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2021
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Kind and Gentle Correspondence 2021
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Some random pieces of history

Deniers gonna deny (25/1/2014)
On a fairly regular basis people post messages to Internet forums with a specific agenda challenging the residents to justify why they should not be outed as hypocrites because the interloper is more whatever than they are. Anti-vaccination liars, for example, are champions at this, claiming that they have the truth and everyone else is either in the pay of Big Pharma or are just unthinking sheeple. Climate change deniers do the same, usually by trying to claim the term "skeptic" for themselves. (See above for the AVN trying to do the same thing.) One appeared on the Facebook group "Skeptics in Australia" during the week and instantly launched an attack on everyone. Any attempt to discuss anything with him soon escalated into insults and non sequitur, so the group administrators deleted the thread. I discovered this the next time I logged in, so I wrote this.

I gather from several notifications mentioning me that led to a deleted thread that someone challenged me to or about something. I like a challenge, especially when it comes from someone using an idiosyncratic definition of "skepticism".

Skepticism is about being open to evidence, the more of it the better. There will always be "mavericks" who go against scientific consensus. Sometimes these people are correct, but most often they are not. When you have a body of knowledge built up over a long period and countless confirming observations and which can be explained by a coherent set of theories (such as climate change, the role of bacteria in infection, the efficacy of vaccination, the horror of Nazi death camps, ...) the chances of the mavericks being right diminishes. When they can't offer anything except "You are wrong" it is safe to call them "deniers".

Deniers often like to talk about paradigm shifts without understanding what Kuhn meant by the term. He didn't mean that somebody comes along and throws over all established knowledge - he meant that a point can be reached where a theory simply cannot explain some anomalies and a new theory is needed to fill the gaps. Einstein didn't overthrow Newton, he stood on Newton's shoulders to see a little further into the way the universe works. There is a reason that science-based Nobel Prizes are usually awarded long after what they are awarded for happened, and, remember, they are usually for some breakthrough which adds explanation to or extends an existing body of knowledge. The delay is there to allow others to incorporate the new discoveries and use them to explain what we don't know a little better. And to make sure that the new ideas are correct.

It takes time and a lot of work to find out what reality is doing and even though science isn't a democracy where the majority rules, the majority is far more likely to be right than a tiny minority who don't try to fill the gaps in knowledge but use a crowbar to widen them.

Nobody laughed at Galileo, but even if they did he was right and he got there by extending the work of others using methods and equipment that weren't available to his predecessors. He could demonstrate his theory to anyone prepared to look through his telescope. If someone came along today and claimed that he had proof that the Sun went around a fixed Earth we would want some pretty convincing evidence before we would say that the consensus had been overthrown.

But if the evidence was good enough ...

I was informed that in the deleted messages he had told me that I was lying and had challenged me to comprehensively prove that the climate was changing. I referred him to the IPCC web site and asked him to provide his thoughts on all the papers that had been used to build the various reports that the organisation had made over the years. He ran away and hasn't been heard of since. Which is typical behaviour for deniers.

I had something to say along these lines a little while ago in "Give me my word back".

See everything that appeared in 2014 here.


The Who sang "Won't get fooled again" but the WHO did (11/5/2019)
One of the problems that sane people have is that there is so much misinformation out there that it is easy to get confused about what is truth and what is lies, what is a good source of information and what is a cesspit. One of the cesspits full of lies is an organisation named VINE (Vaccine Information Network). Like the similarly named National Vaccination Information Center, there is very little information there that isn't a lie. It used to be run by one of the vilest anti-vaccination liars around, a thing named Erwin Alber. Alber did the world a favour by dying in 2018, but the putrescence survives.

My Facebook feed went berserk when it was revealed that the World Health Organisation had posted a link to VINE. While the error was soon corrected, it showed that even a group as au fait with vaccine safety and efficacy as the WHO could be fooled if they didn't read closely enough. Unlike the WHO, VINE is resolutely committed to the spread of measles, no matter how many children it kills or blinds or how many get meningitis or other sequelae of the disease.

Oh, and I mentioned conspiracies above. Alber dropped dead outside his house in Thailand. Almost immediately there was speculation that he must have been murdered because of his anti-vaccination stance. Just as anti-vaccination liars can't believe that anyone can oppose them without being paid to do so, they just know that when anyone on their side of the fence dies it must be murder. I suppose that's the sort of thing you think when you don't have a working brain or conscience.

See everything that appeared in 2019 here.

 

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