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Why no speculative posting

  1. Jan 20, 2014 #1
    Why no "speculative" posting

    Can someone please explain to me the reason why PF prohibits the discussion of unsupported scientific theories? To me, it seems as that such a rule significantly limits what one can learn based on the feedback of others through a much more diversified knowledge background.

    What's the harm in speculating about the existence of extra dimensions? At one time something as simple as F = ma would have been speculative to discuss. I guess there may be other smaller communities out there where such discussion is regarded as appropriate, but none of those forums have close to the knowledge base of PF.

    Anyways, some clarification beyond what is in the community guidelines would be much appreciated.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 20, 2014 #2
    I agree!
     
  4. Jan 20, 2014 #3

    Chronos

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    It's easy, we have way too much real science to consider to waste time on junk science. Liking that policy is strictly optional.
     
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2014
  5. Jan 20, 2014 #4

    Evo

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    We have made the decision to stick to mainstream known science. We want to be a resource to students. That is where we are different from other sites. If you want to speculate, there are many sites on the internet where you may do so, we aren't one of them. One of the reasons we have so much expertise here is because of this policy.
     
  6. Jan 20, 2014 #5
    In the context of different branches of physics F = ma could be regarded as "junk science" just as the Lorentz ether example in the community guidelines. I think the forum should make a real attempt at allowing such discussions - heck put it in a sub-forum called junk science.

    Sure, there will be those threads with some very unusual ideas - however they won't warrant nearly as much discussion as better organized thoughts that are more consistent with currently accepted mainstream science. It's like we're a bunch of Europeans talking about Europe - don't you think the Europeans might have a more enjoyable time talking about people over in the US and their silly Imperial system of units?

    Wasn't it Albert Einstein who said: "The free, unhampered exchange of ideas and scientific conclusions is necessary for the sound development of science, as it is in all spheres of cultural life."
     
  7. Jan 21, 2014 #6

    russ_watters

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    Simply put, we've tried allowing it and it severely reduces the quality of the site.
    On the contrary: what you describe isn't "learning" at all. Learning is what you get when someone who knows science explains it to someone who doesn't. I'm not sure what word you are looking for, but "learning" isn't it, but "learning" is exactly what we are going for here.
    But not today.
    That isn't a coincidence.
    We did once. It was a dumpster fire.
    That isn't how it works. People love a good train wreck, so the tipped-over porta-potty threads got much of the traffic and used-up resources better spent on real science.
    Not sure, but even if he did, it wouldn't matter: new science is never, ever, ever done on the internet so trying to promote it here wouldn't serve any useful purpose.
     
  8. Jan 21, 2014 #7

    Chronos

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    That is not going to happen, get over it. We are the physics forum, not the philosophy forum. Go somewhere else if you can't deal with that.
     
  9. Jan 21, 2014 #8

    jtbell

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    It is not part of our mission to serve as a platform for the development of (new) science, but instead, only for learning and understanding (existing) science. We prefer to leave the development of new science to the professionals in the field. They already have places for batting around new ideas among themselves.
     
  10. Jan 21, 2014 #9
    I think you may have misunderstood what I meant by learning. Assuming that learning means understanding a proven "real" scientific principle - one who is speculating may learn his idea is incorrect based on the feedback of others as opposed to other learning based on speculation.

    Anyways thanks for the replies, looks like I'll be sharing my ideas elsewhere. I will, however, argue they are well put together and are not to the extreme of Alex Trebek being from the 5th dimension.
     
  11. Jan 21, 2014 #10

    Chronos

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    Allow me to soften that a bit, we sometimes entertain abstract logic in the context of discussion, but, it is always phrased in the context of discussion of real science by credible scientists. That is why we insist on reference to credible sources published by credible researchers.
     
  12. Jan 21, 2014 #11

    Ibix

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    Go ahead and discuss them - just not here, please. Set up your own forum if you think there's a niche.

    The problem is fundamentally quality control. It's possible that one of the "new theory" posters on the web actually has a valid idea, but I've never seen one. Generally, they aren't even coherent on some trivial level. The discussion then gets very heated. People invest a lot of time and effort in their ideas, and get very upset when somebody dismisses it with a reference to a highschool physics text.

    Once you start allowing nonsense posting in one part of the site, it spreads. You will get posts from established (crank) posters in homework telling students that there is an emerging consensus that relativity/QM/whatever is wrong. Then the utility of the site goes down and the knowledgable posters drift away as they get bored of trying to convince students that they aren't one more nutcase.

    Finally, if you want to discuss new ideas for "where to go from here" in science, there are plenty in journals. You even know some basic quality control has been done.

    I like physicsforums the way it is.
     
  13. Jan 21, 2014 #12

    SteamKing

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    I personally would not like to see any 'Ancient Astronaut Theorists' trolling around PF. If you like that sort of thing, set up your own forum. It's not like the internet is going to run out of space.

    If you want diversion at PF, you can still come across the odd perpetual motion thread.

    We get into discussions at PF of the merits of Imperial units v. the flavor of the day metric units. Both systems have their attractions and defenders, but IMO, the metric system is not fool-proof. The physics HW forums show students struggling with metric units.
     
  14. Jan 21, 2014 #13

    adjacent

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    Are you saying that to me?
     
  15. Jan 21, 2014 #14
    They have sections called "Science Fiction & Fantasy"..And "beyond standard model" If you prefer something in between. This site is a rarity. I came here a lot mostly reading and to clear a majority of my misconception. Thanks PF!^^
     
  16. Jan 21, 2014 #15

    ZapperZ

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    https://www.physicsforums.com/blog.php?b=2979 [Broken]

    Zz,
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  17. Jan 21, 2014 #16

    SteamKing

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    Yes, yes I am, if you are an "Ancient Astronaut Theorist".

    Ancient-Aliens.jpg
     
  18. Jan 21, 2014 #17

    adjacent

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    If I was,I would not be here in PF.
    I told him that "you may like it"
    What I meant by nice and interesting was just the opposite of what was in my mind
     
  19. Jan 21, 2014 #18

    Astronuc

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    We allow some level of speculation, but we restrict or prohibit 'overly-speculative' material. What would be the point of discussion unsupported scientific theories?

    Our mission is to promote the scientific method, which in general requires some level of substantiation. One may develop a theory or hypothesis based on observation or experiment, but the conjectures must be reasonable. And we reserve the right to determine what is reasonable.
     
  20. Jan 21, 2014 #19

    ZapperZ

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    The question of whether we should allow the discussion of speculative ideas, crackpottery, etc. as an educational tool has been discussed already. Certainly, in SOME cases, there is merit in pointing out why such-and-such is wrong.

    Unfortunately, this only looks good on paper! There are several issues with this:

    1. It is hard to distinguish the INTENT of the person who brings it up. Often, these are new members who popped out of nowhere and suddenly wanted to discuss this outlandish idea. We have seen more than sufficient number of cases to realize that a lot of crackpots often take advantage of such a thing simply as a means to give their silly ideas another platform to advertise to the world. There were zero intention from the very beginning to "learn" where they were mistaken.

    2. The "educational" value of such a discussion is questionable. Now I'm not saying that there isn't any value in debunking myths and correcting wrong ideas, but these must be based on an honest mistake or misunderstanding, rather than based on an idea born out of pure ignorance. Still, there is a lot more to gain by learning the actual subject matter rather than trolling through the internet, reading some crazy ideas, and then coming here and wanting to know why such-and-such is wrong.

    3. The educational value of outright speculation without knowledge is also questionable. Who is doing the speculation here? Someone who already has a background training in physics, or someone who still doesn't know enough physics to even understand what can already be explained? Speculation done by the Brian Greenes, the The Stephen Hawkings, etc. are extremely DIFFERENT than speculations done by someone who does not have a physics degree, who only knows physics superficially from reading pop-science books, etc. They are different by orders of magnitude! To compare them and equate to what often passed as speculation on here is an insult to physics and physicists.

    4. And that brings us to a common contradiction that many people who questioned this part of our policy do not realize. When they argue that speculation is often done in science/physics, they seem to forget that these are done within the confined of science AND presented to other scientists who are experts in their fields. It is part of the tedious process of evaluating the validity of anything put forth in science. The most common means to do this is by publishing one's idea in a reputable peer-reviewed journal. It requires some level of quality and standard for an idea to be presented to the experts to be evaluated. That, boys and girls, is how scientific speculation is done. So the people who think they are championing the scientific process seem to have IGNORE this part of it. They latched on the "do speculation" part of it, but threw away the PROCESS part of it by trying to bypass the strict evaluation process by experts, and simply spew it out onto a public forum. If you wish to uphold science and do a service to it, then honor the entire process, not just the ones that suit your convenience.

    5. We did have such a forum to allow for speculative ideas. And as with science where we conduct experiments to verify or falsify our notion on the usefulness of such a forum. It didn't work! It became a circus of embarrassment, and many of us simply could not associate ourselves with a forum that would host many things that were posted there.

    6. I strongly believe that PF has attracted many scientists and professionals in a wide area of science, engineering, etc. was due to the fact that we do not tolerate such loose speculations. Forums catering to such things are a dime a dozen. It takes EFFORT to try and maintain quality of posts and not many (if any) forums on science do that! This is why there is a sense that this forum has higher standards than others, and that is a very compelling reason why we attract knowledgeable people. So the proposal of bringing back such speculative posts is trying to kill the very reason why PF became attractive in the first place!

    7. In the end, PF can't be everything to everyone. We have to evaluate both the pros and the cons, and figure out if the effort of moderating such a thing is worth it. If discussing speculative ideas has educational merit, then we will go ahead and admit that PF will miss out on such effort and wish you the best of luck in finding another forum for such a purpose.

    Zz.
     
  21. Jan 21, 2014 #20

    Dale

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    Actually, this is incorrect. You have a simple choice. Either you can have this rule and learn from professionals or you can drop the rule and "learn" from cranks.

    Cranks and professionals simply don't coexist peacefully. The rule allows you to learn from people with actual professional scientific background who have abandoned sites without that rule. Such professionals have abandoned the more permissive sites precisely because they feel that the lack of rules fosters nothing but incredibly tedious and worthless discussions with cranks.

    Take your pick and decide whose input you want, but you simply cannot have a good supply of both cranks and professionals too.
     
    Last edited: Jan 21, 2014
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