A Call For Scepticism

Ventures Into Scepticism

Real Sceptic has its origins as a companion site for the videos produced by Collin Maessen. The site has progressed beyond this original purpose and now predominantly includes articles that are independent of the content released on YouTube. However this original content is still an important part of the site.

This page serves as an archive for videos produced and released on YouTube. You can find full transcripts, source listing and used media files for the videos. We are currently in the process of transcribing all the audio.

Please note that the first nine videos are of a substantial lower quality than videos that were produced after these. As these first nine videos were as much, and in some case more, about learning to edit videos and learning how to tell a story in sound and images.

A Call For Scepticism

Video description

On the 5th of March an announcement was made on the find of possible remains of alien life on a meteorite. However people are neglecting to check this thoroughly as it's far from the kind of research someone would stake their reputation on.
But people are actually using this paper to cast doubt on legitimate science and organisations and are making a call for more scepticism.

Transcript

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 the 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 this video was when the global warming sceptics blog Watts 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.

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 criticizes 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 or misinterpretation of a paper.

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

NURSE: Just back to the evidence again, though. So we get, obviously there's a source of evidence through the internet, books, primary publications is probably not your thing...

DELINGPOLE: It is not my job to sit down and read peer-reviewed papers, because I simply haven't got the time, I haven't got the scientific expertise. What I rely on is people who have got the time and the expertise to do it and write about it and interpret it, you know. I am an interpreter of interpretations.

[snippet from full transcript]

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.

Sources

  1. Journal Of Cosmology And Alien Life On Meteorite
  2. Science News And Scepticism
  3. How BBC Warmists Abuse The Science -- A Response
  4. Fox News Exclusive: NASA Scientist Claims Evidence of Alien Life on Meteorite
  5. Fossils of Cyanobacteria in CI1 Carbonaceous Meteorites - Richard B. Hoover
  6. Microfossils of Cyanobacteria in the Orgueil Carbonaceous Meteorite by Richard B. Hoover, BSc (page is no longer available, an archived copy can be found here)
  7. Editorial Guidelines & Review
  8. The Infinite Universe vs the Myth of the Big Bang: Red Shifts, Black Holes, Acceleration, Life. - Rhawn Joseph, Ph.D
  9. Skeptical science: meteorite aliens bring out the armchair experts
  10. Recycling research: meteorite alien life discovery dubious?
  11. Monckton Bunkum Part 1 - Global cooling and melting ice
  12. Monckton Bunkum Part 2 - Sensitivity
  13. Monckton Bunkum Part 3 - Correlations and Himalayan glaciers
  14. Monckton Bunkum Part 4 -- Quotes and misquotes
  15. Abraham Presentation
  16. A detailed rebuttal to Abraham from Monckton
  17. SourceWatch - John Abraham presentation
  18. Booker on BBC's Science Under Attack
  19. How BBC warmists abuse the science
  20. Christopher Booker
  21. Christopher Booker's notebook (See the section: Talking with dinosaurs)
  22. Farmers face £6bn bill for asbestos clean-up
  23. Telegraph article: "Farmers face £6 bn bill for asbestos clean up" Geoffrey Podger, HSE's Chief Executive, responds
  24. BBC4′s "Meet the Skeptics"
  25. Has the BBC broken faith with the General Public?
  26. Coffin, meet nail. -- more on Steig's reconstruction issues

Media resources

  1. Lord Monckton on Climate Change - Melbourne Highlights clip (1 of 2)
  2. Climate change denier James Delingpole doesn't do science
  3. Intro: StrangeZero -- Deep Of Night (Album Delusional Disorder)
  4. Outtro: Mindthings -- Exponential Tears (Album Life's Path)

Ventures Into Scepticism