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.
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.
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.
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.