A Call For Scepticism

On the 5th of March, Fox News released an article on their blog where they announced that Richard Hoover, an astrobiologist who works at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, thinks he has found evidence for extraterrestrial life. And since then I’ve seen this crop up on more and more places on the internet.

Now what Hoover found were structures inside a rare type of meteorite, a carbonaceous chondrite, it contains structures that have a resemblance with certain terrestrial bacteria we know. But it’s extremely difficult to rule out contamination of the sample. And as such it is wise to wait to get independent confirmation that this indeed might be remains of extraterrestrial life. Especially as Hoover has already made similar claims that have not been confirmed.

There is however one part that raises really big red flags with this find, and that is where it was published, in the Journal of Cosmology. A journal where they have the rule, I kid you not, all articles must avoid jargon. Which is quite an odd rule for a journal to have, and as you can imagine not a single respectable journal has that rule.

Also what really bothers me is the low quality a lot of the published articles have. Like the Myth Of The Big Bang paper where the author actual writes:

[The] Big Bang theory requires phantom forces, constantly adjusted parameters, and ad hoc theorizing to explain away and to cover up the numerous holes in this theory. The Big Bang is a myth, major portions of which have been repeatedly falsified.

And:

However, since arriving at a 13.75 billion year birth date, new problems have surfaced and old problems have again reared their galactic head. For example, our Milky Way galaxy is believed to be 13.6 billion years in age (Pasquini et al., 2005); meaning it was established within one million years of the Big Bang.

That’s not a difference of 1 million years, that’s a difference of 150 million years. How can someone not notice that? This journal, which in fact is only a website with no actual publication on paper, is not a place where you want to publish something that you want to be of a high standard. As shown by previous publications.

People who have been following my blog, or the SkepticTV blog, are already aware of these points I just raised. And as such all the fuss this publication has caused is not the reason I’m making this video, this just serves as the background. What really spurred me to make a detailed video on this was when the global warming sceptics blog Watt’s Up With That made the following statements:

It would be an interesting exercise to compare the immediate broad-spectrum skepticism of this study to, let’s say, the Nature flood papers or the contrived Union of Concerned Scientists snowjob conference call. But, one could describe the reception of pro-global warming literature, whether peer-reviewed or not, as quite partisan in nature. So what has triggered this inherent skepticism of Dr. Hoover’s research [..]?

[…]

[Dr. Myers] brings up near the end a very cogent argument on how science matriculates, and ideas are vetted:

While they’re at it, maybe they should try publishing it in a journal with some reputation for rigorous peer review and expectation that the data will meet certain minimal standards of evidence and professionalism.

I agree completely. And, whenever the Union of Concerned Scientists or World Wildlife Fund marches to the podium with some obvious politically tinged research, I’ll expect the same level of skepticism from both sides of the proverbial aisle.
[…]

This is called “science by press release”, and it has to stop.

They are taking a shot at organisations that lobby for a better environment all under the guise of being sceptical of research done, and scientific claims made, by these groups. And using the paper from the Journal of Cosmology as ammunition for this call to action. Which I find utterly ironic considering the history of Watts Up With That.

One of my pet peeves about them is with whom they cite, promote or publish on their site. They have for example published several post written by Lord Monckton, someone who has been repeatedly shown to be wrong on the science, misrepresenting research papers and even fabricates quotes. The blog Watts Up With That even defends him from criticism for these things or allows him to defend himself on the blog.

Monckton Bunkum Part 1 – Global cooling and melting ice

An example of this was when professor John Abraham made a presentation available where he investigated Monckton’s claims and citations. It was a very well reasoned and researched presentation where he continuously gave monckton the benefit of the doubt. But Lord Monckton called it a “serially mendacious 83-minute personal attack”, and never truly responded to points made by Abraham.

Or the promotion of the column “How BBC warmists abuse the science” written by Booker where he assails the BBC Horizon episode Science Under Attack. Where he actually criticies Paul Nurse, an expert in cell biology, for commenting on climate change with the following:

The fact that someone is an expert in one particular field – even if he is President of the Royal Society – gives him little more authority to pronounce on issues with which he is unfamiliar than a man holding forth in a pub

Which is quite ironic coming from someone who has no scientific training whatsoever. And previously said things on Evolution like that it’s proponents “rest their case on nothing more than blind faith and unexamined a priori assumptions”. And even said there’s a zero chance of getting cancer from white asbestos due to a misrepresentation of a paper.

Or the times Watts Up With That has defended James Delingpole for saying the following:

Climate change denier James Delingpole doesn't do science

Delingpole actually says in this clip that he hasn’t got the time or the expertise to read the scientific literature on climate change and global warming. Yet they defend him for saying this and still link to, or feature articles written by him, where he’s critical on the science behind the predictions of global warming.

I know this has been a rant on my part but scepticism doesn’t start with the viewpoints and claims of others, and being sceptical about those does not make you a sceptic. Being a sceptic starts with examining your own viewpoints, the positions you hold, the claims you make and the quality of evidence you use for those. If you are not doing that, like the people behind the blog Watts Up With That, you can’t call yourself a true sceptic.

A Call For Scepticism

Collin Maessen is the founder and editor of Real Skeptic and a proponent of scientific skepticism. For his content he uses the most up to date and best research as possible. Where necessary consulting or collaborating with scientists.