tigtog doesn’t get it

I recently came across an old post from hoydenabouttown.com that referenced an argument about rhetoric I made on Pharyngula. Basically, I was saying that one’s argument should match one’s goals. The sexist goals of PZ and others do not match their goals of making people more aware of what they see as sexism, thus their rhetoric is just awful. That isn’t to say it is awful for their in-group discussions. I expected to see harsh rhetoric from PZ and his followers. That’s what his audience wants, so he delivered. The problem is when they want to appeal to anyone else. No one is going to listen. Try getting an event organizer to book more female speakers by calling him a sexist, privileged pig who wants to take away women’s rights to vote. See what happens. So once I made my argument and everyone thoroughly misunderstood it, I cited Cicero who made the same basic point all day long: rhetoric should match goals. Unfortunately, author “tigtog” of hoydenabouttown.com doesn’t seem to get it:

Using this quote as if Cicero thus obviously advocated politely rational rhetoric is so hilariously ignorant about how Cicero actually used rhetoric in practice to garner an audience and persuade them to his will! Nobody who was actually familiar with Cicero’s most famous successes as an orator could possibly imagine that he was recommending civil argumentation.

(I didn’t actually use a quote, but I digress.)

tigtog then went on to discuss specific tactics Cicero used. None of it got to my point. Again, rhetoric needs to match goals. The times when Cicero used harsh rhetoric matched his goals and spoke to his audience. If he did the same thing in 21st century American politics, he may have been seen as just another asshole who is petty and flies off the handle. Or not. All politics are local, so – as always – it all depends on his audience.

People just don’t seem to get it. I’m all for harsh tones when harsh tones work. I feel they are more honest, so I prefer them. Just look at the hilarious lashing Richard Lenski gave to creationists. The second letter he sent to the morons at Conservapedia was far from nice, but it’s hard to deny its greatness. And, oh gee, look at his third sentence:

I expect you to post my [second] response in its entirety; if not, I will make sure that is made publicly available through other channels.

In his first response he was fairly cordial. He was just responding to a few silly creationists. However, his second response was designed to be seen by scientifically-oriented people. That’s why he explicitly said he would make it public one way or another. So in each letter we see appropriate rhetoric: in the first he answered nicely so as to more easily move on from the situation while remaining professional; in the second he ripped them apart so everyone could laugh. That pretty much nails the sentiments and arguments of Cicero in every regard.

So, again, my argument is simply that one’s rhetoric must match one’s goals. In fact, that was Cicero’s argument. This makes tigtog wrong twice. First, she has implied that I would not advocate for harsh tones. Saying as much is to willfully disregard everything I have said. Harsh tones are great when used correctly. Second, I never argued what Cicero thought was the best or worst specific rhetoric one way or another anyway. That’s just poor reading comprehension on her part.

Oh, and using an embarrassing misunderstanding of another person’s argument as a premise for one’s own argument is also bad rhetoric. I don’t know if Cicero ever felt the need to be explicit on that point, so maybe tigtog can enlighten us all.

Catching Conservapedia in a lie again

From their lying front page:

Another new paper was just published in Journal of Climate. Added proof Al Gore & Company are simply lying hucksters, out for a buck. Written by eminent climatologists, called Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Air Temperature Variability: 1840–2007 which discusses data from Greenland since 1840. No unprecedented recent warming is found. For example, they find that the 1919-1932 warming was 1.33 times greater than the 1994-2007 “warming”. [19] The new report mirrors one from the United States Senate back in 2007. [20]

Just like the last time, they make the mistake of linking to the abstract they reference.

Thus, it is expected that the ice sheet melt rates and mass deficit will continue to grow in the early twenty-first century as Greenland’s climate catches up with the Northern Hemisphere warming trend and the Arctic climate warms according to global climate model predictions.

These people are kooks.

Catching Conservapedia in a lie again

From their lying front page:

Another new paper was just published in Journal of Climate. Added proof Al Gore & Company are simply lying hucksters, out for a buck. Written by eminent climatologists, called Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Air Temperature Variability: 1840–2007 which discusses data from Greenland since 1840. No unprecedented recent warming is found. For example, they find that the 1919-1932 warming was 1.33 times greater than the 1994-2007 “warming”. [19] The new report mirrors one from the United States Senate back in 2007. [20]

Just like the last time, they make the mistake of linking to the abstract they reference.

Thus, it is expected that the ice sheet melt rates and mass deficit will continue to grow in the early twenty-first century as Greenland’s climate catches up with the Northern Hemisphere warming trend and the Arctic climate warms according to global climate model predictions.

These people are kooks.

Abusing science

Conservapedia is back to abusing science. This is from their “news” section.

The study, which was published on July 14, 2009 in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Geoscience, found CO2 was not to blame for a major ancient global warming period and instead found “unknown processes accounted for much of warming in the ancient hot spell.” The press release for the study was headlined: “Global warming: Our best guess is likely wrong.”

“In a nutshell, theoretical models cannot explain what we observe in the geological record,” said oceanographer Gerald Dickens, a co-author of the study and professor of Earth science at Rice University. “There appears to be something fundamentally wrong with the way temperature and carbon are linked in climate models.”

The mistake Conservapedia made is so readily linking to the abstract.

We conclude that in addition to direct CO2 forcing, other processes and/or feedbacks that are hitherto unknown must have caused a substantial portion of the warming during the Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum. Once these processes have been identified, their potential effect on future climate change needs to be taken into account.

While the idiots over at Dumbopedia (good one, right?) are claiming that this study PROVES!!! that global warming is not man-made (thus implying that any polluting business practice is a-okay), the study is saying no such thing. This is referencing a period of warming where CO2 alone does not account for all the warming. That isn’t to say that the rise in CO2 can be dismissed during that time – nor is it saying anything about our time. It’d be like saying natural selection doesn’t account for all the change in evolution, therefore evolution is false. CO2 still was a huge factor by which warming was initiated (upwards of 38 degrees F). Today it remains a huge factor.

Let’s just say it. Conservatives are not concerned about science. They care about allowing businesses to practice as they please. That’s it.

How apt

From Conservapedia:

Attention Canadian evolutionists! Conservapedia now nearly ranks in the Google top 10 for the very popular search “evolution” at Google Canada! The Conservapedia evolution article ranks #12 at Google Canada for the search evolution![8] The article appears to be rapidly gaining prominence on the Canadian internet. Will this creation science wildfire spread to the USA, UK, and beyond? Please stay tuned for further developments!

They got their analogy right. Well, partially. Creationism is very much like a wildfire, though it isn’t anywhere near science. It’s a destructive force for not only science, but good in the world.

The stupidity, it doesn’t stop

This is currently on Conservapedia’s front page:

The killer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, James von Brunn, was a white supremacist and also an evolutionary racist. James von Brunn wrote that “Only the strong survive. Cross breeding whites with species on the evolutionary scale diminishes the white gene-pool while increasing the number of physiologically, psychologically, and behaviorally deprived mongrels.” The evolutionist Charles Darwin was also an evolutionary racist. The shooter, James von Brunn, also appears to have had close ties to neo-Nazis and his ex-wife said his anti-semitism and racist hate “ate him alive like a cancer”. Adolf Hitler was also a rabid evolutionary racist.

Aside from reading like a child wrote it, this is just the same old creationist appeal to emotion. These people have no evidence to back up their horribly stupid views, so they resort to dumb things like this; evolution means racism!!! It’s therefore wrong!!1!!

But here’s the kicker. Even if one were to ignore the glaring logical fallacy in the wee little minds of Conservapedians, the argument still fails. Being wrong is also a major no-no when making any argument.

James von Brunn’s beliefs are not based upon any real understanding of evolution or genetics. If they were, then he’d know that two white people can be more genetically diverse between each other than a white person and a black person. In other words, race doesn’t have any biological grounding. So if Conservapedians actually think it is a valid tactic to judge the merits of scientific evidence based upon inconveniences that it may give, then the real argument here is that evolution informs us that racism has no good basis and is therefore stupid.

von Brunn’s idea of evolution is very close to the creationist idea of the theory. Neither one is anywhere near correct. They both use their particular versions of this revolutionary concept to suit themselves. von Brunn thought there was a significant genetic basis for races. Creationists think evolution actually says that. The only difference between these abuses is scale. von Brunn is one guy with wrong ideas and the crazy to back them up. Creationists are a huge group of poorly educated, unfortunately ignorant individuals* who harm the progress of science by rejecting the most fundamental concept to an entire field.

The Conservapedia piece mentions that Charles Darwin was an “evolutionary racist”. This is more conservative screaming and kicking. Reasonable people keep pointing out just why they are wrong, but the conservatives just switch to more convinced language. That’ll do it.

Darwin held many of the racist beliefs of his day, but he didn’t need evolution to get him there. His science stands firm, regardless of what he may have believed. But for what it’s worth, he was ahead of his time with his race views. He also was a big abolitionist.

As for Hitler, he suffered from the issues as von Brunn. In addition, however, the man may have just been abusing any old idea for his purposes. He invoked all sorts of beliefs, including the words of Jesus, to rally support for his plans, actions, and goals. This says nothing of whether or not he was right.

*Ignorance is no crime. We’re all guilty of it. Fortunately, there are remedies.

The stupidity, it doesn't stop

This is currently on Conservapedia’s front page:

The killer at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, James von Brunn, was a white supremacist and also an evolutionary racist. James von Brunn wrote that “Only the strong survive. Cross breeding whites with species on the evolutionary scale diminishes the white gene-pool while increasing the number of physiologically, psychologically, and behaviorally deprived mongrels.” The evolutionist Charles Darwin was also an evolutionary racist. The shooter, James von Brunn, also appears to have had close ties to neo-Nazis and his ex-wife said his anti-semitism and racist hate “ate him alive like a cancer”. Adolf Hitler was also a rabid evolutionary racist.

Aside from reading like a child wrote it, this is just the same old creationist appeal to emotion. These people have no evidence to back up their horribly stupid views, so they resort to dumb things like this; evolution means racism!!! It’s therefore wrong!!1!!

But here’s the kicker. Even if one were to ignore the glaring logical fallacy in the wee little minds of Conservapedians, the argument still fails. Being wrong is also a major no-no when making any argument.

James von Brunn’s beliefs are not based upon any real understanding of evolution or genetics. If they were, then he’d know that two white people can be more genetically diverse between each other than a white person and a black person. In other words, race doesn’t have any biological grounding. So if Conservapedians actually think it is a valid tactic to judge the merits of scientific evidence based upon inconveniences that it may give, then the real argument here is that evolution informs us that racism has no good basis and is therefore stupid.

von Brunn’s idea of evolution is very close to the creationist idea of the theory. Neither one is anywhere near correct. They both use their particular versions of this revolutionary concept to suit themselves. von Brunn thought there was a significant genetic basis for races. Creationists think evolution actually says that. The only difference between these abuses is scale. von Brunn is one guy with wrong ideas and the crazy to back them up. Creationists are a huge group of poorly educated, unfortunately ignorant individuals* who harm the progress of science by rejecting the most fundamental concept to an entire field.

The Conservapedia piece mentions that Charles Darwin was an “evolutionary racist”. This is more conservative screaming and kicking. Reasonable people keep pointing out just why they are wrong, but the conservatives just switch to more convinced language. That’ll do it.

Darwin held many of the racist beliefs of his day, but he didn’t need evolution to get him there. His science stands firm, regardless of what he may have believed. But for what it’s worth, he was ahead of his time with his race views. He also was a big abolitionist.

As for Hitler, he suffered from the issues as von Brunn. In addition, however, the man may have just been abusing any old idea for his purposes. He invoked all sorts of beliefs, including the words of Jesus, to rally support for his plans, actions, and goals. This says nothing of whether or not he was right.

*Ignorance is no crime. We’re all guilty of it. Fortunately, there are remedies.

All it takes to refute something…

…is for some journalist to say you did. According to the headline on that article, James Perloff refuted evolution at some half-baked meeting.

Perloff tried to draw parallels throughout history, attempting to connect individuals such as Andrew Carnegie, Karl Marx, Josef Stalin and Adolph Hitler with the teachings and rationales of Charles Darwin. He also told of his own life’s inner conflict, saying he was briefly turned into an atheist at a young age due to Darwin’s theory.

Perloff went on to say, “Survival of the fittest does not explain arrival of the fittest,” and that, “[the theory of] evolution is just speculation on the past and should not been seen as scientific fact.”

There you go. EVILution has been defeated. Good job, Perloff. Honestly. It should be clear to everyone. If someone can make bogus, tinsel thin connections between ideas and people Real America loathes, then the idea must be false. Just pretend that logical fallacies don’t exist and the argument is air-tight.

The event was held in front of a small gathering and was kicked off with a prayer along with the Pledge of Allegiance led by Harold Shurtleff of West Roxbury, regional field director for the John Birch Society.

I remember as a very young kid playing Street Fighter. When the levels got too hard or my older brother beat me a bunch of times in a row, I’d start up a game just by myself. I would have a Player 2 set up, but no one was controlling it. I’d just wail all my 32 bits on that character. It made me feel good. Does anyone get the feeling that conservatives have the same frustration? I mean, the exact same frustration – one born out of immaturity and a lack of rationale. These people are kicking and screaming their prayers and flag-based prayers all over the place because it makes them feel good. Of course, I was a child when I did it. What excuse do these people have? There are more examples.

Take Sean Hannity. He’s a huge idiot. (I heard him say in the middle of a broadcast, and I paraphrase, “…that isn’t an arrogant statement. America saved the world from Totalitarianism. It did this multiple times. The world has us to thank. That isn’t an arrogant statement.”) He refuses to refer to Obama as “President Obama” in virtually every instance. He insists on calling him “The Annointed One”, or “The One” for short. You can feel his anger and immature frustration. People very rarely identify whining correctly (they tend to conflate it with active disagreement). This is not one of those cases. Sean Hannity and the new breed of ultra-radical conservatives are big, fat whiners.

Conservapedia is another great example of a bunch of crybabies. Their page on evolution (which is just a page on creationism) has a section titled “Creation Scientists Tend to Win the Creation-Evolution Debates“. I kid you not. This is their version of 32-bit wailing. They absolutely cannot win. Rather than to accept reality, they set up these conversations in their own heads where they win every time. Sean Hannity does it. John McCain did it. Dubya definitely did it. This is the path of conservatives in America. Yell and whine and if that doesn’t work, beat the crap out of Blanka.

Women and science

The mooks over at Conservapedia love to parade out old studies that show statistically insignificant leads for boy over girls in math and science. Despite this heavy dose of misogynistic idiocy, it’s no secret men outnumber women in science. Go one step further: famous men outnumber famous women by a longshot. In thinking of just 10 scientists, Lynn Margulis is the only female that comes to mind.

So when commenters focused on the looks of Sheril Kirshenbaum, she became understandably annoyed.

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes. And of course I’ve noticed the science blogosphere is buzzing over some neanderthal comments from Monday about my photo. After Phil was kind enough to welcome Chris and I to Discover Blogs, I was disappointed to read several of the responses. For example:

    as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

Or even less articulate:

    mmmmmmmm……….. wo-man

Okay, I get it. People are focusing on her looks rather than her credentials. But let’s take a look at that first quote. In full.

Having not read any of their material, I am supremely unqualified to comment on any of their writings.

But, as a living breathing male of the species, I look forward to any article with Sherils picture attached.

That’s just bad practice. While Kirshenbaum has a valid overall point, she misquotes a person. I thought reasoned people had left that up to creationists and other stupid conservatives.

Let’s keep in mind what the original post was all about. It was an introduction. Is there a specific, pre-approved, politically correct response expected? I see an intro to a new blog, a short description, and a picture – the most prominent thing about the post – and not much else. It is entirely reasonable to comment on the picture. Naturally, some level of respect should be given. The above, misquoted commenter did that. He wasn’t vulgar, he noted that he cannot speak of Kirshenbaum’s science credentials, and only then did he say, “Hey, she’s pretty”. Kirshenbaum extends this to a broader point.

I doubt any of the aforementioned anecdotes–or the now infamous comments–were intended to be insulting, but they each highlight a broader social issue. Several female colleagues have similar stories of receiving sexually explicit emails and poetry, while I’ve yet to hear the fellows complain of unwanted advances (though surely that happens occasionally too). This is not an isolated problem, nor is it specific to me as an individual, rather it demonstrates that no matter how much the nature of science has changed, it continues to be very much a ‘boys club.’

This is somewhat inappropriate. Of course, science is a “boys club”. It is a field that is dominated by men, shown to the public through male spokespeople, and probably has a good deal of misogyny running amok. That cannot be extrapolated from a few posts that say “I am attracted to this person”. Let’s drive this home. Here’s another quote from that original post.

Is it just me, or do they look YOUNG? It must just be me getting old I guess. I look forward to reading what they post.

WHOA! WHOA! What’s with all the ageism? Come on, people! Science is such an ‘old persons club’. It’s ridiculous. How about some common respect for the young members of the field?

Don’t miss the point. Please.

Kirshenbaum has valid points and she makes them shine through her other anecdotes. The comments about her being attractive, however, do not illustrate her point. If they do, then I just equally illustrated a point about ageism.

From Kirshenbaum:

Now folks, I’m not naive. I recognize everyone forms preconceived notions based on visual and nonverbal cues. As it happens, my next book deals with science and sexuality, so this is a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately off the blog. Naturally, attention to physical appearance has been hardwired into our neural circuitry over a few millenia, however, you better believe it’s never acceptable [to] judge anyone based on appearances and number of X chromosomes.

First of all, I prefer accuracy so let’s augment that last statement a tad. It’s never acceptable to judge anyone based on appearances and number X chromosomes, in most instances. If I’m looking for someone to date, I’m definitely going to find a person to whom I am attracted. If that isn’t physical judgement, I don’t know what is. Second, from the comments I read, there was judgement being passed on Kirshenbaum’s looks, not her quality of science. One cannot necessarily take such comments to be outright ignoring her scientific credentials. The prettiest creationist in the world can open up a blog, but I’m not going to give it any praise for that reason. If I say, “Hey, that creationist is sure pretty, but she’s also pretty dumb”, the first part of my comment may be irrelevant, but it is not harmful and it says nothing of the creationists’ credentials – the latter part of the comment does that. Take out that latter part, and no comment was made on scientific credentials. In other words, no credentials were demeaned. If the post was about Kirshenbaum’s research on a particular topic and people focused on her looks, then, yes, that would be inappropriate and demeaning.

Hell, take the mook Sean Hannity. Torture yourself with just a few interviews. Women will often make the point that while he is attractive, his points are awful and misguided. In other words, “here’s a compliment, but it has no bearing on what I think about what you’re saying.”

Of course, not everyone is so innocent with their compliments. Some people are just saying it for the sake of saying it. If that’s all they’re saying, give ’em hell. If they’re saying it in response to a picture accompanied by little more than a generic intro, it’s difficult to see a problem.

I really want to drive this home and I keep coming up with examples how. Take, for instance, a blogger who has a butt-ugly blog layout. Maybe some gross looking color scheme or whathaveyou. Even simply an ugly avatar. Would it be unreasonable for someone to say “I don’t know anything about John Doe’s science, but that is one ugly avatar/layout/whatever he has”?

Oh, Conservapedia

It’s well known that Conservapedia is filled with a large contigent of dumb people. I mean, not just ignorant people. They’re outright stupid. Take this from their “news” section on the front page.

Conservapedia

For those who cannot see the text, it reads:

An overweight and over-the-hill Bruce Springsteen is performing songs from the 1980s at the Super Bowl halftime. Wonder why? He supports the liberal agenda hook, line and sinker. But he hasn’t yet performed his “Born in the U.S.A.” … perhaps Obama types wouldn’t like that one???

Apparently, Conservapedians believe “Born in the U.S.A.” is a patriotic song, or at least in someway anti-liberal. On an aside, they also believe multiple question marks make good writing. They are wrong on both counts.

The Springsteen classic is about a young man who goes from his small town to killing people in a foreign country. Upon return, the man is given the crap we all know (except the morons at Conservapedia) was common for returning war vets.

Got in a little hometown jam
So they put a rifle in my hand
Sent me off to a foreign land
To go and kill the yellow man

Born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
I was born in the U.S.A.
Born in the U.S.A.

Come back home to the refinery
Hiring man says “Son if it was up to me”
Went down to see my V.A. man
He said “Son, don’t you understand”

The song goes on to deride the war for being so meaningless and costly. The cost in the case being human life.

I had a brother at Khe Sahn fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there, he’s all gone

He had a woman he loved in Saigon
I got a picture of him in her arms now

Far from being a song about how crazy, awesome, cool the U.S.A. is, it’s about working-class people who lost their lives during a pointless war. Conservapedia is composed of idiots who are repeatedly shown as idiots. Nothing more.