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« Quote of the day, Mark Maslin edition | Main | Mark Maslin does fallacy »

On John Timmer

John Timmer is someone I come across from time to time on Twitter. He describes himself as the "Chief science wrangler for Ars Technica" which is a publication you can find here. Timmer has a fairly yawnworthy post up here, in which he seeks to justify use of the term "denier". It's not really worth much of your time, except for one paragraph. This one:

For example, atmospheric physicist Richard Lindzen has been a prominent figure trotted out to suggest that climate scientists have gotten it wrong; but he also seems to think health authorities got it wrong with smoking

The link is to a Newsweek article, the relevant sentence of which is this:

[Lindzen will] even expound on how weakly lung cancer is linked to cigarette smoking.

Uh huh. Which brings us onto this transcript of an interview Lindzen gave in Australia, I think in 2012:

Anna: ...Did you dispute that there was not a link between smoking and health problems?
Richard: I have argued as most people who have looked at it that the case for second-hand tobacco is not very good. That was true of the World Health Organization also said that...With first-hand smoke it's a more interesting issue. There's clearly an issue ...The case for lung cancer is very good...

Illuminating, isn't it? About John Timmer, I mean.

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Reader Comments (129)

Tobacco is addictive in humans, nicotine plays an important role, Smoking is killing millions of people.

Just look at what you’ve done there. It’s the typical goal-post shifting of antismokers. Do you remember when tobacco company executives were grilled by antismoking congress members (e.g., Waxman). Nicotine is highly addictive bellowed the antismokers: People only smoke because they’re addicted to nicotine. And if the executives didn’t agree, they were horrible, not-fit-for-life liars. Well guess what? It was the sanctimonious antismokers that were lying.

So, nicotine cannot do what the antismokers have long claimed that it does. The antismokers quickly slide to “tobacco is addictive” which is a meaningless statement. It fails to indicate what produces, in pharmacological terms, addiction. And it’s not as if tobacco is under-investigated. It must be one of the most over-investigated matters in medical enquiry. Antismokers are constantly trying to fit tobacco use into a contrived framework that it doesn’t fit.

Dec 19, 2014 at 11:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Eli, you need to understand something of the moralizing zealot/fanatic…. the “Righteous”…. mentality and the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority”. I’ll use the following because a summary is quickly available.

Consider the following:
10 Outrageous Claims Made By The Temperance Movement
“All of these things were taught in schools as scientific fact. Educators like Mary Hunt crusaded to get temperance views and “science” into the curricula of the public schools—and in many cases, they succeeded. Hunt was the driving force behind the Scientific Temperance Instruction Movement, and although they met resistance at first, the WTCU made sure that their members and supporters were in key roles within the education system.”

There was nothing “scientific” about the Scientific Temperance Department. And Temperance groups were as rabidly anti-tobacco, making all manner of baseless claims about the deleterious effects of tobacco use. Then there was the far more influential medically-led Eugenics Movement that was also rabidly anti-tobacco/alcohol. Concerning baseless claims about tobacco and alcohol, the Temperance and Eugenics Movements sang from the same hymn sheet. These weren’t bums off the street churning out inflammatory lies galore. These were well respected folk within the religious and medical communities. This tells us much about how moralizing zealots operate. They believe they have a definitive world view that all must abide by. So, when all of the populace does not do as told, where some dare defy the zealots’ edicts, the zealots become more hysterical in their claims attempting to “convert” the non-conformers. The only thing important to moralizing zealots is getting people to do as they’re told. The rhetoric quickly degenerates into terrorizing - through baseless, highly-inflammatory claims - the populace into conformity.

And there’s a theme in the inflammatory propaganda. Zealots will cast doubt on the integrity of ingredients of a target with a view to evoking revulsion and outrage, e.g., alcohol is made from excrement. They will contrive an ever-growing list of diseases and character failure that will afflict the partaker. And for the inveterate partaker, the diseases will produce a slow, horrible, agonizing death….. their “just due”. This is the typical repertoire of the moralizing zealot – a constantly agitating fear and hate-mongering. The goal is to condition (brainwash) the populace into conformity through aversion, revulsion, and outrage. The moralizing zealot rationalizes this unethical conduct, if they acknowledge it at all, as for the “greater good”, for a “better”, “healthier” society….. according to them.

The insight that’s been lost over the last 3 decades is the ability to recognize moralizing zealotry, and to recognize it as mental dysfunction.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Eli, I can provide a current example of how “appeal to authority” is exploited to the hilt by antismoking fanatics. A little background.

The Office of the Surgeon-General and the Centers for Disease Control have long been hijacked by high-profile antismoking activists. The medical credentials of these organizations have been exploited to shove agenda-driven trash on the public and made to appear as “scientific”. It’s standard operating procedure for zealots.

Consider, too, the long-time, high-profile antismoking activist, Glantz, who’s been with the current antismoking crusade from the beginning in the late-1960s.

He’s promoted as a “professor of medicine” or a “professor of cardiology”. Yet he’s never done any formal medical training. He makes all manner of economics pronouncements. Yet he has no post-graduate qualifications in economics.
For those not familiar, Glantz is no “professor of medicine”. He is a mechanical engineer that was given a professorship of medicine by UCSF to lend “medical weight” to his antismoking ranting and raving. He’s a fraud promoting the logical fallacy of “appeal to authority” along with many of his buddies in Public Health and Tobacco Control.
According to his online biography, Glantz was awarded a Ph.D. in 1973 from Stanford University in Applied Mechanics and Engineering Economic Systems. From this mechanical background, Glantz undertook a postdoctoral year at Stanford University in Cardiology (1975), and another postdoctoral year at the University of California (San Francisco) in cardiovascular research (1977). It appears that the connection to cardiology is in “applied mechanical” terms; he has no formal training in medicine. In 1977, Glantz was given the academic posting of assistant professor in Cardiology at UCSF; this was upgraded to a full professorship in 1987. Glantz is currently a Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research & Education at the University of California (San Francisco). It appears that the “medical” status serves essentially to “legitimize” the antitobacco status and exploit Glantz’s high profile in this area.

Glantz is a “glorified mechanic”. Astounding is that this extremist that travels the world pontificating on the “benefits” of extreme antismoking measures has been allowed to present himself for the last few decades as a professor of medicine or professor of cardiology. There doesn’t appear to be even one instance where a journalist has asked fundamental questions of Glantz – have you had any clinical training in medicine, where did you complete your internship, with which medical board are you certified to practice medicine? The fraud should have been exposed years ago in the MSM along with the academic system in California that bestowed upon him the “professorship”. With access to obscene levels of funding, Glantz has also produced hundreds of “studies” that, lo and behold, always arrive at an antismoking conclusion. He’s also been a contributor to Surgeon-General reports on smoking and secondhand smoke.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History


In the last few years, Glantz has been charged with one of the latest World Health Organization initiatives – getting an “R”-rating for movies that contain smoking scenes.

To save re-posting, I refer you to the series of comments by magnetic01 on A Short Study on “Argumentum Ad Verecundiam”

This series of comments details the “evidence” conjured that results in the conclusion “Smoking in Movies Kills”

And Glantz now spends considerable time trying to “sell the message”. The selling consists entirely of “the Surgeon-General says so, so it must be true” – appeal to authority. This from his blog of only a few days ago:

Major Movie Studios’ Shareholders Seek Response to 1,000,000 Deaths

Note, too, the concocted, nicely-rounded 1,000,000 “anticipated” deaths from smoking depictions in movies. It’s all made up.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

> This tells us much about how moralizing zealots operate. They believe they have a definitive world view that all must abide by. So, when all of the populace does not do as told, where some dare defy the zealots’ edicts, the zealots become more hysterical in their claims attempting to “convert” the non-conformers. The only thing important to moralizing zealots is getting people to do as they’re told. The rhetoric quickly degenerates into terrorizing - through baseless, highly-inflammatory claims - the populace into conformity.

Same Bat-channel, an earlier Bat-time:

[I]t's also worth pointing out that the motivational fallacy has been understood since the time of the ancient Greeks.

Please stick to mud-slinging or you may tire, Some.

Speaking of which, are you really suggesting that nicotine ain't addictive?

PS: If our beloved Bishop could provide a citation for an ancient Greek who understood the motivational fallacy, that would be great.

Dec 20, 2014 at 12:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillard

Speaking of which, are you really suggesting that nicotine ain't addictive?

That’s all you’ve got? That’s it? How can anyone question the “incontrovertible truth” of nicotine addiction? Please, Willard.

Willard, maybe you and Eli could edify us on the “science” behind the following:

These social engineers are also involved in attempting to remove the cigarette from history. There are now quite a few examples of antismokers re-writing history a là tyranny. For example, concerning a commemorative stamp issue, the US Post Office authorized the airbrushing out of a cigarette dangling from James Dean’s lips. The same was done with Black American blues guitarist Robert Johnson and with artist Jackson Pollock. The French Post Office did similarly with philosopher Andre Malraux (and Jean-Paul Satre). Columbia Records has removed a cigarette Paul Simon was holding to his lips for the CD cover of the retrospective of Simon and Garfunkel titled “Old Friends.” A cigarette was airbrushed out from the hand of a cast member for the cover of the 25th Anniversary CD of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. A cigarette in Paul McCartney’s right hand has been removed from the cover of the album “Abbey Road.” An impromptu photo of Britney Spears on the balcony of a Sydney hotel had the “offending” cigarette she was smoking airbrushed out by US Weekly. A cigarette has been removed from the mouth of one of the characters appearing in the “Keep Mum She’s Not So Dumb” war-time advertisement. In a brochure photograph (The Maritime Heritage Centre) a cigar has been removed from the mouth of the great engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. Further, “[i]n 1953 Dr Cardew had photographed a reconstruction of the laboratory bench on which Fleming discovered penicillin. [S]ituated on the bench was a Petri dish of cigarette ends (Fleming having been a heavy smoker). The reconstruction was located in St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, but as Dr Cardew relates: ‘The museum reconstruction in 1993 omitted the Petri dish on the grounds that the hospital had a no smoking policy….’”

They’ve even airbushed out Winston Churchill’s signature cigar.

Then there’s this recent case:

Dec 20, 2014 at 1:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History


And these:

Dec 20, 2014 at 1:55 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

In one American school, the very word “cigarette” is forbidden:

In New Zealand, the word “cigarette” had to be removed from a shop front:

Dec 20, 2014 at 1:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

> That’s all you’ve got? That’s it?

Well, there was a fallacy underlined earlier, which you now transform into good old victim playing, but yeah, I'd like you to claim that nicotine is addictive, if that's not too much trouble, Some.

You can question all you want. You can even meditate and question your own existence. Don't forget to think, in the end.

Oh, and it's "à la" if you mind your emprunts, and "Sartre" if you care for your anecdata.

Dec 20, 2014 at 2:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillard

Oh, and it's "à la" if you mind your emprunts, and "Sartre" if you care for your anecdata.

Of course, Willard, of course. What was I thinking? My sincerest, unreserved apologies for these catastrophic, unforgivable errors that have surely caused you undue hardship. I can understand how these egregious failures could distract you in particular from the substance of the post.

Dec 20, 2014 at 2:26 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

The distraction is wholly yours, Some. Here's what you said earlier:

Just look at what you’ve done there. It’s the typical goal-post shifting of antismokers. Do you remember when tobacco company executives were grilled by antismoking congress members (e.g., Waxman). Nicotine is highly addictive bellowed the antismokers: People only smoke because they’re addicted to nicotine. And if the executives didn’t agree, they were horrible, not-fit-for-life liars. Well guess what? It was the sanctimonious antismokers that were lying.

On the whole, Some, the only reason I can think of for you to say that the "sanctimonious antismokers" were lying is for you to presume that nicotine ain't addictive.

This is why I am asking you to commit on a claim to that effect.

Do you believe that nicotine ain't addictive, yes or no?

This is the third time I ask.


When you'll answer that one, there's the other one about some "goal-post shifting" left unidentified.

Dec 20, 2014 at 2:41 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillard

Do you believe that nicotine ain't addictive, yes or no?
This is the third time I ask.

Willard….. dear Will, your question has already been answered. Moreover, the “nicotine addiction” issue has also been placed in greater antismoking zealotry/fanaticism context.

Will, you may have to consider that it’s all too much for you at the moment: It’s too much against the “official grain” that has fashioned your current beliefs. Take a time-out to absorb all of the information (which is just the tip of the iceberg) provided.

I’m not attempting to convince anyone of anything, per se. Just like this blog is committed to particular issues, there are other blogs that are committed to scrutinizing the proclamations of Public Health. My posts here are just some of the information that has been gathered by commenters on these blogs over the last few years that you will not typically hear in the mainstream. And it doesn’t just concern antismoking.

Dec 20, 2014 at 3:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

> your question has already been answered.

Where, and what was the answer?

Dec 20, 2014 at 3:17 AM | Unregistered CommenterWillard

willard, have you ever smoked a cigarette?

Dec 20, 2014 at 9:09 AM | Registered Commentershub

Clinical Pharmacology & Therapeutics 83, 531-541 (April 2008) | doi:10.1038/clpt.2008.3

NL Benowitz
Clinical Pharmacology of Nicotine: Implications for Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Tobacco Addiction

NL Benowitz


Understanding the basic and clinical pharmacology of nicotine provides a basis for improved prevention and treatment of tobacco addiction. Nicotine acts on nicotinic cholinergic receptors in the brain to release dopamine and other neurotransmitters that sustain addiction. Neuroadaptation and tolerance involve changes in both nicotinic receptors and neural plasticity. Nicotine addiction can occur in the context of physical dependence characterized by self-medication to modulate negative affect and/or to relieve withdrawal symptoms, as well as, in light or occasional smokers, primarily for positive reinforcement in specific situations. Nicotine is metabolized primarily by CYP2A6. Its clearance exhibits considerable individual variability that is determined by genetic, racial, and hormonal (sex) factors. Genetically slow metabolism of nicotine appears to be associated with a lower level of dependence. Nicotine dependence is highly heritable and appears to be influenced by genes coding for some nicotine receptor subtypes, some neurotransmitter genes, and genes involved in neural connectivity. Novel pharmacotherapies for nicotine dependence include partial agonists for nicotinic receptors and nicotine vaccines. Pharmacogenetic studies suggest various candidate genes and a nicotine metabolism phenotype that influence outcome. Human pharmacology studies of nicotine and smoking behavior also provide a basis for assessing the benefits and risks of long-term nicotine use for harm reduction and for a potential cigarette regulatory strategy that includes reducing nicotine content of cigarettes to nonaddictive levels.

Dec 20, 2014 at 11:42 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Sorry, Eli, but you’re not even a sub-amateur. I take it you have no clue who Neal Benowitz is. Well, let me enlighten you. Benowitz is a long-time antismoking activist. He has built his career around “nicotine addiction”. He has been a contributor to reports of the antismoker-hijacked Office of the Surgeon-General since the 1980s. He was a scientific editor of SG (1988) that declared nicotine an “addiction”, turning tobacco users into “addicts”. He has been a paid consultant for nicotine patch manufacturers (i.e., conflict of interest).

He has attracted considerable funding from California’s anti-tobacco TRDRP organization. TRDRP is a fund earmarked for antismoking research that was created from the Master Settlement Agreement. It’s antismokers that attract this funding and research typically arrives at antismoking conclusions.

Importantly, a recent court ruling (July, 2014) found that Benowitz, Henningfield, and Samet have conflicts of interest (i.e., Pharmaceutical ties) and should not be on the FDA “Tobacco Advisory Panel”:

A summary can be found here:
Federal Judge to FDA: Tobacco Advisory Panel Tainted By Conflicts of Interest

Henningfield is a close colleague of Benowitz pushing the idea of “nicotine addiction”. He has also been a contributor to SG Reports on “nicotine addiction”. Samet has also been a contributor/editor to SG Reports on smoking & secondhand smoke since the 1980s. These guys a rabid antismokers (ideologically compromised) and they are Pharma shills (financially compromised). A number of pharma companies are highly interested in pushing the idea of “nicotine addiction” to peddle their useless “nicotine replacement” and other smoking [snake oil] cessation wares. Unfortunately, it’s taken until now to show up these serious conflicts of interest. Much damage has been done in the preceding few decades.

In an earlier post, I highlighted the antics of the rabid antismoker, Glantz, a mechanical engineer posing as a professor of medicine. Well, Benowitz and Glantz are very close colleagues, both at the University of California (San Francisco).

There’s much more that could be said about these fraudsters but, Eli, I don’t think it’s going to make to much difference to you. You sound like a “true believer”, a disciple of the antismoker cult.

While you’re “researching”, Eli, see if you can find out where the tobacco “death toll” comes from…… how it’s arrived at. That would be an interesting exercise since you believe it.

Dec 21, 2014 at 2:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

There’s $1,000,000 of TRDRP funding just here to Benowitz:

Benowitz is also a National Advisory Committee Member for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, Smoking Cessation Leadership Center (2003-Current)

RWJF has pumped hundreds of millions of dollars into “tobacco control”. RWJF’s main income is from a large stockholding in Johnson & Johnson, manufacturers of nicotine replacement products (gums, patches, inhalers). RWJF is the “philanthropic” arm of J&J.

Dec 21, 2014 at 2:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterSome History

Until this evening I'd thought some was seldom enough.

Dec 21, 2014 at 3:16 AM | Registered Commenterjferguson

Jules, at the Klimaatblog, has come up with a smoking gun showing that the tobacco industry targeted libertarians when they recognized they were losing the public. The memorandum can be read at the tobacco legacy archive . Some history as it were.

Dec 21, 2014 at 5:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

Rabett, when tobacco control activists fought for the lung cancer-tobacco risk they were on the strongest ground. On nearly almost everything else their case is weak and correspondingly they look like zealots. People can recognize zealotry when they see it.

A weak case may still be worth a degree of social activism - and especially given the habit-forming nature of cigarette smoking, the salubrious effects of nicotine for the smoker (yes, they exist) and the addiction potential (of course it is real, just not as strong as it is made out to be) - there then is a healthy equilibrium between people wanting to smoke and a level of awareness that it is not entirely a harmless product.

But what is observed instead is anti-smoking activism and anti-smoking punitive measures that are disproportionate to the degree of current harm. Remember, you may say that smoking is harmful and could kill, but, every adult does have the right to harm and kill themselves. Especially if the government is able to impose taxation on the means of killing, isn't it?

Is it surprising that libertarians are drawn into the tobacco debate at this stage? Excessive preening zealotry and oppressive law-making will draw libertarians regardless of what the object is. Jules' article only shows that tobacco control activists will have to progressively cut out people's interest in freedom of action, freedom of speech and the tendency of seek pleasure to achieve their goals. I've seen Jules' output before - prejudiced and incapable of rising above her biases. Which is kind of a pity isn't it - it's not going happen anymore.

If tobacco control activists are serious about tobacco they would be working with government to ban the product, instead of controlling other people's behaviour.

Dec 21, 2014 at 10:13 AM | Registered Commentershub

I would say that the global lung cancer epidemic is more closely linked with atomic weapons testing fallout (1945 - ~1985) than with trends in smoking rates.

Also, ex soviet countries never had an active anti-smoking movement as western countries did. So they carried on smoking which means we have a control and test populations to see whether the lung cancer rates differ. They don't differ at all. Lung cancer rates dropped in both populations.


Dec 21, 2014 at 1:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterFredrik Eich

Sir, if you could at least get my gender correct ?

Dec 21, 2014 at 8:50 PM | Unregistered Commenterjules

Sorry Jules, I mistook you for someone else.

But being from Europe, you are entirely excused for holding stereotypical views about American think-tanks and corporations.

Dec 21, 2014 at 9:48 PM | Registered Commentershub

Except Forest is a European organization.

Dec 21, 2014 at 10:20 PM | Unregistered Commenterjules

Ech, mistake again, I didn't think a species as mainland European libertarians even existed.

Dec 21, 2014 at 11:11 PM | Registered Commentershub

Shub, as a physician you should know that the link between tobacco and cardiovascular disease is as strong or stronger than the link to lung cancer, which is pretty iron clad. OTOH, given the outbreak of AIDS denial a page or so over quel surprise.

Lewandowsky rejoices.

Dec 21, 2014 at 11:32 PM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett

'Link between tobacco and cardiovascular disease' - As far as I have seen, links between coronary artery disease and smoking is strong, much better than second-hand smoke and cancer for example. But the US Surgeon General report and ASH in the UK like lumping all manners of 'cardiovasular deaths' in their statistics. ASH, for example, reports a 60% overall aortic aneurysm death rate due to smoking and such high numbers are in all likelihood an artifact of methodology. The Surgeon General report is also out to prove second-hand smoke causes stroke though one can look at their forest plots and only wonder how they come to such strong conclusions. So,...that's what you've got.

I know the Lewandowsky thing bothers you although I don't know why.

Dec 22, 2014 at 12:59 AM | Registered Commentershub

Nope, simply look at the crap that is in the air around smokers. Do that in a chemistry lab and ES&H will shut you down.

Dec 23, 2014 at 3:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterEli Rabett


The senator of whom you speak is Sheldon Whitehouse. He is the true climate zealot and, in my opinion, a corwn idiot.

Dec 26, 2014 at 8:25 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrian Virgin

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