Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Real Lesson Kristen Byrnes Teaches us, with a Little Help from David Berlinski

In case you have missed the story, an enterprising young lady named Kristen Byrnes has put together and global warming denialist website, and NPR was apparently so impressed that they did this story on her. I can't improve on the critiques on the content of that story, which you can read here,here,here, and here. Basically the NPR story bent over backwards to be kind to Kristen, not really pursuing just how much of her views on the subject are derivative of her step-dad's, and despite the fact that her site is the same old disreputable shit, with lots of cherry-picking of data, pseudoscience, and insightful gems like this:

"With these lectures [Al Gore] only considered one point of view, and did not consider the other side of the story (warming being natural), which would have made his movie a little more believable. "

More believable to who Kristen? There is no "other side" to global warming, evolution, or any other scientific issue. There is the reasonable view based on ALL the available evidence, and then there are the literally limitless number of worthless views based on other things (stupidity, rebelliousness, religious motive, plain old denial, reliance on false authorities, political allegiance, etc.). How many of these play a part in Kristen's view I won't venture a guess. What caught my interest in the story was this angle:

Skeptics loved it: A 15-year-old attacking the mainstream scientific view.

Skeptics loved it? Why? Does it make mainstream science look bad that a 16 year old girl can put together an anti-global warming website? Of course not. It makes the skeptics look bad, and the answer as to why is part of the response that should be given to people making comments like David Berlinski did in this debate, and by others elsewhere, who attack evolutionary theory but refuse to offer any alternative:

"I don't see why I am obliged to answer that...I find scientific flaws with Darwininan theory, I don't have to replace it."

Yes, you do, and Kristen shows us why. She shows just how easy it is to appear to make a case if all one does is cherry pick data and interpret it to one's liking. This is what evolution-deniers have been doing for decades, and the global warming denialists follow the same pattern.

Most science is imperfect. Most science could be improved. Showing this doesn't prove true whatever alternative view is being touted, be it Intelligent Design, or the its-warming-but-humans-didn't-do-it hypothesis that Kristen and many other AGW denialists support. To make your case, you have to, well, MAKE YOUR CASE. Do the science. Come up with a fully developed theory that encompasses ALL of the data, and does so better than the prevailing theory. THEN you've done something worthy of notice. Until then, you just a loud fan in the stands pretending you are in the game.

Being a pure skeptic is so easy even a 16-year-old can do it. That's what Kristen shows us, and the glowing reaction to her website shows just how low the academic standards of skeptics are. That's the lesson here.


Anonymous said...

Finally someone has actual science knowledge has come out and said it.

She uses wikipedia as her reference. God that is pathetic...hope she's not going to do that and hopefully feel ashame after she attends uni.

ScienceAvenger said...

It will certainly come as a shock to her, when/if she attends a first rate university, the first few times she trots out her bullshit and gets slaughtered by her knowledgeable peers. Life can be a little rough outside the echo chamber.