The Emergence of Crackpots from the SciForums Space-Time

Discussion in 'General Science & Technology' started by BenTheMan, Mar 17, 2007.

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  1. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    After being a member at SciForums for about three months, I have found that "freedom of expression" somehow translates into "freedom to express my dumb ass opinion about space and time, and ignore all expert opinions to the contrary".

    Why is it that people who work their whole lives to understand the nature of the universe at its most fundamental level can be written off completely as "members of the scientific establishment"?

    Why is it that people think that they can be as intelligent or as insightful as Einstein, and that every piece of drivel posted on the internet has some sort of scientific merit?

    Why is it that people who can't understand the fundamental mathematical assertions behind their arguments can believe their own theories but think that GR, or quantum mechanics, or (insert real physics here) is wrong?

    Does somone who claims that, say, general relativity is wrong have any moral authority to rebuke those who claim that HIV doesn't cause AIDS (i.e. MetaKron), that the universe was created in a ball of water two light years wide 6000 years ago (IceAgeCivilizations), that the Illuminati somehow control all of life on this planet (MattMarr), that global warming is wrong, that Intelligent Design is correct, or that the Holocaust didn't occur?

    This is part of a wider problem in America---that is, the devaluation of scientific though. More examples: people who think that crystals have "powers" (one of my mom's friends), that intelligent design should be taught in schools (the president), that Astrology is real (there's a collumn in EVERY paper in America) and that the Earth could possibly be 6000 years old.

    I won't post any links---it should be easy enough to locate the posts that I'm talking about.

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    I should clarify---I have absolutely no problem with people asking questions about things. Like "How do we know that time is a dimension?" What I have an ENORMUS problem with is someone claiming to have a new theory of everything when it is clear that they don't have a high school education.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2007
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  3. Nickelodeon Banned Banned

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    Wow, I never saw that one.
     
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  5. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    You mean its not true?

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  7. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Well, maybe in someone's imagination

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  8. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you suppose science has become so devalued?
     
  9. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    Sorry Ben, but the kooks and cranks have been haunting this forum for years.

    As a result, many a fine mind has come and gone, usually shaking their heads as they run for the hills.

    Welcome to the nut house.
     
  10. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Apparently fine minds don't do too well when faced with the ignorant public.

    Pretty delicate, huh?

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  11. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Hi (Q)---

    I have no problems with people proposing off the wall theories. The problem is when those people refuse to listen to any sort of reason whatsoever. In that sense, those people are no better than any of the other science haters in the world.

    I love to think about physics. That is what I do. And if someone has a question, then I love to think about it and try to give an answer when possible. What I absolutely despise is when someone claims that all of modern science is wrong, with little or no understanding of the mathematical underpinnings.
     
  12. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Hi sam---

    It's not that the fine minds are fragile. I would assume that the fine minds are still here. They probably all learned their lessons, and are content to cruise around the Sci Fi forums or something.

    If every crackpot thinks they can change physics, every physicist thinks that they can change crackpots. Both are sadly mistaken, I think.
     
  13. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    But if the twain ne'er meets, and the crackpots can now aggregate thanks to the internet, it predicts a dismal future for science wouldn't you say?
     
  14. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    My guess is that it is an American phenomenon. Here's an exampl: if you listen to the BBC, the conversations are structured. The debates are between knowledgable experts, and commentary from the viewers is sparse and always relevant. Conversely, if you listen to a debate on American news, the people always talk over each other, and the loudest one wins. There is no point/counterpoint, and the people are not always experts---that is, the debates are not always academic. The commentary that comes from the viewers is sometimes relevant, but often misguided.

    The point is this: in America, there is the illusion that everybody has an equal say and that everybody's say is just as good as everybody else's. This is probably one of the things that America was founded on. In science, though, this is just not true. There are experts, and there are lay-people, and the experts have an inherintly more informed and valuable opinion that the lay-people.

    So, in some sense, someone can ignore a biologist who says "Evolution is true" if they think "Well, the Bible says otherwise". In their mind, they are just as much of an expert as the Biologist who spent probably 10 or 20 years studying Nature. If someone says "I have found a flaw with General Relativity" after reading a few books written for non-experts, they are just as much of an expert as someone who has spent, say, 20 years thinking about the theory. Nevermind that they can't explain where Einstein's equations break down---they don't even know Einstein's equations!

    Science is devalued because everybody's opinion matters!
     
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Does this mean that education in general has less value?
     
  16. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Yes. Exactly. This is why the president can talk about intelligent design being taught in school, or why every paper in the USA contains Astrological charts, or my mother can be sucked in to a movie called "What the Bleep do we Know?". (I still love her, though.)

    The problem is not a damning one, I think. But it is a problem nonetheless. There will always be SOME people who think they can store someone's soul in a crystal, but the hope is that the number will asymptote to zero.
     
  17. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Hmmm. I'll have to think about this.
     
  18. BenTheMan Dr. of Physics, Prof. of Love Valued Senior Member

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    Ok. I think education in America needs some serious reforms. There may be too much emphasis on the sort of erroneous thought I was describing---i.e. that everybody has an equal say and everybody's opinion is important.

    I took a class called "College Teaching and Learning", and one of the books we had to read was "Techniques for a Democratic Classroom" or some such bullshit. I had to continually make the point (much to the chagrin of the professor and the "education" grad students) that science and math education had no business taking place in a democratic classroom.

    So, in some sense, science education IS devalued by the new age "diversity in opinions is a good thing" philosophy. Diversity in opinions is only a good thing if their are valid opinions

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  19. Stryder Keeper of "good" ideas. Valued Senior Member

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    Bentheman,
    Perhaps the Academic community should take a bit more consideration on Darwin's "Theory of Evolution", especially the sub-topic of Survival of the Fittest.

    If the woo-woo's are allowed to dominate the internet because those academic's can no longer stomach the frustration of having to deal with them, they will continue to exist and multiply. In fact if you were to suggest what creature a woo-woo would take after in evolution, you could probably suggest a Worm, Fly or Spider since for the most part they survive all sorts of inhospitable conditions (even Radiation). Scientists in general are much more like a branch within a Genus, in the sense that evolution in their science either makes them "Evolve" their opinion to a new consensus or be at one with the woo-woo worms rebating that the new consensus is build upon false sciences.

    I guess what I'm simply saying is don't allow our planet to be dominated by these "sub-species" because of their resilience, if academics are the fittest... Survive!
     
  20. Athelwulf Rest in peace Kurt... Registered Senior Member

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    Ben, I totally know what you're talking about. As if the common barber or taxi driver who only has a high school diploma (or doesn't, even) could possibly know something the world's top scientists don't.

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  21. Farsight Valued Senior Member

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    I think the underlying problem is that physics doesn't offer enough "grasp" these days. People have an innate curiosity, they want to understand the world, but physics doesn't have the answers. So people try to supply answers themselves.

    IMHO the trouble starts when people who do know about physics fail to respond sincerely. There's a lack of engagement, plus an unwillingness to be open and rational. So the gap grows.

    This isn't something new. Science has always suffered like this. That's why Einstein, an outsider at the time, didn't get a Nobel prize for Special Relativity, but got one for something else seventeen years later.
     
  22. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    And here we have a perfect example:

     
  23. Farsight Valued Senior Member

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    Why do you think I've been writing these essays Q?

    Here's the University of Manchester Maths Tower. I used to have lectures and classes there. It was an inspirational beacon of modern science, a landmark that put the campus on the skyline. Doesn't look too tall does it? That's because this is a picture of its demolition. It's gone now, to be replaced by a Social "Sciences" department and a 1000-seat lecture theatre for the conference circuit. It's part of a vision to recreate Manchester University as an ivy-league old-stone centre groaning with tradition and history. The UMIST buildings will all disappear in time, apart from the red-brick main building.

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    Here's a story about Reading University closing its physics department. Did you ever wonder what the problem really is? Why people aren't thrilled by physics any more?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/5399346.stm

    It's partly because there's an anti-science thought police out there, people who suffer from intellectual arrogance, who see scientists as propeller-heads who cannot be trusted. There's also a whole pile of new-age quacks talking about karma and fortune-telling plus other such crap. And the religious nutter control freaks who think they have all the answers when in truth they have none. But worst of all, within science there's more intellectual arrogance from people who know something about physics, but think they know it all. But again they don't have the answers, so they don't know it all. They learn physics from a book, but they don't do it. Original thought is not allowed. They learn to sneer at new ideas, to disregard them as psuedoscience, psychobabble. They convince themselves that physics is maths, that a postulate is an explanation, that an axiom is a proof. And they talk earnestly about time travel, and parallel universes, and black hole elephants in two places at once, and why it's all too complicated to explain to the layman. It's just dogmatic nonsense.

    I will do my bit for physics. I want to do my bit to make it accessible, interesting, understandable, thrilling, and if I can I'll contribute to the advancement of science. I might get something wrong. I might make a wrong turn. But if you guys don't want to engage and don't want to help, you are most definitely part of the problem, not the solution.
     
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