Thursday, November 18, 2010

SciAm writers who suck: our polls and readers suck

In October 2010, Scientific American decided to demonize Judith Curry as a heretic: see also TRF.

In the sidebar of their article, there was also a poll that Scientific American later erased because they didn't like its results.

Only approximately 1/4 of the respondents expressed their belief in the dangerous man-made climate change orthodoxy.

A "managing online editor" Philip Yam decided to clarify the situation in a fresh SciAm blog entry called
Do 80 percent of Scientific American subscribers deny global warming? Hardly
In that text, Yam says that their own poll was worthless (so why did they do it?), its results mean nothing, and even if they did, it's irrelevant because only 10% of the SciAm readers are scientists. According to SciAm editors, SciAm readers are almost entirely idiots whose reasoning and opinions should be neglected relatively to the "enlightened" inkspillers among the editors themselves.

What do these idiots really think about themselves and why?

The first point by Yam is mostly correct. The poll was nearly worthless, indeed. The questions and possible answers were badly chosen and the respondents were allowed to check several answers - even those that were nearly mutually exclusive - so the numbers never added up to 100%. ;-) The SciAm staff simply can't do better.

The last point is misleading: there are surely lots of scientists among the people who remained SciAm readers (at least of its online edition), despite the catastrophic decrease of the quality of the magazine. In the comment thread under Yam's article, you may be assured that there are SciAm readers who are both skeptics and scientists.

However, it's interesting to think about the second point Yam made - namely that polls are worthless in general.

Well, I disagree with him that the results imply that the reality has to be different. After all, he mentions that only 1/2 of the visitors of the poll page came from major skeptical blogs - especially What's Up With That and Small Dead Animals. So even this "skeptical subsidy" isn't quite enough to explain why the skeptical voices got 80% of the votes. (By the way, why doesn't he offer us statistics about the composition of the actual respondents and not just all the visitors?) The skepticism among the people who know something about the science is clearly vastly greater than what the SciAm bigots are willing to admit.

But more importantly, I do agree that polls are worthless from the scientific perspective. Too bad that they can't consistently realize this point whenever they look at polls whose results they like. For example, why don't they appreciate that it's irrelevant that "97%" of the grant parasites, cowards, and left-wing activists pretending to be scientists in various institutions with scientific names subscribe to the AGW crap?

Clearly, the message of the Scientific American is that the government bureaucrats have to be more influential than people who are actually interested in science and who read journals - and blogs - about science, right? Your whole ideology is supported by polls only - that's what you mean by the "consensus". There are no actual articles that would contain convincing evidence for any of your big claims which is why you have to rely on polls and informal proclamations. But you very carefully cherry-pick the polls, too.

Your attitudes and deeds are disgraceful, Mr Yam.


  1. According to SciAm editors,(AMERIkanders) SciAm readers (also Morons americanus var. readers )are almost entirely idiots

    well....i say, i say

    is a solid reasoning

    it could be said that anti-AGA crusaders and also the AGA crusaders
    are of moronic persuasion

    the world may legitimately worry if they have left out this mad vision of orthodoxy
    that both sides share

  2. und plenty of crusaders of AGA
    are less fundamentalists than the
    anti-AGA (sometimes less rational
    like all believers)

    for instance
    Mark C. Serreze
    University of Colorado at Boulder
    Believers never die...they are aeternal

  3. I stopped subscribing to Scientific American after the issue that in one article explained that the computational complexity class NP "means that a calculation cannot be done in polynomial time" and in another article had a photograph whose caption mentioned "spiders and other insects".

  4. I'm contacting old professors for letters of recommendation. One I got on the phone brought up his complaints about the bad global warming science.

    And regarding "spiders and other insects", I think this is at least as forgivable as the astrophysicists who could write "oxygen and other metals".

  5. I have a snapshot (made by FireFox Scrapbook) of the SciAm survey ... if blog author would be interested in it. - - - would have to figure out how to package it and get it to you. contact me at GMail if so