Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science

Discussion in 'Human Potential, Self Discovery' started by Udarnik, May 1, 2015.

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  1. Udarnik

    Udarnik Gold Meritorious Patron

    With apologies to Martin Gardner.

    I wanted to start a thread on paradigm-breaking science, because there is a lot of woo floating around the fringes of the Co$ that sucks even Exes into its orbit. A lot of that, I suspect, is because of long subconscious conditioning which leads to the slow peeling of the onion that leaving $cientology for good requires.

    Those who "know how to know" have a predisposition and / or a habitual tendency to prefer to be in a position of keeping secrets. Of having knowledge that other people don’t have that unlocks some of the mysteries of life. At least, that’s my observation and opinion.

    Before a person can undo that influence in personal thinking, there must be an understanding of the mechanics of delusion, quackery and crankhood. How do perfectly reasonable people go off the rails? That’s been a subject of my own, personal inquiry since I first learned of Linus Pauling’s descent into quackery – and that pre-dates my fascination with the Co$ by a good decade.

    There seem to be a few main mechanisms. I will note that the main mechanism for the layman seems to be somewhat different from the main mechanism for the trained technician. Which, I guess, isn’t surprising.

    I think it might be illustrative to look at two of the most-abused subjects by laymen in the current pseudo-scientific ecosystem: quantum mechanics and epigenetics. JustSheila put me onto this with a question about epigenetics that she asked a few months ago, and I’ve finally gotten around to the beginnings of an answer, but it’s grown into something more philosophical and general in my mind.

    But I also find that philosophy without concrete examples tends to devolve quickly towards mental masturbation. So in future posts, I’ll look at QM and epigenetics in detail, and from there take a look at how they’re distorted by quacks, cranks and charlatans.

    I think a series of posts will be better than a wall o-text, though.

    More, later.
  2. RandomCat

    RandomCat Patron with Honors

    I see a lot of conspiracy theory junk on Facebook and elsewhere.
    For example, I'm amazed at how many people believe that chemtrail nonsense... It seems to go beyond just believing in a particular 'theory'. It's believing that you live in a world where it's likely that: Over 10,000's of people can be directly involved in a longterm nefarious activity and still keep their mouths shut about it; and that the 'leaders' or instigators would be willing to risk having that many people involved.
    (And apparently many of people believe in multiple conspiracy theories.)
    It's sort of a dark conspiratorial view of how the world operates that becomes something like a religious belief for some people.
  3. Chris Shelton

    Chris Shelton Patron with Honors

    Just because I have not only commented on this subject before but because I actually made a whole video about what I think of conspiracy theories, I'll embed that video here since I think it's relevant to this discussion. I believe that much of what I've said in the video applies equally as well to quackery and pseudo-science. It is so frustrating and saddening to see how many people on my FB page fall for this nonsense, from the buffoonery of Dr. Oz to the chemtrail/911 Truther/anti-climate change people who think that Big Government is behind every sniffle and sneeze in their lives, or who wouldn't be able to differentiate an actual fact from an opinion if their very lives depended on it.

    There's plenty more I could say on this but let's see where this thread goes.

  4. Techless

    Techless Patron Meritorious

    With all said prior, regarding conspiracy's, here and everywhere: what I notice is that you (I) cannot seem to find a single person believing in just 'one', and who can contain a 'conspiracy' to just that one thing.

    (sorta red flag to me these days)

    It (conspiracy) always has to be tied to others, and either it goes into total brain melt down, or a series of cases of 'then all the others' tying in aspects to other 'pop' conspiracy things from these times = total paranoia.

    Seems scn has done a very great job with that whole thing -
    Seems scn has used this to their great capitalization efforts.

    (I mean: to casually 'suggest' of slightly plausible conspiracy, then move on to make yourself the greatest one of all...)

    Not too hard anymore, for me at least, to see how one can become 'entangled' within.

    A master trick indeed if there ever was one.
  5. catarina

    catarina PTS Type III

  6. Teanntás

    Teanntás Patron Meritorious

    If we are going to talk about conspiracy theories we should look at the beginning of the usage of the term and how it became a derogatory term

    http://jfk.hood.edu/Collection/Weis...rs New York Times Series 12-25-77/Item 08.pdf

    How to handle these pests

    Cass Sunstein has long been one of Barack Obama’s closest confidants. Often mentioned as a likely Obama nominee to the Supreme Court, Sunstein is currently Obama’s head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs where, among other things, he is responsible for “overseeing policies relating to privacy, information quality, and statistical programs.” In 2008, while at Harvard Law School, Sunstein co-wrote a truly pernicious paper proposing that the U.S. Government employ teams of covert agents and pseudo-”independent” advocates to “cognitively infiltrate” online groups and websites — as well as other activist groups — which advocate views that Sunstein deems “false conspiracy theories” about the Government. This would be designed to increase citizens’ faith in government officials and undermine the credibility of conspiracists. The paper’s abstract can be read, and the full paper downloaded, here.

    Sunstein advocates that the Government’s stealth infiltration should be accomplished by sending covert agents into “chat rooms, online social networks, or even real-space groups.” He also proposes that the Government make secret payments to so-called “independent” credible voices to bolster the Government’s messaging (on the ground that those who don’t believe government sources will be more inclined to listen to those who appear independent while secretly acting on behalf of the Government). This program would target those advocating false “conspiracy theories,” which they define to mean: “an attempt to explain an event or practice by reference to the machinations of powerful people, who have also managed to conceal their role.” Sunstein’s 2008 paper was flagged by this blogger, and then amplified in an excellent report by Raw Story's Daniel Tencer

    Last edited: May 1, 2015
  7. JustSheila

    JustSheila Crusader

    In today's newspaper, there was an article about a Chinese couple whose child was diabetic and they'd gone to a Chinese herbalist for help. The herbalist charged thousands, starved the child, then slapped him repeatedly. He went into shock and died.

    A few days ago there was a spread about the woman who made up a story about curing herself of cancer. She'd never had cancer at all, but made a lot of money from the anti-medicos who never even questioned her.

    Some people will spend their entire lives believing this crap, despite all evidence otherwise.
  8. Teanntás

    Teanntás Patron Meritorious

    I suggest to anybody who might be tempted to buy miracle products to go to lef.org and see for themselves what research if any has been done on the particular ingredients. Between those who have an absolutely closed mind and those who are completely gullible are those who research and see what the facts are.
  9. Intentionally Blank

    Intentionally Blank On a mission...

  10. Udarnik

    Udarnik Gold Meritorious Patron


    I have to switch my brain back into real English, I've been dealing all day with an Eastern Euro doctor with an accent even I have trouble with, while translating Japanese drug package inserts for him on the fly. My brain is buzzing like a beehive.

    But I promise I'll have something up tonight.

    Maybe. :p
  11. Teanntás

    Teanntás Patron Meritorious

    It's going to be interesting to see what you have to say about Scientologists and their views on quantum mechanics and epigenetics which views also infect exes.
  12. Cat's Squirrel

    Cat's Squirrel Gold Meritorious Patron

    Eric Laithwaite (whom I've once heard lecture btw) was an interesting man with a powerful and original mind. An engineer from the North of England who established a solid reputation with his work on linear propulsion motors, he aroused some controversy by telling an assembly of eminent scientists that he'd studied the motion of a gyroscope and concluded that it demonstrated a flaw in Newton's laws of motion.

    Here's a video with some discussion (apologies for the terrible image quality; I'll try to find a better one);


    As far as I'm concerned (I never went beyond advanced high school physics) the jury's still out on whether or not he was right.
  13. JustSheila

    JustSheila Crusader

    Thank you for starting this thread, Udarnik, and also for putting the time and effort into answering my question about epigenetics. I know it is a big question and difficult to explain, but I thought it was an important one, as it is about the hottest science out now which explains many effects that some had assumed to be based on past lives or some other spiritual aspect.

    As far as falling for fallacies and things, I also know a once reputable avian veterinarian who went off the deep end into quack science in desperation to find a cure for Beak and Feather Disease. He started out on the right trail of its virus origin, but then went off into weird herbal and other remedies and did some terrible things to sick birds with his quack testing. He still collects donations for B&F affected birds, and at this point, I believe his motivation is the wealth and security he now has from the donations, since innoculations have already been created by others and the birds themselves are - over a number of generations - gradually developing their own immunities as well. They are visibly far less affected, plus mating with released, inoculated birds. The disease itself will die. The birds have survived the dinosaur age - they are not about to die out with their amazing DNA. I would love to know more about the science behind these sorts of things.

    But back to this vet - he was desperate for a solution and so frustrated that he turned to an area in which he was practically illiterate and used his own degrees and experience from the vet area to present himself as a knowledgeable and trustworthy researcher into herbal and other remedies. He failed so badly at even standard bird care that he was no longer welcome in this area (to put it mildly).

    Personally, I still have a sort of "mind jump" to magical thinking when I am feeling desperate. This is something I am still working on. It's sort of a mind glitch, but I think everyone has this weakness - it's just not everyone has had it exploited to the degree we have as exScns where the glitch becomes a well-known, habitual mental path.
  14. Teanntás

    Teanntás Patron Meritorious

    "exScns where the glitch becomes a well-known, habitual mental path"

    Really! - it hasn't been my experience with exes and I don't think that 'magical thinking' has been demonstrated to any extent on this board - quite the opposite I think.
  15. SPsince83

    SPsince83 Silver Meritorious Patron

    I don't care if you were never in, we simply don't allow case on post. Language is just a consideration. Ethics for you. Condition of Contusion. Formula: Find Out WTF.

  16. Terril park

    Terril park Sponsor

  17. JustSheila

    JustSheila Crusader

    Really! I've only known a few hundred who have recovered or are recovering, plus my own experiences, but I'm only an ex. What do I know?

    Why would there be any demonstration on this Board? Are exes incapable of rational thinking and conversations? Why did you omit the rest of what I said from your summary of my quote - that it was after feeling desperate?

    Why would an ex feel desperate on a forum, anyway? How would you know an ex's private thoughts from a forum?

    Really. Yes, that is my opinion. Really. And yours is simply an outsider's opinion reading a forum. Sorry I shared. You must be an authoritee therefore I must be wrong as you would know better than me or other exes what I and others might think.

    And no, I am not going to describe the private moments I have observed in others where this has occurred, nor my own for your gratification.
  18. Teanntás

    Teanntás Patron Meritorious

    This is what you wrote

    " It's sort of a mind glitch, but I think everyone has this weakness - it's just not everyone has had it exploited to the degree we have as exScns where the glitch becomes a well-known, habitual mental path."

    You suggest that exes have a worse case of 'magical thinking' than average people . I disagree - it's not my experience. That doesn't mean that I'm unaware of the abuses that happened and are happening in Scientology. This 'outsider' was a staff member at a class 4 org and also a sea org member.
  19. Udarnik

    Udarnik Gold Meritorious Patron

    Since I’ve gone all philosophical, or at least psychological, here, let me describe some behavior I’ve observed over the years.

    Laffy was not so far off the norm in claiming to have done things he couldn’t or didn’t. Retired military types are plagued by wannabes and stolen valor. And when it comes to science, which carries so much prestige in the modern world, lots of people pad their resumes, as it were. Even scientists.

    Science is hard. It’s even hard for scientists. It takes a lot of time and skull sweat. It’s not surprising that a lot of people want to seem like they know something about it, and then look for a shortcut to that status. Sort of like an intellectual black market.

    Scientists, or budding scientists, who want to take shortcuts generally derive their pretense from arcane knowledge – in the sense that they study topics that aren’t in the normal curriculum. There were a couple of guys I went to grad school with like this.

    One was an Organiker who had done a fair amount of undergrad research. In our late night bull and study sessions, he would go on about topics such as the chemistry of Schiff Bases. It’s possible to be a competent and well-rounded non-Organic Chemist and have only the vaguest notion of what a Schiff Base is, so to us non-Organikers, he sounded like he knew his shit.

    He didn’t.

    He flunked out.

    Learning about one branch of advanced chemistry as an apprentice in a lab that specialized in it didn’t mean that he’d put in the hard work to thoroughly understand and memorize all the basic stuff that every chemist, and then on a more advanced level every Organic chemist, is supposed to understand. But he had me snowed for a while.

    There was another guy kinda like him. He was an Analytical Chemist, and he seemed like the archetypal brilliant geek. He spent hours fiddling with his computer (an Amiga, back when owning one was a sign of serious geekhood). He talked about all the right geek callsigns: Dr. Who, Douglas Adams, etc.

    But when it came time to take Electroanalytical Chemistry and write a program that simulated chemical reaction rates at a standard electrode? Flunk. Fucking around with games programming and image file manipulation does not an Electrochemist make. (Writing that program didn’t either, as I was able to write the code, and I would rather eat lead paint chips than take another Electrochem class.)

    This guy didn’t actually flunk out per se, but he did wash out with the Chemistry Ph.D. Program Consolation Prize: an MSc. He was in no way Ph.D. material.

    Laymen sometimes indulge in this kind of obfuscation when pretending to scientific competence, but it takes some skill to pull off. Usually they indulge in a related, but different dodge from the hard work involved in becoming truly competent: the Paradigm Shift.

    If you’re familiar with Thomas Kuhn’s work, you’ll be familiar with the popular division of science into drudge work and earth-shaking revelations. That’s actually a great over-simplification, but let’s run with that general division for a moment, because there is a kernel of truth, there.

    Laypeople who lay claim to scientific knowledge they don’t actually possess actually generally follow Laffy’s pattern: they are wannabees. They failed at actual introductory science courses, but they want to be seen having deep conversations with the big boys for their own egotistical reasons. So they pull out the Paradigm Shifts. Everyone, even the most scientifically illiterate laypeople, have heard of these things, but few know exactly what they are, other than they turned some piece of scientific understanding on its head.

    And there’s the draw for the wannabe layman: with the Paradigm Shifter, they can brush away all that pesky science they failed to get a grasp of when they had the chance.

    Don’t really understand Statistical Thermodynamics and the Three Laws? But you still want to debate perpetual motion? Call on Quantum! That’s the ticket! Want to talk about how the AMA and Big Pharma and Biologists have it all wrong? How you can inherit memories or change your genetic inheritance? Epigenetics! Didn’t that just overturn all that Mendelian shit and show up the hard-earned knowledge of all those high school biology teachers who flunked your ass for not knowing a Punnett Square from a T-square?

    I had an undergrad student who used to pull this shit all the time. She bounced from introductory class to introductory class, withdrawing most of the time to avoid an "F" on her transcript. She'd talk your ear off about Quantum Mechanics and action at a distance and the double slit experiment. But learning how to write chemical structures or Lewis Dot Structures? Nah, couldn't be bothered. Her mind was tuned for the hard stuff, just like her great uncle. Oh yeah. She also claimed to be the great niece of Nikolai Tesla. For all I know, she really was, 'cause that dude, despite being bright enough to light a stadium (hah!), was also nutty as hell.

    Scientists and budding scientists usually don't touch those paradigm shifting ideas when they have pretensions and feel like taking short cuts. There are too many genuine experts, and the topics are so popular with scientists of all stripes, that the unwary can be tripped up and embarrassed before they can get a good argument running. Once in a while a famous crank tries something like that, and fails so spectacularly that entire scientific societies can change their publishing rules as a result.

    But laypeople keep on pushing Paradigm Shifts in the lay press and getting away with it, because most people don't know enough to spot the exact locus of the bullshit, and the people who do are too busy conducting real science to bother debating nitwits. The only way to arm oneself against getting suckered is to understand how, exactly those Paradigm Shifts came about, and which paradigms they did – and didn’t – shift. It doesn't mean you have to understand all the details of the science. It does mean, however, that you have to understand the basics, and the context of those basics.

    Knowledge is power. Ignorance is ruin.
    Last edited: May 4, 2015
  20. JustSheila

    JustSheila Crusader

    You snipped out the sentence before and twisted what I said. It sounds completely different and gives a different meaning out of context like that. I don't appreciate that. Why create a disagreement over something which was not what I said? Or did you just scan it and then give your clinical opinion of exes as if we are some sort of gerbils in a cage for your observation?

    Rude. Read the original again. You generalising "moments of desperation" as a general rule of thumb covering all exes behavioiur under every circumstance - and particularly exes - was your doing, not mine. Your arrogance and attitude toward exes as some sort of rats under your observation is offensive.

    Further, if you actually have not observed for yourself that EVERY human being can and will grasp at even the wildest solutions in a desperate situation that seems to offer no other solution, then you haven't a clue wtf about anything and your opinions are worthless. Talk to a former POW sometime about the radical ideas he had to escape. Then why don't you relate that to how people talk on a forum, as if those circumstances are one and the same. They are NOT.
    Last edited: May 4, 2015

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