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Science Versus Everything Else

Science consists of the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.   Science has advanced our knowledge and well-being.  Science is among the most marvelous creations of the human mind.

To understand the body of work and knowledge that was required to arrive at any one scientific breakthrough it helps to go back in time and connect the dots; identify the critical studies that made it possible.   

I have discussed how many important medical advances relied on a combination of basic science, animal research, human studies, drug development and clinical trials.   

To ignore these facts is unscientific.  To deny the benefits of research to the patients is immoral.

Those that claim they to have a recipe for doing science, to be in possession of methods that will guarantee success, I simply say: come forward and prove it.  The burden of proof is on you.  If you are not able to contribute to the solution, you are part of the problem.

There is science and there is everything else... including pseudo-science.  There are scientists and pseudo-scientists.

How can you tell them apart?

The following excerpts from Martin Gardner’s “Fads & Fallacies.  In the name of Science” provides some useful hints:

[....] cranks work in almost total isolation from their colleagues.  The modern crank insists that his isolation is not desired on his part.  It is due, he claims to the prejudice of established scientific groups against his ideas.  

It is easy to understand [...] that a strong sense of personal greatness must be involved whenever a crank stands solitary, bitter opposition to every recognized authority in his field.  

There are five ways in which the sincere pseudo-scientist’s paranoid tendencies are likely to be exhibited.

  1. He considers himself a genius.
  2. He regards his colleagues, without exception, as ignorant as blockheads.  Everyone is out of step except himself.  Frequently he insults his opponents by accusing them of stupidity, dishonesty, or other base motives.  If they ignore him, he takes this to mean his arguments are unanswerable.  If they retaliate in kind, this strengthens his delusion that he is battling scoundrels.
  3. He believes himself unjustly persecuted and discriminated against.  The recognized societies refuse to let him lecture.  The journals reject his papers and either ignore his books or assign them to “enemies” for review.  It is all part of a dastardly plot.  It never occurs to the crank that this opposition may be due to error in his work.  It springs solely, he is convinced, from blind prejudice on the part of the established hierarchy -- the high priests of science who fear to have their orthodoxy overthrown.
  4. He has strong compulsions to focus his attacks on the greatest scientists and the best-established theories.
  5. He often has a tendency to write in complex jargon, in many cases making use of terms and phrases he himself has coined.  Schizophrenics sometimes talk in what psychiatrists call “neologisms” -- words which have meaning to the patient, but sound like Jabberwocky to everyone else.  Many of the classics of crackpot science exhibit a neologistic tendency.

When the crank’s I.Q. is low [...] he rarely achieves much following.  But, if he is a brilliant thinker, he is capable of developing incredibly complex theories.  He will be able to defend them in books of vast erudition, with profound observations, and often liberal portions of sound science.  His rhetoric may be enormously persuasive.  Al the parts of his world usually fit together beautifully, like a jigsaw puzzle.  It is impossible to get the best of him in any type of argument.  

Anyone you might know?


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