Hoofnagle on How to Spot Pseudo-Science

Writing for The Guardian, Mark Hoofnagle of the denialism blog covers Climate change deniers: failsafe tips on how to spot them.

At denialism blog we have identified five routine tactics that should set your pseudo-science alarm bells ringing. Spotting them doesn’t guarantee an argument is incorrect – you can argue for true things badly – but when these are the arguments you hear, be on your guard.

5 Responses to “Hoofnagle on How to Spot Pseudo-Science”

  1. NorthernLite Says:

    Great article! My fav part was:

    Is it really possible to make thousands of scientists, from over 100 countries, and every national academy of every country toe the same line, falsify data…?

    It’s the same question I asked myself a few years ago when I was still on the fence about climate change.

  2. knarlyknight Says:

    Rather a simplistic and self-serving article. As is often the case, many of the commenters below the article were more discerning (both pro- and con- article) than the author Hoofnagle. I thought this con-article has merit:

    11 Mar 09, 2:13pm (about 6 hours ago)
    I suggest the author of this childish piece of writing (the Guardian seems to mining this one to the depths) reads up on logical fallacies, since he seems so quick to use them himself. The first “proof” of a denialist:

    • First is the assertion of a conspiracy to suppress the truth. This conspiracy invariably fails to address or explain the data or observation but only generates more unexplained questions.

    But let us think about such conspiracies for a moment. Do they stand up to even a cursory evaluation? Is it really possible to make thousands of scientists, from over 100 countries, and every national academy of every country toe the same line, falsify data, and suppress this alleged dissent? I certainly didn’t get the memo. At the heart of all denialism are these absurd conspiracy theories that require a superhuman level of control of individuals that simply defies reality. ”

    The author is guilty here of the logical fallacy, Argumentum ad populum (“appeal to belief”, “appeal to the majority”, “appeal to the people”): where a proposition is claimed to be true solely because many people believe it to be true..

    In any case, for a giant conspiracy, such as may have happened on 911 (I like the way 911 is lumped in, so that anyone who questions the official narrative of the events in New York is automatically the same as those who believe in lizards – try telling that to the families of the dead and of the New York firemen who are all pressing for an inquiry)…as I was saying for a giant conspiracy to be carried out does not take much control, as the majority of people are quite happy to lie and ridicule to protect their superiors, who they imagine to be performing their duties in a way that is morally above question.

    More to the point how do you spot someone with no argument to present, who is worried that there is a debate to be had, but refuses to allow that debate to be carried out. Well, what they do is post up blogs and start campaigns that attempt to ridicule those challenging the status quo (ad hominem attacks, the logical fallacy par excellance, the one that Monbiot and his fans at the Guardian are now engaged in.

    So, when someone accuses other of using logical fallacies, but engages in them even more so, you can quite safely disregard what they have to say. Either they do not really know what a logical fallacy is, or they do and they are not aware that they are logically suspect themselves (an embarrassing poition) or they are aware of their own logical flaws, but hope noone will notice, or else feel protected enough by a compliant media, who may have young journalists who have never heard of a logical fallacy.

    The blogs and books etc are the same as they did to Michael Moore when he questioned the events of 911 and they are the same whenever a truth is being surpressed.

    I am not saying the world is not getting hotter, so I am not a climate change denier. I am saying that government bodies cannot be trusted to use data in an honest way for the good of the people, since they are backed bythe same multi-national companies who stand to lose if there is any real change to the status quo.

    Pollution, toxicity, GM, nuclear, war, famine….these are the things to tackle. But no, let’s make up some rubbish which pretends to be objective, but is chock full of prejudice and let’s see if we can keep the CO2 gravy train from running on just a little bit longer.

    With every article like this, the Guardian’s image and ethical foundations are being sullied. It makes me ashamed to say so, since I not only have read the Guardian for many years, but have also worked there. But you see, any view such as mine is quickly brushed away. You don’t need control to maintain a false position, just a lot of useful idiots carrying out tasks whose origins and intention are a complete mystery to them.

  3. shcb Says:

    Rosen had Richard Muller on today and he made the point that the alarmists are as counterproductive as the deniers

  4. knarlyknight Says:

    Yea, but if it was on Rosen then it doesn’t count. Besides, your last post made mine look foolish as you basically said in two lines what took me 150 to say. Quit being such a jerk, eh.

  5. shcb Says:

    Don’t worry, only rarely have I been accused of brevity

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