2011-08-11 03:47:19Climastrology Button
Sphaerica

Bob@Lacatena...
76.28.5.93

It has come to pass that a large number of people (co2isnotevil, RW1, and now Doug Cotton, among many others) arrive touting their own special brand of science that replaces the foolishness of professional climate scientists.  Often, they have their own snazzy looking PDF or complete web site outlining their true science.

These people generally derail every post they enter with their comments, starting out with an on-topic comment, and then wandering further and further off into their own strange take on which rules of science do or do not apply, and in what order, to get to their own particular conclusions.

Three matters arise from this:

  1. How to respond to their nonsense (which is generally so complex and convoluted as to be difficult to pin down logically)
  2. How to keep it from derailing the hosting post
  3. Where such comments really belong

Ocassionally, such comments belong somewhere at first (most often the 2nd Law thread), but not always, and even when they do they wander off into so many tangents as to be impossible to put anywhere.

My suggestion is as follows:

  1. Create a new thread for new-fangled pseudo-science (potential names at the bottom of this comment)
  2. Provide a facility for moderators to easily migrate a comment to the perferred thread, repalcing the original comment with text to the effect of "Migrated to..." and a link to the new location of the comment.

The facility could be as simple as a single "Climastrology" button, which when pressed does it all.

Alternately, a more sophisticated method would allow a moderator select any destination thread (thus making it easy to move valid comments in the wrong places to whereever they belong).  This is obviously very useful from time to time whenever any thread starts to go off-topic, and when so used would not carry the enormous insult of having one's comment labeled as "climastrology," but it also would involve considerably more programming, including some sort of interface to allow valid threads to be located and selected (a drop down menu of likely possibilities would be manageable, but a menu of every post/argument available would be unwieldy and so require search functionality, which comes with a whole extra layer of programming).

Overall, the single-destination-button seems a lot easier to execute, at least in the short run.

Possible names for the thread include:

  • Climastrology
  • The Looking Glass
  • The Aether and Other Phlogiston
  • Galileo's Descendants (although I think this is a huge insult to Galileo)
  • The Friends of Doctor Emmett Brown
2011-08-11 05:18:15
Sphaerica

Bob@Lacatena...
76.28.5.93

I found an article of interest called A Brief Field Guide to Scientific Crackpots.

Of particular interest there is a list of seven ways to recognize crackpot arguments.  Many of these will raise your eyebrows in recognition, (starting with number 1, I'm sure):

  1. An obsession with semantics, the exact meaning of words, and an abuse of it.
  2. A criticism of only the oldest experimental and theoretical results.
  3. An obsession with ad hominem attacks, or a focus on criticizing individuals rather than theories.
  4. Constant references to a conspiracy against the author’s results.
  5. An extreme view that an established scientific theory is “completely wrong”.
  6. Criticisms of existing theories which rely on “common sense”.
  7. A complete absence of quantitative analysis.

I would point out that the last is often not the case with our crackpots, and yet it is.  That is to say, they often include a deluge of woefully incomplete quantitative analysis.  It's very easy to generate reams of numbers when there is no test for and no body interested in finding a way to test their validity.

2011-09-13 17:48:20Not a big fan of the Climatastrology button
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.208.191

It gives the impression of ostracising and mocking visitors. I don't think that's the impression of SkS we want to portray. I'm not saying we should be all sweet and roses with denier trolls. I'm just thinking what is the most effective approach. While it's emotionally satisfying putting trolls in their place, is derogatory labels the best way to deal with trolls? I would think a better approach is to adopt a "focus on the science" approach - if they post off-topic comments, simply point them to the relevant topic.