Debunking Denialism

Defending science against the forces of irrationality.

Mailbag: Eviscerating More Pseudoscientific Nonsense

mailbag letter

It is time for another entry into the mailbag series where I answer feedback email from readers and others. If you want to send me a question, comment or any other kind of feedback, please do so using the contact form on the about page.

It always amazes me that so many denialists continue to spew out the same old garbage over and over, despite the fact that it has been refuted thousands of times over. At the same time, they so arrogantly dismiss any criticism of their flawed understanding of science as unscientific. It has never been easier to selectively focus on information that only confirms your existing opinion. The Internet has created confirmation bias on steroids. This time, we are going to take on (1) a climate change denialist who deploys the global warming hiatus myth, (2) an anti-psychiatry proponent who tries (and fails) to refute the existence of schizophrenia with pure logic and (3) an anti-immigration proponent who promotes the “white genocide” conspiracy theory.

The global warming hiatus myth is based on cherry-picking intervals

Kevin King writes the following:

This article is cretinous in the extreme. The models tell us the global surface temperature will increase, as well as the ocean temperatures. For almost 20 years there has been no global warming, either on land or in the oceans that we can measure. Even a first year arts student could comprehend this. No you are the denialists and you all belong together in a mocked up moon landing studio somewhere out in the nevada desert with a bunch of creationists. Start using your brains and read some Richard Feynman. Because clearly you haven’t got a scientific bone in your body.

To illustrate how climate change denialists cherry-pick intervals to argue for the flawed notion of a global warming hiatus, consider the following graph:

escalator of doubt

Most denialists fixate at the starting point 1998. This is done because there was an especially powerful El Niño during that year, making the global temperatures quite high during that year in comparison with others. If you draw a trend line from 1998 to today, you can deceptively make it appear as if there has been no warming.

However, if you remove variation caused by ENSO, solar variation and volcanic activity, we are left with a clear warming trend:

warming trend

It is also clear that many climate change denialists cannot participate in an intellectually serious conversation.

Anti-psychiatry proponent fails to refute existence of schizophrenia with pure logic

Recently, a paper was published in an obscure journal claiming that schizophrenia is the result of demonic possession. I wrote a detailed refutation of it in Schizophrenia is not Demonic Possession.

In response, K Sean Proudler attempted to refute the existence of schizophrenia using nothing but pure logic. However, he fails spectacularly:

The medical society is convinced with absolute certainty that schizophrenia is a mental illness, yet they do not fully understand it.

Therefore, the medical society is absolutely convinced that an absolute understanding of it being a mental illness can exist at the same time of it absolutely not being fully understood.

Therefore it must be understood that the medical society is behaving in an absolutely insane manner.

This argument is based on the classic denialist tactic of confusing “whether” with “how”. Knowing that schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition is different from knowing precisely how schizophrenia works in intimate detail. There is no contradiction in saying that it is clear that schizophrenia is a psychiatric condition, but that we do not know all of the details of the origin and nature of the condition.

An absolute is an absolute, and no less, and therefore if one understands something to the absolute then there can be no stone left unturned, therefore there can be no lack of full understanding.

Yet the medical society is absolutely convinced that an absolute can exist within an incomplete. Thus, the medical society is absolutely convinced that a “greater than” can exist within a “less than”. In short, the medical society is absolutely convinced that 1 is greater than 2.

Again, this commenter is confusing two separate questions:

(1) is schizophrenia a psychiatric condition?
(2) Do we know all of the precise details of the origin and nature of schizophrenia?

There is no contradiction in answering “yes” to the first, and “not yet” to the second.

“White genocide” is still an unreasonable conspiracy theory

A while back, I wrote a take-down of various white supremacist claims, such as “white genocide” and Eurabia. This is the notion that immigration and admixture between populations and the resulting change in population demographics over time constitutes an actual genocide.

The commenter Prussian Engineer makes the following claim about “white genocide”:

Article 6
Genocide

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; “no”

So what you’re saying is that a government opening up an indigenous people’s homeland’s borders to millions of people from all over the world in some attempt to create a blended humanity in their homeland is not genocide? You seem to avoid confronting this by say “people choosing to mix isn’t genocide,” meanwhile, nobody intelligent is claiming that it is, but that the government opening up the borders is guilty of genocide.

This aspect of the genocide definition is not to be taken figuratively. It literally requires the intentional infliction of life conditions on a group that is calculated to destroy it. Not destroy it in some conceptual way such as a shift in demographics over time due to admixture between populations, but the literal, physical destruction. So no, allowing immigration that leads to subtle shifts in population demographics over time does not qualify as genocide.

One response to “Mailbag: Eviscerating More Pseudoscientific Nonsense

  1. Skeptek June 20, 2014 at 16:40

    Re: “It always amazes me that so many denialists continue to spew out the same old garbage over and over, despite the fact that it has been refuted thousands of times over. At the same time, they so arrogantly dismiss any criticism of their flawed understanding of science as unscientific.”

    I can’t agree more. I think our shared amazement stems from our false assumption that they respect the genuine truth like scientific thinkers do.

    If you assume their goal is scientific – to flush out the truth – then their position and behavior makes no sense whatsoever. But in the context of naked social posturing, everything they do is easily chalked up to basic human nature – they just want to “win”, and don’t really care about the scientific method. Why they do it – their fundamental motivator – could be any combination of typical human failings, like greed, pride, hate, fear, etc..

    Trying to engage them scientifically is futile, because it can’t address the true root of their position. Trying to engage them socially is difficult, because they refuse to see their position as an irrational one, and instead choose to think of themselves as scientific – the more respectful trait in society – so they clumsily try to force their arguments into that model.

    For the peddler of pseudoscience, it’s about winning socially. For science, it’s about learning. By entering the debate with conflicting goals, we ensure that there can never be any common ground. That’s why I attempt to start them off by framing their position as being counter to the scientific consensus, and debate THAT first. If they can’t admit that they are contradicting science, then there can be no real debate.

    That doesn’t mean there is no value in meeting them head-on like you do. Your patience and thoroughness is impressive, and you’re doing good work – for everyone. Thanks again.

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