I love this. The numerous anti-science forces are so used to getting their way by simply repeating their lies and distortions over and over until they're believed as "conventional wisdom." That was a technique invented by Goebbels and now being used widely by politicians promoting their own interests as the "public" interest.

And now we've got something that can repeat the truth over and over until it sinks in. Maybe, if we're really lucky, it might make a difference among those who have a mild appreciation reason, logic and critical thinking, instead of the ideological religions of pseudo-science.

I, for one, would be delighted to simply see a web page with this guy's database, or a database kept current, that offers a list of links to all the published studies, organized by talking-point, refuting each one of their popular talking points, one by one. That would end up on my bookmarks for sure.


Chatbot Wears Down Proponents of Anti-Science Nonsense


When he tired of arguing with climate change skeptics, one programmer wrote a chatbot to do it for him.

Nigel Leck, a software developer by day, was tired of arguing with anti-science crackpots on Twitter. So, like any good programmer, he wrote a script to do it for him.

The result is the Twitter chatbot @AI_AGW. Its operation is fairly simple: Every five minutes, it searches twitter for several hundred set phrases that tend to correspond to any of the usual tired arguments about how global warming isn't happening or humans aren't responsible for it.

It then spits back at the twitterer who made that argument a canned response culled from a database of hundreds. The responses are matched to the argument in question -- tweets about how Neptune is warming just like the earth, for example, are met with the appropriate links to scientific sources explaining why that hardly constitutes evidence that the source of global warming on earth is a warming sun...

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Wow, chatbots used for the forces of good instead of evil..who'd have thunk it?
We obviously need one for the Nexus.
Any chance of getting one for Congress?

Yeah, I know, too much to ask....
Can we adapt it to respond to pretty lame taling points on market solutions to solve the economic slowdown? How hard would it be to populate responses to the typical talking points one hears repeated on conservative talk shows etc.?
This is the most ingenious fucking thing ever. I'm impressed.
Not a chance it would make a difference, Gary.

I remember a conversation I had with a free-market fundamentalist a few years ago. He worshiped the free market concept and I pointed out to him that there was really no way that free markets could ever exist for long in the real world. I led him through each point, one by one, getting his agreement with each:

1. Money equals power. Therefore, it follows that the concentration of money equals the concentration of power. Right?

-- Sure, no argument.

2. In a free market, some players will be more adept at dealing with their counterparties than others, right?

-- Sure. That's obvious.

3. Those who have more skill will, over time, accumulate more money, will they not?

-- Obviously.

4. If they accumulate more money, they will accumulate more market power - As we have already agreed, money equals power, and the concentration of power equals the concentration money. Right?

-- Yeah, it would seem to follow.

5. Those who have been better than the rest over time, will accumulate considerable money and considerable power, therefore, those individuals will eventually accumulate sufficient power through their money, to dictate terms of market access by other players. Yes or no?

-- Well, yeah, but monopolies don't last, because they invite competition.

6. Assuming we are talking about a monopoly here (and that may not necessarily be the case - it could simply be dictating rules of market access to weaker players), a monopoly can simply restrict customers by means of restricting access to a required good or service, or dictating market prices for it. And if the customer doesn't want to play ball on the monopoly's terms, it is out of business. Think Microsoft. Think Standard Oil Trust. Think pre-breakup AT&T. Think DeBeers Consolidated Mines. Yes, monopolies can be stable over time, because they can - and do - dictate a lot more than just price. They have a whole wealth of ways to maintain their status. And it becomes almost impossible for new market entrants to survive and prosper, because of the non-economic power of the monopoly. Look at what Microsoft did to Netscape, Real Networks, Corel, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, and we could go on and on. Should this be allowed to continue - with one corporation accumulating ever more power, indefinitely?

-- Well, at some point, government has to step in and police this kind of abuse of the market.

7. But if government intervenes, we don't have a free, unregulated market anymore, do we?

-- Yeah, maybe so, but free markets are always better than government regulated markets, because government can never get regulation right...

You see the circular logic there? It isn't either reasonable or logical, but it is endlessly circular, because reason never breaks through the compartmentalized thinking. Just as you see in an ideologically committed religionist.

I have been struck over the years how this free-market fundamentalism dogma has a lot - if not most - of the characteristics of a religion.

So, in the final analysis, your economy is being run by religionists in accordance with what is effectively a religious dogma.

...There now, don't you feel better about the prospects for a recovery from the current depression?
I would say that American Conservatism has virtually all of the characteristics of a religion. Why limit that observation to just the free-market people?

It's the best explanation as to why they believe all the nonsense that has no basis in reality:

Obama's a Muslim, isn't a citizen, death panels, it goes on and on, we all know the litany by now.
Which is why I have always asserted that xtian fundamentalism and dogmatic conservatism are essentially the same thing, they come from the same authoritarian mindset, and pose the same threat. The big difference being when conservatives seize power, it's something real that has actual consequences. (Needless to say I am not concerned about god seeking retribution for my persistent blasphemy or whatever they want to call it.)

If it doesn't require a monumental leap of faith to believe that Sarah Palin would make a good president, what does?.

The left leaning punditocracy(such as it is) consistently criticize conservatives "for not operating within a fact based reality", but not one of them dare add the caveat:

"just like fundamentalist xtians or any other dogmatic religious sect."
It's hard to make long arguments on Twitter, so I wouldn't expect to have the type of dialogs Scott points to - "In a free market, some players will be more adept at dealing with their counterparties than others". There is at least some value for responding on Twitter so good arguments are not drowned out.

And at least one might point to places where a longer exposition handles some of the issues and this may be of more value for Progressives than for converting the conservative faithful.

Some of the issues that Dave surfaced might be addressed.
Gary, the points you and Dave raise are good ones. I agree entirely.

My favorite near-definition of conservatism is a statement that John Kenneth Galbraith made many years ago: "The modern conservative is engaged in mankind's oldest exercise in moral philosophy; the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

In a nutshell, that's it. It requires the conservative to compartmentalize his thinking, just like a religionist; if you believe yourself to be a moral person and a contributing member of society, you cannot believe yourself to also be engaged in a search for a justification for your selfishness.

So you let the Cato Institute do that for you.

Having said that, I have written a couple of essays whose urls might be useful as tweets, Gary. They are both on my website.

"Conservatism, The Politics of Ignorance and Self-Interest" is quite an old one and needs to be rewritten, but it contains a lot of points salient to this discussion (off-topic though it may be). It is basically a discussion of the psychology of conservatism; the mindsets of the manipulating elites, and the exploited middle-class conservatives. Not a great essay, but maybe worth a read.

"Not With A Whimper But A Bang: The Endpoints of Capitalism" is a much newer essay that describes why the unrestrained, unregulated pursuit of profit, in priority to the public interest, inevitably leads to boom-bust cycles, ending in a major depression, and how monetary manipulation by a central bank can only postpone the inevitable and make it worse when it happens (it was written before the present crisis began, and predicts it). It suggests that the problem is the very nature of capitalism itself, and suggests a solution. It can be found at:

Thanks for the Good material to review. I thin of some of George Lakoss's work as being in a similiar vein. For example there is, " Whose Freedom?"
Gary, I think you probably mean George Lakoff, and probably have in mind his book, "Moral Politics."

I read that book several years ago, and while I agree with many of his points, I think he missed the real difference in the conservative vs. progressive mindset. He talked about the Stern Father parenting style vs. the Nurturing Parent parenting style, and suggested that the former leads to conservatism and the latter progressivism (though he called it liberalism, erroneously in my view). There might be a slight tendency in that regard, but I think he grossly over-blows the correlation to the extent there is one. I was raised in a Stern Father-style household, and was raised as a conservative and ended up a flaming progressive instead. And I know many people who were raised by deeply loving, nurturing parents that ended up as the most reactionary conservatives you can imagine. So, at the end of the day, I have considered Lakoff's work but find it inadequate to explain the data.

In his book, Lakoff poo-pooed the specific thesis of my Politics of Ignorance essay. He may have actually read it; at the time he was researching his book, my essay was the #1 result when the word "conservatism" was searched on Google. And after reading his book, I was convinced of his thesis myself, but as the years have gone on, I have had second thoughts and have, over time, slowly returned to my original thesis in the essay as explaining the primary difference more adequately.

That is because I think that Lakoff has not adequately considered the full sociology of the conservatism-progressivism spectrum; he is a linguist and studies perceptions (he's the advocate of all that "framing" business), and I think his emphasis on perceptions has caused him to not adequately consider the full range of sociological differences between the two, only their stated values differences, which is inadequate to consider their unconscious motivations. That is what I tried to address - and it is where I think Galbraith nailed it in a single sentence.

Yes I misspelled George Lakoff's last name typing on my Blackberry, but meant him and his more recent book "Whose Freedom?". It does build on Moral Politics and uses the 2 father models, but also a commonwealth model. It makes sense for a Cognitive Linguist to offer some insights on the language being used to discuss Freedom. Such discussion, for example presuposes some things aobut free will.

Lakoff has some interesting snippets on what conservatives mean by freedom vs. what progressives do and the danger of thinking that it is a single concept. He looks at the implications of "freedom for" vs. "freedom from" as one type of confusion.

He argues that what conservatives want to conserve is, in most cases, the situation prior to the expansion of progressive American ideas of freedom. They want to be free from the changes made. This includes freedom to go back to things before:

the expansion of voting rights or unions and worker protections and pensions, or civil rights legislation, public health and environmental protections.

It is also before Social Security and Medicare, before scientific discoveries contradicted fundamentalist religious dogma. He argues that this is why they harp so much on a narrow so-called originalist readings of the Constitution.

The book is a bit repetitive and not a dynamic read, but as I said covers some of the definitional issues and how freedom is discussed and the frames it assumes.


Deep frames structure your moral system or your worldview. Surface frames have a much smaller scope. They are associated with particular words or phrases, and with modes of communication. The reframing of the Iraq War as a “front in the war on terror” was a surface reframing. Words are defined mostly in terms of surface frames. Examples are labels like “death tax,” “activist judges,” “frivolous lawsuits,” “liberal elites,” and “politically correct,” which are used by the right to trigger revulsion.

In politics, whoever frames the debate tends to win the debate. Over the past thirty-five years, conservatives have framed most of the issues in American political discourse.

Deep frames are where the action is."

From the Intro to "Whose Freedom?"




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