I have arrived as a skeptic

By Phil Plait | January 8, 2010 9:30 am

I’ve been a skeptic a long time, maybe 25 years or more now. It didn’t happen all at once, though there have been sudden world-shift moments for me. I’ve been an active skeptic — outspoken, that is, willing to talk about this stuff — for about 10 years now.

But now, finally, I feel that I have arrived at the Holy Grail of skepticism: a goofball antiscience promoter has quote mined me.

Quote mining is a tradition among the antireality crowd: they find something a scientist has said, and then leave out certain words, or edit out the context, making it look like the quote is the opposite of what the actual intention was. Creationists are notorious for this, but others do it as well.

On a bulletin board site called Christian Forums, there is a user who goes by the name "Agonaces of Susa", and this person has the usual antiscience CV stocked with creationism and such, but also, apparently, is a supporter of Velikovsky’s ridiculous and long-ago-debunked claims about astronomy.

For those of you who are happily unaware, Immanuel Velikovsky wrote a series of books decades ago saying that the events in the Bible were literally true, and caused by various astronomical things like planets careening around the solar system like billiard balls, interacting in impossible ways, and doing many impossible things. He’d have been better off just saying those were all miracles of God, but still, a lot of people swallowed his nonsense whole. It’s mostly dead now, with just a few reality-denying holdouts. I wrote a chapter in my first book, Bad Astronomy, dealing with the Velikovsky affair.

In this post on the forums, AoS says this little gem:

You trust the pseudoscientist Phil Plait that, these are his words, “Magnetism is…a joke in astronomy”?

Wow! That makes it seem like astronomers are idiots, doesn’t it? As if we don’t believe in magnetism at all, and that we think it has no role in astrophysics. But wait! Look at what he wrote. It has the magic wand of quote mining pseudoscience: the ellipsis! That means he left something out of what I said. And so what was it he left out?

Magnetism is a very important topic in astrophysics (despite some pseudoscientists lying and saying this force is ignored), but it’s not well-understood. It’s fiendishly complex, so much so that it’s a joke in astronomy: when giving a colloquium about an astronomical object’s weird features, saying it’s due to magnetism will always get a chuckle out of an audience. And it’s a standard joke that if you want to derail a talk, ask the speaker about the effects of magnetism. In three dimensions, magnetism is ferociously difficult to model.

I bolded the part that was quote mined, and as you can see, AoS completely took out of context what I was saying. He also misinterprets what I said about Velikovsky. While I did say that Velikovsky was wrong about everything, I meant that he was wrong about his science. Sure, he said Venus would be hot, but the reason he said it would be hot was completely wrong (Velikovsky claimed it was ejected whole from Jupiter, which is about the wrongest wrong you can ever wrongly wrongify). Even if you drop a shotgun you might have one pellet hit the target, but that ain’t skill.

That thread on the forum goes on and on, and AoS is joined by others who appear to willfully misunderstand what I’m saying, or at least pick and choose from what I’ve said to make it look like I’m wrong. That might work for the flock (or the Simpsons), but the rest of the world sees right through them.

But will these people listen? Of course not! Because this is their arguing tactic:

lalalala_beavercanthearyou

Still, it’s an honor to have been quote mined. Thank you, gentlemen, for reminding me just why I fight this fight every single day.

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Comments (96)

  1. Wow. I’ve seen some pretty bad quote minings, but that one is way up there. Congratulations!

  2. Wesley S. Abney

    Congrats Phil… That is amazing on such an amazingly amazing level that I really don’t know what else to say.

    Or, as someone could mine out of that: “Phil… is amazing… what else”?

  3. thetentman

    velikovsky was wrong?

  4. I love your stuff, but on this one occassion I’ll be that annoying chap who has to pick a slight disgruntlement with the tone behind this post.
    I first want to uphold your parodying of the nonsense of people who so blatantly and foolishly quote-mine and pick things out of context in such an inane manner.
    I too though have been quote mined like this, but…by skeptics/atheists wanting to attack me as a graduate astrophysicist who is also a priest and who has on occassion passed comment on such things as science/the bible/belief/etc. Their tactic too very much was to pick things out of context and go ‘la la la – I can’t hear you!’ when meaningful dialogue was attempted.
    Sadly there’s muppets at both ends of the playing field. Each heckles the other with being ‘anti-reality’. The whole game is derailed somewhat when we too willingly label all players on each team as having committed a foul when perhaps it is only the odd player here and there which needs sending off.
    Carry on the good work! :-)

  5. Dearie me, that’s a REALLY bad one!

  6. It’s not me that’s saying this, it’s pseudoscientist Phil Plait, who recently said:

    “I’ve been…saying that the events in the Bible were literally true, and…astronomers are idiots…that ain’t skill.”

    Wake up, sheeple.

  7. Scott

    Typo… “astophysics” :)

  8. Theron

    What? You mean the worlds they ain’t in collision? I was so hoping for some manna to drop out of the sky today, given as I am kinda home bound with the streets in my neighborhood being sheets of ice and all. Oh well.

  9. Scott Romanowski

    Congratulations for being important enough to misquote!

  10. Zippy

    It could also be a bad understanding of the antecedent for the pronoun-contraction “It’s”. Either way, it’s bad quoting.

  11. I have arrived as a… Creationist

    Ha! I knew it Phil! Your dirty secret is finally out of the bag!

  12. James King

    These people have no shame. They even quote their own “holy scripture” out of context to make their political points (see any debate on abortion that refers to Psalms 10:8 as “evidence” for divine disapproval and then look at the whole passage).

    The Bad Astronomy book is an excellent read by the way. As I intend to return to university this year to study astronomy (at the tender age of 42!) your book and blog are informative and encouraging.

    Keep it up.

  13. Wow. The level of dishonesty and amount of lying to pull that off. I know that as a moral person I couldn’t do that.

  14. DavidHW

    Speaking of Velikovsky, I’m really hoping Phil will do a back-of-the-napkin analysis of the recent Earth-Gallifrey encounter from “Doctor Who”. Time-locks must keep in the gravitational forces, no? :-)

    (I liked how how the F/X folk made Gallifrey into a super-Earth.)

  15. I think Velikovsky recognis(z?)ed money could be earned with sensationalism. IIRC von Däniken (from “Gods are kosmonauts” fame) had to pay of(f?) a rather huge tax debt which he succesfully did with his pseudo scientific nonsense. He published some 10 years after Velikovsky.
    It was a new area at the time…

  16. Matt

    Well I’m reminded of what Albert Einstein said:

    “Phil… Plai….t… is an… idiot.”

    And if Einstein said it…

  17. Peptron

    It’s clear now, Phil Plait was destined to be a skeptic:
    From his web site Bad Astronomy:
    “I… was ejected whole from Jupiter…”

    This of course, proves that Phil Plait is in fact Mercury, the messenger God, brought forth from Jupiter to spread the message from the olympic gods: skepticism is important. If it wasn’t for that, I’m sure I’d be prone to think stange things, but I am immune to that now, thanks to divinely inspired skepticism.

  18. Rory Kent

    “”…the core of the planet Venus must still be hot.” — Immanuel Velikovsky, cosmologist, 1950″

    Wow! A whole half a sentence is correct! Good lord, this man must be more knowledgeable on astronomical matters than even Kepler, Einstein or Hubble!
    But what really made me laugh was that he called Velikovsky a cosmologist!

    Some people truly are confused.

    EDIT: After looking further down the page I found this little gem:
    “Magnetism is only difficult for morons.”

    I.. bah.. gah… blaaahhh…

  19. Greg in Austin

    You wrote a book?

    8)

  20. ND

    That goes beyond simple quote mining, that’s revisionism through editing. It’s outright lying. Concatenating 6 words from 2 sentences with over 34 words go beyond pulling a sentence out of context.

    The treatment given to the CRU emails was quote mining where wrongdoing was insinuated through either deliberate or ignorant interpretation.

    Both of these instances are irritating.

  21. Sure, but AoS also said (and I quote from the very same forum):

    “…trust …scientist Phil Plait …in astronomy”

    “…agree with …scientist Phil Plait that Venus is a …world”

  22. Randy Johnston

    Thanks for no longer appearing on George Noory’s Coast-to-Coast AM. That appalling show has become the repository for all things irrational, denialist and ant-intellectual.

  23. HAHA. This might be the best example of quote mining I’ve ever seen. But damnit! Tree Lobsters beat me to that joke.

  24. Phil, this is an accomplishment that i would also be proud of. At dragon*con will you sign your book for me with this quote written into the cover?

  25. Well AoS clearly understands everything he reads. Just look at this little gem he posted:

    http://www.christianforums.com/t7429693/

    The title of the thread states: “No Rise in CO2 Levels During the Past 160 Years” whilst the article says that the fraction of emitted CO2 that remains airborne has remained constant. Which is completely different!

    AoS can’t even read properly, let alone logically disprove physics.

  26. I met a fan of Velikovsky once. He started his diatribe (which consumed something like an hour of my life, but we were hiking in the woods so what the hell) with an attack on Pasteur and argued as convincingly as he could for much of the time that spontaneous generation is how the world really works.

    Then we got to the really weird part. He wanted to build a giant earthquake machine, which he believed would alter the climate and restore us to a state before the catastrophe, at which time the mastodons and giant cave bears and other Pleistocene megafauna would spontaneously regenerate.

    He was rather humorous, so the whole hour wasn’t lost. “Bring back the Woolly Mammoth!” he cried at one point as we discussed environmental slogans. He was also emphatic that when you looked at the Colorado landscape, it was clear that pachyderms were simply meant to be here.

    Good times. When they finally nailed the unabomber, I half expected it to be this guy. He wanted my help building his earthquake machine >.>

  27. Brian S.

    Ok, so I went and read through that thread.

    Phil, I’m sending you a bill for all the acetaminophen I going to have to take.

  28. Geekwithsoul

    Was Velikovsky also the one who tried to explain biblical manna from heaven as carbohydrates dropping from the sky from some meteor shower (by some automagic process where theoretical hyrdocarbons got turned into delicious carbohydrates)?

  29. Steve in Dublin
  30. Brian Schlosser

    “I’ve been…an active…goofball..for…decades.”

    Phil Plait, PH.D

    I love this game!

  31. Hoonser

    Phil you’re just a liar and a fraud!

    Sir, do you remember writing this?!

    ‘I…think…homeopathy…is…just…great…and…real…regular…science…is…stupid…and…not…real’

    Or how bout this one on a prominent anti-vaccination website!

    ‘Vaccines…are…bad…they…cause…autism…I…am…a…liar…g…o…see…a…Jim…Carrey…movie…today…th..u..mbs…up’

    Bad Astronomer indeed!

  32. Brett G

    How does it feel to be a pseudoscientist?? That really means you have made it! 😀

  33. Darth Robo

    “the wrongest wrong you can ever wrongly wrongify”

    Can I quote this?

    :p

  34. Michelle R

    Now that’s quote mining worthy of a movie poster quote!

  35. Michelle R

    Oh by the way, it IS Christian Forums. If you are familiar with the wonderful quote website FSTDT, you know them well.

    In fact, here’s a good one for ya!

    “In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that the stars will fall from the sky. I highly doubt that only the planets will stay up there. So I see stars and planets as synonymous. And since no scientist has ever visited a star, they can’t prove they’re different from planets. I acknowledge that my belief is only a theory. But I’ll stick with it since scientists haven’t shown their infallibility the way Jesus has.”

    Planets = Stars. Jesus said it. Live with it.

  36. JackC

    This is no where near as good as that lovely remake of your video of why the asteroid would [not] hit the Earth – that was gold.

    JC

  37. Kevin

    You’re a pseudoscientist?

    Huh.

  38. Danny

    “Creationists are…completely…hot…Velikovsky…hit the target.”

  39. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    This is about the funniest funny you can ever funnily funnify! [But please do try up the ante!]

    I just wish a proper response to the tin foil hats were “Lalalalala – I can’t see you!”.

  40. @Michelle R,

    Some people actually think that planets and stars are the same because we haven’t actually traveled to a star?!! The explosion you just heard was my brain exploding as fifty different ways of refuting this statement all tried to get out at once.

    Sometimes the stupid burning would be an improvement!

  41. CW

    (sorry, I’m a bit late on the scene, but I can’t resist) – Phil wrote, “I’ve been a…Holy Grail…goofball antiscience promoter.

  42. SLC

    When I was a graduate student a million years ago, one of the professors in the physics department got his PhD degree from Princeton and belonged to the same synagogue as Velikovsky. He had several conversations with Velikovsky and his assessment was that he was a very nice man, was very intelligent, and totally ignorant of physics.

    Much like Ken Millers’ assessment of William F. Buckley Jr. on biology.

  43. RickK

    I looked at the postings in that Christian forum. While “Agonaces” gives a dramatic example of quote mining, he/she is so completely looney that they should be below your radar, Phil. There are some people that are so silly that it actually gives them undeserved credibility when you notice them.

  44. Gamercow

    I told myself not to go to those forums. I hesitated to click on the link, telling myself I would just get angry. I paused before clicking on the tab that opened up. But yet, I went, and got angry, and then angry at myself for taking the clucking 0f anti-science chickens seriously. They are the internet equivalent of the crazy guy on the corner shouting at himself.

  45. Aerimus

    @Gamercow:

    Yeah, I pretty much did the same thing. I just can’t understand how these people work.

  46. Rasamune

    What I find the most hilarious is that in quote-mining that passage, AoS is lying about how scientists who study the cosmos regard magnetism — the very thing that you accuse pseudoscientists of doing in the passage that (s)he quote-mined.

  47. MAD Magazine had a piece on what movie reviewers said vs. what quotes actually appeared in the ads. It went along these same lines!

  48. BILL7718

    Thanks a lot Phil. Now I want a beaver for a pet. He’s SOOOOOOO cute!

  49. Steve in Dublin

    Speaking of MAD Magazine, their spokesperson seems to be right up there in that thread along with AoS. I started reading from the beginning of the thread. The guy with the Alfred E. Neuman avatar is citing crackpot random web sites as if he thinks they’re peer-reviewed journals. To wit: gravitation *doesn’t* alter the path of light in a vacuum, therefore the theory of General Relativity has been completely discredited?!

    Seriously Phil, you need to go back to school and start all over because you’re doin’ it wrong (and so was Einstein)!

    ETA: sorry, got slightly confused there. It is AoS, the same person who quote mined the BA, who thinks Einstein was a crackpot. But Alfred “Science can take a hike” Neuman has some ‘interesting’ theories of his own that, when backed into a corner, results in ‘goddidit’. Here’s a good example:

    Your question makes very good sense, but it does one thing wrong: it contradicts the amount of time the universe has been in existence according to the Bible (6013 years).

    Wow. Just… wow.

  50. JAM

    Now why in the world would an otter be covering its ears when it yawns?

    I suppose it must be related to some adaptation to increased external pressure entailed in diving — a cursory look (http://www.google.com/images?hl=en&q=otters+yawning&sourceid=navclient-ff&rlz=1B5GGGL_enUS308US331&ie=UTF-8) seems to show that they are much more likely to do it when they’re yawning in the water, as here — but how?

    Those ears don’t appear to be self-sealing, implying perhaps that water flows into them and the otter relies a lot on its hearing when diving; pressing on the ears like that would tend to increase pressure in the external canal; when I yawn with clogged eustachian tubes, I seem to remember that it hurts a little…

    Then maybe otters pump up the (air) pressure in their middle ears and then close their Eustachian tubes when they dive to better match the water pressure at depth, then when they come up to breathe and need to yawn, and I used to hear that yawning is good to exhaust the deeper reaches of the lung, they don’t want to release the air from their middle ear and then have to start the process all over again for the next dive, and so they press on their ears to increase the pressure in the external canal in order to prevent the discomfort and possible damage that could result from the pressure increase in the middle ear that yawning with a closed tube could cause, especially when the pressure is already higher than normal.

    Or something.

  51. 36. Michelle R Says:

    Planets = Stars. Jesus said it. Live with it.

    Reminds me of one of the Gamera movies riffed by MST3K… the kid in the movie talks about ‘going to another star’, when he means planet. Tom (Kevin Murphy) Servo repeatedly screams at the movie that it’s wrong. (I think that’s the same one where one of the kids – lot of kids in Japanese SciFi/Kaiju movies – talks about advanced civilizations not having ‘traffic accidents’ !?)

    J/P=?

  52. I read a few of the posts in that link, until it made my head hurt. I’m coming back to the place where people have at least some shred of logic in their brains.

  53. Daniel J. Andrews

    Sea otter, not a beaver. Neither make good pets as one makes an uncleaned kitty-litter box smell as a delicate fragrance by comparison, and the other one will gnaw your legs off while you sleep. :-)

  54. gruebait

    The posting by “Agonaces of Susa” may not have been the original quote-mining.

    I got out my google and quickly found this, “Originally Posted by James R:” , 04-17-09, at :
    http://www.sciforums.com/showthread.php?t=90454

    “According to mainstream science, electromagnetism is irrelevant.

    “Magnetism…is a joke in astronomy.” — Phil Plait, writer, August 2008″

  55. I just couldn’t believe this. How anyone with a conscience could stoop to such crap is mind-blowing.

  56. Michael Suttkus, II

    A creationist I know once said, “‘Quote mining’ is just the way scientists whine when they’re caught admitting truths. It is impossible to quote mine someone, as they either said a thing or they did not. Context is irrelevant.”

    He later went on to say, “I am a complete idiot and creationism is for morons.”

    And I have no need to provide any context for that quote, right? It stands on it’s own because quote mining is quite impossible. : – )

  57. Gary Ansorge

    “You trust the pseudoscientist Phil Plait”

    So, a guy with a PhD in astronomy is a pseudoscientist???

    Phew! I’m SO glad I didn’t waste my time getting that doctorate.

    Gary 7

  58. UtopianDystopoa

    I go by this name in christianforums and got perma-banned for posting radioactive decay data and equations in a thread about radioactivity and then getting the response from A17-something and Agonaces of Susa that “facts can take a hike”.

    What did I do wrong?
    Is christianforums a no-fact zone?

  59. pheldespat

    That quote-mining has to win the Nobel prize of quote-mining hands down. O_O

    “I’ve been… a goofball antiscience promoter… notorious for this, but others do it as well. … “Agonaces of Susa”… is… happily… careening around the solar system like billiard balls, interacting in impossible ways, and doing many impossible things…
    He’d have been… God, but still, a lot of people swallowed his nonsense whole. It’s mostly dead now, with just a few reality-denying… idiots… that… believe in… magic… completely…

    as you can see,… everything… was… hot, but the reason he… would be hot was… Velikovsky… , which is about the wrongest wrong you can ever wrongly wrongify… but the rest of the world… fight this fight every single day.”

  60. Trillian

    Congrats Phil! You’re in the big leagues now.

  61. LANDRU

    @JAM
    Phil says: The beaver must …. chew… on a certain … long stemmed reed … to launch Photoshop

  62. Can’t be sure, but the style in which “Agonaces of Susa” behaves/comments makes me think it’s this guy — http://oilismastery.blogspot.com/ — a world-class pseudoscience troll/sockpuppet that shows up all over the place. I sparred with him over a year ago when he very ineffectively tried to convince me and my readers of Expanding Earth hypothesis. Simply likes to rock the boat … yawn … the guy needs to get a life.

  63. Michelle R

    @John Paradox: Aaah, japanese kaiju movies. See? It’s the truth! Japan says it!

    It’s like Mario Galaxy. I like going to galaxies!…That are more like solar systems.

  64. Steve in Dublin

    BrianR @ 63

    Good theory that. He’s got all the Velikovsky/Atlantis/creationism nonsense itemised right at the top of his web page. And the funny thing is… I remember somehow arriving at that oilismastery page a few weeks ago when I was commenting on some ‘ClimateGate’ article and a link from the comments took me there. Hmm.

  65. I have to say this, because I don’t think anyone else covered it:

    “my first book, Bad Astronomy…”

    Dude, you wrote a book?

    “…was ejected whole from Jupiter”

    Okay, I guess not. So you just kinda find them lying about?

  66. ND

    Ah yes, Oilismastery. He somehow made Anaconda look semi-sane! He also goes by the handle TotalScience. Whatever that means. He was obsessed that Newtonian gravitation was somehow religion induced. The thing with these guys are they are not trolling for fun and games, they’re really into it. Bought it hook line an sinker.

    Anaconda first showed up on BA a year ago this month. I wonder what I should do to celebrate this anniversary?

  67. Old Muley
  68. Greg in Austin

    The Force is with you, young Bear…

    But you are not a Jedi yet.

    8)

  69. Angus

    Your use of LOLcats (and LOLotters) is masterful.

  70. Plutonium being from Pluto

    I thought you’d arrived as a skeptic years ago! 😉

    Oh well congratulations anyhow. :-)

    @ 67. ND :

    Anaconda first showed up on BA a year ago this month. I wonder what I should do to celebrate this anniversary?

    Have a beer or other alcoholic beverage and have a toast to him eventually attaining enlightenment from us? Hey it works for me! 😉

    @ 54. Daniel J. Andrews Says:

    Sea otter, not a beaver. Neither make good pets as one makes an uncleaned kitty-litter box smell as a delicate fragrance by comparison, and the other one will gnaw your legs off while you sleep.

    You have personal experience of this? 😉

    @ 29. Geekwithsoul Says:

    Was Velikovsky also the one who tried to explain biblical manna from heaven as carbohydrates dropping from the sky from some meteor shower (by some automagic process where theoretical hyrdocarbons got turned into delicious carbohydrates)?

    Yes indeed – but just “Jupiter ejected Venus as a comet and it went careering around passing Earth repeatedly and then knocking Mars loose to also wreck havoc on us before both planets settled into their nice stable orbits today – all within the past ten thousand years” is more than enough nonsense for me.

    Carl Sagan in one of his books – Broca’s Brain (I think but I seem to have mislaid that somewhere so can’t confirm) – did a comprehensive de-bunking of Velikovsky which is well worth reading. :-)

  71. Nukewaste

    It’s probably oilismastery, or one of his followers (read: sycophants)

    http://oilismastery.blogspot.com/

    Just do a find word search, since you really don’t want to read any of what he has written, but number seven on his list of “Mainstream Crackpot Quotes” (towards the bottom of the exhaustive list of mostly gibberish) is “Magnetism is … a joke in astronomy….” — Phil Plait, writer, August 2008

    And he also lists BadAstronomy as number three on his list of “Idiotarians”, which seems to be a list of blogs that he doesn’t agree with. But is helpless to refute, other than badmouthing and quote-mining.

    Judge not, lest ye be judged, and all that, eh?

  72. Petrolonfire

    @4. A.N.Other Says:

    Sadly there’s muppets at both ends of the playing field.

    But .. but muppets are funny & good for educating kiddies aren’t they? 😉

    Must … restrain … self … from … making .. beaver .. jokes … here. 😉

  73. Dionigi

    Lay off the Simpsons if you want to stay top skeptic

  74. JB of Brisbane

    Velikovsky wrote a book?!?

  75. Peter

    I read that thred and the only thing i can say, the dishonesty amongs the religious is astounding.

  76. Velikovsky was wrong in many areas. But Phil needs to get his facts right. (1) Velikovsky never said that the bible was literally true. He did use some of its contents as part of his historical reconstruction in conjunction with comparative mythology. (2) Velikovsky never suggested that the planets “careen around the solar system like billiard balls”. Now I’m doubting whether you’ve ever read any of his books. (3) Velikovsky could not have been wrong about his science, because he presented no science in his book, Worlds in Collision, a historical reconstruction. Velikovsky did say that science could be used to test his ideas, which of course found that a number of his ideas were false.

    If you’re going to criticise someone for misquoting you, how do you think it looks when you do exactly the same?

  77. Pi-needles

    @ 54. Daniel J. Andrews Says:

    Sea otter, not a beaver. Neither make good pets as one makes an uncleaned kitty-litter box smell as a delicate fragrance by comparison, and the other one will gnaw your legs off while you sleep.

    You’d have to be one hell of a heavy sleeper not to wake up when that’s happening dude! 😉

    BTW. Which one is which – is it the beaver that gnaws your leg off and the sea otter that stinks or vice versa?

  78. DigitalAxis

    That’s not even quote mining; there are no quotes in there. He mined WORDS and strung them together. I always thought quote mining was when you took a sentence out of context so its meaning was different than intended.

    If you mine WORDS, anything is possible. Just look at the Bible Code people; they’re happy to go even further.

    New project! Use Bible Code techniques on Phil’s books! I wonder if he obscurely predicted 9/11/2001. Yes, I know the publication date; bear with me.

    @57 Michael Sutkis II: I’m sure the guy has also said “I don’t believe in… Jesus” at various points.

  79. Bruce the Canuck

    @ 54. Pi-needles Says:

    Which one is which – is it the beaver that gnaws your leg off and the sea otter that stinks or vice versa?

    Sea otters smell like dog 10-days-dead fish mixed with dog sh!t. They also make a lot of loud grunting noises at night, and really like to use boat mooring lines as handy toilet paper. Very cute and fun to watch at a comfortable distance though. However there are rumours they eat cats when given the opportunity.

  80. Justin

    Wow that message board was awful. Anyone who can read that garbage for more than a minute deserves a medal or something.

  81. Vosla

    This article was so full of fun I almost laughed my ass off, thanks Phil!

  82. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Now why in the world would an otter be covering its ears when it yawns?

    I’m not sure you are serious, why would you think it is actually covering its ears? There are many reasons to touch or hold ones skull, more so for some animals that groom or move scent oils around.

    The coincidence of doing two things at the same time can be just that. To suss that out you need to do some behavioral studies.

  83. earth2allie

    Keep fighting the good fight BA!

  84. “The worst readers are those who behave like plundering troops: they take away a few things they can use, dirty and confound the remainder, and revile the whole.”
    — Friedrich Nietzsche

  85. mike burkhart

    I liked the chapter on Velikovsky in Bad Astronomy I found his idea that Venus Came out of Jupiter stupid if gas did come out of Jupiter it would disapate not form into a planet as for him saying Venus would be hot and it is so what . before space probes there were lots of ideas about what the surface of Venus would be like I recently saw a Rusian made scifi movie released in the US in 1960s called Voyage to the prehistoric planet in witch cosmonuts land on Venus and find it inhabated by dinosaurs , lizardmen , and even find a ocean with a Underwater city in ruins ( another verison of the same film had scantly clad women in it who live on Venus) this could have been acurate but now we know about the surface of Venus and one more thing The Bible dose not suport Velikovsky one bit P.S. The mentioned film has no comunist retoic in it its a very good movie has lots of action in it and a surprise ending

  86. @Mike Burkhart:
    I recently saw a Rusian made scifi movie released in the US in 1960s called Voyage to the prehistoric planet in witch cosmonuts land on Venus and find it inhabated by dinosaurs , lizardmen , and even find a ocean with a Underwater city in ruins ( another verison of the same film had scantly clad women in it who live on Venus)

    I have both (the second one, with Mamie Van Doren, is basically a re-edit to include the women), along with First Spaceship on Venus (AKA Silent Star, a German movie based on a Stanislaw Lem story).

    Collecting old movies (Rocketship XM, Destination Moon, etc.) gives a pretty weird view of what was believed about other planets in the past, not to mention the John Carter of Mars series (to be made into a movie, as well).

    J/P=?

  87. Harry Tuttle

    Planets = Stars. Jesus said it. Live with it.

    I thought Sandy Frank said that?

    Well, he had the distressingly micro-shorted kid in that one Gamera flick say it at least.

  88. Adrian Lopez

    “… astronomers are idiots”
    “… magnetism … has no role in astrophysics.”
    “… Venus … was ejected whole from Jupiter …”

    — Phil Plait

  89. Bryan Feir

    Geekwithsoul@29:

    Was Velikovsky also the one who tried to explain biblical manna from heaven as carbohydrates dropping from the sky from some meteor shower (by some automagic process where theoretical hyrdocarbons got turned into delicious carbohydrates)?

    Yes, that was him. Reminds me of one of Asimov’s comments on Velikovsky, where after he’d gone on about the orbital impossibilities, one of Velikovsky’s supporters came back at him with essentially ‘your field isn’t orbital dynamics, who are you to criticize?’. Asimov then came back and pointed out the whole hydrocarbon/carbohydrate confusion, and then pointed out his Ph.D. in biochemistry; carbohydrates and hydrocarbons were his field, so this person couldn’t use the same argument back against him.

    Yeah, Asimov could be a bit of an arrogant jerk at times, and he was one of the first to admit it.

  90. ND

    Bryan Feir ,

    I think that’s one of the times when you’re entitled to being a little arrogant because you’ve earned it. You’ve put in the time and devotion to learning a subject, and when someone ignorant of that same subject is saying believe me when I say this, yes you can point out they’re full of crap (biochem covers that too no? not much subject). I’d say coming across as arrogant is an unintended side affect there :)

  91. ND

    errr, “not much subject” should be “not MY subject”

  92. Robert Carnegie

    I was gonna confirm Velikovsky/manna too, but I think I got it from the Carl Sagan essay.

    I’m not sure that being quote mined gets better than having the deleted portion of the quote actually call the quote miner on what they’re doing before they even did it: “some pseudoscientists lying and saying this force is ignored”.

  93. Dr Gr4f1x

    Why should I listen to you, Phil? After all, as AoS says (and I’m quoting here), “…scientist Phil Platt… is… a joke in astronomy”. :)

  94. SithDoughnut

    This article has just been linked to on the Christian Forums for the benefit of AoS. It’ll be interesting to see what reaction he gives, if any. Don’t worry too much though, I’m reasonably convinced he is a troll, or possibly an idiot. If you look at some of his other posts he also believes that cavemen explored space, among other things.

  95. UnrepentantSinner

    I’m USincognito from that thread. I think AoS is a big troll. I’ve been noting that someone is adding tags to threads his to counter the less than flattering ones I’ve added and my suspicion is that it’s him. AVVET on the other hand is crazy or delisional.

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