Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: The First Draft

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  • Steve Barnes,

    So, if I follow wrong Ring's thinking.
    If I have a magnet in my pocket am I more likely to be hit by a truck?. In the absence of any other force I suppose I would.
    In other words the moon may well have an effect, a great effect? not so much.

    The wireless north ;-) • Since Dec 2006 • 4941 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Steve Barnes,

    In other words the moon may well have an effect, a great effect? not so much.

    Which is pretty much what those scientist chappies are saying.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    It should be pointed out that the feedback was on the website. I think it falls under angry lonely men with keyboards.

    But I don't even own a television.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    That kind of overlooks the fact that things like the ‘refrigerator mother’ theory were in fact dogma amongst practicing doctors. And it wasn’t that long ago. Science has its fair share of untested beliefs, which is I think what irritates some people when generic appeals to Science (as opposed to rational empirical scepticism) are used to shout down fringe beliefs and theories.

    Yes. Definitely get that. The eugenics fad of the early 20th century is another bleak, black mark on "science" that should never be forgotten.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to recordari,

    So then I was just gnoming? It’s a meme I’ve been working on since about November 2009, so I’m hoping it will take at some stage.

    Surely it'd be more useful to refer to it as "trogging"? (Since troglodytes are related to trolls in classic D&D, while gnomes are small, cheerful and friendly.)

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown,

    Okay, bear with me here: my response to Brian Edwards got eaten by his server but I have to get this out.

    Brian seems to believe that Ring is some kindly old man unused to the media who was startled by a "hysterical" interviewer.

    Hardly.

    Ring has been using the media, broadcast especially, to promote his crank business for about 15 years. He emails Radio NZ all the time trying to get on air. At the moment, he gets regular (more than weekly at the moment) slots with Marcus Lush and talks to regional stations up and down the country. They are invariably soft interviews. One hostile interview isn't going to kill him.

    Was it a good interview? No, if only because it has triggered a flood of undeserved sympathy.

    But "hysterical", "closed-minded", a "disgrace" and all the other words Brian has been flinging around? No. Just ... no.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Andre Alessi,

    while gnomes are small, cheerful and friendly.)

    That's what they want you to think

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3434 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Science has its fair share of untested beliefs, which is I think what irritates some people when generic appeals to Science (as opposed to rational empirical scepticism) are used to shout down fringe beliefs and theories.

    Depends on what you count as science I suppose. There isn't some record keeper somewhere who sticks things in the scientific encyclopedia if they make the grade. It's more like wikipedia, where many people work in it, mistakes get made but there's a process for weeding them out when they get in there (perhaps it's harder to become an editor or moderator). Pseudoscience doesn't.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to B Jones,

    It's more like wikipedia, where many people work in it, mistakes get made but there's a process for weeding them out when they get in there (perhaps it's harder to become an editor or moderator).

    No, it's really not. In order to get funded to do most science you need to have influence, and people will go to significant extents to protect that influence. Nothing surprising in that - it's a human activity, therefore it's political. But to think that competing theories are always neutrally evaluated solely on their merits is exceedingly naive.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Brian seems to believe that Ring is some kindly old man unused to the media who was startled by a "hysterical" interviewer.

    He does not. He's just being disingenous, as he almost always is, in order to drive traffic to his blog. I understand your frustration, but you'd be best spending your energies elsewhere in my opinion.

    [ETA: nice tone in my last two comments. No it's not, he does not. I'm a regular "no" man.]

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward, in reply to Russell Brown,

    my response to Brian Edwards got eaten by his server

    So much for science.

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1722 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Science has its fair share of untested beliefs, which is I think what irritates some people when generic appeals to Science (as opposed to rational empirical scepticism) are used to shout down fringe beliefs and theories.

    Guys I think you are missing the point about science as a “thing”. It isn’t a belief itself. Rather it is a system of testing ideas, at its most basic it is observation hypothesis and experiment, which we were taught at high school.

    When used well it is the best system we have found in the history of civilisation for testing ideas.

    Sure not all ideas have been tested, sometimes because they are too silly for words sometimes because scientists haven’t figured out a way of doing the experiment.

    What makes me, as a scientist, annoyed is when people like Ken Ring present an idea that has already been tested scientifically, as thoroughly as possible and rejected by the best analysis possible, and still insist that their idea is as valid and reasonable as any other idea.

    It’s not so much that he hasn’t read the literature, some 40 or 50 years of literature about his idea, not everyone knows where to look or how to read scientific literature. It’s that after being shown the literature and shown that his idea is wrong, he simply runs off to the media and markets his idea anyway and lo and behold the media give him the time of day …

    When was the last time a real scientist got that much prime time to present his REAL work?

    People think there is no cost to idiots being given the time of day, well sorry there is a cost, it’s another lost cat story that couldn’t get to air because we had to waste time on a moron who couldn’t read the literature and wouldn’t take the word of someone who could.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3434 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    Gio, wikipedia is a human activity and vulnerable to the same or similar pressures - influence, status, free time - that some people have and some people don't. It creates systemic biases and excludes minority points of view. It's still better than my Personal Self Published Theory of Everything, or Conservapedia, or a bunch of other ways of collecting information. It's the correctability that puts it ahead, and I've yet to see such openness to revision in any of the popular fringe theories, except for the sort that shifts the goalposts every time that one of their tenets is successfully knocked down (see MMR/autism/mercury/aluminium/too many too soon).

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    What makes me, as a scientist, annoyed is when people like Ken Ring present an idea that has already been tested scientifically, as thoroughly as possible and rejected by the best analysis possible, and still insist that their idea is as valid and reasonable as any other idea.

    Do not read the comments on Brian's blog. You will blow the fuck up.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19019 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to B Jones,

    Gio, wikipedia is a human activity and vulnerable to the same or similar pressures - influence, status, free time - that some people have and some people don't. It creates systemic biases and excludes minority points of view. It's still better than my Personal Self Published Theory of Everything, or Conservapedia, or a bunch of other ways of collecting information.

    I take your point. However I think the problem is that we don't approach anything sceptically: not science, not pseudo-science, not spirituality, not politics, not nothing. We need an education in critical thinking before we need an education in anything else - including the basics of science itself. When people say "it's because journalists are scientifically illiterate that this crackpot theory is getting so much press", I don't think that's the problem. It's that often they can't evaluate propositions critically.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    …not nothing.

    I object. I’m very skeptical about nothing.

    Apart from that, I agree with you. As unlikely as that might seem.

    This too.

    No, it’s really not. In order to get funded to do most science you need to have influence, and people will go to significant extents to protect that influence.

    Better a no-man and a gnome?

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Sofie Bribiesca,

    When was the last time a real scientist got that much prime time to present his REAL work?

    I enjoyed Sir Robert Winston whom I thought did rather well on the Telly and Sir Peter Gluckman got a bit of airtime before JK stole him away. I think forensics have become sexy because of Crimetime TV, but yeah, gotta say there are certain "go to" guys on our TV that do not float ma boat.

    here and there. • Since Nov 2007 • 6320 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to recordari,

    As unlikely as that might seem.

    Nah, I always end up bending people to my will.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    “closed-minded”

    Ah yes, I'm trying to remember who said there's a difference between being "broad-minded" and nothing ever touching the sides.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    OK then, for another distraction, what about those plastic hologram bracelets that are very popular at the moment, particularly with sportspeople? I also notice some politicians wearing them. They cost about $100 and many people (including those well aware of scientific method) swear by them.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 2122 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    OK then, for another distraction, what about those plastic hologram bracelets that are very popular at the moment, particularly with sportspeople?

    Don't make me tell the story of Niels Bohr's horseshoe, because I will.

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7390 posts Report Reply

  • B Jones,

    Judging by the Twitter response to the Ring interview, and the apparent pressure placed on TV3 to cover the issue in the first place, I don't blame the journalists. I think that they're being led by a credulous wider public. I'm not quite sure where that credulity comes from - perhaps the world is a nicer place when you might be surprised one day by a paranormal event, or you can prevent cancer by drinking vitalised water, or taking flower essences reduces stress. Or if you listen to one guy who claims to predict earthquakes with certainty, you can avoid tragedies like last week's.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 814 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    They cost about $100 and many people (including those well aware of scientific method) swear by them.

    Bullshit.

    Just wanted to be first, both in all seriousness, and for comic effect.

    Now, should I wait for someone to prove me wrong?

    ETA: Just not fast enough. Damn empiricists always come first.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Do not read the comments on Brian’s blog. You will blow the fuck up.

    Something there just decided to try a smear-by-false-equivalence. Yeah, my raunchy teasing of Emma around here is exactly like saying anyone who isn't damning John Campbell as the anti-Christ must be a NIWA sock puppet. Grrr... I know it's textbook Derailing for Dummies but, damn.

    And may I say, Russell, you've been doing sterling work at staying calm and reasoned in the face of either Olympic-standard obtuseness or downright stupidity.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 12046 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Goodwin, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The comments on Edwards' Blog largely seem to imply that Campbell should have been polite considerate and respectful because Mr Ring had something to say. I call bullshit on that.
    I make my living interviewing people; often unpleasant people, deluded people and a fair smattering of charlatans and liars. What Edwards doesn't appear to appreciate is the effect of knowing something (or quite a lot) about the interviewee and how that influences the interview style. Charlatans mostly piss people off, particularly if they are seen to be exploiting misery, and I think that John Campbell reacted honestly to that. I would far rather have that style of journalism in my living room than a simpering, polite ,all views are equal approach. Personally, I think John did a great job of the interview and the follow up with some real scientists. More required.

    Auckland • Since Mar 2011 • 1 posts Report Reply

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