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-   -   Scientists and other Scholars who publish work considered "crank" by most peers (http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=790371)

Frylock 04-14-2016 07:13 AM

Scientists and other Scholars who publish work considered "crank" by most peers
 
This is probably a big ask but I am hoping to find out who exists--or has recently existed--who fits the following criteria:

1. Is an academic who could be considered well-published in their field
2. Has a view that is considered not just wrong, but "crank" levels of wrong, by a large number--preferably most or even all--others in their field
3. At least occasionally speaks about and publishes about this "crank" idea in peer-reviewed or otherwise "gated" well-established venues* in their field--venues universally or near-universally considered reliable academic venues by people in the relevant field

*so like, journals, conferences, curated academic web/blog sites, etc.

The best example I can think of is any proponent of String Theory, which isn't really a good example at all. But it's my understanding that many physicists do despair that String Theory is at crank-ish "not even wrong" levels of "wrong."

What better examples exist? Are there really biologists out there, for example, who could be considered realistically to be "respected scientists," in the sense outlined above, who openly espouse and even get stuff published on creationism or Intelligent Design? Climate scientists who do the same arguing against global warming? Etc.

Princhester 04-14-2016 07:27 AM

Bjorn Lomborg could be considered a candidate.

USCDiver 04-14-2016 07:27 AM

I think the Anti-vax researcher, Andrew Wakefield is the poster child for this.

BrotherCadfael 04-14-2016 07:41 AM

The classic example was "continental drift". There was some evidence (magnetic traces, mostly) that continents could move and had moved, but until a workable mechanism (plate tectonics) was proposed to explain how it could happen, "Continental Drift" was a fringe theory and proponents were considered nuts.

One of the very, very, very few cases of complete woo ultimately becoming the dominant paradigm.

Unfortunately often cited by current advocates of woo.

Grey 04-14-2016 07:51 AM

You'd be wrong about String Theory. It's isn't crankish nonsense but it does get a lot of attention despite being just one approach amongst many to get past the standard model and tie the 4 fundamental forces together.

I was thinking of Roger Penrose and his attempts to tie consciousness to to quantum events in the brain. He's deeply respected in theoretical physics and mathematics but his views on consciousness are basically dismissed.

Frylock 04-14-2016 07:53 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by BrotherCadfael (Post 19259133)
The classic example was "continental drift". There was some evidence (magnetic traces, mostly) that continents could move and had moved, but until a workable mechanism (plate tectonics) was proposed to explain how it could happen, "Continental Drift" was a fringe theory and proponents were considered nuts.

One of the very, very, very few cases of complete woo ultimately becoming the dominant paradigm.

Unfortunately often cited by current advocates of woo.

Yeah that's a good example albeit a very old one, and your last line is unfortunately apropos because I am trying to advocate for an idea a lot of people think is woo but which there _are_ a handful of relevant serious respected scholars who say the idea should at least be taken seriously. So I'm trying to show this idea is in a better position than other "crank" ideas in at least that regard. I hope I'm right. ;)

Frylock 04-14-2016 07:57 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Grey (Post 19259153)
You'd be wrong about String Theory. It's isn't crankish nonsense but it does get a lot of attention despite being just one approach amongst many to get past the standard model and tie the 4 fundamental forces together.

I was thinking of Roger Penrose and his attempts to tie consciousness to to quantum events in the brain. He's deeply respected in theoretical physics and mathematics but his views on consciousness are basically dismissed.

Does he present these ideas successfully in "gated" and peer-reviewed venues? Or is it something he talks about just in his popular works?

Grey 04-14-2016 08:01 AM

Phys Life Rev. 2014 Mar;11(1):39-78. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 20.
Consciousness in the universe: a review of the 'Orch OR' theory.

Fretful Porpentine 04-14-2016 08:10 AM

Roger Stritmatter would probably qualify in literary studies: he's a full professor at Coppin State University, best known for maintaining a website dedicated to the proposition that the Earl of Oxford wrote the works of Shakespeare. IIRC, he's got at least some publications in respectable venues that touch on this idea.

cjepson 04-14-2016 08:13 AM

A request for clarification: Are you asking for:

(a) respected scholars who
(b) have something that is widely considered a crank belief and
(c) have publications supporting that belief in peer-reviewed journals?

If so, I'm not sure there's anyone who meets all three criteria... if a belief is truly considered "crank" by most peers (as specified in your thread title), then it seems to me that, by definition, it's not likely to get past a peer review.

(On edit: I'm thinking mainly of scientists. This may not be as true for other scholars.)

Ignotus 04-14-2016 08:31 AM

Linus Pauling (Nobel laureate) had, in his later years, some weird ideas about vitamin C and whatnot. I believe he even had some articles on this subject published in well-renowned journals.

friedo 04-14-2016 08:35 AM

How about Linus Pauling. He is one of the most important theoretical chemists who contributed a great deal to chemistry and quantum physics and won two (!) Nobel Prizes. (OK, one of them was a peace prize, but the other was for chemistry.) He also discovered the biochemical mechanism of sickle-cell anemia.

He was also a Soviet sympathizer, and wrote a book How to Live Longer and Feel Better which advocated that everyone take huge doses of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and that this would cure all your ills. I'm pretty sure this is where the myth of Vitamin C curing or preventing colds comes from. He later published papers asserting that Vitamin C could treat heart disease, atherosclerosis, and other maladies.

His experimental trials were laughably bad with poor controls, and followup studies using proper controls found no difference between Vitamin C and placebo for all of these conditions.

Busy Scissors 04-14-2016 08:46 AM

James Lovelock is held in extremely highly regard - on account of his obvious brilliance and achievements as a scientist outside of the 'system' - but I'm not sure how seriously his Gaia hypotheses are taken. Suspect they might be referred to as 'crank theories' had a less distinguished scientist rolled them out.

Should say that I've not read the papers, and thinking about very large regulatory systems and network effects in biospheres all sounds sensible. I believe he went a long way past that, though, with little data or mechanistic ideas to hand.

Les Espaces Du Sommeil 04-14-2016 08:59 AM

Linguist Merritt Ruhlen is a lecturer in Anthropological Sciences at Stanford. His efforts to reconstruct the Proto-Human language, the highly conjectural common ancestor of all the world's languages has very few supporters and loads of critics. According to the latter, his theories fall into the "not-even-wrong" category.

"... the search for global etymologies is at best a hopeless waste of time, at worst an embarrassment to linguistics as a discipline, unfortunately confusing and misleading to those who might look to linguistics for understanding in this area" (Campbell and Poser 2008:393).

LSLGuy 04-14-2016 09:17 AM

Truly famous names can sometimes get bunk published. Often bunk that's not really up their main area of expertise. Such as Penrose on consciousness or Pauling on vitamin C.

I'm not sure how examples of this support the OP's desire that his particular flavor of "Eminent scientist both supports bunk and gets it published ... a little" be accorded extra respect.

Science publishing is ultimately a human social phenomenon. It's not purely social as in Facebook "likes". But the social aspects of peer review and noteworthiness are things which detract from the truth value of the totality of a given journal's output, not contribute to it. Said another way if you're looking at two articles, one by a big name and one by a nobody, it's more likely the nobody has done the better research and found the better truth.

IOW, bunk remains bunk even if it's popular and celebrities like it. Whether those are entertainment celebrities or science celebrities.

The fact a broken calendar has been right twice in a century is no reason to decide that broken calendars are good Oracles.

Some Call Me... Tim 04-14-2016 09:18 AM

Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, depending on how you define recent. They managed to publish by inertia after nearly everyone had concluded their Cold Fusion was woo.

Oh, and nobel prize winning physicist Brian Josephson now believes in lots of hardcore woo including parapsychology, but he's not now publishing in the same peer reviewed areas as his earlier, more respectable, work.

Frylock 04-14-2016 09:22 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by LSLGuy (Post 19259384)
Truly famous names can sometimes get bunk published. Often bunk that's not really up their main area of expertise. Such as Penrose on consciousness or Pauling on vitamin C.

I'm not sure how examples of this support the OP's desire that his particular flavor of "Eminent scientist both supports bunk and gets it published ... a little" be accorded extra respect.

Quite the opposite--my expectation/hope is that what I described in the OP is a really rare thing.

Exapno Mapcase 04-14-2016 09:24 AM

Fred Hoyle has to be the champ.


Quote:

In addition to his views on steady state theory and panspermia, Hoyle also supported the following controversial theories:
  • The correlation of flu epidemics with the sunspot cycle, with epidemics occurring at the minimum of the cycle. The idea was that flu contagion was scattered in the interstellar medium and reached Earth only when the solar wind had minimum power.[citation needed]
  • The fossil Archaeopteryx was a man-made fake.[34] This assertion was definitively refuted by, among other strong indications, the presence of microcracks extending through the fossil into the surrounding rock.
  • The theory of abiogenic petroleum, where natural hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) are explained as the result of deep carbon deposits, instead of fossilized organic material. "The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time."[citation needed]
  • The use of the fifty-six Aubrey holes at Stonehenge as a system for the neolithic Britons to predict eclipses, using them in the daily positioning of marker stones as proposed in his 1977 book On Stonehenge. The use of the Aubrey holes for predicting lunar eclipses was originally proposed by Gerald Hawkins whose book of the subject Stonehenge Decoded (1965) predates Hoyle's.[citation needed]


Quartz 04-14-2016 09:38 AM

Eric Laithwaite is a good example. My father was actually present at his infamous lecture.

Surreal 04-14-2016 09:40 AM

Stephen Jay Gould

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/science/14skull.html

http://lesswrong.com/lw/kv/beware_of_stephen_j_gould/

http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/evolute.html

Fretful Porpentine 04-14-2016 09:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by cjepson (Post 19259201)
A request for clarification: Are you asking for:

(a) respected scholars who
(b) have something that is widely considered a crank belief and
(c) have publications supporting that belief in peer-reviewed journals?

If so, I'm not sure there's anyone who meets all three criteria... if a belief is truly considered "crank" by most peers (as specified in your thread title), then it seems to me that, by definition, it's not likely to get past a peer review.

In Stritmatter's case, my understanding is that his peer reviewed publications tend to be "stealth Oxfordianism"; for example, one of the obstacles to Oxford's authorship is that he died in 1604, and at least ten of Shakespeare's plays are generally agreed to have been written after that date. So Stritmatter's modus operandi is to argue for an earlier date for one of these works in a peer-reviewed journal (an idea that most mainstream Shakespeare scholars might consider unlikely, but not inherently nutty), without directly arguing that somebody other than Shakespeare wrote it -- and then make the Oxford connection in a non-peer-reviewed venue. Or to argue in a peer-reviewed venue that a passage in Shakespeare alludes to a particular Biblical passage -- a mainstream, non-controversial argument in itself -- and then point out on his website that this passage is underlined in Oxford's personal copy of the Bible.

Francis Vaughan 04-14-2016 09:55 AM

Yeah, Fred Hoyle is one of the first to come to mind. Which is really sad. He richly deserved a free trip to Stockholm, but his less mainstream ideas made him unpalatable. His Steady State theory of the universe probably really made it hard. But he gave us the Big Bang as a name, and of course neucleogenesis.

There are quite a few cranks around in acedemia who push ideas outside of their area of expertese. I have personally come across a couple. One local geophysisist tries to debunk global warming, and there are a few creationalists about to say the least.

Really Not All That Bright 04-14-2016 09:59 AM

Fred Hoyle and canals on Mars immediately came to mind. I think another good example would be Lord Kelvin and his views on the age of the earth (though to be fair science was only just beginning to show how much older it was).
Quote:

Originally Posted by USCDiver (Post 19259093)
I think the Anti-vax researcher, Andrew Wakefield is the poster child for this.

Wakefield's work is no longer being published in any reputable journal, though. At the time when his original vaccination work was published in The Lancet it was seen as cutting edge rather than crazy. It wasn't until people figured out he falsified his data that everyone (including his peer reviewers and co-authors) caught on.

wevets 04-14-2016 10:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Frylock (Post 19259071)
This is probably a big ask but I am hoping to find out who exists--or has recently existed--who fits the following criteria:

1. Is an academic who could be considered well-published in their field
2. Has a view that is considered not just wrong, but "crank" levels of wrong, by a large number--preferably most or even all--others in their field
3. At least occasionally speaks about and publishes about this "crank" idea in peer-reviewed or otherwise "gated" well-established venues* in their field--venues universally or near-universally considered reliable academic venues by people in the relevant field


Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.

Meets part 1 of your #3 criteria - he was just here yesterday speaking about it (a colleague is a former student of his & keeps inviting him) - although he hasn't published anything in respectable journals about it in years. His webpage lists a 2011 publication on AIDS in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, which I never heard of before today and I doubt has a high level of prestige.

Francis Vaughan 04-14-2016 10:33 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright (Post 19259505)
I think another good example would be Lord Kelvin and his views on the age of the earth

Lord Kelvin simply worked out the age of the Earth based upon heat transfer calculations. He was smart enough to know that the assumption that the Earth had no internal heat source was important to his analysis. He did live long enough to see radioactive sources discovered, but only just. Although devout, he was also smart enough to temper his beliefs about the world with science. Where it gets hard for him is when there were important discoveries yet to be made that invalidated some of his calculations. Nuclear fusion and thus the age of the sun being the obvious gap. But his beliefs were rooted in solid application of scientific knowledge as it was at the time. He wasn't a crank.

Colibri 04-14-2016 11:01 AM

That's not remotely a good example. Gould's views may be controversial but are not considered to be "crank levels of wrong." And the last two "cites" are a blog and a speech by an economist. Not exactly a good indication of Gould's reputation in the field.

Fiveyearlurker 04-14-2016 11:14 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wevets (Post 19259534)
Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.

Meets part 1 of your #3 criteria - he was just here yesterday speaking about it (a colleague is a former student of his & keeps inviting him) - although he hasn't published anything in respectable journals about it in years. His webpage lists a 2011 publication on AIDS in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, which I never heard of before today and I doubt has a high level of prestige.

I came to nominate Duesberg. We actually had him come give a talk when I was in graduate school. At this point, I think he has to know that he is wrong, but he was so invested in it, that his pride isn't letting him backtrack.

Surreal 04-14-2016 11:16 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Colibri (Post 19259736)
That's not remotely a good example. Gould's views may be controversial but are not considered to be "crank levels of wrong." And the last two "cites" are a blog and a speech by an economist. Not exactly a good indication of Gould's reputation in the field.

Okay, but no comments at all on the first link? The one that said "almost every detail of his analysis is wrong", “Ironically, Gould’s own analysis of Morton is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results”, and "I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”

Earl Snake-Hips Tucker 04-14-2016 11:22 AM

Kary Mullis

Colibri 04-14-2016 11:37 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Surreal (Post 19259779)
Okay, but no comments at all on the first link? The one that said "almost every detail of his analysis is wrong", “Ironically, Gould’s own analysis of Morton is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results”, and "I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”

Gould is certainly no charlatan. That's only one of many books. He's been a very influential figure in evolutionary biology. And being biased about a certain idea and getting an analysis wrong does not make him a crank. If so, there would be a pretty large number cranks among scientists.

Again, you are quoting a newspaper report rather than the opinion of Gould among actual scientists. And the article also contains this quote:

Quote:

As for the new finding’s bearing on Dr. Gould’s reputation, Dr. Kitcher said: “Steve doesn’t come out as a rogue but as someone who makes mistakes. If Steve were around he would probably defend himself with great ingenuity.”
In this and other cases, Gould interpreted data to fit his own intellectual framework. But that's been the case for many influential scientists. It doesn't make them cranks.

Ignotus 04-14-2016 11:50 AM

And there are of course Phillip Lenard, Johannes Stark et al., whose campaign for "Deutsche Physik" against relativity and quantuum mechanics in Nazi Germany may, however, have been more of an act in bad faith and a sign of moral cowardice rather than genuine crankiness.

Senegoid 04-14-2016 11:54 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan (Post 19259493)
There are quite a few cranks around in acedemia who push ideas outside of their area of expertese. I have personally come across a couple. One local geophysisist tries to debunk global warming, and there are a few creationalists about to say the least.

Several examples given here are/were noted scholars who published crankish stuff outside of their field, or at the fringes of their field. But OP seems to be asking, more specifically, for crankish stuff published by noted scholars within their field.

If we allow examples of scholars delving into matters beyond their field of expertise, then let's not forget William Shockley, developer of the transistor, the man who "brought silicon to Silicon Valley" and who, later in his career, became a strong proponent of eugenics and "voluntary sterilization" for anyone with IQ under 100. IIRC, he became especially noted -- and scorned -- when he began pushing theories of certain races being genetically inferior to certain other races.

mozchron 04-14-2016 11:59 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by wevets (Post 19259534)
Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.

Came in to nominate Duesberg as well. Also Mullis.

Senegoid 04-14-2016 12:03 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Ignotus (Post 19259867)
And there are of course Phillip Lenard, Johannes Stark et al., whose campaign for "Deutsche Physik" against relativity and quantuum mechanics in Nazi Germany may, however, have been more of an act in bad faith and a sign of moral cowardice rather than genuine crankiness.

Was this just something that Nazi ideology seemed to require?

Sounds akin to Lysenkoism in Russia, which was, at its core, a kind of ideological contortion of biological science that seemed to fit well with the Soviet concepts of communalism. Or something like that.

wevets 04-14-2016 12:18 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Surreal (Post 19259779)
Okay, but no comments at all on the first link? The one that said "almost every detail of his analysis is wrong", “Ironically, Gould’s own analysis of Morton is likely the stronger example of a bias influencing results”, and "I had the feeling that his ideological stance was supreme. When the 1996 version of ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ came and he never even bothered to mention Michael’s study, I just felt he was a charlatan.”


Is that enough to make Gould a crank? Crank ideas usually don't come in the form: "he believed Morton was wrong."



Crank ideas, to me, are more of the form:
HIV doesn't cause AIDS

Sunspots are a cause of viral disease outbreaks

Vitamin C is a cure-all medicine

The nation that controls Magnesium controls the Universe

Psychic consciousness and memory exist independent of neurons and brain chemistry

Dianetics



I don't think "Morton was wrong" qualifies as a "crank" idea even if Gould's analysis was hilariously wrong, or even dishonest.

lazybratsche 04-14-2016 12:30 PM

There are a number of biologists who study aging that, IMHO, dance right on the line separating paradigm-breaking research and crankdom*, or pharmaceutical research and snake-oil sales.

Specifically, I'll mention Aubrey de Grey as crank-ish. He's the subject of many breathless articles in the popular press about how we will Cure Aging Forever! But the vast majority of his academic publications have been commentaries and review articles, mostly in a journal that he runs. However, he also runs a small research foundation that does does plenty of legitimate, if unconventional, research.

*The easiest way I've found to find candidate cranks is on TED talks. Even the more grounded scientists (whose work I am very familiar with) that give such presentations are encouraged to make ever more grandiose and unsupported claims... I now assume similar phenomenon happen in just about every other subject of a TED talk, where some core nugget of truth is stretched and distorted beyond all recognition, all in the service of empty intellectual preening.

Ignotus 04-14-2016 12:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 19259916)
Was this just something that Nazi ideology seemed to require?

Sounds akin to Lysenkoism in Russia, which was, at its core, a kind of ideological contortion of biological science that seemed to fit well with the Soviet concepts of communalism. Or something like that.

Well, Einstein and Max Born were Jews. And any Jewish theory must be wrong, right? See the logic?

And yes, I think the short and ugly history of Lysenkoism is a totally parallell phenomenon.

yabob 04-14-2016 01:00 PM

What about all the late 19th century scientists who bought into spiritualism, such as Crookes, Pierre Curie and Alfred Russell Wallace?

DrDeth 04-14-2016 01:19 PM

He started out as one of the most readable scientists out there, but then started beating one drum very very loudly and constantly (as evidenced in your first link) which got very tiresome.

DrDeth 04-14-2016 01:20 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Really Not All That Bright (Post 19259505)
Fred Hoyle and canals on Mars immediately came to mind. .

Are you thinking Percival Lowell? :confused:

Atamasama 04-14-2016 01:33 PM

Would Nikola Tesla count? His contributions to science are unquestioned but he had some really out-there ideas, especially later on in life.

LSLGuy 04-14-2016 01:44 PM

I think he's pretty much the archetype of "bleeding edge scientist becomes obviously crazy crank."

zimaane 04-14-2016 01:57 PM

Jeff Meldrum is a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. Not dean of Harvard, but nothing to sneeze at either.

His main research area is Bigfoot, in whose existence he passionately believes:

http://www.oregonlive.com/today/inde..._publishe.html

Frylock 04-14-2016 02:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Senegoid (Post 19259887)
Several examples given here are/were noted scholars who published crankish stuff outside of their field, or at the fringes of their field. But OP seems to be asking, more specifically, for crankish stuff published by noted scholars within their field.

That's correct. :)

Chronos 04-14-2016 02:40 PM

Hoyle was the second person I thought of. The first, though, was Mordehai Milgrom, who's long been pushing the hypothesis that there is no dark matter, and that instead gravity itself is modified in some way. The problem is that his Modified Newtonian Gravity can't fit all of the many different dark matter observations at once, it's very difficult to make it even self-consistent, and nobody has ever even proposed a relativistic form of the model. It may be that he's stumbled upon some interesting emergent phenomenon in dark matter distributions in galaxies, but it's obscured behind his mountains of nonsense.

araminty 04-14-2016 02:53 PM

This example doesn't fit neatly into the OP's requirements, but it's an interesting story. Zoology blogger Darren Naish describes it as "taxonomic vandalism." Here's his post on the issue.

The particular idiot in question is an amateur herpetologist, who, for his own bizarre reasons, has taken it upon himself to rename and reclassify Australian reptile fauna. He has succeeded in publishing a LOT of papers, by dint of founding his own "journal." Because of the ICZN's established rules of taxonomy, including the Principle of Priority, the ludicrous new names he applies are, technically, valid.

The guy (I'm not using his name, as he probably has Google alerts up the wazoo and is loudly defensive of his "work") is also known as a cowboy snake exhibit, draping venomous snakes, that he has surgically altered, all over children. He gives me the heebie-jeebies. I really wish he would stop.

dtilque 04-14-2016 02:57 PM

Some examples no one's mentioned yet:

Halton Arp, an astronomer who disagreed with the Big Bang. He thought quasars were associated with relatively nearby galaxies, rather than being extremely distant phenomena.

More Big Bang non-agreers were Geoffrey and Margaret Burbidge.


In geology, Samuel Carey advocated that plate techtonics was driven by the Earth expanding rather than subduction.

SmartAlecCat 04-14-2016 04:20 PM

John Christy, climate change denier. One of the few competent, intelligent climate scientists who do so.

wolfpup 04-14-2016 04:33 PM

There are tons of examples in the ever-popular and lucrative field of climate change denial, literally far too many to list. But one of the more notorious ones was the physicist Frederick Seitz, who was among other things the recipient of the National Medal of Science and was the president of Rockefeller University and, incredibly, was for a time president of the National Academy of Sciences. He was also pathologically dishonest and had all the integrity of a sewer rat, first contracting with R.J. Reynolds to lend his credentials to undermining the science about the dangers of tobacco, then launching an all-out attack on climate science.

Seitz was one of the key principals behind the disreputable Oregon Petition in which a large number of scientists allegedly questioned the reality of climate change, wherein it turned out many of the names were completely fabricated and the rest either worked in completely unrelated fields or else had their views misrepresented. The Oregon Petition was accompanied by a 12-page article questioning climate change that looked exactly like a paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which turned out to be a forgery created by Seitz and which precipitated an extraordinary public reprimand from the NAS.

There are also a very small number of real scientists working in the field of climate science who knowingly publish garbage. Willie Soon and Sallie Baliunas are two names often found together in this context. Roy Spencer is another, a name almost invariably found on the Internet as "Roy Spencer, Ph.D." to make it clear what you're dealing with when you deal with Roy. Spencer is simply a far-right political ideologue misappropriating and distorting science for political objectives. Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick are another dynamic duo particularly noteworthy for their incessant attacks on the distinguished climate scientist Michael Mann. McKitrick is actually a mining engineer but McIntyre is an academic mathematician, and the duo published a paper making some minor but ultimately irrelevant criticisms of some of Mann's statistical methods. McIntyre has been beating that same dead horse on his Internet blog ever since, and complaining that no one wants to publish his brilliant observations any more.

Another interesting one is Richard Lindzen, among the more prestigious of the quacks because he was actually a reputable atmospheric physicist at MIT until his retirement a few years ago. His modus operandi was simple, and was basically modeled on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. In the scientific domain he would publish (usually) reputable research, but his public persona was that of a staunch denialist. He would say things in public speeches and op-eds in papers like the Wall Street Journal that were scientifically laughable, but because he had a long string of legitimate publications and was a well-known academic -- at MIT, no less -- his words were perceived by many to carry a credibility that had absolutely no justification.

Freeman Dyson is in a different category entirely. He was a brilliant physicist who is now extremely elderly and, apparently, rather senile, and has somehow persuaded himself that climate models are inherently flawed and that, by extension, everything we think we know about the future of climate is wrong. There are actually a number of these individuals suffering some form of dementia peddling similar nonsense, but Dyson is perhaps among the most storied.

It seems to me that the Seitz and the Lindzen types, actual scientists who cynically and dishonestly abused their reputations to promote falsehoods, are the most dangerous of the quacks because they not only mislead the public but put science itself into disrepute.

chorpler 04-14-2016 04:52 PM

How about Steve Jones, the physics professor at BYU who got involved in 9/11 conspiracies and got a few papers about thermite being used in the "demolition" of the World Trade Centers published in peer reviewed journals? I believe he had some claims about measuring the weight of souls before then, but I'm pretty sure they weren't published in peer-reviewed journals.


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