Uncritical thinking kills

By Phil Plait | September 11, 2008 7:30 pm

When I saw this website, I laughed. I couldn’t help it; it’s a funny idea.

That webcam site is a joke. It’s not real, it’s a satire on people who think the LHC would cause the end of the world. I laughed when I saw it.

But I’m not laughing now.

In India the other day, a young girl, distraught with fear that the world was ending when the LHC turned on, killed herself. She died, because she didn’t understand the truth.

Now that site is less funny, isn’t it? All over the world, in all different countries, people are raised to believe in superstitious nonsense, and raised to believe with all their hearts that it’s real.

And when we do that, we do far more than remove people from reality. We leave them vulnerable to all manners of nonsense, from believing in fairies to truly and honestly thinking the LHC will destroy the planet. People don’t learn how to think critically, and then they drink homeopathic water instead of taking real medicine, they chelate their children, or they deny their children vaccinations. And when that happens, people die. Children die.

I’m a parent. I sometimes think the most important thing I can do for my daughter is love her, keep her healthy, protect her. But in all of those, there is an overarching responsibility for me to teach her how to live in the real world. And that means showing her how to think. Not what to think, but how.

Question authority. Be skeptical of claims. Ask for evidence. Apply good logic. Avoid bad logic. Analyze the results. Look for bias.

And doubt. Doubt doubt doubt. It’s one of the greatest strengths of the human mind, and perhaps the least used of all.

There is plenty of blame to lay for the death of one young girl. We can blame the crackpots promulgating the LHC = death garbage. We can blame the culture she was raised in, where superstition can be treated like natural law — much like every culture across the planet. We can blame the media, for choosing to focus on the nonsense instead of the tremendous and wonderful and awe-inspiring inquiry into nature the LHC is performing. We can blame the schools, the environment, the world itself.

But the blame lies in us. Too many people choose not to think. But our technology, our society, our impact is vast, and now, today, in this world, that choice is one we can no longer afford.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Antiscience, Piece of mind, Skepticism

Comments (138)

  1. Todd W.

    Yikes! I’m always taken aback when I hear something like this. It just boggles my mind.

    One note, though. While I agree that we need to doubt, we need to know when it is appropriate to doubt, and realize that it is possible to doubt too much. I guess you cover that with the “Avoid bad logic” bit, but being able to recognize that line, I feel, is a very important part of critical thinking.

    Thanks for sharing that news.

  2. riki

    I remember this news report from India a few months back

    Dozens blinded in India looking for Virgin Mary
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1581424/Dozens-blinded-in-India-looking-for-Virgin-Mary.html

  3. Andy

    “Her father, identified on local television as Biharilal, said that his daughter, Chayya, killed herself after watching doomsday predictions made on Indian news programs.”

    I remember a lady who blamed D&D for her son’s suicide…

    *My* critical thinking makes me question if there is more to this story (and suspect that there is). Far too often we look for scapegoats. In this case, those scapegoats are fear mongering media and superstitious society. Whereas I have no doubt those things could have played a roll, I’m certain they did not *cause* her suicide all on their own. If that were the case, logic tells us we would see many more suicides along these lines.

    More likely, she was a troubled girl and would have attempted to kill herself; HLC doomsayers or no.

    As for the parenting thing…

    I have a lot of views on this, and it is a particularly touchy subject for me. It’s a rather emotional one, too. BUT, it’s a very important one.

    I’d very much like to talk to you about, Phil. I think I need to try to collect my thoughts, see if I can draft an email; and send it to you. I know you get a ton of email, though; so is there anyway I could send you something that wouldn’t necessarily slip through the cracks?

  4. While this suicide, like any suicide is a tragedy, and my heart goes out to the family of this young girl, it is likely that there was more going on in her life that led to this. As one who has dealt with clinical depression in my own life for most of my adult life, and, yes, almost getting to that point myself (thankfully, because of medication, my depression is in remission), I can surmise that there were probably other things going on that led to this, and this was the thing that took her to the breaking point. I would be interested to know if the family missed any of the classic symptoms of depression. Sadly, depression and mental illness are still very misunderstood. This is especially true in various faith communities. It is too easy to attribute depression and mental illness to imaginary demons or proclaim it to be the result of sin in the persons life. Like Andy, I believe that blaming the media for this is a scapegoat, and, more than likely if it wasn’t this that pushed this poor girl over the edge, it would have been something else. I guess for me, I find it important to tell people to be aware of the warning signs of depression. Maybe if those signs had been picked up on, this girl would still be alive today.

  5. bjn

    We can blame one person’s stupidity or, more likely, mental illness in this case. There are millions of misguided notions out there and it takes a vulnerable mind to focus on one hypothetical fear and work that into an act of suicide.

    Once again you’re peddling absolute surety that the LHC poses zero potential threat in terms of stranglets and black hole creation. Hawking radiation hasn’t been observed in nature. The LHC would be a grand failure if it didn’t turn up anything new. The possibility for disaster is vanishingly small according to the folks who do high energy physics, but its not zero. I agree with you about maintaining a healthy doubt. Einstein was wrong about the cosmological constant and about quantum mechanics so we mental mortals have to do the best we can when weighing debates that started within the physics communitiy. I just don’t see you owning any doubt – even if it’s miniscule – about LHC risks. Absolutism isn’t skeptical and it isn’t rational.

  6. riki

    This one’s even hosted by Discover Magazine

    Nevermind The Black Hole Hoopla: Here’s How the LHC Could Blow Up the World (of Physics)
    http://discovermagazine.com/2008/sep/10-heres-how-the-lhc-could-blow-up-the-world

  7. Olive

    The website is still funny to me, but I suppose suicide juxtaposed with pretty much anything puts me out of a laughing mood.

    Pseudoscience kills a lot of people in a lot of ways, but this doesn’t strike me as one of them. This suicide is a sad, common story, and I think intentional suicide triggered by true or false beliefs has more to do with mental health service availability and stigma that it does with the belief itself.

  8. Viewer3

    But reality sucks.

    Actually there are people who kill themselves for far more nonsensical things. Some internet tough guys even go so far as to applauding it, claiming that such brainless people need to be “removed from the gene pool”.

    The sad fact is that most people are gullible, impressionable, and easily influenced by their environment and peers. I was sitting at a table the other day and someone says “So check this out, now Obama supports [some extreme tax increase on the lower and middle class]”. Everyone around the table shakes their head in disgust, and even though they were all technically “undecided voters”, they didn’t think twice about believing it.

    “…You all know that’s not true, right?” I said. But the point had been made. If they hear it from a peer, they don’t bother to question it. If someone says it in a convincing way, as though they heard it from a factual source, they’ll believe anything. People are easily fooled. They don’t care about finding the truth for themselves. They don’t say “Hmm, maybe I should either check up on that before believing it, or just not form an opinion either way since I’m not sure”. They want reality spoonfed to them, and most times what they’re being fed is not the truth at all. But they believe it anyway.

    Seemingly completely off topic, but somehow relevant in some small way… I think at least. As for whose fault it is and what makes people that way, I’ll leave that debate for everyone else.

  9. John

    I’m going to go ahead and armchair diagnose this poor girl with something other than gullibility and/or lack of critical thinking. Seems to me much more likely she was already suffering from a mental illness or some form of depression.

  10. I posted this story about 24 hours ago to the Physics community on LiveJournal. Most of those who commented agreed that it’s likely that she killed herself for other reasons and, like rock music or video games or role-playing games, the LHC just got the blame.

  11. Robert Krendik

    But you have to realize, everyone is controled, exept the ones who know this fact. We are controlled by goverment, religion and orginizations, all forms of control. Once we control the masses, we pretty much rule the world, everything is about control. And fear is one of the main sources of control. We have to realize that the contoled are hopeless, we have to fight for control, the intelligent should rule the goverment, democracy won’t work due to the people being controlled. In a sence, it is a dictatorship. I agree that the elite should rule the world, but first we have to gain control ourselves.

    Have I said control enough times?

  12. Whether or not she killed herself for other reasons, if this was the straw that broke the camels back, it is still misinformation that contributed to a tragic event. Everytime we can avert superstition and paranoia in the world or educate just one person about one thing the dont understand, that is one more straw removed from someone’s load.

    Every.Straw.Counts.

    Educate people about roleplaying and they wont blame it for suicides, and they will see it as a symptom not a cause of the death (ie escapism). Educate people about the LHC and they will realise the world wont end, and that their life might not be completely pointless and the next day not so scarey. Educate people about STUFF and they wont blame THE WRONG THING for their own problems… they will see a scapegoat for what it is and be able to get help in time. This is about empowering people to control their own worlds. Arming them with the right information to make decisions based on fact, not fiction.

    Every comment above mine implies (or outright says) “oh that’s not the LHCs/media/whatevers fault, there were other things involved like her mental state or whatever which had nothing to do with it” I just cant understand that passing the buck attitude. It is the slipperly slope to ambivalence and getting nothing done. It’s hard and it’s wearing, but we skeptical types, us people who bother to learn things should be encouraging everyone we come across to do the same thing.

    I feel it is almost a duty of care to combat this kind of thinking whereever and whenever I see it. I suspect Phil feels the same. WE SHOULD BE DOING MORE TO STOP THIS KIND OF GARBAGE IN THE MEDIA! This girl should not have been scared about the end of the world, her father should know enough to not blame the LHC, Her death should not be a news worthy article!

    GAH!

    *pants*

    ok, I am calmer now :) Sorry Phil, but I really think people missed the point of this post – correct me if I missed it though!!

  13. Um. Are you sure that’s the right URL for the first link? ‘Cause it goes to a pair of webcams looking at the CMS experiment. If that’s a joke, I don’t get it.

  14. Justin V.

    Man, I say just leave those people alone, and let the problem solve itself. That way there will be less mentally challenged people on earth.

  15. I’ve posted about the black hole nonsense, and I just put up a link to the recent post on sciencebasedmedicine.org about impossibility. A relative of mine sent me an email that had multiple FWD: in front of it. It was about a test that can detect ovarian cancer and said that every woman should demand the test be done at every yearly. A quick stop at snopes.com confirmed that this is a bad idea. (My whole post on that here.) I’m really getting fed up with all the woo I see around me, and honestly, I have been posting for the most part skeptic posts. I thank you, Phil. You were me first skeptic blog. :)

  16. John,

    Watch it to the end: it only lasts a short time. The joke becomes obvious.

  17. Awesome stuff.

    And yes, that is the correct link, and yes it is a joke, and a funny one at that – when seen by the people that actually know the black hole idea is stupid.

    We do that same type of jokes with creationism all the time, and yes they are funny.

  18. ccpetersen

    John Armstrong, watch them for a while. You’ll get it.

    We have an election going on in the U.S. and the Republican Party is running a pair of people who will do or say anything to get elected, even lie if need be. One of them is a woman who has just about ZERO credibility or experience in statecraft or much of anything else except being ignorant and greedy. She’s paired with a man who meets every objection to his candidacy with a “did you know I was a POW?” query. And, amazingly, these two fools are polling in the double digits among likely voters. Where is the critical thinking needed to understand that McCain and Palin are an insult to Americans?

    It’s not just scientific stupidity that needs to be fixed; it’s critical thinking about our elected leaders.

  19. Alex Lyman

    @John Armstrong:

    You might want to watch them for about 15 seconds (and, yes, it’s totally a joke)

  20. Olive

    I want to be clear that this isn’t about failing to care about pseudoscience causing a 1% contribution to this sad event. This is about a 0%, an absolutely nothing, a firm belief that exactly the same number of people would have died after hearing a bizarre story if we had a perfect LHC campaign. Those guys have a million nutty ideas in the pipeline and the problem is not even remotely this specific story. I have no earthly idea whether a culture of bad beliefs contributes to a higher suicide rate (my guess is no, with the exception of bad beliefs about specific people- that homosexuality is an immoral impulse, say), but I suspect very, very strongly that this particular bad belief didn’t change a thing.

    Pseudoscience contributes to death by convincing people to injure themselves unintentionally, and I think putting suicide on the list as well is at best highly speculative and at worst a flat out lie and smear attack. The benefits of good science are enough without unsupportedly tarring the other side.

  21. I snorted mildly when I saw the link’s video. Not particularly funny to me as it only serves to illustrate more of the ignorance I’ve sworn myself to fight. I knew immediately that it was a joke and all, I just didn’t think it was very funny.

    Then I read further and saw that a girl has died over it all.
    Sad.
    I hope she’s the only casualty.
    Rich

  22. Gail,

    While you are correct in what you say, I think the more important thing in this particular case is getting the message out about mental illness, and teaching people to recognize the signs that something is seriously wrong. Yes, it is also important to combat the stupidity that the media presents sometimes, but if she was mentally ill, it may have been something else that would have led to this tragic death.

  23. ABC123

    Out of a world of 6 billion people, only one person decides to commit suicide because they think the LHC is going to destroy the world. I call that impressive.

  24. Once again you’re peddling absolute surety that the LHC poses zero potential threat

    Nonsense. There comes a point, however, when a chance becomes so small that it becomes essentially zero, which is where the LHC stands.

    Hawking radiation hasn’t been observed in nature.

    Neither have strangelets or microscopic black holes.

    The LHC would be a grand failure if it didn’t turn up anything new.

    …And?

    The possibility for disaster is vanishingly small according to the folks who do high energy physics, but its not zero.

    See above, and welcome to reality, where anything that’s not forbidden by logic or physical law is possible even if very, very improbable. I’m going to guess you don’t spend your days worrying about flaming cows falling on your head, however.

    *pauses, then glances up*

  25. This is rich, Phil exhorting us to doubt wild speculations. Phil, congratulations, you have discovered irony.

    It’s kind of stupid to kill yourself out of fear that you will be die when the world ends. Stupidity is often fatal. Still, her suffering is over. But think of the dozens of people who failed to die in car accidents because they were praying in temples instead. Probably they outnumber the ones who died in car accidents on the way there.

  26. IAmMarauder

    @Gail,

    I agree, even if it was not the actual cause of her suicide, it was obviously enough of a concern that her parents noticed and tried to help her.

    As for critical thinking: I could probably go on a rant about the lack of it in this world, but it has been a mentally draining and frustrating week at work.

    Another place to look for examples of where critical thinking could have stopped injury or death is the “What’s the harm” section of the Skeptic’s Dictionary site ( http://www.skepdic.com/refuge/harmarchive.html ).

  27. Badger3k

    I didn’t see this myself, but we had our first science club meeting today and some of the other teachers said they had to talk down panicked kids who thought the world was going to end because of this. I’d like to meet the F’ing lunatics who promote this garbage in newspapers and on TV and show them the results of their handiwork, especially now that they’ve been proven to be wrong. But I’m sure they just move the date for the world to end, just like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and Hal Lindsey.

    Brainless Twits.

  28. @Michael L
    I totally agree with you in that we need to promote the real reasons (I totally understand how insidious depression can be and how easy it is to miss the signs, but that is going off track). But I think both are equally important and go hand in hand.

    Fight the woo – remove the triggers, remove the fiction
    Promote the science – find the real reasons things happen, learn the facts

    I was concerned that people may have missed the point of the post – which was the former of the above points, not the latter. The latter is a COMPLETELY different topic and all kinds of cool things which we need to do (YAY Science Communication!! Yes, I do it hehehe)

    This could have been about any topic where something tragic happened because someone did not understand… and where it would have been relatively EASY to stop the perpetration of misinformation which contributed to a tragedy. This was such a situation about a very simple topic with some very basic, willfully misquoted facts.

    I hope I am making sense – and I am by no means trying to belittle promotion of fact, just trying to highlight fighting the woo.

  29. gopher65

    It sounds cold, and it is, but “evolution in progress”. This is the mechanism by which religious thinking will be removed from the world. Sad for the individuals involved, but good for the species as a whole.

    I’m not inclined to cry when a weak person kills themselves before they have a chance to breed.

  30. Robin

    Badger3k,
    I predict the date for the end of the world will now be when they start the actual colliding, which apparently is near election day.

    Gail,
    Totally agree. We must educate as many people as possible regarding superstitions and stigmas. There are too many lives at risk.

    Michael L,
    My favorite is when a Christian told me I had to get right with God if I wanted to rid myself of BP. Well then, why don’t I just stop the meds and take that risk of ending up a story on Nancy Grace.

    Which brings us to the media,
    I don’t think they are blameless or scapegoats. Many choose to report on the sensational instead of the facts or science. It is what sells. Who cares if it harms someone?

  31. We can blame the culture she was raised in, where superstition can be treated like natural law

    Brings up one of my favorite quotes:
    I find it necessary to remind myself firmly that the customs of my own tribe are not the laws of nature.
    -Robert A. Heinlein
    from Tramp Royale

    J/P=?

  32. Gail,
    I totally agree with you. Fighting the woo is a vital necessity today. It amazes me that with the amount of knowledge available, people will still believe nonsense. Keep up the good fight, Gail!

  33. baryogenesis

    This is going to be tough, considering the time and the alcohol. I had a friend who was into woo and reinforced another mutual acquaintance who believed in some version of the WORLD-WIDE CONSPIRACY, was convinced that he had been “bar-coded” on his arm, began to carve chunks out of his arm, put them in a freezer, stopped by his parents’ condo and dove off the balcony to his demise. I won’t talk to my long-time friend anymore. I just can’t. I don’t want to accuse him of being party to this ( for listening to years of Art Bell and Geo. Nouri and seeing UFO’s flashing overhead—if they only knew of the consequences) as he’s hurting about the suicide of his friend. Life’s complexities, eh? Please continue to educate your mates in the ways of critical thinking.

  34. Nathan,
    I don’t think it’s fair to call this young girl stupid. She was obviously dealing with other issues in her life. The fact that someone committed suicide because of a mental illness does not mean they were stupid. This young girl was obviously sick and in need of treatment. Unfortunately she did not get that treatment in time.

  35. Robin,
    You should hear what I was told during my years in church… My depression was the result of some hidden sin, I didn’t have enough faith, I was demon possessed, I didn’t have a right relationship with God. The nonsense that these religious people propagate is unbelievable. Hopefully through people like Phil and others they will get the message.

  36. Here is another example of superstition and flawed syllogistic reasoning:

    Fan death is a South Korean urban legend which states that an electric fan, if left running overnight in a closed room, can cause the death (by suffocation, poisoning, or hypothermia) of those inside. Fans manufactured and sold in Korea are equipped with a timer switch that turns them off after a set number of minutes, which users are frequently urged to set when going to sleep with a fan on. […]

    Click on my name to read the rest of the article.

  37. JSco

    My 8 year old nephew was freaked out by the black hole nonscence. It was started by the TV here focussing on the doom and then worsened by other kids at school who naturally for their age carried on on that theme without anyone around giving them any other facts. I was lucky enough to work part of my PhD on the CMS experminent a few years ago so I gave him a call to put his mind at rest. The great thing is he didn’t even ask about the end of the world. He was more interested in how small and fast the particles are and asked some *great* questions about where the new particles come from. It’s such a shame that all that inquisitivness has been hijacked by the hysteria-mongers.

  38. Kids and the emotionally unstable have enough to worry about with the real problems in the world without the clueless twits becoming hysterical about things, like the LHC, where there is no risk whatsoever. Unfortunately I know of kids that were terrified of things like chemical bombs during the first gulf war, for example, because hysterical nut-cases ran to army disposal stores trying to buy up gas masks.

    Also reminds me about when I was a kid the nuns used to terrify us little 8 year olds with how when the communists come we’d be the first put up against the wall because we were Catholic. Dear old things the nuns were.

  39. Troy

    I have to wonder why committ suicide? Why not wait for the black hole to kill you? It would be a more interesting way to go. I suspect that others who made the connection that a grieving parent will grab at the nearest thing and blame that is right on. Someone mentioned D&D…I suspect many of the D&D suicides were parents taking away their teen’s obsession especially when their fundi preachers told them it was b-a-d. Reminds me before the atomic bombs some speculated that it would be hot enough to ignite the Nitrogen in the atmosphere with globally catostrophic results. Of course that never happened, but we should be vigilant because what you don’t know can hurt you. At any rate it seems any black holes produced would be of the microscopic variety and as Mr. Hawking has shown us these dissipate over time.

  40. Pirx

    “In India the other day, a young girl, distraught with fear that the world was ending when the LHC turned on, killed herself. She died, because she didn’t understand the truth.”
    “And doubt. Doubt doubt doubt. It’s one of the greatest strengths of the human mind, and perhaps the least used of all. ”

    Sorry, BA, but it seems to me that this second quote applies to you as well here.

  41. Jim1138

    Is science about to be curtailed to prevent people from fearing the unknown? I can see the lawsuits now. “If you launch that probe to Mercury, we might see some alien creature and that will scare us / interfere with our religious beliefs / cause mass suicides”.

    That Indian adolescent was from Bhopal. In 1984 a pesticide plant released 40 tons of methyl isocyanate killing upwards of 20,000 people and permanently injuring 100,000. If she was born and raised in Bhopal, who knows what condition she was in. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhopal_disaster

  42. I have no idea how the Sept. 10 LHC event has been covered by the media in the US, how it was covered in India and if that girl had access to information sources.
    I know that where I’m from, aside from the public national TV network all of the other TV stations (all of them private) and 90% of the papers prepared the event and showed the stories with a serious emphasys on ‘the end of the world’ experiment hysteria. All of it so that they get ratings, audiences and sales to the max possible. Period. The information itself, plain, accurate and objective regarding the event came second. Or third.
    On the top of that, as it is an election year, a handful of politicians (i.e. individuals that are or desire to be involved in the decision making process regarding an entire country, something that requires reason, openness, judgement), politicians whose spokesmen proved to be utter gullible imbecils and ignorants (I am not exagerating) have staged a meeting against the ‘Sept. 10 CERN LHC experiment’. There has never been programmed an experiment on Sept. 10. Just a start-up test.
    All I can say is frack’em all. All of the above.

  43. What do you mean Pirx?

  44. Tim G

    I’m a parent. I sometimes think the most important thing I can do for my daughter is love her, keep her healthy, protect her. But in all of those, there is an overarching responsibility for me to teach her how to live in the real world. And that means showing her how to think. Not what to think, but how.

    Anddon’t tell her she’s smart.

    A philosophy, such as the self-esteem movement, can have a basis that is reasonable but not scientific. In a review of that movement, a team lead by a then-proponent of the self-esteem movement found that only 200 of 15,000 studies on the subject met their scientific standards. The remaining 200 studies had led him to change his mind about the self-esteem movement and he is now a critic.

    Child developmental psychology is a field that usually concentrates on subjective matters. As such, a culture in the field has developed in which practitioners may often be ill-equipped to analyze information objectively, though they may excel at organizing. Results occasionally have been disastrous with children turned into ouija boards due to a lack of a critical look at facilitated communication. A push toward objective bases for philosophies may transform the field into a more reliable discipline.

    By the way, the dates on those LHC webcams are fixed at 2008-09-10, thus diluting the joke.

  45. One of your best posts ever, Phil.

  46. Mike G

    If one were being a tad more cynical, you could easily say that from the media’s point of view, a potential world ending event by mad misguided over-funded physicists has the potential to sell more papers/ attract more ratings / gather more hits, than an experiment which deals with a subject that is at best head scratchingly impenetrable to the man on the street.
    Most of the interviews I heard with LHC scientists on the radio, were conducted in a fairly patronizing “you’re a mad scientist but we’re going to humor you” manner, by overly self important “journalists” who were more interested in pedalling their own wit and personality than trying to obtain information that would be truly enlightening to the public.
    There was even an interview with a chap from The Daily Mirror (UK) who insisted they were going to put it all in terms that the average man on the street could understand. He then said that this “Black Matter” (to which he was corrected to Dark Matter by the presenter) would be referred to as cosmic glue!
    All I can say is Lord (skepticism permitting) help us all!

  47. Floyd

    I think this poor girl as many others in India, knew she was going to be married against her will, sold to the groom’s family. Doomsday is just the parents’ excuse.
    Anyway, ignorance always underlies this sort of events.

  48. andy

    A short cartoon I made about the whole doom-mongering thing: The End of the World?

  49. Mark

    “Think of it, as evolution in action” (Niven / Pournelle)

    Average human intelligence goes *up* a fraction of a percentile.

    When stupid people remove themselves from the gene pool – humanity wins in the long run.

    Harsh? So is nature.

  50. Lawrence

    I’m sure Pirx means that BA should “doubt” the safety of the LHC. Honestly, you would think there are enough real problems in the world for people to worry about (forclosures, a horrible economy, starvation, dictators, climate change, war etc, etc, etc.) that we should be worrying about – instead, we spend our time and energy arguing about stuff like this.

    It saddens me that we’ve been reduced to chasing the next sound-byte, getting our news and opinions from forwarded emails & there seems to be a complete lack of rational thought going on in the general population.

    Oh well, once again ignorance has triumphed.

  51. According to other accounts, as the girl was dying she told a police officer that she did not want to see all the people and things she loved destroyed by the LHC. It was fear, induced by irresponsible reporting on the part of the media.

    In other places I have seen reports of children frightened by this. The trouble is children are so easy to get taken in as this unbelieveable case shows.

  52. Pirx

    @ Shane, Lawrence:
    No, Lawrence, that’s not at all what I wanted to say. I thought the two quotes speak for themselves, apologies for that. The credibility of the reported story is highly dubious, for several reasons – some of them have been pointed out by other commenters. Yet, the BA reports it as if it was plain fact. In light of this, I found his statement I cited in my second quote to be particularly ironic.

  53. I agree with the majority of your post, Phil. It does suck, and everyone has some small responsibility to bear (although I blame the fearmongerers and news agencies way more than us).

    However, I do have one problem with your statements – the mock-webcam is still funny. I refuse to reduce my enjoyment of obvious, funny, clever satire because of how anyone else acts.

  54. Al

    I am praying for that girl through my god and hers.

    Being the son of someone who tried to commit suicide, I would not be surprised however to find that there was a lot more to that story and that her father – especially and Indian father, actually had no idea of what was really troubling his daughter. People in pain quite regularly lash out at the first or biggest target they can hit.
    I know my mother quite regularly interpreted my behaviour through her paradigms and I would just think “Oh Mum, that’s so far off”.
    I wish the media would report the whole and accurate story – there’s no reason to worry for quite a while – unless they get there calculations and experience wrong and accidentally collide when testing it in one way mode !

  55. amphiox

    With regards to the comments on “zero” risk. It is my understanding that in quantum mechanics, NOTHING has “zero” probability. There is a vanishingly small chance that all the protons in my body will spontaneously decay right this moment, for example.

    With regards to the “evolution in action” comments. Perhaps. But I see this more as cultural rather than biological evolution leading to tragedy. And cultural evolution can be intelligently directed. So let us start directing it a little more intelligently?

  56. Grand Lunar

    I’ve pointed out this story to others at IMDb that spew this nonsense about the LHC causing the end of the world, LHC=end of world in 2012, LHC=evil scientists, ect.

    While we can’t really know if any other factors effected the girl’s life, it can be said with some certainty that this was the trigger.

    As you also point out Phil, this is another example of how dangerous uncritical thinking can be.

  57. Grand Lunar

    @Robert Krendik ,

    “But you have to realize, everyone is controled, exept the ones who know this fact. We are controlled by goverment, religion and orginizations, all forms of control.”

    Please define “control” in this context.

  58. Michelle

    VERY funny webcam thing.

    As for the lady, I’m sorry but we’re all masters of our own faith. If she killed herself in hysteria from her lack of critical thinking… I have troubles feeling pain for her.

    Mean? Maybe. But I don’t fake it.

    Sure looks like the religious temples must be happy right now

  59. Killing yourself to avoid getting killed is beyond stupid. I suspect the real reason for the girl’s suicide was that she was …. suicidal. The LHC can probably ble blamed for it, in the same way that Marylin Manson can be blamed for the war on terror.

  60. Kaulab

    I am from India, and you will be surprised how some of the TV channels, Like IndiaTV, Aaj Tak etc. have on regular basis spread this end of the world rumour.

  61. Sadly, where I live, that sort of superstitious mentality also seems to run rampant. Maybe not to the point of killing yourself over the LHC turning on, but they will spend all night up praying for it not o happen (so, of course when they make it through the night, they have undeniable proof of prayer…).

  62. Megan

    A sad story, but not sure if you can blame superstitions for a suicide — typically mental illness is the major scientific reason for suicidal behavior.

  63. Greg

    As if the measles outbreaks weren’t enough demonstration that uncritical thinking kills.

  64. I was going to say we are also discussing this here but the trackback has already mentioned this with my sig unfortunately being displayed.

  65. Six billion people. Something on the order of 100 Million will die this year from all causes.

    One was found who might (might!) have killed herself because of seeing something hysterical about the LHC.

    If we search really hard I’m sure we can find many who killed themselves after seeing Bambi. And don’t even get me started about how many must be killing themselves every day for fear they’ll be roasted alive or drowned any day by global warming and the collapse of the ice sheets.

  66. DaveR

    @bjn

    If the LHC failed to find anything new, it would not, in fact, be considered a failure. What it would do was tell us that our current predictions are wrong, which means our current theories are wrong. This would be of huge benefit to physics.

    Proving a theory wrong is as important, if not more important, as finding evidence to support an existing theory. That is why science works.

  67. Darth Curt

    I find the webcam thing hilarious, just as I thought the Google logo that day was amusing. Of course the LHC isn’t going to end the world… mainly because I don’t recall the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse being War, Pestilence, Famine, and LHC. You see? Even religion will show that the LHC is safe.

  68. Larry

    Sorry, but I have to call this one busted. LHC was a convenient excuse for her father to blame simply because it was in the news and he was grief-stricken or was looking for a scapegoat for his own actions. This girl was suffering from some other unknown mental problems of which her family was either unaware, unable to address, or simply willfully blind to. Whatever her state of mind, she could have pulled the metaphorical trigger because a cat wandered past her front door, the lentils were undercooked, or any one of a thousand other reasons.

    The real issue here regarding uncritical thinking is people picking up a story like this and taking it at face value without really knowing was was going on.

  69. When I was younger, I always wondered why people would go on about things kruptin the yunglingz. Now as a parent I’m extra-aware of all the things that are fighting for a place in my child’s mind. The only thing that separates me from them is that they fight it by giving their child the “right” things to think, and I fight it by helping my child see for himself why he thinks the way he does. Granted, he’s only 2, so this mostly consists of me saying “why are you yelling? nobody can understand you if you don’t use words”, but reading stories like this helps me develope a method of parenting I was never exposed to in my Christian home, before he reaches his critical preschool years.

  70. Mark & Others of the same mindset:

    Let’s see if you have the same attitude if it was your child.

  71. “But the blame lies in us. Too many people choose not to think.” To me, this is a subtle indictment of the girl while still being nice about it, and it is correct. Obviously the girl was already unbalanced, and she should have thought more critically. Maybe if she lived in an enlightened country, she would have, I don’t know. As others have said, this seems to have been the final straw, but it was a straw that need not have been put on the camel’s back in the first place. I think that was the point.

    And for those of you with the appalling attitude that certain people that have no feeling or pity for people who die aren’t as smart or privileged as you, please think about how you would feel if your mother, father, brother, or sister was killed by something like homeopathy or took their own life due to a fear of the world ending, and someone told you that it was good, because it meant humanity’s IQ just fractionally went up a notch.

    Nature is harsh, yes. Nature can’t feel, but we can. We should. It is what makes us.

  72. The person that created the webcam page, Cyriak, is a very talented animator with a warped imagination – just look at this Animation Mix set to music on their front page: http://www.cyriak.co.uk/animix.html (embedded YouTube with music)

  73. Chris A.

    Many of the comments on this post make we wonder: How can we hold accountable people who make apocalyptic claims after they have (inevitably) been proven wrong? Misguided hand-wringers and con artists have been predicting (and profiting from) doomsday scenarios for centuries, if not millennia. So, how do we effectively show them to be the charlatans that they are once their deception has been revealed? Up until now, for the most part, they have been given a pass (e.g. some of the same alarmists shrieking about the LHC made a similar flap over the SLAC). How many times do they get to be wrong before we stand them up in a public forum and give them the intellectual equivalent of a flogging?

  74. Gary Ansorge

    Luddites have been around a LLOOOONNNNGGGG time. They’ll STILL be around when we’ve conquered aging, death from disease, are able to resurrect the dead and travel to the stars. We won’t be rid of that mind set until the species has matured enough that thinking is no longer a painful undertaking by the majority of humans.

    Depression is caused by a neurochemical imbalance, usually genetic in origin and often associated with exceptional accomplishment(See: Hemmingway, etc).
    My brother has been so afflicted since his teen years, yet he is an accomplished engineer/scientist, poet, writer. He’s just so bloody stubborn he never gave up. Those who fall by the wayside might be called weak or we might, in compassion, realize they just didn’t have anyone around who recognized they had a real problem and needed help. Most suicidal people can be saved, if they receive appropriate medical care. It has little to do with woo-wooism or poor cognitive skills. If you have never experienced a sense of overwhelming worthlessness, self deprecation and uselessness then you have nothing to say to those afflicted with clinical depression. Since so many really accomplished people seem prone to depression, I have to wonder if it’s a side effect of neuronal development, as in evolution pushing the intellectual envelope and those who experience depression are the side effects of that.

    Placing blame for this child’s demise is what humans do. If it wasn’t the LHC, it would be a sorcerer or a bee sting or,,,something,,,because no one wants to believe there was NO REASON at all. It’s just the nature of chaos,,,sometimes, s**t happens,,,

    BJN: If you drive a car, your chance of dying is 1 in about 55,000. If you fly, it’s about 1 in 4 million. The chance that the world will end because of the LHC is maybe 1 in 10^10^10^10^10, which is probably less than the probablity that all the protons in your body will go “poof”.

    In quantum mechanics, we deal in probabilities, but beyond a certain point, we have to recognize, the probabilities are essentially zero. That doesn’t mean they’re really zero. It just means they might as well be, because this universe isn’t going to be around long enough for it to happen,,,

    GAry 7

  75. M

    For a person without a physics background how quickly would a black hole expand if we were able to create a large enough one? I know that the LHC will not do this, I am just curious if the web cam photos would be accurate if a black hole was created. I somehow expected that it would be increasing in size at a speed closer to the speed of light. I do not know why I think.

  76. M

    Oops. I left the word “this” off the end of my last sentence. I do know why I think!

  77. James

    Phil,

    I don’t see how superstition is to blame for the LHC. What I see here is a problem of ignorance and this I mean the classic definition, not stupidity. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge. It simply means that a person hasn’t learned something, not that they can’t.

    The unfortunate girl died for lack of knowledge about quantum physics. I don’t know many people who are actually knowledgeable on that subject. It’s a shame that her emotions got the better of her before she could get the proper information from a reputable source. Also I believe this would be a sign that she had emotional problems before the LHC was even constructed. Comment-ors shouldn’t hate her, but pity her. She simply didn’t have access to good information.

  78. You don’t need to go to India for a story like this. In the U.S., literally (by which I mean, you know, literally) thousands of young men and women have gone to their deaths, and more to dismemberment, in Iraq over the superstition that someone there was involved in destroying buildings in New York; not incidentally, they have caused the deaths of (literally, again) hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.

    Many, many millions more voted for a pair of sociopaths fronting a band of criminals who have instituted systematic torture and domestic surveillance in the U.S.; most will vote the same way again (different sociopaths, same criminals). Thousands of people in small towns fear their town hall will be blown up by the 7-11 clerk. Millions believe having their shoes x-rayed makes flying safer.

    Meanwhile, Phil believes so strongly in his every unfounded assumption that he insists that any big release of energy must necessarily involve a “black hole”, and that anybody who doesn’t believe precisely as he does is an “anti-scientist”. At least he’s not pretending to be a real scientist any more. At least nobody is dying over his superstitions.

  79. She killed herself because she thought the LHC was going to destroy the Earth and kill her…?

    It takes quite a lot of brainwashing (or other forms of brain damage, including chemical imbalances) to get a person to kill themselves, so I’d say it wasn’t the LHC-fearmongering per-se. Maybe she was clinically depressed? Maybe she had some other mental illness? Or maybe her brain has indeed been scrubbed completely of the last trace of logic and ability to think that the LHC story made her panic. In any case, SOMEone’s uncritical thinking has probably contributed to her death (be it a non-diagnosis of whatever illness she had or simple lack of the ability to think). It’s not quite on the same level as saying “D&D killed my son”, but if stated uncritically it can come pretty close…

  80. Gary Ansorge:

    Thank you for you response. As I stated clinical depression is something I’m all too familiar with. By reaching out to those around me, I was able to get help. Sadly many do not. Your compassion and understanding is greatly appreciated. From someone who has been there.

  81. Gary Ansorge

    Michael:
    I’ve only experienced that once in my life, for about four hours, but MY brain isn’t wired to stay that way for long. I’m an irretrievable optimist and all I needed was a distraction to break up that depressive incident. Damn, I’m sure glad my mother had the good instinct to bare me by my father. His genes compensated for hers. Unfortunately, as brilliant as my brother’s father was, his (depressive) genes were reinforced by hers.
    Now, if we can just determine which gene complexes are the determinants, we can get to the bottom of the problem and provide real complements, which I expect will derive from stimulating the right complement of proteins to maintain proper neurotransmitter balance. Hey, I AM an optimist. There must be a reason? At least, I hope so,,,

    GAry 7

  82. Gary Ansorge

    M:
    Black holes only expand because there is matter to “feed” them. No matter in their vicinity, means no growth.
    The thing about micro black holes is they’re so bloody SMALL, that even eating a proton would take a really long time, then you would just have a black hole that was a tinnsy bit bigger, because the mass of a proton is very small. It would take a long time for it to grow to the size of a proton. The last size calculations I’ve seen places the size of a micro black hole at about 10^minus 37th power times smaller than a proton, which is about the same ratio as the size of a proton to the size of our galaxy. How long do you think it would take for a proton sized black hole to eat this galaxy, when the central black hole at our galactic core has had many billions of years to do that job and still only masses less than one percent of the galactic mass?

    GAry 7

  83. Gazz

    The worst thing is this scare-mongering was also massively hyped in the mainstream media, all blindly going along with the lie that 10 September could be a disaster, even though they all knew that the LHC was not even going to be performing any collisions at all, but just conducting tests. When CERN are ready to try the first collisions in October, the media can, and most certainly will, scare-monger on the exact same theme all over again. Hopefully this time no-one will be driven to suicidal despair.

  84. C

    “And doubt. Doubt doubt doubt.” Wow. I really wish someone would have told me that when I was growing up. I was told the opposite, over and over. I learned to think critically, but my path to reason was labyrinthine. I was surrounded by fundamentalist crazies… so, I guess I had some critical thinking just naturally in me (otherwise I wouldn’t have thought my way out of their fundamentalist insane asylum world) but it would have made things a lot easier if a responsible adult had guided me with that advice. Good for you, Phil, for raising your daughter with the intent to teach her how to THINK – and therefore, how to thrive in the world.

  85. Jose

    @Nathan Myers

    This is rich, Phil exhorting us to doubt wild speculations. Phil, congratulations, you have discovered irony.

    Woohoo! More vague, unsubstantiated, insults.

    But think of the dozens of people who failed to die in car accidents because they were praying in temples instead. Probably they outnumber the ones who died in car accidents on the way there.

    Finally something I can almost agree with you on! I say almost because I don’t consider not dying in a car accident a failure. That’s considered a success in my parts. But you’re spot on when you say that people praying in churches usually don’t die in car accidents. It perfectly compliments my theory that people climbing mountains are rarely attacked by sharks.

    Meanwhile, Phil believes so strongly in his every unfounded assumption that he insists that any big release of energy must necessarily involve a “black hole”, and that anybody who doesn’t believe precisely as he does is an “anti-scientist”. At least he’s not pretending to be a real scientist any more. At least nobody is dying over his superstitions.

    Where is this coming from? Does your criterion for being a good skeptic involve not making any sense? Where has Phil accused someone of being anti science for not believing big releases of energy aren’t caused by black holes, whatever that means?

  86. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    The possibility for disaster is vanishingly small according to the folks who do high energy physics, but its not zero. I agree with you about maintaining a healthy doubt. Einstein was wrong about the cosmological constant and about quantum mechanics so we mental mortals have to do the best we can when weighing debates that started within the physics communitiy.

    Ironic that comments like these turns up after a post that asks for better critical thinking skills. (Not counting trolls like Nathan Myers, who is simply trying to blather provocatively after their script to get any response – there is no analytic thinking involved at all there, just simple pavlovian reward mechanisms.)

    Facts and theories lives in a world of uncertainty, i.e. are quantified by probabilities. And in real life there is no such thing as absolutely zero probability any more than you observe an infinity.

    False (probability zero) and true (probability one) are unrealistic logic values that doesn’t describe facts as we know them. “Validated beyond reasonable doubt” describes facts, such as the probability that many orders of magnitude higher energy cosmic radiation has been hitting Earth for many orders of magnitude higher fluxes without ill effects.

    Thus these doubts, not based on relevant facts, are unhealthy.

    The last claim is irrelevant, as Einstein tried to account for observed facts (the then observably consistent steady state theory and quantum theory) with hypotheses that weren’t testable at the time, as opposed to statistics of cosmic radiation. (And in the end Einstein was probably shown right about the cosmic constant, i.e. a likely dark energy candidate, and wrong about determinism, by experiments.)

  87. Gary Ansorge

    NAthan Myers:

    At one time black holes were thought to be impossible, because there must be some mechanism to prevent it,,,but the “mechanism” was never satisfactorily delineated. Theorists in those long ago days made extravagant predictions about what kind of energy signatures we should see if black holes were ever detected, then laughed because none such had been seen,,,then when such energy signatures WERE detected, there was a lot of scrambling around, trying to explain it all away. Eventually we came to see that black holes were the best explanation. Neutron stars and giant collapsars just couldn’t cover the bases.

    SO there,,,

    Gary 7

  88. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    even eating a proton would take a really long time

    If you doubt this is possible, how is it there are these PYGMIES + DWARFS scale black holes??

    Even if no one knows exactly how (or if) black holes eventually fizz out, my understanding is that simple extrapolation of earlier Hawking radiation rates means that they will starve exponentially faster than they can hope to eat, as their cross sections for collisions are so damn small at the end. AFAIU it is just if the mechanism of their ending allow them to remain longer (or indefinitely, as Planck scale relics) that they could eat for a “long” time.

  89. MarkQuinn

    I am so pissed by folks who suggest anyone who thinks the LHC will end the world is stupid, not using critical thinking skills, believes in fairy tales, etc. The average person has absolutely no knowledge or understanding of this stuff and all we know we get from the media. What does the media tell us time and time again? That the world might end. So what the hell else are we to think? I mean this goes way beyond the creationism vs. evolution debate. The science behind evolution, at its most basic level, is very easy for the layman to underastand. In fact, it just makes so much sense that you scratch your head in disbelief when you hear about the mind-bogglingly high number of people in the United States who never intellectually venture beyond Genesis. Scopes was understandable, given it’s time frame. Dover, given IT’S timeframe, is nothing short of unforgivable.

    But the confusion over the LHC is neither Scopes nor Dover. The science and equations behind these experiments are astronomically more complex than the principles behind natural selection. So a whole plethora of media outlets are telling us the world might end, but we’re supposed to feel safe and secure because a bunch of scientists tell us it’s okay using numbers and principles that would elude all but the most brilliant minds of our time? I feel rather like I’m at a bank and a masked gunman nudges my cheek with the barrel of his .44 and says “I’m not here to hurt you.” Shame on me and my pitiful critical thinking skills for not resting assured that all will be fine.

    Well, in the end, I DO believe all will be fine. That’s because I trust the scientific method and the men and women who use that tool every day and know far more than I ever will. I get that trust from knowing the principles of natural science and watching as the mindless sheeple all across our country fold their arms and spew religious discontent. I know that here, now, in the case of the LHC, my lack of understanding places me squarely in their ignorant ranks. But can you blame me? Anyone can crack open a biology book and see for themselves just how painfully obvious — and well documented — the evidence is for evolution. By contrast, very few people can scratch the surface of physics, especially at the level these guys are experimenting, and although the results of Mother Nature’s work have been pouring in for four billion years, to my knowledge no one has ever flicked the switch of a Large Hadron Collider before (or, given today’s date, let me rephrase: “and used it to allow particles to smash into each other near the speed of light”)

    So come on, you bunch of elitist geeks, cut the rest of us in the 100 to 130 IQ range some slack. Matt Lauer speaks our language, Hawking doesn’t. It’s a basic human tendency to flock to what we can most easily understand, i.e. “Repent, for the end is near!”

  90. LS

    Just yesterday I had to debunk a LHC-doomsday bit. In the student lounge at my grad school, among a collection of policy and planning students who I generally think are rational people. We’d been talking hurricanes, and from there to natural disasters, and someone said that there had been a large number (5-7?) of large-magnitude earthquakes within a couple hours after the LHC turned on. He added that the LHC “makes black holes” and that was what caused the earthquakes.

    Fortunately, once I explaned that the LHC was only testing, not colliding, they all moved onto other explanations for the earthquakes. But goodness! I was scared for a bit.

  91. MarkQuinn, people who believe the LHC will end the world aren’t stupid, they are ignorant. And they are ignorant EXACTLY because they believe the things they’re told (by the media, by their best friend, by their priest/pastor, etc.) without ever reflecting on it.
    This is less about understanding exactly (or even vaguely) the science and math behind what the LHC does. I most certainly don’t. But it takes doesn’t take much to spend 5 minutes on google to learn that the probability is as close to nonexistent as can be, and it doesn’t take much either to realize that scientists aren’t suicidal maniacs (well, individually some might be, but collectively they aren’t).
    Ergo, unless there’s a reason to suspect that all scientists have suddenly developed a death-wish there’s no reason to worry about the LHC.
    There’s however plenty to worry about the fact that people are more willing to believe in Sudden Collective Suicidal Mania in scientists than in the media possibly making stuff up for the ratings.

  92. On that note… I wonder if watching a few too many movies with Mad Scientists in them, and reading too many Crichton novels might have something to do with people so easily accepting the notion that scientists are ok with risking the destruction of everything just to prove themselves right?
    I’m having the mindpic of a deserted hidden lab, lightning, and demented screams of: “igorrrr!” and “muhahahahahaa!!!”

  93. Daniel

    Time to send out the science missionaries to all corners of the globe to spread the truth…wait…doesn’t this sound familiar?

  94. An interesting discussion. Most interesting is that among all the mentioners of beliefs not sustained by fact very few bring up things like Al Gore’s pictures of New York skyscrapers under water, which spawned that movie in which temperatures dropped so precipitately that poor innocents were trapped in ice. I guess it’s hard for all of us to recognize those things we hold as “religious” beliefs too sacred to address/

  95. I really want to know how Al Gore talking about global warming spawned a movie about a massive new ice-age… other than taking things out of context (naturally)

    And I’d also like to know how telling people to use their brain is at all like telling people to stop using it

  96. Richard

    “She died, because she didn’t understand the truth.”

    You’re obviously more sentimental than I am. I would say she died because her parents filled her head with sand, or with nothing at all.

    It’s as if the media wants you to believe that a mentally ill adolescent girl has never committed suicide before, or that this event actually had anything to do with the LHC, which really it didn’t.

  97. Steve Morrison

    @John Paradox:

    Heinlein was actually quoting George Bernard Shaw’s play “Caesar and Cleopatra”; the full quote is He is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.

  98. sailor

    I am skeptical this was the only issue. If it was, why was she in such a hurry? Also there would be a lot more than one case. There has to be lot more to this sorry tale.
    On the other hand teaching your kids to be good skeptics is probably (after the world is full of love) one of the best memes you can give them.

  99. Jason Goyer

    To say that people should recognize when it is appropriate to doubt, is to suggest that those people should let somone else decide when it is appropriate for them to doubt something. Who will make this decision for us? Furthermore, when would it be appropriate to doubt the person(s) that tell you when you should be skeptical of something? The point of critical thinking is to doubt, research, obtain evidence, and then make your own conclusion based on the facts. I think it is appropriate to doubt everything in a responsible, and logical fashion.

  100. SR

    Okay here’s the thing, Nanonip asked on the “Still here” thread :

    “but how do they really know that nothing bad will happen? {with the LHC atom-smasher] Seriously, somebody give me an answer? .. SNIP!”

    Now the LHC advocates standard line seems to be that cosmic ray particles with higher energy strike the Earth’s atmosphere all the time.

    Which if true, makes me wonder why they need the LHC at all – if nature is providing these colliding particles why not just observe them as they happen?

    Of course if its false, then they haven’t got that excuse and if nature doesn’t smash “god particles” to pieces then why do we think its such a great idea?

    The other thing is that the particles hitting our atmosphere come, I understand from super-energetic and rare events millions of lightyears away – Gamma Ray Bursters and supernova and Active Galactic Nuclei like blazars and quasars.

    Now these are all fascinating and amazing places – when studied from a very, very long distance away – but you wouldn’t want to be standing next to any of them – or even within a few light-years of any of them.

    As for the unfortunate Indian lady, well its sad but what I don’t get is why committ sucicide if the world’s about to end away – I mean if you’re going to an afterlife anyhow why the rush? ;-) If not, well doubly so!

    Its not really funny – & I’m NOT laughing but wryly puzzled.

    I don’t think the LHC can be blamed for people’s stupidity – but they could perhaps have been more reassuring and sympathetic and communicated nicer and better to those who are, wrongly or rightly, so terrified of it.

  101. Jadehawk,
    Gore massively oversold the effects of global warming in our lifetimes, talking for instance of 20 foot ocean level increases. Global warming true believers in turn created an entire industry of scares. The movie was merely one example.

    This thread is about folks taking things on poor evidence and hypothesizing catastrophe. I would submit that Gore did that. He is much like the LHC scaremongers. Although he does have evidence for global warming, he has pushed the scare far beyond the evidence.

  102. @ Chris A if you’re about – click my name to read the thread where I rebutted Soter’s nasty & obscure little anti-Plutonean paper. I’ve also reposted my Soter rebuttal post – corrected and added to slightly on the “Still here” thread.

    gopher65 said on Sept 11th, 2008 at 11:22 pm :

    “It sounds cold, and it is, but “evolution in progress”. This is the mechanism by which religious thinking will be removed from the world. Sad for the individuals involved, but good for the species as a whole. I’m not inclined to cry when a weak person kills themselves before they have a chance to breed.”

    Well aren’t you a charmer. :-( (SARCASM!)

    Here’s a newsflash for you and the other cold-hearted, compassion-less,
    mean-spirited fools who think the same way :

    Smart people, even & indeed more often the most intelligent experience vulnerable times in their lives where they may get too depressed or stressed or whatever to think as well as they otherwise might.

    I once had a long-term live-in girlfriend with depression – and I’ve known many mentally ill people. They are NOT, repaeat NOT stupid or necessarily
    even ignorant. She was creative, clever, badly-educated but very bright and she had no say over her circumstances of birth and family which were such that would drive anyone mad. :-(

    You don’t know what you’re talking about and, there but for random luck or fate or god (tick whichever you believe) could go you – me – or anyone else on the thread.

    We are all humans, we all have our good days & our bad.

    Turing – the inventor of the modern computer committed suicide – this is
    mentioned in one of Arthur C.Clarke’s Space Odyssey books .. he isn’t theonly notable scientist or luminary to take their own life either.

    Do such suicides reflect that the people are of “weak” character needingtobe exterminatedfromour gene pool or is it just that they faced
    pressures or circumstances far worse than anything most people are likely to
    endure?

    In fact I undestand that intellectuals and creative people – writers, poets (eg. Sylvia Plath), scientists, archetects, etc .. are generally more prone to suicide – more prone to being emotionally sensitive and vibrantly aware of the world around them. Losing such peopel diminshes us and reduces the average IQ.

    Those who are incurious, dull and not so imaginative or emotional or intelligent (& imagination is one key aspect of intelligence too) tend tobe lesslikely tocomitt suicide. If your idea of natural selection is at
    work here it is reducing our intellect and making us worse than our best.

    Shame on you for cheering that on. :-(

    Shame on you for such a callous, inhumane, unimaginative and unsympathetic post. :-(

    I regard your view there as a disgusting thing to think and say – and I hope you recognise that, learn from it and reconsider those ill-considered harsh and dumb sentiments. :-(

  103. CORRECTION -for typoSs andspacin’ .. *Sigh* Is fixing this up with editing capability really that hard BA? *Sigh*
    _________________________________________________
    @ Gopher65 & those think & post the same way :

    I once had a long-term live-in girlfriend with depression – and I’ve known many mentally ill people. They are NOT, repeat NOT stupid or necessarily
    even ignorant. She was creative, clever, badly-educated but very bright and she had NO say over her circumstances of birth and family which were such that would drive anyone mad.

    You don’t know what you’re talking about and, there but for random luck or fate or god (tick whichever you believe) could go you – me – or anyone else on the thread.

    We are all humans, we all have our good days & our bad.

    Turing – the inventor of the modern computer committed suicide – this is
    mentioned in one of Arthur C.Clarke’s Space Odyssey books .. & he isn’t the
    only notable scientist or luminary to take their own life either.

    Do such suicides reflect that the people are of “weak” character needing
    to be exterminated from our gene pool or is it instead just that they faced
    pressures or circumstances far worse than anything most people are likely to
    endure or even encounter?

    In fact I understand that intellectuals and creative people – writers, poets (eg. Sylvia Plath), scientists, archetects, etc .. are generally more prone to suicide – more prone to being emotionally sensitive and vibrantly aware of the world around them.

    Losing such people diminshes us and reduces the average IQ.

    Now was this Indian lass a genius or a poet or a would-be Einstein or Shakespeare or who knows what else? Probably not – but the truth
    is we’ll never know what we’ve missed -what she could have been had she survived. We’ll never know what she could’ve contributed to our world and to
    others lives if she hadn’t taken her own life. :-(

    Those who are incurious, dull and not so imaginative or emotional or intelligent (& imagination is one key aspect of intelligence too) tend to
    be less likely to commit suicide.

    If your idea of natural selection is at work here it is reducing our collective intellect and imagination and making us worse than our best.

    Shame on you for cheering that on.
    Shame on you for such a callous, inhumane, unimaginative and unsympathetic post. I regard your view there as a disgusting thing to think and say – and I hope you recognise that, learn from it and reconsider those ill-considered harsh and dumb sentiments.

  104. @Gary Ansorge: I didn’t say there are no black holes. However, to pretend, as Phil does, to know that they are necessarily involved in some phenomenon about which practically nothing is actually known is dishonest.

    @Torbjörn: If you don’t have anything to say, you don’t need to say it.

  105. I know Nathan Myers is a troll who shouldn’t be fed but his rant that about 9-11 and Iraq cannot pass unchallenged :

    “In the U.S., literally (by which I mean, you know, literally) thousands of young men and women have gone to their deaths, and more to dismemberment, in Iraq over the superstition that someone there was involved in destroying buildings in New York; not incidentally, they have caused the deaths of (literally, again) hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.”

    Buildings? Buildings?! Around 3,000 decent, hard-working innocent American citizens lost their lives on 9-11. From airline stewardesses who had their throats cut in front of terrified passengers to waiters and executives working for our good in the twin towers and Pentagon. Ordinary people who were burnt to death or forced to jump from the top of the WTC, heroic firefighters giving their lives in attempting to stop the fires, people who just caught a plane – or just piloted their usual aircraft only to be
    butchered without warning or mercy.

    We had every right, every right in the world, to strike back hard – at all those who supported, funded and cheered on our enemies.

    Maybe Bin Laden wasn’t directly linked with Saddam’s nasty little regime. But he was on their side not ours – and teher was unfinishe dbusiness that very much needed finishing. He was a threat to the civilised world and would have becoime a far worse one if he’d been left to develop the WMDs which he bluffed us all too well that he had. If he had got his WMD’s do you think for an instant, he wouldn’t have used them in a far worse and crueler way than anything youcan imagine?

    President Bushes response was justified – even if not ultimately carried through well. It was in fact quite restrained. If I had been President at the time then on September 12th 2001 there would not have been a Baghdad – just a hole in the ground. Nor would there have been a Tehran or a Damascus or an Afghanistan – I’d have used H-bombs on the lot. I’d vapourise the
    capitals of Iraq, Iran and Syria and I’d leave nothing but radioactive dust
    all of Afghanistan and maybe abitof Pakistanm todestory all themain sponser
    if not
    me
    Iraqi but he was
    surely

    Many, many millions more voted for a pair of sociopaths fronting a band of criminals who have instituted systematic torture and domestic surveillance in the U.S.; most will vote the same way again (different sociopaths, same criminals). Thousands of people in small towns fear their town hall will be blown up by the 7-11 clerk. Millions believe having their shoes x-rayed makes flying safer.

  106. Jose

    @SC

    Which if true, makes me wonder why they need the LHC at all – if nature is providing these colliding particles why not just observe them as they happen?

    We do observe them, but they’re not controlled collisions. We don’t know where and when they’re going to happen. Even if we did we can’t get the detectors we need to view the collisions in detail high into the atmosphere where they occur.

    The other thing is that the particles hitting our atmosphere come, I understand from super-energetic and rare events millions of lightyears away – Gamma Ray Bursters and supernova and Active Galactic Nuclei like blazars and quasars – but you wouldn’t want to be standing next to any of them

    That’s how nature does it. But that’s not how the LHC does it. The LHC uses far less energy to accelerate a small number of protons along a 27 kilometer track. It just duplicates some of the effects of these events, not the events themselves.

  107. Darnit -accidentally sent before I was finished… Take II

    I know Nathan Myers is a troll who shouldn’t be fed but his rant that about 9-11 and Iraq cannot pass unchallenged :

    “In the U.S., literally (by which I mean, you know, literally) thousands of young men and women have gone to their deaths, and more to dismemberment, in Iraq over the superstition that someone there was involved in destroying buildings in New York; not incidentally, they have caused the deaths of (literally, again) hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis.”

    Buildings? Buildings?! Around 3,000 decent, hard-working innocent American citizens lost their lives on 9-11. From airline stewardesses who had their throats cut in front of terrified passengers to waiters and executives working for our good in the twin towers and Pentagon. Ordinary people who were burnt to death or forced to jump from the top of the WTC, heroic firefighters giving their lives in attempting to stop the fires, people who just caught a plane – or just piloted their usual aircraft only to be
    butchered without warning or mercy.

    We had every right, every right in the world, to strike back hard – at all those who supported, funded and cheered on our enemies.

    Maybe Bin Laden wasn’t directly linked with Saddam’s nasty little regime. But he was on their side not ours – and teher was unfinishe dbusiness that very much needed finishing. He was a threat to the civilised world and would have becoime a far worse one if he’d been left to develop the WMDs which he bluffed us all too well that he had. If he had got his WMD’s do you think for an instant, he wouldn’t have used them in a far worse and crueler way than anything you can imagine?

    President Bushes response was justified – even if not ultimately carried through well. It was in fact quite restrained. If I had been President at the time then on September 12th 2001 there would not have been a Baghdad – just a hole in the ground. Nor would there have been a Tehran or a Damascus or an Afghanistan – I’d have used H-bombs on the lot. I’d vapourise the
    capitals of Iraq, Iran and Syria and I’d leave nothing but radioactive dust in all of Afghanistan and Western Pakistan to guarantee bin Laden was dead.

    OH & the Palestinians who jumped for joy when the towers fell? I’d have nuked them too.

    Then I’d have sent conventional forces in overwhelming numbers into Saudi Arabia. If the Saudi’s diddn’t like it well they’d be gone too. Either way I’d have Mecca as a hostage and UStroopp[s incontrol of it – any more Islamic terrorism and Mecca goes. That’d keep them at bay in the manner they
    respect. Plus I’d then make sure we’d have oil at half the price, no Islamist terrorists or terror states left standing and China and Russia soiling themsleves in fear at what we might do if they tried any games.

    The message would be absolutely clear – don’t mess with the USA.
    Don’t tread on us. Don’t atatck us -or you’ll be very very sorry or very , very dead.

    They started it – I’d have finished it once and for all.

    We may yet regret that we weren’t that hard and quick in our response.

    No the terrorists – and terror states – get zip from me as do the Muslim nutters who egg them on & incite them. Stuff them! And stuff their fellow travellers like you too Nathan Myers, you piece of filth. Good men and good women are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan and elsewhere to give you your freedom to spew your stupid nonsense. You wanted a reaction? Take this and stick it. And get lost.

  108. Sorry about the rant y’all but geez, some losers.

    And just after the anniversary of September 11th too. :-(

  109. DeiRenDopa

    @Nathan: “Meanwhile, Phil believes so strongly in his every unfounded assumption that he insists that any big release of energy must necessarily involve a “black hole”, and that anybody who doesn’t believe precisely as he does is an “anti-scientist”. At least he’s not pretending to be a real scientist any more. At least nobody is dying over his superstitions.”
    @Nathan: “I didn’t say there are no black holes. However, to pretend, as Phil does, to know that they are necessarily involved in some phenomenon about which practically nothing is actually known is dishonest.”

    So, may one infer from your comment that you have read everything Phil has written, ever, on “big release[s] of energy”?

    Further, that you have carefully studied all such material and can provide a complete list showing, beyond reasonable doubt, that Phil “insist[ed]” that a black hole “must necessarily [be] involve[d]” in every case?

    May I ask you to describe, briefly, these “phenomen[a] about which practically nothing is actually known”, or at least a subset of them? When you’ve done that, readers may be able to do their own, independent, research on the veracity of your (wild?) claims.

  110. MarkQuinn

    You know I just couldn’t let this stand at a single post. It just fires me up so much. This article is an insult. Thinking critically about something, seperating the wheat from the chaff, implies that you know what the wheat is and you know what the chaff is. Would all the holier-than-thou, scientifically-minded pundits supporting the LHC have everyone earn a degree in physics so that we can better understand their assurances that the world is safe from scientists who never err?

    Oh wait a minute. Scientists do err, just like everyone else. Just like corporations, governments, organizations of every kind. Mistakes are a fundamental part of what it means to be human. Or is it a lack of critical thinking that makes me suggest such rubbish?

    Since most of us do not, of course, have a degree in physics, perhaps the best way we can critically think about all this is at its most basic, yet most monumental, level: would the tens of thousands of scientists involved in this project move forward if there was any chance whatsoever that it could result in the death of six billion people? Of course not. Another way to critically think about it is to understand these aren’t a bunch of gas station attendents manning the collider. They’re all experts in their field. Finally, the last use of critical thinking we might exercize, if the first two aren’t enough to allay our fears, is to go out and do the research ourselves. Perhaps we’ll never fully understand the molecular makeup or chemical bonds of wheat and chaff, but if we can at least learn to identify one or the other from a distance, we’ll be one step ahead of the game, one iota closer to enlightenment.

    Here’s the problem. This just isn’t our field. We don’t know what the fundamentals are and we don’t know who the players are or their qualifications. Some say Wagner and Sancho are quacks. Maybe they are, but they’re also quacks who know a hell of a lot more about the physics behind this technology than the rest of us. Hey, don’t get me wrong: I know these guys are no more significant than the purveyors of Intelligent Design, but does the average Joe (who BELIEVES in Intelligent Design, I might add) understand this? Of course not. All he knows is that every day he’s lied to. He’s lied to by his government that says “everything will be okay”. He’s lied to by corporations who say “everything will be okay”. He’s lied to by his religion, lied to by his boss, lied to by his neighbors and even his family from time to time. Why should science, in his mind, suddenly be the great beacon of truth? And frankly, it’s not. Science as a method is good and true and unbiased. Science as a community is subject to the same kind of imperfection as everyone and everything else. Why should he trust it?

    So he does his research anyway and everything he reads tells him the odds of something bad happening are infinitesimally small. Ah, but those are still odds. “Infintesimal”, in this case, represents numbers which are frankly too large for him to comprehend. He reads somewhere else that the odds of something bad happening are about one in 50 million. That’s a number he can understand a little better. You know that obese woman with the ten kids living in the trailor park who falls on the ground screaming and kicking and laughing because she just won the lottery? You know her: the one who’s become instantly wealthy and is going to enjoy three or four years in the lap of luxury before she winds up right back where she started — albeit with a slightly larger trailer — because she knows nothing about sound financial planning. THAT woman is proof that sometimes a one in 50 million odd hits. To our illustrious new critical thinker, scientists are rolling the dice with humanity’s future: it may be a 50 million sided die, but it’s a die nonetheless.

    Critical thinking is a wonderful thing if you have the vocabulary and the knowledge to understand what it is you’re supposed to be critiquing. Otherwise it’s just a hollow phrase passed along by elitist swine who, I think, are secretly laughing at all the mayhem, going around spewing things like “Use your head for Godssake!” but knowing all the while that the vast majority of people just don’t have a head for this stuff.

    Ultimately, this shall pass just like everything else. In it’s wake we will discover, once again, the inability of scientists to bridge the gap between their knowledge and the common person. Both sides will be a little more frustrated for it, a little more alienated from each other because of the experience. Thank God for people like Sagan (rest in peace) and Kaku and Ken Miller who know how to make science simple and interesting for the common schmuck. They never insulted you by suggesting things like, “What’s wrong with you idiots? Where are your critical thinking skills?” They understood that in order to think critically, you must first be armed with certain principles and in order to be armed with these principles, someone’s got to lay it all on the table in a way everyone can understand.

  111. Jose

    @MarkQuinn
    You don’t need a degree in physics or even a very good understanding of physics. You just need basic critical thinking skills, which is what the article is about. Here’s how it works. The first thing you need to know is that these collisions happen all the time and have been happening for billions of years (a fact which the elitist swine have been happy to provide). The second thing you need to know is that we’re still here. Put those two things together and you’re done. LHC is not going to destroy the earth. And I’m sure there are many other ways to arrive at this conclusion without a background in physics.

  112. @Hawk: Yes, I understand that you would joyously “vapourise” every brown-skinned person on the planet, and would as joyously have done in 2000 as in 2001. How many of the people posting here do you estimate you would you vapourise, while you’re about it?

    Phil attracts just the best defenders.

  113. @sully
    according to several science websites, plus the IPCC (http://www.ipcc.ch/), he did NOT “massively oversell” anything. the 20 foot rise is a “worst case scenario”, so I suppose you can say that the LHC scaremongerers are also just pointing out a “worst case scenario”, but Greenland melting away completely is least likely but probable, whereas the LHC destroying the earth is possible but improbable. Probability is what’s at issue here! And here’s also a nice explanation for misunderstandings in that oft-misquoted table in the IPCC report: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=427.
    Also, blaming Al Gore’s documentary for Hollywood exploiting, mangling and sensationalizing science is absurd. That’s like blaming the Manhattan Project for all those comics that had beneficial and instantaneous radiation mutations in them.

    @Markquinn
    the whole point of skepticism is doubting everything, and then learning who is most likely and who is least likely to blatantly lie. And especially, who would immensely PROFIT from blatantly lying/exaggerating/etc. Skepticism isn’t instantaneous, it’s an acquired skill. And just because at the moment the majority of people lacks this skill, doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be. And don’t say that most people don’t have the luxury of time to acquire that skill. Most people spend 12 years in school, memorizing random factoids and cheering for the football team. The time would have been much better used teaching them critical thinking!

    @Hawk

    Saddam was “on their side”? whose side would that have been? Iraq was under a secular dictatorship. repeat after me: SE-CU-LAR dictatorship. he was in constant conflict with his religious neighbor-states (remember that pesky Iraq-Iran war in which the US actually supported him for exactly that reason?). his adoption of jihad-language was a desperate attempt at finding some neighbors who would help him stand AGAINST the US. he failed, because one half of those neighbors doesn’t want alliances with secular nations, and the other half wants to keep their cozy relationship with the US. And his WMD’s? they didn’t exist, and would have most likely never existed (though any argument about this is pure speculation). the place is more a threat to the world now then it was under Saddam.

    And on nuking foreign countries… please keep in mind that Pakistan has nukes, too. and they’d usem. and so would russia if it felt THAT severely threatened. that why it’s called “mutually assured destruction”, and this is also EXACTLY why nations whom the US ignorantly lables “the axis of evil” feel like they need them. it’s their only way of assuring NOT being nuked.

    oh and i don’t know about your geography skills, but how exactly do you propose to nuke Palestinians without taking out Israel in the process? or do you count that entire country as collateral damage?

    lastly, it’s insulting to the veterans of wars that DID have something to do with fighting for freedom to claim the iraq war has anything to do with that. (with a respectful nod to WWII veterans)

  114. @sully
    according to several science websites, plus the IPCC (http://www.ipcc.ch/), he did NOT “massively oversell” anything. the 20 foot rise is a “worst case scenario”, so I suppose you can say that the LHC scaremongerers are also just pointing out a “worst case scenario”, but Greenland melting away completely is least likely but probable, whereas the LHC destroying the earth is possible but improbable. Probability is what’s at issue here! And here’s also a nice explanation for misunderstandings in that oft-misquoted table in the IPCC report: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=427.
    Also, blaming Al Gore’s documentary for Hollywood exploiting, mangling and sensationalizing science is absurd. That’s like blaming the Manhattan Project for all those comics that had beneficial and instantaneous radiation mutations in them.

    @Markquinn
    the whole point of skepticism is doubting everything, and then learning who is most likely and who is least likely to blatantly lie. And especially, who would immensely PROFIT from blatantly lying/exaggerating/etc. Skepticism isn’t instantaneous, it’s an acquired skill. And just because at the moment the majority of people lacks this skill, doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be. And don’t say that most people don’t have the luxury of time to acquire that skill. Most people spend 12 years in school, memorizing random factoids and cheering for the football team. The time would have been much better used teaching them critical thinking!

    @Hawk

    Saddam was “on their side”? whose side would that have been? Iraq was under a secular dictatorship. repeat after me: SE-CU-LAR dictatorship. he was in constant conflict with his religious neighbor-states (remember that pesky Iraq-Iran war in which the US actually supported him for exactly that reason?). his adoption of jihad-language was a desperate attempt at finding some neighbors who would help him stand AGAINST the US. he failed, because one half of those neighbors doesn’t want alliances with secular nations, and the other half wants to keep their cozy relationship with the US. And his WMD’s? they didn’t exist, and would have most likely never existed (though any argument about this is pure speculation). the place is more a threat to the world now then it was under Saddam.

    And on nuking foreign countries… please keep in mind that Pakistan has nukes, too. and they’d usem. and so would russia if it felt THAT severely threatened. that why it’s called “mutually assured destruction”, and this is also EXACTLY why nations whom the US ignorantly lables “the axis of evil” feel like they need them. it’s their only way of assuring NOT being nuked.

    oh and i don’t know about your geography skills, but how exactly do you propose to nuke Palestinians without taking out Israel in the process? or do you count that entire country as collateral damage?

    lastly, it’s insulting to the veterans of wars that DID have something to do with fighting for freedom to claim the iraq war has anything to do with that. (with a respectful nod to WWII veterans) in reality, it’s a form of human sacrifice of the nastiest sort.

  115. @sully
    according to several science websites, plus the IPCC, he did NOT “massively oversell” anything. the 20 foot rise is a “worst case scenario”, so I suppose you can say that the LHC scaremongerers are also just pointing out a “worst case scenario”, but Greenland melting away completely is least likely but probable, whereas the LHC destroying the earth is possible but improbable. Probability is what’s at issue here! And here’s also a nice explanation for misunderstandings in that oft-misquoted table in the IPCC report: http://www.realclimate.org/index.php?p=427.
    Also, blaming Al Gore’s documentary for Hollywood exploiting, mangling and sensationalizing science is absurd. That’s like blaming the Manhattan Project for all those comics that had beneficial and instantaneous radiation mutations in them.

    @Markquinn
    the whole point of skepticism is doubting everything, and then learning who is most likely and who is least likely to blatantly lie. And especially, who would immensely PROFIT from blatantly lying/exaggerating/etc. Skepticism isn’t instantaneous, it’s an acquired skill. And just because at the moment the majority of people lacks this skill, doesn’t mean that’s how it’s supposed to be. And don’t say that most people don’t have the luxury of time to acquire that skill. Most people spend 12 years in school, memorizing random factoids and cheering for the football team. The time would have been much better used teaching them critical thinking!

  116. @Hawk

    Saddam was “on their side”? whose side would that have been? Iraq was under a secular dictatorship. repeat after me: SE-CU-LAR dictatorship. he was in constant conflict with his religious neighbor-states (remember that pesky Iraq-Iran war in which the US actually supported him for exactly that reason?). his adoption of jihad-language was a desperate attempt at finding some neighbors who would help him stand AGAINST the US. he failed, because one half of those neighbors doesn’t want alliances with secular nations, and the other half wants to keep their cozy relationship with the US. And his WMD’s? they didn’t exist, and would have most likely never existed (though any argument about this is pure speculation). the place is more a threat to the world now then it was under Saddam.

    And on nuking foreign countries… please keep in mind that Pakistan has nukes, too. and they’d usem. and so would russia if it felt THAT severely threatened. that why it’s called “mutually assured destruction”, and this is also EXACTLY why nations whom the US ignorantly lables “the axis of evil” feel like they need them. it’s their only way of assuring NOT being nuked.

    oh and i don’t know about your geography skills, but how exactly do you propose to nuke Palestinians without taking out Israel in the process? or do you count that entire country as collateral damage?

    lastly, it’s insulting to the veterans of wars that DID have something to do with fighting for freedom to claim the iraq war has anything to do with that. (with a respectful nod to WWII veterans). in reality, it’s a ritual human sacrifice of the nastiest sort.

  117. gopher65

    @Hawk: Actually, Saddam and Bin Laden were arch-nemeses. They stood for fundamentally different things. Ever heard “the enemy of my enemy is my friend”? Saddam was Bin Laden’s worst enemy (and the enemy of his allies as well). That was why the US supported him for so many years. Good luck finding another person as anti-Islam as Saddam capable of running and holding on to an Islamic country. It’s not going to happen. All Bush did was remove Bin Laden’s rival. That idiot.

  118. SR

    Jose Says: September 13th, 2008 at 5:25 am

    @SC

    (Well actually its SR but anyhow.)

    (Me :) “Which if true, makes me wonder why they need the LHC at all – if nature is providing these colliding particles why not just observe them as they happen?”

    We do observe them, but they’re not controlled collisions. We don’t know where and when they’re going to happen. Even if we did we can’t get the detectors we need to view the collisions in detail high into the atmosphere where they occur.

    (me again): “The other thing is that the particles hitting our atmosphere come, I understand from super-energetic and rare events millions of lightyears away – Gamma Ray Bursters and supernova and Active Galactic Nuclei like blazars and quasars – but you wouldn’t want to be standing next to any of them.”

    That’s how nature does it. But that’s not how the LHC does it. The LHC uses far less energy to accelerate a small number of protons along a 27 kilometer track. It just duplicates some of the effects of these events, not the events themselves.”

    Hmmm.. Maybe. I’m still not sure about the LHC and that we may not be better off instead just observing what nature provides rather than trying to recreate these exotic and poorly understood particles and events. That’s poorly understood by scientists aswellas Joe Public Ithink, I mean we don’t even know if the “God particle” exists but we’re still going to see if we can play around with it?

    @ Mark Quinn -good post. I agree with your sentiments. The scientific minority often come across whether by design or accident as thinking themslevs alot smarter than average people -and worse, holding average people without PhD’s in contempt. This isn’t good for science, it isn’t helped by having scientists go “yeah, just trust us” we know what we’re doing.” History has shown Joe Public that whenever anyone says “trust us” that’s the last thing we should -or are likely to – do.

    I like science, this is a great blog and all, but sometimes Dr Plait and his more militant supporters need to step down from their ivory towers and take a guess at how this appears through the eyes of Joe Public.

  119. Krisztián Pintér

    i do see doubt. i see a huge amount of growing doubt in science. doubt in evolution, medicine and physics.

  120. Jadehawk,
    Oh, what’s the use. I should have known I’d never be able to make you see my point. It’s always futile to try to reason with religious believers. Your brain wiring is simply wrong, as is that of most people.

    Life itself is futile. There’s no use living. The true believers will always win in the end over us skeptics.

    Well, at least I won’t have to see it.

    You shouldn’t feel in any way personally responsible.

  121. Hawk

    @ gopher65

    Saddam and Osama bin Laden both hate and seek (or inSaddam’s case sought -past tense & good riddance!) to destroy the United States of America – also known as me & you – isn’t that enough for you?

    Arch nemesis’s my foot! Both were Muslims beliveing in a religion that has made itself our enemy.

    @ Jadehawk :

    Well when you said :

    “oh and i don’t know about your geography skills, but how exactly do you propose to nuke Palestinians without taking out Israel in the process? or do you count that entire country as collateral damage?”

    You’ve got a point. No I wouldn’t want to hurt the Israelis, they’ve suffered – & are suffering enough. Okay I’ll change my mind there ..

    .. I’ll use these little things we’ve got called ‘Daisy-cutters’ or fuel air explosive bombs. They’r ealmostas good as nukes. One or two onGaza , one or two onthe theWest abnk and thats thePlIsreali-Palestinian issue solved. Goodbye Palestinians you choose terrorism & now you’ve lost evrything incl. your lives because of it. You’re loss – not ours!

    THX for the reminder! :-P

    Jadehawk also said :

    “And on nuking foreign countries… please keep in mind that Pakistan has nukes, too. and they’d usem. and so would russia if it felt THAT severely threatened. that why it’s called “mutually assured destruction”, and this is also EXACTLY why nations whom the US ignorantly lables “the axis of evil” feel like they need them. it’s their only way of assuring NOT being nuked.”

    Yup, there’s the real worry. We’d need to be very careful – & also very quick. I’m betting we could use our nukes and take out theirs before it happened but again, thanks for the refresher – we’d need to take out more than just Western Pakistan -the whole durn nation would have to go. Again not much of a loss to the planet – just ask the Indians killed in the latest Pakistani inspired terrorist attacks.

    (Incidentally, I don’t think their nukes have the range – our tech level is quite far ahead of theirs. I think our no. 1 priority should be ensuring no terrorist nation gets nukes or even close. Pakistan & Iran are both way too close. Pakistan has the bomb albeit not many and not with good missiles -I say get ‘em while we can! Iran & Syria too maybe. If we don’t want our country to be nuclear bombed then quite simply I think we need to strike them first. Would you rather * WE * were hit first or they were? We, at least, give a damn about innocent life – they do not – witness 9-11 for all the proof you need. Or have you forgotten already that they started this war? We didn’t pick this fight. But we can end it.)

    &

    “Saddam was “on their side”? whose side would that have been?

    The terrorists – & that should be enough. If people anywhere in the world support terrorism they’re making themselves our enemies. If they do that they should face the consequences. If these consequences include being nuked off the planet ..well tough shiite & good riddance to them!

    Does your heart bleed for people who would not hesitate for one cold nano-second to murder you? To behead you as an unarmed prisoner or fly a jumbo jet into your workplace? If so you’re a fool – if not you should be with me!

  122. Hawk

    Actually we should offer Pakistan a simple choice – give us their A-bombs and agree to NEVER seek nukes again – or face the consequences.

    Make ‘em choose once and for all – are they with us or with the Terrorists?

    They choose to be with us – to properly support us then we go in there with their support and kill the terrorists incl. bin Laden sheltering there. War on terror ends – in victory. We’re safe, they’re dead.

    (Oh & the Israelis are safe too. At long last.This is the day after we’ve shown them we’re serious by taking out Iran, Iraq, Gaza etc ..Without putting our troops in harms way and without messing about.)

    They choose to be withagainst uis – easier still w ehgo intheire without their support and with our ICBMs. They die. Bin Laden dies. We win. Theey become dust -rasdioactive dust. Any survivors get to realise they chose wrong and regtret it – tough shiite.

    This should’ve happened on Sept. 12th or maybe by latest October 2001. Sadly, it didn’t.

    Still there’s always President McCain to do the right thing and be a real man and not what Arnie calls a girlie man.

    Its pretty simple really :

    You’re on our side or your not.
    You want America (& the West) to win – or you don’t. That’s all.

    Liberals don’t want us to win? Then they’ll lose. You’ll see.

  123. Hawk

    They choose to be against us – easier still w ehgo intheire without their support and with our ICBMs.

    They die. Bin Laden dies. We win. They become dust – radioactive dust.

    Any survivors get to realise they chose wrong and regtret it – tough shiite.

    ICBMs incase youdon';t already know =

    Inter
    Continental
    Ballistic
    Missiles

    Pakistam lacks ‘em.
    We got ‘em.

    Russia has them – but would hesitate to use ‘em if we didn’t threaten them, directly.

    Taking out the Terrorists who attacked us – well Russia won’t mind too much. They’ve got their own Muslim Terrorists in Chechnestan. Huff and puff as they may, the Russians will NOT die and destroy * their * country for the sake of the Iranians or Bin Laden or Palestine or wherever else. They might get angry – but they won’t attack. They dare not.

    Esp. if we show we’re not too weak & gutless to hit back at our enemies with ALL the forces at our disposal,incl.the most destructive.

  124. Jose

    @ Mark Quinn & SR
    You seem to be under the impression that this site is a gathering place where the geniuses of the world come to poke fun at the lesser intellects of the world. It’s not. It’s a site where the regular people of the world come to learn and discuss science. Phil’s posts are non-technical and very easy for all us regular people to understand. I really don’t understand your criticism.

  125. Ye Gods people.
    How did this become about politics and wars?

    I read these comments and despair at many of them. So many of you have missed the point it is laughable, or taken the point in some direction that has nothing to do with the original topic!

    If you are able, you need to fight the woo whereever you see it for the people that are not equipped to do it themselves.

    Fight the woo.

    Over and out.

  126. Todd W.

    @Hawk

    Despite your posts being woefully off-topic, I’m going to address some of your comments. First off, let me just kinda recap. You are proposing to nuke all of:

    Afghanistan, Iran, possibly Syria, possibly Pakistan, and use “daisy cutters” on Palestine

    All without any further provocation, other than the perceived, and in some cases verified, support of terrorists. That’s whole countries. The wholesale slaughter of everyone in them. Then you say:

    We, at least, give a damn about innocent life

    What about the average citizens in those countries who hate the terrorists and what they are causing just as much as you? The man or woman who’s just trying to make enough money to support his family in a regular ol’ job. The kids that are going to school and playing outside. The patients lying in hospital beds with some illness. None of them is innocent, I guess, huh? Just because they happen to live in those countries makes them our enemies. Simply by having been born there, they are our enemies and are not innocent?

    You also speak of using our might to deter other countries from attacking us. Suppressing those who disagree with us. Sounds rather despotic and un-American, to me, and smacks of dictators of the past: Ghengis Khan, Vlad Tepes, Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and, dare I say it, Sadam Hussein.

    Speaking of Hussein, IIRC, he was an atheist and was an enemy of people like Osama Bin Laden. Yeah, he was a prig, but he was hardly buddy-buddy with Bin Laden’s crew.

    Then there’s the whole macho show of force…just nuking whole sovereign countries without taking any manner of diplomatic means to address the underlying issues. Now, if I were in the government of the other countries in the world, I’d worry that the U.S. is being led by a madman. Sure, some of our enemies, real or imagined, might be cowed into submission if they had only themselves to rely on. However, the actions that you propose would probably turn even our allies against us.

    Furthermore, taking on such a despotic demeanor will likely just breed more terrorists. The more people you slaughter, the more they will feel that diplomacy or even conventional warfare will not work. What is left? Guerrilla warfare, terrorism. Inevitably the “powerhouse” will collapse, and likely from within.

    Finally, terrorists use violence to get their message across and to scare their targets into compliance. How are you being any different? Your suggestions merely perpetuate the cycle.

    While I understand the emotions of the issue, when thought through, your suggestions only stand to make things worse in the long run.

NEW ON DISCOVER
OPEN
CITIZEN SCIENCE
ADVERTISEMENT

Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!

ADVERTISEMENT

See More

ADVERTISEMENT
Collapse bottom bar
+

Login to your Account

X
E-mail address:
Password:
Remember me
Forgot your password?
No problem. Click here to have it e-mailed to you.

Not Registered Yet?

Register now for FREE. Registration only takes a few minutes to complete. Register now »