SocraticGadfly: Scratch Greg Laden from the critical thinkers list

December 08, 2010

Scratch Greg Laden from the critical thinkers list

I used to browse him on ScienceBlogs from time to time, but, over the NASA fake exobiology story, and now, over (under the influence of his attack dog Stephanie Zvan, I believe) Julian Assange, he's lost me ... and lost "it."

First, the NASA story and his response.

Slate has an excellent article about how NASA has sponsored not-so-good science AND blown the media coverage issues. And, at least one professor says NASA had motive for this fluffery. But, because of the reason for that motive, it could well backfire:
Some scientists are left wondering why NASA made such a big deal over a paper with so many flaws. "I suspect that NASA may be so desperate for a positive story that they didn't look for any serious advice from DNA or even microbiology people," says John Roth of UC-Davis. The experience reminded some of another press conference NASA held in 1996. Scientists unveiled a meteorite from Mars in which they said there were microscopic fossils. A number of critics condemned the report (also published in Science) for making claims it couldn't back up. And today many scientists think that all of the alleged signs of life in the rocks could have just as easily been made on a lifeless planet.

I didn't think so much about that as budgetary motives, but it makes sense. No big news from Mars probes for a while. Obama announces budget cuts and mission changes. The next planned shuttle flight keeps getting shoved back.

Yep, that's motive.

First, contra the breathlessness, at Gizmodo AND elsewhere — don't tell me that just because Gizmodo isn't a science site, that NASA had nothing to do with "framing." The evidence for that is becoming more and more clear, despite someone like Greg Laden at Scienceblogs, an unrepentant fluffer here and here. That said, Greg's definitely lost credibility in my eyes over this issue.

But, per the first of his linked blog posts:
I've asked for specific critiques of the NASA press release and have received one, which makes a good suggestion but hardly demonstrates that NASA lied or cheated or flim flamed.

You, on the other hand, are quickly making it onto my list.

I never said, myself, that NASA "lied or cheated." I didn't use the phrase "flim flamed" [sic] for its fluffery, either. But, if that's what you think fluff PR for apparently shoddy science should be called, OK!

And, ooohhhh, I'm on your "list"!

The New York Times and Phil Plait both also, among others, seem to have gotten a bit breathless.

The Guardian has an excellent roundup of NASA's dissing of all the skeptics and naysayers. Again, fluffers ... more skepticism!

Update, Dec. 9:More yet on the NASA fluffery angle:

Here's proof of the fluffery - the hed on NASA's annoucement:
"Get Your Biology Textbook...and an Eraser!"

Fact is, as P.Z. Myers, Wikipedia and many other sites noted, arsenic replacing phosphorus in organic compounds, albeit much simpler ones than DNA, isn't even new. As for it actually doing so in DNA, well, the trumpeted NASA experiment doesn't necessarily prove that.

And, NASA's PR machine is still going, in this wire story that connects the iffy experiment to discovery of more habitable planets and more stares:

Meanwhile, more motive for NASA to trumpet itself? Perhaps worries about the successful orbital flight of SpaceX's Dragon. though NASA was kind enough to offer congratulations.

Remember, getting back to the budgetary motive angle, Obama has talked about leaning more on private services to head to the space station.


Next, he (and Stephanie) on Assange's arrest.

Here's the bottom line there — Laden's credulity on the U.S. government wanting to corral Assange meets up with incredible legal naivete and sloppy thinking:
Perhaps being arrested is not the same as being charged, but really, at this point this is just a semantic game. Yawn.

Whoa .... just whoa ....

If that's his thinking level, and communications concerns level, no wonder he "bit" so readily on the NASA story, and refuses to admit he was wrong.

More in this new Assange post on how Greg is a "word-snake" who likes to slither away from his own statements, especially when he gets busted.

Beyond that, his sense of humor is puerile.

Oh, and he is now threatening to go after my ISP:
Failure to adhere to these rules may lead to your permanent banning from this blog, and if you don't adhere to that, you will be banned from the entire internet.

Dude. Thin-skinned, are we?

And, his friend Stephanie, I am guessing from her response, will claim any and all information about false rape reporting is suspect; I think she's seeing this as a litmus test for gender feminism, or, at least, her particular version of it. And, I'll be glad to fail that one.

Updated, Dec. 11: Ugh. Being a SciBlogs reader doesn't guarantee critical thinking. Two of Laden's posts related to ArsenicGate are in readers' top-five list.


Greg Laden said...

I regard your negative evaluation of my credibility to be a signal of my own sanity.

Mr.Muhammad zamiluddin Khan said...

Confirmed sanity is the very arguement that I have read.You are what you care about and you care aboout science and people.Muhammad Zamiluddin Khan'92,HSPH,a.k.a. Zamil Khan

Gadfly said...

May 16, 2011: Note for anybody who came here via Desiree Schell's FB thread:

Greg, I see you're lying .. I never said NASA was **paying** you anything. (I might have snarked rhetorically about you being on NASA's payroll, but nothing else) That said, other FB and pre-FB skeptical friends of mine warned me about you (and Stephanie) before the denouement of your threat to try to cut off my ISP. What I DID say on your blog was that, given federal budget cuts, the end of the shuttle, etc., that NASA had very good reason to engage in PR fluffery. Interesting that a Gnu doesn't like confrontationalism so much when on the receiving end. I also pointed out, by NO means being the only person, that it was weak, if not close to bad, science. (Others noting that including PZ, of course.)

Otherwise, you, Mr. Laden, strike me as more and more of not just a confrontationalist, but a bully of some sort.

Gadfly said...

And, re the Assange case and the frequency of, and reasons for, false rape claims, more here, for all you visitors: