Posted on 29 August 2014
By Michael J. I. Brown, Monash University
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But I have received an education in the tactics many trolls use. These tactics are common not just to trolls but to bloggers, journalists and politicians who attack science, from climate to cancer research. Some techniques are comically simple. Emotionally charged, yet evidence-free, accusations of scams, fraud and cover-ups are common. While they mostly lack credibility, such accusations may be effective at polarising debate and reducing understanding. And I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. The chairman of the Prime Minister’s Business Advisory Council, Maurice Newman, trotted out that old chestnut in The Australian last week. Australia’s Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, was less than impressed by Newman’s use of that tactic.
‘Experts’ Internet trolls know who their experts are. There are thousands of professors scattered across academia, so it isn’t surprising that a few contrarians can be found. In online discussions I’ve been told of the contrarian views of “respected" professors from Harvard, MIT and Princeton. Broken logic Often attacks on science employ logic so flawed that it would be laughable in everyday life. If I said my car was blue, and thus no cars are red, you would be unimpressed. And yet when non-experts discuss science, such flawed logic is often employed. Carbon dioxide emissions are leading to rapid climate change now, and gradual natural climate change has also taken place over aeons. There’s no reason for natural and anthropogenic climate change to be mutually exclusive, and yet climate change deniers frequently use natural climate change in an attempt to disprove anthropogenic global warming. Galileo . . .