One Hundred and Twenty Percent of People Can’t Be Wrong: Fox News Shows People Are Dubious About the Accuracy of Global Warming Science With a Poll of 120 Percent of People

We previously saw a Fox News pie chart that had a couple extra slices (here). Now, fair and balanced math adds up to 120 percent of voters indicating that they view the science on global warming to be rigged.

This is an interesting Rasmussen poll when you add up the number and discover that you are in a parallel universe.
The question is: “In order to support their own theories and beliefs about global warming, how likely is it that some scientists have falsified research data?” According to the poll, 35 percent thought it very likely, 24 percent somewhat likely, 21 percent not very likely, and 5 percent not likely at all (15 percent weren’t sure).

This rather dubious poll is offered to show that people are dubious about the science and math of global warming experts.

For the full story, click here

1,528 thoughts on “One Hundred and Twenty Percent of People Can’t Be Wrong: Fox News Shows People Are Dubious About the Accuracy of Global Warming Science With a Poll of 120 Percent of People”

  1. Buddha,

    You seem to think that my comments were directed at you – they weren’t. You’ve made your position perfectly clear and I neither think that I can change it or desire to. I’ve given up on winning this argument long ago – I’m simply unwilling to let any of Bob’s misinformation, distortions or attacks on my integrity pass unanswered. If you think that it was inappropriate for me to say that you could answer Bob’s comment about evidence if you wished (which was a response to one of your comments) then I apologize for that, but I stand by my statement that I’m uninterested in it and have no desire to respond to it. I don’t have an opinion or any relevant expertise about that comment by Bob so I simply limited my response to him to the topics I care about – Bob’s hypocritical attacks on me and his misunderstanding of science. You may have given your ‘ruling’, but Bob has certainly not given up on attacking me and I will always reserve the right to defend myself against his distortions and flat-out lies about my positions. It has been my habit throughout this discussion to answer all posts line by line, so I felt it reasonable to say that I wasn’t going to respond to a particular post (which, after all, wasn’t addressed to me in any case) – I don’t think that there was anything particularly childish about it (or really much of anything significant at all). My other posts (assuming that you didn’t read them) dealt with Bob’s disingenuous attacks on me and his double standard for intellectual honesty (both of which offend me) and I highly doubt that you would have done anything differently if you were the one being attacked. If this disappoints you, then I’m sorry you feel that way, but I don’t feel that my behavior has been inappropriate.

    By the way, I will be finishing my reply to your earlier post sooner or later (most likely later) and, as always, I’m more than happy to engage with you on those subjects further should you wish to do so.

  2. Slarti (and Bob),

    I quit reading after this line “Since I’m only concerned with the scientific evidence and couldn’t care less about the legal rules of evidence in regard to this case, I’ll ignore your first post and let Buddha respond if he cares to…” Audience is not only key in persuasive speech, so is forum.

    Take a wild guess as to why I stopped reading, Slarti? One doesn’t win, then decide on the quality of their victory and then again declare they are playing a different game. Unless they are six. Victory wasn’t enough for you apparently so I’ll spell it out plainly.

    Quite frankly, your bad graces in accepting your initial victory are most unbecoming (and unprofessional, maybe not for a scientist, but certainly for a lawyer). It’s a good thing you are a mathematician and not an attorney. “I won at dodgeball so I’m going to declare I was playing baseball all along and whine on appeal because I didn’t get dodgeball MVP first time.” That’s a fairly accurate summary analogy. Also a sure fire way to piss off a judge. Not that I’m pissed off. More like disappointed.

    I’ve rendered my judgment as skeptic and you won Slarti, albeit not with the quality of victory you desired. Do not appeal to my authority as skeptic while dismissing it when it doesn’t suit your purposes. That’s the kind of thing that in court would get you a contempt charge. Plato said, “The first and best victory is to conquer self; to be conquered by self is of all things most shameful and vile.” You’ve involved your ego in your argument. If you hadn’t, you’d be able to accept victory of another shape than what you desired (expected, anticipated, whatever) and move along. When your own ego enters into an argument, you’ve added another opponent to the struggle: yourself. “Thus it is that in war the victorious strategist only seeks battle after the victory has been won, whereas he who is destined to defeat first fights and afterwards looks for victory.” – Sun Tzu. The same can be said in the corollary that the victorious strategist does not seek battle after victory is achieved either. Or to quote that country music sage Kenny Rogers, “You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, know when to run.”

    It becomes clear that this is simply a personal pissing match at this point, Wiki-boy and Meat, so I’ll tell you both how this changes the shape of victory as defined by the role of skeptic.

    Not one bit.

    An adequate judgment was achieved based on the facts and arguments presented. If that skeptical judgment was insufficient to assuage all egos involved, that would be too bad. However, if you want a victory of a different shape, you’ll need to find another judge/skeptic as I am now recusing myself from the arguments on appeal.

    Buddha Is Walking Away

    Why? Because I was interested in being the skeptic, not the playground monitor. As always, one lives to be of service, yet that service must serve some rational end. I cannot abide as skeptic rationally if I let either of you define that role for me as adversarial opponents. Your job was to sway me with your arguments either way (not change my role to suit your purposes) and mine was to keep an open mind. To that end, mission accomplished and decision rendered. I’m not interested in a role other than skeptic, ergo, recusal is appropriate at this point.

  3. Bob: “Respectfully submitted.”

    I have yet to find any comment that you’ve directed towards me to be respectful – it would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath…

  4. More Bob:

    If NIST couldn’t re-create the physical circumstances, in reality or by computer model, then by what means, other than ipse dixet, does Wiki-boy make this claim?

    Since the physical circumstances can’t be recreated (short of rebuilding the towers and crashing planes into them), the only thing to do – from a scientific prospective – is to develop a theory of the collapse and aftermath which is consistent with observations. I have done this and explained my theory and the physics behind it. On the other hand all you have done is to mention some questionable data, repeat the unsupported assertions of a scientist of dubious ethics and display some spectacularly bad misunderstandings of basic physics. But Bob has never felt the need to hold himself to the same standards that he would like to hold me…

  5. Bob continued:

    I submit, your Honor, that Wiki-boy over-states his case a great deal.

    Whatever, Meat. I’ll let the people reading this decide which one of us does a better job of explaining our statements and backing them up with references and science and which one of us is prone to making statements that they can’t support.

  6. Here are but a few ways that the set of theories consistent with the ‘natural’ hypothesis could be falsified:

    Showing that the energy sinks in the collapse totaled more than the GPE available in the WTC

    If the kinetic energy resulting from the initial failure was insufficient to sustain the collapse

    Showing that any observed detail of the collapse could not have been produced by ‘natural’ causes or that ‘natural’ causes would have produced observations which were not seen.

    Some examples of observational details:

    Collapse time

    pulverization of concrete and other building materials

    ejection of dust cloud

    ejection of debris

    energetic jets of dust and debris (i.e. what truthers call ‘squibs’ even though they exhibit the increasing activity characteristic of overpressure due to compression rather than the decreasing activity characteristic of overpressure due to explosives)

    ejection of molten metal from WTC2 immediately before collapse (I say molten metal, although the only reasonable conclusion is that this was molten aluminum)

    Eyewitness accounts of the rubble (which are unfortunately lacking in the quantitative detail that would be necessary to support or falsify any theory)

    the seismic records (which preclude the use of any explosives large enough to show up on the seismic records)

    bowing of all three buildings preceding the collapses

    All of these observations are consistent with ‘natural’ theories.

  7. Bob posted:

    Slarti: “I have, throughout the course of this argument, developed a complete, falsifiable theory of the collapse and aftermath”

    In Re Wiki-boy:

    “Falsifiability or refutability is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment.”

    Are you ever going to provide us with a falsifiable theory of the collapse and aftermath? I’m guessing that you can’t do it (not that you’re necessarily incapable but that coming up with a complete, falsifiable CD theory would only result in said theory being falsified).

    Your Honor, do I hear it said that falsifiability is contingent merely upon Wiki-boy’s chest beating?

    If by ‘chest beating’ you mean making rational arguments backed up by solid reasoning, linked sources and a knowledge of physics, then I guess you’re right. Once again it is shown that either Bob’s reading comprehension is lacking or that he’s a devotee of the ‘stick fingers in ears and say “LA LA LA LA LA” real loud’ school of debate. I have repeatedly explained several ways in which my model could be falsified, but I guess I’ve got to do it again…

  8. Bob,

    Since I’m only concerned with the scientific evidence and couldn’t care less about the legal rules of evidence in regard to this case, I’ll ignore your first post and let Buddha respond if he cares to…

  9. Bob said:

    “If the thing offered is capable of being replaced or altered…?”

    After which he posted an excerpt from an interview with Dr. Niels Harrit from a german website. The entire interview can be found at:

    I didn’t feel like going through the whole interview (see below for more about my lack of integrity), but here are some bits that I wanted to note: Your full name and title?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Dr. Niels Holger Harrit. Your age?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: 64

    Dr. Niels Harrit, Copenhagen, Denmark Please explain exactly in what subject you earned your doctorate and what you studied / you are an expert in.

    Dr. Niels Harrit: My master degree, which I earned in 1971, was based on the work I did for one year at Max-Planck-Institut für Strahlenchemie, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany. My doctor thesis from 1975 from University of Copenhagen was in mechanistic photochemistry. I spent a year at Columbia University, New York City as post doc. in 1977. Your current profession?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Docent at University of Copenhagen. Please tell us what exactly you are teaching.

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I teach organic chemistry, photochemistry and photophysics to nanoscience students and chemistry students. I supervise master students and Ph.D. students.

    Hmmm… organic chemistry, photochemistry and photophysics with a PhD in mechanistic photochemistry. But I guess everyone with a PhD in chemistry knows about thermitic materials – except Dr. Greening, of course. Got some references?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I have published close to 60 papers in the best peer-reviewed journals. Can you please tell us about what you published? Give some examples which might be related? Which journals? Also some examples?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I enclose my list of publications. My latest paper is currently “Hot paper of the month” in Angewandte Chemie, one of the world’s most leading journals of chemistry. I am a senior member of a “Centre of Excellence” Molecular Movies where I mostly work with physicists on time resolved X-ray scattering. This centre is a subdivision of the Nano-Science Center at the University of Copenhagen, of which I have been a faculty member since it started in 2001.

    Wow. 60 papers in the best journals – I’m sure that they’re in areas pertinent to this research. Unfortunately I can’t check them out because the provided link is bad. It would also be nice to check out the paper he wrote with Dr. Jones, but even though that link is bad as well we know that paper must be really good because Bob says it is. I’m sure that he’s read it even though he’s never posted a link to it that I know of…

    […] What exactly allows you to say that you are an expert on Nano Thermite?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: There are no experts on nanothermite without connections to the military.

    So I guess Dr. Jones isn’t an expert on nanothermite. Still, I’m sure that he knows what he’s talking about when he says that his samples could only have come from nanothermite without giving any support for that assertion whatsoever…

    […] Please forgive us our strange questions! But right on: Many of the team of scientists are from the Truther movement. Steven E. Jones, who is preaching the controlled demolition of WTC since years. There are 2 colleagues from Jones’s university in your team: Jeffrey Farrer and Daniel Farnsworth.

    Kevin R. Ryan, Gregg Roberts and James R. Gourley are from the Truther movement as well. How can this team guarantee neutrality concerning the study?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: In European football, you get penalties for attacking the man instead of playing the ball. Besides, I am proud to be on a team with grown-up scientists who have fought for 911 truth longer than I have. Please, read the paper, RELATE TO THE FACTS and nothing else.

    I guess Bob disagrees with this since he would have us ignore the science in Dr. Greening’s papers because of some comments he made via email. Personally, I take issue with Dr. Jones’ ethics AND his science… Ok then. Where, when and how exactly did you get the dust? How did you make sure its pure and original dust from 911? Were any officials present when you took the samples?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: All this is accurately accounted for in the paper.

    I’d be interested in reading about this – too bad the link to the paper doesn’t work. OK. Did you compare the dust samples to samples you did not get from Steven E. Jones?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Yes. I have two samples in Copenhagen which were sent to me directly from the collectors, and they contained the chips as well. There is a handful of other scientists who can bring the same testimony.

    So it sounds to me like all of the samples came from the apartment where a sculptor known to do welding lived (collected some time after 9/11) – too bad there aren’t samples from any other location to act as a control…

    […] How come that you were chosen to examine the dust?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I am part of the team. I was invited to join.

    So he considers himself a part of Dr. Jones’ team rather than part of an independent lab – good to know. If you gross it up, how much Nano Thermite was laying around in Lower Manhattan after the collapse?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Very, very difficult to put an absolute number on that. Let us say 10 tons.

    Yes, I would guess this is very difficult – I’d like to know how he came to this number. Is this enough to account for the amount of sulfidation observed in the steel? How much thermal energy would be generated by this amount of nano thermite and would it be concentrated or dispersed?

    […] Is it true that somebody in your team lost his job because of your common examination? And if yes, how could that happen?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: No, not yet. But some of them lost their jobs before that!! Why did they lose their job? Linked to the work on 911? Who kicked them out then and why?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: They lost their job because they are critical of the Official Conspiracy Theory. Steven E. Jones was forced into early retirement from Brigham Young University. Kevin Ryan was fired from Underwriters Laboratories, who were responsible for certification of the steel to the towers.

    Again, he is part of Dr. Jones’ team – also, this would be corroboration that Dr. Jones was forced out of BYU.

    Bob likes to go on about how intellectually dishonest I’m being which makes me assume that he must be a paragon of intellectual honesty himself. Since he is probably too modest to do it, I thought that I would point out some examples of his virtue in this regard.

    He regularly calls out my scientific arguments complete with references as appeals to authority (I’m such a bastard – I should be ashamed of myself for having the temerity to make logical arguments based on physics and supply supporting quotations along with links that anyone can use to verify my arguments or find more information ;-)).

    Bob’s arguments are so strong that he feels no need to propose a complete scientific theory of the WTC collapse and aftermath that requires thermitic materials or even to speculate on how much of what kind of thermitic materials would be necessary for initiating the collapse, accelerating the collapse, melting the steel and sustaining the molten steel for months.

    He repeated an argument from the Pilots for 9/11 Truth about the equivalent airspeed of UA175 repeatedly using an estimated impact velocity that the NTSB determined from the primary radar data rather than the velocity that I’ve been using from the NIST report (presumably from video data). While the NIST numbers are lower and very probably more accurate, Bob used the higher NTSB numbers since his argument was much weaker without them – what a guy!

    Of course, I had the nerve to point out that his use of equivalent airspeed was inappropriate because the formula being used was only accurate for speeds below 0.6 Mach while he was using it to calculate the equivalent airspeed of Egypt Air 990 which was going 0.99 Mach. Bob responded to this uncouth point of mine by having saying nothing – after all, I supported my argument by linking to a Wikipedia page and everyone knows that Wikipedia is always wrong.

    Finally, Bob has made reference to ‘holes in the primary radar’ knowing that his word is so good that he doesn’t need to provide any supporting links or even explain what he means, what the significance of it is or even point out where these holes were in the primary radar data from the NTSB (that I thoughtlessly provided a link to). He did, however, claim that he was emailing links to Buddha that came from a source that was above reproach – so we know that his argument here is better than anything that I could put forward.

  10. If the thing offered is capable of being replaced or altered…? Ok then. Where, when and how exactly did you get the dust? How did you make sure its pure and original dust from 911? Were any officials present when you took the samples?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: All this is accurately accounted for in the paper. (Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe.) Is it right that Steven Jones organised the samples? Steven Jones is known as an absolute believer in the 911 conspiracy and folks out there do not step back from accusing him of mixing the dust of with explosives to finally bring the “proof” for the controlled demolition.

    Dr. Niels Harrit: This is an absolute insult to an honest scientist. Furthermore, it is a stupid question, in as much as we are anti-conspiracy theorists. We oppose the official conspiracy theory. That’s all. How do you make 100% sure that the dust you analyzed was not altered, or anybody mixed it up with Nano Thermite before you analyzed it?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: See next question. OK. Did you compare the dust samples to samples you did not get from Steven E. Jones?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Yes. I have two samples in Copenhagen which were sent to me directly from the collectors, and they contained the chips as well. There is a handful of other scientists who can bring the same testimony.

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I believe there are about 20 samples out there, but I don’t know exactly and I have no reason to care. How come that you were chosen to examine the dust?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: I am part of the team. I was invited to join. If you gross it up, how much Nano Thermite was laying around in Lower Manhattan after the collapse?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: Very, very difficult to put an absolute number on that. Let us say 10 tons. Is it possible for terrorists to get hold of this material? It’s such a special material, so that only people from inside the US army could get hold of it. Where can Nano Thermite be bought? Can normal people buy it as well? Or only companies / military?

    Dr. Niels Harrit: This stuff has only been prepared under military contracts in the USA and probably in bigger allied countries. This is secret military research. Do your own guess work and read Kevin Ryan’s article on this subject. It was not prepared in a cave in Afghanistan.

  11. Slarti: “I have, throughout the course of this argument, developed a complete, falsifiable theory of the collapse and aftermath”

    In Re Wiki-boy:

    “Falsifiability or refutability is the logical possibility that an assertion can be shown false by an observation or a physical experiment.”

    Your Honor, do I hear it said that falsifiability is contingent merely upon Wiki-boy’s chest beating?

    I submit, your Honor, that Wiki-boy over-states his case a great deal. If NIST couldn’t re-create the physical circumstances, in reality or by computer model, then by what means, other than ipse dixet, does Wiki-boy make this claim?

    Respectfully submitted.

  12. If the thing offered is capable of being replaced or altered…???

    Production of nano-thermite

    “A method for producing nanoscale, or ultra fine grain (UFG) aluminum powders, a key component of most nano-thermitic materials, is the dynamic gas-phase condensation method, pioneered by Wayne Danen and Steve Son at Los Alamos National Laboratory. A variant of the method is being used at the Indian Head Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. A critical aspect of the production is the ability to produce particles of sizes in the tens of nanometer range, as well as with a limited distribution of particle sizes. In 2002, the production of nano-sized aluminum particles required considerable effort, and commercial sources for the material were limited.[4] An application of the sol-gel method, developed by Randall Simpson, Alexander Gash and others at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, can be used to make the actual mixtures of nanostructured composite energetic materials. Depending on the process, MICs of different density can be produced. Highly porous and uniform products can be achieved by supercritical extraction.[4]”

  13. Buddha: “What Bob points to is indeed puzzling evidence. However, the heat of fusion/thermal retention line of reasoning was addressed by Slarti in a way perfectly suited for the adversarial process. He addressed 1) a chain of custody issue, 2) a sampling issue and 3) an integrity issue about the declarative expert offered. While Bob’s reasoning in finding this anomalous information was a sound display of what I think reductionism is best at (finding holes in standards of proof and certain kinds of causal analysis), he built the counter argument for natural collapse on the basis of questionable evidence in both quality and source of expertise. Evidence is only as good as its intrinsic qualities of relevance, probative value and veracity. An interesting anomaly from a questionable sampling and source makes for interesting cocktail chit-chat, but not an argument with any kind of conclusory certainty.”

    This is a Romeo Fox Trot. Shall we dance?

    Real evidence, like all other evidence, must be relevant to the question at issue. Smith v Lehigh Valley RR, 177 NY 379, 69 NE 729. See also Wurtzman v Kalinowski, 233 App Div 187,251 To satisfy the requirements of relevancy, the object must be properly identified, and it may also be necessary to show that the object exhibited to the jury is in substantially the same condition as it was at the time of the event in issue. People v Flanigan, 174 NY 356, 368

    The proponent of an item of real evidence must demonstrate its
    genuineness by clear and convincing evidence. People v McGee, 49 NY2d 48, 59, People v Julian, 41 NY2d 340, 343-344. See FRE 901(a) (authentication merely requires “evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims”). If the thing offered is capable of being replaced or altered, the proponent must provide evidence of its identity and integrity, usually
    by showing a chain of custody tracking the item from its acquisition to its presentation at trial.
    People v Julian, supra.

    Gaps or discrepancies in the chain of custody need not require
    the Trial Judge to exclude the evidence if, on the whole, the
    proponent’s evidence provides reasonable assurance of the identity and unaltered condition of the thing. People v Julian, supra, 41 NY2d at 343; People v Haggray, 173 AD2d 962

    If the item of real evidence is such that any changes in it would be clearly evident, the proponent may rest admissibility on the testimony of any witness familiar enough with the thing to identify it. People v Flanigan, 174 NY 356, 368.

  14. Buddha,

    First off, thank you for doing what Bob has avoided despite my repeated requests – explained why you think that I am using Ockham’s razor incorrectly. In my opinion (in the initial statement that I made), I was using OR as a heuristic to guide me in developing a theoretical (scientific) model of the collapse and aftermath as suggested in the first sentence of the passage you quoted and the Wikipedia article I quoted months ago (and, regardless of whether or not I was using it correctly, it favors planes and fires over thermite showing that Bob’s original statement was mistaken). As we both seem to agree that is for everyone to decide for themselves.

    I have, throughout the course of this argument, developed a complete, falsifiable theory of the collapse and aftermath while Bob has never attempted to do so (not that he’s required to make a scientific argument, but the fact that he has not – and I believe he can’t – is a big blow to the credibility of the controlled demolition hypothesis in my opinion). In light of your (quite reasonable) objection that Ockham’s razor is, at this point, an inappropriate standard of truth, I’ll be switching to the argument (Should Bob decide to continue) that I’ve put forward a scientific theory of the entire collapse based on the premise that artificial means were not used to initiate or accelerate the collapse which agrees with observations while while there is no competing theory premised on any form of controlled demolition that can account for all of the evidence (nor do I believe that any such theory exists). Making a supposition about thermitic materials being the only possible source of particles in the dust and molten metal observed in the rubble is one thing (and Bob can’t even justify that assertion), but coming up with a theory about the type, amount, approximate location and timing of detonation/ignition of devices is much more difficult – I don’t believe that any such theory can account for all of the observations without having effects that we should have seen but weren’t or requiring properties far beyond the capabilities of any known substances (like an incendiary which can be painted onto a vertical beam and will remain in place long enough to melt the beam). Such a theory would also necessarily have corollaries regarding the placement of charges and the location of the aircraft impacts which, in my opinion, would make them unlikely in the extreme.

  15. Slarti,

    Then you’ll have to just come to terms that I think you’re using OR improperly when you use it as a standard of judgment instead of a simplification tool.

    It would appear that my interpretation of the tool is in the majority enough that the encyclopedia entry agrees with it.

    Science and the scientific method

    In science, Occam’s razor is used as a heuristic (rule of thumb) to guide scientists in the development of theoretical models rather than as an arbiter between published models.[4][5] In physics, parsimony was an important heuristic in the formulation of special relativity by Albert Einstein[13][14], the development and application of the principle of least action by Pierre Louis Maupertuis and Leonhard Euler,[15] and the development of quantum mechanics by Louis de Broglie, Richard Feynman, and Julian Schwinger.[5][16][17] In chemistry, Occam’s razor is often an important heuristic when developing a model of a reaction mechanism.[18][19] However, while it is useful as a heuristic in developing models of reaction mechanisms, it has been shown to fail as a criterion for selecting among published models.[5]

    In the scientific method, parsimony is an epistemological, metaphysical or heuristic preference, not an irrefutable principle of logic, and certainly not a scientific result.[6][7][8][9] As a logical principle, Occam’s razor would demand that scientists accept the simplest possible theoretical explanation for existing data. However, science has shown repeatedly that future data often supports more complex theories than existing data. Science tends to prefer the simplest explanation that is consistent with the data available at a given time, but history shows that these simplest explanations often yield to complexities as new data become available.[4][7] Science is open to the possibility that future experiments might support more complex theories than demanded by current data and is more interested in designing experiments to discriminate between competing theories than favoring one theory over another based merely on philosophical principles.[6][7][8][9]

    When scientists use the idea of parsimony, it only has meaning in a very specific context of inquiry. A number of background assumptions are required for parsimony to connect with plausibility in a particular research problem. The reasonableness of parsimony in one research context may have nothing to do with its reasonableness in another. It is a mistake to think that there is a single global principle that spans diverse subject matter.[9]

    As a methodological principle, the demand for simplicity suggested by Occam’s razor cannot be generally sustained. Occam’s razor cannot help toward a rational decision between competing explanations of the same empirical facts. One problem in formulating an explicit general principle is that complexity and simplicity are perspective notions whose meaning depends on the context of application and the user’s prior understanding. In the absence of an objective criterion for simplicity and complexity, Occam’s razor itself does not support an objective epistemology.[8]

    The problem of deciding between competing explanations for empirical facts cannot be solved by formal tools. Simplicity principles can be useful heuristics in formulating hypotheses, but they do not make a contribution to the selection of theories. A theory that is compatible with one person’s world view will be considered simple, clear, logical, and evident, whereas what is contrary to that world view will quickly be rejected as an overly complex explanation with senseless additional hypotheses. Occam’s razor, in this way, becomes a “mirror of prejudice.”[8]

    It has been suggested that Occam’s razor is a widely accepted example of extraevidential consideration, even though it is entirely a metaphysical assumption. There is little empirical evidence that the world is actually simple or that simple accounts are more likely than complex ones to be true.[20]

    Most of the time, Occam’s razor is a conservative tool, cutting out crazy, complicated constructions and assuring that hypotheses are grounded in the science of the day, thus yielding ‘normal’ science: models of explanation and prediction. There are, however, notable exceptions where Occam’s razor turns a conservative scientist into a reluctant revolutionary. For example, Max Planck interpolated between the Wien and Jeans radiation laws used an Occam’s razor logic to formulate the quantum hypothesis, and even resisting that hypothesis as it became more obvious that it was correct.[5]

    However, on many occasions Occam’s razor has stifled or delayed scientific progress.[8] For example, appeals to simplicity were used to deny the phenomena of meteorites, ball lightning, continental drift, and reverse transcriptase. It originally rejected DNA as the carrier of genetic information in favor of proteins, since proteins provided the simpler explanation. Theories that reach far beyond the available data are rare, but general relativity provides one example.

    In hindsight, one can argue that it is simpler to consider DNA as the carrier of genetic information, because it uses a smaller number of building blocks (four nitrogenous bases). However, during the time that proteins were the favored genetic medium, it seemed like a more complex hypothesis to confer genetic information in DNA rather than proteins.

    One can also argue (also in hindsight) for atomic building blocks for matter, because it provides a simpler explanation for the observed reversibility of both mixing and chemical reactions as simple separation and re-arrangements of the atomic building blocks. However, at the time, the atomic theory was considered more complex because it inferred the existence of invisible particles which had not been directly detected. Ernst Mach and the logical positivists rejected the atomic theory of John Dalton, until the reality of atoms was more evident in Brownian motion, as explained by Albert Einstein.[21]

    In the same way, hindsight argues that postulating the aether is more complex than transmission of light through a vacuum. However, at the time, all known waves propagated through a physical medium, and it seemed simpler to postulate the existence of a medium rather than theorize about wave propagation without a medium. Likewise, Newton’s idea of light particles seemed simpler than Young’s idea of waves, so many favored it; however in this case, as it turned out, neither the wave- nor the particle-explanation alone suffices, since light behaves like waves as well as like particles (wave–particle duality).

    Three axioms presupposed by the scientific method are realism (the existence of objective reality), the existence of observable natural laws, and the constancy of observable natural law. Rather than depend on provability of these axioms, science depends on the fact that they have not been objectively falsified. Occam’s razor and parsimony support, but do not prove these general axioms of science. The general principle of science is that theories (or models) of natural law must be consistent with repeatable experimental observations. This ultimate arbiter (selection criterion) rests upon the axioms mentioned above.[7]

    There are many examples where Occam’s razor would have picked the wrong theory given the available data. Simplicity principles are useful philosophical preferences for choosing a more likely theory from among several possibilities that are each consistent with available data. A single instance of Occam’s razor picking a wrong theory falsifies the razor as a general principle[7].

    If multiple models of natural law make exactly the same testable predictions, they are equivalent and there is no need for parsimony to choose one that is preferred. For example, Newtonian, Hamiltonian, and Lagrangian classical mechanics are equivalent. Physicists have no interest in using Occam’s razor to say the other two are wrong. Likewise, there is no demand for simplicity principles to arbitrate between wave and matrix formulations of quantum mechanics. Science often does not demand arbitration or selection criteria between models which make the same testable predictions.[7]” emphasis added, from

    As well as these guys . . .

    “The law of parsimony is no substitute for insight, logic and the scientific method. It should never be relied upon to make or defend a conclusion. As arbiters of correctness, only logical consistency and empirical evidence are absolute.” From “What is Occam’s Razor?” by Phil Gibbs and Sugihara Hiroshi at

    Using OR as a standard of judgment is using it incorrectly and while that may be my opinion it is also apparently the opinion of others. I asserted that you were OR improperly, gave the reasoning behind the assertion and offered evidence that my reasoning was well within standard interpretations of OR enough to be considered common knowledge at an encyclopedic level and at an academic level. Protest it to your heart’s content. As you said, let the reader decide if you’re using OR correctly or not.

  16. Buddha,

    We seem to have crossed wires again – my reply to you was intended as merely commentary on your post and my perception of your position is exactly as you represented it in your post at 11:53 pm on Saturday. I believe that you think the evidence is inconclusive but that Ockham’s razor favors the ‘natural’ hypothesis (please correct me if I’m wrong). I’m not sure what you interpreted as chest beating (well, my response about EAS to Bob was, I guess – but he advanced a totally bogus argument and I caught him at it – using Wikipedia to do it, no less). I’m pretty tired of his double standard where my supporting references and specific points based on science are not good enough but his vague assertions that I’m somehow ducking his arguments and lies (or at least badly mistaken statements) about physics are supposed to be convincing.

    To review, at the beginning of this whole mess, I said:

    Occam’s razor clearly points to flaws in engineering resulting from a failure to envision such a scenario [rather than pointing to controlled demolition]

    and Bob replied:

    you apparently wouldn’t know Ockham’s razor, or the law of parsimony, if you were pissing on it.

    You (and everyone else reading this) can judge for yourselves if OR favors controlled demolition or the ‘natural’ hypothesis of the collapse but personally
    I think that ‘pissing on Ockham’s razor’ is an apt description of what Bob has been doing for the last five months…

    I believe that I’m using Ockham’s razor in the correct manner to decide between two preliminary hypotheses (as you point out they can never be more than preliminary hypotheses without substantially more evidence – evidence which probably doesn’t exist anymore). I’ve asked Bob several times in what way I’ve used OR incorrectly and gotten no response. My only adversarial interest here is to present the science in an effort to defend the statement I made about Ockham’s razor above from Bob’s classy rebuttal. I took your statement:

    I think natural orderly collapse is both a reasonable conclusion using the Scientific Method and properly so by application of Occam’s Razor despite there being outstanding evidence of a curious nature.

    as your verdict in the case that I’ve been fighting – a verdict that is entirely in my favor.

    I’m perfectly happy with a verdict of ‘case dismissed without prejudice’ in the case of ‘planes and fires’ vs. ‘thermitic demolition charges’ as I’m confident (based on all of the research that I’ve done) that any additional evidence will only support the theory that I’m advocating (although if credible contrary evidence comes to light I would certainly re-evaluate my thinking on that basis).

    In any case, I’m not interested in picking a fight with you – I’m interested in discussing the ideas which you have raised about the scientific method and reductionism (after I make some comments about your take on the chemistry). As you obviously have a better and more nuanced understanding of the philosophical issues here than I do, I am anxious to see if my arguments can stand up to your criticism – my ideas can only be improved thereby.

  17. Then we’ll simply have to agree that we operate at different points of the spectrum between reasonable certainty and absolute precision (impossible: random uncertainty prevents any measurement to be made with absolute precision and in contrast to the systematic uncertainty of scale and approximation uncertainties) as to where conclusory certainty lies. But don’t forget I entered this thread as resident skeptic and have maintained that stance.

    I have not said your arguments are invalid, Slarti. Quite the opposite. They meet the threshold of reasonable certainty. I’ve said that theories to the alternative end in a status of non-determinative absent further evidence of better quality.

    There is a distinction as this does not mean not mean you are wrong. I even said you are probably correct – probable and certain are different words for a reason though and that’s why the Razor is ultimately a tool of probability despite the fact that there is no evidence to support the assertion that the universe is inherently simple. This is a monist leaning bias. Occam’s Razor is not, however, irrefutable logic in the world of science or philosophy. It is a heuristic device used primarily in theory refinement not as an arbitration tool between competing theories. Occam’s Razor supports no particular epistemology but rather is a modeling tool. Rather akin to simplification in dealing with fractions. It’s not a standard of judgment. In that respect, you’re both using that tool incorrectly.

    They in the alternative (Bob, Robert) have an inconclusive case that if they had better evidence is not unreasonable. Not that they are unreasonable in their concerns, but rather insufficient in their evidence. The analogous legal ruling would be merely dismissed (where the plaintiff can appeal or refile should new evidence come to light or on alternative theories) as opposed to dismissed with prejudice (where the case is dismissed for cause and the plaintiff barred from refiling on the same claim – this is the ending for most nuisance lawsuits).

    Pardon me. I’m feeling a little light headed. Wooooo WOOOOOO! Must be one of my spells coming on! Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! This applies to the possibility of supervening action. Possible, probable and certain are not the same thing. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence but that does not mean an extraordinary claim is prime facie invalid. Just that the evidence is insufficient. Bad scientist!

    Sorry. I was momentarily channeling Carl Sagan.

    But feel free to declare yourself victor if you wish, Slarti. I’m not going to bother to point out that is a – eh hem – troll tactic but then again . . .


    Chest thumping is also part of our evolutionary baggage. I’m willing to not use the “T” word as a proper insult and consider your statements as summation and not inserting a conclusion in my statement that was not there. That’s almost as bad as inserting premises into people’s arguments that aren’t there. But to paraphrase the old-timer in Reno who busted me looking at the hot Amazon redheaded bass player with the band entertaining the room as we played blackjack. “That’s a bad [arguing] habit you got there, son.”

    I restated what I meant with greater precision this time so there would be no room for misunderstanding as to my position on the issue. My effort in the war for error reduction.

    In re “Supervening Factor(s) v. Natural Collapse” at this point I rule case dismissed without prejudice.

    Plaintiffs are free to refile pending new evidence and/or alternate pleading.

    My role as skeptic and “judge”/audience demanded this clarification.

    Different tools for different jobs.

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