Humans can’t tell legitimate science from junk science (Synopsis)

“I’m old enough to remember when the polio vaccine was still new. Also, it hadn’t been that long since most people who caught pneumonia died from it. These medical breakthroughs were practically miracles.” -Pat Cadigan

When it comes to health, safety, and how we interact with the world around us, pretty much everyone recognizes the importance of making our decisions based on sound science. Yet even when presented with the same evidence, many people will draw different conclusions. Why? Because once we’ve made up our minds that something is either good or bad for us, we cherry-pick the remaining data to support our previously-held positions. Humans are notoriously bad at distinguishing legitimate science from junk science.

Signs and protesters from the 2013 March Against Monsanto in Vancouver, BC. While there may be legitimate complaints over our modern agricultural system, GMOs are not the evil technology that people make them out to be. Image credit: Rosalee Yagihara of Wikimedia Commons.

In a new mini-book from the American Council on Science and Health, author Alex Berezow runs us through hundreds of arenas, personalities, and health claims where junk science is prevalent. No matter where you are on the political or scientific spectrum, there are sure to be some entries in there that cause you to bristle, and that’s a good thing. If you can challenge your assumptions and preconceptions, you just might wind up doing the most important thing one can do in this world: learning something new.

Front cover of the hard copy of the Little Black Book of Junk Science. Image credit: American Council on Science and Health.

I fell victim to some of those things myself, and am not ashamed to admit it. Take a look inside, and see if you can tell junk science from actual science today!

83 thoughts on “Humans can’t tell legitimate science from junk science (Synopsis)”

  1. Downloaded! Looking forward to reading it.

    X-ray scanners: sound terrifying, bombarding your entire body with ionizing X-ray radiation. But the dose of X-rays? It’s equivalent to spending 12 seconds flying at cruising altitude on an airplane.

    I think what often weirds people out and makes them skeptical of the safety of an x-ray scan is that the doctor/nurse/dentist leaves the room when the patient gets an x-ray. But that’s because the health professional may administer tens of x-rays a day. So your dose can be relatively insignificant, yet at the same time if you doctor doesn’t take more strict precautions, their dose could easily end up 100x or 1000x higher over the course of a year. That is why they leave the room. It’s not getting your dose they’re worried about; it’s getting everyone’s dose.

  2. Having read Science Left Behind, of which Alex Berezov is co-author with Hank Campbell, I would be very reluctant to put credence in this book. The negative review on Amazon calls it “A pseudoscientific attempt to debunk pseudoscience.” That’s about what I’d expect.

    On the other hand, this reviewer does say some parts (by other authors) are worth reading. So since it’s a free download from the ACSH Web site, I may take a look.

    My review of Science Left Behind is online:

  3. I just read this pamplet (which is all it is… not a book per se) in less than one half hour. In several areas where I could be said to have above average education in the subject, I could tell the author was presenting a strawman. For example, on DDT, he talks about cancer… ummm… no, the concern was thinning of bird shells and declining bird populations (e.g. California Condor). This author is not a proper science enthusiast / skeptic, but a right wing ideologue.

  4. Interesting thing about those X-Rays and a high altitude flight. Recently there was In the local news was some ‘panic’ created because a small medical shipment of x-ray material wasn’t closed perfectly and was shipped on board of an airplane, and passengers might have been harmed.

  5. @ eric

    I still haven’t read the ebook, so not sure which scanners they are talking about. But one thing to note about x-ray scanning/imaging is that the exposure/intensity varies greatly depending on what the purpose of the scan is.

    Airport x-ray scanners are extremely weak in terms of radiation since their purpose is to penetrate only the clothing layer and see if you are concealing anything. Their intensity is less then 0.1 microsievert. On the other hand i.e. a medical chest CT scan exposes you to 7000 microsievert.
    A single scan from any of these is relatively harmless and yes, doctors leave because they would be exposed to it day in and day out if they were in the room. My comment is just that not all x-ray scans are the same and not all expose you to the same amount of radiation.

  6. 12 seconds on an aeroplane is not a good measure. XKCD had a good idea with the banana equivalent dose.

    A single banana is slightly radioactive due to the presence of radioactive Potassium-40. As Sinisa Lazarek points out, an x-ray scanner’s intensity is around 0.1 µSv, which is roughly the same amount of radiation exposure as you would get from eating a single banana.

  7. @Ethan wrote:

    There are also some things in there that didn’t jibe with my preconceptions on various subjects, including their entries on Sex Differences between men and women

    Please do elaborate on this, or in the immortal words of Jon Stewart….

    With the brouhaha over the Google Ideological Echo Chamber memo, this is a particularly apropos. For those that didn’t download and read this publication, here is what is said:

    Culture seems to be confused about the sexes. Biology has taught us that men and women are different,
    not just in basic plumbing, but physiologically
    and psychologically as well. Even our immune
    systems can differ from each other. Celebrate that

    There is an overwhelming amount of peer reviewed and published research to support this frankly mild statement. The authors even steered very clear of using the more controversial term of ‘gender’ and zeroed in on sexual differences which is differentiated in humans, as all sexually reproducing animals and plants, by innate gamete production.

    What exactly are your preconceptions on the differences between humans who innately produce spermatozoon versus those who innately produce ovum? Did reading the 3 sentences in this publication cause you to reevaluate your preconceptions on the Sex Differences between men and women?

  8. So humans can’t tell legitimate science from junk science, but we are supposed to accept that Alex Berezow can be trusted to do it for us, making him … what, exactly?

    The linked essay also says: “The anti-science nature of these causes and their champions is, in fact, well-documented.” Well, no. Firstly, Science is not a monolithic entity, and secondly, technology – also not a monolithic entity – is not the same thing as science. People who object to, or are suspicious of, specific individual technologies, whether this is based on their perceived interests or their values, are not thereby “anti-science”. Since the technologies that are put into wide use are frequently chosen by the will of large corporations and their wealthy owners, that assumption amounts to saying that the interests of unaccountable megacorps can be equated with the interests of science. Actually, I get the impression that Berezow operates on that assumption, though he would not like to say so outright.

  9. “Humans can’t tell legitimate science from junk science”
    Graduate Students of leftist Universities can’t tell legitimate science from junk science.
    A Male Dick Is Designed For a FEMALE VAGINA NOT Another Males Anus.
    That’s Science FACT anything else is…well “Junk” Science..

  10. @Denier,

    The arrogance of his paper was to point out that women are more this or that and that, and that these small differences are all defining women in general. Sure perhaps women are slightly more neurotic than man no big deal, but he made it sound like women are neurotic and man not. For example let’s say woman are better in talking than man, so because of this ‘fact’ we should let do all the talking by woman, and focus on other jobs for men. As a Google user I am glad that they fired this narrow minded person.

  11. How telling that two of the biggest science denialists (ragtag and denier) spout more foolishness on this topic.

    The phone/cancer study is an interesting one to begin with: roughly five years ago there was a large, properly conducted case/control study out of (if I remember correctly) Sweden that showed a slight association of cell phone usage and brain cancer. This caught attention because it was done correctly and the sample size was large.

    It created interest because it was one of, if not the, first well done study to indicate a link between cell phones and any type of cancer. However, the result has never been seen in any other study, and the most likely explanation (presented by the people who did the study as well as reviewers) was simple: the participants in the case group were suffering from an extremely rare form of brain cancer, which is itself rather rare. They were asked questions about their cell phone use for time periods roughly 3 to 5 before the study, questions designed to get information such as

    how long was your typical call
    how many calls per day did you make
    where did you usually hold the phone when you were talking

    (the actual questions were worded much more carefully)

    The proposed reason for the “positive result” is simple: remembering information about cell phone usage from several years ago is difficult for anyone, and these people, cancer patients, were clearly under a great deal of stress. The authors suggested that a good number of them were looking for an explanation for their illness, and so gave answers that over-associated the their cell phone use with the location of their cancers — that is, if their tumor were on the right side of their brain that is the location they gave for where they held the phone.

    In short – the result was due to a significant bias in the results. This type of study always has a risk of bias, but there are ways to deal with the obvious kinds. This was not possible.

    But as mentioned above, numerous other studies (of appropriate size and construction) have not indicated any link between cell phone use and cancer.

    So the short story is that it isn’t simply “pseudo science” (pushed by the climate change is a hoax, gender theories are garbage, vaccines are dangerous, etc., cranks) that the public has to sift through, it’s the occasional properly done study that gives results that stand out from the crowd that need to be sifted through. Those studies get the press, the scores of others that indicate it was an unusual result don’t.

  12. Society only permits a limited degree of non-conformity. Nails that stick out too far are commonly hammered down.

  13. According to “mainstream science” anyone criticizing relativity, in part or whole, is practicing “junk science.” We are all “hammered down.”

  14. Michael, as people have explained repeatedly, you are not criticizing relativity. You are beating a strawman version of relativity that has no relation to the real thing. That you choose to dive into self-pitying petulance and characterize earnest attempts to educate you as being “hammered down” shows us that you are not serious about your critique.

  15. @John,

    “Nails that stick out too far are commonly hammered down.”

    Depends on who’s the hammer and who’s the nail, in this case the author of the paper was the conservative hammer. They’ve liberated themselves from the hammer to preserve an equal approach to both men and women, and progress further from conformity.

  16. The hallmark of Science is empiricism, that theories are rooted in measurable properties whose relationships can be tested and supported or undermined by observable data. One of the several benefits that derive from this is that eventually, in the face of repeated (and repeatable) evidence, even the hidebound practitioners of “normal” science (Kuhn, Structure) often see the light.

    So finally, the embarrassment of failing to take into account traits that differ between sexes in a species is belatedly and slowly being addressed.

    One current study published in Nature Communications, argues that too many animal experiments have failed to consider sexual dimorphism.

  17. @Elle H.C. wrote:

    The arrogance of his paper…

    With your statements I doubt you’ve read the actual memo. If you think you did read the memo but the version you read didn’t have any graphs in it then you read an edited version. If you want the James Demore original, it is here:

    If you read what James Demore actually wrote, you can see that he said the opposite of what you just attributed to him.

    James Demore wrote:

    Reducing people to their group identity and assuming the average is representative ignores this [trait] overlap. This is bad and I don’t endorse that.

    Gizmodo first published the edited version that conveniently deleted certain statements like the above, and everyone grabbed Gizmodo’s version. Even ran with Gizmodo’s edited memo.

    That said, my original comment wasn’t directed at the Google memo so much as it was directed at @Ethan’s preconceptions of sexual dimorphism in humans being a myth. I wanted to see how far @Ethan was going with his latest effort to label science that agrees with his politics to be “good science” and science that disagrees with his politics to be “bad science”. It is fairly clear at this point that his labeling of “good” or “bad” have nothing to do with the robustness or reproducability of the science, but rather its congruence with the Progressive narrative.

  18. Sinisa:

    so not sure which scanners they are talking about.

    I have not read it either, but my example was specifically about dental and medical x-rays.


    Recently there was In the local news was some ‘panic’ created because a small medical shipment of x-ray material wasn’t closed perfectly and was shipped on board of an airplane

    Do you have a link? I’m not contesting that it happened, just curious to read about it. There’s still a lot of older radioisotope-based machines around but as far as I know, medical and dental x-ray technology has been shifting away from using them in favor of “on the spot” production using accelerator type machines.

  19. @Eric,

    It was flight from Caïro.

    In the first article it said:

    “About twenty persons had maximum 6,6 millisievert (mSv) between Caïro and Zürich. For about eight passengers between Zürich and Brussels it was about maximum 3,1 mSv, more than three times the maximum of 1 mSv.”

    In a second article they wrote that after further analysis the amount of radiation was far below 1mSv and stayed a level 2 incident on the INES-scale (International Nuclear Event Scale).

    Here’s a link to the company involved:

    BTW they also wrote that there are more than 10 shipments a day at the airport, on freighters as well as on passenger airplanes.

  20. @Denier,

    I had seen the one with the graphs, that’s actually what bothered me. He starts with pointing out the overlapping between the two groups, but then he feels the need to dig deep into differences ‘in general’.

    He could have written a paper on pointing out how big the overlap is to encourage more women into tech but he chose the opposite and focuse on the differences, creating a devide.

    What he did is writing people off based on their gender. Oh your a woman so you’re probably better at this and worse at that, and so you ignore arrogantly the overlap.

    Look at the number of women being a doctor it’s about 50/50 double the amount of women vs. 30 years ago. Imagine him writing that paper back then and saying women should better keep on being a nurse because they are ‘in general’ too neurotic. The 50/50 shows the LARGE overlap between men and women.

  21. @Elle H.C.

    What he did is writing people off based on their gender.

    Demore’s entire point was to get more women into tech. He wanted there to be no gender participation gap in science. It was the opposite of ‘writing people off’. He was trying to get Google to change how the software engineering was done so that it played to the ‘on average’ strengths of women as a way to reduce the existing gender gap. Finally he went on to addressing why Google’s current methods of reducing the existing gender gap were actually counter-productive.

    The divide wasn’t created by James Demore. He was trying to help solve the gap. The divide was created by those who want a divide. The memo was just grist for the mill. Feminists who need there to a a patriarchy to fight used it as evidence. News outlets who need click-baity headlines shouted about how ‘engineer thinks women are biologically unfit for tech’. Hate and projected villainy is the new normal, and human beings are now driving cars into crowds of other human beings because of it.

  22. This is my review of the Junk Science book – Amazon is reviewing it (the links are not in the review – against Amazons policy).

    This Junk Science book is, unfortunately, mostly Junk. Don’t buy it, or at the very most download it for free from the ACSH website.
    This work aims to identify junk science with a short note under nearly 200 alphabetical listings. The idea is to separate fact from fiction for the non-specialist. While efforts to do such a thing should be applauded, as it stands this book isn’t it.

    First off, the title is dreadful. A little black book contains a list of contacts for lovers, so what are they implying? At best I guess dirty secrets? But most of their items are not secrets, or dirty. Finding out acupuncture doesn’t work but is still peddled by charlatans to the gullible and desperate is not dirty or secret, it’s a very very sad disgrace.

    I must admit when I first skimmed through it though, it was ‘fun’ for a while – there is a sense of joy and righteousness, as a scientist, to see demonstrably wrong pet understandings trashed for the garbage they are. A bad but guilty pleasure. At several entries I was surprised, and had to run to the internet to verify. The problem then is when you find some entries that are plain wrong or at the best misleading, then suddenly every entry is in question and I have to verify. Thus, in the end the book is superfluous. When you discuss sciencey things you have to hold to the high standards that science requires. Science is hard! There really are no shortcuts to understanding and that’s why we have experts (who can be wrong). Of the nearly 200 entries, only 84 of them are referenced, which is completely unacceptable even in a popular scientific work. Some items are short acceptable summaries and statement of fact as we know it now. Others simply are offer an opinion without justification. There is no why. For example see Chiropractic or Food Additives.

    Many items are not even junk science. For example, Chemicals in themselves are not junk science. Why is Cholesterol junk science? The entry simply says what it is and how lowering it may reduce cardiovascular disease. Where’s the junk?

    The first link I clicked on reference 77 didn’t work! But easy to hunt it down. The few others I clicked did work.

    The claim that second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer is laughable. There is a big difference between some guy getting a whiff in a restaurant and freaking out (when he’ll be exposed to more toxins on his drive home) and someone living in a family of chain smokers. It’s a matter of dose after all (see their entry on Dose). Burning and then breathing in anything with particulates is not good, depending on dose. Penn and Teller made the same mistake in their TV show ‘Bullshit’
    (which is much better than this book) and had to retract

    And on third hand smoke “tiny specks of particulate matter left behind by smokers, presumably which leap into the lungs of un-suspecting bystanders to trigger disease.” No, they don’t ‘leap’. They are dislodged by movement, and being very light, move on air currents. When I’ve been to a smokey pub my wife can smell me from yards away. And again it’s a matter of dose (see their entry on Dose).

    On Breastfeeding, they refer only to long term benefits (4-11 year olds) and not short term benefits (passing on immunity).

    Some are just written badly “Unless you’re constipated, there is no reason to give yourself an enema. Your body naturally detoxifies itself.” That really means to say there is no reason to give yourself an enema to detoxify yourself. There are however many other reasons other than constipation that may require an enema.

    The listings for junk science are far from comprehensive. For example, why just Dr Oz? What about that other Winfrey creation, Dr Phil, who’s also done pseudoscience (for money), or others?

    Circumcision. How is that not genital mutilation when it is done for non-valid medical reason but just as a religious practice?

    I could go on but you get the gist. Now I don’t trust it. Overall this book is I think just plain lazy. It looks hurriedly and arbitrarily thrown together. The PDF conversion isn’t up to scratch (see Mercola and Obesity). Arbitrary figures with some entries (21) – (a picture of a peanut under Peanuts, and a cup of coffee with Coffee – do we really need that?). Under Brain Imaging (fMRI) the image isn’t even an fMRI data set. The cover is nice but the main text looks ugly.

    I would suggest such a book may be doable, but items should be grouped since there is a lot of crossover and repetition between items – if you want things labelled alphabetically for easy reference put it in an index.

    I give it one star for the short period of fun I had, sadly soon countered by disappointment. And a nod to the slight on organic farming which I hadn’t looked into – that was an eye-opener.

  23. Having now read what I believe is the corpus delicti, I can understand why he was fired. He’s young and believed he could express himself honestly in a corporate environment. He now knows better.

  24. @John

    I think it is actually more complicated. I personally believe Demore was fired because Google is currently under Federal investigation for issues involving gender disparity. Firing Demore is an act they can use in their defense against the ongoing investigation.

    On Demore’s side, he knew he was going to get fired over this. He retained a lawyer before it went up and the speed with which the lawsuit was filed indicates it was at least partially written up before anything ever happened. Before being fired Demore also filed and NLRB complaint which would automatically make the firing “retaliatory” and hence illegal. That kind of forethought has a lawyer’s fingerprints all over it.

  25. Following that last comment, a comment on the fMRI entry, something close to my heart as I am an MRI physicist.

    fMRI is not junk science! It indirectly indicates neuronal activation. The difficulty is that we don’t understand the coupling between flow and neuronal activity, and the signal changes are very small, requiring repeated measures and sophisticated processing. Its here where it goes wrong. The famous dead salmon problem has been corrected. That said, the data are being poorly or over interpreted. They try to look for correlation between fMRI signals and some brain activity, and we all know how hunting like that can bite you.People not strongly versed in rigorous scientific technique are using this badly and we as a community need to weed this out. I know one well known fMRI guy who was upset with me when i insisted he report all the fMRI studies he did – not ‘just the ones that worked’ – the abstract was rejected and he blamed me since ‘everybody else did it’. Shameful I know.
    Heres a good layman article highlighting the problems and how we are moving forward.

  26. @… Whip, #15: “Michael, as people have explained repeatedly, you are not criticizing relativity. You are beating a strawman version of relativity that has no relation to the real thing.”

    The “real thing” claims that things and distances shrink as a result of different observational frames of reference. They don’t.

  27. “I think it [James Demore’ firing by Google] is actually more complicated.”

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but as one who has spent his working life in large corporations, the young man made a CLM (Career Limiting Move) when he called out corporate policy for its self-contradictions and counter-productive results.

    That the examples of Google’s inclusiveness and diversity programs that Mr. Denmore showed as self-contradictions and ultimately counter-productive are apparently self-contradictions and ultimately counter-productive is a trivial detail. What got him fired was that he said Corporate is wrong, and he showed the rest of the world that Corporate was wrong. He said, in effect, that the multi-million-dollar program is a waste of Google’s money, and is headed up by a nincompoop who is making more than a six-figure salary.

    That is a nail that Corporate always has, always will, and in this instance did in fact, hammer down flat.

  28. It is astounding that someone would try to defend Damore’s comments when not one thing about them is supported by science.
    It would be astounding, that is, if the person doing were not

    – a long time denier of essentially all science
    – someone who recently tried to diminish the accomplishments of a Fields Medal winner simply because that person was a woman
    – is himself scientifically illiterate

  29. @Denier,

    “Hate and projected villainy is the new normal, and human beings are now driving cars into crowds of other human beings because of it.”

    You’re a snake.

  30. People are free to criticise relativity all they like. They get hammered down when their theories don’t produce predictions that match up with the physical universe. Now, if someone made an alternative to relativity that made a testable prediction that was borne out by observation and experiment, then that would be very, very different. Not even string theory has so far managed to make testable predictions of this sort which is why it gets relatively (no pun intended) short shrift.

    Relativity is thought of very highly because it made many testable predictions that were borne out by experiment and observation. Any theory that seeks to dethrone Einstein the way he dethroned Newton must do the same. So far, no one has succeeded.

  31. Your a wonderful writer Ethan, but there is a possibility that you’re simply returning favours—-you’re giving this unoriginal pamphlet/book a good review simply because Berezow has worked for the publication Real Clear Science, which has often named you a “top writer”

  32. According to the piece and comments about Damore on Denialism, he also lied about having a PhD on his resume. I guess being a lordly white male is the equivalent of a PhD? But once you have spouted hostility or contempt towards a group that liberals think deserve equality, that is supposed to be a free pass that prevents you from ever being punished for any [other] dishonest or damaging behavior you may have chosen to engage in.

  33. Jane, damore’s defenders are typically people who are under the asinine belief that makes (specifically, white males) are in the receiving end of massive amounts of persecution and discrimination. It is hogwash of course, but they believe it, and damore’s fake “facts” fit their world view.

  34. @jane wrote:

    But once you have spouted hostility or contempt towards a group that liberals think deserve equality…

    That statement is nonsensical. The word you meant to use was ‘progressives’, as in ‘…towards a group that progressives think…’. Although often incorrectly used interchangeably, they mean different things. Progressivism refers to the advancement of a collective’s or group’s rights while Liberalism refers to the advancements of an individual’s rights. If you feel the need to dig deeper into Liberalism then look into the writings of John Locke while if Progressivism is your poison then Karl Marx and Marxist ideology is your ticket.

    Also, you may want to double-check your info on Damore’s resume. It was his LinkedIn page that Damore scrubbed of a Harvard PhD when he was only a PhD candidate at Harvard. His resume was accurate as far as I know., and it is completely irrelevant because attacking an individual personally does absolutely nothing to address ideas.

    Welcome to the discussion.

  35. Denier, nothing at all supports what was in his little diatribe. The fact that he lied about his degrees then lies in the material he wrote, isn’t open to question. The fact that you choose to misrepresent the issues doesn’t matter.

  36. And your comment linking Marx and progressives is beyond stupid.

    Also, we get that you don’t believe women are the equal of men in any way, and don’t belong in the sciences. We also get that you don’t have a clue about what you’re talking about

  37. @dean

    Just wondering, but do you leave the light on in your room at night for fear Sean Hannity is going to leap out from under your bed and get you? I don’t mean to make fun if you’ve got an actual mental condition but your paranoid delusions are laugh out loud funny. If you are really a conservative just pretending to be this way then I’ve got to tip my hat. You are pulling off a screechy progressive caricature every bit as humorous as Stephen Colbert’s Colbert Report host character. Good stuff for sure.

  38. Another Commenter,

    “… assuming a discussion can include name calling and personal attacks.”

    Ethan doesn’t seem to mind that type of behavior unless it really gets out of hand. He has a short fuse for the Religious Freaks, but he’s quite relaxed about some commenters spewing vitriol at others. Trust me on this one.

  39. Denier, the issue is simply that your views are wrong. Im not sure why you believe women and minorities are naturally inferior to you, but data and facts are not in your side.

    Your assertions that white males are being routinely discriminated against in society and the workplace is just laughable — they are on the same level of foolishness as the “war on Christmas” claim that gets rolled out each year.

    The emptiness of your argument shows up in your “mental illness” stuff.

    I get it. You defended a bigot who lied about work conditions, lied about differences between natural abilities of men and women, and lied about his education. You see nothing wrong with any of that and were shocked to get called on it. Maybe if you weren’t so concerned with the racist myth that whites are being “outbred” (as you once so ignorantly claimed) and actually tried to study the things you are clearly clueless about you’d learn something. (That won’t happen though, because education and integrity are not required in the libertarian world.)

  40. “Ethan doesn’t seem to mind that type of behavior unless it really gets out of hand.”

    Ethan is very fair with regards to differing points of view. In fact ,I would say that Ethan is probably the most open minded atheist I know of with regards to true spirit of “liberal” dialog in the academic scientific blog community.

  41. @25 Steve Blackband

    You wrote: “Many items are not even junk science. For example, Chemicals in themselves are not junk science.”

    I explained in my book: “In popular culture, the word ‘chemical’ is often used by activists who are ignorant of chemistry and toxicology to scare the public about their food and the environment.”

    You wrote: “The claim that second-hand smoke doesn’t cause cancer is laughable… Burning and then breathing in anything with particulates is not good, depending on dose.”

    I explained in my book: “Cigarette smoke is many things: Obnoxious, smelly, gross, dangerous. It does not, however, cause cancer if a person is only exposed to it second-hand in restaurants or bars. Chronic exposure to second-hand smoke, by living with a smoker for instance, may result in other health problems.”

    You wrote: “On Breastfeeding, they refer only to long term benefits (4-11 year olds) and not short term benefits (passing on immunity).”

    I explained in my book: “Breastfeeding provides a bonding experience, and breast milk contains nutrients and antibodies.”

    It’s interesting that most of the things to which you objected are things I never actually wrote. Instead, you fabricated them. That’s curious.

  42. couple of things in Damore’s “manifesto” caught my attention. and if they are correct, might be one of the reasons for his firing. It’s the chapter “The harm of Google’s biases”. There he lists several things/practices, which if they are true, is not something google would be proud to admit. But since the accuracy of rest of his writing is sketchy at best.. who can say. And if those practices are in place… like programs for only certain gender or race, double standards in hiring etc.. then that sucks big time.

  43. Berezow, you wrote: : “In popular culture, the word ‘chemical’ is often used by activists who are ignorant of chemistry and toxicology to scare the public about their food and the environment.” Why are you a toxicologist? And yes there are chemophobes out there, but also chemophiles, people who love synthetic chemicals mostly because they want to financially profit from them. They don’t want obstacles in their way and have little interest in using chemistry intellectually in order to gain insight into the workings of the universe.

  44. @dean wrote:

    Im not sure why you believe women and minorities are naturally inferior to you

    I don’t. I’m not you Dean. I’m not the opposite of you either. That is all projection on your part.

    White Supremacy and Black Lives Matter are just different sides of the same Racial Identitarian coin. Heads is bad and tails is bad. You pick a side while I know the coin is poison. Men’s Rights Activism is cancer and ‘Third Wave’ Intersectional Feminism is cancer. There isn’t a good kind of cancer. They will both kill you.

    The bit I wrote above about Karl Marx being the father of Progressivism wasn’t a dig or something I made up. That is very real. If Marxist Ideology is good at one thing it is consistency. It always results in the failure of the society it is hoisted upon. Always. I oppose actions to get the state to bestow a power or hindrance on a segment of society based on immutable characteristics no matter how nobly intended because Venezuela is a shit show. I totally understand how you can focus on the nobility of the cause while failing to see the connections to broader consequences history shows to be the inevitable conclusion, but I’m not you Dean.

  45. Hey Alex, me again 🙂

    OK here we go:-

    I explained in my book: “In popular culture, the word ‘chemical’ is often used by activists who are ignorant of chemistry and toxicology to scare the public about their food and the environment.”

    Yea, but thats not junk science is it? Maybe we have different definitions, but to me junk science is science thats distorted, misrepresented, made up to satisfy a different preconceived ideas/needs/desires/points of view. Or as wiki puts it “The expression junk science is used to describe scientific data, research, or analysis considered by the person using the phrase to be spurious or fraudulent.” Using a word to imply something scary isn’t science manipulation but rhetoric (of some kind – I don’t have the right word at the moment). If you insist it is junk science for that reason, then you should include nuclear, radiation, germs, etc. all of which can be good and bad for you, but can be used to scare. Like obsessive cleanliness seems to actually make us unhealthier, but it sells products. MRI used to be called NMRI, but the N was dropped because it scared patients – that doesn’t make NMRI junk science (in my mind anyway).

    I explained in my book: “Cigarette smoke is many things: Obnoxious, smelly, gross, dangerous. It does not, however, cause cancer if a person is only exposed to it second-hand in restaurants or bars. Chronic exposure to second-hand smoke, by living with a smoker for instance, may result in other health problems.”

    Hmmm. This is difficult. After i read your claim I ran to the inter web.
    “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. National Toxicology Program, the U.S. Surgeon General, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer have all classified secondhand smoke as a known human carcinogen (a cancer-causing agent)” and attribute 3000 lung cancer deaths in non-smokers to second hand smoke.

    But once you get past the first page or two of hits you start to see questions. Some also look like advocacy sites, but now I am not so sure. There appears to be one prospective study (which is important) that claims no increase in lung cancer but the numbers are not that big.

    Intuitively, If someone inhales smoke and then exhales all of it (minus of course the bit that sticks in the lungs) into my lungs with every puff of their cigarets, it seem to me that I would get cancer at the same rate. Thus, again its a matter of dose. If I lived and worked in a smokey bar all the time why wouldn’t my risk of cancer increase? Whats worse, the smoke coming off the end of the cigarette and into my lungs doesn’t even go through the filter!

    I need more time on this one. I can see now there is a lot more out there than I though – lots of small number studies, bad statistics, badly interpreted statistics, and clear agendas. I may well have to eat humble pie. Yum.

    You do make me think of another question_ since the smoking bans, has that caused the number of smokers to decline, and thus decreased lung cancer? I will look into it, since the real issue here is about imposing the ban based on unsupported science.

    Incidentally, I play a lot of billiards in a smokey bar, so I was initially excited (well relieved) by your claim and actually wanted it to be true. I am still excited if it his true, and may be able to get my wife off my back for going there;-)

    I explained in my book: “Breastfeeding provides a bonding experience, and breast milk contains nutrients and antibodies.”

    Well, yea, but your piece said that formula is ‘perfectly safe and healthy’, which is true, but the way that is written implies its just as good. The point is the breastfeeding IS better, but if you can’t do it don’t panic and formula is OK. I can live with that.
    Then you move to a disparaging remark about ‘lactivists’, implying that anyone that thinks breastfeeding is better is a crank by association – like calling me a racist if I said that the majority of NBA players are black. You don’t need that – its unhelpful.

    It’s interesting that most of the things to which you objected are things I never actually wrote. Instead, you fabricated them. That’s curious.

    Show me something I ‘fabricated’. I disagree with many of your points (and at this point you have only made me think again on one issue – thank you – that is helpful).
    What about my other problems with this work?

    I believe you are the man to write this book, but much better, properly referenced. I have shown clear problems i believe, and if the layman takes to the problems to be truth the water will only get muddier. Can you rise to the challenge?

  46. @SL,

    “if they are true, is not something google would be proud to admit.”

    Why shouldn’t they be proud of affirmative action policies? Perhaps in some individual cases it sucks, but in the bigger picture you help raise the skill level of certain groups which are also a large part of your client base.

  47. @Steve Blackband, you’re very thorough, far more thorough than Berezow’s Black Book. Keep up the good comments.

  48. @Elle H.C.
    If Google’s affirmative action policies are racist and sexist, I think they shouldn’t be proud of them.
    Do you approve of racist and sexist affirmative action policies?
    If James Demore’s claims about work conditions, “Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race” are lies (as a different commenter here claimed), then I would expect Google to provide the refutation.
    I have not yet read a flat, unequivocal official denial from Google to that effect. If you have, would you share the link and put this issue to bed?

  49. @Another Commenter

    It seems like you do not understand what racism means. Affirmative action is the opposite, trying to help those who are set behind.

    What you’re doing is like healthy kids that are complaining that they are being discriminated for not getting any antibiotics like the sick kids do.

    Here’s a link on the topic in tech:

  50. @Elle H.C.

    Based upon your response, it seems that you are not yet able to provide Google’s flat, unequivocal, official denial that its affirmative action policies use a person’s race or use a person’s sex to discriminate who is or who is nor eligible for participation. Instead, you direct your response at me “It seems like you do not understand …”

    Still, I’m sure that in your heart you know you’re very right.
    If what Damore says is accurate, I am a member of the group who consider such racist and sexist policies unethical, but it would seem that not everyone who comments here is.

  51. @ elle

    re: #53

    I have nothing against affirmative actions. In fact, I have nothing even against specifically looking for certain traits in order to diversify a workplace. We did the same thing in the previous studio where I worked. There were 3 of us, males, and we were looking to hire a woman for precisely the reasons that she might offer a different perspective on some things, thus avoiding an “echo chamber”. Nothing wrong with that.

    What is wrong, in my opinion, if Google’s (or anyone else) practices are as Damore wrote (which I have doubts about, since rest of his writing is b.s.). If you create (willingly or unwillingly) double standards in order to facilitate diversity. i.e. one test for one group and another, easier, test for the other group. Or if you have programs that are simply closed by default to some group. Even if intentions are good, this creates reverse discrimination.

  52. @SL,

    “I have nothing against affirmative actions.”

    “What is wrong … If you create double standards in order to facilitate diversity.”

    Well what you find to be wrong can be a part of ‘affirmative action’:

    “In some other regions where quotas are not used, minority group members are given preference or special consideration in selection processes.”

    Again you need to look at the bigger picture, perhaps the first couple of years you’re losing, but after some time you might start making a profit. At least that’s how I understand it.

  53. “Well what you find to be wrong can be a part of ‘affirmative action’”

    well, my thought on that is negative. The big picture with that, IMO, is it serves only the short term, while creating even greater gaps in the end.

  54. one way to look at it, is to imagine yourself being on the negative side of it. Would you still think it’s a good idea.

  55. @SL,

    Fair enough, I think Google is a large company with the means to go for it. I guess it also depends on how well you manage the project and follow it up. I think it’s honorable to give it a try. The question can be if this is a test or a permanent thing … but as I understood from the CEO’s reply these things are open for open debate.

    I haven’t got a crystal ball if in the end it will be good or bad. It’s also relative because the project can be sabotaged.

    Anyway it’s a typical issue in a company where some are favored over others because some specific reason. For example a friend of a friend got a job to keep some good relationships that can provide larger profits etc. etc.

  56. “Why are you so nasty towards those who don’t share your opinions?”

    Opinions? I’m not. Denier, however, has repeatedly demonstrated that he doesn’t have a bit of understanding of the things he dismisses. He recently made a post that was essentially was a smear of Maryam Mirzakhani (to date the only woman to win a Field Medal) — the essence of the post was that she was second rate because men had worked on some of the same problems she had. His post clearly showed he had not read the material Ethan linked to, because his “objections” were discussed, from a factual viewpoint, there.

    Add to that his racist fear of minorities “outbreeding” whites, and the completely asinine comparisons made here

    White Supremacy and Black Lives Matter are just different sides of the same Racial Identitarian coin. Heads is bad and tails is bad. You pick a side while I know the coin is poison. Men’s Rights Activism is cancer and ‘Third Wave’ Intersectional Feminism is cancer. There isn’t a good kind of cancer. They will both kill you.

    (because opposing racism and sexism is just as bad as practicing them, in his mind) and you start to see the point.

    Then there is is repeated misrepresenting results in climate science, and you find he just doesn’t have any decency or integrity about him.

  57. @dean

    I hope you know that you are being dishonest because you have a far bigger problem if you think you’re telling the truth.

    In the Maryam Mirzakhani article I was noting the writing of Paul Halpern drew so heavily from a New York Times article that it bordered on plagiarism, and highlighted the work of a different mathematician whom Halpern failed to credit. My criticisms had NOTHING to with with the mathematical talents of Maryam Mirzakhani, whom I had never even heard of before she died.

    With your quotation marks around “outbreeding”, I’d really like to see the source. As far as I know I’ve never used that word nor expressed that sentiment. I live in a city where whites make up less than 50% of the population and my kid goes to a school down the street where he is a minority. I’m stoked with where I live and who I live with.

    @dean wrote:

    opposing racism and sexism is just as bad as practicing them

    Opposing them is what I do. What you do is endorse more sexism and racism to counter what you perceive as injustices brought about by the racism and sexism of others. There is no such thing as ‘reverse racism’. It is all just called ‘racism’. No matter how you’ve justified it in your own mind, you champion bigotry, and I oppose that.

  58. “ ‘Why are you so nasty towards those who don’t share your opinions?’
    Opinions? I’m not. “
    Yes, you are. You savage those who post opinions you do not share.

    Take as an example Denier’s post about Maryam Mirzakhani:
    “The Illuminated Room problem was solved by Roger Penrose over 20 years before Mirzakhani was born using curved mirrors. It was solved by George Tokarsky in 1995 using the 26-sided room in the image you’ve got in the center of your article. His solution had NOTHING to do with Mirzakhani. A more elegant solution was authored by David Castro in 1997 with a 24-sided room that again had nothing to do with anything Mirzakhani was working on as an undergrad in Iran at the time.
    That is not to say Maryam Mirzakhani wasn’t a good mathematician on her own. I know that as a young girl she was a voracious reader who wanted to be a writer.”

    That is what he posted. Those are all facts. That is not a smear.

    That Denier is less impressed with Mirzakhani’s proof than your or Ethan seem to be is a difference of opinion, not a difference of facts. Unless you are an unreasonable man, you will agree it is possible for reasonable to disagree; particularly when the disagreement is of opinion, not fact. Unless and until you can establish as fact that Denier’s post was a smear, you and Denier have different opinions.
    So, you are mistaken about not being nasty – very nasty indeed – towards people who do not share your opinions.

    Further, your assertion “… the completely asinine comparisons made here …” is another mistake, as the comparisons are correct, not asinine. White Supremacy politics and Black Lives Matter politics are both instances of Identity politics, those being political positions based on the interests and POVs of two social groups. ( )
    So, you are mistaken about that also.

    Finally, “Then there is is repeated misrepresenting results in climate science …”
    That Denier routinely focuses on what he sees as the relatively advantageous policy of adaptation to the unavoidable rather than concurring that everything that can be done to reduce GHGs is the appropriate response to AGW does not mean he “misrepresenting results in climate science”. What his focus does mean is that he does not draw the same conclusions for public policy recommendations as you do. Here’s how Ethan concludes his rebuttal – not refutation, rebuttal – to Denier’s latest Climate Science comment “But irrespective of that, I will give you mad props for reading Gavin Schmidt and Ben Santer; their work is top notch. You and I may always disagree on policy, but if you’re reading their work, we may someday wind up agreeing on the facts.”

    I urge you to extend as much civility other commenters on this blog as Ethan does to people who do not share his opinions.
    Please lighten up and stop being so nasty to people who do not share your opinions. Ethan’s posts, and the comments that follow will be much more pleasant to read if you stop being so gratuitously discourteous.

  59. @Elle H.C.

    The more time passes without Google providing a flat, unequivocal, official denial that its affirmative action policies use a person’s race or a person’s sex to discriminate who is or who is not for participation, the more likely it appears that Google does in fact do exactly that.

    Using racist and sexist policies to correct perceived racial and sex disparities in the workforce is unethical IMHO.

    I’m surprised you seem to not agree.

  60. @Another Commenter

    “Using racist and sexist policies … I’m surprised you seem to not agree.

    What? I already told you that I don’t agree that the underlying motivation is not ‘racist and sexist’, so no need to act all ‘surprised’.

  61. BTW the tone of your comments is more like that of a chant of repeating the same line over and over again instead of responding to what I wrote and having an honest debate. You are using this comment-section more as advertising space that as a forum to exchange ideas.

  62. My response to your comment that I repeat the same line over and over again is: Yes, I do. Bigotry, racism (sorting and selecting based on racial stereotypes), and sexism (sorting and selecting based on sex) are unethical, and the people who accept and perpetuate those unethical practices are behaving unethically. I can only fight against these evils with words here, so I do. I hope everyone chooses to do the same. Those who seem to accept the unethical position of “the end justifies the means” should think about what they’re saying, and turn away from practices that have lead time and time again to mistreatment of persons just like you and me,

  63. @John,

    Here’s an article that you might like about the alt. right:

    “But if we absolutely must take a deep dive into alt-right trolls’ superficial, self-aggrandizing answer to this question — and we must — we can note that the central theorem of the alt-right troll is this: “political correctness” is the number-one problem in America. This is no exaggeration; alt-right trolls believe that the politically correct discourse often associated with the “New Left” is destroying everything fun, interesting, and (most of all) free about America.

  64. Elle H.C.,

    To the extent your posts about Mr. Damore’s recent travails at his past employer communicate anything, they reveal that you are comfortable with programs that use selection and exclusion based upon an individual’s sex and/or race.

    As Sinisa Lazarek brought to your attention above, one way to gain insight about such programs is to imagine yourself on the negative receiving end (in contrast to being a beneficiary) of them.

    Would you then think that the end justifies the means?

  65. @John,

    “imagine yourself on the negative receiving end … would you then think that the end justifies the means?”

    Yes, because I understand the reason why a company like Google does this.

  66. Elle H.C.,.

    As you said above (#53, August 16), for those who receive the negative effects of the policies you approve of, if you are that individual, “it sucks.”

    I too think that those who act like they believe the ends justify the means behave unethically.

  67. “But the dose of X-rays? It’s equivalent to spending 12 seconds flying at cruising altitude on an airplane.” You can also compare watching the sun eyes wide open for 5 minutes to spending a day in the conuntryside in spring.

  68. @ daniel

    good luck in watching the sun eyes wide open for 5 minutes… Don’t know if you’re just sarcastic or actually serious. o.0

  69. Well, dose is what is applied, usually a term for chemical application. But we do talk about the dose applied for radiation since its easy to measure/control.. But far more important and useful for radiation is ‘absorbed dose’ – harder to measure and heterogeneous – you have to worry about ‘hot spots’ – tissues that may be more sensitive than others. Consider for example the difference between applied dose and absorbed dose for neutrinos and muons, which, thankfully, are vastly different for the human body otherwise we’d be toast.
    Also important is intensity per unit time as alluded to by Daniel. For example, applying heat at 1000 degrees for 1 second to your skin is not the same as applying 1 degree heat for a 1000 seconds.
    Also how the radiation is absorbed is also clearly important. For x-rays increasing the dose cause both the transmitted and absorbed dose to increase through your body. At low levels most light reflects off you and some penetrates just a little, the infra-red causing heating. When you increase the ‘dose’ of light, you can penetrate a little more, but the absorption in this case causes heating. At high enough intensity the tissue vaporizes, exposing a new surface that heats and so on till you burn your way through. Very different to radiation poisoning.
    Check out the story on Louis Slotin at Los Alamos if you don’t know it. Not an easy way to die.

    Please don’t stare at the sun for 5 minutes – I assume you are kidding.
    One girl high on speed did it for 30 minutes


  70. Another example of the intricacies is the gamma knife. Applying a strong beam to kill a tumor damages the surrounding tissue too. So multiple weaker beams are applied from different directions. The beams can be contoured to intersect at the tumor (with quite precise spatial control these days) getting a higher absorbed dose at the tumor. The total applied dose is the same, but the absorbed dose is maximized at the tumor and less in the surrounding tissues, sparing them. Typically there are around 200 gamma ray sources, so the absorbed dose on the surrounding tissue is 200 times less than the tumor. Pretty cool huh?

  71. @ Sinisa
    Of course, I was sarcastic. The way “experts” in radiation safety underestimate the risk related to a low dose pulse of irradiation (like in medical imaging) by comparing it to chronic exposure is ludicrous.

  72. ” hope you know that you are being dishonest because you have a far bigger problem if you think you’re telling the truth.”

    I was telling the truth. You belittled her accomplishments for no other reason than that she wasn’t a male. Your lie in your response that it was about other things is pathetic.

    You have commented before on your concern about low birthrates among people of western heritage and how “they” will soon outnumber us. Racist to the core, and liar to boot when you try to say it didn’t happen.

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