regime, there was an observed population on earth that was 180-out, but was doing fine. So, there was constant falsification, though usually ignored because inconvenient, and there’s huge incentive on all marketing channels to have the whole secret in one book.
But this is GLOBAL!!! See? And, since it’s not global warming anymore, but [global] climate change, then they’ve basically taken it completely out of the realm of science, by definition. This in itself should count as just as much of a Red Flag in being unable to reproduce observation, experimentation, or both, as anything. They’ve essentially switched it from a testable hypothesis that they saw was going to be falsified, into a heads I win, tails you lose proposition. And, they have done it to the applause and relief of millions. See, disciplined science really sucks. You have to be careful, because nothing can tell you game over quite like disciplined science, yet so many have so much invested. It’s an investment that’s too big to fail.
Do you understand what I just wrote? Global Warming is falsifiable. Clearly. If the earth cools instead, for long enough, you’re done. If it doesn’t warm to any extent that you have predicted, then there may still be some merit, but your science as offered is crap with holes in it. That’s science, and game over if you don’t fucking show it. Science is not waffling, changing your premise to an unchallengeable form, seeking support from people and institutions with letters, propagandizing for political support, nor scaring the shit out of people…all so you can keep the billions of dollars flowing, jet around to conferences, scam the EPA and other governmental bodies funded by taxpayers out of a millions and hundreds of millions…all while children in Africa starve (and that’s mild tugging at heart strings, not propaganda).
By explicitly shifting it from global warming to climate change, they have explicitly removed it from the realm of testable science, since a proposition that ‘THE CLIMATE CHANGES….AND GET THIS: GLOBALLY!!!’ is like saying that you behave and feel differently on different given days, according to different circumstances and stimuli. Beer and too much pizza are particularly bad for me.
This is why all this stinky shit is fresh meat to me. I hate being comfortable. I’m not happy unless you’re not happy, and so I really seek to make a lot of climate change shiites plenty unhappy. I want to make them lose sleep.
When people begin to shift the burden of proof like that, begin to use rhetorical devices such a “denier,” and “settled,” you really ought to understand that their gig is up, that they sense it, but will not come clean until such time as you just don’t hear from them, anymore.
In what way is declaring science “settled” at all helpful or meaningful? At root, it’s a plea: NO MORE DATA, PLEASE.
‘Stop fucking giving me more data!’ I don’t want any more data. This is “science,” and more data is just pseudoscience. By and large, the people you deal with are confounders and conflationists.
Suppose someone offered actual data that they jumped off a building and floated, rather than crashed, a-la Newton:
Now, wouldn’t a real scientist be curious enough to take on the data, rather than simply dismiss the ordeal as settled? We understand it’s settled. It’s been tested a million times, thanks to people who want to end their lives without question, as something truly settled. A real scientist couldn’t help himself.
But he has nothing to prove, advance, get a grant for, gain influence over, or any number of other science-corrupting externalities.
…I used to respect Richard Dawkins. This is reason to dismiss him as an influence peddler, now. He really did publish this.
Is that a load of meme conflation, or what?
- Beyond the cosmological explanation going back centuries of what you observe if you sleep under the stars, we have decades of satelite data and humans in space to document that indeed, the Earth is a spheroid. The Catholic Church capitulated centuries ago.
- Jump off a building. I’ll put this is my “Dawkins is Dishonest” file.
- Go to a microbiology lab. Since certain species, especially bacteria, go through generations in hours to days, you can see evolution. And even the “problem of species” has been demonstrated in a lab, where after a couple of decades, they appear to have created a new species from a line of bacteria (it shifted to a completely different food source).
- There is tons of valid science that calls into question data, predictions, models (there have been admitted errors and corrections by climate scientists and institutions), and essentially everything else. Hell, NASA, the biggest alarmist institution on the planet just got a tinge of honesty (which I solidly believe to be a beginning of bet hedging from the biggest funded whores on the planet—I’ve seen this before…and blood in the water for me).
I won’t mince words: this is despicable conflation, Richard Dawkins is a fraud. I don’t know who’s sucking his cock, or giving him money and influence, but such is not the realm of science. It is the realm of a propagandist (ad populum), and you get to figure out the motivations for yourself.
Here’s what he puts in writing:
The evidence for global climate change is overwhelming. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists, along with the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and more than 30 professional scientific research societies, agree that climate change is happening because of human actions and that it will be an increasingly serious problem if we don’t stop it. It is reasonable for politicians to debate the best way to solve this problem, but whether it is a problem should not be up for discussion anymore.
This was just in November. What a fucking embarrassing mess for someone who [now as falsehood] claims to be a scientist. Notice how he takes it out of the realm of science, as I’ve already explained. Then, he relies principally on ad verecundiam in order to bolster ad populum; in other words, touting authority to gin up popular support. The “consensus” is now thoroughly debunked by peer reviewed study (it was a convenient lie). I’m not going to link it. Richard “fraud” Dawkins can actually get out of his cloister of sycophants and look it up himself. The rest of his unscientific propaganda blather is just question begging, another fallacy.
Anyway, I’m having a bit of fun. Yesterday, I trolled a guy on the Christopher Hitchens Facebook group (he’s an alarmist, and always posts NASA stuff as his authority) with this: NASA Study Shows Antarctic Gaining More Ice Than It Loses: Is It End Of Global Warming? Thing is, I kinda posted the whole text but edited it to remove all references to source.
Yep, he completely made fun of it. After I spanked him, the posts were taken down. Such is the business of “science.”
Then, another guy in the group did a 7-minute video compilation of what an awful guy I am. Source is my own blog, so he somehow thinks I have a problem with more people reading what I post, even the less than flattering suff about myself.
This is all stock in trade, when you deal with dishonest people. I’m sad to learn that Richard Dawkins is a dishonest person. That’s a shame. While his ‘atheist’ book was far inferior to Hitchens’, Harris’, and Dennett’s, it was an OK read. Unfortunately, even creationists now have grounds to ridicule and dismiss him.
OK, just a science lesson. Richard Dawkins can thank me later, and if the attention whore, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, is looking in, he can thank me too.
The both of you are pathetic traitors to science, I have explained why, and both of you are frauds.