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Links With Your Coffee - Wednesday

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It is an unfortunate truth that there is money in pseudoscience, particularly medical pseudoscience. Money both attracts charlatans and also funds their activities, which includes marketing pseudoscience and defending their claims from scientific scrutiny. In this way the game is rigged in favor of pseudoscience.

With0ut effective regulation, sites like ours are forced to play whack-a-mole with the medical pseudoscience du jour. The latest case in point is Titanium Ion Bands – which are just another version of the Power Balance bands that have been previously exposed as nonsense. The idea is that by wearing a small bracelet on one wrist you will experience improved athletic performance. This sounds impossible – because it is. But companies have successfully bamboozled enough of the public to rake in millions.

It is time to reject political movements that turn their backs on science, says Nobel prizewinner and Royal Society president Paul Nurse


 

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http://www.startribune.com/politics/blogs/129821498.html

Minnesota professor offers $1,000 for Bachmann's HPV vaccine victim

His offer was upped by his former boss from the University of Minnesota, Art Caplan, who is now director of the University of Pennsylvania Center for Bioethics. Caplan said he would match Miles' challenge and offered $10,000 for proof of the HPV vaccine victim.

did you note the Random Quote machine was particularly apropos to these posts today.

to wit: "I wish to propose for the reader's favourable consideration a doctrine which may, I fear, appear wildly paradoxical and subversive. The doctrine in question is this: that it is undesirable to believe a proposition when there is no ground whatever for supposing it true.— Bertrand Russell (From Introduction: On the Value of Scepticism, Sceptical Essays [London: Allen & Unwin, 1928])"

I hadn't noticed. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. It's interesting that BD takes the skeptical community to task for not being skeptical of 9-11 while failing to praise them for being skeptical of such as a controlled demolition.

It's also interesting that Norm refers to legitimate disagreement as "trolling."

I was referring to the loose change troll that started the discussion.

Norm does his best to be fair. Trolls are adept at confusing and trapping straight-forward non-trolls, such as Norm, into their web of deceit.

But to answer your question, not all skepticism is created equal. I mean, being skeptical that Santa Claus is real earns you more points than being skeptical that Santa Claus is Dad. You know? Simply being skeptical isn't enough. You have to be skeptical about stuff that warrants skepticism.

Now, in the case of, say, climate change, I think it's okay for climate scientists to maintain a healthy skepticism. After all, that's what the Scientific Method is all about. You form a hypothesis, then you (or others) attack that hypothesis using skepticism. So far, the hypothesis that climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activity has withstood the attacks, but we should continue exercising our skepticism regarding climate change. We (or they) might stumble across something that destroys the hypothesis. But, more likely, they will discover stuff that strengthens the hypothesis. This is the benefit of skepticism.

So where 9/11 is concerned, I think we should be skeptical towards ALL of the hypotheses. My complaint about the skeptical community is that they are accepting one hypothesis, the 9/11 Commission Report, wholesale, while irrationally refusing to even momentarily consider the other hypothesis. What makes this especially aggravating is that the accepted hypothesis has so many problems that even its principal authors have more or less abandoned it.

Even if Chris Mohr is totally, totally right about the way the WTC buildings collapsed, there are so many other things wrong with the 9/11 Commission Report that it deserves critical scrutiny. Now assume that Chris Mohr is only, say, 75 percent right about the way the buildings collapsed. That further strengthens the argument for skepticism.

Big Daddy,

Are you familiar with the difference between an hypothesis and a theory in scientific terminology?

A hypothesis is a proposed explanation based on evidence.

A theory is a form of deductive reasoning based on empirical evidence or known phenomena.

The reason why I asked you the difference between a theory and a hypothesis is because you said the following:

So far, the hypothesis that climate change is occurring and that it is caused primarily by human activity has withstood the attacks

If the notion of climate change has withstood attacks, it would therefore be a theory, right? The notion of climate change is based on empirical evidence. An hypothesis has not been tested to the standard that a theory has been tested.

You're giving too much credit to hypothesis and too little to theory.

sorry, reply to BDM

Well, I guess for hypothesis, I should've said "based on informed conjecture" rather than evidence.

re: "Well, I guess for hypothesis, I should've said "based on informed conjecture" rather than evidence."

Conjecture is a good thing for sure, and essential to any hypothesis'. Whether or not 'informed" conjecture is sufficient to your definition, depends I suppose, on what the conjecture is informed by. My personal favorite for informing my conjectures and thus crafting my hypothesis' is wishfullfillment. Which does not, I suppose exactly work as a surrogate for evidence.

i always thought the lack of clarity in the scientific community itself about the differences between hypotheses and theories was pretty funny. they both are IDEAS about how observed phenomena MIGHT have come about, and they both may include projections regarding the future paths of these phenomena. this is why the FACT that species change and adapt over time is NOT a theory OR a hypothesis, but the idea that one species can mutate into another, which can then no longer reproduce with it's predecessors (the definition of "species") is a "theory". mixing up these two ideas has caused untold damage to the schoolchildren of texas, as well as the readers of ogm. saying (as joann does) that the difference between a hypothesis and a theory merely refers to how thorough and extensive the testing (by experiment) has been ignores the intertwined history of the two words, the two concepts, and how they are actually understood by most people. in the end, zeno's paradox: a theory or hypothesis that hasn't actually HIT the target can not be deemed a fact. they are just more or less (depending on the extensiveness and reliability of the tests) working models which still include inexplicable anomalies. and working models are just fine, so i don't see what the big deal is, especially about teaching them in science classes. "here- here's a working model. go disprove it if you can, you ignorant, pre-biased 17-year old zombie".

and for the adults, for whom these are ideological/political issues of life and death (you have my sympathies), the latest edition of the oxford english dictionary is no arbiter of "truth", certainly not to a scientist. it's not even accurate about what people actually mean by the words they use, it is merely a guide. the practice of charitable reading is much more useful in these cases than just looking something up in the dictionary. but how many of us actually do this?

and creationism- some say (not here of course) "why not teach it as an alternative theory to evolution"? well the simple answer is, it's NOT a theory- by any definition. it is an argument from authority- a form of argument that i do not, as most here do- consider completely without value, BUT it has no place in science. no one says "relativity must be true because einstein said it"- NO ONE. the evidence for relativity, like evolution and climate change, etc. must stand or fall on it's own merits, because that's what science IS.

unfortunately, i've seen people here for many years now, and certainly not just here, playing the same game as the creationists do- making arguments from authority, the "authority" being science itself! "evoloution is true because mr. science says so and he's a whole lot smarter than mr. god (or whoever). it's like you adopt their terminology to fight them! this is why it's gone on so long! listen: argument from authority does have it's place. but NOT in science. so stop pretending (and acting like) it does, and just admit (and celebrate, and hold tight to the TRUTH) that argument from authority has NO PLACE in science and therefore, no offence, religious folks, but you're in the wrong game here, the "argument from authority" people are meeting down the hall to the right.

instead of what you've BEEN doing, which is saying: "oh yeah? well my authority is smarter than your authority". which is demeaning to science AND religion, and perpetuates the ignorance and confusion of our children.

Yeah, right, but Patty likes to rock 'n roll

You know jonathan, me i'm like Patty, just a widdle hot-dog lovin' Mercan,☺ and I could never hope to be as sophisticated as you are, alas.. And thus all this discussion re hypothesis and theories goes over my widdle head.

joann: even my (science professor) daddy told me there were holes in my previous 2 comments here wide enough to drive a truck through (though he agreed with the gist) but you were so gentle and humorous with me- i know your "widdle head" could have given me quite a headache if you had chosen to, so thanks for being merciful. maybe you saw my heart was in the right place or something. yours sure is. :)

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