Tag Archives: What’s Up with That

Science Denier Anthony Watts Wants Your Financial Help

Anthony Watts, the famous climate science denier, is all a titter that he is presenting at the upcoming American Geophysical Union meetings.

First, I want to say, good for you, Anthony. Nothing wrong with a science denier going to a major international meeting that includes a lot of climate science and giving a poster. That is how these things work, this is a place to challenge the science. The establishment will not attempt to keep you away because they want you to be there, to make a contribution. I hope you get a lot of great feedback, and enjoy your trip to San Francisco.

Also, climate change is a pretty important issue in San Francisco.

“A slow-moving emergency” is how state assemblyman Rich Gordon (D-Menlo Park) describes the threat of rising seas in the Bay Area. According to Inside Bay Area, Gordon authored California’s first report on climate-related flooding, and his findings reveal a region woefully unprepared to manage water damage.

Per Inside Bay Area, San Francisco Bay rose 8 inches over the past century and could rise another 16 to 55 inches by 2100. Torrential storms and “king tides” could overwhelm infrastructure that’s not designed to withstand major flooding. Making matters worse is California’s own gradually eroding coastline. Coastal communities such as Pacifica have become media flashpoints thanks to images of houses literally slipping off of cliffs.

Anthony notes that he is a “member in good standing” of the AGU. That is nice. I am unaware of a “member not in good standing” category for the AGU, but maybe there is one.

Anthony is asking for donations to help him go to the AGU meetings. Previous years, he attended the AGU’s as a member of the “press” so he did not have to register. But this year, as a presenter, he has to pay the registration fee. He notes:

The cost of registration is $455, and the deadline is November 12th at 1159PM EDT to get that rate.

Add a hotel for 5-6 days at the typical $150-250 per night rate in SFO, plus incidentals, parking, etc. and the cost to attend easily tops $3000.

So, here’s the math:


I’m only kidding, of course, about the hookers. The chocolate makes sense, tho. Plus attending a couple of San Francisco’s great venues, taking a cab around the hilly city, maybe a trip up to Marin county for the redwoods. One could easily spend a thousand or two beyond food and shelter, and the registration costs. Certainly, if you support the idea of Anthony Watts attending AGU as a presenter and having his say, go and donate! And don’t begrudge him the extra cash to make the best of the trip.

Anthony makes some hay of the fact that his poster was accepted, indicating that this gives his poster some sort of credibility. However, posters are not especially vetted, and are certainly not peer reviewed. The AGU is huge, there are thousands of posters presented (this year, more than 23,000 oral and poster presentations, probably more than half are posters), and there is virtually no selection process. This is how it generally works with posters at huge meetings, and that is appropriate. It does not serve science in general to be too picky about these things … let the ideas abound! But also, let’s not assume any sort of stamp of approval, because there isn’t one. Indeed, sometimes a proposed talk is not accepted and instead you get to give a poster as a consolation prize.

Anthony also says he was “invited” to the conference. I’ve not done AGU, but I’ve heard that if a poster is accepted (and generally it will be), you get an “invitation,” probably by email, to the conference. The reason for the invitation is to bring a document to your academic department or employer to justify your time and possibly expenses, so your trip to the conference is not counted against your vacation time, or so you can dip into this or that pool of travel money to help cover your costs.

There are actual “invited” speakers. This is limited to a small number and are generally high level people talking about current important research. They usually get more minutes for their talk. Although I think posters could be “invited” in this sense, I understand that to be very rare. Anthony is not giving an “invited” poster, even if he happens to have a gracious email or letter of some kind.

Also, Anthony claims to be the only denier at the conference. That just isn’t true. Of the thousands of people attending the conference, there will be three or four deniers.

I’m being bit cynical here, for good reason. I do support Anthony’s attendance and I’m sure he’ll have a good time. But a lot of people who read Anthony’s blog have little actual conference experience and may not know how utterly routine giving a poster at the AGU is, and about the invitation bit. And about the chocolate.

By the way, his poster abstract can be seen on his blog post (linked to above). It is about heat island effects.

The featured image is from here.

Greg Laden, liar.

I know, right?

Anthony Watts, of the science-denialist Whats Up with That blog, has got his shorts in a knot because of a post I wrote indicating that he is a boob. He is upset because in a screen shot of him talking about a totally absurd pseudo-scientific claim that should have been rejected out of hand, I failed to include enough of the post to show that he was skeptical about the claim.

Let me be very very clear: This is not a claim to be skeptical about. This is a Teapot orbiting the Sun between Earth and Mars claim. A person who has reported debunked claims about alien life again and again, reporting in a fake scientific journal, has made an absurd claim. To understand the level of absurdity check out PZ Myers post, written after mine, which goes into more detail about the “journal.”

I did not need to show that Anthony Watts was skeptical because that wasn’t the point. The point was that it was funny that he was looking at this claim at all. But, fine, if he really needs me to include the snippet where he expresses his laughable skepticism, I can do that. Here, Watts says.

This looks to be a huge story, the first evidence of extraterrestrial life, if it holds up.

… thus indicating skepticism. I’m sorry I did not include that sentence in the … wait, wait, hold on a sec. Hey, I DID include that phase about “if it holds up” in the original post? But Watts is saying that I did not include any of his skeptical language. Who is this Anthony Watts guy, some kind of liar? Huh.

Maybe he means this bit, the bit after the phrase “Look at what the electron microscope shows of a sample purported to be from the meteorite:” … that’s where he says I cut off the post, let’s see what he says there. Of the claim of Alien Life stuck to a meteorite, Anthony Watts says

It looks convincing, and the paper says: “Contamination is excluded by the circumstance that the elemental abundances within the structures match closely with those of the surrounding matrix.“, but I remain skeptical of the claim.

Freshwater diatoms
So, it looks convincing, but remains skeptical. Convincing is worrying, “skeptical” is not good enough, which was the point of my original post and which was the point Phil Plait was making in his post on the same topic.

I’m sure most of my regular readers will see why this is really funny. I didn’t really cherry pick Watts. I showed how he posted on this claim of alien life stuck to a meteorite, and I did not claim that he had been taken in and I said nothing about his skepticism one way or another. But, Watts is a minor leader in the Science-Denialist movement focusing on climate change, and you all know that those folks life to cherry pick.

Does cherry picking really bother Anthony Watts this much, and his readers, who have commented heavily on my post? If so, then they should stop doing it themselves!

Watts complains that I don’t provide a link to the original story. It is against my blog policy to provide links to science denialist sites. It would be unethical for me to do that on a regular basis because it would enhance the google juice of pseudoscience. I’ve got children. I want them to grow up in a better world, not the world that Anthony Watts wants them to grow up in. So, no. Now and then, if necessary, I’ll link, but normally not.

Then he goes on and on with a really boring post, but there are two comments in that post I’ll address briefly.

First, he complains about spelling. I know, I suk as speling. But it isn’t just that. I have a disorder that causes this. I am disabled. When Anthony Watts make fun of my spelling he is being an “Abelist” (or is it Ableist? Whatever). Nice guy. But that’s OK, many people are unaware that such a condition exists. I’ve gotten used to the thoughtless comments about that, even from friends, and I do appreciate having the spelling errors pointed out.

Second, Anthony Watts says, “The difference between myself and Mr. Laden is that WUWT isn’t afraid to have topics for discussion that might be proven wrong.” That’s not true. At the moment, I’m getting ready for publication on this blog a post about the highly controversial yet very interesting Ozone Theory of tree death and, believe it or not, a post about Aquatic Ape Theory from one of the main proponents of that theory. Recently, I was ruthlessly attacked for my position on the Flores (Hobbit) hominids, and I’ve invited the author of that attack to give me a guest post. He’s not gotten back to me on that, but a third colleague who has an opinion that might be very different the one I expressed has agreed to do so. These should all be interesting posts! And, these are all examples of me engendering discussion of topics where my previously stated position may be proven wrong. This is science we’re doing here. Being proved wrong is one of our main objectives.

(The Ozone and Aquatic Ape posts are delayed by sickness in my family, which has taken a few days out of my schedule and caused me to spel even werse!)

One last item, about meteorites with life on them. There is actually no reason to believe that a meteor or two having fossil or isotopic evidence that conforms to would call life could land on us from Mars. There are all sorts of problems with such data, and it is good that we have Robots on Mars checking things out there more directly. But the sample in question may not even be a meteorite, and yes, anyone in the climate sciences who has the remotest clue about anything should recognize what a FW diatom looks like, not necessarily to identify it to genus or species, but sufficiently to be suspicious. This meteorite, the one Anthony Watts laughingly accepts as something to be “skeptical” about, is not the same thing at all. Not even close. In fact, it might not even be a meteorite, according to Phil.