Re: A Braid of Several Threads

Anders Sandberg (
Tue, 29 Jul 1997 11:37:29 +0200 (MET DST)

On Mon, 28 Jul 1997 wrote:

> >I think critical thinking is the key. If an expert claims something,
> >we have to evaluate his claims from the evidence he presents, what we
> >know, and how well he can argue his case. >>
> But that is the problem you see. I've been browsing the "Cold Fusion" and
> "infinite energy " crowd. (as an example)...they make a very compelling
> argument...lots of Ph.d's..lots of papers....lots of experimental
> evidence....lots of international conferecess....Best I can tell they're
> every bit as credible as say, Thin-film metals deposition....of gamma-ray
> litography...(just to pick two fields of which I know nothing and someone
> could baffle me with bullshit)

Take a look again. Titles, international conferences, papers and
claims of experimental evidence does not prove that an area is
credible (I have encountered an international conference on the ether
theory earlier this year). One has to look more carefully at how they
argue their case: Have their experiments been replicated? Do they
have a consistent theory? Do they take other possibilities into

This is of course hard; an expert can often with a single glance tell
if a field is worthless or worthwhile (unfortunately most experts
just rely on single glances; sometimes they are wrong) but if you are
less knowledgeable you have to look more carefully. I usually look at
their terminology: if they seem to make up new words and concepts at
a drop of a hat, use terminology in non-standard ways or use math for
its own sake, then I get suspicious.

> And as Dr. Mallow (Infinite Energy)...documents....there is tremendous
> resistance to the Popular Wisdom....The wright bros. were flying for
> YEARS...just down the road from the newspaper....while that same newspaper
> was denouncing the "impossibility of flight"....and the reception that PC's
> received in the 70's....etc. etc. ad nauseum...

Yes, this is true. But serious researchers do not complain a lot
about this, unlike the crackpots. One of the easiest ways of
detecting pseudoscience is to look for claims that the theory is
being suppressed or resisted by the establishment. Real scientists
don't waste the paper complaining, they try to show so good evidence
and proof that the establishment will be forced to accept them.

A good example is a professor here in Stockholm, who is claiming the
current model of how the heart pumps the blood is quite wrong (to put
it simply, the heard doesn't squeeze the blood, it "grips" the
blood). Needless to say, the Lancet and the "establishment" doesn't
believe him. So he has been gathering evidence, convincing other
researchers and slowly been building his case despite the resistance
of all the people who think he is wrong. At present his theory is
becoming more and more accepted as people start to look at their data
again, and sooner or later the textbooks will likely be quietly
rewritten (he is also making some money from a new kind of pump he
has invented, based on his heart model). A crackpot would instead
have spent a lot of energy shouting about how ortodox science
represses new ideas.

> I despair.

No need for that. There are plenty of people out there despairing for

Anders Sandberg Towards Ascension!
GCS/M/S/O d++ -p+ c++++ !l u+ e++ m++ s+/+ n--- h+/* f+ g+ w++ t+ r+ !y