Modern Scientific Controversies Part 5: Common Elements

Guest Essay by Kip Hansen

msc_smPrologue:  This is the fifth, and last, in a series of essays discussing ongoing scientific controversies—each one a so-called “science war”.  This essay attempts to illuminate the similarities that exist between the four previous topics and, of course,  the Climate Wars.

Warning:  This is not a short essay.  Dig in when you have time to read a longer piece.

So far in this series, I have written about The Salt WarsThe Great Barrier Reef Wars, The War on Sugar and most recently The Obesity Epidemic [aka The Obesity Wars].  At the end of each of these essays, I have encouraged readers not to get ahead of themselves by drawing parallels to the Climate Wars, promising that I will get to it in the end–this essay is that end.   What follows is my analysis of the core elements of Modern Scientific Controversies.

All Modern Scientific Controversies (MSCs hereafter) begin with one required element without which there would be no MSC.  That element is an ADVOCACY CAUSE (the Cause hereafter).   We have seen these Causes in each of the MSCs discussed in this series:  in the Salt Wars, the Cause is to “reduce the dietary salt intake of the general public to save lives”;  in the Great Barrier Reef Wars the Cause is to “save the reef from destruction by human activity”.

In each case, the Cause is a position made up of three planks – like a political platform.  These three planks, in each and every controversy, are:  the Problem, the Truth, and the Solution.

MSCs usually, but not always, start off with a widely recognized Problem that needs resolution.  In the Salt Wars, the perceived Problem is too many people are suffering from High Blood Pressure which increases public health care costs results in the premature deaths of too many citizens.  It is something real, is actually happening (at least epidemiologically).  In the Climate Wars, the average surface air temperature (as far as can be determined) seems to have risen by 1°C or so since the mid-19th century (which coincides with the beginning of the modern industrial era) and while, to some, this is good news, it is perceived by some to be a grave problem.  In the Obesity Wars, rising numbers of the obese are considered to be driving up health care costs and harming the health of many.

We see that the Problem must be something real that can be convincing said to be actually happening and that can be communicated to be a situation that requires a solution or ….  something bad continues or takes place in the future.

MSCs don’t always start with a problem to be solved…they can start with a preferred action—the Solution—and through back-formation, arrive at the problem that the solution could be said to solve.

The next two elements—planks—of a Cause are the Truth and the Solution.

Let’s start with the Truth.  For the advocacy cause to gain any respectability—any veracity—the Truth element must be irrefutable.  Let’s look again at the Salt Wars:  the Truth of the Salt Wars is that dietary salt increases blood pressure. This is a fact—every time you feed a human a reasonable dose of salt, be it in his soup or on his mashed potatoes, the person’s blood pressure will go up for a period of time.  In the Obesity Wars there are two Truths in play:  “calories in > calories burned = weight gain” and obesity is a risk factor for many adverse health conditions.  Both are facts, irrefutable.  In the Climate Wars, increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere causes the Earth system to retain energy that would otherwise be re-radiated into space [h/t Physics].

In each MSC, the Advocacy Cause a Solution is then presented as an application of the  Truth that brings about the necessary resolution of the Problem.  We are all aware of these proposed solutions:  Force everyone to lose weight to solve or prevent obesity, save lives, and reduce public health care costs; greatly reduce the amount of salt in the public diet through education, propaganda and government regulation of food manufacturing and prevent heart disease; stop all human activity that could adversely affect reefs and spend more money on reef research; reduce consumption of added sugars through a public campaign of sugar shaming, regulations and punitive taxation.  [Post publishing addition (h/t to reader gregjxn):  Notice that in almost all cases, the Advocacy Cause Solution contains an element of coercion or enforcement in which the general public or some portion is required to comply or participate in the Cause’s Solution–by direct government intervention, regulations and laws,  public propaganda campaigns, required changes to public school curriculum, etc.    1816 hrs Eastern Time 2 Jan 16 17]

MSCs can feed on one another, the Great Barrier Reef Wars feed on the Climate Wars, the War on Sugar feeds on the Obesity Wars.  They become mutually reinforcing.

I know, I know…..I hear some readers saying “But…But…But….”.  You are right.

The other Key Factor in MSCs is that the Advocacy Cause—the three plank platform—ALWAYS has one or more serious FLAWs.  Without the Flaw, there could be no controversy, the Advocacy Cause would simply, slowly or quickly, become the accepted reality of its science field and segue into public policy—there would be no opposition.  The Flaw can be scientific—applying any of the three planks: Truth, Problem, or Solution.  There may be something about the science of it that makes it invalid, inapplicable, unlikely, untenable, impossible, foolish or nonsensical.  The Flaw can be social—the public may not believe the Problem, the Solution may be unacceptable socially, the Truth may offend moral sensibilities.  The Flaw can be political:  any of the three planks can simply be impossible politically in the area of concern.

Let’s look at some of these Flaws.

In the Salt Wars the flaw exists in the Truth (and thus infects the Solution).  Dietary salt does increase blood pressure, but for the vast majority of the population the increase is very small and not clinically important. [see Minimal Clinically Important Difference — Defining What Really Matters to Patients by Anna E. McGlothlin, PhD and Roger J. Lewis, MD, PhD] It is only for those genetically-determined to be salt sensitive that salt reduction becomes part of the solution for high blood pressure.  The Advocacy Solution of “reducing the dietary salt intake of all citizens” is thus flawed and rightly deemed by its medical opponents as being an ill-advised experiment that uses the entire population as a cohort (experimental subjects) without their informed consent; an experiment that may well have negative effects for most of the subjects.

In the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) Wars, there is a Flaw in both the Problem and Solution. It is true that human activity can harm reefs, especially near-shore reefs and reefs subject to intense sustenance over-fishing and that high surface sea water temperature can and does cause coral bleaching. In general, the problems are local in scope and thus solutions must be specifically local—for this island, we must stop sustenance over-fishing, stop the use of improper, destructive fishing techniques, dispose of wastewater from the city further out to sea.  For the GBR, Australia has long-enforced very stringent restrictions on activities that could harm near-shore reefs and the results have been and continue to be very positive – the drum-beat of continued demand to further restrict human activities, which  restrictions are unlikely to have much, if any, additional benefit, is seriously flawed.  The advocacy position in the GBR Wars that is in support of the Climate Wars is an additional Flaw, bleaching occurs when El Niño comes into play, and Super El Niños bleach even more – cutting CO2 omissions will have little to no effect on sea surface temperatures and affect only very-near-surface reefs.

In a MSC not previously covered, the Flaw is social.  Unless you are a pediatrician, involved in the fight against STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) or a school administrator, you may not have heard of the controversy surrounding Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.  The vaccine is recommended by the CDC for all 11-12 year olds.   It has become simply another of the large range of normally administered childhood  immunizations.  The MSC though stems from—you guessed it—an Advocacy  Cause.  In this case, the Cause is to require that all girls entering junior high school to be vaccinated for HPV to be allowed to attend school.   This movement, entirely unnecessary, poisoned the HPV vaccine effort – many citizens did not want to think that their precious little girls needed to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease at age 11 or 12, if ever.  The Flaw is that the Solution proposed in the Advocacy Cause was socially unacceptable.  Very few parents, however, had any objection to their pediatrician’s suggestion that children be vaccinated against HPV as part of the normal course of childhood vaccinations.  It was only the Advocacy Cause to enforce vaccination through the public schools that generated opposition.  In this MSC, as in others, there are also other contributing Flaws:  the current vaccines only prevent some of the many types of HPV infections, the current vaccine can cause anaphylactic shock in some patients receiving it, etc.

In most of the MSCs, the Flaws are the very aspects of the Advocacy Cause  intentionally introduced by the Advocates to inflate and exaggerate the seriousness of the Problem,  to pump-up the effectiveness of their proposed Solution and/or to increase the applicability, scope, or significance of their Truth.

Dan Kahan, of the Cultural Cognition Project, has his own (his project’s) idea of what causes these MSCs, which his group labels the Science Communication Problem.  I do not agree with their blindered social science conclusions but in one or two cases, Kahan has correctly identified the source of the problem:  Advocacy gone wrong.  It is a shame that Kahan and his associates are unable to take a few steps back to achieve perspective, instead, they assert the position that seems to be that any-and-all consensus statements from authoritative sources must be True, Pure, and Unbiased and therefore any opposition to their dictates must be irrational and caused by “cultural cognition”.    John P.A. Ioannidis, taking a much more pragmatic view, states simply: “Claimed research findings [and their consensuses – kh] may often be simply accurate measures of the prevailing bias”.

Many of our MSCs rely on “white hat bias” to gain support for their Advocacy Cause.  Who could be against “fighting cancer” or “saving whales” or “preserving the world’s coral reefs”?  The Advocates respond to criticism by repeating (endlessly and with infinite variation) their Truths and defy opponents to “deny the science” and invariably accuse opponents  of “supporting (or being supported by) Big Tobacco or Big Oil”.  Advocacy Solutions are forever exaggerated in effect:  “will save millions of lives” and “bring about a brighter tomorrow”.   Opponents, who have the audacity to point out the Flaws are vilified as “anti-science” or “against progress” and scientific findings by opponents are denigrated, regardless of their validity.

For Advocates The Cause” often becomes all-consuming and leads them into behaviors that have been distasteful, harmful, duplicitous and illegal.  I leave it to readers here to inform each other of examples.

The Bottom Line:

 All Modern Scientific Controversies are brought into being by Advocates, who build an Advocacy Cause on a three plank platform of a Truth, a Problem, and a Solution.

  1. In each MSC the Advocacy Cause contains major, invalidating Flaws in one or more of these planks.
  2. Advocates, usually on the basis of white hat bias, use exaggeration to increase the seriousness of the Problem, the applicability of the Truth, and the benefits of their Solution.
  3. The more heated a MSC becomes, the worse the behavior of the participants – personal attacks, denigration of valid scientific findings, guilt by association, assassination of professional reputations, backstabbing, and name-calling are all par for the course — usually confined to the Advocates but also infecting opponents in some cases, when they find themselves frustrated, abused, vilified and fighting for their reputations.
  4. The general public is left confused and polarized with their trust in Science and Scientists betrayed and left diminished by the public display of uncivil and unscientific behavior on the part of the scientists involved.
  5. And in the Climate Wars all of the above in spades.

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Author’s Comment Policy:

I enjoy reading your comments – I read them all, every one, as long as WUWT leaves comments open.  I do try to reply to comments specifically addressed to me, leading with “Kip….”.   I strive to keep my replies pertinent to the topic of the essay and hope you do will do the same.

Regular readers will know that I have little interest in what are called The Climate Wars, particularly as “fought” in the comment sections of the various climate blogs.    I generally do not respond to salvos from either side of the climate divide.  There are plenty of opportunities for Climate Warriors to battle elsewhere – please take that kind of activity to those other blogs.

I’d love to see your analyses of Modern Scientific Controversies – you may see many things that I have failed to see.

# # # # #

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172 thoughts on “Modern Scientific Controversies Part 5: Common Elements

    • Remember when Saddam set fire to the oil wells? That one disproved the nuclear winter theory, in spades.

      • It never had a valid scientific basis. It was pro-Soviet political advocacy from the start, espoused by nuclear freeze activists like Sagan, Schneider and Ehrlich.

      • The other interesting aspect of Saddam and the Kuwaiti oil wells was that he deliberately allowed them to pour crude oil into the Persian Gulf in what was the biggest oceanic oil spill of all time. According to standard environmental dogma, this should have poisoned all sea life in the area for ever. However, when they came to do a clean-up operation about 18 months later, they couldn’t find any oil. It had, presumably all been metabolised by the aforementioned sea life.

        Interestingly enough, no-one seemed to remember this when BP had its oil well blowout in the Gulf of Mexico a few years ago, in much the same climatic conditions.

      • I meant the test to prove or disprove “nuclear winter.” I’d rather we not find out if the models are correct or not.

      • Chimp- there are plenty of oil eating microbes, but what appeared to happen at least in the USA was that they ate mostly the light fraction. The heavy tar fractions(significant amounts, some washed up), coalesced and sank to the bottom. They are still getting covered with sediment but present no real biological problem.

      • R. Shearer
        January 2, 2017 at 3:38 pm

        We don’t need to detonate 60,000 nuclear warheads to determine whether nuclear winter could happen or not. The assumptions behind the GIGO models are so preposterous that there is no reason to imagine that such a thing is possible.

        Their soot assumptions were unphysical and targeting entirely different from both the US SIOP and Russian strategic war plans. Most strategic warheads would have been used against military targets like command centers, silos, air and sub bases rather than central cities capable of burning.

        Most tactical warheads would have been used against armored formations in open country, such as the KGB-misnamed “neutron bombs”, ie enhanced radiation warheads, which are anti-tank weapons. Their assumptions for underwater explosions were high but not impossible, however. Every Soviet sub, including old diesel models, carried nuclear torpedoes. Every Red Army artillery battery of 152mm and larger had nuclear projectiles.

  1. The early 20th century equivalent to the late 20th century CACA sc@m was the eugenics consensus, which enjoyed similar institutional support.

    • I’m convinced that eugenics is a big part of the push behind the solutions for CAGW. Same crowd looking at a finite pie.

      • I agree. One difference might be that eugenicists wanted to get rid of certain groups deemed inferior, while CACA acolytes seem to hate just about everybody, but especially the white males who advocated eugenics, except for their special and superior selves, of course.

  2. The vaccination recommendation for only female teenagers is also clearly discriminatory. While of course males are at no risk of cervical cancer/neoplasias, they are the co-carriers that propagate it to females who are at risk, and thus should also be the target of stopping HPV transmission.

    Further men are susceptible to several cancers of which HPV is the initiating causative agent, oral-pharyangeal and rectal cancers clearly have an HPV origin. We do not need to get into any written descriptions of how this happens, suffice to say it is a reality.

    As for making it a mandatory vaccine, I do agree that school enrollment should not be the social mechanism to force compliance. It should come from doctors urging in private to parents and their younger patients.

    • I agree.

      Vaccination in general is under attack from both Left and Right. It should be encouraged but not made mandatory. Herd health kicks in below 100% coverage. At what level of vaccination for each preventable disease, I don’t know.

    • re; vaccine,

      Can’t agree. If your child had leukemia and becomes susceptible to all virus etc whilst going through chemo, why should your child be put at risk because other choose not to vaccinate. These children can die from measles.

      These children and many others like them are protected by the herd.

      • I was specifically referring to HPV vaccine. Measles is different. Ro is at least 10 with this respiratory virus. Vaccination for MMR should be mandatory, no question. If smallpox were still circulating, then that one too. But it’s not. Polio is also a highly contagious public health threat that is still present in some parts of the world, enough that the Salk and Sabin vaccs need to be continued.

      • It is always possible to think of seemingly valid reasons why the state should force people to do things. There is always a claimed benefit for somebody. Just about every modern mass murdering tyrant did so, and meant it.

        I am absolutely pro-vaccination but we must always have choice.

      • I will agree that Vaccinations are beneficial. However, I would still want to maintain people’s personal freedom by leaving it up to them whether or not they want to get vaccinations. Those choices have consequences, but maintaining personal freedom and not letting the government force something on its citizens (you) is also important; at least to me.

      • Measles is extremely infectious via the respiratory system, it is most infectious for the 3 days prior to becoming symptomatic. In a school environment is almost inevitable that unvaccinated individuals will contract the disease if an infected child attends the school. With such a infectious disease the ‘herd immunity’ isn’t so effective. Unfortunately the success of the earlier vaccination program has led people to think that measles is a trivial disease, the memory of the death rate associated with it having been forgotten. Death rate in USA and UK in modern conditions is about 3/1000 cases, in the early part of the 20th century it was more like 25/1000 cases.

    • The CDC recommends vaccination for both sexes:
      “CDC now recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine—rather than the previously recommended three doses—to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose. For more information on the updated recommendations, read the press release: https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2016/p1020-hpv-shots.html

      Bear in mind that virtually all sexually active adults will contact one or more HPVs during their lifetime, the vaccines are particularly targeted against the cancer causing ones (in both sexes).

      • Phil. ==> You are quite right about the CDC — linked that page in the essay. The MSC “centered on proposals to add the vaccine—for girls only—to the schedule of mandatory immunizations required for middle school enrollment. ” see Kahan’s essay.

        The interesting issue in this MSC is that the same parents had no objections to their pediatrician’s recommendations for vaccination.

        BTW, the Advocacy arose from “Women’s Rights” groups, according to Kahan.

  3. Here is another example. Well worth the read.
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/10/06/for-decades-the-government-steered-millions-away-from-whole-milk-was-that-wrong/

    But the idea that spurning saturated fat will, by itself, make people healthier has never been fully proven, and in recent years repeated clinical trials and large-scale observational studies have produced evidence to the contrary.

    It also has raised questions about the scientific foundations of the government’s diet advice: To what extent did the federal government, and the diet scientists they relied upon, go wrong? When the evidence is incomplete on a dietary question, should the government refrain from making recommendations?

    • Ah yes, the well meaning government busybodies . . . .

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

      C. S. Lewis

  4. Thanks, Kip, that was a very worthwhile series of essays.

    Just in my own field (biomedicine), there are quite a few trends and fads based on flawed science that don’t quite get the scrutiny and discussion they deserve — maybe at some point there will be “wars” around them, but there aren’t now.

    • Michael ==> I learned a lot doing the series — there are about a half-dozen unwritten essays, research done but not written up. I was really curious about the similarities discussed today — and it took a lot of digging to find them.

  5. Excellent analysis of the various “wars”. I am having trouble attempting to relate it to the overall war on science which begins with a lack of skepticism regarding populary held causal theories and is exacerbated by lack of understanding of basic sound research principles and statistical analysis. The one good and freqently occuring example of which is differentiating between correlation and causality. Then there is always the commonly occuring intentional ignoring of sound research principles for advancement opportunity or funding reasons.

    In any event, good post.

    • Jim G1 ==> The “War on Science” is partly a result of of the downside of Modern Scientific controversies.

      Quoting #4 in the Bottom Line: “The general public is left confused and polarized with their trust in Science and Scientists betrayed and left diminished by the public display of uncivil and unscientific behavior on the part of the scientists involved.”

      • Kip,

        This, I believe, is even more true for those who have some knowledge of scientific method, data gathering, and statistical analysis. The more one knows, the less likely for them to trust what they are told without some checking. Unfortunately, this is is rather small part of the general population. Most just drink the coolaid.

      • Jim ==> The teaching of critical thinking skills, starting in 6th or 7th grade (the beginning of true literacy for many) is essential to turn this around.

        In the Internet Age, it is even more important that kids learn how to distinguish between sources of information and to judge the value and validity information for themselves.

        I learned early to place almost all apparently trustworthy incoming information into a mental bin labelled “possibly true”–where it remains awaiting more confirmation. I have a mental bin labelled “probably false” as well. I have a very very small bin labelled “true enough to be usable”.

  6. Kip,
    “White Hat Bias” is not a phrase I’m familiar with, but it will be in my lexicon from now on. I have heard of “Noble Cause Corruption” which is, I think, what happens when people with white hat bias become too emotionally involved with their cause. Once they accept the notion that their cause is so noble that achieving it justifies any action, they are lost.

      • And of course, “Noble Cause Corruption” is practically admitted by CAGW alarmists. Only they don’t call it that. They call it “post-normal science.”

    • Paul Penrose ==> “White Hat Bias” and when used in a science dispute it allows the proponent to consider himself “one of the good guys” and his opponents “the bad guys”. It is the kissing cousin of Noble Cause Bias.

  7. Well done, but perhaps you omitted the rôle of the Sociology of Established Groups (think of Semmelweiss ~1850 against the medical establishment for 25+ years).

    Ditto for the rôle in MSC’s of striving to gain &/or preserve prestige & hierarchy.

    Society seems to be far more influenced by emotion/politics than logic/science. As proof of this, you reference the name-calling that erupts at certain stages of MSC’s from Scientists who call themselves logical.

      • And the Bretz (Missoula) Floods. The Old Guard needs to die off for scientific progress to continue.

        Although sometimes they can be convinced by evidence, as in the case of Helicobacter pylori bacterial infection causing gastric ulcers.

      • “The Old Guard needs to die off for scientific progress to continue.”

        A good example of this is N-Rays “discovered” by French physicist Prosper-René Blondlot in 1903. That mistaken theory only truly died off when Blondlot died.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N_ray

    • Lorne White ==> I named (and limited) this series Modern Science Controversies to keep them separate from historical science controversies and those specific times when new ideas were fighting for acceptance against long-established paradigms.

      The two types of controversies don’t share a common origin — though some of the behaviors are the same.

      We may find that Climate science segues from a Modern Scientific Controversy into a Classical Science Controversy as the advocacy for CAGW dies out and modern climate scientists are left fighting the entrenched AGW-old-guard.

  8. The Limits of Knowledge and the Climate Change Debate, Brian J. L. Berry, Jayshree Bihari,
    and Euel Elliott, Cato Journal

    The fundamental mistake that alarmists make is to assume that the natural ecosystem is at some level a closed system, and that there are therefore only fixed, finite resources to be exploited. Yet the last several millennia, and especially the last two hundred years, have been shaped by our ability—through an increased understanding of the world around us—to exploit at deeper and deeper levels the natural environment. Earth is a closed system only in a very narrow, physical sense; it is humanity’s ability to exploit that ecology to an almost infinite extent that is important and relevant. In other words, the critical variables of creativity and innovation are absent from alarmists’ consideration. . . .Much of human history was under the control of the pessimists; it has only been in the last three hundred years that even the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, itself an organization deeply prone to accepting the latest scientific orthodoxies, has acknowledged that the nine billion people expected to inhabit the earth by 2050 can be sustained indefinitely provided that necessary investments are made.
    . . . civilization has had an opportunity to reap the benefits of a rationally optimistic world view (see Ridley 2010). Yet the current “debate” over climate change—which is really, in Ridley’s (2015a) terms, a “war” absent any real debate—has potentially done grave harm to this scientific enterprise. As Ridley documents, one researcher after another who has in any way challenged the climate orthodoxy has met with withering criticism of the sort that can end careers. We must now somehow return to actual scientific debate, rooted in Popperian epistemology, and in so doing try to reestablish a reasonably nonpolitical ideal for scientific investigation and discovery. Otherwise, the poisoned debate over climate change runs the risk of contaminating the entire scientific endeavor.

    • CACA has already so corrupted science in general and lowered its prestige that it may take decades to recover, if ever.

      • Yet when you mention the sad state of science to the media educated, they look at you like they haven’t got a clue what you mean.

      • Pop ==> Took me a minute to realize you mean “those educated by the Media” as opposed to those who have magically managed (against all odds) to receive a real education. Quite agree.

      • Sorry, bad choice of words on my part. Should have written ” MSM indoctrinated” instead of “media educated. Facts and factoids look alike to anyone who takes everything at face value (one of the vulnerabilities of faith).

      • Pop,

        It’s true that people who should know better buy into the media’s parroting of 97% consensus among “all scientists” on CACA and accusation that the GOP is “anti-science”. I find that some who get their news from the MSM are still willing to consider instances of anti-science on the part of fellow liberals.

      • This may be so when looked at through our particular prism, but for others it demonstrates the worth of science – that it can identify environmental threats and advocate solutions.

        Science teaching in the UK is being given greater and greater emphasis and includes its mandatory climate “science” component. It is this transmission of scientific “truth” to the young that is so insidious. How many of us are lectured by our offspring to reduce salt intake, cut down our fat intake or beat ourselves for our carbon footprint? Some science advocates have much to answer for, even invading our homes through our loved ones.

    • “it is humanity’s ability to exploit that ecology to an almost infinite extent that is important and relevant. In other words, the critical variables of creativity and innovation are absent from alarmists’ consideration.” David, I’ve been arguing this for over 15 years, it is a fundamental flaw in many environmental scare stories.

  9. Kip, thanks for an interesting series of posts. When you first started, I presumed that a couple of obvious issues would be included in the list of 5 controversies which you did not name. To wit, 1) the arguments by anti-government conspiracy believers against mass public vaccinations, 2) the arguments by eco-activists against genetically modified crops (this group overlaps to a large extent with CAGW supporters), 3) the arguments by command economy Utopians for social engineering of populations via artificial genetic selection (Eugenics), admittedly mostly a dead issue now, and 4) perhaps most famous controversy, the battle of believers in inerrant Biblical literalness against the sciences of evolution and genetics, a long lived, perhaps never-ending battle. In these 4 cases, we have a lot of variety of primary motivations, but there is definitely a “cause” in each case. My understanding of the idea behind the power of these respective memes are

    1: Vaccine opponents seem to want to thwart governmental intrusion and infiltration into our freedoms. This is a true conspiracy belief, but it points out the dangers of weak-assed science like CAGW being pushed by bureaucrats and government funded scientists and activists. If they push for control of people over objective truth, they will incentivize more anti-government conspiracy believers.

    2: Anti-GMO believers are brainwashed by the modern eco-activist movements from a very early age in public schools and by media and officious elements with poor science training. Exhibiting piety in this movement is an important reward mechanism. Virtue signaling is perhaps a replacement for many young people who no longer have church or faith as part of their training and education. This is the same style of religious observation as is the virtue signalling around CAGW.

    3:Eugenics, although mostly discredited now, because of the Nazi atrocities, is nevertheless, not dead. It is still part of the darker aspects of Malthusian wet-dreams. If, as the Malthusian believes, human populations must be diminished, I suspect there are more than a few who would also want to control the “quality” of humans that remain in that much more limited society. Would not a true Malthusian be likely to prefer young over old, the able-bodied over disabled, “normal” over birth-defects, high IQ over low IQ, healthy over sick? Of course they would. The real issue here is that Malthusians, including CAGW believer believe that “experts” are capable of such enlightened engineering at all. Ironically, eugenics is not scientifically invalidated, but discounted almost purely on the idea that humans may not be ethically experimented upon without their informed consent. Does the rabid Malthusian intend to give everyone free choice? Given the recent examples from RFK Jr, to the AGs and screaming rights deniers on local campuses, I don’t think so.

    4: Evolution opponents are simply between a rock and a hard place. Their religious belief calls upon them to believe in literalness, and in spite of the near perfection of the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor for the evolution of human intelligence, they cannot allow themselves to see the beauty of the story as metaphor. At least they are defending the word of God, something in their own minds bigger than themselves. Again, piety forces the believer to avert his gaze from the actual evidence, the fossilized bones, the remarkable realization of the vast tree of life, the newer understanding of the causes within DNA and individual reproduction. I recall many years ago, on Usenet newsgroup alt.skeptic, one believer on the edge of losing his faith in a young Earth finally began to see the truth of the evidence and then fired of his last salvo, saying God just made the world to look like it’s billions of years old.

  10. One of the major fallacies in many of the health studies is that a particular condition, behaviour or lifestyle (smoking, obesity, high blood pressure) increases health care costs for the state. Over the short run, this may be true, but in the long run, it is thin, healthy people who cost the health care system the most, as can be seen in this study:
    http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0050029
    Healthy people also live long enough to draw on pensions and old age security.Dead smokers do not, even though they paid their share to fund these plans.

    • Hmm. I never thought about it that way. Thanks, Trebla. It has occurred to me that the optimum benefits strategy for a health insurance company is that which kills old clients as quickly as possible.

      • In fact, we can infer from its outcomes (health and financial) that the intentional strategy of the Medical Establishment is to kill us as slowly and as expensively as possible. This is not to say that doctors and nurses aren’t genuinely working on our behalf; it’s just that they don’t determine policy. It’s the insurance and pharma and hospital companies that do that. The result is hyper-expensive and ineffective “sick-care.”

    • The USSR was infamous for encouraging smoking and drinking in order for its subjects to die before old enough to collect state pensions.

    • Tebla, I’ve often seen evidence that taxes on smoking in Australia significantly exceed the costs of smoking-related illnesses. Doesn’t stop people arguing for higher tobacco taxes on the (totally false) grounds of the health costs imposed.

  11. What about the widespread hysteria over the largely imagined epidemic of ritual satanic abuse? Then there are the widespread somewhat corrupt practices involved in activities related to recovered memory syndrome. Who is ever held to account when the public is infected by largely mythical problems and the madness of crowds sets in?

    • Rob R ==> Interesting phenomena usually classified under the heading of Urban Legends — some of which are so widely spread and believed as to enter into daily public discourse and policy — as did the Satanic Rituals thing — some police forces actually assigning a detective unit to the issue.

  12. Kip, good essay. I feel though that we need to explore further the Flaw in the Truth element of the MSC.

    What I feel is common and can be demonstrated in all your example MSC’s, is that the Truth expounded by the Advocates of a particular solution might be irrefutable, but it is not the only Truth. There can be more deeply hidden truths that are significant to the perceived problem and as a consequence point to different solutions.

    Take the salt example. Let us suppose it is irrefutable that added salt increases blood pressure to some degree in every human being. But if, as you state, salt is really a problem with a small minority of human beings, then is there something as yet unidentified, or at least under appreciated, other than salt that is the real danger? The case of the bacterial cause of peptic ulcer disease comes to mind.

    I submit that there can also be a mis-diagnosis of the problem. Is coral bleaching necessarily bad? Might it be the aqueous equivalent to a forest fire? Are not forest fires necessarily a bad thing? Well, evolution has created species that depend upon forest fires as part of their life cycle, such as the lodgepole pine. The obvious parallel to the CAGW “problem” is obvious. Never mind the beneficial aspect of higher CO2 concentrations to the members of the Plant Kingdom, it has never been obvious to me that a warmer climate is a bad thing overall, much less catastrophic.

    • Stephen Rasey ==> All very good points. And, of course, the Truth element itself can be flawed or be a flawed understanding, even if widely accepted. To work as the Truth plank in a MSC it must at least be seen to be irrefutable.

      It is left to the Opponents of a MSC Advocacy Cause to point out the Flaws as they discover them. The Advocates, naturally, attempt to cover up or shout down the Flaws as quickly as they are pointed out.

      For the sake of creating a MSC, it matters not if the Truth is really true. — the Advocates merely need to be able to say it is true and have most people believe it.

    • \\ To work as the Truth plank in a MSC it must at least be seen to be irrefutable. //

      Maybe we should revisit the definition of MSC.
      \\ All Modern Scientific Controversies (MSCs hereafter) begin with one reqauired element without which there would be no MSC. That element is an ADVOCACY CAUSE (the Cause hereafter). //

      I submit that there are some “Controversies” that are “Scientific” and “Modern” that do not include Advocacy (of Social Policy). The nature of Dark Matter and the existence much less the nature of “Dark Energy” to name just two in the realm of Physics. Aside from the advocacy of spending money in the research into these fields, I submit that these MSC’s are different in nature to the Salt et al MSC’s of your post.

      I suggest that we rename your subject MSC’s to be “Scientific Socially Advocating Controvercies.” (SSAC) We can drop the “Modern” in that Eugenics is a SSAC that is a century old, yet still an SSAC.

      • Stephen Rasey ==> The distinction is definitional, of course. Not all science subjects that are controversial within their fields qualify as the type of MSC that I have been writing about — those that in the public eye and the media become, and are often publicly labelled a Science War, as the Salt Wars and the Obesity Wars are commonly called.

        These other types of “science topics which are controversial” — which are actively being argued and sorted out in the journals and halls of Academia and Research Labs — are most certainly different — though they sometimes result in harsh treatment and harsh words. They lack the public nature because the lack the public Advocacy.

        Truthfully, the idea of trying to engage an essentially clueless general public on one side or other of the Dark Matter controversy is absurd. I know people who have posted photographs of the Milky Way galaxy (our galaxy) on their cubicle’s bulletin boards….taken from outside the galaxy–without a clue as to what is wrong with that idea. I have never been able to convince such a person that the photo was a fake–because they “got it from the NASA web site!”

        So, yes, not all science controversies are “Wars” in the sense I am using — which is why I use specific examples.

        There are additionally: The Cholesterol Wars, the Fat Wars, the Ozone Wars, the DDT Wars (mostly lost by the realist side), etc.

      • A large part of the difference between an MSC and a mere scientific controversy is the issue of advocacy. In an MSC, everybody is required (forced, even) to change something: reduce salt intake, reduce cholesteral intake, exercise more, stop creating CO2.

        Whereas in a simple scientific controversy, there is no advocacy, no demand for people to do anything (except for providing funds for more research).

      • A large part of the difference between an MSC and a mere scientific controversy is the issue of advocacy.

        This is the reason why I think a form of “Advocacy” be in the name of the class. Modern Scientific Controversy is not specific enough. I suggested “Socially Advocating Scientific Controversy” is more explicit without looking at the fine print.

      • Surely a key difference is that a scientific controversy is debated while an advocated controversy is asserted.

        Both sides in the Darwinism / Creationsim debate were willing to debate the issue. It was a great controversy but both sides cared about finding the truth. Even though both sides were confident that they had it already. They were still willing to debate, famously.

        In advocated controversy it is not considered worth debating. The other side is so clearly wrong that they must be silenced, not defeated. Whether this is because they are not so certain they have the truth already is a moot point. They won’t let the question be heard anyway.
        Because the truth is not the issue.
        The cause is the issue.

    • Good points. Part of the Truth problem, and what you call hidden truth, is also that correlation is often muddled with causation.

  13. Kip,
    A good, clear analysis.
    The compulsion in HPV vaccinations is a well known risk amplifier, incidentally.
    I like your ‘White Hat Bias’ and will use it alongside Noble Cause Corruption, which I used as ‘Virtuous Corruption’ to get better alliteration alongside ‘Virtual Environmental Science’ in the subtitle of my 2007 book ‘Science and Public Policy.’ The ‘Virtual’ applied both to reliance on computer modelling and the pernicious effect of the communications revolution on the safeguards, the QA, if you like, the scientific process relies on. As the Climategate e-mails showed, e-mail has made a level of communication among a small number of experts possible. That often overlooked component of globalisation, the jumbo jet, made travel cheaper and thus more frequent, so networks of researchers grew – at a time when the increasing specialisation of knowledge meant smaller cohorts of specialists in each area of knowledge. Result: peer review increasingly became pal review.
    Your emphasis on the advocates is also important. Langdon Winner wrote of ‘reverse adaptation’ – the definition of ends to suit available means. We also have in political science March and Olsen’s ‘garbage can decision making’, where problems meet old solutions in the garbage can, where they have been discarded. So some problems are good because they justify particular solutions. Government energy conservation specialists thought climate change was great, because it supported their solutions. (I noticed this in the 90s when interviewing these people).
    We might also add the phenomenon of apocalypticism with climate change (and possibly the GBF). Activist scientists might not see themselves as similar to millenarian movements, but their responses to disconfirming evidence is exactly as described in Festinger et al in their ‘When Prophecy Fails’, which gave rise to his ‘Theory of Cognitive Dissonance’.
    Anyway – some thoughts.

    • “We might also add the phenomenon of apocalypticism with climate change (and possibly the GBF). Activist scientists might not see themselves as similar to millenarian movements, but their responses to disconfirming evidence is exactly as described in Festinger et al in their ‘When Prophecy Fails’, which gave rise to his ‘Theory of Cognitive Dissonance’.”

      Yes, spot on. The analysis in Festinger is exactly what is happening in climate activism.

      Also, as I posted in an earlier thread, a common element is the transfer of religious feeling onto the controversy. People are having all the feelings which their ancestors used to have about heretics and unbelievers, but they are directing them to those who differ from them on an issue of science and public policy. They are also in the same way splitting the world into the elect, a smallish number, and the damned. And they are reserving especial hatred for false prophets and those who lead the faithful astray. The feelings about apostates, such as Lomborg, are particularly strong.

      Chesterton said that the problem with a society losing its faith was not that it no longer believed, but that people felt free to believe anything at all.

  14. Great series, Kip. In my line of work the controversy over refrigerants and the ozone hole was a frustration, in that the replacement gasses operate at higher pressures and require more coil surface, increasing maintenance costs. Recovery and licensing our pipefitters was also costly. All from ‘educated opinion’ that man has to be causing everything we observe.

  15. The idea of the Flaw is a good one. Necessary for their tombe a controversy. In each of your previous essays it was mainly a Flaw in only one of the Three Planks. Mistatement of the Problem (salt), Exaggeration of Truth certainty (obesity), omission of relevant Truth information (GBR), ignoring Solution difficulties (Dieting often does not work because metabolism resets).
    CAGW has multiple flaws in each of the three Planks. Problem defined only in the future by flawed models that do not account for natural variation. Polar bears do not depend n late summer ice, and GW does not impact spring ice. Truth that observational sensitivity is half of modeled, and that sea level rise has not accelerated. Renewables solution expensive (subsidies) and intermittent. Perhaps that’s why there has been such appeal to (biased) authority (IPCC) and effort to claim ‘the science is settled’.
    What CAGW did which the other advocacy cause examples did not is capture a broad swath of diverse special interest advocacy from outside the climate MSC per se. It was a locomotive to which many wagons got hitched. Developing nations saw the Green Climate Fund potential for extortion. Greenpeace saw the anti-industrial potential. WWF saw the fundraising potential in ‘endangered’ polar bears. Academics saw lucrative grant and career opportunities; Shukla and his wife personally took out over $6 million through his ‘research foundation’. CAGW became a real gravy train. That is why it has gone on so long despite its many serious flaws.

    • ristvan ==> Yes sir, the CAGW Advocacy Cause has really gotten a hold on society, infecting many areas of scientific research (mostly through funding bias). I think this is because the idea of Global Warming itself piggy-backed on the Rachel Carson-esque environmental apocalypse meme, Erlich’s Population doom, and the Club of Rome end of times. AGW can be claimed to affect so many parts of everyday life, and any change perceived as negative can be blamed on it, whether it is real or not — the public is so confused that they will believe or disbelieve almost anything.

      A similar situation exists in the field of human nutrition — so many flase false claims have been made from so many authorities that the general public either believes everything they say now (health food faddism) or believes nothing they say.

      • “the general public either believes everything they say now (health food faddism) or believes nothing they say”. And exactly!

        I’m on the believe nothing slope…gathering more to disbelieve daily. Common sense says….well, it would if any of it had been learnt and retained. Today we are exposed to the largely worthless output of a multitude of Universities in UK and from the US. A Professor here and a Doctor there…many, many! I sometimes have difficulty believing medical doctors let alone the aforementioned. Occasionally, I meet a doctor (med) who is someone who doesn’t pretend to be…with all that over bearing utterance stuff and glares/looks. My common sense approach on most things is to look at the motivation for it initially and very carefully. Trying to keep most of the present day alarmist crap in memory is truly difficult! Also, one size does not fit all…in any respect.

    • More of a gravy juggernaut than a train. My understanding is that is was almost “born” to be a Behemoth through an unfortunate serendipity of events.

      When Margaret Thatcher broke the mine strike in the UK, she was determined that no small group would ever be able to hold the country to ransom again. She needed to find an energy source other than coal to depend on. Oil was unreliable with troubles in the Middle East, so nuclear was the only answer. But everyone had been conditioned to shun anything with the n-word in it. She had to brainwash the unwashed that fossil fuels were bad, so laid the money on the table to do that job. Someone dug up enough on an obscure little something to start the AGW ball rolling.

      About the same time, Greenpeace were at a loose end, having achieved all of the legislating they’d wanted. The Berlin Wall fell and all of the anti-western pro-communism brigade needed something to paint on their placards, now that their ideal had crumbled before them. The stage was set for a new anti-western, anti-industrialization, anti-capitalist idea to be instantly flooded by idealists, propagandists, rent seekers etc.

      I can’t think of anything else that had such a ready and willing hoard of unemployed minions so eager to take on a new “purpose”.

  16. A fascinating essay! While not disagreeing with any of it, another generalization about these MSCs might be made: They always involve coercive actions, generally by a government body. Because of this, the Causes may be classified into two groups: A) Those that by their nature require communal action – there is no way even to provide any relief from the Problem without it and B) those that do not. Obviously, for Advocates seeking relief from the human tyrannical itch, the former are to be preferred to the latter. Of the examples mentioned by Mr. Hansen, the (B) are The Salt Wars, The War on Sugar, The Obesity Epidemic, and The HPV War while (A) include The Great Barrier Reef Wars and The Climate Wars. The value of a type (A) Cause is much higher than a type (B) Cause. This is clearly seen in The Tobacco Wars in which a type (B) Cause was converted to a type (A) Cause using second hand smoke.

    • gregjxn ==> Excellent point, and one I should have made (it was part of my finding — somehow left out of the summary). A MSC Solution usually includes some enforced or coerced policy on the general public or industry, business, states, etc.

    • This is a good point, but it should be stressed that this is usually (despite the best urgings of the likes of Naomi Klein) an attack on capitalism, but frequently a regulatory policy* that disadvantages one sector to the benefit of others. With CAGW, the former is the coal sector, the latter includes not just renewables and nuclear, but also the gas sector. There is a reason why Chesapeake Bay Energy gave $25m to the Sierra Club for its ‘Beyond Coal’ campaign.
      *I am an enthusiast for Theodore Lowi’s classification of public policies into types: Distributive (e.g. subsidies at the taxpayer’s expense); Regulatory (restrict on a sector basis, advantage another sector); and Redistributive (capital vs labor). As Bruce Yandle points out with his Bootlegger and Baptist theory of regulation, morals crusaders amplify the influence of the gaining sector and make it more palatable to support their causes by seeming to raise the campaign above self-interest.

  17. Thanks Kip for another well thought out presentation.
    Hopefully some day all the nonsense of the fake crisis will end some day, however I am not that hopeful, given the media.
    Of course this has been going on for as long as I can remember, mostly from the environmental/green crowd more recently with a complicit media to carry the crisis everyday in the news. Remember peak oil/energy crisis, Y2K, impact of fats, eggs, butter, etc, even dangers of various epidemics. Of course some caution is helpful especially with medical concerns but over hyping is the name of the game.

  18. Very interesting, advocacy is certainly a common feature and these are too often simple solutions looking for problems. I would add the nutrient–dead zone “war.” Fisheries (long history of politicalization) catches are often positively correlated with nitrogen concentrations, sometimes also with other nutrients. Like carbon dioxide, nitrogen is treated as a ‘bad’ pollutant, which it can be, but of course, is an essential element. Oh, the complications of toxicology. These are not metabolically dead (misuse of language) areas, many temporary, and the nutrients (conservation of mass) go places. In Louisiana there is some evidence that it forces some movement from benthic to pelagic species and fertilizes adjacent areas. The fishermen always knew this and exploit it.

    ‘Scientist Advocates,’ with a fawning press, went after corn farmers, who have strong incentives to save nutrients. It is a real and complex problem tied up with the ethanol/biomass situation and other sources of nutrients, but far from the crisis suggested. It has produced a bandwagon of applications causing unwanted consequences. Also it caused at least some diversion from other less spectacular research directions. Some things have been corrected in the literature, such as this being primarily a difficult to predict (climate connection) stratification phenomenon, exacerbated by the nutrient concentrations, but some discussed on line have not, at least that I know about.

    Despite this there are a lot of good papers, links etc. Will only give this one to show the admitted advocacy evidence.

    “Fortunately, …decrease(s)(of) excess nutrient loads proceeded without complete scientific consensus.” From, Rabalais, N. N., R. E. Turner and W. J. Wiseman, Jr. 2002. Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia, A.K.A, “The Dead Zone.” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics. 33:235-263.

    Advocacy is still popular and proceeding, further evidence of widespread MSC, but in this case mostly (at least publically) an argument as to whether it or “land (actually marsh, often called wetland) loss” is worse for the fisheries. Both are negative value judgments, but there are effects and the science is fascinating and again stimulated by the oil (another demon?) spill.

  19. I wonder if I could make a point about the difficulty of defining the truth in the llight of inadequate (but unknown) scientific knowledge? The point in question is gastric acid and ulcers, which is now regularly held up as an example of medical idiocy.

    1) Helicobacter pylori is now known to be the cause of peptic ulcers (PU).
    2) Gastric acid secretion is usually increased in patients with PUs
    3) Hydrochloric acid causes pain when it is infused over a PU.
    4) Operations such as the Bilroth I and II and Vagotomy and pyloroplasty removed partof the stomach that produces most acid (the Antrum) and generally rearranged the plumbing. This vastly reduced the amount of ulcerss (although causing all sorts of other problems).
    5) Removal of acid by proton pump inhibitors (Cimetidine,Ranitidine etc) causes PUs to heal (even ulcer carcinomas).
    6) PUs will heal when acid is removed despite the presence of H Pylori.
    7) H Pylori is a very fastidious organism and is difficult to culture. Many people speculated that there might be an infective element and experiments were performed to see if gastric contents of PU patients would cause PU in normals (I well remember participating in one of these experiments as a medical student – frankly somethings are best forgotten). The results were inconclusive.
    8) Marshall and Warren isolated the organism, managed to culture it (difficult) and then show that ingestion causes PUs (Koch’s postulate)
    9) Some series have shown that 80% of people with H ptyori do not develop ulcers, implying that its presence alone is not neccessarily ulcerogenic. There are mutations that appear more virulent than others beause they produce epithelial adhesion molecules and, in fact, may locally neutralise gastric acid concentration by the action of urease that splits urea into ammonia and CO2 (hence flatulence with PUs).

    The point I’m making is that these controversies can be scientifically confusing because there are a large number of apparantly contradictory data. Clearly the story is not as simple as many people believe. Fortunately there was never a strong “ulcer advocacy group” (at least in the UK), wanting a “solution” that could be imposed on the population despite PUs being extremely unpleasant and sufferers desperately wanting a cure.

  20. It is the chloride ion rather than the Sodium that causes hypertension.
    Carbohydrates are a greater factor in obesity than fats.
    Carbon dioxide absorbs, but does not significantly radiate, or “re-radiate”.

    The greatest problem is advocacy. Science requires suspension of belief.

    • gymnosperm,

      “Science requires suspension of belief.”

      Total BS we’ve been indoctrinated (by A-holes) to believe, I say. No beliefs, no science . .

      A game is being played with the word belief, that is totally nonsensical . . though it plays well with people who don’t consider how their own mind works, apparently.

      • PS~ Had you written this, I’d have complimented you instead;

        Science requires awreness of belief.

      • Hmm. So science is advocacy and only holes tell you not to indulge?

        Definitely hinges on the semantics of “belief”. Is an idea a belief? Is a hunch a belief? Is an hypothesis a belief?

        Maybe all three. Is this different than advocating your idea, hunch, or hypothesis as the one and only truth; as an indisputable basis for potentially ruinous public policy?

        I think it is fundamentally different.

      • ” So science is advocacy and only holes tell you not to indulge?”

        Not at all, science by it’s very nature involves belief in a great many things (often referred to as an education ; ) . . and no one is capable of just “suspending” the particular aspects of the particular belief(s) that might undermine their view of a very complex matter, or the like, it seems to me. The A-holes I spoke of try to convince us that big important scientist people can fairly easily achieve selfless impartiality, and speak to us as trustworthy Oracles of absolute truth, not mere belief, such as we simple folk can manage ; )

    • @gymnosperm January 2, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      “Definitely hinges on the semantics of “belief”. Is an idea a belief? Is a hunch a belief? Is an hypothesis a belief? Maybe all three. Is this different than advocating your idea, hunch, or hypothesis as the one and only truth; as an indisputable basis for potentially ruinous public policy? I think it is fundamentally different. ”

      IMHO, the term “belief” implies an acceptance of truth without evidence.
      Idea, hunch, hypothesis OTOH imply that their truth will only be entertained if sufficient evidence is forthcoming to support them. These latter terms “belong” in science; while “belief” certainly does not.

      • “IMHO, the term “belief” implies an acceptance of truth without evidence.”

        Where’s your evidence for that restrictive def8inition?

      • JohnKnight and Alan Rogers and gymnosperm ==> Words have standardized defintions. Here is the comonly agreed upon definition for BELIEF:

        be·lief bəˈlēf/ noun
        noun: belief; plural noun: beliefs

        1.
        an acceptance that a statement is true or that something exists.
        “his belief in the value of hard work”
        something one accepts as true or real; a firmly held opinion or conviction.
        “contrary to popular belief, Aramaic is a living language”
        synonyms: opinion, view, conviction, judgment, thinking, way of thinking, idea, impression, theory, conclusion, notion
        “it’s my belief that age is irrelevant”

        a religious conviction.
        “Christian beliefs”
        synonyms: ideology, principle, ethic, tenet, canon; More
        doctrine, teaching, dogma, article of faith, creed, credo
        “traditional beliefs”

        2.
        trust, faith, or confidence in someone or something.
        “a belief in democratic politics”
        synonyms: faith, trust, reliance, confidence, credence
        “belief in the value of hard work”
        antonyms: disbelief, doubt

        Only the bolded sub-set of “religious conviction” is outside the realm of science. This does not imply that religious or spiritual truths are somehow less “true” or “real” than scientific truths — just that they exist in a part of human experience that we separate, by convention, from science.

        It is perfectly scientifically correct to say that “I believe that the many of the surface temperature records have been adulterated.”

      • I see nothing about ‘belief’ implying accepting things as true without evidence, Kip. I seriousness doubt anyone actually does that . . but I often see people express a strong belief that others do it . . along with the (to me, somewhat narcissistic) belief that if they are unconvinced by evidence, it is not evidence at all.

      • John ==> Of course, you are right! That was my point in posting the definition.

        It is sometimes posited by the non-religious that religious belief or conviction is somehow not based on evidence. That is not true — it is just a different kind of evidence — spiritual evidence — which can no more be explained to those who have never experienced it than color can be explained to the blind.

        Thanks for participating here.

  21. From pp 45/46 of The Big Fat Surprise (Simon & Schuster, 2014), by Nina Teicholz.

    When I started my research I expected to find a community of scientists in decorous debate. Instead, I found researchers like Ravnskov, who, by his own admission, was a cautionary tale for independently minded scientists seeking to challenge the conventional wisdom. His predecessors from the 1960s onward hadn’t been convinced by the orthodoxy on cholesterol; they’d just been silenced, worn out, or had come to the end of their careers. As Keys’s ideas spread and became adopted by powerful institutions, those who challenged him faced a difficult –some might say impossible– battle. Being on the losing side of such a high stakes debate had caused their professional lives to suffer. Many had lost jobs, research funding, speaking engagements, and all the many other perks of prestige. Although these diet-heart opponents included a number of researchers who were at the top of their fields, including, notably, an editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association, they were not invited to conferences, and were unable to get prestigious journals to publish their work.* Experiments that had dissenting results, they found, were not debated and discussed but instead dismissed or ignored altogether. Even being subject to slander and personal ridicule were surprisingly not unusual experiences for these opponents of the diet-heart hypothesis. In short they found themselves unable to continue contributing to their fields, which of course is the very essence of every scientist’s hopes and ambitions.

    * The former editor of The Journal of the American Medical Association was Edward R. Pinckney, whose 1973 book, The Cholesterol Controversy was followed in 1988 by a groundbreaking scientific critique of the evidence used to support the diet-heart hypothesis. This second effort is still the most thorough critical review of that science ever written, but he could not find a publisher. (Pinckney and Pinckney 1973; Smith and Pinchkey, 1988)
    —-

    My comment on this: (see http://www.winface.com/amt/tale2.html ):

    It almost doesn’t matter where you open Fat Surprise: within a few paragraphs you need only change a few words to imagine yourself reading about climate change deniers fighting to put science ahead of politics, to get overwhelming contrary evidence accepted by people whose minds are blinkered by money, prestige, politics, doctored data, and their own prior commitments to rather obviously absurd positions.

  22. I didn’t “dig in” yet.
    My interest in the topic has always been, what is the current lever being used to suppress Freedom. For me, primarily, the Freedom of Religion in the US. People can believe whatever they want here as long as they don’t infringe on the next guy’s right to believe what he wants. “Government” is NOT to be the arbitrator of what is OK to believe. It is only to stop the infringements of this and other rights by others.
    “Government” has become the chief infringer.
    “Science” to explain and understand and apply the laws of the natural realm is wonderful. But “science” hasn’t a clue about the spiritual realm. It can’t. That can’t be “analyzed”.
    When “science” stays humble and honest about the natural realm, we all benefit in the natural realm no matter what one may believe about a spiritual realm.
    But when “science” is used for political power or to use political power to suppress a belief in anything it can’t analyze, “Houston, we have a problem”.

    • Gunga ==> I carry a copy of the US Constitution in inside pocket of each of my suit and sports coats. It helps to settle arguments in which one side says “That’s against (or protected by) the Constitution.”

      And you are 100% correct — “science” as an endeavor, in today’s world, has excluded itself from investigation and understanding of the entirety of everything spiritual — the most important aspect of human life (possibly all life).

      To me, this is a good thing or we would be seeing the suppression of all “unpopular” spiritual ideas in the journals and by the Learned Societies.

      The majority of the world’s scientists, however, are believers in some sort of spiritual answer to the question of life and existence, including myself (as a person interested in science).

      • I must have been typing my punctuation correction as you were typing your reply.
        Romans 1
        Some who look (even examine) what around them is admit there must be “something bigger” than they understand. Some don’t.
        I’d prefer not to live in a country where ‘the don’t’s” or where what some might believe about the “something bigger” differs from what I believe don’t have the Government’s authority to chop my head off (or less).

    • Not quite a typo but horrible opening punctuation:
      “My interest in the topic has always been, what is the current lever being used to suppress Freedom. For me, primarily, the Freedom of Religion in the US.”
      Try this:
      “My interest in the topic has always been, “What is the current lever being used to suppress Freedoms?”, for me, primarily, the Freedom of Religion in the US.”….

  23. Mr. Hansen: you might want to fix the first sentence in Paragraph 11:

    In each MSC, the Advocacy Cause a Solution is then presented

    Something doesn’t parse there.

    • Paul ==> I really like people who can edit — who care enough about the words and how they are used.

      You are absolutely right — the sentence “In each MSC, the Advocacy Cause a Solution is then presented ” contains an unnecessary (and incorrect) article “a”. I have edited the text in the main essay to “line out” the extra word.

  24. Great Barrier Reef has experienced several extreme weather events in the past few years. The Queensland floods of 2010-11 and this past year surely produced an effect on the GBR. Coral animals are filter feeders and the fine clay turbidity in the runoff certainly must have had deadly effect. The bleaching is another word for death.

    I find it difficult to think that coral have not adapted to temperature change over deep time. In my experience as a carbonate stratigrapher, the most common factor deadly to a reef is clay sized particles. That the floods coincided with el Nino is interesting but may not be the direct factor. I believe poor coastal management is the main cause of stress and bleaching world-wide.

    • Francis Manns ==> The stresses to coral reefs are fairly well understood — runoff from shore as a result of heavy rains and onshore development (including sewage discharge) has damaged nearshore reefs in all areas where human development is dense. Reefs near human habitation are most affected by runoff and local fishing – usually sustenance fishing (and some locally important commercial fishing) — this fishing often uses techniques that are destructive of the coral or focuses on species are that necessary for reef maintenance (parrot fish, etc). i wrote about some of this here.

      • The 2010 floods were, as I recall, during a La Nina phase, and the recent bleaching seems to be related to the recent El Nino, when the related sudden rise in both temperature and sea level result in bleaching, especially in the shallow reefs – so multiple causality. There are, of course, ‘healthy’* reefs in much warmer waters – it’s the rate of change that’s the problem.
        *We should be wary of words like ‘healthy’: nature is in a constant flux, and we should not privilege any particular state.

  25. I’m convinced that two of the human race’s major problems are:
    1) Unwillingness to accept the results of experiments even after any possible confounding factors have been removed.
    2) Attempting to solve a problem before carefully deciding exactly WHICH problem you have.
    Which explains why the attempted solutions don’t work and the bafflement that that could possibly be happening.

    • Mike Borgelt ==> Very few people, even fellow researchers in the same field, have what it takes to determine if an experimental result has had “any possible confounding factors have been removed.” (I assume you mean any and all…). Very few experiments today are designed properly enough to achieve even approaching that level of certainty. The claims to remove confounding factors through the use of statistics alone is spurious and doubtful as an endeavor.

      I write about this here: Is much of current climate research useless? where I discuss the work of John P. A. Ioannidis.

      I have to agree that failure to let a new field mature enough to allow it to properly identify “What The Problem Is” is a huge failure of modern science.

    • “…carefully deciding exactly WHICH problem you have.”

      A good example of this is the Canberra traffic problem. The normal speed limit for Canberra has always been 60KPH, just like the rest of Australia. But about 6 years ago, the government decided to drop the speed to 50KPH. This was going to save 20 lives every year. Needless to say, this didn’t actually save any lives. So now the government has reduced the speed limit in all shopping centres to 40KPH.

      They didn’t bother to tell us how many lives it would save, just that it was for public safety. So, if we saved 20 lives the first time, perhaps the government can show us the names of the people that were save. No there aren’t any, it’s just playing with statistics.

      It looks to me, that the problem being solved isn’t the safety, or lives. The problem is that there are cars moving at speed and cyclists don’t like it. The current minister is “an avid cyclist”, which is code for hates cars. So many of the solutions applied to Canberra’s roads can be pointed to as measures to hurt car drivers. For instance the speed reductions, closing off left turn lanes and new corners designed to put incoming traffic at a very bad angle, which I call widow-makers.

  26. All the MSC’s I’ve heard of started with an Advocate who either purposely used flawed science, flawed the science themselves, or “authorities” who never took the time to do serious confirming research. Salt- it took years for epidemiology to show there wasn’t much effect on a population basis before investigators began looking at it more closely and discovered genetically susceptible individuals. The same history followed peptic ulcers. The ‘normal’ treatments didn’t improve recoveries before the bacterial link was discovered.
    Obesity again similar. While calories eaten > calories burned it took a looong time for researchers to start seriously looking into obesity. Again, the epidemiology showed that only a relatively few people showed long term results. They’ve now started to pinpoint possible real causes such as genetics, adenoviruses, upbringing, and culture.
    For me there is no argument about HPV, although it should be chosen voluntarily. Like most vaccines the incidence of dangerous reactions is very small(9 out of 29,000) were associated with test subjects dying.

    Global Warming unfortunately has big problems with all four- Advocacy, Science, Truth, and Solutions.

  27. For me the government enforcement, through compliance is a huge issue. It is the arm of government least accountable and fastest growing.

    Take the EPA in the US as a goes example.

    How much of a tax burden does this place on the people & they will not do themselves out of a job, so they find another problem that requires more people,grow the team (which manager does not want a bigger team – shows their important :) ) . On and on forever.

    Or Health / Education, where there are more people in administration that front line delivering services.

  28. Re: “White Hat Bias” – I was permanently cured of a deferential bias towards experts when I sat through the Coronial Inquest (& later the civil litigation) into the landslide in Thredbo village in Australia in which 18 people lost their lives. Because of the implications for damages, the principal parties employed the most senior geotechnical experts – all internationally renown – to argue for scenarios that shifted blame away from their clients. It was so very instructive. Each case was persuasively argued from opposite positions, employing the most sophisticated argument and copious evidence. Hired guns every one of the. Interestingly, though, it was quite apparent that most (if not all) appeared to have become genuinely convinced of the absolute truth of their positions. I doubt if I will ever completely trust an “expert” again. It drives my family and friends mad.

    Amazingly, as an historian, I have always understood the nature of partisan historical interpretation, yet somehow did not apply it to the scientific endeavour.

    • Vicki,
      The US Supreme Court rulings on what constitute ‘expert evidence’ (especially Daubert v Merrill Dow) go some way to imposing some discipline – especially through an essentially Popperian view of science. God only knows how they handle ‘post-normal science’! Any legal experts out there with some recent knowledge?

  29. KIp. As usual I broadly agree.

    One nit: Early in the essay, there’s a date and time 1816 hrs Eastern Time 2 Jan 16]. It’s not obvious what it refers to, but if it’s today, shouldn’t the year be 2017?

    And one very minor point. There may be cases where the “freedoms” of the many really might need to be restricted to protect a few. The example that popped into my mind is a nearby public school where at least one of the students is violently allergic to nuts and nut products. Violently as in potentially life threatening Anaphylaxis. A middle school or high school student can probably be expected to take a lively interest in their own welfare. But what do you do about a six year old or eight year old other than train the staff about the symptoms and treatment, ban nut products from the school, and hope that’s good enough?

  30. By the time I get to the middle of your article I have no idea what MSC stands for. Why can’t you (they) spell it out each time you use it: Modern Scientific Controversies, or sometimes Modern Scientific Controversy (singular). It would only increase your long essay by one or maybe two lines. (“I hate acronyms” – maybe I should have that on my tombstone).
    I read your entire article and rated it “excellent”. Just that the acronyms get to me. Maybe that is why in the Navy I only got to LTjg instead of LT, because of the profuse use of acronyms there.
    Just sayin…
    JPP

  31. Regarding the obesity wars, I was at two kids programs this past Christmas season, and certainly on the second one which occurred after Kip’s obesity post, I noted how many fat kids were up on stage singing Christmas carols. Answer: not very many, It’s a matter of demographics, old people and some ethnic groups tend to be heavy. But it’s taboo to mention the latter. It seems that the obesity problem is gospel.

    On another note, a few hours ago I watched CBS nightly news where Scott Pelly’s crew told us that the Chicago murder rate was the highest it’s been in two decades. Well if you looked up the Chicago murder rate year by year you would quickly find out that it was a hell of a lot higher in 1974 and the early 90’s. Does the Modern Scientific Controversy apply to the Chicago murder rate?

    • How does the soaring murder rate a MSC? The fact that it’s the highest in 19 years is significant. Due largely to the age structure of the population and lax city governments in the early ’90s, yes, it was higher. But that applied everywhere. Chicago and cities which have reined in their cops now suffer high rates again.

      Los Angeles, for instance, still has far fewer murders than in the past.

      Chicago, by contrast, suffered a surge in violence, especially involving firearms, in 2016: 762 murders, 3550 shooting incidents and 4331 shooting victims, according to a statement released by the police department on Sunday. There were 480 murders in 2015, the most in the city since 1997.

      Not a scientific controversy but a fact.

    • Steve Case, childhood obesity is an intersting question.
      On the face of it the issue is obviously wrong. Look at children – they aren’t obese (with a few exceptions).
      Look at the medical records – lack off calories causes more need for intervention (eating disorders) than obesity.

      However, the statistics are more subtle.
      The obese children are now more obese than ever. They have access to cars and so don’t walk. They have central heating and so don’t use calories on warming themselves. They have a more sedentary lifestyle.

      The distribution of weight is not a bell curve. You can get a lot more overweight than underweight before you die. So the mean child weight rises.

      In the long run this may cause problems as the children who are obese will have more severe conditions when older than the obese children of yesteryear did.

  32. Interesting article. I have seen the “white hat bias” up close and personal. I’ve been a health (radiation) physicist for over 20 years, working for regulatory agencies and currently for a major university. There is a site in California (still contentious), where the anti-nuclear crowd crowed about how the State and US NRC were in the “pockets of industry,” or were taking surreptitious action “under the cover of night” (seriously, they said these things), but that US EPA was there to help the poor citizens (victims)…until that is, they got what they had claimed to want, and EPA finally agreed to list the site on the National Priorities List (aka make it a Superfund site). At that point, there was an abrupt turn-around, with the anti-nuclear advocates loudly claiming that the EPA could not protect the citizens as well as the California Legislature, who was contemplating an even more ridiculous (and, not scientifically defensible) clean-up limit than the EPA’s recommend goals.

    So, for years EPA wore white hats, but as soon as they took the bait and agreed to oversee the cleanup, they were black-hatted within a year. It seemed to me, and still does that the real, underlying purpose of the citizen soldiers in this case was to simply perpetuate non-action – i.e., fight every proposal tooth and nail to keep the donations coming – at least that is my opinion. The safety was never really in question from a scientific perspective – at least not with respect to the residual radioactive materials – basically a very small percentage of natural background radiation per year (which varies dramatically around the country and around the world), but tens of millions (maybe hundreds of millions) of dollars later, they still bickering about the cleanup.

    Barbara

  33. Steve Case ==> Disputed facts, or misrepresented facts, do not mark a MSC. I don’t know much about the murder rate there.

  34. controversy is fine when it’s legitimate. there can be rational disputes.
    if a person wants to smoke, drink, go vegetarian or coprophagic- it’s not anybody’s business but his own.
    flaws are of no concern when they have no cost – when you can ignore it as you please.

    what is always the problem is violating somebody’s right to do with his own life, liberty, body, mind and property whatever the hell he wishes to do without interference.
    coercion is the nature of a tyranny and it’s wrong to do it.
    so the concept of rights has been inflated and devalued to render victims defenseless.
    victimhood has been elevated to a blank check claim on everybody else…

    advocacy is america’s major industry now. take a course at any university and they’ll teach you how to find a problem, how to market it and how to get funding so you can exhort on the stolen dime rather than do anything productive at all. it’s a negative sum game. but in a country where debt is counted as an asset, a negative sum game is marked on the gdp ledger as value produced…lol

    how successful has the advocacy been in denigrating individual rights?
    well, the word ‘selfish’ is considered insulting… ‘ego’ (which is the first person pronoun in latin) is regarded as a psychological disorder… sacrifice is regarded as a virtue…

  35. Kip Hansen: A wonderful series, my compliments!
    In respect of your request, I held off on commenting to the end. I would like to address a couple of points which were missed or underplayed. I will take a somewhat wordy, narrative approach, and will concentrate on the Fat Wars. Keep in mind that the conclusions I draw apply at least equally as well to the Climate Wars and the others.
    Up Front: I believe the Fat Gene is Total BS. Why? I have been around the block once or twice.

    Point 0:
    Growing up in the central semi-rural part of the state (1950s-1960s), we kids divided the school population into the “skinnys” and the “chubbies”. The skinnys far outnumbered the chubbies. The kids walked or rode bikes to school. The kids who rode the bus still had to hike a fair haul to the bus stop. The bus stops were placed for the convenience of the buses, not the kids (compare and contrast to modern practice). The chubbies were pretty much restricted to those who were driven to and from school every day by their mothers.
    Fat Gene: Unheard of.

    Point 1:
    Freshman at Generic State College (GSC)
    The student population is largely composed of students from the largely rural central and western parts of the state. However, this would change rapidly as the school grew and politics entered the scene. Nonethless, the skinnys far outnumbered the chubbies. The seniors would warn the frosh of the dangers of the Freshman Five. Said to be the number of pounds you would pack on from eating school chow if you did take care of yourself.
    Fat Gene: Rumors only, generally scoffed at.

    Point 2:
    Senior at GSC
    The political transformation of GSC is complete. The student body which once was largely rural, is now derived almost exclusively (95%+) from the urbanized eastern part of the state. The urban students are notably not very interested in the outdoors sports such as skiing, (x-country and downhill), hiking, backpacking, for which the school has a fine reputation. (The campus is only a few miles from the famous Appalachian Trail, and within hiking range of Vermont’s renowned Long Trail. Usually you would think that is an opportunity not to be missed.)
    Indeed, the huge chorus of complaint from new arrivals is There is no Shopping here! I Want To Go Shooopppiiing!
    The chubbies outnumber the skinnys by a fair margin. The Freshman Five has bloated into the Freshman Fifteen(!)
    At this point, I have to make this Dramatically Clear. There is no genetic difference between the rural and urban populations on campus, at all. Everybody is classic Western European descent via the 20th century US Melting Pot.
    You would be hard pressed to find a more homogeneous bunch of genetic mongrels anywhere in the country.

    Fat Gene: A constant topic of conversation on campus, at least among the ladies. So far there is not a shred of support for the notion from the scientific community. I find this particularly surprising coming from the Biology Dept. These are seniors with majors in Bio., Nursing, and Med Tech. They know it it Bilge, yet they chatter on. It strikes me that what they are really doing is trying to evade culpability for the Freshman Fifteen, which they all have (some in spades!), and make it Not My Fault. As an aside, the previous favorite excuse was, “I just have big bones”.
    This whole thing looks, for all the world, like the creation, from the grass roots up, of a new consumer demand. And we all know, if there is a demand out there, it will be met.
    Fasten your seat belt, this ride is about to get wild!

    Point 3:
    Grad Student at Generic State University (GSU)
    For four long years I watch the undergrads (and many grad students) fight the Battle Of The Bulge.
    I note here that, although in a different state than GSC, GSU has a substantial population from the same urban area as GSC did. All told, the student population is the same homogeneous bunch of genetic mongrels as before. And losing the Battle Of The Bulge just as badly.
    The Freshman Fifteen has ballooned Freshman Forty. Yikes!
    The chubbies are now wholly dominant on campus and chubbier than ever. The skinnys are now so rare that they are considered oddities and are sometimes subject to verbal harassment. This sort of thing was previously unknown on campus. The Overton Window has well and truly shifted.

    Fat Gene:
    The undergraduate population cannot stop talking about the Fat Gene which is making them all fat. They can’t wait for the gene to be discovered, and with it, an effortless treatment which will make them all slim and trim.
    There is now serious biomedical research dedicated to the hunt for the mythical beast. Looks like someone smelled money. They may not be able to find such a thing, so they can be depended upon to do the next thing, which is just as good. They will find Candidate Genes, more study required! They will not find just a few, they will find dozens, even hundreds of Candidate Genes. The More, The Merrier. The more Candidate Genes as set forth, the more difficult it is to conclusively prove that the whole thing is BS.
    The demand is there, and the demand will be met.
    Release The Hounds, The Game Is Afoot!

    Conclusions:
    A: If you have an agenda or a point to push, you need evidence, or at least “evidence”.
    This works for Global Warming, the Fat Gene, and absolutely anything else.
    To find something, fund people who are already looking. Get more people looking. They will find what you are after. If things get sketchy, confuse the hell out of things. Climate Change, many multiple genes, unknown regulatory factors.

    B: Take a closer look at the science behind the discovery of the Fat Gene. Limit yourself to just two points.
    1) Repeatability/Reproducability Either you got it or you don’t. In biomedical and pharma, we have found out, generally they don’t.
    2) Wee p values, and the illegitimate technique of “p value mining”. Of course, along with the full range of statistical chicanery we have come to expect from junk science.
    At the end of the exercise, see if the whole field looks like it was expertly napalmed.

    C: One of the great contributing factors to all these scientific fiascoes, yet unmentioned.
    A willing populace, or a piece of one, anyway. Gullible, scientifically illiterate, and for whatever reason, wanting, or needing, to believe. This, and this alone, will carry the fiasco forward.

    Epilogue:
    On the island of Dominica, in the capital city of Roseau, drinking my morning coffee at a nice little spot overlooking the Cruise Ship Dock. Every morning I am treated to the same scene. A ship ties up, and the day’s touristo hoard sallies forth. Now look carefully, there is a order to these things.
    First, the younger people are off and running. then the somewhat more elderly people stroll off.
    Next, the elderly Europeans (of Western European decent) stroll off, just a bit slower.
    Last, the elderly Americans (of Western European decent) hobble off. Fat, obese, clinically obese, morbidly obese, hobbling and wobbling their way along with canes, walking crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.
    Even if you somehow overlook the difference in obesity, you cannot help but to be struck by the profound difference in mobility caused by the obesity.
    Two subgroups, which in broad brush terms, are genetically equal. One subgroup is plagued by the effects of Fat Genetics, while the other is utterly untroubled by it.
    The experts say:
    “25 genes guaranteed to make you obese; 300 genes that add to each other to pack on pounds; 56 different types of obesity….definitely not simple.”
    To buy into the Fat Gene Theory, you need to be able ignore powerful proof to the contrary, which you can gather for yourself with no more effort than drinking a cup of coffee and keeping your eyes open. And understanding what you are seeing.

    But that is none of my business.

    • TonyL==> Interesting discourse on the idea of a Fat Gene.

      There was a time when geneticists hoped to find a single (or narrow band) fat gene(s) which they could blame and or turn off to cure the rising tide of obesity. The science has advanced, leap-frogging itself many times since those days. Now, geneticists have found that there are genes that doom one to obesity — genes that if you got ’em in a certain form — a couple of dozen of them. A possible error in your approach, which leads you away from the current general understanding of the obesity field, is thinking that all gene expressions are strictly inherited — Mendelian. That is no longer the prevailing understanding. It isn’t “If Momma is fat, baby girl will be fat”. In my family, one of my brothers got a genetic mix that pre-disposed him to chunkiness while the other two brothers did not. I am apparently somewhere in between my perpetually stick-figure thin older brother and my chunky younger brother — I can wear off the rack suits with a perfect fit. They now believe that genes can be “turn on” and “turned off” by environmental factors, physiological events, hormones, etc etc.

      Where I think you are on the right track is the refusal to believe that the Obesity Epidemic is down to some simplistic explanation — like an inherited Fat Gene. I had hoped that the main point of my Obesity Epidemic piece would come across to readers: The Obesity Epidemic is not simple and does not have some simplistic cure that can be expressed as a public health mantra.

      I enjoyed your comment.

      • @ Kip Hanson (assuming you word search for your name)
        Thank you for the thoughtful response.
        You say:
        “They now believe that genes can be “turn on” and “turned off” by environmental factors, physiological events, hormones, etc etc.”

        Of Course! Back in the day, we used to call this “Metabolism”. Which provides an easy lead in to the “scientific basis”. Look at all the Fat Gene studies out there and see if they are not really studies of metabolism. It seems with the current narrative, any and all metabolic effects causing or caused by obesity (it works both ways), are simply lumped together as Fat Genetics.
        Consider the signature issue of the Fat Gene, that people simply can not lose weight on diet and exercise, without a complete overhaul of lifestyle. Is this really a problem for genetics, or is it really a problem in biochemistry and metabolism. (Note Well: It does not illuminate to point out that all biochemistry is ultimately genetically mediated.) This is really the big problem. Taking a huge chunk of metabolic biochemistry and simply rebranding it as Fat Genes to fit the narrative.

      • TonyL ==> You should read the papers from the two obesity gene teams mentioned in the original Obesity essay. Let me know what you think after reading their stuff.

  36. I was first introduced to the fallibility of “Modern Science” with the Creation-Evolution wars… a war so well fought that everyone just dismissed this post as laughable.

    The “problem”: People didn’t want to feel they were accountable to a “Creator God”
    The “truth”: That all living things despite their awesome diversity are related to each other.
    The “solution”: Deny that there was a creator, that there never was a world-wide flood, or that anyone who claimed so should be taken seriously. (and kick God out of School while we are at it)

    Funny thing is, that the same people who didn’t want to be accountable to a loving and righteous God have ended up creating their own morality and trying to force it on the rest of us anyway – without any real justification for doing so (other than “the majority”)… so the problem was flawed

    So all living things are related in that they have DNA… but we humans are millions of “changes” (insertions, substitutions, deletions) apart from anything else, with no mechanism known or proposed to cause this to scale of change to succeed. You may as well state we are all made from protons, electrons and neutrons. The truth is flawed.

    If you look at the world geologic features for evidence of a really big flood; rounded boulders far from water, water gaps through mountain ranges, multiple sedimentary layers spanning vast areas, ocean fossils on tops of mountains, footprints all heading the same way (away from rising water) – you will find it… I don’t think you could come up with one expectation of a world-wide flood that has not been found. And in denying the flood, we think we can know the earth’s temperature for longer than it has had since that flood – flawed science resting on flawed science. And so the solution is flawed too.

    Until you accept that scientific populism/bullying started with Evolution (and not the flat earth), you will be blind to the full folly of man.

    Other common threads to these things… less trust on God, and more on Government. (Modern government is an exercise in creating panic over things that only the Government can do anything about)

    If God made the world, then he didn’t build a system with a dangerous feedback loop in it, no need to panic…. If he didn’t, then we must trust in Government for the correct diagnosis of the problem and it’s solution (less CO2).

    If God made salt or sugar, then it is a food and falls into the same rules as the rest of food, too much is not good, other than that, enjoy…. If he didn’t then people don’t know what is good for them and they must be regulated.

    If God made the coral eco-system, then it already survived a world wide flood, snap freeze and thaw and is still kicking, a little CO2 is not going to end it… if he didn’t then… (actually this one never made sense to me, as if it evolved, then it should be fine too)… must just be another case of Governments needing to throw their weight around for our own good.

    If God made our body then what he provided for us would be good for us and not make us fat… but we thought we knew better and called “fruit roll-ups” real fruit, with plastic wrapping and a printed use-by-date, rather than trust the one the creator provided with built-in wrapping and use-by-date. And with sugar and foods in general, the more it is refined from it’s natural state, the worse for us it gets. Add in some artificial colours etc, and it’s just another reason to trust that govt knows best, and needs to regulate the ingredients… sigh.

    I could keep going.

    • (What follows is a comment about spiritual stuff as it relates to the physical stuff we’re all surrounded by. If you’re not interested in the spiritual stuff, feel free to skip this.)
      I’ll throw this into the mix.
      It has to do with just who’s pulling the strings of what God set up now.
      I put this up on Caleb’s blog about 3 years ago. If you want to respond at all, please don’t do it there. (Maybe not even here if it would send this post way off topic.) He doesn’t have a dog in in this fight.
      To whoever is left, just for your consideration.
      (Scroll a bit less than halfway down for what I meant to “throw in the mix”.)
      http://sunriseswansong.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/attention-surplus-disorder-part-two/comment-page-1/#comment-686

    • CommonA,

      Humans are no more distantly related to other living things than are most other organisms. We are genetically closer to chimps than horses are to donkeys. The great gulf which you imagine exists between humans and other animals is a fantasy. We are very close to all our living primate relatives, and of course even closer to our extinct ancestors.

      There are various ways of comparing relatedness, but if you look at genes, parts of the genome which code for proteins, humans share 60% with chickens, and of course much more with mammals.

      As for the mythical global flood, there is zero evidence for it. Naturally you find evidence of past floods around the world, but they didn’t all happen at the same time and never came close to covering all the mountains as they existed 4500 years ago. Indeed, a flood covering the highest mountains is a physical impossibility. Where did the needed water–more than three times the volume of all surface water on earth today–come from and where did it go?

      What does belief in an ancient Mesopotamian myth have to do with belief in a Creator God, anyway? The conflicting flood stories in the Bible were just part of ancient Middle Eastern people’s attempts to explain natural phenomena, like the rainbow, and weave a moral tale around this made up tale.

      • There were two. The first between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2.
        The observable evidence has been interpreted by one with an agenda that goes back far before any of us were born.
        Talk about someone having an Agenda!
        (No, Chimp, I wasn’t referring to you.)

      • Gunga,

        I’m not sure that the editor of Genesis had an agenda. As with other books, if, when compiled after the Babylonian Captivity, there were two or more versions of the same stories, the editor just put in both or all of them. In the case of the flood myth, he interweaved them. In the case of the two creation stories, he put the Six Day story first, followed by the Adam and Eve story. As with the differing flood stories, the versions are incompatible, but the editor didn’t feel the need to make them jibe.

        This is most obvious in the case of Chronicles and Kings, which are often practically identical, but parts of other books differ irreconcilably with each other.

      • And you know this how? What evidence for the motivation of the ancients do you have, or do you just believe you are correct?

        I would also point out that notwithstanding any genetic similarities we may have with other living things, and DNA is common to all living things, we are very obviously different from any other creature alive or dead. If that difference isn’t because of genetics then it is because of something else not yet known or understood.

        Your closely held certainties may bring comfort to you Chimp but I prefer the thought that Shakespeare had Hamlet speak for him,

        ” There are more things in Heaven and Earth, Horatio, than are dreamed of in your philosophy”.

        Your naive attempts to force consistency of your world view onto things you cannot know anything about is no less faith based than those you despise for having faith. Better to say I don’t know, even nothing at all, than to make a fool of yourself.

      • Keith,

        I’m just stating facts, which apparently make you uncomfortable.

        All the differences between humans and chimps are right there in our genomes to be seen. No need to posit other mysterious causes. You imagine more difference than there is.

        Some of the minor differences between humans and chimps result from simple mutations, for instance one which allows larger brain growth and a gross chromosomal change associated with upright walking. Others are simply a matter of the sequences which control how long legs grow and short body hair grows. We have the same number of follicles per square inch of skin.

        It’s also a fact that the biblical flood myth and other stories are simply reworkings of Mesopotamian and Egyptian myths. The similarities and differences are easy to trace as the stories move from their Sumerian originals to Babylonian versions, with Marduk replacing Sumerian gods, to the Assyrian, Ugaritic (starring Ba’al Zaphon, the Canaanite storm god equivalent of Marduk) and Hebrew variants, featuring Yahweh.

        I’m not forcing anything, just reporting the facts. The foolish attempt to force consistency on a recalcitrant belief system is all yours. You’d look less foolish if you had actually studied the subjects under discussion before presuming to comment upon them.

      • PS:

        It works both ways. Chimps have some mental functions superior to humans, to include spatial memory, and the cognitive development of their young is more rapid than ours. While we are different species, the gap just isn’t that great, and is filled by extinct human and chimp ancestors, back to our last common ancestor several million years ago.

      • No it doesn’t make me uncomfortable Chimp it simply reinforces my opinion that there is a subset of atheists who think they know far more than they do and to reinforce their certainty feel it necessary to denigrate religious faith.

        As to the Chimp story, so what? Fish are better swimmers, Eagles have better eyesight, cheetahs run faster and so on. My point is that humans have many more attributes than other living creature and more importantly have synthesized them into the natural wonder that is man.

        As you point out genetically we aren’t far from several animals but in the round we are far more than the genetics would suggest indicating that genes aren’t the complete story.

        As for the rest they are just opinions. Conjectures, hypotheses even but they are certainly not fact. Not knowing is not a crime Chimp and trying to understand more is a virtue. You may find learning about the causes of belief in others a useful pursuit rather than just belittling them.

        I am an atheist and have been for over five decades. Like most atheists I was brought up as a Catholic and thanks to the teaching skills and character of the Jesuits who taught me I was able to think for myself and escape. I have never tried to put down those who don’t and it irks me greatly when I see arrogant and intolerant atheists who see it as their lifes work to belittle believers.

        You cannot use reason to dislodge faith any more than you can use faith to defeat reason.

        Sorry

  37. A lot of the health related things are ‘correlation is causation’

    i.e. narrow arteries cause high blood pressure, ergo anything that lowers blood pressure ‘fixes’ narrow arteries.

    It doesn’t. It ‘fixes’ high blood pressure which is over a period, damaging of itself, but its not getting at the heart (sic!) of the problem.

    Treating symptoms instead of causes is very endemic in medicine today.

    • Leo,

      Excellent point. Try looking up physiological causes of hypertension – huge knowledge gap, so they rely on epidemiological studies to correlate it with “bad” behaviors (e.g., salt intake, alcohol intake, etc.), but do not demonstrate causation, and,as you say, the only treat the symptoms.

      Barbara

  38. There are two types of scientific controversies. Controversies among experts, and controversies among politicians projecting public sentiment. Public advocacy is for power and control. Scientific debates occur because defining what one person considers truth may not be the valuation used by others. For example, to define a mineral, the standard is X-ray spectroscopy. But that is expensive. When I use infrared spectroscopy, are my results valid? To many, no. So I then have to look for correlations of X-ray and Raman and infrared, as each instrument reports what we call truth to identify a substance. So scientific controversies are centered around methods and instruments and the kinds of conclusions that appear sustained by the data. Public debates are shaped by individual self-worth and their perceived role in the world. Science debates among scientists surround what conclusions can we reach from what biased instruments show. Public debates involving science are affected by the same problems of scientific measurement and conclusions that might be derived from them when almost all of the instrument problems are kept from view.

  39. Another “scientific” issue was that of EMF’s and childhood leukaemia and other cancers. In the 1980’s there was great fear spread about in the USA and Australia ( in particular) and fast amounts of money found its way to questionable research that sometimes declared significant effects when they were actually statistically insignificant. The fear mongering fell away without much, if any fanfare, as bigger and better projects loomed. No doubt someone will try to resurrect the issue at some time – probably after AGW has died.

  40. Kip, you present a concise and clear structure for analyzing how MSC develop. Any thoughts on the process of how they are (or could be) resolved?

    As context for that question, I think that science is a system concerned with the advancement of knowledge. Ideas flow through that system and make it ever more complex. As you point out, facts and social factors have great influence on how well the ideas progress toward general acceptance as knowledge. Controversies are blockages to the advancement of knowledge. However, all systems naturally adjust to overcome blockages (see Bejan’s work at https://constructal.org/). So my question has to do with how the system (i.e., science in all its technical and sociological aspects) responds to overcome these impediments.

    • The only logical/rational approach is to recognise all the underlying emotional and biological factors.

      Physical scientists seem to be governed by the right brain and often unwilling to explore what the right brain offers. As Mr Spock would say, “Most illogical.”

  41. Gary ==> It is a difficult question. There have been instances in which the Advocates have apparently won, at least for the time being. Darwinian evolution (“all existing genetic traits must have had survival value”) has been known to be an ill-formed idea for a long time, yet it is a poison topic for science — it will brook no opposition (except in the very incestuus clique of deep evolutionary science — where it is simply acknowledged to be false). Other Wars have been won by Opponents, by slow attrition, wearing away at the Flaws, bringing forth new contrary data (over and over again), and the fact that battles won cease to be fought — Advocates having won the day tend to fight less and the truth can slowly out — The Cholesterol Wars are an example.

  42. Kip Hansen: A wonderful series, my compliments!
    In respect of your request, I held off on commenting to the end. I would like to address a couple of points which were missed or underplayed. I will take a somewhat wordy, narrative approach, and will concentrate on the Fat Wars. Keep in mind that the conclusions I draw apply at least equally as well to the Climate Wars and the others.
    Up Front: I believe the Fat Gene is Total BS. Why? I have been around the block once or twice.

    Point 0:
    Growing up in the central semi-rural part of the state (1950s-1960s), we kids divided the school population into the “skinnys” and the “chubbies”. The skinnys far outnumbered the chubbies. The kids walked or rode bikes to school. The kids who rode the bus still had to hike a fair haul to the bus stop. The bus stops were placed for the convenience of the buses, not the kids (compare and contrast to modern practice). The chubbies were pretty much restricted to those who were driven to and from school every day by their mothers.
    Fat Gene: Unheard of.

    Point 1:
    Freshman at Generic State College (GSC)
    The student population is largely composed of students from the largely rural central and western parts of the state. However, this would change rapidly as the school grew and politics entered the scene. Nonethless, the skinnys far outnumbered the chubbies. The seniors would warn the frosh of the dangers of the Freshman Five. Said to be the number of pounds you would pack on from eating school chow if you did take care of yourself.
    Fat Gene: Rumors only, generally scoffed at.

    Point 2:
    Senior at GSC
    The political transformation of GSC is complete. The student body which once was largely rural, is now derived almost exclusively (95%+) from the urbanized eastern part of the state. The urban students are notably not very interested in the outdoors sports such as skiing, (x-country and downhill), hiking, backpacking, for which the school has a fine reputation. (The campus is only a few miles from the famous Appalachian Trail, and within hiking range of Vermont’s renowned Long Trail. Usually you would think that is an opportunity not to be missed.)
    Indeed, the huge chorus of complaint from new arrivals is There is no Shopping here! I Want To Go Shooopppiiing!
    The chubbies outnumber the skinnys by a fair margin. The Freshman Five has bloated into the Freshman Fifteen(!)
    At this point, I have to make this Dramatically Clear. There is no genetic difference between the rural and urban populations on campus, at all. Everybody is classic Western European descent via the 20th century US Melting Pot.
    You would be hard pressed to find a more homogeneous bunch of genetic mongrels anywhere in the country.

    Fat Gene: A constant topic of conversation on campus, at least among the ladies. So far there is not a shred of support for the notion from the scientific community. I find this particularly surprising coming from the Biology Dept. These are seniors with majors in Bio., Nursing, and Med Tech. They know it it Bilge, yet they chatter on. It strikes me that what they are really doing is trying to evade culpability for the Freshman Fifteen, which they all have (some in spades!), and make it Not My Fault. As an aside, the previous favorite excuse was, “I just have big bones”.
    This whole thing looks, for all the world, like the creation, from the grass roots up, of a new consumer demand. And we all know, if there is a demand out there, it will be met.
    Fasten your seat belt, this ride is about to get wild!

    Point 3:
    Grad Student at Generic State University (GSU)
    For four long years I watch the undergrads (and many grad students) fight the Battle Of The Bulge.
    I note here that, although in a different state than GSC, GSU has a substantial population from the same urban area as GSC did. All told, the student population is the same homogeneous bunch of genetic mongrels as before. And losing the Battle Of The Bulge just as badly.
    The Freshman Fifteen has ballooned Freshman Forty. Yikes!
    The chubbies are now wholly dominant on campus and chubbier than ever. The skinnys are now so rare that they are considered oddities and are sometimes subject to verbal harassment. This sort of thing was previously unknown on campus. The Overton Window has well and truly shifted.

    Fat Gene:
    The undergraduate population cannot stop talking about the Fat Gene which is making them all fat. They can’t wait for the gene to be discovered, and with it, an effortless treatment which will make them all slim and trim.
    There is now serious biomedical research dedicated to the hunt for the mythical beast. Looks like someone smelled money. They may not be able to find such a thing, so they can be depended upon to do the next thing, which is just as good. They will find Candidate Genes, more study required! They will not find just a few, they will find dozens, even hundreds of Candidate Genes. The More, The Merrier. The more Candidate Genes as set forth, the more difficult it is to conclusively prove that the whole thing is BS.
    The demand is there, and the demand will be met.
    Release The Hounds, The Game Is Afoot!

    Conclusions:
    A: If you have an agenda or a point to push, you need evidence, or at least “evidence”.
    This works for Global Warming, the Fat Gene, and absolutely anything else.
    To find something, fund people who are already looking. Get more people looking. They will find what you are after. If things get sketchy, confuse the hell out of things. Climate Change, many multiple genes, unknown regulatory factors.

    B: Take a closer look at the science behind the discovery of the Fat Gene. Limit yourself to just two points.
    1) Repeatability/Reproducability Either you got it or you don’t. In biomedical and pharma, we have found out, generally they don’t.
    2) Wee p values, and the illegitimate technique of “p value mining”. Of course, along with the full range of statistical chicanery we have come to expect from junk science.
    At the end of the exercise, see if the whole field looks like it was expertly napalmed.

    C: One of the great contributing factors to all these scientific fiascoes, yet unmentioned.
    A willing populace, or a piece of one, anyway. Gullible, scientifically illiterate, and for whatever reason, wanting, or needing, to believe. This, and this alone, will carry the fiasco forward.

    Epilogue:
    On the island of Dominica, in the capital city of Roseau, drinking my morning coffee at a nice little spot overlooking the Cruise Ship Dock. Every morning I am treated to the same scene. A ship ties up, and the day’s touristo hoard sallies forth. Now look carefully, there is a order to these things.
    First, the younger people are off and running. then the somewhat more elderly people stroll off.
    Next, the elderly Europeans (of Western European decent) stroll off, just a bit slower.
    Last, the elderly Americans (of Western European decent) hobble off. Fat, obese, clinically obese, morbidly obese, hobbling and wobbling their way along with canes, walking crutches, walkers, and wheelchairs.
    Even if you somehow overlook the difference in obesity, you cannot help but to be struck by the profound difference in mobility caused by the obesity.
    Two subgroups, which in broad brush terms, are genetically equal. One subgroup is plagued by the effects of Fat Genetics, while the other is utterly untroubled by it.
    The experts say:
    “25 genes guaranteed to make you obese; 300 genes that add to each other to pack on pounds; 56 different types of obesity….definitely not simple.”
    To buy into the Fat Gene Theory, you need to be able ignore powerful proof to the contrary, which you can gather for yourself with no more effort than drinking a cup of coffee and keeping your eyes open. And understanding what you are seeing.

    But that is none of my business.

    @ Kip:
    Second attempt to post. I hope you find some merit in my thoughts.

    • You could also add the “gay Gene” to the “fat gene” – same category in my opinion – people looking for comfort that it’s not their fault, they were made that way – and both based on flimsy wishful thinking “research” by people trying to find something they believed must be there.

  43. Scientists are just like regular people — sometimes they are right, and sometimes they are wrong.

    Sometimes there is an “establishment” scientific consensus that’s right, and sometimes the establishment consensus is wrong.

    If you read author Hanson’s articles you will see a strong bias toward believing the “establishment” consensus is wrong.

    That bias is just as bad as assuming the consensus is right.

    I went through all his articles, and found one I felt was obviously wrong — the obesity article.

    Hanson would agree with establishment scientists that eating/drinking ‘too many calories’ causes weight gain … but insisted that reducing calories was ineffective for reducing obesity.

    That belief was incredible to me:

    Hanson was saying REDUCING calories was ineffective in reducing obesity!

    The only other choices would be are INCREASING calories, which couldn’t cause weight loss …

    or eating/drinking THE SAME NUMBER OF calories (that made you obese in the first place) … which also would not cause weight loss.

    Hanson’s belief was that no possible change to caloric intake could solve the obesity problem — that makes makes no sense — anyone who believes that is as dumb as a rock!

    We already know from concentration camp victims that EVERYONE can lose weight from large reductions in caloric intake. While those were not scientific experiments, the results were obvious:

    (1) Reducing caloric intake will result in weight loss.
    (2) Statement (1) applies to EVERY human.

    Hanson’s conclusions about obesity are wrong, so why should his beliefs be trusted on other subjects.

    We know in advance Hanson will always, or nearly always, believe the non-establishment consensus scientists … as if they are always right, and the “establishment” scientists are always wrong.

    When someone starts out with an obvious bias like that, his writings should not be trusted.

    • Richard ==> Welcome back. You should read the linked articles and background material for the Obesity Wars piece.

      Not only does the simplistic formula Eat Less Exercise More not cure obesity for most people, but even bariatric surgery is not a sure cure. Try reading “After Weight-Loss Surgery, a Year of Joys and Disappointments” for why this is so.

      For short answers on weight loss, read Gina Kolata’s “Short Answers….” piece. In it she quotes Dr Kaplan (a weight loss expert) saying that through lots of careful dieting and exercise, most people can maintain a weight loss of 5% of their body weight–for a 250 pound obese man, this equals 12 1/2 pounds — getting him down to 237 pounds, still obese.

      Because obesity and severe overweight is such a complicated and complex physiological problem, the simplistic idea of flipping the apparent cause around–from Eat More Exercise Less goes to Eat Less Exercise More–does not result in a correction, a cure.

      None of this is my fault — I just report what the obesity experts find. However, what the experts find, and what is pushed as “public health policy” by the Obesity Wars Cause advocates is different.

      • YOU WROTE:
        “None of this is my fault — I just report what the obesity experts find. However, what the experts find, and what is pushed as “public health policy” by the Obesity Wars Cause advocates is different. ”

        MY COMMENT:
        What you report, I assume, is a summary of what you’ve read and believe to be true.

        Don’t blame anyone else — YOU did the reading, and YOU wrote the article.

        You were wrong about obesity … and still are.

        The “experts” you chose to believe are not ALL the experts.

        They are the anti-establishment “experts” that you ALWAYS PREFER.

        I actually hate to use the term “experts”, because today’s “expert” could be tomorrow’s “fool”.

        There are only three choices for how many calories are ingested by an obese person:
        (1) More.calories.
        (2) Same amount of calories that caused the obesity.
        (2) Fewer calories.

        An obese person is not going to become normal weight with Same or More.

        That leaves Fewer (calories) as the only possible answer to losing a lot of weight.

        It’s basic physics.

        As I wrote in a past comment, which I will repeat here because I enjoyed saying it so much the last time:
        – A six year old child could understand this.
        – Go find a six year old to explain it to you.

        For the subject of obesity, you’ve double-downed on wrong, and that makes it harder to believe anything you write on other subjects..

        (1) You’re wrong about the TRUTH you chose to believe about obesity.

        (2) That’s a PROBLEM.

        (3) The SOLUTION is to admit you were wrong, and move forward.

        But, from reading many comments you have added to the comments section after your articles, It appears that you have never admitted to being wrong in your entire life — lust like Obama.

        Rich Greene
        2′ 10″ tall
        855 pounds
        Not my fault
        Bad genes.

      • Richard ==> You obviously have not done your homework — have not read the supporting material nor done your own research which, if you had, you would have found the evidence that I have presented in my essay, and which Gina Kolata summarizes in her series on obesity in the NY Times.

        Instead, you present a perfect example of what I point out sometimes happens when someone opposes the Advocacy Platform on a topic involved in a MSC:

        “The Advocates respond to criticism by repeating (endlessly and with infinite variation) their Truths and defy opponents to “deny the science” ….. Opponents, who have the audacity to point out the Flaws are vilified as “anti-science” or “against progress” and scientific findings by opponents are denigrated, regardless of their validity.”

        Ranting on and on while neglecting to even look at the actual evidence — the innumerable studies that have showed the same thing over and over — does not make good science discussion.

        I would be glad to discuss with you any actual evidence that you can come up with that is contrary to the main points of my Obesity essay….it is a fascinating topic, particularly because of the counter-intuitive findings of obesity research.

        I would prefer that you comment on the Obesity topic there.

        However, if all you plan to do is insist that “I’m right” no matter the evidence, there won’t be much to discuss.

  44. Kip, a suggestion for your request to look elsewhere on this topic of Controversies in Science, is to have a look at the issue of Domestic Violence. A mine field mired in politics ans ideology, but focus on the science instead. A brief overview is in the link below.

    https://mobile.sites.google.com/site/nzchinatravels/2015-amy-adams/responce-to-review-of-dv-september-2015

    Ellen Pense who framed the whole concept of of “Male Privilege” actually reneged on her own thesis when she reviewed her work just before she died, and basically admitted one of her critics Professor Dutton was correct. However her ideology still continues unabated as a jurisdictional solution of choice in many countries, where the well supported and accepted concept of relationship counselling has been repeatedly shouted down by Duluth advocates.

    • christopherpetersmith ==> All academic/scientific fields infected by advocacy politics–victim groups, the social justice movement, gender politics–are beyond hopelessly compromised until the individual fields of study come to their senses. The Advocacy Groups allowed to gain even a toe-hold of power are soon buoyed by piggy-backing on other ridiculous and unfounded notions of other groups and boosted into the forefront. There are so many issues that can not be discussed even on university campuses founded by the free-speech movements of the past.

  45. Kip, one controversy that is worth looking at is the “origins of the universe” debate, in which on side is largely so thoroughly muffled that most people take the “Big Bang” theory as a matter of fact. Yet even a little study reveals that there are empirical, observational matters that conflict with the Standard Model of cosmology. You can even find a bit of apparent concealment of problematic information (e.g. NGC 4319 and Markarian 205 and Markarian 205, where NASA produced positive images with tweaked contrast to [apparently] conceal a physical linkage between a high-red-shift quasar, Markarian 205, and a much lower red shift galaxy, NGC 4319). There are other interesting aspects and you might identify another diagnostic trait for these situations, the lack of viable alternative theories. If you examine the “climate controversy” you have one relatively coherent, but plainly inadequate theory, adhered to by both AGW supporters and by luke warmers. The opposition consists of a monumental grab bag of “theories,” mutually incompatible.

  46. General response to Mr. Know it All On Every Subject, Mr.Kip Hanson, concerning his huge bias against all “establishment consensus” science beliefs, in all of his many articles, on many different subjects, that have been posted here:

    You have us believe that you are an expert in more different subjects than any other person has ever claimed on this website … or anyone I’ve met in the past 60 years.

    Right away, that’s very hard to believe.

    As a self-proclaimed “expert” on many subjects, you believe you are capable of deciding which subject matter “experts” know what they are talking about, and which do not.

    With you having absolutely no personal experience with obesity — experience that I have — you have arbitrarily decided that eating fewer calories is not the logical answer to move away from obesity.

    You would have us believe the majority / establishment / science consensus is ALWAYS wrong — clearly displaying a HUGE, unjustified bias against establishment views, which is very obvious in ALL your articles.

    I have nothing against an anti-establishment bias — as a Libertarian I have an anti-government bias, which could be called an anti-establishment bias.

    I deliberately try to find contradictory information from establishment sources to offset my known bias — on the internet confirmation bias is particularly dangerous.

    When I observe your anti-establishment bias, I compare it with my own anti-establishment bias, and I believe YOU have gone “over the top”.

    You have become predictable — on every subject your conclusion is that the establishment scientific consensus is wrong.

    You have a predictable anti-establishment pattern — the establishment is ALWAYS wrong — and that is idiotic “conspiracy theory thinking.”

    In your bizarro world, the majority of trained scientists are WRONG on EVERY subject (that you write about as a self-proclaimed “expert”).

    Not sometimes wrong – wrong every time.

    I do not claim that I’m right about obesity no matter what “evidence” is presented.

    That is a smarmy red herring you invented out of thin air, and posted here, in order to character attack me.

    I’m only saying the consensus is right that obese people, in general, need to reduce caloric intake to lose weight.

    And the evidence they are wrong — which you falsely accuse me of not reading — failed to convince me the “establishment consensus” on obesity is wrong.

    I’ve look at “your” sources, and see garbage science.

    You see anti-establishment “experts” — I see conclusions worth less than a large pile of steaming animal digestive waste byproducts.

    I have explained before, but you appear incapable of changing your mind on any subject, that blaming obesity on genes makes no sense because the US obesity epidemic happened suddenly — around 1980 there was an unexpected, sudden acceleration in the number of obese children and adults, a trend that may still be in progress.

    Genes did not change suddenly in 1980.

    And I don’t care if a columnist at the New York Times, a left-wing biased newspaper that you apparently love, says so.

    Obese people have been blaming their condition on “genes” for a century — that doesn’t make them right either.

    We already know from “climate science” that many scientists get attention, and funding, by making unproven claims based on “data” or “studies” that other scientists can’t replicate.

    For obesity, the only other choices besides taking in fewer calories, would be taking in more calories, or not changing the eating/drinking habits that caused the obesity in the first place.

    So, if you continue to claim intake of fewer calories won’t help obesity, then you are implying caloric intake does not matter for obese people like myself.

    Your belief is wrong, and is downright stupid.

    Since you stubbornly refuse to accept the basic physics of obesity, or even admit you might be wrong, I believe people should be skeptical of ALL the other articles, on many subjects, that you imply you are expert on, and get posted here.

    Since many of your articles are off-topic, I have no idea why they get posted here.

    • They get posted here because I like to stimulate debate in science, and because I think Kip is doing a good job at that. If the articles bother you, don’t read them.

      • Kip is very “stimulating” for debate.

        But his “the establishment is always wrong” bias in every article reads like a conspiracy theory — and that doesn’t help the effort to get real climate science in our government — we may have only four years to do that.

        When the climate establishment can point to “deniers” and ridicule them by claiming they NEVER accept the scientific consensus on any subject, that’s a credibility problem for us.

        The establishment can’t be wrong about everything scientific — even a stopped clock is right twice a day!.

      • It was simple observation that the sun orbits the earth – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that Vulcan orbited between Mercury and the sun – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that life occurred from spontaneous generation – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that the earth was expanding – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that combustible objects contained phlogiston – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that water filled canals existed on Mars – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that light propagated through luminiferous aether – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that people were blank slates, tabula rasa, at birth – but that was wrong.
        It was simple observation that people could be analyzed from their bumpy heads, phrenology – but it was wrong.
        It was simple observation that the universe was static – but it was wrong.
        It’s a simple observation that Fleischmann and Pons’s cold fusion apparatus puts out more energy than it takes in – but it’s wrong.
        It’s a simple observation to point an IR instrument at the sky and measure hundreds of W/m^2 of downwelling radiation – but it’s wrong.
        If this incorrect application and interpretation of IR instrumentation is all that “proves” “downwelling” radiation, then that is bupkis.
        Guess where GHG/GHE theory is headed?
        http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-most-famous-scientific-theories-that-turned-out-to-be-wrong.php

  47. “In the Climate Wars, increasing CO2 concentration in the atmosphere causes the Earth system to retain energy that would otherwise be re-radiated into space [h/t Physics].”

    Not so fast. It doesn’t actually work that way. Lots of dissent. Nasif Nahle & Sky Dragons & me. I have posted the following explanation numerous places and have yet to receive a rebuttal that 1) shows where I am wrong or 2) explains the actual physical basis for “back” radiation.

    References:

    Trenberth et al 2011jcli24 Figure 10

    This popular balance graphic and assorted variations are based on a power flux, W/m^2. A W is not energy, but energy over time, i.e. 3.4 Btu/eng h or 3.6 kJ/SI h. The 342 W/m^2 ISR is determined by spreading the average 1,368 W/m^2 solar irradiance/constant over the spherical ToA surface area. (1,368/4 =342) There is no consideration of the elliptical orbit (perihelion = 1,416 W/m^2 to aphelion = 1,323 W/m^2) or day or night or seasons or tropospheric thickness or energy diffusion due to oblique incidence, etc. This popular balance models the earth as a ball suspended in a hot fluid with heat/energy/power entering evenly over the entire ToA spherical surface. This is not even close to how the real earth energy balance works. Everybody uses it. Everybody should know better.

    An example of a real heat balance based on Btu/h follows. Basically (Incoming Solar Radiation spread over the earth’s cross sectional area) = (U*A*dT et. al. leaving the lit side perpendicular to the spherical surface ToA) + (U*A*dT et. al. leaving the dark side perpendicular to spherical surface area ToA) The atmosphere is just a simple HVAC/heat flow/balance/insulation problem.

    http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=7373

    “Technically, there is no absolute dividing line between the Earth’s atmosphere and space, but for scientists studying the balance of incoming and outgoing energy on the Earth, it is conceptually useful to think of the altitude at about 100 kilometers above the Earth as the “top of the atmosphere.” The top of the atmosphere is the bottom line of Earth’s energy budget, the Grand Central Station of radiation. It is the place where solar energy (mostly visible light) enters the Earth system and where both reflected light and invisible, thermal radiation from the Sun-warmed Earth exit. The balance between incoming and outgoing energy at the top of the atmosphere determines the Earth’s average temperature. The ability of greenhouses gases to change the balance by reducing how much thermal energy exits is what global warming is all about.”

    ToA is 100 km or 62 miles. It is 68 miles between Denver and Colorado Springs. That’s not just thin, that’s ludicrous thin.

    The GHE/GHG loop as shown on Trenberth Figure 10 is made up of three main components: upwelling of 396 W/m^2 which has two parts: 63 W/m^2 LWIR and 333 W/m^2 and downwelling of 333 W/m^2.
    The 396 W/m^2 is determined by inserting 16 C or 279K in the S-B BB equation. This result produces 55 W/m^2 of power flux more than ISR entering ToA, an obvious violation of conservation of energy aka created out of nothing. That should have been a warning.

    ISR of 341 W/m^2 enter ToA, 102 W/m^2 are reflected by the albedo, leaving a net 239 W/m^2 entering ToA. 78 W/m^2 are absorbed by the atmosphere leaving 161 W/m^2 for the surface. To maintain the energy balance and steady temperature 160 W/m^2 rises from the surface (0.9 residual in ground) as 17 W/m^2 convection, 80 W/m^2 latent and 63 W/m^2 LWIR (S-B BB 183 K, -90 C or emissivity = .16) = 160 W/m^2. All of the graphic’s power fluxes are now present and accounted for. The remaining 333 W/m^2 are the spontaneous creation of an inappropriate application of the S-B BB equation violating conservation of energy.

    But let’s press on.

    The 333 W/m^2 upwelling/downwelling constitutes a 100% efficient perpetual energy loop violating thermodynamics. There is no net energy left at the surface to warm the earth and there is no net energy left in the troposphere to impact radiative balance at ToA.

    The 333 W/m^2, 97% of ISR, upwells into the troposphere where it is allegedly absorbed/trapped/blocked by a miniscule 0.04% of the atmosphere. That’s a significant heat load for such a tiny share of atmospheric molecules and they should all be hotter than two dollar pistols.

    Except they aren’t.

    The troposphere is cold, -40 C at 30,000 ft, 9 km, < -60 C at ToA. Depending on how one models the troposphere, an evenly distributed average or weighted by layers from surface to ToA, the S-B BB equation for the tropospheric temperatures ranges from 150 to 250 W/m^2, a considerable, 45% to 75% of, shortfall from 333.

    (99% of the atmosphere is below 32 km where energy moves by convection/conduction/latent/radiation & where ideal S-B does not apply. Above 32 km the low molecular density does not allow for convection/conduction/latent and energy moves by S-B ideal radiation et. al.)

    But wait!

    The GHGs reradiate in all directions not just back to the surface. Say a statistical 33% makes it back to the surface that means 50 to 80 W/m^2. A longer way away from 333, 15% to 24% of.

    But wait!

    Because the troposphere is not ideal the S-B equation must consider emissivity. Nasif Nahle suggests CO2 emissivity could be around 0.1 or 5 to 8 W/m^2 re-radiated back to the surface. Light years from 333, 1.5% to 2.4% of.

    But wait!

    All of the above really doesn’t even matter since there is no net connection or influence between the 333 W/m^2 thermodynamically impossible loop and the radiative balance at ToA. Just erase this loop from the graphic and nothing else about the balance changes.

    BTW 7 of the 8 reanalyzed (i.e. water board the data until it gives up the “right” answer) data sets/models show more power flux leaving OLR than entering ASR ToA or atmospheric cooling. Trenberth was not happy. Obviously, those seven data sets/models have it completely wrong because there can’t possibly be any flaw in the GHE theory.

    The GHE greenhouse analogy not only doesn’t apply to the atmosphere, it doesn’t even apply to warming a real greenhouse. (“The Discovery of Global Warming” Spencer Weart) It’s the physical barrier of walls, glass, plastic that traps convective heat, not some kind of handwavium glassy transparent radiative thermal diode.
    The surface of the earth is warm for the same reason a heated house is warm in the winter: Q = U * A * dT, the energy flow/heat resisting blanket of the insulated walls. The composite thermal conductivity of that paper thin atmosphere, conduction, convection, latent, LWIR, resists the flow of energy, i.e. heat, from surface to ToA and that energy flow, i.e. heat requires a temperature differential, 213 K ToA and 288 K surface = 75 C.

    The flow through a fluid heat exchanger requires a pressure drop. A voltage differential is needed to push current through a resistor. Same for the atmospheric blanket. A blanket works by Q = U * A * dT, not S-B BB. The atmosphere is just a basic HVAC system boundary analysis.

    Open for rebuttal. If you can explain how this upwelling/downwelling/”back” radiation actually works be certain to copy Jennifer Marohasy as she has posted a challenge for such an explanation.

    • Nicholas Schroeder ==> I’m afraid i don’t engage in the Climate Wars. As I am sure you are aware, I was just stating the general AGW founding principle — to which you are welcome to mount as strong as an objection as you wish.

      You “have yet to receive a rebuttal” — and you will not receive one from me either.

      I would be interested in seeing an essay here from you, if Anthony would publish it…written in language tailored for the general, non-technical audience — with a clear explanation as to how your view differs from the IPCC view — and from other alternative views.

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