Tree Lobsters: Accomplishment

By Phil Plait | April 16, 2012 12:15 pm

I find myself agreeing vigorously with the web comic Tree Lobsters today:

This is just the first panel; click to see the rest of the comic.

It also reminds me of something I wrote a little while back. Funny how sometimes truth stands the test of time, and can be found independently by different people. Just sayin’.

MORE ABOUT: Tree Lobsters

Comments (44)

  1. sorrykb

    I have to say, though, about the last panel:
    I think I might feel a bit more at ease right now if no one had EVER found those particular insects.
    Yikes.
    - KB

  2. Alex

    The story of those insects is quite interesting: presumed extinct, then discovered clinging to a rock (which has less business being a sanctuary and more business being a supervillain’s secret lair) in the middle of the ocean 80 years later:
    http://www.npr.org/blogs/krulwich/2012/02/24/147367644/six-legged-giant-finds-secret-hideaway-hides-for-80-years

  3. Damon

    Except, none of those people ever claimed to have discovered any of those things. Nice strawman, though.

    Astrologers use stars to analyze patterns in people’s lives and provide hope and guidance. This has been an established practice for thousands of years, it works as much as it needs to, so no need for new discoveries there.

    UFOlogists look for UFOs. UFOs have been around since man could draw on cave walls. This is indisputable. No one knows for sure when or where they will surface, so we can’t really blame UFOlogists for relying on hunches and guesswork. But one thing is for sure: they exist, as does ample video, photographic, and eyewitness evidence– just as with your silly “microwaves” and “nebulaes”. So that panel just kind of falls flat.

    Faith healers have nothing to do with the other panels, so this is just an example of a sloppy artist bunching together a wide range of topics to push as many buttons as possible to please his equally ignorant fans. I don’t know any Astrologers (or people who follow astrology for that matter, since this does not make someone an Astrologer) or UFOlogists who practice “faith healing”. What is that? That’s where you let your body heal itself because you don’t want other people stabbing foreign objects into your body, right? What a crazy concept.

    What the hell is cryptozoology? The study of strange organisms? Yeah, no discoveries there– except for anyone who has ever discovered a new species of anything, at any time. Oops, should have kept your head down. In fact, I think you missed the point of this comic entirely. It’s an ironic joke about how the fringe people always make all the real discoveries while the “established” practices take all the credit. Good one!

    Cute panel, but it’s ultimately just some pictures with captions, no actual hard work involved, and he sort of sets up a question at the end with no answer. “Just a reminder of who is doing all the damn work.” Yes, who? Who is really doing all the “damn work”? Work is relative.

  4. amphiox

    Damon, if you don’t even know what a cryptozoologist is, you aren’t actually qualified to comment on this.

  5. Damon

    And if you can’t acknowledge the contributions of the fringe sciences to humanity you aren’t qualified to be using a computer. Even the Flat-Earth was a scientific theory at one time, sonny.

  6. amphiox

    And it’s pretty apparent from his post that Damon doesn’t know what astrologers and faith healers are, do, or claim to be able to do, either.

  7. PayasYouStargaze

    Brilliant comic. Spot on!

    @Damon: Flat-Earth was never scientific theory. Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the Earth in ~200BC.

  8. OtherRob

    There are no “fringe sciences”, Damon.

  9. andy

    Talking of cryptozoology, there’s an article up at Tetrapod Zoology about the particular case of “Cadborosaurus”. Worth a look for an example of a sceptical take on the field.

  10. KC

    Flat -Earth wasn’t ever really a scientific theory – just a widely held misconception.

    No need for discoveries in astrology? For people who claim expertise in the relationships and influences of astronomical phenomena on humans and their behavior, they were awfully ignorant of the Universe around them until astronomers came along.

  11. Checkmate1

    @3, (sigh). Another troll booth on the Highway of Enlightenment.
    Ignore it; just drive on through. The rest of you, keep up the good work.

  12. ND

    I think the strip hit a nerve with Damon.

    So what sort of fringe science are you into Damon?

    “UFOlogists look for UFOs. UFOs have been around since man could draw on cave walls. This is indisputable. No one knows for sure when or where they will surface, so we can’t really blame UFOlogists for relying on hunches and guesswork. ”

    Yes but UFOlogists claim or at the very least insinuate that UFOs are actually extraterrestrial in origin and thus come from other planets without any convincing evidence. Astronomers are actually finding planets around other stars. And we may (hopefully soon) develop methods to detect if there is life on those planets.

  13. rob

    i would like to add this to the conversation.

  14. Sili

    Astrologers use stars to analyze patterns in people’s lives and provide hope and guidance. This has been an established practice for thousands of years, it works as much as it needs to, so no need for new discoveries there.

    Then why did the practitioners incorporate Uranus, Neptune and Pluto into their work?

  15. ND

    Sili,

    In light of what you said, I think Damon might be somewhat right. I think it would have been better if the Tree Lobsters used Uranus/Neptune/Pluto/+ instead. And hits closer to home too. “They didn’t know about Uranus and Neptune? How come?”

  16. ND

    These days, I can’t tell if a person such is Damon is a troll or real anymore. I’m depressed now.

  17. chief

    Remember it took science progress to discover Uranus/Neptune and Pluto. ie the telescope. All the astrologers and the like are in the business for the money only. Nothing they do can stand up to arguments to detail why their conclusions are valid and fit in with hundreds of other branches of learning.

  18. Grimbold

    Those giant bugs?

    They are called Tree Lobsters.

  19. Ema Nymton

    Damon.

    You should probably be made aware of the fact that you’re a moron.

    If you keep that it mind, you might be less likely to make a mess of perfectly good threads.

  20. Terry McAllister

    Is it just me? Does anyone else see a pareidolia of a map of the earth in the universal background radiation temperature map?

  21. amphiox

    During the time when flat earth theory was useful science, it wasn’t fringe science, it was mainstream science. It was NEVER fringe science – after it was superseded it became NON-science.

    The difference between fringe science which turns out to be useful and quackery like astrology is that fringe science is still SCIENCE, and follows the scientific method. Astrology does not. UFOlogy does not. Cryptozoology does not (which is somewhat strange, because it COULD, and be considered legitimate, but it doesn’t.)

  22. Keith Bowden

    Yeah, I kind of saw it too. Wondered if it might have been intentionally manipulated by our favorite arboreal crustaceans…

  23. amphiox

    The thing about astrology, of course, is why DIDN’T they discover Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto. If their predictions are valid now, after including those three planets, why were they not inaccurate before, when those three planets were not included? And why didn’t the astrologers notice that their predictions were inaccurate? And from that inaccuracy, why weren’t they able to crunch their maths and figure out that the inaccuracies were the result of the influence of previously unobserved planets? This is, after all, how astronomy discovered Uranus and Neptune.

    And of course, we can also ask why astrology wasn’t able to inform helpfully on the Pluto debate. If their premises are valid, the could have cast horoscopes with and without Pluto, and if the ones with Pluto were more accurate, then Pluto would have qualified to remain a planet.

  24. Bob Gilmore

    @Terry McAllister (#20) – Yeah, I see that too! You beat me to the post!

  25. Chris L.

    Damon,
    The point of the cartoon is that while pseudo-scientists chase phantoms, real scientists are making actual discoveries about how the universe really works.

  26. VinceRN

    Well, Damon’s is my new favorite comment on this blog. He personafies the woo so perfectly. Do you have a blog Damon? I’d love to read it and comment occasionally…

    Great comic. There’s a boss at work who’s into astrology and other woo, have to show it to her.

  27. AL

    I’m pretty sure Damon is just Poe-ing everyone. Move along now.

  28. Nigel Depledge

    Damon (3) said:

    Except, none of those people ever claimed to have discovered any of those things. Nice strawman, though.

    It’s not a strawman, because the argument is not that those people claimed any specific thing (which would have been a strawman). Instead the argument is that they achieve precisely zero real progress in our knowledge.

    Astrologers use stars to analyze patterns in people’s lives

    Nope.

    They just make stuff up.

    and provide hope and guidance.

    And to reap from the gullible.

    This has been an established practice for thousands of years, it works as much as it needs to, so no need for new discoveries there.

    Well, this is kind-of true. Astrology is a scam, and it works, so why change it.

    I think the point is that, whereas astronomy – a science that was spawned from astrology – achieves something and adds to our knowledge and thus enriches our lives, astrologers are just a bunch of parasites. What they sell is an illusion, and they contribute nothing of substance to anything.

    UFOlogists look for UFOs. UFOs have been around since man could draw on cave walls. This is indisputable.

    Wrong.

    UFOlogists look for alien spaceships.

    The UFO phenomenon is a perfectly natural outcome of people’s imperfect knowledge and understanding of stuff that happens in the skies. The conclusion that UFOs “must” be alien spaceships once all known phenomena have been ruled out (and in most cases, known phenomena have not been ruled out) is fallacious. What is far more likely (given the inherent difficulty of interstellar travel) is that any “unknown” UFO report is a previously-unknown Earthly phenomenon.

    No one knows for sure when or where they will surface, so we can’t really blame UFOlogists for relying on hunches and guesswork.

    Yes, we can, because their assumptions and conclusions are unjustifiable.

    UFOlogists do not say “hey, there’s something here that no-one could work out what it was, let’s see if there’s a new phenomenon to record”. Instead they say “someone reported something in the sky and no-one can conclusively explain what they saw, therefore alien spaceships”.

    But one thing is for sure: they exist, as does ample video, photographic, and eyewitness evidence– just as with your silly “microwaves” and “nebulaes”.

    There’s a world of difference here, though. We have detailed and accurate recordings of microwaves and nebulae (note that the plural has no “s”), and such things have been irrefutably demonstrated to exist.

    UFOs exist, sure, but they are not a single phenomenon. Instead, they are (almost certainly all) the misunderstanding or misreporting of known phenomena. The Moon. Venus. Noctilucent clouds. Flocks of geese. Lens flare. Military aircraft. Chinese lanterns. Weather balloons. All of these things are known phenomena that have repeatedly been reported as UFOs.

    So that panel just kind of falls flat.

    Not really. If the UFOlogists are correct and UFOs really are alien spaceships, then they had to come from somewhere. So, do the UFOlogists establish a systematic search for planets outside our solar system? No. Do the UFOlogists approach the problem systematically, logically and rigorously? No. We have learned more about the possibility of alien life from astronomy and planetary science in the last 5 years than UFOlogy has ever contributed.

    Faith healers have nothing to do with the other panels,

    So? The human genome sequence is relevant to medicine.

    And it is a substantial achievement of modern science.

    so this is just an example of a sloppy artist bunching together a wide range of topics to push as many buttons as possible to please his equally ignorant fans. I don’t know any Astrologers (or people who follow astrology for that matter, since this does not make someone an Astrologer) or UFOlogists who practice “faith healing”. What is that? That’s where you let your body heal itself because you don’t want other people stabbing foreign objects into your body, right? What a crazy concept.

    Faith healing takes various forms. The least dangerous is prayer meetings. “Psychic surgery” is an outright fraud. The main danger of faith healing is that it might prevent people from seeking real medical assistance.

    And why are you so readily dismissing faith healing, but standing up for other forms of woo? It has the same logical and evidentiary basis as astrology and the “UFOs = alien spaceships” conclusion. I.e., none. Faith healing practitioners are just as much con artists as astrologers.

    What the hell is cryptozoology?

    Well, having spent the entirety of 1 minute on Wikipedia, I can tell you that it is the “investigation” of mythical animals like Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.

    The study of strange organisms? Yeah, no discoveries there– except for anyone who has ever discovered a new species of anything, at any time. Oops, should have kept your head down.

    Aha, I see you are making a wild guess, and getting it wrong.

    In fact, I think you missed the point of this comic entirely. It’s an ironic joke about how the fringe people always make all the real discoveries while the “established” practices take all the credit. Good one!

    Nope. Wrong again.

    Cryptozoologists have indeed discovered nothing at all, and made no contribution to science. Whereas actual zoologists often discover new species and contribute to science in many other ways.

    Cute panel, but it’s ultimately just some pictures with captions, no actual hard work involved, and he sort of sets up a question at the end with no answer. “Just a reminder of who is doing all the damn work.” Yes, who? Who is really doing all the “damn work”? Work is relative.

    The obvious point – which you seem determined to miss – is that actual scientists do all the damn work, and pseudoscientists are making no actual contribution to anything worthwhile.

  29. Nigel Depledge

    @ AL (28)-
    As far as I can tell from previous discussions, Damon really does believe all this stuff.

  30. Nigel Depledge

    Damon (5) said:

    And if you can’t acknowledge the contributions of the fringe sciences to humanity you aren’t qualified to be using a computer.

    Define “fringe sciences”. Then explain their relevance to this thread.

    ‘Cos none of the four fields of activity mentioned in the comic has anything remotely to do with real science.

    Even the Flat-Earth was a scientific theory at one time, sonny.

    No, it never was. It was an assumption. It has been known for thousands of years that the Earth is not flat. Google “Eratosthenes”.

    Edit – Ah, I see PayasYouStargaze (7) beat me to it.

  31. Nigel Depledge

    Chief (17) said:

    Remember it took science progress to discover Uranus/Neptune and Pluto. ie the telescope.

    Also a mathematical theory of gravity.

  32. Nigel Depledge

    @ Ema Nymton (19) -
    LOL!!

  33. #19 Ema:
    Hear hear – except that “moron” isn’t a strong enough word. I’m not even sure whether an adequate word exists, to describe Damon’s staggering level of stupidity.

    I was going to post some response to his drivel, just for the fun of it – but Nigel has done an excellent job.

  34. flip

    It’s quite clear from previous comments that Damon is just a hit-and-run troll who is a contrarian to practically anything Phil writes. But only on posts like these; never on the posts with those Hubble images that are so ‘unscientific’ in his eyes.

    … Nigel, I love your thorough and clear rebuttals :)

  35. Stan9fromouterspace

    “established practice for thousands of years” “no need for new discoveries there”
    These are called legends and superstitions. They sound nice around a campfire, but can lead to ignorance, disease and, in extreme cases, death.
    “continually growing with new discoveries and inquiry” “adapts to reflect new learning & discards unworkable theories as better ones are developed”
    This is called science. It actually works.

  36. ND

    Damon,

    What are some of the contributions from “frindge science” ?

  37. BigBadSis

    Phil, thanks for posting the link to your 2005 piece. It is still so moving after all this time. Did you ever make it into a video? Great, great piece!

  38. Nigel Depledge

    @ Neil Haggath (34) and Flip (35) -
    Thank-you!

  39. Benjamin

    “stands the test of time”. Played Civilization lately? heh heh

  40. PayasYouStargaze

    Got in before Nigel (31). I can die happy now.

    Seriously. It’s worth posting the rebuttals because there are always new readers who will benefit from them. But I doubt that particular troll will return to this thread.

  41. Bad Wolf

    Phil, you really need to repost that speech from 2005 every year or two, and give it every time you talk to schools kids.

  42. Peter B

    Amphiox @ #23: You said very succinctly what I was thinking but couldn’t put into words. Show how astrology *could* be used as a science, and you can see how far short of real science it falls.

  43. Nigel Depledge

    PayasYouStargaze (41) said:

    Got in before Nigel (31). I can die happy now.

    I would have gotten away with it if it hadn’t been for those pesky time zones.

    Curse you, PAYSG.

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