Skeptical Raptor's Blog hunting pseudoscience in the internet jungle

How science deniers use false equivalency to pretend there’s a debate

If you read a news article, Google a scientific topic, or watch TV, you’d think that some scientific principles were actually being debated by scientists. From listening to the screaming and yelling, you would think that scientists aren’t sure about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the age of the earth (or even the age of the universe). There are even those who think there’s a debate that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.

Science vs BS

Part of the problem is that some people think that science is unapproachable and too hard to comprehend. It isn’t. Now, that doesn’t mean it’s easy, because it shouldn’t be. Answering questions about the natural universe requires, demands that scientist approach it with the least amount of bias and the most amount of evidence. And sometimes it is complex and nuanced, but why do people give false balance to someone, without the expertise or education in the field, as if they know more about the issue than does the scientist.

To become a world class architect and to design a skyscraper isn’t easy, but we non-architects can observe what we see, and accept that the building isn’t going to topple over in a hurricane. Do we presume to know how the foundation has to be built to support the building? Or what materials are used to give flexibility in a wind, but strong enough to not collapse? Mostly, we don’t, we trust that there isn’t a massive conspiracy to build unsafe skyscrapers because architects are being paid off by Big Concrete to use cheaper materials. We don’t question the architects’s motives or whether there are solid engineering principles, probably outside of most of our understanding, that were employed to make that skyscraper.

It’s the same with science. We can accept scientific principles without doing the research ourselves. But, and it’s a big but, if you want to dispute accepted science, then you have to bring science to the table not a false debate. Science isn’t hard, but it isn’t easy either. You cannot deny basic scientific facts without getting a solid education, opening a scientific laboratory staffed with world-class scientists, and then publishing peer-reviewed articles that can help move the prevailing scientific consensus. You cannot spend an hour or a day or even a week Googling a few websites and then loudly proclaim that the scientific consensus is wrong; no, you need to do the hard work. Until you do, those of us who are skeptics and scientists get to ignore you, and we get to continue with the current consensus.

Part of the problem is that the public falls for the false equivalency logical fallacy. Presenters, whether it’s the news or giving us a pseudo-debate,  think that to be balanced, both sides of a scientific argument are equivalent in quality of opinion and evidence. Just watch a presentation on any of the major news outlets on anthropogenic (human-caused) climate change (ACC). They’ll have one talking head, usually a scientist who is trying to present nuanced data, usually uncomfortable with public “debate”, going up against a photogenic, possibly a scientist (but in a field totally unrelated to climate studies), who uses logical fallacies, and manipulated data to make a point. And the viewer thinks that half the world’s scientists equally split between both sides of the “debate” regarding ACC. However, the real balance would give us 97 scientists supporting anthropogenic climate change and 2-3 against. Yes, a real high impact factor, extremely well respected journal, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, analyzed climate change science, and determined that 97-98% of researchers in climate science supported the tenets of human influenced climate change.

In December 2013, Katie Couric, a fairly popular USA-based journalist did report, on her own eponymous, recently-cancelled, TV talk show, Katie, about Gardasil (formally known as the HPV quadrivalent vaccine and also called Silgard in Europe). Essentially, Couric interviewed several individuals who claim, without any evidence (and lacking any clue about statistical analysis that is necessary to determine correlation and causation) that Gardasil harmed their children. Couric gave about a minute of time to ONE physician to explain the safety and effectiveness of Gardasil, as opposed to the heartbreaking, but ultimately anecdotal (and therefore, scientifically irrelevant), stories from parents who needed to blame something for what had happened, and chose Gardasil as the guilty party. As opposed to depression, diet soda, bottled water, air pollution, bad TV shows, or that fake butter that the movie theaters use. In other words, I could find literally hundreds of environmental causes for these children’s symptoms that appear to be superficially correlated, but statistically, just random coincidence.

false-balance-couric

As I wrote before, Gardasil is incredibly safe, as shown in massive and well-designed epidemiological studies. It prevents HPV (human papillomavirus) infection, a sexually transmitted disease. And in case you think it’s just some benign virus, HPV is directly responsible for cervical canceranal cancervulvar cancervaginal canceroropharyngeal cancer and penile cancer. These are all deadly, disfiguring, and potentially preventable cancers through the use of HPV vaccines.

In other words, Couric, in the ultimate example of false balance–Couric believed that both sides of a scientific “debate” are equivalent in quality of opinion and evidence. But rarely is this true, especially in scientific principles that have been well-studied and supported by a massive amount of evidence. The safety and efficacy of vaccines is supported by the vast consensus of real science. The antivaccination side has no evidence, so it must rely upon logical fallacies and cherry picked data, and lack any real, world-class contingent of scientists who have stepped up to change the consensus with real evidence.

Let’s be clear about some key science. Evolution is a fact. Yes, it is called a theory, but I’m going to assume the typical reader knows what constitutes a scientific theory. Anthropogenic climate change or global warming is a fact. Vaccines are safe and effective (see my articles, here, here, here, or here, if you need evidence with lots of peer-reviewed articles). The earth is 4.5 billion years old, and the universe is 13.75 billion years old. And HIV causes AIDS.

Science denialists try to create a false equivalence through several methods:

  • Claim science is a democracy. Evolution deniers tried to create controversy with A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism, where creationists got “scientists” to sign a document that said “We are skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life. Careful examination of the evidence for Darwinian theory should be encouraged. There is scientific dissent from Darwinism. It deserves to be heard.” It now has over 1200 signatures, which sounds impressive, except for a few problems, such as fewer than 20% of the “scientists” are biologists. But the bigger issue is that 1200, even if we accept that they all have an intimate understanding of biological evolution, represents less than 0.03% of biological scientists in the United States (let alone the whole world). If this were a democracy, the election for “Evolution is a fact” would win in a scientific landslide.

Science is built upon the scientific method, which is a logical process of observation, experiment, analysis, and publication. It is simple, but it requires work. Over time, after numerous experiments, nearly always published in peer-reviewed journals, followed by frequent repetition (and sometimes failure) of the experiments and results by other scientists, scientists arrive at a consensus about the evidence that supports a particular set of principles about the science being researched.

As the evidence accumulates and the science becomes more predictive, a scientific theory, which is a series of statements about the causal elements for observed phenomena, is formed out of the accumulated knowledge and predictability. These theories explain aspects of the natural world. They are predictive. And they can be tested through the scientific method.

Arriving at a scientific consensus is not something that happens overnight, but it is rather glacial in pace. That’s a good thing. It keeps out poorly supported ideas, but gives strength to ideas that have lots of evidence. From those basic principles, science expands or improves it over time. One does not decide that the consensus is wrong through a debate or argument–changing the consensus requires as much research based in the scientific method, as many peer-reviewed publications and as much critique, repetition, and review as the evidence that built the original consensus.

Unfortunately, at the world convention of denialists, they shared their ideas about this imaginary democracy of science. Not to be left out, the global warming denialists have their Oregon Petition, which has signatures of about 31,000 “scientists” who deny the existence of anthropogenic global warming. Of course, it’s impossible to verify any of the names, because the signatures are on little pieces of paper and no one has been able to determine if the names are genuine. Furthermore, even if we were to assume that all the signatures were valid, only a tiny number (less than 10%) are actual scientists with expertise in the fields of climatology, geology, or something relevant to the climate sciences. Once again, if the vote were held between all Ph.D.’s in those fields, the vote would be overwhelmingly in favor of climate change as a scientific fact.

  • Appeal to authority. Closely tied to the claim that science is some sort of democracy, denialists rely upon the Appeal to Authority, a logical fallacy which provides an argument from an authority, but on a topic outside of the authority’s expertise or on a topic on which the authority is not disinterested. So, when trying to create a false equivalence (and thus a public debate), denialists will bring individuals with credentials (whether valid or not) to the debate. But again, one authority person does not outweigh the vast numbers that are usually on the other side of the argument. Vaccine denialists love to pull out Joe Mercola or Sherri Tenpenny, physicians who, in general, claim that vaccines are either ineffective, dangerous, or both. Of course, neither have any real knowledge of scientific research, and have never studied vaccines at the level of real biomedical researchers. But because they have “Dr.” before their name, the antivaccination pushers use them as their “proof” of vaccine problems. Of course, they ignore the vast majority of “authority” figures who are on the other side of the fence. If we were to have a vote on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines amongst the professional authorities on vaccines, immunologists, epidemiologist, physiologist, public health officials, microbiologists, and virologists, the election would be another landslide of epic proportions.
  • Conspiracies. And tied to both the above, denialists love claiming that there is some conspiracy between all the world’s scientists to suppress or fabricate evidence. This incredible leap of irrationality would depend upon all the millions of scientists working together to invent data to show that evolution is true. That global warming is happening. That vaccines are safe and effective. That the earth is 4.5 billion years old. In today’s world, with all of the social media, and desires to be famous, you’d think that out of those millions, a few would want to become famous by outing the conspiracy. All the antivaccine conspiracists would love to get together and contribute to paying for a whistleblower. But funny thing is–it hasn’t happened.

A few years ago, emails were hacked at the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK. The emails were taken out of context, and used by climate change deniers to “prove” there was a conspiracy. Of course, there wasn’t, there was typical discussion of data by real scientists that were frank and honest. And the data discussed was a small part of the total mountain of data supporting global warming, but in the world of false equivalency, this one set of emails, which proved nothing that was claimed by the climate-change deniers, was considered as an important justification to show that there was a massive conspiracy to fake data about climate change. Except for a few facts like–the emails didn’t say what the deniers think they say, and that even if there was a problem with the data, it was on one tiny little corner of the whole mountain of evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change. The science behind anthropogenic climate change is unchanged, and powerful.

  • Manufactroversy.  Sometimes denialists will manufacture or invent a controversy, what is sometimes called a manufactroversy. Journalists frequently fall for this invention, and attempt to create a false balance between both sides, right out of the thin air of the internet. The vaccine denialists have done a good job trying to create an illusion that there is some sort of scientific debate ongoing with regards to vaccines causing autism. The thoroughly and scientifically debunked link between vaccines and autism continues to appear, because journalists make it appear that there are two equal sides of the debate. There is one side, the science side that has literally dozens of clinical research studies that show there is no link between vaccines and autism. None. The antivaccination cult has nothing.

Evidence matters. Quality of evidence matters. Quantity of quality evidence matters most of all.

BMJ-false-balance

Science matters. There’s an old saying that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Well, if someone wants to create an extraordinary dispute, it will also require extraordinary evidence that there is actually an extraordinary dispute going on.

For evolution, global warming, HIV/AIDS, vaccines, the age of the earth and universe, there is no scientific controversy. There is only a public debate, where one side is using science, and the other side is inventing data, cherry picking research out of low quality journals, or just simply yelling the loudest. But in the real world of logical science, there is no debate. We’ve moved onto uncovering more mysteries of the universe.

Key citations

  • Anderegg WR, Prall JW, Harold J, Schneider SH. Expert credibility in climate change. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jul 6;107(27):12107-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1003187107. Epub 2010 Jun 21. PubMed PMID: 20566872; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2901439. Impact factor: 9.737.
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (2010). The Evidence That HIV Causes AIDS.
Comments (116)
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  • NavinJay

    If it weren’t for so many people looking through telescopes and figuring out the nature of our tiny insignificant planet compared to the rest of the cosmos, these science deniers would still be saying the Earth is the center of the universe as it had been interpreted in the Bible for, what, 1000 years or more? Only recently did they recant their position with Galileo and forgave him for putting him in jail. Not to mention those scientists the church put to death. The Bible is the end all be all. The proof of the Bible is only found in the Bible. That is no proof of anything. Studying the natural world and figuring out the TRUE nature of things is how science works.

  • Pingback: False Equivalence: How Science Deniers Delude Themselves [Video] | My Blog

  • Pingback: False Equivalence: How Science Deniers Delude Themselves [Video]

  • M J

    Skeptical Raptor accurately describes the dire effects of the deplorable tendency in the press to “false equivalency”, but I am not seeing much about why it is that the press is so enamored with false equivalency.

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      Because they are lazy. And whatever skills they might have had 50 years ago in actual journalism has been lost to political expediency, ratings, and hot blondes presenting the weather.

      If we actually had a real press, guns would be banned, carbon emissions would be cut by 99%, Republicans would be branded with the swastika, and vaccines would be mandatory for anyone living in the USA.

      • M J

        I would have thought their motive something much worse than mere laziness, such as craven servitude to the oligarchy. Consolidation among media outlets, after all, has only strengthened the stranglehold of the oligarchs on the press.

        There is still some hope that the Internet will provide an alternative to mainstream media that provided voices independent of the oligarchy, but only as long as we still have “net neutrality”, which we might lose very soon.

        Now as for a “real press”, where have we ever seen this? Even as far back as President Adams, he was complaining bitterly about the press man’s commitment to sensationalism rather than truthfulness in reporting with his famous comment about the reporter standing at every street corner ready to ambush with his blunderbuss (I can’t remember the exact words).

  • 99problems

    So human influence on climate change is important, but human influence on the genetics of organisms is not?

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      Lousy strawman argument. I have mountains of evidence that human influence on climate change is dangerous for the planet.

      I have NO evidence that human influence on genetics of organisms is.

      You presume what humans do is wrong, unnatural, and dangerous. I presume not. I know that human changes to plant genetics provides the world with inexpensive and plentiful insulin to treat diabetes. I know that improve plant genetics can increase agricultural quality.

      I have an open mind. You do not. Impossible to have a conversation with someone who makes broad conclusions that GMO=global warming. Unless you use their methods.

      • 99problems

        Interesting, you assume to know alot about me, you do not, you use science when it supports your arguments or you throw the method out, the fact that there isn’t enough research to determine a fact, doesn’t equate to nonexistence, you claim to have an open mind, yet you’d be one of the people saying the world was flat when we all know it wasn’t lol.

  • Makeprogress

    Great topic and great article addressing the noisy pseudoscience we hear today. However, if you want to see your supposedly science-supporting, progressive friends get all unglued, tell them that the scientific consensus is that GMO’s are safe to eat and don’t destroy the environment. These folks utilize all the false-equivalence methods described in the article and sound very little different from vaccine-deniers and climate-change deniers. GMO safety-denial would make another good pseudoscience topic to address.

  • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

    Odd. According to the date above, and my inbox, this is a recent article. According to the comments, though, this is an old one. Did you edit and update? Just curious.

    I agree with just about every theory you mentioned above, except the one that says the universe is only 13.5 billion years old. My hypothesis is that it is much older. This reason for this is that we can only see a tiny bit of the universe. So, maybe the 13.5 billion years old is only the age of what we can see.

    As I say, just a hypothesis. I have no way of testing it as astronomy isn’t my field. But, it’s something fun to mentally play with, and occasionally spark conversation.

    • Boris Ogon

      You’re going to have to explain the cosmic microwave background.

      • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

        A couple alien races love our Hot Pockets. :D

        But, on a more serious note: (Not saying this is he reality, as I mentioned above, it’s just my hypothesis) That microwave background is left over from the formation of what we can detect. Consider: What if the Big Bang were a localized event? Rather than creating the universe, it created our tiny observable part. We can only detect about 93 billion light years worth of the universe. I think (again, i have no way of testing) that maybe, about 10 decillion light years away, another Big Bang is occurring, maybe, every billion years…

        • M J

          If “the Big Bang were a localized event”, then it would not have been “the Big Bang”.

          A lot of thought went into deciding that space and time unfolded together from a “cosmic egg” exploding, the detail you are asking for is usually covered only in a good textbook on cosmology.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            If “the Big Bang were a localized event”, then it would not have been “the Big Bang”.

            Why not? I mean, let’s say (for funsies) that my hypothesis is correct. If the observable universe is 93 billion light years across, that means it couldn’t have been a small bang, right?

            One of the prevailing hypotheses is that we live in a multiverse. Multiple universes.

            So, going with the Big Bang as is currently accepted, there was a point, and everything came from it, in (for illustration purposes) a straight line. .________

            My hypothesis is that maybe 10 decillion light years away, another Big Bang is occurring. So, (again for illustration purposes), maybe what we have looks more like this:
            .__________________
            .__________________

            Now, since we know that space is omni-directional, there would be overlap. Suppose the supermassive black holes (like hypothesised) at the center of our galaxy aren’t remnants of stars, but where the two (or more) Bangs overlap.

            It’s due to crazy ideas like this that I now wish i hadn’t joined the US Navy after high school, but went to study astronomy and/or medicine.

            Can you imagine what we’d be able to discover if NASA were funded like DARPA?

          • M J

            Why not? Just how much do you understand about the Big Bang theory? Do you understand why it is not a localized area where mass is suddenly explosively spreading into previously empty space? Do you know how intensely spacetime is curved upon itself with such a fantastic concentration of mass? Just think: when all the mass of the universe is concentrated into a space the size of a pinhead, the gravitational curvature is enormous, even greater than in a black hole where light can already not escape.

            Yet when the universe has expanded to the size of a pinhead, that is already a late phase in the expansion!

            So come to think of it, that is already a reason it cannot be ‘local’. If it were, it would be like a black hole, where even light cannot escape. But since spacetime itself is expanding along with matter, the Big Bang avoids that dilemma.

            Oh, as for this idea of ‘funsies’: that has never given us a new, good idea in physics. As a science, physics relies on the scientific method, where a hypothesis is a LOT more than just some idea someone thought up of for ‘funsies’. A hypothesis has to have some good reason behind it. All of Einstein’s ideas were just like that: even though he was not always aware of the specific experiments (for example) showing there is no detectable ether, he knew it was a problem, his idea of how to fix the problem was soundly based on much of 19th century physics before him. He did not just think it up for ‘funsies’. Your idea does not fix any real problems. Worse yet, it tosses out solutions to problems without your realizing that that is what you are doing.

            Just so that you can see that I am not making up any of this, please visit http://www.astrosociety.org/education/astronomy-resource-guides/cosmology-the-origin-evolution-ultimate-fate-of-the-universe/ and learn a lot about cosmology. Some of the links mentioned there are by cosmologists active in the field, yet are accessible to undergraduates.

            In particular, note that http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/seuforum/bb_whatwas.htm says specifically, “According to the Big Bang model, the Big Bang took place everywhere in space (not just at a point).”

            Finally, if you spend time with those links, you will find some similarities between the “inflationary theory” and your idea, but if you spend enough time, you will see the differences that make theirs a theory and yours not even a hypothesis.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            Dude, you’re reading way too much into this. You do remember that a hypothesis is just a fancy name for an idea, right? I could understand your indignation if I said my theory but I didn’t.

            Another way you could look at my hypothesis is as a thought experiment.

            As for it giving us a “a new, good idea in physics,” I never claimed it did. I’m not a physicist, not an astronomer, so I wouldn’t presume to say it did. As I said all the way up there in my original comment, it’s something I bring up as a conversation starter.

            As was pointed out by the host, I, too, can’t understand how it is that the observable universe is 93 billion light years across, yet the Big Bang Theory says the universe is only 13.9 billion years old. If the speed of light is constant,* then the observable universe should only be 13.9 billion light years across, not nearly 6.7 times bigger.

            *Then again, current measurements of the speed of light, might be wrong: http://sciencealert.com.au/news/20142706-25769-2.html

            Which, if so, would really mess with the Big Bang Theory, right?

          • M J

            The problem is not as you say, that I am “reading way too much into this”. The problem is that you are not reading thoughtfully at all.

            First of all, no, ‘hypothesis’ is NOT just a “fancy word for a guess”. Why, when you say this, you show you were not paying attention when they told you what the scientific method is back in middle school and high school.

            You flatter yourself by dignifying your idle thoughts with the exalted titles of ‘hypothesis’ and “thought experiment”. That is why you now read what you misinterpret as ‘indignation’.

            And yes, unfortunately, your thoughts on the topic really are idle. If you had actually paid attention to any of the articles on cosmology, or even to my previous reply, you would know why the universe can be 39 billion light years across while being only 14 billion years old: because it is spacetime itself that is unfolding, the Big Bang is NOT matter expanding into previously unoccupied space. The expansion of spacetime is NOT motion in the sense of Newton or Einstein, so no, it is NOT subject to the lightspeed limit of special relativity.

            In fact, the currently predominant theory of inflation requires that there be a burst of exactly that kind of expansion during the first millisecond. See http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/03/16/what-are-the-odds-part-2-cosmi/ for details.

            As for the speed of light, this claim will probably go the same way the Italian claim last year did: they figured out their hyperlight speed measurement was due to equipment failure — a plugin card was not seated properly!

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            Dear, sweet, tap dancing, baby Jesus. Seriously, dude: Who pissed in your corn flakes? You’re overreacting, hardcore.

            Get over yourself.

          • M J

            I am not overreacting. You are the one overreacting by feeling so hurt. If you are that thin-skinned, what are you doing on the Internet? Go back to the mid 20th century. And don’t post rank pseudo-science on a blog whose purpose is clearly to support real science.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            I never claimed to be hurt, dumbass. Yes, dumbass. As in unintelligent, and an ass. A hypothesis can’t be pseudo-science moron.

            Here’s why:

            hypothesis   hy·poth·e·sis [hahy-poth-uh-sis, hi-]
            noun, plural hy·poth·e·ses [hahy-poth-uh-seez, hi-]

            1. a proposition, or set of propositions, set forth as an explanation for the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation(working hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the light of established facts.

            2. a proposition assumed as a premise in an argument.

            3. the antecedent of a conditional proposition.

            4. a mere assumption or guess.

            See the definition that is bolded? That’s the definition I was referring to earlier, though definition 2, or 3 could have been used as well, considering all three fit in the way I was meaning. If you were as intelligent as you want to pretend to be, you’d have known that.

          • M J

            True, you never explicitly claimed it. But any other explanation for your language is even less charitable (to you) than explaining it as out of childish and unjustifiable anger.

            As for the definitions, you do now know how to use a dictionary. Just because it lists four definitions does not mean you have the right to claim any one of the four meanings regardless of context. This is a science blog, that sets the context. Any sense other than #1 is out of place here. Especially when you use it so pretentiously.

          • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

            Oh grow the fuck up. Using colorful language is not indicative of maturity, education, IQ, foot length, fitness level, GPA, driving skills, or anything. Except living in a modern world where dumbass is a perfect word to describe the logic of an individual on the internet.

          • M J

            Your words only ring true when read not as you intended;) Yes, it was not maturity or education you indicated with your extremely childish use of foul language. It was their very opposites you indicated — and continue to indicate.

            What is worse, you confirm the immaturity you already indicated by continuing your losing battle in defense of the indefensible.

          • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

            You live in some fucked up imaginary world. I live in one where doctors, researchers, scientists, executives, managers, and me drop the f-bomb as the perfect adverb, adjective, noun, declarative, verb, exclamation, and superlative in writing/speech/etc. As I said, grow the fuck up. Discuss the evidence, don’t discuss whether anyone here says fuck. Or dumbass.

          • M J

            And where is YOUR evidence that I “live in some fucked up imaginary world”? You have none. Your blog will sink into obscurity if you think this is the way to deal with the issues.

            BTW: I DID “discuss the evidence”. Neither you nor Foster has even acknowledged that you even understood what I was talking about when I said that the reason for the apparent discrepancy between 90 billion and 13.5 billion was the expansion of spacetime.

            Practice what you preach. Get back to the topic. And while you are travelling the long road back to the topic, consider this: I too have worked with scientists, mathematicians (including people with low Erdős numbers) and engineers for the last 30 years in the high tech industry — and at most of these companies, you would have been fired for your use of the “f-bomb”. R.W. Foster would have been fired for saying “who pissed in your corn flakes”. I really have seen people take pay cuts or get fired for such behavior.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            Since you seem to be lacking in vocabulary, how about I help you out with that? I was A) bewildered (which means completely confused, or puzzled) at why you were sending the message that you were pissy about my use of the word hypothesis, which the Raptor understood; B) surprised (which means to strike or occur to with a sudden feeling of wonder, or astonishment) that you would be butthurt that a person – who you know nothing about – who admitted he hasn’t studied astronomy, dared to use the almighty hypothesis; and confounded (which means to perplex and amaze) as to why you felt the need to attack a complete stranger without provocation.

            Tell me, now that you have it out of your system, do you feel bigger about yourself? Maybe smarter? But, just so you’re aware, even though my image may seem like I’m the jock-type, I’m not one of the guys that would have taken your lunch money in school, nor poured milk down the front of your pants either.

            I hope you feel better, sir, okay? Bye, now. :)

          • M J

            I am not the one who is lacking in vocabulary. That would be you, since you have to scrape the bottom of the barrel to use the kind of foul language bad children who never grow up, who have “unresolved anger issues” use. Nor am I so limited in imagination that I have to suppose my interlocutors (is that word too big for you?) have the same motives that I do. Maybe YOU cannot imagine any motive other than “feeling bigger about one’s self”, but that is yet another in the long list of indicators you gave away of just how very immature, uneducated and even twisted you really are.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            Oh, so now you pretend to be a psychologist as well as an astronomer. (applauds)

            Yet, once again, you show your absolute lack of reading comprehension. I cussed only once in one of my replies.

            Do you have a higher motivation than to feel bigger about yourself? I doubt it due to the tone of your comments. You see, the rest of us on this blog’s comments section adopt the same tone as the Raptor in his posts: Civil. Until the moron’s come out to play, and disrupt the mood with either their inanities, or with their boorish behaviors. Maybe had you not been so maladroit with your comments, we could have had a civil discourse. Unfortunately, you chose to act like a misanthropic asshole, and have turned it around so no one wants to read your words.

            And you have the unmitigated gall to call me childish, immature, uneducated, and even twisted. Sorry, bub. You failed badly.

          • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

            I give people one chance to present evidence. Except for Lowell, since he’s a drunk, and it takes awhile for him to sober up.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

            True, but you are still civil. Except for Lowell.

            Say, I’ve not seen him around for a while. Think he’s on a bender, or do you think he finally gave up?

          • M J

            He was not civil when he said “grow the fuck up”. Nothing civil about that. Nor is there anything civil about your giving your approval to such rudeness and vulgarity.

          • M J

            Once again, as usual for you Foster, you are yourself guilty of everything you accuse in me — and then some.

            I am tempted to say you should stop digging yourself into a hole before ou dig so deep you can’t get out — but it it already too late for that, since now you show you can’t even count: you used foul language far more often than just once.

            Oh, and finally, “feeling bigger than you” requires no effort on my part. You have already done all the “hard work” of making yourself look so very small.

          • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      Yes, I did update. Sometimes I update citations, or I find dead citations. Sometimes, I clean up writing that I don’t like. Sometimes, I find that I have a slightly different voice now.

      There’s two trains of thought about updating articles. Some people update then post it as a new one. Some people update and just republish on the current date. I’ve done both. There are arguments for each side, some valid, some silly, and some just not that important.

      As for the age of the universe, I get a headache thinking about it. I can’t get my arm around the fact that we can see 93 billion light years, yet it’s only 13.5 billion years. But for now Neil deGrasse Tyson says it’s 13.5 billion years old. I’m going to accept that, otherwise, I’d feel like an anti-vaxxer trying to convince me that Mike Adams is smarter than Paul Offit.

      • http://beginingsinwriting.wordpress.com/ R.w. Foster

        Really? Hunh. I thought the anti-vax nuts were certain?

      • M J

        Tyson is praised way too much as a presenter of scientific ideas. Yes, he is right when he says it is 13.5 billion years old. But when talking about the age and size of the universe, he made the same mistake in presentation that many others made before him: he somehow neglected to mention that it is the expansion of spacetime itself that gives the universe its size, so that when we see a point 90 billion light years away, when the light was emitted, that point was much closer to us than it is now, so that the light only had to travel 13.5 billion light years. The universe has been expanding during those 13.5 billion years.

        So no need to feel like an anti-vaxxer;)

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    • http://adhdcommunity.boards.net/ Amtram

      Facts are not debatable.

      • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

        Some people don’t understand the simple logic.

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    • http://www.skepticalraptor.com/skepticalraptorblog.php Skeptical Raptor

      Enough spamming of my comments. Any further nonsense comments and links will get you banned. And if you’re too cowardly to post using Facebook, I might block you anyways. I don’t delete stupid comments that make no sense whatsoever, but you’re spamming is pushing it. Stop now.

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