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Baloney Detection Kit

Shermer has a clip of his "Baloney Detection Kit"

He refers to "global warming skeptics" as being people who only look at one side of the argument. We only accept the information that supports our side of the argument.

I admit that some of the talking heads out there don't know what they are saying. To avoid saying this about the global warming alarmists also, is doing exactly what he as a skeptic is supposed to avoid doing. Not recognizing the inconsistencies on both sides, and the avoidance of all the information that doesn't support the Global Warming Alarmist argument.

Brignell introduced me to Popper (falsification). The Dancing Wu Li Masters made me ready to always start over (every chapter is chapter 1). I am always ready to back off and look at things again. I always start by looking for things that disprove my beliefs.

Negatives don't sell very well though. Calls to inaction don't result in anything happening. You don't get a warm fuzzy by not doing something. About the only thing we try and shout is "Stop! You don't need to do anything!" Everyone else is shouting things for us to do. "Drive a fuel efficient vehicle!" "Eat Organic", "Leave your thermostat at 68 in the winter, 72 in the summer". How do we compete.

How do you save the world from saving itself, when even the people dedicated to malarkey are in on the malarkey?

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

I don't have broadband, so I can't see the video, but I think I can make a couple of comments on this.

The first comment is that this bunch of 'skeptics' don't really correspond to the normal dictionary definition of sceptic/skeptic. The dictionary definition of a sceptic is 1) a person who doubts generally accepted or officially accepted beliefs or 2) a person who doubts the truth of religion. This bunch are anti-religious (which is presumably what Richard Dawkins is doing involved in making the video) but their main campaigning work is in debunking a set of dubious belief systems promoted by the entertainment industry like astrology and UFOs. Most, if not all, of what they debunk isn't officially accepted in Western countries, and the lack of official acceptance is a strong indicator that it is baloney without the need for a 'baloney detection kit'.

The second comment relates to the fact that the video is made by the 'Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science'. As Dawkins is well known as a huge admirer of Charles Darwin I would have thought he would just advocate Darwin's 'golden rule' for scientific practice. The 'ten questions' can be replaced by Darwin's golden rule, which is the 'method of contrary instances' originally developed by Francis Bacon.

Darwin describes the rule in this quote from one of his books:

"I had also, during many years, followed a golden rule, namely, that whenever a published fact, a new observation or thought came across me, which was opposed to my general results, to make a memorandum of it without fail and at once, for I had found by experience that such facts and thoughts were far more apt to escape from the memory than favourable ones."

The whole of the AGW scientific debate is, when you get down to it, about ignoring or taking account of contrary instances. AGW sceptics are basically pointing out contrary instances like the temperature staying flat or even slightly cooling rather than going up. The AGW proponents on the other hand try to ignore contrary instances as tiresome details which they hope will eventually go away. Looking for contrary instances isn't all that practical in today's project managed scientific world. The kind of person who is always trying to prove themselves wrong would nowadays be seen as a bit of a bumbler and would be unlikely to be promoted very far.

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

99% of what we think we know, we have only on authority. I cannot test theories in physics, only trust or distrust those who assert that somebody has tested them. I only think that Kabul is the capital of Afghanistan because everbody says so. I have never tested the truth of that proposition. All I can do is to look for some agreement with my personal experience and try to use my understanding of logic and human nature to detect bad ideas. We cannot truly be sceptics because we can only doubt a few things at a time.

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

Clearly he used this to point a finger at global warming sceptics and endorse the idea of it being anthropogenic.
One of his point is to ask the "pseudo-scientists" "where is the data?" A question we can ask of the AGW proponents given the serious questions about the temperature data and the computer source codes.

Notice how cleverly he uses this presentation to label sceptics as pseudoscientists when in fact there appear to be scientists on both sides of the fence and it isn't just, as he'd like to suggest, simply a matter of politics though the political motives of many on both sides could be questioned.

In the end we have to conclude the whole baloney list is just that, baloney. It can't easily be used to detect a clever or well constructed fraud.
It is easy to spot a 410 email advance payment scam but some scams are more subtle and some, I'd guess, are very subtle indeed.

Let's see. Talk to a sales trainer and they will tell you that their clients are not just salesmen learning how to sell but also buyers learning the salesmen's tricks.

Thus, if expecting to be tested by the "baloney method" you take care to ensure you create the illusion of appearing to satisfy the tests.

The thing is, go apply the baloney test to Michael Mann et all and we come up short.
We have some who believe, some who would say not proven and those that would say it is baloney.
ANd we have pseudo-scientists on both sides of the fence and some scientists whose behaviour is very unscientific.

In the end this was just a clever way to label critics of AGW as pseudo-scientists, to link them with UFO conspiracy theorists and not, repeat: not to consider the science nor to apply his test tp both sides of the argument.

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

I think that he is sincere. I don't think he was actually being clever in this video so much as using "us" as an example for the baloney detection kit.

The detection kit was the focus of the video, it is just curious that "we" got included.

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

If so then it is a bit sloppy to use as an example just one side of the argument and not apply his "baloney" test to the other.
Sloppy or deliberate?

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

Sloppy in this case. The extenuating circumstance is that it is just an example.

I respect these guys. I just know now that I can't latch onto what any authority says, no matter how much I respect them.

Re: Baloney Detection Kit

I have no particular respect for these guys at all. To me these 'skeptics' are a type of science pundit created by the broadcast media in the 1970s.

the 1960s hippy counter-culture produced a revival of interest in various forms of mumbo jumbo, and the broadcast media wanted to take advantage of the fashionability of these 'New Age' beliefs in the 1970s. But when you make a programme about some belief system, broadcasting regulations often require some sort of balance to be provided and this needed a new type of science pundit to come on TV and be prepared to attack it.

I remember watching as a teenager a number of TV shows in the early 1970s which featured spoon-bender Uri Geller. On one show an up and coming academic media scientist, a mathematics or physics professor called John Taylor was participating. After Geller bent some spoons Taylor was asked his opinion and he replied 'Science has no explanation for this'. He was criticised in the newspapers for not putting up a more robust defence of science and I don't think he got any more media work after that. But it became apparent from Taylor's performance that the usual sort of academic media scientist (the type who would present science documantaries) wasn't really up to dealing with the likes of Geller, it needed a new kind of media scientist pundit and that's where James Randi (who wasn't a scientist, he was actually a former stage magician) stepped up to the plate.

We didn't really get the Randi and Shermer type people in the UK until the 1990s probably due to there only being a handful of TV channels in the UK (and most of those were public service TV channels) before the 1990s, limiting the amount of available work for a debunker pundit. Examples of these people in the UK are Richard Wiseman (mentioned in JEB's article 'Expert Ease'), Chris French and Susan Blackmore. All the UK people tend to be psychology academics (as Shermer is), and I'm not completely comfortable with the idea of science and its accompanying philosophy being represented in the media by 'soft science' people rather than 'hard science' people.