Author Archives: Brandon Shollenberger

Rebutting Conspiracy Theories Seems Pointless

A recent post may have made you realize I really don't want to discuss conspiracy theories about the alleged chemical attack on the city of Douma by the Syrian government. I've been trying to avoid discussing that topic, especially on Twitter, but I let myself get dragged into it today.

Don't worry. I'm not going to write a long screed about the topic. That's not the point of this post. The point of this post is to show why I didn't want to. I always come away from exchanges on topics like this feeling they were pointless. Most of the time, I find myself putting more work into examining what others say than they did.

This is why I ask people to make their case in a collected, coherent manner with all the requisite information provided in a single location. It almost never happens. I understand doing so requires a fair amount of work, but not doing so simply forces anyone who cares to examine what you say to do the work you refused to do.

Today, I'd like to show a Twitter exchange why I describe the discussions so many people try to get others to participate in are pointless. Also, I'd like to keep a copy for record keeping.
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Funniest Question of the Year?

There was a post at Andrew Gelman's blog recently about a topic I've discussed here often so I chimed in on a couple things. An exchange happened because I made a couple remarks about things like how climate change is not expected to drive humanity extinct or even cause the deaths of billions of people. In my comments, I mentioned how the worst projections of the IPCC aren't anywhere near that extreme. This lead to a discussion of the tired meme which says the IPCC is overly conservative in its projections of the impacts of climate change, a meme which relies upon the alarmist views of a relatively small number of people. Discussion of this idea led to what may go down as the funniest question of the year:

For those who don't know, the IPCC won a Nobel prize. Michael Mann was an author on an IPCC report so he went around repeatedly telling everybody he had won a Nobel prize, which was not true. Personally, I don't think the fact Mann stole credit for the IPCC's Nobel prize means he should be trusted over the IPCC.
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Is it Worth Rebutting Conspiracy Theories?

People say untrue things all the time. Sometimes what they say is so untrue I feel obliged to respond. I'm not sure that is healthy though. Today I'd like to discuss an example which shows why. The example involves the alleged chemical attack on Douma, a city in Syria, on April 7th, 2018, by the Syrian government. Many people have alleged this attack didn't happen, claiming reports of a chemical attack were a fabrication created by a conspiracy of people seeking to create negative sentiments for the Syrian government.
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Too Incompetent to Obstruct Justice?

With there being a holiday this weekend and my legal issues earlier this week, I don't have a lot of energy to write new posts. There are a number of things I'd like to discuss though, so for now, I'll go with a simple one. The Mueller report was released recently (with heavy redactions). There are a lot of people putting a lot of work into spinning the narrative around the report, but to me, it seems one point is clear: Donald Trump did not obstruct justice, even though he tried really, really hard to.

I'm not sure what to make of it. Trump repeatedly gave unlawful orders to his staff only to find his staff ignored the orders or refused to carry them out. Trump seems to be protected from criminal prosecution primarily because he is too incompetent to get his own staff to do what he tells them to do. That seems more damning a criticism than any charge of criminality ever could have been.

I got in a car accident last month, and the situation for the accident was so strange to me I wrote a contemporary account of what happened and posted it for documentation purposes. One of the things which struck me as strange about the situation was I was given a ticket for "FAIL TO REDUCE SPEED." I plead not guilty to for this offense as I thought it was nonsense, and today, I became convinced that plea is 100% correct. If you don't want to hear the details, just look at this picture (the stop sign pictured in the image was not there at the time of the accident):

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Half a Year

I'm a couple days early with this, but I wanted to get this posted so I don't forget. Half a year ago (on October 7th, I believe), the IPCC announced the publication of its Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C. Along with this announcement was a major media blitz to get people to look at the report. In response to this, I asked a natural question, when would the IPCC release the draft versions of the report and the reviewer comments on those drafts? The IPCC had said it'd release that material when it published the report, but in response to my question, the IPCC said:

The IPCC told the public it had published the report, but it also said it wouldn't release certain material because it hadn't published the report yet. That seems to clearly be a lie. The report cannot be "published" and "not published yet" at the same time. The truth is what the IPCC published for its media blitz was a draft version of its report, a draft which would undergo significant changes prior to the "final publication," a fact the IPCC failed to disclose to the public.*

That situation was then compounded in December when the IPCC published what it listed as the official report, and again, failed to provide the material it promised it would release. I asked about this:

It's now been about four more months, half a year since the IPCC engaged in its media blitz about the publication of this report, and the IPCC still hasn't released any of the material it said it'd release when it published the report. Is the IPCC ever going to publish this material? If it doesn't, would anyone care? I'm not sure. Nobody seems to care the IPCC blatantly lied during its media campaign.

*The changes go far beyond simple copy-editing, with entire paragraphs being changed, deleted or even created from scratch. Not only was this fact hidden from the public, no explanation has been provided as to how such changes are reviewed since there was no opportunity for outside reviewers to comment on them.

It's the Laziness That Gets Me

There's a lot that can be said about the inanity of hit pieces one finds in the media nowadays. One can moralize about the rise in partisanship and whatnot, but what gets me isn't the close-mindedness. It's the stupidity. What I've come to realize is as people become less willing to consider views which differ from theirs, they become less capable of spotting errors.

I think that's why hit pieces are rarely intelligent. I'm not opposed to hit pieces in principle. I am just bothered at how bad a job people do of and with them. For instance, this new article by Michael Mann and Bob Ward in the Guardian is incredibly terrible.
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It's Not the Dishonesty That Gets Me, It's the Stupidity

I wasn't planning on following up my post from last week, but I saw another tweet by the author I criticized in it today, and I couldn't resist clicking the link to a new story he wrote:

The author in question, José Duarte, is really starting to weird me out. It's not that he keeps saying things which are untrue. I'm used to people doing that. It's not even that he says things which are obviously untrue. I'm used to people doing that too. What weirds me out is he keeps saying things anyone who looks at what he refers to would immediately see are false.

I can come up with explanations for dissembling. I can come up with explanations for lying. What I can't figure out is how to explain lying in a way everyone can easily recognize as lying. If you're going to say untrue things, shouldn't you at least try to hide it?
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So I Was in an Accident...

I drove my car into a ditch a fwe hours ago. It was only by good fortune there were no injuries. Things could have been much worse. This worries me as I think the intersection itself guarantees people will result in people doing exactly what I did. I'm going to try to write some thoughts on this tonight while everything is fresh.

To summarize what I'm going to say, I will offer two contentions. 1) A standard four-way intersection should not be designed so that traveling in a straight line through it will result driving into a 6+ foot ditch and creating a significant risk of bodily injury. 2) Should such an intersection exist, any signage intended to warn drivers should be placed with extra care to ensure they are abundantly clear and visible. When neither of these are true, I believe an unacceptable risk of accidents is created.
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How Can You Plagairize Something you Fabricate?

I had started writing a post about a recent example of misbehavior in climate science where a new methodological paper was published in Nature as a "comment" so as to avoid any critical review/examination of the methodologies because it had a "sexy" headline. Then I realized how pointless it was. That sort of shadiness is nothing new, and nobody really cares.

I was still in the mood to write though, and fortunately, my Twitter feed provided a perfect oddity to discuss in this tweet:

I've always held a love for words. There was even a time I wanted to become a lexicographer (basically a person who makes dictionaries). The idea a major dictionary would fabricate definitions for political purposes was so strange I had to investigate. And boy am I glad I did.
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