We Need a Word Like Iscientificy to Go with Illiteracy, Innumeracy

We have a word for people who can’t read, illiteracy.

Years ago, mathematician John Allan Paulos wrote a book about the dangers of being mathematically illiterate and called it Innumeracy. Amazon describes the book thusly (my boldface added for emphasis):

This is the book that made “innumeracy” a household word, at least in some households. Paulos admits that “at least part of the motivation for any book is anger, and this book is no exception. I’m distressed by a society which depends so completely on mathematics and science and yet seems to indifferent to the innumeracy and scientific illiteracy of so many of its citizens.”

But that is not all that drives him. The difference between our pretensions and reality is absurd and humorous, and the numerate can see this better than those who don’t speak math. “I think there’s something of the divine in these feelings of our absurdity, and they should be cherished, not avoided.”

Paulos is not entirely successful at balancing anger and absurdity, but he tries. His diatribes against astrology, bad math education, Freud, and willful ignorance are leavened with jokes, mathematical or the sort (he claims) favored by the numerate.

We have senators, lawyers, actors, humanities professors, filmmakers and obscure bloggers asserting scientific claims based on what they perceive as their “truthiness”, how the assertion fits into their weltanschauung, a fancy German word meaning world outlook. Joining the blog fringe of innumerate yahoos (yeah, I’m about 3/4 through reading the public domain version of Gulliver’s Travels on my PDA and the epithet “yahoo” could hardly be more apt):

Sportsfrog: Floyd Landis is a Coward

To cleanse the palate of the nastiness of the above, may I highly recommend Rant Your Head Off’s Courage, Not Cowardice and VeloGal.

But those aren’t scientific rebuttals. This gem from Environmental Chemistry is:

When science, peer review & independent experts are anything but

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Posted by Ken

usada dick poundAfter my blog a couple weeks ago about who is funding climate change experts, I’m sure this title leads one to anticipate another look into the issue of corporate funded research, but alas, this week I’m looking at your tax dollars at work (whether you are in the U.S., Canada, France Germany, etc.). For the past week my routine of scouring the Internet, reading articles and papers on environmental related issues has been totally waylaid by the Floyd Landis hearings taking place in California. The mainstream media has been more than happy to lay in wait for the “soap opera moments,” that not even the writers of the Sopranos could dream up. At the same time, there has been a tremendous amount of scientifically interesting information that they have not been reporting. In light of that, I’m going to push past Sopranos moments to dig at the real issues these hearing raise.

tour de france doping technician floyd landis farceFor those who somehow missed the news, last year Floyd Landis became only the third American in history to win the Tour de France, only for it to be announced a few days later that he had tested positive for drug doping. The results of the tests had been leaked to the press before even Floyd himself had been informed. Presumably, sources connected to either the World Anti-Doping Administration (WADA) or the French testing lab LNDD where the tests were conducted, were responsible for the media leak. In the ten months that have elapsed, this case has been fought in the court of public opinion, first by WADA, and news leaks to the media, and then by a very well organized public relations effort by Floyd Landis himself, which included his public release of much of the discovery evidence his legal team had received from WADA.

france french tour de france doping technician floyd landisAs part of Floyd Landis’ defense strategy, he requested that his arbitration hearings, which are normally closed affairs, be made open to the public. The request was granted and the Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu California agreed to host the hearing because it would give their law students an unprecedented chance to sit in and watch this type of arbitration hearing. It has also been an unprecedented opportunity for the rest of us to see into the inner workings of WADA and the federally funded USADA (U.S. Anti-Doping Administration), which oversee anti-doping efforts for all sports federations represented at the International Olympics (e.g. professional cycling). It should be noted that 2/3 of USADA’s funding comes from U.S. tax payers via congressional funding. In turn, some of this funding is doled out in the form of grants to scientists and testing labs that must toe the WADA/USADA party line to continue to receive their grants (which can be in excess of one million dollars).

One should not mistake these proceedings as bearing any resemblance to a normal court of law one would find in the U.S. There isn’t the standard pre-hearing discovery phase where the prosecution must turn over evidence and the defense gets to depose witnesses. In fact, by WADA rules no WADA testing laboratory is actually allowed to assist the defendant in any shape form or fashion. There is no impartial judge overseeing the matter, rather there is a three person arbitration panel which is chosen from a WADA approved pool of arbiters. One arbiter is chosen by the defense, one by the prosecution (in this case USADA for WADA) and a third arbiter chosen at random. The arbiters in this case are: Richard McLaren, a Canadian Lawyer (chosen by USADA); Chris Campbell, a Boston-based lawyer (chosen by Floyd Landis); and Patrice Brunet, a Canadian lawyer who is the chair. The arbitration panel’s “independent” expert is from the Rome Italy’s WADA approved lab (thus, also isn’t so “independent”). The director of the WADA certified UCLA testing laboratory has been sitting behind the USADA attorneys prosecuting this case providing them with assistance. There is no jury and it only takes a majority (e.g. two arbiters) to agree on any decision. Normally these proceedings are closed to the public and are nothing more than a rubber stamp of legitimacy, a wink and nod so to speak to “due process”, with the verdict being a fore gone conclusion. In fact, WADA and USADA are very proud of their 100% conviction rate.

Floyd Landis’s case is built upon the premise of bad science, conflicts of interest, poor quality control, and bad testing procedures. When the focus is on the science, even though most of the witnesses thus far have been for the prosecution (USADA), Floyd Landis’s lawyers have done a good job of scoring points. In fact, some of the things that have come out I found to be extremely disturbing from the stance of due process and justice.

Through the testimony and cross examination that I highlight and comment on below, it has been shown that the technicians for the French testing lab LNDD were sloppy, did not diligently log their activities (including chain of custody), could not account for large lapses in what logs they did keep, deleted data, and admitted to making mistakes during their testing. We have also learned that WADA/USADA funded labs and scientists are not allowed to testify on behalf of athletes, nor provide them with any form of aid (including independent testing).

cycling riddler proteam frank gorshin unibet unibet.com

Bill Hue, who is a recreational cyclist and is a Wisconsin Circuit Court Judge, Branch 2, Jefferson County, has also been at the Floyd Landis hearings this past week observing and writing for the blog “Trust But Verify” or TBV for short (which I reference repeatedly in this post), made the following observations:

What we are seeing is something I had not anticipated coming in and that is that the science is as political as anything else in the case. USADA could pick any independent person in the world to evaluate the work of the LNDD in this case, yet they chose J. Thomas Brenna, a man who has 1.3 million reasons (that is the dollar amount of his USADA grants over the last 4 years) to make them happy.

In the same post, Bill Hue also makes the following comments:

Science: Even A Blind Squirrel Occasionally Finds A Nut

Cynthia Mongongu and Claire Frelat flat out scare me. Their work is what it is and every expert testifying for WADA believes their results to be correct, although Don Catlin would only give their chromatograms C’s or C-‘s. Their laboratory paper work is in order (Landis’ expert Goldberger has big problems and more experts will comment in the coming days) according to WADA experts Brenna, Ayotte, Schanzer and Catlin. But, you have people come into Court to assess the credibility of their written results; otherwise their paper results would be all that is necessary.

I saw these two women in Court. Mongongu is not credible. Her work must exceed her live testimony because it is endorsed by some very intelligent and credible witnesses. She played dumb or she is dumb. I’m not trying to be mean because she seems like a nice person who you would like to have as a friend. She trained Frelat and did so in half the time other WADA accredited labs take to similarly train technicians.

Unlike Mongongu, Frelat isn’t the kind of person you would like to hang out with. She seems bratty and immature. She doesn’t seem to care much about her work. I don’t believe a word she says. Moreover, by the time she is involved in the testing, she knows exactly whose urine she is analyzing. That sort of makes me queasy. But her results have been endorsed by some very credible people. Therein lies the dilemma and the next three days will tell the tale. God forbid these two have been behind the 300% greater rate LNDD “catches” testosterone cheats because I wouldn’t trust them to do any lab work competently.

Would you want these people testing your samples for drugs? Personally, I find it suspicious that they have 300% higher testosterone rate than other WADA approved labs and at the same time is able to train their technicians in half the time.

This scientific cycling smackdown is but 20% of the full article. Here’s the link again. WELL DONE! Read it all.

If the anti-Floyd folk will comment here with their PayPal addresses, I’m tempted to PayPal them each two bits so they can buy a clue.


  1. Pinch Flat says:

    dude, i understand your noble compulsion–innocent until proven guilty, and all that.

    But the Frankophobe shtick kind of subverts any serious point you’re trying to make. I mean if the French are such genetically encumbered dipshits, why do we want to win their stupid race anyway?

    Just asking.

    Even if Floyd is innocent as the falling rain, it sure looks like he could be the exception that proves the rule: and maybe not even the first modern rider to be stripped of the yellow jersey.

  2. Ken says:

    I just wanted to say that of all the comments in regards to my blog post “When science, peer review & independent experts are anything but,” your calling it a “scientific cycling smackdown” is my favorite. The Dick Pound as Inspector Clueless, Jerry Lewis and Frank Gorshin pictures were also really funny parody.