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Monday, February 25, 2013

Putting Trolling in Perspective.

( or, .. What do you do when you perceive science to be failing? ..)
( Blog for website at http://users.indigo.net.au/don/ )

The question of trolling has arisen again on Rationalskeptics Discussion Forum.
[  Quoting Theropod:- 
" ... Jesus fucking Christ on a stick, can't you read? What part of "if they haven't published" can't you grasp? Now, having made that really fucking clear, how the hell is anyone supposed to know of these "authorities" unless they have published in reputable journals?

"I know for a fact there are several professional scientists that participate on a regular basis here on ratskep. [ .. I have enough professional qualifications in earth sciences to see through this EE smoke and mirrors.. ] That professional training allows me to adjudicate these citations as sorely lacking in direct support of an EE.

"My opinion is based on the historical facts of this thread. I've been here since day one.  The topic was started to specifically troll this forum.
"In case you haven't noticed I have no desire, or intent, to be helpful in regards to this topic on any level. It's ALL bullshit, and the whole intent of this thread was, and is, to troll this forum. I've already listed my concerns with your "facts". I really don't give a rats ass if the EE folks have their feeling hurt, or if I piss them all off. This EE crap isn't about the science. It's about what folks will believe even in the face of overwhelming evidence telling them they're notion is totally fucking nuts. Exactly like creationism in that regard isn't it? I am not a humanitarian, or even a very nice man. As far as I'm concerned these folks came into my house and shit right in the middle of my living room floor. I'm really supposed to now be helpful to any aspect of this insanity? I don't think so. Even defending this tripe in a passing manner deserves scorn AFAIC." ]

This point, about the forum being assailed by "nuts" obsessing about Earth expansion, has been raised from the beginning.  Under no circumstances could S.Athearn, the subject of the above abusive attack be accused of trolling, and neither could the original poster of the thread.  Below is the original post by 'Brainman',  a cognitive scientist interested in the emotional response of people to views that contradict their own beliefs, and how consensus ('Groupthink') therefore arises - the Groupthink in this case being the monolithic belief of Plate tectonics. :

['Brainman' :-   Expanding earth. Do the continents wind back to a sphere
#1  Post by Brain man » Jun 14, 2010 12:27 pm

"Most people are familiar with neal adams interesting animations.
My interest is actually psychological regarding this. I am training in neuropsychology and am interested in the mechanism behind the reaction of disbelief itself. I am presuming there will be not be many here in favour of expanding earth hypothesis.

The point is, can this thread force readers to answer the primary question of the thread first. i.e. Can the poll question itself actually be answered with a yes or no ? EDIT. The question is "Do the continents "look" as if they wind back to a sphere ?"

So this thread is primarily about psychology. You can post on how the video itself made you feel. Conflicted, angry etc.

I would also like to make these following points to introduce that the topic has an educated, reasoning and respectable proponent. The point of this thread is not to debate the geology though. These points are just stated to offset the damage having an artist proposing the subject has done. It should be remembered though that in spite of his background Neal Adams claims that the plates were not shrunk or altered in the 3d modeller. The ins-and-outs of geology is a different subject from this and should be started on the earth sciences section.]

...from which it is quite clear that the intention of the post is exactly as it says -  nothing to do with the for-or-against geological  arguments of Earth expansion but simply to test emotional reaction to that video.  It's difficult to see how it can be read otherwise.

Neverthless apart from the few respondents who did answer within the guidelines but noted that a response would obviously be tempered by initial belief and the scientific merit of the video, by far the majority appeared to consider their intelligence confronted and scientific acumen abused, and Brainman was shortly banned for being a "troll" for exactly the reason Brainman specifically stated, and what Theropod says in somewhat more colourful vernacular :- "This EE crap isn't about the science. It's about what folks will believe even in the face of overwhelming evidence telling them they're notion is totally fucking nuts".

Evidently the fine point of Mr Adam's video (and Brainman's intention in posting the question) escapes the Theropod - that the italicised "nuts" in question are in fact those believing in Plate Tectonics - and how might it feel to be labelled a nut, even just on the basis of a space/time-traveller's cursory glimpse of an enlarging, rotating Earth such as that video illustrates.

Today Plate Tectonics is standard teaching in schools colleges, universites, and even kindergartens. as well as used in top-level media presentations to the public.  And there is even the view that it is deserving of a Nobel prize.

But what do you do when you perceive it to be simply wrong in critical aspects and think it appropriate to say so?  Do you present your hopeful case to what you see as the arbiters of scientific respectability in the expectation they have a duty to listen?  .. maybe even too in the expectation (if reason and logic is applied) that there might possibly be some capitulation to your illuminated insight?  Well, .. if you're naive you might, but you certainly won't get any marks for pointing out to the scientific community at large that the Earth is round and rotating, and that the consequences of this is something everybody's been missing all along.  Theropod has a point.  It *is* something like dumping right in the middle of the living-room.  No matter how much you might try to persuade and say, "No, .. but look, .. seriously, .. it's all good, and it goes so much better with your furniture than the junk you have strewn around."  You could even add that every living room should have a pile of it right up to the ceiling, ... and (getting really bolshie) add further  .. "So what's wrong with *you* then?" 

Even on a sliding scale from wheedling to belligerent, somehow I don't think that cuts it.  Some other strategem is called for.  But what?  What do you do when even  'peaceful proselytising' elicits the antagonistic odium and abuse that has been the history of Rationalskeptic's response since day 1 - and some other forums as well, and (though somewhat better dressed) the scientific literature too.   Everybody likes to arrange their living room the way that suits them - because there are friends that turn up from time to time who like a cozy corner to relax in where they don't have to consider their place in the world.  Living is a social enterprise after all, and it helps if everybody is like me.

Well, there are two things you can do.  The first is simply putting it out there for whoever is inclined to look at it - passive proselytising /gentle persuasion for those who may be persuaded, but in the full knowledge that there will be hecklers at the rear who will take every opportunity they can to shout you down and try to make a fool of you.

And the other thing you can do is recognise therefore what it is you're up against and 'fight fire with fire', .. stir-'em-up and dump some reflective 'troll-shit' in the living room and leave them to the consequences when it hits the fan, and the public, seeing finally that their tax dollars are being consumed on a gravytrain ("in the dining car of free lunch"), insists on a better deal.

(Mirror mirror on the wall..)
"Many people here are home-schooling because our education system has them come out dumber than they went in."  J.T - USA.

"Children have this habit of thinking for themselves, and the point of education is to cure them of this habit." ~ Bertrand Russell.

[ See also - Debunking Plate Tectonics - at :-
http://www.platetectonicsbiglie.blogspot.com/ ]


Felix Lanzalaco said...

trolling has no connection to the original point it was coined for.. it has become the new term for robust difference in opinion.

BTW.. I did find some aspects of EE interesting, but I was way too ignorant of geology when I started that thread and was definetely on the fence.... But my curiosity got the better of me, especially when you think about EE in terms of statistics. i.e. The degrees of freedom aspect about the plates, I think may be self-compounding in probability terms. i.e. I think EE may be falsifiable by mathemtical modelling. That idea hit me, about 10 pages into that thread, as I was getting frustrated and wondering what would satisfy a true or false answer for me. It seemed the solution was that this is Ideal for the application of calculus and statistics, but I am not sure how, only that both can deal with degrees of freedom problems, calculus more for spaces and differentiating out patterns of rate of change. When I proposed that, the fireworks started on me there, and the rest is the saga that is that thread.

Stephen Hurrell said...

Hi Don,

Theropod’s response was a typical insight in to how he (and his mates) operate. They want to be able to make all sorts of absurd comments without anyone pointing out the obvious faults in their argument. Then when the blunder is pointed out to them they try to confuse everyone by swearing or making silly accusations. This seems to be their concept of “rational” debate!

They constantly repeat the same argument that there aren’t any scientific papers and respond with amazingly idiotic stupidity when lists of papers are provided. But they do the same thing again and again! I admit I just have to keep going back to the site just to see which one of them is going to be brainless this week. Stupid is as stupid does seems to fit well.

Taking of silly responses there has been a small “internet storm” - as one paper called it – about reduced gravity. All started by Jose Canseco, an American Baseball outfielder who tweeted,

“You ever wonder why nothing REALLY big exists today in nature. Animal tissue of muscles and ligaments could not support huge dinosaurs even standing up or pump blood up 60 foot necks. Gravity had to be weaker to make dinosaurs nimble”

You can read more about it on my site if you want:


Also a note for Felix. I’ve looked at the probability of the Expanding Earth forming by chance which may be something like what you are thinking.


Let me know what you think.

All the best


don findlay said...

To Felix Lanzalaco,
Not sure I understand you, how you would go about that, but personally I don't think so (about statistics). Too theoretical, too many assumptions. Geology is about hard facts structured properly. It's exactly this that lets Plate Tectonics down. It thinks the same principles of hypothesising that apply to physics, should also apply to geology. They don't. And shouldn't. Any 'holes' in the facts just sit there until they get filled in. A geological map is a book of facts to be read. Those three dimensional cartoons of *process* Plate Tectonics shows are just silly. It's not a question of theory-against-theory. It's a question of getting the facts in the right place in the right order. That's why we don't start with subduction. We start with the growth of the ocean floors (= *UP*). There still isn't a decent map of the structure of the ocean floor. Once that comes out (and it's pretty
bloody *slow* coming) then we'll see the shit hit the fan, because there still won't be *a mechanism* - but the facts (to be read) (two-dimensional though they will be) will indisputably point to ridges growing up. PS. And the point about 'plates' is that they're an invalid way to look at it - because they don't move, they grow (as Neal Adams perceptively said - or at least implied by saying that the Earth grows).

don findlay said...

To Stephen Hurrell,
To Stephen,
Seems he was irritated about S.Athearn's supplying the information he was asking for, when he expected it couldn't be answered. And it was. (That's a good paper too S. referenced with the link .). But why do they all look to 'authority' as if it's immune from deficiency just because everybody agrees with it, .. when we've seen (*graphically displayed*) the nature of agreement that the many academics the Theropod alludes to, displayed here. There's not a lot of difference between the dressed and the undressed version, considering what the editor of the Lancet had to say.

'Stupidity' is ok. I guess by way of emphasis it's what they see as the appropriate response. They just didn't like it when their use of it was reflected back to them, or any hint that there really could be substance in expansion, because it detracts from what they understand their 'skepticism' to be, a mandate to trash at all costs anything that is offensive to the collective. (Bunch of Nazis) .. Only worse, because there *is* no cost to them since they're only disembodied avatars. Talk about the reptilian brain, emotional response and collective fundamentalism being alive and well! All with their tatts and studs and bovver boots proclaiming their individuality of course. There was somebody afraid of having their identity stolen too. I thought that was funny but if commented on it would have been off topic and trolling. Got away with the 'Leprechauns' but not 'the Little People'. :-))

Off course? I don't think there was one moderator red card handed out for the topic sloping into 'abuse' - except for me - I got four - no three and banned on the fourth as being the third (or something). In view of what was revealed ("cudmunchers") I wear them proudly.

don findlay said...

P.S. To Stephen,
Thanks for that write-up on your page. It's also quite revealing in a typical sort of way, about the sort of response you're likely to get.

Is that the power of the tweet and the twitter? Maybe we need to get with it? It's a format that has somehow left me behind - but I'm not that sure about it actually, .. dropping crumbs in a fishpond is a bit like putting your body in amongst pirhannas..

Stephen Hurrell said...

Tweeting is a strange thing. A bit like texting the whole world – if you can only persuade them to “follow” you. I’ve joined just to look at what other people are up to but I somehow doubt I’ll use it much. But you never know. I said that about Facebook but now I’ve got a Facebook page where I can let everyone know when something interesting happens with Expanding Earth or Dinosaurs’ Gravity. 300+ Likes so far. Let me know if you join twitter so I can become your “follower”. ;}

Lanzalaco said...

i forgot to subscribe here. Well Stephen it seems we are thinking along the same lines. I am doing more advanced probability right now, so maybe i will be able to articulate better.

However i could write a brilliant probability/plate configuration paper and get it published, heres what would happen

It would be mostly unread, but A few PT proponents would try to destroy it by finding flaws. They would dump these somewhere and run. This is you notice happens for books also.

With the internet the power of active engagement is present, so for example even on ratskep they couldnt actually close a thread. Due to the structure of the internet to maintain open dialogue till somebody submits...that would be admitting defeat.

So a paper with a probability simulation would be really powerful if supplemented by reference to an online probability simulator, that runs the plates...maybe a modified version of the plates software florian uses...where the critiques are invited to break the live model to show how the probability is not impossible or concede loss. Because its the internet the models can be updated to deal with critiques and re-run, so the issue stays open.

However that means finding some good programmers with an interest in this, but there must be some out there.

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