How to Avoid Crackpottery

  • #26
vanesch
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I would tend to think that there is a difference between "wrong ideas" and 'crackpottery". As pointed out, in cutting-edge research, there's not really a way to know whether an idea is "wrong" or not. After all, finding out wrong ideas is the basis of science. So it is not because one is pursuing an idea that might prove to be wrong one day, that one is a crackpot. Being wrong is human. Doing new things obviously is taking the risk of being wrong.

To me, a crackpot is someone who advances strange new ideas in a field, without knowing the actual state of affairs, and without making an honest evaluation of the consequences of his new ideas. You can't radically overthrow a field without already being a kind of expert in it.

If you have ideas that overthrow relativity, but you aren't able to solve a graduate-textbook's problems in it, you are a crackpot. If you DO know relativity, and you have ideas of how to overthrow it, and you've explored some of the consequences of your idea, you aren't (you might still be wrong, but you aren't a crackpot in my book).
 
  • #27
Dale
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Here are my suggestions:

1) Stick with textbooks and journals with a high impact factor.

2) Always be aware of the experimental evidence supporting a person's position.

3) Trust only positions which are backed by experimental evidence which has been replicated at multiple independent labs.

4) All new theories must reduce to existing theories in the appropriate limits where repeated experimental results confirm the existing theory.

5) A good scientific theory is both quantitative and falsifiable.

6) A given theory will often have multiple interpretations which can each be useful in different situations; learn and use them all without getting overly attached to any one.

7) Regardless of points 1-6 always accept any information given to you by DaleSpam :wink: All other internet sources are to be viewed with extreme skepticism with the understanding that the internet is a medium which is neither fact-checked nor peer-reviewed.
 
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  • #28
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Because in science we look for a consensus opinion in matters that most people are not qualified to judge. Again, unless you are already an expert, your ability to judge what is or is not logical is often irrelevant.

That was MY point. I was responding to the choice of words "go with the majority view." The word "majority" means what you just called "most people." The majority is not qualified.
 
  • #29
Chronos
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Academic consensus merely has a vastly greater probability of being closer to the truth than layman theories.
 
  • #30
f95toli
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That was MY point. I was responding to the choice of words "go with the majority view." The word "majority" means what you just called "most people." The majority is not qualified.

I was obviously refering to the view of the majority of the scientists in that particular field.
Even when there is no consensus (and in this context consensus means that the vast majority of scientists agree of something) as such, the majority view is still the one that is most likely to be correct (or least wrong).
 

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