The Search for Intelligent Life at WUWT

January 18, 2013

Watts Up With That (WUWT) is, of course, one of the internet’s largest manufacturers of whole-cloth bullshit in regard to climate change.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
And, hey, I’ll be the first to say, I owe  WUWT proprietor Anthony Watts a big debt – his creepy, paranoid attempt to block my video about his work did wonders for my circulation, and went a long way to put this video series on the radar.

I don’t write a lot about Anthony here, because I seriously try to avoid inside-baseball squabbles, and because they’re boring, and don’t really contribute to understanding on climate. But this story is just too effin rich to ignore.

The other day Watts posted a fairly typical, for him, “science” item about signs of extraterrestrial life on a meteorite. Hilarity ensued.

Greg Laden’s Blog:

You may know the blog What’s Up With That. It is Anthony Watt’s anti-science blog, dedicated to climate change denialism.

A current post reports the finding of life forms from another planet, in a meteorite.

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

This is from a recent meteorite find in December 2012. A large fire ball was seen by a large number of people in Sri Lanka on December 29th 2012, during that episode a large meteorite disintegrated and fell to Earth in the village of Araganwila which is few miles away from the city of Polonnaruwa.

Look at what the electron microscope shows of a sample purported to be from the meteorite:

Then he shows a picture of a rock with a bunch of contemporary Earth Based diatoms stuck to it.

It is very fun to read the comments. I provided a comment that will not be printed because Watts never prints my comments, but I’ve screen captured it for you (it is below).

Phil Plait has reviewed the Alien Life in the Meteor story here, and as I said, it is not alien life come to earth in a meteor. It is (I guess) a fragment of a meteorite with fresh water diatoms stuck to it. There are fresh water diatoms stuck to your shoe, your car tires, your dog, everywhere. The silica bodies of these tiny algae are part of the dust, not as numerous perhaps as skin cells or, certain times of the year, pollen, or the loess blowing off the melting glaciers and such, but common. This is why real scientists grind down the meteorite, cross sectioning it, before looking at the sample.

As Phil points out, this report is by a “scientist” who has made many outrageous and incorrect claims about aliens, reported in a journal that is famous for printing bogus and incorrect science, the methods are obviously bogus and anyone who knew anything about, say, climate studies (where fresh water diatoms are used all the time as proxyindicators) would at least be suspicious, and would know how to check for veracity of the claim.

Anthony Watts, the anti-science global warming denailist, was not equipped to recognize this bogus science as bogus. We are not surprised.

Bad Astronomy:

The paper was published online on a site called The Journal of Cosmology. I’ll get back to that august publication in just a moment. The lead author is N. C. Wickramasinghe, and as soon as I saw his name alarm bells exploded in my head. Wickramasinghe is a proponent of the idea of panspermia: the notion that life originated in space and was brought to Earth via meteorites. It’s an interesting idea and not without some merits.

However, Wickramasinghe is fervent proponent of it. Like, really fervent. So much so that he attributes everything to life in space. He’s said that the flu comes from space. He’s said SARS comes from space. He’s claimed living cells found in the stratosphere come from space. (There is no evidence at all they do, and it’s far more likely they are terrestrial.) He’s said a weird red rain in India was from space (when it’s been shown conclusively that it isn’t). The list goes on and on. Wickramasinghe jumps on everything, with little or no evidence, and says it’s from outer space, so I think there’s a case to be made for a bias on his part.

Now, you might accuse me of using an ad hominem, an argument that cast aspersions on the person making the claim, and not attacking the claim itself. I’ll get to the claim in a moment, but sometimes an ad hominem is warranted! If Sylvia Brown claims she can predict someone’s future, you would be right to doubt her based on her past, since she has continually failed in every attempt to do so. If Jenny McCarthy claimed botox cures autism, again, you might be forgiven for doubting it based on her previous anti-vaccine and other false claims. You still need to examine the claims on their own merits, of course, but: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

So, to be polite about it, Wickramasinghe is something of a fringe scientist. Who would publish a paper by him?

Well, I don’t know, but Anthony Watts would publicize it.

The story was reposted on ClimateProgress. Watts called the Waahm-bulance.

Greg Laden’s Blog:

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.

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37 Responses to “The Search for Intelligent Life at WUWT”


  1. OK. I have an anagram. NO LOG MO GUS. No logic, mo, gus. Dont feed trolls. Its a soft rhyme, but it works this time.

    Ever notice that humor is beyond deniers?

    My, what a humorless rumor mess.

    • omnologos Says:

      Yes, Christopher. Go on with your silly games, let me know when there is a coherent form of reasoning to reply to my argument.

      • jasonpettitt Says:

        “Yes, Christopher. Go on with your silly games, let me know when there is a coherent form of reasoning to reply to my argument.” ~ Omnologos

        See the previous comments. Including the one that points out that you’ve missed the point entirely and are having a conversation with yourself.

        • omnologos Says:

          Apart from the distint lack of humor shown throughout by Laden (seen on Twitter wondering why don’t all the people on his side support him even when he is being untrue and manipulative), the only reason I am having a conversation with myself is that there is nobody here with any argument to respond to the one I made (the omission of the “extraordinary claim” bit from Laden’s screenshot).

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            See the previous comments.

            Read them, try and understand them. If you’re not prepared to do that it’s bad faith on your part to claim that they haven’t been written.

            Better still. Apply some skepticism. Understand that methodological skepticism is at heart a position of self doubt – of applying a questioning attitude to the veracity of your own position (for example you could wonder ‘am I really an expert in a vast number of fields?’). And then ponder on whether you’ve really made a strong case (and the burden of evidence is in your court) that qualifying a statement with ‘….if it holds up’ doesn’t apply a question to the statement (if you struggle with this, the clue is in the use of the word ‘if’).

            But again, this isn’t even about skepticism. This is about Watts applying his usual shtick to pastures new and looking like an instant ass in the process, and everyone else enjoying the light relief.

            Question: What proportion of fringe claims about the discovery of space aliens turn out to be “huge” stories?

          • omnologos Says:

            You have provided no counterarguments to what I have written. Perhaps you have not read anything I have written.

            Go ahead then, open a blog if you don’t have one and publish any rubbish story concluding “if it holds up”, then defend your “skepticism”. Or proclaim you are skeptical of homeopathy without explaining the bit about “extraordinary evidence”.

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            Sigh.

            “You have provided no counterarguments to what I have written…” ~ omnologos

            What you’ve written is that qualifying a statement with ‘…if it holds up’ doesn’t use a question to entertain the idea that the statement might not hold up. However, it self evidently does. BECAUSE THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THE WORDS SAY.

            But that still isn’t what this is about. This is about judgement (or lack of it).

            And no, quoting notable phrases doesn’t make you a skeptic anymore than wearing a Nike T-shirt makes you an athlete (or even an omnoathlete).

            “Go ahead then, open a blog if you don’t have one and publish any rubbish story concluding “if it holds up”, then defend your ‘skepticism’.” ~ omnologos

            Oh, I think Watts is doing more than enough of that already.

            But okay then – how’s this :D

            Homeopathy cures all known cancer! This looks to be huge, if it holds up.

            I’m skeptical ~ extraordinary claims/extraordinary evidence and all that, it might not be legit so I had a look, but it seems like it could be legit.

            Not sure about the journal it’s published in though, could be dodgy. I asked my friend who publishes in dodgy journals. “No, this one’s really dodgy, it’s full of stuff so dodgy we wouldn’t even post about it at Watts Up [oh wait, now we are, ed], but some of my friends have published in this journal, so perhaps it’s okay.”

            I’m still not 100% sure.

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            p.s. Next week in my blog I’m releasing a ground breaking study.

          • omnologos Says:

            Are you making my point? Obviously anybody cutting your statement at “if it holds up” without even linking back to the original for people to read your thoughts in full, would be rightly accused of trying a cheap fabrication, an out-and-out lie designed to make you look like a fool.

            With the inclusion of the bit about “extraordinary evidence”, that denotes familiarity with the basic tenets of skepticism and science, your statement on homeopathy would instead suggest the reader that you do not know enough about the history of homeopathic claims. And like I said, Watts’ only sin has been not knowing enough about Wickramasinghe and his previous publications: because the bar of “extraordinary evidence” raises even higher when the proponent is a serial bombastic machine like Wickramasinghe.

            In fact, the HuffPo has made the same mistake, compounding it with an absurd case of false balance. The fact that nobody cares what many thousands are reading in an Internet MSM publication, and we are still talking about a blog post at WUWT, reinforces the idea that this polemic has only been a cheap fabrication. Shame on those who haven’t been skeptical enough to understand Laden’s behavi

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            Oh dear.

          • jasonpettitt Says:

            Look, the citation Laden provided ‘A current post at the blog ‘Watts Up With That…’ was ample to find the post at the blog ‘Watts Up With That’. How do I know? Because I used it to find Watts’ original post on his blog. QED.

            Protesting that there wasn’t also the additional convenience of a physical clickable linky (ultimately a stylistic choice, not an ethical obligation, see previous comments) is just special pleading. And desperate. And sad.

            We had a laugh at Anthony’s expense. It was fun. We’ve moved on now. So should you.

            “Huffpo did this, MSN did that…” – omnologos.
            More fool them.

          • omnologos Says:

            You had a laugh. Others, I am not so sure. They definitely missed out many chances to simply state they were just having a laugh.

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “Ever notice that humor is beyond deniers?”

      Yes.

      I’ve made a pact with myself to try hard to avoid feeding the trolls. If at first they don’t come to their senses, it seems inevitable they never will due either to intransigence regarding their propaganda agenda or terms of employment or else the matter of sheer stupidity.

      Paid trolls are a well known negative aspect of open comment boards. And as Einstein pointed out, there are two things that are infinite. The Universe and human stupidity. Though he was uncertain about the former.

  2. MorinMoss Says:

    This has to be, by far, the most posts by MaMo the All-Knowing in quite some time.
    It’s obvious that he leans more towards the WhoaWhoosh-ian mentality but his slavish defence of Willard is likely to earn him favored bumboy status from the Cooligan Crowd.


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