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Spotting Pseudoscience

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Creationism vs. Evolution certainly shakes the kooks from the trees, does it not.

Some creationists that I know are not as cretinous as a few thousand years of incest would indicate, and some Evolutionists are quite friendly and intelligent sons of monkeys. I am with the smart monkeys.

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Pseudoscience is defined here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoscience

However, there is a very dangerous issue about that label.

As a retired professor, I know that within the walls of academy, any new discovery or hypothesis that defies older ones is usually looked down on and rejected prejudicially.

This means that it would be a weapon in the wrong hands, and motivating the mainstream to call the works of a scientist as pseudoscience becomes a destructive tyranny.

Pseudoscience must be earmarked by two things.

1- He who claims a new set of information without empirical and experimental proof, can hardly provide a method to repeat the being claimed by others, which renders the apparent science pseudo.

2- Only a qualified authority may have the qualifications to debunk the claims and show the claiming party where they went wrong, with evidence and reason and logical deductions as well as references and sightations of empirical refutations.

It is absolutely not acceptable to classify any opinion whatsoever as "Pseudoscience", even if it was in error, because there is no claim of discovery or invention in sharing opinion.

Einstein claimed that Galileo and Newton were in error and no one called his opinion as pseudoscience.

If through examining the claims, and the consequences of the claims, illogical deductions or contradictions were exposed, then at best we are entitled to reject such an opinion but we may not label it as Pseudoscience.

 

Kindest regards.

 

EL

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If we must change existing laws of nature or propose new laws to account for an observation, it is almost certainly wrong.

 

I disagree.

The *known* laws of nature is *not* the ultimate authority in science, in terms of what is true and what is not true.

The ultimate authority in science is reproducible and verifiable observation.

If an accepted law of nature does not agree with a verifiable and reproducible observation, the law must be changed or tweaked to fit the observation.

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PS: Metaphysics is not pseudoscience, but a legitimate branch of philosophy. I am not sure of why it is included in the forum title. Also, I think you meant to name the Physics/Astrological Sciences department Physics/Astronomical Sciences.

 

Astrology really is pseudoscience.

 

My $0.02.

 

i agree!!!!!!

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if it does require a new law of nature or a tweak it must provide the new law with evidence of why the old law was wrong when it was wrong and how the new law can account for all predictions made by the previous law that were seen to be accurate.

the new law or tweak also cannot contain an exception otherwise it is not a law.

 

in these cases i think it is alright to bring in a new law of nature.

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James Randi is why I DON'T like debunking.

 

Back to the topic' date=' I think another way to spot a pseudoscience is when its proponents attack science or scientists directly, or say that science has no way of measuring or detecting its' (the pseudoscience's) effects. Anyone who likes debunking like me should visit James Randi's site

 

http://www.randi.org/[/quote']

 

Insane Alien:

 

If a new law has to be made up to account for new observations, that's just the biz. Failure of science to make way for such makes it pseudoscience.

 

if it does require a new law of nature or a tweak it must provide the new law with evidence of why the old law was wrong when it was wrong and how the new law can account for all predictions made by the previous law that were seen to be accurate.

the new law or tweak also cannot contain an exception otherwise it is not a law.

 

in these cases i think it is alright to bring in a new law of nature.

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what is wrong with James Randi?

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what is wrong with James Randi?

He can be rather short and curmudeonly at times. But this is what I like about him.

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He can be rather short and curmudeonly at times. But this is what I like[/i'] about him.

 

Well, he is short, and I don't think that changes. ;) But he seemed rather nice when I met him. I think he doesn't suffer fools gladly, and that's where you see the other behavior.

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Some of the most fun people are curmudgeons. T.H.Huxley, when he found out the his famous creationist nemesis the Bishop of Wilbeforce had died of a head injury after being thrown from a horse, is reported to have remarked "At last, the good bishop's brain has made contact with reality, and the results killed him."

 

Mokele

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Also, I think you meant to name the Physics/Astrological Sciences department Physics/Astronomical[/b'] Sciences.
Sometimes we see only that which we expect to see.
Some of the most fun people are curmudgeons. T.H.Huxley, when he found out the his famous creationist nemesis the Bishop of Wilbeforce had died of a head injury after being thrown from a horse, is reported to have remarked "At last, the good bishop's brain has made contact with reality, and the results killed him."
Now I know which curmudgeon you pattern yourself after, Mokele. Except for the bow tie, you could be brothers.

Huxley.jpgT. H. Huxley

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Ironicly, I actually got the sideburns before I saw a picture of him. The wikipedia article has a pic of a younger Huxely, just out of med school, and the facial resemblence is creepy.

 

Mokele

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I do not agree with the opening post, as every point seems to address the theorist, and not the theory. There is no need to examine the theorist's actions or career to determine if his work is pseudoscience.
Tom Mattson is quite correct.

 

First and foremost the mathematics and logic of any new theory must be carefully examined.

 

Obviously, as most world-class theoretical physicists have publicly acknowledged: a "new physics" may well be a requirement for a Paradigm Shift that can address the many enigmas that arise with each new "breakthrough" of Pomo, theoretical physics.

 

Such a paradigm shift would likely never get to peer review let alone survive it.

 

Could Einstein have succeeded without Max Planck? Could Einstein have passed today's insular peer review?

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Pseudoscience often becomes science. If man was intended to fly he would have wings. The Wright Bros and others were considered pseudo scientists and engineers until they demonstrated flight. But up to that time, stereotyping the Wright Bros created the illusion that the then contemporary acceptable pseudo science was actually science. It was like mud slinging to hide lack of understanding.

 

Picture if someone came up with rational arguments to explain an empirical science, which of the two would be considered pseudo-science. If would be whichever came second. For the mepirical to accept the rational would mean running the risk of becoming pseudo-science. Maybe it always was pseudo science but as long as everyone calls a dog a cat it is a cat.

 

Picture two scientists, both with good theories, competing for the funding needed to prove their ideas. If only one got the funding, does that become better science and is the other one stuck at pseudo-science? The funding may have come down to office politics which is the art of truth.

 

Another example is the theory that black holes are in the center of galaxies. Now others see neutron density. If the second turns out to be true, why was pseudoscience called science for so long? The bottom line is the label is as much subjective as objective.

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Another example is the theory that black holes are in the center of galaxies. Now others see neutron density. If the second turns out to be true' date=' why was pseudoscience called science for so long? The bottom line is the label is as much subjective as objective.[/quote']

It is not the "facts" which make science science, but rather, the method by which those facts were derived. So long as you have developed a theory and can test hypotheses of the theory, it is science. It doesn't matter if new information should arise in the future to render your theory obsolete. That still doesn't make it, in your words, "pseudoscience [that was] called science for so long."

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It is not the "facts" which make science science, but rather, the method by which those facts were derived. So long as you have developed a theory and can test hypotheses of the theory, it is science.

 

I guess I'm knit picking, but according to this definition a good theory not supported with the scientific method is pseudo-science and a bad theory supported with the scientific method is still science? The problem with this orientation is that if one wished to prevent quantum change in science, all one would have to do is make the resources that are needed to become science unavailable so that new ideas remain psuedo-science.

 

For example, when Einstein began his theoretical work, it was probably considered pseudo-science by the science of the day. He had to support himself apart from science until he was able to provide a strong enough position. If his science had required physical resources that he could not provide with a clerk's salary, his ideas may have never reached the subjective level considered science.

 

Maybe the point I am making is that pseudo-science can benefit by being nurtured to its logical conclusion, before subjective judgement is passed. The criterion of resources is often a self forfilling prophesy that allows even bad theory to be called science.

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There was a pretty cool article published on this today:

 

http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i21/21b02001.htm

 

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.

2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.

3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.

4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.

5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.

7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

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Number 3 could be used to declare the Higgs boson as pseudoscience, and number 7 seems to attack the whole of modern particle physics!

 

Edit: My numbers are refering to the OP, not Bascule's post.

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Edit: My numbers are refering to the OP, not Bascule's post.

 

Upon further inspection, it appears to be the same article. My bad :-(

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if someone has a miracle invention, but has nothing to show you but the theory behind it, no actual pictures, much less video of it performing its miracle function, its a load of crap.

 

most free energy devices fit this description. ive yet to see more than a sketch of one, and have never seen one producing its free energy.

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Here is what makes a theory "scientific".

...

2. It must be valid.

That is, its claims must be correctly derived via logic and, if applicable, mathematics.

...

Hypothesis 1a: I have a rock that keeps tigers away from my home.

...

This theory is both consistent and valid, but only trivially so because it has only one prediction!

How can the theory be valid according to your rules when it violates your rule #2? What is the derivation for this theory?

 

A theory need not be derived. For example, Einstein invented his field equations; he didn't derive them. And theories cannot be known to be valid.

 

There was a pretty cool article published on this today:

 

http://chronicle.com/free/v49/i21/21b02001.htm

 

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.

2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.

3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.

4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.

5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.

7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Points #3, 6, and 7, if only because they applied to Einstein, make a strong case for the claim in #2.

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Points #3, 6, and 7, if only because they applied to Einstein, make a strong case for the claim in #2.

 

How's that? What effect was at the very limit of detection? Einstein published — how is that working in isolation? Einstein did not propose new laws to explain observations. He correctly derived new laws that predicted behavior. These were tested, and confirmed.

 

Pseudoscience is almost always free of mathematics, so that the predictions are very vague, and thus the proponent can't be easily nailed down into a situation where handwaving can't cover up the shortcomings. But if you make specific predictions, you can be shown to be wrong. The theory may be incorrect, but it's still science.

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How's that? What effect was at the very limit of detection? Einstein published — how is that working in isolation? Einstein did not propose new laws to explain observations. He correctly derived new laws that predicted behavior. These were tested, and confirmed.

SR was initially beyond the limit of detection. It wasn't confirmed until years later. "Worked in isolation" does not mean "never published". He did not derive the postulate that the speed of light is invariant; he invented it. He proposed a new law of nature.

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Wow, this is a blast from the past.

 

How can the theory be valid according to your rules when it violates your rule #2? What is the derivation for this theory?

 

It doesn't violate rule #2. The lone premise (call it P) is also a prediction, so the trivial derivation "P, therefore P", while valid, is also trivial.

 

A theory need not be derived. For example, Einstein invented his field equations; he didn't derive them.

 

Certainly, the premises of a theory need not be derived. It's the subsequent predictions that I was talking about.

 

And theories cannot be known to be valid.

 

They can be known to be logically valid, which is the type of validity I was talking about.

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Certainly, the premises of a theory need not be derived. It's the subsequent predictions that I was talking about.

Then I would change the description of #2 to "That is, its predictions must be derivable via logic and, if applicable, mathematics". Otherwise people might get the mistaken impression that the premises need be derived. I'd say that well over 90% of people on these forums think that a theory's predictive equations must be derived.

 

They can be known to be logically valid, which is the type of validity I was talking about.

An illogical theory (e.g. one that is self-inconsistent) can make predictions that are derivable via logic and, if applicable, mathematics. I think you need a separate point that says the theory must be logical.

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