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Calling bullshit (callingbullshit.org)
401 points by roye on Jan 12, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 272 comments



Admirable, but misguided. Fact-based argument has never been effective. The Greeks knew this. We keep forgetting it at our own peril. We know how to think critically; most of us simply choose not to.

The audience who would see this kind of course/site are likely people who pretty much already have their head screwed on the right way. It would be much better to train them in effective rhetoric so they can counter the bullshit in real arguments.

We keep forgetting that people tend to support policies and politicians for largely social and psychological reasons, not because of facts and ideology. The former are where the real battle is fought.

I spend a lot of time debating with people who disagree with me politically. It's nearly impossible to have a factual debate. So stop trying. Instead, make your point based on common morals, do it with compassion and generosity of spirit, and don't allow the goalposts of the debate to be moved. Throw in like two of couple of your choicest facts and sources, but don't expect them to help. Move on and repeat.


From Scott Adams (Dilbert):

> Rational People: Use data and reason to arrive at truth. (This group is mostly imaginary.)

> Word-Thinkers: Use labels, word definitions, and analogies to create the illusion of rational thinking. This group is 99% of the world.

> Persuaders: Use simplicity, repetition, emotion, habit, aspirations, visual communication, and other tools of persuasion to program other people and themselves. This group is about 1% of the population and effectively control the word-thinkers of the world.

http://blog.dilbert.com/post/147595892021/how-persuaders-see...


I used to really enjoy Adams' blog - he used to be fairly easy to read, conversational, and just controversial enough to be entertaining.

Over the last couple of years though, it seems that he's become obsessed with this whole "master persuader" idea. It made for interesting reading for the first month or so, but it's slowly taken over all of his other content to the point that he now seems afraid to actually express an opinion of his own, instead trying to angle his posts as a "persuasion". He actually seems to be spiralling into madness.

I just checked back and at least he's re-enabled comments now, so maybe there will be some entertaining reading there again (the comments were always the best part).


Reading the blog, it appears this is a subject he's obsessed about his whole life. He wanted to share but held off until the perfect situation presented itself. I'm not sick of it yet, I think it's fascinating. You're right about the comments though, I missed them when they were gone.


Something about this categorization seems ironic to me. Does this mean that Scott Adams sees himself as a "word-thinker", because he is certainly labeling people in coming up with this list.


I think at least he considers himself a Persuader, that should be clear is you read the blog.


Even though I have some training, skills in mathematical logic, probabilities and in mathematics in general being very good for spotting bullshit, I still need help. The only thing that actually protects me is this little voice in my head telling me "this guy could be full of bullshit, I'd better check".

But then fact checking is too time consuming, many times I do it, but not often enough. And you can't just wipe clean from your memory whatever you heard. This is the genius behind repetition: if unchallenged, it sticks to your subconscious, whether you want it or not, especially when spoken by people you happen to respect.

So here's the problem, even those of us with a logical, science-oriented mind, that studied the right things in school, even us need help. Do you think that us developers are immune to yellow journalism? Think again. Here's one concrete proof that we can swallow bullshit whole, much like everybody else: https://twitter.com/timbray/status/810157215478755328

The answer is always education and even if you educate a tiny minority, those people can then educate others. And personally I feel like I need that education as well.


I agree with all your reasoning, except I'm unsure what you mean to say with the link.

Are you saying we bought the bullshit when Oracle claimed they wouldn't monetize it? If that's the case, that was never a verifiable statement, or better yet, was never an immutable state either way. I don't think anyone convinced themselves they knew anything from that claim.

That's not the same thing as accepting that someone claims that man landed on the moon. While still hard to verify (really), it still either happened or not. Monetizing Java could change at any time, what was the case yesterday might be changed today, and could be back again tomorrow.


People know how to think critically in a particular context. What I find is that when they're in an unfamiliar context their level of critical thinking is lower. Also tiredness, stress and so on contribute to less critical thinking. Also most people have certain irrational trigger topics, things that are so emotive to them or so wrapped up in their sense of identity that they can't break them down critically. (All of this also applies to myself of course.)

Newton is, I guess, an example of someone very critical in one context and less critical in another (scientific historians rush to correct me).

Still, though, I don't think we can all do enough work on training young people to at least have the tools to think critically. Studying medieval history at 17 changed my entire way of thinking about credibility. I think I'd be a much less critical thinker if I had not had that experience.


Critical thinking is a piece of technology that evolved a lot since the Middle Age. I don't think Newton could do much better. If he wasn't at the leading edge on "critical thinking", he was very near it.

And that's something most people choose to ignore, that even "how to think" is something that evolves, and our current standards were created by many people improving on what came before them.


> People know how to think critically in a particular context

I observe that we tend to make an implicit assumption that most statements contain an opinion, perception, and anectotes. It gets harder to think everything in terms of data, e.g. I could ask "What people? Did you perform a study yourself?" for your statement, however, if it aligns with my perception or makes sense even without hard data, I'm not going to do it.

> Studying medieval history at 17 changed my entire way of thinking about credibility

Any books you would recommend?


God's War By Dr Christopher Tyerman. He was my teacher so I think that it was his influence that was key.


> It's nearly impossible to have a factual debate.

You contextualize this as related to politics. But, I've noticed, in certain fora, that it's nigh-on impossible, even for something as measurable as energy production. And that's just inputs and outputs where the units of measurement are already agreed to! :-O

What's the difference? What causes some topics to be amenable to rational debate (or even discussion that doesn't go off the rails) and not? Politics, economics (because it's related to politics?), and religion - no. No rationality to be had there. Anything that have to do with harmful invisible vapors (vaccines, electromagnetics, radiation, environmental toxins) and health - no. Any form of "alternative lifestyle", including digital nomadicism (!) - no. Law - all over the map. Computer programming - all over the map.

In fact, right now, I'm trying to think of something that humans debate rationally, and I'm having a difficult time thinking of one (I'm sure they exist - but I'm only lightly caffeinated so far).

Regardless of my inability to think of topics that we (humans) can debate about rationally, why do some topics "work" for rationality and some not?

> Move on and repeat.

Why? You just said it almost never helps.


> Why? You just said it almost never helps.

Yeah, great question! I didn't really address that part.

What I really meant is that I almost never "win" the argument. I've overtly changed someone's mind before, but that's like 10% of the time, at best. So making that my goal wouldn't be a good idea.

More often, I can get the other person to expand their point of view, even just a little bit. I can gain some credibility in their minds as someone they may disagree with, but can respect. And it opens the door to the perception that maybe the point of view I represent isn't directly opposed to their tribe. For people I tend to debate repeatedly, I can tell there's a shift over time.

Not to mention the fact that I'm not always right. I learn a lot from people who aren't already inclined to mindlessly Like everything I post. Debating people makes me a better thinker and persuader.

But I think most importantly, I do it for the audience. I suspect that in many of these debates, the lurkers are much less entrenched in their point of view than me or the person I'm debating with. Those are the people I really want to move. And that's a big reason why it's crucial to be civil, sincere, and avoid blowing up on people. Nothing turns off a neutral onlooker like someone being an asshole, even if it's righteous.


That makes a ton of sense. I almost always forget that there is an audience -- and that the audience, because they aren't in participant mode might well be less in their chosen position. Thanks!

[ It still baffles me why people would take on a non-rational position on (say) power generation. It's just engineering and physics. Anyone can look up the math in any library - it doesn't really even change that often! ]


Even the most fundamental comparison between two energy production techniques requires hours or days to calculate all relevant aspects: cost, production cycle, transmission, and storage. It isn't that surprising that anything that requires that much work could be considered as an article of faith.

Most people take the analysis provided to them by their trusted authorities: newspapers, magazines, television, public figures, esteemed friends and family; and form their world view based off of that. "Team" membership and identification also are prominent.


I think "Team" membership is key -- it tells which opinions they are likely to listen to. Any team can rustle up a credentialed opinionator that didn't do the math themselves (or will say anything, just, because) to round arm the rubes with talking points to unleash onto Reddit (or wherever). It would be a quite the dance spectacle, if it didn't make my stomach hurt. And, the worst thing is? My brain is just as broken (for the purpose of thinking rationally) as any of theirs! :-O


10% of the time? You are either a genius of persuasion or choose your battles very carefully :)


I will always remember what my neuroscience professor told me in college: "You know, after having worked in this cutting edge field for almost two decades, with some of the greatest thinkers in the world, I have learned one very important thing. Given all of the mounting research, vast amounts of data, and incredible imaging technologies, at the end of the day people will believe whatever they damn well want to."


> "... at the end of the day people will believe whatever they damn well want to."

I finally learned this and, after long denial about it, now "know" this as a fact about the universe. Or at least humans. That humans operate 1000% out of beliefs and that they didn't come to those beliefs rationally. And that you can't reason someone out of a position that they didn't reason themselves into.

It's actually been hard for me to come to grips with this emotionally and to integrate it into my day-to-day operational instincts/intuition.


You forgot: gender, ethnicity/culture


Disagreements about gender and ethnicity/culture? I don't get it. Do people debate about those?


And how. Starting with existence of those as such, and to how to define ones, and who can be rightly considered belonging to either one of them. All the time.


> We know how to think critically

Most people don't know how to think critically. You're right about the target audience, people who are already interested will take it.


I'll go even further: not only do most people not know how to think critically, but they are explicitly hostile (often extremely) to the idea of thinking or conversing about a controversial topic. Rarely do I ever see someone say "I don't know", and rarely have I observed anyone changing their mind, or conceding that their "opponent" may have some valid information they hadn't considered.


Thank you. I've always been a facts based argument type, and while I'm extremely proud of some of my best work, I never thrived in the places where I did it, and precisely for this reason. I wish I had studied rhetoric much earlier.

As an aside, I read a book on rhetoric (Thank You for Arguing) written by a guy who is extremely passionate about it, to the point where he persuaded me to teach it to my 4yo. It was extremely effective. He picked up negotiation quickly, and has been analyzing (if you ask him, he can tell you whether his argument is ethos, pathos, or logos) and tuning his arguments as he gets older. Now he uses negotiation and reasoning for everything. While I feel like sometimes it works against me (I have to negotiate everything with him), he now knows how to compromise in a negotiation so that arguments don't end in tantrums. And I honestly feel like he'll be better off with that one skill than he ever would with a trust fund or inheritance.


I think you're close, but still misguided. The issue isn't so much critical thinking (though that is a part of it) but a mismatch in baseline assumptions. Right makes might versus Might makes right, belief in the golden rule (duoaywhtduy or he who has the gold, makes the rules), the glass is half empty versus half full, etc. Unless you share the answers to these assumptions, you can't have a common dialogue.

I mean, you can argue facts all day long but if someone believes that having a bigger gun makes them right -- what's the point? You really think Kim Jong-un is going to listen to reason when he has nukes?


>You really think Kim Jong-un is going to listen to reason when he has nukes?

This statement, my friends, is how most persuasion works in the world.

No facts, just statements like:

"You really think...?"

If the person responds with "It's plausible - why not?", then you say:

"I mean, Come On!"

While it may be hard for some to believe, I write this comment with full seriousness and not as a joke. This really is how most persuasion works.

It's been mentioned multiple times on HN, but Influence, by Cialdini, is a great read. Especially the chapter on Social Proof.

I've seen this in action in the engineering world. You can have your data, as well as your error-free mathematics (no calculus, I promise! Just a few lines of algebra) to back your argument up. And the other person (PhD, no less) only needs to look at someone who shares his view of how the system under examination works to reject my mathematics.

Hence, his social proof was stronger than my mathematical proof.

I used to get upset about how I was working amongst the top engineers in one of the top companies in the world, and how illogical they seemed. But then I read the book and realized that's the "natural" order of things, and most people will not escape it.

Academia was a nice place where this was less of a problem.


> I've seen this in action in the engineering world. You can have your data, as well as your error-free mathematics (no calculus, I promise! Just a few lines of algebra) to back your argument up. And the other person (PhD, no less) only needs to look at someone who shares his view of how the system under examination works to reject my mathematics.

It can be that the PhD's "view of how the system under examination works" indicates that your mathematics doesn't actually apply to the system. At that point, it doesn't matter how error-free your mathematics is.

Is the PhD right about that? They might have higher odds than you, not by virtue of being a PhD, but perhaps by virtue of being more of a domain expert. (Though even that is no guarantee...)


>It can be that the PhD's "view of how the system under examination works" indicates that your mathematics doesn't actually apply to the system. At that point, it doesn't matter how error-free your mathematics is.

If they pointed out that it doesn't apply, sure.

However, this is how it usually happened (meant to put in the original post but forgot):

He looks at his colleague and asks "Have you ever heard of this?" The other person shakes his head. Hence, rejected.

That's why the chapter is called social proof.

No commentary about my mathematics, or how applicable it is.

I'm not talking really complex stuff. We had a model of a physical process (equations) that they had put into their software. The equations were in a reference document we all had access to. Occasionally they would say something like "This cannot be modeled because the equation in our model is not monotonic". At which point I take the equation, compute the derivative (sorry, this example did have calculus), and show that it is monotonic.

Response: "Look, everyone knows such a system is not monotonic!" (note again the socialness of their proof)

I'll give you a reverse example.

(Details varied to simplify the example).

We had a circuit (netlist) whose output (e.g. current) we were interested in. I was tasked with tweaking some of the components such that we hit a target current. I did it, but did not modify any components' capacitance. However, some of the frequency output was impacted, which we normally control by varying the capacitances in the circuit.

Their response: You screwed up - we told you not to change the capacitance!

Me: The capacitances are all the same. They are unchanged. You can verify for yourself.

Them: Impossible. I've been doing this for 15 years, and have never heard of the frequency changing for reasons other than capacitance.

Me: Here are the actual equations for the frequency measurement that you're worried has changed (I know them because I coded them into the system!). Capacitance is not an explicit input, but can creep in indirectly. It's not obvious to me from the equations what role capacitance even plays here (linear, quadratic, exponential, lognormal, etc). Can you point out to me why you're so certain?

Them: Look. The frequency never changes unless you change the capacitance. Everyone who has done this for years knows that (and he was right - everyone did say that). Go redo all this work.

So I redid it with the exact same result (wasn't really hard - I version controlled my work).

Them: Unacceptable. I will not accept this work unless you can explain to me why the frequency is changing when it shouldn't.

Me: It's a complex circuit. I didn't design it. I'm not a circuits guy. I don't know the intricacies.

Them: You're going to have to figure it out.

Me: I'll go to the circuit designer (in another team).

(Walk to his cube - he's out for a week on vacation).

Them: Sorry, we cannot continue this work unless this is resolved.

(Twiddle my thumbs for a week till the designer returns. Then ask him).

Circuit Designer: Of course it can change even if the capacitances don't change. Why are they saying it only changes with capacitance? Based on what?

Me: Based on (making the quotes symbol with hands) "everyone knows". (Yes, I really did respond that way - the absurdity was getting to me by then).

Designer: Let me talk to them.

Overall, 2 weeks wasted because "everyone knows". I think in the whole team, I was the only one who questioned the tribal wisdom. Whenever someone joined the team, they were taught this incorrect tribal wisdom. I was in the (un)fortunate position to have done some work that just happened to go against the tribal wisdom. I had to defend myself, and that forced me to question the wisdom (once I determined I had done all the steps correctly).

But they did not have to explain why they believed what they did. I had to explain why I did not believe what they did. They were the ones making an assertion about the relationship between capacitance and frequency. However, it was my job to disprove it - not their job to prove it. Essentially, I was put in a position to prove a negative, because they already had their proof (social proof). My proof was very clear: I had a clear counterexample to their theory, but it didn't hold up to their proof. They were not willing to examine my counterexample.

The guy grilling me who wasted 2 weeks wasn't just anyone. He was one of the most senior engineers in the company. Very sharp guy who deserved his post. Not an idiot.

But even they fall prey to social proof.


People pull the "everyone knows" and "it's obvious" card all the time. It usually happens for two reasons 1) they don't actually understand the argument or subject matter enough to explain what's going on or 2) they don't want to spend the time arguing on something they are certain is true


For anyone else who was interested in looking this up on Amazon:

https://smile.amazon.com/Influence-Psychology-Persuasion-Rob...


It's called proof by contradiction. I thought it was self evident that Kim Jong-un wouldn't listen to reason once he had nukes, but perhaps you know better.


First: In case you felt that way, I did not write this to criticize you. I'm not saying you're wrong or you're trying to manipulate people. I'm highlighting the persuasion tactic you used.

>I thought it was self evident that Kim Jong-un wouldn't listen to reason once he had nukes, but perhaps you know better.

Thing is, I don't know better! Tell me how you know better.

And "self-evident" is really code for "everyone knows..."

If I said "Sure, I think he can listen to reason just like all the other nuclear leaders", what is your response?


Well, I can really only go on by what I read in the press. All that killing he's doing to squash dissent. Doesn't sounds like spends much time listening to any rational argument beyond he who can kill people makes the rules.

And, to be fair, that argument seems to work for a lot of people (looking at you, Putin, Assad, etc).


For sure, there are hard-nosed people out there. I agree with you that arguing with these folks is a waste of time. But they are vastly outnumbered. A functional society requires those hardliners to be marginalized and the oppression they advocate to be rejected. For that to happen, there needs to be some baseline solidarity amongst diverse people who mostly simply want safety, opportunity, and justice. It's not a stable equilibrium. It takes constant work to shore up that consensus and good faith, and avoid the collapse into centralized or distributed authoritarianism.


"A functional society requires those hardliners to be marginalized"

Well, that is one theory for sure. But it's a tough one to argue when the reality is that having a bigger gun generally does mean you're right.


I agree. Many parts of the world work that way, quite explicitly. I'm pretty sure it's the human default. And yet, we have liberal democracies that are at least somewhat functional. I'm interested in how best to work within that scope. I've got a lot less to say about how you achieve progress in a society ruled by warlords, even though that's very timely issue in many places.


> We keep forgetting that people tend to support policies and politicians for largely social and psychological reasons, not because of facts and ideology. The former are where the real battle is fought.

Your comment was perfect as a lead up to this story about this Table of Knowledge group in Iowa:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/12/us/donald-trump-iowa-cons...

I bet there are a large number of these informal groups around the country. Listening to how they reason and what their units of reasoning are, which are not necessarily facts, is elucidating.


That's a great article, thanks for posting. I find it deeply saddening that so many people ask "How could people vote for Trump, what are they thinking!", but have less than zero interest (aka hostility) in any answers, and there are many, to that question.


> people who disagree with me politically

Problem is, the truth is pretty hard to determine based on the usual suspects (studies, facts etc):

"I worry that most smart people have not learned that a list of dozens of studies, several meta-analyses, hundreds of experts, and expert surveys showing almost all academics support your thesis – can still be bullshit." -- http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-s...

Yikes. what we really need is to discuss the practicality of citing studies performed by third-parties, and of trying to "prove" truth individually rather than collect evidence over time, as a community.

> do it with compassion and generosity of spirit

This is just good-faith, and it needn't be "compassion and generosity" which can easily be abused.


It is entirely possible to have a factual debate about facts and logical conclusions. It is, of course, impossible to make factual debate about opinions, moral principles and preferences, and politics is a mix of both kinds, heavily skewed to non-factual side, unfortunately. Still, I think there's demand for factual discussion even in politics. That's why "fact checking" became a thing and why "fake news" became a popular pejorative. Unfortunately - and probably inevitably, given the stakes - "fact checking" was taken over by opportunists and turned into partisan mudsligning, and "fake news" has been turned into a club for bashing political opponents. But the demand is still there. It's just that MSM media structures may be by now so corrupt that they are institutionally unable to satisfy it.


So we need a course called: bullshitting people who want to be bullshitted?

I'd worry a lot about the personal/existential implications. Gramsci says that the demagogue is the first one bitten by the snake of his own demagoguery.


Yeah but being a demagogue is a lot of fun. It feels like you're telling me the wealthy are suffering, or the role reversal in Hegel's master slave relationship.


> The audience who would see this kind of course/site are likely people who pretty much already have their head screwed on the right way. It would be much better to train them in effective rhetoric so they can counter the bullshit in real arguments.

I'd like to see the principle of calling bullshit taught in high schools.


What a cynical view - and coming from me, that's pretty bad.

Things can improve, and in fact, they have improved quite a bit over the last several centuries.

The appeal to authority of the ancient Greeks is sometimes a good one I guess, but not always. For instance, the Greeks "knew" a lot of things that they were flat wrong about.


acjohnson55, your observation is spot on. There is one suggestion that I have for 'rational' people: Band together, discriminate against the 'irrational' people in your lives and help out each other. That is one way to preserve your sanity. Often I have found that 'Rational' people also tend be be non-discriminatory and very accommodating on the non-rational people to a point where it hurts their interests. Contact me if interested.


I really like this idea, though struggle to understand the effectiveness.

My guess is that the type of person who falls victim to 'bullshit' theory or messages is not the kind of person who is willing to dedicate time to an online course about learning to be more critical in thought. 'Bullshit' thinking has been largely successful because its an effortless pathway to establishing an opinion on something (queue System 1/System 2 thinking).

Conversely, the people who would be willing to read this sort of content are likely the people who are already reasonable skeptical about what they take as face value.


I think everyone, engaged and skeptical or otherwise can miss falsehoods if it aligns with their values/beliefs already. Taking something like this should, in theory, give you tools to make sure that even if you really want to believe what you are reading/hearing because it aligns with your world view (or worse, comes from a source you respect and trust) then you can still determine how honest or accurate it is.


The latest SGU (Skeptics Guide to the Universe) podcast touched on your point, and how everyone is susceptible to false hoods particularly when those opinions make up a persons identity. Someone who identifies as 'liberal' or 'conservative' is more likely to fight facts that go against their beliefs. One possible solution presented, was to always attempt to self identify as a skeptic who is okay changing opinions as new facts come in. It is not an easy thing to do because 1) it's a lot of work and 2) you're outside of most of the big popular groups.


Self identifying as a skeptic is easy. Changing opinions as new facts come in is hard.


Holy cow, I totally forgot about SGU. Used to listen all the time, but it just fell off my radar. I bet this last year has been insane.


>always attempt to self identify as a skeptic who is okay changing opinions as new facts come in

>you're outside of most of the big popular groups

Story of my life


I see what you're saying, but since I really strongly think my being skeptical guards me from missing falsehoods regardless, I'm not going to take this.


No it doesn't. Smart people are among the easiest to fool. You simply appeal to their intellect and flatter them.


Sorry, it was a joke, but guess I didn't layer it on thick enough - I was exactly demonstrating your point :P


Like Climate Science? I have never seen so much bullshit and bullshit artists in one place except for DC, which is all bullshit all the time. Academia is the same, almost 100% bullshit these days--not much real science going on outside of medical research, physics, math, stuff you can't readily fake or make up as you desire. The software business runs on unbelievable amounts of bullshit and bullshit's brother, hype.

I know exactly how and why it happens, too. It's human nature to want to be liked and be successful. It is human nature to go with the flow when funding is at stake. It is human nature to want to be accepted by one's peers and to impress one's superiors. Also, it is extremely hard to innovate these days when so many people are out there doing the exact same things as you are.

Unfortunately, all that behavior has taken humanity down some dark paths before.


No, we were not talking about climate science. Actually, we were talking about people like you who miss falsehoods and believe fashionable political propaganda instead of peer reviewed settled science, because it aligns with their prejudices and world views. So thanks for illustrating the point so unwittingly.


>My guess is that the type of person who falls victim to 'bullshit' theory or messages is not the kind of person who is willing to dedicate time to an online course about learning to be more critical in thought

Obviously it's not about them. There are still millions that understand the problem and are willing to think more critically -- but don't have all the skills, expertise etc to distinguish bullshit in its myriad forms.

Some statistics bullshit in the media for example is obvious, but other is so well hidden, it takes deeper knowledge of math and statistics, or abstract reasoning etc to recognize it.

>Conversely, the people who would be willing to read this sort of content are likely the people who are already reasonable skeptical about what they take as face value.

Reasonable skeptical people are getting duped every day in all kinds of subtle ways. Having the skills to recognize those, would be nice.


Nobody is immune to accept bullshit. And to be able to identify and articulate why something is bullshit is a very useful skill.


Is it going to solve the problem of bullshit? Probably not.

Is it going to help the situation, by providing some accessible resources that will help some people? I'd say so. There'll be more people with a better understanding of bullshit.

What more can you really expect from an initiative?


> I ... struggle to understand the effectiveness.

I agree that the demographic coverage is not even remotely 100%. Would it be fair to generalize your 'target audience critique' as "this can not possibly be of help to the unwashed masses"?

Here's my take on the general demographic critique. (This equally and critically applies to 'encryption & privacy' efforts that we geeks keep circling back to here and elsewhere.)

First a categorical definition from uncle Marx so that attendant HN Marxists do not accuse me of 'petite bourgoise' biases :)

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

I agree with Marx: The lumpen proletariat, as you note, are "not the kind of [people] who [are] willing to dedicate time to an online course." Equally, as we famously know, they remain unmoved by the fact that their idle chatter and exchanges of pixelated naughty bits are recorded and reviewed by "public servants" in service of the establishment class.

Thus, per this view, it is (as you point out) a /waste/ of effort to either try to equip them with cognitive tools, or, "user friendly" privacy tools.

One of my little pet theories is that the 1% -- the ratios are rough/symbolic -- require the psychological assent of the 10%. And, in my view, the 1% are critically depdendent on them for the operation and maintenance of the establishment order.

This 10% is courted, conditioned, and then integrated into the establishment order. Sometimes they are identified in school, taken under the wing of a mentor who gently shape their thoughts into a form suitable for fitting into the available slots. Others effectively auto-integrate by identifying with the 'attractive' propaganda of the establishment order. All end up as useful servants of the establishment.

Most of us are not familiar with mechanics and psychology of power.

To affect change in society, whether in 1000BC, or 2017 AD, the participation of the 10% is of absolute critical importance. The lumpen proletariat are moved to action only under the duress of severe hunger. Anything else, they don't budge.

All our efforts towards the betterment of our society should focus attention on the 10%.

Educate the young potential, and recovering older, members of 10%, and, provide them secure communication (which most certainly must not sacrifice technical rigour at the alter of the false god of "[general] usability").


There are different ranks of bullshit. But it regularly pops up even in fields populated almost exclusively with smart and critical people (e.g. academia).

May I suggest that maybe you are not attuned to nth-order bullshit? It's relatively harmless, but it's out there.

In a way, seeing through all the bullshit is a feat of almost superhuman strength, even more so without falling prey to cynicism or nihilism.


>But it regularly pops up even in fields populated almost exclusively with smart and critical people (e.g. academia)

Even? I'd say mostly -- or at least on par.


> 'Bullshit' thinking has been largely successful because its an effortless pathway to establishing an opinion on something (queue System 1/System 2 thinking).

And if anything does go wrong you can blame the original bullshitter so you don't have to take responsibility when it turns out you were wrong.


This is a good point. It's like half of the course needs to be about how to talk about bullshit in a way that makes more people want to get aboard the anti-bullshit train.


From the "patron saint of reason and common sense" I can recommend Carl Sagan's "Baloney Detection Kit" from superb The Demon-Haunted World:

https://www.brainpickings.org/2014/01/03/baloney-detection-k...


In fact, that's one of Calling Bullshit's sources:

http://callingbullshit.org/syllabus.html#Spotting


Oh dear - I should have read that page more carefully.

Anyway here is one that isn't on their list:

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


The whole book is essential reading. Sagan mostly picks easy targets (supernatural claims), but the process is enlightening. For example he lays out the general uselessness of witness testimony and memory, which has extremely broad implications.


My wife took a Critical Thinking course at college. Changed her life, and as a result, my life and our kids'. Blows me away that only 90 people per year at that institution took that course. Meanwhile, back in the public school system, we have examiners mistaking their own opinions as fact. [1]

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13348672


Really? My college experience was very different. All the professors talked about how essential "critical thinking" was.

And to this I asked:

- Is there even a definition of "critical thinking"?

- (As a psychology major) Is there evidence that this is a sound objective concept (rather than something everyone thinks only they have)?

- Is there any objective measure of critical thinking? If not, how can you have any objective reason to believe your courses increases critical thinking?

And to this they said various forms of "I don't know." I guess they had never really thought about it critically.


I think you are making the same point. There was just one course, with just one professor, on critical thinking at this college, and then there are 1000 where the professor assumes that you know, indeed that they know, what critical thinking is. In fact most don't. My alma mater didn't have a critical thinking course.


Any chance she'd be kind enough to provide some book recommendations?


I am not sure I like this site. It uses strong language, but avoids anything controversial and provided case studies are pretty shallow.

Nothing like some Youtube channels, where presenter spends one hour deconstructing some study, to its sources and sources of the sources.


How To Deconstruct Almost Anything: My Postmodern Adventure, by Chip Morningstar, June 1993.

"Academics get paid for being clever, not for being right." -- Donald Norman

http://www.fudco.com/chip/deconstr.html


Wow, thank you for sharing this. It's one of the more entertaining essays I've read, especially since I've recently come into contact with some of the literary critics and deconstructionists he's writing about.


I suspect this course is teaching you how to do this type of deconstruction rather than to provide examples that are entertaining or controversial. Teach a person to fish, etc.


Have a look at case studies. Opinions, anecdotal evidence, no sources. There is not even basic fact checking on their sources (they just took a number from Fox News and ran with it).

And I am not sure what to expect from a statistical course build around TED Talks, blog posts and NY Times articles. With chapters named like "The natural ecology of bullshit"...


> (they just took a number from Fox News and ran with it).

I don't know what you think that case study was about, but it isn't about whether the number was true or not. It is about whether that number represents something that is in line with the point of the article.

> And I am not sure what to expect from a statistical course build around TED Talks, blog posts and NY Times articles.

I wouldn't either, but it isn't a statistical course and it isn't build around TED Talks.

It is not about learning what they are saying in a TED Talk, but about dissecting the TED Talk and understanding why you shouldn't just accept the content of it.

All the case studies are examples of bullshit.


This seems like a similar idea to Julian Baggini's "Edge of Reason"[1]. In the book he investigates how we've become very bad at using reason (in the philosophical sense of the word) to examine things around us. I'm about 1/2 way through and I've been finding it very interesting indeed.

[1] http://yalebooks.co.uk/display.asp?k=9780300208238 - There's a brief interview with the author that introduces the book on there.


I'm sorry to be this negative, but people simply don't care. They don't care because thinking critically and trying to grasp subtle nuances and balance complex opinions about the world will not directly improve their lives. Convenient truths and easy emotions feel more comfortable and as if they have a direct "return on investment". Most people prefer simple truths, certainty and connection to/identification with a group over uncertainty, doubt and existential loneliness. (Or at least that's what I see, as somebody who is somewhat on the autistic spectrum and doesn't easily connect with a lot of this group-think.)

It's laudable to fight this, just very prone to disillusion.


It's not necessarily that they don't care, it's that not everything that matters to one person matters to the other.

The things which do matter to them however they care deeply about. And so it's much more accurate IMO to talk about misaligned perspectives rather than whether people don't care about the truth.


Bullshit is a numbers game, just like spam. Spam doesn't particularly try not to look like spam or avoid spam filters because the target audience isn't employing decent countermeasures.

Maybe marketing can be elevated to the same standard as phishing, where effort is put into deceiving our filters?

If so, this would be a very useful course for a marketeer to attend ;)


Reminds me of a good book I read in my ethics classes:

https://www.amazon.com/Bullshit-Harry-G-Frankfurt/dp/0691122...


Not surprisingly, that's also one of Calling bullshit's sources:

http://callingbullshit.org/syllabus.html#Introduction

(Funny little story, btw: The NYT reviewed that book, without being able to ever mention its title or, well, subject :-)

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/14/books/between-truth-and-li...


Yep, its one of the best essays I read during my undergrad, and in the era of Trump's never ending bullshit generation it has never been a more relevant a topic for study. 16 page PDF of the original article:

https://www.stoa.org.uk/topics/bullshit/pdf/on-bullshit.pdf

And Cohen's "Deeper into Bullshit":

http://learning.hccs.edu/faculty/robert.tierney/phil1301-6/b...

edit: now that the site is back up, I can see both are part of the week 1 syllabus!


I agree with the spirit of what this is trying to promote, but its target audience likely considers themselves to be "critical thinkers" already and feel its everybody else who needs this kind of course.

That said, why does it have to be set up like a college course? Not only did looking at the site bring back memories of freshman year crit analysis courses, the way in which their proposed structure is laid out is completely out of sync with the way in which people absorb information today.

Fake news is shared widely because it's easy and doesn't require much mental exertion of the sharer/reader. The people most likely to share this kind of provocative "viral" content do not even have a working common-sense bullshit meter. Yet the well-meaning people behind the course think they're ready move from 200 word blog posts with a black-and-white view of the world to college-level reading?

I'd suggest looking at the UX/UI of an app like Google Primer (bite sized lessons on digital marketing) and see if that model can be applied here. Probably not Primer is designed to provide on-the-go info while this is designed as an actual college course.


This looks fairly similar to the psychology course, "Everything is Fucked" [1]. EiF has a stellar syllabus, while this one seems a bit lighter (maybe it's for fewer credits). Seems like a pretty useful course, in any event.

I'm definitely curious about Susan Fiske's article, about how social networks encourage unmoderated academic "trash talk" [2]. Andy Gelman has a pretty negative critique of the article here [3].

[1] https://hardsci.wordpress.com/2016/08/11/everything-is-fucke...

[2] http://callingbullshit.org/readings/fiske2016mob.pdf

[3] http://andrewgelman.com/2016/09/21/what-has-happened-down-he...

edit: why the downvote?


Yes. Yes. Yes.

This is exactly what public education systems should be teaching. I'd almost say that next to basic literacy and mathematics, this is the most valuable subject to teach. It lays the groundwork for so much else.


Bullshit.


'Statistics are like bikinis. What they reveal is suggestive, but what they conceal is vital.' -- Aaron Levenstein

Or putting in other words: analysis is an art not a science.


I wish this kind of courses were mandatory for all undergraduates in our post-truth era.


Can we stop with the claims about a post-truth era?

It's not like people suddenly decided to disregard truth and not believe in actual truths.

It's that we have just realized that interpretation is not the same as truth and have now been made aware that there are other interpretations of the facts than our own.

We don't live in a post-truth world, we live in a world were the truth is confused with difference of opinion.


>It's not like people suddenly decided to disregard truth and not believe in actual truths.

"post-truth" doesn't mean people have decided to disregard truth, it means that factual truth is no longer a relevant factor in in the effectiveness of political arguments for many people. See Karl Rove's quote about the "reality-based" community (which may or may not be apocryphal) versus the American empire which simply creates whatever reality it likes.


>"post-truth" doesn't mean people have decided to disregard truth, it means that factual truth is no longer a relevant factor in in the effectiveness of political arguments for many people.

It mostly means:

"Some people can't accept Trump got elected, so when e.g. criticism of him being sexist/rapist etc because of some comments back in the day is discarded, they call it a post-truth world. At the same time, it's not post-truth when the same people discard allegations of rape for Bill Clinton and his wife helping with cover up".

Or, as I'd put it:, both party voters could not give a rats arse about the truth, but the Democratic party has a better stronghold on academics, columnists, intellectuals and "hi-bro" journalists, etc., the sort of people who would just single out the others' disregard of the truth as "post-truth".


Well said. I would add that journalistic ethics have reached a new low. Astoundingly new low. On the other hand, I was not alive in the 1890s during the era of "yellow journalism" where everyone with a printing press was turning out nothing but bullshit on an hourly basis and hawking it to unsuspecting rubes.

Turns out there is good money in just making up crap and printing it.


I remain unconvinced that journalism has reached a new low, rather than our ability to detect its shoddiness has reached a new high.

The only two things I could identify as uniquely a problem today that weren't problems in the past are A: the money is coming out of journalism faster than it can adapt to it and B: the incredibly immediate pressures to be first and get the most clicks. The latter being a thing that has always been present to some degree, since journalists have always made money by attracting eyeballs in one form or another, but the immediacy of the pressure today I'd say is a quantitative change that becomes a qualitative change by sheer size.

But I'm still unconvinced this is a new low, rather than one that we're detecting. Journalism has some nasty stuff in its history. It certainly hasn't reached a new low if you step outside of the United States. The press still hasn't quite reached Pravda lows, but I will conceded it is currently engaged in a full burn towards it.


Completely agree. It's a sign of health not sickness that we are experiencing this change.

What people often forget is that at the same token lies can be spread so can corrections to those lies.


In Britain at least, popular use of the term "post-truth politics" predates Trump's run for power and was widely applied to campaigns run by the left as well. It's really less about whether specific allegations are true and far more about a rhetorical style in which a campaign proactively makes a high volume of brazenly false claims with the apparent purpose of forcing the opposition into rebutting them rather than the more traditional forms of political lies (denying uncomfortable truths, making promises not intended to be kept, stating hypotheses as facts). But yeah, which side tells the most lies has never been particularly high on voters' list of priority, not least because it's very rare for a campaign to be predominantly honest.


It's never been. Perception have always been reality and politicians have always used that to get things their way. Thats why they study rhetorics not science.

There is no objective transcendence between facts and politics decisions.

You can believe that climate change is created by humans and still decide not to do anything about it because you also believe that technology will solve most of those problem, or that there are bigger problems (astroid hitting earth for instance) etc.


This is gaslighting. Facts used to matter. It used to be that politicians would substantially lose face for inconsistencies in policy (think John Kerry most recently). Now politicians claim to have never done things they are on film doing, and people believe them.

We are absolutely in a new mode of politics, one that transcends mere differences of opinion. To pretend otherwise does everyone a disservice.


>Now politicians claim to have never done things they are on film doing, and people believe them.

"I never had sexual relations with that woman".

"Read my lips: there will be no more taxes".

"It depends on what the definition of is is".

"I will close down Guantanamo Bay".


> >Now politicians claim to have never done things they are on film doing, and people believe them.

> "I never had sexual relations with that woman".

Wait, there's a sex tape of Bill Clinton?

In all seriousness, quotes are all good, but you would benefit from saying what it is you hope to achieve by them.


I think the point is that facts (whether on TV or not) didn't use to matter more than they do today.


So you are claiming that no one cared about the Clinton scandal in the 90s?

Because no one sure didn't seem to care about the numerous Trump ones.


Democrats surely didn't. And the prosecution side was pretty sketchy in its own right.


No I am claiming the opposite. That people care as much today as they did back in the 90s.


I... can't say anything other than:

Apparently not.


I would love for you to substantiate that into something meaningful.

So by all means. Prove me wrong.


He won? That is very quantifiable. Despite on 69% of statements lying according to politifact.

I would love for you to show me how people cared as much about truth now.


This is exactly where you are going wrong and I believe not really understand what politics is all about.

People didn't vote on Trump because of those things that politfact measured. There weren't watching the debates to figure out who was the most well argued person based on some basic idea of their rhetorical skills.

They voted on trump for all the things that Politifacts didn't measure but which matter to people and on those he was not lying.

Also Hillary won the popular vote so even on that account she won and he didn't.

Nothing new here.


> No I am claiming the opposite. That people care as much today as they did back in the 90s.

> People didn't vote on Trump because of those things that politfact measured. There weren't watching the debates to figure out who was the most well argued person based on some basic idea of their rhetorical skills.

I have not mentioned "well argued" nor talked about rhetoric. I've talked about speaking the truth or lying. You can speak the truth as an illiterate 5 year old.

Are you deliberately changing your arguments/moving goal posts between all your responses?


Yes you have talked about the truth or lying but you have not yet made any argument pointing to where that have changed compared to before. Still waiting for that.


> Hillary won the popular vote

which is meaningless.


Not in this context.


Why? Did the democrats not know how it works? Were they aiming for the popular vote?


>"I never had sexual relations with that woman".

And he was impeached for that, which is exactly the point.


Impeached just means they accused/questioned him about it. He remained President just fine, and was acquitted of the charges.


Didn't he lose a law license or something as well?


As if he was gonna practice after 2 terms as President?

Besides the question was whether truth mattered more in politics. The decision to take his law license was from some state bar, not related to some political process.


No that is not the point. The point is that politicians lie and always have lied also historically.


Yes they always lied, but they used to be punished if they were caught. The fact that it's easier to catch them now shouldn't change that.


No they didn't use to get punished anymore than they do today and I would urge you to find any base for that claim.

Nothing's changed.


> "I will close down Guantanamo Bay".

To be fair, it seems like he tried. He just failed?

He was playing it too safe to bring about the drastic measures needed to close gitmo.


"Are Clinton and Trump the Biggest Liars Ever to Run for President? A short history of White House fabulists." By DAVID GREENBERG, http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2016/07/2016-donald-t...


> and people believe them

Or don't care. Some people in the US are so far under water, they are desperate for change; such that they'd back Trump whatever.

Sexual allegations? Who cares if he can actually tries to bring back my job...

Note, I say this without any implication of whether the allegations are true. My point is, people might not care either way. A sexual predator that fixes things is better than an someone virtuous that does nothing.


When did facts use to matter and for what?

The only disservice is to claim that things are somehow different when they are in fact the same.


You see, there was this Golden Age. Everyone was beautiful, honor and virtue flourished, and Truth was held above all else.

Some people say that this age was in the '50s. Others, the 1880s. Some even claim it was the 1790s.

Mostly, they're just barking mad.


What I have noticed recently is a rather shameless admission by many in politics that not only have they been lying but ultimately that "truth" doesn't matter.


In politics truth doesn't matter as such and never have. Politics is about getting it your way not about being right. It's about interest and choices.

The idea that politics is or should somehow be based on facts is misguided. We have science for facts what we choose to do with those facts is were politics come in.


> The idea that politics is or should somehow be based on facts is misguided.

> We have science for facts what we choose to do with those facts is were politics come in.

The second sentence explicitly contradicts the first one. By your second one you are saying that politics is based on the facts that science provides. Or rather, should be.


No I am saying that facts are used in politics and that we choose to use those differently.

But facts aren't the only things which are used in politics.


Of course, I agree that politics isn't based on facts but the idea that politics shouldn't be based on relevant facts is, to me, an appalling idea.


But again who decides what are relevant facts? This is the crux of the matter here.

What you seem to want to have is a technocratic system.


Ideally I'd expect politicians to pick and choose "facts" that suit there arguments (or on a rare occasion actually have their arguments informed by data) and to ideally reference the sources so they can be checked by anyone who cares.

Is that an "elite" approach then?

Of course, what I describe above is an ideal - politics is a mucky business and the essence of a democracy is essentially that we get to choose between the liars. However, what I do have difficulty with is the idea that reasoning from actual factual data or scientific hypotheses has no role in politics.


But thats the problem. You can have two argument which are both true but politically only one of them can win. This is why we argue.

Not because we are uniformed but because our perspectives are different and our perspectives are different because it affects us differently.

And so the real danger here is to go along with this romantic notion that facts used to be more meaningful when in fact it was only that perspectives were more aligned than they are today.


> You can have two argument which are both true but politically only one of them can win.

No you can't. This is why we are living in "post-truth". Meaning it's not truth anymore.

You are right in that either one can win, but only one can be true.


"You are right in that either one can win, but only one can be true."

Of course both sides can put forth true arguments in a political debate. I'm having a hard time coming up with a real world example, both because I don't want to push buttons that force you down a knee-jerk path on the button I push when I don't really care about it, and because we're really not used to seeing honest debates in the political arena.

But when society faces a decision A or B, each side can completely honestly tout the benefits of their decision and the costs of the other decision, both of which will exist. And God Almighty could come down from on high and hand us the exact, true, and full consequences of each decision, and those who benefit from one decision can completely honestly argue in its favor while those who may not benefit could completely honestly argue against it, which could be completely different sets of people for each decision. (There's almost never a decision that benefits everybody, even before we get into questions like relative amounts of benefit, or how society as a whole benefits.)

An argument containing elements of truth, or even somehow consisting entirely of truth, does not make it correct, because it still won't be the complete truth, which may well contain a superior argument for a different decision in it. But we don't have access to complete truth.


Sure, but those are then by definition not opposing arguments. They are opposing stances on some political issue, sure, but on the facts side one party puts more value in one variable where the other party values another.

I was stating that two opposing arguments can't both be true, because then there is no truth.


There is no truth but thats not really relevant. We are debating whether politics today is less fact based than it used to be and which is the reason we see claims of "post-truth".

We are not talking about some rhetorical analysis of language and I never meant it in that sense which the context of this discussion should have made clear. If not then I am remedying that now.


no thats not why people claim we are living in post-truth. They claim that because they claim that truth doesn't matter anymore but truth never mattered in politics and people aren't discarding truth.

I would urge you to give me examples in politics which can't have two different political outcomes both potentially true.


> I would urge you to give me examples in politics which can't have two different political outcomes both potentially true.

Climate change.


What about it?


The fact that you are right about the possibility of taking other interpretations as non truth, does not mean that no opinions are simply misguided and not based on truth. In addition, there have been many articles that are simply made up, which has nothing to do with difference of opinion.


Sure but that does not mean that people don't care about the truth.

There have always been made up stories and lies and propaganda and conspiracy theories it's nothing new it's just become much more obvious now and thus actually allowed us to live in a more truth based world rather than the previous ignorant believe that there are only one way to look at things.

Politics is about choice not about truth.


I think it's more simple than this. People have been trained over decades not to believe or trust politicians (e.g. Obama's "I will close down Guantanamo Bay"). So now they just don't bother any more.

Before the media/Democrats can credibly criticise "fake news", they first need to regain the people's trust.


Are you implying that Obama didn't make a good faith effort to do what he promised and wasn't repeatedly thwarted by a leery Congress? Because that's not what happened.


Did people not have history lessons in school? Politics is full of shit since the dawn of time. Politics is war by other means; lies and half-truths are the primary arsenal in this conflict.


When iPhone was in 3rd or 4th iteration, people talked of post PC era, but at work or at home, you certainly have PC where most "work" is still done.

When Obama was elected they said Post-racial america, and we now know how much it is not.

So, now some butt-hurt people from election came up with Post-Truth, even though people were constantly conned into stuff that is untrue, like WMDs or you can keep your doctor.

After much thought, I forward the motion for Post-Post-Prepending Era.


> Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit, then take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with second-order bullshit

This made me chortle


The idiots of the world fight ferociously to spread their "100 percent correct" views, while the smart (HackerNews) remain relatively silent in fear against the masses of idiots flooding all mediums. Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West had the courage to scream loudly back, speaking smarts to stupid. Better marketing for good ideas! Bravo!

Marketing opinion. This page: http://callingbullshit.org/case_studies.html should be made homepage content, for it is their most compelling and clear value statement and takes little space. It took me too long to find naturally, and I didn't feel fulfilled on the bullshit pitch till I did. If you don't want to move it, perhaps call them examples instead of case studies, if you want to reach a general audience.

Serendipity. These professors made a course/website "bullshit" the title. Which I think's funny because I just uploaded a youtube video in a tophat/leopard print about how smart people should be more aggressive spreading their ideas.


For better or for worse, the term bullshit has no exact synonym in the English language; we use the term because it precisely describes the phenomena we are studying.

Interestingly enough, the claim about bullshit lacking an exact synonym is false. Not only does bull by itself mean precisely the same thing, but in fact its use predates the compound formation by three centuries. The use of shit in bullshit is an intensifier, as in shitstorm or shitfit, though presumably the rather evocative image of bovine excrement was also a factor.

From the Google dictionary:

    bull (3)
    bo͝ol/
    noun informal
    noun: bull

        stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense.
        "much of what he says is sheer bull"

    Origin
    early 17th century: of unknown origin.


    bull·shit
    ˈbo͝olˌSHit/
    vulgar slang
    noun
    noun: bullshit

        1. stupid or untrue talk or writing; nonsense.

    Origin
    early 20th century: from bull (3) + shit.


> we are proposing to teach it at the University of Washington in the near future

I call BS.


This is a really good effort! In analytics and data science world where I work, it's difficult to train our junior people to think through all the reasons their conclusions might be misleading. The cases are likely to be very helpful to get the thinking process started.


My biggest concern about data science is that a lot of people who lack basic skills at doing science are racing into the field. My other concern is that this happened because an article said that there would be a huge demand for data scientists in the future, a matter I am also skeptical of. Repeat after me: Correlation is not causation.


Actually I find that commoditization of computing power and dirt cheap storage combined with the rise of digital as an advertising and sales medium are primarily responsible for the rise in demand. Some of the demand comes from beyond the tech sector in companies like mine which are in the traditional consumer goods busines.

There's a lot of depth of analytics required when you're spending a billion dollar marketing budget that goes well beyond correlation causation basics.


There are four kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, statistics and big data.


You forgot academic papers, peer-reviewed literature and consensus among scientists.


Yes, what good has ever come of any of those...


You forgot big lies.


It isn't about identifying bullshit so much as coming up with a subjective preference set to carry out and seek out that leads to a better world regardless of the circumstances.


"a better word" is theory-laden, and can't be separated form personal, selfish biases, and "circumstances".


yes, it is implicit in my comment that this perspective can be intellectually dismantled if you prefer, but the original point of course is that indulging this urge gets less than nothing done for my idea and makes no progress at all on yours while still consuming your time.


This reminds me of Jon Stewart's swan song of "Bullshit is everywhere"[1] message.

Sigh, I miss Jon Stewart.

[1]. http://www.cc.com/video-clips/ss6u07/the-daily-show-with-jon...


Looking at the name I thought this was going to be some kind of wiki-encyclopedia of bullshit, where people could submit reasons why any given thing is bullshit.

Am a little disappointed actually, that would be a handy reference. Though naturally such a thing would almost immediately devolve into arguments about the degree to which anything is bullshit, but that could still be valuable.


The criticism of this course in principle is ironic to me. A lot of people are saying "This course is pointless, the people who would take this course don't need it." Which seems to imply... that they wouldn't take the course. Which would, by their own logic, imply they probably need it.

We all have blind spots, we just have different blind spots.


Ok, so it's not "this course" in the "you can go here to take this course" sense, but in the "there may be a course held somewhere some day" sense? Because I was interested but baffled when I tried to find the course or info about where to take part on that site.


Is this a MOOC? I don't see lecture videos.

I laughed hard after reading Week 3:

Week 3. The natural ecology of bullshit. Where do we find bullshit? Why news media provide bullshit. TED talks and the marketplace for upscale bullshit. Why social media provide ideal conditions for the growth and spread of bullshit.


From http://callingbullshit.org/syllabus.html:

> but recently a fake news story actually provoked nuclear threats issued by twitter.

Nuclear threats issued by Twitter. What a world we live in.


> For better or for worse, the term bullshit has no exact synonym in the English language

Perhaps only in British use (?) - but 'rubbish' and 'nonsense' can both be used to replace 'bullshit', other than qua faeces.


This "bullshit" meme is getting tired. It seems like a cutesy way to say something like "not rigorous" or "deceptive". Which a good introductory course in logic (informal and formal) will help in spotting.



I think this is an effort towards the people that don't need such effort. The people really needing this course will never willingly read - or understand - such educated content.



more supplementary readings:

"SILENT RISK :NASSIM NICHOLAS TALEB" ( pdf )

http://www.fooledbyrandomness.com/SilentRisk.pdf

and

"Taleb: The Intellectual Yet Idiot"

https://medium.com/incerto/the-intellectual-yet-idiot-13211e...


Everything around you is bullshit. Click here, follow/upvote us, we are not.

Shallow "facting" does not help the the cause.


> In this course we aim to teach you how to think critically about the data and models that constitute evidence in the social and natural sciences

I call bullshit on the existence of "social sciences". Even the best attempts at controlled, reproducible experiments were laughable, so at most we can call them "social studies".


If you can't call callingbullshitdotorg bullshit, you've learned nothing!


Isn't this just a collection of things to read rather than a course?


In the disclaimer (bottom of page) it says it is indeed not yet a real course but will eventually be offered at the university of washington.


> So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combatting it with effective analysis and argument.

I am calling bullshit on this.


Why?


glad to see the groundswell!

However I made a more efficient approach at solving this : http://TrumpTweets.io

The manifesto : http://TrumpTweets.io/manifesto


How does this facilitate positive changes in the world? I could be wrong, but I'm not seeing it.

It feels like preaching to the choir. It is also fairly antagonistic, which people generally respond defensively too.

It looks like it was pretty fun to build though!


read the manifesto : http://trumptweets.io/manifesto we are just getting started.. those are just test samples. working on better content though.. try it out though.


..."other tools of persuasion" like posing as your own fan on message boards to defend and flatter yourself, after you're criticized for claiming that women are "treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It’s just easier this way for everyone."

http://comicsalliance.com/scott-adams-plannedchaos-sockpuppe...

Scott Adams, talking about Scott Adams in the third person, while pretending not to be Scott Adams:

- [0] plannedchaos -21 points 4 months ago

If an idiot and a genius disagree, the idiot generally thinks the genius is wrong. He also has a lot of idiot reasons to back his idiot belief. That's how the idiot mind is wired.

It's fair to say you disagree with Adams. But you can't rule out the hypothesis that you're too dumb to understand what he's saying.

And he's a certified genius. Just sayin'.


Controversial threads have way more escape energy than others, and this subthread has definitely left topical orbit. We've detached it from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13382789 and marked it off-topic.


Scott Adams is also a MRA who equates being a woman with being mentally handicapped. http://comicsalliance.com/scott-adam-sexist-mens-rights/

He is a climate change denier with the senseless circular reasoning, that if he can't understand the science of climate change himself, why should he ever trust climate scientists and other experts in the field, because their models are complicated. https://twitter.com/ScottAdamsSays/status/814133681711263744

Later in the thread, when presented with any scientific explanation of climate change, he reverts to repeating "how can I trust it?", all the while accusing climate scientists of having a financial incentive to push climate change, not providing proof himself.


I don't think he is a denier, I honestly believe he is poking fun at the supremely confident masses who are absolutely sure climate change is precisely as the scientists say, and that anyone that disagress in the slightest is a denier/idiot/whatever. He also happens to be correct, the general public doesn't understand the intricacies of climate change.

I'm no denier either, but you'll have to pardon me if I choose to not join the unthinking hordes who insist we must do something now, and no we will not think while we are doing this. Dissension is explicitly not allowed.

Oh, is that not exaaaaaaaaaaaactly what the message is? Of course not, but there is some truth there. There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are not allowed to speak. I believe it is not an intellectually honest conversation, and I'm old enough to remember other situations where dissent was not allowed and it turned out not so good.

Also, don't forget that Scott is a humorist author, and part of his schtick is to deliberately cause outrage, especially with people who take themselves way too seriously.


If you get diagnosed with cancer, would you go to med school and wait until you graduate and can fully understand the diagnosis and how the prescribed treatment was arrived at by your doctor before you follow it, or would you follow the treatment as closely as possible as soon as possible?

Perhaps climate scientists don't know with completely precision everything there is to know about climate change. But as far as anyone can tell no one has a more accurate picture. "This theory may be imperfect [not even 'is imperfect'; we just don't know] so we should disregard it completely" is a Nirvana fallacy.


> Perhaps climate scientists don't know with completely precision everything there is to know about climate change.

Don't be surprised when people don't trust you if you don't disclose that fact.


What do you mean? Does anyone believe that a given scientific theory explains exactly and totally a phenomenon? If they do, that's their problem. Science doesn't claim to have perfect answers. Until we find Laplace's demon, the best we can say is "theory A is better supported by evidence than theory B". If we have nothing better than A, is there any reason not to treat it as true?


The current popular mainstream politically correct stance is that "the science is in and the time for debate is over." That is a fact, and if scientists find it efficient to go about it that way (rather than correct that somewhat incorrect stance), then there will be a small portion of people who will dig their feet in against those sorts of dishonest tactics. And furthermore, some of these people will write convincing rebuttals (after all, there is a completely science based disagreement with the status quo opinion) that voters who want to not believe will typically interpret as "the scientists are lying to us!".

Until the scientific community comes clean, as well as "polices" the outspoken public advocates, the climate change cause will always have this Achilles heel - I am not pointing it out to win an argument, I am pointing it out in the hopes that they fix the problem, as I believe the theory is mostly correct.


So a scientist's job is not just to do science, but to, as you put it, police the general public's view of his discipline?


A scientist can do whatever he/she wants, whether they ok with various people twisting their statements into half truths while remaining silent on the sidelines.

Society as a whole can decide how they want to approach convincing their fellow citizens to act in a certain manner.

Look down your nose at me all you want, but we all have to live with the consequences of how the chosen path plays out. The way it has played out on planet Earth, 2017 A.D. is that Donald Trump has been elected President of the United States. I hope everyone enjoys the ride they helped create.


And climate scientists are responsible for Donald Trump getting elected how exactly?

"He who controls the weather, will control the world. He who controls gravity, will control the universe. He who controls time, will never be around." -Thomas Frey

http://www.newsmax.com/TheWire/mitt-romney-blames-election-l...


Since I can't prove a direct cause and effect, then therefore we shall say with 100% certainty that there is no relation, right?

Enjoy 2016 through 2020.


"Doc, will I die of liver cancer if I keep drinking?"

"Yes, science is very certain on that. You will die."

"So, you know everything there is to know about livers or cancers, with complete precision?"

"What? Of course not, why would anyone even think that?"

"Hah, I thought so, now I won't trust you!"


The difference is, the vocal climate change advocates (who do not understand the science) assert that in fact there is no disagreement on the matter.

Oh wait, that's not completely true, they say the scientific community is "98% in agreement", but they are dishonest about what exactly the 98% of scientists are agreeing to.


That's like saying you decided to stop trusting doctors about cancers, because you saw a TV reporter talking about chemotherapy and it was clear he didn't know anything about cancer.

And I'm not sure what you mean by "dishonest", because I think the mainstream media's position is roughly "If we don't cut out fossil fuel we'll be in deep shit pretty soon (say, before 2100, probably sooner)", and it is a statement I think >90% of climate scientists would agree on.

(Actually, I think many would argue we're in deep shit now. E.g., massive reef death in Australia.)


I disagree.

My observation is that the scientific community is making assertions of what is more or less the current understanding of the state of global warming to the best of their knowledge. Advocates and opportunists are taking this and converting it to something like "98% percent of scientists agree that global warming is 100% caused by man and we are absolutely doomed if we do not do something right now." (obviously I am being somewhat hyperbolic.)

So the scientists are observing this and thinking to themselves "What these people are saying is not technically true, but it seems like most likely an effective approach to invoke action amongst the general public, so we'll just keep our mouths shut." It may very well turn out that this is in fact the most pragmatic approach.

What I am saying is, it may turn out that this isn't the most pragmatic approach. Addressing climate change costs money, and lots of it. People generally don't like spending money unless there is a very obvious and more or less immediate benefit. Now imagine a convincing leader comes along who validates this distrust, and can point to legitimate cracks in these assertions (actually, I don't think Trump even had to do this, but don't underestimate the power of YouTube propaganda videos)....you might just find yourself with a president that you never would have imagined could have been elected.

It's interesting in a thread where we're generally talking about the nature of public conversation, where I am actually mostly on the side of believing that man-made climate change is a real thing, but my sense is that most people think (or speak as if at least) I am completely incorrect in the things I say, that there is no disagreement in the scientific community on some of the specifics. It's really quite an extraordinary claim. (iirc, this is one of the big reasons Joel Spolsky quit blogging, he found that he had to qualify every single sentence with multiple sentences of disclaimers, as too many people refused to discuss in an intellectually honest way, always nitpicking individual statements while completely ignoring the spirit of the discussion. Likely putting words in his mouth somewhat, but you get the idea.)


If your arguments weren't hyperbolic exaggerations in the first place, then you would not have to state the obvious that you're being hyperbolic, and make disclaimers like "Oh, is that not exaaaaaaaaaaaactly what the message is? Of course not, but there is some truth there." How about trying again, and starting with a non-hyperbolic, literally true argument that exaaaaaaaaaaaactly quotes the message with citations to evidence, which you don't have to disclaim in the next paragraph?

And we're still waiting for you to define what you meant by "speak" and list more names, when you claimed that "There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are not allowed to speak," offered Judith Curry as your only evidence, and then disclaimed "I must pre-emptively add that no, indeed, she wasn't in fact literally prevented from speaking". If not "literally prevented from speaking", then what exactly do you mean?

Next time you find yourself writing a disclaimer for what you just wrote in the previous paragraph, please reconsider simply rewriting the paragraph so it's not hyperbolic, is literally true, and exaaaaaaaaaaaactly quotes and cites the source.

Your claim she was prevented from speaking in any sense of the word is objectively false, and you've refused to provide any more evidence or examples when requested. She said herself that: "Nobody and certainly not myself is claiming that I am persecuted or there is a plot that is out to get me." Except for you, apparently.

By any definition of the word "speak", Judith Curry often speaks a hell of a lot of hyperbolic hot air, words which you yourself heard and parroted without fact checking, whether she's staring straight into the camera and blinking up a storm at literally 85 BPM while bloviating on FOX News: https://youtu.be/g5LpwL4NKbw https://youtu.be/HiTbd4Mc3kk , or spreading climate change denial lies on live national television, in front of Congress, in research papers, in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, on climate change denial web sites, and on her widely read blog.


I find these conversations extremely frustrating.

I would like to ask you a question and I hope you can answer it honestly: do you believe in the notion that there is a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law?

I believe there is, and I think it is in part the problem all of western society is suffering from in these conversations. My core belief, I guess, is that all is not well in the scientific community. I genuinely believe there is substantial peer pressure applied to any scientist who does not toe the line. It is plausible that speaking out could literally end your career. That there are relatively few people complaining is not necessarily proof that there is no problem, that could simply be the effect of the silencing.

Is this true? I don't know for sure, but there are signs. If it is true, even partially, I think it is a big deal. I would hope HN would be a place where we could discuss such things in good faith. My perception is, that's not happening. My perception is that any point I raise is dismissed on a technicality.

Take for example:

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=13386058

"And climate scientists are responsible for Donald Trump getting elected how exactly?"

Of course no single person or group is responsible. So take that same logic and go through all of the speculated causes, and each of those you can say "<x> is responsible for Donald Trump getting elected how exactly? And your end result is, you have discarded every single one of those theories, when the reality is, it was likely some combination of many of them.

I think I'll leave it at that, you can choose how you'd like to react to this.


I find these conversations extremely frustrating because you refuse to define your terms or provide evidence for your conspiracy theories after being asked again and again, and instead you keep trying to derail the argument and move the goalposts.

So once again, please define what you mean by "not allowed to speak", and list the names of scientists who were not allowed to speak, by that definition.


You don't need to know everything about livers and cancers. There is a lot to know that is irrelevant to alcoholism.

Also, the doc was technically wrong. He should of said "high probability", not "Yes, science is very certain".


Says the guy who brings bullshit to a discussion about calling bullshit.


Oh, which bullshit was that?


You claimed that Judith Curry was "not allowed to speak", for example.

Here's something she allowed herself to speak:

"Once we get over this little bump of activism, if the Trump administration will put us on a slightly reassuring and saner footing, that will allow all this to die down," she said. "We can always hope." -Judith Curry

http://www.eenews.net/stories/1060047798

Good luck with that long term plan that depends on Trump putting us on a saner footing!

Are you really sure she isn't allowed to speak? She's on FOX News an awful lot.

And is it really true that people blink when they're lying? Starting at 3:00 I counted Judith Curry blinking 85 times in 60 seconds during this recent Tucker Carson interview on FOX News. At that rate, she must have blinked 387 times during that 4:33 minute interview! Forget about the Butterfly Effect: her eyelash fluttering itself could affect global climate patterns!

https://youtu.be/g5LpwL4NKbw?t=3m0s


If you literally interpret me, the police should have been called because not being allowed to utter a single word anywhere would be a major human rights abuse.

I could say to you: why are you talking about mammal excrement? Oh, "of course" I shouldn't have used that interpretation of the word, right?

Will you extend the same courtesy to me?


The topic of this discussion is "Calling bullshit".

Will you define exactly what you mean by the term "not allowed to speak", and list the names of scientists who were not allowed to speak?


> Also, don't forget that Scott is a humorist author, and part of his schtick is to deliberately cause outrage, especially with people who take themselves way too seriously.

Fair point. Could you find a link where he "deliberately causes outrage" to the opposite camp that "take themselves also too seriously" completely denying the same science theory. I am genuinely curious, because up until recently I also had similar opinion about him (a humorist author approach). Now, I kind of doubt this.


Much of what he has written in the last maybe 3 or 4 weeks I find....distasteful? I absolutely love a good troll, I think he used to be that, but in my opinion he has changed into something less appealing.

I still read him though because I think he continues to raise interesting points (if not always valid) and observations, but I (as someone mostly on "his side" of the political spectrum) often find what he writes a bit repulsive.


>"I absolutely love a good troll" -misterman

You're not a good troll.


>I'm no [...], but [...]. [1]

Also, don't forget that Trump is a reality TV show host, and part of his schtick is to deliberately cause outrage, especially with people who take themselves way too seriously.

[1] http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/I'm_not_prejudiced,_but...


> There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are not allowed to speak.

Name one.


Judith Curry

https://judithcurry.com/2017/01/03/jc-in-transition/

Look at how this mildly (at best) informed senator encounters facts that don't support his hypothesis, look at how he, an amateur, speaks to a top scientist!

I believe many if not most scientists are at least partially lying to people, and by lying I don't mean they are accidentally mistaken, I mean that they know that some of what they are saying is speculative, but they pass it off as established fact. I look forward to stopping thinking this way when the scientific community admits to this.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oh6zDbWMuP0

I suppose (sigh) that I must pre-emptively add that no, indeed, she wasn't in fact literally prevented from speaking. I'll leave it as an exercise to the reader to decide for themselves whether all is well in this situation.


You failed to prove she was "not allowed to speak" by posting a link to a video of her literally SPEAKING in front of Congress.

Did somebody interrupt her, and that's the best proof you can come up with of your assertion "There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are not allowed to speak."

Being highly criticized by your peers is not the same as not being allowed to speak.

Do you have any better examples of scientists who were not allowed to speak -- perhaps a scientist who hasn't actually testified in front of Congress on live national television, written an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, boasts of having a total of 12,000 citations of her publications, and a blog that gets on average about 12,000 ‘hits’ per day, and 300-400 comments?

Or is that all you've got?


It's interesting that even though I wrote "I suppose (sigh) that I must pre-emptively add that no, indeed, she wasn't in fact literally prevented from speaking", the main rebuttal to my post is that she isn't literally prevented from speaking.

Here, let's try a different approach: would you be willing to admit that in human society there is this behavior where peer pressure is sometimes used to persuade people to behave in one way or another? Please note that I am not asking you if that is the case here (that would be my next question), at this point I am simply asking if you are willing to admit that it is a legitimate phenomenon?


You should have made an argument that was literally true in the first place, instead of preemptively disclaiming your argument in the next paragraph.

Don't move the goalposts. Explain and defend your original argument by defining exactly what you mean by "speaking", if not literally "speaking", and listing the names of highly trained scientists who are not allowed to "speak" because they don't support the party line.


The mainstream assertion is that the scientific community is in 98% comprehensive (!) agreement on the matter of climate change, and the time for discussion is over.

My assertion is that this is an untrue statement.

PS: Why didn't you answer my question?


You still didn't define what you mean by "not allowed to speak", and you didn't list any more names.


> by defining exactly what you mean by "speaking", if not literally "speaking"

conventions already exist.

If I say "99% of cats prefer whiskers", this needn't mean that of a worldwide population of 12,000 cats, exactly 11,880 prefer whiskers. It's understood as a statistical statement.

If I hold a gun to your head and tell you not to speak, it is understood you are not being allowed to speak, despite the fact that you are still able to do so. "not allowed" can conventionally mean "influenced in speaking freely".

In this case, whatever the standard of "not allowed" is, we don't need a formal definition when we have the actual example to hand; The implication here is no due respect is given to the scientist because they have an opposing view, marginalising opposition (e.g other scientists will not be keen to get the same treatment, and so less likely to speak up).

You have the rose to smell, there's no need to argue it's name.


People like that usually have interesting discussions on their talk pages.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Judith_Curry

Characterizing her as "not allowed to speak" or somehow oppressed and silenced by mainstream scientists is totally off base, since she herself has said: "I flat out don’t care; my feelings aren’t hurt, I don’t feel like my professional status is being jeopardized or challenged or whatever. I flat out don’t care at this point."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Judith_Curry#Collide-a-Sc...


Did she go on to say all was well in the scientific community?

Judith herself obviously has quite a backbone and seems to be able to take this environment on, the more important point is: is there some truth to what she says? Is there in fact a lack of complete honesty in the scientific community, are some people "strongly encouraged" to not say certain things whether not it has a solid grounding in science?


Is there some truth to what you say? "There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are not allowed to speak."

If you don't mean "literally speak", then what exactly do you mean? What qualifies as "speaking"? Testifying in front of Congress on live national television? Writing an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal? Boasting of having a total of 12,000 citations of her publications, and a blog that gets on average about 12,000 ‘hits’ per day, and 300-400 comments? None of that counts as speech?

First, define "speech", then list the names of highly trained scientists who aren't allowed to speak because they don't fully support the party line.


Let's approach it this way, in an attempt to clarify where it is we disagree: do you believe there is a single instance in recent scientific history of peer pressure being used to encourage/discourage certain ideas within the scientific community?

Don't forget, sometimes you don't see certain things because they have been eliminated, and a natural reaction might be to assume that they never existed. The idea that disagreements occur in professional environments I don't think is very controversial on HN, but what I seem to be hearing today is that HN believes that these disagreements do not occur in the field of science. There is certainly a very long history of disagreement in science, it is one of the primary strengths of the scientific method. And yet now, it has disappeared? That would certainly appear to be the case, all I'm saying is, I doubt that is the actual reality.


Please stop trying to move the goalposts, and go back and 1) define what you mean by "not allowed to speak", and 2) list more names of scientists who are "not allowed to speak".


Please prove the goalposts have been moved...


[flagged]


I did, I pointed out that you hadn't backed-up your claim, then mirrored you own mantra:

> You failed to prove she was "not allowed to speak"

Do you have nothing to prove, then?


> my feelings aren’t hurt, I don’t feel like my professional status

Is the implication that there is good reason to feel either might have been true? Is the same true of other scientists considering joining her position?


So why do people trust the dissenting scientists? What leads them to that option over simply going with the majority? I've never understood that, but the cynic in me thinks they're simply looking for someone that they already agree with.


> So why do people trust the dissenting scientists?

That's a great question. At least for myself, I don't immediately trust her (why would I without reading a substantial part of her work) - it is that when someone asks obviously informed questions, and answers are refused, I assume the person being asked the question is lying.

In the youtube video, the senator is very clearing presenting himself as being far more informed on the topic than he is. He is (perhaps unknowingly) being dishonest, so I trust her more.


Since you're so adept at deciding who to trust and judging people's honesty by watching their facial expressions and body language on television, what do you have to say about Judith Curry blinking continuously at 85 blinks per minute during this FOX News interview?

https://youtu.be/g5LpwL4NKbw

Do you trust what this guy says about blinking and lying?

https://youtu.be/HiTbd4Mc3kk

Have you ever read and listened to the words she's actually written and said? Or did you only listen to Tucker Carlson's leading questions and slanted innuendo while interviewing her on FOX News? And how much do you think they're paying her to come on the show and stare into the camera and lie while blinking at 85 BPM?

She directly contradicts your claims (and her own) in her own words: "Nobody and certainly not myself is claiming that I am persecuted or there is a plot that is out to get me." -Judith Curry http://www.keithkloor.com/?p=3734 -- you're the one who's incorrectly claiming that she was somehow "silenced".

The late great Stephen Schneider said: "So they make this assertion that they’re being systematically excluded, because they have no other argument, they no have evidence for the assertion. Let them do a study. Let them show us the letters of all the papers that have been rejected. What we did is look at real evidence, independently collected: How many papers, and how many citations. That’s independent, and the only way you can claim it isn’t true is to invoke some massive conspiracy that is frankly laughable." -Stephen Schneider https://thinkprogress.org/interview-with-scientist-stephen-s...

So show us your evidence. Give us the names of scientists who have been silenced, or retract your false claim and conspiracy theory. But there is no doubt: Judith Curry is most certainly not one of those silenced scientists you hypothesize.

And remember what Stephen Schneider also said: "We've seen a lot of strawmen from Judy lately. It is frankly shocking to see such a good scientist take that kind of a turn to sloppy thinking. I have no explanation for it." -Steven Schneider http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101101/full/news.2010.577.ht...


> Give us the names of scientists who have been silenced

"hear, hear, tell us what it sounded like, this tree that fell in the woods while no one was around!"


So the one person you named wasn't silenced, you don't know any more names, and don't have any other evidence to support your claim, so therefore your conspiracy theory is that it's impossible to even know them, but they exist anyway. You've just proven my point.

The late Stephen Schneider also made the same point:

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

"So they make this assertion that they’re being systematically excluded, because they have no other argument, they no have evidence for the assertion. Let them do a study. Let them show us the letters of all the papers that have been rejected. What we did is look at real evidence, independently collected: How many papers, and how many citations. That’s independent, and the only way you can claim it isn’t true is to invoke some massive conspiracy that is frankly laughable." -Stephen Schneider

https://thinkprogress.org/interview-with-scientist-stephen-s...

And remember what Stephen Schneider also said about the person whose words and conspiracy theories you and misterman are parroting: "We've seen a lot of strawmen from Judy lately. It is frankly shocking to see such a good scientist take that kind of a turn to sloppy thinking. I have no explanation for it." -Steven Schneider

http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101101/full/news.2010.577.ht...


I didn't name them; but I already commented on the nature of "influence".

> you and misterman are parroting

I didn't parrot anything, try reading my posts.

> "We've seen a lot of strawmen from Judy lately."

And what has Judith said about Steve?


So, what you really mean is:

> There are highly trained scientists who don't fully support the party line, and they are invited to congressional hearings, publish books and papers, and keep a personal blog where they can discuss anything, and nobody can tell them to GTFO because they're tenured professors, but they may ultimately decide to resign, because working in an environment where everyone else think you're being crazy is just too stressful.

Yeah, I can sympathize with the last part, but I must tell it doesn't have quite the same ring to it.


How do we know that there aren't plenty more dissenters who have been bullied into silence? (Judith's words, not mine.)


Is this the source of "Judith's words, not mine" that you're parroting?

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Judith_Curry#cite_note-...

http://julesandjames.blogspot.nl/2010/11/wheres-beef-curry.h...

https://judithcurry.com/2010/11/03/reversing-the-direction-o...

https://judithcurry.com/2010/11/03/reversing-the-direction-o...

James Annan (2010-11-06). Where's the beef, Curry?. James' Empty Blog. Retrieved on 2010-11-12. “She's really building up quite a history of throwing up vague or demonstrably wrong claims, then running away when shown to be wrong. Here on the no-feedback climate sensitivity, for example. Gryposaurus took her to task here on aerosols and D&A (based partly on comments from Gavin) and found her response lacking. Here is Eric Steig refuting her absurd claim about the IPCC that "they will tolerate no dissent, and seek to trample and discredit anyone who challenges the IPCC." Her eventual response (which had to be dragged out of her through repeated challenges that she kept on ducking) was merely to dismiss it as an "anecdote", even though one single case serves to refutes her claim. Well, I don't think I got quite such a rapturous response as Eric did, with my attempts to improve the AR4 drafts, but I certainly didn't get trampled and discredited either - merely made to feel mildly unwelcome, which I find tends to happen when I criticise people outside the IPCC too. But they did change the report in various ways. While I'm not an unalloyed fan of the IPCC process, my experience is not what she describes it as. So make that two anecdotes. Maybe I'm an "insider" too, in her book :-) If she ever deigns to address the substantive point on probability, maybe she can let me know, but I'm not holding my breath. Her main tactic seems to be throwing up layers upon layers of an increasing shaky edifice as quickly as possible hoping that no-one will notice that the foundations are collapsing as quickly as people can read.”

In her own words:

"Nobody and certainly not myself is claiming that I am persecuted or there is a plot that is out to get me." -Judith Curry, October 23, 2010 at 4:43 pm, http://www.keithkloor.com/?p=3734


Well you could define what you mean by "not allowed to speak", and list the names of more scientists who you claim were bullied and "not allowed to speak". Science is evidence based: give us some evidence.

Or are you refusing to define your terms and provide any evidence, because you claim without any evidence that these theoretical silent scientists actually exist, but cannot be measured or counted, like undetectable dark matter in white lab coats?

That's not very scientific of you. (Or of Judith Curry, whose words you claim to quote. If she really promotes unscientific "silent scientist" conspiracy theories like that, then no wonder her colleagues are so critical of her! Calling bullshit isn't censorship, and she's anything but silent herself. So please link to your source where Judith Curry actually said those words that you quote.)

As un-silent, outspoken, widely published and nationally televised as Judith Curry is, she's said "I don’t feel like my professional status is being jeopardized or challenged or whatever" [1]. So Judith Curry's case is actually evidence that dissenting scientists (and even ones who "literally say" ridiculous things like you quoted her saying) are NOT bullied into silence.

"Judith A. Curry is chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She runs a climate blog and has been invited by Republicans on several occasions to testify at climate hearings about uncertainties in climate understanding and predictions. Climate scientists criticize her uncertainty-focused climate outreach communication for containing elementary mistakes and inflammatory assertions unsupported by evidence. Curry is a regular at Anthony Watts' denier blog, as well as Steve McIntyre's Climate Audit, another denier site. She has further embarrassed herself (and her university) by using refuted denier talking points and defending the Wegman Report, eventually admitting she hadn't even read it in the first place." [2]

"Curry receives ongoing funding from the fossil fuel industry. In an interview with Curry for a October 2010 Scientific American profile, Michael Lemonick reports (pers. comm.) that he asked Curry about potential conflicts of interest, and she responded,

"I do receive some funding from the fossil fuel industry. My company...does hurricane forecasting...for an oil company, since 2007. During this period I have been both a strong advocate for the IPCC, and more recently a critic of the IPCC, there is no correlation of this funding with my public statements."

"Criticisms of outreach communication: Laundry list: Curry's contrarian-leaning "public outreach" public communication is criticized by prominent climate scientists and other science-aligned climate bloggers for a propensity toward "inflammatory language and over-the-top accusations ...with the...absence of any concrete evidence and [with] errors in matters of simple fact.".

"...Examples of the unreliability of Curry's blog publications are illustrated by Michael Tobis and James Annan, who both showed basic flaws in her understanding of uncertainty and probability, or at least an irresponsible level of sloppiness in expressing herself. Arthur Smith pointed out an under-grad level misunderstanding in her own field's basic terminology," said Coby Beck. Climate scientist James Annan has provided examples (with rebuttals) of assertions made by Curry on topics like no-feedback climate sensitivity, aerosols, climate change detection&attribution, and the IPCC tolerance of challengers; he finds there's a pattern of "throwing up vague or demonstrably wrong claims, then running away when shown to be wrong",

"Willingness to criticize based on second-hand info from contrarian, inexpert sources: "In a 2010 comment she called blogger Deep Climate's detailed and well-documented investigation into the Wegman Report "one of the most reprehensible attacks on a reputable scientist that I have seen" even as she revealed in her incorrect synopsis of the charges that she had not even read it for herself. ... [i.e.] she shows herself ready to publicly criticise someone else in the strongest terms based entirely on second hand information gleaned from places like Climate Audit and Watts Up With That."

"Offering off-the-cuff, uninformed criticism of mainstream climate science: Gavin Schmidt has criticised Curry for "not knowing enough about what she has chosen to talk about, for not thinking clearly about the claims she has made with respect to the IPCC, and for flinging serious accusations at other scientists without just cause.". (It goes on and on... see [2].)

"We've seen a lot of strawmen from Judy lately," [Stanford University's Stephen H.] Schneider [3] said. "It is frankly shocking to see such a good scientist take that kind of a turn to sloppy thinking. I have no explanation for it." [1]

So do you have any examples better than Judith Curry?

[1] The Judith Curry Phenomenon: http://www.nature.com/news/2010/101101/full/news.2010.577.ht... Discussion: http://www.keithkloor.com/?p=3734

[2] http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php/Judith_Curry

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Schneider


> Well you could define what you mean by "not allowed to speak"

Of course I meant she is not allowed to speak, quite literally. What else could it possibly mean after all, right?

So, in the spirit of this discussion, I will have to concede that what I was trying to articulate is absolutely 100% incorrect as it is based on a false premise, that she is literally not allowed to speak. Indeed, she is on camera numerous times speaking, which proves absolutely that I am wrong.

You win Don Hopkins. Congratulations.


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Your comments have bordered on bullying or character assassination, rather than simply focusing on facts and data.

It's this style of argumentation that makes your position seem less convincing.

If it were simply about facts and data, you would be able to rely on facts and data to demonstrate your point and convince your opponent and other readers.

Instead, you've used aggression and ridicule, and relied on multiple argumentative fallacies (most notably, appeal to authority and consensus fallacy) in your quest to win the argument.

The causes of good science and effective solutions for climate change - both of which I care a lot about - are harmed, not helped, by this style of debate.

I recently heard of the term "Steel man" argument, which is the opposite of "Straw man".

With a "Steel man" argument, you demonstrate your sincere commitment to finding truth by taking a charitable view of your opponent's position and arguing against the most formidable version of it.

If you were to try that on this topic, perhaps you might start by going through the list of scientists named on this Wikipedia page [1], and understanding the basis and the details of each of their reasons for skepticism (it varies a lot between them).

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_scientists_opposing_th...


Nobody knows their names, because they're not allowed to speak.


I don't mean to excuse the opinions he has on women, which I agree are deplorable, but I want to ask: what is wrong with being an activist for men's rights?


To me, there is nothing inherently wrong about people advocating for issues and causes that affect men specifically.

However what I see online is a large, vocal portion of those who claim to be MRAs are more about aggressive and toxic misogyny than anything else. See Scott Adams and sibling comment for more info.

Because of this I don't associate the terms mens' rights with any productive discussion.

There are more nuanced takes on male issues I have seen, such as /r/menslib on reddit. As far as I know they also distance themselves from the term MRA.


"Men's Rights Activist" is a euphemism for these people: https://www.reddit.com/r/TheRedPill/

Described in The Guardian as a "toxic technoculture on a spectrum of digital misogyny": https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/apr/14/the-red-p...

The term "red pill" is also common on 4chan's "politically incorrect" /pol/ board where taking the red pill is usually used to mean embracing conservative political thought and other related ideologies. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_pill_and_blue_pill


“red pill” is a related subculture to “Men's Rights Activists”, and there's surely significant overlap, but they're not one and the same.


I wonder if it's possible to be a men's rights activist without being considered a misogynist.


> I wonder if it's possible to be a men's rights activist without being considered a misogynist.

It would be possible if there was a general perception that men were generally and historically, in the context in which one is an activist, oppressed based on their sex, such that being an activist for greater rights for men was consistent with pro-equality interest rather than anti-women interests.

However, there are very few societies on the world where that view is dominant or even a wide minority view, either internally or for external observers, so it's very hard to be a "men's rights activist" without the general perception being that one is acting out an anti-woman worldview.


That is a black-or-white fallacy. You don't need to have a group being historically oppressed in order for discrimination.

Oppression is about liberty for which there is little proof which gender has more. The number of working profession which is excluded for women is exactly the same number for men in countries where both women and men are employed in similar numbers (such as Sweden). Men are equally or even more forbidden to enter areas which are assigned female roles, and the studies that look at this (such as one about the teaching profession) acknowledge that feminism has made some minor progress to make it acceptable to women to move to typical male roles but not the reverse.

Womens right activist has fought a long time that their movement isn't about anti-men world-view, so why is it acceptable to draw that same conclusion on all men's rights activist?


You're likely correct, but isn't is a bit sad that this is the case? That unless it is generally accepted (regardless of whether or not it is true) that men are discriminated against based on gender in some situations, that the only other possibility is misogyny?

On whether it matters....I had a long conversation on the phone with an old friend yesterday, he is going through a divorce and has so far been bankrupted, been dismissed from his job (due to being obligated to take too many days off to prepare for court), he only gets supervised visits with his son, etc. I predict he will commit suicide within 5 years.


> You're likely correct, but isn't is a bit sad that this is the case?

Are you suggesting:

(1) That it is sad that people assess the likely motivations of actors based on their assessment of the facts of the context of those actor's actions in general, or

(2) That it is sad in specific that people don't see men as factually being an oppressed group such that lobbying for greater rights for them than they currently is something other than attempt to establish dominance at the expense of not-men.

In either case, I'd have to say that, no, I don't think it's particularly sad.


It's certainly not one because almost no one I know, even the highly educated, form opinions mostly on "assessing facts".

#2 is closer to it, but it's not completely clear what you mean so I can't say whether I agree or not.

Take for instance:

"Men are an oppressed group: True or False"

To me, that seems to be the question you are asking (pardon me if I'm wrong or putting words in your mouth). To me, that question is worse than useless.


By not being a misogynist, yes.


What you're saying here seems to be backing up what Scott Adams is saying. I'm not saying you're an irrational person, but your arguments against him seem to be completely irrational, based on word associations rather than arguments. He says men often avoid arguing with women over gender equality issues for the same reasons they avoid arguing with children or the mentally handicapped, because they see the process of argument as counterproductive, and he specifically says that he's not equating the groups in any way, only the reasons for avoiding arguments with the different groups.

If you were thinking in terms of word associations and analogies, this disclaimer wouldn't matter because it's the association of words that's important, not the argument itself. And here you're ignoring the argument and focusing on word associations which he explains clearly are not his point. I see people making this kind of argument all the time, and it makes using analogies in any way other than emotional association usually pointless because someone will always find a way to focus on their emotional response to the words rather than the arguments. Doesn't this perfectly illustrate his point?

It seems like he was manipulating people into having this kind of negative reaction to prove his point that people don't focus on arguments.


> who equates being a woman with being mentally handicapped

Literally, or he just used a metaphor?

I can say "black people are like bowling balls, they are both black".

You could respond "oh my god! black people are people, not objects! How dare you!"

But this would not be a reasonable response - The implication of the metaphor was not that black people share the property of being an object. That would be a purposeful mis-interpretation.

Granted, the use of metaphor can sometimes be suspect, precisely because of the ambiguity of implication, but that's all it is - ambiguous in meaning/intent.


Good job. This is an example of falling into the 3rd category and not the first.


Actually, there is a fourth category just for people like Scott Adams, that he neglected to mention.


4. Machiavellian Princes?


Persuasive trolls?

One of the later 1% that does not even care what he's persuading people about. Just plays the game for fun.


Now you have me trying to combine this categorization with Sociopath|Clueless|Loser...


You could argue that sock-puppeting defeats/is an antidote to Argumentum ad populum, and is as such a valid tactic.

In this case also, it would be seen as arrogant to tell someone they aren't smart enough to understand your argument, but not so with a third party, i.e. maybe it's appropriate for playing devils advocate informally.

That said, he was also antagonizing if using "idiot", rather than being more polite himself. If he spoke through his own handle, he might have cared more about civility.


I won't defend those actions. I just got a chuckle about this comment since it's an ad hominem -- not rational, but rather designed to appeal to emotion ("I'm mad about him doing that") or identify ("I'm an advocate for women").

Meanwhile, the rest of this thread devolves to pedantry about definitions and analogies.

Good persuasion :)


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That guy won an election where more than half of the people didn't even see him coming. Why do people insist there are no smart people working on his campaign?


Goalposts a galloping.

His team might have smart people on it, that does not make the people who voted for him smart.


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