1. wzrd1 says

    So, all of that theoretical physics stuff is nonsense.
    But, it dovetails in nicely with another bullshit notion that’s growing in popularity. Nuclear weapons don’t exist.
    Yes, I’m serious, it’s a nonsensical belief that’s growing that nuclear weapons have never existed, they’re all just gigantic conventional explosive devices.
    Life is easy when one denies that which is dangerous and inconvenient. Just deny it, everything is OK. Should work out great if one got trapped inside of a cage with an angry, hungry tiger. Just deny that tigers exist and you’ll be A-OK. Alas, not as self-limiting a stupidity, as if one believing such nonsense finds an exist, they’d see nothing wrong with leaving the cage door open on exit.

    If only time machines existed, we could put paid such idiocy by locking such imbeciles inside of an experimental lab with Wolfgang Pauli. If they survived, they’d no longer believe in such nonsense, as the Pauli Effect was decidedly curative.

  2. birgerjohansson says

    Wzrd1 @ 2
    So, they will have no objections to swallowing dust from the Trinity test site? A neat way to win the Darwin Award.

  3. Ed Seedhouse says

    But what the goatee guy is saying is itselfa philosophical position. And if it is so obvious why did it take thousands and thousands of years to get going?

  4. raven says

    Nuclear weapons don’t exist.

    A relatively harmless delusion.
    So far at least, no one has been killed by a nuclear weapon in decades.

    Some of these novel delusions can and will kill you and quite rapidly.
    I’ve even seen it lately, up close.

    The latest mass delusion was that the Covid-19 virus didn’t exist, didn’t exist but wasn’t a dangerous lethal virus, and the vaccines for the imaginary virus were thought up by the Illuminati or Liberals or something.

    I saw two people I know who were antivaxxers, die from the Covid-19 virus.

    My idiot neighbor caught it a year ago and died a few weeks later. His wife was vaccinated and nothing happened to her.
    My friend’s father caught it also about a year ago. He was sick but not that sick. Except that the virus destroyed his kidneys and in a few weeks, he went from normal kidney function to dialysis. He didn’t do well on dialysis and is now dead.

  5. wzrd1 says

    Got all of the shots (well, save the current one, as doctor’s office isn’t offering them and is pawning them off on pharmacies). Got COVID, barely had symptoms that were obvious, a bit of diarrhea initially. Then, the mitral valve started leaking.
    I’d hate to have had to experience that infection without any immunity!

    The nukes ain’t real thing, well, that’d require Japan and the US to cooperate in a hoax, then the Russians and Chinese to participate in that same hoax for generations, followed eventually by India and Pakistan. All, happily not calling out the hoax to embarrass their opponent, because they love each other so much or something.
    I imagine such folks buy the Brooklyn Bridge and Everglades on a regular basis.

  6. muttpupdad says

    Why did it take thousands and thousands of years to get going? Because philosophers disagree more than biologists.

  7. imback says

    As is well-known, these and related ideas materialized from nobody because they were obvious.

    That sounds a lot like religious revelation. In reality, the scientific method was over time boot-strapped from earlier versions of itself. And I suspect we are not done bootstrapping into an even more effective version. My hope, in particular, is to get prior research out from behind those paywalls.

  8. xohjoh2n says

    @5 raven:

    So far at least, no one has been killed by a nuclear weapon in decades.

    Definitely not true. It’s not even true if you limit it to people killed by the detonation of a nuclear weapon – there are still quite a number of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors still alive and their deaths can still be assigned as the result of the bombings. You probably also have to count those affected by the fallout of nuclear testing, but its arguable you should continue on right up to “personnel killed in a workplace accident while protecting/servicing nuclear assets.”

  9. moarscienceplz says

    @#9 xohjoh2n
    “there are still quite a number of Hiroshima and Nagasaki survivors still alive and their deaths can still be assigned as the result of the bombings.”
    Indeed? Got any papers to back that up? Just shy of 80 years have passed since those two events.

  10. wzrd1 says

    birgerjohansson @ 3, red Trinitite or green Trinitite? ;)

    Yeah, came in a few colors, red apparently from the tower structure, green from the copper wiring. Makes me wonder if that’s where the red and green kryptonite bit originated.
    Although, most of the nastier isotopes would’ve decayed, there still remains the americium, cesium-137 and cobalt-60 that are of concern, the thorium and uranium residue are within dietary guidelines for drinking water and potassim-40 a bit higher than Brazil nuts. Maybe suggest a bite of Chernobyl corium instead?
    Incidentally, I was chatting with the radiologist while waiting for the I-131 to absorb and distribute for a thyroid study and noticed a bit higher activity on the initial baseline gamma camera scan. So, I asked if there was much difference between my boomer generation and my kids background levels. As I suspected, I’m a fair bit “hotter” than my kids, which makes sense. I was literally born a week after Tsar Bomba was detonated and during the end of the atmospheric testing era.
    That likely explains my superpower, as I can make the contents of the salad bar disappear in record time.

  11. hemidactylus says

    Science became a term in the early 1800s for natural philosophy. Psychology, if it is indeed a science, came from philosophical roots.

    Per the comic, falsification was itself promoted by a philosopher named Popper. Was that the hidden joke? Epistemology is science adjacent as it may address the how or methodology of science. The what exists of ontology is relevant. Though himself a bugbear Dennett found amusement in how philosophically ignorant scientists often recreate the wheel without instead consulting a philosopher who might already know the potholes in the road (not quite how he conveys the problem but the gist).

    I think the go-to means of science cheerleaders disparaging philosophy is to mock the ironically grand narratives of postmodernism and let that be their strawman of what philosophy actually is.

  12. nomaduk says

    It’s not a harmless delusion. It’s a way of denying American responsibility for the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians in the world’s only use of nuclear weapons. It also means that some fraction of the population is in denial about the consequences of the use of these weapons, which only makes their use more possible in future.

    I’d rather have to deal with a bunch of flat-earthers, whom I could readily just ignore.

  13. says

    I follow your point, but to me, theology is to philosophy as alchemy is to chemistry, or as astrology is to astronomy.

  14. Rob Grigjanis says

    nomdeplume @15: There wouldn’t have been much progress at all in Europe without the schools and universities established by churches and largely staffed by clerics. And some of the earliest scientists were clerics. A mixed bag, in other words.

  15. says

    The nukes ain’t real thing, well, that’d require Japan and the US to cooperate in a hoax…

    Well, the US and Japan DID cooperate in a hoax: specifically, pretending the US nukes were the reason Japan surrendered to the US, when in fact Japan surrendered to the US in order to preempt a Soviet invasion and Germany-style E-W partition of Japan. I strongly suspect the “nukes ain’t real” thing was an almost-inevitable offshoot of that real hoax.

  16. Pierce R. Butler says

    Aw, c’mon! If explosions as powerful as claimed had occurred 78 years ago last August, they’d have blown holes in the planetary disk and all Japan, and then the Pacific Ocean, would have fallen through and splattered all over the Topmost Turtle!

  17. nomdeplume says

    @17 Well Rob, one could argue that had the schools and universities not been infested with religion they would have made much faster progress in building on the knowledge of the Greeks.

  18. Rob Grigjanis says

    @20: And who would have established those uninfested schools and universities? The prominent atheists of the day?

  19. John Morales says

    Rob, good one.
    Obs, atheists of the day were either circumspect or tortured. At best.

    Hand in hand, the Church ruled the spiritual realm (includes knowledge) and the State the material realm, by the grace of God.

    Not a milieu where one could set up an alternative learning institution on pain of torment and death.
    So yeah, what learning there was is what learning was permitted and overseen by the Church.
    Interested in learning? Well, you had a choice of a church-run institution or the rack otherwise, if caught.

    From Unam Sanctam, His Holiness Pope Boniface VIII, November 18, 1302

    We are informed by the texts of the gospels that in this Church and in its power are two swords; namely, the spiritual and the temporal. For when the Apostles say: “Behold, here are two swords” [Lk 22:38] that is to say, in the Church, since the Apostles were speaking, the Lord did not reply that there were too many, but sufficient. Certainly the one who denies that the temporal sword is in the power of Peter has not listened well to the word of the Lord commanding: “Put up thy sword into thy scabbard” [Mt 26:52]. Both, therefore, are in the power of the Church, that is to say, the spiritual and the material sword, but the former is to be administered for the Church but the latter by the Church; the former in the hands of the priest; the latter by the hands of kings and soldiers, but at the will and sufferance of the priest.
    Furthermore, we declare, we proclaim, we define that it is absolutely necessary for salvation that every human creature be subject to the Roman Pontiff.


  20. wzrd1 says

    nomaduk @ 14, with respect, there is no mythical responsibility for the use of nuclear weapons. The Axis and Allies, specifically Germany and Japan both were in a state of total war with the Allies and as part of the Allies, the US.
    For those unfamiliar, total war is a very specific term, the entire economy of all warring parties is dedicated to the war effort. The rules get wider and different, hence how civilians got caught in the middle in both total wars of both world wars. Why Japan sent incendiary weapons randomly against the US, intending on having high civilian casualties and hopefully, burning our forests and why Tokyo was firebombed so severely that both atomic bombings combined still didn’t come up with an even close tally to the Tokyo raids.
    That said, I fully agree with your second sentence. Fortunately, those people are ignored by the government, as one doesn’t seek national security and strategy advice from someone who asks as part of their primary job duties, “Do you want fries with that?”.

    nomdeplume @ 15, I disagree. Do some extend or another, philosophical arguments and theories make sense to me, religion most certainly does not make sense at all.

    John Morales @ 22, who did Bishop of Rome Leo the Great meet in 452? The swordbearer of God? Oh wait, no, it was Atilla the Hun, who was given his bribe and sent on his merry way. Guess his sword was made of gold…
    Paltry as it was, given Atilla had sacked all of the supplies in northern Italy, so could expect little on his way advancing to Rome, which already was at tight belt status.
    Oh wait, my bad, religion and consistency with facts, rarely shall the twain meet. ;)
    Of course, that church doctrine came in handy in justifying destruction of any conquered nation’s writings and cultural artifacts. Then, embraced by racists for much the same justifications and with a claim that no evidence of prior civilization exists before conquest…
    To the point where today, some scholarly debate exists on whether India or Africa first developed steel. My money’s on India, largely based upon timing of China and Africa working steel around the same time and trade being central between India and Africa, Arabia, Persia and China. And India’s development of wootz steel first and exporting that (plenty of documentation on that) to all of the mentioned parties.

  21. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @22: Like I said, a mixed bag. The church oppressed, bullied, tortured, murdered. It also provided the education which enabled some, including some of ‘its own’, to break free, bit by bit, of those restrictions.

  22. hemidactylus says

    I did not get much of what is being discussed here from the SMBC comic PZ provided. I thought at most someone would snark against the implicit Popper allusion with some Duhem–Quine thesis rant or chime in with Hume’s guillotine per ethical aspects of science, but no…we are all asunder here.

  23. silvrhalide says

    “Look, scientists don’t need philosophy. We just need methodology.”

    Which is how one gets scientists like Karl Haber and Werner von Braun.
    Haber, in collaboration with Bosch, invented the Bosch-Haber process, which fixes free nitrogen into nitrogen compounds, notably fertilizer. Fully 40% of all humans alive on the planet are alive because of the Bosch-Haber process–without synthetic fertilizers, Earth’s human population would have topped out around 4-5 billion, rather than our current 8+ billion.
    He also was the father of modern chemical warfare, was an active and enthusiastic participant in gas warfare in WWI and was functionally the creator of Zyklon-A. Zyklon-B, the poison used to gas Jews in concentration camps, is basically Zyklon-A with the warning odor removed.
    Haber was a secular Jew who converted to Christianity to advance his career. The fruits of his work were used to murder his half-sisters, their children and a number of his other near relatives in the concentration camps.

    As for Werner von Braun? I always thought Tom Lehrer’s musical stylings summarized him best.

    Gather ’round while I sing you of Wernher von Braun
    A man whose allegiance
    Is ruled by expedience
    Call him a Nazi, he won’t even frown
    “Nazi, Schmazi!” says Wernher von Braun

    Don’t say that he’s hypocritical
    Say rather that he’s apolitical
    “Once the rockets are up, who cares where they come down?
    That’s not my department!” says Wernher von Braun

    Some have harsh words for this man of renown
    But some think our attitude
    Should be one of gratitude
    Like the widows and cripples in old London town
    Who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun

    You too may be a big hero
    Once you’ve learned to count backwards to zero
    “In German, und Englisch, I know how to count down
    Und I’m learning Chinese!” says Wernher von Braun

    Behold, science without philosophy or conscience.

  24. hemidactylus says

    Yeah many might vomit at the sources. Too bad. Rebecca Goldstein who is married to a friend of the blog (sarcasm) and Dan Dennett (another baddie) thoroughly eviscerate the bullshit anti-philosophical attitude in the OP SMBC comic in video below. The Dennett angle I poorly remembered starts at 21:21. Goldstein at 10:44.

    If people can’t disassociate argument from the source…oh well. Not my problem. They nailed it.

  25. John Morales says

    hemidactylus @25, well, that’s the joke, no?

    Science is a branch of philosophy — used to be called ‘natural philosophy’ — which investigates the world using a particular methodology.

    Ethics don’t come into it — science is about what is, not about what should be.

  26. John Morales says

    Rob @24, well, yes. We concur, there.

    But that does not challenge #20, does it.

    Or: your retort there was basically (I paraphrase for brevity) “but it happened nonetheless” to the claim “the way it happened was less than optimal”.

    I’m with nomdeplume in that.

  27. John Morales says

    silvrhalide, O science!

    Thomas Midgley Jr. has been named a “one-man environmental disaster” for two big reasons. He was one of the early pioneers of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – compounds that became widely used in industry – and which were destroying the ozone layer. He also invented leaded gasoline and insisted that it was safe to use.


    Anyway, no doubting that science is powerful. Yet it remains a form of philosophy.

    (that’s the joke)

  28. hemidactylus says

    John Morales @28
    Science can inform value judgment. One needs factual input often when making moral decisions. Values should have the upper hand.

    Plus OTOH ethics should constrain science no? Otherwise we have Tuskegee and Guatemala on syphilis research, Willowbrook State School on hepatitis, or MKUltra on psychology. If not provably MKUltra itself the Unabomber was profoundly affected at Harvard by psychological research. Oh yeah Stanford prison and the Milgram experiment…and so on.

    Should intersects with is quite a bit.

  29. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @29:

    But that does not challenge #20, does it.

    It is rather difficult to challenge alternate-universe scenarios. One could argue that if universalism had won the day over infernalism in the early church, our history might be a lot less bloody. But that’s not this world, is it?

  30. John Morales says


    “Science can inform value judgment”


    And my value judgement is that it should do so.

    Thing is, value judgment can’t inform science.

    Ethics needs science, but science does not need ethics.

    (Ethics itself being another branch of philosophy, as is jurisprudence)

  31. hemidactylus says

    John Morales @34
    Jaw drops to floor. I guess ethical review and consent could then go out the window in your worldview.

  32. wzrd1 says

    John Morales, I’ve always viewed science as advancing, Philosophy does its own thing, proofs and evidence be damned. Science does that whole proofs and evidence be championed, bullshit be damned.

    One critical difference is, in your view system of the 1930’s, “undesirables” (read disabled, disabled elderly and specific minorities) were gassed in vans.
    Using US centric rationale for “evidence”.

    I’ve actually met with a living phrenologist. Even got a reading, just for shits and giggles. Got a wonderful bill of health.
    I suspect, due to my winter white skin.
    But, the “professional” suggested doctor or lawyer.
    Well, the latter, much like watching digestion, best not witnessed continually.
    The former, at the time, the bill was climbing unto the heights it is today. Thanks, but no thanks.
    Got offered a literal career in nursing, fully paid by the DoD, not my cup of tea, I was an SF medic and well, technical things was far more fun than people dying.
    So, went back to tech, where I started in high school.
    Happier than a pig in slop.
    Want morality? No, you don’t, got plenty of feedback on that one.
    Our morality is different, but I support and want your own, when it’s possible.
    How we get there, that’s where we differ slightly.
    I only go extreme with extremists exercising the extreme and loathe every second of it, as “use your words” is paramount and they’re all machine guns. Never realizing, others can be proficient with the same.
    Hence, the Good Dad mentality, “I don’t care who started what, I just want peace and fucking quiet!”.
    Maybe it’s time to start picking up Buicks and beating people with them…

  33. John Morales says


    I guess ethical review and consent could then go out the window in your worldview.

    In any worldview. Unethical science is still science.

    What, you personally imagine unethical science is no longer science?
    Is that really your worldview?

    wzrd1, well, different demesnes.

    As for examples, PZ has mentioned them before, and repudiated them on ethical grounds.
    Note that last part: on ethical grounds, not on scientific grounds.


  34. hemidactylus says

    John Morales @37

    I said “ethics should constrain science “. I fail to see how you could assume I meant “unethical science is no longer science” unless you are bending over backwards to manufacture something to score points on.

    Of course unethical science is still science and can still be done. I didn’t say it can’t, in the sense of possibility or human capacity to do things. Instead I am saying it should not be done. Or in a more proscriptive framing it must not be done. It is verboten.

    I would think such distinction obvious to you.

  35. John Morales says

    I said “ethics should constrain science

    Point being, ‘should’ is a value judgement, with which I concurred @34.

    Of course unethical science is still science and can still be done. I didn’t say it can’t, in the sense of possibility or human capacity to do things. Instead I am saying it should not be done. Or in a more proscriptive framing it must not be done. It is verboten.

    You repeat yourself. It should not be done, you say.
    Yet, it can be done, and as I noted, it has been done.

    I would think such distinction obvious to you.

    What makes you imagine it’s not?

    Again, point is that the supposed distinction between philosophy and science is kinda like the distinction between locomotion and bicycling. The latter is a form of the former.

  36. hemidactylus says

    Society needs ethics to be applied to how science is done. Way too much to unpack there on an early morning blog comment. I guess we might disagree to be disagreeable as is the prevailing game happening here I suppose John.

    The application of ethics to science will reflect the ever changing values people in society hold. Science may impact those value judgments as we learn more about how the world works and how people tick and interrelate in society. It’s a messy relation between science and ethics (or morality). They interdigitate.

  37. says


    We do “the scientific method” all the time. Scientists don’t and never did have a monopoly on that.

    Baby is crying? Maybe the diaper is wet. Check the diaper. Nope, it’s dry, so maybe she’s hungry? Ah, that was it.

    That’s the kind of observation to hypothesis to testing that’s all about science, and people have been doing that before homo sapiens existed – hell, animals do it. I’m so fucking tired of this bullshit idea that some point in the Renaissance was the magical birth of science.

    Francis Bacon said it was all about observation, wrote a collection of what Latin verse? about it, and now we call him the Father of the Scientific Method, probably because we want it to be a white guy? Oh my aching head.

    Even the idea that science is materialistic, that we don’t need to blame lightning or volcanoes on gods, is thousands of years old. We credit Thales of Miletus with that one, but it’s probably older. The Indus Valley Civ was a thousand years older and their knowledge was spreading into Mesopotamia and to the Mediterranean Crescent. The far eastern civs were even older.

    Can you tell this canard is annoying me?

    Yes there is a philosophy of science, but it’s not recent, and very little recently has suddenly transformed scientific inquiry into something that is useful when it wasn’t before. This confuses tools and knowledge with philosophy.

  38. says

    “Unethical science is still science.”

    You may pursue unethical methods, but how will others replicate your results? Replication is an integral part of science.

    Can you prove that your unethical methods didn’t taint the results? [1]

    Can you show that your willingness to pursue unethical methods didn’t taint your choice of hypothesis? [2]

    There are reasons why we have ethics boards at universities, and avoiding bad press is only part of that.

    [1] For example the ethics of keeping wild animals in captivity are foregrounded by Schenkel’s 1947 paper that started the myth of the alpha wolf.

    [2] People studying the Africans kept in slavery were certainly lead to the hypotheses they examined by their racism.

  39. Rob Grigjanis says

    Helge @43:

    people have been doing that before homo sapiens existed

    Yes, and (up to and including today) getting a lot of things horribly wrong. Like rubbing snow on frostbite. Or homeopathy or astrology. Or the people buying into COVID misinformation.

    It’s easy for (some) modern, educated people to say “well, duh. We’ve always done this”. No we haven’t. It’s been hit-and-miss at best, until methods were codified.

  40. wzrd1 says

    hemidactylus @ 42, you’ve adopted a rarely and preferred point, one I usually adopt the antithesis of, pushing the Joe Mengele thing toward projectile vomiting.
    Good job! And thank you, doing my own thing is exhausting, largely due to electrolyte depletion.

    Having personally known quite a few holocaust survivors, I’ve recognized something. They universally filtered the most harmful things from young minds. Always.
    Which honestly makes me sadder, for they suffered beyond the events via such filtering,

    Back to the OP, well, maybe the Flinstones, a modern stone age family.
    Naw, Bedrock would be glazedrock, due to nuclear infighting…

  41. says

    @Rob #45 “codified”

    I have a book recommendation for you, Paul Feyerabend’s “Against Method” – you’ll read about two chapters in and then throw the book at a wall. That’s what I did forty or so years ago.

    Feyerabend’s (quite uncontroversial) thesis is that scientists don’t actually abide by any methods. We are a tribe of people engaged on a common project, and each of us strives to gain some level of recognition for our part in it. Not a single fucking one of us is checking off the scientific method steps. At most we can occasionally observe that what emerges from our struggle to understand, to be the first to publish, and to learn from what others have learned, that something like a method emerges over time. It is not a thing scientists actually do. Published work will reflect a nod to this method in retrospect, but it’s a sanitized and fictional history of a chaotic process. Everybody knows that.

    So why throw the book? Because Feyerabend also ignores the sociology, the community of scientists, which is why what we do gets us anywhere. Speed of light is 3E9m/s? I’ll take your word for it, ain’t got the time to check it. Yes that get us into trouble, but it’s how we do it.

    The book, I’m told, is incomplete – there was an Austrian friend, I think, who was supposed to discuss this with F. during the course of the book, but the friend died, so F. published his side of the argument. Possibly if both had been there you might not throw the book, but it is what it is.

  42. Hemidactylus says

    wzrd1 @47
    My exploration of the oversimplified Hume guillotine and commonly associated overanalytical naturalistic fallacy of Moore has been long and arduous. A lesser known dictum is Kant’s ought implies can.

    People rightly diss Gould for his NOMA distinction between the spheres of science and morals, basically ceding the latter to theology, yet he got more sophisticated in Hedgehog, the Fox, and the Magister’s Pox which was mostly a critique of EO Wilson’s consilience thesis.

    I think Helge makes some good points in @44 especially about the alpha myth. Also on point two I would add given what “friend” of the blog Pinker has written mythologizing the glorious enlightenment:

    And my harping on Tuskegee, Guatemala, Willowbrook, and MKUltra etc. upthread is a frustrated response to Pinker’s glib superficiality in Enlightenment Now.