Is there any issue in which you disagree with the scientific consensus?

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by Faure, Jan 17, 2010.

  1. Nasor Valued Senior Member

    Yeah, lately it seems to have turns into the "World War II and pseudoscience channel." I don't remember the show, but a while ago they had a program that tried to claim that the Ark of the Covenant was actually a big capacitor that was levitated by superconducting magnets. Because that's such a better explanation than "descriptions of it floating and shooting lightening were inaccurate"

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  3. D H Some other guy Valued Senior Member

    The History Channel's fascination with UFOlogy and eschatology is *not* consensus science.
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  5. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    But there is a lack of consensus on whether the BB was the beginning of everything or part of a cycle or a local event in a larger universe, etc. So we do not have consensus that this was THE beginning. We also do not really know what it was or why the nothingness had the potential to become something. As opposed to a nothingness that could not do this.
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  7. Doreen Valued Senior Member

    But neither I nor the person you responded to asserted that it did have that bearing on veracity. So your comment seemed off. In fact I would say it was implicit in the OP that consensus might not be correct on some issues.
  8. Faure Registered Senior Member

    Sure thing!

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    I'm somewhat confused about this... what do you mean by "predictive utility"? Could you give an example of this sort of situation?

    That's a difficult one, and I'm not sure what the answer should be. On the one hand I want to say that we should believe the experts who are most closely working in the field in question, but on the other hand there are self-selection issues.

    To take a non-science example, it turns out that a majority of philosophers of religion are theists, whereas a majority of philosophers in general are atheists. Yet, I think that the reason for this disparity isn't that most philosophers of religion are just better at analyzing theistic and atheistic arguments, and thus realize that the theistic arguments win. Rather, I think that most philosophers are just totally unconvinced by theistic arguments and would see it as a waste of a career to spend their time specializing in that subject when a majority of people in their field already agree with them, and when there is so much more interesting philosophy to work on.
  9. fellowtraveler Banned Banned

    REPLY: I would say I disagree with what many perceive as the peer reviewed consensus regarding PRIMAL THEORY, THERAPY. I am a believer in Primal therapy and consider it a true science of how the brain actually does work. How and why mental illness developes, and how it can be PREVENTED and CURED. I also believe the consensus is changing in favor of PRIMAL. ...TRAVELER
  10. tfrxsis Registered Member

    When I say predictive utility, I mean that the extent it is believed that a hypothesis is correct in predicting some outcome. In physics, this would be the extent that it is believed that Bell's inequality rules out hidden values, or that an engineer's calculations demonstrate that a bridge will actually stand.

    In health economics, meta-surveys of the field indicate that health insurance only very weakly makes people healthier (mostly in areas where health insurance is used to maintain assistance devices, like glasses), supporting the hypothesis that health insurance subsidies do not make people healthier. Yet there seems to be, by my count, only one expert willing to argue for this conclusion when talking about subsidizing health insurance. The remaining experts acknowledge that the data implies that health insurance does not make people healthier, yet argue that if we want to make people healthier that we should not cut health insurance subsidies and spend the difference on things that are demonstrated to make people healthier but instead subsidize health insurance more. In other words, their arguments are that the data-supported hypothesis is wrong in predicting that cutting health subsidies would have little to no effect on health.

    I have not put the effort into this question needed to have confidence on the question, but my intuition is that health insurance is actually a guard against medical emergency related bankruptcies and that anyone who uses health insurance as a substitute for cash in regular visits is using their insurance irrationally. (If they paid for medical care themselves, they would consider price signals and likely choose different medical care.)

    I can prime the issue of pointing out where in science this happens: Parapsychology. The effects (like ESP and prayer healing) studied under parapsychology are believed to exist by practitioners in the field. They believe they have strong evidence from successfully replicated experiments indicating this. Outside of the field, it is believed that what they study is physically impossible, so parapsychology work is considered thoroughly discredited.
  11. Dinosaur Rational Skeptic Valued Senior Member

    Raithere: You are setting up Strawmen.
    And how much of a consensus is needed to establish certitude? Science does not attempt to establish certitude. Science does not claim that its conclusions are true in the sense that most people understand the term true. Science attempts to establish models which fit the observable evidence and/or provide equations which make useful predictions.

    Even mathematics only attempts to establish conclusions consistent with a set of axioms: There is seldom a claim that some statement is absolutely certain.

    55% is hardly a consensus. I am sorry that I used the term majority. There are few (if any) issues in science which are accepted due to being held by 55% of the scientists knowledgeable in a discipline. If only 55% of the scientists working in a discipline aggreed on some theory, I would surely pay a lot of attention to dissenting views. Interpretations of Quantum Theory are a prime example of such a situation. There does not seem to be a consensus, although there might be 55-65% who accept some interpretation.

    In the past 300 to 500 years: What myriad of times has the consensus view been wildly incorrect? I cannot think of any examples showing that the consensus view of scientists did not provide a reasonable model consistent with the observable evidence available at the time of the consensus.

    Even the belief that the world was flat was consistent with the observable evidence at the time of the belief. Note that knowledgeable scientists knew otherwise about 200BC, when some measurements in Egypt by some Greek provided a good estimate of the Earth’s circumference. Also, most sailors knew that the Earth was not flat. Columbus’s crew were not afraid of sailing off the edge. They were fearful of encountering dangers (sea monsters, violent storms, et cetera) in place not yet investigated. Until the time of Columbus, sea voyages never strayed far from the sight of land.

    I take it back: Einstein was considered a lunatic for about a year, during which time he claimed that Planck’s work indicated that energy was quantized. Due to his later disagreement with Bohr, few realize that he was really the originator of Quantum Theory, the start of which might have been delayed for several years or more if he had not presented his view and fought for its acceptance
  12. common_sense_seeker Bicho Voador & Bicho Sugador Valued Senior Member

    The 'glacial aridity hypothesis' of the ice age which simply states that the more distant Earth received less sunshine in a 100,000 year orbital cycle. The evidence from Brazil suggests that (paradoxically) the Sun was stronger but the oceans colder! Under Brazil. There's also good scientific evidence from the Amazonian fan sediment cores which show that the rainforest was much wetter during the ice age Amazon Data Contradicts Glacial Aridity Hypothesis Of The Ice Age. This article is also very interesting which sums up the history of the now much weakened refugia hypothesis:The real Ice Age of the Amazon rainforest
  13. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Yes. The accepted understanding of human perception by at least 99% of the cognitive science professionals and communities is entirely wrong, IMHO.

    That standard POV is that the sensory neural impulses come to the brain and there are separated into their different "characteristics" which are sent to different regions of the brain for more computational processing* (up to this point I agree 100%) and then after considerable computational processing the unified perception of a 3D world out there "emerges."

    No explanation is ever given as to how or where these characteristics, processed in entirely different regions* of the brain are ever "reassembled" into the unified perception we all experience. - It is just an act of faith that it "must happen" somehow.

    * For example, if memory serves me correctly for visual neural inputs:
    (1) The visual cortex region called V5 is where the three different retinal colors sensitive signals (peaks responses in red, green and blue) are computationally transformed (by well known equations) into the three axis color space vectors used in the brain. (I.e. the yellow/blue axis, the green/red axis & and the white/black axis are computational constructed in V5. For example nerve cells of the "yellow/ blue axis" are more or less than "random active" to indicate yellow or blue. The "random active" firing rate is about half way between the max and least possible rates of firing.) This is why if you stare at a bright red spot after a few minutes those cells will become fatigued and then when looking at a white wall they are not able to make the "random firing rate" so you see a green spot of the same shape that is not actually there on the white wall.
    (2) The speed of motion is computed in V3. (I hope my memory does not have V5 & V3 reversed - it has been many years since I was an expert in all this.)
    (3) The location of objects is computed in V2, mainly (but some in V1 also). V1 is mainly used to parse** objects from the continuous visual field and to separate the various "characteristics" of them.

    For example, since motion and location are processed in different regions of the brain it is possible to experience motion of an object which is stationary! (This is called the "Waterfall effect.") I.e. if you look at a set of horizontal bars steadily moving down on a computer screen for a few minute you will fatigue the cells in M3 that respond to that speed. Then when the motion of the bars is stopped, for up to 30 seconds or so you will experience them as moving up at that same speed, even if you put your finger on a now stationary bar.

    Physicists compute motion by the change in position in a fixed amount of time, (dx/dt =v) but that is NOT how the brain does it. (The brain works more like a speedometer in a car -directly detecting speed.) I.e. the brain has motion detection cell in V3; different sets with peak responses at different speeds. Just as you can see / experience green spots that do not exist after fatiguing certain red detection cells you can see / experience motion that does not exist while looking at a stationary object after fatiguing certain motion detection cells in V3.

    Note I also agee 100% with this footnote's above standard cognitive science facts and have empirically confirmed many more of them, including the waterfall effect. I simply think that these physically separately processed neural computation results about object's various characteristics are never and nowhere "reassembled." - I have a different theory of how our unified perception is achieved. I do not need any act of faith that they are "reassembled" somewhere, somehow and there is no evidence that they are, despite a great deal of searching by neuro-scientists.

    Not only do I offer very specific proofs that the standard cognitive science POV about perception is very wrong, I also offer a new theory of how human perception is achieved, and even show why one should expect to have been evolved by evolution as it gives a great survival advantage to the humanoids who first perfected it - I.e. perhaps the bigger brained, stronger Neanderthals did perceive the world as described by modern cognitive science's "emergent perception" instead of my theory's Real Time Simulation, RTS, model, but they would be at a great disadvantage in ducking a thrown rock, etc. if they only perceived it where the rock was a fraction of a second earlier (Up to 0.3 seconds delay is required for the many successive stages of "neural computations" to complete before perception can "emerge.")

    For more complete description of my RTS model of perception see:

    That article is mainly about how the RTS model allows genuine free will to exist - not be conflict with the laws of physics, which determine the firing of every nerve in your body. The RTS is explained and evidence supporting it is given. Why I suggest the RTS is located in the parietal cortex is also presented. I also give several proofs that the standard "emergent perception" POV is nonsense at the above link.

    Note that post 66 is from 11/11/2005 but idea was published in the Johns Hopkins Technical Digest years earlier. (See ref. 1 of the linked post.)
    A few young cognitive scientist have accepted my POV, but most have too much invested (many papers etc. which become nonsense if I am correct) to do so.

    I.e. I offer a major paradigm shift.

    ** That Johns Hopkins Technical Digest paper, Ref 1 of post 66, also explains how objects are parsed from the continuous visual field of retinal stimulation AT THE NEURAONAL LEVEL, not as then usually done with some higher level hand-waving jargon. I.e. using only known properties of V1 neurons, their receptive fields and detailed characteristics about their pair-wise mutual interactions. (Similar oriented receptive fields mutually reinforce firing rates and orthogonal receptive fields mutual inhibit firing rates.) This aspect of my paper was not so threatening to the established cognitive scientists and is now generally accepted, but others, more well known in the field than this physicist, also came to this conclusion at nearly the same time – Shortly after the coherence of the then so called “50 hertz oscillations” were observed with fine micro electrodes in neuron pairs a few mm apart in V1. My neuronal explanation of parsing naturally explains why camouflage works to hinder object parsing and the Gestalt law of “Good Continuation.”
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 20, 2010
  14. Raithere plagued by infinities Valued Senior Member

    This would be a fairly ideal situation where both parties' already agree on many of their baseline assumptions and their primary motivation is seeking truth. But in more general terms I agree.

    Yes, I do realize I'm slightly off topic. But I find it quite relevant. It seems to me an increasingly common error that scientific validity is supposedly demonstrated merely by polling scientists as to their opinion regarding generalized issues. Now I realize this is largely an artifact of the media but it has become increasingly influential in public opinion and in politics. It plays to the public's ignorance of science and the scientific method. This is where my argument comes back around to the OP because the underlying assumption there seems to be that one should simply agree with whatever the consensus opinion is. If this were what actually happened scientific advancement would come to a screeching halt.

    I am well aware that absolute certainty cannot be achieved, this was not my assertion. Regardless, it is indeed the endeavor of science to understand the world ever more accurately with increasing certainty. If this is not the case, if scientists could never be relatively certain of a theory, how could you even pretend to have a consensus? A consensus about what?

    Here's one of the areas where I start getting fuzzy on the whole assertion of consensus. Where and how exactly are these polls taking place? How does one become eligible for voting in any particular field so that we know we're surveying all the relevant experts and how does one get one's thesis on the poll to be voted for? Is it truly a scientific poll of all the available expert opinions regarding all the available theories and data?

    Or is consensus rather more loosely estimated from a general survey of published research? In which case, I have to ask, could the outcome of such an estimation be influenced by a rather small group of individuals who decide what gets published? Could it be influenced by the amount of research money available for a given subject or hypothesis? What about political factors or popular mores?

    I disagree with your qualification. We're not talking about the accuracy of models to specific data sets but whether the consensus opinion is usually correct. I don't believe history bears this out. Or do you think medicine based on the 4 humors of the body is a fairly accurate model of disease? Did Newtonian or Cartesian physics come close to predicting mass-energy equivalence, relativity, or wave-particle duality?

    Let me try framing my objection from a different point of view:

    Are Young Earth Creationists wrong because it is the consensus of scientists that they are wrong? Or are Young Earth Creationists wrong because there is no evidence that supports their hypothesis and enormous amounts of evidence that contradicts it?

  15. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Absolutely and normally the case as Thomas Kuhn described in The Structure of Scientific Revolution in 1962.

    There is in most scientific fields an "establishment" which is the recognized authorities of their field. Typically they have years of publications which at least tacitly, if not explicitly, are based on some common "world view" or accepted paradigm. (Kuhn's book established this usage of that word.) Even with strong evidence that the accepted paradigm is wrong, it is difficult to replace it with a new one, which is more consistent with the known facts and has much greater "explanatory power," especially in the more "softer sciences" like psychology and brain functioning models. (I.e. in these complex areas a definitive demonstation that the current paradigm is wrong is very difficult to achieve.)

    I tried for a more than a decade to do that without much success and then became inactive. I think it was Einstein that said: "Science advance one death at a time." Meaning that only as the older generation of the establishment dies off, can a new paradigm gain acceptance. Please read post 50 and the link given therein if you want to have a specific example of what Thomas Kuhn was describing. - Only a few young cognitive scientists graduate students and some in related fields, with no vested interest in the current paradigm, have accepted my proposed new one paradigm about how human perception is achieved.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2010
  16. tfrxsis Registered Member

    I've been trying, but it's both dense and lacking an abstract.

    My first thought was that you were proposing a Cartesian theater. My current thought is that you've independently reinvented the map-territory relation. Neither idea is unknown to psychology, and it was my understanding that cognitive science operated under a map-territory relation paradigm.
  17. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    Thanks for "trying." Yes there is considerable similarity in what I am proposing to both the Cartesian theater and the map-territory relation paradigm, but three main important differences, I think, but I have not read about these POVs for more than 15 years.

    (1) As I understand these two POVs, the available sensory inputs are not extrapolated ahead in time to compensate for the synaptic and depolarization wave (along the axons) propagation delays. I.e. I postulate that, except when in deep dreamless sleep, humans construct a REAL TIME Simulation, RTS, of the sensed world (in parietal lobes, but where is not as important as that it is a REAL TIME model.)

    (2) That our perception is only based on this RTS. Perhaps there is little difference here from the Cartesian theater model except for point (3).

    (3) "We" are not the viewers of some Cartesian theater, but part of it. I use quotes around I, me, we, you etc. when I want to distinguish our psychological selves from our bodies (brains included). I.e. in my RTS model, "I" am only an informational component of the RTS.* When it is not executing (as in deep dreamless sleep or under anesthesia, etc.) "I" DO NOT EXIST. As frontal lobe lobotomies make drastic changes in personalities, I tend to think that information from the frontal lobes (and from memory) is delivered to the parietal simulation - sort of like an old FORTRAN "call subroutine." I.e. everything except "me" that is sensed via sensory neural inputs, is modeled in real time in the parietal simulation.

    If there is some aspect of my POV you do not understand, just ask. I will need to review the map-territory relation paradigm as I stopped following the literature related to my RTS etc. about 15 or 20 years ago.

    * This is what makes genuine free will possible without conflict with physics. Every aspect of our physical bodies is governed by deterministic laws (no significant quantum effects at the human body scale). Especially important are the law of diffusion of neurotransmitters across synaptic gaps and the diffusion of Na+ ions across the axon sheath to briefly reverse the -70mV "resting potential" of the axon interior.

    I.e. every neural discharge is government by physics and ever thought or action is a result of neural firings. Thus, only if "you" are non-material can "you" have Genuine Free Will, GFW. (Note I am not claiming that GFW exists - only that if "you" are purely information content in some simulation, then it is possible for GFW to exist without conflict or suspension of the physical laws by some non-material "soul" - a concept I prefer to do without.) My personal guess is that GFW does not exist. That it is just the most universal of illusions.

    P.S. about 2hours later: I have now quickly skimmed some Map-Territory papers and one video. If we identify my RTS with the “map” of that jargon, and the territory as the reality then in contrast to the standard POV, I say the map IS the territory. Or my own jargon: the RTS is the reality.

    I make this point strongly near the end of my essay on GFW by noting that if my POV is correct, then the perceived experience of / in the RTS is the foundation of all knowledge. I.e. what “I’ directly experience (in the RTS) is the basis for “me” inferring that there even exist and external reality or “territory.” I.e. it is only an inference, not directly known or accessible. (Not a new idea.) “My” experiences in the RTS are directly known by “me” and have greater claim to “reality” for “me” than the possibly non-existent external, so called “real world" or territory. Thus, I do not find this Map-Territory POV even useful when it comes to how perception works or is achieved. It may be fine and useful when struggling with how words get their meaning and other aspects of languages etc. but not for understanding perception.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 21, 2010

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