Democracy and expert advice on scientific issues


Image credit: James MacLeod

Layla Parker-Katiraee recently asked the question Should science be a democracy? in the blog Biofortified. Most readers here would probably immediately answer no! But hold on. The blog title is a bit misleading. She was actually posing this about social decisions related to scientific issues – not about science itself.

Layla gives this example:

“A January 2015 survey conducted by agricultural economists at Oklahoma State found that 82% of Americans want their food labeled if it contains GMOs. The same survey found that 80% of Americans want their food labeled if it contains DNA.”

She points out that while the scientifically informed may be aghast at such a result the fact is most of the general public are not scientifically literate – and we should recognise that:

“After the initial face-palm, my feelings of intellectual superiority gradually ebbed when I realized that my husband would be in the 80% of the population that doesn’t know that all food, unless it’s highly processed, contains DNA. My better-half has a degree in International Relations and Peace Studies. He is a consultant with high-tech companies. He’s amazing at his job and can charge a premium for his consulting fees. It’s safe to say that he is well educated and knows what he’s doing. However, his last biology class was 17 years ago.”

And another reason for avoiding intellectual snobbery is that even those who consider themselves scientifically literate will readily admit they do not necessarily have at hand the answers to many of the scientific questions posed by the non-scientifically literate who are campaigning against issues like GMOs, climate change or community water fluoridation.

So here is the dilemma. On the one hand, social policies should be decided democratically – or at least by democratically elected bodies. On the other hand, the public and even the membership of democratically elected bodies are usually not well-informed about the science involved in many controversial social policies.

As Layla says:

“This whole topic raises the question of whether scientific matters (such as food labeling) should be decided by a public that is not educated in the technical aspects or nuances of an issue. Should scientific matters be decided upon democratically?

Here are just a few examples: the Shasta County Board recently decided to look into chemtrails; Portland, Oregon rejects adding fluoride to the city’s water; Humbolt county votes to ban GMO production.”

The role of experts

And this despite the fact that society invests in experts to research these questions and give answers to any questions we may have. As she says:

“If we, the people, get to decide on such important scientific matters democratically, then why do we spend billions of dollars, on institutions such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Academy of Sciences, USDA, FDA? Do we just fund them so that they can come up with recommendations and guidelines which we can then ignore depending on whether we find it convenient or if our favorite celebrity endorses it? I can use the term “we” here because I pay what feels like a kajillion dollars in US taxes, even though I’m not a citizen.

Each of the examples above has been extensively studied and guidelines have been offered. The EPA, NASA, and the FAA joined forces to write a document about chemtrails (believe it or not); the EPA and the Department of Health and Human services have done scientific assessments on the fluoridation of water; the FDA evaluates the safety of all GMOs and regulates them (if you’re of the opinion that the FDA is “bought off”, then here’s a report on GMOs from the National Academy of Sciences). Our tax dollars funded every one of these efforts, yet we’re still taking these issues to the ballot box”.

So – we should listen to, or take the advice, of those experts – after all, that is what we pay them for. And on most issues we happily do that:

“There are MANY matters where I know very little and feel comfortable deferring to experts: what material should be used when highways are built, what water purification system my county should use, and so on. My taxes paid for all these projects and they impact me directly. I spend 2 hours a day in my car. If those highways are not built properly, if the on ramps are not sturdy, if the Bay Area bridges are not properly maintained, I could be hurt or even die. I fail to see why we defer to subject matter experts on these topics, but not on others. I don’t see any direct ballot measures to decide on the amount of concrete used when paving a road. Yet somehow, we feel that it’s appropriate to tell farmers in Hawaii what they can and cannot plant. Somehow, we the people, think we know something that a professional in his/her field doesn’t.”

Why reject expert advice?

It is illogical for “we people [to] “think we know something that a professional in his/her field doesn’t.” Yet it happens – or more correctly – some of us get fooled into rejecting the advice of the professional expert on some matters.

Inevitably on these controversial issues where scientific claims are being bandied about like political slogans one can detect the activity of ideologically or commercially motivated groups wishing to misrepresent the science – or worse, personally attack or otherwise seek to discredit the experts who should be able to give the objective information needed.

The scientifically literate person may, if they have the time, be able to check out the claims and detect the misrepresentation or distortions promoted by such groups. But even without the scientific training “we people” can always maintain a healthy suspicion of any group seeking to discredit expert scientific advice or defame such experts. We may also be able to check out the groups themselves – to discover the ideological or commercial motives and decide whether they are worth listening to.

“The ideal solution here is education”

This is what Layla Parker-Katiraee advocates. This could be helped if more students were exposed to science and critical analysis in their education.

“In the meantime, there are a few things we can do:

1) Encourage children in our circle of influence to take science classes in high school and college, even if they’re pursuing a career in an unrelated field.

2) Scientists should step up their communication skills. There aren’t many scientists in the private sector involved in science communication or education. Many of us have been trained in presentation skills. Giving concise explanations or pitches are often required in the private sector. There’s no reason why you can’t expand that skill into a part time hobby.

3) Remember that we all have gaps in our knowledge. Working to fill those gaps rather than mocking them will go a long way.”

If we worked to educate ourselves and others in understanding the role and nature of science and in critical thinking then society would be better able to handle “controversial” scientific issues requiring democratic decisions.

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43 responses to “Democracy and expert advice on scientific issues

  1. As well as being ‘scientifically literate’, and therefore rejecting fluoridation on the basis of the evidence of the harm it does; and on my own personal experience of the effect it can have on one’s health and well being; I primarily reject it on the basis of my right to choose what goes into my body.
    I am spending thousands to avoid this nasty poison in my water supply – as well as the 1080 and numerous other contaminants dropped in our water catchment – lucky I have the choice to do so – for those that don’t it is no different than living in a totalitarian state being forced to drink what some one else proclaims protects against tooth decay – despite overwhelming evidence, including the MofH’s own statistics, that teeth in non-fluoridated areas have improved more than those in fluoridated regions.
    You keep trying to justify the inexcusable Ken – no matter how you dress it up, it’s a contemptible thing to do to anybody – least of all those who are likely to suffer the most and are likely to be the least able to escape this poisoning.
    Have the nasty horrible Christmas you deserve . . . :}


  2. There are well-trained scientific disinformation communicators about climate change.

    Of course food contains DNA. Much of it also contains MSG.

    When in a restaurant I ask if the food contains MSG I do not get a lecture about so much food containing natural MSG so I am stupid asking for none extra to be added. Instead I am politely told whether MSG is used in the cooking. Not like the way the disinformation people’s behaviour is.

    “Contains,” usually means something different or something of note.

    As for DNA as people hear of it is modified, and ready to jump. Of course people want to know.


  3. One technique of scientific disinformation is to use words a bit differently from how many people feel them. Like removing the negative connotations about “contains.” It is so often connected with warning, “contains zero mercury.”


  4. Regarding the NAS GMO report recommendations:
    Needs attention to sustainability
    Weed resistance trouble
    Water effects
    Only working for private gain, not public interest
    Stuartg will acknowledge the use of “could” regarding GMO crops when they have had so many years and not achieved. There have been some attempts but conventional/organic agriculture is beating them, produces so much more per dollar.

    “Many adopters of GE crops have experienced
    either lower costs of production or higher yields,
    and sometimes both”

    Over what duration? And note that measurements were taken on farms which were doing well then ventured into GMOs. Not fair to compare against the conventional crops left on the poorer farms where the farmers could not afford the GMO seed.

    Farmers may be wanting to move back to conventional or else the report would not be saying: ” the
    current developmental trajectory of GE-seed tech
    -nology towards multiple stacked traits is causing
    some farmers of soybean, corn, and cotton to express
    concern that access to seeds without GE traits or to
    seeds that have only the specific GE traits that are of
    particular interest to farmers will become increas
    -ingly limited.”

    And the NASA report is 5 years old.

    Since then the Deputy Secretary of Agriculture has been replaced by someone with a BA in journalism.


  5. Ken: “If we worked to educate ourselves and others in understanding the role and nature of science and in critical thinking then society would be better able to handle “controversial” scientific issues requiring democratic decisions.”


  6. Brian, can you explain what the hell it is you are bitching about regarding my article? – I am not going to bother with propaganda links – I want to hear your reasons – of you can articulate them.).


  7. Golden Rice the patent for which is in the public domain, is a very important element (not the only one) in addressing world-wide vitamin A deficiency, a leading killer of children and the cause of about 500,000 childhood cases of childhood blindness must surely end a blanket condemnation of GMO’s for any thoughtful human being. Aren’t we then back to turning to expert opinion for guidance?? Most of the opposition arguments I confront seem indistinguishable in nature from those of the anti-vaxxers, anti-fluoridationists and opponents of global warming. There is a nice course from the University of Queensland on the the characteristics of science denial.


  8. picker22 Golden RIce 1 had very little carotene. A tremendous amount would have to be eaten to get sufficient. Golden Rice 2 with 23 times more was illegally tested in China and scientists were dismissed and a USA scientist denied future grant money. The test that was done used an unrealistic amount of fat in the diet. GR2 does not have approval, 8 years after it was developed.

    Much money has been spent which would have been better spent on developing a proper diet with a range of nutrients required for health. GR probably won’t be proven to be much use.


  9. Ken your article has a lot of points to challenge.

    The RT video describes amongst other things the process of science progressing from the way you knew it, government funded, to funding coming from private companies who manipulate what is published.


  10. Brian, if you think my article needs challenging – then challenge it. I detail. The we can have a discussion.

    Use of the comments section for propaganda links is a cop out. I rarely follow such bare links so there is no point in using them.


  11. Brian Sanders never did answer the question put to him as to the extent his own scientific training and professional experience in the scientific arena.

    Yet is always pontificating on the claimed shortfalls of experts in the field.


  12. Ken, you referred to educating ourselves in critical thinking, and for one point you are looking at.:

    You quote, Layla: “This whole topic raises the question of whether scientific matters (such as food labeling) should be decided by a public that is not educated in the technical aspects or nuances of an issue. Should scientific matters be decided upon democratically?”

    Druker, in the video describes his struggles through the OIA to get data without which democracy cannot function. The video blurb contains: “How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public. Even though supporters of genetically engineered food say it’s perfectly safe – decades of scientific research says otherwise.”

    The so-called “expert” system, entwined with secrecy and responsibility to shareholders, is keeping the real experimental results hidden from the target market for the product. I think the video is material for “critical thinking” in that area.


  13. Richard, in a commercial environment the public cannot necessarily trust what a scientist is saying, therefore it may not help to specify training.


  14. Brian’s scientific training is probably indicated by his attempt to do a regression analysis on two data points!

    Anyway, it is irrelevant. As I point out in this article even someone without the skills to check claims can make an assessment based on the commercial and/or ideological links of the complainant. Brian’s sympathies are pretty obvious and we have seen plenty of examples of his naive misrepresentation of the science. We know not to trust him.

    Even someone with a PhD cannot be trusted if, like Paul Connett, they have financial and ideological links driving them to misrepresent the science.


  15. “Brian’s scientific training is probably indicated by his attempt to do a regression analysis on two data points!”

    I think my smile when I did that was pretty obvious.


  16. Ken: “Brian’s sympathies are pretty obvious”

    We can’t know about young scientists’ sympathies unless they are for the big companies because if they express doubts they lose grants or jobs.


  17. Ken: “Even someone with a PhD cannot be trusted if, like Paul Connett, they have financial and ideological links driving them to misrepresent the science.”

    And Ken whatever sort of training in statistics you came up against in your chemistry training it would have been rather different to that of a biology or psychology student.


  18. Irrelevant or not, Sandle refuses to answer the question.

    That speaks volumes.


  19. David Fierstien

    Greenbuzzer, your quote: “I am spending thousands to avoid this nasty poison in my water supply . . ”

    Well, G.B., since you already suffer from the delusion that drinking optimally fluoridated water is somehow harmful to you, can’t you just hallucinate an expensive R.O. water filter into existence? I understand Mercola has several nice models you can look at before the hallucination begins.


  20. David, fluoride in water has been said to work better than toothpaste because of the more frequent presence owing to drinking of water.

    In places where fluorosis is a problem then municipal authorities remove some fluoride from the water. I have seen a warning to avoid reducing the iodide at the same time, And there are other essential trace elements like molybdenum from molybdates in water.

    If you recommend reverse osmosis you should also recommend remineralisation of the drinking water. Farmers may be better at it, with selenium &c since deficit appears in their pocket, but who cares about humans?


  21. Those who are really into demtal health, which is supposed if they are supporting fluoridation, ought to be looking at molybdenum.

    “They got molybdenum and their molars lived in ’em”

    A nuisance? confounding factor which ought to be taken account of in studies.


  22. There are, of course, good basic chemical reasons for the beneficial role of F in bioapatites like bones and teeth.

    However, when I worked as Soil Bureau in the 60s I remember Bernard Healy talking about a possible role for Mo in teeth. He was one of the people who investigated the difference in the soils of Napier and Hastings as a result of the finding that dental health was better in Napier meaning they could not use it as a control city.

    Many different elements can play a role in apatites via isomorphous substitution but I have not really seen anything substantial since then suggesting a direct role for Mo in teeth (although a general beneficial role for health is understood).

    Do you have anything you can cite to back up your claim, Brian?


  23. That might be one reason why more of the Magpies come from Napier than Hastings then.

    This study is fairly new. It says water as a source of molybdenum is not important, but that it was in Hungary.

    Should we be looking at exploratory statistics more?


  24. So Brian, you had absolutely no reason for saying:

    ““They got molybdenum and their molars lived in ’em”

    A nuisance? confounding factor which ought to be taken account of in studies.”

    An implied criticism with nothing to back it up?


  25. Ken, I was just thinking that this can’t be easily brushed aside, from my URL:

    “There is evidence that trace elements, particularly molybdenum, in the water supply and in food, enhance the cariostatic effect of fluoride [Schutte, 1964]. For example, children fed on vegetables from the molybdenum-rich Napier area of New Zealand had fewer caries than children from other areas. Similar epidemiological studies in Europe and the United States have confirmed the cariostatic effect of molybdenum [Lossee and Bibby, 1970; Hadjimarkos, 1966; Anderson, 1969; Jenkins, 1967; Lossee and Adkins, 1971].”

    Schutte, K. H., The Biology of the Trace Elements, Crosby Lockwood and Son Ltd., London, 1964, 92.
    Lossee, F. L. and Bibby, B. G., New York State Dental Journal, 1970, 36, 15.
    Hadjimarkos, D. M., Anderson, R. J., Caries Res., 1969, 3, 75.
    Arch. Environ. Health, 1966, 13, 102.
    Jenkins, G., British Dental Journal, 1967, 435, 500, 545.
    Lossee, F. L. and Adkins, B. L., Geol. Soc. Amer., Mem., 1971, 123, 203.

    The question is whether the the effects of fluoride and molybdenum are seperate but additive or whether there may be a synergistic or catalytic effect between them.

    Could a bit more molybdenum spare some fluoride and a bit of fluorosis?

    I have felt that in discussing the fluoride/iodide question that some people want to think this: if thyroid trouble occurs in low iodide areas then it is only the low iodide causing it, and they don’t want to consider that fluoride might interacting in the mix.

    And they don’t seem to want to acknowledge any contribution in the mix from greater needs of pregnancy and risk to embryo.foetus.

    So there are a few mixes, but here is another one, where a genetic difference seems to change ability to cope with greater fluoride, and may add to those other mixes, too.

    Please respect minorities, I keep saying.

    And one study which is not to hand at the moment said that fluorosis hurts bones before teeth. Genetics may have been confounding that?


  26. Many of Soundhill’s beliefs about Golden Rice are inconsistent with information available. The newer strain which contains enough betacarotine to be nutritionally very important is beginning field testing in Bangladesh. Here are some links if anyone wants more information


  27. So far only seen from your refs a study in 2009 in which 5 people were trialled in a diet which contained: “A second standardized meal (lunch) was eaten by all volunteers 4 h after the breakfast meal; this second meal contained 60 g turkey meat, 50 g white bread, 20 g roasted cashew, and 100 g cucumber (peeled) salad with 15 g corn oil and 5 g vinegar (total energy: 600 kcal, 40% from fat).”

    How about pointing to something more representative, especially in terms of fat/oil of a poor diet?

    And how about a comment about the risk of transfer of antibiotic resistance marker genes when a large proportion of the diet contains them?

    Then there is the problem with changing one nutrient unnaturally as when smokers got 36% more cancer from beta carotene supplements.

    The IRRI have got permission to test the rice as far as growing it goes, but how about some proper work on safety and effectivenes in the intended diets?

    Contrary to what publicity tries to make us believe, it is not just a matter of putting in a gene to express a protein and that is all that happens. Monsanto has tended to do a safety test just on the intended protein. But genetic modification in the crops many people are eating in the USA especially, is haphazard and the strong promoter genes required to make the alien protein express also promote other genes in the genome. Attention should be given, for example, to extra hormonal effects such as whether the increased oestrogenic effect is one on the causes of increasing obesity. And the increased oestrogenic effect comes not only as a result of the actual genetic modification but also from the extra Roundup herbicide applied.

    Unless these matters are attended to this GR-2 can only be an expensive publicity stunt.


  28. Brian – no one is brushing things aside, as you claim. I think you naturally see conspiracies everywhere.

    I was the one who pointed you to bernard Healy’s work, after all.

    The literature on Mo and teeth is rather contradictory – and it doesn’t have the firm chemical basis that F has.

    As such your speculations are rather pointless – but the again you are the guy who did a regression analysis on 2 data points. I am afraid most of your speculations is similarly poorly founded. Although strongly founded in ideological bias.


  29. Ken, thanks very much for pointing to Healy’s work.

    Are you so sure it is known about how fluoride works? Some say that it may be bacteriostatic in the mouth. Others say it builds a stronger tooth structure.

    I have presented suggestion that proteolytic enzymes in mature dental plaque can concentrate fluoride in the plaque and on to the tooth surface. Living organisms can concentrate trace minerals. For example seaweed can concentrate iodine from some 0.05 ppm in seawater to 100s or 1000s of ppm.

    Our bodies keep fluoride as best they can at very low concentration in saliva. Why would they want lots of that very small halide in contact with food in the mouth?

    At least those 6 studies should be read through rather than brushing them aside.

    Yes I did do a rank correlation on two points, with a smile.

    A rank correlation on two points can only have three results, -1, 0 or +1.

    I suggest that my result did not give 0 or +1, though as I said the significance is poor. But I also have to laugh at you for doing linear regression when segmented regression should be considered.

    As a chemist testing a reaction of adding A to B to give C, it is easy to note that after a while B runs out and more A does not produce more C. Same thing has to be allowed for in biology, but it is not so obvious which of many factors may be running out. So keep a careful watch on the distributions for hints.


  30. Brian, it is silly to point to different acknowledged mechanisms to argue that we don’t understand how F plays its protective role. While at the same time somehow arguing that we are ignoring Mo when at the moment there is no acknowledged and understood role.

    Similarly it is silly to “laugh’ at me because you cannot justify your claim that “segmented regression should be considered.“

    Your lack of justification just illustrates a straw-clutching attempt to ignore the straightforward results in both cases.


  31. Soundhill1 . . personally I don’t care one way or another with respect to Roundup and mammalian biology. But it is an easy matter to show that you have selectively cited the existing literature.

    For example: Crit Rev Toxicol. 2015 Mar;45(3):185-208. doi: 10.3109/10408444.2014.1003423. Epub 2015 Feb 26.
    Evaluation of carcinogenic potential of the herbicide glyphosate, drawing on tumor incidence data from fourteen chronic/carcinogenicity rodent studies.
    Greim H, et al

    Quoting: ” After almost forty years of commercial use, and multiple regulatory approvals including toxicology evaluations, literature reviews, and numerous human health risk assessments, the clear and consistent conclusions are that glyphosate is of low toxicological concern, and no concerns exist with respect to glyphosate use and cancer in humans.”

    It is delusional to believe that some corporation, even Monsanto, has the power to seduce large numbers of scientists. The nature of open access to information and modern science is that baloney will have a pretty short half life.

    Glyphosate targets a plant cell enzyme system which mammals do not share. Selective citation is one of the signs of science denial. I do not have the time to become an expert in this matter. I observe that the WHO’s IARC has listed it as a carcinogen based on in vitro and some animal studies.

    It would appear that the expert opinion is divided with respect this issue.


  32. Hey picker22, Greim is talking glyphosate, I am talking of Roundup which is glyphosate combined with surfactant &c. stuff which makes it stick and sink in. Many times more toxic.

    Know the difference between trying to be washing dishes with cold water then putting detergent (surfactant) in?

    Which of the studies Greim reviewed was about Roundup?

    One way Monsanto have of stopping people know about Roundup is it is patented and they try to stop experimental work about it being published I think.


  33. picker22, this is from a Wiki about some substances in Roundup: “Glyphosate, AMPA, and POEA were not teratogenic or developmentally toxic….Likewise there were no adverse effects in reproductive tissues from animals treated with glyphosate, AMPA, or POEA in chronic and/or subchronic studies. Results from standard studies with these materials also failed to show any effects indicative of endocrine modulation. Therefore, it is concluded that the use of Roundup herbicide does not result in adverse effects on development, reproduction, or endocrine systems in humans and other mammals.

    The writer expects many readers to think that a mixture of the glyhphosate and the surfactants has no worse effect than the substances alone.

    They should have talked about them in combination.

    I remember a Youtube video interview with a former “greenie” changed over to supporting Monsanto. He said you could drink that weedkiller. But when offered a glass of it said he wasn’t mad and the interview ended.

    Here you go when it is a bit more concentrated:


  34. Seriously, you have data to show that the surfactant is part of the environmental residual over which there is oncogenic concern??


  35. picker22, here is an effect on cells, in vitro (like in a test tube) suggesting tests should have been done in living organisms (in vivo).

    “Glyphosate alone is less toxic than glyphosate in a Roundup
    formulation; both glyphosate and Roundup caused cell death
    which resulted in decreased progesterone levels
    in vitro, and endocrine disruption did not precede cytotoxicity. A 24h exposure to a concentration of Glyphosate (in Roundup) similar to that
    recommended as an acceptable level for Australian drinking water
    caused significant cytotoxicity in vitro, which supports a call for
    in vivo studies to characterise the toxicity of Roundup.”

    It is from a new journal which appears good with an editorial board including someone from Dow Corning.


  36. Richard wrote: “Irrelevant or not, Sandle refuses to answer the question.

    That speaks volumes.”

    I think Richard wants to know my quals so he can say to readers they may dismiss what I am saying.

    I hope people can think for themselves: find another way to decide whether what is being said is plausible or not, or needs further analysis.

    We talk about IQ. Say someone has a degree in psychology. Would that mean it has been drummed into them not to do exploratory statistics, only to to listen to “experts” and try to confirm something about what they are saying? Or might they be fortunate enough to be able to phrase their papers in a way that they could be accepted without being just confirmatory statistics?

    Here is an interesting bit of a paper on the subject of exploratory vs confirmatory:

    I have talked about being exploratory, and maybe, Richard, you will start to acknowledge such a category.


  37. Brian, one’s professional qualifications are perhaps only indicative and they or their absence surely do not necessarily disqualify a person from discussion. However, I cannot understand your shyness on the subject – particularly as you are being judged on the content of your comments anyway.

    I think it is doubly concerning for you to be so reticent when you are continually attempting to put down people with training or professional qualifications.

    Your latest comment is a blatant example. You say:

    “We talk about IQ. Say someone has a degree in psychology. Would that mean it has been drummed into them not to do exploratory statistics, only to to listen to “experts” and try to confirm something about what they are saying?”

    That implication is defamatory and rubbish. Of course people are human and qualifications or not confirmation bias is very common. You are continually demonstrated your own confirmation bias to a ridiculous degree (regression analysis of 2 or 3 data points and straw clutching at “segmented regression” for example).

    I can assure you from personal experience that exploratory analysis is not ruled out by experience and qualifications. I have often used it myself with big data sets. And sometimes the resulting insights can lead to future work.

    Your understanding of confirmatory analysis is weak. Sure people like Malit and Till and Peckham are guilty of that sin as they purposely avoided confounding factors which would have destroyed the confirmation of their models. But, by the same token, a limited check can useful (One would hope that these people would have moved on if their attempted confirmation did not give them the desired result).

    But you are taking “exploratory” analysis to a ridiculous level. You are no beeing exploratory in your naïve regression analyses or segmented analyses. You are simply trying to avoid the inevitable and straw clutching to defend a bias.


  38. Ken sometimes it helps a little to listen to small bits of data.

    If Windows is constantly offering to me to upgrade my older computer to Windows 10, and the upgrade assistant says all is good, do I accept that?

    Do I ignore some few voices who said they had trouble with Youtube after the upgrade?


  39. Brian Sandle, sans any qualifications in science or professional experience in the field, spends most of his waking hours picking delusionary fault in the work and conclusions of the scientific community..
    Predominantly, his criticisms, when not outright misconceptions, rely on cherry picking studies or parts of studies and upon tedious conjecture. Conjecture built on conjecture built on conjecture.

    Boring readers to distraction.

    He won’t publish. He doesn’t do any original research.

    He’s an internet pest.


  40. Ken, I think back to when I reported a source for some of my musical learning and Richard called it:
    “Richard Christie | February 14, 2015 at 11:26 pm |

    Soundhill, (@ comment) I don’t care who you learned about “dots” from. It’s just a weak appeal to authority.

    Your little excursion into an subject area (music) that I can modestly say is one that I have reasonable expertise in, has again demonstrated to me your predilection for bluster and puffery. ”

    Tails he wins, heads I lose.


  41. Brian, you are burbling again.


  42. Ken if you say it is burbling. Richard wants me to talk about my training. When I did report learning something from Dr Isidor Saslav, Concertmaster, NZSO at the time, he called it a weak appeal to authority.

    (Please also note as a musician I do not have to do what I have been trained to do, I follow the people around me.)

    I also note Richard is more into a series of put-downs rather than attempting to discuss issues.


  43. Ken: “Your latest comment is a blatant example. You say:

    I had written: “We talk about IQ. Say someone has a degree in psychology. Would that mean it has been drummed into them not to do exploratory statistics, only to to listen to “experts” and try to confirm something about what they are saying?”

    That implication is defamatory and rubbish. Of course people are human and qualifications or not confirmation bias is very common.”

    Ken that is a bit confusing bringing in confirmation bias when we are talking about confirmatory statistics. Need to acknowledge.

    I note in a google groups ref I gave on a recent thread, statistical educator Rich Ulman writing:

    “You can surely have more confidence in a statement
    if it is something that you set out for, based on reading
    the literature, and adding up what ought to make sense —
    rather than something that no-one ever thought of, or
    wants to believe in.”

    That has an interesting twist to it.


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