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Author Topic: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist  (Read 1345 times)

Offline PmbPhy

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The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« on: 27/04/2015 14:23:54 »
A great text on logical reasoning is Practical Logic: An Antidote for Uncritical Thinking by Douglas J. Soccio and Vincent E. Barry. On page 385 the authors give a list of the basic characteristics of a pseudoscientist which are as follows
Quote
1. First and foremost of these traits is that [they] work in almost total isolation from their colleagues ... isolation in the sense of having no fruitful contacts with fellow researchers.

2. The pseudoscientist submits his or her work not to bona fide experts in the field but to the general public, though the general public is not qualified to evaluate it.

3. The pseudoscientist speaks through organizations he or she has founded, thus avoiding genuine peer review and conveying an aura of professional expertise.

4. The pseudoscientist considers himself or herself to be a genius (most likely misunderstood and persecuted).

5. The pseudoscientist regards colleagues to be, almost without exception, "blockheads".

6. The pseudoscientist compares himself to Galileo, Bruno, Pasteur, or other well-known, well-respected scientists whose work met initial hostility and resistance. The pseudoscientist repeatedly cites comparisons between his or her view and historical cases of persecution of true genius, which was initially misunderstood. (This functions as a form of fallacy of positioning).

7. The pseudoscientist exhibits a strong compulsion to focus criticism on the greatest scientists and/or best-established theories of the day.

8. The pseudoscientist tends to write in a complex jargon often making use of phrases, terms and locutions he or she has coined. This rhetoric can be quite persuasive, creating a beautifully crafted jigsaw puzzle of assertions. Clever use of circular reasoning, equivocations, and other persuasive tricks makes it difficult to refute pseudoscience by logic and authentic scientific evidence.
When we refer to a member as a pseudoscientist its because they display many or all of these traits.
« Last Edit: 27/04/2015 14:25:52 by PmbPhy »


 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #1 on: 27/04/2015 18:02:34 »
The problem with characteristic 6 is that it is difficult to think of anyone who made a significant contribution to scientific knowledge, who didn't meet initial hostility and resistance! Names like Bragg and Curie come to mind eventually, but pretty well everyone from Trevithick to the Wright Brothers had a hard time convincing mankind that travelling faster than a horse wasn't the work of Satan.

Methinks your authors are not scientists. A lot of philosophers and other plebs believe that science is about consensus and teamwork. It isn't. It's about a flash of genius that recognises the fourier transform of a double helix or the possibility that nesting pigeons don't emit microwaves, or decides to measure what everyone else took for granted, and discovers that aether/phlogiston/caloric or whatever, doesn't actually exist and atoms are mostly empty space.

Were Darwin and Mendel team players? I think not. Einstein? Harrison (the chronometer man)? Everyone knew the world was flat except Eratosthenes, who measured its radius.

The problem is to distinguish the true genius from the persuasive bullshitter. The answer is, always, "don't shout, show".       
« Last Edit: 27/04/2015 18:07:10 by alancalverd »
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #2 on: 27/04/2015 19:35:26 »
Quote from: alancalverd
The problem with characteristic 6 is that it is difficult to think of anyone who made a significant contribution to scientific knowledge, who didn't meet initial hostility and resistance!
That statement is only about citing those people, not actually being in such a position. I never heard of Einstein say anything like Yeah! Well the said the same thing about Galileo too! :)

Quote from: alancalverd
Were Darwin and Mendel team players?
Absolutely. They worked within the scientific community, not outside of it. That doesn't mean that they played follow the leader though. They were radical in their ideas. But they published their papers in well-known professional peer-reviewed journals. They corresponded with other scientists too.

Well-known, famous and respectable "maverick" scientists

1) didn't work in isolation from their colleagues.

2) didn't submit their work to the general public but to bona-fide experts in their fields.

3) didn't speak through organizations he or she has founded. They all went through the genuine peer review process. They  conveyed an aura of professional expertise.

4) didn't consider themselves to be geniuses - other than those who truly were by being tested or determined so by their colleagues in their field.

5) didn't regard their colleagues to be "blockheads" (at least not for the most part).

6) didn't compare themselves to Galileo, Bruno, Pasteur, or other well-known, well-respected scientists whose work met initial hostility and resistance.

7) didn't exhibit strong compulsion to focus criticism on the greatest scientists and/or best-established theories of the day.

8) didn't use complex jargon, all terms of which they created. This doesn't mean that some of them didn't coin a term here or there. Somebody has to.  :)
 

Offline Thebox

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #3 on: 27/04/2015 20:07:16 »
Rule 0 - The Pseudoscientist see's almost everything they read as protoscience.

Another meaning extends this idea into the present, involving the distinction between hard and soft sciences, in which various sciences (or branches thereof) are ranked according to methodological rigor

I would argue it is us who are peer viewing you...
« Last Edit: 27/04/2015 20:12:50 by Thebox »
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #4 on: 27/04/2015 22:13:07 »
Rule 0 - The Pseudoscientist see's almost everything they read as protoscience.

Another meaning extends this idea into the present, involving the distinction between hard and soft sciences, in which various sciences (or branches thereof) are ranked according to methodological rigor

I would argue it is us who are peer viewing you...
Yeah. We all know how much you think of yourself. And that's exactly what makes you the supreme pseudoscientist, i.e. because you fit the role of #4 ten fold. You think that you're a genius but in reality you're an idiot.
« Last Edit: 27/04/2015 22:17:17 by PmbPhy »
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #5 on: 27/04/2015 22:46:42 »
Quote from: alancalverd
The problem with characteristic 6 is that it is difficult to think of anyone who made a significant contribution to scientific knowledge, who didn't meet initial hostility and resistance!
That statement is only about citing those people, not actually being in such a position. I never heard of Einstein say anything like Yeah! Well the said the same thing about Galileo too! :)


Einstein was far more scathing. Asked to comment on a letter signed by 100 professors denouncing his work, he said "I am delighted. Had I been wrong, one student would have been enough."

I only intended to comment on one aspect of the list, but there are important exceptions to others. I would certainly be wary of anyone who exhibited all the characteristics at once, but I've been privileged to work with a number of mavericks who would fall foul of one or more of these tests. Fortunately as an experimentalist I was able to show what they told, or sell what they had designed, and we live on the fruits of our labours.

I haven't worked with many people who spoke through their own institution, and I've had cause to criticise one who did, but I have admired and enjoyed the company of people who literally mortgaged the family farm to build a factory to realise their "ridiculous" dream in the face of convention - and in both cases they were right. 

Submitting to peer review is not a good idea if you hope to make any money from your discovery or invention. A patent is a public disclosure which is only checked by experts in patent law, to ensure that it is original  (in the UK it doesn't even have to be feasible, as long as it isn't for a perpetual motion machine) and unlikely to undermine State security. You might not consider the invention of magnetic resonance imaging or Facebook to be great science, but they are the subject of patents and copyrights, not learned papers. And to which "bona fide experts" in the field of vaccination or evolution could Jenner and Darwin have submitted their groundbreaking hypotheses?

The wars of the 20th century produced huge advances in scientific understanding as well as engineering applications of fundamental physics and chemistry. Quite how things might have panned out if Randall and Boot (the cavity magnetron) had not worked in total isolation from their colleagues, or if anyone at Bletchley Park (the programmable computer) had even spoken about his work to someone in the next hut, is too awful to imagine (a few years ago, when the 50-year embargo was lifted, one couple discovered that they had indeed both worked at BP but neither had even hinted at it in 45 years of marriage!)

There is evidence that reliance on authority rather than experiment delayed and eventually prevented the German production of a nuclear weapon in the 1940s. Fortunately there were enough mavericks on our side to experiment with graphite moderation whilst the Nazis tried to acquire heavy water (and the Norwegians sabotaged it) on the say-so of acknowledged experts.

Anyway, science all boils down to one thing: experimental proof. I submit that if your hypothesis, invention, or whatever, actually explains everything we already know and predicts the outcome of a practical test better than any other, it  isn't pseudo, however obnoxious its proponent. 
« Last Edit: 27/04/2015 23:41:42 by alancalverd »
 

Offline PmbPhy

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #6 on: 28/04/2015 01:37:39 »
Quote from: alancalverd
I would certainly be wary of anyone who exhibited all the characteristics at once, ...
That's why I said When we refer to a member as a pseudoscientist its because they display many or all of these traits.

Quote from: alancalverd
Fortunately as an experimentalist ...
What exactly do you do for a living? Didn't you once say that you were a medical physicist? If so then that's not quite an experimental physicist. An experimental physicist is defined as follows (from Wikipedia)
Quote from: Wikipedia
An Experimental physics is the category of disciplines and sub-disciplines in the field of physics that are concerned with the observation of physical phenomena and experiments

A medical physicist is defined as follows (again from Wikipedia)
Quote from: Wikipedia
Medical Physics is generally speaking the application of physics concepts, theories and methods to medicine or healthcare. Medical physics departments may be found in hospitals or universities.

Quote from: alancalverd
Submitting to peer review is not a good idea if you hope to make any money from your discovery or invention.
That's a totally separate issue. Peer review is for advancements in science whereas a discovery which will bring in money is accomplished by the application of theory. If the theory isn't published when the discovery goes on the market to make them money then the theory is ripe to be stolen and published by someone else.

Quote from: alancalverd
A patent is a public disclosure which is only checked by experts in patent law, to ensure that it is original  (in the UK it doesn't even have to be feasible, as long as it isn't for a perpetual motion machine) and unlikely to undermine State security.
I'm pretty sure that everyone here knows that. What point are you trying to make?

Quote from: alancalverd
You might not consider the invention of magnetic resonance imaging or Facebook to be great science, but they are the subject of patents and copyrights, not learned papers. And to which "bona fide experts" in the field of vaccination or evolution could Jenner and Darwin have submitted their groundbreaking hypotheses?
Again, what's your point? Are you trying to say that if something isn't peer reviewed then that list claims its not science? I don't see it. The statement The pseudoscientist speaks through organizations he or she has founded, thus avoiding genuine peer review and conveying an aura of professional expertise. cannot be taken to mean that if you're not a pseudoscientist then everything you do is peer reviewed. That would be a serious misinterpretation of that statement.
 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #7 on: 28/04/2015 23:46:46 »
I've just been listening to a radio play about John Snow, the doctor who intervened in the London cholera outbreak in 1854 and demonstrated, against massive peer review, that the source of cholera was waterborne fecal bacteria. He had many of the characteristics of a pseudoscientist: denigrating his opponents as blockheads, working quite cut off from the mainstream, appealing to the public rather than the Royal Society of Medicine... you name it, the man was clearly a crank. His work has saved countless millions of lives.

Ronald Ross really wanted to be an artist, but, working in effective isolation,  discovered the mosquito vector of malaria.
Quote
When the 1902 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was considered, the Nobel Committee initially intended the prize to be shared between Ross and Grassi. Then Ross initiated a defamatory campaign accusing Grassi of deliberate fraud, calling him "a mountebank, a cheap crook, a parasite who survived on the ideas of others."
   Sounds familiar? A Type 1 pseudo! Oh, by the way, he eventually
Quote
became Director-in-Chief of the Ross Institute and Hospital for Tropical Diseases, which was established in honour of his works.
A Type 3 pseudo!

Quote
Despite various publications of results where hand washing reduced mortality to below 1%, Semmelweis's observations conflicted with the established scientific and medical opinions of the time and his ideas were rejected by the medical community. Some doctors were offended at the suggestion that they should wash their hands and Semmelweis could offer no acceptable scientific explanation for his findings. Semmelweis's practice earned widespread acceptance only years after his death, when Louis Pasteur confirmed the germ theory and Joseph Lister, acting on the French microbiologist's research, practiced and operated, using hygienic methods, with great success. In 1865, Semmelweis was committed to an asylum, where he died at age 47 after being beaten by the guards, only 14 days after he was committed.

I could go on, but I'm sure you get my point - the lumpenproletariat hates a genius and dismisses every great advance in understanding because it makes them look as stupid as they are!
 

Offline Thebox

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
« Reply #8 on: 30/04/2015 18:14:57 »
Rule 0 - The Pseudoscientist see's almost everything they read as protoscience.

Another meaning extends this idea into the present, involving the distinction between hard and soft sciences, in which various sciences (or branches thereof) are ranked according to methodological rigor

I would argue it is us who are peer viewing you...
Yeah. We all know how much you think of yourself. And that's exactly what makes you the supreme pseudoscientist, i.e. because you fit the role of #4 ten fold. You think that you're a genius but in reality you're an idiot.

I happily accept I am an idiot, I do not think anything of myself, I paint and decorate for a career, what makes you think that I am not a smart idiot? 

I question the integrity of some of your soft science theories a normal member of the public whom science has not convinced that their soft science theories have any sort of credibility or are logically stable when being put under discourse pressure of the information from an objective none bias view of the integrals involved insisting from a Psuedoscience perspective that present information still falls under the guidance of protoscience and should alter relative to better logic based on physical truths and facts rather than a misconception based on absolute no merit or physical facts.
You define me has a psuedoscientist where as my science is mostly based on your sciences basic axiom facts.   I suggest most of your said theories fall under Psuedo, science can not provide relative evidence when asked for it.
Science is in breach of its own science and contributing to a belief in idiocracy theory rather than 100% actual science fact.
All science provides when we ask is the derivative.

« Last Edit: 30/04/2015 19:09:42 by Thebox »
 

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Re: The Basic Characteristics of a Pseudoscientist
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