Urbane Legends

Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach

So we were sitting around the fire at the fish camp on the Colombia a few days ago, and a man said “Did you hear about the scientific study into meat preservatives?” We admitted our ignorance, and he started in. The story was like this:

“A few years ago there was a study done by some University, I can’t remember which one, but it was a major one. What they did was to examine the corpses of people who had died in Siberia, and those that had died in Washington State. Now of course the people in Siberia weren’t eating meat preservatives during their lives, and the Washington people were eating them. And when they dug up the graves and looked at the bodies, guess what they found?” 

the killer in the back seatUrban Legend: The Killer In The Back Seat SOURCE 

Well, by this time my Urban Legend Detector was going off so loudly that I was afraid the story teller would hear it ringing, so I just sat back to watch the denouement …

“The bodies of the Siberian people had decayed just like you’d expect … but the bodies of the people from the US were nearly perfectly intact, because of meat preservatives that they’d been eating!”

Now, as you might imagine, nothing about this story of meat preservatives is true. The preservatives are broken down in the digestive system and do nothing to preserve the human body … but not one person even questioned the story. This set me to pondering about what it is that makes for a good urban legend. Here are my conclusions.

• First, you must have some kind of lurking danger—premature death, a rat in the Kentucky Fried Chicken, a spider in a bee-hive hairdo, a killer in the back seat. It can’t be some trivial danger, either. It needs to be the loss of a kidney to organ thieves or something that big, not a hangnail.

• Next, the danger has to be avoidable by means of your own personal action. Don’t eat at KFC, don’t ingest meat preservatives, don’t wear a bee-hive hairdo for too long, look in the back seat before getting in.

• Next, there is often a strong undertone of performing a moral action. For some urban legends the moral action is the recommended avoidance action itself, like avoiding processed foods. But for all urban legends, there is an inherent and more basic moral good—the spreading of the story so that nobody else gets harmed. I mean, what could be more virtuous that seeing that your friends don’t get into trouble?

• Next, the story has to be amenable to change. Sooner or later, most urban legends wear out their impact, or people have heard it all before, or the “facts” become visibly untrue. The legends that survive do so because they shed their skins and morph into something more frightening, more dangerous, more demanding of immediate action.

• Next, it helps to have a villain—KFC, the meat-packing industry, just about any corporation, billionaires, any of those will beef up the story.

• Next, it needs impeccable but unverifiable credentials—I heard it on CNN, it was a study by a major university, three professors in Israel did research, that kind of pedigree.

• Next, details. Few people will believe a random legend that some woman somewhere stuck her hand in a pile of blankets and got snake-bit … but if the legend says “A woman in Arizona was shopping at the Phoenix Costco, and she was bitten by a brown snake that is only native to Australia” it has much more chance of being believed.

• Finally, the legend needs to be told with conviction. It won’t work if it is prefaced by “There’s some doubt about this, but …”

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So … as some have already guessed, let me compare the current climate scare to an urban legend. We have:

• Lurking Huge Danger—heat death of the planet, increased floods, increased droughts, you name it. Note how alarmists routinely exaggerate the danger, claiming a few degrees of warming is “more dangerous than terrorism” and “the biggest danger the world faces” and the like.

• Avoidable—the claim is that if we all act nobly and eschew the evil carbon, the danger can be averted.

• Moral Action—not only is cutting down on personal or national CO2 emission seen today as the ultimate statement of the high moral ground, simply spreading the message has taken on the aspects of a religious duty.

• Amenable to Change—how many times have the alarmists been shown to be wrong, only to come back with some new threat, some new danger to keep the legend alive.

• Villains—the entire fossil fuel industry, Exxon, and “deniers” are all painted as villains in this morality tale.

• Unverifiable but Prestigious Credentials—we have two stalwarts, the “97% consensus”, and “the IPCC says”. The latter one has found its way into scientific papers, where people routinely cite something totally unverifiable like “IPCC Fifth Annual Assessment Report, Susan Solomon, Editor” as a way to lay a false claim to authorship.

• Bogus Details—my favorite was the claim that 37% of the species on earth would be killed by one degree of warming. See how much more believable this is than saying “if the earth warms lots of things will go extinct”?

• Conviction—man, if there is anything that most of the alarmists have an abundance of, it is the totally unshakeable conviction that not only are they right, they are so right and they are so moral that breaking the law is perfectly acceptable if it furthers their cause. And of course, they know that the legend will not work if they surround it with the usual scientific caveats, so it is told as certain impending doom.

======================

Now, although it may not seem so, I do have a purpose in this story. My thought is that if we can understand why the urban legend of impending Thermageddon is so popular and so hard to kill, we will understand how to fight it. So let me look at each of the components to see where the weaknesses are and how we might utilize them.

• Lurking Huge Danger—I think the best way to fight this is laughter and absurdity. For example, I have compared the possible predicted change in temperature from Obama’s climate plan to the temperature difference between your head and your feet. Ridicule is a potent weapon.

• Avoidable—we need to hammer on a couple of things. First, there is no evidence that IF the danger exists it is avoidable. Second, there is no evidence that their preferred method will avoid it. Finally, even if it could work in theory, it would be horrendously expensive.

• Moral Action—as I have pointed out repeatedly, increasing energy costs are the most regressive tax on the planet, and they hit the poor harder than anyone. This is a crucial point, because all of their flights of fancy are sustained by the illusion that they have the moral high ground … but shafting the poor as they are doing hardly meets that definition.

• Amenable to Change—we need to hold their feet to the fire regarding their BS, because they will disown it at a moment’s notice. Michael Mann’s phrase is that they’ve “moved on” … don’t let them do so without protest.

• Villains—we need to point out, over and over, that those that make life harder for the poor are the real villains in this morality tale.

• Unverifiable but Prestigious Credentials—call out bogus citations, demand names.

• Bogus Details—again, ridicule is likely our greatest weapon in this arena. The biggest opportunity for this are the endless predictions of climate refugees, sea level rises, ice-free Arctic summers, and the like. Ask to see the corpses.

• Conviction—nothing we can do about that. Peter Gleick would likely maintain his convictions even if he were actually convicted for mail fraud as he richly deserves …

======================

In closing, let me note that if my analysis is correct, this story of impending thermal doom CANNOT BE FOUGHT WITH SCIENCE. Why? Because it is an urban legend, not a scientific claim. As such it needs to be fought on its own ground, by attacking what actually keeps it alive … and that has very little to do with science.

My best regards to everyone, it’s a lovely afternoon, I’m going out to ride bike by Lake Tahoe.

w.

PLEASE: If you disagree with me or anyone, quote the exact words you disagree with, so we can all understand the exact nature of your objections.

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246 thoughts on “Urbane Legends

  1. Reminds me of the time I was out fishing on the Columbia, near Celilo Falls with an old Indian guide and…

  2. Urban legends have many characteristics of the tactics used by liars. They exploit base emotions-fear, guilt, lust, sloth and greed. They use emotional blackmail. They use bluff-once you have fallen for one lie in the narrative, everything else that follows will be further lies to support the previous lies. The morality tale can then be directed toward their ideology. The ideology itself is totally flawed, not that this ever stopped leftists/ alarmists.

  3. Clear air gives clear thoughts!
    Perhaps the best attack is an urban legend or two that counter the claims of the AGW legend. We need and urban legend contest, and some will just naturally spread. I am sure the left do this all the time – float a thousand silly ideas expecting one or two to gain traction.

    • I’ve long held that leftists/liberals/progressives/big-D-democrats will say — and ardently defend — any stupid thing that pops into their heads.

      • Not only leftists, but just about anyone defending a holly cow of some kind.
        In Croatia we had a whole succession of presidents/prime ministers with nails visibly protruding from their heads, and boy! occasionally idiotic lines came from their mouths. Only a few hours later you’d receive a long interpretation of that presidential garbage framed in the most evangelical way, as if their stupidity is somehow genius.
        So no surprise here.

      • Holly cows are especially useful at Christmas time for use in nativity scenes. That said, I think you meant ‘holy’. English is such a fun language…

      • Hlaford September 3, 2016 at 2:53 am
        +1

        I need to remark that about twenty years ago I occupied at need what we called the “hell desk.” I worked for a small company and the owner decided to diversify the business – jumping into the ISP business. He didn’t diversify his staff simultaneously so essentially untrained staff were “hell”ping newcomers to the internet. Some were also absolutely new to computers. One call I took was of an event that I later found listed as an “urban legend” or “myth.” In this case most of Willis’ criteria don’t fit the event. The situation was a person helpless in the face of unfamiliar gadgets, and completely baffled baffled.

        What Willis describes is more closely allied to the myth of the “Golden Age:” which runs something like “humanity used to live in a natural/holy/self-reliant balance with nature/the neighbors/God/etc.” Something humanity did, sinned/gained new knowledge/invented civilization/industrialized/argued a moral concern for one’s fellow humans/etc. lead to a “fall” from that ideal prior state. All of these “Golden Age” myths postulate a prior time of “perfection,” whether the “perfection” was cooler weather or more remote neighbors, less traffic, more leisure, or a congregation that could sing hymns in tune. The cure offered is always further human interference in ones neighbors affairs, the planet’s affairs or, etc. People by and large are uncomfortable with change, yet change is inescapable. Whether we watch developers destroying a landscape we once loved or a changes in the weather, or emerging social tolerances for behaviors that we were taught were wrong. Most want to believe in a steady state in a past that was “better” than the present. They often express the hope that by correcting the errors made by their neighbors, that the Golden Age can be restored. This applies equally to the Catholic Church, ISIS, the Green movement, liberals (in the modern rather than the classical sense), the Tea Party, etc. The belief that we know how things have changed and how they can be put right gives people a sense of control.

    • I mock them for their silly fears of something that isn’t visible. Ask them to look down the street to see the yards,trees and the like, and look at the skies too,does it appear to be suffering?

      The world goes on laughing at stupid leftists who moan over every little thing.

  4. Well I made an executive decision on Urban Legends myself.

    My 97 yrold MIL asked me to get some anchovies and Cilantro at the store for something she is whipping up for dinner (it’s ready now).

    So the Safeway store had some very expensive Cilantro in their ORGANICS section, and the store was emblazoned with organics posters all over the place.

    I couldn’t find any real food Cilantro and didn’t want to pay $5 for the bug infested crud.

    So I asked the clerk if they had a real food section or just the one with all the carbon loaded foods.

    She said sure, we have ordinary Cilantro, and she showed me where it was, and it was green whereas the carbon loaded stuff was yellow. And I got a big fresh green bunch for $1.50 instead of $5 for a small bunch of the jaundiced kind.

    Makes me mad that they are pushing all this organic BS down our throats.

    G

    • +++george e smith

      My family only jokes about buying me the expensive organic oats with the worthless wind turbines on the package.

      “The equivalent of taking 500 cars off of the road.”

      How shall I put this. I don’t think the destruction of other people’s personal transportation as an attractive selling point for breakfast cereal, or a pleasant thought first thing in the morning.

      • Zeke
        The GW industry has been trying to sell what they claim are the best and most expensive oats of all. But really they are the cheapest oats, the ones already processed by the horse.

    • “Makes me mad that they are pushing all this organic BS down our throats.”
      It’s just American enterprise at work.
      If there’s a buyer…there will be a supplier.

      • Since 20 years thei’re pushing burning forests for natural oil plantations, in exchange we should feed on grass.

      • I didn’t by it. But I did have to ask a store clerk where they had hidden the real stuff.

        The store IS pushing what they make more profit on.

        A different “green” supermarket that my wife shops at also pushes “organic ” produce, but they also have a department that can supply you with every chemical poison from A to Z that you can add to your expensive organic produce .

        The “farmers” Market I just came from this morning doesn’t even allow vendors who don’t have organic produce to even set up shop there.

        G

      • There is a guy a few miles down the road from me offering ‘organic tree bark’. I keep meaning to ask if he has any non-organic…..

    • One of my favorite conversations when I encounter someone extoling organic foods exposes an urban legend of sorts. It starts like this:

      Me : How many chemicals are allowed on your organic food?

      Organicist : What?

      Me :How many chemicals are allowed on your organic food?

      Organicist : None, of course.

      Me : Nope.

      http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/science-sushi/httpblogsscientificamericancomscience-sushi20110718mythbusting-101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/

    • Wow! Cilantro is about 39 cents in Austin. ‘Cept for the organic kind, I guess. Don’t know for sure, I never buy it.

    • I have to say that back in the ’50s California’s milk, eggs, beef and lamb were better tasting and raised locally. “Corn fed” beef was priced as a luxury “import” from Kansas. It’s real draw was the consistent blandness. With range beef the meat varies depending on pasturage. Modern supermarket lamb is pathetic. And eggs? Bleh.

      We moved from the city to a small ranch just before junior high, and started raising our own eggs and beef. Technically both were “organic” and “free range” since the cattle were treated in any way unless they actually got sick, and the chickens wandered the house yard eating everything from grain to mice (no joke). We had two dozen chickens laying where ever they felt like; every day was Easter, and to this day I despise angel food cake (had to use up those eggs somehow and you can only fry so many for breakfast). And don’t forget Guy Clark’s “Home Grown Tomatoes.” This year our tomatoes are excellent and since we have used any pesticides, they’re even organic.

      My feeling is that sometimes they’re wrong and sometimes they’re right. Don’t discount how they’re right because you don’t like how they’re wrong.

    • Took me a while to understand what you were talking of. Then I realised that cilantro is in fact coriander. I get that for free. I grow it every year. bought a couple of live plants about 7 years ago which were very inexpensive, no more than a couple of dollars. I harvest the leaves all summer, ( which I have very little use for, it’s not as big in cooking in the UK, although I use some) and the seeds in the autumn. Most seeds are dried and ground for cooking but many are replanted.
      It’s simple to grow, in fact it looks after itself and grows like wildfire even in the cold north west of England. (55 degrees north) and is even more simple in pots on a sunny patio.
      I recommend you give it a go. I’d still be laughing now if a clerk wanted to charge me those sort of prices for leaves that grow like weeds.

  5. I have the feeling the are large differences between Siberian and American mortuary
    practices and coffin technologies.

    • Use of embalming for a start. But more importantly, how do you know that the American bodies were perfectly preserved? Have you dug any up to check? No, it is yet another unverifiable “fact”, which all urban legends rely on as a premise.

    • I’m relying on alcohol. It’s about as expensive as meat but it’s more enjoyable. It also has a sedative or mellowing effect. That gets handier the longer I live.

    • Actually, the incidence of stomach cancer fell substantially as the use of antioxidant preservatives grew after WWII. Less spoiled food being eaten? Cancer protective properties of the preservatives? Oh, no, that’s impossible. Chemicals are always bad! Right?

      • It is possible (and looking more likely) that stomach cancer is caused by Heliobacter pylori, so the fall may have been because of the introduction of antibiotics.

  6. The kids who engaged in premarital fooling around in the teen slasher movie were remiss in not checking under the bed for data.

  7. Reminds me of the time I was reading more news reports of impending death of all coral reefs from global warmening and coral bleaching, in particular the Great Barrier Reef and then I fair choked on the cornflakes-
    http://www.msn.com/en-au/news/australia/huge-underwater-life-form-found-hiding-behind-great-barrier-reef/ar-AAioZGs?li=AAabC8j&ocid=spartandhp
    Although I read somewhere the science is settled “It’s too early to say, but the need for answers is pressing.” with this new threat to cornflakes.

    • I’m pretty sure I saw a headline somewhere that read, “Tiny patch of living brain tissue found behind dead mass of skull jelly in climate scientist and safely removed. “

  8. Monkton of Brenchley would be the most likely candidate to have some urbane legends for us, in a manner of speaking.

  9. Who digs up dead bodies? Do they embalm the dead in Siberia?

    cred · u · lous …
    ADJECTIVE
    having or showing too great a readiness to believe things.
    synonyms: gullible · naive · too trusting · easily taken in ·

  10. Thanks Willis, this gives me an opportunity to mention that we have found a natural bush fruit that can replace meta-bi-sulphites as a preservative for seafood and meat. The response is better than the chemical as a preservative, so now we are starting the process of commercialization.

    The aim is to keep the industry in the hands of the local indigenous populations across the north of Australia, for their economic improvement. https://pindanpost.com/2016/07/25/the-best-new-discovery-to-aid-indigenous-communities/

    • Is that some rare plant that can only be found in the deep and mysterious valleys of the Himalayas such as chia, kale or some other trendy name? If not, I’m not interested.. :)

      • You’ve set me to wondering – what’s the local aboriginal term for vitamin C, or is the term an aboriginal one we have adopted?
        RU4EL??

    • Hi Tom,
      saw the abc bit recently
      I bought seed n tried to grow them in lower mid nth SA a few yrs ago
      sprouted and did ok over warmer months
      but the coldest winter we had had killed them all;-(
      I dont have a problem with preserving in sulphur smoke ie dried fruits n jerky as alt to the sodium meta bi that stinks n tastes bad.
      of course some green inclined will say sulphur/or the smoke is an issue of huge danger i bet ;-)

      I personally would KILL to get my hands on neem trees
      maybe you can look to selling bare rooted seedlings to spots they arent going to run wild?

      • You can come to Broome and kill all the Neem trees here, which have become a severe weed. The Gubinge fruit will preserve meat, keep it looking fresh and reduce bad odours, without changing the taste.

  11. Great article Willis.

    I reckon the big problem with the current push-back strategies against CAGW is that we’re always on the back foot. Reacting rather than establishing a new paradigm about earth’s climate system.

    So rather than the climate system being cast as a “victim” of man’s evil ways (as all the kids are now being taught in school and university), what if the climate system was instead portrayed as a “super hero” that could withstand anything that puny mankind could throw at it.

    As in – our climate system has proven many many times throughout history that it can deal with magnitudes of change the likes of which puny mankind can only fantasize about – ice ages, asteroids, earthquakes, etc.

    Our 4% contribution of CO2 to the atmosphere – pffft, says the climate – I’d swallow that up before breakfast, and burp it out before lunchtime.

    So maybe we climate realists have to start speaking, as it were, as if we were spokespeople for the climate – strong, defiant, is-that-all-you’ve-got?

    Let’s double-down on the ‘denial’, but from the climate’s point of view, not ours.

      • Yep, I read on this site a while ago that arguing science against CAGW is like bringing a knife to a gun fight.

        Sadly, I think that’s pretty true. It is NOT as scientific debate. That is why all the leading lights, like Mickey Mann and our Gav won’t get into a debate they know they will lose.

        I

    • I like the idea of that approach! Even more, man should be portrayed as the saviour of life … as Patrick Moore stated at the end of his excellent presentation “‘Should We Celebrate Carbon Dioxide?” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d0Z5FdwWw_c

      “It does boggle the mind in the face of our knowledge that the level of CO2 has been steadily falling that human CO2 emissions are not universally acclaimed as a miracle of salvation. From direct observation we already know that the extreme predictions of CO2’s impact on global temperature are highly unlikely given that about one-third of all our CO2 emissions have been discharged during the past 18 years and there has been no statistically significant warming. And even if there were some additional warming that would surely be preferable to the extermination of all or most species on the planet.

      You heard it here. “Human emissions of carbon dioxide have saved life on Earth from inevitable starvation and extinction due to lack of CO2”. To use the analogy of the Atomic Clock, if the Earth were 24 hours old we were at 38 seconds to midnight when we reversed the trend towards the End Times. If that isn’t good news I don’t know what is. You don’t get to stave off Armageddon every day.

      I issue a challenge to anyone to provide a compelling argument that counters my analysis of the historical record and the prediction of CO2 starvation based on the 150 million year trend. Ad hominem arguments about “deniers” need not apply. I submit that much of society has been collectively misled into believing that global CO2 and temperature are too high when the opposite is true for both. Does anyone deny that below 150 ppm CO2 that plants will die? Does anyone deny that the Earth has been in a 50 million-year cooling period and that this Pleistocene Ice Age is one of the coldest periods in the history of the planet?”

  12. WHat you call Moral Action, I call Smug Conviction. Some of the young people believe this stuff and the crusade shines out of their eyes. What will they do when it falls over? Or will it just shift shape?
    Bring back Logic as compulsory education and a brief course in Latin, so they know the roots of words. Both courses act as bulldust detectors.

    • Sadly, they will just change what’s written on their crusader placards. When communism fell apart in Eastern Europe, they desperately needed a new anti-western cause. AGW fitted the bill very nicely and slotted right in, in a very timely manner. A comedy of errors … hopefully dispelled before it morphs into a tragedy.

    • Soon they’ll be too busy freezing their asses off trying to stay warm by the glow from their dimming laptops to care . . . maybe the last thing they Google can be “Maunder Minimum!”

    • Two important points here. What Willis says about the moral aspects of the story gives the speaker authority. Their view is that climate change makes all these actions essential and, even if catastrophic man-made warming is not true, the actions are good anyway. Cutting back on consumption, reduced growth, less productivity – these are all good things. In fact, as Willis says, these actions lead to poor people all over the world being poorer, higher death tolls, etc. Jack’s other point needs more thought than I have seen anywhere. What happens when it all falls over? This is such a big deal for many people. The popular belief is that all respectable scientists and 100 per cent of reputable institutions say that it is 100 per cent true. Will people ever believe scientists again on anything? How do we prepare them for this in 10 or 20 years time?

  13. The other common characteristic of internet nonsense is that someone somewhere is making a dollar out of it.
    snopes.com is always a good place to check the daily feed of bs but surprisingly, the site hasn’t caught up with the preservatives one. I must have posted scores of snopes replies to friends being sucked in by scams.

  14. Let’s see, meat preservatives . . . What would they be? Mmmm, I think I will gum down some formaldehyde. Yeah, that would be tasty.

    • It’s been discovered in a new study by some enormously prestigious university somewhere that the reason people die is from the ingestion of large amounts of formaldehyde (methylene glycol, formalin), as exhumed bodies contain large amounts of this chemical.

      Further study is required into this important field to preserve the lives of everybody outside Siberia. Can I have some money now please?

      • Exactly! (:

        You know, I don’t get to talk about burial practices very often. They won’t let me talk about that at the dinner table, or with guests. But this is WUWT, so… WTHeck!

        Formaldehyde treatment of the deceased prevents the body fluids from contaminating the water supply. After all, a lot of people die because they were sick. The Zarathustrians considered it a great sin to bury the dead. They used the “tower of silence” to place the departed under the sky, in the elements. It is no coincidence that during the Plague, the Zarathustrians did not suffer as high a death rate as the Europeans. For the Zarathustrians it is also considered very wicked to put human waste in a field or in the water. You can see that these were practices in place long before the discovery of deadly microorganisms.

        And speaking of microorganisms that can kill you. Nitrates and nitrites are a very effective, inexpensive and safe way to keep poultry and red meats from turning brown. This simple technique prevents tremendous waste of meat in our country, along with freezing and refrigeration. I know I do not like to risk preparing meat that has turned color.

      • We keep hearing “Don’t eat red meat”.
        But whoever says this is evidently color blind.
        What they meant to say was “Don’t eat green meat”!

      • Rather than “don’t eat red meat”, what they are trying to say is actually “don’t eat meat”. Ie go vegan, or just die of malnutrition.

      • When nitrites are exposed to high heat, in the presence of amino acids, they can turn into carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines.

      • The nitrates and nitrites are the most effective anti-‘bacterium Clostridium botulinum’ agents known.

        The whole nitrites plus high heat equals carcinogenic compounds fear fest is postulated but all trials attempting to prove a human carcinogenic connection to nitrate/nitrite use have failed. Utterly.

        Over a decade ago, government promised to develop better, more effective and safer anti-‘bacterium Clostridium botulinum’ agent.
        After years of attempting and failing, the government went quiet about nitrates/nitrites. There are still claims and noises about avoiding nitrates/nitrites, but without any actual reasons. Most are still based on ancient history claims and internet legends.

        Salt, including chloride and nitrates, have been used to preserve meats for millennia. It may be a possibility that mankind has evolved to thrive on salted meats, but that is a guess, just as likely as CAGW alarmism. No proof!

        Nitrates in charcuterie make for wonderful foods!

      • The simplest way to avoid botulism is not to exclude all oxygen. It is an anaerobic culture.

        That is why all tinned and bottled foods much have air at the top an never be filled right up. Also don’t put things like garlic cloves in oil. That effectively excludes the air and produces an environment for botulism culture.

    • My favourite scene in ‘Good Morning Vietnam’

      “Formaldehyde. We put in just a touch of formaldehyde for flavour. Some people get sick, yeah. So if you have to be rushed to a hospital, then when you return…

      – I give you a free salad.

      – Well, that seems fair. It really does.”

  15. One of the indications of Sainthood which is recognized by the Catholic church is that the body of the would-be Saint will not decompose…these folks are referred to as the “Incorruptible”.
    So I would not be so quick to dismiss this particular story…obviously people from the great United States are a collection of Saints.
    I am assuming they did not examine the dead bodies of any of the poor-hating warmista fear mongers…i am quite certain their corpses rot into a putrid mass of fetid wretchitude in zero time flat.

    • I would think that “a putrid mass of fetid wretchitude” has already been achieved by most of them already. That’s progress by progressives.

    • The Catholic church is a great place for urban legends. An incorruptible body is not required for a sainthood, but it is helpful. Consider it a like of an affirmative action.

    • I understand that the hands of one such ‘perfectly preserved Saint’ began to turn color as soon as they washed them. Oops.

  16. My favorite urban legend was the classic “choking Doberman” story. The only problems were the actual behavior of dogs (I’ve never seen one choke on something too big to swallow) and the behavior of emergency or medical personnel, apart from the minor little fact it was always a friend of a friend who was reporting it.
    I do think mass movements are more dangerous than urban legends, despite the obvious fact the proponents of mass movements use near urban legend storytelling. It is really rare for anyone to actually change their behavior on the basis of a pure urban legend.

    • Well, since I want to keep both of my kidneys, I never get passed-out drunk in small towns in foreign countries anymore…so there is that.

      • To be perfectly honest, I quit drinking altogether almost 15 years ago, shortly after 911.
        But I ESPECIALLY quit drinking to the point of unconsciousness in small town roadhouses of foreign countries.
        Not that I had ever done that to begin with…that is besides the point.

  17. I saw a picture of some food on a platter the other day. There were probably a dozen or more types of rolls and muffins and other processed foods and an open tub of margarine on the platter. They all looked like they had been produced in recent weeks. The caption on the picture said the food products in the picture were 19 years old!

    I saw another picture of a McDonalds meal of french fries, and hamburger with pickles and onions and mustard sitting under a clear glass cover, and it looked like it had just been made, and the caption said the meal was over two years old when the picture was taken.

    Something is going on. :)

    • It’s quite simple. Try it yourself. For best results, put the Happy Meal in the freezer in 2014 and take it out in 2016. Don’t let your conscience bother you in the pursuit of a beautiful Urban food legend. Freezing is considered a kind of food preservative.

      Home made bread gets mold on it at room temp in 3 or maybe 4 days. The preservatives give bread a shelf life of a couple of weeks.

      Next up, AMEEERICANS ARE WASTING FOOD

  18. So much of this global warming debate is the human propensity to fall for urban legends. We just fall for it 50%, 80% of the time.

    But you know what. People do NOT like being corrected about the urban legend that they are spreading. They hate you for it. Again, it is just what human nature is about. People do not like being corrected.

    And that is why the urban legend of global warming is so hard to fight. First, people naturally fall for it. And seondly, you do not get to correct these people without costing yourself rapport with friends, family, colleagues etc.

    There needs to be a simple message that succeptible people automatically understand and doesn’t expend rapport with people.

    For me, it was one day when a close friend said “yeah right. 13,000 years ago, there was a mile of ice above us.” A simple statement like this completly turned my focus around and cost my friend zero in the rapport department. I was back into “science is based on proof” mode after that and it carried over into other areas. Fact is fact. Urban legends rarely are fact. But I still rarely correct someone when they are spreading the urban legend desease.

  19. Amenable to Change –

    Manmade greenhouse warming -> Anthropogenic global warming -> Climate change -> Carbon pollution -> Emissions

    Hint: I find the C7 acronym best sums up the REAL description:
    Cash for Capitalist Caucasian Caused Catastrophic Climate Change

    Villains –

    Gillard (ex-PM of Australia) – The carbon “price” (read as “tax”) will only be levelled at 500 big dirtiest polluters (villains) not at citizens. Fails to say that they are the source of all our electricity and that they have no choice but to pass the increased costs on to consumers (citizens).

    • C7! Totally!

      /sarc on
      Didn’t you hear China ratified the Paris agreement?
      /sarc off

      (in my language, ratified and will ratify may look exacly the same. The title also didn’t quite explain the deal: China will not stop increasing emissions based on this agreement.)

      • The official line I keep reading is that China has agreed to “the proposal to review and ratify the Paris Agreement”. In my language, that could mean anything between nothing and whatever they want.

  20. Willis, you and your ex fiancé plainly have some time for reflection during your daughter’s wedding weekend. Carry on.
    My only daughter chose a place near San Diego because of her future husband’s family. I thought it exorbitant at the time, since was paying mucho. Now blessed with two lovely grandkids, and fond memories of my father’s last major trip anywhere despite his then frailties. My last time at a bar with him.
    Roll with life. Beats fighting it.
    And yes, fighting climate change is like fighting an imaginary closet monster. Apt analogy.
    Highest regards.

    • ristvan, thanks for the kind words. Although we have disagreed on scientific matters more than once, you have always been supportive, and it is both noted and appreciated.

      w.

  21. I agree with this article wholeheartedly. I have long realised that “global warming” was unscientific at it’s heart. But your article puts it in it’s place so clearly.

    • Oh, you just pointed out one more thing about urban legends. They are so stupid they are hilarious and silencing, and the person spreading them is so excited you hate to shoot the story down. So nobody challenges, nobody tut-tuts. Those who have some brain are silent in astonishment – how come somebody is so gullible to believe THAT — and those who don’t have the brain are enjoying the story and maybe spreading it.

      Somebody tells a story and somebody cheers on it, and you shut up because you are a nice guy or gal.

    • It’s “Catastrophic Human Caused Global Warming” that’s the urban legend. It is getting warmer. Most folks like it warmer.

      • “It is getting warmer”, perhaps so, according to some very imprecise measurements.

        But no honest person can tell us the CAUSE of the warming……. And how long it MIGHT last before it cools again…

        Cheers, KevinK

    • The urban part of AGW – the heat island efffect raising temperatures – is no legend. It’s quite real!

    • Actually, it used to be true that human emissions of CO2 were roasting the planet into oblivion, but then, as mysteriously as it had started, the phenomenon responsible for the emissions ceased to occur.
      I am speaking, of course, of my favorite and most dreaded of urban legends of yore…Spontaneous Human Combustion.
      Maybe it was being caused by the ozone hole.
      What is clear is that it seemed to have stopped decades ago, and we are now saved from “Catastrophic Human Caused Global Warming”.
      Hooray!
      The end of the world is cancelled, and we can now drink and red meat ourselves into perfectly preserved oblivion until the end of time, the heat death of the Universe, or until some evil corporation hires lobbyists to ban all consumables except the Slurm high energy drink they manufacture, and we all go full idiocracy…whichever comes first.

  22. But, but, but, whatever happened to that “100 MPG Carburetor” that GM invented and then “Big Oil” bought up all the patents for…. For the younger folks a carburetor mixed Air with “Evil Fossil Fuels” (aka EFF) so you could burn it and warm up the Earth while “burning rubber” with your hot rod. Some folks (myself included) used to “rebuild” carburetors, one of those old “sustainable” tricks from the bad old era of “Carbon Pollution”.

    According to Urban Legend, all kinds of patents for exotic “game changing” technological “breakthroughs” have been bought up by EFF corporations and buried in hidden vaults under ultra stable salt dome formations in Utah never ever to be seen again.

    And of course the EFF folks bought up all the patents for the 1000x better solar cells and carbon dioxide sequestration and magic 1000x “breakthrough batteries”…..

    And I heard once that IBM bought up all the patents on using binary numbers so everybody else had to use “octal” numbers instead….

    /sarc off

    Cheers, KevinK

    • IBM did have their proprietary EBCDIC encoding of the alphabet and other symbols before 7- and 8-bit ASCII finally won out. Now we have 15-bit Unicode for worldwide alphabets, symbols, hieroglyphics, dingbats, etc.

    • KevinK,
      I thought all those miracle patents were bought up by JC Whitney, who would retail them under leaders like
      “Increase your mileage 20%”
      “burn water in your car and never need gasoline again”
      “increase your mileage another 20%”
      and so on.
      You could get running lights and baby moon hubs to go along with the enhanced performance.

    • Younger folks don’t know what a hot rod is. Or a carburettor.

      My local garage manager told me that his mechanics probably would not recognise a set of distributor points. However, they know all about fuel injection systems, and those are a total mystery to me. But I’m still able to change the air filter by myself.

  23. I remember this one urban legend about the little kid in the cereal commercial:

    “A few years after the original commercial appeared, an urban legend spread that the actor who had played Little Mikey had died after eating an unexpectedly lethal combination of Pop Rocks (a type of carbonated hard candy) and a carbonated soft drink, which caused his stomach to inflate with carbon dioxide. A MythBusters exploration of the legend in detail debunked the story, adding that the show had tried to contact Gilchrist, but he did not return their calls. The legend is not true; Gilchrist is a director of media sales at New York’s MSG Network.[13] The human stomach is too elastic to rupture or explode from consuming such excesses of carbonated foods or beverages.[citation needed]
    Afterward
    By 2012, John Gilchrist had become director of media sales for MSG Network. He has said that he has no clear memories of filming the commercial when he was age 3 1/2.”

    Can you still get Pop Rocks?

  24. Willis says: “My thought is that if we can understand why the urban legend of impending Thermageddon is so popular and so hard to kill, we will understand how to fight it.”

    If you want an analysis other than your own, set up a contest and offer a prize.

    Historically speaking, we have always been doing this sort of thing. Remember the anti-masonic political parties? The eugenics parties? I wouldn’t be surprised if Gobekli Tepe turned out to be some end-of-time cult.

  25. I hate to point out the obvious, but all animal and plant life on this planet is “organic”, if it was any different, you’d get a noble prize for having discovered a new form of life that is not carbon based… just sayin’…

  26. My thought is that if we can understand why the urban legend of impending Thermageddon is so popular and so hard to kill, we will understand how to fight it.

    The challenge is that it isn’t a single legend. Urban legends are for the most part a piece of cake to debunk. I once insisted on going to meet my friend’s friend’s great uncle who had the 100 MPG carburetor that GM came and confiscated off his brand new Cadillac. But when we found my friend’s friend, it wasn’t his great uncle, it was his cousin’s friend’s great uncle. So off the find the cousin, only to learn that… at some point it became obvious that we were chasing a mirage. But if I had just said that in the first place, I would have been ridiculed.

    A group of my friends was recently approached by a scalawag pushing clay. It cured everything from obesity to cancer. He was getting it from the elders of various…uhm, whatever the politically correct term for indigenous peoples reserves is now. I could see some people slowly getting sucked in. There was no point arguing the science because neither he nor the people he was suckering had the background to have a science discussion. But a few stupid questions fixed it. Huh, so this remedy was known all over North America? Indeed it was. For centuries? Yes indeed! And if can even cure virus infections? Absolutely! Kills ’em dead, but big pharma is suppressing it! Huh…so why did these people let themselves get wiped out by measles and smallpox if they had such a surefire cure? Ooops, pop! goes the balloon.

    The problem with the CAGW urban legend is that it is not nearly so simple. Get five believers in a room and ask them what they believe, and you will get eleven answers, some of which will be along the lines of “well I’m not sure exactly what is going to happen, but it is horrible and everyone knows that”. Before you can pop their balloon, you have to understand which balloons they actually believe in. There’s the 97% thing, the sea level rise thing, the ice caps are melting thing, the ocean acidification thing, the drought thing, the flooding thing, the desertification thing, the extinction thing, the more/bigger hurricanes thing, the general sense of doom that “everyone” knows is coming thing, and a whole host of other things.

    I can destroy any of those climate urban legends things just by asking stupid questions, or insisting that we look directly at the evidence being quoted. But to convince any single person, I first have to discover what tangled up web of things they actually believe is true, and then knock them down one by one. Simply not possible in a casual conversation, and here is the worse news. If you systematically tackle all of the things that they believe in over time, they will sprout new beliefs and revert back to old ones previously debunked faster than you can get through the list.

    That is why Thermageddon is so hard to kill. It grows new heads faster than you can cut the old ones off. If it had a heart, we could stick a spear in that, but it is a heartless creature that steals from the poorest and weakest while wrapped in a cloak of morality and pretends to be defending them.

    • That was a brilliant analysis. Well done. I hope to be not quite so pessimistic as you. But pragmatically speaking, you’ve well described the scope of the problem.

    • Yes indeedy.
      i have argued many a warmista sympathizer to a complete standstill, only to have them forget the entire debunking a few months later during a new discussion…it was as if they had never been proved wrong and slunk off with their tail between their legs at all!
      Astounding.
      To know stuff…you need to be able to recall stuff.

    • … a scalawag pushing clay …

      There are actually medical uses for clay. Like CAGW and any other urban legend, there is actually a grain of truth. Shakespeare nailed it:

      And oftentimes, to win us to our harm,
      The instruments of darkness tell us truths,
      Win us with honest trifles, to betray’s
      In deepest consequence link

  27. noaaprogrammer September 2, 2016 at 9:03 pm
    When nitrites are exposed to high heat, in the presence of amino acids, they can turn into carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines.

    Alright we have a bidder for deadly nitrates and nitrates. A serious charge.

    The first question to ask is whether nitrates and nitrates occur much in nature.

    Does any one else think nitrates and nitrites occur in nature a lot (including vegetables), not just in trace amounts in cold cuts and in beef to keep them from turning colors?

    A few more questions that come to mind– is there a global co2 cycle, a global methane cycle, a global salt/halogens cycle, and a global nitrous oxide cycle from plants?

    The natural circulations of various common compounds and elements have hardly been quantified! Methane hasn’t! CO2 hasn’t! Yet we already know that despite the enormous naturally occurring sources, when any of these compounds are the result of some essential or enjoyable use to people, they trigger “tipping points in the environment,” and cause cancer.

    I see a 60’s Generation scientific paradigm, and I sure do wish it was just an Urban Legend.

  28. Belief systems are the relational databases of the brain.
    Hard to construct and resistant to change.
    The only way to alter a belief system is to replace an old concept with a new one.
    Oh but…

  29. How about a Truly Classic Urban Legend?
    “The Vanishing Lady” has to be about the earliest example I have ever heard….
    [audio src="https://archive.org/download/OTRR_Escape_Singles/Escape_48-02-01_-026-_The_Vanishing_Lady_-national_broadcast-.mp3" /]
    You listen to the story, and you wonder if they hallucinated the whole sequence…!

  30. Willis is right that AGW has many of the triats of urban legend, the trouble is when you demand refs to the alleged study and read it you find that it actually does exist and says all the crap the proponent claims.

    This rather knocks the stuffing out of the ridicule tactic.

    • AGW is much more than just a one-off factoid, urban legend. It is firmly rooted in the believers world view.

      It is much more appropriate to regard it as a religion. You will not convince a christian that God does not exist by well placed scientific arguments. It is a matter of “faith” and that is not amenable to logic.

      The recently discussed C-trails is another example. It is based in world view that “they” are out to poison us and no amount of FACTS will undo that.

      I recently got into this with a friend of mine. At one point she said ” you can say what you want, you will not change my mind because I KNOW it’s not normal”. Later, when I had disproved by observations and meteo data all the claims she was making and the BS she had picked up from the internet without thought or criticism, she said I was being too logical ands analytic. We should apparently rely on our intuition.

      ie it’s faith based, not fact based.

      • Greg, you are totally correct on the “world view” comment. After being challenged on the validity of AGW, a friend stated that he knew AGW was true because he believed that all of the evils of the present world are the result of the advance of Western Civilization throughout the world. AGW was a perfect fit into his world view. He was of European descent and a part of Western Civilization. His explanation was a perfect example of how the concept of original sin uses guilt to motivate the acceptance of beliefs.

  31. I heard about some well preserved bodies that were dug up in Siberia. Mastodons. There were even reports of researchers trying out a 10K year old steak. Tasted so bad they didn’t have but a mouthful.

  32. I can guess what they found when they dug up the bodies, live relatives of the deceased looking to sue them for a million bucks!

  33. One that has caused significant damage is the anti-vaxxer messages. Daft stuff like shedding viruses, it’s better to gain your own resistance, chemicals in the vaccine cause injury etc. My friend who is an anaesthetist says he injects people IV with lots of drugs during surgery with the same preservatives as in Vaccines. He says he’s never had a patient wake up with autism yet.

    • Gareth claims:
      “One that has caused significant damage is the anti-vaxxer messages” So I challenge what damage is significant and to whom. One of the most circular arguments that I hear is that we have to have enough vaccinations to form a herd immunity. Well if vaccines are perfectly safe and with the claimed efficacy and you and your children got em; what do you care about herd immunity it’s not doing you any good anyway. Darwin will take care of the anti-vaxxers….

      • Problems we face Taz are for those individuals who for reasons of being immune-compromised or too frail for other reasons to receive inoculations. Herd immunity protects them. Those people who reject immunisation and are happy to contract various diseases will spread those diseases to this vulnerable group. As you say, once the sensible ones are inoculated it does not matter to them, but we care about the vulnerable.

      • Well, I have to admit that’s one of the best explanations I’ve gotten. My problem is with the compulsion and one size fits all approach. Just like climate there have been shenanigans on both sides of advocacy. I lose my faith a bit when government shields the pharma companies from lawsuits. My opinion is the airline industry is much safer that would be otherwise because crashes are really expensive.

      • There should be a limit on liabilty lawsuits, though. Anything required and therfore widespread will draw lawsuits when there is no plausible connection, like autism and childhood vaccines. As an example of an implausible lawsuit, I have seen ads soliciting clients on a purported connection between talcum powder and ovarian cancer.

  34. It’s a very interesting post Willis. As someone who has worked in Psychiatry for most of my working life, I see many aspects of urban myths and conspiracy theories that fall into the idea of ‘encapsulated delusional systems” This is a brief explanation. A person can be pretty well normal, apart from one area of thinking which is bizarre and has no basis in reality. Chemtrails for instance, or anti-semitism or the government invents diseases like Ebola. These problems are usually harmless and can be put down to being eccentric, unless, (and this is the critical point), unless they act on the delusions. Then it has the potential to cause serious problems.
    A case I recall from many years ago was a man who thought the Chinese army were invading the UK through tunnels from China the cellars of Chinese restaurants. Otherwise he was completely normal in thought and behaviour. However, one night he was arrested for throwing bricks through the windows of the restaurants to scare away the invaders. At that point action was taken. He has acted on his delusions.
    You can never tackle such beliefs through logic, because they are not part of the logical world. Once someone has gone down the rabbit hole, it can be very difficult to pull them out because they are no longer completely part of your world.
    So essentially, illogical thinking does no harm, as long as you don’t let it govern your life. Or as peppermint Patty said, believe what you like, but eat a good breakfast.

  35. Good bullet points Willis, though I thoroughly disagree with your closing note:
    “this story of impending thermal doom CANNOT BE FOUGHT WITH SCIENCE.”

    • I took his point well. This CAGW urban legend is a political movement. It hinges upon duping a majority, who don’t understand the science, into turning to their Governments for salvation. Once control has been passed all the real science in the world will not reverse the damage done.

      Consider that the current “peer review” process demonstrates the Governments ability to control the story. Massively funding an urban legend gives it authority for the 97% who don’t understand the science. You have to enlightened the great unwashed masses using the same tactics deployed to deceive. They cannot differentiate real science from urban legend.

    • I took it as that he cannot fight it with science, as he hasn’t got any that explain the changes, it seems to be all about how the climate doesn’t change much.

      • ulriclyons September 4, 2016 at 6:40 pm

        I took it as that he cannot fight it with science, as he hasn’t got any that explain the changes, it seems to be all about how the climate doesn’t change much.

        Sorry for the lack of clarity, Ulric. What I meant was that the basis of most people’s belief in the urban legend of climate is NOT science. Their belief is based on the things that make other urban legends survive—the moral aspect, the pleasurable frisson of the fear of something going wrong in the future, the identification of villains to blame … those kinds of things.

        And since their belief is NOT based on science, it cannot be fought with science. It has to be fought on moral grounds, or personal grounds, anything but science …

        As to science that “explains the changes”, when I started studying climate the thing that amazed me was not a half-degree temperature change in a century … it was that it ONLY changed half a degree in a century. So while people have been driving themselves crazy trying to explain the changes, I have focused on explaining the lack of change.

        However, since nobody can explain why we went into the Roman warm period, or why we cooled after that, or why the world warmed again in Medieval times, or why it cooled into the Little Ice Age, or why it came out of the LIA and has warmed for the last three centuries at something like a half degree per century … well, I’d say nobody has any science that explains the changes.

        w.

      • ” the pleasurable frisson of the fear of something going wrong in the future”

        I would have thought that the fear is the painful part, and their hubris is the pleasure principle. Not easy to break such an addictive cycle.

        “And since their belief is NOT based on science, it cannot be fought with science. It has to be fought on moral grounds, or personal grounds, anything but science … ”

        Can one actually win such a moral or personal fight against a solipsistic insular bigot? Good luck with that.

        “So while people have been driving themselves crazy trying to explain the changes..”

        Very likely while they assume natural variability to be internal.

        “I have focused on explaining the lack of change”

        Which provides no help in separating the natural and human caused components of the recent observed warming. But nonetheless very useful in allaying fears of potential runaway warming.

        “..well, I’d say nobody has any science that explains the changes.”

        Dis you ever acknowledge that the coldest periods on CET are all during solar minima? No I don’t think you did. Any comment on the strong association between the AMO and sunspot cycles?
        http://www.woodfortrees.org/graph/esrl-amo/from:1880/mean:13/plot/sidc-ssn/from:1880/normalise

    • No it hasn’t. The Paris Accord is not a treaty, it’s simply an agreement. There is nothing to ratify. Obama’s consensus on it is as meaningful as his promise to lower the seas. Non-binding on anybody.

      • Paul , You may be quite correct in your comments about the nature of this agreement, but mwhite also has a good point . The BBC , certainly in today’s midday news on Radio4. If I heard correctly they claimed that this is indeed the long hoped for ratification of Paris .
        According to the report by Harrabin ,the climate affairs journalist , Obama persuaded an initially reluctant China to join him in ratification and that this will make it almost impossible for any other nation not to do likewise.
        So no qualifications about China “reviewing and ratifying” , no comments about China’s freedom to continue its emissions , no doubts about the legality of the Obama statement , only claims that solar and windpower are rapidly dropping in cost ( no mention of intermittency) with a final comment that therefore this makes it possible to avoid a thermal catastrophe of , not , 1.5C , not 2C , but 3C in the next few years . No suggestion as to where the 3C came from .
        Like it or not , the BBC has a considerable audience , not only in the UK but worldwide.

  36. The advertising industry works in a similar way, a company finds some minor body ailment and then says if you don’t use this product , aided by a good advertising company, you will be doomed.

    • Yeah, I recently saw a sign on a pepperoni display that announced to everyone that pepperoni was “gluten free”. And, on the packaging, Twizzlers state that they are a “fat free” food. Buzz words are great for sales.

  37. “Urban legends” is just a re-framing of “mythology”. And mythology has plagued man since he first learned to grunt coherently. Like indigenous “oral history”, generally not worth the paper it isn’t printed on….

  38. “In closing, let me note that if my analysis is correct, this story of impending thermal doom CANNOT BE FOUGHT WITH SCIENCE. Why? Because it is an urban legend, not a scientific claim. As such it needs to be fought on its own ground, by attacking what actually keeps it alive … and that has very little to do with science.”

    So many +1’s.

    The only thing I’d change in this would be to say that it has NOTHING AT ALL to do with Science; Science (scientists, experts, technicians, et cetera, ad nauseam) is the Authority (a.k.a “Unverifiable Credentials”) to which the initiators of the CAGW meme appeal in their quest for legitimacy, influence and power — nothing more. If it gets “discredited,” they’ll simply replace it, per your Adaptability Principle. Maybe they’ll move (back) to “Karma, et al.” (i.e. superstition and subjective morality) to support the story. The mythos of Mother Earth remains with us to this day, and has already occasionally been invoked by some as a reason for “combating climate change.” In any case, whether or not karma or Gaia (or Ceiling Cat) get the nod, they won’t have to look very far for their next set of Authorities: after all, even the Pope is in on it at this point.
    [ http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2016/sep/1/pope-francis-calls-climate-change-sin/ ]

  39. No disrespect, but the lead-in story seems a lot like a joke to me, complete with a good punch line. I think I’ll try it out on some of the more extreme environmentalists in my family.

  40. Unfortunately, while completely true, the point that these policies hurt the poor the most has no impact. You can point out how banning DDT killed millions or how the World Bank won’t loan money for power plants in Africa or anything, but virtue signaling (“I am saving the planet”) is so rewarding that they don’t care about the actual consequences. It is an absolutist frame of mind. If they could assess costs and benefits, they would be willing to consider adaptation instead of wind farms.

    • Thanks, Craig. I’m not as hopeless as you are regarding people noticing that the alarmist policies hurt the poor the most. I would point to the fact that of all of my 500+ posts on climate, the one that is far and away the most-read is my post on how the war on CO2 hurts the poor called “We Have Met The 1% And He Is Us”

      I’d also point to the book called “The Moral Case For Fossil Fuels”, which is having good success. I just had a friend ask me my opinion of the book the other day, which I took as a good sign.

      For me, the question of the effect on the poor is the Achilles heel of the AGW scam. I’ve actually gotten some of my liberal friends to admit that yes, there are negative effects on the poor. The moral aspect of the urban legend is huge, the claim that they are “saving the planet”. If we can show people that whether or not they are “saving the planet” they are hurting the poor, we have a chance. It hits them where they are vulnerable, because in most cases they DO want to do the good, moral thing … they just have identified the wrong thing.

      My best to you,

      w.

      • I’m with you Willis. My experience is that there are well meaning, busy folks out there that haven’t found time or energy to test the legend that assaults them daily from the radio, TV or newspaper. Some are not willing to look at the other side but some are. Sometimes a good approach is to help them follow their convictions to a logical conclusion. A recent letter to the editor recommended a carbon tax based on its effectiveness and wide support. I responded
        “Your premise is that the problems of drought, fires, and beetles can be controlled by reducing fossil fuel use. To accomplish this control you recommend a CO2 tax based on its effectiveness and popularity. Can you give me any evidence of a CO2 tax being effective? If so did it effect temperature or fire outbreaks or atmospheric CO2 content? The CO2 tax in Australia seemed only to effect individual’s wealth- some positive some negative. If the reason to support the tax is it’s popularity we should put it to a vote and we can campaign on which climate we want to have.
        Forgive me for sounding flip with this last paragraph. It is not meant to be demeaning of your position but to seek a thoughtful response.”
        My hope this will help him look into his convictions about climate change and where he got them.

  41. Too funny.
    Willis’s urban legend about what urban legends are.

    Willis, here is a clue. When you do “story” analysis. it is best to start with data.
    ACTUAL data. ie many many many examples of urban legends.

    start here.

    http://urbanlegends.about.com/

    You can do the same thing with fairies tales, ghost stories, detective stories…

    There is a word for this discipline that escapes me… haha

    • So, you want to sneer at me but unfortunately you can’t find one single thing in what I wrote to object to.

      So instead, you wave your hands and claim that instead of starting with a REAL urban legend that I just heard, the legend that actually triggered off the train of thought that became the post, I should have used the urban legends that you selected.

      Then you refer me to a site that has dozens of urban legends … gosh, thanks, Steven, I would never have thought of reading dozens of urban legends and reading dozens of pages about urban legends before starting, it takes your true genius to think of that … wait, what am I saying? Now that I think of it, what you are recommending is EXACTLY WHAT I DID. Perhaps you truly think I’m so stupid that I wouldn’t do the exact homework you recommend … here’s a clue.

      I’m not. I did exactly what you recommended, read the literature first, both individual legends and also a host of (often contradictory) theories about what is in urban legends and what makes them work, web pages, a masters thesis on the subject, the usual urban legend sites … and then having done so, I thought about it and came up with my own understanding of why urban legends are so hard to kill. Which is why the post wasn’t written three days ago.

      But of course, with your omniscient knowledge, you are able to determine from afar that either I didn’t look at enough urban legends, or look at the proper Mosher approved sites, or that the masters thesis I read on urban legends wasn’t the right masters thesis … dude, you are one sick puppy. I assure you that my world looks NOTHING like your fantasies.

      So as you say, too funny indeed, you acting like a handwaving fool. Come back when you actually find something wrong with what I wrote, and not something wrong in your fantasy about how I went about writing it.

      I gotta say, amigo … sometimes, you are a true jerkwad. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. Your endless whining and sniping and bitching, based on nothing more than your fantasies regarding other peoples’ actions and motives, is pathetic. Unfortunately, it’s what you’ve done here in lieu of making one single substantive point about what I actually wrote.

      The bad news is, your nonsense has gotten real old. At first it was kind of endearing to see you puffing and blowing … now it’s just the same boring Mosher shtick, with your smarmy “I’m in the know and all of you aren’t” tone and your cryptic statements. That act is way, way past its use-by date, Mosh, you truly should give it up. It doesn’t help the discussion in the slightest. Instead, it impedes and sidetracks it.

      Not only that, but it is not doing your reputation any good. I know that you are a smart guy, with insights and understanding that could be valuable to all of us … so how about you start acting like the intelligent guy I know you to be?

      w.

      • Hi Willis, enjoy your articles.

        Steven frequently provides opposing views/reality checks sometimes with good insight……….blended into trolling.

        Today’s comment suggests that his troll hat might be getting too snug around his over sized brain (-:

      • Thanks, Mike. In my book Mosh is one of the good guys, but sometimes he goes off the rails. Doesn’t really matter, I’ll always have time for him. It’s just frustrating at times.

        w.

      • Willis, when you post ” sometimes, you are a true jerkwad.” it makes you look like one.

        Try acting like an adult please.

      • richard@rbaguley.plus.com September 3, 2016 at 7:36 pm

        Willis, when you post ” sometimes, you are a true jerkwad.” it makes you look like one.

        Try acting like an adult please.

        Hey, when I get attacked I get passionate—so sue me. I guess you don’t care that much about stuff, or maybe you’re just naturally phlegmatic … but attempting to patronize me on the subject is as childish a thing as you might do.

        If you want someone who is always nice and kind and gentle, let me suggest that you go listen to Mr. Rodgers … but when you do so, you might note that it is a children’s show …

        w.

      • I like your writing Willis, and this article is great. But sometimes when you react to criticism your sensitivity puts climate sensitivity in the shade.
        On the other hand, I’m just as bad, so you are welcome to think of me as a pot calling the kettle…………….

        These urban myths were called FOAFs when i was young ( Friend of a Friend stories) and a useful book was written on the subject by George Melly, the old British jazz singer. he agrees with you that some of these myths seem to full fill a primeval need in humans for such stories. He goes on to suggest some of the stories can be seen in legends going back as far as Babylon. As someone who has worked in psychiatry for most of my professional life I find these issues fascinating, and suspect there is a line between Urban Myths, Conspiracy theories, delusional systems and mental illness. At one end they are harmless and fun, at the other they are a pathological symptom.
        https://www.amazon.co.uk/Tumour-Whale-Rodney-Dale/dp/0715613146

      • Richard,
        When I read Willis say to Mosh ”sometimes, you are a true jerkwad.” , what I thought was this: True dat!
        When people act like jerkwads, they can expect to be called a one.

  42. With most people growing up in urban areas and spending little to no time in the wilds, the vast majority are inheriting an anthropocentric brain. No wonder CAGW is so easily adopted as truth and no wonder the resilient earth seems far fetched. This is a big reason why this urban legend persist when most others are cast aside as nonsense.

  43. “not one person even questioned the story.” Where the people around the camp fire Friends? Did you challenge the storyteller? If not why not? If you did what was the reaction of the remainder of the group? This leads me to question; Was your fish camp fire story just a fish story as an opening for this article?

    It is my habit when in a mixed group of friends and others I usually do not respond to a tall tale in the interest of civility. If we are all friends they expect the BS call from me. At the end of the tale of course. My point is; Silence has many meanings and until queried it is just silence.

    • Flyoverbob September 3, 2016 at 7:38 am

      “not one person even questioned the story.” Where the people around the camp fire Friends?

      Yep.

      Did you challenge the storyteller? If not why not?

      Did you read what I wrote? If not, why not? I said in the head post:

      Well, by this time my Urban Legend Detector was going off so loudly that I was afraid the story teller would hear it ringing, so I just sat back to watch the denouement …

      So no … I didn’t challenge anything.

      If you did what was the reaction of the remainder of the group? This leads me to question; Was your fish camp fire story just a fish story as an opening for this article?

      Bob, it appears you don’t know it but you are walking close to the edge when you accuse a man of passing off a tall tale as an actual occurrence. Perhaps you and your friends do that, I wouldn’t know … I don’t. And I certainly don’t appreciate being asked if I was telling lies for dramatic effect … it’s not a question you should ask an honest man.

      Me, I do my best to live by what in my family is called “The Captain’s Code”. It came from my great-grandfather, who was called “The Captain” by everyone including his own children. Part of The Captain’s Code says this:

      “If there is a man who can call you a liar, kill him. If you are one, kill yourself. There is no room for either of you.”

      Now, The Captain was born well before the Civil War, and these are modern times, so I’ve never killed anyone for calling me a liar. But I still do my best to live up to the spirit of that injunction. Yes, I know it is archaic and outdated, a relic of bygone days, but it still rules my life and it has served me very well.

      It is my habit when in a mixed group of friends and others I usually do not respond to a tall tale in the interest of civility. If we are all friends they expect the BS call from me. At the end of the tale of course. My point is; Silence has many meanings and until queried it is just silence.

      I didn’t call him out. As you point out, It was neither the place nor the time. As a world traveler who has spent lots of time at village firesides around the planet, in such situations I’m usually much more of an observer of local customs than a participant. Rather than interfere, I was far more interested in the reaction of the others. They mostly asked the local Tusitala about his story, and speculated not on whether the facts were true but on what the implications of the story were, with the unstated assumption that they were hearing nothing but the unvarnished gospel …

      Best regards,

      w.

  44. When Malcolm Muggeridge was a news correspondent in Moscow, he played a game with his fellow reporters. They would compete to create a fake story so obviously nonsensical that it would be rejected by the “intelligentsia visitors” to the USSR they encountered. For example, he spun a tale that the huge queues outside food shops were a deliberate plan to prevent workers from voluntarily spending too much time in the factories: the lines ensured they would get fresh air and rest. Like all the others, this fiction was gobbled up uncritically (“The Great Liberal Death Wish”). It’s like that with so many topics today: there seems to be no limit to the appetite for certain types of lies.

  45. “The bodies of the Siberian people had decayed just like you’d expect … but the bodies of the people from the US were nearly perfectly intact, because of meat preservatives that they’d been eating!”
    __________________________________

    Time of decay is mostly depending on composition and humidity of the soil in the cemetery.

  46. Brilliant article on urban legends.
    However, AGW is not urban; it’s official, and sacralized in the mandate given to UNFCCC in 1992 (IPCC experts produce Assessment Reports on its behalf to prosecute GHGs).
    And AGW is no legend; it’s an irrefutable dogma.

    • Let’s create a society where 80% of the population are above average intelligence.
      (Newspeak, or newmath, take your pick.)

  47. Alex Epstein puts the moral case for the use of fossil fuels beautifully in his book the Moral Case For Fossil Fuels: ” Mankind’s use of fossil fuels is supremely virtuous,- because human life is the standard of value, and because using fossil fuels transforms our environment to make it wonderful for human life.”

  48. The AGW legend is more than just urban. It is institutional and mainstream – just as the 30 yr long animal fat scare was. The vast majority of doctors believed it. Processed and polyunsaturated alternatives were ‘healthier’

    Only those of us that grew up on a high animal fat diet remained skeptical. Likewise, those of us who grew up working in, and relying on weather, trust more our memories than published data and predictions

    Forget any data prior to 1950. It is useless. Since then? As a friend of mine would say. ” A hell of a lot of buggr’-all is still buggr’ all” Arguments over 10th’s of 1C? . It’s child’s stuff

    • Child’s stuff…right up until they start instituting actual harmful and expensive policies, and dismantling our energy infrastructure, and filling children’s heads up with scary stories of a hopeless future on a bleak and dead world.
      Then it is not childish…it is dangerous and insane.

    • The issue is Michael that people react differently to different diets depending on their genetic makeup. There are people who could eat what is considered an unhealthy diet and live a long and healthy life. Others who eat a diet full of fresh veg, reasonable amounts of animal fat and get plenty of exercise, and fall of their perches from an MI at 35. In terms of diet, one size does not fit all. probably the only one which is toxic to pretty well everyone is smoking.
      The trick is to live a lifestyle that benefits your particular needs.

      • And yet there are also plenty of people who smoke like chimneys for an entire lifetime from teenage years onwards, and still live a very long and healthy life.
        Smoking may be associated with an increased risk of a lot of very bad outcomes, but it still grates on me when i hear people say “smoking is proven to cause cancer”, or some such.
        I always want to ask them, how many cigarettes will “cause” cancer?
        Obviously the question has no answer, because some will get cancer young, others much older, and many never get it at all.
        BTW, I do not smoke, and never have, and encourage anyone who does smoke to quit…immediately and forever.
        Just sayin’.

    • Right. Catastrophic climate change is much more like animal fats in the diet being bad than it is like an urban legend. They are “institutional and mainstream”, not just something floating around among the uninformed.

      You can take almost anything potentially dangerous (terrorism, animal fats, not wearing seat belts, …) and force fit it into the criteria Willis gives for an urban legend, as Willis has done with AGW. All you really have to do is take what experts have to say about the subject and attribute it to “Unverifiable but Prestigious Credentials”. Things like terrorism, AGW, etc. are not urban legends for the simple reason that experts say they aren’t. But the experts can be wrong (the cause of ulcers is an especially good example) and are subject to group think, just like the rest of us.

  49. It is deeply anchored in our genes that we FIRST OF ALL and ABOVE ALL must react on the danger that threatens us. Our possible ancestors that didn’t do so and instead preferred to listen to nice story’s, didn’t survive because sooner or later there was a spear or a club that killed them. And so their genes were lost. We all, kids of the survivors, we all have genes that let us react first of all and above all on DANGER. And people who want to ‘move people to their side’ are using this simple but deeply rooted mechanism.

    Everyone who wants to manipulate uses the following system: first tell about “The Danger” and then, when everyone is starting to feel a danger, tell “The Solution”. Those who want to sell a remedy against something or want to sell a solution for something else: they first tell about the danger. In religion priests will tell you that you must avoid the dangers they are first explaining to you and after that tell you to do ‘what is good to do for you’. Nationalist leaders often told us that ‘the other country’ threatens the existence of our own country and by pointing on ‘the common danger’, they could unify a lot of people which otherwise would have only been fighting each other. In case we are convinced of ‘a real danger’ we forget all of our reasoning and first of all and above all we are going to ‘fight the danger’. Survival first, Thinking later.

    And that’s what is happening in the climate scene also. Alarm alarm alarm! Danger danger danger!

    So debunking the wrong ideas is step one. This website and colleagues of it did do well and this ‘debunking’ has got to go on. But after that, find a new danger which is scaring people even more? It will be difficult to convince people that there is a danger that is more threatening than climate change. Your mother says it is dangerous, the teachers say so, the media tell you and the president says that 97% of the scientists say so. Climate change is the Danger! So we don’t need to discuss that any more: let’s first fight ‘the danger’. And think later.

    Who thinks different about climate change, must try to get attention in ‘another way’. Besides explaining that people ‘don’t have to worry’ because the seas will not drown whole countries, that we will not be baked in our own houses, that the coral will not be ‘bleached to death’, the ‘desertification will not kill all of our forests’ and “most of the living species will not be extinct’, we must tell another story. A positive story.

    I would prefer to start a campaign “I LOVE CO2”. Telling all the good things CO2 brought to us in the past as well as in the present. About the steam machine that did run on coal and about fossil fuels that made mass production possible – and so our modern society that brought prosperity to most of us. About the present CO2 in the air that is one of the main reasons that hunger in the world is down: 30% more food production for every farmer in the world. More of the most important plant food ‘for free’, also for the poorest farmer and far lower food prices for the explosive growing urban population. Thanks to CO2.
    And perhaps CO2 is even keeping us out of the dangerous next ice age!

    But unfortunately, even saying loud “I LOVE CO2” has become a little bit dangerous, because there are people that are so scared for climate change that they want to fight all and everything in any way. They stopped thinking long ago. And ever did forget ‘fact checking’.

    That is why humour could help. Make alarmism ridiculous. Make politicians who made and still make silly claims ridiculous. Make scientists that don’t know about the benefits of CO2 ridiculous. And make scientists (and universities) that make false claims ridiculous.

    Repeat simple facts a thousand times. The Deltares map http://aqua-monitor.appspot.com/ shows we are not drowning: use it everywhere. The map that the Earth is greening https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/07/130708103521.htm – show it, use it. Explain that thanks to CO2 the world is greening. Explain that in a warmer and greening world there is room for more species than in a cold and barren world: in the Amazon are far more species living than in the Sahara and in the Arctic. Tell them that only some thousands of years ago the world has been at least as warm as we think it could or will be in 2100 – without making big problems. Show them that the world is not on a dangerous warming path by showing graphic’s like this one: http://www.al.com/news/huntsville/index.ssf/2015/04/7_questions_with_john_christy.html

    And in the end: make clear that a world that goes back to an ice age (with sea ports that will fall dry, agricultural production area’s that will be converted to plains of snow and ice, forests that will die because of the cold etc., that THAT is a real danger. A danger that could stay far away when we shouldn’t be afraid of “CO2” and should open our eyes for the real facts and for all the benefits of CO2. Inclusive the beneficial warming we are having profit of right now.

    We are back where we started: people need a danger. It is a pity, but that’s in our genes. For example the danger of a Next Glacial. But also, people prefer to hear a story of a better future. That is what is motivating them positively. And that story is what they need when ‘the fear’ is fading away.

    I myself have made a switch in my head when I read the book ‘Abundance’ from Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. The future will give us enormous possibility’s – and often we don’t realize this, being busy with ‘the danger’ and busy with ‘what is bad’ and for the rest: busy with daily life. Making the right choices for the right future is what people which are paving the way for the economy’s of the future should do. No, this is not ‘daily level’, most people can only be busy with today and tomorrow, the family, the street, their job. And perhaps they think about next month. But the ones who are thinking about the far future…..

    I think a lot of the people of the last group are frequenting websites like this. Checking the facts and thinking about the possibilities that arise when ‘the climate danger’ has been proven not to exist.

    Therefore this website is already doing a fine job. Thanks to people like Anthony, Willis and many others. Please go on and keep improving!

    (I had to use a lot of words: sorry! I already stopped. I am gonna read Willis’ “We have met the 1%, and he is us”. Thanks for reading the above)

    • Thanks, Hunter. Nitrates and nitrites mainly, used to extend the shelf life of things like salami.

      w.

  50. Willis: ‘Next, details. Few people will believe a random legend that some woman somewhere stuck her hand in a pile of blankets and got snake-bit …’

    Except that the urban legend thrives on the lack of verifiable detail. Take the meat preservative story, which begins: ‘A few years ago there was a study done by some University, I can’t remember which one, but it was a major one …’

    So, some university, somewhere, did a study.

    Further, the lack of detail allows the story to have local resonance. According to the above article, the story is being told on the banks of the ‘Colombia’, which from a previous article seems to refer to the Columbia River.

    The Columbia River flows from British Columbia to Washington State, and one of the specifics in the story is ‘Washington’. This detail conforms to one of the characteristics of the urban legend, that it is portable to many locales.

    The corpses in the legend could be located in any advanced industrial country

    That’s not the case with global warming. When people make claims about the dying of the Great Barrier Reef, they are referring to a specific natural phenomenon located in a specific part of the world. They also refer to specific studies carried out by specific, named scientists.

    These aspects are not the characteristics of the urban legend.

  51. And in one fell swoop, you managed to diminish the stature (such as it was) of the fantasy of global warming, climate change, or whatever it’s called this week.

  52. Sitting around the camp fire on the Columbia River, the topic of fusion power plants being built and Tesla batteries making wind and solar economical was discussed.

    Forgot to keep my trap closed. If you hear it on public radio, it must be true. They are not biased.

  53. This made me laugh Willis:
    ” I mean, what could be more virtuous that seeing that your friends don’t get into trouble?”
    ====
    Friends are supposed to get friends into trouble, and then recount the tale of said troubles ad infinitum.

  54. Best argument is to say is 25 years ago the scientists predicted it would be much hotter today. Their predictions failed horribly. I’m no longer listening to them.

  55. Duster says, “They often express the hope that by correcting the errors made by their neighbors, that the Golden Age can be restored. This applies equally to the Catholic Church, ISIS, the Green movement, liberals (in the modern rather than the classical sense), the Tea Party, etc. The belief that we know how things have changed and how they can be put right gives people a sense of control.”

    If the environmentalists believe that the use of chemical compounds to control microorganisms is causing all the diseases, then it is because they have been thoroughly miseducated, under the Boomers’ environmental scientific paradigm.

    This systematic paradigm does not warn the younger generations about thousands of deadly microorganisms, nor about the millions of pests which can and will eat all of your food before you do. The practitioners in this paradigm only hunt for neutral or benign chemicals which are abundant in nature, and publish papers about how when utilized by people, these chemical compounds trigger tipping points in the environment and cause cancer. Nitrates and Nitrites, for example, are created by lightning in the atmosphere and plant life could not continue without it. But the Environmentalists don’t like ammonia, nitrous oxide, nitrates or nitrites. Although the availability of these nitrogen compounds is essential to all life, and generated by electricity in the atmosphere, they greedily and with great malice try to scare every one about using these chemical compounds to grow plants and preserve meat.

    The history of science, to me, means the discoveries of:
    the elements of the periodic table,
    microorganisms,
    the electromagnetic spectrum (from radio waves to gamma waves), and
    the generation of electricity.

    The groups that want to forbid the use of these–to forbid our use of science in daily life–and who want to reverse all of the patents which have been filed in the free, open, English-speaking Protestant countries, are extremely anti-science; an entire generation is fixated on this attempt to return to the time before these scientific advances were discovered — usually by everyday people — and lawfully used in patents.

    But in order to forbid the use of our patents and science in daily life, they must first make us afraid of the science itself.

    I really think we should be called nitrogen-based life forms, and have a national nitrogen appreciation week.

  56. I’m so so late to the conversation. That is what happens when you wander off on a Labor Day Weekend.

    I think Mark Twain had a good approach (I hope this is not UL too…). Something like, agree with everything the liar says, come up with a lie of your own that confirms and raises the implications of the lie by a factor of 10, and force that liar to affirm everything you are lying about to avoid exposure of his original lie.

  57. If you eat nothing but preservatives, you will live forever.
    You will have no taste, but you will live forever.

  58. Is it round, squishy, and small enough to hold in your hand? Obviously it’s a tennis ball, in spite of an abundance of scientific evidence that it’s an orange.

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