As a meteorologist and scientist I am very familiar with many pseudoscience arguments and websites like creation science, new age science, anti-climate change arguments, and all the conspiracy theories that go along with it. My colleague recently turned me on to a little gem of a website. Somebody has ‘solved’ tornadoes. I hope you click on the site. Not only will the guy who owns this WordPress website be excited that he has so many hits, but you will immediately be able to tell that this person isn’t playing with a full deck. At first I laughed a lot as I read it, but the more I read it, the more I actually started to be impressed. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I’m impressed with the actual ideas here, they are completely wrong, but I was impressed with how much time and thought this person has gone into thinking about the problem. I don’t want to post any individual blog posts linked here, because I really don’t care to have this person start harassing me, but if you go through a number of them you’ll see that he has talked to some real experts in the field (although it’s unclear about whether he has e-mailed them or actually talked to them personally), he has posts where he has retracted some of his statements and then explained why he retracted them. He has designed experiments to test his hypothesis as well. In fact I’m a bit jealous that this guy actually has more blog followers than me. Did I say jealous? I meant frightened. Anyway, what I thought what was really interesting is that here is a very unique belief system which has blossomed into something rather complex. One that to my knowledge nobody else really believes (at least not yet, or at least I hope not yet) and yet bears much similarity to existing belief systems. So I thought it might be interesting to deconstruct it a little and see what we get.
At the heart of every belief system is at least one premise that is accepted as true, without being supported by any empirical observations. Once this is accepted as
true, much can be built from it. For instance many religious belief systems accept as fact that there is a God and goes on from there. Many times of course there are several faulty premises. It could be that they stem from an original, but it’s hard to say. Let’s take a look at the one’s that seem to this gentleman’s starting point
Premise 1: The jet stream is a conscious entity that is thirsty for water and thus tornadoes are a result of the jet stream needing to suck up water. I guess that makes a tornado a giant straw.
Premise 2: Moisture is the most important factor in determining density differences in buoyant air. (Actually it’s temperature).
Premise 3: Meteorology is a cult, and meteorologist simply believe in old and outdated arguments that have never been proved experimentally.
From this all sorts of things are possible. If you were to accept the first two things as truth you would come up with a very different scenario for how and why thunderstorms and tornadoes form. The 3rd premise is what then allows him to never have to rethink the first two. People who could argue intelligently with him and are more knowledgeable are meteorologists and since they are part of a belief based cult they can’t possibly be correct or unbiased.
Another important part of a belief system is the inequality in standards the proponents of the belief system must live up to in comparison to non-believers. For
instance, those against gay marriage will expect everyone to respect their right to be legally bound in holy matrimony, but do not have to respect the rights of homosexuals. As is often the case pseudoscience literature like this, the expectation of other is to provide rigorous proof, yet no such proof is given by this gentleman as he espouses his hypothesis about how and why tornadoes form. At its root I feel this comes from a lack of humility. To be so sure you are right about something that you are beyond the need for evidence, and that you are beyond the ability of anybody (regarding their experience and expertise) to change your mind is to be so prideful that even Donald Trump would be impressed. It is also a sad state to be in. As I’ve argued before since reinforcing beliefs releases dopamine in the brain, over time as the neural pathways become so entrenched into a belief, this person literally will become ill to consider anything else. The stronger the argument you make, the less likely you will get anywhere.
So what’s the harm in all of this? Perhaps very little since there is a certain amount of crazy that even the most clueless about the subject won’t buy into. Nevertheless there is at least enough science jargon on his website that people who are not educated about the issue may think there is controversy and conspiracy. Just like many who are not educated about climate change think the same way. There was at least one commenter who reblogged one of his articles saying it was an interesting “new theory”. I wanted to also introduce this website and blog post as a lead in to a discussion of the age of information (or misinformation) that we live in. This person has self-published a book for sale on amazon and has done a lot of writing on this subject. If he had a little bit of money and/or web savvy he could make his site one of the top hits on google when people search for information about tornadoes. Critical thinking skills are even more important today than they were before the internet to be able to navigate the flood of information that we are faced with on any one subject area. Anyway, keep well everyone and stay away from thirsty jet streams!