RE: META: How to respond to Crank Science?

From: Reason (
Date: Fri Aug 17 2001 - 11:56:43 MDT

Anders Sandberg:

> As for pseudoscience and loose thinking, maybe one way handling it
> would be to set up an epistemic policy on the list. Such a policy
> would suggest proper standards for what claims could be posted and
> how much empirical or scholarly backup is proper. For example,
> "Posting of claims contradicting known or widely accepted physical
> phenomena must be backed up by at least one independent empirical
> study". While I do not think such an epistemic policy needs to
> involve punishments for disobeying it, the existence of an accepted
> standard of posting that could be invoked when someone makes a
> spurious claim would likely have some effect. Setting up the policy
> would by its nature be a fairly heated subject, but maybe it could be
> managed by first allowing a smaller team to develop the core and then
> put it up for a debate, like we did with the Transhumanist
> Declaration.

This is a solid suggestion; I like it. List "rules" seem to work pretty well
even in very large lists with high churn rates. I have belonged to a number
of lists that kept a core of working rules (different in each case)
regarding message content that went a long way to keeping things managable
and the list in existance.

As Anders says, punishment is not really necessary: a simple "hey -- list
rules, please read [url]" and general acceptance of the sensible nature of
the list rules works nearly all of the time. If humans have this innate
desire to conform and have rules, take advantage of it says I.


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