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Spotting Pseudoscience

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“Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.”– Robert Park

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Yes people can still make MASSIVE discoveries alone, and come up with very analytical and complex understandings of what ever it is they're working on.

Also, some people don't tell their peers everything because people like to steal idea.

I agree. Another aspect is that often when individuals share their ideas with others, they feel that others don't "get" their ideas. Individuals outside of the mainstream are often unable to express their ideas clearly and understandably. Ideally an individual would work with others to educate their self on how to express the idea scientifically, while also sharing smaller parts of their idea to get help validating or developing the theory (rather than trying to convince others that the entire thing is correct). Instead what happens is the individual feels that their idea is more important than learning about existing stuff, so they focus on it while avoiding learning how it's been done before, AND they feel ostracized by those they shared their ideas with. So they want to work in isolation until they can present their idea in a way that will convincingly prove to others that they're right.

 

That has been my experience as a crackpot, at least.

 

Not all new and good ideas require difficult math or a thorough understanding of a field, but such ideas are probably exceedingly rare. There is a natural tendency, when working on a new idea, to assume that it's never been thought of and that it's immensely important. So crackpots "appear to regard themselves as persons of unique historical importance". I think it's the same type of belief that a very rare situation applies to oneself, that many lottery players feel.

 

I'm starting to feel like Galileo, and this place is the catholic church.

Out of curiosity, have you calculated your crackpot index? http://math.ucr.edu/...z/crackpot.html

 

"35. 40 points for comparing yourself to Galileo, suggesting that a modern-day Inquisition is hard at work on your case, and so on."

 

 

Not that the index is authoritative, or that a high score means anything, but that's a lot of points you racked up right there!

 

Sometimes crackpots are right. I find it valuable to try to avoid typical crackpot "mistakes" and other quirks that make it easier for others to not take you seriously. Historically, if the church would execute you for your ideas, you work on them in secret... which nowadays means hiding crackpot behavior.

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Newton was a huge fan of pseudoscience because it gave him ideas. The mark of an intellectual is shown by their ability to keep an open mind.

 

With that in mind there are people out there just trying to scam others, so remember to use your head.

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From http://chronicle.com...21/21b02001.htm

 

Something is probably bull if:

 

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media. The integrity of science rests on the willingness of scientists to expose new ideas and findings to the scrutiny of other scientists. Thus, scientists expect their colleagues to reveal new findings to them initially. An attempt to bypass peer review by taking a new result directly to the media, and thence to the public, suggests that the work is unlikely to stand up to close examination by other scientists.

 

One notorious example is the claim made in 1989 by two chemists from the University of Utah, B. Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, that they had discovered cold fusion -- a way to produce nuclear fusion without expensive equipment. Scientists did not learn of the claim until they read reports of a news conference. Moreover, the announcement dealt largely with the economic potential of the discovery and was devoid of the sort of details that might have enabled other scientists to judge the strength of the claim or to repeat the experiment.

 

Not a good example for the, valid, point that you are trying to make.

 

Pons and Fleischmann were legitimate chemists in a very fine chemistry department. They were operating WAY out of their depth. But while their science was bad their intentions were good.

 

The hasty public announcement of their (erroneous) results was made at the urging of university lawyers who were concerned about priority, patent rights, and future royalties. It was quite obviously a bad idea, but the motivation had nothing to do with any desire on the part of the scientists to avoid peer review.

 

This particular blunder was not the result of the usual wacko taking his "theory" to a public venue because either he has been turned down in scientific circles or because he is ignorant of scientific journals and the peer-review process. Other schools also quickly followed suit and took awing at the "tar baby". The driving factor in all cases seems to be institutional greed, not an attempt by scientists to avoid peer review.

 

Your fundamental point is a good one. The example chosen is not a good illustration.

 

This might serve better:

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I'm going to have to disagree with every single point in the original post. Neglecting the science behind anything just because of those things, is rather silly... Yes people can still make MASSIVE discoveries alone, and come up with very analytical and complex understandings of what ever it is they're working on.

Also, some people don't tell their peers everything because people like to steal idea.

Thirdly, there are powerful people suppressing science. Science is still VERY censored today.

There ARE natural things that occur in the treatment of things such as cancer, that science can't explain. If science could explain everything... Then it would stop. Look a broccoli, I could have told you that it helps prevent and cure cancer to some degree when I was a child, it's only recently science has been able to prove that it dose, now they are researching the function.

Lastly, when someone takes something to the media before running over real scientists, who are these "real scientists". I'm sure the people in the team don't feel the need to be explaining how there new idea works to people they don't know.

Lastly, media exposure could be because people get impatient and want to see the technology grow...

I could go on.

 

I salute your contribution. A loner has to bust his butt to prepare his message for peer review and can then be refused critique or any satisfaction. I know of a case where a contrary theory had just previously been acclaimed by the peer-review journal: They already had a dog in the race and that was just crapola! Mere limitation of resources can explain a lot of omissions. A single error presumed or contained can make most anything wrong or look wrong, but if that always puts the whole bundle asunder as pseudoscience, then we would all be in the monkey-house. Should peer reviews precede offerings to a scientific forum? :(

 

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

 

 

Something is probably bull if:

 

 

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation. The image of a lone genius who struggles in secrecy in an attic laboratory and ends up making a revolutionary breakthrough is a staple of Hollywood's science-fiction films, but it is hard to find examples in real life. Scientific breakthroughs nowadays are almost always syntheses of the work of many scientists.

 

 

Let me get this straight. You are demonstrating the validity of your point by explaining that many people do more work than fewer people, and that it is hard to find geniuses hiding out in their attics. It does not take a genius to know that if you hide out in your attic you will be hard to find: That must be the whole idea of hiding anywhere! But why should you suppose that that is what they do? Who is ever going to even look for geniuses hiding in attics?

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Please, you can open the topicthat is closed and has no discussion. The topic is called "Unification of the 4 fundamental forces nature".

 

I beg you to open the item. Thank you very much for meeting me.

 

Very affectionate,

Victor Elias Espinoza Guedez

Edited by Victor Elias Espinoza G.

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"How did they do that? with smoke and mirrors, flashy cards, and lots, and lots of assertion."

 

Cheers, its time for tea...

Edited by superball

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One man's scientific orthodoxy is another man's pseudoscience. The (social-Darwinist and Eugenicist) science of Galton and Pearson was considered cutting-edge in its day.

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One man's scientific orthodoxy is another man's pseudoscience. The (social-Darwinist and Eugenicist) science of Galton and Pearson was considered cutting-edge in its day.

 

Read up on the scientific method. Or if you're in the UK turn on radio 4 right now... or listen to todays "In our time" on iplayer.

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Moderator Note

A reminder that this is not the place to post your own (or repeat someone else's) pet theory. Open up a new thread in the speculations forum.

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I think the forums are littered with examples of the Dunning–Kruger effect.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

 

I know I'm guilty of it myself...

 

When people think they know what they're talking about, they tend to get offended when others point out that they're not making sense. But if they don't even know what is commonly accepted as making sense (say in a specialized field), they don't recognize either their own nonsense or the sense of what others say. Over and over I see people mistaking their inability to comprehend an expert reply, with a belief that the reply must not make sense.

 

I think it's a waste of time trying to explain something to someone who is not even willing or able to accept answers. Recently all of the 3 active topics I was following, involved repetition of the same questions, the same objections to answers (even accepted science), with a clear dismissal of any replies as "you're not getting it; let me repeat" or whatever.

 

The D-K effect suggests that not being able to understand something can be easily twisted into confidence that the thing is wrong.

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Gah. If someone would be so kind as to fix the neg rep on the above post by md65536, I would be most grateful. I had meant to press the green button, I swears it.

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Gah. If someone would be so kind as to fix the neg rep on the above post by md65536, I would be most grateful. I had meant to press the green button, I swears it.

Been there: done that.

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Sorry this needs some major fixing. I think the emphasis should be on logical structure which has a predictable, measurable and observable outcome in reality which can be replicated with unified results.

 

To explain my point we should look at the original post and how it is by its own admission actually is pseudoscience:

 

The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.

Real science will not changed whether it is pitched to the media or not. It will stand regardless.

This article was written for the media, was found in the media and the poster regurgitated it to a new media (this forum) lol.

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

By this admission all Galileo's work is defunct and in turn Newtons and the whole structure of scientific thought. Real scientific fact will be real regardless of whether a "powerful establishment" goes against it or not. If someone presents the idea that their idea is being repressed then scrutiny of the idea will be what is needed.

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

Scientific effect is always observable and repeatable. If someone claims science they had better have these things otherwise they do not know science. However if they have a theory, then the theory may or may not be truly scientific until it has become observable. It will generally be up to them to test their own idea, although if their theory is tight and based on logical reasoning others may test the theory if they feel it has value(Einstein)

4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.

Again, whether evidence is anecdotal has very little to do whether a scientific truth has been presented. Here it is whether the evidence was scientifically collected and is repeatable.

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

A scientific fact will be true whether or not it has been a belief held for centuries. Astronomy has been around for centuries and the theory of atoms was presented in vedas 5000bc. Scientists often go back in time for inspiration. In fact all of science has been a build up for centuries so to hold the above as true destroys science's foundations. As Einstein showed us, the imagination is the precursor for scientific theories so time does not limit theories. However to become science the theory needs to be observable and that often includes technology which can be included in the observation.

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.

All great scientists and theorists work in isolation. Then they come out of isolation. However, unless their theory can be observed and is repeatable then they cannot claim to be science.

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

Galileo, Newton, Einstein ???

A new way of looking at the laws and how they work is the advancement of science.

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7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation. A new law of nature, invoked to explain some extraordinary result, must not conflict with what is already known. If we must change existing laws of nature or propose new laws to account for an observation, it is almost certainly wrong.

 

 

This proposition is self-contradictory because once new laws of nature are proposed, the same have to be in conflict with the already known paradigm. Either old paradigm has to wrong or the new paradigm has to be wrong.

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7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation. A new law of nature, invoked to explain some extraordinary result, must not conflict with what is already known. If we must change existing laws of nature or propose new laws to account for an observation, it is almost certainly wrong.

 

 

This proposition is self-contradictory because once new laws of nature are proposed, the same have to be in conflict with the already known paradigm. Either old paradigm has to wrong or the new paradigm has to be wrong.

 

You have to actually show the old paradigm is wrong, i.e. present physical evidence where experiment does not match theory. If one proposes a change to the theory without this, the proposal is probably wrong.

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You have to actually show the old paradigm is wrong, i.e. present physical evidence where experiment does not match theory. If one proposes a change to the theory without this, the proposal is probably wrong.

 

 

That is exactly what I mean. If old paradigm is shown as wrong then only new paradigm could be introduced. The proposition 7 says that the new paradigm should not be in conflict with the old paradigm.

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Sorry this needs some major fixing. I think the emphasis should be on logical structure which has a predictable, measurable and observable outcome in reality which can be replicated with unified results.

That is most true. A physics-believer's definition of pseudo-science has to be crafted such that it allows nonsense like time-travel to slip through the net, yet at the same time catches any theory that a crackpot might come up with.

 

The point about pitching to the media, may have anecdotal support; but is based around the catch 22 situation whereby a physics-believer will reject any alternative theory that is not published in a peer-reviewed journal, knowing full well that peer-reviewed journals do not publish alternative theories.

 

The argument against a lone genius working in isolation, is not just disproved by the evidence, it actually does not make sense. Kepler came up with his elliptical orbits entirely alone, whilst Galileo et al remained faithful to the concept of perfect circles. It is hard to imagine how more than one brain could jointly come up with the basic concept of elliptical orbits.

 

The problem physics-believers would have with a definition such as yours, is that some of their most prized possessions, from dark matter to Higgses, do not make any definitive falsifiable predictions. So they tend to use crackpot-hunting as a diversionary tactic, to try to keep people off the scent of mainstream pseudo-science.

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Moderator Note

paradigm,

For the last time. Keep the speculations and your own pet theories out of other threads. And please stop trying to advertise your essay.

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That is most true. A physics-believer's definition of pseudo-science has to be crafted such that it allows nonsense like time-travel to slip through the net, yet at the same time catches any theory that a crackpot might come up with.

 

!

Moderator Note

This ad hominem/poisoning the well really needs to stop (rules 1 and 4). IIRC you have a thread to discuss time travel and clear up your misconceptions of what physics says about it. Keep any mention of it in that thread (rule 10)

 

The point about pitching to the media, may have anecdotal support; but is based around the catch 22 situation whereby a physics-believer will reject any alternative theory that is not published in a peer-reviewed journal, knowing full well that peer-reviewed journals do not publish alternative theories.

 

The argument against a lone genius working in isolation, is not just disproved by the evidence, it actually does not make sense. Kepler came up with his elliptical orbits entirely alone, whilst Galileo et al remained faithful to the concept of perfect circles. It is hard to imagine how more than one brain could jointly come up with the basic concept of elliptical orbits.

 

The problem physics-believers would have with a definition such as yours, is that some of their most prized possessions, from dark matter to Higgses, do not make any definitive falsifiable predictions. So they tend to use crackpot-hunting as a diversionary tactic, to try to keep people off the scent of mainstream pseudo-science.

 

Using Galileo or Kepler or even Einstein as an example misses the point that this is a modern guide, not one for people dead for decades or centuries.

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6. The discoverer has worked in isolation. The image of a lone genius who struggles in secrecy in an attic laboratory and ends up making a revolutionary breakthrough is a staple of Hollywood's science-fiction films, but it is hard to find examples in real life. Scientific breakthroughs nowadays are almost always syntheses of the work of many scientists.

 

 

First, a lot of what you said was interesting but this statement in particular I had a problem with.

 

All of your statements are very general and there are a lot of exceptions to the rule.

 

I personally would not dismiss a scientist or a theory simply because the scientist works in isolation. Albert Einstein is the greatest example of this. Leonard Susskind also worked in isolation at the beginning until his ideas were rejected.

 

Garrett Lisi is also an example of this.

 

Darwin worked in isolation, so did Galileo and Newton.

 

The validity of a scientific discovery is not more or less relevant because it was discovered in isolation or not.

 

What I have found (as have many others) in the scientific community is that they are very elitist and closed off to people with no credentials or someone who has not worked his way up the ladder. Your statement just further reinforces this elitism.

This is also something that the great Richard Feynman tried to stay away from and fight against in his community.

 

What history has taught us is that when we are too solid in our views and the box has been constructed too solidly around us, it takes someone from outside of the box to shatter and revolutionize the current world view.

This was true of Galileo when Aristotle was the box, this was true of Einstein when Newton was the box, and this was true of Darwin when Taxonomy was the box.

Only the most mediocre discoveries come from within the box (micro-evolution), but for macro-evolution to occur we need that lone scientist, thinking and working in his attic.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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First, a lot of what you said was interesting but this statement in particular I had a problem with.

 

First of all, the opening post clearly mentioned that something is "probably bull" if [...]. Emphasis on probably is mine. Nothing gets dismissed straightaway.

 

Secondly, the opening post clearly states that nowadays (i.e. in this modern age), scientists work in teams. You mention scientists who achieved their success over a century ago. That's not now.

 

Thirdly, there are 7 criteria. Check all 7, and it's propably bull. To dismiss something only based on one of them is silly, and was never proposed.

 

That said, you haven't been around on our lovely forum for so long yet. Stay for a bit, and you'll notice that we get plenty of crackpost who claim to be a genius, but happily ignore the most fundamental and trusted laws of science. In addition, their ideas cannot be tested. What are we to do with that?

 

Scientists are not elitists - that's just a stupid conspiracy theory. Scientists have used the same trusted method for centuries, and it works. Play it by the rules, and you will get accepted, certainly here on our friendly forum.

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