Science Deniers and Repliers

May 10th, 2012

After I posted last week about the prospective student who thought the Big Bang Theory had fundamental problems, one of my students hunted down this list of the top 30 problems with the big bang.  Now, don’t get excited about that list.  It’s about a decade old and out of date on many important developments and incredibly biased.  The author Tom Van Fladern is apparently now deceased and won’t be updating it, although I remember reading his posts on Usenet back in the 1990s.  He was a smart guy, but biased against establishment astronomy/cosmology and had some weird ideas that he just couldn’t see were plain wrong even though the mistakes were pointed out to him repeatedly.  I don’t know if I’d call him a total crank, but he was pretty cranky.  He’s one type of science denier, and his motives were likely contrarianism and distrust of established authorities.  There are a variety of repliers out there to this kind of contrary position, from textbooks to websites.  Let me point out one, Ned Wright’s cosmology FAQ list and tutorial.  That’s a good place to start for some basic instruction about the big bang theory and includes some replies to the claims of alternative cosmology proponents like Van Flandern.

Now, there are criticisms of the Big Bang from other quarters, primarily young Earth creationists (YECs) who think the universe is only a few thousand years old and not nearly 14 billion.  Their criticisms are total jokes compared to Van Flandern’s.  These sorts of people prefer to spend their time attacking other fields like geology and its technique of radioactive dating, but especially evolution.

One of the worst websites for that is Answers in Gensis (AiG), which is a huge joke, scientficially speaking, but one that fundamentalists don’t get and don’t laugh at.  There are many websites out there dedicated to calling AiG on their shit, like this one or this one.  Again, I’ve seen this science denying nonsense going back 20 years to my days reading Usenet, and I particularly like the newsgroup talk.origins FAQ list as a reply.

So we have deniers who are motivated by their own egos and contraryness, those who are motivated by their untenable religious beliefs that are in conflict with science, and we have a few others still.  Some people have biases built on their politics and/or their economic interests.  Couple those attitudes with confirmation bias, and we have motivation for denial of anthropogenic climate change (AKA global warming).  Libertarians, Republicans with a hate-on for Al Gore, and business interests like Big Oil (e.g. Koch Industries), who don’t want government regulation or taxes, or who just don’t want to believe anything that liberals believe…these guys are another variation of denier, and many of them also denied the association between smoking and lung cancer.  They like to present themselves as intelligent skeptics, but they’re usually some combination of mendacious and/or ignorant.  One egregious example of a denier webiste that butchers many basic and accepted scientific ideas is junk science.  I posted a nice compliation of denier talking points and replies a few weeks ago, and repeat the link to skepticalscience here.  What’s shocking to me is that there 173 (!!!) common denier “refutations” to global warming and they’re almost all trivially wrong.

There’s also the anti-vaccine science deniers, who seem primarily to be concerned but ignorant parents jumping on another bandwagon, perhaps with some conspiracy theorists mixed in.  Here’s one nice reply.

There are other kinds of woo out there, generally not actively anti-science but they do contribute to ignorance and a general anti-science environment: astrology, reincarnation, talking with the dead, flat Earth belief, other religious nonsense and superstition.  They’re easier to debunk, if that’s even necessary, as they tend to be fringe issues few make political.  They’re harmful, too, especially since they’re tolerated as being relatively harmless, but they undermine a reality-based world view.

Did I miss any other major area of science denial currently making the rounds?

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