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What I learned from debating science with trolls

Posted on 29 August 2014 by Guest Author

By Michael J. I. Brown, Monash University

I often like to discuss science online and I’m also rather partial to topics that promote lively discussion, such as climate change, crime statistics and (perhaps surprisingly) the big bang. This inevitably brings out the trolls.

“Don’t feed the trolls” is sound advice, but I’ve ignored it on occasion – including on The Conversation and Twitter – and I’ve been rewarded. Not that I’ve changed the minds of any trolls, nor have I expected to.

But I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research.

Some techniques are comically simple. Emotionally charged, yet evidence-free, accusations of scams, fraud and cover-ups are common. While they mostly lack credibility, such accusations may be effective at polarising debate and reducing understanding.

And I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, trotted out that old chestnut in The Australian last week. Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, was less than impressed by Newman’s use of that tactic.

Unfortunately there are too many tactics to discuss in just one article (sorry Gish Gallop and Strawman), so I will focus on just a few that I’ve encountered online and in the media recently.


Internet trolls know who their experts are. There are thousands of professors scattered across academia, so it isn’t surprising that a few contrarians can be found. In online discussions I’ve been told of the contrarian views of “respected” professors from Harvard, MIT and Princeton.

Professors with contrarian views can even be found at Ivy League universities such as Princeton. Flickr/Sindy Lee, CC BY-NC-ND

Back in The Conversation’s early days I even copped abuse for not being at Princeton by someone who was clearly unfamiliar with both science and my employment history. It was a useful lesson that vitriol is often disconnected from knowledge and expertise.

At times expert opinion is totally misrepresented, often with remarkable confidence.

Responding to one of my Conversation articles, the Australian Financial Review’s Mark Lawson distorted the findings of CSIRO’s John Church on sea levels.

Even after I confirmed with Church that Lawson had the science wrong, Lawson wouldn’t back down.

Such distortions aren’t limited to online debates. In The Australian, Maurice Newman warned about imminent global cooling and cited Professor Mike Lockwood’s research as evidence.

But Lockwood himself stated last year that solar variability this century may reduce warming by:

between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we’re due to experience as a result of human activity.

Newman’s claims were debunked, by his expert, before he even wrote his article.

Sometimes experts are quoted correctly, but they happen to disagree with the vast majority of their equally qualified (or more qualified) colleagues. How do the scientifically illiterate select this minority of experts?

I’ve asked trolls this question a few times and, funnily enough, they cannot provide good answers. To be blunt, they are choosing experts based on agreeable conclusions rather than scientific rigour, and this problem extends well beyond online debates.

Earlier this month, Senator Eric Abetz controversially seemed to link abortions with breast cancer on Channel Ten’s The Project.

While Abetz distanced himself from these claims, his media statement doesn’t dispute them and talks up the expertise of Dr Angela Lanfranchi, who does link abortions with breast cancer.

Abetz does not have expertise in medical research, so why did he give Dr Lanfranchi’s views similar or more weight than those of most doctors, including the Australian Medical Association’s president Brian Owler, who say there is no clear link between abortion and breast cancer?

If Abetz cannot evaluate the medical research data and methods, is his choice largely based on Dr Lanfranchi’s conclusions? Why won’t he accept the views of most medical professionals, who can evaluate the relevant evidence?

Abetz may be doctor shopping, not for a desired diagnosis or drug, but for an desired expert opinion. And just as doctor shopping can result in the wrong diagnosis, doctor shopping for opinions gives you misleading conclusions.

Broken logic

Often attacks on science employ logic so flawed that it would be laughable in everyday life. If I said my car was blue, and thus no cars are red, you would be unimpressed. And yet when non-experts discuss science, such flawed logic is often employed.

Carbon dioxide emissions are leading to rapid climate change now, and gradual natural climate change has also taken place over aeons. There’s no reason for natural and anthropogenic climate change to be mutually exclusive, and yet climate change deniers frequently use natural climate change in an attempt to disprove anthropogenic global warming.

Global temperatures (measured by Marcott et al. in dark blue, and HadCRUT4 in red) have changed as a result of both natural and anthropogenic climate change. There has been a dramatic rise in global temperatures over the past century. Michael Brown

Unfortunately our Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, employed similar broken logic after the 2013 bushfires:

Australia has had fires and floods since the beginning of time. We’ve had much bigger floods and fires than the ones we’ve recently experienced. You can hardly say they were the result of anthropic [sic] global warming.

Bushfires are a natural part of the Australian environment but that does not exclude climate change altering the frequency and intensity of those fires. Indeed, the Forest Fire Danger Index has been increasing across Australia since the 1970s.

Why the Prime Minister would employ such flawed logic, and contradict scientific research, is puzzling.


The Italian scientist and astronomer Galileo Galilei was infamously persecuted by the politically powerful Catholic Church because of his promotion of the sun-centred solar system.

Galileo Galilei understood the power of observations. Wikimedia

While Galileo suffered house arrest, his views ultimately triumphed because they were supported by observation, while the Church’s stance relied on theology.

The Galileo Gambit is a debating technique that perverts this history to defend nonsense. Criticisms by the vast majority of scientists are equated with the opinions of 17th century clergy, while a minority promoting pseudoscience are equated with Galileo.

Ironically, the Galileo Gambit is often employed by those who have no scientific expertise and strong ideological reasons for attacking science. And its use isn’t restricted to online debates.

Bizarrely, even the politically powerful and well connected are partial to the Galileo Gambit. Maurice Newman (once again) rejects the consensus view of climate scientists and, when questioned on his rejection of the science, his (perhaps predictable) response was:

Well, Galileo was virtually on his own.

Newman’s use of a tactic of trolls and cranks is worthy of criticism. The triumph of Galileo’s views were a result of his capacity to develop scientific ideas and test them via observation. Newman, and many of those who attack science, notably lack this ability.The Conversation

Michael J. I. Brown receives research funding from the Australian Research Council and Monash University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Comments 51 to 76 out of 76:

  1. Ammendment to my posts @45 and 49.

    I have discovered my error in calculating the attribution likelihoods.  Therefore here is an ammended graph correcting the error:

    Further, the 5-95% confidence interval are:

    GHG contribution to recent warming: 138% +/- 107%

    Total anthropogenic contribution has been 108% +/- 29%

    Non-GHG anthropogenic factors was -38% +/-93%

    There is a 99.94% likelihood that the anthropogenic contribution was >50%, and a 99.07% chance that it was greater than 66%.  Any further differences between my and Gavin Schmidt's figures should only be due to rounding errors.

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  2. Ashton"...let me make it very plain to you I'm not asking the questions sceptics/deniers that I have spoken to are doing the asking..."

    This is the very essence of concern trolling - tossing out well-refuted denial talking points but refusing to own the questions raised. You have, I'm certain, sufficient critical capacity to evaluate these questions and decide whether (in your opinion) they are significant. If they are, ask them as your questions, taking ownership by having raised them. If not, don't bother repeating questions you consider nonsensical; that's just noise. You've made quite a lot of noise in these threads, supplying little content in the process. 

    WRT the "what's the optimum global temperature" canard, the global temperature is a measure of global climate, while "optimum" only makes sense on a regional basis with that microclimate and biota. In that regard the 'optimum' is whatever temperature, precipitation, agriculture, etc., the region is adapted to. Changes from the point of adaptation induce costs (both biological adaptive and financial), with faster changes costing more. Change, particularly rapid change, is the problem. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Plese note that I have informed Ashton that his schtick is wearing thin. I have also advised him to carefully read and adhere to the SkS Comments Policy. 

  3. Tom Curtis @51.

    It might be useful to show AR5 WG1 Fig 10.5 so folk know where you're calculating your PDFs from.

    IPCC AR5 WG1 Fig10.5

    I note in her running tiff with Gavin Schmidt over attribution, Judy Curry recently made clear how wedded she is to recent warming being about 50:50 anthro and natural. She wrote "I think both 0% and 100% are extremely unlikely.”

    And with Ashton @47 accusing you of "dissing Judith Curry" for your comment @45 saying "I see ... concerted efforts to obfusticate (a la Curry)," I would suggest Exhibit A in any case against Curry for "concerted obfuscation" would be her 2011 'Nullifying the climate null hypothesis' paper that does a pretty good job of leaving no twist untied.

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  4. Ashton has demonstrated another key denier tactic: to insult the person you are talking with when you have no data to support your position.

    I noticed that Ashton was the first person who mentioned Curry.  Ashton accused Tom fo dissing Curry when Tom had done nothing of the sort.  This accomplished two things at once:

    1) It changed the subject without Ashton having to conceed that Tom had answered Ashtons primary question from his previous post (it would be polite to acknowledge that his question was completely answered).

    2) It allowed Ashton to (falsely) accuse Tom of being disrespectful for  no legitimate reason.

    A brief review of the posts here shows that Tom had cited a Real Climate post (about Curry) that contained the specific data  that Ashton had asked for.  Tom's purpose in the cite was to provide support for his argument from an authorative source.  Tom never dissed, or indeed never commented on Curry before Ashton brought her up.  Ashton was successful in changing the subject to Curry from his failed attempt to claim that the question:

    "that sceptic/deniers often ask is what percentage of climate change is due to the burning of fossil fuels."

    has not been answered at length.  Ashton should apologize for his false claim about Curry and acknowledge that his previous question has been answered.

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    Moderator Response:

    [Dikran Marsupial] Please can we keep the discussion focused on the topic of the article, rather than focus on the behaviour of particular individuals.  Please leave it to the moderators to take appropriate action if there are infringements of the comments policy.

  5. MA Rodger @53, thanks.

    With regard to Curry, I had in mind particularly her Italian Flag post, but examplars are easilly multiplied.

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  6. Michael Sweet, it was in fact I who first mentioned Curry on this thread.  Nor was my mention particularly respectful, although I would not call it "dissing" and it gave Curry more respect than she probably deserves.  Your first point is, however, exactly correct.

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  7. Tom Curtis.  Thanks for putting the record straight

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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] And thank you Ashton for acknowledging the effort. Can everyone take a deep breath and continue a focus on the science, without meta-comment on motives etc?

  8. Tom,

    Your mention of Curry was so small I did not see it. 

    I stand by the point of my post: Ashton's reference to Curry was primarily to distract from your proof that Ashton's "skeptic" question was completely answered over a year ago.

    This is one of the primary issues dealing with Skeptics.  They do not keep up on what is known and are angry that their questions have not been addressed.  In fact, their questions have been addressed and they have ignored the answer. 

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH]  Please let the Moderators do their job and keep your focus on the facts of the matter under discussion.  

  9. The only possible answer to the question "what is the optimum global temperature?" is to say "what do you mean by optimum?".

    The question is so ill-defined as to be meaningless. It's like saying "provide me with the optimum code for this problem". Is the optimum code the one that

    • runs the fastest?
    • uses the least memory?
    • takes the least amount of development time?
    • is most robust to input errors?
    • takes the least maintenance time?
    • runs on the most operating systems?
    • maintains the company's monopoly?
    • produces the most patents?
    • is the most profitable?

    There is no "all of the above" answer.

    Even the (now frail and elderly) Koppen Climate Classification System, developed in the 1800s, was intended to explain global patterns of vegetation, not climate. The fact that different vegetation types do better in different parts of the world, due to different climates, is an indication that biology finds different regions "optimal" for different organisms. Each has its own niche.


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    Moderator Response:

    [PS] I think this one has been done to death. Please respect no dog-piling.

  10. Would you please note that the comment that follows does not, repeat does not, reflect my own views on the "97% consensus" on climate change but is put forward as an example that might be used by sceptic/deniers when challenging this aspect of climate change science.   I also think this is relevant to this thread and hope the moderators agree.  I should note I was involved in medical science in Pert/Fremantle at the time Marshall carried out his now renowned experiment.  

    I am interested in the comments in this and many other articles on sceptic/deniers choice of Galileo as an example of how scientific consensus  is not necessarily correct.  Possibly a better example and one that is a) very recent and b) compatible with my own areas of interest is the discovery by Barry Marshall and Robin Warren that H.pylori is a major cause of peptic ulcers.  Use of this of an example of how consensus is not always right has been addressed and "debunked" in ScienceBlog (  However the "debunking" is factually incorrect.  In the article it is stated that:

    "By 1992, multiple studies had been published establishing the causative role of H. pylori in peptic ulcer disease, and medical practice rapidly changed. That’s less than ten years, which, given how long it takes to organize and carry out clinical trials, is amazingly fast. Yet somehow a favorite denialist myth is that “dogmatic,” “close-minded” scientists refused to accept Marshall and Warren’s findings. It’s an example of a scientific consensus that deserved to be questioned, was questioned in the right way, and was overthrown"

    The medical fraternity and the drug companies most definitely did not accept the findings of Marshall and Warren.  From Wikipedia (

    "Marshall has been quoted as saying in 1998 that "(e)veryone was against me, but I knew I was right" On the other hand, it has also been argued that medical researchers showed a proper degree of scientific scepticism until the H. pylori hypothesis could be supported by evidence.

    As is now very well known Marshall, to prove his point, drank a culture of H.pylori and developed gastritis thus establishing the point he was making.  This experiment lead directly to revision of the prior consensus that spicy foods and acidity caused peptic ulcers. 

    The final sentence in the quote  I referred to above is:

    "It’s an example of a scientific consensus that deserved to be questioned, was questioned in the right way, and was overthrown"

    Surely questioning the current consensus is exactly what sceptical climate scientists  are engaged in and for which they are often denigrated.


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  11. I would love skeptics/deniers to raise this argument, as long as they follow through with it.

    What would that involve? The most naive analysis would be to roughly enumerate the number of scientific disciplines of comparable scope to the peptic ulcer community. My half-arsed guess as an interdisciplinary scientist whose main field has some overlap with drug design is that it is in the tens to hundreds of thousands.

    Then enumerate the number of cases in which a consensus of corresponding strength has been overthrown. I'm guessing that's in the ones, just possibly tens.

    From this we can infer a crude estimate of probability that the climate science consensus is wrong under the assumption that the situations are, as you suggest, in some way analogous.

    Now, that's hopelessly naive. Ideally we'd look at the sociology as well. In the case of peptic ulcers the fact that there were major financial interests in providing drugs for their treatment may have had a role in maintaining the consensus, with no corresponding interests on the other side. I can't speak to the size of the financial interests supporting the climate science consensus, but there are clearly significant financial interests in disputing it.

    So I think this is a very useful line of argument. There might be an interesting sociology of science paper in it, but doing it properly is beyond my expertise.

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  12. If some skeptic climate scientists were able to successfully challenge the scientitic consensus, then frankly I would praise them to skies. A successful challenge has to mounted with data and proper analysis. The pseudo-skeptics (because I think most scientists are real skeptics) however mistake blog-"scientists" for real science and misinformation for data. If you are seriously able to challenge the science then you do so in peer-reviewed journals. If your arguments are judged to have merit, then they will be tested by others and  change will occur. Now get your "skeptics" to point to these challenging papers please.

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  13. Ashton @60 should be thanked for his creative efforts to provide live samples of "skeptical" trolling to enliven this topic.  In this case he demonstrates a trojan horse tactic in which he first disavows the argument he is about to present is his own, then presents it as creatively as he is able without any comments showing the flaws in the argument.  In the particular example @60 he even strengthens that be explicitly stating that true claims made elsewhere are false, misrepresenting the contents of wikipedia, and claiming a false authority based on a purported geographical and professional connection to the events described.

    The actual facts of the case he discusses are that by February of 1994, the US National Institute of Health had released a consensus statement (their description) stating among other things:

    "The discovery of H. pylori as a gastrointestinal pathogen has had a profound effect on current concepts of peptic ulcer disease pathogenesis. Evidence presented at this Consensus Development Conference has led to the following conclusions:

    • Ulcer patients with H. pylori infection require treatment with antimicrobial agents in addition to antisecretory drugs whether on first presentation with the illness or on recurrence.
    • The value of treatment of nonulcer dyspepsia patients with H. pylori infection remains to be determined.
    • The interesting relationship between H. pylori infection and gastric cancers requires further exploration."

    That establishes that by 1994, ie, within ten years of first publication of the theory, acceptance was wide spread.  Despite this acceptance, a year later Marshal himself acknowledged that the case for H Pylori as the causative factor in peptic ulcers had not been demonstrated to the normally accepted standard, stating:

    "Koch’s postulates for H. pylori have not been fulfilled in the case of peptic ulceration because, at present, no human or animal experimental model has produced peptic ulcer after inoculation with H. pylori"

    Clearly consensus in favour of the theory was not lagging the evidence significantly.  Kimball Atwood has an extensive survey of the literature and response to Warren and Marshall's theory, which shows that interest in the theory was keen from the start, with many other researchers immediately investigating the theory - and that acceptance was rapidly forthcoming as the evidence mounted for the theory.

    Turning to Ashton's specific claims:

    1)  Asthon claims that Orac's claim about scientifid research by 1992, was false.  However, a search on google scholar excluding citations and patents for "Pylori" and "Peptic" returns from 1984-1992 returns 2,300 results, and as noted above, by Feb 1994 it was the NIH's recommendation that patients presenting with ulcers be treated with antimicrobial agents.  Clearly it is the case that in less than ten years of publication of the theory (in June 1984), " multiple studies had been published establishing the causative role of H. pylori in peptic ulcer disease" and that "medical practice rapidly changed".

    2)   Ashton quotes wikipedia about Marshal saying in 1998 that "Everyone was against me".  While true, however, what he actually said in a 1998 interview was:

    "Q: Is it frustrating when you're at that point in your research and things are not going your way and people are weighing in with those kinds of dismissive remarks?

    Barry Marshall: I'm a lot more mature now, and I know that this is how science works. You've got to be pretty thick-skinned and ready to take the blows. In those days, it used to really cut me to the quick when people — even my boss — would get up and criticize my work this way. I was a... "brash young man" is a term that came out of the Reader's Digest article many years ago. "Zealot" was another of the names that I was given. I read the history of the zealots, and you know, I was exactly like that.

    It was a campaign, everyone was against me. But I knew I was right, because I actually had done a couple of years' work at that point. I had a few backers. And when I was criticized by gastroenterologists, I knew that they were mostly making their living doing endoscopies on ulcer patients. So I'm going to show you guys. A few years from now you'll be saying, "Hey! Where did all those endoscopies go to?" And it will be because I was treating ulcers with antibiotics. "

    (Italics in original)

    In context, it is very clear that Marshall was describing his attitude several years in the past.  Indeed, given that he had done "a couple years work" that was his attitude around 1986 or so, when indeed, presenting a revolutionary new theory he was indeed expected to prove it.  As he himself says "this is how science works".

    We might ask how Marshall's work was regarded in 1998, and that can be answered by his list of honours up to that point:

    "Marshall also received the Warren Alpert Prize in 1994; the Australian Medical Association Award and the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research in 1995; the Gairdner Foundation International Award in 1996; the Paul Ehrlich and Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize in 1997; the Dr A.H. Heineken Prize for Medicine, the Florey Medal, and the Buchanan Medal of the Royal Society in 1998"

    So, within 14 years of first publication, Marshall has recieved six prestigious awards for his work, and all prior to (or in the same year as) that interview.

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] You have described Ashton's schtick to a tee.  Thank you. 

  14. Aston @60.

    I have met this particular denialist argument in the past. My response is that I must have missed something because I didn't know Lindzen & Curry had been awarded a Nobel Prize.

    Do note that the 1998 quote you cite does not (indeed cannot) refer to opposition to Marshal & Warren occuring in 1998. The timeline is as follows. The pair of them worked together from 1981 investigating bacteria in the gut that would develop into their theory that stress was not the sole cause of peptic ulsers. They published in 1985. The opposition to their findings was officially marginalised in February 1994 (see here in Warren's own words - "I had been waiting for ten years for this day") with Marshall starting to pick up awards, receiving the Nobel Prize in 2005.

    So from the Marshal & Warren example, it is a decade from published pariah to praise-laden prophet. Where then is the denialist equivalent?

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  15. Tom,

    I was a medical student in 1989 and, in the lecture about peptic ulcers, the H pylori theory was presented as one that was yet to reach full acceptance, but one that was likely to be generally accepted by the medical establishment as further evidence came in.

    As you note, it is not a particularly good example of the supposed inability of scientists to respond intelligently to dissent and new ideas.



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  16. You know what is really a good example of a now accepted theory which was initially dismissed by the scientific community?

    Anthropogenic Global Warming

    The 'skeptics' should use the early rejection of Arrhenius's work to show how scientific consensus can be wrong. :]

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  17. CB Dunkerson, very good example, Angstrom's (1901) argument that the absorption of IR by carbon dioxide was saturated close to the surface held back research on the greenhouse effect until the work of Callendar in the 30s & 40s and Plass in the 50s and 60s.  See the relevant entry in Spencer Wearts jooly good "The Discovery of Global Warming".

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  18. @Jim Hunt #23

    At what venue might an analogy assist then? I negotiate the maze of twisty passages, all alike, in the perhaps naive belief that some people read that stuff who aren't dyed in the wool "skeptics". Am I in fact wasting my time?

    Not at all. You've nailed the real reason for posting analogies, or anything else for that matter: The real target of the analogy (or whatever it is that you're posting) is not the "skeptic" to whom you're responding but the much larger number of individuals who are simply reading the comments silently, many of whom may be open minded but underinformed.

    Analogies do work. They just don't work with "skeptics." 

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  19. Tom Curtis. As you clearly like to know the minutiae I think you might like this conversation Barry marshall had with the NHMRC (for non Australians this is the premier body for funding medical research) in March 2011.  In it he notes in an exchange with the interviewer 

    Interviewer: So you really at this point had to kind of prove the connection, though, didn't you? Is this where you did something pretty dramatic?

    Prof. Marshall: Well, that's right, because when ever I presented the bacteria to pathologists and doctors in Australia, they were all very sceptical and they would always say that people with ulcers probably have a bacteria in their stomach just by coincidence and the ulcer forms first and then you would catch a little bacteria sitting around the site, same as if you had a sore on your skin or something. So it was very frustrating to present the information, and I used to get into pretty hostile arguments. At one conference I remember I was just about leaping off the stage throttling people who were making what I considered very inane comments about the whole thing. And so I said, 'I've got to prove that these bacteria can infect a healthy animal and cause an ulcer, or the inflammation at least, in the stomach.' (my note this was in 1984)

    He later in the interview made this comment

    And again we got good publicity from that, and it created a big controversy, because, of course, people were funding research programs worth millions all over the world. The ulcer treatments that were on the market were worth billions and the drug companies were all building giant manufacturing plants and banking money on the current treatments, and lo and behold it suddenly appeared that maybe all people needed was a cheap course of antibiotics. And then they would be cured. And all this investment and billion‑dollar business was just going to go by the wayside".

    Although his findings were eventually accepted, after 6 years, it is clear in the periond 1984 to 1990 there was antipathy to his findings by "the establishment:"

    The URL is

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    Moderator Response:

    [JH] Your quips are not appreciated. 

  20. Ashton...  You do realize, I hope, the analogy you're presenting applies to climate science just after the turn of the 20th century (that's two-zero, i.e., in the early 1900's) with the heated debates between Arrhenius and Angstrom.

    Now what we have in climate science is, many many decades of research on a very broad range of interconnected areas of research that all confirm the same thing. And, in the case of Dr Marshall, you're presenting a very narrow area of research that had to, reasonably, rise to a high level of proof in order for it to be accepted by the broader research community. And that change happen rapidly even within that field. Ten years is nothing! 

    Today, if we were getting vastly different answers from the geologists, and the modelers, and the phycisists, and the biologists, and... all the others whose fields AGW encounter, then there would be legitimate reason to be highly skeptical of this issue.

    Problem is, that's not the case. All the research fits very neatly together across a wide range of fields. You have nearly all researchers today looking at each other nodding, saying, "Yup, we have a big, big problem with atmospheric CO2."

    Those who are rejecting this are very few in numbers. Their research is internally inconsistent with any other research, and when you dig a little deeper, you almost always find some sort of political/ideological spin going on. In other words, they just don't like the implications of the problem and are trying to find reasons to believe there really isn't a problem.

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  21. Ashton, if your analogy is going to make any sense at all, then there needs to be corresponding paper by a climate scientist with the level of research behind it that Marshall has. If there is such a paper, then please provide it. The reason why this argument comes up is because deniers, reading misinformation instead, fondly believe that such a thing must exist. Show us the beef.

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  22. Ashton @69, from the same interview we read:

    " Well, immediately after the rejection [in 1983], my boss, David McGauchie, at Fremantle, said he knew somebody who was the world authority on these bacteria in England, Martin Skirrow, and he said, 'Why don't you give him a call on the telephone?' In those days it was pretty heroic to call someone in England and get permission from the hospital authorities to use their long distance number. So I did that and I spoke to Martin Skirrow, and he said, 'Oh, that sounds exciting. Send some bacteria over.' So we did that, and he cultured them. 

    Then I went to an international meeting right after the publication in the Lancet. So at that point there was a lot of enthusiasm in England, because Martin Skirrow, who was an authority, was now supporting me. So in the infectious disease microbiology fraternity I immediately had followers and in Australia one of the first people that was on my side was Professor Adrian Lee from the University of New South Wales, and we'd corresponded a little bit. And I met him there. And he was a chicken bacteria expert in those days. So we had a bit of a following, and then when I came back to Australia, still the gastroenterology community didn't believe it. And there is a bit of a history of people discovering bacteria all the time and always thinking they're important and they're just, you know, harmless. So for the 12 months I had this frustrating time of some enthusiastic groups around the world - and I'd actually spoken also to some of the top gastroenterologists in Europe, who were pretty excited about it."

    So as early as 1983, the theory had enthusiastic support from groups in England, and Australia, and Europe.   However, there was a history of similar claims in gastroenterology which was a reason for substantial skepticism about the hypothesis.

    Despite that, we read later:

    "And when I went over there [to the USA] I assumed that everybody would be on board with this thing, but, of course, they were totally sceptical in the States and I had to really step back a couple of years and repeat all the work that I'd done in Australia back in the US, plus get my doctor's ticket over there, a lot of exams and things to do. So it took another three or four years after that before people in the US started becoming excited and we had some diagnostic things coming on the market in the United States which meant that I didn't have to have a private practice, I could stay in research once again. And it was about 1993, '94, that we had respectable treatments and good data in the United States, and at that point the authorities over there put their imprimatur on it.

    So internationally it was accepted after about 1990, but people didn't have a good treatment for it, so a lot of patients had to stay on the old medicine. Then by '94 the Americans signed off on it and everybody was interested in the bacteria after that, it was totally respectable."

    So, acceptance was near universal by 1990, except to some residual rejection in the US based simply on US chauvinism.  Further, in 1990 they did not have a treatment but by 1994, when they did acceptance was effectively universal.

    All of this agrees with Orac when he says:

    "By 1992, multiple studies had been published establishing the causative role of H. pylori in peptic ulcer disease, and medical practice rapidly changed. That’s less than ten years, which, given how long it takes to organize and carry out clinical trials, is amazingly fast. Yet somehow a favorite denialist myth is that “dogmatic,” “close-minded” scientists refused to accept Marshall and Warren’s findings. It’s an example of a scientific consensus that deserved to be questioned, was questioned in the right way, and was overthrown"

    A statement you reject as false.  You have made no acknowledgement of your error, nor apology for it.  Nor have you apologized for quoting wikipedia in a way that suggests Marshall's comments about the level of rejection in 1984 applied in 1998.  Nor acknowledged that there was an element of hyperbole in Marshall's comment that you indirectly quoted, as shown by groups he mentions as supporting him in 1983.

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  23. Rob Honeycutt @70, the parallels are even closer.  H pylori had been identified (although not by that name) by a number of researchers prior to Warren and Marshall.  Wikipedia summarizes the history:

    "Previous to the research of Marshall and Warren, German scientists found spiral-shaped bacteria in the lining of the human stomach in 1875, but they were unable to culture them, and the results were eventually forgotten. The Italian researcher Giulio Bizzozero described similarly shaped bacteria living in the acidic environment of the stomach of dogs in 1893. Professor Walery Jaworski of the Jagiellonian University in Kraków investigated sediments of gastric washings obtained from humans in 1899. Among some rod-like bacteria, he also found bacteria with a characteristic spiral shape, which he called Vibrio rugula. He was the first to suggest a possible role of this organism in the pathogenesis of gastric diseases. This work was included in the Handbook of Gastric Diseases, but it had little impact, as it was written in Polish. Several small studies conducted in the early 20th century demonstrated the presence of curved rods in the stomach of many patients with peptic ulcers and stomach cancer. Interest in the bacteria waned, however, when an American study published in 1954 failed to observe the bacteria in 1180 stomach biopsies."

    Marshall and Warren (1984) draw particular attention to Freedman and Barron (1940), which is analogous to Arrhenius (1896) in the history of climate science.  The interest in the connection between those spirochetes and ulcers was quashed by Palmer (1954), "Investigation of the gastric spirochaetes of the human".  He failed to find the spirochaetes, thus damping interest in the theory and delaying the proper treatment of ulcers by 30-40 years.  In the analogy, he is a clear parallel to Angstrom (1900).

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  24. I would further add that the rapidity  by which the matthews original paper was cited after publishing and the number of cites doesnt fit well with the portrayal as an ignored Galileo.

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  25. One thing I've learned by debating science with trolls is that they also can vary their technique. For example arguing the same old trolling points by first adding a disclaimer such as "this is not m opinion but that of some people I've talked to." Then proceed on mildly defending the trolling points, which the reality based contributors will throroughly beat into the nonsensical pulp that they were in the beginning. Then move on to the next distraction without any acknowledgment of the thickness of the pulp mentioned earlier. Sounds familiar?

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  26. @60 ashton

    Again...the ulcer "analogy" fails totally as an analogy to denial as no one in the world denied ulcers existed. It is simply a totally false analogy if applied to denialism.

    If applied to the well-there-must-be another-mechanism, first, ashton will have to agree that warming is occurring right now at an accelerated rate compared to past eras. Second, ashton will need to cite some mechanism which BOTH negates the known CO2 warming effects AND substitutes its own effects to create the magnitude of warming we see. Third, ashton will need to show why this causative factor is only acting at an accelerated rate here and now and not in the past. This all violates parsimony pretty seriously though in principle the necessary epicycles could be the case. Ashton has provided no evidence whatever the said mechanism might be, however.

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