New book calls science a "Priesthood"

Discussion in 'Science & Society' started by rpenner, Dec 24, 2011.

  1. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Well, I’m beginning to have a change of heart towards Margaret Wertheim. Maybe she’s right. Maybe it is more important to ask why they do it. I agree, we do appreciate the access to information and the new “do it yourself” culture. At the end of the video, she asked if it is unacceptable to have a DIY theory of physics, but it doesn’t matter, and it's only likely to increase.

    Margaret Wertheim

    Some of you may think that pseudoscience doesn’t interfere with genuine scientific discourse, and so it’s essentially harmless, while others believe that pseudoscience is harmful at all levels. It does contribute to scientific illiteracy and the public’s gullibility. Do scientists have an obligation to help the public make a distinction between the two?

    Who knows, maybe someone will come up with some filtering solutions. Hmm…pseudoscience filtering software, not a bad idea.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2012
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  3. Grumpy Curmudgeon of Lucidity Valued Senior Member

    I have a theory, it states that tommorrow and every tomorrow after that the sun will appear to rise in the East for every point not in an Artic or Antartic region on Earth. Observations have always supported that theory and there is a complete lack of valid reports of it rising in the West. Am I not justified in accepting that theory as being, quite likely, true? Would it not make sense to plan my day with the knowledge that it will happen again tommorrow even though we are, at least in principle, always open to recognizing the reality if it did come up in the West tommorrow?

    The same can be said about the speed of light always being measured to be the same in all inertial frames. It has been measured in every way we have figured out to do so, it has been observed by our best instruments to occur everywhere we have looked throughout the Universe, our GPS systems could not work if what we think is true(Invariance)was not true(millions of times per hour, in millions of specific cases). And you cannot provide one single instance where that is not true. Isn't it reasonable to accept it as a fact unless and until other facts come to light?


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  5. ughaibu Registered Senior Member

    Of course not. To a scientist, a fact is a datum of an observation, and this doesn't change as a matter of political convenience. Worse, in this case it is logically impossible for there to be the claimed fact, yet on this thread more than one poster is supporting Rpenner in the absurd claim that there is a logically impossible fact.
    Even worse, Rpenner's motivation, for espousing this absurdity, is to discredit an author because that author details some hide-boundedness and politicking in the professional physics community. It really should be obvious, to anyone, that neither physics nor any other science, is conducted by blemishless heroes of the golden age. All sciences are conducted by human beings, warts and all, so it's piss bleeding obvious that all sciences will include hide-boundedness, politicking and generally shameful shit.
    Think about it, you're supporting a guy in the promotion of a logical absurdity in order to attempt a fallacy of poisoning the well so that scientists can be falsely portrayed. Are you really engaging in a respectable project?
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  7. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Motor Daddy:

    No experiment ever establishes any fact beyond all doubt. What happens in science is that a prevailing consensus develops over time. Usually such a consensus cannot develop until many separate experiments have been done independently by different people or groups, all of which point towards the same conclusion.

    All scientists know that all science is provisional. Science is our best current explanation of the way the world works. Nobody ever said it is infallible.

    Right. You can't prove a definition wrong. A metre, like any unit of length, is completely arbitrary. The universe doesn't know about metres. The metre is just a unit defined by human beings for convenience. The inch is no different. The second is no different. The kilogram is no different.

    In all your time here, you have never established in all your efforts why this is ridiculous. You'd like it to be ridiculous, but your fantasy world is not going to establish anything. You need actual experiments and evidence. This is an idea you don't seem to have got the hang of yet. The universe doesn't care about Motor Daddy's fantasies.

    Right. But relativity is tested in labs around the world every single day. And in over 100 years it has never failed any experimental test. So, what do you conclude?

    Right. To take another example, you cannot use Motor Daddy thought experiments to prove that Motor Daddy's postulates about light are correct, because that's circular logic.

    Is the light starting to come in on you yet?

    Experimental, real-world evidence - something you don't have and apparently don't even know about.

    You can refer to them as facts if you like.

    Usually it doesn't work like that, because scientists know that things are seldom black or white in science. As I explained about, scientists know that science is provisional.

    There are many examples of theories that have been refined over time and improved. Most scientific theories have a particular domain of applicability, beyond which a more detailed or different theory is more appropriate or 'correct'.

    For example, to a good approximation, the Earth is flat. However, we find that on large enough scales the spherical-Earth theory is a better description of the Earth's surface than the flat-Earth theory.

    Another example: to a good approximation, Newton's laws of motion are correct. However, we find that at high speeds and at very small or very large distances, Einstein's relativity is a better description of motion.


    Yes there has. In fact, that observation is made every day in student labs around the world. Compare the results of a speed-of-light experiment in England to one in Australia, say. Two different frames - same result.
  8. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

    It was interesting how she described this phenomenon, from the day she picked up a poster showing an alternative theory of the periodic table, to the day she discovered they had their own association and their own journal. So you can see that this gradually dawned on her, that she was becoming aware that there was a growing movement. I may have incorrectly assumed that these DIYers were primarily coming from a fundamentalist-oriented anti-science background (as Stenger might explain) but I think she's helped me settle on the other main cause: people are doing this simply because the ideas - and the math - have gotten too difficult to understand. So they are inventing their own explanations. I think this has persuaded me to change my outlook. So thanks, it was good.
  9. Trooper Secular Sanity Valued Senior Member

    Oops! I was wrong to agree with Margaret Wertheim. I’ve read the book and I’ve given it some more thought. She liked Jim Carter because he was a nice person and she could empathize with him. (Been there, done that.) Perhaps, this is what led her to write a book of crank apologetics.

    She said that they are a reaction to the fact that the mainstream physics theories have gotten so difficult to understand, highly mathematical, and so highly technical that physicists are now saying this is how we describe the ultimate nature of realty. These theories have become inaccessible to almost everybody, even most trained physicist.

    She’s right, they are inaccessible to the public but this has nothing to do with the crank phenomenon. We all feel that science communication is important but she raises the question of what role an amateur can play in relationship to science. It’s a good question but it doesn’t excuse the harmful effects of pseudoscience.

    Dave Hone said that there are two extreme attitudes. The ivory tower “we must get on with our work, and why try to explain the intricacies of our work to the mortals who can barely tie their shoe-laces” and the “what is the point of what are we doing, if the only people who understand are our collaborators?” It is hard to make highly technical stuff simplistic for anyone, other than the well educated, or very interested.

    But that’s just it. There are major differences between the very interested and the cranks. The very interested are not self-proclaimed geniuses. They do not compare themselves to Einstein, create alternative theories, or attempt to overturn modern physics. If they don’t understand something, they simply try harder.

    Cranks are not inventing their own explanations because things have gotten too complicated. It’s more than that. It’s monomania, grandiosity, impostor syndrome, kookology, etc.

    Above all, the very interested can admit when they are wrong…

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    Last edited: Jul 20, 2012
  10. spidergoat pubic diorama Valued Senior Member

    Yes it is unacceptable! Science works by building on previous knowledge. It's just stupid to re-invent the wheel due to your own inability to understand science.

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