Proposal to exclude pseudoscientists from posting in Science subforums

Discussion in 'SF Open Government' started by James R, Jan 21, 2015.


What do you think of the proposal in the opening post of this thread?

Poll closed Jan 31, 2015.
  1. It is a good idea and should be implemented.

    32 vote(s)
  2. It is a bad idea and should NOT go ahead.

    2 vote(s)
  3. No opinion / Abstain from voting / Just show me the results of the poll.

    2 vote(s)
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  1. Photizo Ambassador/Envoy Valued Senior Member

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  3. quantum_wave Contemplating the "as yet" unknown Valued Senior Member

    I don't care; if it is something that the members think will improve the level of discussion, go for it. Two questions: 1) Will someone who is found to have posted pseudoscience in a science forum have a chance to appeal? 2) Will members who continually make claims of pseudoscience against other members, and whose claims are denied, lose the privilege to make pseudoscience accusations; how many false claims am I allowed to make before I lose the privilege, or can I just report every post by someone I don't like and never lose the privilege?
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  5. paddoboy Valued Senior Member


    Exactly, and what I was referring to when some pose questions, behind a hidden agenda.
    Two current posters are very fond of this methodology around rules and regulations.
    dumbest man on earth likes this.
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  7. exchemist Valued Senior Member

    James a lot of what I want to say has already been said but here goes anyway. I think the Physics & Maths section has become dominated by one or two eccentrics (one especially) and the responses of people with science training attempting to straighten him/them out. It has now become practically impossible for anyone to post a question without said eccentric(s) immediately jumping in, with unhelpful or wrong answers and drowning out the mainstream responses. The thread then become derailed into slanging matches in which the subject of the opening post is lost. This is, in my view, wrecking this part of the forum.

    I think though that there is a distinction to be made between pseudoscience and alternative theories. It might be unfair to send all eccentrics to Pseudo, if their ideas are vaguely coherent and appear to be the product of a more-or-less scientific process of thought. Pseudo is really woo, e.g. crystals-and-shit stuff with a distinct element of the irrational, or notions indicating a failure to understand how science operates, e.g. creationism.

    So I support the idea, so long as mods are not too quick to pronounce on what is to be deemed alternative or pseudo, when newcomers arrive. But we have two prolific posters now whose track record is clear, either from their posting style or the breadth and unanimity of the criticism their ideas have attracted. I think such individuals now have to be treated on the basis of their established reputation as individuals, i.e. we should no longer have to wait for them to transgress in some way on each individual post they make.
  8. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    I think you third set of numbers envisions a software other than what this discussion forum is and a much higher staffing level.
    Photizo likes this.
  9. OnlyMe Valued Senior Member

    When Alternative Theroies was being initiated I thought it would be better to keep it in the science section, but that would require a little more agressive moderation. Still it would have created a place for Alternate concepts and speculation.., still with a basis in science.., that did not carry the stigma of being associated with Pseudoscience.

    I think Kittamarru addressed the first part above, when responding to my earlier comments. The second part I think is exactly what James was attempting to create a mechanism or rule to deal with. Instead of a ban for posting altogether a ban for posting in specific forums. Whether it would work or not depends on finding the right time frame for that kind of posting limitation.
  10. Beer w/Straw Transcendental Ignorance! Valued Senior Member

    I voted yeah, but the ability to repeal in case it gets sucky should go along with it.

    It might get too boring!
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  11. Jason.Marshall Banned Banned

    Lets us not forget when evidence is provided but it is not mainstream opinion at the current time like a scientific or mathematical discovery that goes against conventional thinking doesn't make it wrong as long as it can be proven. "extraordinary claims require extra ordinary evidence" but it seems many here would rather to follow the unwashed and bask in the ignorance of their own egos than except the truth just because of their "BELIEFS" in what they were though even if it was wrong. Great people you look up to have been wrong in the past, and they laughed at people such as Galileo but lo and behold the worshippers of ego was not correct.

    LOL this is a great example of the blind leading the blind running full speed of the cliff of destiny

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    Last edited: Jan 22, 2015
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  12. Jason.Marshall Banned Banned

  13. billvon Valued Senior Member

    Of course. A new concept that is testable and returns consistent proof in experiments is accepted by the scientific community.
    Agreed. This is the basic difference between religion and science. Science relies on experimentation and proof; religion relies on faith and blindly following a leader/dogma.
  14. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    It looks like there's quite a lot of support for the proposal so far, with 29 times more people approving than disapproving of it.

    My comments on various responses and questions:

    It can be hard to ignore them, especially if they are disrupting a science thread by posting irrelevant nonsense or answers based on their own imaginings about what science should say. As exchemist said above, from time to time we get pseudoscientists here who insist on injecting their opinions into many science threads, often pushing a particular barrow that is theirs alone (e.g. a pet "alternative" theory of interpretation of the science that is unsupported by evidence or argument).

    Questions posed about science in good faith are perfectly legitimate topics for discussion in the Science sections.

    If somebody clearly wants to learn something about science or has a question that has a scientific answer, then one of the purposes of the Science forums is to allow knowledgable members to assist those with less knowledge.

    If there's doubt as to whether a person is asking an honest question as opposed to pushing a personal pet theory, then we'd give them the benefit of the doubt until more information is in.

    In my opinion, that question is a legitimate one for the science forums. However, if it was answered and the original poster then continued to insist that gravity and electromagnetism are the same thing (probably in more than just the one thread), then we might be looking at a situation where the policy would need to be implemented.

    This proposal does not advocate the removal of any of those subforums. They will be left as-is.

    I think that some of the insults and flames result from frustration that no amount of careful scientific explanation seems to sway some psuedoscientists, who continue to inject their wrong ideas into the science sections.

    [quite]I expect that if if this process is triggered by participant complaints, it's going to be a small group of combative individuals making most of the complaints.[/quote]
    Very probably that is true. As things stand, many moves of material from the Science section to Fringe sections follow from complaints by members. And certain members make quite a lot of complaints. That's not necessary a bad thing, though. They draw moderators' attention to issues. Ultimately, the moderators decide whether complaints are justified or not, on a case-by-case basis.

    Yes. This should not be thought of as a punishment that can be meted out to people on the basis that certain members posting to the Science sections disagree with them about things. We'd want the criteria to be based on whether the person in question has demonstrated a willingness to alter his opinions in the light of evidence or explanation, a willingness to listen to mainstream explanations, and a willingness to have a dialogue about his own ideas (which may be incorrect). In short, what we would want to see is respect for the scientific method and honest debate.

    I agree.

    Members can always appeal to moderators via private messaging. With this proposal the moderator group will necessarily have to maintain a central record of the members who are subject to the exclusion from the Science sections at any given time. Discussion among the moderator group will, I imagine, be common. It is unlikely that somebody would ever be excluded based on the opinion of a single moderator, for example.

    Serial complainers who post many reports that are found to be groundless fall into the category of "members who demand too much moderator time and effort". Such members can be and are currently sanctioned on that basis, if necessary.
  15. theorist-constant12345 Banned Banned

    In simple terms the rules are saying that the main section is for asking questions, and the fringe sections are for debating about the answers received about those questions?
  16. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    No. Legitimate questions about science, posted in good faith and in a quest for knowledge, are just fine in the Science subforums. On the other hand, posting about how physicists don't know anything and how gravity is really electromagnetism but only a few backyard cranks are smart enough to have worked that out - that would be suitable for the Fringe sections.
  17. leopold Valued Senior Member

    before you go around making any law about pseudoscience, you need to define what it is.
    foremost on my list would be astrology.
    are there really any others?
    telepathy perhaps?
    is it really pseudoscience?
    does "mysterious" enter into the definition?

    i think a lot of the problem may be related to "us versus them" instead of the actual point in question.

    but yeah, the science section of the forum should be ruled pretty heavily.
    a person must know what they are talking about when posting there.
    "must know" as in following sound logic or presenting suitable cites.
  18. leopold Valued Senior Member

    again, what is non science?
    instincts are non science, but yet its knowledge.
    forming and expressing opinions is non science.
    sounds fair.
    a relatively detailed PM should be sent to first time offenders to try to explain why.
    sounds fair.
    there's that definition again, what is "actual science"?
    would you consider "following sound logic" actual science?
    it all sounds good, the question is, are you and your team up to the task?
    wait a minute, isn't this what is needed to carry out your proposal, to decide what is and is not "science"?
    what if those "findings" happen to be disputed?
    it sounds fair.
    as usual, it will all come down to definitions.
    once you get the problem defined, it should be a simple matter of "correcting" it.
    maybe the members can help with "problem" definitions.
    astrology would be the first thing i kicked out
    i voted with my opinion.
  19. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    It's conceivably a good idea, so long as those moderators have the required expertise to differentiate woo-woo from whoa.
  20. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    We've had entire threads on that. Here's just one:

    It is possible to have scientific discussions about astrology and telepathy. Both have been scientifically investigated. It would be fair to say, though, that "believers" in either of those things generally aren't doing science.

    I think a lot of the problem is that pseudoscientists don't usually understand what science is or how it is done.

    Once again, the topic of instincts can be discussed in a scientific way. Biologists do it all the time.

    No. Scientists regularly form and express opinions.

    No. Science is the study of the natural world. Logic isn't about the natural world.

    To some extent. That's a different and usually much easier question than "Is this science right or wrong?". If there's any doubt about whether something is or isn't science, we'll give it the benefit of the doubt. Mostly, pseudoscience isn't hard to spot if you have a little experience and knowledge.

    It depends on what kind of dispute you're talking about. If the dispute amounts to denial in the face of overwhelming evidence - e.g. your own denial of evolution - then that kind of "dispute" is imaginary and won't save the pseudoscientist. On the other hand, if there's a legitimate scientific debate going on, or an unresolved scientific question to be answered, then the fact that there's a dispute wouldn't turn science into psuedoscience.

    Scientists disagree with one another over many things, especially at the frontiers of knowledge (which is where they work).
  21. James R Just this guy, you know? Staff Member

    Mostly, it's not rocket science to sort the woo from the science. Borderline cases should always be given the benefit of the doubt.
  22. GeoffP Caput gerat lupinum Valued Senior Member

    Well, I know my own field, but I can't speak to mathematics or physics.
  23. rpenner Fully Wired Valued Senior Member

    The sterility of an argument from authority is probably not obvious to those that have never supported empiricism. You have to have an open mind and an ability to fairly weigh the evidence and arguments for both sides of a proposition before judging it as acceptable, possibly acceptable at some later date, or unacceptable.

    A purported quote or other reliance on an authority figure is not the same thing as a well supported argument based on all the evidence. For one, the authority is necessarily rooted in the past and may have not had access to the modern totality of evidence. Secondly, even the best authorities get things wrong in ways small (typos) and large (misguided rejection of well-supported arguments). Thirdly, some authorities speak on a wide range of topics, including those where they have no basis. Fourthly, some authorities write on their subject matter for average audiences in quite a different manner than to their fellow experts, because they know only a dilettante would refuse to look past some popular press explanation or analogy. And finally, distortions intentional and accidental happen when an authority's statement in the past is transcribed, translated, edited, quoted, paraphrased, cited and interpreted.
    OnlyMe likes this.
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