Astroturf or idiocy?

I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:

Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.

The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.

He did propose articles for deletion (AfD). Links to the deletion discussions: Kendrick (deleted), Moore (deleted) and Fat Head (kept) — this was nominated as MatthewManchester1994, SfB renamed.

Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.

In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:

Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.

When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.

So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.

SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).

On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.

It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.

Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?

The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)

So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)

Anti-vaccine reporting

In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link.[32][33] Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”[34]

I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.

“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:

32. politico.com: sharyl-attkisson-suggests-media-matters-was-paid-to-target-her

Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]

Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)

“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”

The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.

Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014.  The archive.org snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:

a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview. 

(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)

In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.

It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)

Whew! That’s just the first footnote.

33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down.  Archive.org. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:

Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine[19] on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.[20]

The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).

His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:

Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine

This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases.  He wrote:

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*

Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.

Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?

It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)

Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:

34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.

Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.

The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”

Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.

The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:

In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices.[35] In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.”[36] Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines.[37] She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

35. So, again, a book.  Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.

If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”

The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.

I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.

In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?

What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.

36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,

[92] Gorski D.  Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/anti-vaccinepropaganda-from-sharyl-attkisson-of-cbs-news-2; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/61D4kploa]

[179] Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/autism-why-the-debate-rages-15-06-2007/; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5yAqYL0p2].

[92] was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:

Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].

The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.

179 supports this from the Vaccine article:

4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm [178], rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics[179] imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for [180], this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents [181] are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.

I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”

What is actually in the CBS source:

6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.

And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult.  The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.

Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!

(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!

The article begins with:

… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined

“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.

Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.

What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).

In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”

One more source:

37. The Daily Beast.  Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting

This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:

She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?

Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.

But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.

Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.

Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.

None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)

“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”

No link, no way to check this yet.

What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.

But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.

Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order

  • 20:48, 5 February 2019‎ Reverted good faith edits by 193.173.217.58 (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
  • 10:53, 27 January 2019‎ →‎Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
  • 10:47, 27 January 2019‎ Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]

There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an  article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.

  • 09:54, 26 January 2019Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
  • 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→‎Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism]

Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.

So what’s the point?

Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds —  and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.

When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic.  One of my old questions:

How many people does it take to change the world?

Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.

Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!

 

 

Democratic fascism

Democratic fascism? Is that an oxymoron?

No. Fascism, here, I am giving the broadest definition. See the blog post, The core of fascism. The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views, opinion, or even states of being, resulting in suppression of the unpopular.

Obviously, some expression of opinion is literally dangerous, causing immediate and present danger. Key to fascist suppression, as distinct from mere protection from immediate harm, is that it occurs in the absence of an immediate and clear harm, at best a remote risk, sometimes not even existent, only imagined.

Some opinions are toxic, no doubt, but suppressing them does not change them, it drives them underground, which can then generate far-reaching effects, and continued suppression drives a state toward stronger and stronger suppressive measures, with some elements, and sometimes the state itself, resorting to violence.

I started to address this topic because my work with cold fusion led me into conflict with a suppressive faction. Nominally, this faction supports scientific skepticism, but, there has long been a problem, noted by some of the founders and early supporters of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal, that skepticism can fall into “debunking,” which then easily becomes an ad-hominem attack on “kooks, cranks, quacks, pseudoscientists, etc.” and various opinions (and even eyewitness reports and scientific papers) become identified with this and are dismissed without any need to consider evidence. In other words, scientific investigation has been lost in the noise.

This is what Truzzi, one of those founders, called “pseudoskepticism.” I define that as skepticism that forgets to be skeptical of one’s own opinions, or what is viewed as popular, or what the pseudoskeptical faction on Wikipedia calls the “Scientific Point of View,” to distinguish it from what is supposedly policy there, NPOV, or Neutral Point of View (which is journalistic and academic, and, in fact, scientific).

Because I have an interest in health (and specifically my own health!), and because I was attacked on RationalWiki for my work — the attack article started there, long story, introduces me as “an American conspiracy theorist who is best known as proponent of pseudoscientific cold fusion,” I began to return to this study (I had done some research years ago to decide how to address my own cholesterol levels and weight gain).

“Conspiracy theorist” is a straight-out lie. The alleged conspiracy theory is what was called there the “RationalWiki Smith brothers conspiracy theory,” which, by the way, it is forbidden to describe on RationalWiki, it would corrupt the children. This is not merely a theory, it is demonstrated fact, with voluminous evidence, including direct admissions from one “Smith brother” (Oliver D. Smith), admissions from Oliver as to his brother, and much less direct evidence, but still overwhelming, about the other brother, Darryl L. Smith, who wrote that article. Whenever that “conspiracy theory” has been described, it has been as a straw man, not what I have actually written about.

Notice “pseudoscientific cold fusion.” On what basis is “cold fusion” called “pseudoscientific,” or is there a pseudoscientific form of cold fusion?

Cold fusion is the popular name for a set of effects first clearly noticed and announced in 1989. The effect (most notably anomalous heat) was difficult to reproduce, and there were many failures, but eventually, there were many confirmations, and, as well,it was reported that helium was being generated proportional to the heat, and that is widely confirmed. This leads to a hypothesis, that the heat is generated by the conversion of deuterium to helium, which is verifiable. This is, absolutely, “scientific,” and it is being investigated scientifically, as I suggested in my Current Science paper (2015), funded with a $6 million grant. So, by calling this “pseudoscientific,” they are not skeptical, they are in willful disregard of reality, and because all this has been pointed out, and they persist, liars.

And the same person is now going after fringe opinion in medicine and health. As an example of “medical fascism,” I have seen opinions that “statin skeptics,” those who question the usefulness of the massive prescription of statins — it is coming up on almost everyone — are “murderers,” on the idea that if statins reduce death from heart attack, and people refuse statins because of what is called “denialism,” then some people will die that might otherwise live.

For how long would they otherwise live? What is the reduction in overall death rate from taking statins? As I was prescribed a statin and I am not taking it, what is my increased risk? What are the risks of taking statins? Are there any? How do I balance these? And how solid is the research on which all this is based? Has it been influenced by funding from drug companies, which have billions of dollars in revenue at stake? Has public discussion been thorough and balanced?

I’ve been investigating these, and a connection with cold fusion is that the author of Bad Science (the best early history — though strongly skeptical — of the Fleischmann-Pons fiasco — called the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century by Huizenga), Gary Taubes, went on from “bad science” in this field to even worse in the scientific investigation of diet and then obesity and associated health issues, and is being attacked by exactly the same people.

Scientific fascism. Dismissal by popular opinion, with whatever contradicts common views being attacked as pseudoscientific or worse. Evidence be damned.

What was originally adopted (recommendations about reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet) based on what seemed like strong indications, knowing that this was not conclusive, but merely indicative, on the argument that delay could cost millions of lives, became an unassailable dogma. Pieces of it were quickly shown to be incorrect, but the “fat hypothesis” and the associated “cholesterol hypothesis” as the cause of heart disease,” simply was patched, ad hoc, and sailed on undisturbed, even if it is entirely possible that the recommendations issued caused millions of premature deaths.

On subpages here, I will look at examples and discussions of medical fascism.

A common example is “vaccine denialism.” There is no doubt in my mind as to vaccination, in general, having saved millions of lives. However, there are also complications. How common are they? How thorough is monitoring for them? Are there alternatives to vaccination for the control of disease? Should parents be allowed to exempt their children from vaccination?

The issues raised cut to the core of the boundary between collective welfare and protection and fascism. Where is that boundary? How can we decide? When suppression is or becomes fascist, it becomes impossible to have the kind of clear discussion and debate that is essential to deliberative democracy, and a democracy, to that extent, descends into popular fascism (or governmental fascism, with the government enforcing what is popular.)

Democratic fascism.

Subpages:

Rothwell. Begun with a discussion between me (Abd) and Jed Rothwell, a long-term cold fusion activist, who supports mandatory vaccination and would prohibit home schooling (which are related topics).

Taubes

Subpage of anglo-pyramidologist/darryl-l-smith/skeptic-from-britain/john66/

This is a study of the RationalWiki article on Gary Taubes (Wikipedia) as created by John66 (Darryl L. Smith), as of January 18, 2019. The lead:

Gary Taubes is American author, journalist, low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter, anti-sugar campaigner and cholesterol denialist. Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat.[1] Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.[2]

Taubes has been accused of misrepresenting scientific data and quoting medical researchers out of context to support his biased low-carb agenda.[3][4][5][6][7]

Smith is expert at cramming a series of dense misrepresentations into a few words. As is typical, the “mainstream” is presented as if monolithic, when it never has been on this subject, but rather “majoritarian,” i.e., there is are dominant views, never fully accepted by experts, and especially not the researchers. Dietary advice can lag science by decades.

Taubes is not an ordinary journalist, he is a science journalist, specifically, highly qualified for that. Smith had edited the Wikipedia article on Taubes. Taubes’ qualifications are ignored in the RatWiki article. From Wikipedia:

Taubes has won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996–97.[10] He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy.[28]

low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter. So a journalist researches a topic in depth (Taubes spent years on his investigations) and reports what he finds. If what he finds shows that widely-held opinion is not based on science (more than weakly), and that there are contrary hypotheses that fit the data better than what supports mainstreamopinions, and then he acts to secure funding for research to address open issues, is he “promoting” the contrary hypothesis?

Calling him a “promoter” is an attempt to toss him in the basket with “woo diets” and “quack medicine.” Most solidly and persistently, what Taubes is promoting is science and scientific skepticism.

anti-sugar campaigner. His book lays out the case against sugar. In fact, his conclusions (i.e, his formed opinions from review of the evidence) about the general harm of sugar are widespread. Again, though, the attempt is to portray him as a fanatic, as Smith does with all his targets.

Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. What Taubes does in his books on fat and obestity is to examine, in detail, the history of the “mainstream views,” which radically shifted around 1970, to almost the opposite of what they had been before. On obesity, especially, he goes into excruciating detail on the shift.

Anyone who challenges popular views, that happen to support major vested interests, is going to be widely attacked, it’s like clockwork. As a member of the public, critically interested in the issues (this is about my health and that of my children!), that someone criticizes a skeptic (or an advocate of mainstream views) does not negate the views, rather, if this is done within scientific — or journalistic — protocols, I will want to see specifics.

Perhaps now is the time to use a meme.

I am fully aware of this problem (“confirmation bias”), and so is Taubes. It is possible to criticize anything. Taubes’ general opinion on nutritional science is that the state of it is poor, there is a great deal that has been accepted on faith or wishful thinking about what is actually shown in the studies that have been done. Taubes examines all this, presenting copious evidence. And, of course, he’s not perfect! But is he significantly incorrect?

 

He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat.[1] This is typical for RatWiki. An unorthodox conclusion or hypothesis is presented as a “belief.” And then everything from that person is presented as flowing from what they believe, as distinct from what they have witnessed, or for a journalist, what they have found in sources and analysis seeking reality.

Was Taubes seeking reality or was he just trying to write a popular story, to advance his career? I’ve been following Taubes for more than a decade. He does far more research into the topics that he has been engaged to write about than makes sense economically. What he has been able to accomplish, besides selling some books, is funding for research, and not research to “prove” his ideas, but to test them (and, as well, “mainstream” ideas.)

His ideas are not new, in fact, but definitive research has not been done, studies have been flawed, etc. Decisions were made based on other than science, based on unscientific ideas that, if wrong, they would do no harm.

Smith is going after a genuine scientific skeptic, because . . . because why? Well, it could be from his relationship with the faction that has, to some degree, protected and encouraged him on Wikipedia and RatWiki. He has discovered that his attack articles are popular with the Rats. He is lying about his identity and motives, and this is a fundamental problem with the wikis, where they allow not only anonymous editing, but anonymous administration. It removes personal responsibility. That was a choice that Wikipedia made early on, and it became fixed in stone. RationalWiki takes this to an extreme, originally for the lulz.

Note 1 points to a Guardian review of Taube’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar. The story covers the same suggestions as I have been making here. Smith clearly believes that the idea of Sugar Bad Fat Good is preposterous and he knows that many, maybe most, of the Rats will agree with him.

The Case Against Sugar review – an unsweetened attack on diet myths

Gary Taubes’s latest assault on the ruinous effect of sugar on our lives and the promotion of fat-free diets is detailed and compelling

For the last 15 years, US journalist Gary Taubes has been the self-nominated public enemy No 1 of the global “healthy eating” establishment. His heresy has been to argue powerfully and publicly that the official diet advice we have been encouraged to follow since the 1970s is fundamentally wrong. It is refined carbohydrates and sugars that we should be avoiding, he says, not fat.

His apostasy was dismissed by many health professionals in a sustained, near operatic chorus of censure. After all, he had committed the cardinal crime of suggesting that august government nutrition professors and the academic researchers who inform them had made an inexcusable error of judgment, with catastrophic consequences: an epidemic of obesity and diet-related ill-health of a magnitude that had no precedent.

Taubes’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar, looks to be less controversial, if only because so-called guardians of public health have of late subtly re-emphasised in government eating guidelines the role of sugar as a dietary villain, adopting what Taubes calls the “we knew it all along” approach. They have yet to admit that the natural saturated fats they have long demonised, such as butter, are healthier than the highly refined liquid oils and polyunsaturated margarine spreads they continue to recommend, even though the scientific inadequacy of this advice is being steadily exposed. In Taubes’s view, major nutrition authorities “have spent the last 50 years blaming dietary fat for our ills while letting sugar off the hook”.

How is it that Smith can cite this article, the sense of which is radically opposed to his article? Well, he needed a source to claim that Taubes “believes” what he wrote. It does not, in fact, support that wording. Taubes has explicitly term his views an “alternative hypothesis.” That is, he infers his views from study of the evidence, and he is, himself, sufficiently convinced to (1) share what he has found and (2) pursue testing. He gathered millions of dollars to do this, and that work is under way. He is going to be called every name in the book, as the Guardian article points out.

Will Smith go on to create an article on Joanna Blythman, who wrote that story for the Guardian? How about a story on the conspiracy of greedy book authors and journalists to deceive the public for fun and profit?

Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.[2]

Smith either doesn’t care about accuracy, or doesn’t know enough to distinguish between cause and risk factors, and the history on this issue is huge. “Saturated fat” would have to mean “saturated fat in the diet,” and studies showing that were early, weak, and inconclusive. That idea is almost entirely discredited among current researchers, but still lives on in recommendations, and, even more in the memories of those who followed the recommendations and have not kept up on the research.

Reference 2 is a Taubes article in the New York Times, January 27, 2008. I notice right away that the article is quite old, but it is presented as evidence for a current position. Smith’s text is a misrepresentation of what Taubes actually wrote, even back then.

Taubes does not generally dispute “evidence.” That is an ontological error that Smith could be expected to make. He disputes some of the conclusions from evidence, particularly when one looks at all the evidence. “Believers” and “pseudoskeptics” dispute evidence, often claiming “there is no evidence,” when there obviously is. Practically speaking, and in ordinary language, we become “beleivers” when we have seen enough to come to conclusions based on the preponderance of evidence, but if we follow the scientific method, this is never a certainty, it is provisional — and ideally we are open to correction, particularly if extraordinary evidence arises.

Taubes has been accused of misrepresenting scientific data and quoting medical researchers out of context to support his biased low-carb agenda.[3][4][5][6][7]

These are serious accusations if made about a professional journalist. From the Guardian article, we can expect accusations like this. An accusation like that without evidence is meaningless or worse. Let’s look at each one. First, the link is to the RatWiki article on quote mining, and it is hilarious to see this from Smith. Quote mining is practically all that he does!

3.  A blog post from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the most dedicated promoters of supposedly healthy diets that weren’t, and attackers of anything that disagreed with them. (I used to receive their newsletter, years ago. I never noticed that they were actually promoting science, i.e, research to confirm the recommendations they were making, so they would be a poster boy for what Taubes has uncovered. “Science” that is not. The title: The Truth About the Atkins Diet.

Okay, what is the truth? I was advised to try the South Beach diet in about 2004 by my physician. My wife was on Atkins, and I read the South Beach book and Atkins, and decided there was more science behind Atkins than Agatston, the South Beach author, with what might be called “Atkins light,” which avoids saturated fats. My doctor did not argue with me, and encouraged me. And the diet worked (which is now well known, and that’s what his nurse told me when I mentioned Atkins). I lost about forty pounds, was down to a healthy weight. Sometime around 2005 I did a lot of reading on Atkins, the arguments for and against, and I found that most negative comments flat-out did not understand the Atkins diet, and misrepresented it. So what do we have here?

Taubes claims that it’s not fatty foods that make us fat and raise our risk of disease. It’s carbohydrates. And to most readers his arguments sound perfectly plausible.

Yes. This was about the NYT article, “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” which was added,
Taubes has mentioned, by the editors. His title was “What if fat doesn’t make you fat?” And that is actually a quite reasonable question. Does fat make us fat? How would we know? I know the arguments, but let’s see what CSPI comes up with:

Here are the facts—and the fictions—in Taubes’s article, which has led to a book contract with a
reported $700,000 advance. And here’s what the scientists he quoted —or neglected to quote—have to say about his reporting.

Right away, I notice that they are effectively claiming to have interviewed or obtained statements from all those quoted. Have they? I don’t know, and it will take some time to research.

Perhaps the most telling statement in Gary Taubes’s New York Times Magazine article
comes as he explains how difficult it is to study diet and health. “This then leads to a research literature so vast that it’s possible to find at least some published research to support
virtually any theory.”

He got that right. It helps explain why Taubes’s article sounds so credible.

“He knows how to spin a yarn,” says Barbara Rolls, an obesity expert at Pennsylvania State University. “What frightens me is that he picks and chooses his facts.”
She ought to know. Taubes interviewed her for some six hours, and she sent him “a huge bundle of papers,” but he didn’t quote a word of it. “If the facts don’t fit in with his yarn, he ignores
them,” she says.

Instead, Taubes put together what sounds like convincing evidence that carbohydrates cause obesity.

However Taubes does massive research. He does not use all of it. This is someone claiming that Taubes ignored what she sent him. She does not know that. She only knows, if it is true, that he did not cite her material. Taubes did explain how the “fat myth” developed. As is accepted here, the literature is vast.

In his 2008 book, Taubes goes of the history of concepts about obesity, and quotes many many publications. That the cause was carbohydrates was a very common idea until roughly the 1970s. The switch to fat being the problem was heavily influenced by the idea that fat also caused heart disease. Much of that early “consensus,” and it did become a widespread opinion, where contrary views were attacked and even suppressed (which is still going on to some degree), was utterly wrong and has been rejected, but the “cholesterol” and “fat” hypotheses keep morphing, with ad hoc explanations, a sign of defective theory.

“He took this weird little idea and blew it up, and people believed him,” says John Farquhar, a professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University’s Center for Research in Disease Prevention. Taubes quoted Farquhar, but misrepresented his views. “What a disaster,” says Farquhar.

CSPI is not a reliable source. First of all, the “weird little idea” was widespread, long before Atkins and Taubes, and, second, it is not established that Taubes misrepresented anything. It is possible,. for sure, but CPSI does not seem to care about fact, but about spin. They also have this from Farquhar:

“I was greatly offended at how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across
as supporters of the Atkins diet,” says Stanford’s John Farquhar.

The plot thickens. Farquhar said something, accurately quoted, apparently, but Farquhar did not like what it implied, in the context of Taubes’ “story.” The Atkins diet was, still, by 2002, roundly condemned and to support Atkins would seem to be a major heresy. By 2002, there was little evidence on the issue of the safety of the Atkins diet, and lots of inference that it must be Bad. What did Farquhar actually say?

Looking for it, I came across a sensible article, and various fanatic ravings. )The latter cites some NuSi research that supposedly falsified Taube’s hypothesis, but that is far from clear. It is simply another claim. That latter also cites the CSPI article. In other words, find a loon, find a flock of loons. No surprise.

Taubes quoted Walter Willet, David Ludwig, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, Kurt Isselbacher, Katherine Flegal, Kelley Brownell, William Dietz, Basil Rifkindm, Alan Stone, Judith Putnam(?), Michael Schwartz, Albert Stunkard, Richard Veech, George Blackburn, Linda Stern, Sam Klein.

This is what Taubes wrote about Farquhar:

This is the state of mind i imagine that mainstream nutritionists, researchers and physicians must inevitably take to the fat-versus-carbohydrate controversy. They may come around, but the evidence will have to be exceptionally compelling. Although this kind of conversion may be happening at the moment to John Farquhar, who is a professor of health research and policy at Stanford University and has worked in this field for more than 40 years. When I interviewed Farquhar in April, he explained why low-fat diets might lead to weight gain and low-carbohydrate diets might lead to weight loss, but he made me promise not to say he believed they did. He attributed the cause of the obesity epidemic to the “force-feeding of a nation.” Three weeks later, after reading an article on Endocrinology 101 by David Ludwig in the Journall of the American Medical Association, he sent me an e-mail message asking the not-entirely rhetorical question, “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?”

This is astonishingly clear. First of all, did Taubes accurately report what was said to him? I would assume he has interview tapes. Assuming the quotes were accurate, and the interpretation of what Farquhar said reasonable (it all fits with his later complaints, actually!), he did not want his ideas to be repeated, and Taubes correctly pointed out that these were not to be repeated as his belief. And Taubes did not do that. He was claimed to have mentioned these things as possibilities, i.e., “might.”

The Farquhar complaint appears to be fluff, someone highly involved with the nutritional and policy establishment who did not want his true views or ideas to be known. What was misrepresented? I found nothing claimed. It would only be, then, the context, which was clearly speculative, that Farquhar might be undergoing a “conversion,” clearly presented with some evidence of this, but not a claim that he was a “supporter of the Atkins Diet.” (As an example, he might have been acknowledging the possibility that Atkins “worked,” for weight loss, but then still be unconvinced that Atkins was safe — which was a common comment on the research results coming out by 2002 or so that Atkins did work as well or better than other diet recommendations, that it had not been proven to be safe.

The irony in all this was that massive health recommendations to avoid cholesterol in the diet (Eggs Bad), and fat, originally all fat, only later it became saturated fat, when the obvious result of that advice would be an increase in carbyhydrate consumption, were made without any showing that this was safe, and if Taubes is right — and he’s not far off, I suspect — the cost of that was millions of premature deaths. Millions. The consequence of not distinguishing solid science from weak inference and politics.

Still on the CSPI post:

Farquhar did give more detail to CSPI:

Taubes’s article ends with a quote from Farquhar, asking: “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?” But that quote was taken out of context. “What I was referring to wasn’t that low-fat diets would make a person gain weight and become obese,” explains Farquhar. Like Willett and Reaven, he’s
worried that too much carbohydrate can raise the risk of heart disease.
“I meant that in susceptible individuals, a very-low-fat [high-carb] diet can raise triglycerides, lower HDL [‘good’] cholesterol, and make harmful, small, dense LDL,” says Farquhar.

Farquhar is agreeing with Taubes much more than disagreeing. Taubes did not claim what he is objecting to. It is true that one could synthesize that. The question still stands. Low-fat proponents did not clarify the point and clarify that to be sustainable, low-fat must mean high carb, and they did not limit the advice, nor, in fact, was it based on study of low-fat diets.

Where Taubes differs from Farquhar is in an understanding that carbs are more dangerous than previously recognized, not confined to particularly susceptible individuals. The real issues are quite complex, but yellow journalists and pseudoskeptics make it very simple: there are cranks and fringe believers on one side, and experts and scientists on the other, and if a scientist is on the “crank” side, Q.E.D., they are cranks. Reality doesn’t matter, only opinions.

Carbohydrates are not what has made us a nation of butterballs, however. “We’re overfed, over-advertised, and under-exercised,” he says. “It’s the enormous portion sizes and sitting in front of the TV and computer all day” that are to blame. “It’s so gol’darn obvious—how can anyone ignore it?” “The Times editor called and tried to get me to say that low-fat diets were the cause of obesity, but I wouldn’t,” adds Farquhar.

This is, again, remarkable. So there were fact-checkers at the New York Times, editors who reviewed articles, and Farquhar can read their minds, what they “wanted.” In what Taubes reported, he gave Farquhar’s opinion, apparently reasonably fairly.

Farquhar is weird, my summary. He knows enough to suspect that Taubes might be right, but doesn’t want anyone to know, and his alternative idea is that the problem is enormous portion sizes and lethargy, an idea which Taubes traces back to early origins and intensely deconstructs, with massive data. Cause and effect have been completely confused. There is an obesity epidemic. What caused it? There is an obvious suspect, but there is an attempt is to erase the evidence with a lot of hot air.

I think this topic is important, too important for anyone to sit back and trust anyone without verification. When I started to see Smith going after Taubes, I decided to buy the rest of his books. I just finished Why We Get Fat, and next is The Case Against Sugar. Notice that the title is not Proof that Sugar is Evil. As to why we get fat, Taubes cites centuries of research. Talk about quote-mining, it appears that when the “consensus” was being formed, countless studies and a great deal of evidence was ignored, and as contrary evidence appeared, it was always explained away, even clear and strong evidence that something was off about “mainstream” thinking.

Again, the CSPI article, about the misleading claims.

CLAIM #1: The experts recommend an Atkins diet.
TRUTH: They don’t.

The reality: some do and some don’t, and this is obvious. The article, however, simply did not make the claim stated. Instead, it talks about a “small but growing minority have come to take seriously what the low-carb diet doctors have been saying all along.” It talks about researchers starting to actually study the Atkins diet, and some early results from that. I could find no actual recommendation from any expert, and Taubes was not dispensing advice. So the CSPI article is misleading.

An Atkins diet is loaded with meat, butter, and other foods high in saturated fat. Taubes implies that many of the experts he quotes recommend it. Here’s what they say:

Atkins is an ad libitem diet for protein and fat. It only restricts non-fiber, nutritive carbohydrates. Atkins did not specify saturated or unsaturated fats, and in the early days. the l0w-fat opposition to Atkiins did not discriminate, all fats were considered bad.

So an Atkins diet is only “loaded” with fat if that is what the person wants to eat. Taubes, in his later work, strongly advises against eating more than appetite. However, ultimately, Taubes’ conclusion from review of the evidence is that saturated fats are not, in general, harmful, and may even be cardio-protective. But that goes against the opinions of many!

I still remember buying margarine because the propaganda was that it was better for us than butter. This was everywhere, my adult life experienced the full force of the “anti-fat” crusade. I trusted my doctor and did not actually research the issue, so I reduced fat, and began, for the first time in my life, at about 40, to be a pasta-eater. What Taubes “implies” is in the mind of the reader. That statement, though, is a retreat from what is in the headline. It is just “many,” instead of being a blanket statement about experts. That is still misleading: Taubes was clear that this was still a minority. So the error was?

It’s clear: In 2002, “Atkins” was still a synonym for “dangerous quack fad diet,  it doesn’t work except for a little while, while you lose water, it gives you bad breath, constipation, you lose weight only because the diet is so boring that you eat less, etc., and you will die from the fat clogging your arteries.”

That “artery clogging” trope I remember from the CPSI Nutrition Action newsletters.  When they would describe how much fat was in a MacDonald’s hamburger with french fries, it was always prefaced with “artery-clogging.” They may have convinced that company to replace lard with trans-fats, which switch had no basis in science, only the assumption that trans fats were either safe or less harmful than saturated fats. (I think the idea was that trans fats are liquid at room temp, whereas saturated fats tend to congeal, so the idea that they could clog arteries seems to make sense, until we realize that fats do not actually enter the bloodstream as such.

According to Taubes, Harvard University’s Walter Willett is one of the “small but growing minority of establishment researchers [who] have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet 
doctors have been saying all along.” True, Willett is concerned about the harm that may be caused by highcarbohydrate diets (see “What to Eat,” page 7). But the Atkins diet? “I certainly don’t recommend it,” he says. His reasons: heart disease and cancer. “There’s a clear benefit for reducing  cardiovascular risk from replacing unhealthy fats—saturated and trans— with healthy fats,” explains Willett, who chairs Harvard’s nutrition department. “And I told Taubes several times that red meat is associated with a higher risk of colon and possibly prostate cancer, but he left that out.”

Again, no misrepresentation, because Taubes did not claim that Willett endorsed the Atkins diet, and because of the heart disease concerns, it could have been unethical to do so, until and unless he became convinced that the heart disease and cancer risks were red herrings. That is a concern about red meat, and the Atkins diet does not require red meat, at all. It merely does not forbid it. As to the claim about an association with cancer, association is the weakest of evidence, unless it is quite strong. Is it? CSPI doesn’t verify this, because they are not interested in reality, but in promoting their decades-old agenda, all the while claiming some reprehensible agenda on the part of Taubes.

I looked this issue up. I don’t trust the official organizations, from years of reviewing what they recommend, I know (independently from Taubes) that these organizations can develop conflicts of interest and, for whatever reason, do not do what I’d hope for them: facilitate genuine scientific consensus, while delineating where there is still a level of reasonable controversy. The Cochrane Collaboration was intended to be that. How successful they have been, I’m not sure. There are difficulties in doing this, and organizations tend to become corruptible if precautions are not taken early on, and maintained.

In any case, what I found was mostly very unspecific, with only vague claims that conflate association with risk. The official cancer organizations tell us their conclusions, but do not reference what they were based on. How difficult would it be to have a page for those interested with sources and more detail about the recommendations, limitations, etc. I do not trust organizations that come to strong conclusions, of major import, but do not disclose how they arrived at them. I have seen far too much to naively believe that being “nonprofit” somehow immunizes them to bias. I have seen the opposite, too many times (and even as a board member of a nonprofit organization, a free clinic, very noble, very good, and easily corrupted).

(Non profits have executives who are often very highly compensated, and these organizations must raise operating funds, and if they make recommendations not to the liking of those who support them, what happens to that support? This is simply ordinary social function, not a conspiracy theory. If a nonprofit recommends what is contrary to general opinion, it can be devastating to their support. We need organizations that are truly supported by those they serve, the public, but mostly the public is asleep.)

This was the best, and could reward more study. I am reminded of the flawed epidemiological studies that set of the whole anti-fat crusade. The risk of cancer from red meat, appears, at first glance, to be quite small, as absolute risk, and in real decisions about diet, what I need to know is absolute risk, to compare, for example, with the risk of obesity, which is very, very risky. If an Atkins diet is more effective at controlling obesity, that could totally outweigh the cancer risk.

There are some recent papers on the protective effect of sun exposure. When this is pointed out, the risk of skin cancer is always brought up, and I’ve seen a generation of people become sun-averse because of all the propaganda about skin cancer. Turns out that if all-cause death rates are considered, sun exposure is associated with a lower death rate. Skin cancer can be caused, but most skin cancers are relatively easily treated, not fatal. Narrow analysis of data on one disease can generate very misleading recommendations.

CLAIM #2: Saturated fat
doesn’t promote heart disease.
TRUTH: It does.

Because we say so. Really, the evidence on this is very weak, at best.

“Fifty years of research shows that saturated fat and cholesterol raise LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol, and the higher your LDL, the higher your risk of coronary heart disease,” says Farquhar

Is Farquhar to be trusted? This is supposedly the “Center for Science in the Public Interest.” Someone who claims “fifty years of research” with no references is unreliable. Farquhar, from what he said to Taubes, not contested, cannot be trusted to reveal what he actually understands and considers possible, but is determine to protect himself, so determined that he errs badly, as he should have known. I understand why Taubes became so noplussed about Bad Science in the field.

Farquhar is repeating ideas, relied on by CSPI as if “fact,” that I think were obsolete by that time, but that certainly are now. Cholesterol in the diet does not raise blood cholesterol, at all. Hence the older advice to avoid egg yolks, high in cholesterol, has been withdrawn. The evidence on LDL is complicated, and studying the effect of saturated fat is difficult. Under some conditions, people with higher LDL appear to have a lower risk of all-cause death.

If we read that section of the CSPI article carefully, they are talking about relative strength of evidence, which can be quite subjective. Basically, the question is controversial, but they take one side and call it “Truth.” This is the behavior of fanatics, which I concluded they were long before I became aware of low-carb diets. They quote another supposed expert, who uses clear scientific terms like “good” and “bad.” Bad sign.

CLAIM #3: Health authorities recommended a low-fat diet as the key to weight loss.
TRUTH: They didn’t.

Ah ha ha, ah ha ha ha ha. This is a huge red herring. Some did, and the net impact of the recommendations, when they tricked down to my doctor, was to go on a low-fat diet. It was not for losing weight, it was over concerns about cholesterol.  This is all about interpretation of what the health authorities recommended, where much of it can be ignored in favor of recommendations that can be interpreted differently.

I see again and again on this page that Taubes was “wrong” because what he pointed out as being an unscientific consensus among health authorities is contradicted by health authorities. The implication was of extensive misquotation and misinterpretation, and they failed to show that. They are misleading their readers, in order to establish that they have been right all along. This is not “science in the public interest,” it was far from it. It was political and self-interested activism.

CLAIM #7: The Atkins diet works because it cuts carbohydrates.
TRUTH: If the Atkins diet works, it’s not clear why.

Well, this is clear: this is an example of how they present opinions as “Truth.” “Not clear” is a judgment, an assessment, indicating confusion. Who is confused? That’s left out, it is presented as if it were an objective fact. Again, very common for fanatics.

The Atkins Nutritional Approach (calling it a “diet” is somewhat misleading) does one essential thing: it encourages the person to monitor the carbohydrates they eat, by reading labels and the link, and to limit those carbs, exempting fiber, and to follow appetite and common sense about everything else. There are indeed speculations, and attempting Atkins low-fat is strongly discouraged, and probably quite dangerous, because the only other possibility is protein, and high-protein, low fat diets are very dangerous. The Atkins approach works for many people, that’s obvious, it’s really not debatable. It can work long-term (because the diet allows thorough enjoyment of food, I have never become bored with an LC-HF diet). Today, I have been seriously restricting carbs, I normally keep them low, but I wanted to see what would happen with zero carbs. I commonly have two meals a day. So for the first meal, I had a 6 oz ribeye steak, lightly broiled. Delicious. For a second meal, I’m still eating it, I savor it, a piece of sushi-quality tuna, thawed from flash-frozen, 4 oz, eaten raw with no-sugar soy sauce. Delicious!

(My other nourishment for the day is heavy cream in two cups of coffee. On other days, I eat eggs (sometimes with a single piece of toast and butter, about 10 grams of net carb), vegetables such as Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Salmon — broiled with parmesan cheese sprinkled on it, which browns like breading would, and I have a wide variety of foods in my cupboards, food that makes my mouth water when I think about eating them, and that I find thoroughly satisfying. I melt butter on the vegetables and sprinkle them with Parmesan.)

So then, as to an alleged danger:

The problem: All the protein that Atkins recommends leads to acidic urine.6 “And there’s no dispute that an acid urine leaches calcium out of bones,” says Blackburn.

What this shows is that Blackburn has no clue what he’s talking about. This is an old canard about Atkins, that it is a high-protein diet. It is not, unless someone cuts carbs and tries to go low-fat. Atkins diets tend to be moderate-protein. As Taubes points out in How We Get Fat, there are cultures where the diet is almost all meat, and in those cultures, strong effort is put into eating as much fat as possible, it is preferred. These people did not have the diseases of civilization until processed foods were introduced to them. Someone doing Atkins’ approach may use ketostix or equivalent urine test strips. I’ve done that many times, the purpose is to verify that one is actually burning fat for fuel. The ketone levels I saw were on the order of 15 mg/DL, occasionally as high as 40, which is considered “moderate.” Ketoacidosis is what they are talking about, a complication of diabetes, and the ketone levels can be on the order of 150-250.

Too much protein in a diet is known to cause health problems. This can arise with an Atkins diet if one eats lean meats, avoiding fat. In general, making major changes in diet, I recommend medical supervision. That does not necessarily mean doing what the doctor says, but communicating about what one is doing, and listening to the doctor, as well as the other side of it, the doctor listening to you. Doctors are constrained by standard of practice, but if one learns how to ask questions, it is possible to encourage a doctor to say what they really think, and, as well, how they what they know, and where they don’t know the answers to questions. A good doctor will admit ignorance, and will, naturally, tell you what the standard of practice is and, if asked, what they think about it.

There is no substitute, though, for becoming informed oneself, there is so much misinformation out there — including misinformation promoted by “experts.” Read the studies! Read the critiques, if it matters for your health, become familiar with the arguments, and then make your own choices, taking responsibility for your choices. That is general advice on how to live, not just about diet and cholesterol and statins.

In this case, my choice is clear: CSPI is full of what the body rejected. They are absolutely not to be trusted.

Okay, but Smith cited five sources for his claim. Impressive! Must be true then. Not. The number of sources matters far less than the reliability of the sources, and we already expect, from other sources, that Taubes is going to be criticized up and down, right and left, and inside and out, for any perceived defect in his articles, which is to be expected when one challenges what amounts to religious belief disguised as science.

[4] Bad sugar or bad journalism? An expert review of “The Case Against Sugar”.

This is a blog post by someone who calls himself an “expert.” Not particularly a good sign. This source, being a blog, was rejected on Wikipedia, absolutely inappropriate there. (And I see an IP edit, rather obviously Smith, reverting the removal, using a Tor node. Because of context, this was certainly Darryl Smith, first edit I have found that was him, there, after the “leaving” claim. But Smith is asserting this as a criticism, which it is.

This is an interesting review, but it boils down to a complaint that The Case Against Sugar is a case against sugar, instead of a neutral scientific review. Guyanet, the blogger, deserves much more attention that I would give him here. Smith in the text that he sourced with five references, actually made three claims:

  1. misrepresenting scientific data
  2. quoting medical researchers out of context
  3. to support his biased low-carb agenda.

Guyanet would be expert on some scientific data, at least (and does write like an expert). On that point, though, he accuses Taubes, not of misrepresenting the data but of cherry-picking, not reporting all the possible relevant information. Quoting out of context is not supported by this source. Guyanet does claim this is coming from a biased personal agenda, but he does not really determine it, and he is not an expert on journalistic psychology. In the book reviewed, Taubes is acting as a book author, continuing a theme, as a result of personal conclusions developed in approaching the topic as a journalist. So I will want to examine Guayanet more closely. He cites another source as a second expert review. Okay, following Guayanet’s thinking, this would be the Defense against Taubes’ prosecution. So who is the judge and jury?

Well, someone who needs to know. And I need to know, so that’s me. I will take my time in deliberations.

And then I find that Guyenet is offering his own “lose weight program.” Basic is free, Pro is only $9.;99 per month. Hey, a Guy has to make a living!

The second expert is intensely involved in conflict with Taubes, over a story that will be told as part of all this. These are not functioning as neutral experts. But Guyenet does point out good things about the Taubes book, he simply advises taking it with salt, which is ironic, because Taubes also, before getting involved in the very hairy controversy over fat and obesity and heart disease, also debunked myths about salt for Science magazine.

I also advise healthy skepticism, that does not depend on authority, other than realistically, understanding that authorities can be, literally, dead wrong. Choose authorities carefully, then trust and verify! I’ve learned with doctors to become informed so that I can ask informed questions. If I don’t know what questions to ask, and so I don’t ask, I usually get no answers, just “advice.” If I ask ignorant questions, I get answers designed to communicate with someone who is ignorant. Funny how that works!

The third source, [5] is another blog, an example of “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” This is total fluff, an echo of the CSPI post, only 14 years later. I am far from inspired to read it in detail (quite differently from Guyenet, who at least raises issues of interest.

The fourth source, [6] is Big Fat Fake / The Atkins diet controversy and the sorry state of science journalism. by Michael Fumento. The site is heavy with intrusive ads that make it hard to read the page. This is quite old, 2003. He claims, like some others, that Taubes only presented one side of the issue (in a newspaper article, clearly limited for space, with Taubes basically using the opportunity to raise a question. He did not write: “It’s all been a big fat lie,” but “what if?”

My introduction to Taubes on diet was Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is voluminous and heavily referenced. Did he cherry-pick there? Perhaps. Telling all sides of a story can be a formula for creating books that nobody will read. All authors will do it, at least all successful authors. But that’s not the end, if we have a free society. Others can write, and then other still can review and assess, and ultimately reviews appear in journals that are dedicated to science and not to supporting orthodoxy. It can take decades, sometimes more.  Anyway, Fumento has:

There is a nugget of truth in Taubes’ criticisms of establishment dietary fat advice. Well-meaning but misguided health officials and health reporters, joined by opportunistic anti-fat diet book gurus, have convinced much of the public that the major culprit — perhaps the only culprit — in obesity is dietary fat. Avoid fat, we were told, and you won’t get fat. Given license to eat as many calories as we wanted from the other nutrient groups, many of us have done exactly that. This goes far to explain why almost one-third of us are obese and almost two-thirds of us are overweight. But even here Taubes is no pioneer; the damage caused by fat-free fanaticism was pointed out long before. (See, for example, my own 1997 book, The Fat of the Land.)

He is agreeing with Taubes’ central point. Taubes also states, over and over, that his ideas are not new, and credits older sources, going back into the 19th century. Taubes, however, has been very effective in his “pointing out” of what was known for a long time. Atkins based his nutritional approach on scientific research (deficient, to be sure, but as well-founded as what became the wide-spread and heavily-promoted guidelines, and common medical opinion that rather rapidly turned upside down with inadequate evidence. When I told my doctor about my first experience with Atkins, he took me into his office and pulled a book from the shelf, a book from the 1920s about diabetes, in which it is explained that many cases of diabetes (meaning type two) can be resolved by a diet that avoids starches and sweets, and for others, there is insulin (which was fairly new then). Later, diabetics were sold the idea that they could eat anything they wanted as long as they took insulin. This was terrible, terrible advice, and I suspect it had commercial motives behind it. However, he goes on:

Moreover, the Atkins-Taubes thesis of “fat won’t make you fat” encourages obesity in a similar way: It offers carte blanche for consuming limitless calories, only this time swapping carbohydrates for fat. Taubes made that swap while presenting a far less scientific case than is presented in an Atkins infomercial.

This is unrealistic, imagination. People eating a high-fat diet simply don’t consume “limitless calories” unless they force-feed themselves and continue eating beyond appetite — which is quite unpleasant! Fat satiates. The point of the Atkins diet is that, setting aside carbohydrates, appetite will normally restrict how much we eat. Whether Taubes “insulin hypothesis” is correct or not, when I went on a low-carb diet, hunger disappeared. I found that, once in ketosis, burning fat, I simply did not get “hungry” in the same way as when I was eating carbs. That’s what Atkins and Taubes predicted, and this story is repeated by many, many people who have tried Atkins for long enough to go into ketone metabolism. One doesn’t get hungry, that sense of an urgent need. Rather, one continues to eat for various reasons, some useful, some not so useful. One eats for pleasure, and Atkins allows, essentially, most of my favorite foods from childhood. One eats for  health, choosing foods for nutritive value, and one eats for habit, I have called it an oral addiction. Gotta put something in my mouth!

And if I don’t have low carb snacks available, I’ll fudge on the diet. A few bean chips, high fiber, but nice and crunchy …. and I keep eating them. Just another won’t make that much difference. . . . This is all very familiar, since I spent a lot of time studying addiction.

Very important for an Atkins diet: have food available that will satisfy. To satisfy the desire for “crunch,” the best thing I have found is crackers made from flaxseed. I pretty much have to make them myself.

Bottom line, Fumento didn’t understand the Atkins approach. It does not encourage “limitless calories.” It encourages appetite-limited calories (which requires discipline with regard to oral addictions, which is not difficult, once it is distinguished for what it is). I have never enjoyed food as much as since I started Atkins, and quantities are quite limited. I simply eat food that I enjoy tremendously, and it satisfies me. If someone is not satisfied on an Atkins diet, something is missing, and I’d recommend consulting with experts. At the very least, there are forums where questions can be asked, and experts do reply.

Consider this experimental science, where each person can test and find out what works for them. I found forums.lowcarber.org/ very useful, over a decade ago, I haven’t looked lately. Remember not to trust anything just because it is on the internet, but consider suggestions as being ideas to investigate. Find out!

(The idea that there is one diet best for everyone is probably quite incorrect. Taubes makes this point in What Makes Us Fat, we differ genetically, there is variation. And studies and statistics will not tell us what is best for us, they can, at best, give some guidelines, possibilities.)

Fumento deconstructs the CSPI objections to Taubes, the claimed misrepresentations.

“I thought [Taubes’] article was outrageous,” Reaven says. “I saw my name in it and all that was quoted to me was not wrong. But in the context it looked like I was buying the rest of that crap.” He adds, “I tried to be helpful and a good citizen, and I ended up being embarrassed as hell. He sort of set me up.” When I first contacted Reaven, he was so angry he wouldn’t even let me interview him.

But his position on Atkins was all over the Internet in interviews posted long before Taubes talked to him. Do “low-carb diets like The Zone [by Barry Sears] and Atkins work?” one asked. Answer: “One can lose weight on a low-calorie diet if it is primarily composed of fat calories or carbohydrate calories or protein calories. It makes no difference!”

I find it rather obvious what happened. Reaven was attacked by colleagues for appearing to agree with Atkins, which was rank heresy. It makes no difference is the calories-in, calories-out concept that is commonly asserted as basic physics, which is misleading, as Taubes has amply explained. There is the controversial issue of metabolic advantage — which Reaven was denying, without evidence. There is a complex interplay between insulin levels and appetite and “energy.” If it doesn’t matter what kind of diet one eats, as long as calories are low, how about eating something that will satisfy hunger with fewer calories? If it is fat, the argument always was, fat is calorie dense, compared to carbs. But it is also more satisfying, and the idea of eating too much fat actually makes me feel sick. But carbs? This is the common wisdom about “Chinese food,” the commercial restaurant kind, which is often high carb. Eat it and you are hungry an hour later. The mechanism for that is obvious. Fat has no such effect.

The fifth source is another blog, title in all caps, GARY TAUBES IS A BLOWHARD. The blogger seems to think like Rats. He covers a Taubes blog post on the “red meat cancer” issue. In fact, it’s more about Zoe Harcombe. Nuff said. Why should I even read a blog that is so obviously a personal attack, not about the science.

His about page has “So who the hell are you and why should I even listen to your stupid podcast?”

Indeed. He says nothing to indicate why, at least not on the subject of Taubes. He has a BS in Nutrition and an MS in the same, but he is young and I see no clue that he actually understands the issues — unlike Guyenet. It’s appropriate that Smith cited him, because his thinking is like that of Smith: grossly oversimplified, defending I Am Right by claiming Someone Else is Wrong. There is one point he raises that I intend to check, because that issue of red meat interested me, and I wondered what Taubes had to say about it, and he has links. I noticed problems with the conclusions when I looked at what might be the same paper. This is also a blog. The author does not make his identity clear, but appears to be Seth Yoder.

So, reflecting the spirit of opinionated blogging that is amply demonstrated in the cited post:

SETH YODER IS A SELF-IMPORTANT ORIFICE FOR WASTE DISPOSAL

This is an issue of extreme importance, affecting millions of lives. People are being accused of being “murderers” for stating their opinions, including journalists and scientists, and it is possible (there is evidence, enough to “indict,” if not to convict) that mainstream advice has caused millions of unnecessary deaths. Some think it is proven, but there is always the question of who is the judge and jury. And in that context, and on that topic, someone who has done an incredible amount of work, whether or not is conclusions are correct, stimulating and facilitating genuine scientific investigation, is condemned as a “blowhard.”

 

 

 

The ultimate pseudoscience

Materialism and spiritualism, both, if presented as “scientific.”Which would then lead us to the ultimate: a belief that our experience is real, and, as, in addition, that our interpretations of it are meaningful.

The Landmark Forum proposes setting the second part of this aside. They have warned that what they are going to say is not the truth. So then they announce a “distinction.” “Life is empty and meaningless, and it is empty and meaningless that life is empty and meaningless.”

This is a “distinction,” a concept that distinguishes and sorts. In this case, it sorts our experience into two categories: “what happened,” and “what we made it mean.”

It is not uncommon for participants at this point to be highly offended. They draw conclusions from the distinction, completely ignoring the second half, concluding that, as an example, “Therefore they are teaching us that Jesus’ crucifixion was meaningless.”

They are not teaching that, and I know advanced graduates who are also major Christian officials, and clearly “believers,” i.e., they have faith.

Landmark is not setting aside the “reality of experience.” But “reality” is not a “meaning.” And there is more to all this, much more. To the point here:

On Malcolm Kendrick’s blog, February 19, 2019 at 4:31 pm, I posted this comment: (I have slightly edited it).

Ah, but we should sell the *most effective* placebos. There is a Nasruddin story, I tried to find it, but failed, so I will have to tell it, with your gracious permission.

Nasruddin had set up as a physician and had an apprentice to help him. One day, as a man was opening the garden gate to walk to the office entrance, the apprentice said, “I can see, by how this man is walking, what he needs!” Nasruddin said, “You can take this case.” So when the man walked in, the apprentice immediately told him, “Eat some pomegranates, you will be healed!” The man huffed, “You didn’t even ask me about my pains!” and walked out. Nasruddin said, “Next time we see one of these cases, I’ll handle it.”

So it came to pass that another patient came with the same malady. Nasruddin welcomed him, had the apprentice serve some tea, and asked him, when they were sitting comfortably, to what he owed the honor of the visit. The man explained his symptoms, and Nasruddin listened, nodding his head in sympathy, asking questions that showed he had heard everything. He then rubbed his beard, obvious in deep thought, and then he exclaimed, “Pomegranates! You need pomegranates!” The man left a large payment and left, happy to know he could now have hope.

So the “placebo business” already exists and it already uses sugar pills, and openly so. Homeopathy is Andrew Weil’s article. It sets up the inquiry into symptoms, and with a good practitioner, all the supporting aspects of medical manner, including whatever will fit the patient.

Nowadays, an ethical homeopath will never recommend that “evidence-based medicine” — that which is truly so — be abandoned for some sugar pills. Some homeopaths may believe in “water memory,” or this or that concept of the “spirit” of materials, that survives and is even enhanced by huge dilution. Personally, I’d prefer one more thoughtful and less certain, but that holds for medical practitioners in general. And there are exceptions to everything.

Homeopathy doesn’t work — or does not work well — when double-blinded, which is a huge clue. That is the same with all placebos. Homeopathy, I suggest, treats the mind, and the body through the mind and through language, and as another article suggested in comments on this blog pointed out, it is not necessary to “believe” the theory of homeopathy, one can (and I would suggest, should) understand that the remedies are physically all the same, in effect. But they have different names and indications. If they are cheap, and if the patient is not encouraged to abandon effective therapies, they are, at worst, harmless.

However, a more expensive placebo tends to be more effective. High-dilution remedies are prescribed when a more powerful effect is desired, and they require more work to make.

If you want a powerful placebo, then, see a homeopath. From how the placebo effect operates, I expect it will generally be more effective if you see an actual, trained homeopath.

If you want a downer, for some reason I cannot fathom, consult a pseudoskeptic who is sure that anything involving belief is nonsense, but who misses all the crap that he, himself, believes. “Faith is for stupid people! I believe in science-based medicine,” as if it actually exists, just because of his imagination and fervent desire.

Yes, there is such a thing as real science. Unfortunately, the state of medical science is primitive, too often. In addition to Doctoring Data, I recommend Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, as the investigation of a science reporter, who, ironically, also wrote Bad Science about cold fusion, which is a field where another information cascade ensconced itself (with his assistance!), where the “mainstream” firmly believes in “facts” that have not been correct for almost thirty years.

Taubes may or may not be right about the “insulin hypothesis,” but he does not pretend there is proof when there is not. And he actually has facilitated funding for basic research.

There are two brothers, long term trolls, who eventually realized that they could be more effective as trolls, not only by harassing their targets, but by creating articles on them on RationalWiki that would then show up prominently in Google searches. They have been doing this for years. One of their practices is to track all contributions from their target, create sock puppets, and harass them. The brothers are Oliver and Darryl L. Smith, and the particular brother involved in the harassment of Malcolm Kendrick on Wikipedia and RationalWiki is Darryl. Since I have become a major irritant for them, by exposing what they have done, I have become a much higher value target for them than Dr. Kendrick. So two birds with one stone, they love it.

Sure enough:

Matthew

I am sorry to bring up guilt by association but sometimes this is justifiable. You can define a man by the kind of company he keeps.

This is definitely one of the Smith brothers, there are many signals. Why does he lead with a fake apology about “guilt by association”? I suggest it is because I have pointed out that he does this in his articles, including his article on Malcolm Kendrick, and we know that he has read that page. See John66 here.

This blog is filled with loons and quacks that support Kendrick’s ideas. I have been digging around on various blogs posts going back years on this website. There are anti-vaccine activists that comment here, people that on a regular basis quote from known conspiracy theorists like Joseph Mercola and Gary Null, yet commenters here never call out this kind of quackery they endorse it.

Kendrick clearly does not censor comments on his blog (as he points out in responses), and therefore he cannot be held responsible for “loons and quacks,” if any are posting there.

The author of this post has defamed the entire community of those who post on the blog. Defamation need not be personal, apparently, it can be collective, so anyone in a group defamed could have standing to sue. Truth can be a defense, though it is possible that if malice can be shown, there can be exceptions. I.e., a true fact, asserted in a context to create a misleading impression, can be defamation.

I’ll just call this troll Smith, because there is a small possibility that this is the brother, Oliver, but I’d give it more than 90%, this is Darryl. I.e., Skeptic from Britain, John66, and many hundreds of others. His name and at least one address for him are known, and his brother is currently being sued in the U.K. and if anyone wants to get in touch with the plaintiff, leave a comment here with a real email address, which will not be published absent necessity, and I will verify it and forward it. My opinion: if someone libelled by the Smiths pursues the matter, a civil suit will have legs, and in the U.K., there is also criminal defamation. That is more difficult in the U.S., but civil defamation is actionable and, in fact, I filed an action yesterday. Ask me if interested. The defendants include John Doe 1-9. I know who they are reasonably well, but decided not to name them in the suit, to allow evidence to be developed in discovery before amending the action to include them. Two live in the U.K. Guess who! I could also amend the action, but I needed to get the ball rolling, for fund-raising to support expenses, etc. Back to what this troll wrote:

There are people that promote unproven cancer cures here, basically any kind of reality denying nonsense is supported. There are alternative medicine proponents here. There was even a lady promoting the disproven ideas of Cleve Backster that plants have consciousness.

OMG! “I know that they don’t, because I am an accomplished plant mind-reader, and when I read the mind of a plant, I always come up with ‘thanks for the CO2!’ and that is just an automatic message, unlike my own spectacular intelligent consciousness.”

Watch them quote this and claim that I have agreed with Backster’s “disproven” ideas. I actually never heard of him.

There is a RationalWiki article that mentions Backster, The_Spirit_Science.

Investigating that led me to many interesting observations, but they are too off-point to report. Smith will mention Backster on Kendrick’s blog because it’s a dog whistle for RatWiki pseudoskeptics, not because it will be relevant there. Really, someone mentions “plant consciousness” and therefore Kendrick is keeping “bad company”? I don’t believe Rupert Sheldrake’s theories are scientific, but I’d sure welcome a chance to sit with him and laugh about it all, as, my guess, we would. One of my models is Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP, a genuine skeptic, and “believers in the paranormal” loved him because he actually listened and was interested in scientific investigation, which is quite distinct from the “debunking” that took over that organization. I’ve linked to the RatWiki article, which is only slightly weird, it’s a stub only, in spite of how significant Truzzi is in the history of skepticism. Wikipedia. has much more, and I’m glad I looked, there is a book I will want to get about correspondence between two of my favorite skeptics: Truzzi and Martin Gardner. (My third favorite skeptic: Carl Sagan. And then there is Gary Taubes, and since he calls himself a “skeptic,” Malcolm Kendrick and a host of what RatWiki calls “denialists” who are actually skeptics.

Why Truzzi? Well, if you really look at Truzzi, he coined the modern usage of “pseudoskeptic,” whereas I have seen pseudoskeptics deny that such exists. RationalWiki does have an article. By the standards given there, RatWiki reeks of pseudoskepticism. Long story.

David Bailey that regularly comments here is a paranormal believer and alleged psychic. He is an admin on the Skeptiko paranormal podcast owned by a paranormal nut Alex Tsakiris. Another commenter Abd ul-Rahman Lomax is a known conspiracy theorist and cold fusion pseudoscience nut.

RationalWiki articles:

  • Alex_Tsakiris started by David Gerard, who is not a Smith, but who has often supported them as a RatWiki functionary. Maintained by Forests, David1234, Trolling_Imposter, Crackpot_Hunter, and Skeptical, all probable Smith socks (and characteristically Darryl), and there may be more, as impersonation socks trolling for reaction against other users.
  • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax started by Marky (Darryl L. Smith), as part of threatened retaliation for exposing impersonation socking on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Maintained by many Smith socks (both Darryl and his twin, Oliver), with trolling by impersonation socks. (I made one edit to that article, as Abd (when I was still a sysop on RationalWiki), but there are at least five impersonation socks in the history, using my name, or prior account names of mine elsewhere, or other names associated with me, such as the most recent, “Coldfusions,” not me, and the troll “Lomax is back” is also not me, of course. Who is doing this? One guess: Darryl L. Smith has a long history of creating impersonation socks, he has used them to high effect.

Basically this blog attracts proponents of pseudoscience and woo, not any rational individuals. There is virtually no science here, that is why these insane ramblings are almost limited to a blog on the forgotten side of the internet. I did some private emails to seven known cardiologists in the UK, they said Kendrick is on the extreme verge of fringe science and he is not taken seriously by the medical community as they lack evidence, four of them had never heard of him and two of them described him as a “quack”.

Not at all surprising. Smith also contacts media and creates responses elsewhere, where others repeat what he has written on RatWiki, and then he quotes them on RatWiki as evidence for his claims. Anyone who challenges mainstream views may be claimed to be a “quack,” and “fringe” is not a specific defamation. “Extreme verge” is an exaggerated statement, how many said that? This is the interpretation of possible comments (as little as one, or simply lying), by an attack dog. But I would not wonder to find that some cardiologist or other called Kendrick a “quack,” privately or even publicly.

Reading the blog, I’m led to read scientific papers, on all sides of the issues. Pseudoskeptics have no understanding of the value of diversity of opinion.

Leading doctors also called Semmelweiss a lunatic, and, in fact, he was, probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but . . . he was also right, with quite strong evidence, and by ignoring the evidence he reported, they became responsible for many thousands of gruesome deaths. All to avoid being merely ignorant of a harm, tragic but not morally culpable. A responsible physician would have looked at the evidence. One did and realizing that he had caused the death of his niece, whom he loved, committed suicide, a truly unfortunate response, because he could have, instead, become committed to working to communicate the research, thus saving more lives than he harmed.

Here, Darryl is clearly trolling, not actually engaging in any serious communication, and that’s his MO. He does not provide any actual evidence (and that is typical). It’s all ad hominem, and in some places — not this –he would be trying to induce others to indulge in it. He also knows that sometimes his trolling will draw a target into response he can then quote for defamatory purpose.

He will research identity and find whatever he can use to assert “crackpottery.” A person who simply voices their personal opinion on a very personal issue (their own health! and what they found in their own research toward making persona decisions) will be called a “crackpot,” by one of the most cracked of pots, not useful for encouraging the growth of any thing of beauty, a deranged pseudoskeptic. Smith is not a real skeptic, obviously, he is a believer in “mainstream belief,” that is, anti-fringe, but skepticism is essential to science, and that includes skepticism of what is widespread belief, which RatWikians commonly redefine as “denialism.”

Göran Sjöberg is a metallurgical engineer he has no credentials in medicine and is another one of these low-carb high-fat crackpots.

He has not written an article on this person because it will take him some time to put together a collection of juicy quotes. I looked up Dr. Sjöberg, impressive. Smith will scour every contribution he can find, looking for snippets that can be quoted that will appeal to the juvenile pseudoskeptical community on RationalWiki. If the book he is working on is written, especially, Smith will scour the internet looking for negative comments, and those will be presented as “the response of the medical community,” or something like that. If Sjöberg has written anything that can look unconventional, it will be reported, cherrypicked. I was surprised at all the stuff he found on me, stuff I had forgotten. But, in fact, what I had actually written was fine! (In one case, he was directly wrong, attributing to me what had actually been written by someone else. I pointed that out on the talk page. It was ignored, because he wanted to make the point that I had been involved in an “abusive cult,” and to claim that I had called it that. I had not. If one reads the cited source, one can tell that I never wrote that.

But this is what he does, and few at RationalWiki restrain him in the least.

Nobody is required to have “credentials in medicine” to study a field of relevance to their personal health. One does not become a “crackpot” by concluding something different from “standard of practice.” If I had followed the standard of practice, I would be missing important parts of my anatomy, and, ten years later, I’m intact and the risk that I will regret the choice has become zero. My physicians have always encouraged and supported my study of evidence, and my taking of responsibility for my own decisions.

The course I decided on (“watchful waiting”) was actually recommended as reasonable, not high-risk, by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that had just been published, for my exact condition. But my specialist would not have recommended it, because of “standard of practice.” The risk was not zero, and, this was cancer, and if it spread, he could have been sued. (This will lead into a study of Smith’s article on Marika Sboros, where she made a similar recommendation and has been attacked for it.)

But my doctor could tell me the truth and give me his personal opinion when asked when I asked. One previous specialist I had consulted ridiculed what I’d found, and told me many things that showed he was actually ignorant of the state of research (it was shockingly bad), so I dumped him and found a doctor who was more informed — and a better listener.

“Standard of practice” would have had me go into a panic, and demand that the cancer be removed!!! Yesterday, if I can get an appointment!

Because I have a cardiac blockage, though no heart attack, standard of practice says I should have an angiogram, a complex and very expensive procedure, with many possible complications, and, for someone in my condition, no significant improvement of life expectancy. They don’t tell you that unless you ask! And sometimes what they honestly believe isn’t so. Read the studies! It’s your health! Is that important enough to tolerate some difficulty and to warrant spending some time reading complicated papers? (The language can be difficult if you are not used to reading papers. So, are you brain-damaged so that you cannot learn new words? Can you look them up, can you ask others to help you understand the paper? If you are brain-damaged, fine. Name a health care proxy and trust the person you name, pick your physician well and trust her or him. But if you are not brain-damaged, it is entirely rude to lay that burden on another. If my doctor lies to me, he’s risking malpractice, if I’m around to be the plaintiff, but if he tells me his opinion and includes information about the standard of practice, and lets me decide, no, no risk from me, even if it turns out he is wrong, and as to my family, little risk if he has done what I suggest. I have left the hospital more than once, AMA (Against Medical Advice) and I always sign the forms, because it is rude to make them responsible for my choices. (and it never caused harm, because they will be extremely conservative, whereas I can balance risk, cost, and benefit.)

And what would be the approach of a “rational skeptic”? Would it be, “believe the official dogma”?

Or would it suspend belief and investigate?

I could go through countless other commenters here but I will leave it there. This website is filled with absolute cranks and a crowd of reality denying anti-science kooks. It amazes me that people actually think they are pro-science here, delusions of grandeur! The place is a NUT-HOUSE. LOL.

What I see is many people citing actual studies, and pointing out good science and some, ah, questionable studies. This is — or can be — real skepticism.

(I also see a few people commenting with ideas I consider very fringe. But so what? I am not the “fringe police.” Darryl is, and has expressed at various times that he is on a mission. He has also bragged that he has been paid to expose “pseudoscience.” It would not be by Big Pharma. There is a whole community of cranks pseudoskeptics who wallow in the supposed idiocy of others, and there is money available. There are “professional skeptics,” who give talks on “skeptic cruises.” Ah, diversity. Sometimes I wonder, what does Reality mean by this? Some realities may remain forever mysterious, get over it.)

Many commenters have formed beliefs, that’s normal. Are those beliefs “pseudoscientific”? The pseudoskeptics on RatWiki do not distinguish between personal decisions and choices and claims of “science.” Those who actually study the science know that there is much that is not clearly understood, and that some come to premature conclusions, which sometimes become standard of practice, official recommendations, while the actual scientists have said, “We don’t know that yet, more study is needed.”

And because politicians have said, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out more,” official recommendations were created based on what seemed like a good idea at the time, whether it actually was or not.

Gary Taubes, who is also under attack by Darryl, has documented thoroughly how all this happened, thirty to forty years ago. I just bought the last two books. I don’t believe something is “true” because Taubes writes it. He is a highly experienced journalist and is pretty careful, but analysis is his. Is he correct? Generally, I agree, but Taubes himself claims we need more research to form fixed conclusions. Some conclusions are obvious, though, such as the conclusion that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, if one looks at the history of the idea and then at the nature of the studies underneath the old conclusions and then how they evolved. The idea is pseudoscientific, in practice, because it appears to not be falsifiable, i.e., evidence after evidence appears, indicating no causality — or a weak one — and yet the cholesterol hypothesis is either kept the same, ignoring the evidence, or, slowly, it is revised to keep the core idea, but modify the details, moving the goalposts and continuing to claim that skepticism is dangerous and should be suppressed, even though the original guidelines are now known to be utterly preposterous. It was not long ago that eggs were considered to be terribly risky, because they have high actual cholesterol content. What happened with that? Fat in the diet was pronounced dangerous to be reduced, with the belief that this would save millions of lives. Did it? Originally, it was all fat. Hence the promotion of “low-fat diets.” Then it became saturated fats, especially animal fats. Then the kind of fat became more sophisticated. Then it was shown that fat consumption was poorly correlated with cholesterol levels and heart disease. If at all. With cholesterol, originally it was all cholesterol, then it was LDL cholesterol, then it became more sophisticated, such that the original recommendations, if followed, would be nonsense. Again, moving the goalposts. That is what pseudoskeptics and pseudoscientific believers both do.

(The definition of pseudoskeptic in the RatWiki article is warped against what they actually do, ignoring the fundamental characteristic of pseudoskepticism, which is belief as actually displayed, not merely some utterly untestable idea such as “no evidence would convince them.” That someone believes something is reasonably discernable. A hypothetical is imaginary, unless they claim it as their belief. What is common, though, among pseudoskeptics, is that they will claim a standard of proof that would satisfy them. With cold fusion, a device they can purchase at Home Depot to demonstrate the effect. So does that mean that they have no pseudoskeptical belief? Of course not! What they have done is to predetermine something that would convince them, so they won’t look like a Pseudoskeptic, which is Bad. But that is not the standard. It’s an excuse.)

Once guidelines were created, it then became “dangerous” to publish research that did not confirm the guidelines, that could suggest they were in error. Which could cause some ignorant people to disregard standard medical advice and, OMG, thousands will die! But they do not actually know that, it’s an imagination.

Dissent is suppressed, not as what we think of as some evil conspiracy, but, rather, people believe the nonsense they continue to support. It’s a collective delusion that this is “science-based medicine.” There is a distinct issue with conflict-of-interest research, promoted by people who will profit from certain conclusions. That is slowly being addressed, but it will remain as a problem until the public realizes that a system which requires to profit motive to fund research incentivizes such actions, and until we take responsibility, as the public, for research we need. Taubes got a few million dollars donated. Bake-sale funding. We need billions to do this right, and we need to study and develop methods to do it right. Until then, we are babes in the woods. The situation will not improve much by complaining, only by taking action, and we often err in understanding the problem, falling into blaming the bad guys instead of realizing that we have allowed a system to be maintained that creates and encourages “bad guys,” who are simply filling niches in they system, as biology will do with any environment.

Back to the titled subject:

Homeopathy is one of the favorite targets of pseudoskeptics. I am personally highly skeptical of the “theory of homeopathy.” I am, in practice, a materialist, but with a decision to keep in mind an opposing view, I will call “spiritual,” which holds that there is a “spirit” behind everything. A common name for that spirit is Mind.

And, in fact, all I experience is Mind. Behind that, I refer to Reality, and some atheists have criticized me for capitalizing the word. Why? This would show me that they believe that there is no unique entity, Reality. Do they really believe that?

And then, of course, there are connections between Mind and Reality. What I think affects my body, and vice-versa.

Both positions are pseudoscientific if asserted as scientific. Pseudoskeptics commonly assert that whatever they think is wrong is “pseudoscientific” without actually considering testability, which is crucial to the “official definition” of pseudoscience.

(“Cold fusion” is actually testable, and has been tested, with results that demonstrate, by a strong preponderance of the evidence, a nuclear reality to what was originally found as a heat effect, and those experiments are replicable, and have been rather widely confirmed (contrary to common opinion), with confirmation with increased precision possible, and actually fully funded and under way. So is this “pseudoscience”? On what basis?)

Materialism, if asserted as if a “scientific point of view,” is pseudoscientific, because it is untestable, and a basic skeptical principle is “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and, in addition, pseudoskeptics often assert that “there is no evidence,” when there is plenty.

(They confuse evidence with proof, and there is a lost performative in their understanding of proof, which is the judge, the person interpreting the evidence. Proof is evidence that convinces a judge. It is actually subjective, but where that conviction becomes widespread, it is “social reality.” They commonly and very naively think that “proof” is material, with no subjective aspects, as if it is thing, with material weight and clearly distinct characteristics aside from a judge’s reaction to it.)

But social reality is not Reality, consensus can fall short. And so a true “scientific consensus” would remain open to contradiction, “anomalies,” studying which will generally expand understanding in some way. An anomaly means “something not understood.” What is not understood indicates an edge to knowledge, a frontier. A “scientific consensus” that rejects contrary evidence based on being “fringe” or “crackpot” is pseudoscientific, and “fringe” is the frontier, this is all well-known to sociologists of science who study the “demarcation problem.” RationalWiki, Wikipedia. The RatWiki article is far inferior, even though it is better than the run-of-the-mill RW article. They state the problem to emphasize religion, obviously because most Rats are antireligious, even though the demarcation problem is not about religion at all, it’s about science.

A genuine skeptic will hold as possibilities what can appear to be mutually contradictory hypotheses, and Reality can be approached this way, and that is ancient wisdom, ignored by these trolls who imagine that they understand what they shallowly read, better than those who have spent decades or more studying it. Socially disabled, they are.

Reality is reality, and is not confined by our ideas about it, and “material” and “spiritual” are ideas. These are polar opposites, and enlightenment is generally found in synthesis. One of my favorite questions to ask is:

What arises when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?

I will see what answers appear in Comments, before giving one of my own.

Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans”

Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.

This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!

The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.

Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.

It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.

Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.

Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?

This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:

“Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.”
“What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.[1][2]

Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?

Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?

and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.

I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.

In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.

This is common.

There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.

Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)

I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.

The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see  Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.

Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.

As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

I will list problems with this request:

  1. Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
  2. Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
  3. The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.

Wales responded. 

MAR 23, 2014 — No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.” 

Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.

This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:

to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”

So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.

Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracyciting reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.

Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”

Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:

This is in the lead (current version), which should, by the guideline, be rigorously neutral, enjoying high consensus. The lead has:

Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.[3]

The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):

some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.

Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.

The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.

This begins the lead:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.

Is he? This was there until a few days ago:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.

To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”

Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:

  • improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
  • but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:

If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”

These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.

A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:

Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance June 13, 2018

This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.

Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:

Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio

Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.

Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.

Status of cold fusion (2010)

Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.

See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.

So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.

There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.

removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.

Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:

(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)

These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.

None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)

In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.

Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.

No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.

Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.

Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.

I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.

Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)

To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)

It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.

The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.

(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )

It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.

It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.

Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.

Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.

(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.

If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)

As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.

Malcolm Kendrick

UNDER CONSTRUCTION, TO BE EDITED AND SUMMARIZED

Subpage of anglo-pyramidologist/darryl-l-smith/skeptic-from-britain/

drmalcolmkendrick.org/2018/12/03/dr-malcolm-kendrick-deletion-from-wikipedia/ 616 replies
drmalcolmkendrick.org/2018/12/18/wikipedia-a-parable-for-our-times/ 460 replies

Dr. Kendrick’s blog came to my attention because I was accused of being Skeptic from Britain. When I looked, it was clear who this was and I have verified the identity through a review of contributions, both on Wikipedia and on RationalWiki, a hangout for “skeptics” who are, much more often, pseudoskeptics.

Dr. Kendrick’s Wikipedia article, and low-carb food plans and related information, in general, were attacked by that faction. It has not been uncommon. The same faction attacks and attempts to suppress “non-mainstream” information in Wikipedia, far more than policy would allow, and often being decades out-of-date.

This page will examine the issues, and hopefully provide some guidance for those who tangle with that faction. Misunderstanding of how Wikipedia works is very common, so perhaps some of that can be cleared up. Continue reading “Malcolm Kendrick”

Ignorance is bliss

There is at least one physicist arguing that LENR research is is unethical because (1) LENR does not exist, and (2) if it is possible, it would be far too dangerous to allow.

This came to my attention because of an article in IEEE Spectrum, Scientists in the U.S. and Japan Get Serious About Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions

I wrote a critique of that article, here.

Energy is important to humanity, to our survival. We are already using dangerous technologies, and the deadly endeavor is science itself, because knowledge is power, and if power is unrestrained, it is used to deadly effect. That problem is a human social problem, not specifically a scientific one, but one principle is clear to me, ignorance is not the solution. Trusting and maintaining the status quo is not the solution (nor is blowing it up, smashing it). Behind these critiques is ignorance. The idea that LENR is dangerous (more than the possibility of an experiment melting down, or a chemical explosion which already killed Andrew Riley, or researchers being poisoned by nickel nanopowder, which is dangerous stuff) is rooted in ignorance of what LENR is. Because it is “nuclear,” it is immediately associated with the fast reactions of fission, which can maintain high power density even when the material becomes a plasma.

LENR is more generally a part of the field of CMNS, Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. This is about nuclear phenomena in condensed matter, i.e., matter below plasma temperature, matter with bound electrons, not the raw nuclei of a hot plasma. I have seen no evidence of LENR under plasma conditions, not depending on the patterned structures of the solid state. That sets up an intrinsic limit to LENR power generation.

We do not have a solid understanding of the mechanisms of LENR. It was called “cold fusion,” popularly, but that immediately brings up an association with the known fusion reaction possible with the material used in the original work, d-d fusion. Until we know what is actually happening in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment (contrary to fundamentally ignorant claims, the anomalous heat reported by them  has been widely confirmed, this is not actually controversial any more among those familiar with the research), we cannot rule anything out entirely, but it is very, very unlikely that the FP Heat Effect is caused by d-d fusion, and this was obvious from the beginning, including to F&P.

It is d-d fusion which is so ridiculously impossible. So, then, are all “low energy nuclear reactions” impossible? Any sophisticated physicist would not fall for that sucker-bait question, but, in fact, many have and many still do. Here is a nice paradox: it is impossible to prove that an unknown reaction is impossible. So what does the impossibility claim boil down to?

“I have seen no evidence ….” and then, if the pseudoskeptic rants on, all asserted evidence is dismissed as wrong, deceptive, irrelevant, or worse (i.e, the data reported in peer-reviewed papers was fraudulent, deliberately faked, etc.)

There is a great deal of evidence, and when it is reviewed with any care, the possibility of LENR has always remained on the table. I could (and often do) make stronger claims than that. For example, I assert that the FP Heat Effect is caused by the conversion of deuterium to helium, and the evidence for that is strong enough to secure a conviction in a criminal trial, far beyond that necessary for a civil decision, though my lawyer friends always point out that we can never be sure until it happens. The common, run-of-the-mill pseudoskeptics never bother to actually look at all the evidence, merely whatever they select as confirming what they believe.

“Pseudoskepticism’ is belief disguised as skepticism, hence “pseudo.” Genuine skeptics will not forget to be skeptical of their own ideas. They will be precise in distinguishing between fact (which is fundamental to science) and interpretation (which is not reality, but an attempt at a map of reality).

This immediate affair has created many examples to look at. I will continue below, and comment on posts here is always welcome, and I keep it open indefinitely. A genuine study may take years to mature, consensus may take years to form. “Pages” do not yet have automatic open comment, editors here must explicitly enable it, and sometimes forget. Ask for opening of comment through a comment on any page that has it enabled. An editor will clean it up and, I assume, enable the comments. (That is, provide a link to the original page, and we can also move comments).

This conversation is important, the future of humanity is at stake. Continue reading “Ignorance is bliss”

Synthestech scam?

It’s come to my attention that there is a company, Synthestech, which has, for about a year, been running an Initial Coin Offering, as an investment in “Cold Transmutation of Chemical Elements.”

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, which Sythestech is promoting, are real, or at least there are reports by competent and reputable scientists that there are such reactions. However, the state of the art is far, far from any commercial potential, and there have been many scammers in the history of LENR. Reading the Synthestech material, I see no sign that they have a clue how to make this work, reproducibly and practically. There have been many, many researchers working on the problems for many years, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested, with little practical result. If this does show up, it is unlikely to be through an activity using very shaky fundraising techniques.

If one wants to invest in LENR, which must be considered extremely high risk at this time, –expect to lose your money  I would suggest Industrial Heat, which does not accept most private investment at this time. At least, though, they are supporting genuine research and it is possible they will get lucky. For the general public, Woodford Patient Capital Trust is invested in Industrial Heat, so it’s possible to buy in, I know a few people who have modest stakes — and a few with much larger stakes. This is, however, more of a way to spend one’s money than to get rich. There was a revaluation lately that looked good. It may or may not mean anything.

Again, I’ll emphasize, this is truly high risk, I am aware of no technology close to commercialization. Andrea Rossi was (and remains) a fraud.

Speaking of Rossi, Sythestech uses his name. In their “White Paper,” they have:

Andrea Rossi was one of
the first entrepreneurs who adopted the LENR technology. In collaboration with Sergio Focardi, he created a device based on the principles of LENR-reactions, which generated electricity. In recent years, many installations that generate electricity have been built secretly.

That’s total BS. Rossi has not claimed the generation of elecricity. He did claim to be operating a megawatt reactor in Florida, and it was secret for a time, but all this blew up in 2016, becoming highly public in the lawsuit, Rossi v. Darden. There was a plant, but it was not generating a megawatt, if it was generating anything, and the odds are high that it was generating nothing, it was just a big electric water heater, maybe 30 KW.

Rossi comes up again in the interview in Entrepreneur

Your whitepaper ICO mentions modern nuclear technology. Do you also develop advanced nuclear technologies? Could you tell us more about this?

In fact, the field has become more popular than ever. Latest advancements in portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi and progress in obtaining platinum from tungsten by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, indicate that Cold Transmutation has gained real-world traction.

There are no “portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi.” There has been work on certain transmutations by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the work of Iwamura), but it was not “platinum from tungsten” and was not even close to commercial possibility. Synthestech is doing a lot of name-dropping, making it seem like there is support for their plans. There is not, not from the scientists in the field, not as far as has been shown.

There are so many signs of scam, frenzied hype, that I’m not researching this further, there are many more interesting things to work on, with the real science of LENR. I’m putting this up to warn investors that, while LENR is real, that is, there are real nuclear effects at apparently low initiation energies, the evidence has become overwhelming, the effects remain very difficult to control, they are “unreliable,” generally, in spite of many years of effort to develop control. The best minds in the field are searching for a “lab rat,” a simple experiment that could be widely confirmed. It does not yet exist.

(The evidence for the reality of LENR does not depend on reliability of generating the effect. Rather, the circumstantial evidence is the many reports of anomalous heat, the many reports of anomalous tritium, and then the direct evidence that measured helium is correlated with the heat, at a ratio consistent within experimental error of that expected from fusion. (This does not require that the reaction be “d-d fusion.” Any process that starts with deuterium and ends with helium will show that ratio, it must, if there are no leakages.)

David Gerard, not exactly a friend, has a post on Synthestech. He has his head wedged in a dark place on LENR, but he’s right that Synthestech is a scam. It has many, many marks of deception. However:

Karabanov announced his breakthrough in a press release and press conference in August 2016 — because science by press conference, rather than a published paper detailing an experiment and how to reproduce it, is standard in cold fusion:

It is not “standard in cold fusion.” There were press conferences in 1989, on both sides of the cold fusion controversy, but the real science is not conducted by press conference. There are over 1500 papers on cold fusion published in mainstream journals and if we add in conference proceedings, which sometimes include papers of equal or better quality than what is in journals, it’s roughly 5000 papers. David Gerard is repeating a series of tired old arguments against cold fusion. He has no clue what really happened in 1989-1990 and later, just a pile of vague ideas, second-hand knowledge, not actually researched, repeating the common opinions of the ignorant as if fact.

The problem is not that “cold nuclear transmutation” is impossible, it’s not, but that it is, so far, at best, a laboratory curiosity, not a commercial possibility, except in the most remote sense.Maybe. Some day. If.

Dismissals like that of David Gerard are obviously pseudoskeptical and will have no effect or influence on those who might be interested in investing. Steve Krivit was correct that Rossi was a scammer, but because his evidence was circumstantial and vague, dependent on ad-hominem arguments and inferences, it did not prevent investment in Rossi.

There are many Russian researchers working with LENR, they have long been prominent in the field. I see no sign, so far, that Synthestech is working with the real scientists in the field, though they drop their names, such as Vysotskii and Kornilova. I found that apparently Yuri Bazhutov, the late well-known Russian LENR researcher, has been called an “advisor” to Synthestech. See this obituary.

That points to a Sythestech interview of Bazhutov. I had noticed that Sythestech has claimed to have been an observer at RCCNT&BL in 2017, and the interview was allegedly conducted there. There is only one very brief mention of Synthestech in the interview:

What can you say about “Synthestech” and your visit to the Sochi laboratory?

We were pleased to know that there is a new group in Russia that is studying the same phenomena. It’s very pleasant that there is such a team as “Synthestech”, because the winner is the one who moves.

That is simply a casual comment, non-committal, and not surprising. This is far from an endorsement of the actual company, or its accomplishments. Many entrepreneurs have induced scientists to be called “advisors.” It’s basically meaningless, particularly when the company is unknown and the scientist has little reason to suspect a scam. I have seen scientists, later, distance themselves from such companies, when the way they were operating became clear.

Again, if one wants to support LENR research, I recommend becoming knowledgeable as a first step. There are many ways to support increased awareness of the real work that has been done. Tossing money at overheated investment scams is not one of them. Contact me if interested in supportive activity.

On more point: the original research that Karabanov of Synthestech appropriate was biological transmutation. To those that believe cold fusion or cold nuclear transmutation is impossible, biological transmutation will seem preposterous.

However, there are nuclear effects in condensed matter, that appear to involve unusual structures that allow a collective effect, rather than the brute-force collision effect of hot fusion. This is all poorly understood, but the evidence of nuclear anomalies is overwhelming, and if it can happen in the lab, at low energies, it is easily conceivable that life would find a way to use it, and there is substantial work on biological transmutation, by serious and highly experienced scientists (such as Vysotskii, whose name gets dropped by Karabanov). Most of this is not yet confirmed.

Karabanov is attempting to sell something that might be possible, almost certainly before its time. Here is a page covering some of that research by those identified as Karabanov’s partners. It looks like Karabanov abandoned the biological approach, and he claims to have industrial processes. No evidence has appeared of this. When challenged with, “If you can transmute elements, why do you need the bitcoin investments?” (he could just make precious metals), his answer is that the experiments only produce milligrams of material. I think he is exaggerating even there, if not outright lying, but what is a few orders of magnitude among friends?

Protecting the fringe allows the mainstream to breathe

Wikipedia is famously biased against fringe points of view or fringe science (and actually the bias can appear with any position considered “truth” by a majority or plurality faction). The pseudoskeptical faction there claims that there is no bias, but it’s quite clear that reliable sources exist, per Wikipedia definitions, that are excluded, and weaker sources “debunking” the fringe are allowed, plus if editors appears to be “fringe,” they are readily harassed and blocked or banned, whereas more egregious behavior, violating Wikipedia policies, is overlooked, if an editor is allied with the “skeptical” faction. Over time, the original Wikipedians, who actually supported Neutral Point of View policy, have substantially been marginalized and ignored, and the faction has become increasingly bold.

When I first confronted factional editing, before the Arbitration Committee in 2009, the faction was relatively weak. However, over the ensuing years, the debunkers organized, Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) came into existence, and operates openly. People who come to Wikipedia to attempt to push toward neutrality (or toward “believer” positions) are sanctioned for treating Wikipedia as a battleground, but that is exactly what the skeptics have done, and the Guerrilla Skeptics (consider the name!) create a consistent push with a factional position.

There is increasing evidence of additional off-wiki coordination. It would actually be surprising if it did not exist, it can be difficult to detect. But we have an incident, now.

February 24, 2018 I was banned by the WikiMediaFoundation. There was no warning, and no explanation, and there is no appeal from a global ban. Why? To my knowledge, I did not violate the Terms of Service in any way. There was, however, at least one claim that I did, an allegation by a user that I had “harassed” him by email, the first of our emails was sent through the WMF servers, so if, in fact, that email was harassment, it would be a TOS violation, though a single violation, unless truly egregious, has never been known to result in a ban. I have published all the emails with that user here.

This much is known, however. One of those who claimed to have complained about me to the WMF posted a list of those complaining on the forum, Wikipedia Sucks. It is practically identical to the list I had inferred; it is, then, a convenient list of those who likely libelled me. However, I will be, ah, requesting the information from the WikiMedia Foundation.

Meanwhile, the purpose of this post is to consider the situation with fringe science and an encyclopedia project. First of all, what is fringe science?

The Wikipedia article, no surprise, is massively confused on this.

Description

The term “fringe science” denotes unorthodox scientific theories and models. Persons who create fringe science may have employed the scientific method in their work, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has some recognition within the larger scientific community, but this is not always the case. Usually the evidence provided by fringe science is accepted only by a minority and is rejected by most experts.[citation needed]

Indeed, citation needed! Evidence is evidence, and is often confused with conclusions. Rejection of evidence is essentially a claim of fraud or reporting error, which is rare for professional scientists, because it can be career suicide. Rather, a scientist may discover an anomaly, au unexplained phenomenon, more precisely, unexplained results. Then a cause may be hypothesized. If this hypothesis is unexpected within existing scientific knowledge, yet the hypothesis is not yet confirmed independently, it may be “rejected” as premature or even wrong. If there are experts in the relevant field who accept it as possible and worthy of investigation, this then is “possible new science.” There may be experts who reject the new analysis, for various reasons, and we will look at a well-known example, “continental drift.”

There is no “journal of mainstream opinion,” but there are journals considered “mainstream.” The term “mainstream” is casually used by many authors without any clear definition. In my own work, I defined “mainstream journals” as journals acceptable as such by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist. As well, the issue of speciality arises. If there is an electrochemical anomaly discovered, heat the expert chemists cannot explain through chemistry, what is the relevant field of expertise. Often those who claim a field is “fringe” are referring to the opinions of those who are not expert in the directly relevant field, but whose expertise, perhaps, leads to conclusions that are, on the face, contradicted by evidence gathered with expertise other than in their field.

With “cold fusion,” named after a hypothesized source for anomalous heat,  in the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect,  (also found by many others), it was immediately assumed that the relevant field would be nuclear physics. It was also assumed that if “cold fusion” were real, it would overturn established physical theory. That was a blatant analytical error, because it assumed a specific model of the heat source, a specific mechanism, which was actually contradicted by the experimental evidence, most notably by the “dead graduate student effect.” If the FPHE were caused by the direct fusion of two deuterons to form helium, the third of Huizenga’s three “miracles,” if absent, would have generated fatal levels of gamma radiation. The second miracle was the reaction being guided in to the very rare helium branch, instead of there being fatal levels of neutron radiation, and the first would be the fusion itself. However, that first miracle would not contradict existing physics, because an unknown form of catalysis may exist, and one is already known, muon-catalyzed fusion.

Evidence is not provided by “fringe science.” It is provided by ordinary scientific study. In cargo cult science, ordinary thinking is worshipped as if conclusive, without the rigorous application of the scientific method. Real science is always open, no matter how well-established a theory. The existing theory may be incomplete. Ptolemaic astronomy provided a modal that was quite good at explaining the motions of planets. Ptolemaic astronomy passed into history when a simpler model was found.

Galileo’s observations were rejected because they contradicted certain beliefs.  The observations were evidence, and “contradiction” is an interpretation, not evidence in itself. (It is not uncommon for  apparently contradictory evidence to be later understood as indicating an underlying reality. But with Galileo, his very observations were rejected — I think, it would be interesting to study this in detail — and if he were lying, it would be a serious moral offense, actually heresy.

The boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience is disputed. The connotation of “fringe science” is that the enterprise is rational but is unlikely to produce good results for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence.[7]

The “boundary question” is an aspect of the sociology of science. “Unlikely to produce good results,” first of all, creates a bias, where results are classified as “good” or “poor” or “wrong,” all of which moves away from evidence to opinion and interpretation. “Contradictory evidence,” then, suggests anomalies. “Contradiction” does not exist in nature. With cold fusion, an example is the neutron radiation issue. Theory would predict, for two-deuteron fusion, massive neutron radiation. So that Pons and Fleischmann reported neutron radiation, but at levels far, far below what would be expected for d-d fusion generating the reported heat, first of all, contradicted the d-d fusion theory, on theoretical grounds. They were quite aware of this, hence what they actually proposed in their first paper was not “d-d fusion” but an “unknown nuclear reaction.” That was largely ignored, so much noise was being made about “fusion,” it was practically a Perfect Storm.

Further, any substantial neutron radiation would be remarkable as a result from an electrochemical experiment. As came out rather rapidly, Pons and Fleischmann had erred. Later work that established an upper limit for neutron radiation was itself defective (the FP heat effect was very difficult to set up, and it was not enough to create an alleged “FP cell” and look for neutrons, because many such cells produce no measurable heat), but it is clear from later work that neutron generation, if it exists at all, is at extremely low levels, basically irrelevant to the main effect.

Such neutron findings were considered “negative” by Britz. In fact, all experimental findings contribute to knowledge; it became a well-established characteristic of the FP Heat Effect that it does not generate significant high-energy radiation, nor has the heat ever been correlated (across multiple experiments and by multiple independent groups) with any other nuclear product except helium. 

The term may be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry Jr. wrote that, “fringe science [is] a term also suggesting kookiness.”[8] This characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers of the kind known colloquially (and with considerable historical precedent) as mad scientists.[9]

The term does suggest that. The looseness of the definition allows inclusion of many different findings and claims, which do include isolated and idiosyncratic ideas of so-called “mad scientists.” This is all pop science, complicated by the fact that some scientists age and suffer from forms of dementia. However, some highly successful scientists also move into a disregard of popular opinion, which can create an impression of “kookiness,” which is, after all, popular judgment and not objective. They may be willing to consider ideas rejected for social reasons by others.

Although most fringe science is rejected, the scientific community has come to accept some portions of it.[10] One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea which had its origin in the fringe science of continental drift and was rejected for decades.[11]

There are lost and crucial details. Rejected by whom, and when? The present tense is used, and this is common with the anti-fringe faction on Wikipedia. If something was rejected by some or by many, that condition is assumed to continee and is reported in the present tense, as as it were a continuing fact, when an author cannot do more than express an opinion about the future.  Now, plate tectonics is mentioned. “Continental drift” is called “fringe science,” even after it became widely accepted.

Wegener’s proposal of continental drift is a fascinating example. The Wikipedia article does not mention “fringe science.” The Wikipedia article is quite good, it seems to me. One particular snippet is of high interest:

David Attenborough, who attended university in the second half of the 1940s, recounted an incident illustrating its lack of acceptance then: “I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”[47]

As late as 1953 – just five years before Carey[48] introduced the theory of plate tectonics – the theory of continental drift was rejected by the physicist Scheidegger on the following grounds.[49]

That rejection was essentially pseudoskepticism and pseudoscientific. There was observation (experimental evidence) suggesting drift. The lack of explanatory theory is not evidence of anything other than possible ignorance. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

The fact is that the continental drift hypothesis, as an explanation for the map appearance and fossil record, was not generally accepted. What shifted opinion was the appearance of a plausible theory. Worthy of note was how strongly the opinion of “impossible” was, such that “proof” was demanded. This is a sign of a fixed mind, not open to new ideas. The history of science is a long story of developing methods to overcome prejudice like that. This is a struggle between established belief and actual fact. Experimental evidence is fact. Such and such was observed, such and such was measured. These are truth, the best we have. It can turn out that recorded data was a result of artifact, and some records are incorrect, but that is relatively rare. Scientists are trained to record data accurately and to report it neutrally. Sometimes they fail, they are human. But science has the potential to grow beyond present limitations because of this habit.

Anomalies, observations that are not understood within existing scientific models, are indications that existing models are incomplete. Rejecting new data or analyses because they don’t fit existing models is circular. Rather, a far better understanding of this is that the evidence for a new idea has not risen to a level of detail, including controlled tests, to overcome standing ideas. Science, as a whole, properly remains agnostic. Proof is for math, not the rest of science. This does not require acceptance of new ideas until one is convinced by the preponderance of evidence. Pseudoskeptics often demand “proof.” “Extraordinary claims” require extraordinary evidence.” Yes, but what does that actually mean? What if there is “ordinary evidence?” What is the definition of an “extraordinary claim,” such that ordinary evidence is to be disregarded?

It’s subjective. It means nothing other than “surprising to me” — or to “us,” often defined to exclude anyone with a contrary opinion. For Wikipedia, peer-reviewed secondary source in a clearly mainstream journal is rejected because the author is allegedly a “believer.” That is editorial opinion, clearly not neutral. Back to the fringe science article:

The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape …. Acceptance of new science can come slowly.[12]

This was presented by formatting as a quotation, but was not attributed in the text. This should be “According to Michael W. Friedlander.” in his book on the topic, At the Fringes of Science (1005). He is very clear: there is no clear demarcation between “science” and “fringe science.”

Friedlander does cover cold fusion, to some degree. He hedges his comments. On page 1, “… after months of independent, costly, and exhaustive checks by hundreds of scientist around the world, the excitement over cold fusion cooled off, and the claim is probably destined to take its place alongside monopoles, N-rays, polywater, and other fly-by-night “discoveries” that flash across our scientific skies to end up as part of our folklore.”

He hedged with “probably.” On what evidence was he basing that assessment?  Cold fusion was not actually his primary investigation. On pp. 27-34, he reports the early days of the cold fusion fiasco, (with some errors), and doesn’t report on what came later. He doesn’t mention the later confirmations of the heat effect, nor the discovery of a nuclear product, published in 1993 in a mainstream journal (though announced in 1991, Huizenga covered it in 1993). He does not distinguish between the”fusion theory” and the actual report of anomalous heat by experts in heat measurement, not to mention the later discovery of a correlated nuclear product. He closes that section with:

To summarize briefly, the cold fusion “discovery” will surely be remembered as a striking example of how science should not be done. Taubes has compared “many of the proponents of cold fusion” to Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century scientist who “renounced a life of science for one of faith>” [Bad Science (1993), 92] The whole episode certainly illustrates the practical difficulty in implementing an innocuous-sounding “replication” and points to the need for full and open disclosure if there are to be meaningful tests and checks. It has also exposed some unfortunate professional sensitivities, jealousies, and resentments. At least to date, the exercise appears to be devoid of redeeming scientific value — but perhaps something may yet turn up as the few holdouts tenaciously pursue a theory as evasive as the Cheshire cat.

I agree with much of this, excepting his ignorance of results in the field, and his idea that what was to be pursued was a “theory.” No, what was needed was clear confirmation of the heat anomaly, then confirmation of the direct evidence that it was nuclear in nature (correlated helium!), and then far more intensive study of the effect itself, its conditions and other correlates and only then would a viable theory become likely.

Cold fusion was the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century” (Huizenga, 1992) It looks like Friendlander did not look at the second edition of Huizenga’s book, where he pointed to the amazing discovery of correlated helium. There was a problem in cold fusion research, that there were many “confirmations” of the heat effect, but they were not exact replications, mostly. Much of the rush to confirm — or disconfirm — was premature and focused on what was not present: “expected” nuclear products, i.e., neutrons. Tritium was confirmed but at very low levels and not correlated with heat (often the tritium studies were of cells where heat was not measured).

Nobody sane would argue that fringe claims should be “believed” without evidence, and where each individual draws the line on what level of evidence is necessary is a personal choice. It is offensive, however, when those who support a fringe claim are attacked and belittled and sometimes hounded. If fringe claims are to be rejected ipso facto, i.e., because they are considered fringe, the possibility of growth in scientific understanding is suppressed. This will be true even if most fringe claims ultimately disappear. Ordinary evidence showing some anomaly is just that, showing an anomaly. By definition, an anomaly indicates something is not understood.

With cold fusion, evidence for a heat anomaly accumulated, and because the conditions required to create the anomaly were very poorly understood, a “negative confirmation” was largely meaningless, indicating only that whatever approach was used did not generate the claimed effect, and it could have been understood that the claimed effect was not “fusion,” but anomalous heat. If the millions of dollars per month that the U.S. DoE was spending frantically in 1989 to test the claim had been understood that way, and if time had been allowed for confirmation to appear, it might not have been wasted.

As it is, Bayesian analysis of the major “negative confirmations” shows that with what became known later, those experiments could be strongly predicted to fail, they simply did not set up the conditions that became known as necessary. This was the result of a rush to judgment, pressure was put on the DoE to come up with quick answers, perhaps because the billion-dollar-per-year hot fusion effort was being, it was thought, threatened, with heavy political implications. Think of a billion dollars per year no longer being available for salaries for, say, plasma physicists.

However, though they were widely thought to have “rejected” cold fusion, the reality is that both U.S. DoE reviews were aware of the existence of evidence supporting the heat effect and its nuclear nature, and recommended further research to resolve open questions; in 2004, the 18-member panel was evenly divided on the heat question, with half considering the evidence to be conclusive and half not. Then on the issue of a nuclear origin, a third considered the evidence for a nuclear effect to be “conclusive or somewhat conclusive.”

The heat question has nothing to do with nuclear theory, but it is clear that some panel members rejected the heat evidence because of theory. The most recent major scientific work on cold fusion terms itself as a study of the Anomalous Heat Effect, and they are working on improving precision of heat and helium measurements.

If one does not accept the heat results, there would be no reason to accept nuclear evidence! So it is clear from the 2004 DoE review that cold fusion was, by then, moving into the mainstream, even though there was still rampant skepticism.

The rejection of cold fusion became an entrenched idea, an information cascade that, as is normal for such cascades, perpetuates itself, as scientists and others assume that was “everyone thinks” must be true.

In mainstream journals, publication of papers, and more significantly, reviews that accept the reality of the effect began increasing around 2005. There are no negative reviews that were more than a passing mention. What is missing is reviews in certain major journals that essentially promised to not publish on the topic, over a quarter-century ago.

One of the difficulties is that the basic research that shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the effect is real and nuclear in nature was all done more than a decade ago. It is old news, even though it was not widely reported. Hence my proposal, beginning quite a few years ago, was for replication of that work with increased precision, which is a classic measure of “pathological science.” Will the correlation decline or disappear with increased precision?

This is exactly the work that a genuine skeptic would want to see.

I have often written that genuine skepticism is essential to science. As well, those who will give new ideas or reported anomalies enough credence to support testing are also essential. Some of them will be accused of being “believers” or “proponents,” or even “diehards.”

The mainstream needs the fringes to be alive, in order to breathe and grow.

Diehard believers have hope, especially if they also trust reality. Diehard skeptics are simply dying.

(More accurately, “diehard skeptic” is an oxymoron. Such a person is a pseudoskeptic, a negative believer.)

Reviews

 

RationalWiki had a wide reputation as a joke wiki, where skeptics and atheists — and adolescents — fully engaged in unrestrained snark. There are many reviews, but start with the Wikipedia article. It will be fun to compare that article to the favorite targets of the RatWikians and their allies, the Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. Any socks there? Some much to research, so little time…. That one is for later. I immediately see POV-pushing in the editing….

This was reasonable, on the face, this was not, it involves synthesis, unless there is reliable source for the claim that criticism is because “beliefs” are challenged. That kind of claim is difficult even when reliable source can be found for it, it should be attributed … unless there was a formal study!

Lets start with a list of reviews. First, from Wikipedia:

http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5597/4652

At first glance, this source is misrepresented in the article. (note 13). What the article has is synthesis from the source. The source does not actually say that.

  •  Smith, Jonathan C. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp 77. 9781119029489
  • Shvets, Alexander (October 2, 2014). Filev, D.; Jabłkowski, J.; Kacprzyk, J.; et al., eds. Intelligent Systems’2014: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference Intelligent Systems IS’2014, September 24–26, 2014, Warsaw, Poland, Volume 2: Tools, Architectures, Systems, Applications. Series: Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol. 323Springer Publishing. A Method of Automatic Detection of Pseudoscientific Publications, page 533 et seq. ISBN 978-3-319-11310-4.

This is a conference paper, such are often not carefully reviewed. This is the sourced text:

In Intelligent Systems’2014, Alexander Shvets stated that RationalWiki is one of the few online resources that “provide some information about pseudoscientific theories” and notes that it attempts to “organize and categorize knowledge about pseudoscientific theories, personalities, and organizations”.

What RationalWiki does is to organize, not knowledge (Wikipedia does that), but snark, loosely based on very irregularly collected sources, often terminally weak.

This is a conference paper as well. The mention of RationalWiki is shallow, the authors do not appear to have done more than look at the stated purposes, and a hosted essay by Carl Sagan. The impression one would get from reading the article is not the impression I would see from the source.

  • https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/11/rationalwiki_emamerican_thinkerem_is_a_wingnut_publication.html
  • https://www.cato.org/blog/ten-things-every-economist-should-know-about-gold-standard
  • Einspruch, Franklin (September 6, 2016). “Cultural Marxists Are Actually Pomofascists”The Federalist. Retrieved August 14, 2017

These are sources that mention a specific RationalWiki article to expose it or argue against it. No source so far is actually a review of the site, anything more than a passing mention. I’ll keep looking.

Dissertations are not generally considered reliable source, they would be primary sources. This dissertation simply mentions an idea taken from RationalWiki, and it describes the purpose of the site, with no analysis of whether or not the site actually accomplishes that purpose.

This went on with links showing that someone referenced RationalWiki in some way. Actual reviews? None (neither positive nor negative.)

Okay, I know to look at history. Did anyone attempt to add actual reviews? Wikipedia does not make it easy to search history. While that could easily be done from the database, no priority has been given it. Someone might take advantage of that and create a site with full-database search access. It would make certain kinds of wiki studies far easier!

I found a brief review that had been added and immediately removed, as it was a “blog” and thus “not reliable source.” This was only a superficial analysis of “site bias,” not actually controversial and not very informative.

There was an Articles for deletion discussion on RationalWiki. I find no assertion of source sufficient to establish notability. Passing mentions don’t count. It was kept, though there was much opinion to keep it as a redirect to the Conservapedia article. In the discussion I found these sources:

  • http://blastmagazine.com/2007/09/03/thoughts-on-a-conservapedia/
  • http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/19/nation/na-schlafly19/2 (page 2 is important. I couldn’t find this at first.)

Those are passing mention, really about Conservapedia. This was weak, but that’s Wikipedia. An admin takes a glance at a discussion, makes a snap decision, and unless someone cares enough to appeal it, there it goes, enshrined as a community decision (which it didn’t look like to me! Most wanted to see better sources. My own opinion as an inclusionist would do something very different…. )

https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/the-rationalwiki-foundation/albuquerque-new-mexico-87106/the-rationalwiki-foundation-rationalwiki-rational-wiki-rw-rationalwikiorg-rationalwi-1143383

Not considered reliable source, but an actual review! With details! This report describes RatWiki as it was when I was active there. Some of that atmosphere is still there. the report was by “Rational Wiki Exposed,” not exactly an encouraging author if one is looking for neutrality. But it was fairly sober.

Okay, I found a genuine revert war, starting with [ this edit], adding a review.  The user, an SPA, was warned for edit warring and disappeared. The source:

RationalWiki guts a reader’s attempt to correct its article on female genital mutilation

This is another source that is based on “RationalWiki is wrong on X.” This happens to be a topic I know a great deal about. Many sources misrepresent the position of Islam on the topic. What upsets people so much is not what is allowed or approved, and the majority opinion is that the extreme practices are prohibited. But this is not our topic here. The RatWiki article on this topic is far from the worst there.

I round a reference to the RW article where they brag report about mentions.

That quotes from many mentions. Indeed, it quotes from the book mentioned above:

Smith, Jonathan. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 2nd Ed. John Wiley & Sons, 2017. 9781119029489. Lists RationalWiki as a logical fallacy library.

This is hilarious. I’m not really sure what the author intended. The instructions are to “select an example of a logical fallacy.” So RatWiki is a place to find the expression of logical fallacies. The training that I can imagine is to teach students how to spot logical fallacies. If a site is merely a list of logical fallacies with examples given, there would be little or no challenge. Rather, each of those sites, it is highly likely, expresses logical fallacies. The Nizkor.org site is not about logical fallacies, as such, it is political. If one’s political beliefs align with the beliefs of a source, one is far less likely to spot the fallacies.

Sound training will practice identifying logical fallacies in our own thinking or argument, or in the arguments and thinking of those we might agree with. I generally agree with the substance of what is on the Nizkor site. But there is at least one blatant logical fallacy on the home page. Can you spot one?

5.4 Group Exercise: Identify the FallacyIn this exercise, divide into two teams. Each team selects an example of a logical fallacy (from this chapter) from one of these websites:

Team 1 presents its example to Team 2. Team 2 has five minutes to identify it and explain it. If the explanation is acceptable to the moderator, Team 2 gets a point. Repeat for Team 2. Complete until each team has a chance to identify five logical fallacies. The team correctly identifying the most fallacies wins.

I have created a link for each site. How the exercise would be done is unclear. There is a form of logical fallacy, “straw man,” where one presents an argument that is allegedly the argument of another, but it is not actually what the other says, thinks, or believes. So if students pick a description of someone else’s argument, they would be explaining a fantasy. Much more interesting, I’d think, to identify logical fallacies presented as factual or logical, and RatWiki is full of those, it is practically the norm in some articles.  For extra credit, identify logical errors in the thinking of people you agree with, and for a doctorate, identify them in your own thinking, because everyone does this (at least until it is distinguished). A loglcal fallacy does not mean that the conclusion is wrong, set that right/wrong mess aside. It merely means that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Something may be missing.

from other sources:

This refers to the RW article, Michael Prescott

(If Mr. Prescott sees this and requests that the link be removed, I’ll do it. Links raise Google ranking. Unfortunately, to study RationalWiki and create something verifiable, I need to place links, but I can find less convenient ways to do it, on request. I have not yet studied the Prescott article, but I’ve certainly seen worse on RatWiki!)

The public comments are interesting…. I decided to look at who created this article.

This then led me to more socks…. another day, another set of socks documented. There are certain red flags, easy to see, sometimes. Some identifications are not so easy, and there are probably some errors. The Smiths have no monopoly on snarky defamation.

to be continued ….

SOS Wikipedia

Original post

I’ve been working on some studies that involve a lot of looking at Wikipedia, and I come across the Same Old S … ah, Stuff! Yeah! Stuff!

Wikipedia has absolutely wonderful policies that are not worth the paper they are not written on, because what actually matters is enforcement. If you push a point of view considered fringe by the administrative cabal (Jimbo’s word for what he created … but shhhh! Don’t write the word on Wikipedia, the sky will fall!) you are in for some, ah, enforcement. But if you have and push a clear anti-fringe point of view — which is quite distinct from neutrally insisting on policy — nothing will happen, unless you go beyond limits, in which case you might even get blocked until your friends bail you out, as happened with jps, mentioned below. Way beyond limits.

So an example pushed against my eyeballs today. It’s not about cold fusion, but it shows the thinking of an administrator (JzG is the account but he signs “Guy”) and a user (the former Science Apologist, who has a deliberately unpronounceable username but who signs jps (those were his real-life initials), who were prominent in establishing the very iffy state of Cold fusion.

Wikipedia:Fringe_theories/Noticeboard


Aron K. Barbey ‎[edit]

Before looking at what JzG (Guy) and UnpronounceableUsername (jps) wrote, what happened here? What is the state of the article and the user?

First thing I find is that Aron barbey wrote the article and has almost no other edits. However, he wrote the article on Articles for creation. Looking at his user talk page, I find

16 July 2012, Barbey was warned about writing an article about himself, by a user declining a first article creation submission.

9 July 2014, it appears that Aron barbey created a version of the article at Articles for Creation. That day, he was politely and properly warned about conflict of interest.

The article was declined, see 00:43:46, 9 July 2014 review of submission by Aron barbey

from the log found there:

It appears that the article was actually originally written by Barbey in 2012. See this early copy, and logs for that page.

Barbey continued to work on his article in the new location, and resubmitted it August 2, 2014

It was accepted August 14, 2014.  and moved to mainspace.

Now, the article itself. It has not been written or improved by someone with a clue as to what Wikipedia articles need. As it stands, it will not withstand a Articles for deletion request. The problem is that there are few, if any, reliable secondary sources. Over three years after the article was accepted, JzG multiply issue-tagged it. Those tags are correct. There are those problems, some minor, some major. However, this edit was appalling, and the problem shows up in the FTN filing.

The problems with the article would properly suggest AfD if they cannot be resolved. So why did JzG go to FTN? What is the “Fringe Theory” involved? He would go there for  one reason: on that page the problems with this article can be seen by anti-fringe users, who may then either sit on the article to support what JzG is doing, or vote for deletion with opinions warped by claims of “fringe,” which actually should be irrelevant. The issue, by policy would be the existence of reliable secondary sources. If there are not enough, then deletion is appropriate, fringe or not fringe.

So his filing:


The article on Aron Barbey is an obvious autobiography, edited by himself and IP addresses from his university. The only other edits have been removing obvious puffery – and even then, there’s precious little else in the article. What caught my eye is the fact that he’s associated with a Frontiers journal, and promulgates a field called “Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience”, which was linked in his autobiography not to a Wikipedia article but to a journal article in Frontiers. Virtually all the cites in the article are primary references to his won work, and most of those are in the Frontiers journal he edits. Which is a massive red flag.

Who edited the article is a problem, but the identity of editors is not actually relevant to Keep/Delete and content. Or it shouldn’t be. In reality, those arguments often prevail. If an edit is made in conflict of interest, it can be reverted. But … what is the problem with that journal? JzG removed the link and explanation. For Wikipedia Reliable Source, the relevant fact is the publisher. But I have seen JzG and jps arguing that something is not reliable source because the author had fringe opinions — in their opinion!

What JzG removed:

15:48, 15 December 2017‎ JzG (talk | contribs)‎ . . (27,241 bytes) (-901)‎  . (remove links to crank journal) (undo)

This took out this link:

Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience

and removed what could show that the journal is not “crank.” There is a better source (showing that the editors of the article didn’t know what they were doing). Nature Publishing Group press release. This “crank journal” is Reliable Source for Wikipedia, and that is quite clear. (However, there are some problems with all this, complexities. POV-pushing confuses the issues, it doesn’t resolve them.

Aron Barbey is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Nature Publishing Group journal.[14] Barbey is also on the Editorial Board of NeuroImage,[15] Intelligence,[16] and Thinking & Reasoning,.[17]

Is Barbey an “Associate Editor”? This is the journal home page.

Yes, Barbie is an Associate Editor. There are two Chief Editors. A journal will choose a specialist in the field, to participate in the selection and review of articles, so this indicates some notability, but is a primary source.

And JzG mangled:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience.[36]

was changed to this:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.[35]

JzG continues on FTN:

So, I suspect we have a woo-monger here, but I don’t know whether the article needs to be nuked, or expanded to cover reality-based critique, if any exists. Guy (Help!) 16:03, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

“Woo” is a term used by “skeptic” organizations. “Woo-monger” is uncivil, for sure. As well, the standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is not “reality-based” but “verifiable in reliable source.” “Critique” assumes that what Barbey is doing is controversial, and Guy has found no evidence for that other than his own knee-jerk responses to the names of things.

It may be that the article needs to be deleted. It certainly needs to be improved. However, what is obvious is that JzG is not at all shy about displaying blatant bias, and insulting an academic and an academic journal.

And jps does quite the same:

This is borderline Men who stare at goats sort of research (not quite as bad as that, but following the tradition) that the US government pushes around. Nutriceuticals? That’s very dodgy. Still, the guy’s won millions of dollars to study this stuff. Makes me think a bit less of IARPA. jps (talk) 20:41, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

This does not even remotely resemble that Army paranormal research, but referring to that project is routine for pseudosceptics whenever there is government support of anything they consider fringe. Does nutrition have any effect on intelligence? Is the effect of nutrition on intelligence of any interest? Apparently, not for these guys. No wonder they are as they are. Not enough kale (or, more accurately, not enough nutritional research, which is what this fellow is doing.)

This is all about warping Wikipedia toward an extreme Skeptical Point of View. This is not about improving the article, or deleting it for lack of reliable secondary sources. It’s about fighting woo and other evils.

In editing the article, JzG used these edit summaries:

  • (remove links to crank journal)
  • (rm. vanispamcruft)
  • (Selected publications: Selected by Barbey, usually published by his own journal. Let’s see if anyone else selects them)
  • (Cognitive Neuroscience Methods to Enhance Human Intelligence: Oh good, they are going to be fad diet sellers too)

This are all uncivil (the least uncivil would be the removal of publications, but it has no basis. JzG has no idea of what would be notable and what not.

The journal is not “his own journal.” He is merely an Associate Editor, selected for expertise. He would not be involved in selecting his own article to publish. I’ve been through this with jps, actually, where Ed Storms was a consulting editor for Naturwissenschaften and the claim was made that he had approved his own article, a major peer-reviewed review of cold fusion, still not used in the article. Yet I helped with the writing of that article and Storms had to go through ordinary peer review. The faction makes up arguments like this all the time.

I saw this happen again and again: an academic edits Wikipedia, in his field. He is not welcomed and guided to support Wikipedia editorial policy. He is, instead, attacked and insulted. Ultimately, if he is not blocked, he goes away and the opinion grows in academia that Wikipedia is hopeless. I have no idea, so far, if this neuroscientist is notable by Wikipedia standards, but he is definitely a real neuroscientist, and being treated as he is being treated is utterly unnecessary. But JzG has done this for years.

Once upon a time, when I saw an article like this up for Deletion, I might stub it, reducing the article to just what is in the strongest sources, which a new editor without experience may not recognize. Later, if the article survives the AfD discussion, more can be added from weaker sources, including some primary sources, if it’s not controversial. If the article isn’t going to survive AfD, I’d move it to user space, pending finding better sources. (I moved a fair number of articles to my own user space so they could be worked on. Those were deleted at the motion of …. JzG.)

(One of the problems with AfD is that if an article is facing deletion, it can be a lot of work to find proper sources. I did the work on some occasions, and the article was deleted anyway, because there had been so many delete !votes (Wikipedia pretends it doesn’t vote, one of the ways the community lies to itself.  before the article was improved, and people don’t come back and reconsider, usually. That’s all part of Wikipedia structural dysfunction. Wasted work. Hardly anyone cares.)

Sources on Barbey

Barbey and friends may be aware of sources not easily found on the internet. Any newspaper will generally be a reliable source. If Barbey’s work is covered in a book that is not internet-searchable, it may be reliable source. Sourcing for the biography should be coverage of Barbey and/or Barbey’s work, attributed to him, and not merely passing mention. Primary sources (such as his university web site) are inadequate. If there were an article on him in the journal where he is Associate Editor, it would probably qualify (because he would not be making the editorial decision on that). If he is the publisher, or he controls the publisher, it would not qualify.

Reliable independent sources
  • WAMC.org BRADLEY CORNELIUS “Dr. Aron Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Emotional Intelligence  APR 27, 2013
  • 2013 Carle Research Institute Awards October 2013, Research Newsletter. Singles out a paper for recognition, “Nutrient Biomarker Patterns, Cognitive Function, and MRI Measures of Brain Aging,” however, I found a paper by that title and Barbey is not listed as an author, nor could I find a connection with Barbey.
  • SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE David Noonan, “How to Plug In Your Brain” MAY 2016
  • The New Yorker.  Emily Anthes  “Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy” October 2, 2014 PASSING MENTION
  • MedicalXpress.com Liz Ahlberg Touchstone “Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds” July 25, 2017

“Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology” (reliable sources make mistakes) Cites a study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, … published in the journal Scientific Reports. N. Ward et al, Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention, Scientific Reports (2017).
The error indicates to me that this was actually written by Touchstone, based on information provided by the University of Illinois, not merely copied from that.

Iffy but maybe

My sense is that continued search could find much more. Barbey is apparently a mainstream neuroscientist, with some level of recognition. His article needs work by an experienced Wikipedian.

Notes for Wikipedians

An IP editor appeared in the Fringe Theories Noticeboard discussion pointing to this CFC post:

Abd is stalking and attacking you both on his blog [25] in regard to Aron Barbey. He has done the same on about 5 other articles of his. [26]. He was banned on Wikipedia yet he is still active on Wiki-media projects. Can this guy get banned for this? The Wikimedia foundation should be informed about his harassment. 82.132.217.30 (talk) 13:30, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This behavior is clearly of the sock family, called Anglo Pyramidologist on Wikipedia, and when I discovered the massive damage that this family had done, I verified the most recent activity with stewards (many accounts were locked and IPs blocked) and I have continued documentation, which Wikipedia may use or not, as it chooses. It is all verifiable. This IP comment was completely irrelevant to the FTN discussion, but attempting to turn every conversation into an attack on favorite targets is common AP sock behavior. For prior edits in this sequence, see (from the meta documentation):

This new account is not an open proxy. However, I will file a request anyway, because the behavior is so clear, following up on the 193.70.12.231 activity.

I have private technical evidence that this is indeed the same account or strongly related to Anglo Pyramidologist, see the Wikipedia SPI.

(I have found other socks, some blocked, not included in that archive.)

I have also been compiling obvious socks and reasonable suspicions from RationalWiki, for this same user or set of users, after he created a revenge article there on me (as he had previously done with many others).  It’s funny that he is claiming stalking. He has obviously been stalking, finding quite obscure pages and now giving them much more publicity.

And I see that there is now more sock editing on RationalWiki, new accounts with nothing better to do than document that famous troll or pseudoscientist or anti-skeptic (none of which I am but this is precisely what they claim.) Thanks for the incoming links. Every little bit helps.

If anyone thinks that there is private information in posts that should not ethically be revealed, please contact me through my WMF email, it works. Comments are also open on this blog, and corrections are welcome.

On the actual topic of that FTN discussion, the Aron Barbey article (with whom I have absolutely no connection), I have found better sources and my guess is that there are even better ones available.

JzG weighs in

Nobody is surprised. Abd is obsessive. He even got banned from RationalWiki because they got bored with him. Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here though. Guy (Help!) 20:16, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This is a blog I started and run, I have control. Guy behaves as if the Fringe Theories Noticeboard is his personal blog, where he can insult others without any necessity, including scientists like Barbey and a writer like me. And he lies. I cannot correct JzG’s lies on Wikipedia, but I can do it here.

I am not “banned” from RationalWiki. I was blocked by a sock of the massively disruptive user who I had been documenting, on meta for the WMF, on RationalWiki and on my blog when that was deleted by the same sock. The stated cause of the block was not “boring,” though they do that on RW. It was “doxxing.” As JzG should know, connecting accounts is not “doxxing.” It is revelation of real names for accounts that have not freely revealed that, or personal identification, like place of employment.

“Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here.” Really? That IP is obviously the same user as behind the globally blocked Anglo Pyramidologist pushing the same agenda, this time with, likely, a local cell phone provide (because the geolocation matches know AP location), whereas with the other socking, documented above, was with open proxies.)

Properly, that IP should have been blocked and the edits reverted as vandalism. But JzG likes attack dogs. They are useful for his purposes.

Joshua Cude

I came to suspect that Joshua Cude was Joshua P. Schroeder. The basic reason was that JC was the most knowledgeable allegedly skeptical writer on cold fusion anywhere on the internet. Most skeptics simply don’t know enough to make clear cases, and if they do write about cold fusion, display ignorance. Joshua often did that, but … was able to go far deeper, and was quite familiar with the arguments. Back in 2011 or so, I knew less about the history of Joshua P. Schroeder than I now know, but still saw him as the most knowledgeable critic of cold fusion on Wikipedia. The coincidence of first names, the unusual level of knowledge, and timing as well reinforced the suspicion.

Timing: Schroeder was indef blocked on Wikipedia, 21 January 2011. He had maybe over 35,000 Wikipedia edits at that point, which is high if one isn’t doing bot-assisted editing. Many high-contribution users, blocked, start socking, as he did, but as enforcement ramps up, such will often take up activity elsewhere. Did he do this? Where?

The earliest comment I have found from Cude was  Thu, 10 Feb 2011 11:51:14 -0800 on Vortex-l.

As well, Joshua Cude was highly knowledgeable about physics, and Schroeder was a PhD candidate in astrophysics (and did receive his doctorate). From the extensive contributions on various fora, documented below, he had a high interest in countering what he saw as pseudoscience. That such a person would not be active on Wikipedia, if not blocked there, would be unusual. He would, in fact, be welcomed there by the faction that supported JPS. He might get into trouble with his high level of incivility toward those with differing views, but JPS survived doing that and also was supported enough to become unbanned, 10 August 2013. I intend to look at the combined contribution history of both accounts, to find possible correlations (though studying the arguments is more important than “real identity.”

I have found no candidates for “Cude on Wikipedia” or “jps elsewhere.” Both lacunae would be odd. I have no proof, merely grounds for suspicion. The arguments of Cude, which I begin to examine anew below, are blatant pseudoskepticism that has a high knowledge of cold fusion claims, and, as well, a high knowledge of true skepticism, which he uses.

This is not relevant to Wikipedia, his activity elsewhere should not be mentioned there (unless he mentions it). Sometimes administrators and others I was dealing with on Wikipedia referred to my Wikiversity and Wikipedia Review activity; that was generally improper.

Sometimes Cude is debunking the comments of “believers” who don’t really know what they are talking about. He is often right in some way. That is, there is some fact behind much of what he says, but he also makes categorical statements, without evidence, or with misleading evidence, that are just plain wrong, and if one does not know the field, a reader may not know the difference.

I wrote about JPS and Joshua Cude on newvortex:

648 ScienceApologist and Joshua P. Schroeder Sep 15, 2013

I have many times mentioned that Joshua Cude is almost certainly Joshua P. Schroeder, who was ScienceApologist on Wikipedia. Joshua Cude appeared immediately after Schroeder was 
site-banned. The arguments were identical. The real Schroeder has never denied the identity.

This is no longer true. I recently emailed Schroeder and he responded. He did not actually deny being Joshua Cude.  Rather he wrote:

The fact that you think I’m “Joshua Cude” still is just more evidence of your continued paranoia. Stay in your lane.

This was a private mail in which I was attempting to cooperate with Cude. I still have reasons to think Cude might be Schroeder. As with any hypothesis, it could be wrong, but accusing me of “paranoia” is exactly what a troll would do. What I had stated was:

I have not been writing “long screeds” about you on the internet. I have written much more about Joshua Cude, which I do suspect is you from a number of evidences. That was old. Mostly he’s smart and relatively knowledgeable, like you. I said we have issues, and I’d hope we can talk about them and possibly come to some agreement, but if you prefer to maintain hostility, I don’t predict a good outcome.

He maintained hostility, so far. Maybe he will smell the coffee. Studying his Wikipedia contributions, what stands out is a maintained hostility, toward many. His problem, not mine.

As I wrote, I had written extensively about Cude, but only a little about jps. Occasionally I mentioned that I thought Cude was jps, but the long posts were about Cude and Cude’s arguments, so that Schroeder thinks it was about him shows a connection. I have seen similar with the studies on Anglo Pyramodilogist. A sock appears who claims I am doxxing him, but denying that he is Anglo Pyramidologist, a known sock master who is known to lie. It’s either about him or it is not. It is possible — barely — that he is one of the socks incorrectly identified as AP, which is possible. But I have direct evidence that this sock was connected with many others. If there was some confusion, it was far back, in around 2011 or 2012, on Wikipedia. Anglo Pyramidologist had specific interests, then. Recent AP socks have very much the same interests. Duck test.

Here I will be interested in the arguments Cude made, which may be also compared with those made on Wikipedia by JPS. I have studied Cude’s arguments extensively in the past, communicating with him on moletrap and other places. I documented the arguments on newvortex.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/newvortex/search/messages?query=joshua%20cude

Joshua Cude’s record of comments:

vortex-l

first comment:

total comments: 933 for  Joshua Cude

last comment:

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 05:21:46 -0700 Re: [Vo]:Adding Energy to get Energy

moletrap

  • joshua cude 
  • Account Created Jan 12th 2012
  • Last Active Oct 29th 2014
  • Visit Count 283
  • Discussions Started 0
  • Comments Added 107

Most cold fusion pseudoskeptics are relatively ignorant. Cude was not. He was clearly aware of much evidence that most pseudoskeptics would not have seen. What he does is present a series of arguments that are true, or half-true, sometimes (or absolutely wrong sometimes), presented as fact, all in a particular implied or stated direction, which is a sign of pseudoskepticism rather than skepticism. I see that, in 2013, I thought he had maybe two posts after registering, then this,  joshua cude, Feb 3rd 2013, jumped in with this:

Posted by Abd:

Rather, heat/helium is the single replicable experiment that skeptics were demanding, for years, and it was first done almost twenty years ago.

Like most of what you’ve written here, your heat/helium account is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

That is a variety of ad hominem argument. Is that a “gross misrepresentation”? My Current Science paper, published in February, 2015, essentially made that same claim. The reviewer, apparently a physicist, did not like the paper. I rewrote it to clearly address his objections, and he turned 180 degrees. Of course, that would be an argument from authority. Perhaps I did misrepresent, but Joshua had not shown that. Does he show it here? Or is he himself grossly misrepresenting the situation? Cude, often, lies with facts and concedes nothing.

A correlation between heat and helium is clearly an important and definitive experiment for cold fusion.

Indeed. Has it been done? Let’s start with the fact that before Miles, 1991, there was no attempt to correlate heat with any nuclear product. Many papers showed, however, that expected nuclear products that could possibly explain the heat were absent. Many of those papers though, didn’t look for heat at all, or didn’t see heat, so they did not test correlation. Correlation would only be measurable if there was a finding of anomalous heat (artifact or not). Correlation can cut through noise, i.e, measurement error.

And yet, the best you can point to is a review by someone who took (and possible still takes) Rossi seriously. Anyone who suggests Rossi’s demos represent evidence for nuclear reactions is not to be taken seriously.

This is pure ad hominem argument, and ignoring what another (jps) ignored on Wikipedia. Wikipedia looks for Reliable Sources based not on authors, but on publishers. First of all, taking Rossi “seriously” was done by many, including a physicist who was on the Nobel Prize committee (Kullander). He was also wrong, but being wrong does not then disqualify anyone from presenting opinions or research.

Joshua is here talking about Ed Storms, who did think it was possible that Rossi had something, even though he knew that the “demos” were misleading garbage. It’s a complex question. Rossi is probably insane, and a con artist, knowingly or instinctively. And that is completely irrelevant here beyond showing pseudoskeptical, dedicated debunking behavior. Having studied the lawsuit (Rossi v. Darden, documented heavily here) in depth, it is clear that there is no sustainable evidence for nuclear reactions in what has been published by or about Andrea Rossi. There was also, clearly, outright fraud, gross misrepresentation. And this has nothing at all to do with the topic here.

In Storms’ review, the most recent peer-reviewed results used to demonstrate a heat/helium correlation come from a set of experiments by Miles in the early 90s.

The review is Storms (2009). Cude is technically correct, but highly misleading, if one doesn’t notice the “peer-reviewed.” Most cold fusion work has not been published under peer review. The strongest heat/helium work was published by SRI International as an EPRI report. Both of these (SRI and EPRI) would qualify as reliable source publishers under a fair interpretation of reliable source rules, because of publisher reputation at stake. Miles went on and did more work.

In a review of the field, invited by the editors of a major mainstream multidisciplinary peer-reviewed publication, should Wikipedia rules for sourcing be followed? They are not. Writers of peer-reviewed papers often cite unpublished material, attributing it sometimes as “private communication.”

Reviewers of such papers decide whether or not to allow these sources, on behalf of the responsible publisher. Pseudoskeptics will often claim “there is no evidence,” when there is evidence. A genuine skeptic might point out weakness, but not deny that evidence exists.

Storms cites on, heat/helium. the work of

  • Arata and Zhang (1999; 2000)
  • Case (McKubre et al. 2000)
  • Bush, Lagowski et al 1991
  • Morrey et al.(1990)
  • Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991)
  • Miles and co-workers (1990)
  • Chien and co-workers (1992)
  • Karabut and co-workers (Karabut, A. B. , Kucherov et al 1992; Savvatimova, I. ,
    Kucherov et al 1994)
  • Zhang and co-workers (1992)
  • Stringham (2003)
  • Aoki et al. (1994)
  • Botta and co-workers (Botta, E., Bracco et al 1995; Botta, Bressani et al 1996)
  • Takahashi and co-workers( Takahashi 1998; Isobe, Uneme et al 2000; Matsunaka,
    Isobe et al 2002; Uneme et al 2002;)
  • Gozzi and co-workers (Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993; Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993)
  • Apicella et al. (2005)
  • De Ninno and co-workers (De Ninno, Del Giudice et al 2008; DeNinno, Frattolillo
    et al 2004)
  • Miles and co-workers (1994)
  • Bush and Lagowski (1998) cited in Storms (1998)
  • McKubre and co-workers (McKubre, Tanzella et al 2000; McKubre, Tanzella et al
    2000)

(This list may include redundancies. The actual sources may be found in the Storms review paper.)

These were very crude experiments (by Storms’ and your admission) in which peaks were eyeballed as small, medium, and large, the small taken as equal to the detection limit (which seemed to change by orders of magnitude over the years). The correlation was all over the map, and barely within an order of magnitude of the expected DD fusion value.

Again, technically correct but highly misleading. The early helium work was indeed as described. Later work used more precise measurements. I am not here reviewing all the results from Miles, but Storms did so in the review for most of them. There is one outlier, probably calorimetry error, and there were two samples only that showed no measured helium but anomalous heat, which could be, again, calorimetry error, but those samples were from a palladium-cerium cathode which may behave differently with helium, if a surface layer is formed that resists helium escape. Huizenga, in his review of this, considered an order-of-magnitude correlation astonishing, but because of the lack of gammas, expected that Miles would not be confirmed. Miles was confirmed. In only two experiments, however, were efforts made to capture and measure all the helium, and that was McKubre, SRI M-4 and Apicella et al Laser-4. In those experiments, the ratio of heat to helium showed the theoretical fusion value within 4% (M-4) and roughly 20% (Laser-4).

There are difficulties in this work, and many problems, but my claim is that, at this point, the preponderance of the evidence is that the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect is the result of the conversion of deuterium to helium, exact pathway and mechanism unknown. And, for me, that conclusion leads to a suggestion for more research to measure that ratio with increased precision, and how to do that is indicated by the M-4 and Laser-4 results.

Cude points to the difficulties as if they are some kind of proof of bogosity — and that I’m being misleading, but my claim has been published under peer review and Cude could get a peep into a journal on this topic. There are outliers, to be sure, but no evidence sufficient to impeach the finding, so far.

Shanahan wrote a critique of a review of LENR in Journal of Environmental Monitoring that criticized the heat/helium results of Miles et al as reported by Storms in his book (2007). That critique completely misread the data, it was embarrassing. Shanahan acknowledged the error — eventually.

Miles results’ were severely criticized by Jones in peer-reviewed literature.

As Storms pointed out:

Miles and co-workers(Bush, B. F., Lagowski et al 1991; Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991) at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center (USA) were the first (1990) to show helium production in an electrolytic cell while it was making energy. Pyrex flasks were used to collect the gases (D2+O2+D2O+He) evolving from the cell but the resulting values for the amount of helium in the gas were crudely measured. Even so, a clear presence of helium was found when heat was produced and no helium was detected when heat was absent. Although many critiques (Miles and Jones 1992; Miles 1998; 1998) were offered at the time to reject the results, subsequent studies support their conclusion that helium is produced by a typical F-P electrolytic cell when it makes extra energy.

I have a copy of the Jones critique but it is not readily available, I may upload a copy here for review. Jones, S.E. and L.D. Hansen, Examination of claims of Miles et al in Pons-Fleischmann-Type cold fusion experiments. J. Phys. Chem., 1995. 99: p. 6966. Miles response would normally be on lenr-canr.org, but seems to be missing. I’ll see if I can fix that. Meanwhile, as I recall Jones ignored the correlation, and only critiqued the calorimetery and the helium measurements. Correlation generally confirms the measurements. That is we might be mistaken about heat, and we might be mistaken about light, but heat and light together and absent together demonstrates fire unless some independent mutual cause can be shown. Storms says about the Miles-Jones interchange (2007, p. 86):

This investigation was debated in a series of papers between Miles and Jones, in which Miles successfully defended his work.

That is in a book published by World Scientific. an academic publisher, and is not a passing mention or tertiary in nature. That does not prove that the conclusion is “true,” but it does establish notability, and all this points out that Cude is actually outside current consensus, as to what is being published in journals and academic publications. But if someone depends on “general scientific opinion,” which is not actually “expert opinion” but just sounds like it, one could think otherwise. As the author of Bad Science, the best critical book on cold fusion, Gary Taubes, later pointed out, “scientific consensus” can be formed by other than knowledgeable examination of evidence and can be dead wrong. Cude is finding whatever arguments he can dredge up to impeach the knowledgeable consensus. Back to Cude:

There was considerable back and forth on the results, and in Storms view (of course) Miles successfully defended his claims, but the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.

That is a deceptive summary of the review. Many times, many users on Wikipedia attempted to present the actual review results, and were frustrated by the anti-CF faction, which included jps, I think. I’ll be documenting that, I assume. First of all, the review did not consider the Miles results, apparently, and especially not the reported correlation, but rather the material in the Case appendix, which was misread and misreported. There were 18 experts in various fields on the panel. From the report:

The hypothesis that excess energy production in electrolytic cells is due to low energy nuclear reactions  was tested in some experiments by looking for D + D fusion reaction products, in particular 4He, normally produced in about 1 in 107 in hot D + D fusion reactions. Results reported in the review
document purported to show that 4He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells
were reported to be producing excess heat. The detected 4He was typically very close to, but reportedly above background levels. This evidence was taken as convincing or somewhat convincing by some reviewers; for others the lack of consistency was an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified. Contamination of apparatus or samples by air containing 4He was cited as one possible cause for false positive results in some measurements.

First of all, it was confusing to refer to the search as a search for D +D fusion reaction products. The helium reported is clearly not from D + D fusion, or if it is, the reaction is radically different from the known reaction, because of the lack of gamma emissions. Rather, the legitimate search was for any nuclear products that might be an “ash” from the reaction. The only one that has been found at significant levels is helium. It should be noted that the conversion of deuterium to helium is extraordinarily energetic, and only a little helium — close to background levels — would be produced to explain the modest levels of heat reported.

Secondly, the “results reported” were synthesized from the Case appendix, as “4 He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells were reported to be producing excess heat.” That was an error. There were sixteen cells, and half were controls, producing no significant excess heat. They were not electrolytic cells, they were gas-loaded. So there were, if I have it correctly (this information was only presented very sketchily in that appendix) eight experimental cells, of which 5 showed excess heat. The excess heat results were not reported except for one cell. So the claim of “sixteen” cases showing excess heat, with only five showing helium, was a radical misunderstanding, and that this misunderstanding arose and was not corrected in the review process shows how defective that review was. From what would be, properly understood and explained, a strong correlation, was converted by the error into an anti-correlation, so of course any reviewer who made this mistake (it was easy to make, I had to read that Case paper several times to notice the reality, and then I found other references to that work confirming my view, and confirmed it with McKubre himself. What the anonymous review summarizer reported repeated the error of one reviewer and compounded it. The Case work, unfortunately, was done for a governmental client and was never formally published. It was a mistake to include it in the DoE review without first vetting it thoroughly, but that review was rushed.

Remarkably, the cold fusion community did not notice the error and focused on other issues. Assuming that the summary error was true, the review conclusions are remarkably favorable to cold fusion! My emphasis:

Evaluations by the reviewers ranged from: 1) evidence for excess power is compelling, to 2) there is no convincing evidence that excess power is produced when integrated over the life of an experiment. The reviewers were split approximately evenly on this topic. Those reviewers who accepted the production of excess power typically suggest that the effect seen often, and under some understood conditions, is compelling. The reviewers who did not find the production of excess power convincing cite a number of issues including: excess power in the short term is not the same as net energy production over the entire of time of an experiment; all possible chemical and solid state causes of excess heat have not been investigated and eliminated as an explanation; and production of power over a period of time is a few percent of the external power applied and hence calibration and systematic effects could account for the purported net effect. Most reviewers, including those who accepted the evidence and those who did not, stated that the effects are not repeatable, the magnitude of the effect has not increased in over a decade of work, and that many of the reported experiments were not well documented.

“Not well documented” is certainly true for some reports, maybe even many. It is not true for all. The general problem with “cold fusion” — a possibly misleading name — is that reproducing the originally-reported effect was very difficult, and many workers were unhappy with the low reported heat and attempted to “improve” the experiment, mostly failing, but sometimes still confirming some possibly related heat effect. Few actually attempted to “replicate” the original reports, given that those weren’t considered convincing, and certainly would not be an indication of possible power production. However the original DoE review (1989) pointed out that even a single incident of significant anomalous heat woudl be remarkable. Investigating “all possible causes” could take centuries. Rather, what has developed as known from, now, almost three decades of study, based on a preponderance of evidence, and what, then, remains to be tested and confirmed? By fragmenting the discussion into excess heat alone as a finding, the presence of correlations (helium is only one of several) was ignored. With correlations, a small effect can be confirmed. Without them, yes, one can speculate on noise and various errors, but few of those artifacts would create a clear correlation. Nevertheless, “split approximately evenly” is a vast shift from 1989, where it appears that very few reviewers thought the work was even worth the time of day.

Now, if one thinks that there is no evidence for excess heat, of course they would not think the origin of the non-existent heat was nuclear! The next finding should be seen in that light:

Two-thirds of the reviewers commenting on Charge Element 1 did not feel the evidence was conclusive
for low energy nuclear reactions, one found the evidence convincing, and the remainder indicated they were somewhat convinced. Many reviewers noted that poor experiment design, documentation,
background control and other similar issues hampered the understanding and interpretation of the results presented.

Cude translates all this into ” the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.’

They did not “agree with Jones.” Again, what Cude claims has some literal truth to it, if we include the word “conclusive.” That is not a clear and crisp claim, because what is conclusive to one is not conclusive to another. First of all, the reviewers were evenly divided on the heat evidence being “compelling.” Given the known physics, if one doesn’t find “compelling evidence” that there is excess heat, one will be unconvinced by evidence of low levels of helium. To have another opinion would require much more study. The general “scientific consensus” without personal study is that cold fusion was a big mistake, and “nobody could replicate.” With that background, then, reviewers randomly chosen would tend to be biased ab initio. The “nuclear” opinion would then be expected to be negative for half the reviewers from the lack of positive conclusion that the heat anomaly is probably real. So, then, what we have is about two thirds of those who accepted that the heat evidence was at least “somewhat compelling” did think the nuclear evidence was at least “somewhat convincing.” And that is with the misleading interpretation of the Case data standing in front of them.

Cude refuses to accept a preponderance of the evidence conclusion of reality for a nuclear effect as being at all plausible and attacks every evidence advanced. That is pseudoskeptical. If he is not convinced, that is within reason (though some supporters of cold fusion disagree with me on that). But his apparent certainty and dedication to accusations and debunking, that is clear pseudoskepticism. Further, as I recall the matter, Cude continued to advance misleading arguments over and over, in new fora, as if nothing had been explained. That is, again, characteristic of pseudoskepticism, it is resistant to evidence and to the finding of agreement. My goal has never been to “prove” that cold fusion is real, but rather to present the evidence — to be sure, with my own conclusion as to preponderance, which generally agrees with a major portion of the U.S. DoE panel in 2004 — and then to support and facilitate what they also recommended: more research. In particular, because it’s a replicable experiment (properly stated), replication with increased precision, the classic test of “pathological science.” Does the effect go away with increased precision?

Precision was, in fact, increased, and the effect did not go away but seems to have settled closer to the theoretical value. Again, this is testable, though Cude and friends will call it pseudoscience. At some point, that becomes a lie.

In any case, that kind of disagreement and large variation in such a critical experiment simply cries out for new and better experiments. So what have we got since?

Many experiments. He names one which was inconclusive.

A very careful set of experiments looking for helium by Gozzi, which was published in peer-reviewed literature in 1998, concludes that the evidence for helium is not definitive.

The only results since Miles that Storms has deemed worthwhile (i.e. cherry-picked) to calculate energy correlation come from conference proceedings, and the most recent of them from year 2000. Nothing that Storms considers adequate quality in this critically important experiment has met the (rather modest) standard of peer review. And they’re not good enough to allow Miles results to be replaced; Storms still uses some of Miles results, one assumes because it improves the average.

Again, “peer review” is desirable but evidence from outside of peer review is citable in peer-reviewed reviews.

The SRI work was, in fact, published under internal review, which would be as stringent or more stringent than normal peer-reviewed publications, and it was then passed on to EPRI members through that organization’s process. These were people with a need to know.

Mile’s extended work was the only work with enough experiments to look at more than an anecdote. It is not the best work, which would be SRI M-4 and Apicella et al (ENEA) Laser-4, where attempts were made to capture all the helium. In Laser-2 and Laser-3, there were

In writing my own paper, I considered compiling the results of all the experiments. It’s extremely difficult because of the varieties of work involved, results were not necessarily reported in ways that can be compared. Hence my hopes for the new work, using a hopefully maintained and identical protocol, taking steps to recover all the helium (variation in the recovery ratio probably explains the extant variation in results as to ratio — and Storms is emphasizing the general correlation, not the ratio itself, and all that work is general confirmation on that point, which Cude is ignoring —

Most of the results come from McKubre’s experiments, which Krivit claims to show (with considerable evidence) were cooked. McKubre has very little scientific cred anyway with his interest in the Papp engine and willingness to support cons like Dardik and Godes, and (if I recall correctly) Rossi.

Again, a series of ad hominem arguments, with assumptions that “McKubre has very little scientific cred,” contradicted by the trust place in him by the Duncan project in Texas, and by EPRI over many years, and governmental organizations, and  that someone finds something “interesting” does not establish any kind of lack of scientific integrity, in spite of the fervent beliefs of pseudoskeptics, and then that Dardik and Godes are “cons,” which they are not, and as to Rossi, McKubre never “supported” Rossi. He found the Lugano test interesting (as did many) but also pointed out the glaring deficiency.

Cude clearly has a collection of strongly-held beliefs which he asserts in a farrago of arguments without actual evidence. (He accepts Krivit’s ignorant critique and yellow journalism, without any actual examination of Krivit’s “evidence,” which is mostly innuendo and sometimes dead wrong.) This is all libel, actually. Of course he wants to remain anonymous!

And then there’s this from the review: “The paper provided insufficient information to check the claimed values, so the values in Table 3 are based on detailed information communicated to Storms by Bush in 1998 (Storms 1998).” Translation: The results didn’t fit, so I called Bush up, and suggested adjustments, which he accepted. Talk about confirmation bias.

Lies. No, the results without Bush and Lagowski were fine. The claim that he “suggested adjustments” is libelous. These are scientists and that would be highly unethical behavior. What Storms reports asking for is “detailed information,” so the “adjustment” would simply be more information. So Cude presents asking for additional information as “suggested adjustments,” implying data falsification. Shame on him!

The error in the end result, even if you accept Storms’ cherry-picked, dubious analysis, which I don’t, is still 20%. On an experiment that removes the dependence on material quality. Heat, it is claimed, can be measured to mW, the helium, it is claimed, is orders of magnitude above the detection limit, and yet the errors are huge.

The major variation is in capture ratio, not in the heat or helium measurements themselves. If Cude were a genuine skeptic, he would see the actual problem.

One of the best sets of experiments is Apicella et al (2004). There were three experiments reported. (Unfortunately, ENEA has often not reported all results, only “positive” ones, which in my view is a serious error. McKubre has generally reported all experiments, so one can see the situation far better. But this is what we have.) In the first two, there was relatively substantial heat, and helium was reported at about 60% of the expected level from the 24 MeV/4He hypothesis. That is generally consistent with Miles and other work, including the first part of SRI M-4. With the third experiment, heat results were much lower. My sense is that in an attempt to stimulate heat production, they stripped the cathode (“anodic erosion”) which sometimes works for that. They found more helium released, the level came up to roughly the expected value, but the error bars would be about 20%, as I recall. Krivit did not understand what they did and made all kinds of accusations. What I noticed with SRI M-4, which also made attempts to strip the cathode, also more or less inadvertently, the helium levels rose as well, to within 4% of the expected value under that hypothesis. Hence I suggested that future work would also strip the cathode before completing. The hypothesis here is that helium is trapped in the cathode (which would be expected), that something more than half of the helium is not trapped), and that the rest is trapped near-surface, where only a thin etch will release it.

This is what passes for conclusive in the field of cold fusion.

The issue is not “conclusive.” It is “preponderance of the evidence.” According to whom? Cude? Lomax?

Well, sometimes, according to the editors of peer-reviewed journals, but even more significantly, those who make funding decisions for research. What I know is that I was promoting heat/helium research, encouraging replication with increased precision, way back. I was asked to write my Current Science paper by a physicist, at the end of 2014. But before the end of 2014, the project led by Robert Duncan at Texas Tech was funded, with $6 million from an anonymous donor and $6 million from State of Texas matching funds. The donor is known, and is no dope. This is exactly the kind of research that both U.S. DoE reviews suggested and I assume that, when complete, it will be published in the “journal system.”

This is good enough that no measurements of helium-heat in the last decade entered Storms’ calculations.

No, Storms considered all that. His figure for the heat-helium ratio is obviously an estimate, not a “calculation.” He gives 25 +/- 5 MeV/4He.

These are clearly pseudo-scientists, one and all. Real scientists obsess about details, especially in critical experiments like this. Any real scientist thinking there is anything to cold fusion would not rest until this error was nailed down. Millikan’s experiment was not accepted as good enough, but was repeated endlessly. Scientists are still toiling to reduce the limit of error on measurements of Einstein’s time dilation, and improve the value of the gravitation constant, and so on.

Cude has no idea. Cold fusion research and especially heat/helium research is expensive. Measuring helium at the predicted levels is difficult. Setting up the FP Heat Effect is difficult. But it’s being done. what Cude is more legitimately describing is not “pseudoscience,” but “pathological science,” at best. There is plenty of it around, sometimes supporting the “mainstream views.” That’s a long story, and coldfusioncommunity.net is telling some of it. Cude would actually be welcome to contribute, if he would tone down the pseudoskepticism and ad hominem arguments. There are real problems with many cold fusion experiments. One of the goals of the research I am supporting is to identify possible artifacts and test them. Pseudoskeptics are content to identify some “possible artifact” and then blame researchers for not ruling it out, but what is being demanded is more than available funding and time may permit. Until it is ruled out by controlled experiment, a “possible artifact” cannot be completely excluded.

What is offensive about Cude is not the criticism of some cold fusion work, but the general debunking rejection of all work, without discrimination, based on knee-jerk, unsupported claims of “con men” and guilt by association and all the other techniques of “debunkers.”

No, the pseudo-scientists are not pursuing it (or not admitting it) because they’re afraid that more careful results will be negative, and they would rather remain ignorant than to have to admit they wasted 2 decades of their life chasing wild geese.

Actually, my suggestions for confirmation of heat/helium were opposed by some in the field because they believed that work was already sufficient to establish the correlation, and scarce research dollars should not be spent on confirming what is already known. I disagreed, and, thankfully, funding sources also disagreed. A new result with increased precision should be publishable, and I would argue strongly for publishing results, if carefully done, no matter what they show. My trust is in reality itself, not in “cold fusion” or any particular scientist. Anyone can make mistakes. Bauer did a good job of deconstructing “pathological science,” but the pseudoskeptics on Wikipedia covered that up. It’s worth reading his paper.

I have argued for a long time that cold fusion researchers should publish all work, not just “positive results.” (If results are boring, fine, publishing on-line is enough.) Recently, I’ve been going over certain “replication failures,” they have been called. JCMNS has been publishing some of these. Real science is not about “positive” or “negative.” It is about actual results, and then careful analysis. “Replication failure” is usually a failure to replicate, not a proof of original error, but, obviously, it can raise some suspicion of that. Cude elsewhere calls cold fusion the same as “N-rays” and “polywater,” but with those, there was positive replication that, then, showed by controlled experiment that the original results were artifact. That never happened with cold fusion (other than as to some level of speculation, Cal Tech speculated that excess heat was the result of failure to stir, but that was shallow. Yes, with failure of electrolyte circulation, hot spots can develop and be mistaken for excess heat, with some forms of calorimetry. That the Pons and Fleischmann results, and other results using, say, flow calorimetry, were such artifacts was never shown. Heat/helium measurement cuts across protocols and should clearly distinguish between artifactual heat and helium and heat and helium as products of the same effect.

Instead of supporting confirmation, Cude attacked me and prior work. He was a pseudoscientist when it comes to cold fusion, asserting scientific belief without evidence. He attacked real people, real professionals, from behind a screen of anonymity. Which may have come unravelled, for which he blames everyone else, not taking responsibility for what he’s done.

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that of all the possible products of nuclear reactions, the only one they claim to observe commensurate with the heat is the only one that is present in the background at about the right level?

As Huizenga pointed out, the experimental results are indeed amazing. However, the results show that this is not background helium. Miles was very careful about that. In the Case work, helium levels rose with accumulated excess heat, and continued rising in two of the experiments, showing no sign of slowing as they approached the background level and then exceeded it. So to explain it requires some hypothesis of sequestered helium, somehow released with the experimental conditions, rather Rube Goldberg, but I would not rely on the Case work, myself, because it was a gas-loaded protocol.  I used a diagram from Case in my Current Science paper because I was asked for “eye candy,” and it was the best thing I could come up with on short notice. I’d have preferred something more like the histogram that Storms later produced, showing results from many experiments. There are problems with that. There are problems with anything. The newer work, if I have any say, and I might, will address many of the old objections, but there is already enough evidence for what is important: a conclusion that either the preponderance of the evidence shows the heat/helium correlation already, or at least enough evidence to encourage new efforts to study it.

The within-the-field opinion contrary to this was based on another need: to develop a “lab rat,” a protocol that will demonstrate the FP Heat Effect with reasonable reliability. Long-term, this is very important, but my position was that as long as the reality of the effect was in serious question, as it is in the eyes of many, nailing that issue first would then open up and broaden interest and make more funding easier to obtain. Years ago, the genuine skeptic, Nate Hoffman, skewered the argument that because it was difficult to reproduce, cold fusion was therefore unreal, in his Dialogue book.

All the more plausible products that can be detected easily at levels orders of magnitude lower, are found, surprise, surprise, at orders of magnitude below the expected level. Nature is toying with them. (The transmutation situation is similar: all the precursors and products are stable, when of course, only a tiny fraction of radionuclides are stable.)

The FP Heat Effect produces heat and helium, the experimental evidence indicates, without those other effects. The other effects are reported, but at levels far below helium. The one most persistently reported is tritium. Often no attempt was made to correlate with heat, a mistake, in my opinion. That was because the levels were not “commensurate” with the heat, very far from it, but that reason depends on a theory of mechanism. Tritium is obviously not a major product, my standard rough estimate is that tritium is a million times down from that idea. And then neutrons are also reported at very low levels, which often gets people excited. A million times down from tritium. Basically, tritium, neutrons, and transmutations are generally a side-show, if real. The plethora of “nuclear effects” reported actually confused the entire field greatly. It is possible that there is more than one possible nuclear reaction under FP conditions. One of the benefits of improved heat/helium measurements would be setting limits on other reactions.

Deeper understanding will likely have to await the development of lab rats, so that various groups can be studying the same animal. Until then, the corpus of cold fusion research is largely, though not entirely, a collection of anecdotes, and anecdotes are properly indications for further research, not proofs of anything.

To sum up: An objective look at the heat/helium results does not provide even weak evidence for cold fusion. And given its extraordinary nature, that means it is almost certainly not happening.

Cude has not come close to an “objective look.” That summary conclusion, at variance with what has been published in not just one peer-reviewed review, but many, is clearly pseudoscientific and highly biased, relying on nonscientific argumentation and imprecation. This is typical. “Not even weak evidence” is obviously biased polemic. It is Cude believing in his own ideas — unless he actually knows better and is purely trolling.

I find no way to search moletrap for comments by joshua cude. Google for “joshua cude” site:moletrap.co.uk I get five hits. But cude has 107 posts made there according to the statistics. A search on-site for cude generates 77 hits, but only finds responses to him, not his posts. I can still compile a list, but it will be tedious. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. 

disqus blogs

earliest post:

joshuacude November 6, 2011 11:32 AM

So what you’re saying is that the following people are total idiots;

that was a comment from cmoo, and the listed people were:

• Physicist professor Foccardi [sic]
• Physicist professor Levi
• Physicist professor Loris Ferrari
• Physicist professor Sven Kullander
• Physicist professor Hanno Essen
• Professor Roland Petterson
• Physicist professor Christos Stemmenos [sic]
• Professor Enrico Campari
• Professor Ennio Bonetti
• Professor Pierre Clauzon
• Chemistry professor Edward Jobson
• Matt Lewan (Physics Phd) [sic]
• All the staff and Board of Defkalion
• All the staff and Board of Ampenergo
• And finally most recently the scientist employed by the purchaser to oversee the latest test, Domenica Fioravanti [sic]

[sic] is for spelling errors that leap out at me. I don’t know all the names mentioned….

If the shoe fits…

Whether you want to call them idiots or not, it is clear that on the question of the ecat, they have demonstrated incompetence, and have failed to do their jobs, if their jobs were to extract a useful evaluation of the ecat performance. And you don’t have to believe maryyugo or anyone else to come to this conclusion. You only have to read a freshman physics or chemistry or thermodynamics text book, to realize that claims of nuclear reactions in the ecat are simply *not* supported by the evidence presented.

This was misleading, though, in fact, there was probably no nuclear reaction. There is no information in a those textbooks that would allow an a priori evaluation of such a claim. The issue with nuclear reactions is not possibility (they are possible) but rate. To calculate the rate, one must know the reaction and conditions, and with Rossi, at that point, the claimed reactants were not known and the conditions were secret. It was clear by this time (late 2011) that the Rossi tests were inconclusive, and it appeared to be very possible that (1) Rossi was a con artist or (2) Rossi was a real inventor paranoid about his invention being stolen and (3) Rossi was attempting to look like a con artist to discourage imitation. There was no way to truly distinguish these possibilities. By 2012, a group of investors decided they need to know, and it was worth risking a substantial sum to find out. They found out. Rossi lies.

But were all those people “idiots”? Well, Ampenergo was paid a lot of money for the investment they made. They may have made a profit. The goal of Industrial Heat was to facilitate the development of cold fusion in general, and their risk with Rossi — they knew it was a long shot — appears to have inspired an investment of $50 million for cold fusion research (not for Rossi!), so it paid off for them (not personally, that wasn’t their goal, this was all high risk, and they have reported nothing so far that would be an immediate commercial possibility (nor do I know of any such. Brillouin has some results, nothing spectacular, they have a long way to go, if they ever succeed. What I know is that cold fusion is, preponderance of the evidence, a real effect, nuclear in nature, but difficult to control, and without control, commercial possibilities remain elusive. So, anyway, Cude sits in his chair and condemns others for not immediately “knowing” that this was bogus, imagining that he has a better grasp of physics. He doesn’t. He is simply young and arrogant.

All but one of the semi-public ecat tests (including the megawatt test) rely on the claim that all (or nearly all) of the water passing through the ecat is converted to steam. However, credible evidence for this claim is never presented. That several of the named professionals accept visual inspection or measurements of relative humidity as evidence for complete vaporization, alone impeaches their competence on evaluating the ecat. Instead of looking for evidence for dry steam, they measure the temperature every few seconds, even though the temperature (always near the boiling point) tells us nothing about the fraction of liquid that is vaporized. Pure incompetence!

They were, in fact, outside their field. The relative humidity meter had a g/m^3 function, which some of those people named apparently assumed was measured. Quite simply, they did not know how the meter worked. That was simply a calculated reading from the humidity. Devices that can measure steam quality are very expensive and complex. Any steam engineer would know that. Rossi kept steam engineers far away from his demonstrations. He also rejected a visit by Jed Rothwell, who was quite sympathetic, because Rothwell said he would bring his own instruments. The last thing Rossi wanted! He was famous for shutting down demonstrations when anyone attempted to verify what he was claiming.

If you read a physics textbook, you will learn that when you pass water through a system, it takes a certain power to raise its temperature *to* the boiling point. You will also learn that (if you are starting from room temperature), it takes about 8 times as much power to convert all the water to steam.

All this is true and well-known.

None of those professionals seem the least bit bothered by the fact that the ecat takes on the order of hours to deliver the power required to reach the onset of boiling, but only a few more minutes to deliver 8 times that power to vaporize all the liquid.

And that could possibly be explained. (To produce the necessary power, the fuel must reach a certain temperature, and at a critical temperature, power rapidly increases and the problem is preventing runaway. Yes, it’s bullshit. Cude’s objection was reasonable. It’s an issue. However, mysteries prove little, this is the “how come” argument that pseudoscientists use to argue for, say, flat earth theory. Something unexplained is found that may imply the pseudoscientific theory.

One of the problems with Rossi is another unwarranted assumption. To attempt a fraud as Rossi was attempting, “he would have to be crazy.” He even sued his major investor, and his followers said, if he didn’t have a real technology, “he’d have to be crazy.” Well, he’s still alive, and didn’t go to jail, and he got to keep the money he had been paid. How crazy is he?

At this point, though, with all the evidence that is now available, someone who invests in his technology, thinking it is real, would “have to be crazy.” But we know that with high certainty now because some investors were willing to take the risk. They could afford it. These are people who invest $25 million in a long shot, commonly, and who only need to occasionally win the bet.

The reason that this is so easily accepted appears to be because both of those scenarios occur at the same *output* temperature.

That would explain acceptance by the ignorant, not those who know the basic physics.

But if you take a little time to think about it, then you should understand that the two scenarios require vastly different temperatures of the ecat heating element. In fact, the power transfer scales with the temperature difference between the water and the heating element.

It is obvious that the internal design of the e-cat, for it to mean anything, required substantial thermal resistance between the “heating element” (i.e., the fuel) and the cooling water. The fuel must be a lot hotter than the water. If we assume a constant thermal resistance (it might not be), then, yes, the transfer would “scale with the temperature difference.”

This kind of a discontinuous change in the temperature of the heating element is simply not plausible, given the time it takes to reach the onset of boiling.

We were allowed no information on the temperature of the heating element. We were allowed no information on the heating protocol. Perhaps, for example, the heating was slowly ramped up to approach a critical temperature. My own analysis was that the Rossi design practically required water overflow if the flow rate was constant. So was water overflow measured? No. Kullander and Essen did not look for overflow water, apparently trusting the humidity meter. Huge mistake. And to compound it, they never acknowledged the error. (And, later, the other so-called “independent professors” made huge mistakes in the Lugano test, and never acknowledged them.) All this was glorious idiocy for Cude. I’m somewhat sympathetic. But … apparently scientists are human.

What makes it even more implausible is that the discontinuous change in the heating element temperature is presumed to happen exactly at the onset of boiling. How does it know? That these professionals can believe this means the shoe fits.

Cude has not established that change. I agree that a detailed analysis wasn’t done.

Finally, the notion that power is so accurately regulated indicates that the output fluid is almost certainly a mixture of phases at the local boiling point. The variation in power that corresponds to the variation in temperature corresponds to about +/- 1 %, which seems a little rich, given the variations reported in the February run (that didn’t rely on steam), and from the fact that the various demonstrations give powers that are all over the map.

Something was always fishy about every Rossi demonstration. That was obvious by the end of 2011.

(By the way, the only semi-public test that did not rely on conversion to steam, claimed a much lower COP, and used an inexplicably indirect method to measure the water temperatures, which almost certainly resulted in errors in favor of the ecat.)

Rossi seems to have found many ways to create an appearance of significant power.

It is indeed surprising that so many scientists and engineers can miss these simple considerations. I think it speaks to Rossi’s skill at vetting the observers that he invites to the demonstrations.

Indeed. Rossi also strongly resisted the presence of independent experts as requested by his actual customer (in 2013), and they allowed that, because they knew that if they objected, I infer, Rossi would simply have pulled the plug, as he had many times. They wanted to give Rossi every chance to prove the technology was real by teaching them how to create the reaction. He never did. Always some excuse or other, and then he faked a megawatt plant. But …. he’d have to be crazy! How can you fake a megawatt?

You probably can’t, but you can create distractions and confusion and the appearance of expert testimony. In actual court, they were setting up to present the opening arguments when Rossi’s attorney suggested a settlement. Many critics of Rossi were disappointed that Industrial Heat agreed to a walk-away. My own analysis was that, legally, they would not be able to recover their original investment because of estoppel. They could have recovered as much as a few million dollars from the later 1 MW frauds, not enough to recover their legal expenses, and some level of risk that Rossi’s attorneys might have been able to sway a jury. I was there and I’d already seen the opening arguments and the jury and my opinion is that, no, IH would have prevailed, but at high cost. A month of trial with four or five high-paid attorneys sitting there. Not cheap. Was anyone ready to pay their legal expenses? I don’t think so.

In fact, what came out in the trial — it is all on this site — was quite enough to expose Rossi as a fraud. He is still continuing to snow some of his followers, but some of them are bailing.

Some of them of course are LENR advocates from before,

That is not true for almost all on the list. In fact, had they been “LENR” knowledgeable, they might not have been so vulnerable. The majority opinion among CMNS researchers was that Rossi was not at all to be trusted. Some were much more negative than that. Focardi is the major name who had done prior LENR research, and he was old and shortly to die. Nobody had every shown anything like what Rossi was claiming. It was outside the box. But if one had an existing opinion that LENR was real, from having seen it oneself, yes, one might be more vulnerable to thinking Rossi had something.

some have been associated with him for a long time (including the customer consultant in the megawatt test), and some have made public statements in support of the ecat.

there was no customer yet. Defkalion was the initial customer and bailed (and then fell into massive disrepute themselves). Rossi claimed to have sold many 1 MW plants. The only actual sale was to Industrial Heat in 2012, delivered in 2013, and returned, apparently as worthless, in the Settlement Agreement in 2017.

If Rossi really had confidence in his ecat, the invitees would include scientists on the record as being skeptical. For example, he could invite Steven Krivit to bring a few scientists of his choosing. Convincing them would carry some weight.

Rossi had already rejected Krivit as a “snake and clown.” The assumption here is that if the technology were real, Rossi would want to prove that in his demonstrations, by doing what Cude thinks he would do.

Cude does not consider an opposing argument, that Rossi had a real technology but also knew that someone else, highly motivated, seeing such proof and willing to put millions of dollars (or hundreds of millions or billions) could do what he did, and find it. So he would want to make it look like he was a con artist. So why have any demonstration at all, until he is ready for market? Well, perhaps to attract enough interest and investment to carry on until market-ready. This is what people who could see the problems were thinking in 2011. My personal opinion back then was that “fraudulent and insane” was more likely, but I could not rule out the possibility of “real inventor and insane,” i.e., paranoid. Everyone agrees, including Rossi’s friends, that he’s paranoid. A few think it is justified.

Storms apparently still thinks Rossi had something, but that he lost it. That has apparently happened in the history of LENR. Something works, they keep trying to improve it, and then it doesn’t work any more and they can’t get back to what works. Basically, some original condition was not recognized as important, the original materials that worked were lost and it never worked again. The Case material may have been like that. A particular batch of coconut charcoal. There are aspects to the history of LENR that might forever be mysteries. Or not. Until we know what the reaction actually is and know how to reliably create it, true knowledge is likely to remain elusive.

Of course, we could simply ask Joshua Cude, the authority, who doesn’t need facts but can assess truth through personalities and who supports what.

There were a total of 19 comments under this Disqus account. The rest of them:

Discussion on NetworkWorld  91 comments

Cude jumped in with this: Feb 17th 2016

Abd wrote:

No, what is needed, ordinarily, and even with something like cold fusion, is preponderance of the evidence. It is not necessary to prove every detail, and unless one has unlimited funding, it is probably impossible.

Cude did not link to the original, so here it is.

A preponderance of evidence is a legal term, but used descriptively, presumably it means that, based on the evidence, someone judges something to be more likely than not. You are saying, presumably, that in your judgement, the evidence indicates cold fusion is more likely to be real than not.

Yes. And from my study, that evidence is not weak and not merely circumstantial. To be sure, we need a definition of “cold fusion.” I use that to refer to the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect, and it appears that half the U.S. DoE review panel agreed with this in 2004. However, I go further. That review, as reported by the summarizer, did not understand the helium evidence and radically misstated it. The production of correlated helium is direct evidence that the heat is generated by a nuclear reaction, Pons and Fleischmann called it “unknown.” Calling it fusion was quite misleading. I use this term, instead of the more neutral LENR, because the helium evidence does indicate that the reaction is converting deuterium to helium, by unknown mechanism. That is a fusion result, so … until we know better, it’s like some kind of fusion. But it is very unlikely, for reasons Cude knows well, to be “D-D fusion.”

But you are not in a position of authority to make such a judgement for anyone else.

That is correct, unless I am placed in that position. I am a journalist, primarily, and an activist. My responsibility is to my readership. In general, I present evidence for readers to judge. I also disclose my own judgments, and I am responsible for them. However, this is a truly remarkable argument to make, I would call it trolling.

You don’t have a science degree or any experience in scientific research. Moreover, you have admitted that your advocacy has been paid for.

If I had such a degree, would it make any difference? Would I therefore be qualified to “judge for someone else”? I have an education, which has been disclosed. I have a great deal of experience writing for an expert audience (on the CMNS mailing list).

As to being “paid for,” that is a report that shows that Cude either doesn’t understand what he has read, he confuses his interpretations with truth, or he has believed trolls who make that claim. What actually happened that could be taken that way is that I wrote, in private email with a scientist, about Wikipedia and how it worked, the policies, and how it doesn’t work. There was someone on cc who then asked me to bill him. I told him that he could donate to my nonprofit, $50 or $100, it would be fine. He then asked me to bill him for a far higher figure, through the nonprofit. So I did. He did not pay for advocacy, there was one request, that I review a certain web site, but it wasn’t ready yet. I’ve still not been asked to complete that, and the review would have been for him, not for publication.

I have not been paid to advocate anything. Advocacy is my choice, and what I am advocating is not “Cold Fusion is Real!” but research; as part of that deciding what research is to be supported is important, and, years ago, I identified confirming heat/helium determination as crucial, as the only direct evidence that the Anomalous Heat Effect, it is also being called, is both real and nuclear in nature. Determining the value of the ratio is difficult, something Cude doesn’t seem to realize. Part of the problem is capturing all the helium, and then there are issues in the mass spectrometry, which is expensive. Etc.

Recently, I was also crowd-funded to report on the Rossi v. Darden trial, such that I actually met Rossi and Darden and Vaughn and other involved people. Because that trial settled unexpectedly on the fourth day, I have money left over, so I have funding for expenses and travel. Cude it attempting his classic move: ad hominem argument. It’s false and it is trolling.

Those who do have relevant expertise and experience, for the most part, are not convinced cold fusion is real, so that means that, in their judgement, the preponderance of evidence fails to make cold fusion more likely to be real than not.

And who is Cude to be making this judgment? I am known, I have a long public history, people can review it readily. Cude is an anonymous skeptic/pseudoskeptic/troll. His “for the most part” is a complex judgment. Is it based on evidence? What evidence, and when was that evidence collected? How would we know?

I was aware of the Pons and Fleischmann announcement in 1989, and knew the basic issues, but not the experimental details. In fact, nobody knew other than a few, at that point. When what we know of as early cold fusion history came down, I assumed that it had all been a mistake. Much later, I had become quite involved with Wikipedia, and came across an abusive blacklisting. I request that the administrator undo it. He blew me off. Eventually, this went to the Arbitration Committee and they confirmed my assessment and the admin was reprimanded. And then his faction came after me.

I had started to work on the Cold fusion article. I was not a “believer.” (It is still not fair to call me that and I consider it very possible that I will never see a commercial cold fusion device, it is possible –though perhaps unlikely — that such will never exist, so “wishful thinking” (Cude’s classic explanation for the belief of scientists and others “in cold fusion” — that is a radical insult to a scientist) has nothing to do with it. Because I realized the potential importance I bought all the major books, something I had never done before researching a Wikipedia article. Taubes is one of my favorites, for his historical research. Cude has no clue.

Genuine skeptics support what I’m doing. Trolls attack it.

Such experts are of course considering the copious and consistent and reproducible evidence from a century of nuclear physics that collectively suggests strongly that nuclear reactions would not happen in the context of cold fusion experiments.

That argument was known to be defective in 1989. (Teller, Schwinger, Cold fusion is not a “nuclear physics” topic, in origin. It was a finding in electrochemistry, of anomalous heat. The first and foremost question was the reality and origin of this heat. Not “is it theoretically possible,” that is a Cargo Cult question. Science does not ask if experimental results are “possible,” and a science that rejects experimental results in favor of its own theoretical construct has lost science and has become scientist.

(Experimental results are experimental results and are distinct from their interpretation.)

Yes. The heat was very much unexpected. Pons and Fleischmann were looking at a problem that I remember from Feynman: we cannot calculate the solid state, it is far too complex. They knew that certain simplifying assumptions were made to calculate fusion rates in the solid state. (i.e., in a material like PdD). They suspected that the actual rate might be different. This was ordinary science. They expected that there was a difference (that is practically inevitable), but they also thought they would probably be unable to measure it. Nevertheless, they decided to look. And then their experiment melted down. They spent almost five years attempting to create controlled experiments, and it was … difficult. They were not ready to announce. But Jones was actually investigating along the same line of thinking, and thought he was finding neutrons. That pushed the university into announcing, prematurely. The rest is history.

What happens when experts are charged with investigation and report? Cude is quite unspecific. He is asserting a vague consensus, as if it is fact. It is probably true that “most scientists” or “most nuclear physicists” think “cold fusion was rejected long ago.” This was mentioned in my paper and in other reviews in Current Science in 2015. That is what Tiernan called an “information cascade” (referring to the “scientific consensus” on fat in the diet and obesity and heart disease). It is an opinion that spread without ever being scientifically confirmed.

The most recent public expert panel was the 2004 DoE review. It does not support Cude’s idea of some massive scientific rejection. That review as brief and badly managed, I’ve written extensively about that. But it was a sea change from 1989. And 1989 did not conclude impossibility. It noted the theoretical difficulty, and, to my mind, both reviews focused far too much on theory. There is no satisfactory cold fusion theory as to mechanism. It’s an enormous challenge. There is a hypothesis, that falls out of the heat/helium work: the heat is from the conversion of deuterium to helium. That is testable. It does not require “reliable experiments.” It does require setting up the AHE, at least occasionally. It is known how to do that, but it’s still largely an art. There is no “lab rat” you can go out and buy or put together from instructions. But if one is determined, one can see the effect.

And that work is under way in Texas.

Next to this, the erratic, marginal, inconsistent, and irreproducible results associated with such experiments are far more plausibly explained by artifacts. Which is to say, in the mainstream view, the preponderance of evidence points to artifact, and by a vast margin.

Helium production correlated with anomalous heat is reproducible and has been confirmed many times by many groups. Cude knows this, so he is lying. Where does the “mainstream view” exist?

In the minds of some. In the Sixty Minutes report on Cold fusion, Richard Garwin is quoted, about SRI calorimetry, the work of experts, “They must be making some mistake.”

That is an understandable, though knee-jerk, opinion. There is a belief in the impossibility of “cold fusion”, but like many such beliefs, it requires a definition. How would we know that “cold fusion” is impossible? We would have to know what it is. Or we would have to have such thorough and deep knowledge of all the possible conditions that can arise to be able to claim, sensibly, that if it was real, we would already know about it. That assumption of adequate knowledge is common and ordinary, but … if accepted, such that experimental evidence is simply discarded because “impossible,” science could not advance beyond the limits of the already-known.

The basis of Cude’s position, then, is belief. Rational skepticism would sit with “I’m not yet convinced,” but not advance into the arrogant, confident, rejection of the work of others, that Cude so often indulges in.

“Scientific opinion” is properly, the opinion of the knowledgeable. Cude is more knowledgeable than any other skeptic I have encountered. Shanahan is actually published, but is common unable to see his hand in front of his face. Cude has collected an armory of arguments. I have collected these before, on newvortex, I’ll probably pull that in.

Cude is not, however, practicing science. He is not seeking to test his ideas. He advances arguments that appeal to some audiences, but that are not at all scientific, such as his obvious ad hominems.

He is dissmissing the work of hundreds of scientists as all “artifact.” He has elsewhere claimed that cold fusion is “N-rays” and “polywater,” but those were found to be artifact through replication and then a showing of artifact, not through simple claims and replication failure.

The work on those topics that led to rejection was actually replication first. Creating the artifact! So what happens when careful calorimetry is done? Many fail, that’s what Cude relies on, but he is ignoring that many have succeeded in seeing the heat. And then he is ignoring the extensive work showing helium correlation. Again, there must be some mistake, and it’s easy to postulate that the helium is from leakage. But that explanation does not fit well with the actual results. It’s just an idea without foundation in the experimental evidence. And, then, “artifact” does not fit well with the observed correlation. Wouldn’t helium also leak in hydrogen or other control experiments? Why does helium show up with heat, and not with no heat? The “heat” involved is not “higher temperature,” necessarily, or if it is higher, it is a few degrees C., not a major heating that could affect seals.

No, Cude is essentially ignoring any inconvenient evidence, or attacking it with pseudoscience.

Of course, absolute proof of anything is not possible, but something like cold fusion could surely be proved to arbitrary certainty if it were real, much as high temperature superconductivity was not doubted by any experts after the first publication became available.

Reasoning by defective analogy. I would say that “cold fusion” has been shown to be real by extensive experimentation by many different research groups. That it is not accepted as HT superconductivity was accepted is an issue for the sociology of science, and there are books on this. It is not about science, per se, but about people and how people behave collectively.

And what matters is not my opinion, or Cude’s opinion, but the opinion of those who decide on research funding. The DoE recommended modest research funding, but the only research we know of that was funded by the DoE was Shanahan’s Abortion. Why were there no fundamental projects funded? Probably, politics.

But there are other sources of funding. EPRI needed to know, and they funded McKubre’s work at SRI, and published it. Cude completely disregards that SRI was charged with sober investigation, by people who needed to know. DARPA needed to know, and also funded SRI. Others managed to continue research out of discretionary funds. I’m told that the SPAWAR program was shut down because a manager freaked out over Rossi. I just read the other day on E-Catworld a 20aa claim that SPAWAR was the “military customer” that Rossi pretended to have tthen. That might just have led to that program cancellation. It was completely false.

And, more recently? Industrial Heat needed to know, and was willing to put money into finding out. Their interest was LENR in general, and Rossi was depressing research. (Why fiddle with milliwatts or a few watts if Rossi is claiming kilowatts?)  They raised and invested in Rossi, $20 million.

Woodford Fund investigated LENR and decided to invest. In Rossi? No. They gave Industrial Heat $50 million for LENR research, which was spent, maybe $25 million of it, on other LENR projects, with theory and experiment. One of the projects they supported for a time was the Letts work with dual laser stimulation, which I had also suggested as scientifically significant. (That work was unsuccessful, apparently, but inconclusively so, and it was stopped, apparently because IH needed to focus on the lawsuit. Rossi did a lot of damage! IH is mostly secretive, so I don’t really know what is happening now.(

And then, a major donor gave $6 million to Texas Tech for a project that featured heat/helium replication, to be matched by $6 million in Texas State funds.

Those are the people who need to look at “preponderance of the evidence,” and in some cases, even weak evidence might be worth investment. The reason for that is that cold fusion, if real, could be extraordinarily valuable. Sane investment does not require certainty. It requires a sober estimate of risks.

It is almost inconceivable that an energy density a million times that of dynamite, accessible at ordinary conditions could not be made obvious in 27 years,

The conditions of cold fusion are far from “ordinary.” He means “not at temperatures of millions of degrees.” That energy density is apparently in a thin layer under not-well-understood conditions. This paradox appeared in the attempts to replicate Pons and Fleischmann: the Japanese though that they should use the purest palladium. It flat-out did not work.

When people do see the effect, it’s often obvious. Cude knows that. The truth behind his claims is that it’s quite difficult to set up the conditions. He is demanding, not mere obviousness, but readily repeatable and reliable obviousness.

I proposed the new heat/helium work because it does not require that we have what Cude demands. If one experiment out of ten, say, with a confirmed protocol, were to produce XP (and some protocols have done much better than that), and then one were to run a hundred trials, producing 10 examples of excess heat, and one were to analyse the outgas from those experiments, what would it show?

From the history, I expect that heat and helium would  be correlated and if these are FP-class experiments, about 60% of the helium expected from the conversion of deuterium to helium for that energy release would be measured. And if the surface is stripped, dissolving palladium and releasing trapped helium, the rest would be measured. Within experimental error.

That would be as close to “proof” as I can imagine.

And then the focus can turn to creating the lab rat, because further investigation requires commensurability across the work of multiple groups.

What I have found is that genuine skeptics are interested and support this approach. Pseudoskeptical trolls attack my lack of a degree and my age and my alleged this and that.

but it is completely plausible that artifacts producing a variety of confounding effects that look like cold fusion if you squint would be too elusive to be nailed down in 27 years.

Plausible but not likely. There are artifacts that afflict the research, but there are also studies that were quite careful, where artifact is unlikely.

EPRI also funded Hoffman’s study, published as a book in 1995 by the American Nuclear Society, A Dialogue on Chemically-Induced Nuclear Effects, Guide for the Perplexed about Cold Fusion. Hoffman goes over the evidence that existed as he began. He does not mention the later Miles work, and I’m not sure why. But Hoffman was a skeptic, not a “believer,” but he knew that the question or reality was open. He considered the calorimetry, in general, to be sound.

So is the heat a chemical effect? The calculations of energy density, I do not find convincing. There are too many assumptions being made. (In fact, though, it appears that the effect is a surface one, and so the energy density is higher than estimated by Pons and Fleischmann based on their idea that the effect was in the bulk.) The problem is generally the level of the effect compared to some possible unexpected recombination.

Shanahan makes the general point that there is an anomaly, something unexpected, but he assigns it to chemistry, not a nuclear reaction. Shanahan’s ideas are rejected by experienced electrochemists, but … that would be an argument from authority, so we have been and will be looking at details.

But Shanahan’s chemical anomaly does not approach an explanation of correlated helium.

Many cold fusion students will also point to tritium (often found, but correlation with heat has not been studied), neutrons (found at extremely low levels, no far above background, at least not generally), and transmutations. I consider all this a distraction, mysteries that will become far easier to resolve with the existence of a lab rat. The main show is heat and helium and apparently almost nothing else being produced. No gammas, or if there are significant gammas, they are low-energy.

Cude went on to generate a total of 261 posts on LF. The last was July 16. 2016.

Skeptoid

On February 27, Cude dumped a huge text bomb on that blog….  There were followup posts. Nothing appeared like what was commented the first time.

Cold Fusion Now

March 12, 2012

April 12, 2013
“Your historical analogy is not accurate. The energy released by Ra-226 is not fission; it’s alpha decay.”
This is bizarre. As usual, Cude is half-right. The energy is from alpha decay. But alpha decay is obviously a form of fission, a special case. This is typical trolling. Cude’s argument was irrelevant. French was correct. All analogies are inaccurate in some way, so this objection was purely pedantic (and only correct within a very restricted use of language).

April 13, 2013
April 14, 2013

Mass Use of Cold Fusion in One Year – or Less


October 24, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011

Letters to the Senate request hearings on DOE and USPTO.

Electron capture by a proton – Where would the energy come from?


March 18, 2013 (Except for the “attorney” comment, he is totally correct.)
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 18, 2013
March 19, 2013

Scientific American Attacks Cold Fusion Research with Twenty-Year-Old Claims

In this case, Jennifer Ouelette wrote a critique of cold fusion on her Scientific American blog, then left comments open and censored them without cause. It does appear that she deleted a comment by Joshua Cude, of which one line is quoted by Rothwell.

I’m not aware of a single major university that has expressed the opinion that evidence for the claims of P&F is overwhelming.

Ouelette refers to pro-cold fusion fanatics, as if these are the only trolls infesting fora.

That Cude statement is a great example of how Cude argues. I am not aware of such an expression either. Notice all the qualifications. “Major,” which then allows Cude to claim, if one points to a counterexample, that it’s not a “major university.” Then, universities rarely express opinions and then not opinions like that. Then, what are the “claims of P&F”? What claims? Some of their claims were erroneous. And finally, is the evidence “overwhelming,” presumably, “beyond a shadow of doubt”? — or is it merely convincing or even reasonably conclusive?

Jed responded with his own hyperbolic polemic:

Professors at universities and at other institutions express that opinion. For example, the Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission said that, as did the world’s top expert in tritium at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (NSF p. 13-3). In 1991, The Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin wrote: “. . . there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take place in the metal alloys.”

Hundreds of other distinguished experts in nuclear physics and other related disciplines have said they are certain cold fusion is real. They know this because they have conducted experiments and detected the reaction at high signal to noise ratios, and their experiments have survived rigorous peer-review. That is the only way anyone ever knows anything for sure in science. Replicated, high sigma experiments are the only standard of truth.

He has not read the Cude comment carefully, so he responds to a different claim, and I could suspect that Ouelette recognized this and thus dismissed his comment, which is unfortunate. As is not uncommon with Jed (there are many examples in the discussions I have been linking to in studying Cude), his comments overstate the case. Usually the ‘case’ would be reasonable, but not the details of how he presents it, so a troll like Cude can take it apart, and a pseudoskeptic like Ouelette can dismiss it. Jed’s response to critique on this point is often “I don’t care what skeptics think.”

That is where we differ. I do care what genuine skeptics think, and will also attempt to carefully address even some pseudoskeptical arguments, because the boundary between pseudoskepticism and genuine skepticism can be obscure. In the end, my target is ultimately decision-makers (for funding, publication, and other issues), who will properly be skeptical.

Jed gives three references.

  1. A BARC publication. 8 pages. I searched it while having migraine symptoms. So maybe I missed it, but I found nothing in that publication that supported the claim of “overwhelming evidence.”
  2. EPRI publication. 13-3 (pdf page 266) does not support the statement. This is not looking good.
  3. This reference is a note from Bockris about Gerischer, about a shift in Gerischer’s position that took place in the Como Conference, 1991. A fuller quote than Jed gave:

In spite of my earlier conclusion, – and that of the majority of scientists, – that the phenomena
reported by Fleischmann and Pons in 1989 (3) depended either on measurement errors or were of
chemical origin, there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take
place in the metal alloys. The early publications were so full of errors in measurement technique and
in the interpretation that the euphoria to which the discovery gave rise was rapidly replaced by
disappointment when it turned out that the laboratories with the best equipment could not reproduce
the results. Only very few groups found similar effects, but even these groups could not find
reproducibility in their own laboratory.

And then:

AN EVALUATION OF THE RESULTS OBSERVED SO FAR

Although there are many discrepancies in the reports which are at hand, and although there
are many open questions, there now lie before us several indications that fusion reactions do occur
between deuterides in metals. This gives rise to a new situation. It is entirely an open question
whether such processes could be used as the source of energy but this, of course, can only be
decided if the processes which have been revealed in the work discussed here are researched and
given a theoretical basis. In any case I consider it absolutely necessary that these phenomena are
systematically researched and the conditions for their reproducibility cleared up. That a nuclear
reaction can be stimulated by interaction with a solid lattice and made to take another path from that
which it would take in the plasma, is an entirely unexpected discovery with possibly wide-ranging
consequences. It demands confirmation and further experimental evaluation. In the following a
number of experimental and theoretical questions are raised which are at the present time entirely
open.

That “evaluation” shows what was already reasonably concluded from what Jed quoted. There are “indications.” Jed synthesizes it into “that opinion” (what Cude claimed did not exist, perhaps correctly), and then goes on to consider it, probably, as an example of what he then claimed about hundreds of scientists, “they are certain cold fusion is real.” Gerischer didn’t say that and did not mean that.

As Jed well knows, there was a rejection cascade, where an unscientific scientific consensus appeared, and incorrect or misleading opinion became common. It is not fair, but to counter this requires extraordinary evidence, and those who seek to transform any broad consensus need be particularly careful. If you are going to shoot the King, don’t miss.

Jed became cynical, and just expresses his opinion, without that caution. The “certainty” expressed, if that is the actual position, and without being careful about what “certainty” means, would be pseudoscientific. There is no successful cold fusion theory. There is no lab rat allowing wide and ready confirmation. Gerischer points out the problems, he does not think they have been solved. His actual claim is that the “indications” are strong enough to justify further research. This is not, as Cude claims in his “poetic” post (great catch, Ruby!) N-rays or polywater, where controlled experiment revealed the artifact under the original claims. But it is not the confident conclusion Jed imagines.

So, in a discussion that will be read by a general audience, including those who are ordinarily and reasonably skeptical, but perhaps they are not aware of the developed evidence, as Gerischer became, and you make a claim that appears to contradict what they thought was commonplace, what “everybody knows,” you have made a major accomplishment, if they bother to check your sources (most won’t!). But if the sources do not clearly show what you claimed, you have completely blown the opportunity, poisoned the well, and they may think the same about anyone else who makes the same claims. They won’t even look. They will think, with Garwin, “They must be making some mistake.”

Pogo: we have met the enemy, and he is us.

An Impossible Invention

Aleklett’s blog

misc

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/12/05/the-nuclear-physics-of-why-we/

Mats Lewan’s blog

Cude also acknowledged writing as “popeye”. (lovely comment, by the way, on Skeptoid. If Cude/Schroeder ever wonders why some might be motivated to document his activity, he could look at that.) Retrieving posts from ecatnews.com may be difficult or impossible. It has also been claimed that “fact police” was Cude. I found a post on E-Catworld, but the user did not create a profile. While this could be Cude, it is far from obvious.

 

 

Mary Yugo, Sniffex and the Blindness of Reactive Certainty

On LENR Forum, maryyugo bloviated:

When James Randi’s foundation exposed Sniffex as a fraud, he was sued. The suit was similarly dropped before independent technical experts could perform tests on the device. Strange how that works. You may recall that Sniffex was sold as an explosive detector but was really a dowsing rod which when tested by many different agencies, detected nothing. It and similar devices did and probably still do maim and kill many people who rely on them to detect explosives and IED’s, especially in S. E. Asia and the Middle East and IIRC Africa where they can still be promoted and sold. Amusingly, Lomax the abdominable snow man, still thinks these things have merit. I propose giving him one and turning him loose with it in a minefield so he can prove it if he thinks we are slandering the makers.

I know the Sniffex case and have researched it fairly deeply. Much of what Mary Yugo has claimed is not verifiable, but some is. It does appear that the Sniffex was a very expensive dowsing rod (about $6,000, though there are sources saying as high as $60,000).

However, dowsing rods can detect something, this is where Mary goes too far. What they detect is entirely another issue, I call it “psychic.” Meaning “of the mind,” not  meaning woo. A “psychic amplifier” or “sensor” will fail a double-blind test, the kind that Mary considers golden. However, in real life, there are often what are called “sensory leakages,” in parapsychological research. Information that comes through in ways that are not necessarily expected.

In medicine, there is the placebo effect, but, then, are there approaches which amplify the placebo effect? Clinical manner certainly would. Anything else?

I never claimed that the Sniffex “had merit.” This is Mary’s corrupt interpretation, radically misleading, like much of what Mary writes.

And I never claimed that Yugo was “slandering the makers.” Mary made all that up. Continue reading “Mary Yugo, Sniffex and the Blindness of Reactive Certainty”

Examples

CSICOP (now CSI) is, on the face, a skeptical organization, originally dedicated to the “scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal,” but which rapidly became a “debunking” organization with a very clear political agenda, not neutral and scientific. This can clearly be seen on RationalWiki, which is generally very sympathetic to CSI positions and treats them as, more or less, gospel. So, examples, listed under fields.

Diet

Searching for CSICOP-related pronouncements on the Atkins Diet, I found this Skeptical Inquirer article, by Reynold Spector. It’s quite good, though I wouldn’t agree with everything in it, and it uses “pseudoscience” rather loosely.

However, the fanatic skeptics at RationalWiki may not be reading Skeptical Inquirer. So, from the RW article on me, under “Diet woo,”

Lomax is an advocate of the Atkins Diet, a low-carb fad diet that most of the medical community have rejected as quackery.[34]

Spector is pointing out that the opinions of the “medical community” are largely based on poor research, he actually calls it “pseudoscience,” which is further than my major source, Gary Taubes, would go. Bad Science, is his theme. That something is “fad” has nothing to do with its scientific or pseudoscientific character, though usually fads have some kind of evidentiary basis, at least in practical experience, or it wouldn’t become a fad. That is not the same as “proof,” and ideas that are fads are not therefore factually-based. I don’t interact with “most of the medical community,” I interact with doctors and medical professionals that my insurance will pay for, and most of them are quite aware, and have told me, that “Atkins works.” The RationalWiki article itself covers this to a degree. After a shallow coverage of the Atkins Diet, it has:

The reality of low carb, higher protein diets

First of all, this makes a common error: an assumption that LCHF (low-carb, high-fat) diets are “higher protein.” That depends on the choices a follower of the food plan makes.

There is a two fold reality to truly low carb diets: 1) They work[27] 2) They are dangerous[28][29]

So perhaps I have generally followed an Atkins Diet is because it works, and certainly because it worked in my experience. (What does “works” mean? It means, for me, loss of unwanted weight and improvement of cardiac risk factors. Not to mention being able to eat my favorite foods, which, since childhood, were high-fat. I moved away from them many years ago because of the “low fat fad” that was promoted by the “mainstream.” Then I woke up!

Is Atkins “dangerous”? What is shown is very weak and unscientific, not based on actual research, just imagination. Woo, if you like, only carried and promoted by “authorities,” as described by Spector. (And, in far more detail, Taubes.)

The reality with any “Very high protein”(VHP)[30] or “Very low carbohydrate”(VLC)[31] is that they are helpful for short periods of time, but pushing the body into ketosis for extended periods, or asking the body to process high levels of protein leads to a variety of mild to major conditions, including: increased risk of heart disease; kidney dysfunction, liver dysfunction, bone density loss, arthritis, water retention, kidney stones and bad breath (ketoacidosis causes a fruity smell on the breath due to increased acetone in the body) and body odor[32]. So while it does work, it is something best done under the guidance of a physician or dietician (not a nutritionist) and only for short periods of time.

I have seen no evidence that extended ketosis is harmful. “Ketosis” simply means “burning fat,” i.e., as ketone bodies, which the body mobilizes from stored fat. There are cultures that eat very little carbohydrate, without apparent harmful consequences. The problems with a high-protein diet are known (I think). If one only eats protein, the body goes into the third metabolic system, burning protein for fuel. It can do that to survive, for short periods. But fat may be the primary system, largely not active when there is plenty of carbohydrate in the diet, i.e., the modern standard diet. “Bad breath” is culturally determined. So RationalWiki is giving unscientific advice, thinking that this is “rational.”

The other problem with high protein diets is that according to several studies, the weight is more quickly regained than with dieters who followed a moderate reduction in calories over a longer time, presumably due to the fact that the weight was lost under the body’s “duress”, and not simply because more calories were spent than eaten.

The real problem with science and diet and nutrition is the paucity of high-quality studies. Losing weight with an HFLC diet is not stressful, they made that up. It is easy and comfortable. Again, many studies are poor and poorly interpreted.

Atkins is sustainable as a long-term food plan because it allows highly satisfying meals, thoroughly enjoyable. If one stops following the food plan, the result is largely predictable: gain of weight. That is true for almost any diet. They have not cited sources for the alleged studies.

Granted, low-carb diets can be astonishly [sic] effective. But given their side effects, they can be suggested only when the overweight itself presents graver dangers to the health of the patient than the risks of the diet. Morbidly obese patients (weight index 38+) may benefit from low carbohydrate diets in order to normalize their body weight. Such diet should always be considered only as the means, not the end.

This is unencyclopedic fluff. Back to the point, that I “advocate” Atkins (I suggest people look into it) was used as evidence that I am a “woo” promoter. The paragraph above relies on assumptions that Atkins is dangerous (it was common for low-fat promoters — and low fat can be very dangerous, since fat is an essential nutrient — to say that Atkins might work, but has not been proven safe, which, of course, neglects that LCHF diets are very old and some cultures have eaten that way for very long periods of time; the alleged dangers, if they exist at all, can be monitored. For example, I used Ketostix to monitor ketone levels, which would reveal any dangerous ketoacidosis, even though that is very rare and not expected in my general health condition. I also more carefully monitored blood lipids and even got a cardiac CAT scan, since I had hypercholesterolemia, which sounds bad but which can also be simply familial and harmless. Atkins appears to be reasonably safe, compared to the dangers of the standard American diet.

So, that’s RationalWiki. Anything else?

Okay, Skepticblog. Not bad, but uninformed, makes ignorant assumptions to make unscientific recommendations.

Found a nice article by the Skeptical Cardiologist about the death of Atkins (i.e., it had nothing to do with his diet). The guy has some other interesting posts, such as there being no problem with saturated fats from dairy. An actual skeptic! Does he remember to be skeptical of his own ideas? (That is the acid test!) I don’t know, but he is a good writer.

While I found some skeptics spouting unscientific “knowledge,” I did not find an organized anti-Atkins effort, and quite  a bit of positive material that accepted at least part of what Atkins recommended.

Cold fusion

Here is a link to a page presenting a Randi video on cold fusion. Randi claims not to have a priori bias; however, what is shown here is his name-dropping of Carl Sagan, with whom he witnessed (and walked out of) a Martin Fleischmann press conference in which Fleischmann was evasive. This is all well-known, at that point, Fleischmann was under instruction from lawyers, apparently, not to reveal too much. It’s meaningless, but apparently Randi thinks it’s important. Then he turns to the topic of Andrea Rossi. This was November, 2011. Rossi is introduced by the interviewer as an “Italian physicist,” which was quite incorrect, Rossi is an inventor and entrepreneur with a shady past. By this time most LENR researchers had dismissed Rossi as unverifiable and very possibly a fraud. Randi’s predictions were not accurate, Rossi did not go to a public stock offering, and he has never sold stock. He did attract private investment, sale of licenses, based at least in part on something Randi did not anticipate: some real scientists appearing to confirm Rossi’s claims.

They had great fun with “University of Baloney.” The University of Bologna, according to the Wikipedia article, “founded in 1088, is the oldest university in continuous operation[2], as well as one of the leading academic institutions in Italy and Europe[3]. It is one of the most prestigious Italian universities commonly ranking first in national rankings.”

A skilled con artist can fool many regular scientists, including “skeptics.” Such an artist will also carefully avoid close examination by anyone with true expertise, and Rossi did that (Randi did predict this). Knee-jerk dismissal, however, and expectation of fraud was useless. What it took to truly and definitively expose Rossi was actual investment, by people who knew what they were doing (consciously taking risks). The result is thoroughly documented on this blog, the gateway is Rossi v. Darden docket.

Even this is not proof that there is no Rossi Effect. However, at this point, it is clear that Rossi is deceptive and that any demonstration that he can manage in any way is untrustworthy.

Carl Sagan’s real opinion was far more nuanced.

It is clear from his last quoted statement on cold fusion, however, that he was not informed. Claims of neutron production had been largely abandoned by then: if neutrons were being produced (and there is some evidence for that), the levels were a million million times down from the actual measured (and correlated with heat) product, helium. Further, his original idea that science would prevail was incorrect, he did not sufficiently realize the power of the information cascade. (That combined with the difficulty and unreliability of replication, the drastic variability of the effect, which, among other things, made commercial application remote and not yet attainable.)

In a book on Carl Sagan’s Universe, 1997, James Randi wrote about cold fusion.

People are still fussing about cold fusion, which in my opinion and the opinion of many of my colleagues probably just does not work, but it does work in one respect. It gets a lot of funding, at least from Toyota, who just gave them $7 million to pursue cold fusion studies. Wonderful! I must also announce a diistressing bit of news that I am currently arguing with my very good friend, Arthur C. Clarke, in Sri Lanka. I’m glad that he is a considerable distance from me. We might be in a fistfight, because he is quite supportive of cold fusion. He has spoken to the founders of this wonderful notion and is pretty well convinced by them, so I may have to go over and clast that icon too!

This is all personal and is actually the kind of thing that Sagan wrote against. Why does Randi’s opinion matter? What does he know? He was a magician, and could indeed be an expert on the generation of illusion. He will also be senstitive, from his predelictions, to possible fraud and delusion. So … who are his “colleagues”? Magicians? CSICOP members? He isn’t a physicist, but so-called “cold fusion” was not actually a physics topic, it was an experimental result in electrochemistry. The “them” he refers to would be Pons and Fleischmann, funded to continue their research in France. Is that about “cold fusion.” Pons and Fleischmann did not claim that what they found was “fusion.” They claimed it was an “unknown nuclear reaction.” They actually had no real “nuclear evidence,” only more heat than they could explain by chemistry (and they had been mistaken about low-level neutron radiation, later work completely deprecated that claim).

It was not until 1991 that clear nuclear evidence was found; before that, there were mysterious reports of tritium, never correlated with heat, unlike the 1991 work which found a clear correlation between anomalous heat and helium. By that time, cold fusion was already heavily rejected by “consensus,” which, of course, excluded contrary opinion, and, here, Randi talks about a strong argument with Clarke. Over what? Clarke was aware of the evidence, Randi was not, was operating on his own reactivity.

Randi’s opinion is totally nonscientific. However, he writes something else there I find remarkable, see Parapsychology, below.

Parapsychology

This is remarkable, James Randi saying that parapsychology is a legitimate science. This is in a book published on Carl Sagan’s Universe, in 1997.

I speak to a great number of lay audiences and academic audiences, and we have to get some terminology straight. Pseudoscience and crackpot science are differentiated in certain ways. Examples of pseudoscience in my estimation are things like homeopathy, which is diluting a medicine down to the point where you’re beyond Avogadro’s Limit, and there’s none of the original medicine left, but the vibrations are still there. …

I agree with Randi here, that the “explanations” of homeopathy are legitimately called “pseudoscience.” His description of what homeopathy is, however, neglects clinical practice and studies that show that homeopathy is an effective modality. Because the “explanation” which he focuses on, as if it were the entire issue, is truly “woo,” and disconfirmed, as far as I know, by double-blind studies, there being no discernable difference when the placebo effect is ruled out, homeopathic theory is not “scientific.” However, there remains an issue, the effect of the mind and human presence and interaction, and the possibility that some mythical modality might still be effective, amplifying, as it were, the placebo effect, the effect of language and thought. The “vibrations,” he demeans sarcastically, could simply be thought, the idea of the substance, that then has an effect on the practitioner and patient. This is not so simple to test! Is it “pseudoscientific”?  Unfortunately, I don’t know how to test it. Are we pseudoscientists if we propose untestable explanations? Only, I’d say, if we pretend that they are scientific.

In general, pseudoskeptics dismiss evidence that is other than peer-reviewed and confirmed blind studies; yet human beings routinely order their lives based on anecdotal evidence, and I have seen no evidence that refusing to do this is at all conducive to survival. Pseudoskeptics often reject what is ordinary, common human practice, as if “wrong,” imagining that they have the enlightened view and everyone else is stuck in darkness and ignorance. Randi goes on, my emphasis:

Some parapsychology, in fact, I think most of parapsychology, is also pseudoscience because of the way it is approached, but parapsychology is a legitimate science, no question of that, and it must be pursued.

Randi is obviously aware of the definitional problem ignored by the RationalWikians. Parapsychology is the scientific investigation — using the methods of science — of the “paranormal,” which essentially means phenomena that are not yet explainable by “natural physics” or the like. The term has come to refer to “psychic phenomena,” but that is interpretive. The core meaning of “psychic” is “of the mind.” From my point of view, it’s not clear that the mind exists other than in a realm of ideas and impressions. I.e., does the smile of Mona Lisa exist? It’s just some oil paint on canvas, in some patterns. The “smile” exists in our interpretation of those patterns. The idea that the mind is an illusion is very old. But we routinely trust in the reality of the mind. It is entirely possible to move beyond that, to something far more “grounded,” but pseudoskeptics, in general, are utterly naive about all this.

When Randi refers to “most of parapsychology,” he is referring to theories and the possible concepts of some students or researchers in parapsychology, not to parapsychology itself. In the end, his definition of “pseudoscience” relies on his own opinions and judgments, not an objective standard, from what I’ve seen. Genuine parapsychologists, like real skeptics, postpone judgment, possibly forever. Randi then argues practicality.

It is in an unfortunate positions. It’s been around for something like a hundred and twenty years, no necessarily under the name, parapsychology, but scientific research directed in that way has been around for that amount of time. When I speak to parapsychologists, they usually say, “Well, I still have a feeling there is something there,” in spite of the fact that they have not had one positive experiment yet, in more than a century, that has been replicated. Strange! It is very much like, in my estimation, being a doctor for 120 years, and everyone of your patients has died.

All patients die eventually. Perhaps Randi has not realized this.

His essential claim here is that investigations of the paranormal have produced no results, which is nonsense. Some results have indicated, for example, that no effect of statistical significance was present in reports that earlier seemed to show some paranormal phenomenon. Those are parapsychological results, and they are of value. However, there are other results, claimed and published under peer review, that seem to show some paranormal effect, and some of these have been replicated. Randi simply denies that these exist. Parapsychology would continue to investigate these. As with cold fusion, above, it is not clear to me that Randi is aware of those claimed results.

I am not confirming or denying those claims. I simply don’t know enough, it’s quite a bit of work! I’m generally quite skeptical, and choose not to invest the time; however, what I actually did was stand for the right of those interested in parapsycholgy to create educational resources on the topic on Wikiersity, and that includes “beleivers” and “skeptics” and anyone else interested. In setting that up, I did write that parapsychology was, by definition, a science, and that was attacked by RationalWikians as being my “promotion” of pseudoscience, as if I believed in some parapsychological theory or hypothesis. I don’t. Some of the results I have seen are interesting, that’s all. I don’t draw conclusions from that, other than noticing knee-jerk rejection without actual consideration of evidence. I.e., the inverted kind of pseudoscience, practiced by those who imagine they are promoting “critical thinking” and “science.”

After the first thirty years, wouldn’t you get an idea that maybe you should seek a different line of work? …

That’s a choice for individuals to make. What is sometimes offensive from “believers” is a demand that others pay attention to what they believe. If a physicist thinks cold fusion is bogus and doesn’t want to pay attention to it, that’s his or her choice. What is offensive is when those who do actually pay attention, or actually invest time and resources in research, are attacked as “pseudoscientists” and “deluded believers.”

 

CSICOP

The SoS page, following, gets the current name not quite right. It is Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

Has CSICOP Lost the Thirty Years’ War?

This is the best article I’ve ever read on the history of CSICOP/CSI. The name change actually reflects the take-over that Truzzi objected to. “Scientific Investigation” — which would be, by definition, as a field, parapsychology — becomes “skeptical inquiry,” which, in practice, readily favors an unbalanced and unscientific, highly critical approach, even though CSI claims it “Does not reject claims on a priori grounds, antecedent to inquiry, but examines them objectively and carefully,” CSI activists and authors blatantly and sometimes explicitly do this, and CSI does not correct or balance this. This is common for ideological activists, they will quote their ideals as if those are evidence as to actual behavior.

I’m going to explore Examples on the subpage, from my own study. CSI, in general, attacks as unscientific or pseudoscientific, people and fields based on the alleged opinion of the “majority of scientists,” whereas it would be rare that the “majority of scientists” would be aware of the evidence involved. CSI activists often assert “there is no proof,” sometimes taking that down to “there is no evidence.” There is no “proof” is true of much of science, at the edges or “fringe.” Only in mathematics is proof abundant, and mathematics is ordinarily highly cautious about assumptions and logic. To say “there is no evidence,” however, is to completely neglect the most common legal evidence: human testimony. Pseudoskeptics commonly confuse evidence with proof, discounting evidence because they do not consider it proof. The reality would be “I have not seen evidence that convinced me,” sometimes shortened just to “convincing,” perhaps extending this to “me and my friends or those who think like me.”

This is often visible in Wikipedia editing. In the case of cold fusion, the position of cold fusion in the journals flipped many years ago. In the first year after announcement, “negative” papers — as assessed by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist — outnumbered “positive” ones. The next year they were about equal. After that, positive papers dominated and negative papers almost entirely disappeared. Pseudoskeptics claim that this is because “most scientists” no longer considered it worthwhile to even consider the subject. (There may be some truth to that).

However, years ago, I did a study of mainstream publications from 2005 on, and found not just primary sources, but many reviews, with critical response being rare to non-existent. Supposedly peer-reviewed secondary sources, i.e., reviews, are golden for Wikipedia articles on science, but uniformly and rapidly, citations of these were removed by the “skeptical” faction.

Somehow, authors on cold fusion were able to pass peer review, and in one case, one of the Wikipedia  editors called that “something strange.” Policy has not been followed. An editor there, Manul, shows up in my studies of an editor who appears to support extreme skeptical positions, and when his name was mentioned, that disruptive editor went totally ballistic, as if Manul had been attacked (which was not the case, he was merely mentioned) Manul claimed that he was being harassed off-wiki and had changed his user name (which is pretty useless), and that was mentioned, because he had filed sock puppet reports attacking a favorite target of the disruptive editor, and without that knowledge, it could be assumed that this was two independent editors. Manul has since disappeared, but what I notice here is the threat of reporting the editor he is arguing with for “personal attack.” This was a common tactic of the entire skeptical faction. I see here that Manul is actually a disruptive editor (I would have been blocked in a flash if I had behaved like that), but he has apparently retired, which, when attention might start to be focused on them, disruptive editors, especially those acting in collaboration with a faction, often do.

In one case, in a mainstream chemistry journal, which had published a review of the field of LENR or “cold fusion,” there was a critical Letter published, and one of the original authors and a phalanx of scientists in the field responded, and the critic was left sputtering that the journal would not publish his rebuttal. I find it fairly obvious that journals were refusing to publish knee-jerk pseudoskeptical rejection, and that the shallow (and blatantly incorrect, in a critical way) Letter was the best they got.

“Most scientists” would be completely unaware of this situation, so they would base their opinions on what became widely believed in 1989-1990, that it was all a mistake. I thought that until I actually started to review the field, not as a believer, but as neutrally skeptical (and understanding the theoretical reasons for rejection, they are rather obvious to anyone with knowledge of nuclear physics.)

Something is happening that we don’t understand. For people who have based their identity on “Scientism,” that is terrifying. In theory, humanists and skeptics don’t have a belief system, but in reality, humans do, and denial of it leads to much mischief.

And here is an example of how I learn by writing. To link to the Wikipedia article on Scientism, I needed to look at it, at least briefly. There I saw reference to Schumaker, A Guide for the Perplexed. (1977) And that, for me, immediately brought to mind a book by Nate Hoffman, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects, A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED About Cold Fusion (1995). This was one of the first books I read on cold fusion.

(Schumaker’s title was itself a reference to a 12th century book by Maimonides.)

Hoffman has been excoriated by at least one “cold fusion believer” for being Wrong about this or that and probably hostile. However, the book is written from a genuine skeptical point of view, one that does not demand conformance to “expectations” and it actually skewers common pseudoskeptical arguments. Hoffman, I see now, was clearly referring to Shumaker’s book in his title, and skewering scientism in general, i.e., the smug, satisfied belief that challenges to orthodoxy (what “scientists believe,” generally neglecting diversity of opinion among scientists) can be a priori dismissed.

Skeptical about Skeptics

Skeptical about Skeptics 

Googling “pseudoskepticism,” I was presented with this image at the top of the results. I followed it, and found the site. On the face, this is professional-quality presentation. My interest: what is the content? Is it “believer” or “skeptical” or “pseudoskeptical”? It is possible to be a mixture, and some believers can also be skeptical at the same time, the words are not precise. And the site claims to be “skeptical about skeptics.” Or is it pseudoskeptical?

PSEUDOSKEPTICS REVEALED

Genuine skepticism is a virtue in science. Unfortunately, some self-proclaimed guardians of science are committed to conventional taboos against psychic phenomena, despite many promising lines of evidence. Although they call themselves skeptics, they are in truth fundamentalists who attack any challenge to their beliefs, even if it means contradicting the core scientific principles of paying attention to evidence and keeping an open mind. They assume psychic phenomena cannot exist, and remain ignorant of the relevant research. They are pseudoskeptics.

“Many promising lines of evidence,” unqualified, could be a “believer” comment. it is not qualified. Lines of evidence for what? Well, “psychic phenomena,” which means what? The term “psychic” can be used in many ways. The core meaning is “of the mind.” However, it comes to mean, in some contexts, “relating to or denoting faculties or phenomena that are apparently inexplicable by natural laws, especially involving telepathy or clairvoyance.”

There are “phenomena” that are called “psychic,” but by definition (the second definition), that is not a “natural” explanation, and I’m not sure that “laws” explain anything of weight, to depth. They allow us to make certain kinds of predictions; the core scientific question would be verifiability. From a study of conditions, can results be predicted?

The idea that phenomena (i.e., what can be observed) given the name of “psychic” cannot exist is obvious nonsense.

However, the “scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal” seeks causes, it does not deny the phenomena. So a cause of a “clairvoyant’s” surprising knowledge could be “cold reading,” a skill that can be trained, which might be a hypothesis. Testing this could be well-done or otherwise, but the investigation can certainly be scientific. The pseudoskeptics who are the topic of this web site claim otherwise and for this reason they are outside of science, themselves.

Skeptical About Skeptics examines their ill-informed attacks with articles by well-known scientists and thinkers, revealing their faulty critiques and the underhanded methods they employ. We highlight controversies in specific fields of research and shine a light on prominent pseudoskeptics and skeptical organizations.

We are pro-science, and we are in favor of open-minded inquiry.

First of all, are there “attacks,” as distinct from ordinary critique? Are there “underhanded methods” being used? I’ve been, the last few weeks, researching and handling the a family of sock puppets that impersonate their targets, to make impeach them and make it appear that they are disruptive fanatics and cranks, or to confuse deliberation on wikis and other fora. So, yes. That happens. In my study, I have not yet come to the case of Craig Weiler, who appears to be a principal at our topic web site, but he has certainly been a target, see his RationalWiki article, and, looking through the history of that and its talk page, and seeing how much his name is raised by these sock puppets, I see ample confirmation. (I’ve been documenting the “single-purpose accounts” — obvious attack sock puppets — who often create articles like this; see, here, the obvious Strawberry Smoothie and then the most recent editor, Marky — look at his contributions!

His article follows a common trope. If anyone presents evidence “for” some phenomenon being psychic, psedoskeptics will claim that “proof” is being asserted. This runs through many long-standing debates. for example, what really amount to atheist activists, those who are far to the right of ordinary non-believers, will say that “there is no evidence for the existence of God,” leaving out what would be crucial, what is “God”? “God” is a high-level abstraction that might actually mean something different to each person. I use the word as a personal name of Reality, along with many other such names. So, is there no evidence for the existence of Reality? What would that even mean? Pseudoskeptics reduce difficult issues, such as the demarcation problem, to sound bites and snarky comment, especially on RationalWiki. They are anti-science, reducing science, a method for developing effective predictability, to a body of “established knowledge,” while leaving behind the method that maintains and expands that knowledge. The RationalWikians are pretty explicit that they follow the “mainstream,” i.e., the majority of “scientists,” a rather fuzzily-defined group that excludes anyone with differing opinions, no matter what their individual qualifications.

If their targest have a view that seems to differ from the mainstream, they are “cranks” and “pseudoscientists.” Weiler is pouring out some of their own medicine.

As I have mentioned, I’m skeptical about claims of psi being not explainable consistently with known science (experimental results might require some unexpected explanation). It is clear to me, though that some attempted explanations are inadequate for at least one set of experimental results that I’ve looked at. This is far from “believing in pseudoscience,” or “promoting it.” On Wikiversity, I facilitated the formation of an article on Parapsychology, neutral by inclusion and editorial consensus, so far. The pseudoskeptics have no patience for that, the ones that have showed up want a quick victory or else they go away, to come again another day with some new twist, like bogus disruptive editing on Wikipedia.

This SoS article I found quite well-written: Zen … and the Art of Debunkery Or, How to Debunk Just About Anything

I have seen most of the tactics that he sarcastically presents. His lede:

“While informed skepticism is an integral part of the scientific method, professional debunkers — often called ‘kneejerk skeptics’ — tend to be skeptics in name only, and to speak with little or no authority on the subject matter of which they are so passionately skeptical.”

So, I have seen an undergraduate student, with some physics courses, actually considered the resident expert on RationalWiki, ridicule a theory paper on cold fusion by a physicist with over forty years of experience, a standard (hot) fusion expert, because the man used a term he had never seen. It was an ordinary term, “platonic solid.” That student had no understanding of what he was reading, but was certain that there was something wrong with it. The paper was simply an exploration of a possibility that nobody had calculated before, of multibody fusion, just looking at the math of quantum field theory.

I may review various articles on that SoS site as subpages here. I’m critical of some claims, but science advances through academic freedom (and civil discussion), not through ridicule and suppression of alternate views.

So what about homeopathy? After all, the theory seems ridiculous! The idea of some kind of structure in water, some kind of “water memory,” is not quite as ridiculous as it sounds, but water memory operating as claimed with homeopathic medicines seems colossally unlikely to me.

Here is a problem: There are clinical studies showing that the *practice* of homeopathy is effective, even if double-blind tests show that the remedies are not more effective than placebo. That may be challenged, there may be studies, and then there is the question of how to interpret them. This is not a task for fanatics of either kind!

I have used homeopathic remedies on occasion (because I trust in trust itself, which can be created, I’m actually trained to do that.) So I had an injury and someone gives me a remedy, with care and love, and it would be totally rude to reject it. And, in fact, I felt better, healed quickly, etc. Anecdotal, of course. Proves nothing.  I use words alone to accomplish those results, often without a “token.” It’s really about how the brain works).

Homeopathic practice includes training in the “law of similars.” It is entirely possible that a treatment modality based on something, that is not literally accurate, still works. I had this discussion with Andrew Weil in Tucson, something like 1974. It occurred to me that homeopathy might, through the nature of the study and practice, be amplifying the placebo effect. Skeptics generally stop with a finding that a medicine is no better than a placebo, but medicine is practically never prescribed or used without knowledge of what it (supposedly) is.

That could be called a “psychic phenomenon,” though it requires no unnatural explanations, only a possibly different understanding of what “medical practice” is — and how treatments are most effectively applied.

Is cold fusion a fraud?

In a recent post here, I documented the temporary ban of Ascoli65 on LENR Forum. As a result, there was discussion of this site, of Levi and UniBo, and of cold fusion, on fusionfredda.

As part of that, one user gave a series of arguments, ignoring what I’d written, that cold fusion was rejected by mainstream science (both true and stupid in context), and one user, after I pointed out that nobody understands cold fusion, claimed that, no, cold fusion was simply a fraud, representing that as an understanding. I’m not going to continue that conversation unless specifically invited. Because these arguments are old, and I haven’t written about them in quite a while, I’m posting this here.

Beyond that, I’m not concerned if some fanatics have weird opinions on a blog that is rapidly becoming obsolete, designed from the beginning to be useless except for transient bloviating that generates no enduring value. Continue reading “Is cold fusion a fraud?”