RE: META: How to respond to Crank Science?

From: Reason (
Date: Fri Aug 17 2001 - 14:27:00 MDT

Mike Lorrey:

> Reason wrote:
> >
> > 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".
> >
> > 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.
> Ah, but who decides what is 'known or widely accepted physical
> phenomena'? Should this also apply only to theories explaining
> phenomena, not the phenomena themselves? Do we now need a Board of
> Scientific Correctness to decide what is and is not 'known or widely
> accepted theory about physical phenomena'? Also, should not individuals
> who ARE scientists here, like Amara Graps or Robin Hanson, be allowed to
> post their own studies without having to reference one by other persons?

Aiming for perfection and exactitude is admirable, but a common cause of
things not getting done. I would suggest that what we are aiming for is
getting rid of obvious clutter only. A list rule requiring a pointer to an
attributed manuscript that directly addresses the claim would at least go
some way to cutting down bandwidth hogs like a) posts by people that haven't
read any of the literature on the claim that they're posting, b) groundless
counter-arguments and follow-up posts that give references that should have
been in the initial post.

Personally, I think that all lists should have the level of URL-inclusion
that this one does. It's good. The library is out there -- there's no excuse
not to use it, and no excuse to post from a position of lazy ignorance (as
opposed to say, determined opinion).

[Having said that, I should probably run back and check my own posts for
lazy ignorance -- I know enough to know that I'm out of my depth in talking
philosophy, but then I try not to make claims :)].

You should look on this whole thing more as a guideline to making threads
more efficient, I think. Getting bogged down in trying to define exactitudes
in a social system such as a list is pointless -- it is probably better to
have vague guidelines and let the list group mind come to an understanding
with itself.


This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Fri Oct 12 2001 - 14:40:10 MDT