It takes a firm hand

We just got back from the Indivisible meeting in Glenwood, and it was…interesting. There was a good crowd of 40 or 50 people, I think, and there were a few protesters with their big blue “Trump/Pence” signs, and they did something clever. There were a handful of them easily spotted because of their signs, but there were a bunch more that blended in with the attendees, so that when we went around the room introducing ourselves and explaining our interests, we’d have 3 or 4 people who’d talk about the environment, or hostile immigration policies, or health care, or LGBTQ rights, and then we’d hit some gomer salted into the audience who’d whine at us. I think they had 3 primary arguments, and they were: 3) I hate big government and taxes, 2) the authoritarian “he’s our president, so we have to support him no matter what”, and 1) JESUS and the decline of our morality. It was aggravating. The organizers, Jeannette and Glen, handled it just right, though. Here they are:


They let them speak! They got a minute or two, just like everyone else, and then they’d firmly insist on moving on to give the next person a chance. You can tell that chapped their hides, because at the end a couple of them demanded an opportunity to go on at greater length, and they just shut them down politely and insisted that we stick to the agenda. Good work. I was impressed. That’s how to get it done efficiently and get it done on time.

Then the meeting ended and, well, you know me. I’m a kook magnet. In the introduction I’d mentioned that I was a biologist, so a kook homed in on me afterwards. He thinks global warming is nothing to worry about.

So he told me he had a friend who was a submariner, and he said they sometimes got CO2 concentrations as high as 5,000ppm, (current CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is about 400ppm), and they were fine. The scientists don’t want you to know about that. To which I told him I’ve taught physiology, we go all over the partial pressure calculations, and we know that partial pressure of CO2 in the tissues easily gets around 40mm Hg, or about 60,000 ppm, so as long as you’re below that, you can offload metabolically produced CO2, although with decreasing efficiency, so yes we certainly do know all that basic stuff. Do you think the scientists and engineers who put people in submarines are unaware of the limits of tolerance to atmospheric gasses?

Besides, this isn’t about how much CO2 you can safely breath, it’s about the accumulation of greenhouse gasses causing global warming.

So he changed the topic. Of course. If you show the slightest sign that you know what you’re talking about, they flee.

Next, he asks me if I know what is in a can of Coke. I’m not sure where this is going, but I tell him flavorings, colorings, and carbonic/phosphoric acid. Yes, he announces triumphantly, and do you know what happens when you open a can of Coke? “It…fizzes?”, was my reply. Do you think the acid sinks to the bottom and forms a layer? NO! It escapes into the air! Ocean acidification is a lie! It can’t happen!

“Have you ever heard of the concept of equilibrium…”

Scientists are all liars! They’re idiots!

I’d had about enough of this raving nutcase. So I told him we were done with this conversation, good bye, move along. I was trying to follow the example of our organizers, but no, it wasn’t enough.

The Coke can makes it obvious! Scientists are all lying to us!

“Done. Stop. Go away, you’re a kook.”


So I just told him, firmly to fuck off. It took a couple of tries before he did, finally, wander away.

These goons really have no idea of what boundaries are, let alone science.


  1. Anisopteran says

    Where does he think Coca-Cola get the carbon dioxide from in the first place?

  2. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    thanks for that update and your calm perseverance with that loon.

  3. congenital cynic says

    Well, the idiot didn’t understand any chemistry if he thought the acid escaped into the air when you open a can of coke. Carbonic acid only exists in water solution, hence it can’t escape (though the CO2 can). And phosphoric acid doesn’t evaporate. It has a higher boiling point than water. But he probably got his information from Alex Jones or someone of the same ilk.

    I always find it a remarkable thing that they can have the kind of cognitive dissonance that allows them to trust blindly and completely in all of the products of science they rely on daily (phones, cars, structures, medicines) and yet decide selectively that scientists are liars in these very specific instances. It’s a special kind of crazy.

  4. blf says

    Where does he think Coca-Cola get the carbon dioxide from in the first place?

    His arse, on the rare occasions his head isn’t firmly inserted far up it.

  5. rietpluim says

    Oh sweet Mary my folly golly mother of tap dancin’ Christ. What do some people think scientists are?

  6. congenital cynic says

    I might add… PZ, you are so much more diplomatic than I would been. I have no patience with willful ignorance, and when the moron redirects, as you said he did in the CO2 concentration discussion, that’s exactly what he’s engaged in.

    Sadly, I don’t know that we will ever win that battle against willful ignorance, any more than one would win a religious argument with Ken Ham. They have their minds made up and are impervious to evidence and logical thought. I used to debate with religious people but eventually gave up because they “know” things (translation: they “feel” that they are right – it’s all emotional) and a rational argument is not even processed or digested, much less accepted.

    People who are willing to accept and defend someone as vile as the Groper in Chief are, in my estimation, pretty much unreachable. If a narcissistic, thin-skinned, vindictive, sociopathic, know-nothing adulation-whore of a man-baby is “the man” in their eyes, they are lost forever.

  7. blf says

    What do some people think scientists are?</blockquote<

    Big X shrills who live high up in ivory towers and cast spells on those that “know” the trvth, sometimes with the assistance of daemons and other bogeymonsters, whilst raking in billions & billions daily from grants and bribes and selling surplus frogs’s legs.

  8. blf says

    Apologies for the borkquote in @8, I guess I won’t get my Big Html check today…

  9. davidc1 says

    Really PZ you talk like a docker with piles .Also , the answer to the question British football fans are always asking .
    Who ate all the pies .
    @7 You must feel sorry for them ,the snatch snatcher is going to disappoint the lot of them .
    Don’t know how they will handle that ,i bet Obama will get the blame.

  10. multitool says

    #9 blf:

    Apologies for the borkquote

    Ah but your quotesplosion has helped me immensely!
    I never knew how FTB commenters did blockquotes until I saw the springs hanging out of yours.
    The Lorb has a porpose for everything.

  11. davidc1 says

    PZ ,looking again at my feeble attempts @10 hope you were not offended /
    These science deniers always remind me of the Mayor in the film Jaws .

  12. A. Noyd says

    What happens when you drink a can of soda? You pee! Humans all pee after they drink. Liquid doesn’t stay in our bodies! It comes back out! Therefore, it’s a lie that we’re 60% water!

  13. says

    The Trumpists know that when a scientist throws around language like “partial pressure,” it’s just a ploy to confuse them. (Of course, it always works — because confusion is their natural state.)

  14. says

    There is a duration vs concentration issue, and also a age issue with carbon dioxide. How well we feel as well, not just survival.
    We know many people get hungry when Co2 gets high, and that is one more factor in obesity. Something about the first few ATP being available with less oxygen…per ATP… in the Krebs cycle
    We also know that more older/weaker people are already needing CPAP or oxygen generation to become rested at nights. So the effect of high Co2 is already being felt by those with diminished lungs, marginal for survival now.
    The young healthy may be able to live at 5000, but how do they do when doing physical work? And as I recall, the submariners at Balboa are dopey after training shift. Are they alert after a shift? And they there are firefighters with Scott packs. Some never adapt to the packs, and are not suitable for firefighting. Co2 in the atmosphere is a whole different problem than short term.
    We can adapt to climate much easier that atmosphere Co2. I expect that in a few years most seniors will need CPAP or oxygen generation or there heart will just take them prematurely.

  15. chigau (違う) says

    I bet that Jeannette, in the picture uptop, was listening to one of the
    JESUS questions.
    unless she was making a face at PZ.

  16. says

    It’s always those who know the least who want to show how much they know. Small wonder climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers and creationists have such a strong overlap.

  17. numerobis says

    Fred Tully: the 5000 ppm air in a sub is an order of magnitude beyond what we’re likely to see in the atmosphere. We’ve gone from 280 to 400, growing at about 3 per year lately.

    Can you cite any literature on toxicity of the levels we’re expecting in the atmosphere?

  18. rayceeya says

    5000ppm?!? He either doesn’t know what he’s talking about or his submariner friend is dead.

    I work in confined spaces with high CO2 concentrations. 5000ppm is the maximum for working conditions over an 8 hour shift. These guys are on a sub, that’s 24 hours. That’s sleepy time forever.

  19. rietpluim says

    Wait, I know! Scientists are those elderly white guys with bold heads, white lab coats, heavy rubber hand gloves, and names like “Dr Death” or “Dr Proton”, working in a futuristic lab surrounded by incomprehensible machinery and brightly colored fluids, laughing BWUHAHAHAH and preparing evil plans to conquer the world….

    Yep, all of them.

  20. anchor says

    They are growing bold again. The chorus of ‘scientists are all liars and idiots’ sounds much like the noises that wafted out from the mobs prior to the Nazi purges that saw 2000 scientists flee Germany between 1933 and 1938.

  21. emergence says

    Every time I read about one of these shitwits, it just confirms to me that the Dunning-Kruger effect is real. There’s dissolved oxygen in water too, but air bubbles rise to the surface. Does that mean that fish can’t possibly get oxygen from seawater?

  22. blf says

    There’s dissolved oxygen in water too, but air bubbles rise to the surface. Does that mean that fish can’t possibly get oxygen from seawater?

    Yes, fish don’t get oxygen from seawater, but not for the reason stated. Seawater is teh scientists’s and elites’s name for saltwater, which everyone with common sense knows is poisonous! Any fish finding itself in the toxic sea will die, poisoned and asphyxiated and not because of any global warming or plastic patches or oil slicks, but because of Obama. And Clinton. And most or all, Benghazi!

    Also, there’s no oxygen dissolved in saltwater, just like there’s no such thing as dihydrogen monoxide, another false contaminant of saltwater.