Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What do you believe?

  1. True believer

    0 vote(s)
  2. I want to believe

    4 vote(s)
  3. I don't know

    2 vote(s)
  4. Show me the evidence

    5 vote(s)
  5. Dogmatically scientific

    0 vote(s)
  1. Oct 25, 2003 #1


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ok, I feel I kinda hijacked Ivan's crop circle thread, so I'll start my own on a more general subject of ideas that I describe as (to be as diplomatic as I can) off the mainstream. These ideas would include (but are not limited to) crop circles, etufos, cold fusion, zero point energy, hydrogen economy, yeti, etc. Of course these issues also vary in how far off the mainstream they are. Cold fusion for example was briefly (about a week and a half) very much mainstream. I'm a big picture kinda guy and I see people's worldview or bias (if you are comfortable with that word) on the matter as falling into a spectrum. Seen left to right (for the purpose of annoying Zero) it goes like this:

    1. True believers. These are people who believe virtually anything that is off the mainstream because they see the mainstream as a big conspiracy. The fact that something is off the mainstream confirms the conspiracy and is evidence that its true. This is of course, a self-reinforcing and circular belief. These are the guys who create the conspiracy theory websites. Often you will see a crossover between issues, as the main issue isn't the individual conspiracies, its the overall conspiracy. So along with scientific ones, on the same site you will see political, economic, etc conspiracies.

    2. "I want to believe." Fox Moulder. These are people who want to beleive that "something is out there." They look specifically for evidence that will confirm the off the mainstream ideas. When evidence is thin or nonexistant they will tend to err in the favor of 'being open minded' and keep the issue open or jump to a positive conclusion.

    3. 'I don't know." These people are for the most part uneducated or undereducated on the issues at hand. Thats not inherrently good or bad, but it tends to make them more gullible. In any case, they just don't have an opinion on such issues.

    4. 'Show me the evidence.' These people are what I consider skeptics. They want hard - REALLY HARD - evidence before they will consider ideas that are off the mainstream. They are governed by the principle that "extrodinary claims require extrordinary evidence," with extrordinary relating to both quantity and quality.

    5. 'I won't believe it unless 90% of scientists accept it.' These people would be considered 'dogmatically scientific.' Thats a contradiction in terms but is nevertheless real.

    So, where do you stand? I will of course go through my rationale later, but feel free to give yours or even attack the structure of my spectrum. (no Zero, I won't reverse it).
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 25, 2003 #2

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I voted show me the evidence:

    Myths about Science and the Scientific Method.

  4. Oct 25, 2003 #3
    Baiting me again, Russ? You suck, dude!

    And, Ivan, you keep trotting out that same paper about bias, as though it were a bad thing. If the evidence were overwhelming for any of these things me and Russ call psuedoscience, the evidence would surpass our skepticism. So far, that not only hasn't happened,but alot of the time the supporters of these ideas refuse to provide evidence .
    Last edited: Oct 25, 2003
  5. Oct 26, 2003 #4

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I keep trotting out this paper? Where?

    It is a bad thing when it is applied without knowledge of, or a reasonable evaluation of the subject at hand. Personally, I think this is mostly used as a shield for ones own beliefs; not honest skepticism. This is why most "skeptics" fail to pursue any argument that they are losing. No matter how clearly I have proven someone to be incorrect; no matter the source of the evidence, no matter the number of credible sources that can be cited, I have never had a skeptic admit it. At this point they completely lose interest in the discussion. They just disappear until the next argument. This pretty much tells me all that I need to know. Note that this is not meant to apply to you in particular. This is a pattern that I have seen many times and that repeats predictably. Just saying no is not useful to anyone. Thoughtful skepticism is like gold.

    Pseudoscience is about how the investigation is done; not about the subject itself.

    One form of pseudoscience is cynicism masked as skepticism
  6. Oct 26, 2003 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Ok, this is one of the reasons I started this thread. Ivan, you didn't object to my list of fields that I consider off the mainstream, so I'll assume that you know and accept that they are off the mainstream. Now I argued in another thread that certain fields remain off the mainstream because virtually all investigation being done on them is unscientific. Whenver the rare scientific investigation takes place, it re-affirms that there is nothing of any scientific merrit in those fields. As a result, proponents of these fields resist with all their strength any attempt to scientifically study these fields. Cold fusion is my usual example - P&F while touting their successes witheld the information that would have allowed people to reproduce and verify their experiment. Thats scientific fraud.

    So those subjects are pseudoscience because they have no scientific merit and the fact that the investigation being done is unscientific re-affirms that.

    Also, attacking the scientific method/scientific process for the purpose of getting a field to be considered science is self-defeating. If you tear down the walls because you can't get in the door, are you really in the building?
    You draw the wrong conclusion from that. There is nothing to concede or admit. I (I know I fall into that category) won't pursue an arguement because there is no arguement to pursue. The fact that the scientific community continuously rejects these fields is not evidence of a conspiracy, it is evidence that these fields do not belong in science.

    Ivan, have you browsed the sites you have linked in previous threads? Many contain a wide sample of all sorts of conspiracy theories. One of the crop circle ones you linked also contained 9/11 conspiracy theory info. That should tell you something. I know I'm really harping on the credibility thing, but you don't seem to be making any distinction at all in the level of credibility of a source. Not all sources have the same level of credibility - some (many) have none whatsoever.
  7. Oct 26, 2003 #6
    I have not voted and do not plan to because my position is not represented. I am a Fox Mulder in that I want to believe but I won't believe with out something to go on. I have to add that I just hate that if I want to find out what other people are doing in off mainstream topics I have to put up with knowing that the people are usually nuts, because they don't believe what they do due to evidence, but believe due to the fact the the mainstream doesn't. AARRGG!
  8. Oct 26, 2003 #7

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Not on the hydrogen economy; I think this was fringe but has now made the mainstream. …but lets not start on this. I accept that you think Bush’s program is a sham.

    First, this can be a matter of funding. Someone has to benefit from the research;. otherwise fundamental research dollars don’t come easily. Next, If no mainstream scientific research is done, there may be no one left but amateurs. Often, we do in fact find scientists working on their own time and trying to do some very difficult science, other times we find complete amateurs, and often we find true believers trying to prove their beliefs. You can’t put everything in a box. Each case much be considered on its own merit. Lumping everything into one category is pseudoscience.

    Nonsense. This depends on the subject and the claim. Your statement is one of pseudoscience.

    Fraud is fraud, but I’m not sure what you mean here: I was at the debunking by Cal Tech – P&F present – at the annual meeting of the American Electrochemical Society; in April of ‘87 I think, at the Bonaventure Hotel in Los Angeles. They and their data were pretty much shut down right then and there. I was not aware that they hid information. I know they were badly embarrassed at the meeting.

    In many cases we just can’t repeat the conditions. You are really showing that you lack exposure to anything but the national enquirer.

    So to do good science, we should not consider how we go about doing it? I’m not tearing down anything except your house of cards. You are arguing against objectivity. Skepticism is an element of science; not the whole enchilada. Skepticism will never bring anything new.

    You don’t even bother to address the context. I said when clear evidence can be shown. You now misrepresent the context of my comments in order to use this to your advantage. This is not honest. This is the third pseudoscientific statement that you have made in this post..

    You again ignore that I said several times in that thread that I couldn’t find the original work yet. I made it clear that these are some examples of the information, but that this did not represent the views that I heard expressed by Levengood. I made this very clear. Pseudoscientific statement number four [at least, I lost count].
    Last edited: Oct 27, 2003
  9. Oct 27, 2003 #8


    User Avatar


    Erm... Russ...

    Not exactly an unbiased poll you have there, hmm? I think you need to seperate out your judgement of what these categories constitute, from your definitions. Else... this poll would be rather pseudoscientific and unrepresentative, wouldn't it?

    From the categories you set out, it is rather obvious which is the intended one. At this point, few would dare call themselves "Don't know" or "dogmatically", and they would all be encouraged to lump themselves into these category... Right now, everybody wants to be called a skeptic, because you made everyone else out to be idiots.

    In any case, in a bid to be original, I threw myself into this category... But I think your judgement distinctly off. The attitude of don't know is not a sign of lack of education, but simply a lack of opinion. Take this: Is the Reimann conjecture correct? Don't know in this case does not mean you are ignorant, or guillible, but that you reserve judgement.

    There seriously needs to be an intermediate step. I do not at all think that the refusal to consider extraordinary claims is a mark of a good scientist. A good scientist requires a sense of skepticism about mainstream ideas as, well, even to the extent of actively seeking out contradictions to them. But in a way that you do not ignore failures.
  10. Oct 27, 2003 #9


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    According to Robert Park in "Voodoo Science" (p. 118) the result of that meeting was a "call for papers that 'verified cold fusion,'" which sound like they ONLY wanted papers that would verify it, not papers that would say nothing happened - an "affront to the principle of open scientific exchange." Regardless, that meeting was more than a month after the initial announcement and during that time a vast amount of scientific effort was put into trying to replicate the experiment. It appears that there was a deliberate effort to decieve those trying to repeat the experiment. The physicists skipped meetings, delayed (witheld) data they promised to release, and never did publish detailed schematics of their device. The very way it was released - to the public via a newspaper went against the scientific process.
    [?] [?] Repeatability is the single most important property of a scientific experiment. Ie, an experiment that is not repeatable is by definition not scientific.
    I may have been generalizing, but you are throwing the word "pseudoscience" around in places where it simply doesn't apply.
    One thing I take very personally is honesty. If you have an example of something I said that is dishonest, show it to me. In the case you just cited, I was explaining where my opinion came from - my criteria. You misunderstood why I would not argue certain things.

    My opinion is that clear evidence can only come from a credible source. That to me seems self evident - if a source is not credible, any evidence from the source is worthless.
    Not true. Existing theories have massive, well known holes in them. Even a skeptic must understand that. Besides - didn't you label yourself a skeptic?
    If you can't even FIND the source of a piece of information, how can you evaluate its credibility? Ivan, no serious scientific jounal or organization would accept such a thing. If you are saying you intend to evaluate the credibility once you find the source, why even cite the information? You seem to be taking the stance that we should assume it to be credible until it can be evaluated. Thats backwards. I'll say it again information is worthless unless it comes from a credible source.
  11. Oct 27, 2003 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Fair enough. How would you structure it?
    Dunno, I labeled myself a skeptic, but I am near halfway between 4 and 5 on most issues. On some issues, I'm squarely on 5. When it comes to aliens, I'm somewhat in #2. Most religious beliefs (mine included) would fall between 1 and 2. In any case, if someone truly does believe everything is a conspiracy as presumably those who write conspiracy theory websites do, would they consider their position stupid?
    Well maybe, but as an admittedly highly opinionated person, I can't fathon how it could be possible to not have an opinion on something you have some information on.
    I don't know. I don't have an opinion. Then again - I've never heard of it. :wink:

    In any case, an opinion does not need to be binary. 'I think' 'maybe' and 'probably not' are reasonable answers even to most questions that are meant to be yes or no.
    Skepticism of the mainstream? I like it. Good point. But you only have to look to our TD forum for people who take that to the extrememe of complete and utter rejection of the mainstream. I'll need to think about that one in any case.
  12. Oct 28, 2003 #11

    Ivan Seeking

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, this has nothing to do with what happened at meeting. The next day, nearly anyone there surely considered the subject closed. I know issues about contamination we raised later, but this seemed irrelevant in lieu of the beating they to in LA. But this
    is nonsense. This was as mainstream as it gets.

    However, we can obtain data and information for later use. This does not make investigation pseudoscience.

    Russ, if we have a genuine misunderstanding, then fine. But from my point of view, you never even attempt to represent the information that I post in the proper context. I am constantly left feeling that you simply dodge any evidence that you don't like. This IS pseudoscience.

    In the statement referenced, I said:

    You chose to include yourself as guilty of this. You then made it sound like I said when an issue is subject to debate.

    You can't stand on dogma as proof. I said when we have evidence.

    True. However, you readily decide what is and is not credible in 30 seconds. I have never seen you consider any source credible that goes against your position on these issues. When I posted links to Los Alamos affiliates, you complained about them also. You obviously make no effort to find credible citations noted and that can further be explored.

    One has to be willing to look; and sometimes to do the work on faith. Doesn't every new theory start with a blank page? Skepticism is only a part of science. I try to employ scepticism as well as an open mind. I work to explore the subject; not just to give an opinion.

    First, I'm not publishing a theory; and this is not a scientific journal. I am trying to explore the subject. I know you don't like that, but what is posted is representive of the basic credible science that I have seen in the past. Why is the stonehenge site unrespectable. Plenty of information and citations are listed. You know, labeling anything stonehenge as pseudoscience is absolutely absurd; it is an archeologic point of interest.

    I guess you consider archeology pseudoscience.
    Prof. / Dr. Terence Meaden
    ...led by archaeologists having expertise in the prehistory of Britain and Ireland

    As far as the site that lists Levengood as the founder, I suspect his organization has been overrun with whackos. I never heard Levengood making these sorts of claims.

    Should we forget about every bit of good science used to promote boloney?

    If I can find the original work by Levengood I will post it. Some years ago he had a web site at the University, but it seems to be gone. His latent organization indicates that he has moved on to other projects.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  13. Oct 28, 2003 #12


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Maybe you could cite an example then because I'm not sure I understand. If two people believe different things and actively pursue those beliefs, then there is a debate, isn't there?
    I see that as being a circular arguement (in both directions): Who should decide what is reliable evidence if not the scientific community? Isn't that their job? And if it is their decision, doesn't that mean by definition they can't ever be dogmatic and evidence not accepted by them is by definition not reliable?

    Thats something inherrent with being in a position of authority - my analogy would be the Supreme Court. Disagreeing with their opinion is fine, but you can't make a law stay on the books if they decide its unConstitutional just by disagreeing with their opinion. And the same goes for the scientific community: if they say a piece of evidence is flawed/invalid/not credible, or a theory not scientific, thats the way it is. Its their decision. You may disagree, but that doesn't change their decision. I think you know that on some level and thats why you didn't argue with my list of off the mainstream topics - the mainstream gets to decide what is and isn't mainstream and they get to decide what criteria is used to judge that.

    Ivan, part of the problem here is I don't think we understand each other very well. That is also part of the reason I started this thread. Our views on the way science does/should work are very very different. Don't be so quick to think I'm trying to decieve you (zoobyshoe gained major points with me when he conceded he overreacted in another thread. I respect that.). Considering I harp on credibility and the scientific process, that would be utterly hypocritical on my part.
    That would be axiomatic (and again, circular), would it not? If I did consider sources that contradicted my opinion credible, I would not hold that opinion. You seem to be suggesting that my opinion on an issue is what drives my evaluations of credibility. Surely though you can see that I have an objective (if a little too stringent for your taste) criteria at work here. Whether you choose to believe it or not, if you ever did find a source I consider credible that says something I disagree with, I'd be forced to change my position. And I would. It doesn't happen often, but it does happen.
    This is one of those points on which I disagree fairly completely about how science works. Faith has no place whatsoever in the scientific process. The vast majority of theories start where another theory left off - even Galileo, who pretty much invented science, started with Aristotle's ideas of gravity.
    I guess I need an analogy again: Don't ask a mechanic for stock advice and don't ask your accountant to fix your car. The people who write a tourist info site have no inherrent expertise on which to base an assumption of credibility on ANYTHING scientific, much less something unrelated to Stonehenge. Is that so hard to understand? And for the record, I am absolutely fascinated by everything about Stonehenge. Its a real archeological/anthropological, astronomical, curiosity.
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
  14. Oct 28, 2003 #13


    User Avatar

    How would I have structured it?

    Which ones of the following statements do you agree with:
    1. I try not to establish an opinion on a claim until there is evidence either way.
    2. The general acceptance of a view is a good indicator of its credibility.
    3. Beliefs have value in establishing real truth.
    4. The originality of a claim contributes to its worthiness.
    5. An incomplete study has value in determining the truth. (incomplete being lacking the usual scientific elements of repeatability, consideration of contrary evidence etc.)

    They would, most likely, categorise their view as being based on correct evidence, as per your skeptic PoV.

    Ok, by my (admittedly wacky) definition system, I call maybe, not having an opinion. Or at least trying not to have an opinion.

    Mind you, I have an opinion as to what such a poll would ultimately conclude:

    Even reasonable people disagree in what is reasonable. :wink:
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2003
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?

Similar Discussions: What do you believe?
  1. What do you believe? (Replies: 30)

  2. What do you believe? (Replies: 30)