Dear “Google” Galileo: five reasons we know why you are not a scientific genius

“I’m feeling lucky” Google results are often the best

Google Galileo: an individual whose knowledge of a scientific discipline is restricted to information sourced from Google, Wikipedia or other online sources (i.e. blogs). Within a period of a few weeks/months they feel confident to not only dismiss an entire discipline of science, but have gained the ability to “practice science” by commenting on online forums and constructing alternative theories using raw data obtained freely from public sources.

When confronted with evidence or arguments that contradict their position, they retreated into the “Galileo was persecuted for his beliefs!” defence, imagining the gales of laughter emanating from the scientific community is a form of persecution.

The online world is awash with hundreds of thousands of individuals, who despite lacking training or experience in a highly technical areas, feel they can confidently dismiss entire disciplines of science after a few weeks of searching Google and consulting a few blogs.

Yes, blame Google. And the Internet.

This is the “dark side” of the information revolution.

Before anyone rushes to accuse of me of attacking the very medium this blog is a product of, I’d like to stress that the Internet has been a wonderful tool for disseminating knowledge. However I think we can all agree it is also conduit for all kinds of misinformation.

Climate change denial is the example par excellence, as it is a movement built on half-truths and fabrications. However the denial movement would not be quite as effective and powerful without blogs such as “What’s up with that”, “Climate Depot” and the websites of think tanks behind climate change denial.

The same is true of creationism, HIV-AIDs denial, 9/11 Truthers and the anti-vaccination movement. They thrive and grow thanks to their online presence, trapping individuals with their “counter knowledge“, sucking them into the vortex of denial and pseudo-science.

Entering and graduating from Google University

“Google U” has many esteemed graduates.

Perhaps one of the more most famous example is Jenny McCarthy, the former Playboy Bunny, actress and self-proclaimed autism expert.

She has been one of the main proponents of the anti-vaccine movement, giving it a higher profile due to her celebrity status (C-List as it is). Her son has autism, and she blames MMR/vaccines. How did she arrive at this conclusion?

When her son started to display signs of autism, she Googled it:

…that night [she]went on Google and typed in “autism.” And on the corner of the screen, in the sponsored links, it said, “Generation Rescue.” And I decided to click on it, because right underneath it, it said, “Autism is reversible.” And I thought to myself, well, this must be a load of crap, because if it was true, why didn’t the best neurologist in the world tell me there’s something I could do to reverse autism?

The tragedy is the McCarthy was lead down the “rabbit hole” of denial because she lacked the critical thinking skills and knowledge to dismiss the claims of the anti-vaccination movement. But just as importantly she wanted to believe it.

This form of denial is easy to understand. Her son has a condition that can be challenging for a parent to come to grips with.

Something was “wrong” with her son. “Someone” must be to “blame”. Age of Autism promised it was “reversible”. Probability and genetics be damned, it’s the fault manufacturers of vaccines. And she could “fix it”.

However in order to support her beliefs, McCarthy must wave away evidence based medicine and maintain there is a massive conspiracy to cover up the truth in order to protect the interests of drug manufacturers.

Sound familiar?

Fragile thinking leads to denial

Of course it does: it is how denial is manufactured and maintained by the individual. But challenging the beliefs of someone like McCarthy only hardens their resolve. The same is true of climate change deniers.

They can’t belive AGW is real, because it clashes with their values and beliefs (i.e. unlimited economic growth, government is corrupt). As a consequence they have to disprove the science via a fantasy of a global conspiracy amongst scientists in collusion with governments and green groups.

The recent New Scientist special on the “Age of Denial” has a series of very good essays, including one the psychology of denial. It explains how the “fragility” of some people’s thinking lead them to go down this intellectual path:

[Seth] Kalichman, [social psychologist] however, feels that everyday reasoning alone is not enough to make someone a denialist. “There is some fragility in their thinking that draws them to believe people who are easily exposed as frauds,” he says. “Most of us don’t believe what they say, even if we want to. Understanding why some do may help us find solutions.”

He believes the instigators of denialist movements have more serious psychological problems than most of their followers. “They display all the features of paranoid personality disorder”, he says, including anger, intolerance of criticism, and what psychiatrists call a grandiose sense of their own importance. “Ultimately, their denialism is a mental health problem. That is why these movements all have the same features, especially the underlying conspiracy theory.”

Neither the ringleaders nor rank-and-file denialists are lying in the conventional sense, Kalichman says: they are trapped in what classic studies of neurosis call “suspicious thinking”. “The cognitive style of the denialist represents a warped sense of reality, which is why arguing with them gets you nowhere,” he says. “All people fit the world into their own sense of reality, but the suspicious person distorts reality with uncommon rigidity.”

In addition to this is the belief that they are “the modern Galileo”, someone whose beliefs challenge the mainstream and will be ultimately vindicated. The sad truth, it’s just fallacious thinking. As noted sceptic Michael Shermer notes:

For every Galileo shown the instruments of torture for advocating scientific truth, there are a thousand (or ten thousand) unknowns whose ‘truths’ never pass scientific muster with other scientists. The scientific community cannot be expected to test every fantastic claim that comes along, especially when so many are logically inconsistent.

It’s often referred to as the “Galileo gambit”, or “Galileo Fallacy“:

The Galileo gambit, or Galileo fallacy, is the idea that if you are widely vilified for your ideas, you must therefore be right. It refers to Galileo Galilei’s famous persecution at the hands of the Catholic church for his defence of heliocentrism in the face of the orthodox Biblical literalism of the day that insisted otherwise. Users will bring it up repeatedly in response to serious criticisms that – more often than not – they just don’t understand.

Again and again from climate change deniers, creationists and other denial movements the chant “Galileo was laughed at and he was right!”

There have been tens of thousands of would be Galileo’s. The reason their names are forgotten is that their theories could never past muster.

Five reasons why “you” are not the modern Galileo

These would be Galileo’s seem to amass a wealth of “facts” about climate science, geology and physics. With their impressive array of factoids, they bludgeon public discussion in online forums and dinner party conversations with seemingly inexhaustible (and exhausting) depth of knowledge of obscure talking points and tidbits.

“They grew grapes in Britain during the Roman occupation, so it was actually hotter than it is today. The climate has always changed…”

But these are meaningless facts.

They have nothing to do climate science. They are facts strung together into a complex, almost impenetrable web of denial. This is a generation of “Google Galileo’s”. Men and woman who’ve “looked into” climate change and found the science “wanting” in their estimation. Their sources of information? Bloggers, conspiracy theorists and “sceptical” journalists. This is as far removed from actual science as you can actually get.

There are five common traits of these “wannabe” Galileo’s (and the signs you should look for when you encounter one) :

  1. You lack relevant qualifications or expertise in a highly technical discipline – most would be “Google Galileo’s” (99.99%) lack qualifications in climate science. They may have impressive qualifications in other fields (engineering, finance, economics) but the truth is they lack the decades of training in the field. Just as nobody can become an overcome expert in neurosurgery from reading Wikipedia, so you can’t “Google” the web and become an overnight expert on a highly complex area of science.
  2. Your references are restricted to blogs and Wikipedia (and cherry picked from freely available scientific papers) – most Google Galileo’s can’t make a distinction between genuine scientific research and a post from the well-known denial blog “Watt’s up with that?”. As far as they are concerned, information that supports their argument is valid. Information that contradicts is – by definition – suspect and tainted by its association with actual scientists.
  3. You think downloading raw data sets and running them through Excel constitutes “science” – this is perhaps the most tragic, and fruitless, exercise committed by the more committed Google Galileo’s. There are literally hundreds of blogs out there in which their authors have downloaded data from NASA’s Goddard Centre or Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) and run it through Excel. Of course they find “stunning errors” and evidence of “tricks”. They are hunting for anomalies (another logical fallacy). Having enormous gaps in your understanding of the science ensures your results are flawed.
  4. You repeatedly state “They laughed at Galileo didn’t they! – the fallacy of association is the most common one made by these would be geniuses. The gales of laughter and derision of society have less to with their failure to appreciate their special insights than just how poorly conceived the sceptics version of “science” is.
  5. You gravitate towards online communities who welcome your wild (and incorrect) speculations – the Internet is wonderful for finding like-minded individuals. However it means individuals often close themselves off in a world where no facts or contradictory information can reach them. Thus, a person whose only understanding of climate science comes from reading Andrew Bolt and a few other blogs will receive a highly distorted view of the science. Just as likely, their interactions will be mostly confined to individuals with a similar world view. This is epistemic closure: the quarantine of communities in hermetically sealed “information bubbles’.

43 thoughts on “Dear “Google” Galileo: five reasons we know why you are not a scientific genius

  1. Nice write up. I’m going to have to get this edition of New Scientist.
    I hope this age passes quickly; ie. before too much damage is done (although I guess it’s speculative to suggest that we haven’t already done so). I’ve been hearing a lot about oceans recently (both on over fishing and acidification) so I’m glad that these issues are finally gaining attention (with ocean ecosystems the most ignored).

  2. prof77 says:

    Free market of ideas? Bah humbug! Truth cannot be challenged. We need experts to tell us what to believe. Proper respect must be given for superior intellect and scientific truth. I say we should censor the internet to maintain the purity of science. We’d be doing the world a huge favor! Besides, cattle cannot be trusted to understand SCIENCE–it’d be for their own good.

  3. wow says:

    “You think downloading raw data sets and running them through Excel constitutes “science” ”

    I fail to see how it doesn’t. If AGW is true, then there should be an easy to observe, consistent warming trend that any layman can determine by looking at recorded temperatures.

    You don’t need a PhD in a field that didn’t exist 20 years ago to determine that. The “true believers” about AGW so vehemently refuse to entertain that their interpretation of the science could be incorrect, yet then decry anyone else who does the same thing. This is probably the main reason behind most of the “denialists” distrust of the ‘science’ behind AGW.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      “I fail to see how it does’t.’

      I think my point stands. Also, see Dunning-Kruger effect.

    • Tim says:

      A field that didn’t exist 20yrs ago – as though that means anything… As we increase our understanding, we also need to specialise more and more so into what becomes new fields. Alchemy was once studied in a number of the older university in Europe, so does that have more merit than modern physical chemistry?
      I take it that you’re one who gets weather and climate mixed up?
      Well, good luck to you, I’m sure some will love your little excel graphs and basic statistical analysis that you no doubt have on a blog somewhere, I will continue to keep up-to-date with the work carried out in many fields of environmental science and is published and debated among those who have spent more than a couple weekends on the subject as it tends to be more relevant to what I see in the field.

    • zoot says:

      If AGW is true, then there should be an easy to observe, consistent warming trend that any layman can determine by looking at recorded temperatures.

      There is.

    • Scott says:

      Actually, the basis of modern day climate science (atmospheric chemistry, atmospheric physics, and meteorology) were already beginning to be understood decades ago. And I dont mean 2 decades ago, we are talking the early 1900s. It was a scientific theory back in the 1940s that increased greenhouse gases may have been causing a slight rise in global average temperature.

      And people who think that looking at data in excel and “calling it good” just as if it were analyzed independently by different groups of experts using more robust analysis methods, well these are the very people that this article is talking about.

  4. Tim says:

    That’s pretty cynical prof77.
    I was talking about this the other day; someone was arguing that green politics arising from climate change ruins personal liberties and is against the will of the majority. My response was that both would forever be in conflict while the majority demonstrate themselves to be wooed by misinformation when the science is easily accessible at a level of understanding appropriate to the general reader (similar to your argument).
    That said, it seems that what we’re witnessing here is not so much an issue of misinformation ruling; that of a doubt industry with better PR than the science (as I’ve often thought) but, I guess, more of a faith assertion. From what I find when I talk to various people, you find one group willing to work for a more sustainable future – and they tend to be people directly affected (ie. land users) and various government (more often because they have to be seen doing the right thing) and academic groups (who tend to understand science enough to worry when they hear other disciplines make dire assertions based on the evidence).
    Otherwise, the rest seem more or less happy to believe it’s at best, overblown.
    “I’m a good person, I couldn’t be responsible for such problems…”
    “I’m only one person, scientists will work out how to fix it before it’s too late…”
    “If it’s really happening, why can’t I see it (on the streets of my city)?”
    These (and others) are typical assumptions. Censorship would do no good – indeed it would strengthen the conspiracy theorists. Debate with the illogical doesn’t help because it only give them validity through association (look at Monckton for example).
    What would help? Many people now feel that enough appropriate information is already available, so that too won’t help.
    I’m a believer of the idea that proper media is the other thing to help. You get the mass of their arse when they see the reality. Great past journalists – such as Pilger – that brought foreign wars to every living room or the collapse of ancient forests and the reliant biota; these things scared people and made them stand up at one point or another for something they believed in. Nowadays all they see is desperate house wives fooling around with their neighbours husband; this is life as we need to know it (apparently).
    It also cannot be just foreign either; it needs to be local argicultural suffering and also the voice of hope from those making changes. It needs to be the closest ranger talking about just how amazing the biodiversity is, just a few blocks away, and how it’s disappearing. It needs to be the small things that make the masses re-connect with their land. If there is to be change, it will not be through censorship, but though a change in perspective and connection.

  5. AS says:

    Nice post .. I have always been amazed at how many googlers seem to think that they’ve discovered some piece of information that thousands of scientists have overlooked. It really is just the height of stupidity…

  6. Tim says:

    AS: I’d argue that it’s the height of ego; the result of having the best libraries as well as a complete collection of the worst street rags at one’s hand. 20yrs ago you hand to either take on tertiary education on the subject and when throwing your opinions around, face criticism from your peers or research largely from libraries and hope that your opinion was published in letters to the editor.
    Nowadays anyone can spend an afternoon on wikipedia and assume that they know as much as any expert in the field.
    I suppose it’s the natural result of the information age and I wouldn’t be surprised if sociologists have been talking about it for a while.
    I guess, as I see it, the main difference between the two groups is the first spend years developing their understanding and approach and constantly have their ideas subject to review and criticism which tends to lead most of them to be more tentative/conservative with their assumptions while the newer google crew are fledglings; like opinionated first years, naive enough to still think that they get the bulk of what is required to be known and that ego is furthers by the fact that they can debate (often poorly) with the first crowd not by their own reasoning, but through a search engine.
    All anyone can do is continue to provide the knowledge as best science has described it and not debate it with the google crew, but instead ask them to provide a developed argument why their view is contrary to the evidence. In most cases they go around in circles, while providing nothing but regurgitated, baseless arguments (relying on Watts for instance) which you can confidently refute.

  7. Ian Pulsford says:

    It’s not google or the web in general, it’s uncritical reading of the material. Web material is mostly secondhand at best and more likely even further removed. Usually it’s posted in opinion pieces such as blogs often in quote form and sometimes without references. Worst of all in forum and blog comments 😛

    But there is nothing wrong with learning from the web if references are checked, claims double/triple/quadrupal checked with the best of breed websites (those run by experts who publish peer-reviewed science in real life), biases and reputations of authors checked out, own biases self-examined etc..

    Most laypeople don’t have the time to read academic journals let alone easy access to them. Web research is the next best thing, it just requires a higher level of critical reading skills. I don’t claim to be an expert on climate science at all, but I can see through most of the crap denialists claim as fact simply with a bit of fact checking and critical thinking.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      I agree fully with your points.

      The issue that the denial movement packages their (dis)information in such a way to make it seem reasonable, informed and “true”.

      The web is a wonderful tool for teaching and finding information. It’s teaching people about how to verify sources and challenge their own cognitive biases that is the issue.

  8. J Bowers says:

    Tip for WUWT: If there’s no link to the primary source in the blog post (the original paper or report), you can almost guarantee the primary source was cherry picked to death and a bit of Googling is worth the (usually) five minute effort.

  9. J Bowers: I agree with you, however I can be a bit weak on referencing in my blog just because I’m lazy sometimes. That said, I don’t rely on absolute statements so much, so in my case it might be less relevant. Either way, it is a weakness and as I don’t often trust poorly referenced writing I should probably clean my work up a bit! lol

  10. barry says:

    Google Galileo – heh! The IT version of Dunning-Kruger.

    Wee typo in the top post….

    Within a period of a few weeks/months the feel confident

  11. Ju says:

    very nice post! Exactly what I was thinking about self-proclaimed climatologists or debunking experts -we have the same trend growing ominously in France. Always the same crapy arguments going on and on. They are self-entertaining themselves and find comfort in their biased arguments by sharing their biased opinions. Science is not about opinion, of course, but who really knows how science works those days? For the country home to Descartes I must admit I am saddened…

  12. ralphieGM says:

    There is a need to diminish the capabilities of climate skeptics by climate alarmists. The population of bloggers is not a random sample. I.E., bloggers must first have high computer talent. Then they would have an interest and a consciousness of climate science issues. Then an ability to comprehend technical information. In my sphere, I am highly educated and picked up early on that there are few “climate scientists” in the world. Universities have only recently created this discipline – so scientists joining in this debate, on both side, are generally from related but not specific areas of climate training.

    As a freshman undergraduate I pointed out to our master’s degree candidate lab instructor that one of his equations was actually inverted. It is only helpful to have many eyes on climate science since the few eyes pre-east-anglia-emails (PEAE) have surely led to some shenanigans.

    • HarryWiggs says:

      “t is only helpful to have many eyes on climate science since the few eyes pre-east-anglia-emails (PEAE) have surely led to some shenanigans.”

      Which, of course, nearly three years on, we now know that there was NO fudging of the data or the interpretations: some scientists acted badly, and their science has held up. Next…..

  13. Nice post. I’ve fleshed out the Galileo Fallacy with a (very bad) attempt at the Latin form, called Argumentum ad Galileus:

    Argumentum ad Galileus:

    Risum procul Galileus
    Rideo procul mihi
    Ergo sum tunc Galileus

    Translation below

    The Galileo Fallacy:

    They laughed at Galileo
    They’re laughing at me
    Therefore I am the next Galileo

    Any help improving the Latin would be greatly appreciated.

  14. Tim says:

    I never had heard of the Galileo Fallacy or this phenomenon associated with certain conspiracies. It does no respect to a great mind and a great man. If there were more like him, we’d be far beyond our current technological awareness and obviously would not be indulging in a meaningless debate over AGW as the “sceptics” have us doing.
    Does that mean that anyone that daydreams an experiment that they cannot preform is the next Einstein? I’d have to hurt anyone who claimed as much. Genius is rare and cannot be substituted by a search engine. 🙂
    I think your translation is more or less close enough; not exact but as I understand it, seems the likely modern colloquial translation. But don’t trust my Latin! It was badly taught (thus your bracketed statement maybe still valid)..

  15. Mark says:

    Carl Sagan neatly dissected the logical fallacy.

    “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan

  16. […] Dear “Google” Galileo: five reasons we know why you are not a scientific genius « Watching the … […]

  17. Lucas says:

    What Ian Pulsford is promoting has various names: information literacy, fact-checking, critical thinking, cultivated skepticism, etc. This should be the basis of compulsory education.
    @Watching the deniers,
    Have you read the following essays?
    1- The Crackpot Index by John Baez.
    2- War Is Peace: Can Science Fight Media Disinformation? by Lawrence M. Krauss.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      THanks for your comments, and I’ve not seen the essays. I’ll take the time to read as they cetrainly look of interest.

      I’ve started reading the second essay, and it looks interesting:

      “…The rise of a ubiquitous Internet, along with 24-hour news channels has, in some sense, had the opposite effect from what many might have hoped such free and open access to information would have had. It has instead provided free and open access, without the traditional media filters, to a barrage of disinformation. Nonsense claims had more difficulty gaining traction in the days when print journalism held sway and newspaper editors had the final word on what made its way into homes and when television news consisted of a half-hour summary of what a trained producer thought were the most essential stories of the day.”

      The best of times, the worst of times.

  18. mae says:

    but ganon ang papaget ng comment yung lahat

  19. Again and again from climate change deniers, creationists and other denial movements the chant “Galileo was laughed at and he was right!”

    There is a God who created the universe and everything. We should trust him more than climate science geniuses about how to run our lives, our planet. God says the human heart is corrupt. Why should climatatologists be different? On the other hand, why should the whole population believe those scientific geniouses who condemn the work of Spencer, Pielke sr & jr, Svensmark, Scafetta, Shaviv, Schwartz, Michaels, Douglass, Lindzen, Christy, Soon, Baliunas, Veitzer, Balling, Gray, McIntyre, and many more by calling them denialists? Please don’t. How much more would you call those denialists who don’t see how the whole science adds up with all the uncertanties and error bars, but who actually bother to read many peer reviewed papers. How much more is the rest of the population who don’t believe everything denialists?

    Let’s agree to disagree and get along with each other. You just need more work to convince us.

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      So, if 99 doctors tell you smoking will cause cancer and 1 says it won’t who do you listen too?

      There is good reason why the work of Spencer etc. should be ignored. It does not pass muster. It’s not good science. Most of them aren’t even climate scientists or even scientists.

      There are part of a tiny minority who disagree with science.

      See the recent PNAS paper which surveys the work of >1600 climate scientists.

      97% agree AGW is happening. 5% don’t.

      So again I ask, who do you people should trust?

      The majority of active scientists, or people with *no* qualifications in the area.

      As to your religious views, I won’t debate. These are personal, and outside the realm of scientific debate.

    • Marcel Kincaid.. says:

      “There is a God who created the universe and everything.”

      There’s no reason to think so, but even if there is …

      ” We should trust him more than climate science geniuses about how to run our lives, our planet. ”

      … we have no idea what he thinks about the matter. Anyone who trusts a book written by ignorant nomads millenia ago is a fool.

    • HarryWiggs says:

      “why should the whole population believe those scientific geniouses [sic] who condemn the work of Spencer, Pielke sr & jr, Svensmark, Scafetta, Shaviv, Schwartz, Michaels, Douglass, Lindzen, Christy, Soon, Baliunas, Veitzer, Balling, Gray, McIntyre, and many more by calling them denialists?”

      Because, by the THOUSANDS, and armed with ~2 billion pieces of data, and published in ISI-approved journals–few of which in your above-referenced list did, or have been soundly refuted there–they’ve been shown how wrong they are, and how their DENIAL of the empirical data and the many THOUSANDS of others’ work shows them to be DENIERS, have. their work is condemned, because they operate from an ideological POV, not strictly from science. Next softball question?

  20. I suspect Climatepatrol asserts that cancer is”the will of God” as is whether or not the individual survives.
    Excuse me for not relying on the invisible omnipresence of some supernatural being, but rather the results of a collective of many centuries of understanding in the bulk of grey matter buzzing on the various relevant fields of science.

  21. So, if 99 doctors tell you smoking will cause cancer and 1 says it won’t who do you listen too?

    I will go to the doctor I trust. He will tell me what the acadamy of sciences say about cancer and will give me his personal opinion about my case. Btw, I am convinced that smoking is one of the main reasons for cancer ever since grade school. I also see that AGW is happening. If there is a problem with the surface station records, we will eventually know by means of satellite data, SST, OHC, measurable radiation imbalance at TOA. We are not there yet. Then we’ll see about the future…

    • Debunker says:

      Climatepatrol, actually, we are there, you have just not bothered to educate yourself. By the way, ALL the national academies of sciences in All countries agree that Global Warming is a fact, yet you chose to believe a bunch of non specialists, many of whom are bankrolled by the Oil Industry.

      Presumably, by “problems with surface station records” you are referring to WUWT? Those claims have been thoroughly debunked by, errr, Watts himself! He has now shown his true colours by recanting. One thing the urban heat myth pedlars gloss over though is that 70 % of the planet is ocean, so presumably not affected by urban effects, and of the remaining 30 percent, the US is only 3 percent of land mass. Bit difficult to see how a few badly sited stations there can influence Global Temperature.

  22. JMurphy says:

    climatepatrol wrote : “I will go to the doctor I trust.”

    Many people trusted a doctor called Harold Shipman because he was a man of supposedly long-standing experience and knowledge, and was therefore trusted by his, mainly aged, patients. Unfortunately, at least 215 people are now dead because of that trust.

  23. Antwan Utter says:

    cool website yo have ghere by the way

  24. Marion Delgado says:

    In discussions with working scientists, I’ve been told that there’s nothing much wrong with a non-scientist with some knowledge, e.g., downloading data sets, testing people’s statistics in Excel, etc. You can then ask “why do I get X?” and even get an answer at some sites – everyone at is a climate scientist, as is mike tobis at only in it for the gold. Tamino at open mind does time series analysis as a working scientist similar to what he presents, etc. But you do have to respect the answer you get. The classic case of NOT doing that is actually David Kane at on Iraqi casualties in the Lancet-published report by Burnham et al. When his main error was pointed out by Robert Chung, he kept digging the hole.

    I would actually caution people about Excel by itself, though, actually. You might be better off using the R plugin for Excel than depending too much on excel math, because excel will trick you with rounding loss and occasional other maths issues. You should always check your results against controls: on my mac, neooffice with the R plugin for calc gave me answers that were very far mathematicaly off (when used called from a calc cell, not when run from a window), and openoffice didn’t, it was fine.

    I would second the idea that you can’t look for anomalies, or, really, anything. This gets mixed up with the distinction between bayesian and classic frequentist and so on, but the basic idea is that you describe what it would look like if x hypothesis was true, then analyze the data and get a statistical percent match. Not only can’t you cheat like shaving off only errors that work against you, but you can’t discover something new after the fact – that’s data mining in the bad sense – unless you want to make it your new hypothesis and you have other data or some way of refining a search.

    The idea that science is trying to keep the sheep down and form a priesthood is easy to refute: science is no different to any other field – just saying non-scientists tend not to be as good at it as trained scientists is objectionable only if you’re a blind ideologue. Substitute plumber or horse-breaker or, as above, surgeon, or trapeze artist or what-have-you. Are they conspiring against the Silent Majority of right-thinking decent reactionaries, too?

  25. Page Rioz says:

    Hm, Now i’m ok with this but nonetheless not completely sure, hence i’m going to research a bit more.

  26. […] “fallacia Galileo (variante dell’effetto […]

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