Astroturf or idiocy?

I came across this from Tom Naughton’s Fat Head blog. I’ll be riffing on this. First, Naughton is not a careful reporter, he’s sloppy, but, then again, he’s a comedian, not a journalist or academic, and he is writing about topics that will be obscure to most, such as actual Wikipedia process. What he wrote:

Remember the kerfuffle when a rogue editor at Wikipedia targeted Fat Head for deletion? He was, you’ll recall, the same editor who deleted articles about Malcolm Kendrick, Uffe Ravnskov, Jimmy Moore, and pretty much anyone who recommends low-carb diets or disputes the Lipid Hypothesis.

The editor in question, originally “Skeptic from Britain,” (and my page) could not delete anything, he was not a Wikipedia administrator. Was Skeptic from Britain a “rogue editor”? Not really. There is a whole faction of editors (including some administrators) who act in similar ways, but SfB is actually a long-term banned editor (best known as Goblin Face), Darryl L. Smith in real life, according to my research (extensively documented on pages here). He is able to do what he does because of the cooperation of many editors.

He did propose articles for deletion (AfD). Links to the deletion discussions: Kendrick (deleted), Moore (deleted) and Fat Head (kept) — this was nominated as MatthewManchester1994, SfB renamed.

Ravnskov was not proposed by SfB, but by EEng, a snarky editor. (One of the problems with Wikipedia is that too many users with no life treat it like an MMRPG, an opportunity to display adolescent hyper aggression, to win by making others lose.) SfB, however was quite active in that AfD.

In the Fat Head deletion discussion, Jimbo Wales (co-founder of Wikipedia) commented about the nominator:

Strong keep – As others have noted, WP:IDONTLIKEIT is not a valid reason for deletion. It is worth noting that the proposer is a serial namechanger and POV pusher who has now apparently left the project.

When SfB “retired,” he claimed he had been outed on the internet. I was, in fact, accused of being SfB by his brother, on Encyclopedia Dramatica. That is how I came to look at SfB. What I found was that the only outing had been by troll socks, accounts that appear and create disruption (like outing), with no history of comment, and often repeating the same message under different names. The outing named the user who was the only Keep vote in the Jimmy Moore deletion. And that behavior then loudly rang the Darryl Smith bell. This was a sophisticated form of impersonation socking, Darryl’s standard MO, used to harass anyone who criticizes him.

So then I looked at edit timings, spending days compiling and studying data. This was clearly Darryl Smith, previously Debunking spiritualism, now moving from attacking spiritualism and parapsychology (and me, for the sin of having exposed his impersonation socking on Wikipedia, Wikiversity, and the WMF meta wiki), into exposing his “Dislikes = Fad diets, LCHF quackery, pseudoscience.” Did he find a new paymaster? I don’t know.

SfB, before going on a massive Wikipedia editing binge, ending with his “retiring” in December, 2018, had made a few edits to RationalWiki as John66, pursuing the anti-low-carb agenda, and when he did retire, John66 started up in earnest and is still quite active. There, he is now a sysop (RatWiki gives out that easily). The entire RatWiki site is largely dedicated to identifying and exposing “quacks, charlatans, pseudoscientists, and conspiracy theorists.” Is that astroturf? Well, maybe, to some degree. More likely it is a pile of nut cases itself (with a few exceptions).

On the conspiracy side, Darryl Smith has claimed (through socks identified behaviorally and sometimes with technical data) that he has been paid by “a major skeptical organization.” These organizations are dedicated to “debunking,” which is where the genuine skeptical movement went, losing its original scientific underpinnings and methods, becoming highly pseudoskeptical.

It is not skeptical at all, it is a “believer” movement, believing in “mainstream opinion,” even when it is not actually “evidence-based.” I.e., “evidence-based medicine” — what a great idea! — becomes “widespread opinion-based” — and widespread opinion can be highly vulnerable to astroturfing, or more deeply, to the effect of research funding and promotion.

Deletion discussions on Wikipedia, while they are sometimes influenced by opinions like “quackery,” turn on “notability,” which in Wikipedia policy is based on the availability of sources for verification of article content, and what sources are usable can be highly controversial, but if there are mainstream “secondary sources,” sources that review primary sources, or that have a business necessity for fact-checking, these will be considered “Reliable source.” Wikipedia policies are arcane to the uninitiated, because “Reliable” does not mean “reliable.” Get it?

The articles on Kendrick and Moore were deleted because of lack of adequate coverage in reliable source. That can change. “Quackery” as claimed by SfB was irrelevant, but it fires up his own support base. By guidelines, the number of votes doesn’t matter, it is the arguments that count, but in reality, some administrators are lazy as hell and just look at the votes. You can tell by the close comments. I have never seen an administrator even reprimanded for a “consensus is delete” close where it was not a “snow closure” — massively obvious — but actually not a true consensus. Sophisticated users will know how to appeal a decision, so, in theory, this is harmless. In practice, the project is slowly warped toward either majority opinion, neutrality be damned, or toward the opinions of a highly motivated faction, which can wear down and burn out users interested in creating a neutral project (i.e., following traditions of academia, that were the basis for the original encyclopedias, or of journalism, as represented by Sharyl Attkisson.)

So, that Wikipedia article on Attkisson. From the message she has in her TED talk, I expect to see her attacked on Wikipedia. Sure enough, this is how it is done (current version)

Anti-vaccine reporting

In her reporting, Attkisson has published stories linking vaccines with autism, despite the fact that the scientific community has found no evidence of such a link.[32][33] Seth Mnookin, Professor of Science Writing and the Director of the Graduate Program in Science Writing at MIT, described Attkisson as “one of the least responsible mainstream journalists covering vaccines and autism. Again and again, she’s parroted anti-vaccine rhetoric long past the point that it’s been decisively disproved.”[34]

I immediately notice a very unlikely claim reported as a “fact.” “The scientific community has found no evidence,” is essentially a lie. There is evidence, but it is also possibly countered by other evidence. “There is no evidence” is a common claim of fanatics, when there is evidence. When someone is guilty of a crime, they are likely to say, “They have no evidence,” but in court, a case will be immediately thrown out if there is no evidence. Rather, in an unbiased proceeding, plaintiff and defendant will present evidence (vetted for being admissible) and the judge or jury will balance and weigh it.

“No evidence” is rhetoric, fake news, and a tell-tale sign of someone attempting to influence opinion by lying or misrepresenting reality. So how is this allowed on Wikipedia? I will look at the process below, but the notes are:

32. politico.com: sharyl-attkisson-suggests-media-matters-was-paid-to-target-her

Former CBS News reporter Sharyl Attkisson has accused the liberal watchdog group Media Matters of targeting her reporting, and believes someone may have even paid for them to do it. […]

Attkisson’s reporting has come in for a fair amount of criticism as well, and not just because it frequently targets the Obama administration. She has previously published stories about possible links between childhood vaccinations and autism, and stood by those reports on Sunday even as Stelter noted that doctors believe framing the idea as a “debate” is dangerous and encourages parents to not vaccinate their children. (The majority of the scientific community disagrees with that assertion and the CDC says there is no evidence of a link between vaccines and autism. A famous 1998 study that did purport to find a connection between autism and a vaccine was retracted in 2010.)

“I’m not here to fight doctors,” Attkisson said. “I’m just saying that factually, I’m not here to advocate for one side or the other. I’m just saying factually, there are many peer-reviewed published studies that do make an association, and the government itself has acknowledged a link.”

The article’s expression was confused. The “assertion” just before the claim of majority disagreement was that framing the idea as a debate is “dangerous.” This is a classic fascist argument, by the way, used to suppress dissent. Socrates was condemned for “corrupting the youth” by asking dangerous questions. However, they mean that the majority disagree with a “possible link between vaccination and autism.” This is commonly not represented accurately. The claimed link is, as I understand it so far — I’m gradually becoming more informed on this — between MMR trivalent vaccine and autism. I am very skeptical about this claim. But I would not agree that it is impossible. In any case, “majority” implies that there is dissent within the scientific community, and not merely some single crank (or, for that matter, a single visionary). This is actually contradictory to “there is no evidence.” Rather, first of all, most of the scientific community is not specifically informed, that’s normal. Rather, what can be found is that certain organizations, possibly influential, have issued conclusions. Based on balanced weighing of evidence, or otherwise, these, as science, will stand as evidence for the conclusion, but it is opinion, interpretation, not fact. (Evidence is fact or “witnessing.”) It might even usually be correct, in some way, but “science” goes astray when what is interpretation and opinion becomes “evidence,” and is used to deny that evidence even exists.

Is Atkinsson correct? The CDC page cited now redirects to a different page, with no reference to autism. The Politico article was dated 04/21/2014.  The archive.org snapshot of that page the day before shows concern about autism, and then has:

a scientific review by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) concluded that “the evidence favors rejection of a causal relationship between thimerosal–containing vaccines and autism.” CDC supports the IOM conclusion that there is no relationship between vaccines containing thimerosal and autism rates in children.

That review clearly is about a weighing of evidence, and does not support the idea that “there is no evidence.” Is Attkisson correct that “the government itself has acknowledged a link”? The evidence shown above does not contradict her statement, which is vague and could mean almost anything. What Politico was reporting on was a CNN interview. 

(the interviewer there actually supported the idea that there is a campaign to discredit Attkisson. That, of course, does not end up on Wikipedia!)

In that interview, it is not impossible, nor would it even be surprising, if Attkisson’s views were not flawlessly expressed, or were obsolete. Her actual stand is that people should not blindly depend on her opinions or anyone else, but should dig and think for themselves, and carefully, because there is a great deal of intentionally or carelessly deceptive information available. On that stand, I agree with her completely. Even if the autism/vaccine link was a mistake. Demonizing critique (anti-vaxers are called “murderers”) “controversializes” the very process of free democratic review that is essential to science and to sane public policy.

It is fascist, and, yes, fascism can be on the left or the right. It always has “good reasons” for suppressing dissent. After all, who can be against trains running on time? Or, for that matter, the public being protected from “quackery” and “pseudoscience”? Those vague hazards are not actual risks except to those who choose to follow them, and so fascism protects the public from its own “wrongness,” which itself alienates elements of the public, which can see that forces are attempting mind control. The anti-vax hysteria is fueled by suppression. (And it can itself be fascist, see my fascism post linked above.)

Whew! That’s just the first footnote.

33. Anti-Vaccine Movement Causes The Worst Whooping Cough Epidemic In 70 Years. This is a Forbes blog story, it has apparently been taken down.  Archive.org. The author is Steven Salzberg. From his Wikipedia article:

Salzberg has also been a vocal advocate against pseudoscience and in favor of the teaching of evolution in schools, and has authored editorials and appeared in print media on this topic. He writes a widely read column at Forbes magazine[19] on science, medicine, and pseudoscience. His work at Forbes won the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking.[20]

The “widely read” is editorial insertion, not sourced. The link is to the column itself, violating policy. (I.e., it does not establish notability of the column, though this can be allowed with editorial consensus.) The Prize is awarded by, surprise!, the Center for Inquiry, the descendant of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, which became, contrary to its title, a debunking organization going after any fringe science. That “Critical Thinking” award is for “Skeptic Authors,” but the only “Skeptics” awarded are those who debunk skeptics as “pseudoscientific,” whether they are or not. (This faction would call “cold fusion” “pseudoscientific” on Wikipedia, and tried many times, even though the basic ideas are testable, have been tested, and the bulk of the evidence confirms that there is an anomaly and that it is nuclear in nature. But who cares about evidence, if you can simply attack “believers” as “die-hards” and “cranks,” and “pseudoscientists” ? and if you can exclude clear Reliable Source (so judged by Wikipedia policy and the community) as “biased” or “written by believers.” (RS policy has to do with publishers, not authors).

His first version of the Forbes post, 7/23/2012. His tag line:

Celebrating good science by fighting pseudoscience and bad medicine

This is an activist, with axes to grind. The headline is not science. Period. No evidence is advanced that “antivax” caused the rise in cases.  He wrote:

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the credulous, anti-science, anti-vax CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson.

That was a libel, but it demonstrates how the thinks. This is pseudoskepticism that, as Attkisson points out, becomes an extended ad hominem argument, as a red flag. It was changed later by the version cited on Wikipedia, to

Sometimes it comes straight from the media itself, such as the CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson, who has repeatedly and persistently reported on the purported link between vaccines and autism long after such a link was widely discredited.*

Notice the use of weasel words on one side and affirmative statements with no evidence and actually contradicting some evidence on the other. “repeatedly and persistently,” is how many times, out of a very busy career. And she reported on the link, when, and has her reporting been complete. “Widely discredited” simply could mean that a few people have discredited her, or a vast mob of people like Szalzberg. It’s meaningless, showing only a mass of opinion.

Again, I’m not saying he is wrong. I’m saying that this is conclusory, opinion, not fact, and why was this cited?

It appears that the Attkisson article has been used as a coat-rack for attacking her and anti-vaxx. And that is what happens to anyone who offends the faction. I covered the like of this here, on another person who actually supports vaccination but dared to repeat what anti-vaxxers think. , same pattern with Sarah Wilson. Journalist reports fact (in this case, her idea of what some people think), and is attacked viciously. (in this case, all that undue nonsense was removed from the article a few days ago. But Wikipedia process is entirely unreliable, and initiatives that would have made it reliable have been strongly resisted.)

Still on the sources for the Wikipedia article:

34. A blog, The panic virus, entirely devoted to attacking criticism of vaccines. Not reliable source. Vaporized. Archived. More embarrassing anti-vaccine reporting from CBS News’s Sharyl Attkisson, by Seth Mnookin. In addition to much hysteria, what it had on Attkisson was conclusory and based on various concurring opinions (other bloggers!), not any kind of overall survey. This is an information cascade, not “science-based.” There may be some science referenced, to be sure, but science is not a body of conclusions, rather it is a large body of evidence (actual “knowledge”, much of it from, at best, controlled experiment, but interpretation is always conditional and subject to revision based on new evidence, as well as recognition of possible deficiencies in previous analysis. And that is how and why science moves on. Bottom line, this was correctly attributed as Mnookin’s opinion, and he might be considered notable. Is there any balancing evidence? I will look at the history below to see if any was asserted.

Mnookin, by the way, has a book and all this could be seen as pushing his point of view. Authors commonly display a bias toward their own point of view, big surprise? Not.

The book is The Panic Virus, so he could be seen as creating a business around this. (Much as Gary Taubes is accused of doing around low-carb, on the opposite side from the Wiki fanatics. It is plausible that Taubes has a bias, and Taubes actually calls his latest book, The Case Against Sugar, the “argument for the prosecution.” Biased. Now, does “biased” mean, “to be excluded from public discourse and respect”? People with one point of view commonly call opposing views “deluded” or “biased.” The defense very often claims the prosecution “has no evidence.”

Both of which are irrelevant arguments, conclusory, not related to fact.

The Wikipedia article on Attkisson continued:

In 2011, Paul Offit criticized Attkisson’s reporting on vaccines as “damning by association” and lacking sufficient evidence in his book Deadly Choices.[35] In the medical literature, Attkisson has been accused of using problematic rhetorical tactics to “imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit.”[36] Attkisson said that she favors vaccinating children, but claimed that research suggests that “a small subset of children” have brains that are vulnerable to vaccines.[37] She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

35. So, again, a book.  Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All

This is the argument of medical fascism. The choice not to vaccinate may, if the mainstream is correct, increase risk, but only very slightly for any individual. There is an increased collective risk only if the number of those making that choice rise to a significant percentage of the public. Vaccines are also not completely effective, complicating this.

If a vaccine were 100% effective, it would fully protect the public that chooses to be vaccinated, and others would be at risk, presumably with their own choice, or that of their parents. It is a common fascist practice to take over parenting from parents, in favor of something “better.”

The non fascist answer to the refusal problem would be education, but if the education is fascist propaganda (i.e., excludes and demonizes contrary opinion), it will increase the power of anti-vax arguments, because the oppression can be seen readily, and it does not increase trust in authorities, it has the opposite effect.

I do not conclude that because fascist suppression is used against the anti-vax movement, therefore the pro-vaccination evidence cannot be trusted, but many people will think that and support, then, conspiracy theories.

In any case, this source amounts to a very strong critic of anti-vax attacking a journalist for reporting the other side. It is clear that Attkisson has been criticized, but what is the overall balance? How notable is this, for a Wikipedia biography of a living person?

What is obvious is that critique has been collected, with weak sources being used.

36. Anti-vaccine activists, Web 2.0, and the postmodern paradigm – An overview of tactics and tropes used online by the anti-vaccination movement. Article in Vaccine, a peer-reviewed journal. Copy here.
This is a fascinating article and I could agree with much of it. (I.e, anti-vaxxers use “tactics and tropes.” But so to the critics of “vaccine denialism.” In any case, the article does not mention Attkisson in the body, but cites two sources in footnotes, i.e.,

[92] Gorski D.  Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, . Anti-vaccine propaganda from Sharyl Attkisson of CBS
News, http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/anti-vaccinepropaganda-from-sharyl-attkisson-of-cbs-news-2; 2011 [accessed 25.08.11]. [Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/61D4kploa]

[179] Attkisson S. Autism: why the debate rages, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/autism-why-the-debate-rages-15-06-2007/; 2007 [accessed 24.04.11] [link corrected]. [Archived by
WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/5yAqYL0p2].

[92] was the “science-based medicine blog” which is affiliated with the debunkers at CSI and often is full of attacks on skeptics of mainstream ideas. Snark rules there, as it does in many “debunking” venues. From the Vaccine article:

Works critiquing the anti-vaccine movement are often accused
of being propaganda [89–91]; those on the other side of the issue
accuse anti-vaccine activists of propaganda as well [92,93].

The blog piece has been taken down. This comment about propaganda is certainly true of both sides. “Propaganda” is conclusory information designed to influence. Neutral reporting is not propaganda, through propaganda might refer to it. It is obvious that both sides of this issue create propaganda. That is normal for political activism. 92 establishes the obvious, but this is not what is supported by the Wikipedia article.

179 supports this from the Vaccine article:

4.2.4. “You can’t prove vaccines are safe”
This accusation demands vaccine advocates demonstrate vaccines do not lead to harm [178], rather than anti-vaccine activists having to prove they do. Claims such as “There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out” or “Those who say autism and ADD are not linked to vaccines do not know what is causing the epidemics[179] imply that because there is no conclusive answer to certain problems, vaccines remain a plausible culprit. This involves arguing based on a lack of evidence – not knowing something is true is taken as proof it is false, or not knowing something is false is proof it is true. Likewise, because there have been no studies conducted with the specific conditions antivaccination groups ask for [180], this lack of knowledge means vaccines are not safe. Lists of questions to ask vaccine proponents [181] are circulated with the intention of stumping them, with the inability to answer taken as evidence against vaccination.

I have bolded the statement from Attkisson. The “trope” here is an alleged “implication,” that “vaccines remain a plausible culprit.” That should be a simple fact (about scientific process). If there were no evidence, this would be a terminally weak argument. At the time, however, 2007, the Wakefield et al article linking MMR vaccine to autism had not yet been retracted, and there is (I think) some other evidence. (Attkisson certainly claims it.) Behind this “trope” is an assumption that there is no basis for suspicion, hence the skeptical argument is converted to a straw man argument, essentially, “Because we are ignorant, I’m right.”

What is actually in the CBS source:

6. There is no definitive research proving a link between vaccines and autism or ADD, but there is also no definitive research ruling it out.

And, as well, what was quoted. That was a reasonable piece of reporting at that time, and might still be, the question has become more difficult.  The section then goes on to report more, all more or less standard journalism. She points to what was certainly, at the time, a live debate. She was pointing to the incompleteness of knowledge, and, yes, that would still leave vaccination as a “possible culprit,” but she certainly also asserted evidence to suspect vaccination. It’s worth reading that CBS report, it is an example of what she has been attacked for. Reporting.

Fascist attack on the media. It’s not just Donald Trump!

(Many other tropes in the Vaccine article are like the above. Yes, there are fanatics and those using logical fallacies, but, as noted in what was quoted above, this happens on all sides, except what might be called the “journalistic” or “academic side,” sometimes. When we become more interested in reality, as distinct from our opinions and interpretations, we move toward journalism. I like the Vaccine article, in part, but, as presented, it has a likely effect of “debunking” vaccine skepticism as if it were all based on such tropes. What is missing is a list of tropes on the other side. The article author has a clear position: the abstract concludes with: “Recognizing disingenuous claims made by the anti-vaccination movement is essential in order to critically evaluate the information and misinformation encountered online.”

This is an ad-hominem attack on an entire movement, when such movements will be internally diverse and will also be, for the most part, sincere, not “disengenuous.” The author of the article has a clear and strong position, and fails to recognize that behind most of the “tropes” is a reasonable core, a claim that has some truth, at least under some circumstances. It is necessary to recognize “disengenuous claims” by all sides, not just one side. Most urgently, when opinion is considered to rule instead of balanced evaluation of evidence — all the evidence! — we fall into the rabbit-hole of fascism, of the domination of factions and people who believe they are right, which is never “scientific.” In science, we attempt to prove we are wrong!

The article begins with:

… a new postmodern paradigm of healthcare has emerged, where power has shifted from doctors to patients, the legitimacy of science is questioned, and expertise is redefined

“Power has shifted.” Shifts in power are always vociferously opposed by those holding excess power. “The legitimacy of science is questioned.” What the author is calling “science,” is not science, but “expert opinion,” which may or may not be based on science. Experts put their pants on one leg at a time, and are just as capable of attachment and bias, not to mention financial incentives, gross or subtle, as anyone else.

Most people don’t take the time to study issues, even when they are crucial to their health, they simply are looking for whom to trust, as if there is some infallible person to trust. Such people will be vulnerable to propaganda from either side, whichever they trust more, for reasons that can be complex, based on personal history.

What has happened with the internet is that minority opinion can still organize with relative ease. In response, the mainstream (which is loosely defined and there is always the possibility of a “silent majority”), has become more severely repressive and even punitive toward minority opinion (though it always has been to some degree).

In the vaccine debates, minority opinion is excoriated as highly irresponsible, if expressed, and murder at worst. And, of course, the minority, noticing the suppression, readily develops a conspiracy theory (which may or may not be real) and accuses the mainstream of murder. Of innocent children, of course. Both sides shout “Think of the children!”

One more source:

37. The Daily Beast.  Scandal blog. Sharyl Attkisson: ‘I Don’t Care What People Think’ About My Reporting

This is a fairly balanced story. It is used to support this text in the article:

She has said that pharmaceutical companies are discouraging research into the vaccine-autism link, and that they pressured CBS News to stop covering the purported link.[37]

Well, did they? I do remember that Wikipedia is not about truth, but about what can be verified. So the fact alleged fact here is that she said two things. What did she actually say ?

Attkisson says she is very much in favor of vaccinating kids, but that peer-reviewed studies have suggested the possibility of a “small subset of children” who suffer from difficult-to-detect immune dificiencies that might make their brains vulnerable to certain vaccines, much like some children are allergic to polio vaccines.

But she says Big Pharma has actively discouraged scientific research into possible linkages, and that pharmaceutical advertisers similarly persuaded CBS and other broadcasters not to run stories questioning the risk of vaccines for certain children.

Well, have they? I have not seen evidence either way on that, not yet, anyway. This is a personal interview, in which she may state her suspicions, or it might be knowledge. At this point, from the interview, I don’t know which it is. But the story of Big Pharma (and other established interests) influencing research is routine, an understanding of the problem has become widespread, with increased requirements for funding and conflict-of-interest disclosures.

Never mind that a CBS News veteran, who asked not to be named, says Attkisson’s vaccine-autism reports were eventually killed not because of advertiser pressure, but because they weren’t adequately supported by scientific evidence.

None of the reports I have seen so far were such. I.e, reporting what people think and claim need not be supported by “scientific evidence,” it is ordinary journalism, and the decision of whether or not a claim is “adequately supported” is for review panels of experts (and that itself can be flawed if the panel composition has been warped, which has happened.)

“The fact is, the government has acknowledged there’s a link,” Attkisson says, citing the recent admission by a senior Central for Disease Control epidemiologist that he and his colleagues improperly omitted from a 2004 study the data that tended to support such a link. “They simply say it’s not a causal link.”

No link, no way to check this yet.

What I see as factual here is that she suspects influence from large corporations. It is not black and white, i.e., advertiser pressure or “scientific” evidence or lack of same. What if the advertiser points out the alleged problem? What Attkisson is reporting is that she was prevented from reporting on what she found. Now, that’s an editorial decision, but she decided to give up a contract with a million dollars left on it, if I read the source correctly, effectively not being willing to work under those conditions. That increases her credibility, her stand was contrary to her personal interest. As presented on Wikipedia, this looks like “conspiracy theory,” a common pseudoskeptical trope, though it is not really a conspiracy theory to suspect that large interests would act (and spend money) to defend their interests, that the would support research likely to increase their profits and discourage or at least not support research that might damage profits.

But this little piece of the article does fairly present what she said.

Now, how did the article get this way? Looking at history, I see my old friend, JzG, a blatant and obvious and uncivil POV-pusher who has gotten away with it for years, one of the people who may have complained to get me globally office-banned by the Wikimedia Foundation. For what? Unknown. In any case, here are some fun JzG edits, in reverse date order

  • 20:48, 5 February 2019‎ Reverted good faith edits by 193.173.217.58 (talk): It’s significant that she broadcaSTS ON WINGNUT CABLE (TW)
  • 10:53, 27 January 2019‎ →‎Anti-vaccine reporting: don’t especially like primary sourcing but Mnookin is a published authority so probably OK in this case. [Yup. He knew it was a problem, but did it anyway].
  • 10:47, 27 January 2019‎ Reverted to revision 880322583 by Snooganssnoogans: Revert the usual whitewashing (TW) [what he reverted was closer to sources.]

There was a strong level of churning on the Vaccination section. That’s basically quite old news, why was it still in so much flux? (My answer: there is currently a great deal of hysteria about anti-vaxx as pseudoscientific misinformation causing epidemics, etc. From history, JzG’s point of view would be obvious. He is regular and very predictable, has been for years. Whenever a neutral presentation of sourced fact makes an  article subject look less crazy, the faction will call it “whitewashing,” as if the job of the project is to blacken reputations. To the pseudoskeptics, that is exactly their agenda, to attack “pseudoscience” and “quacks” and anyone who gets in their way.

  • 09:54, 26 January 2019Reverted to revision 879123820 by Ser Amantio di Nicolao: More neutral title since she is anti-vax (TW) [He just lied.]
  • 19:10, 10 January 2019 (→‎Reporting on vaccines and autism: more to the point) [Changes the head to “False reporting on vaccines and autism]

Yes, indeed to the “point,” the POV (point of view) that JzG has been pushing for years. The sources do not support that conclusion. Some of these things were discussed on the Talk page, on which JzG demonstrated his standard rigidity and contempt for other users. He was recently reprimanded by the community and may have gone off on in a huff, he has not edited at all for three weeks, from a pace of many edits per day. It has been noticed, see his talk page. 9 March, he was in Bangalore. So maybe he is travelling.

So what’s the point?

Until we wake up to our need for truly reliable journalism, that avoids unnecessary conclusions (or, more practically, that walls off and distinguishes between fact and opinion) — just as we need reliable government and reliable institutions of all kinds —  and until we become willing to work toward this goal, trustworthiness by design, little will change, my prediction. Existing structures are almost all vulnerable to corruption of various forms.

When we become aware of problems, what do we normally do? Most of us do nothing, we don’t believe that reform is actually possible. A few become activists and create organizations, which, of course, we create using standard models, which are intrinsically vulnerable, or in a few cases, we go for an anarchist model, which, without protective structure, predictably devolves into one of the standard models. See the Iron Law of Oligarchy.

It is known how to create organizations that are not as vulnerable to this, (it has been done here and there) but few know it and understand it. And what I’ve seen, when I have described the approaches to others, is that they will say something like: “I am so glad that someone is thinking about this.” Subtext: so that I don’t have to, end of topic.  One of my old questions:

How many people does it take to change the world?

Two, but most people won’t lift a finger. Literally.

Is there anyone out there willing to take responsibility for the future of humanity? Comments here are open. Let me know!

 

 

Rothwell

subpage of democratic-fascism

Comment by Jed Rothwell on The core of fascism

In reply to Abd ulRahman Lomax.

You can be as wrong as you like, as long as you do not endanger other people.

Yes, of course. However, the core is actually “harm” other people, because “endanger” can be fuzzy, and can involve a balance of risks. It could be said that by drinking alcohol, we endanger others, because we may then exercise poor judgment, as in deciding to drive. But we decided that the harms of prohibiting alcohol (which were also many) outweighed that risk, and we address drunk driving in other ways. These are edge cases, where harm may not immediately be obvious. Who knew that outlawing alcohol would feed the growth of organized crime?

Other people include your own children. Their rights outweigh yours.

They can. However, under normal conditions, the natural advocate for the rights of children is their parents, and a common fascist move, historically, was to remove responsibility for children from parents and place it in collective activity. Against this, there are obviously some parents who are a danger to their children. The present balance is that anyone may report to child protective authorities that a child is in danger, and mandated reporters (therapists, teachers, police are among them) are legally compelled to report. Those authorities will then investigate and report. I’ve had close and extensive contact with child welfare authorities over the years. My experience has been quite positive, partly because I always welcomed the concern. This is what they know: they have the power to remove custody in an emergency, at their discretion, and to seek permanent removal through legal action. They also know that doing so may cause serious harm to the child. Foster care is available, but can also be abusive, with abusers skilled at concealing it. Normal parents love their children and do not want to harm them, so if there are problems, child protective authorities will attempt to work with the parents, providing them with support, which also increases monitoring of the situation. It works.

(Cases where social workers become abusive are rare, my impression. Parents may request that a different worker be assigned to a case, that would be ordinarily routine. Unfortunately, many parents become hysterical when they are reported, and do not respond well. And, of course, some are actually abusive and a danger to the children. But it is not correct that the child’s rights “outweigh” the parents’. In a legal action, both will be considered. The right to safety will generally outweigh the right to freedom of choice of a parent over a child. When there is apparent conflict, the state may appoint an advocate for the child, and if the child is old enough, the child’s wishes may be considered.

Society must protect them from people who would not put seat belts on them, or vaccinate them, or send them to school. I do not think parents should be allowed to educate children at home. It was not allowed until the 1960s, and it was a bad idea to let it happen.

Three cases. Does not putting a seat belt on a child create a clear and present danger? It can be so argued, though the specific risk is low. I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation. However, a bill has been filed in Florida that would allow “the Department of Children and Families to investigate adults for child abuse if a child passenger is injured or killed because they weren’t properly restrained.” Unless the law is strange in Florida about what DCF can and cannot do, anyone (at least in Massachusetts where I live) can make a report to DCF about anything believed to be child endangerment, and they must investigate. So why is this law necessary? Further, it does not allow investigation if the driver of the car is found to have failed to require seat belt usage. That would be the situation of risk. Already injured is horse out the barn door. Weird, indeed.

This report of a mother not having seat belts fastened for her kids, the seat belts were the least of it. That woman needs help, and so do her kids. None of this approaches serious fascism, but there is just a tinge of potential for it in the emotional reaction. (In that first, there is no assessment of actual risk, just some scary statistics that could easily be misinterpreted, and probably are being so. 723 auto accident child deaths in 2016. 35% were not restrained. Unstated and possibly unknown: How many deaths would there have been if all had been restrained? We know that 2/3s of the deaths occurred even if restrained. So we cannot blame all those deaths on lack of seat belts. Some of them, probably. However, the limit looks like it might be about 89.

Nevertheless, if the limit of collectivist fascism was a caregiver being investigated for child abuse because a kid was not wearing a seat belt, which doesn’t seem to be happening yet, I would not be writing about it at all.

The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days.

Notice the extreme language, “always.” That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view. It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers. It is possible that I signed something with information in fine print. I really don’t recall, and I was vaccinated at a drugstore. Very informal. But voluntary vaccinations are not the issue here, the issue is (1) mandatory vaccination and (2) reliability of the information available. I know for a fact that “standard of practice” can be far, far from best practice, given all the information. I’ve learned how to extract better advice from professionals, who are faced with social and legal restraints, all in the name of preventing quackery and malpractice by punishing professionals who follow their own opinions, even if these are carefully researched. Basically, I explicity take full responsibility for my own choices, and they then will tell me what they think, having made sure I know the “standard advice.”

But the very research on which science-based medicine would be based, in theory, has been warped, at least in some cases.

Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.

I recall none such, ever, with seven children. Now, how do you know what “they make you do,” such as would enable you to state, with confidence, that this is what is always done? If you don’t sign the paper, is there then a penalty (yes, of course, they won’t vaccinate unless they can get a court order)! If it is constrained, it is not consent! It’s a slippery slope. The fact is that there are parents who believe there is danger, or “the risk of danger.” If they believe that, should they be legally compelled to consent? As I’m pointing out, that would not actually be consent. Rather, then, the law would allow the professional to treat without consent. More commonly, regulations on vaccination prohibit school attendance if not vaccinated. I was not allowed to volunteer at San Quentin State Prison as a chaplain without a TB vaccination. I have a daughter with a positive TB test result, because she was vaccinated in Ethiopia with a method (BCG) that creates the immune response.

Slippery slope. This is a diversion, because mandatory vaccination is the issue, not required consent.

We are now living in the golden age of personal and parental autonomy. Parents have never had so much freedom to raise their children as they see fit. If you think people had more freedom in the past, you have not read social history.

Jed, you commonly assume ignorance on the part of those you disagree with. It’s offensive. There are ways in which parents today, in the U.S., have more freedom and ways in which we have less.

For example, in New England from the 17th into the 19th century, if parents did not teach their children how to read, or did not take them to church, or teach them “an honest calling,” the state could take the children away and put them in a foster home. See the Massachusetts Bay School Law (1642):

http://www.constitution.org/primarysources/schoollaw1642.html

This was locally enforced, and the law is roughly consistent with law to this day, but obviously religious education no longer applies. This amounts to requiring that children know enough to understand the dominant culture, and is not unreasonable, and it could be argued that this is necessary.
At that point there was no mandatory free public education, so this was actually requiring either school or some form of “home schooling,” which is sometimes a misnomer. The modern movement is partly “alternative schooling” and partly “unschool,” which focuses on non-school methods of education (which has deep philosophical and substantial support from research). One of my seven children was out of school from “6th grade to 8th grade,” by her choice, and she did very well indeed. She decided to go to high school largely for social reasons. To do this legally in Massachusetts required setting up a “home school plan” approved by the local Superintendent of Schools. Without that, DCF would have declared me responsible for “educational neglect.”

Fascist? A little. Not a lot, given the available alternatives, the legal and practical realities. She signed up and personally paid for North Star, Alternative Education for Teens (she was 12 when that started, they accepted her). The last year, my plan for the Superintendent was very simple: I didn’t quite say it this way, but close: She will do whatever the hell she wants, at North Star three days a week, where she can be tutored in whatever subject she chooses, read whatever she wants or her iPhone, and be entirely responsible for her life, buying her own food and paying for everything personal on a fixed budget (social security), receiving only free rent and transportation.

That really was fascist, as were many laws into the 20th century. The Bill of Rights was a dead letter in many ways. However, I think the trend has gone too far the other direction.

For thousands of years the world has been going to hell in a handbasket. The opinion here is about the same as what Mussolini expressed in what I cited in the blog post to which Jed was responding.

I do not know if smallpox vaccinations were given worldwide, but in the 1950s in the U.S. and Japan, everyone got smallpox vaccinations. See:

https://www.chop.edu/centers-programs/vaccine-education-center/vaccine-history/developments-by-year

In the comment to which Jed was responding, I reported the fact about smallpox vaccination in
Australia and New Zealand.  Again, Jed, as appears common, is careless about “everyone.” Certainly many did. Smallpox was a terrifying disease, with high fatality rates. What those rates would be today, I don’t know, but the linked Wikipedia article estimates the fatality rate at 30% of those who contracted the disease, and it was highly contagious (hence quarantine was routine).

Jed doesn’t know, because he didn’t look at sources I cited. Again, this is a trait of popular fascism. He doesn’t need to look at sources, because he already knows the truth, which is about his conclusions, not the details of historical fact. He does not back up and become thoughtful and deliberate and careful. It’s not just about this!

The point is that smallpox was eliminated without universal vaccination. Vaccination played a major role, but it was not necessary to vaccinate everyone. The major concern about smallpox today is “weaponized smallpox.” It existed, and it is known to be possible to reproduce it. So if there was an outbreak, would everyone be vaccinated? That depends on details. Smallpox vaccination has risks, see Smallpox vaccination and adverse reactions. Guidance for clinicians.

For me, vaccination would be contraindicated, were I not already immune (I might still be) because I have had atopic dermatitis, a specific risk factor. However, it’s important to understand the role of quarantine.

The quarantine of persons who have been infected or with risk of having been infected is routine, with dangerous infectious diseases, and mandatory, and I have never seen this called “fascist,” nor would I call it that, because it is a prudent and necessary measure, preventing harm and not causing commensurate harm. It’s temporary, and modern testing may be able to limit its application.

In Australia and New Zealand, only strict quarantine was used, apparently, few were vaccinated.

In any case, such decisions must be made by medical authorities based on the best scientific information available. If they say everyone should get a vaccination, citizens should do as they are told.

That is the state propaganda in a fascist regime. In a democracy (practicing the real thing), public agencies make recommendations, and do have a range of active discretion, but citizens retain, to the extent possible, individual choice.

In a fascist state, Big Brother, who loves everyone like his own children, makes the decisions. The Father of the people. Now, how does Jed feel about the Father of the People’s decisions, through the Ministry of Energy? On cold fusion? After all, we can’t have millions of dollars being wasted on research into pseudoscience, proven long ago to be an error! Just the other day, there was this Answer on Quora. (I also answered that question. If I commented on that other answer as Jed often comments, he’d be whacked by Quora moderation — if anyone complained. I took a small risk with my comment. I do pretty well on Quora, but there are still complaints, and I’m occasionally warned. I appeal this and normally they are withdrawn.)

When the oral polio vaccine was developed, every single U.S. citizen lined and took it — as they damn should have.

A friend of mine died because his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine. He actually developed polio where it was extremely rare and with no other source of infection (this was not a coincidence as is sometimes pretended, see Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show?

I am not arguing against vaccination, only noting how there is advocacy mixed with science, and that paper shows it. I agree that jumping to conclusions from isolated reports can be hazardous, but raising suspicion from isolated reports is not “unscientific.” That paper was designed to deprecate and defuse concern. Whether or not it actually accomplished that would require more study than I have put into this issue, and the vaccination issue is not a major focus of mine.

My actual stand is that parents, to the extent possible, with all issues affecting their health and that of their children, should research the issues for themselves, as far as possible, and have the necessary discussions with medical professionals. It is part of the job of professionals to educate them. When professionals take a paternalistic approach, and treat patients as ignorant children, to be told what to do, they may fail in their job, because many parents will detect the attitude and reject it, deciding instead to trust others.

Thus the stand of “issue is closed, vaccines are perfectly safe!” if argued with disrespect for alternate views, actually causes rejection and harm, even if it is true that vaccination is, overall, more beneficial than harmful (as I personally think likely.)

Fascism. long term, backfires, creating antifascism, which can also be destructive. As should be clear, here, I am not arguing against collective decision-making, only oppressive enforcement without necessity, not respecting freedom of choice.

We need to learn to work together, to communicate, collaborate, and cooperate, and that requires high levels of tolerance for dissent, that can be channeled into constructive discussion.

We cannot have individual parents making decisions that might endanger themselves, their children and other people.

It is already handled legally, when anyone creates substantial risk for others, that communities and authorities will intervene. However, “might endanger” could be carrying it too far. To justify intervention and the deprivation of freedom of choice (which includes religion and decisions about diet, for example), the risk must be substantial, not merely speculative.

Currently measles is in the news. The concern about measles vaccination was originally about MMR, measles, mumps, and rubella, measles itself being, I think, the major disease addressed by that triple-valent vaccine (it is three vaccines in one).

With modern treatment, I do not know the risk of death and serious complications from measles, it may be a bit more than one in a thousand. However, measles remains a rare disease, even with the “epidemic” being declared. In spite of recent media reports, the CDC does not consider that there is a measles epidemic in the U.S. There are much larger outbreaks in Venezuela and Brazil, a few thousand cases per year, and it looks like the fatality rate is on the order of 0.1%.

The public health goal for vaccination is given as 95%. It is not necessary to vaccinate everyone to create “herd immunity.” If there is more than 5% refusal, it is possible to consider alternative measures. I am following discussions in a heart-disease related blog, and there is sometimes mention of vaccination there, and doctors have spoken up that, faced with parental refusal to vaccinate, keep up the conversation, they respect the parents and their rights and their love for their children, but also don’t stop communicating what they know, and they report that, long-term, the parents agree and allow vaccination. That is how to handle misinformation, not by suppressing and condemning it. (And once in a while, what is considered misinformation is actually closer to the truth than mainstream opinion.)

With the risk of actually contracting measles as low as it is, well under one chance in a million if one is simply enrolled in school in the U.S., and then under a few chances in a thousand of long-term harm if infected (I had measles as a kid, big deal! — but sometimes it can be fatal, just not often), the risk to a child from not being vaccinated is well below other major and routine risks, including death from automobile accidents. Not vaccinating a child under those conditions is definitely not child abuse, whether or not it is optimal.

Whose welfare is being considered if the child is not allowed to attend school? The vaccinated ones will remain low risk. (But vaccinations are not 100% effective, another fact sometimes not mentioned). Which is a greater risk to that child, being excluded from school or allowing unvaccinated attendance? (Or, the ultimate consequence in some places of vaccination requirements, seizure of custody from parents, tossing the kid into a foster care system with major risks from that. Foster care is not a particularly safe choice, and child welfare authorities will avoid it unless it is truly necessary.

It would be like letting people install wiring without an electrician’s license, drive at any speed they like, ignore traffic signals, or give away tainted food on the streets. The whole point of having a government is prevent things like that.

I have installed wiring with no license. Perhaps you should report me to the police? I haven’t done it for years, so good luck. People do it all the time. Under some conditions, one might need to have the wiring inspected. If we did not want people to do this, why do we allow the materials to be sold to the general public? What is much more strictly regulated is people representing themselves as electricians without a license, which mostly happens because a customer complains.

I can drive at any speed I like. The basic speed law prohibits driving at a dangerous speed, which varies with conditions. I have been ticketed three or four times in Massachusetts (over 18 years) for exceeding speed limits (a different offense), and in every case, I appeared and appealed if necessary and, in every case, was found not responsible (by default, actually, the tickets were never fully prosecuted).

I was always driving at a normal speed for the stretch of road involved, and there are regulations governing how speed limits are set, that are often ignored. So many speed limit signs are illegal? Who watches the watchers? It is obvious why so many speed limits are set too low and I saw the actual communications between the town and the Highway Department for the first case. The city wanted a low limit so the engineers were drastically over-ruled with no justification given. Just a decision.

Makes it easy to “tax” out-of-town people driving through. Safety? It is well known that speed limit signs have little effect on travel speeds, so putting up a sign doesn’t make the road safer. But it means that any time the town police want, they can go out, and since nearly everyone is travelling faster than the speed limit in that place, stop whomever they like. Steady revenue. And I also talked to a neighbor who had been stopped in that same location (it was two towns to the east of mine). The officer would let you go if you showed some “affinity.” This was never prosecuted, but if I had needed to go to an appeals court, I’d have subpoenaed the town records to see how many tickets were issued to out-of-town residents. I’d bet resident speeding citations were rare.

(I considered all this fun and educational. The judge in the last dismissal joked with me, and the rapport created helped a bit, maybe, in a later case before that judge (completely unrelated, but the legal system is staffed by human beings. At least so far!)

As to giving away tainted food on the streets, this is a much fuzzier issue than it might seem. Actually tainted food, yes, obviously a problem, but free food programs have been shut down for technical issues where the real goal was to prevent feeding unwanted poor people and the homeless, considered a nuisance. No actual problem with the food. Fascist? Maybe, sometimes.

The main problem I see here is knee-jerk expression of opinion without actual research and consideration of alternate points of view. As well, demonstrated is a strange knee-jerk trust in “the authorities,” which is, in some senses, un-American.

That happens all over the place, particularly with social media, and I gave examples in the blog post.

Rothwell’s response

You wrote: “I have never heard of parental rights being terminated because of a seat belt violation.”

Neither have I. In Georgia, violators are fined $50, and the law specifies “violation of this Code section shall not constitute negligence per se nor contributory negligence per se.” What is your point?

It would appear that Jed considers parents who do not consent to vaccination to be neglectful, such that parental rights might be terminated. What did he actually write?

To take a far less extreme example,  parents in Georgia are not allowed to drive children in cars without seat belts. I think that is a reasonable law. On rare occasions, seat belts have caused casualties, but we insist that parents must use them because they save many more children than they kill. I think it is equally reasonable for the law to say no parent should be allowed keep a child from being vaccinated for common, dangerous diseases such as tetanus or polio. The benefits of these vaccinations far outweigh the dangers. Only a doctor should be authorized to exempt a child, and only for a valid medical reason.

Now, he did not recommend that rights be terminated, though that would be a logical extension of the idea. Do we “insist that parents must use [seat belts].” Not actually. Rather, we set up a possible consequence. The fine is small and a citation is not terribly likely under most circumstances where seat belts are not applied for all children. I was in a car with a woman with two children, and one of them refused to sit with his seat belt. We stopped the car and waited until he put on the belt. Some parents, though, might tell the kid he’s in trouble when they get home, particularly if they are not willing to be patient. There are two risks there: there is a small risk of injury to the child from a short period without a belt, and there is a risk of a citation, which is larger but much less serious. Parents balance risks all the time. But here we have a suggestion that the state interfere, and that the state mandate “valid medical reason,” where any doctor may reasonably fear prosecution if he or she agrees with a parent’s concern about vaccination. That’s a huge consequence. For what is arguably a very small risk. Terminally small, under most conditions. (I estimated something like one in a hundred million of a serious consequence to the child.) Not putting on a seat belt is probably a larger risk. And that is the point: from hysteria over a non-existent “measles epidemic,” fascist measures are justified.

Again, to emphasize, I am not claiming that the health risks from vaccination are major, rather I am concerned about the political risks of extending the loss of individual freedoms. There are ways to both protect the public and preserve freedom, but they are commonly passed over, and the general excuse is that the public is ignorant and does not deserve freedom, they will be deceived by quacks and charlatans and pseudoscientists and fanatics of all kinds. Jed ignores all this in favor of shallow “I’m right and you’re wrong” arguments, and the propensity for that was part of my original topic on this issue.

https://www.gahighwaysafety.org/campaigns/child-passenger-safety/ocga-40-8-76/

“That’s a sign of an attachment to a point of view.”

No, it is a sign that I know the laws, and I know how to use Google.

And this is a sign of how careless Jed is. He cites the Georgia law, over which there is no dispute, except in one way: that’s a law and enforcement of the law is distinct and can be different. Nevertheless, that law as written has many ameliorating provisions, and all this reduces the possible oppressive impact. I support that law myself. Further, fines are not automatically levied upon citation, generally, the person may appeal the citation and go before a judge, and judges may then use discretion.

My comment about attachment was in response to this:

The medical professional always informs people of the dangers of a vaccination these days. Before they inject you (or your child) they make you sign a paper with a long list of the dangers. No one is ignorant of the dangers unless he signs without reading the paper.

“It’s simply not true. It may be a norm, it may be common. I’ve been vaccinated recently against the flu. I don’t recall any clear information about dangers.”

Then your memory is faulty. It is Federal law that all patients must be given this information, and they must sign for it.

Jed thinks in black and white. If the law says that something “must be done” therefor it is “always” done. I was not talking federal law, but actual practice. Now, could my memory be faulty? Well, what I said was true. “I don’t recall.” My memory is not, then, complete, because I was not watching for a paper. What I remember is that it was all very quick. I might have signed something. I recall nothing about dangers, nothing was said about dangers, but it is entirely possible that  I considered the paper a mere formality, I had already decided to get the vaccination, trusting my doctor (who has generally recommended flu vaccination, but I’ve never had an extensive conversation with him, and flu is a clear and present danger. One of my children nearly died a few weeks ago from H1N1 flu. Now how thoroughly has this year’s vaccine been tested?

What was obviously false is “always.” My friend who died from polio contracted from his daughter’s live oral vaccine, was he informed of the risk to him? Did they even ask? I don’t know, but my sense is not, this was in the 1970s. As well, there was obviously no vigilance, he was sent home from the hospital twice, and the second time only readmitted because the taxi driver refused to take him, he was so obviously and dangerously ill.

Jed is claiming something on which he could not possibly have information (unless there is some central database verifying all consent forms for authenticity.) If millions of vaccinations are being given by pharmacist’s assistants, how many times will the assistant forget to get the consent form? It’s not that it is a crucial issue. I did obviously consent, but without actually reading the form, that I’m clear about. I have never read one such, and I have been extensively vaccinated (for adoption travel, in particular).

Ironic here is that Jed is claiming that parental consent should be irrelevant, so why is he insisting that written consent is always obtained? It’s obvious to me: Jed will drag up any fact he can to make his position seem reasonable and necessary. And that is an element in popular fascism. We saw it in what I mentioned about the argument tweeted at Sarah Wilson, when she asked about documentation on vaccine effectiveness. The answer was “smallpox,” vaccine for which was certainly effective, but it was also risky, and has been terminated as a program because the risk of being infected with smallpox has gone to very low levels, vaccination now being mostly limited to military that might be exposed to weaponized smallpox (and there is controversy over that).

Jed then brings in more irrelevancy, not on a matter actually being disputed. Nevertheless I read it.

See:

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/hcp/vis/about/facts-vis.html

“What’s a VIS?
A VIS or Vaccine Information Statement is a document, produced by CDC, that informs vaccine recipients – or their parents or legal representatives – about the benefits and risks of a vaccine they are receiving.

VISs are required by law
All vaccine providers, public or private, are required by the National Vaccine Childhood Injury Act (NCVIA – 42 U.S.C. § 300aa-26[2 pages]) to give the appropriate VIS to the patient (or parent or legal representative) prior to every dose of specific vaccines.

The appropriate VIS must be given prior to the vaccination, and must be given prior to each dose of a multi-dose series. It must be given regardless of the age of the recipient. See ‘Ways to give a VIS.’ . . . ”

I suggest you be a little more careful before asserting what is “simply not true.”

I have long suggested Jed be careful how he interprets what he reads, and he has long dismissed it, even when I demonstrated that he was drastically misquoting the target of his criticism.

I never denied that there is a requirement, and actually wrote  “It may be a norm, it may be common.” Something mandated by law is a “norm. ” But Jed, in his mind, equates “legally required” with “always is done.”

I sign many, many consent forms, and where I generally trust the provider of the form, that if there is really something I need to know there, they would tell me, I often don’t read it. A provider is waiting for me, and to read a long form with small print will waste their time. Yes, I could insist, but I usually don’t. What I know is that I am still protected, legally, if the provider is negligent. Those forms provide a layer of protection, but not absolute protection.

Reading that, I now remember more, because what is described on that page, a computer display being allowed, is what I do, now, recall. And it was not working properly. It was impossible to read the detailed statement on that display, which only showed maybe two short lines at a time, so I skipped it. Was I properly informed? Questions like that make lawyers rich. It could be argued either way.

And is that VIS accurate? The current VIS are here.

Are these balanced? Are possible controversies explained neutrally? I did read the statement for the flu vaccine I took. It can cause some serious problems, but only rarely, the VIS claims. I am personally in a higher-risk group as to possible harm from flu. If I were more seriously concerned here, I would read the antivax material on the VIS, I’m pretty sure there are likely to be criticisms. But I’m not. I might talk with my children about this, there are still two young grandchildren.

And what all this boils down to is “Do we trust the government?” As a state is fascist or devolves toward fascism, trust becomes mandatory, it is no longer voluntary, if it ever was.

Government, in my view, can be trusted only to the extent that the public is vigilant and collectively identifies and challenges governmental excess and error. Institutions that form to do that are themselves subject to fascist tendencies. There is really no substitute for an informed public.

The public need not be informed on everything, it is enough if some serve and report and warn. When those who criticize the government or “false consensus” are rejected ipso facto, as “fringe,” say, we have popular fascism.

Personally, I generally trust the U.S. government, but not without exception, and provided that criticism of the government is not suppressed. Hence I am quite concerned about the situation with Andrew Wakefield  (warning-Wikipedia article, likely to be a battleground, not necessarily reliable), not because I believe he was right, but because, quite simply, it’s worrisome. Many published papers, in hindsight, have drawn unwarranted conclusions, but punishment for that is rare, only deliberate fraud is commonly sanctioned, and this is because science requires freedom of speech, which must includes the freedom to be “wrong” by some standard or other.  The issues are complex and I do not consider myself adequately informed to come to final conclusions, but I can see the operation of popular — and governmental — fascism. “Fascism” is not a problem because it is necessarily wrong. It is generally harmful because it suppresses the freedom that allows full consideration of every issue to proceed in depth.

(And anti-vaxxers can be just as fascist, or even more so.)

Democratic fascism

Democratic fascism? Is that an oxymoron?

No. Fascism, here, I am giving the broadest definition. See the blog post, The core of fascism. The core of fascism, as I am coming to see it, is a collective conviction combined with intolerance of divergent views, opinion, or even states of being, resulting in suppression of the unpopular.

Obviously, some expression of opinion is literally dangerous, causing immediate and present danger. Key to fascist suppression, as distinct from mere protection from immediate harm, is that it occurs in the absence of an immediate and clear harm, at best a remote risk, sometimes not even existent, only imagined.

Some opinions are toxic, no doubt, but suppressing them does not change them, it drives them underground, which can then generate far-reaching effects, and continued suppression drives a state toward stronger and stronger suppressive measures, with some elements, and sometimes the state itself, resorting to violence.

I started to address this topic because my work with cold fusion led me into conflict with a suppressive faction. Nominally, this faction supports scientific skepticism, but, there has long been a problem, noted by some of the founders and early supporters of the Committee for Scientific Inquiry into Claims of the Paranormal, that skepticism can fall into “debunking,” which then easily becomes an ad-hominem attack on “kooks, cranks, quacks, pseudoscientists, etc.” and various opinions (and even eyewitness reports and scientific papers) become identified with this and are dismissed without any need to consider evidence. In other words, scientific investigation has been lost in the noise.

This is what Truzzi, one of those founders, called “pseudoskepticism.” I define that as skepticism that forgets to be skeptical of one’s own opinions, or what is viewed as popular, or what the pseudoskeptical faction on Wikipedia calls the “Scientific Point of View,” to distinguish it from what is supposedly policy there, NPOV, or Neutral Point of View (which is journalistic and academic, and, in fact, scientific).

Because I have an interest in health (and specifically my own health!), and because I was attacked on RationalWiki for my work — the attack article started there, long story, introduces me as “an American conspiracy theorist who is best known as proponent of pseudoscientific cold fusion,” I began to return to this study (I had done some research years ago to decide how to address my own cholesterol levels and weight gain).

“Conspiracy theorist” is a straight-out lie. The alleged conspiracy theory is what was called there the “RationalWiki Smith brothers conspiracy theory,” which, by the way, it is forbidden to describe on RationalWiki, it would corrupt the children. This is not merely a theory, it is demonstrated fact, with voluminous evidence, including direct admissions from one “Smith brother” (Oliver D. Smith), admissions from Oliver as to his brother, and much less direct evidence, but still overwhelming, about the other brother, Darryl L. Smith, who wrote that article. Whenever that “conspiracy theory” has been described, it has been as a straw man, not what I have actually written about.

Notice “pseudoscientific cold fusion.” On what basis is “cold fusion” called “pseudoscientific,” or is there a pseudoscientific form of cold fusion?

Cold fusion is the popular name for a set of effects first clearly noticed and announced in 1989. The effect (most notably anomalous heat) was difficult to reproduce, and there were many failures, but eventually, there were many confirmations, and, as well,it was reported that helium was being generated proportional to the heat, and that is widely confirmed. This leads to a hypothesis, that the heat is generated by the conversion of deuterium to helium, which is verifiable. This is, absolutely, “scientific,” and it is being investigated scientifically, as I suggested in my Current Science paper (2015), funded with a $6 million grant. So, by calling this “pseudoscientific,” they are not skeptical, they are in willful disregard of reality, and because all this has been pointed out, and they persist, liars.

And the same person is now going after fringe opinion in medicine and health. As an example of “medical fascism,” I have seen opinions that “statin skeptics,” those who question the usefulness of the massive prescription of statins — it is coming up on almost everyone — are “murderers,” on the idea that if statins reduce death from heart attack, and people refuse statins because of what is called “denialism,” then some people will die that might otherwise live.

For how long would they otherwise live? What is the reduction in overall death rate from taking statins? As I was prescribed a statin and I am not taking it, what is my increased risk? What are the risks of taking statins? Are there any? How do I balance these? And how solid is the research on which all this is based? Has it been influenced by funding from drug companies, which have billions of dollars in revenue at stake? Has public discussion been thorough and balanced?

I’ve been investigating these, and a connection with cold fusion is that the author of Bad Science (the best early history — though strongly skeptical — of the Fleischmann-Pons fiasco — called the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century by Huizenga), Gary Taubes, went on from “bad science” in this field to even worse in the scientific investigation of diet and then obesity and associated health issues, and is being attacked by exactly the same people.

Scientific fascism. Dismissal by popular opinion, with whatever contradicts common views being attacked as pseudoscientific or worse. Evidence be damned.

What was originally adopted (recommendations about reducing fat and cholesterol in the diet) based on what seemed like strong indications, knowing that this was not conclusive, but merely indicative, on the argument that delay could cost millions of lives, became an unassailable dogma. Pieces of it were quickly shown to be incorrect, but the “fat hypothesis” and the associated “cholesterol hypothesis” as the cause of heart disease,” simply was patched, ad hoc, and sailed on undisturbed, even if it is entirely possible that the recommendations issued caused millions of premature deaths.

On subpages here, I will look at examples and discussions of medical fascism.

A common example is “vaccine denialism.” There is no doubt in my mind as to vaccination, in general, having saved millions of lives. However, there are also complications. How common are they? How thorough is monitoring for them? Are there alternatives to vaccination for the control of disease? Should parents be allowed to exempt their children from vaccination?

The issues raised cut to the core of the boundary between collective welfare and protection and fascism. Where is that boundary? How can we decide? When suppression is or becomes fascist, it becomes impossible to have the kind of clear discussion and debate that is essential to deliberative democracy, and a democracy, to that extent, descends into popular fascism (or governmental fascism, with the government enforcing what is popular.)

Democratic fascism.

Subpages:

Rothwell. Begun with a discussion between me (Abd) and Jed Rothwell, a long-term cold fusion activist, who supports mandatory vaccination and would prohibit home schooling (which are related topics).

Taubes

Subpage of anglo-pyramidologist/darryl-l-smith/skeptic-from-britain/john66/

This is a study of the RationalWiki article on Gary Taubes (Wikipedia) as created by John66 (Darryl L. Smith), as of January 18, 2019. The lead:

Gary Taubes is American author, journalist, low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter, anti-sugar campaigner and cholesterol denialist. Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat.[1] Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.[2]

Taubes has been accused of misrepresenting scientific data and quoting medical researchers out of context to support his biased low-carb agenda.[3][4][5][6][7]

Smith is expert at cramming a series of dense misrepresentations into a few words. As is typical, the “mainstream” is presented as if monolithic, when it never has been on this subject, but rather “majoritarian,” i.e., there is are dominant views, never fully accepted by experts, and especially not the researchers. Dietary advice can lag science by decades.

Taubes is not an ordinary journalist, he is a science journalist, specifically, highly qualified for that. Smith had edited the Wikipedia article on Taubes. Taubes’ qualifications are ignored in the RatWiki article. From Wikipedia:

Taubes has won the Science in Society Journalism Award of the National Association of Science Writers three times and was awarded an MIT Knight Science Journalism Fellowship for 1996–97.[10] He is a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation independent investigator in health policy.[28]

low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) promoter. So a journalist researches a topic in depth (Taubes spent years on his investigations) and reports what he finds. If what he finds shows that widely-held opinion is not based on science (more than weakly), and that there are contrary hypotheses that fit the data better than what supports mainstreamopinions, and then he acts to secure funding for research to address open issues, is he “promoting” the contrary hypothesis?

Calling him a “promoter” is an attempt to toss him in the basket with “woo diets” and “quack medicine.” Most solidly and persistently, what Taubes is promoting is science and scientific skepticism.

anti-sugar campaigner. His book lays out the case against sugar. In fact, his conclusions (i.e, his formed opinions from review of the evidence) about the general harm of sugar are widespread. Again, though, the attempt is to portray him as a fanatic, as Smith does with all his targets.

Taubes disagrees with mainstream medical advice on dieting. What Taubes does in his books on fat and obestity is to examine, in detail, the history of the “mainstream views,” which radically shifted around 1970, to almost the opposite of what they had been before. On obesity, especially, he goes into excruciating detail on the shift.

Anyone who challenges popular views, that happen to support major vested interests, is going to be widely attacked, it’s like clockwork. As a member of the public, critically interested in the issues (this is about my health and that of my children!), that someone criticizes a skeptic (or an advocate of mainstream views) does not negate the views, rather, if this is done within scientific — or journalistic — protocols, I will want to see specifics.

Perhaps now is the time to use a meme.

I am fully aware of this problem (“confirmation bias”), and so is Taubes. It is possible to criticize anything. Taubes’ general opinion on nutritional science is that the state of it is poor, there is a great deal that has been accepted on faith or wishful thinking about what is actually shown in the studies that have been done. Taubes examines all this, presenting copious evidence. And, of course, he’s not perfect! But is he significantly incorrect?

 

He believes that refined carbohydrates and sugars should be avoided, not fat.[1] This is typical for RatWiki. An unorthodox conclusion or hypothesis is presented as a “belief.” And then everything from that person is presented as flowing from what they believe, as distinct from what they have witnessed, or for a journalist, what they have found in sources and analysis seeking reality.

Was Taubes seeking reality or was he just trying to write a popular story, to advance his career? I’ve been following Taubes for more than a decade. He does far more research into the topics that he has been engaged to write about than makes sense economically. What he has been able to accomplish, besides selling some books, is funding for research, and not research to “prove” his ideas, but to test them (and, as well, “mainstream” ideas.)

His ideas are not new, in fact, but definitive research has not been done, studies have been flawed, etc. Decisions were made based on other than science, based on unscientific ideas that, if wrong, they would do no harm.

Smith is going after a genuine scientific skeptic, because . . . because why? Well, it could be from his relationship with the faction that has, to some degree, protected and encouraged him on Wikipedia and RatWiki. He has discovered that his attack articles are popular with the Rats. He is lying about his identity and motives, and this is a fundamental problem with the wikis, where they allow not only anonymous editing, but anonymous administration. It removes personal responsibility. That was a choice that Wikipedia made early on, and it became fixed in stone. RationalWiki takes this to an extreme, originally for the lulz.

Note 1 points to a Guardian review of Taube’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar. The story covers the same suggestions as I have been making here. Smith clearly believes that the idea of Sugar Bad Fat Good is preposterous and he knows that many, maybe most, of the Rats will agree with him.

The Case Against Sugar review – an unsweetened attack on diet myths

Gary Taubes’s latest assault on the ruinous effect of sugar on our lives and the promotion of fat-free diets is detailed and compelling

For the last 15 years, US journalist Gary Taubes has been the self-nominated public enemy No 1 of the global “healthy eating” establishment. His heresy has been to argue powerfully and publicly that the official diet advice we have been encouraged to follow since the 1970s is fundamentally wrong. It is refined carbohydrates and sugars that we should be avoiding, he says, not fat.

His apostasy was dismissed by many health professionals in a sustained, near operatic chorus of censure. After all, he had committed the cardinal crime of suggesting that august government nutrition professors and the academic researchers who inform them had made an inexcusable error of judgment, with catastrophic consequences: an epidemic of obesity and diet-related ill-health of a magnitude that had no precedent.

Taubes’s latest book, The Case Against Sugar, looks to be less controversial, if only because so-called guardians of public health have of late subtly re-emphasised in government eating guidelines the role of sugar as a dietary villain, adopting what Taubes calls the “we knew it all along” approach. They have yet to admit that the natural saturated fats they have long demonised, such as butter, are healthier than the highly refined liquid oils and polyunsaturated margarine spreads they continue to recommend, even though the scientific inadequacy of this advice is being steadily exposed. In Taubes’s view, major nutrition authorities “have spent the last 50 years blaming dietary fat for our ills while letting sugar off the hook”.

How is it that Smith can cite this article, the sense of which is radically opposed to his article? Well, he needed a source to claim that Taubes “believes” what he wrote. It does not, in fact, support that wording. Taubes has explicitly term his views an “alternative hypothesis.” That is, he infers his views from study of the evidence, and he is, himself, sufficiently convinced to (1) share what he has found and (2) pursue testing. He gathered millions of dollars to do this, and that work is under way. He is going to be called every name in the book, as the Guardian article points out.

Will Smith go on to create an article on Joanna Blythman, who wrote that story for the Guardian? How about a story on the conspiracy of greedy book authors and journalists to deceive the public for fun and profit?

Taubes disputes the evidence that saturated fat is a risk factor for heart disease.[2]

Smith either doesn’t care about accuracy, or doesn’t know enough to distinguish between cause and risk factors, and the history on this issue is huge. “Saturated fat” would have to mean “saturated fat in the diet,” and studies showing that were early, weak, and inconclusive. That idea is almost entirely discredited among current researchers, but still lives on in recommendations, and, even more in the memories of those who followed the recommendations and have not kept up on the research.

Reference 2 is a Taubes article in the New York Times, January 27, 2008. I notice right away that the article is quite old, but it is presented as evidence for a current position. Smith’s text is a misrepresentation of what Taubes actually wrote, even back then.

Taubes does not generally dispute “evidence.” That is an ontological error that Smith could be expected to make. He disputes some of the conclusions from evidence, particularly when one looks at all the evidence. “Believers” and “pseudoskeptics” dispute evidence, often claiming “there is no evidence,” when there obviously is. Practically speaking, and in ordinary language, we become “beleivers” when we have seen enough to come to conclusions based on the preponderance of evidence, but if we follow the scientific method, this is never a certainty, it is provisional — and ideally we are open to correction, particularly if extraordinary evidence arises.

Taubes has been accused of misrepresenting scientific data and quoting medical researchers out of context to support his biased low-carb agenda.[3][4][5][6][7]

These are serious accusations if made about a professional journalist. From the Guardian article, we can expect accusations like this. An accusation like that without evidence is meaningless or worse. Let’s look at each one. First, the link is to the RatWiki article on quote mining, and it is hilarious to see this from Smith. Quote mining is practically all that he does!

3.  A blog post from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the most dedicated promoters of supposedly healthy diets that weren’t, and attackers of anything that disagreed with them. (I used to receive their newsletter, years ago. I never noticed that they were actually promoting science, i.e, research to confirm the recommendations they were making, so they would be a poster boy for what Taubes has uncovered. “Science” that is not. The title: The Truth About the Atkins Diet.

Okay, what is the truth? I was advised to try the South Beach diet in about 2004 by my physician. My wife was on Atkins, and I read the South Beach book and Atkins, and decided there was more science behind Atkins than Agatston, the South Beach author, with what might be called “Atkins light,” which avoids saturated fats. My doctor did not argue with me, and encouraged me. And the diet worked (which is now well known, and that’s what his nurse told me when I mentioned Atkins). I lost about forty pounds, was down to a healthy weight. Sometime around 2005 I did a lot of reading on Atkins, the arguments for and against, and I found that most negative comments flat-out did not understand the Atkins diet, and misrepresented it. So what do we have here?

Taubes claims that it’s not fatty foods that make us fat and raise our risk of disease. It’s carbohydrates. And to most readers his arguments sound perfectly plausible.

Yes. This was about the NYT article, “What if it’s all been a big fat lie?” which was added,
Taubes has mentioned, by the editors. His title was “What if fat doesn’t make you fat?” And that is actually a quite reasonable question. Does fat make us fat? How would we know? I know the arguments, but let’s see what CSPI comes up with:

Here are the facts—and the fictions—in Taubes’s article, which has led to a book contract with a
reported $700,000 advance. And here’s what the scientists he quoted —or neglected to quote—have to say about his reporting.

Right away, I notice that they are effectively claiming to have interviewed or obtained statements from all those quoted. Have they? I don’t know, and it will take some time to research.

Perhaps the most telling statement in Gary Taubes’s New York Times Magazine article
comes as he explains how difficult it is to study diet and health. “This then leads to a research literature so vast that it’s possible to find at least some published research to support
virtually any theory.”

He got that right. It helps explain why Taubes’s article sounds so credible.

“He knows how to spin a yarn,” says Barbara Rolls, an obesity expert at Pennsylvania State University. “What frightens me is that he picks and chooses his facts.”
She ought to know. Taubes interviewed her for some six hours, and she sent him “a huge bundle of papers,” but he didn’t quote a word of it. “If the facts don’t fit in with his yarn, he ignores
them,” she says.

Instead, Taubes put together what sounds like convincing evidence that carbohydrates cause obesity.

However Taubes does massive research. He does not use all of it. This is someone claiming that Taubes ignored what she sent him. She does not know that. She only knows, if it is true, that he did not cite her material. Taubes did explain how the “fat myth” developed. As is accepted here, the literature is vast.

In his 2008 book, Taubes goes of the history of concepts about obesity, and quotes many many publications. That the cause was carbohydrates was a very common idea until roughly the 1970s. The switch to fat being the problem was heavily influenced by the idea that fat also caused heart disease. Much of that early “consensus,” and it did become a widespread opinion, where contrary views were attacked and even suppressed (which is still going on to some degree), was utterly wrong and has been rejected, but the “cholesterol” and “fat” hypotheses keep morphing, with ad hoc explanations, a sign of defective theory.

“He took this weird little idea and blew it up, and people believed him,” says John Farquhar, a professor emeritus of medicine at Stanford University’s Center for Research in Disease Prevention. Taubes quoted Farquhar, but misrepresented his views. “What a disaster,” says Farquhar.

CSPI is not a reliable source. First of all, the “weird little idea” was widespread, long before Atkins and Taubes, and, second, it is not established that Taubes misrepresented anything. It is possible,. for sure, but CPSI does not seem to care about fact, but about spin. They also have this from Farquhar:

“I was greatly offended at how Gary Taubes tricked us all into coming across
as supporters of the Atkins diet,” says Stanford’s John Farquhar.

The plot thickens. Farquhar said something, accurately quoted, apparently, but Farquhar did not like what it implied, in the context of Taubes’ “story.” The Atkins diet was, still, by 2002, roundly condemned and to support Atkins would seem to be a major heresy. By 2002, there was little evidence on the issue of the safety of the Atkins diet, and lots of inference that it must be Bad. What did Farquhar actually say?

Looking for it, I came across a sensible article, and various fanatic ravings. )The latter cites some NuSi research that supposedly falsified Taube’s hypothesis, but that is far from clear. It is simply another claim. That latter also cites the CSPI article. In other words, find a loon, find a flock of loons. No surprise.

Taubes quoted Walter Willet, David Ludwig, Eleftheria Maratos-Flier, Kurt Isselbacher, Katherine Flegal, Kelley Brownell, William Dietz, Basil Rifkindm, Alan Stone, Judith Putnam(?), Michael Schwartz, Albert Stunkard, Richard Veech, George Blackburn, Linda Stern, Sam Klein.

This is what Taubes wrote about Farquhar:

This is the state of mind i imagine that mainstream nutritionists, researchers and physicians must inevitably take to the fat-versus-carbohydrate controversy. They may come around, but the evidence will have to be exceptionally compelling. Although this kind of conversion may be happening at the moment to John Farquhar, who is a professor of health research and policy at Stanford University and has worked in this field for more than 40 years. When I interviewed Farquhar in April, he explained why low-fat diets might lead to weight gain and low-carbohydrate diets might lead to weight loss, but he made me promise not to say he believed they did. He attributed the cause of the obesity epidemic to the “force-feeding of a nation.” Three weeks later, after reading an article on Endocrinology 101 by David Ludwig in the Journall of the American Medical Association, he sent me an e-mail message asking the not-entirely rhetorical question, “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?”

This is astonishingly clear. First of all, did Taubes accurately report what was said to him? I would assume he has interview tapes. Assuming the quotes were accurate, and the interpretation of what Farquhar said reasonable (it all fits with his later complaints, actually!), he did not want his ideas to be repeated, and Taubes correctly pointed out that these were not to be repeated as his belief. And Taubes did not do that. He was claimed to have mentioned these things as possibilities, i.e., “might.”

The Farquhar complaint appears to be fluff, someone highly involved with the nutritional and policy establishment who did not want his true views or ideas to be known. What was misrepresented? I found nothing claimed. It would only be, then, the context, which was clearly speculative, that Farquhar might be undergoing a “conversion,” clearly presented with some evidence of this, but not a claim that he was a “supporter of the Atkins Diet.” (As an example, he might have been acknowledging the possibility that Atkins “worked,” for weight loss, but then still be unconvinced that Atkins was safe — which was a common comment on the research results coming out by 2002 or so that Atkins did work as well or better than other diet recommendations, that it had not been proven to be safe.

The irony in all this was that massive health recommendations to avoid cholesterol in the diet (Eggs Bad), and fat, originally all fat, only later it became saturated fat, when the obvious result of that advice would be an increase in carbyhydrate consumption, were made without any showing that this was safe, and if Taubes is right — and he’s not far off, I suspect — the cost of that was millions of premature deaths. Millions. The consequence of not distinguishing solid science from weak inference and politics.

Still on the CSPI post:

Farquhar did give more detail to CSPI:

Taubes’s article ends with a quote from Farquhar, asking: “Can we get the low-fat proponents to apologize?” But that quote was taken out of context. “What I was referring to wasn’t that low-fat diets would make a person gain weight and become obese,” explains Farquhar. Like Willett and Reaven, he’s
worried that too much carbohydrate can raise the risk of heart disease.
“I meant that in susceptible individuals, a very-low-fat [high-carb] diet can raise triglycerides, lower HDL [‘good’] cholesterol, and make harmful, small, dense LDL,” says Farquhar.

Farquhar is agreeing with Taubes much more than disagreeing. Taubes did not claim what he is objecting to. It is true that one could synthesize that. The question still stands. Low-fat proponents did not clarify the point and clarify that to be sustainable, low-fat must mean high carb, and they did not limit the advice, nor, in fact, was it based on study of low-fat diets.

Where Taubes differs from Farquhar is in an understanding that carbs are more dangerous than previously recognized, not confined to particularly susceptible individuals. The real issues are quite complex, but yellow journalists and pseudoskeptics make it very simple: there are cranks and fringe believers on one side, and experts and scientists on the other, and if a scientist is on the “crank” side, Q.E.D., they are cranks. Reality doesn’t matter, only opinions.

Carbohydrates are not what has made us a nation of butterballs, however. “We’re overfed, over-advertised, and under-exercised,” he says. “It’s the enormous portion sizes and sitting in front of the TV and computer all day” that are to blame. “It’s so gol’darn obvious—how can anyone ignore it?” “The Times editor called and tried to get me to say that low-fat diets were the cause of obesity, but I wouldn’t,” adds Farquhar.

This is, again, remarkable. So there were fact-checkers at the New York Times, editors who reviewed articles, and Farquhar can read their minds, what they “wanted.” In what Taubes reported, he gave Farquhar’s opinion, apparently reasonably fairly.

Farquhar is weird, my summary. He knows enough to suspect that Taubes might be right, but doesn’t want anyone to know, and his alternative idea is that the problem is enormous portion sizes and lethargy, an idea which Taubes traces back to early origins and intensely deconstructs, with massive data. Cause and effect have been completely confused. There is an obesity epidemic. What caused it? There is an obvious suspect, but there is an attempt is to erase the evidence with a lot of hot air.

I think this topic is important, too important for anyone to sit back and trust anyone without verification. When I started to see Smith going after Taubes, I decided to buy the rest of his books. I just finished Why We Get Fat, and next is The Case Against Sugar. Notice that the title is not Proof that Sugar is Evil. As to why we get fat, Taubes cites centuries of research. Talk about quote-mining, it appears that when the “consensus” was being formed, countless studies and a great deal of evidence was ignored, and as contrary evidence appeared, it was always explained away, even clear and strong evidence that something was off about “mainstream” thinking.

Again, the CSPI article, about the misleading claims.

CLAIM #1: The experts recommend an Atkins diet.
TRUTH: They don’t.

The reality: some do and some don’t, and this is obvious. The article, however, simply did not make the claim stated. Instead, it talks about a “small but growing minority have come to take seriously what the low-carb diet doctors have been saying all along.” It talks about researchers starting to actually study the Atkins diet, and some early results from that. I could find no actual recommendation from any expert, and Taubes was not dispensing advice. So the CSPI article is misleading.

An Atkins diet is loaded with meat, butter, and other foods high in saturated fat. Taubes implies that many of the experts he quotes recommend it. Here’s what they say:

Atkins is an ad libitem diet for protein and fat. It only restricts non-fiber, nutritive carbohydrates. Atkins did not specify saturated or unsaturated fats, and in the early days. the l0w-fat opposition to Atkiins did not discriminate, all fats were considered bad.

So an Atkins diet is only “loaded” with fat if that is what the person wants to eat. Taubes, in his later work, strongly advises against eating more than appetite. However, ultimately, Taubes’ conclusion from review of the evidence is that saturated fats are not, in general, harmful, and may even be cardio-protective. But that goes against the opinions of many!

I still remember buying margarine because the propaganda was that it was better for us than butter. This was everywhere, my adult life experienced the full force of the “anti-fat” crusade. I trusted my doctor and did not actually research the issue, so I reduced fat, and began, for the first time in my life, at about 40, to be a pasta-eater. What Taubes “implies” is in the mind of the reader. That statement, though, is a retreat from what is in the headline. It is just “many,” instead of being a blanket statement about experts. That is still misleading: Taubes was clear that this was still a minority. So the error was?

It’s clear: In 2002, “Atkins” was still a synonym for “dangerous quack fad diet,  it doesn’t work except for a little while, while you lose water, it gives you bad breath, constipation, you lose weight only because the diet is so boring that you eat less, etc., and you will die from the fat clogging your arteries.”

That “artery clogging” trope I remember from the CPSI Nutrition Action newsletters.  When they would describe how much fat was in a MacDonald’s hamburger with french fries, it was always prefaced with “artery-clogging.” They may have convinced that company to replace lard with trans-fats, which switch had no basis in science, only the assumption that trans fats were either safe or less harmful than saturated fats. (I think the idea was that trans fats are liquid at room temp, whereas saturated fats tend to congeal, so the idea that they could clog arteries seems to make sense, until we realize that fats do not actually enter the bloodstream as such.

According to Taubes, Harvard University’s Walter Willett is one of the “small but growing minority of establishment researchers [who] have come to take seriously what the low-carb-diet 
doctors have been saying all along.” True, Willett is concerned about the harm that may be caused by highcarbohydrate diets (see “What to Eat,” page 7). But the Atkins diet? “I certainly don’t recommend it,” he says. His reasons: heart disease and cancer. “There’s a clear benefit for reducing  cardiovascular risk from replacing unhealthy fats—saturated and trans— with healthy fats,” explains Willett, who chairs Harvard’s nutrition department. “And I told Taubes several times that red meat is associated with a higher risk of colon and possibly prostate cancer, but he left that out.”

Again, no misrepresentation, because Taubes did not claim that Willett endorsed the Atkins diet, and because of the heart disease concerns, it could have been unethical to do so, until and unless he became convinced that the heart disease and cancer risks were red herrings. That is a concern about red meat, and the Atkins diet does not require red meat, at all. It merely does not forbid it. As to the claim about an association with cancer, association is the weakest of evidence, unless it is quite strong. Is it? CSPI doesn’t verify this, because they are not interested in reality, but in promoting their decades-old agenda, all the while claiming some reprehensible agenda on the part of Taubes.

I looked this issue up. I don’t trust the official organizations, from years of reviewing what they recommend, I know (independently from Taubes) that these organizations can develop conflicts of interest and, for whatever reason, do not do what I’d hope for them: facilitate genuine scientific consensus, while delineating where there is still a level of reasonable controversy. The Cochrane Collaboration was intended to be that. How successful they have been, I’m not sure. There are difficulties in doing this, and organizations tend to become corruptible if precautions are not taken early on, and maintained.

In any case, what I found was mostly very unspecific, with only vague claims that conflate association with risk. The official cancer organizations tell us their conclusions, but do not reference what they were based on. How difficult would it be to have a page for those interested with sources and more detail about the recommendations, limitations, etc. I do not trust organizations that come to strong conclusions, of major import, but do not disclose how they arrived at them. I have seen far too much to naively believe that being “nonprofit” somehow immunizes them to bias. I have seen the opposite, too many times (and even as a board member of a nonprofit organization, a free clinic, very noble, very good, and easily corrupted).

(Non profits have executives who are often very highly compensated, and these organizations must raise operating funds, and if they make recommendations not to the liking of those who support them, what happens to that support? This is simply ordinary social function, not a conspiracy theory. If a nonprofit recommends what is contrary to general opinion, it can be devastating to their support. We need organizations that are truly supported by those they serve, the public, but mostly the public is asleep.)

This was the best, and could reward more study. I am reminded of the flawed epidemiological studies that set of the whole anti-fat crusade. The risk of cancer from red meat, appears, at first glance, to be quite small, as absolute risk, and in real decisions about diet, what I need to know is absolute risk, to compare, for example, with the risk of obesity, which is very, very risky. If an Atkins diet is more effective at controlling obesity, that could totally outweigh the cancer risk.

There are some recent papers on the protective effect of sun exposure. When this is pointed out, the risk of skin cancer is always brought up, and I’ve seen a generation of people become sun-averse because of all the propaganda about skin cancer. Turns out that if all-cause death rates are considered, sun exposure is associated with a lower death rate. Skin cancer can be caused, but most skin cancers are relatively easily treated, not fatal. Narrow analysis of data on one disease can generate very misleading recommendations.

CLAIM #2: Saturated fat
doesn’t promote heart disease.
TRUTH: It does.

Because we say so. Really, the evidence on this is very weak, at best.

“Fifty years of research shows that saturated fat and cholesterol raise LDL [‘bad’] cholesterol, and the higher your LDL, the higher your risk of coronary heart disease,” says Farquhar

Is Farquhar to be trusted? This is supposedly the “Center for Science in the Public Interest.” Someone who claims “fifty years of research” with no references is unreliable. Farquhar, from what he said to Taubes, not contested, cannot be trusted to reveal what he actually understands and considers possible, but is determine to protect himself, so determined that he errs badly, as he should have known. I understand why Taubes became so noplussed about Bad Science in the field.

Farquhar is repeating ideas, relied on by CSPI as if “fact,” that I think were obsolete by that time, but that certainly are now. Cholesterol in the diet does not raise blood cholesterol, at all. Hence the older advice to avoid egg yolks, high in cholesterol, has been withdrawn. The evidence on LDL is complicated, and studying the effect of saturated fat is difficult. Under some conditions, people with higher LDL appear to have a lower risk of all-cause death.

If we read that section of the CSPI article carefully, they are talking about relative strength of evidence, which can be quite subjective. Basically, the question is controversial, but they take one side and call it “Truth.” This is the behavior of fanatics, which I concluded they were long before I became aware of low-carb diets. They quote another supposed expert, who uses clear scientific terms like “good” and “bad.” Bad sign.

CLAIM #3: Health authorities recommended a low-fat diet as the key to weight loss.
TRUTH: They didn’t.

Ah ha ha, ah ha ha ha ha. This is a huge red herring. Some did, and the net impact of the recommendations, when they tricked down to my doctor, was to go on a low-fat diet. It was not for losing weight, it was over concerns about cholesterol.  This is all about interpretation of what the health authorities recommended, where much of it can be ignored in favor of recommendations that can be interpreted differently.

I see again and again on this page that Taubes was “wrong” because what he pointed out as being an unscientific consensus among health authorities is contradicted by health authorities. The implication was of extensive misquotation and misinterpretation, and they failed to show that. They are misleading their readers, in order to establish that they have been right all along. This is not “science in the public interest,” it was far from it. It was political and self-interested activism.

CLAIM #7: The Atkins diet works because it cuts carbohydrates.
TRUTH: If the Atkins diet works, it’s not clear why.

Well, this is clear: this is an example of how they present opinions as “Truth.” “Not clear” is a judgment, an assessment, indicating confusion. Who is confused? That’s left out, it is presented as if it were an objective fact. Again, very common for fanatics.

The Atkins Nutritional Approach (calling it a “diet” is somewhat misleading) does one essential thing: it encourages the person to monitor the carbohydrates they eat, by reading labels and the link, and to limit those carbs, exempting fiber, and to follow appetite and common sense about everything else. There are indeed speculations, and attempting Atkins low-fat is strongly discouraged, and probably quite dangerous, because the only other possibility is protein, and high-protein, low fat diets are very dangerous. The Atkins approach works for many people, that’s obvious, it’s really not debatable. It can work long-term (because the diet allows thorough enjoyment of food, I have never become bored with an LC-HF diet). Today, I have been seriously restricting carbs, I normally keep them low, but I wanted to see what would happen with zero carbs. I commonly have two meals a day. So for the first meal, I had a 6 oz ribeye steak, lightly broiled. Delicious. For a second meal, I’m still eating it, I savor it, a piece of sushi-quality tuna, thawed from flash-frozen, 4 oz, eaten raw with no-sugar soy sauce. Delicious!

(My other nourishment for the day is heavy cream in two cups of coffee. On other days, I eat eggs (sometimes with a single piece of toast and butter, about 10 grams of net carb), vegetables such as Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts, Salmon — broiled with parmesan cheese sprinkled on it, which browns like breading would, and I have a wide variety of foods in my cupboards, food that makes my mouth water when I think about eating them, and that I find thoroughly satisfying. I melt butter on the vegetables and sprinkle them with Parmesan.)

So then, as to an alleged danger:

The problem: All the protein that Atkins recommends leads to acidic urine.6 “And there’s no dispute that an acid urine leaches calcium out of bones,” says Blackburn.

What this shows is that Blackburn has no clue what he’s talking about. This is an old canard about Atkins, that it is a high-protein diet. It is not, unless someone cuts carbs and tries to go low-fat. Atkins diets tend to be moderate-protein. As Taubes points out in How We Get Fat, there are cultures where the diet is almost all meat, and in those cultures, strong effort is put into eating as much fat as possible, it is preferred. These people did not have the diseases of civilization until processed foods were introduced to them. Someone doing Atkins’ approach may use ketostix or equivalent urine test strips. I’ve done that many times, the purpose is to verify that one is actually burning fat for fuel. The ketone levels I saw were on the order of 15 mg/DL, occasionally as high as 40, which is considered “moderate.” Ketoacidosis is what they are talking about, a complication of diabetes, and the ketone levels can be on the order of 150-250.

Too much protein in a diet is known to cause health problems. This can arise with an Atkins diet if one eats lean meats, avoiding fat. In general, making major changes in diet, I recommend medical supervision. That does not necessarily mean doing what the doctor says, but communicating about what one is doing, and listening to the doctor, as well as the other side of it, the doctor listening to you. Doctors are constrained by standard of practice, but if one learns how to ask questions, it is possible to encourage a doctor to say what they really think, and, as well, how they what they know, and where they don’t know the answers to questions. A good doctor will admit ignorance, and will, naturally, tell you what the standard of practice is and, if asked, what they think about it.

There is no substitute, though, for becoming informed oneself, there is so much misinformation out there — including misinformation promoted by “experts.” Read the studies! Read the critiques, if it matters for your health, become familiar with the arguments, and then make your own choices, taking responsibility for your choices. That is general advice on how to live, not just about diet and cholesterol and statins.

In this case, my choice is clear: CSPI is full of what the body rejected. They are absolutely not to be trusted.

Okay, but Smith cited five sources for his claim. Impressive! Must be true then. Not. The number of sources matters far less than the reliability of the sources, and we already expect, from other sources, that Taubes is going to be criticized up and down, right and left, and inside and out, for any perceived defect in his articles, which is to be expected when one challenges what amounts to religious belief disguised as science.

[4] Bad sugar or bad journalism? An expert review of “The Case Against Sugar”.

This is a blog post by someone who calls himself an “expert.” Not particularly a good sign. This source, being a blog, was rejected on Wikipedia, absolutely inappropriate there. (And I see an IP edit, rather obviously Smith, reverting the removal, using a Tor node. Because of context, this was certainly Darryl Smith, first edit I have found that was him, there, after the “leaving” claim. But Smith is asserting this as a criticism, which it is.

This is an interesting review, but it boils down to a complaint that The Case Against Sugar is a case against sugar, instead of a neutral scientific review. Guyanet, the blogger, deserves much more attention that I would give him here. Smith in the text that he sourced with five references, actually made three claims:

  1. misrepresenting scientific data
  2. quoting medical researchers out of context
  3. to support his biased low-carb agenda.

Guyanet would be expert on some scientific data, at least (and does write like an expert). On that point, though, he accuses Taubes, not of misrepresenting the data but of cherry-picking, not reporting all the possible relevant information. Quoting out of context is not supported by this source. Guyanet does claim this is coming from a biased personal agenda, but he does not really determine it, and he is not an expert on journalistic psychology. In the book reviewed, Taubes is acting as a book author, continuing a theme, as a result of personal conclusions developed in approaching the topic as a journalist. So I will want to examine Guayanet more closely. He cites another source as a second expert review. Okay, following Guayanet’s thinking, this would be the Defense against Taubes’ prosecution. So who is the judge and jury?

Well, someone who needs to know. And I need to know, so that’s me. I will take my time in deliberations.

And then I find that Guyenet is offering his own “lose weight program.” Basic is free, Pro is only $9.;99 per month. Hey, a Guy has to make a living!

The second expert is intensely involved in conflict with Taubes, over a story that will be told as part of all this. These are not functioning as neutral experts. But Guyenet does point out good things about the Taubes book, he simply advises taking it with salt, which is ironic, because Taubes also, before getting involved in the very hairy controversy over fat and obesity and heart disease, also debunked myths about salt for Science magazine.

I also advise healthy skepticism, that does not depend on authority, other than realistically, understanding that authorities can be, literally, dead wrong. Choose authorities carefully, then trust and verify! I’ve learned with doctors to become informed so that I can ask informed questions. If I don’t know what questions to ask, and so I don’t ask, I usually get no answers, just “advice.” If I ask ignorant questions, I get answers designed to communicate with someone who is ignorant. Funny how that works!

The third source, [5] is another blog, an example of “opinions are like assholes, everyone has one.” This is total fluff, an echo of the CSPI post, only 14 years later. I am far from inspired to read it in detail (quite differently from Guyenet, who at least raises issues of interest.

The fourth source, [6] is Big Fat Fake / The Atkins diet controversy and the sorry state of science journalism. by Michael Fumento. The site is heavy with intrusive ads that make it hard to read the page. This is quite old, 2003. He claims, like some others, that Taubes only presented one side of the issue (in a newspaper article, clearly limited for space, with Taubes basically using the opportunity to raise a question. He did not write: “It’s all been a big fat lie,” but “what if?”

My introduction to Taubes on diet was Good Calories, Bad Calories, which is voluminous and heavily referenced. Did he cherry-pick there? Perhaps. Telling all sides of a story can be a formula for creating books that nobody will read. All authors will do it, at least all successful authors. But that’s not the end, if we have a free society. Others can write, and then other still can review and assess, and ultimately reviews appear in journals that are dedicated to science and not to supporting orthodoxy. It can take decades, sometimes more.  Anyway, Fumento has:

There is a nugget of truth in Taubes’ criticisms of establishment dietary fat advice. Well-meaning but misguided health officials and health reporters, joined by opportunistic anti-fat diet book gurus, have convinced much of the public that the major culprit — perhaps the only culprit — in obesity is dietary fat. Avoid fat, we were told, and you won’t get fat. Given license to eat as many calories as we wanted from the other nutrient groups, many of us have done exactly that. This goes far to explain why almost one-third of us are obese and almost two-thirds of us are overweight. But even here Taubes is no pioneer; the damage caused by fat-free fanaticism was pointed out long before. (See, for example, my own 1997 book, The Fat of the Land.)

He is agreeing with Taubes’ central point. Taubes also states, over and over, that his ideas are not new, and credits older sources, going back into the 19th century. Taubes, however, has been very effective in his “pointing out” of what was known for a long time. Atkins based his nutritional approach on scientific research (deficient, to be sure, but as well-founded as what became the wide-spread and heavily-promoted guidelines, and common medical opinion that rather rapidly turned upside down with inadequate evidence. When I told my doctor about my first experience with Atkins, he took me into his office and pulled a book from the shelf, a book from the 1920s about diabetes, in which it is explained that many cases of diabetes (meaning type two) can be resolved by a diet that avoids starches and sweets, and for others, there is insulin (which was fairly new then). Later, diabetics were sold the idea that they could eat anything they wanted as long as they took insulin. This was terrible, terrible advice, and I suspect it had commercial motives behind it. However, he goes on:

Moreover, the Atkins-Taubes thesis of “fat won’t make you fat” encourages obesity in a similar way: It offers carte blanche for consuming limitless calories, only this time swapping carbohydrates for fat. Taubes made that swap while presenting a far less scientific case than is presented in an Atkins infomercial.

This is unrealistic, imagination. People eating a high-fat diet simply don’t consume “limitless calories” unless they force-feed themselves and continue eating beyond appetite — which is quite unpleasant! Fat satiates. The point of the Atkins diet is that, setting aside carbohydrates, appetite will normally restrict how much we eat. Whether Taubes “insulin hypothesis” is correct or not, when I went on a low-carb diet, hunger disappeared. I found that, once in ketosis, burning fat, I simply did not get “hungry” in the same way as when I was eating carbs. That’s what Atkins and Taubes predicted, and this story is repeated by many, many people who have tried Atkins for long enough to go into ketone metabolism. One doesn’t get hungry, that sense of an urgent need. Rather, one continues to eat for various reasons, some useful, some not so useful. One eats for pleasure, and Atkins allows, essentially, most of my favorite foods from childhood. One eats for  health, choosing foods for nutritive value, and one eats for habit, I have called it an oral addiction. Gotta put something in my mouth!

And if I don’t have low carb snacks available, I’ll fudge on the diet. A few bean chips, high fiber, but nice and crunchy …. and I keep eating them. Just another won’t make that much difference. . . . This is all very familiar, since I spent a lot of time studying addiction.

Very important for an Atkins diet: have food available that will satisfy. To satisfy the desire for “crunch,” the best thing I have found is crackers made from flaxseed. I pretty much have to make them myself.

Bottom line, Fumento didn’t understand the Atkins approach. It does not encourage “limitless calories.” It encourages appetite-limited calories (which requires discipline with regard to oral addictions, which is not difficult, once it is distinguished for what it is). I have never enjoyed food as much as since I started Atkins, and quantities are quite limited. I simply eat food that I enjoy tremendously, and it satisfies me. If someone is not satisfied on an Atkins diet, something is missing, and I’d recommend consulting with experts. At the very least, there are forums where questions can be asked, and experts do reply.

Consider this experimental science, where each person can test and find out what works for them. I found forums.lowcarber.org/ very useful, over a decade ago, I haven’t looked lately. Remember not to trust anything just because it is on the internet, but consider suggestions as being ideas to investigate. Find out!

(The idea that there is one diet best for everyone is probably quite incorrect. Taubes makes this point in What Makes Us Fat, we differ genetically, there is variation. And studies and statistics will not tell us what is best for us, they can, at best, give some guidelines, possibilities.)

Fumento deconstructs the CSPI objections to Taubes, the claimed misrepresentations.

“I thought [Taubes’] article was outrageous,” Reaven says. “I saw my name in it and all that was quoted to me was not wrong. But in the context it looked like I was buying the rest of that crap.” He adds, “I tried to be helpful and a good citizen, and I ended up being embarrassed as hell. He sort of set me up.” When I first contacted Reaven, he was so angry he wouldn’t even let me interview him.

But his position on Atkins was all over the Internet in interviews posted long before Taubes talked to him. Do “low-carb diets like The Zone [by Barry Sears] and Atkins work?” one asked. Answer: “One can lose weight on a low-calorie diet if it is primarily composed of fat calories or carbohydrate calories or protein calories. It makes no difference!”

I find it rather obvious what happened. Reaven was attacked by colleagues for appearing to agree with Atkins, which was rank heresy. It makes no difference is the calories-in, calories-out concept that is commonly asserted as basic physics, which is misleading, as Taubes has amply explained. There is the controversial issue of metabolic advantage — which Reaven was denying, without evidence. There is a complex interplay between insulin levels and appetite and “energy.” If it doesn’t matter what kind of diet one eats, as long as calories are low, how about eating something that will satisfy hunger with fewer calories? If it is fat, the argument always was, fat is calorie dense, compared to carbs. But it is also more satisfying, and the idea of eating too much fat actually makes me feel sick. But carbs? This is the common wisdom about “Chinese food,” the commercial restaurant kind, which is often high carb. Eat it and you are hungry an hour later. The mechanism for that is obvious. Fat has no such effect.

The fifth source is another blog, title in all caps, GARY TAUBES IS A BLOWHARD. The blogger seems to think like Rats. He covers a Taubes blog post on the “red meat cancer” issue. In fact, it’s more about Zoe Harcombe. Nuff said. Why should I even read a blog that is so obviously a personal attack, not about the science.

His about page has “So who the hell are you and why should I even listen to your stupid podcast?”

Indeed. He says nothing to indicate why, at least not on the subject of Taubes. He has a BS in Nutrition and an MS in the same, but he is young and I see no clue that he actually understands the issues — unlike Guyenet. It’s appropriate that Smith cited him, because his thinking is like that of Smith: grossly oversimplified, defending I Am Right by claiming Someone Else is Wrong. There is one point he raises that I intend to check, because that issue of red meat interested me, and I wondered what Taubes had to say about it, and he has links. I noticed problems with the conclusions when I looked at what might be the same paper. This is also a blog. The author does not make his identity clear, but appears to be Seth Yoder.

So, reflecting the spirit of opinionated blogging that is amply demonstrated in the cited post:

SETH YODER IS A SELF-IMPORTANT ORIFICE FOR WASTE DISPOSAL

This is an issue of extreme importance, affecting millions of lives. People are being accused of being “murderers” for stating their opinions, including journalists and scientists, and it is possible (there is evidence, enough to “indict,” if not to convict) that mainstream advice has caused millions of unnecessary deaths. Some think it is proven, but there is always the question of who is the judge and jury. And in that context, and on that topic, someone who has done an incredible amount of work, whether or not is conclusions are correct, stimulating and facilitating genuine scientific investigation, is condemned as a “blowhard.”

 

 

 

Special Place in Hell

After having written what is below the second headline, I found another article, same author, same day:  The deadly propaganda of the statin deniers: The drugs DO protect you from heart attacks but as this devastating investigation reveals thousands are refusing them

That article continues, at the bottom, with the screed I covered below, but the screed did not reference the main article, explaining the oddities I reported below. This article, on the face, is better, actually giving more evidence, but misrepresenting many significant facts. I’ll cover that in Deadly Propaganda, a parallel page not written yet.

 

There is a special place in hell for the doctors who claim statins don’t work, says BARNEY CALMAN

By BARNEY CALMAN FOR THE MAIL ON SUNDAY

PUBLISHED: 17:21 EST, 2 March 2019

Statistics are one thing. But it’s hard to argue against the dangers of stopping taking statins when they’re staring you in the face.

The dangers were not staring him in the face, and one doesn’t know if it is “hard” to argue against the dangers of stopping if one does not look at evidence, all of it, instead of an anecdote that actually tells us very little but what is already accepted by all sides. But he doesn’t look at all sides, obviously. This is typical of a yellow journalist, and so I was not surprised to see, in the Wikipedia article on the Daily Mail,  this:

The Daily Mail has been widely criticised for its unreliability, as well as printing of sensationalist and inaccurate scare stories of science and medical research,[12][13][14][15][16] and for copyright violations.[17]

However, I know this about Wikipedia, from long experience. Unless there is a notable source  not only criticizing, but asserting that criticism is “wide,” in which case, as an interpretation, this would normally be attributed in the text, “according to,” not merely in a reference note — unless, of course — this was itself widely known, being found in many neutral sources, that statement is an example of Original Research being allowed to creep into Wikepedia articles. Nevertheless, I’ve notice the Mail being a sensationalist publication before, and I looked at the sources a little. They were good enough to allow that text as a first approximation, but I did not read all of them. The sources were the The Guardian, citing Wikipedia itself, which rejected the Daily Mail as “reliable source,” The New Yorker, Forbes, and more, getting close to fact. The Guardian article is remarkable for its reasonably correct understanding of Wikipedia process, which is relatively rare. This article on cancer articles in the Daily Mail is hilarious, and, unfortunately, right on, and, also unfortunately, the Guardian may itself have gone downhill, I’ve seen a number of examples.

As to the Mail, this is a brilliant example. The headline and the lead shout “yellow journalism” to me. He starts with what he actually saw (which is great, in itself, a human story), but he has already telegraphed what he thinks it means, and the interpretation is an easy, casual one, ignoring the actual science of the field.

Last week, I met 49-year-old Colin Worthing as he recovered in his hospital bed following a heart attack in the early hours of Tuesday. He had been prescribed cholesterol-lowering tablets ten years ago but quit them – without any medical advice – having ‘heard they don’t really work’.

All sane medical advice is against quitting a prescribed medication without consultation. He did, based on his own casual, uncareful interpretation of what he had “heard.” Statins do work, certainly to lower cholesterol, but what effect do they have on heart health, what are the side effects, and what alternatives are there? Nobody, again nobody sane again, will suggest stopping any medication without at least having a conversation with a medical practictioner, and if one doesn’t believe the practitioner, then getting a second opinion. Instead, he stuck his head in the sand, without knowledge, just depending on rumor — but also on his feelings, which now he rejects. But he is still ignorant, as we will see.

Colin suffered his first heart attack in 2009, with little warning. ‘It was a shock as I’d felt well otherwise,’ he said. ‘Later I was told I had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. My mother has heart problems, so I think it runs in my family.’

First heart attacks are commonly like that. He says “little warning.” He didn’t already know that he had high blood pressure and high cholesterol? This is someone who neglects normal routine medical care. That is high-risk, at least for many.

He was prescribed statins and blood- pressure-lowering medication. ‘I took them to start with, but I felt lethargic.

There is a high probability here that he was experiencing a known statin side-effect. It’s quite dangerous, actually, if ignored. He sensed that it was due to the statin, but did not consult with his practitioner as to alternatives. There are alternative recommendations with higher effect on cardiac risk, with fewer side effects, but he shows no sign of being aware of them. So, this is known: there is an increased death rate from “non-compliers” with statin prescriptions, but that could easily be because non-compliers may have poor health in general, or at least poor health practices. The increase, by the way, is not large.

I was always hearing on the radio that statins didn’t really work, and drug companies were just trying to make money by getting us all on tablets. You do start think there’s no smoke without fire.’

Drug companies are trying to make money? Who knew? To think, I always thought they were charities, out to help people with no regard for profit. Not. This was irrelevant nonsense, not a reason to stop statins. There is a fire, in fact, but he has not recognized, not yet, the true source of danger to himself. Instead, he just got knocked upside the heat, a warning that he’s been running blind without a clue, and his immediate reaction is not to look for the cause in himself, it is in those nasty stupid critics.

If someone says, on the radio, that “statins don’t work,” they are being misleading. The truth is far more complex, and, in fact, still controversial. The real question is about real risk vs. relative risk and real options. Comparing a statin with “doing nothing” might actually save one’s life, in some cases, but this is not a sane choice, if one is actually at risk. Instead of researching the issue himself, he was passive, listening to the radio, and doing nothing positive for his health, nothing reported. He had high cholesterol and high blood pressure, and there is no sign that he continued measuring these things, that he made what might be advisable changes to his diet, that he started an exercise program, universally recommended for people with a risk of heart attack, that he had diagnostic tests, like stress tests, not even measurement of C-reactive protein, which is a better risk predictor than cholesterol, none of that.

In 2013 he decided to stop all medication. ‘I wrote to my GP saying I no longer needed my repeat prescription, and never heard any more,’ he says.

The GP left it in his hands, obviously not having educated him. Common. But the GP is not being blamed here for not responding, though this was an obvious failure. Instead, these events are being used to blame doctors and scientists and others who are skeptical about the benefits of statins, as if his case proves something.

Over the next five years he felt well, ‘although I suppose I was stressed with work, and I did put on quite a bit of weight’.

In other words, he had two clear risk factors (stress and major weight gain), more predictive of heart attack than cholesterol. He did nothing about it, because he “felt well.” And, in a way, he was well, but at risk, and ignoring the risk, because, after all, heart disease runs in his family, and he’s going to die, and he doesn’t want to think about it, doesn’t want to go to a doctor to hear bad news, which is what he expects, my guess. He is actually a good argument against the head-in-the-sand approach to self-care. Taking statins or not taking them is a choice that is wisely made with informed consent, so he had a choice: either trust his GP blindly, or ask his GP to educate him, ask his GP about what he is hearing, ask his GP about risks (not just “risk factors”), and keep in communication, or believe the conspiracy theory. He chose to believe that theory, which was actually irrelevant. Statins have effects, they “work,” but how well and for whom. It is obvious if one becomes informed: Not everyone is benefited, and it is possible some are harmed. How many? Informed consent would require that he do much more than passively take medicine or decide to quit based on rumors. It would require him to take responsibility for his choices. But in spite of a second heart attack, he still has not done that. But it’s soon after that additional warning, and it is possible that he will wake up and realize that his biggest enemy is his own ignorance and lack of attention to his health.

And then, at about 1am on Tuesday, he woke feeling clammy, with a familiar tightness in his chest. ‘I knew it was a heart attack, and called 999.’

Right. That, however, is not what I would do. Because I’ve been paying attention, even though I have never had a heart attack, I carry a small vial of nitroglycerin tablets with me, I would take a nitroglycerin, which is very fast-acting, and if the symptoms disappeared, I’d make an appointment for a consultation. If the symptoms did not disappear, and in 15 minutes, I would take another dose. If they did not disappear within 15 minutes, I would call 911 and take a third dose. I’ve been told that if the symptoms are going when the paramedics arrive, I can decline transport. Not being in communication with his doctor, he had no clue about any of this.

(But if the symptoms were severe enough, I would call 911 at the outset. Again, because I have been in cardiac rehab, I am sensitive to the mildest angina, but it has never been strong enough to take one tablet.)

Colin was rushed to hospital where he had surgery to insert a stent which will keep blood flowing through his cardiac arteries while he awaits a full heart bypass operation. His consultant at Hammersmith Hospital, London, Dr Rasha Al-Lamee, said: ‘We regularly see patients who, like Colin, have stopped taking statins because they believe the myth that they don’t do any good. In fact, he’s one of the lucky ones. He’s alive.

How did the author find this patient? It’s rather obvious. He was writing a story about statin denialism and the terrible harm it causes, over which there have been many scare stories. So he reached out for a case, and was supplied one. But was that heart attacked caused by stopping statins?

From this story, he was one who experienced a statin side effect, and had he continued without addressing the problems, he might have died from something other than a heart attack. Statin side-effects can be serious, especially if they cause reduced exercise.

‘There will be numerous reasons his heart disease progressed so far, but one of the factors will be because he stopped taking statins.’

That’s true, there will be numerous reasons. A “factor,” which must refer to a “risk factor” is here being confused with a cause. His stopping statins did not cause his heart attack. It is possible that it did not reduce a possible cause, but this cannot be known, because statins do not address the primary causes of atherosclerosis, that’s obvious. If they did, they would be much more effective than they are.

Colin added: ‘I was a fool to stop taking the medication. Who cares whether or not someone is making money from statins. If I had carried on taking them, I might not be where I am now.’

It’s possible, and it is also possible, even likely, that if he had done nothing more effective than taking statins to address his heart condition, he would also have had a heart attack.

He may not get any more warnings. He has a stent, which will, in his condition, probably extend his life, that’s crisis care, and medical science has gotten quite good at it.

He is still a fool, my opinion, he has not taken responsibility for his own choices and is, instead, focused on irrelevancies, like the conspiracy theory. I hope that he wakes up. This is not about whether he takes statins or not, it is a change in attitude.

I am still studying the research, and may be continuing that for the rest of my life. But it appears, so far, to me, that while statins have been shown in some studies to reduce risk of a cardiac event by 30% or so, that is a reduction in absolute risk of about 1%. It is difficult to apply the statistics to a case like this. From what we know, it is likely that this patient would have been in the 2% that had a heart attack, even though they were taking statins.

And if he focuses on cholesterol, and is happy that his cholesterol is reduced and uses this as an excuse to feel safe, and does not take other, more powerful measures, and they exist, he will remain at high risk.

The evidence is staring Calman in the face, but he ignores it for a sensationalist story. Because he is reaching millions with this, he may cause real damage, cost real lives, so . . . special place in hell.

And a special place of reward for those who carefully report reality, what they actually experience, and who practice the real methods of science, which include and even require full attention to criticism, to skepticism. Suppression of skepticism is fascist and may, under some conditions, be populist. It is not science-based. Scientific response to skepticism requires a serious consideration of criticism, and the design of studies to test theses and possible criticisms of prior work, until the issues are so settled that contrary opinion truly and naturally becomes the extreme fringe, safely to be ignored.

We are not there yet.

To paraphrase Donald Tusk, there is a special place in hell for the statins deniers who continue to fuel public confusion and a vague perception that the drugs, as Colin said, ‘don’t really work’.

OK, I don’t actually believe in hell. Or Donald Tusk, much, for that matter. But they need to realise that the ultimate fallout from high-risk patients, such as Colin, stopping proven treatment will be illness, disability and death. Debate should – must – be at the heart of science. Just because someone has been awarded the title professor doesn’t make them right. And some of our greatest medical discoveries have come from so-called mavericks who ignored the orthodoxies.

Who the hell is Donald Tusk and why does Calman not believe in him? So this yellow journalist uses a highly inflammatory phrase to attack “doctors” for pursuing research and reporting results, and analyzing the results of other research, but he doesn’t believe it? I do believe in hell, and strongly suspect that Calman is in it. He is willing to lie and state as fact what he does not actually know, on a matter of high importance for public health. The patient is not in Hell, not from telling his story, merely possibly mistaken about some aspects of it. Nor is the physician. Simply being wrong is not enough to create the entry into hell. Lying can be, as an aspect of the general cause, denial in the face of clear evidence.

His last sentence, though, is true. This, however, simply suggests that we should, collectively, pay attention to the outliers, the alleged fringe (even where ideas are more outside the mainstream than those of the people he will be naming). It is very dangerous to suppress diversity of opinion, and even more so to suppress research results (the data is not opinion, if not fraudulent, and fraud in the reporting of data is rare.)

The public should, my view, wake up and demand that scientific controversies with major consequences be resolved with more research, better data, which, long term, leads to the decline of fringe skepticism. The expense of this would be minor compared to the cost of accepting a mainstream consensus that is not backed by thorough and careful — and unbiased — research. If drug companies want to support this, they would provide no-questions-asked grants to agencies not depending on them, but more on public support. Governmental support can help, but also tends, in the real world, to be dominated by political and economic considerations.

For we should make no mistake: the statins deniers are no Barry Marshalls.

(Barry Marshall discovered that H. Pylori caused ulcers.)

The trio mentioned in our piece aren’t the only ones. There is Dr John Abramson at Harvard, author of the misleading ‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study; Joseph Mercola, a discredited anti-medicine campaigner who claims to have millions of website views a day; Dr Uffe Ravnskov in Denmark, founder of The International Network of Cholesterol Skeptics, and others.

It is a particularly insidious type of fake news they peddle, apparently from a respectable, credible source, but laced with misinformation. They seem now even to have the ear of policy-makers.

So far, he has not mentioned any others, so this was terrible writing or editing. It appears he had an earlier draft, and removed material from it, and did not properly revise the rest.

Calling them “statin deniers” telegraphs that they are deniers of reality, that they insist on some fringe idea in the face of clear evidence. The evidence is nowhere near as clear as Calman believes, if he is sincere and not simply being paid. Is that comment, mentioning that possibility, a conspiracy theory? Well, I look at the article and what is featured at the top? A drug advertisement. Now, to think that there might be some possible conflict of interest is not a “conspiracy theory,” it is simply common sense that it’s possible.

There is far more evidence for the Big Pharma influence on scientific opinion and coverage of it, than there is for the “author and Big Food conspiracy theory” of others about these so-called “denialists.” But it’s actually irrelevant to the central theory. Someone is not wrong because they publish a diet book, as Calman seems to pretend. If there are problems with statin research — and there are clearly problems with many studies I have seen — then the scientific and rational approach is to look at the problems, not toss insults at those who point them out. Who raised an issue is an ad hominem argument, fundamentally fallacious from a logical perspective, unless the credibility of the person is the issue.

So this statement: There is Dr John Abramson at Harvard, author of the misleading ‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study — “Misleading”?

That is given as if it were a fact. Do the readers of this article know what “BMJ” stands for, and what it is?

And then he has, about this: “apparently from a respectable, credible source, but laced with misinformation.”

Great! This yellow journalist is calling an article “laced with misinformation,” published by the BMJ, formerly called the British Medical Journal, published since 1840, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the British Medical Association, using “apparently” to call the publication in question, when it is not in any doubt at all, it is a respectable, credible source, if any source is.

That does not mean that an article may not be misleading in some way or other. Articles in peer-reviewed journals can have errors in them, or may draw misleading conclusions, sometimes, but a credible journal will not allow that. The public does not read the BMJ, in general, rather, they read media reports, if the media thinks something newsworthy, and often the media exaggerates or misleads, and especially media like the Daily Mail. So the article:

Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? 22 October 2013

Calman refers to this as the “‘20 per cent side effect’ BMJ study“, adopting the language of critics of the “study.” It was actually a review, an analysis. The visible abstract does not refer to “20 percent side effects.” However, obviously the article did have something about the rate of side effects, because a correction was issued on that matter:

Corrections 15 May 2014 quotes or describes the withdrawn language:

The conclusion and summary box of this Analysis article by Abramson and colleagues

(BMJ 2013;347:f6123, doi:10.1136/bmj.f6123) stated that side effects of statins occur in about 18-20% of patients. 

And

The authors also mistakenly reported that Zhang et al found that “18% of statin treated patients had discontinued therapy (at least temporarily) because of statin related events.” 

However, the issue is actually much more complicated. In order to conclude that the report was a mistake, clarification from Zhang was sought. Zhang. The true rate of “statin related events” is not accurately known. The correction has:

The primary finding of Abramson and colleague’s article—that the Cholesterol Treatment Trialists’ data failed to show that statins reduced the overall risk of mortality among people with <20% risk of cardiovascular disease over the next 10 years—was not challenged in the process of communication about this correction.

How was the article “misleading.” It overstated the evidence. What it stated was not necessarily false, as to the true rate of statin side effects, and from my review of testimonies by statin users, the official rates are probably understated, from many causes. What people need to know, and what is clear, is that there is a significant rate of undesirable side effects, and that not only should they not ignore criticisms of statins, they should be vigilant for possible side effects, and consult if they believe they find one. Either way, statins are not emergency care, they only have a small long-term effect on cardiac risk, at best. If one becomes uncomfortable taking statins, and this is crucial: consult, period. Investigate, neither stop without consultation or continue without consultation. It is not the job of patients to worry about the nocebo effect, and attempting to “educate” them about it would be to discourage the patient from carefully reviewing their own condition and identifying *possible* side effects. The choice to continue or discontinue in the presence of a possible side effect is a complex one. There is no one-size fits all advice, other than Consult, Communicate, Co0perate — and Take Personal Responsibility.

If on the one hand, you don’t trust your practitioner, it is urgent to find another. If you trust your practitioner, but think he or she might be mistaken in this case, get a second opinion, but be careful: if there is an error in “standard of practice,” it might be difficult to find a second opinion unless one does one’s own research and knows what questions to ask. A good physician will not pretend to knowledge and will tell you *if you ask* whether they personally know what is coming from their own experience and knowledge or standard of practice, and if the latter, they will tell you how they know (or will look it up to assist your research).

For many of us, without a scientific background, the core issue is personal trust. When I have found that a practitioner did not encourage me to question his recommendations, I fired him, I don’t need a petty god in my life. In that case, I checked on what he had told me, not only from my own research but also with other specialists. He was, quite simply, wrong, but apparently believing he was right or simply not willing to engage with a “stupid patient.” This is a problem: if a physician, believing the standard of practice is wrong , at least in some specific case, prescribes something else, he can be sued for malpractice and can lose his license. Because no advice, even if generally correct, guarantees a positive outcome, a bias is introduced that disallows physicians from recommending what they personally believe to be true. A way for physicians to handle that is through providing full information. I could imagine being handed a paper to sign that has, “I understand that the recommendations given me today deviate from standard of practice, as I have been informed, I recognize that I have the right to independently research this matter, or to obtain a second opinion, and I take full responsibility for my choices made with this information.”

Was this article “full of misleading information” The “20%” claim was slightly misleading as to the very high standards of that journal. But was it substantially misleading? Was there other “misleading information” in the article? Was the conclusion misleading? If so, the journal editors, on review, appear not to have thought so.

There was substantial controversy over this article. The Data Supplement is huge, with many letters and responses, reviewer comments, etc. There is a great deal of additional information and analysis in the Responses page.

What Calman has done is to take a strong position on one side of an obviously open scientific debate. But he is pretending that this is based on clear evidence, it is not. It is based on confusion and rumor and innuendo.

Invited to comment on the study which suggests thousands of patients have quit medication due to statin confusion, and of these, many will have heart attacks, Dr Kendrick claimed it was he who was the victim, as such a claim amounted to ‘reprehensible bullying.’

Again, Dr Kendrick was not mentioned before, and the study in question has not been cited. Kendrick has published the mail he received,

Cholesterol Games

Something is off, because Kendrick refers to a photo that does not appear in what is visible to me of the article. I looked at the Sunday Mail main page to see if there was some photo and link “up front.” Nothing. It is possible that the article has been modified. The article itself contains evidence of additional material that is not in the text I can see.

Kendrick publishes both the mail from Calman and his responses, both before the article was published and after. He has this:

The Mail on Sunday have published a very long article attacking ‘statin deniers’ with pictures of me Zoe and Aseem at the front. I think I look quite dashing. Not as dashing as Aseem who is a very handsome swine, and also young, and intelligent – and brave. Yes, I hate him.

Nor am I as attractive as Zoe Harcombe. But hey, at least I got my picture in the national press. I wasn’t very keen on the bit where they called me self-pitying. But I was quite pleased that they included some of the stuff that I sent.

Kendrick is an entertaining writer. I had not heard of him until I was accused by a troll of being the owner of a sock puppet who had attacked him, and I investigated, and I recognized who the true attacker was, and it was not the person being bandied about by internet commenters, following suggestions from the same sock master. So I corrected those to protect the innocent, and started to read Kendrick. His series on the causes of heart disease is a clear account of the investigations of a true skeptic. And then I bought his books, at least the Kindle editions, not for “advice about statins,” but because the general issue of information cascades and mainstream error in science has long been of high interest to me.

In what I can read Kalman lied about Kendrick’s response. It’s that simple. Kalman is a troll who should not be in any responsible editorial position. He has the right to his opinion, but editorials should be labeled as such. Of course, the Mail may not care, their reputation is already trashed, and if they want sensationalism, hysterical screeds, he may be perfect for them, and they can all take their seat in Hell.

I am writing another review of an article on the cholesterol controversy that is far better, even though I consider it, in itself, misleading. At least it focuses on the issues! And it has links to sources, much of it is verifiable. If I look at the full debate in the BMJ on this issue, there is much information as well, links to sources and arguments by experts.

The issue is often presented as “Who should the public trust”? It’s not exactly the right question.

Nobody is infallible, but if we are paying attention, and if we act to inform ourselves and to test ideas, we are the world’s foremost experts on our own condition. Sanely, we consult with experts on the general field of interest, but blind trust in anyone else is dangerous, just as dangerous as blind trust in our own correctness. On the other hand, trust with eyes wide open will recognize when there are problems. Trust that also verifies and confirms, is far more powerful than blind trust.

Medical fascists, I’m starting to call them, do not want a fully informed public and they want to suppress and discredit and disable dissent, giving an old argument, that “quacks” or whatever term they use, it might as well be “socialists” or “liberals” or “fascists,” for that matter, will mislead the ignorant public. The answer to misleading information is not suppression and censorship, which the fascists would have, but verifiable information, or at least balancing argument, and all of us are responsible for our choices.

If I don’t have enough information, it is my responsibility to obtain it, if the choice matters to me.

Unless my doctors have actually lied to me or were grossly incompetent (in which case all bets are off), my doctors will not be sued for malpractice if I die because I chose to follow a recommendation that did not succeed in protecting me.

This is the obvious truth about statins and heart disease. They are not miracle drugs, silver bullets, that, if taken, strongly prevent heart disease. The reduction in risk is roughly from 3% to 2%. Another way to put this is that if I don’t take statins, I might die, and if I take statins, I might die, and if I die we don’t know, from that whether the choice was correct.

There are comparisons being made with vaccination, and “anti-vaxxers.” Vaccination, as a general practice, has made a *drastic* difference in the rates of many serious diseases, but there are also problems. I had a friend who died because his daughter was given Sabin oral vaccine. He was maybe in his thirties and had never been vaccinated, contracted polio, and died from it. This was a rare event, and as a public policy, given that the vaccines have saved millions of lives, and that is not controversial, at least not to me, a decision can be made to tolerate some level of harm to a few.

However, what was missing in that situation was a careful review of family members, and informed consent by the whole family to the child’s vaccination.

There are physicians who work with patients who decline vaccination, not to condemn them, but respecting their choice, and keeping up communication, and when risk becomes high, these physicians find that patients are willing to take the risks of side effects.

Blaming the anti-vaxxers for poor educational outreach, accusing vaccine refusers of ignorance and child neglect, is not a solution, it will only harden opposition.

Medical fascism is not a sane path to better health care.

From what little I have seen of anti-vax information, there are some concerns that appear legitimate, and it should be easy to research these, thoroughly. Is it?

To be sure, one of the concerns is that safety studies were never fully completed. Why not? Fact: the drug companies are not going to perform those studies unless they must, and they would be the wrong manager of safety studies. We need systemic changes, we, the public, must take responsibility for supporting the best science. The system we have expects drug companies to shoulder that burden, and there are reasons for that, to be sure, for medicines that are not so likely to be useful, but . . . who watches the watchers? In theory, governmental agencies do this, but they can be a revolving door with industry lobbyists, where are the lobbyists for the public interest? The only ones I have seen are ones with an axe to grind already. We need facilitation of basic science, not predetermined political positions.

Most of what I have seen of anti-anti-vax discussions, is polemic and hysteria, itself. The risk of not vaccinating is normally low, in a vaccinated society. Yes, there is a possible risk, from what has become a rare disease, which must always be balanced against other risks, to be sane.

If giving poor medical advice is to be considered murder (as it was in a recent case where the advice was actually outrageous), then hundreds of experts, and thousands (or even millions through compliance) were possibly guilty of murder in the original advice on dietary fat and cholesterol. That advice has been modified and clarified over the years, but it is still seriously defective.

If a patient depends on statins for controlling atherosclerosis, and does not implement “life style adjustments,” the statin prescription might actually be causing harm. Some of those harmed will die. “Murder by Standard of Practice.”

Standards of Practice should be subject to continual review, with controversy recognized, not deprecated as “denialism.” Where objections are incorrect, that can be examined and addressed with care, not with blind certainty that what was recommended for a long must necessarily be right.

Semmelweiss was rejected because what his research found showed that doctors were transmitting puerpural fever to women giving birth, killing thousands of mothers, and that idea was so horrifying that it was rejected as not having any known mechanism. This was before Pasteur showed that bacteria could transmit disease, invisibly. It did not help that Semmelweiss himself was probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, and became quite angry at being rejected, and extreme on his attacks on those rejecting his research. The lesson: just because someone is crazy (“conspiracy theorist” asserts insanity) does not show that they are wrong. Factual assertions should be checked, at least by somebody.

One of the problems in medical science is that media reports new research with lurid or exciting headlines that often do not reflect what is actually shown. So a paper that finds “there is no evidence for the benefit of statins for a certain population group,” becomes, “Study claims statins are useless.” Media want punchy headlines and “news you can use,” so they take information and massage it into what they think people want to read.

And we, the public, tolerate that and that makes us responsible for it. We could create reliable media, this is a horn I have been blowing for years. We don’t. Why not? Too much work, too much bother, and I think I’ll check Facebook or Apple News for something exciting, or watch the football game, or whatever floats my boat for a while, even if the stream is heading for a huge waterfall.

The patient example here was absolutely brilliant. The real problem of that patient was obvious. He was high risk, he had already had a heart attack! That is an extremely high risk patient, who made have needed a stent many years earlier. I’m not eager to have a stent put in, but if I have an actual heart attack, I’ll could easily be on my back in an operating room with a catheter in my heart and a cardiologist will look at the images and decide, on the spot, whether or not to insert one of those little beasties, and I am not so likely to second-guess him.

This poor fellow actually had a heart attack at 39, and obviously failed to take the warning seriously. He was very, very high risk, and became more so. He did nothing at all, at least nothing that is reported. He was extremely high risk! Statins are only a part of this picture, and his doctor recognized that. But since the story was about statin denialism, that fact is deprecated, given no real coverage. Instead the focus is on alleged sources of statin denialism, vague. There is no sign that this fellow read any of the “denialist” research. No, he listened to the radio, to discussion programs, and took away only a conspiracy theory, that he believed.

He suffered from denial, avoidance of reality, of what was really going on with his body, and he wanted to hear that this drug that he didn’t feel good taking was useless, but he did not then look for what would be more useful, and there is really no controversy that there are more useful interventions (and better measures of risk than cholesterol). It also looks to me like his original cardiac care was shoddy and incomplete. Did he have a cardiac cat scan or a stress test or other tests? Was he advised to maintain contact with his cardiologist? Did he have a cardiologist?

It was easy for his physician to write a statin prescription, but this is what the “statin skeptics” have been pointing out: Statins, if they are effective at all, are not powerfully effective to prevent heart disease (i.e, they are very unlike proven vaccinations). If they belong in a cardiac care regimen, it would not be as the foundation, as the core, the must-have. What belongs there is probably exercise (including, initially, monitored exercise. Here in the U.S., now and probably then, cardiac rehab would have been prescribed. It is fairly expensive, but also effective, if the patient realizes that they need to exercise, or their risk of death at any time becomes high, and then the patient continues to follow a program. A long-term program is not at all expensive, it can be free. So much walking, for example, so many times a week.

And then there is diet, and we need much more research on diet. It’s shocking how little is actually known; rather the field of nutritional science is full of “facts” that aren’t. They are ideas that became popular, with some scientific foundation, generally, but not enough to develop clear conclusions.

So exercise and diet. The actual causes and mechanisms of the development of atherosclerosis are not well understood. When we no more, it may become possible to design drugs with much more powerful effect than statins. If it is true that cholesterol is not the cause of heart disease (and there are substantial claims of that), but is only, at best, an associated symptom of something else, then lowering cholesterol will not have much effect, if any, on disease progression. Statins also have other effects which may give some level of protection. The black and white arguments that yellow journalists love are “Statins are miracle drugs that save lives, except for people stupid enough to follow diet-book authors,” and “Statins are useless, and dangerous, and nobody should take them, and those that do are stupid blind followers or orthodoxy.”

It is not that reality is “somewhere in between,” and I would never suggest that “equal time” should be given to “two sides,” but rather that reality is not a position or point of view, and that it is never expressed fully in some simple-minded statement that attempts to shut off inquiry.

The fundamental problem, as seen long, long ago, is ignorance and attachment, combined. When we become more interested in reality, and trusting reality, rather than in promoting our own individual points of view, we will make progress, and the world will transform.

Labos

under construction

Subpage of science-and-medicine

The Cholesterol Controversy

Christopher Labos on February 15, 2019

He starts out with a conclusion. He does acknowledge that there was controversy, but claims it is time to consider it closed. I see a problem in that introduction. First of all, do we know the etiology, the cause and course of arteriosclerosis? Is cholesterol a cause or an associated “risk factor”? What do we know and how do we know it? What is possible, what is probable, and how do we assess these? These are questions I have in mind as I go over the article. If some measure is only a risk factor, associated but not causative, altering the measure will not necessarily reduce the actual risk.

The photo caption:

Two bags of fresh frozen plasma. The bag on the left was obtained from a patient with hypercholesterolemia, and is cloudy with undissolved cholesterol particles.

Source. No information on cholesterol levels. Okay, but the significance? So blood with lots of cholesterol looks different than blood with little. So?

A recent article in The Guardian raised an interesting question. Is cholesterol denialism a valid form of skepticism or pseudoscience? Is there valid debate surrounding the benefit of cholesterol medication or is the evidence and the scientific consensus clearly on one side of the issue?

It is true that we argue about cholesterol far more than the other cardiovascular risk factors. It is hard today to find anyone who doubts the harmful effects of smoking, diabetes, hypertension or the lack of exercise. So why is there a cholesterol controversy but unanimity on other risk factors?

Okay, the Guardian article, our subpage.

I found value there, but only by searching for papers she referred to and related documents. The article itself was next to useless except as a great example of assuming the status quo is better than whatever is proposed to replace it. If lots of people criticize something, and if danger is asserted without evidence other than established belief, well, dangerous ideas should not be allowed to be published. I find it so ironic that advocates of evidence-based medicine, allegedly scientists, will declare criticism of what they believe “denialism,” when skepticism and criticism is essential to science even if later shown to be wrong. And who decides when later is? There a many who appear to believe that they represent the “consensus,” but they do not actually measure consensus. Signatures for the open letter were solicited on a blog, and there were

Bosely claimed “More than 170 academics signed a letter.” This shows what? The actual solicitation and signatures were not limited to academics, nor by field of study. There are currently 169 signatures, but if we include the original authors, it becomes 173. Looking at affiliations and counting those that do not show an academic affiliation, there are roughly 55, leaving 128. This was meaningless, in fact, given the population involved. Yes, it would show that 169 people agreed with the letter, but out of how many? Science is not a vote and votes are meaningless, unless conditions are set for it to truly represent a community. This was on the order of a petition requesting investigation of charges of bias.

The essence here is a conspiracy theory, that journals are publishing articles favoring low-carb diets and the like as a conspiracy to promote some crank ideas. Perhaps book authors are pimping fads to make money selling books. Boseley, however is also a book author, with her own advice. Perhaps she has a conflict of interest? Were it not for her implication that others are promoting dangerous ideas to sell books, I wouldn’t comment on it. But she is implying that, which is a huge insult to any academic, as many of the cholesterol skeptics are.

I have concluded that Boseley had an axe to grind, there are way too many signals of high bias.

Why is there a cholesterol controversy? It is very obvious why. What is controversial? He does not begin with a definition. Cholesterol is found inside arterial plaque. That is not controversial. What is controversial is whether or not cholesterol causes the plaque, and, further, how blood levels influence this process or exacerbate it, and, further back, whether or not dietary cholesterol leads to harmful blood cholesterol, or saturated fats, or all fats, depending on what point in history we go back to.

Very many of the original cholesterol hypotheses (i.e, there are more than one) have been disconfirmed by more careful study, but the attack on skepticism has remained constant, never recognizing that, at least in some ways, the skeptics were correct. For decades, Dr. Atkins “nutritional approach,” he called it (not “diet” it is actually not restrictive, but prescriptive, eat what he suggests and you may not crave the things he suggests be avoided), it was called a “fad diet,” though it was actually quite old and whether it worked or not did not depend on its age, he was called a quack, etc., etc….. But when I told the nurse at my doctor’s office that I was starting out on Atkins, she had one comment, “Oh, that works!” And then that the Atkins diet works is ascribed to many asserted causes that are not necessarily real for the diet as it is, and misinformation about Atkins abounds. It is not a high-protein diet. Atkins was correct, and eventually funded research to test his program against other common ones. Surprise! In spite of being high-fat, Atkins eaters improved cardiac risk factors. And then, of course, he was accused of influencing the outcome of the study, but studies funded by companies with billions of dollars at stake are just good science? He had chosen a skeptical professor to fund. Smart guy, rest his soul.

Labos goes into the history of other controversies, that we allegedly forget. He covers  disagreement over the harm of tobacco, blood pressure, the discovery of cholesterol, and then has

One of the earliest researchers in cholesterol was Nikolay Anichkov who in 1913 reported that rabbits fed pure cholesterol dissolved in sunflower oil developed atherosclerotic lesions, whereas the control rabbits fed just sunflower oil did not. At the time, this research had little impact and its importance was only recognized in retrospect. As Daniel Steinberg states:

If the full significance of his findings had been appreciated at the time, we might have saved more than 30 years in the long struggle to settle the cholesterol controversy and [Anichkov] might have won a Nobel Prize. Instead, his findings were largely rejected or at least not followed up. Serious research on the role of cholesterol in human atherosclerosis did not really get under way until the 1940s.

And just what is the significance? Dietary cholesterol does not cause atherosclerosis. If his findings were “rejected,” that is tragic. Research findings should be respected, and problems only arise in interpretation.

Cholesterol is found in atherosclerotic deposits. That is not controversy, but is this cause or is it effect? And how does the development and progression of such deposits relate to diet and to blood cholesterol level?.

Laboratories that tried to reproduce Anichkov’s results using dogs or rats failed to show that a cholesterol rich diet caused atherosclerosis. This likely occurred because dogs and other carnivores handle cholesterol differently from rabbits and other herbivores This led many to dismiss Anichkov’s results on the grounds that rabbits were not a good a good model for human physiology and that his research was likely irrelevant to humans.

Which still holds as an objection. Rats often are close to human response. So maybe rats are reactive to the cholesterol they were given, or the taste stressed them so much that they developed the arterial lesions that lead to initiation of the processes that build up plaque.

The criticism leveled against his research was not entirely unfounded.

On the one hand, I’d like to congratulate him for admitting the obvious, but what is rather obvious to me is that he still thinks it was at least somewhat unfounded, he still thinks this is relevant to human atherosclerosis, he has an axe to grind. Otherwise, without that, he would have skipped over this irrelevancy.

We have seen countless times how animal research does not translate into humans and to accept the “lipid hypothesis” based purely on Anichkov’s work would have been premature.

To say the least.

It should have been an invitation for others to pursue this new line of inquiry.

“Should have.” By what standard? This is obvious to me: Labos believes the lipid hypothesis. That’s okay. But it means that he is not a neutral judge, unless he could truly and consciously set aside what he believes, to study and make sure he understands what he is criticizing. He would, if interested in science, be attempting to prove himself wrong, not right. But, no, he’s convinced he is right and is only going through this exercise to prove that it’s totally silly to believe anything other than what he believes about cholesterol. He is pseudoskeptical about cholesterol skepticism. But, again, the conversation can have value.

Eventually in the 1950s John Gofman would begin his research in lipoproteins and determine that there were different types of cholesterol. Today of course we acknowledge that low-density particles like LDL are atherogenic whereas high-density particles like HDL are not. Gofman demonstrated this in the 1956 Cooperative Study of Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis although the distinction of LDL and HDL would only come later.

Notice how fact is mixed with conclusions. Is LDL “atherogenic,” or is it merely an associated risk factor, or, third possibility, it has some effect on some more powerful, more critical cause? And notice, the early cholesterol hypothesis did not discriminate between HDL and LDL, and even deeper distinctions are moving into common practice.

I very much appreciate the link provided. The theme here is, ostensibly, “Why is there a controversy.” That link is to a review of the study. From that:

The Report provided an unprecedented majority and minority statement of the investigators. The group agreed that there was predictive value in the lipid measures. It diverged in interpretation.

Why was there controversy then? It’s fairly obvious. Social issues, and probably a drive to get “useful results” which can warp science. That page is part of HEART ATTACK PREVENTION A History of Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology which I intend to use thoroughly. But not yet.

Despite the controversy that surrounded the Cooperative Study of Lipoproteins and Atherosclerosis, there was evidence that cholesterol (regardless how you measured it) was correlated with coronary disease. The work of Carl Muller studying patients with familial hypercholesterolemia was also largely supportive of this link. The work of Brown and Goldstein and their isolation of the LDL receptor would prove the genetic cause of this disease and win the Nobel Prize, but this work was still decades off. However, it could be argued, with some validity, that individuals with a genetic cause for their high cholesterol were not representative of the general population. Nevertheless, by the mid-1950s there was enough interest in this new potential risk factor that large-scale epidemiologic studies were launched.

The launching of those studies was appropriate, given the evidence available. We do need to remember that correlation is not causation. Muller (article linked above) does not clearly relate to the issue under discussion. Of course there is “some validity.” I notice, again, how Labos is organizing his post. I have seen this from fanatics many times: they will assert a series of weak facts that they consider connected, and then they will assert that the preponderance of the evidence (which appears to be the number of facts claimed) demonstrates that their belief is therefore true. It is not the collection of evidence that is the problem, exactly, but the conclusions drawn from it. But then Labos does go closer to the heart of it.

The Seven Countries Study has certainly been one of the most notorious studies of the period and its originator, Ancel Keys, has become a popular target for attack. The main thrust of the attack is that he cherry picked the data in order to obfuscate the truth that saturated fats are unrelated to heart disease. The reality is slightly more nuanced and a detailed review of the Seven Countries Study highlighting its strengths and limitations can be found here for anyone who is interested. Suffice it to say, the main argument that can be leveled against the attempt to deny the role of cholesterol in heart disease is to point out that other studies have shown similar results.

Now, Labos appears to mindread Keys, which I would not do. But perhaps he is merely reflecting the claims. This is obvious: the Seven Countries were selected from a much larger possible set, and I’ve seen results plotted including the larger set. The alleged strong correlation disappears. Did Keys do this deliberately? Maybe. Maybe he had strong political motives, maybe something else. However, the link is to a remarkable document, a detailed defense of Keys that takes into account the critiques.

“Other studies have shown similar results” requires an assessment of “similarity,” which can easily be biased. Further, Labos is slipping from correlation (which Keys claimed and which may exist), subtly into causation, i.e., “role.” There is an abundance of evidence, almost too much. But what would a neutral review (if that is possible, I’m not sure) conclude? And, more to my interest (and Taubes as well, by the way) what research could be designed to definitively answer open questions?

If the opinion is spread that the question is closed, it has already been answered with overwhelming evidence, there will be two outcomes: one is some level of suppression of research and discussion, and the other is a hardening of positions. Nobody likes to be told that they are wrong, everyone knows they are wrong, and they should just shut up and, and what? Die? They are called “die-hards.” People who are willing to question authority, the popular wisdom are precious, if they do not go too far and attempt to oppress others. There is a danger in challenging the status quo. There are few who will welcome difficult questions. They condemned Socrates to death for asking inconvenient questions.

Semmelweiss, on puerperal fever, was right, and was rejected for two reasons: his study showed that physicians were causing the death of patients, many of them, and he also became highly caustic. The personal defects of critics, if we care about science and human welfare, must be set aside to examine claims. This cuts in all directions. I will be reviewing the document on Keys’ Seven Countries study and checking the information there against what is written about Keys.

Studies like the Ni-Hon-San study and the Honolulu Heart Study examined the rate of heart disease in Japanese men living in Japan, Hawaii and San Francisco. They found that compared to the men living in Japan, Japanese men who had migrated to Hawaii had higher cholesterol levels and higher rates of heart disease. Japanese men who migrated to San Francisco had still higher rates. The not-unreasonable conclusion was that the increase in heart disease was environmentally mediated and that as these Japanese men adopted the diet and lifestyle of their adopted country, their cardiovascular risk rose accordingly.

I will need to look at those, but Taubes, for example, attributes the rise in heart disease to the common modern diet, and what is stated here does not show that fat was the causal factor, nor does it show that cholesterol is causal, which is the substantial factual issue. If cholesterol is not causal, but merely associated, then treatments to reduce cholesterol are unlikely to work, except possibly through some associated effect. One of the predictions of the cholesterol hypothesis is that reducing cholesterol will reduce atherogenesis, and a strong effect would be expected, not a weak one. What is the reality?

Finally, we cannot forget the impact of the Framingham Heart Study. Begun in 1948 and still ongoing, this project has provided many insights into the causes of heart diseases. It established that risk factors like cholesterol, hypertension, smoking, lack of exercise, and obesity all affected the risk of cardiovascular diseases. In fact, it coined the term “risk factor”.

Suffice it to say, whatever criticisms one wants to level against the Seven Countries Study, there was plenty of other data suggesting a link between cholesterol and heart diseases. Not unsurprisingly, researchers eventually resolved to try and do something about it.

Looking forward to seeing what Labos writes about this.

(to be continued!)

The ultimate pseudoscience

Materialism and spiritualism, both, if presented as “scientific.”Which would then lead us to the ultimate: a belief that our experience is real, and, as, in addition, that our interpretations of it are meaningful.

The Landmark Forum proposes setting the second part of this aside. They have warned that what they are going to say is not the truth. So then they announce a “distinction.” “Life is empty and meaningless, and it is empty and meaningless that life is empty and meaningless.”

This is a “distinction,” a concept that distinguishes and sorts. In this case, it sorts our experience into two categories: “what happened,” and “what we made it mean.”

It is not uncommon for participants at this point to be highly offended. They draw conclusions from the distinction, completely ignoring the second half, concluding that, as an example, “Therefore they are teaching us that Jesus’ crucifixion was meaningless.”

They are not teaching that, and I know advanced graduates who are also major Christian officials, and clearly “believers,” i.e., they have faith.

Landmark is not setting aside the “reality of experience.” But “reality” is not a “meaning.” And there is more to all this, much more. To the point here:

On Malcolm Kendrick’s blog, February 19, 2019 at 4:31 pm, I posted this comment: (I have slightly edited it).

Ah, but we should sell the *most effective* placebos. There is a Nasruddin story, I tried to find it, but failed, so I will have to tell it, with your gracious permission.

Nasruddin had set up as a physician and had an apprentice to help him. One day, as a man was opening the garden gate to walk to the office entrance, the apprentice said, “I can see, by how this man is walking, what he needs!” Nasruddin said, “You can take this case.” So when the man walked in, the apprentice immediately told him, “Eat some pomegranates, you will be healed!” The man huffed, “You didn’t even ask me about my pains!” and walked out. Nasruddin said, “Next time we see one of these cases, I’ll handle it.”

So it came to pass that another patient came with the same malady. Nasruddin welcomed him, had the apprentice serve some tea, and asked him, when they were sitting comfortably, to what he owed the honor of the visit. The man explained his symptoms, and Nasruddin listened, nodding his head in sympathy, asking questions that showed he had heard everything. He then rubbed his beard, obvious in deep thought, and then he exclaimed, “Pomegranates! You need pomegranates!” The man left a large payment and left, happy to know he could now have hope.

So the “placebo business” already exists and it already uses sugar pills, and openly so. Homeopathy is Andrew Weil’s article. It sets up the inquiry into symptoms, and with a good practitioner, all the supporting aspects of medical manner, including whatever will fit the patient.

Nowadays, an ethical homeopath will never recommend that “evidence-based medicine” — that which is truly so — be abandoned for some sugar pills. Some homeopaths may believe in “water memory,” or this or that concept of the “spirit” of materials, that survives and is even enhanced by huge dilution. Personally, I’d prefer one more thoughtful and less certain, but that holds for medical practitioners in general. And there are exceptions to everything.

Homeopathy doesn’t work — or does not work well — when double-blinded, which is a huge clue. That is the same with all placebos. Homeopathy, I suggest, treats the mind, and the body through the mind and through language, and as another article suggested in comments on this blog pointed out, it is not necessary to “believe” the theory of homeopathy, one can (and I would suggest, should) understand that the remedies are physically all the same, in effect. But they have different names and indications. If they are cheap, and if the patient is not encouraged to abandon effective therapies, they are, at worst, harmless.

However, a more expensive placebo tends to be more effective. High-dilution remedies are prescribed when a more powerful effect is desired, and they require more work to make.

If you want a powerful placebo, then, see a homeopath. From how the placebo effect operates, I expect it will generally be more effective if you see an actual, trained homeopath.

If you want a downer, for some reason I cannot fathom, consult a pseudoskeptic who is sure that anything involving belief is nonsense, but who misses all the crap that he, himself, believes. “Faith is for stupid people! I believe in science-based medicine,” as if it actually exists, just because of his imagination and fervent desire.

Yes, there is such a thing as real science. Unfortunately, the state of medical science is primitive, too often. In addition to Doctoring Data, I recommend Gary Taubes, Good Calories, Bad Calories, as the investigation of a science reporter, who, ironically, also wrote Bad Science about cold fusion, which is a field where another information cascade ensconced itself (with his assistance!), where the “mainstream” firmly believes in “facts” that have not been correct for almost thirty years.

Taubes may or may not be right about the “insulin hypothesis,” but he does not pretend there is proof when there is not. And he actually has facilitated funding for basic research.

There are two brothers, long term trolls, who eventually realized that they could be more effective as trolls, not only by harassing their targets, but by creating articles on them on RationalWiki that would then show up prominently in Google searches. They have been doing this for years. One of their practices is to track all contributions from their target, create sock puppets, and harass them. The brothers are Oliver and Darryl L. Smith, and the particular brother involved in the harassment of Malcolm Kendrick on Wikipedia and RationalWiki is Darryl. Since I have become a major irritant for them, by exposing what they have done, I have become a much higher value target for them than Dr. Kendrick. So two birds with one stone, they love it.

Sure enough:

Matthew

I am sorry to bring up guilt by association but sometimes this is justifiable. You can define a man by the kind of company he keeps.

This is definitely one of the Smith brothers, there are many signals. Why does he lead with a fake apology about “guilt by association”? I suggest it is because I have pointed out that he does this in his articles, including his article on Malcolm Kendrick, and we know that he has read that page. See John66 here.

This blog is filled with loons and quacks that support Kendrick’s ideas. I have been digging around on various blogs posts going back years on this website. There are anti-vaccine activists that comment here, people that on a regular basis quote from known conspiracy theorists like Joseph Mercola and Gary Null, yet commenters here never call out this kind of quackery they endorse it.

Kendrick clearly does not censor comments on his blog (as he points out in responses), and therefore he cannot be held responsible for “loons and quacks,” if any are posting there.

The author of this post has defamed the entire community of those who post on the blog. Defamation need not be personal, apparently, it can be collective, so anyone in a group defamed could have standing to sue. Truth can be a defense, though it is possible that if malice can be shown, there can be exceptions. I.e., a true fact, asserted in a context to create a misleading impression, can be defamation.

I’ll just call this troll Smith, because there is a small possibility that this is the brother, Oliver, but I’d give it more than 90%, this is Darryl. I.e., Skeptic from Britain, John66, and many hundreds of others. His name and at least one address for him are known, and his brother is currently being sued in the U.K. and if anyone wants to get in touch with the plaintiff, leave a comment here with a real email address, which will not be published absent necessity, and I will verify it and forward it. My opinion: if someone libelled by the Smiths pursues the matter, a civil suit will have legs, and in the U.K., there is also criminal defamation. That is more difficult in the U.S., but civil defamation is actionable and, in fact, I filed an action yesterday. Ask me if interested. The defendants include John Doe 1-9. I know who they are reasonably well, but decided not to name them in the suit, to allow evidence to be developed in discovery before amending the action to include them. Two live in the U.K. Guess who! I could also amend the action, but I needed to get the ball rolling, for fund-raising to support expenses, etc. Back to what this troll wrote:

There are people that promote unproven cancer cures here, basically any kind of reality denying nonsense is supported. There are alternative medicine proponents here. There was even a lady promoting the disproven ideas of Cleve Backster that plants have consciousness.

OMG! “I know that they don’t, because I am an accomplished plant mind-reader, and when I read the mind of a plant, I always come up with ‘thanks for the CO2!’ and that is just an automatic message, unlike my own spectacular intelligent consciousness.”

Watch them quote this and claim that I have agreed with Backster’s “disproven” ideas. I actually never heard of him.

There is a RationalWiki article that mentions Backster, The_Spirit_Science.

Investigating that led me to many interesting observations, but they are too off-point to report. Smith will mention Backster on Kendrick’s blog because it’s a dog whistle for RatWiki pseudoskeptics, not because it will be relevant there. Really, someone mentions “plant consciousness” and therefore Kendrick is keeping “bad company”? I don’t believe Rupert Sheldrake’s theories are scientific, but I’d sure welcome a chance to sit with him and laugh about it all, as, my guess, we would. One of my models is Marcello Truzzi, one of the founders of CSICOP, a genuine skeptic, and “believers in the paranormal” loved him because he actually listened and was interested in scientific investigation, which is quite distinct from the “debunking” that took over that organization. I’ve linked to the RatWiki article, which is only slightly weird, it’s a stub only, in spite of how significant Truzzi is in the history of skepticism. Wikipedia. has much more, and I’m glad I looked, there is a book I will want to get about correspondence between two of my favorite skeptics: Truzzi and Martin Gardner. (My third favorite skeptic: Carl Sagan. And then there is Gary Taubes, and since he calls himself a “skeptic,” Malcolm Kendrick and a host of what RatWiki calls “denialists” who are actually skeptics.

Why Truzzi? Well, if you really look at Truzzi, he coined the modern usage of “pseudoskeptic,” whereas I have seen pseudoskeptics deny that such exists. RationalWiki does have an article. By the standards given there, RatWiki reeks of pseudoskepticism. Long story.

David Bailey that regularly comments here is a paranormal believer and alleged psychic. He is an admin on the Skeptiko paranormal podcast owned by a paranormal nut Alex Tsakiris. Another commenter Abd ul-Rahman Lomax is a known conspiracy theorist and cold fusion pseudoscience nut.

RationalWiki articles:

  • Alex_Tsakiris started by David Gerard, who is not a Smith, but who has often supported them as a RatWiki functionary. Maintained by Forests, David1234, Trolling_Imposter, Crackpot_Hunter, and Skeptical, all probable Smith socks (and characteristically Darryl), and there may be more, as impersonation socks trolling for reaction against other users.
  • Abd ul-Rahman Lomax started by Marky (Darryl L. Smith), as part of threatened retaliation for exposing impersonation socking on Wikipedia and Wikiversity. Maintained by many Smith socks (both Darryl and his twin, Oliver), with trolling by impersonation socks. (I made one edit to that article, as Abd (when I was still a sysop on RationalWiki), but there are at least five impersonation socks in the history, using my name, or prior account names of mine elsewhere, or other names associated with me, such as the most recent, “Coldfusions,” not me, and the troll “Lomax is back” is also not me, of course. Who is doing this? One guess: Darryl L. Smith has a long history of creating impersonation socks, he has used them to high effect.

Basically this blog attracts proponents of pseudoscience and woo, not any rational individuals. There is virtually no science here, that is why these insane ramblings are almost limited to a blog on the forgotten side of the internet. I did some private emails to seven known cardiologists in the UK, they said Kendrick is on the extreme verge of fringe science and he is not taken seriously by the medical community as they lack evidence, four of them had never heard of him and two of them described him as a “quack”.

Not at all surprising. Smith also contacts media and creates responses elsewhere, where others repeat what he has written on RatWiki, and then he quotes them on RatWiki as evidence for his claims. Anyone who challenges mainstream views may be claimed to be a “quack,” and “fringe” is not a specific defamation. “Extreme verge” is an exaggerated statement, how many said that? This is the interpretation of possible comments (as little as one, or simply lying), by an attack dog. But I would not wonder to find that some cardiologist or other called Kendrick a “quack,” privately or even publicly.

Reading the blog, I’m led to read scientific papers, on all sides of the issues. Pseudoskeptics have no understanding of the value of diversity of opinion.

Leading doctors also called Semmelweiss a lunatic, and, in fact, he was, probably suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, but . . . he was also right, with quite strong evidence, and by ignoring the evidence he reported, they became responsible for many thousands of gruesome deaths. All to avoid being merely ignorant of a harm, tragic but not morally culpable. A responsible physician would have looked at the evidence. One did and realizing that he had caused the death of his niece, whom he loved, committed suicide, a truly unfortunate response, because he could have, instead, become committed to working to communicate the research, thus saving more lives than he harmed.

Here, Darryl is clearly trolling, not actually engaging in any serious communication, and that’s his MO. He does not provide any actual evidence (and that is typical). It’s all ad hominem, and in some places — not this –he would be trying to induce others to indulge in it. He also knows that sometimes his trolling will draw a target into response he can then quote for defamatory purpose.

He will research identity and find whatever he can use to assert “crackpottery.” A person who simply voices their personal opinion on a very personal issue (their own health! and what they found in their own research toward making persona decisions) will be called a “crackpot,” by one of the most cracked of pots, not useful for encouraging the growth of any thing of beauty, a deranged pseudoskeptic. Smith is not a real skeptic, obviously, he is a believer in “mainstream belief,” that is, anti-fringe, but skepticism is essential to science, and that includes skepticism of what is widespread belief, which RatWikians commonly redefine as “denialism.”

Göran Sjöberg is a metallurgical engineer he has no credentials in medicine and is another one of these low-carb high-fat crackpots.

He has not written an article on this person because it will take him some time to put together a collection of juicy quotes. I looked up Dr. Sjöberg, impressive. Smith will scour every contribution he can find, looking for snippets that can be quoted that will appeal to the juvenile pseudoskeptical community on RationalWiki. If the book he is working on is written, especially, Smith will scour the internet looking for negative comments, and those will be presented as “the response of the medical community,” or something like that. If Sjöberg has written anything that can look unconventional, it will be reported, cherrypicked. I was surprised at all the stuff he found on me, stuff I had forgotten. But, in fact, what I had actually written was fine! (In one case, he was directly wrong, attributing to me what had actually been written by someone else. I pointed that out on the talk page. It was ignored, because he wanted to make the point that I had been involved in an “abusive cult,” and to claim that I had called it that. I had not. If one reads the cited source, one can tell that I never wrote that.

But this is what he does, and few at RationalWiki restrain him in the least.

Nobody is required to have “credentials in medicine” to study a field of relevance to their personal health. One does not become a “crackpot” by concluding something different from “standard of practice.” If I had followed the standard of practice, I would be missing important parts of my anatomy, and, ten years later, I’m intact and the risk that I will regret the choice has become zero. My physicians have always encouraged and supported my study of evidence, and my taking of responsibility for my own decisions.

The course I decided on (“watchful waiting”) was actually recommended as reasonable, not high-risk, by an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, that had just been published, for my exact condition. But my specialist would not have recommended it, because of “standard of practice.” The risk was not zero, and, this was cancer, and if it spread, he could have been sued. (This will lead into a study of Smith’s article on Marika Sboros, where she made a similar recommendation and has been attacked for it.)

But my doctor could tell me the truth and give me his personal opinion when asked when I asked. One previous specialist I had consulted ridiculed what I’d found, and told me many things that showed he was actually ignorant of the state of research (it was shockingly bad), so I dumped him and found a doctor who was more informed — and a better listener.

“Standard of practice” would have had me go into a panic, and demand that the cancer be removed!!! Yesterday, if I can get an appointment!

Because I have a cardiac blockage, though no heart attack, standard of practice says I should have an angiogram, a complex and very expensive procedure, with many possible complications, and, for someone in my condition, no significant improvement of life expectancy. They don’t tell you that unless you ask! And sometimes what they honestly believe isn’t so. Read the studies! It’s your health! Is that important enough to tolerate some difficulty and to warrant spending some time reading complicated papers? (The language can be difficult if you are not used to reading papers. So, are you brain-damaged so that you cannot learn new words? Can you look them up, can you ask others to help you understand the paper? If you are brain-damaged, fine. Name a health care proxy and trust the person you name, pick your physician well and trust her or him. But if you are not brain-damaged, it is entirely rude to lay that burden on another. If my doctor lies to me, he’s risking malpractice, if I’m around to be the plaintiff, but if he tells me his opinion and includes information about the standard of practice, and lets me decide, no, no risk from me, even if it turns out he is wrong, and as to my family, little risk if he has done what I suggest. I have left the hospital more than once, AMA (Against Medical Advice) and I always sign the forms, because it is rude to make them responsible for my choices. (and it never caused harm, because they will be extremely conservative, whereas I can balance risk, cost, and benefit.)

And what would be the approach of a “rational skeptic”? Would it be, “believe the official dogma”?

Or would it suspend belief and investigate?

I could go through countless other commenters here but I will leave it there. This website is filled with absolute cranks and a crowd of reality denying anti-science kooks. It amazes me that people actually think they are pro-science here, delusions of grandeur! The place is a NUT-HOUSE. LOL.

What I see is many people citing actual studies, and pointing out good science and some, ah, questionable studies. This is — or can be — real skepticism.

(I also see a few people commenting with ideas I consider very fringe. But so what? I am not the “fringe police.” Darryl is, and has expressed at various times that he is on a mission. He has also bragged that he has been paid to expose “pseudoscience.” It would not be by Big Pharma. There is a whole community of cranks pseudoskeptics who wallow in the supposed idiocy of others, and there is money available. There are “professional skeptics,” who give talks on “skeptic cruises.” Ah, diversity. Sometimes I wonder, what does Reality mean by this? Some realities may remain forever mysterious, get over it.)

Many commenters have formed beliefs, that’s normal. Are those beliefs “pseudoscientific”? The pseudoskeptics on RatWiki do not distinguish between personal decisions and choices and claims of “science.” Those who actually study the science know that there is much that is not clearly understood, and that some come to premature conclusions, which sometimes become standard of practice, official recommendations, while the actual scientists have said, “We don’t know that yet, more study is needed.”

And because politicians have said, “We don’t have the luxury of waiting to find out more,” official recommendations were created based on what seemed like a good idea at the time, whether it actually was or not.

Gary Taubes, who is also under attack by Darryl, has documented thoroughly how all this happened, thirty to forty years ago. I just bought the last two books. I don’t believe something is “true” because Taubes writes it. He is a highly experienced journalist and is pretty careful, but analysis is his. Is he correct? Generally, I agree, but Taubes himself claims we need more research to form fixed conclusions. Some conclusions are obvious, though, such as the conclusion that cholesterol does not cause heart disease, if one looks at the history of the idea and then at the nature of the studies underneath the old conclusions and then how they evolved. The idea is pseudoscientific, in practice, because it appears to not be falsifiable, i.e., evidence after evidence appears, indicating no causality — or a weak one — and yet the cholesterol hypothesis is either kept the same, ignoring the evidence, or, slowly, it is revised to keep the core idea, but modify the details, moving the goalposts and continuing to claim that skepticism is dangerous and should be suppressed, even though the original guidelines are now known to be utterly preposterous. It was not long ago that eggs were considered to be terribly risky, because they have high actual cholesterol content. What happened with that? Fat in the diet was pronounced dangerous to be reduced, with the belief that this would save millions of lives. Did it? Originally, it was all fat. Hence the promotion of “low-fat diets.” Then it became saturated fats, especially animal fats. Then the kind of fat became more sophisticated. Then it was shown that fat consumption was poorly correlated with cholesterol levels and heart disease. If at all. With cholesterol, originally it was all cholesterol, then it was LDL cholesterol, then it became more sophisticated, such that the original recommendations, if followed, would be nonsense. Again, moving the goalposts. That is what pseudoskeptics and pseudoscientific believers both do.

(The definition of pseudoskeptic in the RatWiki article is warped against what they actually do, ignoring the fundamental characteristic of pseudoskepticism, which is belief as actually displayed, not merely some utterly untestable idea such as “no evidence would convince them.” That someone believes something is reasonably discernable. A hypothetical is imaginary, unless they claim it as their belief. What is common, though, among pseudoskeptics, is that they will claim a standard of proof that would satisfy them. With cold fusion, a device they can purchase at Home Depot to demonstrate the effect. So does that mean that they have no pseudoskeptical belief? Of course not! What they have done is to predetermine something that would convince them, so they won’t look like a Pseudoskeptic, which is Bad. But that is not the standard. It’s an excuse.)

Once guidelines were created, it then became “dangerous” to publish research that did not confirm the guidelines, that could suggest they were in error. Which could cause some ignorant people to disregard standard medical advice and, OMG, thousands will die! But they do not actually know that, it’s an imagination.

Dissent is suppressed, not as what we think of as some evil conspiracy, but, rather, people believe the nonsense they continue to support. It’s a collective delusion that this is “science-based medicine.” There is a distinct issue with conflict-of-interest research, promoted by people who will profit from certain conclusions. That is slowly being addressed, but it will remain as a problem until the public realizes that a system which requires to profit motive to fund research incentivizes such actions, and until we take responsibility, as the public, for research we need. Taubes got a few million dollars donated. Bake-sale funding. We need billions to do this right, and we need to study and develop methods to do it right. Until then, we are babes in the woods. The situation will not improve much by complaining, only by taking action, and we often err in understanding the problem, falling into blaming the bad guys instead of realizing that we have allowed a system to be maintained that creates and encourages “bad guys,” who are simply filling niches in they system, as biology will do with any environment.

Back to the titled subject:

Homeopathy is one of the favorite targets of pseudoskeptics. I am personally highly skeptical of the “theory of homeopathy.” I am, in practice, a materialist, but with a decision to keep in mind an opposing view, I will call “spiritual,” which holds that there is a “spirit” behind everything. A common name for that spirit is Mind.

And, in fact, all I experience is Mind. Behind that, I refer to Reality, and some atheists have criticized me for capitalizing the word. Why? This would show me that they believe that there is no unique entity, Reality. Do they really believe that?

And then, of course, there are connections between Mind and Reality. What I think affects my body, and vice-versa.

Both positions are pseudoscientific if asserted as scientific. Pseudoskeptics commonly assert that whatever they think is wrong is “pseudoscientific” without actually considering testability, which is crucial to the “official definition” of pseudoscience.

(“Cold fusion” is actually testable, and has been tested, with results that demonstrate, by a strong preponderance of the evidence, a nuclear reality to what was originally found as a heat effect, and those experiments are replicable, and have been rather widely confirmed (contrary to common opinion), with confirmation with increased precision possible, and actually fully funded and under way. So is this “pseudoscience”? On what basis?)

Materialism, if asserted as if a “scientific point of view,” is pseudoscientific, because it is untestable, and a basic skeptical principle is “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence,” and, in addition, pseudoskeptics often assert that “there is no evidence,” when there is plenty.

(They confuse evidence with proof, and there is a lost performative in their understanding of proof, which is the judge, the person interpreting the evidence. Proof is evidence that convinces a judge. It is actually subjective, but where that conviction becomes widespread, it is “social reality.” They commonly and very naively think that “proof” is material, with no subjective aspects, as if it is thing, with material weight and clearly distinct characteristics aside from a judge’s reaction to it.)

But social reality is not Reality, consensus can fall short. And so a true “scientific consensus” would remain open to contradiction, “anomalies,” studying which will generally expand understanding in some way. An anomaly means “something not understood.” What is not understood indicates an edge to knowledge, a frontier. A “scientific consensus” that rejects contrary evidence based on being “fringe” or “crackpot” is pseudoscientific, and “fringe” is the frontier, this is all well-known to sociologists of science who study the “demarcation problem.” RationalWiki, Wikipedia. The RatWiki article is far inferior, even though it is better than the run-of-the-mill RW article. They state the problem to emphasize religion, obviously because most Rats are antireligious, even though the demarcation problem is not about religion at all, it’s about science.

A genuine skeptic will hold as possibilities what can appear to be mutually contradictory hypotheses, and Reality can be approached this way, and that is ancient wisdom, ignored by these trolls who imagine that they understand what they shallowly read, better than those who have spent decades or more studying it. Socially disabled, they are.

Reality is reality, and is not confined by our ideas about it, and “material” and “spiritual” are ideas. These are polar opposites, and enlightenment is generally found in synthesis. One of my favorite questions to ask is:

What arises when we look at something from two different points of view at the same time?

I will see what answers appear in Comments, before giving one of my own.

Jimbo Wales and “lunatic charlatans”

Looking at recent developments on Wikipedia with “fringe” and “quacks,” I’ve found many symptoms of a systemic corruption, and this will show how the project lost its direction, at core and in a failure to honor the original community intentions, it’s become quite explicit. This started with looking at the user page of Roxy the dog. Wikipedia made what may have been a fatal error in not only allowing anonymous edits (probably necessary and highly useful) but also in allowing advanced privileges for anonymous accounts. In this, it deviated widely from academic traditions. It eliminated the “responsible publisher” for itself, creating mob rule.

This protected the Foundation, but not the project. This is classic: organizations are formed for purposes, but their own survival, if it comes into conflict with the purpose, becomes a priority. So if the trial of “community governance” fails — in the absence of clear structures that create responsible actors — nothing can be done. It’s up to the community, not the site owners. Wikipedia is famously not a reliable source. Why not? Precisely because there is no responsible publisher!

The possibility existed for a community project to become more reliable than any such effort in history. That is, in fact, why I worked on Wikipedia as long as I did. But the radically unreliable governance, vulnerable to participation bias (whoever happens to show up in specific discussions, and where some kinds of factional canvassing are allowed, plus the possibly random nature of who closes discussions, where bias in closing could be very difficult to detect, and, if detected, they shoot the messenger), led to a conclusion that the situation was unworkable.

Wikipedia will be replaced by a project that harnesses what Wikipedia has done, but that adds reliable governance and responsibility. This may be for-profit or nonprofit, it could be done either way.

It was clear to me at one point that Jimbo Wales (with Larry Sanger the founder of Wikipedia) was interested in governance reform. However, something was missing, and I’m coming to think that what was missing was an understanding of neutrality. He almost had it, but it’s clear that knee-jerk “popular,” not academic or scientific, responses, very obviously not neutral, took over for him. And this then explains, in part, how “popular factions” came to dominate Wikipedia, as many have noted. They lose, sometimes, their control is not absolute, but it creates a steady pressure and, over time, it’s apparent to me, the project has devolved away from neutrality, and a particular faction has, many times, opposed neutrality and has declared allegiance to a point of view, and they act to push that point of view.

Anyone trained in journalism will recognize the problem, how it infects the language and overall tenor of pages. Blatant violations of neutrality policy, misrepresentations of sources, in favor of attempting to create in readers POV impressions, are, in some areas, practically the rule rather than a transient exception. Revert warring is tolerated, if done by factional editors, who are considered “valuable volunteers” precisely because they work tirelessly for their point of view.

Editors with contrary points of view are isolated and sanctioned and topic- or site-banned. Editors promoting SPOV (“Scientific point of view,” when they go beyond limits in that promotion, may be sanctioned, but also are regarded as heroes. And so if they are actually banned, they often come back. Wouldn’t you?

This is what Roxy the dog has from Wales:

“Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.”
“What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of ‘true scientific discourse’. It isn’t.[1][2]

Roxy the dog uses this as I’d expect, to justify a series of claims of being justifiably biased. First, what exactly did Wales say, in what context.?

Wikipedia developed a procedure for creating a neutral project and he is referring to it, but he overspecifies that procedure, narrowing it in a way that favors the bias Roxy the dog displays. Was this merely accidental, incautious?

and, in fact, it’s obvious. From that page:

Wikipedia’s co-founder Jimmy Wales this week sent a clear signal to skeptics who edit the user-created encyclopedia – he agrees with our focus on science and good evidence. He did this by responding firmly in the negative to a Change.org petition created by alternative medicine and holistic healing advocates. His response, which referred to paranormalists as “lunatic charlatans”, was widely reported on Twitter.

I’ve been recommending skeptics pay close attention to Wikipedia since the earliest days of this blog, almost six years ago. Susan Gerbic took up that gauntlet and created her wildly successful Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia project.

In the last year or so, the success of Susan’s project has gotten many paranormal and alternative medicine advocates riled up. They’ve repeatedly floated conspiracy theories that skeptics are somehow rigging the game on Wikipedia, or even bullying opponents off the site. Even personalities like Rupert Sheldrake and Deepak Chopra have gotten involved. None of these accusations have been supported by facts, and both Sheldrake and Chopra have been subsequently embarrassed by their own supporters’ rule-breaking behavior on the service.

This is common.

There is skeptic organization and this blog is proud of it. But if others point to organization, it’s a “conspiracy theory.”

Indeed, I have seen over-reaction, suspicion that, say, drug companies are paying editors to promote statin drugs and attack cholesterol skeptics. I find that implausible, but this is what happens where there are organizations that operate behind the scenes.

Sheldrake and Chopra have popular support, and people with popular support will be defended by some, often people with no real understanding of how Wikipedia works, and so they violate rules. But wait! Wikipedia Rule Number One, promoted by Wales himself, was “If a Rule prevents you from improving or maintaining Wikipedia, ignore it!” (WP:IAR)

I used to point out the Corollary, that if you have never been blocked for breaking the rules, you are not trying hard enough to improve the project.

The vision of the original Wikipedians has been lost, and this was practically inevitable (see  Iron law of oligarchy), if protective structure was not created, and it was not.

Wales response was to a petition asking for reform.

As is common with reform efforts, what might be a valid objection to the Wikipedia status quo was mixed with lack of understanding of how Wikipedia operates, and a point of view. The title of the petition shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of Wikipedia and the process of creating an encyclopedia.

Jimmy Wales, Founder of Wikipedia: Create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.

I will list problems with this request:

  1. Wales was not in charge of Wikipedia, he was the Founder, not the Governor. (In the other direction, he remained influential.)
  2. Wikipedia is not a site for “scientific discourse.” Wikiversity was, and could have remained so, but that was demolished, ultimately, by the faction, early this year. It was trivial to create neutral discourse, and it worked for years.
  3. The policies on inclusion were not the problem, the problem was lack of workable enforcement structure. The structure worked, though very inefficiently, for handling vandalism and isolated point of view pushing, but, increasingly, as factions developed power, poorly with factional point of view pushing.

Wales responded. 

MAR 23, 2014 — No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

The blog claims that the organizers of the petition were “tone-deaf,” because they quoted Larry Sanger, thus, allegedly, irritating Wales. Sanger was quoted in the petition:

Larry Sanger, co-founder of Wikipedia, left the organization due to concerns about its integrity. He stated: “In some fields and some topics, there are groups who ‘squat’ on articles and insist on making them reflect their own specific biases. There is no credible mechanism to approve versions of articles.” 

Sanger’s comment was a simple conclusion matching what many, many, with high experience with Wikipedia, have found. That happens. It happens in all directions, but . . . factions that represent the “fringe” are, by definition, not popular, and that condition in the population will be reflected in the editorial community, so these factions are readily identified and their efforts interdicted, whereas the faction that is biased toward a popular point of view, can operate with far higher impunity, and in the absence of neutral enforcement, that bias can dominate.

This happened to some extent with traditional encyclopedias, but these were generally written with high academic integrity. Wales became confused on this issue, and was, himself, tone-deaf. Many have complained, and the complaints are routine and remain common. Wales only looks at what was wrong with the petition, and fails to practice what he preaches:

to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.”

So Wikipedia sails on, undisturbed by self-examination, supporting the “Scientific Point of View,” which is an oxymoron.

Rather, the Pillars of Wikipedia include one that would, if followed, establish journalistic and academic integrity:

Wikipedia is written from a neutral point of view
We strive for articles in an impartial tone that document and explain major points of view, giving due weight with respect to their prominence. We avoid advocacy, and we characterize information and issues rather than debate them. In some areas there may be just one well-recognized point of view; in others, we describe multiple points of view, presenting each accurately and in context rather than as “the truth” or “the best view”. All articles must strive for verifiable accuracyciting reliable, authoritative sources, especially when the topic is controversial or is on living persons. Editors’ personal experiences, interpretations, or opinions do not belong.

Wikipedia proposed a solution to crowd-sourcing, to allow it to be verifiable. “Reliable” source does not mean “correct.” It refers to independently published sources, presented with a neutral tone. Stating an interpretation as if fact without attribution is not “honesty.” It’s easy to convert, say, a non-neutral interpretation (which might be found in a reliable source) into a fact by attributing it. “According to . . . ”

Yet there are “skeptical faction” editors inserting their own interpretations as if fact, even about living persons, or entire fields. Because I just noticed it, here is an example, about Gary Taubes:

This is in the lead (current version), which should, by the guideline, be rigorously neutral, enjoying high consensus. The lead has:

Some of the views propounded by Taubes are inconsisent [sic] with known science surrounding obesity.[3]

The source is a book review, and such a review is the opinion of the author, particularly if it is an off-hand comment. What the review actually has, besides praise for the book (“… has much useful information and is well worth reading “):

some of the conclusions that the author reaches are not consistent with current concepts about obesity.

Are “current concepts” the same as “known science”? In fact, Taubes is challenging common concepts, explicitly and deliberately, as not being rooted in “known science,” i.e., known through the scientific method. This has been his theme for his entire career. The editor, however, believes what he has written and so considers that interpretation of the source to be a simple restatement.

The reviewer was not precise. “Current concepts” has a lost performative. Whose concepts? I used “common” as a vague term that would cover what I think is true. The concepts Taubes is challenging became common about forty years ago, through a political process that was only peripherally scientific. Documenting that has been much of Taube’s work.

This begins the lead:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American journalist, writer and low-carbohydrate diet advocate.

Is he? This was there until a few days ago:

Gary Taubes (born April 30, 1956) is an American science writer.

To the faction, many examples can be shown, “low carbohydrate diet advocate” is a dog whistle to call skeptical attention to a person, who, in other contexts , might be called a “fad diet promoter,” “quack,” and “charlatan.”

Remember, verifiability not truth. The statement about “diet advocate” is not sourced. It’s misleading. What Taubes has been advocating is twofold:

  • improved public understanding of the history of the lipid hypothesis and the demonization of fat, as well as the evidence of the “diseases of civilization” being associated with high refined carbohydrate consumption,
  • but, more important (certainly to him), the encouragement and facilitation (read funding) of scientific research into diet. Taubes is not a ‘believer,” but he has drawn some conclusions and has been acting on them. That is normal in science. Wales wrote:

If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

First of all, he was misstating the actual policy. “Published in respectable scientific journals” is not the actual standard, and such publication can happen without “replicable scientific experiments,” that is only one aspect of science, and the reliance is not on “replicable,” but on “confirmed,” i.e., actually replicated, as shown in peer-reviewed reviews of a topic, secondary sources. Many facts can be reported (with maximum freedom, by guidelines) if attributed. The attribution should be to a reliable source, but the source may be weaker, though still reliable. The skeptical faction uses their own factional publications, that focus on “debunking” and are not neutrally peer-reviewed by experts in the fields, as if reliable source, it’s been common for years, whereas independently peer-reviewed secondary source reviews are excluded by the faction as “junk” or “fringe believer author.”

These are obvious violations of the neutrality pillar, but are tolerated because of a false opp0sition as reflected in Wales’ defense of Wikipedia.

A paper that was invited by a major peer-reviewed journal of high reputation, with Gary Taubes as one of the authors:

Dietary fat and cardiometabolic health: evidence, controversies, and consensus for guidance June 13, 2018

This review treats the topic with academic tone. It presents a variety of major points of view. This is what Wikipedia could be like, were it actually supporting science. Instead, it is supporting a highly judgmental and often fanatic debunking point-of-view.

Another example: Wales wanted to see “replicable experiments.” That is not required for notability, Wales is actually substituting his own ideas for the policy, but . . . I was banned from cold fusion on Wikipedia and the claim was made that I was promoting it, and this was often connected with claims that “cold fusion” is “pseudoscience.” In fact, what I was promoting, what was actually important to me at the time, was Wikipedia neutrality and genuine consensus process. However, when I was banned from the topic, I then investigated “cold fusion” more thoroughly, and eventually wrote an article, published in a significant journal, which would, in theory, satisfy the claims Wales made:

Replicable cold fusion experiment: heat/helium ratio

Okay, a review. Check. Peer-reviewed. Check. Describes multiple confirmations of a crucial experiment, that demonstrates that there is a real anomaly, that looks like it could be fusion (but probably not what most physicists would think of). Check.

Okay, is that cited? I don’t know if anyone attempted it. It was cited on Wikiversity. Much older and weaker sources on claims of helium detection (deprecating them) have been cited on Wikipedia, and remain. As I was about to be topic banned for the second time, I put up another review in a journal of very high reputation for consideration on the Reliable Source Noticeboard. It was found usable as reliable source. And after all that, was the source allowed? No. Immediately removed every time presented.

Status of cold fusion (2010)

Peer-reviewed review in a major multidisciplinary journal, Naturwissenschaften. Check. Stronger source than any other source used in the article. If editors think it was a mistake, it could be attributed.

See the arguments against it on RSN. That discussion was narrow and focused but was never “closed.” Consensus was clear. The paper is RS, and as with all sources, to be used with appropriate caution. Just because something is in reliable source does not make it “truth,” it makes it notable. And wikipedia was properly founded on notability, established by what is found in responsible publishers.

So what happened then? I have made the point often that the major problem with Wikipedia has been inefficiency. To establish what should have been accomplished by a reference to policy and guidelines, a matter of a few sentences, took a massive discussion. A responsible publisher would go bankrupt if their editorial process were like this.

There are plenty of Wikipedia editors who understood the policies and attempted to apply them neutrally. They burn out, faced with editors who ignore the policies, are persistent, and who are enabled to continue this, year after year.

removes reference to Storms (2010) based on argument rejected at RSN. Editor: ජපස, who has changed his name many times. He is the one who made the argument about Storms being an editor. That was an attributed reference, clearly neutral. This reverted the edit of Enric Naval.

Eventually, in 2015, the bibliographic reference to Storms (2010), and another citation of it, were removed by JzG, a highly involved factional editor and administrator who had been reprimanded by the Arbitration Committee for his actions with regard to cold fusion. Apparently nobody noticed. Jzg removed the reference to the 2007 book, and the 2010 journal review of cold fusion. His edit summary:

(pruning some WP:PRIMARY, including for example a book review written by a True Believer. We have sufficient high quality sources that we don’t need to dumpster-dive.)

These are the arguments that completely failed to be accepted at WP:RSN. Are there stronger sources by Wikipedia RS standards and the standards for science topics? What was left was weaker, or if not weak, substantially older.

None of these were primary sources, and he’s highly experienced, so . . . he lied, they were all secondary. (2007) was published World Scientific, an academic press, and (2010) was discussed above. The Book Review reference is unclear. JzG also removed material cited in Simon (2002), which is an academic secondary source review (a book), not a “book review”). He did remove from the bibliography one primary source (at least arguably so), Shanahan (2006). There was an appalling discussion in talk, no consensus, and the editor objecting was “reminded” about discretionary sanctions, which was essentially a threat that he could be blocked. This was a blatant and smug display of factional POV editing, and, as usual, without consequence, JzG (and William M. Connolley), sailed on, undisturbed, as they have for years. (In two cases, I took them to the Arbitration Committee, JzG was reprimanded, Connolley was desysopped. But the net effect was, with extensive effort, long term, zero. Discretionary sanctions were established as a result of the second case, (with neutral enforcement, a good idea), but it has only been used to support the skeptical faction and threaten or block anyone appearing to have a different point of view.)

In 2015, Current Science published a special section on low-energy nuclear reactions. It included a number of reviews of aspects of the field, written by major researchers (and one journalist, me). There was mention of this in the article that resisted removal, it’s still there. However, none of those papers are cited in the article, in spite of being recent specific reviews of aspects of the field, on topics discussed in the article.

Wales is either ignorant about what actually happens on Wikipedia, or he’s lying. I prefer the former interpretation, but I also hold him responsible for maintaining his ignorance in spite of complaints. Instead of actually investigating the complaints, or setting up a review process, he smugly proclaimed an extreme interpretation of the policy that then, very clearly, encouraged the SPOV-pushers. I’ve seen a shift since that time, and this might explain it.

No, if one does research and gets it published in peer-reviewed journals, it is inadequate to shift the Wikipedia balance, because the balance is maintained in the impressions and interpretations of editors, and it’s very well-known that when people have committed themselves to a position (by using language like “charlatan” and “fringe believers” and “crank”) they become resistant to change, and will continue to invent justifications and reasons to continue to believe the same.

Ironically, this is what this faction believes about others, that they are “die-hards” and “pseudoscientific.” If someone calls them “pseudoskeptical” or “pathoskeptic,” they will block or arrange for the person to be blocked, but claims in the other direction are routine and tolerated. Enforcement is biased, creating a long-term pressure away from neutrality.

Wikipedia could be transformed, but what has been created is so highly entrenched that it might take a major event.

I’ve suggested that a new encyclopedia could be created that uses Wikipedia content, routinely, but that creates a filter and process for reviewing it. I’ve suggested that such a site might pay authors and editors, and that it might sell itself as “Wikipedia, but more reliable.” And it would solicit donations, but would also sell advertising, carefully vetted to be reliable, itself, which is quite doable. (The advertising would pay for the writing and editorial work.)

Sometimes, you get what you pay for. If you use volunteers, they work for their own purposes. It can be great, but large human organizations pay management, even when they use many volunteers.

Everipedia looks like an effort in that direction, but it utterly fails to attract me, so far, nor does it look like it could attract the kind of massive use and participation that could take it beyond Wikipedia. The Everipedia article on cold fusion is a fork of the Wikipedia article (so far, what I’d expect, but, then, if I read the article, does it invite me to improve it? If so, I don’t see how or where.)

To succeed, an improved project must present something clearly better than Wikipedia, such that users would have an incentive to look up a topic there rather than on Wikipedia. There are also complications, Google being a major supporter of Wikipedia. But a better product does not have to be better in every way, just in some, and it could flag what has been fact-checked and reviewed for neutrality, for example, and what was merely copied from Wikipedia. (Everipedia may do that, I can’t tell, but Everipedia seems to be focusing on selling access to businesses or people who want to control articles about themselves. Not on setting up an expert review process or other structure that would create reliability.)

It would use Wikipedia’s process to create a level of reliability, and then improve it. It would make comparisons with Wikipedia easy, as an example, so that changes to Wikipedia would be imported as (1) automatic if the fork article has not been validated, or as (2) reviewed, as with the contributions of any non-empowered editor on Wikipedia.

The focus appears to be on how to preserve one of the major weaknesses of Wikipedia, anonymity. That’s a double-edged sword. The new project, if linked to Wikipedia, would already have a way for anonymous editors to contribute: on Wikipedia! It could also allow suggested edits on its own versions.

(Wikipedia could also bring in content the other way, through a process that was used on wikipedia when a banned user created an article elsewhere, and then there was a Request for Comment on importing that (radical change) as a single edit. This is actually a far simpler question than the one-edit at a time process Wikipedia follows: “Is A or B better?” )

It would need to have layers of detail. It could have better editorial review tools than Wikipedia. An example of something missing from Wikipedia is an ability to search history, the entire history of the project or of an article, or of user contributions. Now, you can obtain logs, but they are not generally searchable, except primitively. I do it, but by downloading histories (the logs will not retrieve more than 5000 operations), merging them, and then using search in a text editor or in Excel, and that doesn’t give me the editorial text, only edit summaries.

It is possible to search project full-history XML, but it can be incredibly cumbersome.

Everipedia is not showing signs of being well-designed and implemented. The FAQ I find far too complicated. Wikipedia made it easy and quick for anyone to edit. While “anyone can edit” fell apart to some extent, becoming more like “anyone can waste time trying to improve the project,” that ease of use was crucial to Wikipedia’s initial success. Wikipedia failed not from that, but from failure to establish reliable review process, something that is normally crucial for serious publishers.

Another issue is that Wikipedia not only failed to reward expert attention, it actually became hostile to ordinary experts. Wikibooks and Wikiversity were much friendlier, but then I discovered something. Most experts were not terribly interested in sustained free contributions to books or educational resources, if there was no benefit for them other than simply being able to write. And if what was written was fragile, and easily hacked up by Randy from Boise, and if they have plenty of other places to publish, why should they contribute? Many people will do it occasionally just because people are mostly nice. But regularly and reliably? No.

(To assist someone who wanted to study the subject, I set up a Parapsychology resource on Wikiversity, and it actually attracted some notable scientists. But they did not regularly contribute, nor did they watch the pages. That project was deleted early this year when the skeptical faction extended its reach to Wikiversity. Long story. JzG was involved. They also deleted the Wikiversity resource on cold fusion, all based on the action of a single bureaucrat, not supported by the community. Efforts like that had always failed in the past. But the Wikiversity community that had always supported academic freedom and the inclusive neutrality of Wikiversity as distinct from the exclusive neutrality of Wikipedia (i.e., academic standards rather than encyclopedic) was, as usual, asleep. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.

I rescued those resources. Cold fusion. Parapsychology. Wikiversity showed how resources could be inclusively neutral. (A clearer example, where there would have been, on Wikipedia, or any other single-level wiki, edit warring, is Landmark Education.) Parapsychology was neutral, I’d been very careful to set it up that way. Cold fusion might not have been completely neutral, (I’d written most of it) but it would have taken about five minutes, with no harm being done, to rigorously neutralize it. The Wikiversity cold fusion article was often attacked on Wikipedia, but it was open for editing, and it had not been at all disruptive. Real neutrality is not disruptive, certainly not in itself. Real neutrality, with good-faith participants, can normally find complete consensus, even in the presence of major controversies. Wikipedia never understood this.

If I just want to shoot off my mouth, or to enjoy writing, I’ll start a blog, not start up an account on a wiki. It is far, far easier and, believe me, far more fun. And I can actually obtain funding for it. (Thanks!)

As an example, I know much of the cold fusion research community. Only very small number have ever attempted to edit Wikipedia. Met with entrenched hostility, for the most part, the handful who tried it simply gave up quickly. The field needs funding, and funding is not obtained by writing about cold fusion on Wikipedia. The inefficiency of Wikipedia makes it seriously wasteful.

Malcolm Kendrick

UNDER CONSTRUCTION, TO BE EDITED AND SUMMARIZED

Subpage of anglo-pyramidologist/darryl-l-smith/skeptic-from-britain/

drmalcolmkendrick.org/2018/12/03/dr-malcolm-kendrick-deletion-from-wikipedia/ 616 replies
drmalcolmkendrick.org/2018/12/18/wikipedia-a-parable-for-our-times/ 460 replies

Dr. Kendrick’s blog came to my attention because I was accused of being Skeptic from Britain. When I looked, it was clear who this was and I have verified the identity through a review of contributions, both on Wikipedia and on RationalWiki, a hangout for “skeptics” who are, much more often, pseudoskeptics.

Dr. Kendrick’s Wikipedia article, and low-carb food plans and related information, in general, were attacked by that faction. It has not been uncommon. The same faction attacks and attempts to suppress “non-mainstream” information in Wikipedia, far more than policy would allow, and often being decades out-of-date.

This page will examine the issues, and hopefully provide some guidance for those who tangle with that faction. Misunderstanding of how Wikipedia works is very common, so perhaps some of that can be cleared up. Continue reading “Malcolm Kendrick”

Simon Derricut

Simon Derricutt says:
December 7, 2018 at 9:05 am
Abd – I’m glad your demise is not obviously imminent, but I’m also aware of mortality and a limited (and undefined) time left.

Thanks. The awareness of mortality is quite useful, it readily suggests making full use of the facilities of life while they are available. My good friend David French just passed away. To me it was unexpected, but it appears he had been long ago diagnosed with cancer (form not specified) and the medicine that had worked for some years stopped working. I have prostate cancer, that is, I have been diagnosed. It turns out that most men my age, biopsied, have this cancer. Most of these cancers never cause an actual problem, and I did the research and found that, for my condition, “watchful waiting” was as good as any other response.

I encountered, from some, the “surely you want to take that out” idea. However, “taking that out” involves substantial risks, very real, not merely theoretical. When I found how low the risk of dying from prostate cancer actually was, I have only done one thing: I became more strict in a low-carb diet, because there is suspicion that cancer needs insulin for the rapid multiplication that characterizes cancer, and that rapid growth is what allows so many mutations. So far, so good. No symptoms, other than a normal benign enlargement of the prostate, again very normal with age.

And, of course, I see my urologist on a regular basis, I now have had two TRUSP biopsies (first one positive and the second negative) and then one MRI of the prostate, several years ago, and that gave us a baseline image, showing some areas of possible concern. Small, but there. Small enough that the second biopsy missed it. I am quite unlikely to die from prostate cancer. However, I do have a cardiac blockage, another story. So far, no heart attack, but it’s something being watched closely.

I will die from something. So my job now is to live as well as I can. Which is very well indeed!

The 2LoT stuff is actually a problem in technology, and it’s turned out that a friend has a technology that might make it possible whereas the technology I currently have access to is not sufficient. Maybe some data on that in a few more months. The difficulty is not in violating 2LoT, but in making the power output actually usable rather than a few microwatts (or in some cases picowatts).

The devil is in the details, and in harvesting statistical fluctuations. As you know, that is considered impossible.

Reality may be somewhat different than we’d thought.

Indeed. I would say it is always different than what we think, unless we simply “think” as in naming it, without specification beyond that.

Thinking is the manipulation of symbols, which manipulate concepts, and reality is not a concept. Concepts are models, useful or not, never the full truth. I just stated an impossibility, so maybe reality is different! However, my stand, developed to facilitate that “living fully” idea, is that reality is not what I imagine, it is better.

There’s a Feynman lecture [that], in passing, notes that momentum is not conserved in the interaction of two electrons passing each other orthogonally.

If you refer to it specifically, I’ll watch it, assuming it is available. I have “The Very Best of the Feynman Lectures.”

He didn’t specify a way in which that snippet of information could be utilised, but an interesting point is that the momentum is “carried away” in the EM field.

If it is “carried away,” it is conserved. Conservation of energy is global, not local. However, it works locally to a degree, where energy flows across a boundary are restricted.

Problem is, you can’t measure the difference between such a momentum-carrying EM field and one that isn’t carrying momentum. If you can’t measure it, is it real?

Aw, that’s an easy question. “Real” is not defined or confined, so whether it can be measured or not is irrelevant,having no bearing on reality. However, you have an incorporated assumption, using the word “can’t.” That’s a red flag word, showing a belief in impossibility. We all speak and write casually, at least often, but the language we use betrays how we think; I usually assume that there is a meaning behind the choice of words. Until we can measure it — as shown by measuring it! –, something postulated as an explanation is not “scientific,” but it could be “proto-scientific,” i.e., part of the scientific process.

Effects, almost by definition, can be measured. But I have not seen the lecture. If the “effect” truly cannot be measured, asserting it as a fact could be pseudoscientific. The value of such assertions is what?

If momentum is not conserved, then neither is energy. I’m running some tests on this….

The example is not of non-conservation of momentum, but only of the disappearance of momentum from easy measurement. I’ll need to see that video. I agree on the equivalence of those conservation “laws.”

Looks lower-hanging fruit than 2LoT since it’s stuff I can actually make with the tools I have, so 2LoT will need to wait a bit and we’ll see whether I need to redesign in a few months anyway.

Language problems… heat is actually a vector quantity, but the momentum vectors are random and cancel out and so it is regarded as a scalar.

Simon, you get sloppy and it creates confusion for you. What is “heat”? You have confused it with “energy.” Kinetic energy is a vector, yes. Is all energy a vector? Maybe. Maybe the energy of mass is energy moving in a very tight space.

Heat, however, is the sum of the absolute value of kinetic energies in a body. relative the center of mass. That is a sum of scalars, so it is a scalar. I’m not looking up how this is formally defined, though that would be useful. I’m going to go out to the gym and shopping, I’m out of medicine (a beta blocker I take to keep my cardiologist happy), I’ll be back later.

I survived the trip. Thanks, reality!

Maybe that’s part of the problem I’ve found it difficult to explain the underlying principles to other people. May be worth reading https://revolution-green.com/free-energy-by-simon-derricutt/#comment-4221783695 where it may become clearer. Lots of “may” there. There’s a cross-reference there to a currently-accepted mainstream science use of Graphene to convert Brownian motion to output power. Yep, it’s a ratchet that actually works. However, no mention that this violates 2LoT – even with Graphene that can’t be stated.

That was frustrating. The link shows no cross-reference showing what you claim here. I did google graphene and brownian motion and found what may be the reference, specifically work showing brownian motion in graphene sheets. There are then articles that are quite confused on what has been reported. Brownian motion is “perpetual motion.” It varies with temperature. Then the articles jump to a conclusion, a claim not made by the authors. For example, Synopsis: Jiggling Graphene summarizes an article in Physics: “Anomalous Dynamical Behavior of Freestanding Graphene Membranes
M. L. Ackerman, P. Kumar, M. Neek-Amal, P. M. Thibado, F. M. Peeters, and Surendra Singh, Phys. Rev. Lett. 117, 126801 (2016), Published September 13, 2016. The summary was written by an editor of physics, not by the paper authors:

The random quivering of graphene membranes could be exploited to generate electricity.

The article abstract:

We report subnanometer, high-bandwidth measurements of the out-of-plane (vertical) motion of atoms in freestanding graphene using scanning tunneling microscopy. By tracking the vertical position over a long time period, a 1000-fold increase in the ability to measure space-time dynamics of atomically thin membranes is achieved over the current state-of-the-art imaging technologies. We observe that the vertical motion of a graphene membrane exhibits rare long-scale excursions characterized by both anomalous mean-squared displacements and Cauchy-Lorentz power law jump distributions.

I was about to report that the editor had made that unwarranted conclusion from the paper. But then I found a mention in the paper:

Properly understood, the random membrane fluctuations can be usefully exploited. For example, energy harvesting from the continuous movement of a massive system is an important application of stochastic nanoresonators [24].

Is this a “massive system”? Hardly! And reference  24?

[24] L. Gammaitoni, P. Hanggi, P. Jung, and F. Marchesoni, Stochastic resonance, Rev. Mod. Phys. 70, 223 (1998).

This paper has nothing about energy harvesting. The concept of energy harvesting from noise, i.e., random fluctuations, is very simple, and it doesn’t work. Rectifying AM radio signals to create the power for a primitive radio, I did that as a kid. That is not noise.

It is so hard to find good help  . . .

Apparently, someone put that flight of fancy in the article, and the editors did not catch it. If one is going to contradict the Second Law, slipping it into a paper is setting up the editors to display ignorance or inattention. It happens. They miss stuff.

No, what could break the Conformist barrier is an actual experimental demonstration of 2LoT violation, which that paper certainly was not, but not called such. In fact, I’d suggest not even calling it an anomaly. “Behavior of a rectenna.” Get the effect out there, first, before interpreting it. Avoid making the natives restless by attacking their cargo cult science. Had Pons and Fleischmann announced “Heat behavior of palladium deuteride” instead of frikking “nuclear fusion,” we might be twenty years ahead.

A big problem is that if you believe something is impossible then normally you won’t attempt it, and if you do then you’ll probably not do it in the right way anyway.

Yes. That is, if there is a real effect, you have a great possibility of screwing it up, there are millions of ways. Key word here, “believe.” If you believe it is impossible, why would you try it anyway? Nothing better to do? Okay, the DoE was tossing money around, millions of dollars per month, I think. What a waste. That work was premature, rushed, pressured. The rush was because?

It’s hard to find good help!

We know the rules, but can we be totally certain that there are no exceptional circumstances where they don’t apply?

We cannot have rational certainty. We can have what might be called “operational certainty” or “practical certainty,” in which case we would rationally pay little attention to crazy claims.

The EMDrive is obviously impossible, since it violates CoM, yet experimental evidence points to it working.

You can find evidence pointing to anything, if your standards are sufficiently loose. In that old post you cited, it was fun to find reference to the independent tests of Rossi’s Hot Cat, as if that proved something. What it actually proved was what I’m repeating here, it’s hard to find good help. Some of the flaws in that mess were obvious from publication, the most obvious being the lack of a genuine control experiment, that showed the behavior of the device with the same electrical input power as the experimental run. Had that been done, the more subtle error, an error in assigning emissivity to the alumina, would have been found by them. Why didn’t they run a control? Someone told them that this could destroy the heating coils, which was utter nonsense, if it were done right. They believed whoever told them that, and dollars will get you donuts that it was Rossi. That test was not actually independent, and that kind of crap surrounded all of Rossi’s work. He was great at getting “independent scientists” to make phenomenal blunders.

None of this is evidence that the EmDrive doesn’t work. However, until the evidence is clear, far clearer than anything I have seen, I’m very unlikely to accept its reality, particularly as an argument for something else.

The reactive mind dislikes ambiguity, it threatens it, so it wants to find a conclusion, as soon as possible, please. No, not “please,” but “Stat, Dammit!”

I have no problem suspending judgment on countless problems. My job here is not actually to judge, but to live. Nevertheless, I routinely make practical decisions, relying on understandings that may well be defective. However, so what? Again, my job here is not to be right, but to be, to live, to witness. Interpretation is up to the Judge, and that isn’t me.

Going back to Newton’s derivation of CoM in the first place, I can see a loophole where, because of the limited speed of light, the action is not necessarily equal and opposite to the reaction, and this was also noted by Feynman. I can calculate the size of this inequality in various situations, too, using textbook physics.

I’d want to see details, not claims without them. We know that causality breaks down at the quantum physics level, but statistical causality remains. What looks like precise causality to us is averaging many stochastic behaviors. And the 2LoT is like that.

The EMDrive is thus not really impossible, after all, but a better design should be able to produce a much larger (and thus more useful) inequality of action and reaction.

You appear to be assuming that there is a real effect, taking a leap from a failure of an impossibility proof. That does not follow. It is a reasonable principle that “scientific certainty” (i.e., consensus) may be wrong. It does not follow from that principle that it is actually wrong. Betting that it is wrong, is likely a losing bet, more often than not. And certainly that does not establish the opposite. Most advances in science do not flip to the opposite, but to another way, something not anticipated.

Woodward’s Mach-effect drive has experimental evidence, too. We believe it’s impossible because momentum is always conserved. Logically, that belief is misguided.

I’m not sure I’d agree with “logically,” but any belief firmly held is not “logical,” it’s emotional. Who is this “we” who believe in impossibility? A routine assumption is not a belief, if it is known to be an assumption or operating principle, i.e., conditional.

Until I see clear evidence that momentum is not conserved, I will continue to use the principle in understanding physical phenomena. And so will most, I’m sure. It is far too well-established, and I don’t mean “politically successful,” I mean “useful.”

Back to LENR, we have experimental evidence that it actually works.

There is evidence, going back to the original claims. There is “extraordinary evidence,” if that is considered necessary. LENR does not challenge any “laws of physics,” except through blatant misunderstandings and unwarranted assumptions.

Therefore the theory that says it can’t work must be wrong.

Fuzzy. What theory says it can’t work? Basically, what happened is that people made up mechanisms and then showed that the mechanisms they made up would not work. It didn’t help that Pons and Fleischmann royally screwed up with a gamma spectrum, what a mess that was! And then they did not clean up the mess, by clearly acknowledging errors and explaining how they happened. They allowed rushed replications to take place without warning that these were very likely to fail. It was a Perfect Storm in many ways.

In the same way as the stuff I’m working on is because I’ve seen evidence that seems incontrovertible (though small),

What you have shown, Simon, can be considered evidence for your ideas, or it can be considered “possible evidence,” generally unconfirmed. I haven’t seen anything from you, yet, that approaches “incontrovertible.” We would need to get specific for this to be particularly meaningful.

it’s going to take effort to find out how to make it work better and a suspension of belief in “the rules”, and of course a suspension of disbelief in the experimental evidence.

There is a common confusion between evidence and the interpretation of evidence. I recommend believing in what one has actually observed, and the more interpretation involved, the less certainty is appropriate.

“Rules” are highly interpretive. They are never reality, per se. They are models or ideals. What I consider a scientific approach is to

  1. Suspend belief in everything being tested.
  2. Design tests to make yourself wrong as to what you are inclined to think.
  3. However, don’t work in a field unless interested in possibilities there.
  4. Love reality, as distinct from interpretation. Observation is as close as we get to reality.
  5. Create interpretations that are inspiring, that’s their utility.
  6. Attend to measurable results, and report them while distinguishing them from interpretation.

I haven’t stopped trying to think of a way to get LENR working better, just haven’t anything to add yet.

We are working on it, and there has been a major development. It’s not actually new, but somehow escaped much attention until Michael Staker, a metallurgist, gave a presentation at ICCF-21, which impressed McKubre, and McKubre wrote a presentation with Staker based on this idea, given at the Greccio conference this year, and I started to look at it, and KAPOW! Ideas really started flowing. There is coverage of this here under SAV.

Bottom line, almost thirty years of work with palladium deuteride, and most of us had no idea that the normal phases of PdD (alpha and beta) were metastable, not the true stable phases of the alloy. Rather they are more or less degrees of solution of hydrogen isotopes in the metal, the crystal structure is still that of the metal. As metastable states, they do not spontaneously convert to the gamma or delta phases, the crystal structure is too rigid, but … if you can take PdD to a high enough temperature, as the first-found approach, it will anneal into a more stable phase, gamma and/or delta. The gamma phase, which can be expressed as Pd7VacD6-9, “Vac” standing for a vacancy in the Face-Centered Cubic structure of ordinary Pd, and the delta phase, Pd3VacH4, were discovered and published in 1993 by Fukai, hence these are sometimes called “Fukai phases.” Problem is, take PdD up to about 400 C, the deuterium will escape rapidly. So, to keep this from happening, this was done in a diamond anvil press at 5 GPa. When material was so compressed and then heated, the lattice expanded at first, which was known and expected behavior. But then, over three hours, it shrank! When the material was returned to STP, it remained in this condition, and when heated above 400, it lost its hydrogen, but remained with Super Abundant Vacancies. (14% and 25% respectively) (If taken to annealing temperature (about 900 C), they returned to the normal very low vacancy rate Pd structure.

Now, what does this have to do with LENR? Well, with PdD, the FP Heat Effect does not appear until a loading ratio of about 85%. What was special about that loading? One would think that the effect would appear, perhaps at lower rates, at a lower loading! But it did not.

At 85% loading, the gamma phase becomes the more stable phase, that’s what is special. This does not at all guarantee that it will form. However, processes that stress the metal will encourage SAV formation, particularly at the surface. Codeposition may form SAV material ab initio (since it is building structure without an already-established metal lattice). And this, then, opens up a whole realm of experimental possibilities.

There may be something in Mills’ 3.5keV photons that is relevant, even though Mills would deny any connection with LENR. Possibly there’s something in shrunken Hydrogen, though if so it’s almost-certain that this would be a higher energy state and not below-ground. Electron orbitals seem to really be resonances, though again that begs the question of “resonances in what, exactly?”. Smaller multilobed resonances would naturally have a higher energy than ground-state. Maybe that ~3.5keV higher?

Approaching through theory is probably not going to cut the mustard. We need more experimental data. As to your ideas, you have often come up with thought experiments, but they have seemed to me to be “unphysical.” If you start with an observed anomaly, you may have have more success. Most anomalies, by definition, will prove to be misunderstood, not true new discoveries. But it is possible that you could find one, and people like you “maintain the frontiers,” so that others can sit fat and happy in what they believe they know. It’s important that some people think outside the box, and some of these are going to be ungrounded. That’s life.

These various “impossible” things need some solid experimental evidence of higher magnitudes of results before mainstream science will accept them as real.

Instead of worrying about “mainstream science,” understand it. As well, adopt what works from mainstream understanding. The mainstream is properly protected from many crazy ideas, largely by the journal system. Which also has a down side, but not so down that we would be wise to discard it. No, we can work with it, and use it. And we will.

For pretty good reasons science won’t relinquish one well-proven theory or truth until the new one is beyond contention.

Yes, and there are very strong reasons for that. I refer, generally, to “models.” A model does not have to be “truth” to be useful. It merely needs to work. The first step in moving the mainstream is to establish experiment evidence that shows an unmistakable anomaly. If we have a big blinking sign on it saying “HERESY!”, nobody will pay attention! No, the approach can be more like “Help us to understand these results!” People like to be helpful, most of us, at least.

And with this attitude we, ourselves, become open to new ways of thinking, which is modeling the behavior we may want to see in others.

I’m not complaining – that’s just the way the world works and it’s up to someone with a new paradigm to convince the rest of the world by doing it.

If they care. “Convincing others” is a weak motivator. Experiments done with that as a goal, it seems, usually fail to accomplish the goal. They stink of confirmation bias.

Incidentally, for some reason your link to “bizarre particles” doesn’t work. I found the article anyway, and can’t see the difference in the link. Odd….

This was an interesting typo. I generally load a URL and then copy it from the address bar, to avoid too-common typographical errors. In this case, apparently, my selection did not include the last letter, making “.html” into”.htm” which is also often used, so this would look good, but the site did not recognize it. I really appreciate when people point out errors like this. Thanks.

Update

I found more on the graphene/energy story. Thibado’s university has a page promoting the idea: Using the Natural Motion of 2D Materials to Create a New Source of Clean Energy. That’s dated Nov. 21, 2017. There was nothing in the original paper that indicated this. Thibado explains his energy idea here. Is this entirely a thought-experiment? It assumes that energy can be generated by the random motion of the graphene, and there seems to be no awareness that this would be an apparent violation of the 2LoT. What this would do, if I’m correct, is to create a noise signal, not a regular periodic signal. I smell a rat.

https://thebossmagazine.com/graphene-energy/ has this:

Thibado’s group reported producing 10 microwatts of continuous power without loss from a 10 micron by 10 micron sheet of graphene. In a University of Arkansas video, Thibado noted that 20,000 of the microscopic sheets fit on the head of a pin.

Despite observing the effect for fewer than three hours, researchers postulated that the movement would continue forever, which would mean that its ability to create power would be endless. Thibado is presently working with the Naval Research Laboratory to develop a proof of concept for these miniscule generators, positing that they could enable any object powered by room temperature heat to “send, receive, process, and store information.”

From what I have seen, the group did not report producing 10 microwatts. Rather, Thibado, in the video, claims (my emphasis): “one of these 10 micron by 10 micron areas could produce 10 micro watts of power continuously so wouldn’t that be great?”

The idea seems simple. The sheet vibrates. However,it is rippling, and the ripples are random. The illustration in the video shows a periodic vibration. As I understand the situation, the material is moving in many directions, and it will not oscillate like that. Did they look at the stochastic nature of the motion, in deciding to declare this possibility? What happens when one side of the graphene piece approaches the electrode, and the other side, the other electrode (no net voltage, if they are balanced). Absent experimental evidence — which they did not produce, the three hours of observeration, I think, were of the rippling motion, and the concave/convex reversal, not induced power — I expect that the motion would be far more chaotic than shown, and the induced voltage and power substantially lower.

This is being called an “energy breakthough,” but is not yet a breakthrough, unless there is unpublished work. Call me if they actually measure power, dumped into a load.

On the Research Frontiers page, the figure reported for possible power:

Each Levy flight exhibited by an individual ripple measures only 10 nanometers by 10 nanometers, yet could produce 10 picowatts of power. As a result, each of these micro-sized membranes has the potential to produce enough energy to power a wristwatch, and they would never wear out or need charging.

It looks like Thibodo misspoke in the video, and they later corrected it on the Research Frontiers page, but not in the video. Ah, the vast difference between “could” and “reported producing.” It’s even more than the six orders of magnitude between micro- and pico-.

With 10 picowatts, could one power a watch? Looking on-line, a current of 1 microamp may be enough to run a watch, though that is pushing it some. If we imagine a voltage of say, 2 volts, that would be 2 microwatts. So a 10 microwatt power source could probably run a watch. But 1o picowatts, no. I conclude that the “micro” error stood for a while and was there when the “watch” text was added.

There is, by the way, a wristwatch that runs on the heat difference between one’s wrist and the air. That is *heat difference*. The graphene generator idea does not use heat difference, but rather random (Brownian) vibration in a material, doing work on the electrons in the generating wires or surfaces.

The university claims Thibado has a provisional patent on the idea. What I found was this application.

I see no sign of any actual test of energy harvesting, even on a very small scale. In 2017, Thibado was still speculating. Odd paper, that. “We recently discovered that freestanding graphene membranes are in perpetual motion when held at room temperature.” Brownian motion (and what they found is a variation on Brownian motion) is “perpetual motion,” it simply reflects the temperature of the material. The membrane is responding to molecular impacts on it, which are random, as to where they are located, so the material ripples. What they found was occasional flips between concave and convex, involving more carbon atoms. That, again, would be expected, I would think.

In 2018 (March):

Recent emphasis has been placed on scavenging vibrational energy as an alternative to batteries. A notable breakthrough is the discovery that freestanding graphene naturally possesses an intrinsic rippled structure, which can be used to harvest thermal energy from its vibrations.
Ripples in graphene form due to self-compression and the potential energy associated with a ripple as it under goes spontaneous buckling (change of curvature from concave to convex and vice versa) is a double well potential. Here, we discuss the relationship between the energy barrier which separates the two lowest energy configurations to the strain and height of the ripples in freestanding graphene. We then model the ripple curvature inversion dynamic, due to thermal energy using Langevin’s equation. Spontaneous mechanical buckling is the source of the energy that is to be harvested. The mechanical power of the system is calculated and we found that a 10 nm by 10 nm ripple can continuously produce 10 pW. Alternatively, a 10 micron by 10 micron sheet, which is our typical sample size, could yield 10 microwatts, which is more power than a wristwatch battery produces. Furthermore, a typical solar panel produces 100 W/m2, or 1,000 times less power for the same 10 micron by 10 micron area.

I find this appalling. They are tooting their own horn, presenting an unverified possibility, that they imagine, as a real and accessible technology (with “can,” instead of “could,” or “possibly could.” I have yet to find confirmation of their speculation. They here compare a speculative measure of “mechanical power,” which they calculate at 1o pw for a 10 nm ripple. Then they extrapolate this to 1o microns by 10 microns, their “typical sample size,” (a million times larger), and then they compare it with actual power of real devices, for 10 meters by ten meters, another million times larger.

This is a trick: it looks like 10 pw of AC power could be “harvested” from a 10 by 10 nm ripple, as a limit (there would be losses, if it works).  What happens if the area of the device is, instead, 10 microns by 10 microns? Would the power be multiplied by the area, or would it be averaged? I don’t see that this has been thought all the way through, and thinking would be inadequate. What actually happens if this is tried?

Ignorance is bliss

There is at least one physicist arguing that LENR research is is unethical because (1) LENR does not exist, and (2) if it is possible, it would be far too dangerous to allow.

This came to my attention because of an article in IEEE Spectrum, Scientists in the U.S. and Japan Get Serious About Low-Energy Nuclear Reactions

I wrote a critique of that article, here.

Energy is important to humanity, to our survival. We are already using dangerous technologies, and the deadly endeavor is science itself, because knowledge is power, and if power is unrestrained, it is used to deadly effect. That problem is a human social problem, not specifically a scientific one, but one principle is clear to me, ignorance is not the solution. Trusting and maintaining the status quo is not the solution (nor is blowing it up, smashing it). Behind these critiques is ignorance. The idea that LENR is dangerous (more than the possibility of an experiment melting down, or a chemical explosion which already killed Andrew Riley, or researchers being poisoned by nickel nanopowder, which is dangerous stuff) is rooted in ignorance of what LENR is. Because it is “nuclear,” it is immediately associated with the fast reactions of fission, which can maintain high power density even when the material becomes a plasma.

LENR is more generally a part of the field of CMNS, Condensed Matter Nuclear Science. This is about nuclear phenomena in condensed matter, i.e., matter below plasma temperature, matter with bound electrons, not the raw nuclei of a hot plasma. I have seen no evidence of LENR under plasma conditions, not depending on the patterned structures of the solid state. That sets up an intrinsic limit to LENR power generation.

We do not have a solid understanding of the mechanisms of LENR. It was called “cold fusion,” popularly, but that immediately brings up an association with the known fusion reaction possible with the material used in the original work, d-d fusion. Until we know what is actually happening in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment (contrary to fundamentally ignorant claims, the anomalous heat reported by them  has been widely confirmed, this is not actually controversial any more among those familiar with the research), we cannot rule anything out entirely, but it is very, very unlikely that the FP Heat Effect is caused by d-d fusion, and this was obvious from the beginning, including to F&P.

It is d-d fusion which is so ridiculously impossible. So, then, are all “low energy nuclear reactions” impossible? Any sophisticated physicist would not fall for that sucker-bait question, but, in fact, many have and many still do. Here is a nice paradox: it is impossible to prove that an unknown reaction is impossible. So what does the impossibility claim boil down to?

“I have seen no evidence ….” and then, if the pseudoskeptic rants on, all asserted evidence is dismissed as wrong, deceptive, irrelevant, or worse (i.e, the data reported in peer-reviewed papers was fraudulent, deliberately faked, etc.)

There is a great deal of evidence, and when it is reviewed with any care, the possibility of LENR has always remained on the table. I could (and often do) make stronger claims than that. For example, I assert that the FP Heat Effect is caused by the conversion of deuterium to helium, and the evidence for that is strong enough to secure a conviction in a criminal trial, far beyond that necessary for a civil decision, though my lawyer friends always point out that we can never be sure until it happens. The common, run-of-the-mill pseudoskeptics never bother to actually look at all the evidence, merely whatever they select as confirming what they believe.

“Pseudoskepticism’ is belief disguised as skepticism, hence “pseudo.” Genuine skeptics will not forget to be skeptical of their own ideas. They will be precise in distinguishing between fact (which is fundamental to science) and interpretation (which is not reality, but an attempt at a map of reality).

This immediate affair has created many examples to look at. I will continue below, and comment on posts here is always welcome, and I keep it open indefinitely. A genuine study may take years to mature, consensus may take years to form. “Pages” do not yet have automatic open comment, editors here must explicitly enable it, and sometimes forget. Ask for opening of comment through a comment on any page that has it enabled. An editor will clean it up and, I assume, enable the comments. (That is, provide a link to the original page, and we can also move comments).

This conversation is important, the future of humanity is at stake. Continue reading “Ignorance is bliss”

Synthestech scam?

It’s come to my attention that there is a company, Synthestech, which has, for about a year, been running an Initial Coin Offering, as an investment in “Cold Transmutation of Chemical Elements.”

Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, which Sythestech is promoting, are real, or at least there are reports by competent and reputable scientists that there are such reactions. However, the state of the art is far, far from any commercial potential, and there have been many scammers in the history of LENR. Reading the Synthestech material, I see no sign that they have a clue how to make this work, reproducibly and practically. There have been many, many researchers working on the problems for many years, and hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested, with little practical result. If this does show up, it is unlikely to be through an activity using very shaky fundraising techniques.

If one wants to invest in LENR, which must be considered extremely high risk at this time, –expect to lose your money  I would suggest Industrial Heat, which does not accept most private investment at this time. At least, though, they are supporting genuine research and it is possible they will get lucky. For the general public, Woodford Patient Capital Trust is invested in Industrial Heat, so it’s possible to buy in, I know a few people who have modest stakes — and a few with much larger stakes. This is, however, more of a way to spend one’s money than to get rich. There was a revaluation lately that looked good. It may or may not mean anything.

Again, I’ll emphasize, this is truly high risk, I am aware of no technology close to commercialization. Andrea Rossi was (and remains) a fraud.

Speaking of Rossi, Sythestech uses his name. In their “White Paper,” they have:

Andrea Rossi was one of
the first entrepreneurs who adopted the LENR technology. In collaboration with Sergio Focardi, he created a device based on the principles of LENR-reactions, which generated electricity. In recent years, many installations that generate electricity have been built secretly.

That’s total BS. Rossi has not claimed the generation of elecricity. He did claim to be operating a megawatt reactor in Florida, and it was secret for a time, but all this blew up in 2016, becoming highly public in the lawsuit, Rossi v. Darden. There was a plant, but it was not generating a megawatt, if it was generating anything, and the odds are high that it was generating nothing, it was just a big electric water heater, maybe 30 KW.

Rossi comes up again in the interview in Entrepreneur

Your whitepaper ICO mentions modern nuclear technology. Do you also develop advanced nuclear technologies? Could you tell us more about this?

In fact, the field has become more popular than ever. Latest advancements in portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi and progress in obtaining platinum from tungsten by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, indicate that Cold Transmutation has gained real-world traction.

There are no “portable power generation devices developed by Andrea Rossi.” There has been work on certain transmutations by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (the work of Iwamura), but it was not “platinum from tungsten” and was not even close to commercial possibility. Synthestech is doing a lot of name-dropping, making it seem like there is support for their plans. There is not, not from the scientists in the field, not as far as has been shown.

There are so many signs of scam, frenzied hype, that I’m not researching this further, there are many more interesting things to work on, with the real science of LENR. I’m putting this up to warn investors that, while LENR is real, that is, there are real nuclear effects at apparently low initiation energies, the evidence has become overwhelming, the effects remain very difficult to control, they are “unreliable,” generally, in spite of many years of effort to develop control. The best minds in the field are searching for a “lab rat,” a simple experiment that could be widely confirmed. It does not yet exist.

(The evidence for the reality of LENR does not depend on reliability of generating the effect. Rather, the circumstantial evidence is the many reports of anomalous heat, the many reports of anomalous tritium, and then the direct evidence that measured helium is correlated with the heat, at a ratio consistent within experimental error of that expected from fusion. (This does not require that the reaction be “d-d fusion.” Any process that starts with deuterium and ends with helium will show that ratio, it must, if there are no leakages.)

David Gerard, not exactly a friend, has a post on Synthestech. He has his head wedged in a dark place on LENR, but he’s right that Synthestech is a scam. It has many, many marks of deception. However:

Karabanov announced his breakthrough in a press release and press conference in August 2016 — because science by press conference, rather than a published paper detailing an experiment and how to reproduce it, is standard in cold fusion:

It is not “standard in cold fusion.” There were press conferences in 1989, on both sides of the cold fusion controversy, but the real science is not conducted by press conference. There are over 1500 papers on cold fusion published in mainstream journals and if we add in conference proceedings, which sometimes include papers of equal or better quality than what is in journals, it’s roughly 5000 papers. David Gerard is repeating a series of tired old arguments against cold fusion. He has no clue what really happened in 1989-1990 and later, just a pile of vague ideas, second-hand knowledge, not actually researched, repeating the common opinions of the ignorant as if fact.

The problem is not that “cold nuclear transmutation” is impossible, it’s not, but that it is, so far, at best, a laboratory curiosity, not a commercial possibility, except in the most remote sense.Maybe. Some day. If.

Dismissals like that of David Gerard are obviously pseudoskeptical and will have no effect or influence on those who might be interested in investing. Steve Krivit was correct that Rossi was a scammer, but because his evidence was circumstantial and vague, dependent on ad-hominem arguments and inferences, it did not prevent investment in Rossi.

There are many Russian researchers working with LENR, they have long been prominent in the field. I see no sign, so far, that Synthestech is working with the real scientists in the field, though they drop their names, such as Vysotskii and Kornilova. I found that apparently Yuri Bazhutov, the late well-known Russian LENR researcher, has been called an “advisor” to Synthestech. See this obituary.

That points to a Sythestech interview of Bazhutov. I had noticed that Sythestech has claimed to have been an observer at RCCNT&BL in 2017, and the interview was allegedly conducted there. There is only one very brief mention of Synthestech in the interview:

What can you say about “Synthestech” and your visit to the Sochi laboratory?

We were pleased to know that there is a new group in Russia that is studying the same phenomena. It’s very pleasant that there is such a team as “Synthestech”, because the winner is the one who moves.

That is simply a casual comment, non-committal, and not surprising. This is far from an endorsement of the actual company, or its accomplishments. Many entrepreneurs have induced scientists to be called “advisors.” It’s basically meaningless, particularly when the company is unknown and the scientist has little reason to suspect a scam. I have seen scientists, later, distance themselves from such companies, when the way they were operating became clear.

Again, if one wants to support LENR research, I recommend becoming knowledgeable as a first step. There are many ways to support increased awareness of the real work that has been done. Tossing money at overheated investment scams is not one of them. Contact me if interested in supportive activity.

On more point: the original research that Karabanov of Synthestech appropriate was biological transmutation. To those that believe cold fusion or cold nuclear transmutation is impossible, biological transmutation will seem preposterous.

However, there are nuclear effects in condensed matter, that appear to involve unusual structures that allow a collective effect, rather than the brute-force collision effect of hot fusion. This is all poorly understood, but the evidence of nuclear anomalies is overwhelming, and if it can happen in the lab, at low energies, it is easily conceivable that life would find a way to use it, and there is substantial work on biological transmutation, by serious and highly experienced scientists (such as Vysotskii, whose name gets dropped by Karabanov). Most of this is not yet confirmed.

Karabanov is attempting to sell something that might be possible, almost certainly before its time. Here is a page covering some of that research by those identified as Karabanov’s partners. It looks like Karabanov abandoned the biological approach, and he claims to have industrial processes. No evidence has appeared of this. When challenged with, “If you can transmute elements, why do you need the bitcoin investments?” (he could just make precious metals), his answer is that the experiments only produce milligrams of material. I think he is exaggerating even there, if not outright lying, but what is a few orders of magnitude among friends?

Consensus is what we say it is

But who are “we”?

HM CollinsA BartlettLI Reyes-Galindo,  The Ecology of Fringe Science and its Bearing on Policy, arXiv:1606.05786v1 [physics.soc-ph],  Sat, 18 Jun 2016.

 In this paper we illustrate the tension between mainstream ‘normal’, ‘unorthodox’ and ‘fringe’ science that is the focus of two ongoing projects that are analysing the full ecology of physics knowledge. The first project concentrates on empirically understanding the notion of consensus in physics by investigating the policing of boundaries that is carried out at the arXiv preprint server, a fundamental element of the contemporary physics publishing landscape. The second project looks at physics outside the mainstream and focuses on the set of organisations and publishing outlets that have mushroomed outside of mainstream physics to cover the needs of ‘alternative’, ‘independent’ and ‘unorthodox’ scientists. Consolidating both projects into the different images of science that characterise the mainstream (based on consensus) and the fringe (based on dissent), we draw out an explanation of why today’s social scientists ought to make the case that, for policy-making purposes, the mainstream’s consensus should be our main source of technical knowledge.

I immediately notice a series of assumptions: that the authors  know what “consensus in physics” is, or “the mainstream (based on consensus)”, and that this, whatever it is, should be our main source of “technical knowledge.” Who is it that is asking the question, to whom does “our” refer in the last sentence?

Legally, the proposed argument is bullshit. Courts, very interested in knowledge, fact and clear interpretation, do not determine what the “mainstream consensus” is on a topic, nor do review bodies, such as, with our special interest, the U.S. Department of Energy in its 1989 and 2004 reviews. Rather, they seek expert opinion, and, at best, in a process where testimony and evidence are gathered.

Expert opinion would mean the opinions of those with the training, experience, and knowledge adequate to understand a subject, and who have actually investigated the subject themselves, or who are familiar with the primary reports of those who have investigated. Those who rely on secondary and tertiary reports, even from academic sources, would not be “expert” in this meaning. Those who rely on news media  would simply be bystanders, with varying levels of understanding, and quite vulnerable to information cascades, the same as everyone with anything where personal familiarity is absent. The general opinions of people are not admissible as evidence in court, nor are they of much relevance in science.

But sociologists study human society. Where these students of the sociology of science wander astray is in creating a policy recommendation — vague though it is — without thoroughly exploring the foundations of the topic.

Are those terms defined in the paper?

Consensus is often used very loosely and sloppily. Most useful, I think, is the meaning of “the widespread agreement of experts,” and the general opinion of a general body is better described by “common opinion.” The paper is talking about “knowledge,” and especially “scientific knowledge,” which is a body of interpretation created through the “scientific method,” and which is distinct from the opinions of scientists, and in particular the opinions of those who have not studied the subject.

1ageneral agreement UNANIMITY

the consensus of their opinion, based on reports … from the border—John Hersey

bthe judgment arrived at by most of those concerned

the consensus was to go ahead

2group solidarity in sentiment and belief

Certainly, the paper is not talking about unanimity, indeed, the whole thrust of it is to define fringe as “minority,” So the second definition applies, but is it of “those concerned”? By the conditions of the usage, “most scientists” are not “concerned” with the fringe, they generally ignore it. But “consensus” is improperly used, when the meaning is mere majority.

And when we are talking about a “scientific consensus,” to make any sense, we must be talking about the consensus of experts, not the relatively ignorant. Yet the majority of humans like to be right and to think that their opinions are the gold standard of truth. And scientists are human.

The paper is attempting to create a policy definition of science, without considering the process of science, how “knowledge” is obtained. It is, more or less, assuming the infallibility of the majority, at some level of agreement, outside the processes of science. 

We know from many examples the danger of this. The example of Semmelweiss is often adduced. Semmelweiss’s research and his conclusions contradicted the common opinion of physicians who delivered babies. He studied the problem of “childbed fever” with epidemological techniques, and came to the conclusion that the primary cause of the greatly increased mortality among those attended by physicians over those attended by midwives, was the practice of doctors who performed autopsies (a common “scientific” practice of those days) and who left the autopsy and examined women invasively, without thorough antisepsis. Semmelweiss studied hospital records, and then introduced antiseptic practices, and saw a great decrease in mortality.

But Semmelweiss was, one of his biographers thinks, becoming demented, showing signs of “Alzheimer’s presenile dementia,” and Semmelweiss became erratic and oppositional (one of the characteristics of some fringe advocates, as the authors of our paper point out). He was ineffective in communicating his findings, but it is also true that he met with very strong opposition that was not based in science, but in the assumption of physicians that what Semmelweiss was proposing was impossible.

This was before germ theory was developed and tested by Pasteur. The error of the “mainstream” was in not paying attention to the evidence Semmelweiss found. If they had done so, it’s likely that many thousands of unnecessary deaths would have been avoided.

I ran into something a little bit analogous in my personal history. I delivered my own children, after our experience with the first, relying on an old obstetrics textbook (DeLee, 1933) and the encouragement of an obstetrician. Later, because my wife and I had experience, we created a midwifery organization, trained midwives, and got them licensed by the state, a long story. The point here is that some obstetricians were horrified, believing that what we were doing was unsafe, and that home birth was necessarily riskier than hospital birth. That belief was based on wishful thinking.

“We do everything to make this as safe as possible” is not evidence of success.

An actual study was done, back then. It was found that home birth in the hands of skilled midwives, and with proper screening, i.e., not attempting to deliver difficult cases at home, was slightly safer than hospital birth, though the difference was not statistically significant. Why? Does it matter why?

However, there is a theory, and I think the statistics supported it. A woman delivering at home is accustomed to and largely immune to microbes present in the home. Not so with the hospital. There are other risks where being at home could increase negative outcomes, but they are relatively rare, and it appears that the risks at least roughly balance. But a great deal would depend on the midwives and how they practice.

(There is a trend toward birthing centers, located adjacent to hospitals, to avoid the mixing of the patient population. This could ameliorate the problem, but not eliminate it. Public policy, though, if we are going to talk about “shoulds,” should not depend on wishful thinking, and too often it does.)

(The best obstetricians, though, professors of obstetrics, wanted to learn from the midwives: How do you avoid doing an episiotomy? And we could answer that from experience. Good scientists are curious, not reactive and protective of “being right,” where anything different from what they think must be “wrong.” And that is, in fact, how the expertise of a real scientist grows.)

Does the paper actually address the definitional and procedural issues? From my first reading, I didn’t see it.

From the Introduction:

 Fringe science has been an important topic since the start of the revolution in the social studies of science that occurred in the early 1970s.2 As a softer-edged model of the sciences developed, fringe science was a ‘hard case’ on which to hammer out the idea that scientific truth was whatever came to count as scientific truth: scientific truth emerged from social closure. The job of those studying fringe science was to recapture the rationality of its proponents, showing how, in terms of the procedures of science, they could be right and the mainstream could be wrong and therefore the consensus position is formed by social agreement.

First of all, consensus in every context is formed by social agreement, outside of very specific contexts (which generally control the “agreement group” and the process). The conclusion stated does not follow from the premise that the fringe “could be right.” The entire discussion assumes that there is a clear meaning to “right” and “wrong,” it is ontologically unsophisticated. Both “right” and “wrong” are opinions, not fact, though there are cases where we would probably all agree that something was right or wrong, but when we look at this closely, they are situations where evidence is very strong, or the rightness and wrongness are based on fundamental human qualities. They are still a social agreement, even if written in our genes.

I do get a clue what they are about, though, in the next paragraph:

One outcome of this way of thinking is that sociologists of science informed by the perspective outlined above find themselves short of argumentative resources for demarcating science from non-science.

These are sociologists, yet they appear to classify an obvious sociological observation as “a way of thinking,” based on the effect, this being argument from consequences, having no bearing on the reality. So, for what purpose would we want to distinguish between science and non-science? The goal, apparently, is to be able to argue the distinction, but this is an issue which has been long studied. In a definitional question like this, my first inquiry is, “Who wants to know, and why?” because a sane answer will consider context.

There are classical ways of identifying the boundaries. Unfortunately, those ways require judgment. Whose judgment? Rather than judgment, the authors appear to be proposing the use of a vague concept of “scientific consensus,” that ignores the roots of that. “Scientific consensus” is not, properly, the general agreement of those called “scientists,” but of those with expertise, as I outline above. It is a consensus obtained through collective study of evidence. It can still be flawed, but my long-term position on genuine consensus is that it is the most reliable guide we have, and as long as we keep in mind the possibility that any idea can be defective, any interpretation may become obsolete, in the language of Islam, if we do not “close the gates of ijtihaad,” as some imagine happened over a thousand years ago, relying on social agreement, and especially the agreement of the informed, is our safest course.

They went on:

The distinction with traditional philosophy of science, which readily
demarcates fringe subjects such as parapsychology by referring to their ‘irrationality’ or some such, is marked.3
For the sociologist of scientific knowledge, that kind of demarcation comprises a retrospective drawing on what is found within the scientific community. In contrast, the sociological perspective explains why a multiplicity of conflicting views on the same topic, each with its own scientific justification, can coexist. A position that can emerge from this perspective is to argue for less authoritarian control of new scientific initiatives – for a loosening of the controls on the restrictive side of what Kuhn (1959, 1977) called ‘the essential tension’. The essential tension is between those who believe that science can only progress within consensual
‘ways of going on’ which restrict the range of questions that can be asked, the ways of asking and answering them and the kinds of criticism that it is legitimate to offer – this is sometime known as working within ‘paradigms’ – and those who believe that this kind of control is unacceptably  authoritarian and that good science is always maximally creative and has no bounds in these respects. This tension is central to what we argue here. We note only that a complete loosening of control would lead to the dissolution of science.

They note that, but adduce no evidence. Control over what? There are thousands upon thousands of institutions, making decisions which can affect the viability of scientific investigation. The alleged argument, stated as contrary “beliefs,” misses that there could be a consensus, rooted in reality. What is reality? And there we need more than the kind of shallow sociology that I see here. Socially, we get the closest to the investigation of reality in the legal system, where there are processes and procedures for finding “consensus,” as represented by the consensus of a jury, or the assessment of a judge, with procedures in place to assure neutrality, even though we know that those procedures sometimes fail, hence there are appeal procedures, etc.

In science, in theory, “closure” is obtained through the acceptance of authoritative reviews, published in refereed journals. Yet such process is not uncommonly bypassed in the formation of what is loosely called “scientific consensus.” In those areas, such reviews may be published, but are ignored, dismissed. It is the right of each individual to decide what information to follow, and what not, except when the individual, or the supervising organization, has a responsibility to consider it. Here, it appears, there is an attempt to advise organizations, as to what they should consider “science.”

Why do they need to decide that? What I see is that if one can dismiss claims coming under consideration, based on an alleged “consensus,” which means, in practice, I call up my friend, who is a physicist, say, and he says, “Oh, that’s bullshit, proven wrong long ago. Everybody knows.”

If someone has a responsibility, it is not discharged by receiving and acting on rumors.

The first question, about authoritarian control, is, “Does it exist?” Yes, it does. And the paper rather thoroughly documents it, as regards the arXiv community and library. However, if a “pseudoskeptic” is arguing with a “fringe believer,” — those are both stereotypical terms —  and the believer mentions the suppression, the skeptic will assert, “Aha! Conspiracy theory!” And, in fact, when suppression takes place, conspiracy theories do abound. This is particularly true if the suppression is systemic, rather than anecdotal. And with fringe science, once a field is so tagged, it is systemic.

Anyone who researches the history of cold fusion will find examples, where authoritarian control is exerted with means that not openly acknowledged, and with cooperation and collaboration in this. Is that a “conspiracy”? Those engaged in it won’t think so. This is just, to them, “sensible people cooperating with each other.”

I would distinguish between this activity as a “natural conspiracy,” from “corrupt conspiracy,” as if, for example, the oil industry were conspiring to suppress cold fusion because of possible damage to their interests. In fact, I find corrupt conspiracy extremely unlikely in the case of cold fusion, and in many other cases where it is sometimes asserted.

The straw man argument, they set up, is between extreme and entrenched positions, depending on knee-jerk reactions. That is “authoritarian control” is Bad. Is it? Doesn’t that depend on context and purpose?

But primitive thinkers are looking for easy classifications, particularly into Good and Bad. The argument described is rooted in such primitive thinking, and certainly not actual sociology (which must include linguistics and philosophy).

So I imagine a policy-maker, charged with setting research budgets, presented with a proposal for research that may be considered fringe. Should he or she approve the proposal? Now there are procedures, but this stands out: if the decider decides according to majority opinion among “scientists,” it’s safer. But it also shuts down the possibility of extending the boundaries of science, and that can sometimes cause enormous damage.

Those women giving birth in hospitals in Europe in the 19th century. They died because of a defective medical practice, and because reality was too horrible to consider, for the experts. It meant that they were, by their hands, killing women. (One of Semmelweiss’s colleagues, who accepted his work, realized that he had caused the death of his niece, and committed suicide.)

What would be a more responsible approach? I’m not entirely sure I would ask sociologists, particularly those ontologically unsophisticated. But they would, by their profession, be able to document what actually exists, and these sociologists do that, in part. But as to policy recommendations, they put their pants on one leg at a time. They may have no clue.

What drives this paper is a different question that arises out of the sociological perspective: What is the outside world to do with the new view?

Sociologists may have their own political opinions, and these clearly do. Science does not provide advice, rather it can, under the best circumstances, inform decisions, but decision-making is a matter of choices, and science does not determine choices. It may, sometimes, predict the consequences of choices. But these sociologists take it as their task to advise, it seems.

So who wants to know and for what purpose? They have this note:

1 This paper is joint work by researchers supported by two grants: ESRC to Harry Collins, (RES/K006401/1) £277,184, What is scientific consensus for policy? Heartlands and hinterlands of physics (2014-2016); British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellowship to Luis Reyes-Galindo, (PF130024) £223,732, The social boundaries of scientific knowledge: a case study of ‘green’ Open Access (2013-2016).

Searching for that, I first find a paper by these authors:

Collins, Harry & Bartlett, Andrew & Reyes-Galindo, Luis. (2017). “Demarcating Fringe Science for Policy.” Perspectives on Science. 25. 411-438. 10.1162/POSC_a_00248. Copy on ResearchGate.

This appears to be a published version of the arXiv preprint. The abstract:

Here we try to characterize the fringe of science as opposed to the mainstream. We want to do this in order to provide some theory of the difference that can be used by policy-makers and other decision-makers but without violating the principles of what has been called ‘Wave Two of Science Studies’. Therefore our demarcation criteria rest on differences in the forms of life of the two activities rather than questions of rationality or rightness; we try to show the ways in which the fringe differs from the mainstream in terms of the way they think about and practice the institution of science. Along the way we provide descriptions of fringe institutions and sciences and their outlets. We concentrate mostly on physics.

How would decision-makers use this “theory”? It seems fairly clear to me: find a collection of “scientists” and ask them to vote. If a majority of these people think that the topic is fringe, it’s fringe, and the decision-maker can reject a project to investigate it, and be safe. Yet people who are decision-makers are hopefully more sophisticated than CYA bureaucrats.

Collins has long written about similar issues. I might obtain and read his books.

As an advisor on science policy, though, what he’s advising isn’t science, it’s politics. The science involved would be management science, not the sociology of science. He’s outside his field. If there is a business proposal, it may entail risk. In fact, almost any potentially valuable course of action would entail risk. “Risky” and “fringe” are related.

However, with cold fusion, we know this: both U.S. Department of Energy reviews, which were an attempt to discover informed consensus, came up with a recommendation for more research. Yet if decision-makers reject research proposals, if journals reject papers without review — Collins talks about that process, is if reasonable, as it is under some conditions and not others — if a student’s dissertation is rejected because it was about “cold fusion,” — though not really, it was about finding tritium in electrolytic cells, which is only a piece of evidence, not a conclusion — then the research will be suppressed, which is not what the reviews purported to want. Actual consensus of experts was ignored in favor of a shallow interpretation of it. (Point this out to a pseudoskeptic, the counter-argument is that “Oh, they always recommend more research, it was boilerplate, polite. They really knew that cold fusion was bullshit.” This is how entrenched belief looks. It rationalizes away all contrary evidence. it attempts to shut down interest in anything fringe. I wonder, if they could legally use the tools, would they torture “fringe believers,” like a modern Inquisition? Sometimes I think so.

“Fringe,” it appears, is to be decided based on opinion believed to be widespread, without any regard for specific expertise and knowledge.

“Cold fusion” is commonly thought of as a physics topic, because if the cause of the observed effects is what it was first thought to be, deuterium-deuterium fusion, it would be of interest to nuclear physicists. But few nuclear physicists are expert in the fields involved in those reports. Yet physicists were not shy about giving opinions, too often. Replication failure — which was common with this work — is not proof that the original reports were false, it is properly called a “failure,” because that is what it usually is.

Too few pay attention to what actually happened with N-rays and polywater, which are commonly cited as precedent. Controlled experiment replicated the results! And then showed prosaic causes as being likely. With cold fusion, failure to replicate (i.e., absence of confirming evidence from some investigators, not others) was taken as evidence of absence, which it never is, unless the situation is so obvious and clear that results could not overlook notice. Fleischmann-Pons was a very difficult experiment. It seemed simple to physicists, with no experience with electrochemistry.

I’ve been preparing a complete bibliography on cold fusion, listing and providing access information for over 1500 papers published in mainstream journals, with an additional 3000 papers published in other ways. I’d say that anyone who actually studies the history of cold fusion will recognize how much Bad Science there was, and it was on all sides, not just the so-called “believer” side, nor just on the other.

So much information was generated by this research, which went all over the map, that approaching the field is forbidding, there is too much. There have been reviews, which is how the mainstream seeks closure, normally, not by some vague social phenomenon, an information cascade.

The reviews conclude that there is a real effect. Most consider the mechanism as unknown, still. But it’s nuclear, that is heavily shown by the preponderance of evidence. The contrary view, that this is all artifact, has become untenable, actually unreasonable for those who know the literature. Most don’t know it. The latest major review was “Status of cold fusion, 2010,: Edmund Storms, Naturwissenschaften, preprint.

Decision-makers need to know if a topic is fringe, because they may need to be able to justify their decisions, and with a fringe topic, flak can be predicted.  The criteria that Collins et al seem to be proposing — my study isn’t thorough yet — use behavioral criteria, that may not, at all, apply to individuals making, say, a grant request, but rather to a community. Yet if the topic is such as to trigger the knee-jerk responses of pseudoskeptics, opposition can be expected.

A decision-maker should look for peer-reviewed reviews in the literature, in mainstream journals. Those can provide the cover a manager may need.

The general opinion of “scientists” may vary greatly from the responsible decisions of editors and reviewers who actually take a paper seriously, and who therefore study it and verify and check it.

A manager who depends on widespread but uninformed opinion is likely to make poor decisions, faced with an opportunity for something that could create a breakthrough. Such decisions, though, should not be naive, should not fail to recognize the risks.

 

Hagelstein on theory and science

On Theory and Science Generally in Connection with the Fleischmann-Pons Experiment

Peter Hagelstein

This is an editorial from Infinite Energy, March/April 2013, p. 5, copied here for purposes of study and commentary. This article was cited to me as if it were in contradiction to certain ideas I have expressed. Reading it carefully, I find it is, for the most part, a confirmation of these ideas, and so I was motivated to study this here. Some of what Peter wrote in 2013 is being disregarded, not to mention by pseudoskeptics, but also by people within the community. He presents some cautions, which are commonly ignored.

I was encouraged to contribute to an editorial generally on the topic of theory in science, in connection with publication of a paper focused on some recent ideas that Ed Storms has put forth regarding a model for how excess heat works in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. Such a project would compete for my time with other commitments, including teaching, research and family-related commitments; so I was reluctant to take it on. On the other hand I found myself tempted, since over the years I have been musing about theory, and also about science, as a result of having been involved in research on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. As you can see from what follows, I ended up succumbing to temptation.

I have listened to Peter talk many times in person. He has a manner that is quite distinctive, and it’s a pleasure to remember the sound of his voice. He is dispassionate and thoughtful, and often quietly humorous.

Science as an imperfect human endeavor 

In order to figure out the role of theory in science, probably we should start by figuring out what science is. Had you asked me years ago what science is, I would have replied with confidence. I would have rambled on at length about discovering how nature works, the scientific method, accumulation and systematization of scientific knowledge, about the benefits of science to mankind, and about those who do science. But alas, I wasn’t asked years ago.

[Cue laugh track.]

In this day and age, we might turn to Wikipedia as a resource to figure out what science is.

[Cue more laughter.] But he’s right, many might turn to Wikipedia, and even though I know very well how Wikipedia works and fails to work, I also use it every day. Wikipedia is unstable, often constantly changing. Rather arbitrarily, I picked the March 1, 2013 version by PhaseChanger for a permanent link. Science, as we will see, does depend on consensus, and in theory, Wikipedia also does, but, in practice, Wikipedia editors are anonymous, their real qualifications are generally unknown, and there is no responsible and reliable governance. So Wikipedia is even more vulnerable to information cascades and hidden factional dominance than the “scientific community,” which is poorly defined.

We see on the Wikipedia page pictures of an imposing collection of famous scientists, discussion of the history of science, the scientific method, philosophical issues, science and society, impact on public policy and the like. One comes away with the impression of science as something sensible with a long and respected lineage, as a rational enterprise involving many very smart people, lots of work and systematic accumulation and organization of knowledge—in essence an honorable endeavor that we might look up to and be proud of. This is very much the spirit in which I viewed science a quarter century ago.

Me too. I still am proud of science, but there is a dark side to nearly everything human.

I wanted to be part of this great and noble enterprise. It was good; it advanced humanity by providing understanding. I respected science and scientists greatly.

Mixed up on Wikipedia, and to some extent here in Peter’s article, is “understanding” as the goal, with “knowledge,” the root meaning. “Understanding” is transient and that we believe we understand something is probably a particular brain chemistry that responds to particular kinds of neural patterns and reactions. The real and practical value of science is in prediction, not some mere personal satisfaction, and that reaction is rooted in a sense of control and safety. The pursuit of that brain chemistry, which is probably addictive, may motivate many scientists (and people in general). Threaten a person’s sense that they understand reality, strong reactions will be common.

We can see the tension in the Wikipedia article. The lede defines science:

Science (from Latin scientia, meaning “knowledge”) is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe.[1] In an older and closely related meaning (found, for example, in Aristotle), “science” refers to the body of reliable knowledge itself, of the type that can be logically and rationally explained (see History and philosophy below).[2]

There are obviously two major kinds of knowledge: One is memory, a record of witnessing. The other is explanation. The difference is routinely understood at law: a witness will be asked to report what they witnessed, not how they interpreted it (except possibly as an explanatory detail; in general, interpretation is the province of “expert witnesses” who must be qualified before the court. Adversarial systems (as in the U.S.) create much confusion by not having the court choose experts to consult. Rather, each side hires its own experts, and some make a career out of testifying with some particular slant. Those differences of opinion are assessed by juries, subject to arguments from the plaintiff and defendant. It’s a place where the system can break down, though any system can break down. It’s better than some and worse than others.

Science, historically and practically (as we apply science in our lives), begins, not with explanations, but with observation and memory and, later in life, written records of observations. However, the human mind, it is well-known, tends to lose observational detail and instead will most strongly remember conclusions and impressions, especially those with some emotional impact.

So the foundation of science is the enormous body of experimental and other records. This is, however, often “systematized” through the explanations that developed, and the scientific method harnesses these to make the organization of knowledge more efficient through testing predictions and, over time, deprecating explanations that are less predictive, in favor of those more precise and comprehensive in prediction. This easily becomes confused with truth. As I will be repeating, however, the map is not the reality.

Today I still have great respect for science and for many scientists, probably much more respect than in days past. But my view is different today. Now I would describe science as very much a human endeavor; and as a human activity, science is imperfect. This is not intended as a criticism; instead I view it as a reflection that we as humans are imperfect. Which in a sense makes it much more amazing that we have managed to make as much progress as we have. The advances in our understanding of nature resulting from science generally might be seen as a much greater accomplishment in light of how imperfect humans sometimes are, especially in connection with science.

Yes. Peter has matured. He is no longer so outraged by the obvious.

The scientific method as an ideal

Often in talking with muggles (non-scientists in this context) about science, it seems first and foremost the discussion turns to the notion of the “scientific method,” which muggles have been exposed to and imagine is actually what scientists make use of when doing science. Ah, the wonderful idealization which is this scientific method! Once again, we turn to Wikipedia as our modern source for clarification of all things mysterious: the scientific method in summary involves the formulation of a question, a hypothesis, a prediction, a test and subsequent analysis. Without doubt, this method is effective for figuring out what is right and also what is wrong as to how nature works, and can be even more so when applied repeatedly on a given problem by many people over a long time.

The version of the Wikipedia article  as edited by Crazynas:  22:30, 14 February 2013.

However, the scientific method, as it was conveyed to me (by Feynman at Cal Tech, 1961-63) requires something that runs in radical contradiction to how most people are socially conditioned, how they have been trained or have chosen to live. and actually live in practice. It requires a strenous attempt to prove one’s own ideas wrong, whereas normal socialization expects us to try to prove we are right. While most scientists understand this, actual practice can be wildly off, hence confirmation bias is common.

In years past I was an ardent supporter of this scientific method. Even more, I would probably have argued that pretty much any other approach would be guaranteed to produce unreliable results.

Well, less reliable.

At present I think of the scientific method as presented here more as an ideal, a method that one would like to use, and should definitely use if and when possible. Sadly, there are circumstances where it isn’t practical to make use of the scientific method. For example, to carry out a test it might require resources (such as funding, people, laboratories and so forth), and if the resources are not available then the test part of the method simply isn’t going to get done.

I disagree. It is always practical to use the method, provided that one understands that results may not be immediate. For example, one may design tests that may only later (maybe even much later) be performed. When an idea (hypothesis) has not been tested and shown to generate reliable predictions, the idea is properly not yet “scientific,” but rather proposed, awaiting confirmation. As well, it is, in some cases, possible to test an idea against a body of existing experimental evidence. This is less satisfactory than performing tests specifically designed with controls, but nevertheless can create progress, preliminary results to guide later work.

In the case Peter will be looking at, there was a rush to judgment, a political impulse to find quick answers, and the ideas that arose (experimental error, artifacts, etc.) were never well-tested. Rather, impressions were created and communicated widely, based on limited and inconclusive evidence, becoming the general “consensus” that Peter will talk about.

In practice, simple application of the scientific method isn’t enough. Consider the situation when several scientists contemplate the same question: They all have an excellent understanding of the various hypotheses put forth; there are no questions about the predictions; and they all do tests and subsequent analyses. This, for example, was the situation in the area of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment back in 1989. So, what happens when different scientists that do the tests get different answers?

Again, it’s necessary to distinguish between observation and interpretation. The answers only seemed different when viewed from within a very limited perspective. In fact, as we now can see it, there was a high consistency between the various experiments, including the so-called negative replications. Essentially, given condition X, Y was seen, at least occasionally. With condition X missing, Y was never seen. That is enough to conclude, first pass, a causal relationship between X and Y. X, of course, would be high deuterium loading, of at least about 90%. Y would be excess heat. There were also other necessary conditions for excess heat. But in 1989, few knew this and it was widely assumed that it was enough to put “two electrodes in a jam-jar” to show that the FP Heat Effect did not exist. And there was more, of course.

More succinctly, the tests did not get “different answers.” Reality is a single Answer. When reality is observed from more than one perspective or in different situations, it may look different. That does not make any of the observations wrong, merely incomplete, not the whole affair. What we actually observe is an aspect of reality, it is the reality of our experience, hence the training of scientists properly focuses on careful observation and careful reporting of what is actually observed.

You might think that the right thing to do might be to go back to do more tests. Unfortunately, the scientific method doesn’t tell you how many tests you need to do, or what to do when people get different answers. The scientific method doesn’t provide for a guarantee that resources will be made available to carry out more tests, or that anyone will still be listening if more tests happen to get done.

Right. However, there is a hidden assumption here, that one must find the “correct answers” by some deadline. Historically, pressure arose from the political conditions around the 1989 announcement, so corners were cut. It was clear that the tests that were done were inadequate and the 1989 DoE review included acknowledgement of that. There was never a definitive review showing that the FP measurements of heat were artifact. Of course, eventually, positive confirmations started to show up. By that time, though, a massive information cascade had developed, and most scientists were no longer paying any attention. I call it a Perfect Storm.

Consensus as a possible extension of the scientific method

I was astonished by the resolution to this that I saw take place. The important question on the table from my perspective was whether there exists an excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. The leading hypotheses included: (1) yes, the effect was real; (2) no, the initial results were an artifact.

Peter is not mentioning a crucial aspect of this, the pressure developed by the “nuclear” claim. Had Pons and Fleischmann merely announced a heat anomaly, leaving the “nuclear” speculations or conclusions to others, preferably physicists, history might have been very different. A heat anomaly? So perhaps some chemistry isn’t understood! Let’s not run around like headless chickens, let’s first see if this anomaly can be confirmed! If not, we can forget about it, until it is.

Instead, because of the nuclear claim and some unfortunate aspects of how this was announced and published, there was a massive uproar, much premature attention, and, then, partly because Pons and Fleischmann had made some errors in reporting nuclear products, premature rejection, tossing out the baby with the bathwater.

Yes, scientifically, and after the initial smoke cleared, the reality of the heat was the basic scientific question. As Peter will make clear, and he is quite correct, “excess heat” does not mean that physics textbooks must be revised, it is not in contradiction to known physics, it merely shows that something isn’t understood. Exactly what remains unclear, until it is clarified. So, yes, the heat might be real, or there might be some error in interpretation of the experiments (which is another way of saying “artifact.”)

Predictions were made, which largely centered around the possibility that either excess heat would be seen, or that excess heat would not be seen. A very large number of tests were done. A few people saw excess heat, and most didn’t.

Now, this is fascinating, in fact. There is a consistency here, underneath apparent contradiction. Those who saw excess heat commonly failed to see it in most experiments. Obvious conclusion: generating the excess heat effect was not well-understood. There was another approach available, one usable under such chaotic conditions: correlations of conditions and effects. By the time a clear correlated nuclear product was known, research had slowed. To truly beat the problem, probably, collaboration was required, so that multiple experiments could be subject to common correlation study. That mostly did not happen.

With a correlation study, the “negative” results are part of the useful data. Actually essential. Instead, oversimplified conclusions were drawn from incomplete data. 

A very large number of analyses were done, many of which focused on the experimental approach and calorimetry of Fleischmann and Pons. Some focused on nuclear measurements (the idea here was that if the energy was produced by nuclear reactions, then commensurate energetic particles should be present);

Peter is describing history, that “commensurate energetic particles should be present” was part of the inexplicit assumption that if there was a heat effect, it must be nuclear, and if it were nuclear, it must be d-d fusion, and if it were d-d fusion, and given the reported heat, there must be massive energetic particles. Fatal levels, actually. The search for neutrons, in particular, was mostly doomed from the start, useless. Whatever the FP Heat Effect is, it either produces no neutrons or very, very few. (At least not fast neutrons, as with hot fusion. WL Theory is a hoax, in my view, but it takes some sophistication to see that, so slow neutrons remain as possibly being involved, first-pass.)

What is remarkable is how obvious this was from the beginning, but many papers were written that ignored the obvious.

and some focused on the integrity and competence of Fleischmann and Pons. How was this resolved? For me the astonishment came when arguments were made that if members of the scientific community were to vote, that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community would conclude that there was no effect based on the tests.

That is not an argument, it is an observation based on extrapolation from experience. As Peter well knows, it is not based on a review of the tests. The only reviews actually done, especially the later ones, concluded that the effect is real. Even the DoE review in 2004, Peter was there, reported that half of the 18 panelists considered the evidence for excess heat “conclusive.” Now, if you don’t consider it “conclusive”, what do you think? Anywhere from impossible to possible! That was a “vote” from a very brief review, and I think only half the panel actually attended the physical meeting, and it was only one day. More definitive, and hopefully more considered, in science, is peer-reviewed review in mainstream journals. Those have been uniformly positive for a long time.

So what the conditions holding at the time Peter is writing about show is that “scientists” get their news from the newspaper — and from gossip — and put their pants on one leg at a time.

The “argument” would be that decisions on funding and access to academic resources should be based on such a vote. Normally, in science, one does not ask about general consensus among “scientists,” but among those actually working in a field, it is the “consensus of the informed” which is sought. Someone with a general science degree might have the tools to be able to understand papers, but that doesn’t mean that they actually read and study and understand them. I just critiqued a book review by a respected seismologist, actually a professor at a major university, who clearly knew practically nothing about LENR, but considered himself to be a decent spokesperson for the mainstream. There are many like him. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

I have no doubt whatsoever that a vote at that time (or now) would have gone poorly for Fleischmann and Pons.

There was a vote in 2004, of a kind. The results were not “poor,” and show substantial progress over the 1989 review. However, yes, if one were to snag random scientists and pop the question, it might go “poorly.” But I’m not sure. I talk with a lot of scientists, in contexts not biased toward LENR, and there is more understanding out there than we might think. I really don’t know, and nobody has done the survey, nor is it particularly valuable. What matters everywhere is not the consensus of all people or all scientists, but all accepted as knowledgeable on the subject. One of the massive errors of 1989 and often repeated is that expertise on, say, nuclear physics, conveys expertise on LENR. But most of the work and the techniques are chemistry. Heat is most commonly a chemical phenomenon.

To actually review LENR fairly requires a multidisciplinary approach. Polling random scientists, garbage in, garbage out. Running reviews, with extensive discussion between those with experimental knowledge and others, hammering out real consensus instead of just knee-jerk opinion, that is what would be desirable. It’s happened here and there, simply not enough yet to make the kind of difference Peter and I would like to see.

The idea of a vote among scientists seems to be very democratic; in some countries leaders are selected and issues are resolved through the application of democracy. What to me was astonishing at the time was that this argument was used in connection with the question of the existence of an excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

And a legislature declared that pi was 22/7. Not a bad approximation, to be sure. What were they actually declaring? (So I looked this up. No, they did not declare that. “Common knowledge” is often quite distorted. And then, because Wikipedia is unreliable, I checked the Straight Dope, which is truly reliable, and if you doubt that, be prepared to be treated severely. I can tolerate dissent, but not heresy. Also snopes.com, likewise.  Remarkably, Cecil Adams managed to write about cold fusion without making an idiot out of himself. “As the recent cold fusion fiasco makes clear, scientists are as prone to self-delusion as anybody else.” True, too true. Present company excepted, of course!

Our society does not use ordinary “democratic process” to make decisions on fact. Rather, this mostly happens with juries, in courts of law. Yes, there is a vote, but to gain a result on a serious matter (criminal, say), unanimity is required, after a hopefully thorough review of evidence and arguments. 

In the years following I tried this approach out with students in the classroom. I would pose a technical question concerning some issue under discussion, and elicit an answer from the student. At issue would be the question as to whether the answer was right, or wrong. I proposed that we make use of a more modern version of the scientific method, which was to include voting in order to check the correctness of the result. If the students voted that the result was correct, then I would argue that we had made use of this augmentation of the scientific method in order to determine whether the result was correct or not. Of course, we would go on only when the result was actually correct.

Correct according to whom? Rather obviously, the professor. Appeal to authority. I would hope that the professor refrained from intervening unless it was absolutely necessary; rather, that he would recognize that the minority is, not uncommonly, right, but may not have expressed itself well enough, or the truth is more complex than one view or another, “right and wrong.” Consensus organizations exist where finding full consensus is considered desirable, actually misssion-critical. When a decision has massive consequences, perhaps paralyzing progress in science for a long time, perhaps “no agreement, but majority X,”with a defined process, is better than concluding that X is the truth and other ideas are wrong. In real organizations, with full discussion, consensus is much more accessible than most think. The key is “full discussion,” which often actually takes facilitation, from people who know how to guide participants toward agreements.

I love that Peter actually tried this. He’s living like a scientist, testing ideas.

In such a discussion, if a consensus appeared that the professor believed was wrong, then it’s a powerful teaching opportunity. How does the professor know it’s wrong? Is there experimental evidence of which the students were not aware, or failed to consider? Are there defective arguments being used, and if, so, how did it happen that the students agreed on them? Social pressures? Laziness? Or something missing in their education? Simply declaring the consensus “wrong,” would avoid the deeper education possible.

There is consensus process that works, that is far more likely to come up with deep conclusions than any individual, and there is so-called consensus that is a social majority bullying a minority. A crucial difference is respect and tolerance for differing points of view, instead of pushing particular points of view as “true,” and others as “false.”

The students understood that such a vote had nothing to do with verifying whether a result was correct or not. To figure out whether a result is correct, we can derive results, we can verify results mathematically, we can turn to unambiguous experimental results and we can do tests; but in general the correctness of a technical result in the hard sciences should probably not be determined from the result of this kind of vote.

Voting will occur in groups created to recommend courses of action. Courts will avoid attempts to decide “truth,” absent action proposed. One of the defects in the 2004 U.S. DoE review, as far as I know, was the lack of a specific, practical (within political reach) and actionable proposal. What has eventually come to me has been the creation of a “LENR desk” at the DoE, a specific person or small office with the task of maintaining knowledge of the state of research, with the job of making recommendations on research, i.e., identifying the kinds of fundamental questions to ask, tests to perform, to address what the 2004 panel unanimously agreed to recommend. That was apparently a genuine consensus, and obviously could lead to resolving all the other issues, but we didn’t focus on that, the CMNS community instead, chip on shoulder, focused on what was wrong with that review (and mistakes were made, for sure.)

Scientific method and the scientific community

I have argued that using the scientific method can be an effective way to clarify a technical issue. However, it could be argued that the scientific method should come with a warning, something to the effect that actually using it might be detrimental to your career and to your personal life. There are, of course, many examples that could be used for illustration. A colleague of mine recently related the story of Ignaz Semmelweis to me. Semmelweis (according to Wikipedia) earned a doctorate in medicine in 1844, and subsequently became interested in the question of why the mortality rate was so high at the obstetrical clinics at the Vienna General Hospital. He proposed a hypothesis that led to a testable prediction (that washing hands would improve the mortality rate), carried out the test and analyzed the result. In fact, the mortality rate did drop, and dropped by a large factor.

In this case Semmelweis made use of the scientific method to learn something important that saved lives. Probably you have figured out by now that his result was not immediately recognized or accepted by the medical and scientific communities, and the unfortunate consequences of his discovery to his career and personal life serve to underscore that science is very much an imperfect human enterprise. His career did not advance as it probably should have, or as he might have wished, following this important discovery. His personal life was negatively impacted.

This story is often told. I was a midwife, and trained midwives, and knew about Semmelweiss long ago. The Wikipedia article.  A sentence from the Wikipedia article:

It has been contended that Semmelweis could have had an even greater impact if he had managed to communicate his findings more effectively and avoid antagonising the medical establishment, even given the opposition from entrenched viewpoints.[56]

Semmelweiss became obsessed about his finding and the apparent rejection. In fact, there was substantial acceptance, but also widespread misunderstanding and denial. Semmelweiss was telling doctors that they were killing their patients and he was irate that they didn’t believe him.

How to accomplish that kind of information transfer remains tricky. It can still be the case that, at least for individuals, “standard of practice” can be deadly.

Semmelweiss literally lost his mind, and died when committed to a mental hospital, having been injured by a guard. 

The scientific community is a social entity, and scientists within the scientific community have to interact from day to day with other members of the scientific community, as well as with those not in science. How a scientist navigates these treacherous waters can have an impact. For example, Fleischmann once described what happened to him following putting forth the claim of excess power in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment; he described the experience as one of being “extruded” out of the scientific community. From my own discussions with him, I suspect that he suffered from depression in his later years that resulted in part from the non-acceptance of his research.

Right. That, however, presents Fleischmann as a victim, along with all the other researchers “extruded.” However, he wasn’t rejected because he claimed excess heat. That simply isn’t what happened. The real story is substantially more complex. Bottom line, the depth of the rejection was related to the “nuclear claim,” made with only circumstantial evidence that depended entirely on his own expertise, together with an error in nuclear measurements, a first publication that called attention to the standard d+d reactions as if they were relevant, when they obviously were not, and then a series of decisions made, reactive to attack, that made it all worse. The secrecy, the failure to disclose difficulties promptly, the decision to withhold helium measurement results, the decision to avoid helium measurements for the future, the failure to honor the agreement in the Morrey collaboration, all amplified the impression of incompetence. He was not actually incompetent, certainly not as to electrochemistry! He was, however, human, dealing with a political situation outside his competence. However, his later debate with Morrison was based on an article that purported simplicity, but that was far from simple to understand. Fleischmann needed guidance, and didn’t have it, apparently. Or if he had sound guidance, he wasn’t listening to it. 

If he was depressed later, I would ascribe that to a failure to recognize and acknowledge what he had done and not done to create the situation. Doing so would have given him power. Instead, mostly, he remained silent. (People will tell themselves “I did the best I could,” which is BS, typically, how could we possibly know that nothing better was possible? We may tell ourselves that it was all someone else’s fault, but that, then, assigns power to “someone else,” not to us. Power is created by “The buck stops here!”) But we now have his correspondence with Miles, and I have not studied it yet. What I know is that when we own and take full responsibility for whatever happened in our lives, we can them move on to much more than we might think possible. 

Those who have worked on anomalies connected with the Fleischmann-Pons experience have a wide variety of experiences. For example, one friend became very interested in the experiments and decided to put time into this area of research. Almost immediately it became difficult to bring in research funding on any topic. From these experiences my friend consciously made the decision to back away from the field, after which it again became possible to get funding. Some others in the field have found it difficult to obtain resources to pursue research on the Fleischmann-Pons effect, and also difficult to publish.

Indeed. There are very many personal accounts. Too many are anonymous rumors, like this, which makes them less credible. I don’t doubt the general idea. Yes, I think many did make the decision to back away. I once had a conversation with a user on Wikipedia, who wanted his anonymity preserved, though he was taking a skeptical position on LENR. Why? Because, he claimed, if it were known that he was even willing to talk about LENR, it would damage his career as a scientist. That would have been in 2009 or so.

I would argue that instead of being an aberration of science (as many of my friends have told me), this is a part of science. The social aspects of science are important, and strongly impact what science is done and the careers and lives of scientists. I think that the excess heat effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is important; however, we need to be aware of the associated social aspects. In a recent short course class on the topic I included slides with a warning, in an attempt to make sure that no one young and naive would remain unaware of the danger associated with cultivating an interest in the field. Working in this field can result in your career being destroyed.

Unfortunately, perhaps, the students may think you are joking. I would prefer to find and communicate ways to work in the field without such damage. There are hints in Peter’s essay, to possibilities. Definitely, anyone considering getting involved should know the risks, but also how, possibly, to handle them. Some activities in life are dangerous, but still worth doing.

It follows that the scientific method probably needs to be placed in context. Although the “question” to be addressed in the scientific method seems to be general, it is not. There is a filter implicit in connection with the scientific community, in that the question to be addressed through the use of the scientific method must be one either approved by, or likely to be approved by, the scientific community.

Peter is here beginning what he later calls the “outrageous parody.” If we take this as descriptive, there is a reality behind what he is writing. If a question is outside the boundaries being described, it’s at the edge of a cliff, or over it. Walking in such a place, with a naive sense of safety, is very dangerous. People die doing such, commonly. People aware of the danger still sometimes die, but not nearly so commonly.

The parody begins with his usage of “must.” There is no must, but there are natural consequences to working “outside the box.” Pons and Fleischmann knew that their work would be controversial, but somehow failed to treat it as the hot potato it was, if they mentioned “nuclear.” It’s ironic. Had they not mentioned they could have patented a method for producing heat, without the N word. If someone else had asked about “nuclear,” they could have said, “We don’t see adequate evidence to make such a claim. We don’t know what is causing the heat.”

And they could have continued with this profession of “inadequate evidence” until they had such evidence and it was bulletproof. It might only have taken a few years, maybe even less (i.e., to establish “nuclear.” Establishing a specific mechanism might still not have been accomplished, but … without the rejection cascade, we would probably know much more, and, I suspect, we’d have a lab rat, at least.

Otherwise, the associated endeavor will not be considered to be part of science, and whatever results come from the application of the scientific method are not going to be included in the canon of science.

Yes, again if descriptive, not prescriptive. This should be obvious: what is not understood and well-confirmed does not belong in the “canon.”

If one decides to focus on a question in this context that is outside of the body of questions of interest to the scientific community, then one must understand that this will lead to an exclusion from the scientific community.

Again, yes, but with a conditions In my training, they told us, “If they are not shooting at you, you are not doing anything worth wasting bullets on.”

The condition is that it may be possible to work in such a way as to not arouse this response. With LENR, the rejection cascade was established in full force long ago, and is persistent. However, there may be ways to phrase “the question of interest” to keep it well within what the scientific community as a whole will accept. Others may find support and funding such that they can disregard that problem. Certainly McKubre was successful, I see no sign that he suffered an impact to his career, indeed LENR became the major focus of that career.

But why do people go into science? If it’s to make money, some do better getting an MBA, or going into industry. There would naturally be few that would choose LENR out of the many career possibilities, but eventually, in any field, one can come up against entrenched and factional belief. Scientists are not trained to face these issues powerfully, and many are socially unskilled.

Also, if one attempts to apply the scientific method to a problem or area that is not approved, then the scientific community will not be supportive of the endeavor, and it will be problematic to find resources to carry out the scientific method.

Resources are controlled by whom? Has it ever been the case that scientists could expect support for whatever wild-hair idea they want to pursue? However, in fact, resources can be found for any reasonably interesting research. They may have strings attached. TANSTAAFL. One can set aside LENR, work in academia and go for tenure, and then do pretty much whatever, but … if more than very basic funding is needed, it may take special work to find it.

One of the suggestions for this community is to create structures to assess proposed projects, generating facilitated consensus, and to recommend funding for projects considered likely to produce value, and then to facilitate connecting sources of funding with such projects.

Funding does exist. In not very long after Peter wrote this essay, he did receive some support from Industrial Heat. Modest projects of value and interest can be funded. Major projects, that’s more difficult, but it’s happening.

A possible improvement of the scientific method

This leads us back to the question of what is science, and to further contemplation of the scientific method. From my experience over the past quarter century, I have come to view the question of what science is perhaps as the wrong question. The more important issue concerns the scientific community; you see, science is what the scientific community says science is.

It all depends on what “is” is. It also depends on the exact definition of the “scientific community,” and, further, on how the “scientific community” actually “says” something.

Lost as well, is the distinction between general opinion, expert opinion, majority opinion, and consensus. If there is a genuine and widespread consensus, it is, first, very unlikely (as a general rule) to be seriously useless. I would write “wrong,” but as will be seen, I’m siding with Peter in denying that right and wrong are measurable phenomena. However, utility can be measured, at least comparatively. Secondly, rejecting the consensus is highly dangerous, not just for career, but for sanity as well. You’d better have good cause! And be prepared for a difficult road ahead! Those who do this rarely do well, by any definition.

This is not intended as a truism; quite the contrary.

There are two ways of defining words. One is by the intention of the speaker, the other is by the effect on the audience. The speaker has authority over the first, but who has authority over the second? Words have effects regardless of what we want. But, in fact, as I have tested again and again, every day, we may declare possibilities, using words, and something happens. Often, miracles happen. But I don’t actually control the effect of a given word, normally, rather I use already-established effects (in my own experience and in what I observe with others). If I have some personal definition, but the word has a different effect on a listener, the word will create that effect, not what I “say it means,” or imagine is my intention.

So, from this point of view, and as to something that might be measurable, science is not what the scientific community says it is, but is the effect that the word has. The “saying” of the scientific community may or may not make a difference.

In these days the scientific community has become very powerful. It has an important voice in our society. It has a powerful impact on the lives and careers of individual scientists. It helps to decide what science gets done; it also helps to decide what science doesn’t get done. And importantly, in connection with this discussion, it decides what lies within the boundaries of science, and also it decides what is not science (if you have doubts about this, an experiment can help clarify the issue: pick any topic that is controversial in the sense under discussion; stand up to argue in the media that not only is the topic part of science, but that the controversial position constitutes good science, then wait a bit and then start taking measurements).

Measurements of what? Lost in this parody is that words are intended to communicate, and in communication the target matters. So “science” means one thing to one audience, and something else to another. I argue within the media just as Peter suggests, sometimes. I measure my readership and my upvotes. Results vary with the nature of the audience. With specific readers, the variance may be dramatic.

“Boundaries of science” here refers to a fuzzy abstraction. Yet the effect on an individual of crossing those boundaries can be strong, very real. It’s like any social condition. 

What science includes, and perhaps more importantly does not include, has become extremely important; the only opinion that counts is that of the scientific community. This is a reflection of the increasing power of the scientific community.

Yet if the general community — or those with power and influence within it — decides that scientists are bourgeois counter-revolutionaries, they are screwed, except for those who conform to the vanguard of the proletariat. Off to the communal farm for re-education!

In light of this, perhaps this might be a good time to think about updating the scientific method; a more modern version might look something like the following:

So, yes, this is a parody, but I’m going to look at it as if it is descriptive of reality, under some conditions. It’s only an “outrageous parody” if proposed as prescriptive, normative.

1) The question: The process might start with a question like “why is the sky blue” (according to our source Wikipedia for this discussion), that involves some issue concerning the physical world. As remarked upon by Wikipedia, in many cases there already exists information relevant to the question (for example, you can look up in texts on classical electromagnetism to find the reason that the sky is blue). In the case of the Fleischmann-Pons effect, the scientific community has already studied the effect in sufficient detail with the result that it lies outside of science; so as with other areas determined to be outside of science, the scientific method cannot be used. We recognize in this that certain questions cannot be addressed using the scientific method.

If one wants to look at the blue sky question “scientifically,” it would begin backed up, for, before “why,” comes observation. Is the sky “blue”? What does that mean, exactly? Who measures the color of the sky? Is it blue from everywhere and in every part? What is the “sky,” indeed, where is it? Yes, we have a direction for it, “up,” but how far up? With data on all this, on the sky and its color, then we can look at causes, at “why” or “how.”

And the question, the way that Peter phrases it, is reductionist. How about this answer to “why is the sky blue”: “Because God likes blue, you dummy!” That’s a very different meaning for “why” than what is really “how,” i.e., how is light transformed in color by various processes? The “God” answer describes an intention. That answer is not “wrong,” but incomplete.

There is another answer to the question: “Because we say so!” This has far more truth to it than may meet the eye. “Blue” is a name for a series of reactions and responses that we, in English, lump together as if they were unitary, single. Other languages and cultures may associate things differently.

To be sure, however, when I look at the sky, my reaction is normally “blue,” unless its a sunset or sunrise sky, when sometimes that part of the sky has a different color. I also see something else in the sky, less commonly perceived.

2) The hypothesis: Largely we should follow the discussion in Wikipedia regarding the hypothesis regarding it as a conjecture. For example, from our textbooks we find that the sky is blue because large angle scattering from molecules is more efficient for shorter wavelength light. However, we understand that since certain conjectures lie outside of science, those would need to be discarded before continuing (otherwise any result that we obtain may not lie within science).  For example, the hypothesis that excess heat is a real effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is one that lies outside of science, whereas the hypothesis that excess heat is due to errors in calorimetry lies within science and is allowed.

Now, if we understand “science” as the “canon,” the body of accepted fact and explanations, then the first hypothesis is indeed, outside the canon, it is not an accepted fact, if the canon is taken most broadly, to indicate what is almost universally accepted. On the other hand, this hypothesis is supported by nearly all reviews in peer-reviewed mainstream journals since about 2005, so is it actually “outside of science”? It came one vote short of being a majority opinion in the 2004 DoE review, the closest event we have to a vote. The 18-expert panel was equally divided between “conclusive” and “not conclusive” on the heat question. (And if a more sophisticated question had been asked, it might have shown that a majority of the panel showed an allowance leaning toward reality, because “not conclusive” is not equivalent to “wrong.”) The alleged majority, Peter is assuming is “consensus,” would be agreement on “wrong,” but that was apparently not the case in 2004.

But the “inside-science” hypothesis is the more powerful one to test, and this is what is so ironic here. If we think that the excess heat is real, then our effort should be, as I learned the scientific method, to attempt to prove the null hypothesis, that it’s artifact. So how do we test that? Then, by comparison, how would we test the first hypothesis? So many papers I have seen in this field where a researcher set out to prove that the heat effect is real. That’s a setup for confirmation bias. No, the deeper scientific approach is a strong attempt to show that the heat effect is artifact. And, in fact, often it is! That is, not all reports of excess heat are showing actual excess heat.

But some do, apparently. How would we know the difference? There is a simple answer: correlation between conditions and effects, across many experiments with controls well-chosen to prove artifact, and failing to find artifact. All of these would be investigating a question, that by the terms here, is clearly within science, and, not only that, is useful research. Understanding possible artifacts is obviously useful and within science!

After all, if we can show that the heat effect is only artifactual, we can then stop the waste of countless hours of blind-alley investigations and millions of dollars in funding that could otherwise be devoted to Good Stuff, like enormous machines to demonstrate thermonuclear fusion, that provide jobs for many deserving particle physicists and other Good Scientists.

For that matter, we could avoid Peter Hagelstein wasting his time with this nonsense, when he could be doing something far more useful, like designing weapons of mass destruction.

3) Prediction: We would like to understand the consequence that follows from the hypothesis, once again following Wikipedia here. Regarding scattering of blue light by molecules, we might predict that the scattered light will be polarized, which we can test. However, it is important to make sure that what we predict lies within science. For example, a prediction that excess heat can be observed as a consequence of the existence of a new physical effect in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment would likely be outside of science, and cannot be put forth. A prediction that a calorimetric artifact can occur in connection with the experiment (as advocated by Lewis, Huizenga, Shanahan and also by the Wikipedia page on cold fusion) definitely lies within the boundaries of science.

I notice that to be testable, a specific explanation must be created, i.e., scattering of light by molecules. That, then (with what is known or believed about molecules and light scattering), allows a prediction, polarization, which can be tested. The FP hypothesis here is odd. A “new physical effect” is not a specific testable hypothesis. That an artifact can occur is obvious, and is not the issue. Rather, the general idea is that the excess heat reported is artifact, and then so many have proposed specific artifacts, such as Shanahan. These are testable. That a specific artifact is shown not to be occurring does not take an experimental result outside of accepted science, this would require showing this for all possible artifacts, which is impossible. Rather, something else happens when investigations are careful. Again, testing a specific proposed artifact is clearly, as stated, within science, and useful as explained above. 

4) Test: One would think the most important part of the scientific method is to test the hypothesis and see how the world works. As such, this is the most problematic. Generally a test requires resources to carry out, so whether a test can be done or not depends on funding, lab facilities, people, time and on other issues. The scientific community aids here by helping to make sure that resources (which are always scarce) are not wasted testing things that do not need to be tested (such as excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment).  Another important issue concerns who is doing the test; for example, in experiments on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, tests have been discounted because the experimentalist involved was biased in thinking that a positive result could have been obtained.

To the extent that the rejection of the FP heat is a genuine consensus, of course funding will be scarce, but some research requires little or no funding. For example, literature studies.

“Need to be tested” is an opinion, and is individual or collective. It’s almost never a universal, and so, imagine that one has become aware of the heat/helium correlation and the status of research on this, and sees that, while the correlation appears solidly established, with multiple confirmed verifications, the ratio itself has only been measured twice with even rough precision, after possibly capturing all the helium. Now, demonstrating that the heat/helium ratio is artifact would have massive benefits, because heat/helium is the evidence that is most convincing to newcomers (like me).

So the idea occurs of using what is already known, repeating work that has already been done, but with increased precision and using the simple technique discovered to, apparently, capture all the helium. Yes, it’s expensive work. However, in fact, this was funded with a donation from a major donor, well-known, to the tune of $6 million, in 2014, to be matched by another $6 million in Texas state funds. All to prove that the heat/helium correlation is bogus, and like normal pathological science, disappears with increased precision! Right?

Had it been realized, this could have been done many years ago. Think of the millions of dollars that would have been saved! Why did it take a quarter century after the heat/helium correlation was discovered to set up a test of this with precision and the necessary controls? 

Blaming that on the skeptics is delusion. This was us.

5) Analysis: Once again we defer to the discussion in Wikipedia concerning connecting the results of the experiment with the hypothesis and predictions. However, we probably need to generalize the notion of analysis in recognition of the accumulated experience within the scientific community. For example, if the test yields a result that is outside of science, then one would want to re-do the test enough times until a different result is obtained. If the test result stubbornly remains outside of acceptable science, then the best option is to regard the test as inconclusive (since a result that lies outside of science cannot be a conclusion resulting from the application of the method).

In reality, few results are totally conclusive. There is always some possible artifact left untested. Science (real science, and not merely the social-test science being proposed here) is served when all those experimental results are reported, and if it’s necessary to categorize them, fine. But if they are reported, later analysis, particularly when combined with other reports, can look more deeply. The version of science being described is obviously a fixed thing, not open to any change or modification, it’s dead, not living. Real science — and even the social-test science — does change, it merely can take much longer than some of us would like, because of social forces. Once again, the advice here if one wants to stay within accepted science is to frame the work as an attempt to confirm mainstream opinion through specific tests, perhaps with increased precision (which is often done to extend the accuracy of known constants). If someone tries to prove artifact in an FP type experiment, one of the signs of artifact would be that major variables and results would not correlate (such as heat and helium). Other variable pairs exist as well, the same. The results may be null (no heat found) and perhaps no helium found above background as well. Now, suppose one does this experiment twenty times. And most of these times, there is no heat and no helium. But,say, five times, there is heat, and the amount of heat correlates with helium. The more heat, the more helium. This is, again, simply an experimental finding. One may make mistakes in measuring heat and in measuring helium. If anodic reversal is used to release trapped helium, what is the ratio found between heat and helium? And how does this compare to other similar experiments?

When reviewing experimental findings, with decently-done work, the motivation of the workers is not terribly relevant. If they set out to show, and state this, that their goal was to show that heat/helium correlation was artifact, and they considered all reasonably possible artifacts, and failed to confirm any of them, in spite of diligent efforts, what effect would this have when reported?

And what happens, over time, when results like these accumulate? Does the “official consensus of bogosity” still stand?

In fact, as I’ve stated, that has not been a genuine scientific consensus for a long time, clearly it was dead by 2004, persisting only in pockets that each imagine they represent the mainstream. There is a persistence of delusion.

If ultimately the analysis step shows that the test result lies outside of science, then one must terminate the scientific method, in recognition that it is a logical impossibility that a result which lies outside of science can be the result of the application of the scientific method. It is helpful in this case to forget the question; it would be best (but not yet required) that documentation or evidence that the test was done be eliminated.

Ah, but a result outside of “science,” i.e., normal expectations, is simply an anomaly, it proves nothing. Anomalies show that something about the experiment is not understood, and that therefore there is something to be learned. The parody is here advising people how to avoid social disapproval, and if that is the main force driving them, then real science is not their interest at all. Rather, they are technologists, like robotic parrots. Useful for some purposes, not for others. If you knew this about them, would you hire them?

The analysis step created a problem for Pons and Fleischmann because they mixed up their own ideas and conclusions with their experimental facts, and announced conclusions that challenged the scientific status quo — and seriously — without having the very strong evidence needed to manage that. Once that context was established, later work was tarred with the same brush, too often. So the damage extended far beyond their own reputations.

6) Communication with others, peer review: When the process is sufficiently complete that a conclusion has been reached, it is important for the research to be reviewed by others, and possibly published so that others can make use of the results; yet again we must defer to Wikipedia on this discussion. However, we need to be mindful of certain issues in connection with this. If the results lie outside of science then there is really no point in sending it out for review; the scientific community is very helpful by restricting publication of such results, and one’s career can be in jeopardy if one’s colleagues become aware that the test was done. As it sometimes happens that the scientific community changes its view on what is outside of science, one strategy is to wait and publish later on (one can still get priority). If years pass and there are no changes, it would seem a reasonable strategy to find a much younger trusted colleague to arrange for posthumous publication.

Or wait until one has tenure. Basically, this is the real world: political considerations matter, and, in fact, it can be argued that they should matter. Instead of railing against the unfairness of it all, access to power requires learning how to use the system as it exists, not as we wish it were. Sometimes we may work for transformation of existing structurs (or creation of structure that has not yet existed), but this takes time, typically, and it also takes community and communication, cooperation, and coordination, around which much of the CMNS community lacks skill. Nevertheless, anyone and everyone can assist, once what is missing is distinguished.

Or we can continue to blame the skeptics for doing what comes naturally for them, while doing what comes naturally for us, i.e., blaming and complaining and doing nothing to transform the situation, not even investigating the possibilities, not looking for people to support, and not supporting those others.

7) Re-evaluation: In the event that this augmented version of the scientific method has been used, it may be that in spite of efforts to the contrary, results are published which end up outside of science (with the possibility of exclusion from scientific community to follow).

Remember, it is not “results” which are outside of science, ever! It is interpretations of them. So avoid unnecessary interpretation! Report verifiable facts! If they appear to imply some conclusion that is outside science, address this with high caution. Disclaim those conclusions, proclaim that while some conclusion might seem possible, that this is outside what is accepted and cannot be asserted without more evidence, and speculate on as many artifacts as one can imagine, even if total bullshit, and then seek funding to test them, to defend Science from being sullied by immature and premature conclusions.

Just report all the damn data and then let the community interpret it. Never get into a position of needing to defend your own interpretations, that will take you out of science, and not just the social-test science, but the real thing. Let someone else do that. Trust the future, it is really amazing what the future can do. It’s actually unlimited!

If this occurs, the simplest approach is simply a retraction of results (if the results lie outside of science, then they must be wrong, which means there must be an error—more than enough grounds for retraction).

The parody is now suggesting actually lying to avoid blame. Anyone who does that deserves to be totally ostracized from the scientific community! I will be making a “modest proposal” regarding this and other offenses. (Converting offenders into something useful.)

Retracting results should not be necessary if they have been carefully reported and if conclusions have been avoided, and if appropriate protective magic incantations have been uttered. (Such as, “We do not understand this result, but are publishing it for review and to seek explanations consistent with scientific consensus, blah blah.”) If one believes that one does understand the result, nevertheless, one is never obligated to incriminate oneself, and since, if one is sophisticated, one knows that some failure of understanding is always possible, it is honest to note that. Depending on context, one may be able to be more assertive without harm. 

If the result supports someone who has been selected for career destruction, then a timely retraction may be well received by the scientific community. A researcher may wish to avoid standing up for a result that is outside of science (unless one is seeking near-term career change).

The actual damage I have seen is mostly from researchers standing for and reporting conclusions, not mere experimental facts. To really examine this would require a much deeper study. What should be known is that working on LENR in any way can sometimes have negative consequences for career. I would not recommend anyone go into the field unless they are aware of this, fully prepared to face it, and as well, willing to learn what it takes to minimize damage (to themselves and others). LENR is, face it, a very difficult field, not a slam dunk for anyone.

There are, of course, many examples in times past when a researcher was able to persuade other scientists of the validity of a contested result; one might naively be inspired from these examples to take up a cause because it is the right thing to do.

Bad Idea, actually. Naive. Again, under this is the idea that results are subject to “contest.” That’s actually rare. What really happens, long-term, is that harmonization is discovered, explanations that tie all the results together into a combination of explanations that support all of them. Certainly this happened with the original negative replications of the FPHE. The problem with those was not the results, but how the results were interpreted and used. I support much wider education on the distinction between fact and interpretation, because only among demagogues and fanatics does fact come into serious question. Normal people can actually agree on fact, with relative ease, with skilled facilitation. It’s interpretations which cause more difficulty. And then there is more process to deepen consensus.

But that was before modern delineation, before the existence of correct fundamental physical law and before the modern identification of areas lying outside of science.

“Correct.” Who has been using that term a lot lately? This is a parody, and the mindset being parodied is deeply regressive and outside of traditional science, and basically ignorant of the understanding of the great scientists of the last century, who didn’t think like this at all. But Peter knows that.

The reality here is that a “scientific establishment” has developed that, being more successful in many ways, also has more power, and institutions always act to preserve themselves and consolidate their power. But such power is, nevertheless, limited and vulnerable, and it may be subverted, if necessary. The scientific establishment is still dependent on the full society and its political institutions for support.

There are no examples of any researcher fighting for an area outside of science and winning in modern times. The conclusion that might be drawn is of course clear: modern boundaries are also correct; areas that are outside of science remain outside of science because the claims associated with them are simply wrong.

That was the position of the seismologist I mentioned. So a real scientist, credentialed, actually believed in “wrong” without having investigated, depending merely on rumor and general impressions. But what is “wrong”? Claims! Carefully reported, fact is never wrong. I may report that I measured a voltage as 1.03 V. That is what I saw on the meter. In reality, the meter’s calibration might be off. I might have had the scale set differently than I thought (I have a nice large analog meter, which allows errors like this). However, it is a fact that I reported what I did. Hence truly careful reporting attributes all the various assumptions that must be made, by assigning them to a person.

Claims are interpretations of evidence, not evidence itself. I claim, for example, that the preponderance of the evidence shows that the FP Heat Effect is the result of the conversion of deuterium to helium. I call that the “Conjecture.” It’s fully testable and well-enough described to be tested. It’s already been tested, and confirmed well enough that if this were an effective treatment for any disease, it would be ubiquitous, approved by authorities, but it can be tested — and is being tested — with increased precision.

That’s a claim. One can disagree with a claim. However, disagreeing with evidence is generally crazy. Evidence is evidence, consider this rule of evidence at law: Testimony is presumed true unless controverted. It is a fact that so-and-so testified to such-and-such, if the record shows that. It is a fact that certain experimental results were reported. We may then discuss and debate interpretations. We might claim that the lab was infected with some disease that caused everyone to report random data, but how likely is this? Rather, the evidence is what it is, and legitimate arguments are over interpretations. Have I mentioned that enough?

Such a modern generalization of the scientific method could be helpful in avoiding difficulties. For example, Semmelweis might have enjoyed a long and successful career by following this version of the scientific method, while getting credit for his discovery (perhaps posthumously). Had Fleischmann and Pons followed this version, they might conceivably have continued as well-respected members of the scientific community.

Semmelweiss was doomed, not because of his discover, but from how he then handled it, and his own demons. Fleischmann, toward the end of his life, acknowledged that it was probably a mistake to use the word “fusion” or “nuclear.” That was weak. Probably? (Actually, I should look up the actual comment, to get it right.). This was largely too late. That could have been recognized immediately, it could have been anticipated. Why wasn’t it? I don’t know. Fairly rapidly, the scientific world polarized around cold fusion, as if there were two competing political parties in a zero-sum game. There were some who attempted to foster communication, the example that comes to my mind is the late Nate Hoffman. Dieter Britz as well. There are others who don’t assume what might be called “hot” positions. 

The take-home message is actually not subservience that would have saved these scientists, but respect and reliance on the full community. Not always easy, sometimes it can look really bad! But necessary.

Where delineation is not needed

It might be worth thinking a bit about boundaries in science, and perhaps it would be useful first to examine where boundaries are not needed. In 1989 a variety of arguments were put forth in connection with excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, and one of the most powerful was that such an effect is not consistent with condensed matter physics, and also not consistent with nuclear physics. In essence, it is impossible based on existing theory in these fields.

Peter is here repeating a common trope. Is he still in the parody? There is nothing about “excess heat” that creates a conflict with either condensed matter physics or nuclear physics. There is no impossibility proof. Rather, what was considered impossible was d-d fusion at significant levels under those conditions. That position can be well-supported, though it’s still possible that some exception might exist. Just very unlikely. Most reasonable theories at this point rely on collective effects, not simple d-d fusion.

There is no question as to whether this is true or not (it is true);

If that statement is true, I’ve never seen evidence for it, never a clear explanation of how anomalous heat, i.e., heat not understood, is “impossible.” To know that we would need to be omniscient. Rather, it is specific nuclear explanations that may more legitimately be considered impossible.

but the implication that seems to follow is that excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment in a sense constitutes an attack on two important, established and mature areas of physics.

When it was framed as nuclear, and even more, when it was implied that it was d-d fusion, it was exactly such an attack. Pons and Fleischmann knew that there would be controversy, but how well did they understand that, and why did they go ahead and poke the establishment in the eye with that news conference? It was not legally necessary. They have blamed university legal, but I’m suspicious of that. Priority could have been established for patent purposes in a different way. 

A further implication is that the scientific community needed to rally to defend two large areas firmly within the boundaries of science.

Some certainly saw it that way, saw “cold fusion” as an attack of pseudoscience and wishful thinking on real science. The name certainly didn’t help, because it placed the topic firmly within nuclear physics, when, in fact, it was originally an experimental result in electrochemistry.

One might think that this should have led to establishment of the boundary as to what is, and what isn’t, science in the vicinity of the part of science relevant to the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. I would like to argue that no such delineation is necessary for the defense of either science as a whole, or any particular area of science. Through the scientific method (and certainly not the outrageous parody proposed above) we have a powerful tool to tell what is true and what is not when it comes to questions of science.

The tool as I understand it is guidance for the individual, not necessarily a community. However, if a collection of individuals use it, are dedicated to using it, they may collectively use it and develop substantial power, because the tool actually has implications in every area of life, wherever we need to develop power (which includes the ability to predict the effects of actions). Peter may be misrepresenting the effectiveness of the method, it does not determine truth. It develops and tests models which predict behavior, so the models are more or less useful, not true or false. The model is not reality, the map is not the territory. When we forget this and believe that a model is “truth,” we are then trapped, because opposing the truth is morally reprehensible. Rather, it is always possible for a model to be improved; for a map to become more detailed and more clear; the only model that fully explains reality is reality itself. Nothing else has the necessary detail.

Chaos theory and quantum mechanics, together, demolished the idea that with accurate enough models we could predict the future, precisely.

Science is robust, especially modern science; and both condensed matter and nuclear physics have no need for anyone to rally to defend anything.

Yes. However, there are people with careers and organizations dependent on funding based on particular beliefs and approaches. Whether or not they “need” to be defended, they will defend themselves. That’s human!

If one views the Fleischmann-Pons experiment as an attack on any part of physics, then so be it.

One may do that, and it’s a personal choice, but it is essentially dumb, because nothing about the experiment attacks any part of physics, and how can an experiment attack a science? Only interpreters and interpretations can do that! What Pons and Fleischmann did was look where nobody had looked, at PdD above 90% loading. If looking at reality were an attack on existing science, “existing science” would deserve to die. But it isn’t such an attack, and this was a social phenomenon, a mass delusion, if you will.

A robust science should welcome such a challenge. If excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment shows up in the lab as a real effect, challenging both areas, then we should embrace the associated challenge. If either area is weak in some way, or has some error or flaw somehow that it cannot accommodate what nature does, then we should be eager to understand what nature is doing and to fix whatever is wrong.

It is, quite simply, unnecessary to go there. Until we have a far better understanding of the mechanism involved in the FP Heat Effect, it is no challenge at all to existing theory, other than a weak one, i.e., it is possible that something has not been understood. That is always possible and would have been possible without the FP experiment. Doesn’t mean that a lot of effort would be justified to investigate it.

However, some theories proposed to explain LENR do challenge existing physics, some more than others. Some don’t challenge it at all, other than possibly pointing to incomplete understanding in some areas. The one statement I remember from those physics lectures with Feynman in 1961-63 is that we didn’t have the math to calculate the solid state. Hence there has been reliance on approximations, and approximations can easily break down under some conditions. At this point, we don’t know enough about what is happening in the FP experiment (and other LENR experiments), to be able to clearly show any conflict with existing physics, and those who claim that major revisions are needed are blowing smoke, they don’t actually have a basis for that claim, and it continues to cause harm.

The situation becomes a little more fraught with the Conjecture, but, again, without a mechanism (and the Conjecture is mechanism-independent), there is no challenge. Huizenga wrote that the Miles result (heat/helium correlation within an order of magnitude of the deuterium conversion ratio) was astonishing, but thought it likely that this would not be confirmed (because no gammas). But gammas are only necessary for d+d -> 4He, not necessarily for all pathways. So this simply betrayed how widespread and easily accepted was the idea that the FP Heat Effect, if real, must be d-d fusion. After all, what else could it be? This demonstrates the massive problem with the thinking that was common in 1989 (and which still is, for many).

The current view within the scientific community is that these fields have things right, and if that is not reflected in measurements in the lab, then the problem is with those doing the experiments.

Probably! And “probably useful” is where funding is practical. Obtaining funding for research into improbable ideas is far more difficult, eh? (In reality, “improbable” is subjective, and the beauty of the world as it is, is that the full human community is diverse, and there is no single way of thinking, merely some that are more common than others. It is not necessary for everyone to be convinced that something is useful, but only one person, or a few, those with resources.) 

Such a view prevailed in 1989, but now nearly a quarter century later, the situation in cold fusion labs is much clearer. There is excess heat, which can be a very big effect; it is reproducible in some labs;

That’s true, properly understood. In fact, reliability remains a problem in all labs. That is why correlation is so important, because for correlation it is not necessary to have a reliable effect, and reliable relationship is adequate. “It is reproducible” is a claim that, to be made safely under the more conservative rules proposed when swimming upstream, would require actual confirmation, of a specific protocol, this cannot be properly asserted by a single lab. And then, when we try to document this, we run into the problem that few actually replicate, they keep trying to “improve.” And so results are different and often the improvements have no effect or even demolish the results.

there are not [sic] commensurate energetic products; there are many replications; and there are other anomalies as well. Condensed matter physics and nuclear physics together are not sufficiently robust to account for these anomalies. No defense of these fields is required, since if some aspect of the associated theories is incomplete or can be broken, we would very much like to break it, so that we can focus on developing new theory that is more closely matched to experiment.

There is a commensurate product that may be energetic, but, as to significant levels, below the Hagelstein limit. By the way, Peter, thanks for that paper! 

Theory and fundamental physical laws

From the discussion above, things are complicated when it comes to science; it should come as no surprise that things are similarly complicated when it comes to theory.

Creating theory with inadequate experimental data is even more complicated. It could be argued that it might be better to wait, but people like the exercise and are welcome to spend as much time as they like on puzzles. As to funding for theory, at this point, I would not recommend much! If the theoretical community can collaborate, maybe. Can they? What is needed is vigorous critique, because some theories propose preposterousnesses, but the practice in the field became, as Kim told me when I asked him about Takahashi theory, “I don’t comment on the work of others.” Whereas Takahashi looks to me like a more detailed statement of what Kim proposes in more general terms. And if that’s wrong, I’d like to know! This reserve is not normal in mature science, because scientists are all working together, at least in theory, building on each other’s work. And for funding, normally, there must be vetting and critique.

In fact, were I funding theory, I’d contract with theorists to generate critique of the theories of others and then create process for reviewing that. The point would be to stimulate wider consideration of all the ideas, and, as well, to find if there are areas of agreement. If not, where are the specific disagreements and can they be tested?

Perhaps the place to begin in this discussion is with the fundamental physical laws, since in this case things are clearest. For the condensed matter part of the problem, a great deal can be understood by working with nonrelativistic electrons and nuclei as quantum mechanical particles, and Coulomb interactions. The associated fundamental laws were known in the late 1920s, and people routinely take advantage of them even now (after more than 80 years). Since so many experiments have followed, and so many calculations have been done, if something were wrong with this basic picture it would very probably have been noticed by now; consequently, I do not expect anomalies associated with Fleischmann-Pons experiments to change these fundamental nonrelativistic laws (in my view the anomalies are due to a funny kind of relativistic effect).

Nor do I expect that, for similar reasons. I don’t think it’s “relativistic,” but rather is more likely a collective effect (such as Takahashi’s TSC fusion or similar ideas). But this I know about Peter: it could be the theory du jour. He wrote the above in 2013. At the Short Course at ICCF-21, Peter described a theory, he had just developed the week before. To noobs. Is that a good idea? What do you think, Peter? How did the theory du jour come across at the DoE review in 2004?

Peter is thinking furiously, has been for years. He doesn’t stay stuck on a single approach. Maybe he will find something, maybe he already has. And maybe not. Without solid data, it’s damn hard to tell.

There are, of course, magnetic interactions, relativistic effects, couplings generally with the radiation field and higher-order effects; these do not fit into the fundamental simplistic picture from the late 1920s. We can account for them using quantum electrodynamics (QED), which came into existence between the late 1920s and about 1950. From the simplest possible perspective, the physical content of the theory associated with the construction includes a description of electrons and positrons (and their relativistic dynamics in free space), photons (and their relativistic dynamics in free space) and the simplest possible coupling between them. This basic construction is a reductionist’s dream, and everything more complicated (atoms, molecules, solids, lasers, transistors and so forth) can be thought of as a consequence of the fundamental construction of this theory. In the 60 years or more of experience with QED, there has accumulated pretty much only repeated successes and triumphs of the theory following many thousands of experiments and calculations, with no sign that there is anything wrong with it. Once again, I would not expect a consideration of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment to result in a revision of this QED construction; for example, if there were to be a revision, would we want to change the specification of the electron or photon, the interaction between them, relativity, or quantum mechanical principles? (The answer here should be none of the above.)

Again, he is here preaching to the choir. Can I get a witness?

We could make similar arguments in the case of nuclear physics. For the fundamental nonrelativistic laws, the description of nuclei as made up of neutrons and protons as quantum particles with potential interactions goes back to around 1930, but in this case there have been improvements over the years in the specification of the interaction potentials. Basic quantitative agreement between theory and experiment could be obtained for many problems with the potentials of the late 1950s; and subsequent improvements in the specification of the potentials have improved quantitative agreement between theory and experiment in this picture (but no fundamental change in how the theory works).

But neutrons and protons are compound particles, and new fundamental laws which describe component quarks and gluons, and the interaction between them, are captured in quantum chromodynamics (QCD); the associated field theory involves a reductionist construction similar to QED. This fundamental theory came into existence by the mid-1960s, and subsequent experience with it has produced a great many successes. I would not expect any change to result to QCD, or to the analogous (but somewhat less fundamental) field theory developed for neutrons and protons—quantum hadrodynamics, or QHD—as a result of research on the Fleischmann-Pons experiment.

Because nuclei can undergo beta decay, to be complete we should probably reference the discussion to the standard model, which includes QED, QCD and electro-weak interaction physics.

Yes. In my view it is, at this point, crazy to challenge standard physics without a necessity, and until there is much better data, there is no necessity.

In a sense then, the fundamental theory that is going to provide the foundation for the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is already known (and has been known for 40-60 years, depending on whether we think about QED, QCD or the standard model). Since these fundamental models do not include gravitational particles or forces, we know that they are incomplete, and physicists are currently putting in a great deal of effort on string theory and generalizations to unify the basic forces and particles. Why nature obeys quantum mechanics, and whether quantum mechanics can be derived from some more fundamental theory, are issues that some physicists are thinking about at present. So, unless the excess heat effect is mediated somehow by gravitational effects, unless it operates somehow outside of quantum mechanics, unless it somehow lies outside of relativity, or involves exotic physics such as dark matter, then we expect it to follow from the fundamental embodied by the standard model.

Agreed, as to what I expect.

I would not expect the resolution of anomalies in Fleischmann-Pons experiments to result in the overturn of quantum mechanics (there are some who have proposed exactly that); nor require a revision of QED (also argued for); nor any change in QCD or the standard model (as contemplated by some authors); nor involve gravitational effects (again, as has been proposed). Even though the excess heat effect by itself challenges the fields of condensed matter and nuclear physics, I expect no loss or negation of the accumulated science in either area; instead I think we will come to understand that there is some fine print associated with one of the theorems that we rely on which we hadn’t appreciated. I think both fields will be added to as a result of the research on anomalies, becoming even more robust in the process, and coming closer than they have been in the past.

Agreed, but I don’t see how the “excess heat effect by itself challenges the fields,” other than by presenting a mystery that is as yet unexplained. That is a kind of challenge, but not a claim that basic models are “wrong.” By itself, it does not contradict what is well-known, other than unsubstantiated assumptions and speculations. Yes, I look forward to the synthesis.

Theory, experiment and fundamental physical law

My view as a theorist generally is that experiment has to come first. If theory is in conflict with experiment (and if the experiment is correct), then a new theory is needed.

Yes, but caution is required, because “theory in conflict with experiment” is an interpretation, and defects can arise, not only the experiment, but also in the interpretations of the theory and the experiment and the comparison. What would be a better statement for me is that new interpretations are required. If the theory is otherwise well-established, revision of the theory is not a sane place to start. Normally.

Among those seeking theoretical explanations for the Fleischmann-Pons experiment there tends to be agreement on this point. However, there is less agreement concerning the implications. There have been proposals for theories which involve a revision of quantum mechanics, or that adopt a starting place which goes against the standard model. The associated argument is that since experiment comes first, theory has to accommodate the experimental results; and so we can forget about quantum mechanics, field theory and the fundamental laws (an argument I don’t agree with). From my perspective, we live at a time where the relevant fundamental physical laws are known; and so when we are revising theory in connection with the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, we do so only within a limited range that starts from fundamental physical law, and seek some feature of the subsequent development where something got missed.

This is the political reality: If we advance explanations of cold fusion that contradict existing physics, we create resistance, not only to the new theories, but to the underlying experimental basis for even thinking a theory is necessary. So the baby gets tossed with the bathwater. It causes damage. It increases pressure for the Garwin theory (“They must be doing something wrong.”)

If so, then what about those in the field that advocate for the overturn of fundamental physical law based on experimental results from the Fleischmann-Pons experiment? Certainly those who broadcast such views impact the credibility of the field in a very negative way, and it is the case that the credibility of the field is pretty low in the eyes of the scientific community and the public these days.

Yes. This is what I’ve been saying, to some substantial resistance. We are better off with no theory, with only what is clearly established by experimental results, a collection of phenomena, and, where possible, clear correlations, with only the simplest of “explanations” that cover what is known, not what is speculated or weakly inferred.

One can find many examples of critics in the early years (and also in recent times) who draw attention to suggestions from our community that large parts of existing physics must be overturned as a response to excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment. These clever critics have understood clearly how damaging such statements can be to the field, and have exploited the situation. An obvious solution might be to exclude those making the offending statements from this community, as has been recommended to me by senior people who understand just how much damage can be done by association with people who say things that are perceived as not credible. I am not able to explain in return that people who have experienced exclusion from the scientific community tend for some reason not to want to exclude others from their own community.

That’s understandable, to be sure. However, we need to clearly discriminate and distinguish between what is individual opinion and what is community consensus. We need to disavow as our consensus what is only individual opinion, particularly where that can cause harm as described, and it can. We need to establish mechanisms for speaking as a community, for developing genuine consensus, and for deciding what we will and will not allow and support. It can be done.

Some in the field argue that until the new effects are understood completely, all theory has to be on the table for possible revision. If one holds back some theory as protected or sacrosanct, then one will never find out what is wrong if the problems happen to be in a protected area. I used to agree with this, and doggedly kept all possibilities open when contemplating different theories and models. However, somewhere over the years it became clear that the associated theoretical parameter space was fully as large as the experimental parameter space; that a model for the anomalies is very much stronger when derived from more fundamental accepted theories; and that there are a great many potential opportunities for new models that build on top of the solid foundation provided by the fundamental theories. We know now that there are examples of models consistent with the fundamental laws that can be very relevant to experiment. It is not that I have more respect or more appreciation now for the fundamental laws than before; instead, it is that I simply view them differently. Rather than being restrictive telling me what can’t be done (as some of my colleagues think), I view the fundamental laws as exceptionally helpful and knowledgeable friends pointing the way toward fruitful areas likely to be most productive.

That’s well-stated, and a stand that may take you far, Peter. Until we have far better understanding and clear experimental evidence to back it, all theories might in some sense be “on the table,” but there may be a pile of them that won’t get much attention, and others that will naturally receive more. The street-light effect is actually a guide to more efficient search: do look first where the light is good. And especially test and look first at ideas that create clearly testable predictions, rather than vaguer ideas and “explanations.” Tests create valuable data even if the theory is itself useless. “Useless” is not a final judgment, because what is not useful today might be modified and become useful tomorrow. 

In recent years I have found myself engaged in discussions concerning particular theoretical models, some of which would go very much against the fundamental laws. There would be spirited arguments in which it became clear that others held dear the right to challenge anything (including quantum mechanics, QED, the standard model and more) in the pursuit of the holy grail which is the theoretical resolution of experiments showing anomalies. The picture that comes to mind is that of a prospector determined to head out into an area known to be totally devoid of gold for generations, where modern high resolution maps are available for free to anyone who wants to look to see where the gold isn’t. The displeasure and frustration that results has more than once ended up producing assertions that I was personally responsible for the lack of progress in solving the theoretical problem.

Hey, Peter, good news! You are personally responsible, so there is hope!

Personally, I like the idea of mystery, mysteries are fun, and that’s the Lomax theory: The mechanism of cold fusion is a mystery! I look forward to the day when I become wrong, but I don’t know if I’ll see that in my lifetime. I kind of doubt it, but it doesn’t really matter. We were able to use fire, long, long before we had “explanations.” 

Theory and experiment

We might think of the scientific method as involving two fundamental parts of science: experiment and theory. Theory comes into play ideally as providing input for the hypothesis and prediction part of the method, while experiment comes into play providing the test against nature to see whether the ideas are correct.

Forgotten, too often, is pre-theory exploration and observation. Science developed out of a large body of observation. The method is designed to test models, but before accurate models are developed, there is normally much observation that creates familiarity and sets up intuition. Theory does not spring up with no foundation in observation, and is best developed with one familiar with experimental evidence, which only partially includes controlled studies, which develop correlations between variables.

My experimentalist colleagues have emphasized the importance of theory to me in connection with Fleischmann-Pons studies; they have said (a great many times) that experimental parameter space is essentially infinitely large (and each experiment takes time, effort, money and sweat), so that theory is absolutely essential to provide some guidance to make the experimenting more efficient.

No wonder there has been a slow pace! It’s an inverse vicious circle: theorists need data to develop and vet theories, and experimentalists believe they need theories to generate data. Yes, the parameter space can be thought of as enormous, but sane exploration does not attempt to document all of it at once; rather, experimentation can begin with confirmation of what has already been observed and exploring the edges, with the development of OOPs and other observation of the effects of controlled variables. It can simply measure what has been observed before with increased precision. It can repeat experiments many times to develop data on reliability.

If so, then has there been any input from the theorists? After all, the picture of the experimentalists toiling late into the night forever exploring an infinitely large parameter space is one that is particularly depressing (you see, some of my friends are experimentalists…).

As it turns out, there has been guidance from the theorists—lots of guidance. I can cite as one example input from Douglas Morrison (a theorist from CERN and a critic), who suggested that tests should be done where elaborate calorimetric measurements should be carried out at the same time as elaborate neutron, gamma, charged particle and tritium measurements. Morrison held firmly to a picture in which nuclear energy is produced with commensurate energetic products; since there are no commensurate energetic particles produced in connection with the excess power, Morrison was able to reject all positive results systematically.

Ah, Peter, you are simply coat-racking a complaint about Morrison onto this. Morrison had an obvious case of head-wedged syndrome. By the time Morrison would have been demanding this, it was known that helium was the main product, so the sane demand would have been accurate calorimetry combined with accurate helium measurement, at least, with both, as accurate as possible. Morrison’s idea was good, looking for correlations, but he was demanding products that simply are not produced. There was no law of physics behind his picture of “energetic products,” merely ordinary and common behavior, not necessarily universal, and it depended on assuming that the reaction was d+d fusion. Again, this was all a result of claiming “nuclear” based only on heat evidence. Bad Idea.

“Commensurate” depended on a theory of a fuel/product relationship, otherwise there is no way of knowing what ratio to expect. Rejecting helium as a product based on no gammas depended on assumptions of d+d -> 4He, which, it can be strongly argued, must produce a gamma. Yes, maybe a way can be found around that. But we can start with something much simpler. I write about “conversion of deuterium to helium,” advisedly, not “interaction of deuterons to form helium,” because the former is broader. The latter may theoretically include collective effects, but in practice, the image it creates is standard fusion. (Notice, “deuterons” refers to the ionized nuclei, generally, whereas “deuterium” is the element, including the molecular form. I state Takahashi theory as involving two deuterium molecules, instead of four deuterons, to emphasize that the electrons are included in the collapse, and it’s a lot easier to consider two molecules coming together like that, than four independent deuterons. Language matters!

The headache I had with this approach is that the initial experimental claim was for an excess heat effect that occurs without commensurate energetic nuclear radiation. Morrison’s starting place was that nuclear energy generation must occur with commensurate energetic nuclear radiation, and would have been perfectly happy to accept the calorimetric energy as real with a corresponding observation of commensurate energetic nuclear radiation.

So the real challenge for Morrison was the heat/helium correlation. There was a debate between Morrison and Fleischmann and Pons, in the pages of Physics Letters A, and I have begun to cover it on this page. F&P could have blown the Morrison arguments out of the water with helium evidence, but, as far as we know, they never collected that evidence in those boil-off experiments, with allegedly high heat production. Why didn’t they? In the answer to that is much explanation for the continuance of the rejection cascade. In their article, they maintained the idea of a nuclear explanation, without providing any evidence for it other than their own calorimetry. They did design a simple test (boil-off-time), but complicated it with unnecessarily complex explanations. I did not understand that “simplicity” until I had read the article several times. Nor did Morrison, obviously.

However, somewhere in all of this it seems that Fleischmann and Pons’ excess heat effect (in which the initial claim was for a large energy effect without commensurate energetic nuclear products) was implicitly discarded at the beginning of the discussion.

Yes, obviously. What I wonder is why someone who believes that a claim is impossible would spend so much effort arguing about it. But I think we know why.

Morrison also held in high regard the high-energy physics community (he had somewhat less respect for electrochemist experimentalists who reported positive results); so he argued that the experiment needed to be done by competent physicists, such as the group at the pre-eminent Japanese KEK high energy physics lab. Year after year the KEK group reported negative results, and year after year Morrison would single out this group publicly in support of his contention that when competent experimentalists did the experiment, no excess heat was observed. This was true until the KEK group reported a positive result, which was rejected by Morrison (energetic products were not measured in amounts commensurate with the energy produced); coincidentally, the KEK effort was subsequently terminated (this presumably was unrelated to the results obtained in their experiments).

That’s hilarious. Did KEK measure helium? Helium is a nuclear product. Conversion of deuterium to helium has a known Q and if the heat matches that Q, in a situation where the fuel is likely deuterium, it is direct evidence that nuclear energy is being converted to heat without energetic radiation, unless the radiation is fully absorbed within the device, entirely converted to heat. 

Isagawa (1992)Isagawa (1995). Isagawa (1998). Yes, from the 1998 report, “Helium was observed, but no decisive conclusion could be drawn due to incompleteness of the then used detecting system.” It looks like they made extensive efforts to measure helium, but never nailed it. As they did find significant excess heat, that could have been very useful.

There have been an enormous number of theoretical proposals. Each theorist in the field has largely followed his own approach (with notable exceptions where some theorists have followed Preparata’s ideas, and others have followed Takahashi’s), and the majority of experimentalists have put forth conjectures as well. There are more than 1000 papers that are either theoretical, or combined experimental and theoretical with a nontrivial theoretical component. Individual theorists have put forth multiple proposals (in my own case, the number is up close to 300 approaches, models, sub-models and variants at this point, not all of which have been published or described in public). At ICCF conferences, more theoretical papers are generally submitted than experimental papers. In essence, there is enough theoretical input (some helpful, and some less so) to keep the experimentalists busy until well into the next millennium.

This was 2013, after he’d been at it for 24 years, so it’s not really the “theory du jour,” as I often quip, but more like the “theory du mois.”

You might argue there is an easy solution to this problem: simply sort the wheat from the chaff! Just take the strong theoretical proposals and focus on them, and put aside the ones that are weak. If you were to address this challenge to the theorists, the result can be predicted; pretty much all theorists would point to their own proposals as by far the strongest in the field, and recommend that all others be shelved.

Obvious, then, we don’t ask them about their own theories, but about those of others. And if two theorists cannot be found to support a particular theory for further investigation, then nobody is ready. Shelve them all, until some level of consensus emerges. Forget theory except for the very simplest organizing principles. 

If you address the same challenge to the experimentalists, you would likely find that some of the experimentalists would point to their own conjectures as most promising, and dismiss most of the others; other experimentalist would object to taking any of the theories off the table. If we were to consider a vote on this, probably there is more support for the Widom and Larsen proposal at present than any of the others, due in part to the spirited advocacy of Krivit at New Energy Times; in Italy Preparata’s approach looms large, even at this time; and the ideas of Takahashi and of Kim have wide support within the community. I note that objections are known for these models, and for most others as well.

Yes. Fortunately, theory has only a minor impact on the necessary experimental work. Most theories are not well enough developed to be of much use in designing experiments and at present the research priority is strongly toward developing and characterizing reliability and reproducibility. However, if an idea from theory is easy to test, that might see more rapid response.

I have just watched a Hagelstein video from last year it’s excellent and begins with a hilarious summary of the history of cold fusion, and Peter is hot on the trail and has been developing what might be called “minor hits” in creating theoretical predictions, and in particular, phonon frequencies. I knew about his prediction of effective THz beat frequencies in the dual laser stimulation work of Dennis Letts, but I was not aware of how Peter was using this as a general guide, nor of other results he has seen, venturing into experiment himself. 

Widom and Larsen attracted a lot of attention for the reasons given, and the promulgated myth that it doesn’t involve new physics, but has produced no results that benefited from it. Basically, no new physics  — if one ignores quantitative issues — but no useful understanding, either.

To make progress

Given this situation, how might progress be made? In connection with the very large number of theoretical ideas put forth to date, some obvious things come to mind. There is an enormous body of existing experimental results that could be used already to check models against experiment.

Yes. But who is going to do this? 

We know that excess heat production in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment in one mode is sensitive to loading, to current density, to temperature, probably to magnetic field and that 4He has been identified in the gas phase as a product correlated with energy.

Again, yes. As an example of work to do, magnetic field effects have been shown, apparently, with permanent magnets, but not studying the effect as the field is varied. Given the wide variability in the experiments, the simple work reported so far is not satisfactory.

It would be possible in principle to work with any particular model in order to check consistency with these basic observations. In the case of excess heat in the NiH experiments, there is less to test against, but one can find many things to test against in the papers of the Piantelli group, and in the studies of Miley and coworkers. Perhaps the biggest issue for a particular model is the absence of commensurate energetic products, and in my view the majority of the 1000 or so theoretical papers out there have problems of consistency with experiment in this area.

As a general rule, there is a great deal of work to be done to confirm and strengthen (or discredit!) existing findings. There are many results of interest in the almost thirty year history of the field that could benefit from replication, and replication work is the most likely to produce results of value at this time, if they are repeated with controlled variation to expand the useful data available.

As an example screaming for confirmation, Storms found that excess heat was maintained even after electrolysis was turned off, as loading declined, if he simply maintained cell temperature with a heater, showing, on the face of it, that temperature was a critical variable, even more than loading, once the reaction conditions are established. (Storms’ theory ascribes the formation of nuclear active environment to the effect of repeated loading on palladium, hence the appearance that loading is a major necessity.) This is of high interest and great practical import, but, to my knowledge, has not been confirmed.

There are issues which require experimental clarification. For example, the issue of the Q-value in connection with the correlation of 4He with excess energy for PdD experiments
remains a major headache for theorists (and for the field in general), and needs to be clarified.

Measurement of the Q with increased precision is an obvious and major priority, with high value both as a confirmation of heat, and a nuclear product, but also because it sets constraints on the major reaction taking place. Existing evidence indicates that, in PdD experiments, almost all that is happening is the conversion of deuterium to helium and heat, everything else reported (tritium, etc.) is a detail. But a more precise ratio will nail this, or suggest the existence of other reactions.

As well, a search should be maintained as practical for other correlations. Often, because a product was not “commensurate” with heat (from some theory of reaction), and even though the product was detected, the levels found and correlations with heat were not reported. A product may be correlated without being “commensurate,” and it might also be correlated with other conditions, such as the level of protium in PdD experiments.

The analogous issue of 3He production in connection with NiH and PdH is at present
essentially unexplored, and requires experimental input as a way for theory to be better grounded in reality. I personally think that the collimated X-rays in the Karabut
experiment are very important and need to be understood in connection with energy exchange, and an understanding of it would impact how we view excess heat experiments (but I note that other theorists would not agree).

What matters really is what is found by experiment. What is actually found, what is correlated, what are the effects of variables?

As a purely practical matter, rather than requiring a complete and global solution to all issues (an approach advocated, for example, by Storms), I would think that focusing on a single theoretical issue or statement that is accessible to experiment will be most advantageous in moving things forward on the theoretical front.

I strongly agree. If we can explain one aspect of the effect, we may be able, then, to explain others. It is not necessary to explain everything. Explanations start with correlations that then imply causal connections. Correlation is not causation, not intrinsically, but causation generally produces correlation. We may be dealing with more than one effect, indeed, that could explain some of the difficulties in the field.

Now there are a very large number of theoretical proposals, a very large number of experiments (and as yet relatively little connection between experiment and theory for the most part); but aside from the existence of an excess heat effect, there is very little that our community agrees on. What is needed is the proverbial theoretical flag in the ground. We would like to associate a theoretical interpretation with an experimental result in a way that is unambiguous, and which is agreed upon by the community.

I am suggesting starting with the Conjecture, not with mechanism. The Conjecture is not an attempt to foreclose on all other possibilities. But the evidence at this point is preponderant that helium is the only major product in the FP experiment. It is the general nature of the community, born as it was of defiant necessity, that we are not likely to agree on everything, so the priority I suggest is finding what we do agree upon, not as to conclusions, but to approach. I have found that, as an example, sincere skeptics agree as to the value of measuring the heat/helium ratio on PdD experiments with increased precision. So that is an agreement that is possible, without requiring a conclusion (i.e., that the ratio is some particular value, or even that it will be constant. The actual data will then guide and suggest further exploration.

(and a side effect of the technique suggested for releasing all the helium, anodic reversal, which dissolves the palladium surface, is that it could also provide a depth profile, which then provides possible information on NAE location and birth energy of the helium).

Historically there has been little effort focused in this way. Sadly, there are precious few resources now, and we have been losing people who have been in the field for a long time (and who have experience); the prospects for significant new experimentation is not good. There seems to be little in the way of transfer of what has been learned from the old guard to the new generation, and only recently has there seemed to be the beginnings of a new generation in the field at all.

Concluding thoughts

There are not [sic] simple solutions to the issues discussed above. It is the case that the scientific method provides us with a reliable tool to clarify what is right from what is wrong in our understanding of how nature works. But it is also the case that scientists would generally prefer not to be excluded from the scientific community, and this sets up a fundamental conflict between the use of the scientific method and issues connected with social aspects involving the scientific community. In a controversial area (such as excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment), it almost seems that you can do research, or you can remain a part of the scientific community; pick one.

There is evidence that this Hobson’s choice is real. However, as I’ve been pointing out for years, the field was complicated by premature claims, creating a strong bias in response. It really shouldn’t matter, for abstract science, what mistakes were made almost thirty years ago. But it does matter, because of persistence of vision. So anyone who chooses to work in the field, I suggest, should be fully aware of how what they publish will appear. Special caution is required. One of the devices I’m suggesting is relatively simple: back off from conclusions and leave conclusions to the community. Do not attach to them. Let conclusions come from elsewhere, and support them only with great caution. This allows the use of the scientific method, because tests of theories can still be performed, being framed to appear within science.

As argued above, the scientific method provides a powerful tool to figure out how nature works, but the scientific method provides no guarantee that resources will be available to apply it to any particular question; or that the results obtained using the scientific method will be recognized or accepted by other scientists; or that a scientist’s career will not be destroyed subsequently as a result of making use of the scientific method and coming up with a result that lies outside of the boundaries of science. Our drawing attention to the issue here should be viewed akin to reporting a measurement; we have data that can be used to see that this is so, but in this case I will defer to others on the question of what to do about it.

Peter here mixes “results” with conclusions about them. Evidence for harm to career from results is thinner than harm from conclusions that appeared premature or wrong.

“What to do about it,” is generic to problem-solving: first become aware of the problem. More powerfully, avoid allowing conclusions to affect the gathering of information, other than carefully and provisionally.

The degree to which fundamental theories provide a correct description of nature (within their domains), we are able to understand what is possible and what is not.

Only within narrow domains. “What is possible” cannot apply to the unknown, it is always possible that something is unknown. We can certainly be surprised by some result, where we may think some domain has been thoroughly explored. But the domain of highly loaded PdD was terra incognita, PdD had only been explored up to about 70%, and it appears to have been believed that that was a limit, at least at atmospheric pressure. McKubre realized immediately that Pons and Fleischmann must have created loading above that value, as I understand the story, but this was not documented in the original paper (and when did this become known?). Hence replication efforts were largely doomed, what became, later, known as a basic requirement for the effect to occur, was often not even measured, and when measured, was low compared to what was needed.

In the event that the theories are taken to be correct absolutely, experimentation would no longer be needed in areas where the outcome can be computed (enough experiments have already been done); physics in the associated domain could evolve to a purely mathematical science, and experimental physics could join the engineering sciences. Excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is viewed by many as being inconsistent with fundamental physical law, which implies that inasmuch as relevant fundamental physical law is held to be correct, there is no need to look at any of the positive experimental results (since they must be wrong); nor is there any need for further experimentation to clarify the situation.

He is continuing the parody. “Viewed as inconsistent” arose as a reaction to premature claims. The original FP paper led readers to look, first, at d-d fusion and to reactions that clearly were not happening at high levels, if at all. The title of the paper encouraged this, as well: “Electrochemically induced nuclear fusion of deuterium.” Interpreted within that framework, the anomalous heat appeared impossible. To move beyond this, it was necessary to disentangle the results from the nuclear claim. That, eventually, evidence was found supporting “deuterium fusion” — which is not equivalent to “d-d fusion,” — does not negate this. It was not enough that they were “right.” That a guess is lucky does not make a premature claim acceptable. (Pons and Fleischmann were operating on a speculation that was probably false, the effect is not due to the high density of deuterium in PdD, but high loading probably created other conditions in the lattice that then catalyzed a new form of reaction. Problems with the speculation were also apparent to skeptical physicists, and they capitalized on it.)

From my perspective experimentation remains a critical part of the scientific method,

This should be obvious. We do not know that a theory is testable unless we test it, and, for the long term, that it remains testable. Experimentation to test accepted theory is routine in science education. If it cannot be tested it is “pseudoscientific.” Why it cannot be tested is irrelevant. So the criteria for science that the parody set up destroys “science” as being science. The question becomes how to confront and handle the social issue. What I expect from training is that this starts with distinguishing what actually happened, setting aside the understandable reactions that it was all “unfair,” which commonly confuse us. (“Unfair” is not a “truth.” It’s a reaction.) The guidance I have suggests that if we take responsibility for the situation, we gain power; when we blame it on others, we are claiming that we are powerless, and it should be no surprise that we then have little or no power.

and we also have great respect for the fundamental physical laws; the headache in connection with the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is not that it goes against fundamental physical law, but instead that there has been a lack of understanding in how to go from the fundamental physical laws to a model that accounts for experiment.

Yes. And this is to be expected if the anomaly is unexpected and requires a complex condition that is difficult to understand, and especially that, even if imagined, it is difficult to calculate adequately. This all becomes doubly difficult if the effect is, again, difficult to reliably demonstrate. Physicists are not accustomed to that in something appearing as simple as “cold fusion in a jam jar.” I can imagine high distaste for attempting to deal with the mess created on the surface of an electrolytic cathode. There might be more sympathy for gas-loading. Physicists, of course, want the even simpler conditions of a plasma, where two-body analysis is more likely to be accurate. Sorry. Nature has something else in mind.

Experimentation provides a route (even in the presence of such strong fundamental theory) to understand what nature does.

Right. Actually, the role of simple report gets lost in the blizzard of “knowledge.” We become so accustomed to being able to explain most anything that we then become unable to recognize an anomaly when it punches us in the nose. The FPHE was probably seen before, Mizuno has a credible report. But he did not realize the significance. Even when he was, later, investigating the FPHE, he had a massive heat after death event, and it was like he was in a fog. It’s a remarkable story. It can be very difficult to see anomalies, and they may be much more common than we realize.

An anomaly does *not* negate known physics, because all that “anomaly” means is that we don’t understand something. While it is theoretically possible — and should always remain possible — that accepted laws are inaccurate (a clearer term than “wrong”) it is just as likely, or even more likely, that we simply don’t understand what we are looking at, and that an explanation may be possible within existing physics. And Peter has made a strong point that this is where we should first look. Not at wild ideas that break what is already understood quite well. I will repeat this, it is a variation on “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” which gets a lot of abuse.

If an anomaly is found, before investing in new physics to explain it, the first order of business is to establish that the anomaly is not just an appearance from a misunderstood experiment, i.e., that it is not artifact. Only if this is established — and confirmed — is, then, major effort justified in attempting to explain it, with existing physics. As part of the experimentation involved, it is possible that clear evidence will arise that does, indeed, require new physics, but before that will become a conversation accepted as legitimate, the anomaly must be (1) clearly verified and confirmed, no longer within reasonable question, and (2) shown to be unexplainable with existing physics, where existing physics, applied to the conditions discovered to be operating in the effect, is inaccurate in prediction, and the failure to explain is persistent, possibly for a long time! Only then will new territory open up, supported by at least a major fraction of the mainstream.

In my view there should be no issue with experimentation that questions the correctness of both fundamental, and less fundamental, physical law, since our science is robust and will only become more robust when subject to continued tests.

The words I would use are “that tests the continued accuracy of known laws.” It is totally normal and expected that work continues to find ever-more precise measurements of basic constants. The world is vast, and it is possible that basic physics is tested by experiment somewhere in the world, and sane pedagogy will not reject such experimentation merely because the results appear wrong. Rather, if a student gets the “wrong answers,” there is an educational opportunity. Normally — after all, we are talking about well-established basic physics — something was not understood about the experiment. And if we create the idea that there are “correct results,” we would encourage students to fudge and cherry-pick results to get those “correct answers.” No, we want them to design clear tests and make accurate measurements, and to separate the process of measuring and recording from expectation.

The worst sin in science is fudging results to create a match to expectation. So it should be discouraged to, in the experimental process, review results for “correctness.” There is an analytical stage where this would be done, i.e., results would be compared with predictions from established theory. When results don’t match theory, and are outside of normal experimental error, then, obviously, one would carefully review the whole process. Pons and Fleischmann knew that “existing theory” used the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, which, as applied, predicted unmeasurable fusion rate for deuterium in palladium. But precisely because they knew it was an approximation, they decided to look. The Approximation was not a law, it was a calculation heuristic, and they thought, with everyone else, that it was probably good enough that they would be unable to measure the deviation. But they decided to look.

Collectively, if we allow it, that looking can and will look at almost everything. “Looking” is fundamental to science, even more fundamental than testing theories. What do we see? I look at the sky and see “sprites.” Small white objects darting about. Obviously, energy beings! (That’s been believed by some. Actually, they are living things!)

But what are they? What is known is fascinating, to me, and unexpected. Most people don’t see them, but, in fact, I’m pretty sure that most people could see them if they look, but because they are unexpected, they are not noticed,  we learned not to see them as children, because they distract from what we need to see in the sky, that large raptor or a rock flying at us.

So some kid notices them and tells his teacher, who tells him, “It’s your imagination, there is nothing there!” And so one more kid gets crushed by social expectations.

But what happens if an experimental result is reported that seems to go against relevant fundamental physical law?

(1) Believe the result is the result. I.e., that measurements were made and accurately reported.

(2) Question the interpretation, because it is very likely flawed. That is far more likely than “relevant fundamental physical law” being flawed.

Obviously, as well, errors can be made in measurement, and what we call “measurement” is often a kind of interpretation. Example: “measurement” of excess heat is commonly an interpretation of the actual measurements, which are commonly of temperature and input power. I am always suspicious of LENR claims where “anomalous heat” is plotted as a primary claim, rather than explicitly as an interpretation of the primary data, which, ideally, should be presented first. Consider this: an experiment, within a constant-temperature environment, is heated with a supplemental heater, to maintain a constant elevated temperature, and the power necessary for that is calibrated for the exact conditions, insofar as possible. This is used with an electrolysis experiment, looking for anomalous heat. There is also “input power” (to the electrolysis). So the report plots, against time, the difference between the steady-state supplemental heating power and the actual power to maintain temperature, less the other input power. This would be a relatively direct display of excess power, and that this power is also inferred (as a product of current and voltage) would be a minor quibble. But when excess power is a more complex calculation, presenting it as if it were measured is problematic.

Since the fundamental physical laws have emerged as a consequence of previous experimentation, such a new experimental result might be viewed as going against the earlier accumulated body of experiment. But the argument is much stronger in the case of fundamental theory, because in this case one has the additional component of being able to say why the outlying experimental result is incorrect. In this case reasons are needed if we are to disregard the experimental result. I note that due to the great respect we have for experimental results generally in connection with the scientific method, the notion that we should disregard particular experimental results should not be considered lightly.

Right. However, logically, unidentified experimental error always has a certain level of possibility. This is routinely handled, and one of the major methods is confirmation. Cold fusion presented a special problem: first, a large number of confirmation attempts that failed, and then reasonable suspicion of the file-drawer effect having an impact. This is why the reporting of full experimental series, as distinct from just the “best results” is so important. This is why encouraging full reporting, including of “negative results” could be helpful. From a pure scientific point of view, results are not “positive” or “negative,” but are far more complex data sets. 

Reasons that you might be persuaded to disregard an experimental result include: a lack of confirmation in other experiments; a lack of support in theory; an experiment carried out improperly; or perhaps the experimentalists involved are not credible. In the case of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment, many experiments were performed early on (based on an incomplete understanding of the experimental requirements) that did not obtain the same result; a great deal of effort was made to argue (incorrectly, as we are beginning to understand) that the experimental result is inconsistent with theory (and hence lies outside of science); it was argued that the calorimetry was not done properly; and a great deal of effort has been put into destroying the credibility of Fleischmann and Pons (as well as the credibility of other experimentalists who claimed to see the what Fleischmann and Pons saw).

The argument that results were inconsistent with established theory was defective from the beginning. There were clear sociological pathologies, and pseudoskeptical argument became common. This was recognizable even if an observer believed that cold fusion was not real. That is, to be sure, an observer who is able to assess arguments even if the observer agrees with the conclusions from the argument. Too many will support an argument because they agree with the conclusion. Just because a conclusion is sound does not make all the arguments advanced for it correct, but this is, again, common and very unscientific thinking. Ultimately the established rejection cascade came to be supported in continued existence by the repetition of alleged facts that either never were fact, or that became obsolete. “Nobody could replicate” is often repeated, even tough it is blatantly false. This was complicated, though, by the vast proliferation of protocols such that exact replication was relatively rare.

There was little or no discipline in the field. Perhaps we might notice that there is little profit or glory in replication. That kind of work, if I understand correctly, is often done by graduate students. Because the results were chaotic and unreliable, there was a constant effort to “improve” them, instead of studying the precise reliability of a particular protocol, with single-variable controls in repeated experiments.

Whether it is right, or whether it is wrong, to destroy the career of a scientist who has applied the scientific method and obtained a result thought by others to be incorrect, is not a question of science.

Correct. It’s a moral and social issue. If we want real science, science that is living, that can deepen and grow, we need protect intellectual freedom, and avoid “punishing” simple error — or what appears to be error. Scientists must be free to make mistakes. There is one kind of error that warrants heavy sanctions, and that is falsifying data. The Parkhomov fabrication of data in one of his reports might seem harmless — because that data probably just relatively flat — but he was, I find obvious, concealing fact, that he was recording data using a floating notebook computer to record his data, and the battery went low. However, given that it would have been easier and harmless, we might think, to just show the data he had with a note explaining the gap, I think he wanted to conceal the fact, and why? I have a suggestion: it would reveal that he needed to run this way because of heavy noise caused by the proximity of chopped power to his heater coil, immediately adjacent to the thermocouple. And that heavy noise could be causing problems! Concealing relevant fact is almost as offensive as falsifying data.

There are no scientific instruments capable of measuring whether what people do is right or wrong; we cannot construct a test within the scientific method capable of telling us whether what we do is right or wrong; hence we can agree that this question very much lies outside of science.

I will certainly agree, and it’s a point I often make, but it is also often derided.

It is a fact that the careers of Fleischmann and Pons were destroyed (in part because their results appeared not to be in agreement with theory), and the sense I get from discussions with colleagues not in the field is that this was appropriate (or at the very least expected).

However, this was complicated, not as simple as “results not in agreement with theory.” I’d say that anyone who reads the fuller accounts of what happened in 1989-1990 is likely to notice far more than that problem. For example, a common bete noir among cold fusion supporters is Robert Park. Park describes how he came to be so strongly skeptical: it was that F&P promised to reveal helium test results, and then they were never released.

The Morrey collaboration was a large-scale, many-laboratory effort to study helium in FP cathodes. Pons, we have testimony, violated a clear agreement, refusing to turn over the coding of the blinded cathodes, when Morrey gave him the helium results. There were legal threats if Morrey et al published, from Pons. Before that, the experimental cathode provided for testing was punk, with low excess heat, whereas the test had been designed, with the controls, to use a cathode with far higher generated energy. (Three cathodes were ion-implanted to simulate palladium loaded with helium from the reaction, at a level expected from the energy allegedly released.) The “as-received” cathode was heavily contaminated with implanted helium, may have been mixed up by Johnson-Matthey. And all this was never squarely faced by Pons and Fleischmann, and even though it was known by the mid-1990s that helium was the major product, and F&P were generating substantial heat — they claim — in France, there is no record of helium measurements from them.

It’s a mess. Yes, we know that they were right, they found an previously “unknown nuclear reaction.”But how they conducted themselves was clearly outside of scientific norms. (As with others, in the other direction or on the other side, by the way, there are many lessons for the future in this “scientific fiasco of the century,” once we fully examine it. 

I am generally not familiar with voices being raised outside of our community suggesting that there might have been anything wrong with this.

Few outside of “our community” — the community of interest in LENR — are aware of it, just as few are aware of the evidence for the reality of the Anomalous Heat Effect and its nuclear nature. Fewer still have any concept of what might be done about this, so when others do become aware, little or nothing happens. Nevertheless, it is becoming more possible to write about this. I have written about LENR on Quora, and it’s reasonably popular. In fact, I ran into one of the early negative replicators, and I blogged about it. He appeared completely unaware that there was a problem with his conclusions, that there had been any developments. The actual paper was fine, a standard negative replication. 

Were we to pursue the use of this kind of delineation in science, we very quickly enter into rather dark territory: for example, how many careers should be destroyed in order to achieve whatever goal is proposed as justification? Who decides on behalf of the scientific community which researchers should have their careers destroyed? Should we recognize the successes achieved in the destruction of careers by giving out awards and monetary compensation? Should we arrange for associated outplacement and mental health services for the newly delineated? And what happens if a mistake is made? Should the scientific community issue an apology (and what happens if the researcher is no longer with us when it is recognized that a mistake was made)? We are sure that careers get destroyed as part of delineation in science, but on the question of what to do about this observation we defer to others.

There is no collective, deliberative process behind the “destruction of careers.” This is an information cascade, there is no specific responsible party. Most believe that they are simply accepting and believing what everyone else believes, excepting, of course, those die-hard fanatics. There is a potential ally here, who thoroughly understands information cascades, Gary Taubes. I have established good communication with him, and am waiting for confirmation from the excess helium work in Texas before rattling his cage again. Cold fusion is not the only alleged Bad Science to be afflicted, and Taubes has actually exposed much more, including Bad Science that became an alleged consensus, on the rule of fat in human nutrition and with relationship to cardiovascular disease and obesity.

There are analogies. Racism is an information cascade, for the most part. Many racist policies existed without any formal deliberative process to create them. Waking up white is an excellent book, I highly recommend it. So what could be done about racism? It’s the same question, actually. The general answer is what has become a mantra for Mike McKubre and myself: communicate, cooperate, collaborate. And, by the way, correlate. As Peter may have noticed, remarkable findings without correlations are, not useless, but ineffective in transforming reaction to the unexpected. Correlation provides meat for the theory hamburger. Correlation can be quantified, it can be analyzed statistically.

Arguments were put forth by critics in 1989 that excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons effect was impossible based on theory, in connection with the delineation process. At the time these arguments were widely accepted—an acceptance that persists generally even today.

Information cascades are instinctive processes that developed in human society for survival reasons, like all such common phenomena. They operate through affiliation and other emotional responses, and are amygdala-mediated. The lizard brain. It is designed for quick response, not for depth. When we see a flash of orange and white in the jungle, we may have a fraction of a second to act, we have no time to sit back and analyze what it might be.

Once the information cascade is in place, people — scientists are people, have you noticed? — are aware of the consequences of deviating from the “consensus.” They won’t do it unless faced with not only strong evidence, but also necessity. Depending on the specific personality, they might not even allow themselves to think outside the box. After all, Joe, their friend who became a believer in cold fusion, that obvious nonsense, used to be sane, so there is obviously something about cold fusion that is dangerous, like a dangerous drug. And, of course, Tom Darden joked about this. “Cold fusion addiction.” It’s a thing.

There is, associated with cold fusion, a conspiracy theory. I see people succumb to it. It is very tempting to accept an organizing principle, for that impulse is even behind interest in science. To be sure, “just because you are paranoid does not mean that they are not out to get you.”

What people may learn to do is to recognize an “amygdala hijack.”  This very common phenomenon shuts down the normal operation of the cerebral cortex. The first reaction most have, to learning about this, is to think that a “hijack” is wrong. We shouldn’t do that! We should always think clearly, right?

I linked to a video that explains why it is absolutely necessary to respect this primitive brain operation. It’s designed to save our lives! However, it is an emergency response. Respecting it does not require being dominated by it, other than momentarily. We can make a fast assessment: “Do I have time to think about this? Yes, I’m afraid of ‘cold fusion addiction.’ But if I think about cold fusion, will I actually become unable to think clearly?” And most normal people will become curious, seeing no demons, anywhere close, about to take over their mind. Some won’t. Some will remain dominated by fear, a fear so deeply rooted that it is not even recognized as fear.

How can we communicate with such people. Well, how do porcupines make love?

Very carefully.

We will avoid sudden movements. We will focus on what is comfortable and familiar. We will avoid anything likely to arouse more fear. And if this is a physicist, want to make him or her afraid? Tell them that everything they know is wrong, that textbooks must be revised, because you have proof (absolute proof, I tell you!) that the anomalous heat called “cold fusion” is real and that therefore basic physics is complete bullshit.

That original idea of contradiction, a leap from something not understood (an “anomaly”), to “everything we know is wrong,” was utterly unnecessary, and it was caused by premature conclusions, on all sides. Yet once those fears are aroused. . . . 

It is possible to talk someone down. It takes skill, and if you think the issue is scientific fact, you will probably not be able to manage it. The issue is a frightened human being, possibly reacting to fear by becoming highly controlling.

Someone telling us that there is no danger, that it is just their imagination, will not be trusted, that is also instinctive. Even if it is just their imagination.

Most parents, though, know how to do this with a frightened child. Some, unfortunately, lack the skill, possibly because their parents lacked it. It can be learned.

From my perspective the arguments put forth by critics that the excess heat effect is inconsistent with the laws of physics fall short in at least one important aspect: what is concluded is now in disagreement with a very large number of experiments. And if somehow that were not sufficient, the associated technical arguments which have been given are badly broken.

Yes, but you may be leaping ahead, before first leading the audience to recognize the original error. You are correct, but not addressing the fear directly and the cause of it. Those “technical arguments” are what they think, they have nodded their heads in agreement for many years. You are telling them that they are wrong. And if you want to set up communication failure, tell people at the outset that they are wrong. And, we often don’t realize this, but even thinking that can so color our communication that people react to what is behind what we say, not just to what we say.

But wait, what if I think they are wrong? The advice here is to recognize that idea as amygdala-mediated, an emotional response to our own imagination of how the other is thinking. As one of my friends would put it, we may need to eat our own dog food before feeding it to others.

So my stand is that the skeptics were not “wrong.” Rather, the thinking was incomplete, and that’s actually totally obvious. It also isn’t a moral defect, because our thinking is, necessarily and forever, incomplete.

In dealing with amygdala hijack in one of my children, I saw strong evidence that the amygdala is programmable with language, and any healthy mother knows how to do it. The child has fallen and has a busted lip, it’s bleeding profusely, and the child is frightened and in pain. The mother realizes she is afraid that there will be scars. Does she tell the child she is afraid? Does she blame the child because he was careless? No, she’s a mother! She tells the child, “Yes, it hurts. We are on the way to the doctor and they will fix it, and you are going to be fine, here, let me give you a kiss!”

But wait, she doesn’t actually know that the child will be fine! Is she lying? No, she is creating reality by declaring it. “Fine” is like “right” and “wrong,” it is not factual, it’s a reaction, so her statement is a prediction, not a fact. And it happens to be a prediction that can create what is predicted.

I use this constantly, in my own life. Declare possibilities as if they are real and already exist! We don’t do this, because of two common reasons. We don’t want to be wrong, which is Bad, right? And we are afraid of being disappointed. I just heard this one yesterday, a woman justified to her friend her constant recitation of how nothing was going to work and bad things will happen, saying that she “is thinking the worst.” Why does she do that? So that she won’t be disappointed!

What she is creating in her life, constant fear and stress, is far worse than mere disappointment, which is transient at worst, unless we really were crazy in belief in some fantasy. Underneath most life advice is the ancient recognition of attachment as causing suffering.

So the stockbroker in 1929, even though it’s a beautiful day and he could have a fantastic lunch and we never do know what is going to happen tomorrow, jumps out the window because he thought he was rich, but wasn’t, because the market collapsed.

The sunset that day was just as beautiful as ever. Life still had endless possibilities, and, yes, one can be poor and happy, but this person would only be poor if they remained stuck in old ways that, at least for a while, weren’t working any more. People can even go to prison and be happy. (I was a prison chaplain, and human beings are amazingly flexible, once we accept present reality, what is actually happening.)

In my view the new effects are a consequence of working in a regime that we hadn’t noticed before, where some fine print associated with the rotation from the relativistic problem to the nonrelativistic problem causes it not to be as helpful as what we have grown used to.

Well, that’s Peter’s explanation, five years ago. There are other ways to say more or less the same thing. “Collective effects” is one. Notice that Widom and Larsen get away with this, as long as their specifics aren’t so seriously questioned. The goal I generally have is to deconstruct the “impossible” argument, not by claiming experimental proof, because there is, for someone not very familiar with the evidence, a long series of possible experimental errors and artifacts that can be plausibly asserted, and “they must be making some mistake” is actually plausible,  it happens. Researchers do make mistakes. And, in fact, Pons and Fleischmann made mistakes. I just listened to a really excellent talk by Peter, which convinced me that there might be something to his theoretical approach, in which he pointed out an error, in Fleischmann’s electrochemistry. Horrors! Unthinkable! Saint Fleischmann? Impossible!

This is part of how we recover from that “scientific fiasco of the century”: letting go of attachment, developing tolerance of ideas different from our own, distinguishing between reality (what actually happened) and interpretation and reaction, and opening up communication with people with whom we might have disagreements, and listening well! 

If so, we can keep what we know about condensed matter physics and nuclear physics unchanged in their applicable regimes, and make use of rather obvious generalizations in the new regime. Experimental results in the case of the Fleischmann-Pons experiment will likely be seen (retrospectively) as in agreement with (improved) theory.

Right. That is the future and it will happen (and it is already happening in places and in part). Meanwhile, we aren’t there yet, as to the full mainstream, the possibility has not been actualized, but we can, based entirely on the historical record, show that there is no necessary contradiction with known physics, there is merely something not yet explained. The rejection was of an immature and vague explanation: “fusion! nuclear!” with these words triggering a host of immediate reactions, all quite predictable, by the way.

I just read from Miles that Fleischmann later claimed that he and Pons were “against” holding that press conference. Sorry! This was self-justifying rationalization, chatter. They may well have argued against it, but, in the end, the record does not show anyone holding guns to their heads to force them to say what they said. They clearly knew, well before this, that this would be highly controversial, but were driven by their own demons to barge ahead instead of creating something different and more effective. (We all have these demons, but we usually don’t recognize them, we think that their voices are just us thinking. And they are, but I learned years ago, dealing with my own demons, that they lie to us. Once we back up from attachment to believing that what we think is right, it’s actually easy to recognize. This is behind most addiction, and people who are dealing with addition, up close and personally, come to know these things.)

Even though there may not be simple answers to some of the issues considered in this editorial, some very simple statements can be made. Excess heat in the Fleischmann-Pons experiment is a real effect.

I do say that, and frequently, but I don’t necessarily start there. Rather, where I will start depends on the audience.  Before I will slap them in the face with that particular trout, I will explore the evidence, what is actually found, how it has been confirmed, and how researchers are proceeding to strengthen this, and how very smart money is betting on this, with cash and reputable scientists involved. For some audiences, I prefer to let the reader decide on “real,” and to engage them with the question. How do we know what is “real”?

Do we use theory or experimental testing? It is actually an ancient question, where the answer was, often, “It’s up to the authorities.” Such as the Church. Or, “up to me, because I’m an expert.” Or “up to my friends, because they are experts and they wouldn’t lie.”

What I’ve found, in many discussions, is that genuine skeptics actually support that effort. What happens when precision is increased in the measurement of the heat/helium ratio in the FP experiment? Classic to “pathological science,” the effect disappears when measured with increased precision.

That was used against cold fusion by applying it to the chaotic excess heat experiments, where it was really inappropriate, because, if I’m correct, precision of calorimetry did not correlate with “positive” or “negative” reports. Correlation generates numbers that can then be compared.

But that’s difficult to study retrospectively, because papers are so different in approach, and this was the problem with uncorrelated heat. Nevertheless, that’s an idea for a research paper, looking at precision vs excess heat calculated. I haven’t seen one.

There are big implications for science, and for society. Without resources science in this area will not advance. With the continued destruction of the careers of those who venture to work in the area, progress will be slow, and there will be no continuity of effort.

While it is true that resources are needed for advance, I caution against the idea that we don’t have the resources. We do. We often, though, don’t know how to access them, and when we believe that they don’t exist, we are extremely unlikely to connect with them. The problem of harm to career is generic to any challenge to a broad consensus. I would recommend to anyone thinking of working in the field that they also recognize the need for personal training. It’s available, and far less expensive than a college education. Otherwise they will be babes in the woods. Scientists often go into science because of wanting to escape from the social jungle, imagining it to be a safe place, where truth matters more than popularity. So it’s not surprising to find major naivete on this among scientists.

I’ve been trained. That doesn’t mean that I don’t make mistakes, I do, plenty of them. But I also learn from them. Mistakes are, in fact, the fastest way to learn, and not realizing this, we may bend over backwards to avoid them. The trick is to recognize and let go of attachment to being right. That, in many ways, suppresses our ability to learn rapidly, and it also suppresses intuition, because intuition, by definition, is not rationally circumscribed and thus “safe.”

I’ll end with one of my favorite Feynman stories, I heard this from him, but it’s also in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (pp 144-146). It is about the Oak Ridge Gaseous Diffusion Plant (a later name), a crucial part of the Manhattan Project. This version I have copied from this page.

How do you look at a plant that ain’t built yet? I don’t know. Well, Lieutenant Zumwalt, who was always coming around with me because I had to have an escort everywhere, takes me into this room where there are these two engineers and a loooooong table cover, a stack of large, long blueprints representing the various floors of the proposed plant.

I took mechanical drawing when I was in school, but I am not good at reading blueprints. So they start to explain it to me, because they think I am a genius. Now, one of the things they had to avoid in the plant was accumulation. So they had problems like when there’s an evaporator working, which is trying to accumulate the stuff, if the valve gets stuck or something like that and too much stuff accumulates, it’ll explode. So they explained to me that this plant is designed so that if any one valve gets stuck nothing will happen. It needs at least two valves everywhere.

Then they explain how it works. The carbon tetrachloride comes in here, the uranium nitrate from here comes in here, it goes up and down, it goes up through the floor, comes up through the pipes, coming up from the second floor, bluuuuurp – going through the stack of blueprints, down-up-down-up, talking very fast, explaining the very, very complicated chemical plant.

I’m completely dazed. Worse, I don’t know what the symbols on the blueprint mean! There is some kind of a thing that at first I think is a window. It’s a square with a little cross in the middle, all over the damn place. I think it’s a window, but no, it can’t be a window, because it isn’t always at the edge. I want to ask them what it is.

You must have been in a situation like this when you didn’t ask them right away. Right away it would have been OK. But now they’ve been talking a little bit too long. You hesitated too long. If you ask them now they’ll say, “What are you wasting my time all this time for?”

I don’t know what to do. (You are not going to believe this story, but I swear it’s absolutely true – it’s such sensational luck.) I thought, what am I going to do? I got an idea. Maybe it’s a valve? So, in order to find out whether it’s a valve or not, I take my finger and I put it down on one of the mysterious little crosses in the middle of one of the blueprints on page number 3, and I say, “What happens if this valve gets stuck?” figuring they’re going to say, “That’s not a valve, sir, that’s a window.”

So one looks at the other and says, “Well, if that valve gets stuck — ” and he goes up and down on the blueprint, up and down, the other guy up and down, back and forth, back and forth, and they both look at each other and they tchk, tchk, tchk, and they turn around to me and they open their mouths like astonished fish and say, “You’re absolutely right, sir.”

So they rolled up the blueprints and away they went and we walked out. And Mr. Zumwalt, who had been following me all the way through, said, “You’re a genius. I got the idea you were a genius when you went through the plant once and you could tell them about evaporator C-21 in building 90-207 the next morning, “ he says, “but what you have just done is so fantastic I want to know how, how do you do that?”

I told him you try to find out whether it’s a valve or not.

In the version I recall, he mentioned that there were a million valves in the system, and that, when they later checked more thoroughly, the one he had pointed to was the only one not backed up. I take “million” as meaning “a lot,” not necessarily as an accurate number. From the Wikipedia article: “When it was built in 1944, the four-story K-25 gaseous diffusion plant was the world’s largest building, comprising over 1,640,000 square feet (152,000 m2) of floor space and a volume of 97,500,000 cubic feet (2,760,000 m3).”

Why do I tell this story? Life is full of mysteries, but rather than his “lucky guess” being considered purely coincidental, from which we would learn nothing, I would rather give it a name. This was intuition. Feynman was receiving vast quantities of information during that session, and what might have been normal analytical thinking (which filters)  was interrupted by his puzzlement. So that information was going into his mind subconsciously. I’ve seen this happen again and again. We do something with no particular reason that turns out to be practically a miracle. But this does not require any woo, simply the possibility that conscious thought is quite limited compared to what the human brain actually can do, under some conditions. Feynman, as a child, developed habits that fully fostered intuition. He was curious, and an iconoclast. There are many, many other stories. I have always said, for many years, that I learned to think from Feynman. And then I learned how not to think. 

Fantasy rejects itself

I came across this review when linking to Undead Science on Amazon. It’s old, but there is no other review. I did buy that book, in 2009, from Amazon, used, but never reviewed it and now Amazon wants me to spend at least $50 in the last year to be able to review books….

But I can comment on the review, and I will. I first comment here.


JohnVidale

August 7, 2011

Format: Hardcover|Verified Purchase

I picked up this book on the recommendation of a fellow scientist with good taste in work on the history of science. I’ll update this, should I get further through the book, but halfway through this book is greatly irritating.

The book is a pretty straightforward story by a sociologist of science, something Dr. Vidale is not (he is a professor of seismology). There are many myths, common tropes, about cold fusion, and, since Dr. Vidale likes Gary Taubes (as do I, by the way), perhaps he should learn about information cascades; Taubes has written much about them. He can google “Gary Taubes information cascade.”

An information cascade is a social phenomenon where something comes to be commonly believed without ever having been clearly proven. It happens with scientists as well as with anyone.

The beginning is largely an explanation of how science works theoretically.

It is not. Sociologists of science study how science actually works, not the theory.

The thesis seems to be that science traditionally is thought of as either alive or dead, depending on whether the issues investigated are uncertain or already decided.

Is that a “thesis” or an observation? It becomes very clear in this review that the author thinks “cold fusion” is dead. As with many such opinions, it’s quote likely he has no idea what he is talking about. What is “cold fusion”?

It was a popular name given to an anomalous heat effect, based on ideas of the source, but the scientists who discovered the effect, because they could not explain the heat with chemistry — and they were experts chemists, leaders in their field — called it an “unknown nuclear reaction.” They had not been looking for a source of energy. They were actually testing the Born-Oppenheimer approximation, and though that the approximation was probably good enough that they would find nothing. And then their experiment melted down.

A third category of “undead” is proposed, in which some scientists think the topic is alive and others think it is dead, and this category has a life of its own. Later, this theme evolves to argue the undead topic of cold fusion still alive, or was long after declared dead.

That is, more or less the basis for the book. The field is now known by the more neutral term of “Condensed Matter Nuclear Science,” sometimes “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions,” the heat effect is simply called the Anomalous Heat Effect by some. I still use “cold fusion” because the evidence has become overwhelming that the nuclear reaction, whatever it is, is producing helium from deuterium, which is fusion in effect if not in mechanism. The mechanism is still unknown. It is obviously not what was thought of as “fusion” when the AHE was discovered.

The beginning and the last chapter may be of interest to those who seek to categorize varieties in the study of the history of science, but such pigeonholing is of much less value to me than revealing case studies of work well done and poorly done.

That’s Gary Taubes’ professional theme. However, it also can be superficial. There is a fine study by Henry H. Bauer (2002). ‘Pathological Science’ is not Scientific Misconduct (nor is it pathological).

One argument I’m not buying so far is the claim that what killed cold fusion is the consensus among most scientists that it was nonsense, rather than the fact that cold fusion is nonsense.

If not “consensus among most scientists,” how then would it be determined that a field is outside the mainstream? And is “nonsense” a “fact”? Can you weigh it?

There is a large body of experimental evidence, and then there are conclusions drawn from the evidence, and ideas about the evidence and the conclusions. Where does observed fact become “nonsense”?

“Nonsense” is something we say when what is being stated makes no sense to us. It’s highly subjective.

Notice that the author appears to believe that “cold fusion” is “nonsense,” but shows no sign of knowing what this thing is, what exactly is reported and claimed.

No, the author seems to be believe “cold fusion is nonsense,” as a fact of nature, as a reality, not merely a personal reaction. 

More to the point, where and when was the decision made that “cold fusion is dead”? The U.S. Department of Energy held two reviews of the field. The first was in 1989, rushed, and concluded before replications began appearing. Another review was held in 2004. Did these reviews declare that cold fusion was dead?

No. In fact, both recommended further research. One does not recommend further research for a dead field. In 2004, that recommendation was unanimous for an 18-member panel of experts.

This is to me a case study in which many open-minded people looked at a claim and shredded it.

According to Dr. Vidale. Yes, there was very strong criticism, even “vituperation,” in the words of one skeptic. However, the field is very much alive, and publication in mainstream journals has continued (increasing after a nadir in about 2005). Research is being funded. Governmental interest never disappeared, but it is a very difficult field.

There is little difference here between the truth and the scientists consensus about the truth.

What consensus, I must ask? The closest we have to a formal consensus would be the 2004 review, and what it concluded is far from the position Mr. Vidale is asserting. He imagines his view is “mainstream,” but that is simply the effect of an information cascade. Yes, many scientists think as he thinks, still. In other words, scientists can be ignorant of what is happening outside their own fields. But it is not a “consensus,” and never was. It was merely a widespread and very strong opinion, but that opinion was rejecting an idea about the Heat Effect, not the effect itself.

To the extent, though, that they were rejecting experimental evidence, they were engaged in cargo cult science, or scientism, a belief system. Not the scientific method.

The sociological understructure in the book seems to impede rather than aid understanding.

It seems that way to Dr. Vidale because he’s clueless about the reality of cold fusion research.

Specifically, there seems an underlying assumption that claims of excess heat without by-products of fusion reactions are a plausible interpretation, whose investigations deserved funding, but were denied by the closed club of established scientists.

There was a claim of anomalous heat, yes. It was an error for Pons and Fleischmann to claim that it was a nuclear reaction, and to mention “fusion,” based on the evidence they had, which was only circumstantial.

The reaction is definitely not what comes to mind when that word is used.

But . . . a fusion product, helium, was eventually identified (Miles, 1991), correlated with heat, and that has been confirmed by over a dozen research groups, and confirmation and measurement of the ratio with increased precision is under way at Texas Tech, very well funded, as that deserves. Extant measurements of the heat/helium ratio are within experimental error of the deuterium fusion to helium theoretical value.

(That does not show that the reaction is “d-d fusion,” because any reaction that starts with deuterium and ends with helium, no matter how this is catalyzed, must show that ratio.)

That Dr. Vidale believes that no nuclear product was identified simply shows that he’s reacting to what amounts to gossip or rumor or information cascade. (Other products have been found, there is strong evidence for tritium, but the levels are very low and it is the helium that accounts for the heat).

The author repeatedly cites international experts calling such scenarios impossible or highly implausible to suggest that the experts are libeling cold fusion claims with the label pathological science. I side with the experts rather than the author.

It is obvious that there were experts who did that; this is undeniable. Simon does not suggest “libel.” And Vidale merely joins in the labelling, without being specific such that one could test his claims. He’s outside of science. He’s taking sides, which sociologists generally don’t do, nor, in fact, do careful scientists do it within their field. To claim that a scientist is practicing “pathological science” is a deep insult. That is not a scientific category. Langmuir coined the term, and gave characteristics, which only superficially match cold fusion, which long ago moved outside of that box.

Also, the claim is made that this case demonstrates that sociologists are better equipped to mediate disputes involving claims of pathological science than scientists, which is ludicrous.

It would be, if the book claimed that, but it doesn’t. More to the point, who mediates such disputes? What happens in the real world?

Clearly, in the cold fusion case, another decade after the publication of this book has not contradicted any of the condemnations from scientists of cold fusion.

The 2004 U.S. DoE review was after the publication of the book, and it contradicts the position Dr. Vidale is taking, very clearly. While that review erred in many ways (the review was far too superficial, hurried, and the process allowed misunderstandings to arise, some reviewers clearly misread the presented documents), they did not call cold fusion “nonsense.” Several reviewers probably thought that, but they all agreed with “more research.”

Essentially, if one wishes to critically assess the stages through which cold fusion ideas were discarded, it is helpful to understand the nuclear processes involved.

Actually, no. “Cold fusion” appears to be a nuclear physics topic, because of “fusion.” However, it is actually a set of results in chemistry. What an expert in normal nuclear processes knows will not help with cold fusion. It is, at this point, an “unknown nuclear reaction” (which was claimed in the original paper). (Or it is a set of such reactions.) Yes, if someone wants to propose a theory of mechanism, a knowledge of nuclear physics is necessary, and there are physicists, with such understanding, experts, doing just that. So far, no theory has been successful to the point of being widely accepted.

One should not argue, as the author indirectly does, for large federal investments in blue sky reinvention of physics unless one has an imposing reputation of knowing the limitations of existing physics.

Simon does not argue for that. I don’t argue for that. I suggest exactly what both U.S. DoE reviews suggested: modest funding for basic research under existing programs. That is a genuine scientific consensus! However, it is not necessary a “consensus of scientists,” that is, some majority showing in a poll, as distinct from genuine scientific process as functions with peer review and the like.

It appears that Dr. Vidale has an active imagination, and thinks that Simon is a “believer” and thinks that “believers” want massive federal funding, so he reads that into the book. No, the book is about a sociological phenomenon, it was Simon’s doctoral thesis originally, and sociologists of science will continue to study the cold fusion affair, for a very long time. Huizenga called it the “scientific fiasco of the twentieth century.” He was right. It was a perfect storm, in many ways, and there is much that can be learned from it.

Cold fusion is not a “reinvention of physics.” It tells us very little about nuclear physics. “Cold fusion,” as a name for an anomalous heat effect, does not contradict existing physics. It is possible that when the mechanism is elucidated, it will show some contradiction, but what is most likely is that all that has been contradicted was assumption about what’s possible in condensed matter, not actual physics.

There are theories being worked on that use standard quantum field theory, merely in certain unanticipated circumstances. Quick example: what will happen if two deuterium molecules are trapped in relationship at low relative momentum, such that the nuclei form the vertices of a tetrahedron? The analysis has been done by Akito Takahashi: they will collapse into a Bose -Einstein condensate within a femtosecond or so, and that will fuse by tunneling within another femotosecond or so, creating 8Be, which can fission into two 4He nuclei, without gamma radiation (as would be expected if two deuterons could somehow fuse to helium without immediately fissioning into the normal d-d fusion products).

That theory is incomplete, I won’t go into details, but it merely shows how there may be surprises lurking in places we never looked before.

I will amend my review if my attention span is long enough, but the collection of objectionable claims has risen too high to warrant spending another few hours finishing this book. Gary Taubes’ book on the same subject, Bad Science, was much more factual and enlightening.

Taubes’ Bad Science is an excellent book on the history of cold fusion, the very early days only. The story of the book is well known, he was in a hurry to finish it so he could be paid. As is common with his work, he spent far more time than made sense economically for him. He believed he understood the physics, and sometimes wrote from that perspective, but, in fact, nobody understands what Pons and Fleischmann found. They certainly didn’t.

Gradually, fact is being established, and how to create reliable experiments is being developed. It’s still difficult, but measuring the heat/helium ratio is a reliable and replicable experiment. It’s still not easy, but what is cool about it is that, per existing results, if one doesn’t see heat, one doesn’t see helium, period, and if one does see heat (which with a good protocol might be half the time), one sees proportionate helium.

So Dr. Vidale gave the book a poor review, two stars out of five, based on his rejection of what he imagined the book was saying.


There were some comments, that can be seen by following the Unreal arguments link.

postoak6 years ago
“Clearly, in the cold fusion case, another decade after the publication of this book has not contradicted any of the condemnations from scientists of cold fusion.” I think this statement is false. Although fusion may not be occurring, there is much, much evidence that some sort of nuclear event is taking place in these experiments. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VymhJCcNBBc
The video was presented by Frank Gordon, of SPAWAR. It is about nuclear effects, including heat.
JohnVidale  6 years ago In reply to an earlier post
More telling than the personal opinion of either of us is the fact that 3 MORE years have passed since the video you linked, and no public demonstration of energy from cold fusion has YET been presented.
How does Dr. Vidale know that? The video covers many demonstrations of LENR. What Dr. Vidale may be talking about is practical levels of energy, and he assumes that if such a demonstration existed, he’d have heard about it. There have been many demonstrations. Dr.  Vidale’s comments were from August 2011. Earlier that year, there was a major claim of commercial levels of power, kilowatts, with public “demonstrations.” Unfortunately, it was fraud, but my point here is that this was widely known, widely considered, and Dr. Vidale doesn’t seem to know about it at all.
(The state of the art is quite low-power, but visible levels of power have been demonstrated and confirmed.)
Dr. Vidale is all personal opinion and no facts. He simply ignored the video, which is quite good, being a presentation by the SPAWAR group (U.S. Navy Research Laboratory, San Diego) to a conference organized by Dr. Robert Duncan, who was Vice Chancellor for Research at the University of Missouri, and then countered the comment with simple ignorance (that there has been no public demonstration). 
Taser_This 2 years ago (Edited)
The commenters note is an excellent example of the sociological phenomenon related to the field of Cold Fusion, that shall be studied along with the physical phenomenon, once a change of perception of the field occurs. We shall eventually, and possibly soon, see a resolution of the clash of claims of pathological science vs. pathological disbelief. If history is any indicator related to denial in the face of incontrovertible evidence (in this case the observation of excess heat, regardless of the process of origin since we know it is beyond chemical energies) we shall be hearing a lot more about this topic.

Agreed, Dr. Vidale has demonstrated what an information cascade looks like. He’s totally confident that he is standing for the mainstream opinion. Yet “mainstream opinion” is not a judgment of experts, except, of course, in part.

Dr. Vidale is not an expert in this field, and he is not actually aware of expert reviews of “cold fusion.” Perhaps he might consider reading this peer-reviewed review of the field, published the year before he wrote, in Naturwissenschaften, which was, at the time, a venerable multidisciplinary journal,  and it had tough peer review. Edmund Storms, Status of cold fusion (2010). (preprint).

There are many, many reviews of cold fusion in mainstream journals, published in the last  15 years. The extreme skepticism, which Vidale thinks is mainstream, has disappeared in the journals. What is undead here is extreme skepticism on this topic, which hasn’t noticed it died.

So, is cold fusion Undead, or is it simply Alive and never died?


After writing this, I found that Dr. John Vidale was a double major as an undergraduate, in physics and geology, has a PhD from Cal Tech (1986), and his major focus appears to be seismology.

He might be amused by this story from the late Nate Hoffman, who wrote a book for the American Nuclear Society, supported by the Electric Power Research Institute, A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects: A Guide for the Perplexed About Cold Fusion (1995). Among other things, it accurately reviews Taubes and Huizenga. The book is written as a dialogue between a Young Scientist (YS), who represents common thinking, particularly among physicists, and Old Metallurgist (OM), which would be Hoffman himself, who is commonly considered a skeptic by promoters of cold fusion. Actually, to me, he looks normally skeptical, skepticism being essential to science.

YS: I guess the real question has to be this: Is the heat real?

OM: The simple facts are as follows. Scientists experienced in the area of calorimetric measurements are performing these experiments. Long periods occur with no heat production, then, occasionally, periods suddenly occur with apparent heat production. These scientists become irate when so-called experts call them charlatans. The occasions when apparent heat occurs seem to be highly sensitive to the surface conditions of the palladium and are not reproducible at will.

YS: Any phenomenon that is not reproducible at will is most likely not real.

OM: People in the San Fernando Valley, Japanese, Columbians, et al, will be glad to hear that earthquakes are not real.

YS: Ouch. I deserved that. My comment was stupid.

OM: A large number of of people who should know better have parroted that inane statement. There are, however, many artifacts that can indicate a false period of heat production. The question of whether heat is being produced is still open, though any such heat is not from deuterium atoms fusing with deuterium atoms to produce equal amounts of 3He + neutron and triton + proton. If the heat is real, it must be from a different nuclear reaction or some totally unknown non-nuclear source of reactions with energies far above the electron-volt levels of chemical reactions.

As with Taubes, Hoffman may have been under some pressure to complete the book. Miles, in 1991, was the first to report, in a conference paper, that helium was being produced, correlated with helium, and this was noticed by Huizenga in the second edition of his book (1993). Hoffman covers some of Miles’ work, and some helium measurements, but does not report the crucial correlation, though this was published in Journal of Electroanalytical Chemistry in 1993.

I cover heat/helium, as a quantitatively reproducible and widely-confirmed experiment, in my 2015 paper, published in a special section on Low Energy Nuclear Reactions in Current Science..

Of special note in that section would be McKubre, Cold fusion: comments on the state of scientific proof.

McKubre is an electrochemist who, when he saw the Pons and Fleischmann announcement, already was familiar with the palladium-deuterium system, working at SRI International, and immediately recognized that the effect reported must be in relatively unexplored territory, with very high loading ratio. This was not widely understood, and replication efforts that failed to reach a loading threshold, somewhere around 90% atom (D/Pd), reported no results (neither anomalous heat, nor any other nuclear effects). At that time, it was commonly considered that 70% loading was a maximum.

SRI and McKubre were retained by the Electric Power Research Institute, for obvious reasons, to investigate cold fusion, and until retiring recently, he spent his entire career after that, mostly on LENR research.

One of the characteristics of the rejection cascade was cross-disciplinary disrespect. In his review, Dr. Vidale shows no respect or understanding of sociology and “science studies,” and mistakes  his own opinions and those of his friends as “scientific consensus.”

What is scientific consensus? This is a question that sociologists and philosophers of science study. As well, most physicists knew little to nothing about electrochemistry, and there are many stories of Stupid Mistakes, such as reversing the cathode and anode (because of a differing convention) and failing to maintain very high cleanliness of experiments. One electrochemist, visiting such a lab, asked, “And then did you pee in the cell?” The most basic mistake was failing to run the experiment long enough to develop the conditions that create the effect. McKubre covers that in the paper cited.

(An electrolytic cathode will collect cations from the electrolyte, and cathodes may become loaded with fuzzy junk. I fully sympathize with physicists with a distaste for the horrible mess of an electrolytic cathode. For very good reasons, they prefer the simple environment of a plasma, which they can analyze using two-body quantum mechanics.

I sat in Feynman’s lectures at Cal Tech, 1961-63, and, besides his anecdotes that I heard directly from him when he visited Page House, I remember one statement about physics: “We don’t have the math to calculate the solid state, it is far too complex.” Yet too many physicists believed that the approximations they used were reality. No, they were useful approximations, that usually worked. So did Ptolemaic astronomy.)

Dr. Vidale is welcome to comment here and to correct errors, as may anyone.

Update, December 19, 2018

Apparently I sent Vidale an email notifying him of this post, I normally do that as a courtesy with reviews.  I could not find the email, which is a bit puzzling. It was likely very brief with a link, as he stated. I recall no response, but this showed up, a screenshot posted by a troll on Encyclopedia Dramatica (a satire site):

As before, no response is required, but, again, I will notify Vidale unless he requests no emails. The troll who posted that image is also the troll who, with his brother, created and maintained the RationalWiki article, and Vidale’s comment is being used as a proof that I’m a troll. Circular.

Of course, Vidale did, in fact,  respond, just not in situ and not where it would be likely to be seen by me. Some people have a weird idea of what “no response” means.

I could not find the post, my guess is that it was taken down. Vidale followed and believed the claims of twin brothers who are the most disruptive trolls I have ever seen, though, to be sure, the internet is vast and I haven’t seen everything!

Protecting the fringe allows the mainstream to breathe

Wikipedia is famously biased against fringe points of view or fringe science (and actually the bias can appear with any position considered “truth” by a majority or plurality faction). The pseudoskeptical faction there claims that there is no bias, but it’s quite clear that reliable sources exist, per Wikipedia definitions, that are excluded, and weaker sources “debunking” the fringe are allowed, plus if editors appears to be “fringe,” they are readily harassed and blocked or banned, whereas more egregious behavior, violating Wikipedia policies, is overlooked, if an editor is allied with the “skeptical” faction. Over time, the original Wikipedians, who actually supported Neutral Point of View policy, have substantially been marginalized and ignored, and the faction has become increasingly bold.

When I first confronted factional editing, before the Arbitration Committee in 2009, the faction was relatively weak. However, over the ensuing years, the debunkers organized, Guerrilla Skeptics on Wikipedia (GSoW) came into existence, and operates openly. People who come to Wikipedia to attempt to push toward neutrality (or toward “believer” positions) are sanctioned for treating Wikipedia as a battleground, but that is exactly what the skeptics have done, and the Guerrilla Skeptics (consider the name!) create a consistent push with a factional position.

There is increasing evidence of additional off-wiki coordination. It would actually be surprising if it did not exist, it can be difficult to detect. But we have an incident, now.

February 24, 2018 I was banned by the WikiMediaFoundation. There was no warning, and no explanation, and there is no appeal from a global ban. Why? To my knowledge, I did not violate the Terms of Service in any way. There was, however, at least one claim that I did, an allegation by a user that I had “harassed” him by email, the first of our emails was sent through the WMF servers, so if, in fact, that email was harassment, it would be a TOS violation, though a single violation, unless truly egregious, has never been known to result in a ban. I have published all the emails with that user here.

This much is known, however. One of those who claimed to have complained about me to the WMF posted a list of those complaining on the forum, Wikipedia Sucks. It is practically identical to the list I had inferred; it is, then, a convenient list of those who likely libelled me. However, I will be, ah, requesting the information from the WikiMedia Foundation.

Meanwhile, the purpose of this post is to consider the situation with fringe science and an encyclopedia project. First of all, what is fringe science?

The Wikipedia article, no surprise, is massively confused on this.

Description

The term “fringe science” denotes unorthodox scientific theories and models. Persons who create fringe science may have employed the scientific method in their work, but their results are not accepted by the mainstream scientific community. Fringe science may be advocated by a scientist who has some recognition within the larger scientific community, but this is not always the case. Usually the evidence provided by fringe science is accepted only by a minority and is rejected by most experts.[citation needed]

Indeed, citation needed! Evidence is evidence, and is often confused with conclusions. Rejection of evidence is essentially a claim of fraud or reporting error, which is rare for professional scientists, because it can be career suicide. Rather, a scientist may discover an anomaly, au unexplained phenomenon, more precisely, unexplained results. Then a cause may be hypothesized. If this hypothesis is unexpected within existing scientific knowledge, yet the hypothesis is not yet confirmed independently, it may be “rejected” as premature or even wrong. If there are experts in the relevant field who accept it as possible and worthy of investigation, this then is “possible new science.” There may be experts who reject the new analysis, for various reasons, and we will look at a well-known example, “continental drift.”

There is no “journal of mainstream opinion,” but there are journals considered “mainstream.” The term “mainstream” is casually used by many authors without any clear definition. In my own work, I defined “mainstream journals” as journals acceptable as such by Dieter Britz, a skeptical electrochemist. As well, the issue of speciality arises. If there is an electrochemical anomaly discovered, heat the expert chemists cannot explain through chemistry, what is the relevant field of expertise. Often those who claim a field is “fringe” are referring to the opinions of those who are not expert in the directly relevant field, but whose expertise, perhaps, leads to conclusions that are, on the face, contradicted by evidence gathered with expertise other than in their field.

With “cold fusion,” named after a hypothesized source for anomalous heat,  in the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect,  (also found by many others), it was immediately assumed that the relevant field would be nuclear physics. It was also assumed that if “cold fusion” were real, it would overturn established physical theory. That was a blatant analytical error, because it assumed a specific model of the heat source, a specific mechanism, which was actually contradicted by the experimental evidence, most notably by the “dead graduate student effect.” If the FPHE were caused by the direct fusion of two deuterons to form helium, the third of Huizenga’s three “miracles,” if absent, would have generated fatal levels of gamma radiation. The second miracle was the reaction being guided in to the very rare helium branch, instead of there being fatal levels of neutron radiation, and the first would be the fusion itself. However, that first miracle would not contradict existing physics, because an unknown form of catalysis may exist, and one is already known, muon-catalyzed fusion.

Evidence is not provided by “fringe science.” It is provided by ordinary scientific study. In cargo cult science, ordinary thinking is worshipped as if conclusive, without the rigorous application of the scientific method. Real science is always open, no matter how well-established a theory. The existing theory may be incomplete. Ptolemaic astronomy provided a modal that was quite good at explaining the motions of planets. Ptolemaic astronomy passed into history when a simpler model was found.

Galileo’s observations were rejected because they contradicted certain beliefs.  The observations were evidence, and “contradiction” is an interpretation, not evidence in itself. (It is not uncommon for  apparently contradictory evidence to be later understood as indicating an underlying reality. But with Galileo, his very observations were rejected — I think, it would be interesting to study this in detail — and if he were lying, it would be a serious moral offense, actually heresy.

The boundary between fringe science and pseudoscience is disputed. The connotation of “fringe science” is that the enterprise is rational but is unlikely to produce good results for a variety of reasons, including incomplete or contradictory evidence.[7]

The “boundary question” is an aspect of the sociology of science. “Unlikely to produce good results,” first of all, creates a bias, where results are classified as “good” or “poor” or “wrong,” all of which moves away from evidence to opinion and interpretation. “Contradictory evidence,” then, suggests anomalies. “Contradiction” does not exist in nature. With cold fusion, an example is the neutron radiation issue. Theory would predict, for two-deuteron fusion, massive neutron radiation. So that Pons and Fleischmann reported neutron radiation, but at levels far, far below what would be expected for d-d fusion generating the reported heat, first of all, contradicted the d-d fusion theory, on theoretical grounds. They were quite aware of this, hence what they actually proposed in their first paper was not “d-d fusion” but an “unknown nuclear reaction.” That was largely ignored, so much noise was being made about “fusion,” it was practically a Perfect Storm.

Further, any substantial neutron radiation would be remarkable as a result from an electrochemical experiment. As came out rather rapidly, Pons and Fleischmann had erred. Later work that established an upper limit for neutron radiation was itself defective (the FP heat effect was very difficult to set up, and it was not enough to create an alleged “FP cell” and look for neutrons, because many such cells produce no measurable heat), but it is clear from later work that neutron generation, if it exists at all, is at extremely low levels, basically irrelevant to the main effect.

Such neutron findings were considered “negative” by Britz. In fact, all experimental findings contribute to knowledge; it became a well-established characteristic of the FP Heat Effect that it does not generate significant high-energy radiation, nor has the heat ever been correlated (across multiple experiments and by multiple independent groups) with any other nuclear product except helium. 

The term may be considered pejorative. For example, Lyell D. Henry Jr. wrote that, “fringe science [is] a term also suggesting kookiness.”[8] This characterization is perhaps inspired by the eccentric behavior of many researchers of the kind known colloquially (and with considerable historical precedent) as mad scientists.[9]

The term does suggest that. The looseness of the definition allows inclusion of many different findings and claims, which do include isolated and idiosyncratic ideas of so-called “mad scientists.” This is all pop science, complicated by the fact that some scientists age and suffer from forms of dementia. However, some highly successful scientists also move into a disregard of popular opinion, which can create an impression of “kookiness,” which is, after all, popular judgment and not objective. They may be willing to consider ideas rejected for social reasons by others.

Although most fringe science is rejected, the scientific community has come to accept some portions of it.[10] One example of such is plate tectonics, an idea which had its origin in the fringe science of continental drift and was rejected for decades.[11]

There are lost and crucial details. Rejected by whom, and when? The present tense is used, and this is common with the anti-fringe faction on Wikipedia. If something was rejected by some or by many, that condition is assumed to continee and is reported in the present tense, as as it were a continuing fact, when an author cannot do more than express an opinion about the future.  Now, plate tectonics is mentioned. “Continental drift” is called “fringe science,” even after it became widely accepted.

Wegener’s proposal of continental drift is a fascinating example. The Wikipedia article does not mention “fringe science.” The Wikipedia article is quite good, it seems to me. One particular snippet is of high interest:

David Attenborough, who attended university in the second half of the 1940s, recounted an incident illustrating its lack of acceptance then: “I once asked one of my lecturers why he was not talking to us about continental drift and I was told, sneeringly, that if I could prove there was a force that could move continents, then he might think about it. The idea was moonshine, I was informed.”[47]

As late as 1953 – just five years before Carey[48] introduced the theory of plate tectonics – the theory of continental drift was rejected by the physicist Scheidegger on the following grounds.[49]

That rejection was essentially pseudoskepticism and pseudoscientific. There was observation (experimental evidence) suggesting drift. The lack of explanatory theory is not evidence of anything other than possible ignorance. “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”

The fact is that the continental drift hypothesis, as an explanation for the map appearance and fossil record, was not generally accepted. What shifted opinion was the appearance of a plausible theory. Worthy of note was how strongly the opinion of “impossible” was, such that “proof” was demanded. This is a sign of a fixed mind, not open to new ideas. The history of science is a long story of developing methods to overcome prejudice like that. This is a struggle between established belief and actual fact. Experimental evidence is fact. Such and such was observed, such and such was measured. These are truth, the best we have. It can turn out that recorded data was a result of artifact, and some records are incorrect, but that is relatively rare. Scientists are trained to record data accurately and to report it neutrally. Sometimes they fail, they are human. But science has the potential to grow beyond present limitations because of this habit.

Anomalies, observations that are not understood within existing scientific models, are indications that existing models are incomplete. Rejecting new data or analyses because they don’t fit existing models is circular. Rather, a far better understanding of this is that the evidence for a new idea has not risen to a level of detail, including controlled tests, to overcome standing ideas. Science, as a whole, properly remains agnostic. Proof is for math, not the rest of science. This does not require acceptance of new ideas until one is convinced by the preponderance of evidence. Pseudoskeptics often demand “proof.” “Extraordinary claims” require extraordinary evidence.” Yes, but what does that actually mean? What if there is “ordinary evidence?” What is the definition of an “extraordinary claim,” such that ordinary evidence is to be disregarded?

It’s subjective. It means nothing other than “surprising to me” — or to “us,” often defined to exclude anyone with a contrary opinion. For Wikipedia, peer-reviewed secondary source in a clearly mainstream journal is rejected because the author is allegedly a “believer.” That is editorial opinion, clearly not neutral. Back to the fringe science article:

The confusion between science and pseudoscience, between honest scientific error and genuine scientific discovery, is not new, and it is a permanent feature of the scientific landscape …. Acceptance of new science can come slowly.[12]

This was presented by formatting as a quotation, but was not attributed in the text. This should be “According to Michael W. Friedlander.” in his book on the topic, At the Fringes of Science (1005). He is very clear: there is no clear demarcation between “science” and “fringe science.”

Friedlander does cover cold fusion, to some degree. He hedges his comments. On page 1, “… after months of independent, costly, and exhaustive checks by hundreds of scientist around the world, the excitement over cold fusion cooled off, and the claim is probably destined to take its place alongside monopoles, N-rays, polywater, and other fly-by-night “discoveries” that flash across our scientific skies to end up as part of our folklore.”

He hedged with “probably.” On what evidence was he basing that assessment?  Cold fusion was not actually his primary investigation. On pp. 27-34, he reports the early days of the cold fusion fiasco, (with some errors), and doesn’t report on what came later. He doesn’t mention the later confirmations of the heat effect, nor the discovery of a nuclear product, published in 1993 in a mainstream journal (though announced in 1991, Huizenga covered it in 1993). He does not distinguish between the”fusion theory” and the actual report of anomalous heat by experts in heat measurement, not to mention the later discovery of a correlated nuclear product. He closes that section with:

To summarize briefly, the cold fusion “discovery” will surely be remembered as a striking example of how science should not be done. Taubes has compared “many of the proponents of cold fusion” to Blaise Pascal, the seventeenth century scientist who “renounced a life of science for one of faith>” [Bad Science (1993), 92] The whole episode certainly illustrates the practical difficulty in implementing an innocuous-sounding “replication” and points to the need for full and open disclosure if there are to be meaningful tests and checks. It has also exposed some unfortunate professional sensitivities, jealousies, and resentments. At least to date, the exercise appears to be devoid of redeeming scientific value — but perhaps something may yet turn up as the few holdouts tenaciously pursue a theory as evasive as the Cheshire cat.

I agree with much of this, excepting his ignorance of results in the field, and his idea that what was to be pursued was a “theory.” No, what was needed was clear confirmation of the heat anomaly, then confirmation of the direct evidence that it was nuclear in nature (correlated helium!), and then far more intensive study of the effect itself, its conditions and other correlates and only then would a viable theory become likely.

Cold fusion was the “Scientific Fiasco of the Century” (Huizenga, 1992) It looks like Friendlander did not look at the second edition of Huizenga’s book, where he pointed to the amazing discovery of correlated helium. There was a problem in cold fusion research, that there were many “confirmations” of the heat effect, but they were not exact replications, mostly. Much of the rush to confirm — or disconfirm — was premature and focused on what was not present: “expected” nuclear products, i.e., neutrons. Tritium was confirmed but at very low levels and not correlated with heat (often the tritium studies were of cells where heat was not measured).

Nobody sane would argue that fringe claims should be “believed” without evidence, and where each individual draws the line on what level of evidence is necessary is a personal choice. It is offensive, however, when those who support a fringe claim are attacked and belittled and sometimes hounded. If fringe claims are to be rejected ipso facto, i.e., because they are considered fringe, the possibility of growth in scientific understanding is suppressed. This will be true even if most fringe claims ultimately disappear. Ordinary evidence showing some anomaly is just that, showing an anomaly. By definition, an anomaly indicates something is not understood.

With cold fusion, evidence for a heat anomaly accumulated, and because the conditions required to create the anomaly were very poorly understood, a “negative confirmation” was largely meaningless, indicating only that whatever approach was used did not generate the claimed effect, and it could have been understood that the claimed effect was not “fusion,” but anomalous heat. If the millions of dollars per month that the U.S. DoE was spending frantically in 1989 to test the claim had been understood that way, and if time had been allowed for confirmation to appear, it might not have been wasted.

As it is, Bayesian analysis of the major “negative confirmations” shows that with what became known later, those experiments could be strongly predicted to fail, they simply did not set up the conditions that became known as necessary. This was the result of a rush to judgment, pressure was put on the DoE to come up with quick answers, perhaps because the billion-dollar-per-year hot fusion effort was being, it was thought, threatened, with heavy political implications. Think of a billion dollars per year no longer being available for salaries for, say, plasma physicists.

However, though they were widely thought to have “rejected” cold fusion, the reality is that both U.S. DoE reviews were aware of the existence of evidence supporting the heat effect and its nuclear nature, and recommended further research to resolve open questions; in 2004, the 18-member panel was evenly divided on the heat question, with half considering the evidence to be conclusive and half not. Then on the issue of a nuclear origin, a third considered the evidence for a nuclear effect to be “conclusive or somewhat conclusive.”

The heat question has nothing to do with nuclear theory, but it is clear that some panel members rejected the heat evidence because of theory. The most recent major scientific work on cold fusion terms itself as a study of the Anomalous Heat Effect, and they are working on improving precision of heat and helium measurements.

If one does not accept the heat results, there would be no reason to accept nuclear evidence! So it is clear from the 2004 DoE review that cold fusion was, by then, moving into the mainstream, even though there was still rampant skepticism.

The rejection of cold fusion became an entrenched idea, an information cascade that, as is normal for such cascades, perpetuates itself, as scientists and others assume that was “everyone thinks” must be true.

In mainstream journals, publication of papers, and more significantly, reviews that accept the reality of the effect began increasing around 2005. There are no negative reviews that were more than a passing mention. What is missing is reviews in certain major journals that essentially promised to not publish on the topic, over a quarter-century ago.

One of the difficulties is that the basic research that shows, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the effect is real and nuclear in nature was all done more than a decade ago. It is old news, even though it was not widely reported. Hence my proposal, beginning quite a few years ago, was for replication of that work with increased precision, which is a classic measure of “pathological science.” Will the correlation decline or disappear with increased precision?

This is exactly the work that a genuine skeptic would want to see.

I have often written that genuine skepticism is essential to science. As well, those who will give new ideas or reported anomalies enough credence to support testing are also essential. Some of them will be accused of being “believers” or “proponents,” or even “diehards.”

The mainstream needs the fringes to be alive, in order to breathe and grow.

Diehard believers have hope, especially if they also trust reality. Diehard skeptics are simply dying.

(More accurately, “diehard skeptic” is an oxymoron. Such a person is a pseudoskeptic, a negative believer.)

Reviews

 

RationalWiki had a wide reputation as a joke wiki, where skeptics and atheists — and adolescents — fully engaged in unrestrained snark. There are many reviews, but start with the Wikipedia article. It will be fun to compare that article to the favorite targets of the RatWikians and their allies, the Guerilla Skeptics on Wikipedia. Any socks there? Some much to research, so little time…. That one is for later. I immediately see POV-pushing in the editing….

This was reasonable, on the face, this was not, it involves synthesis, unless there is reliable source for the claim that criticism is because “beliefs” are challenged. That kind of claim is difficult even when reliable source can be found for it, it should be attributed … unless there was a formal study!

Lets start with a list of reviews. First, from Wikipedia:

http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5597/4652

At first glance, this source is misrepresented in the article. (note 13). What the article has is synthesis from the source. The source does not actually say that.

  •  Smith, Jonathan C. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal. John Wiley & Sons, 2017, pp 77. 9781119029489
  • Shvets, Alexander (October 2, 2014). Filev, D.; Jabłkowski, J.; Kacprzyk, J.; et al., eds. Intelligent Systems’2014: Proceedings of the 7th IEEE International Conference Intelligent Systems IS’2014, September 24–26, 2014, Warsaw, Poland, Volume 2: Tools, Architectures, Systems, Applications. Series: Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol. 323Springer Publishing. A Method of Automatic Detection of Pseudoscientific Publications, page 533 et seq. ISBN 978-3-319-11310-4.

This is a conference paper, such are often not carefully reviewed. This is the sourced text:

In Intelligent Systems’2014, Alexander Shvets stated that RationalWiki is one of the few online resources that “provide some information about pseudoscientific theories” and notes that it attempts to “organize and categorize knowledge about pseudoscientific theories, personalities, and organizations”.

What RationalWiki does is to organize, not knowledge (Wikipedia does that), but snark, loosely based on very irregularly collected sources, often terminally weak.

This is a conference paper as well. The mention of RationalWiki is shallow, the authors do not appear to have done more than look at the stated purposes, and a hosted essay by Carl Sagan. The impression one would get from reading the article is not the impression I would see from the source.

  • https://www.americanthinker.com/articles/2014/11/rationalwiki_emamerican_thinkerem_is_a_wingnut_publication.html
  • https://www.cato.org/blog/ten-things-every-economist-should-know-about-gold-standard
  • Einspruch, Franklin (September 6, 2016). “Cultural Marxists Are Actually Pomofascists”The Federalist. Retrieved August 14, 2017

These are sources that mention a specific RationalWiki article to expose it or argue against it. No source so far is actually a review of the site, anything more than a passing mention. I’ll keep looking.

Dissertations are not generally considered reliable source, they would be primary sources. This dissertation simply mentions an idea taken from RationalWiki, and it describes the purpose of the site, with no analysis of whether or not the site actually accomplishes that purpose.

This went on with links showing that someone referenced RationalWiki in some way. Actual reviews? None (neither positive nor negative.)

Okay, I know to look at history. Did anyone attempt to add actual reviews? Wikipedia does not make it easy to search history. While that could easily be done from the database, no priority has been given it. Someone might take advantage of that and create a site with full-database search access. It would make certain kinds of wiki studies far easier!

I found a brief review that had been added and immediately removed, as it was a “blog” and thus “not reliable source.” This was only a superficial analysis of “site bias,” not actually controversial and not very informative.

There was an Articles for deletion discussion on RationalWiki. I find no assertion of source sufficient to establish notability. Passing mentions don’t count. It was kept, though there was much opinion to keep it as a redirect to the Conservapedia article. In the discussion I found these sources:

  • http://blastmagazine.com/2007/09/03/thoughts-on-a-conservapedia/
  • http://articles.latimes.com/2007/jun/19/nation/na-schlafly19/2 (page 2 is important. I couldn’t find this at first.)

Those are passing mention, really about Conservapedia. This was weak, but that’s Wikipedia. An admin takes a glance at a discussion, makes a snap decision, and unless someone cares enough to appeal it, there it goes, enshrined as a community decision (which it didn’t look like to me! Most wanted to see better sources. My own opinion as an inclusionist would do something very different…. )

https://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/the-rationalwiki-foundation/albuquerque-new-mexico-87106/the-rationalwiki-foundation-rationalwiki-rational-wiki-rw-rationalwikiorg-rationalwi-1143383

Not considered reliable source, but an actual review! With details! This report describes RatWiki as it was when I was active there. Some of that atmosphere is still there. the report was by “Rational Wiki Exposed,” not exactly an encouraging author if one is looking for neutrality. But it was fairly sober.

Okay, I found a genuine revert war, starting with [ this edit], adding a review.  The user, an SPA, was warned for edit warring and disappeared. The source:

RationalWiki guts a reader’s attempt to correct its article on female genital mutilation

This is another source that is based on “RationalWiki is wrong on X.” This happens to be a topic I know a great deal about. Many sources misrepresent the position of Islam on the topic. What upsets people so much is not what is allowed or approved, and the majority opinion is that the extreme practices are prohibited. But this is not our topic here. The RatWiki article on this topic is far from the worst there.

I round a reference to the RW article where they brag report about mentions.

That quotes from many mentions. Indeed, it quotes from the book mentioned above:

Smith, Jonathan. Critical Thinking: Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, 2nd Ed. John Wiley & Sons, 2017. 9781119029489. Lists RationalWiki as a logical fallacy library.

This is hilarious. I’m not really sure what the author intended. The instructions are to “select an example of a logical fallacy.” So RatWiki is a place to find the expression of logical fallacies. The training that I can imagine is to teach students how to spot logical fallacies. If a site is merely a list of logical fallacies with examples given, there would be little or no challenge. Rather, each of those sites, it is highly likely, expresses logical fallacies. The Nizkor.org site is not about logical fallacies, as such, it is political. If one’s political beliefs align with the beliefs of a source, one is far less likely to spot the fallacies.

Sound training will practice identifying logical fallacies in our own thinking or argument, or in the arguments and thinking of those we might agree with. I generally agree with the substance of what is on the Nizkor site. But there is at least one blatant logical fallacy on the home page. Can you spot one?

5.4 Group Exercise: Identify the FallacyIn this exercise, divide into two teams. Each team selects an example of a logical fallacy (from this chapter) from one of these websites:

Team 1 presents its example to Team 2. Team 2 has five minutes to identify it and explain it. If the explanation is acceptable to the moderator, Team 2 gets a point. Repeat for Team 2. Complete until each team has a chance to identify five logical fallacies. The team correctly identifying the most fallacies wins.

I have created a link for each site. How the exercise would be done is unclear. There is a form of logical fallacy, “straw man,” where one presents an argument that is allegedly the argument of another, but it is not actually what the other says, thinks, or believes. So if students pick a description of someone else’s argument, they would be explaining a fantasy. Much more interesting, I’d think, to identify logical fallacies presented as factual or logical, and RatWiki is full of those, it is practically the norm in some articles.  For extra credit, identify logical errors in the thinking of people you agree with, and for a doctorate, identify them in your own thinking, because everyone does this (at least until it is distinguished). A loglcal fallacy does not mean that the conclusion is wrong, set that right/wrong mess aside. It merely means that the conclusion doesn’t follow from the premises. Something may be missing.

from other sources:

This refers to the RW article, Michael Prescott

(If Mr. Prescott sees this and requests that the link be removed, I’ll do it. Links raise Google ranking. Unfortunately, to study RationalWiki and create something verifiable, I need to place links, but I can find less convenient ways to do it, on request. I have not yet studied the Prescott article, but I’ve certainly seen worse on RatWiki!)

The public comments are interesting…. I decided to look at who created this article.

This then led me to more socks…. another day, another set of socks documented. There are certain red flags, easy to see, sometimes. Some identifications are not so easy, and there are probably some errors. The Smiths have no monopoly on snarky defamation.

to be continued ….

SOS Wikipedia

Original post

I’ve been working on some studies that involve a lot of looking at Wikipedia, and I come across the Same Old S … ah, Stuff! Yeah! Stuff!

Wikipedia has absolutely wonderful policies that are not worth the paper they are not written on, because what actually matters is enforcement. If you push a point of view considered fringe by the administrative cabal (Jimbo’s word for what he created … but shhhh! Don’t write the word on Wikipedia, the sky will fall!) you are in for some, ah, enforcement. But if you have and push a clear anti-fringe point of view — which is quite distinct from neutrally insisting on policy — nothing will happen, unless you go beyond limits, in which case you might even get blocked until your friends bail you out, as happened with jps, mentioned below. Way beyond limits.

So an example pushed against my eyeballs today. It’s not about cold fusion, but it shows the thinking of an administrator (JzG is the account but he signs “Guy”) and a user (the former Science Apologist, who has a deliberately unpronounceable username but who signs jps (those were his real-life initials), who were prominent in establishing the very iffy state of Cold fusion.

Wikipedia:Fringe_theories/Noticeboard


Aron K. Barbey ‎[edit]

Before looking at what JzG (Guy) and UnpronounceableUsername (jps) wrote, what happened here? What is the state of the article and the user?

First thing I find is that Aron barbey wrote the article and has almost no other edits. However, he wrote the article on Articles for creation. Looking at his user talk page, I find

16 July 2012, Barbey was warned about writing an article about himself, by a user declining a first article creation submission.

9 July 2014, it appears that Aron barbey created a version of the article at Articles for Creation. That day, he was politely and properly warned about conflict of interest.

The article was declined, see 00:43:46, 9 July 2014 review of submission by Aron barbey

from the log found there:

It appears that the article was actually originally written by Barbey in 2012. See this early copy, and logs for that page.

Barbey continued to work on his article in the new location, and resubmitted it August 2, 2014

It was accepted August 14, 2014.  and moved to mainspace.

Now, the article itself. It has not been written or improved by someone with a clue as to what Wikipedia articles need. As it stands, it will not withstand a Articles for deletion request. The problem is that there are few, if any, reliable secondary sources. Over three years after the article was accepted, JzG multiply issue-tagged it. Those tags are correct. There are those problems, some minor, some major. However, this edit was appalling, and the problem shows up in the FTN filing.

The problems with the article would properly suggest AfD if they cannot be resolved. So why did JzG go to FTN? What is the “Fringe Theory” involved? He would go there for  one reason: on that page the problems with this article can be seen by anti-fringe users, who may then either sit on the article to support what JzG is doing, or vote for deletion with opinions warped by claims of “fringe,” which actually should be irrelevant. The issue, by policy would be the existence of reliable secondary sources. If there are not enough, then deletion is appropriate, fringe or not fringe.

So his filing:


The article on Aron Barbey is an obvious autobiography, edited by himself and IP addresses from his university. The only other edits have been removing obvious puffery – and even then, there’s precious little else in the article. What caught my eye is the fact that he’s associated with a Frontiers journal, and promulgates a field called “Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience”, which was linked in his autobiography not to a Wikipedia article but to a journal article in Frontiers. Virtually all the cites in the article are primary references to his won work, and most of those are in the Frontiers journal he edits. Which is a massive red flag.

Who edited the article is a problem, but the identity of editors is not actually relevant to Keep/Delete and content. Or it shouldn’t be. In reality, those arguments often prevail. If an edit is made in conflict of interest, it can be reverted. But … what is the problem with that journal? JzG removed the link and explanation. For Wikipedia Reliable Source, the relevant fact is the publisher. But I have seen JzG and jps arguing that something is not reliable source because the author had fringe opinions — in their opinion!

What JzG removed:

15:48, 15 December 2017‎ JzG (talk | contribs)‎ . . (27,241 bytes) (-901)‎  . (remove links to crank journal) (undo)

This took out this link:

Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience

and removed what could show that the journal is not “crank.” There is a better source (showing that the editors of the article didn’t know what they were doing). Nature Publishing Group press release. This “crank journal” is Reliable Source for Wikipedia, and that is quite clear. (However, there are some problems with all this, complexities. POV-pushing confuses the issues, it doesn’t resolve them.

Aron Barbey is Associate Editor of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Nature Publishing Group journal.[14] Barbey is also on the Editorial Board of NeuroImage,[15] Intelligence,[16] and Thinking & Reasoning,.[17]

Is Barbey an “Associate Editor”? This is the journal home page.

Yes, Barbie is an Associate Editor. There are two Chief Editors. A journal will choose a specialist in the field, to participate in the selection and review of articles, so this indicates some notability, but is a primary source.

And JzG mangled:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Nutritional Cognitive Neuroscience.[36]

was changed to this:

Barbey is known for helping to establish the field of Cognitive Neuroscience.[35]

JzG continues on FTN:

So, I suspect we have a woo-monger here, but I don’t know whether the article needs to be nuked, or expanded to cover reality-based critique, if any exists. Guy (Help!) 16:03, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

“Woo” is a term used by “skeptic” organizations. “Woo-monger” is uncivil, for sure. As well, the standard for inclusion in Wikipedia is not “reality-based” but “verifiable in reliable source.” “Critique” assumes that what Barbey is doing is controversial, and Guy has found no evidence for that other than his own knee-jerk responses to the names of things.

It may be that the article needs to be deleted. It certainly needs to be improved. However, what is obvious is that JzG is not at all shy about displaying blatant bias, and insulting an academic and an academic journal.

And jps does quite the same:

This is borderline Men who stare at goats sort of research (not quite as bad as that, but following the tradition) that the US government pushes around. Nutriceuticals? That’s very dodgy. Still, the guy’s won millions of dollars to study this stuff. Makes me think a bit less of IARPA. jps (talk) 20:41, 15 December 2017 (UTC)

This does not even remotely resemble that Army paranormal research, but referring to that project is routine for pseudosceptics whenever there is government support of anything they consider fringe. Does nutrition have any effect on intelligence? Is the effect of nutrition on intelligence of any interest? Apparently, not for these guys. No wonder they are as they are. Not enough kale (or, more accurately, not enough nutritional research, which is what this fellow is doing.)

This is all about warping Wikipedia toward an extreme Skeptical Point of View. This is not about improving the article, or deleting it for lack of reliable secondary sources. It’s about fighting woo and other evils.

In editing the article, JzG used these edit summaries:

  • (remove links to crank journal)
  • (rm. vanispamcruft)
  • (Selected publications: Selected by Barbey, usually published by his own journal. Let’s see if anyone else selects them)
  • (Cognitive Neuroscience Methods to Enhance Human Intelligence: Oh good, they are going to be fad diet sellers too)

This are all uncivil (the least uncivil would be the removal of publications, but it has no basis. JzG has no idea of what would be notable and what not.

The journal is not “his own journal.” He is merely an Associate Editor, selected for expertise. He would not be involved in selecting his own article to publish. I’ve been through this with jps, actually, where Ed Storms was a consulting editor for Naturwissenschaften and the claim was made that he had approved his own article, a major peer-reviewed review of cold fusion, still not used in the article. Yet I helped with the writing of that article and Storms had to go through ordinary peer review. The faction makes up arguments like this all the time.

I saw this happen again and again: an academic edits Wikipedia, in his field. He is not welcomed and guided to support Wikipedia editorial policy. He is, instead, attacked and insulted. Ultimately, if he is not blocked, he goes away and the opinion grows in academia that Wikipedia is hopeless. I have no idea, so far, if this neuroscientist is notable by Wikipedia standards, but he is definitely a real neuroscientist, and being treated as he is being treated is utterly unnecessary. But JzG has done this for years.

Once upon a time, when I saw an article like this up for Deletion, I might stub it, reducing the article to just what is in the strongest sources, which a new editor without experience may not recognize. Later, if the article survives the AfD discussion, more can be added from weaker sources, including some primary sources, if it’s not controversial. If the article isn’t going to survive AfD, I’d move it to user space, pending finding better sources. (I moved a fair number of articles to my own user space so they could be worked on. Those were deleted at the motion of …. JzG.)

(One of the problems with AfD is that if an article is facing deletion, it can be a lot of work to find proper sources. I did the work on some occasions, and the article was deleted anyway, because there had been so many delete !votes (Wikipedia pretends it doesn’t vote, one of the ways the community lies to itself.  before the article was improved, and people don’t come back and reconsider, usually. That’s all part of Wikipedia structural dysfunction. Wasted work. Hardly anyone cares.)

Sources on Barbey

Barbey and friends may be aware of sources not easily found on the internet. Any newspaper will generally be a reliable source. If Barbey’s work is covered in a book that is not internet-searchable, it may be reliable source. Sourcing for the biography should be coverage of Barbey and/or Barbey’s work, attributed to him, and not merely passing mention. Primary sources (such as his university web site) are inadequate. If there were an article on him in the journal where he is Associate Editor, it would probably qualify (because he would not be making the editorial decision on that). If he is the publisher, or he controls the publisher, it would not qualify.

Reliable independent sources
  • WAMC.org BRADLEY CORNELIUS “Dr. Aron Barbey, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign – Emotional Intelligence  APR 27, 2013
  • 2013 Carle Research Institute Awards October 2013, Research Newsletter. Singles out a paper for recognition, “Nutrient Biomarker Patterns, Cognitive Function, and MRI Measures of Brain Aging,” however, I found a paper by that title and Barbey is not listed as an author, nor could I find a connection with Barbey.
  • SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE David Noonan, “How to Plug In Your Brain” MAY 2016
  • The New Yorker.  Emily Anthes  “Vietnam’s Neuroscientific Legacy” October 2, 2014 PASSING MENTION
  • MedicalXpress.com Liz Ahlberg Touchstone “Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds” July 25, 2017

“Aron Barbey, a professor of psychology” (reliable sources make mistakes) Cites a study, the largest and most comprehensive to date, … published in the journal Scientific Reports. N. Ward et al, Enhanced Learning through Multimodal Training: Evidence from a Comprehensive Cognitive, Physical Fitness, and Neuroscience Intervention, Scientific Reports (2017).
The error indicates to me that this was actually written by Touchstone, based on information provided by the University of Illinois, not merely copied from that.

Iffy but maybe

My sense is that continued search could find much more. Barbey is apparently a mainstream neuroscientist, with some level of recognition. His article needs work by an experienced Wikipedian.

Notes for Wikipedians

An IP editor appeared in the Fringe Theories Noticeboard discussion pointing to this CFC post:

Abd is stalking and attacking you both on his blog [25] in regard to Aron Barbey. He has done the same on about 5 other articles of his. [26]. He was banned on Wikipedia yet he is still active on Wiki-media projects. Can this guy get banned for this? The Wikimedia foundation should be informed about his harassment. 82.132.217.30 (talk) 13:30, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This behavior is clearly of the sock family, called Anglo Pyramidologist on Wikipedia, and when I discovered the massive damage that this family had done, I verified the most recent activity with stewards (many accounts were locked and IPs blocked) and I have continued documentation, which Wikipedia may use or not, as it chooses. It is all verifiable. This IP comment was completely irrelevant to the FTN discussion, but attempting to turn every conversation into an attack on favorite targets is common AP sock behavior. For prior edits in this sequence, see (from the meta documentation):

This new account is not an open proxy. However, I will file a request anyway, because the behavior is so clear, following up on the 193.70.12.231 activity.

I have private technical evidence that this is indeed the same account or strongly related to Anglo Pyramidologist, see the Wikipedia SPI.

(I have found other socks, some blocked, not included in that archive.)

I have also been compiling obvious socks and reasonable suspicions from RationalWiki, for this same user or set of users, after he created a revenge article there on me (as he had previously done with many others).  It’s funny that he is claiming stalking. He has obviously been stalking, finding quite obscure pages and now giving them much more publicity.

And I see that there is now more sock editing on RationalWiki, new accounts with nothing better to do than document that famous troll or pseudoscientist or anti-skeptic (none of which I am but this is precisely what they claim.) Thanks for the incoming links. Every little bit helps.

If anyone thinks that there is private information in posts that should not ethically be revealed, please contact me through my WMF email, it works. Comments are also open on this blog, and corrections are welcome.

On the actual topic of that FTN discussion, the Aron Barbey article (with whom I have absolutely no connection), I have found better sources and my guess is that there are even better ones available.

JzG weighs in

Nobody is surprised. Abd is obsessive. He even got banned from RationalWiki because they got bored with him. Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here though. Guy (Help!) 20:16, 16 December 2017 (UTC)

This is a blog I started and run, I have control. Guy behaves as if the Fringe Theories Noticeboard is his personal blog, where he can insult others without any necessity, including scientists like Barbey and a writer like me. And he lies. I cannot correct JzG’s lies on Wikipedia, but I can do it here.

I am not “banned” from RationalWiki. I was blocked by a sock of the massively disruptive user who I had been documenting, on meta for the WMF, on RationalWiki and on my blog when that was deleted by the same sock. The stated cause of the block was not “boring,” though they do that on RW. It was “doxxing.” As JzG should know, connecting accounts is not “doxxing.” It is revelation of real names for accounts that have not freely revealed that, or personal identification, like place of employment.

“Not seeing any evidence of meatpuppetry or sockpuppetry here.” Really? That IP is obviously the same user as behind the globally blocked Anglo Pyramidologist pushing the same agenda, this time with, likely, a local cell phone provide (because the geolocation matches know AP location), whereas with the other socking, documented above, was with open proxies.)

Properly, that IP should have been blocked and the edits reverted as vandalism. But JzG likes attack dogs. They are useful for his purposes.

Joshua Cude

I came to suspect that Joshua Cude was Joshua P. Schroeder. The basic reason was that JC was the most knowledgeable allegedly skeptical writer on cold fusion anywhere on the internet. Most skeptics simply don’t know enough to make clear cases, and if they do write about cold fusion, display ignorance. Joshua often did that, but … was able to go far deeper, and was quite familiar with the arguments. Back in 2011 or so, I knew less about the history of Joshua P. Schroeder than I now know, but still saw him as the most knowledgeable critic of cold fusion on Wikipedia. The coincidence of first names, the unusual level of knowledge, and timing as well reinforced the suspicion.

Timing: Schroeder was indef blocked on Wikipedia, 21 January 2011. He had maybe over 35,000 Wikipedia edits at that point, which is high if one isn’t doing bot-assisted editing. Many high-contribution users, blocked, start socking, as he did, but as enforcement ramps up, such will often take up activity elsewhere. Did he do this? Where?

The earliest comment I have found from Cude was  Thu, 10 Feb 2011 11:51:14 -0800 on Vortex-l.

As well, Joshua Cude was highly knowledgeable about physics, and Schroeder was a PhD candidate in astrophysics (and did receive his doctorate). From the extensive contributions on various fora, documented below, he had a high interest in countering what he saw as pseudoscience. That such a person would not be active on Wikipedia, if not blocked there, would be unusual. He would, in fact, be welcomed there by the faction that supported JPS. He might get into trouble with his high level of incivility toward those with differing views, but JPS survived doing that and also was supported enough to become unbanned, 10 August 2013. I intend to look at the combined contribution history of both accounts, to find possible correlations (though studying the arguments is more important than “real identity.”

I have found no candidates for “Cude on Wikipedia” or “jps elsewhere.” Both lacunae would be odd. I have no proof, merely grounds for suspicion. The arguments of Cude, which I begin to examine anew below, are blatant pseudoskepticism that has a high knowledge of cold fusion claims, and, as well, a high knowledge of true skepticism, which he uses.

This is not relevant to Wikipedia, his activity elsewhere should not be mentioned there (unless he mentions it). Sometimes administrators and others I was dealing with on Wikipedia referred to my Wikiversity and Wikipedia Review activity; that was generally improper.

Sometimes Cude is debunking the comments of “believers” who don’t really know what they are talking about. He is often right in some way. That is, there is some fact behind much of what he says, but he also makes categorical statements, without evidence, or with misleading evidence, that are just plain wrong, and if one does not know the field, a reader may not know the difference.

I wrote about JPS and Joshua Cude on newvortex:

648 ScienceApologist and Joshua P. Schroeder Sep 15, 2013

I have many times mentioned that Joshua Cude is almost certainly Joshua P. Schroeder, who was ScienceApologist on Wikipedia. Joshua Cude appeared immediately after Schroeder was 
site-banned. The arguments were identical. The real Schroeder has never denied the identity.

This is no longer true. I recently emailed Schroeder and he responded. He did not actually deny being Joshua Cude.  Rather he wrote:

The fact that you think I’m “Joshua Cude” still is just more evidence of your continued paranoia. Stay in your lane.

This was a private mail in which I was attempting to cooperate with Cude. I still have reasons to think Cude might be Schroeder. As with any hypothesis, it could be wrong, but accusing me of “paranoia” is exactly what a troll would do. What I had stated was:

I have not been writing “long screeds” about you on the internet. I have written much more about Joshua Cude, which I do suspect is you from a number of evidences. That was old. Mostly he’s smart and relatively knowledgeable, like you. I said we have issues, and I’d hope we can talk about them and possibly come to some agreement, but if you prefer to maintain hostility, I don’t predict a good outcome.

He maintained hostility, so far. Maybe he will smell the coffee. Studying his Wikipedia contributions, what stands out is a maintained hostility, toward many. His problem, not mine.

As I wrote, I had written extensively about Cude, but only a little about jps. Occasionally I mentioned that I thought Cude was jps, but the long posts were about Cude and Cude’s arguments, so that Schroeder thinks it was about him shows a connection. I have seen similar with the studies on Anglo Pyramodilogist. A sock appears who claims I am doxxing him, but denying that he is Anglo Pyramidologist, a known sock master who is known to lie. It’s either about him or it is not. It is possible — barely — that he is one of the socks incorrectly identified as AP, which is possible. But I have direct evidence that this sock was connected with many others. If there was some confusion, it was far back, in around 2011 or 2012, on Wikipedia. Anglo Pyramidologist had specific interests, then. Recent AP socks have very much the same interests. Duck test.

Here I will be interested in the arguments Cude made, which may be also compared with those made on Wikipedia by JPS. I have studied Cude’s arguments extensively in the past, communicating with him on moletrap and other places. I documented the arguments on newvortex.

https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/newvortex/search/messages?query=joshua%20cude

Joshua Cude’s record of comments:

vortex-l

first comment:

total comments: 933 for  Joshua Cude

last comment:

Tue, 04 Jun 2013 05:21:46 -0700 Re: [Vo]:Adding Energy to get Energy

moletrap

  • joshua cude 
  • Account Created Jan 12th 2012
  • Last Active Oct 29th 2014
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Most cold fusion pseudoskeptics are relatively ignorant. Cude was not. He was clearly aware of much evidence that most pseudoskeptics would not have seen. What he does is present a series of arguments that are true, or half-true, sometimes (or absolutely wrong sometimes), presented as fact, all in a particular implied or stated direction, which is a sign of pseudoskepticism rather than skepticism. I see that, in 2013, I thought he had maybe two posts after registering, then this,  joshua cude, Feb 3rd 2013, jumped in with this:

Posted by Abd:

Rather, heat/helium is the single replicable experiment that skeptics were demanding, for years, and it was first done almost twenty years ago.

Like most of what you’ve written here, your heat/helium account is a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

That is a variety of ad hominem argument. Is that a “gross misrepresentation”? My Current Science paper, published in February, 2015, essentially made that same claim. The reviewer, apparently a physicist, did not like the paper. I rewrote it to clearly address his objections, and he turned 180 degrees. Of course, that would be an argument from authority. Perhaps I did misrepresent, but Joshua had not shown that. Does he show it here? Or is he himself grossly misrepresenting the situation? Cude, often, lies with facts and concedes nothing.

A correlation between heat and helium is clearly an important and definitive experiment for cold fusion.

Indeed. Has it been done? Let’s start with the fact that before Miles, 1991, there was no attempt to correlate heat with any nuclear product. Many papers showed, however, that expected nuclear products that could possibly explain the heat were absent. Many of those papers though, didn’t look for heat at all, or didn’t see heat, so they did not test correlation. Correlation would only be measurable if there was a finding of anomalous heat (artifact or not). Correlation can cut through noise, i.e, measurement error.

And yet, the best you can point to is a review by someone who took (and possible still takes) Rossi seriously. Anyone who suggests Rossi’s demos represent evidence for nuclear reactions is not to be taken seriously.

This is pure ad hominem argument, and ignoring what another (jps) ignored on Wikipedia. Wikipedia looks for Reliable Sources based not on authors, but on publishers. First of all, taking Rossi “seriously” was done by many, including a physicist who was on the Nobel Prize committee (Kullander). He was also wrong, but being wrong does not then disqualify anyone from presenting opinions or research.

Joshua is here talking about Ed Storms, who did think it was possible that Rossi had something, even though he knew that the “demos” were misleading garbage. It’s a complex question. Rossi is probably insane, and a con artist, knowingly or instinctively. And that is completely irrelevant here beyond showing pseudoskeptical, dedicated debunking behavior. Having studied the lawsuit (Rossi v. Darden, documented heavily here) in depth, it is clear that there is no sustainable evidence for nuclear reactions in what has been published by or about Andrea Rossi. There was also, clearly, outright fraud, gross misrepresentation. And this has nothing at all to do with the topic here.

In Storms’ review, the most recent peer-reviewed results used to demonstrate a heat/helium correlation come from a set of experiments by Miles in the early 90s.

The review is Storms (2009). Cude is technically correct, but highly misleading, if one doesn’t notice the “peer-reviewed.” Most cold fusion work has not been published under peer review. The strongest heat/helium work was published by SRI International as an EPRI report. Both of these (SRI and EPRI) would qualify as reliable source publishers under a fair interpretation of reliable source rules, because of publisher reputation at stake. Miles went on and did more work.

In a review of the field, invited by the editors of a major mainstream multidisciplinary peer-reviewed publication, should Wikipedia rules for sourcing be followed? They are not. Writers of peer-reviewed papers often cite unpublished material, attributing it sometimes as “private communication.”

Reviewers of such papers decide whether or not to allow these sources, on behalf of the responsible publisher. Pseudoskeptics will often claim “there is no evidence,” when there is evidence. A genuine skeptic might point out weakness, but not deny that evidence exists.

Storms cites on, heat/helium. the work of

  • Arata and Zhang (1999; 2000)
  • Case (McKubre et al. 2000)
  • Bush, Lagowski et al 1991
  • Morrey et al.(1990)
  • Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991)
  • Miles and co-workers (1990)
  • Chien and co-workers (1992)
  • Karabut and co-workers (Karabut, A. B. , Kucherov et al 1992; Savvatimova, I. ,
    Kucherov et al 1994)
  • Zhang and co-workers (1992)
  • Stringham (2003)
  • Aoki et al. (1994)
  • Botta and co-workers (Botta, E., Bracco et al 1995; Botta, Bressani et al 1996)
  • Takahashi and co-workers( Takahashi 1998; Isobe, Uneme et al 2000; Matsunaka,
    Isobe et al 2002; Uneme et al 2002;)
  • Gozzi and co-workers (Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993; Gozzi, Caputo et al 1993)
  • Apicella et al. (2005)
  • De Ninno and co-workers (De Ninno, Del Giudice et al 2008; DeNinno, Frattolillo
    et al 2004)
  • Miles and co-workers (1994)
  • Bush and Lagowski (1998) cited in Storms (1998)
  • McKubre and co-workers (McKubre, Tanzella et al 2000; McKubre, Tanzella et al
    2000)

(This list may include redundancies. The actual sources may be found in the Storms review paper.)

These were very crude experiments (by Storms’ and your admission) in which peaks were eyeballed as small, medium, and large, the small taken as equal to the detection limit (which seemed to change by orders of magnitude over the years). The correlation was all over the map, and barely within an order of magnitude of the expected DD fusion value.

Again, technically correct but highly misleading. The early helium work was indeed as described. Later work used more precise measurements. I am not here reviewing all the results from Miles, but Storms did so in the review for most of them. There is one outlier, probably calorimetry error, and there were two samples only that showed no measured helium but anomalous heat, which could be, again, calorimetry error, but those samples were from a palladium-cerium cathode which may behave differently with helium, if a surface layer is formed that resists helium escape. Huizenga, in his review of this, considered an order-of-magnitude correlation astonishing, but because of the lack of gammas, expected that Miles would not be confirmed. Miles was confirmed. In only two experiments, however, were efforts made to capture and measure all the helium, and that was McKubre, SRI M-4 and Apicella et al Laser-4. In those experiments, the ratio of heat to helium showed the theoretical fusion value within 4% (M-4) and roughly 20% (Laser-4).

There are difficulties in this work, and many problems, but my claim is that, at this point, the preponderance of the evidence is that the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect is the result of the conversion of deuterium to helium, exact pathway and mechanism unknown. And, for me, that conclusion leads to a suggestion for more research to measure that ratio with increased precision, and how to do that is indicated by the M-4 and Laser-4 results.

Cude points to the difficulties as if they are some kind of proof of bogosity — and that I’m being misleading, but my claim has been published under peer review and Cude could get a peep into a journal on this topic. There are outliers, to be sure, but no evidence sufficient to impeach the finding, so far.

Shanahan wrote a critique of a review of LENR in Journal of Environmental Monitoring that criticized the heat/helium results of Miles et al as reported by Storms in his book (2007). That critique completely misread the data, it was embarrassing. Shanahan acknowledged the error — eventually.

Miles results’ were severely criticized by Jones in peer-reviewed literature.

As Storms pointed out:

Miles and co-workers(Bush, B. F., Lagowski et al 1991; Miles and Bush 1992; Miles, Bush et al 1994; Miles, Bush et al 1991) at the China Lake Naval Weapons Center (USA) were the first (1990) to show helium production in an electrolytic cell while it was making energy. Pyrex flasks were used to collect the gases (D2+O2+D2O+He) evolving from the cell but the resulting values for the amount of helium in the gas were crudely measured. Even so, a clear presence of helium was found when heat was produced and no helium was detected when heat was absent. Although many critiques (Miles and Jones 1992; Miles 1998; 1998) were offered at the time to reject the results, subsequent studies support their conclusion that helium is produced by a typical F-P electrolytic cell when it makes extra energy.

I have a copy of the Jones critique but it is not readily available, I may upload a copy here for review. Jones, S.E. and L.D. Hansen, Examination of claims of Miles et al in Pons-Fleischmann-Type cold fusion experiments. J. Phys. Chem., 1995. 99: p. 6966. Miles response would normally be on lenr-canr.org, but seems to be missing. I’ll see if I can fix that. Meanwhile, as I recall Jones ignored the correlation, and only critiqued the calorimetery and the helium measurements. Correlation generally confirms the measurements. That is we might be mistaken about heat, and we might be mistaken about light, but heat and light together and absent together demonstrates fire unless some independent mutual cause can be shown. Storms says about the Miles-Jones interchange (2007, p. 86):

This investigation was debated in a series of papers between Miles and Jones, in which Miles successfully defended his work.

That is in a book published by World Scientific. an academic publisher, and is not a passing mention or tertiary in nature. That does not prove that the conclusion is “true,” but it does establish notability, and all this points out that Cude is actually outside current consensus, as to what is being published in journals and academic publications. But if someone depends on “general scientific opinion,” which is not actually “expert opinion” but just sounds like it, one could think otherwise. As the author of Bad Science, the best critical book on cold fusion, Gary Taubes, later pointed out, “scientific consensus” can be formed by other than knowledgeable examination of evidence and can be dead wrong. Cude is finding whatever arguments he can dredge up to impeach the knowledgeable consensus. Back to Cude:

There was considerable back and forth on the results, and in Storms view (of course) Miles successfully defended his claims, but the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.

That is a deceptive summary of the review. Many times, many users on Wikipedia attempted to present the actual review results, and were frustrated by the anti-CF faction, which included jps, I think. I’ll be documenting that, I assume. First of all, the review did not consider the Miles results, apparently, and especially not the reported correlation, but rather the material in the Case appendix, which was misread and misreported. There were 18 experts in various fields on the panel. From the report:

The hypothesis that excess energy production in electrolytic cells is due to low energy nuclear reactions  was tested in some experiments by looking for D + D fusion reaction products, in particular 4He, normally produced in about 1 in 107 in hot D + D fusion reactions. Results reported in the review
document purported to show that 4He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells
were reported to be producing excess heat. The detected 4He was typically very close to, but reportedly above background levels. This evidence was taken as convincing or somewhat convincing by some reviewers; for others the lack of consistency was an indication that the overall hypothesis was not justified. Contamination of apparatus or samples by air containing 4He was cited as one possible cause for false positive results in some measurements.

First of all, it was confusing to refer to the search as a search for D +D fusion reaction products. The helium reported is clearly not from D + D fusion, or if it is, the reaction is radically different from the known reaction, because of the lack of gamma emissions. Rather, the legitimate search was for any nuclear products that might be an “ash” from the reaction. The only one that has been found at significant levels is helium. It should be noted that the conversion of deuterium to helium is extraordinarily energetic, and only a little helium — close to background levels — would be produced to explain the modest levels of heat reported.

Secondly, the “results reported” were synthesized from the Case appendix, as “4 He was detected in five out of sixteen cases where electrolytic cells were reported to be producing excess heat.” That was an error. There were sixteen cells, and half were controls, producing no significant excess heat. They were not electrolytic cells, they were gas-loaded. So there were, if I have it correctly (this information was only presented very sketchily in that appendix) eight experimental cells, of which 5 showed excess heat. The excess heat results were not reported except for one cell. So the claim of “sixteen” cases showing excess heat, with only five showing helium, was a radical misunderstanding, and that this misunderstanding arose and was not corrected in the review process shows how defective that review was. From what would be, properly understood and explained, a strong correlation, was converted by the error into an anti-correlation, so of course any reviewer who made this mistake (it was easy to make, I had to read that Case paper several times to notice the reality, and then I found other references to that work confirming my view, and confirmed it with McKubre himself. What the anonymous review summarizer reported repeated the error of one reviewer and compounded it. The Case work, unfortunately, was done for a governmental client and was never formally published. It was a mistake to include it in the DoE review without first vetting it thoroughly, but that review was rushed.

Remarkably, the cold fusion community did not notice the error and focused on other issues. Assuming that the summary error was true, the review conclusions are remarkably favorable to cold fusion! My emphasis:

Evaluations by the reviewers ranged from: 1) evidence for excess power is compelling, to 2) there is no convincing evidence that excess power is produced when integrated over the life of an experiment. The reviewers were split approximately evenly on this topic. Those reviewers who accepted the production of excess power typically suggest that the effect seen often, and under some understood conditions, is compelling. The reviewers who did not find the production of excess power convincing cite a number of issues including: excess power in the short term is not the same as net energy production over the entire of time of an experiment; all possible chemical and solid state causes of excess heat have not been investigated and eliminated as an explanation; and production of power over a period of time is a few percent of the external power applied and hence calibration and systematic effects could account for the purported net effect. Most reviewers, including those who accepted the evidence and those who did not, stated that the effects are not repeatable, the magnitude of the effect has not increased in over a decade of work, and that many of the reported experiments were not well documented.

“Not well documented” is certainly true for some reports, maybe even many. It is not true for all. The general problem with “cold fusion” — a possibly misleading name — is that reproducing the originally-reported effect was very difficult, and many workers were unhappy with the low reported heat and attempted to “improve” the experiment, mostly failing, but sometimes still confirming some possibly related heat effect. Few actually attempted to “replicate” the original reports, given that those weren’t considered convincing, and certainly would not be an indication of possible power production. However the original DoE review (1989) pointed out that even a single incident of significant anomalous heat woudl be remarkable. Investigating “all possible causes” could take centuries. Rather, what has developed as known from, now, almost three decades of study, based on a preponderance of evidence, and what, then, remains to be tested and confirmed? By fragmenting the discussion into excess heat alone as a finding, the presence of correlations (helium is only one of several) was ignored. With correlations, a small effect can be confirmed. Without them, yes, one can speculate on noise and various errors, but few of those artifacts would create a clear correlation. Nevertheless, “split approximately evenly” is a vast shift from 1989, where it appears that very few reviewers thought the work was even worth the time of day.

Now, if one thinks that there is no evidence for excess heat, of course they would not think the origin of the non-existent heat was nuclear! The next finding should be seen in that light:

Two-thirds of the reviewers commenting on Charge Element 1 did not feel the evidence was conclusive
for low energy nuclear reactions, one found the evidence convincing, and the remainder indicated they were somewhat convinced. Many reviewers noted that poor experiment design, documentation,
background control and other similar issues hampered the understanding and interpretation of the results presented.

Cude translates all this into ” the DOE panel in 2004 agreed 17 to 1 with Jones, that there was no conclusive evidence for nuclear effects.’

They did not “agree with Jones.” Again, what Cude claims has some literal truth to it, if we include the word “conclusive.” That is not a clear and crisp claim, because what is conclusive to one is not conclusive to another. First of all, the reviewers were evenly divided on the heat evidence being “compelling.” Given the known physics, if one doesn’t find “compelling evidence” that there is excess heat, one will be unconvinced by evidence of low levels of helium. To have another opinion would require much more study. The general “scientific consensus” without personal study is that cold fusion was a big mistake, and “nobody could replicate.” With that background, then, reviewers randomly chosen would tend to be biased ab initio. The “nuclear” opinion would then be expected to be negative for half the reviewers from the lack of positive conclusion that the heat anomaly is probably real. So, then, what we have is about two thirds of those who accepted that the heat evidence was at least “somewhat compelling” did think the nuclear evidence was at least “somewhat convincing.” And that is with the misleading interpretation of the Case data standing in front of them.

Cude refuses to accept a preponderance of the evidence conclusion of reality for a nuclear effect as being at all plausible and attacks every evidence advanced. That is pseudoskeptical. If he is not convinced, that is within reason (though some supporters of cold fusion disagree with me on that). But his apparent certainty and dedication to accusations and debunking, that is clear pseudoskepticism. Further, as I recall the matter, Cude continued to advance misleading arguments over and over, in new fora, as if nothing had been explained. That is, again, characteristic of pseudoskepticism, it is resistant to evidence and to the finding of agreement. My goal has never been to “prove” that cold fusion is real, but rather to present the evidence — to be sure, with my own conclusion as to preponderance, which generally agrees with a major portion of the U.S. DoE panel in 2004 — and then to support and facilitate what they also recommended: more research. In particular, because it’s a replicable experiment (properly stated), replication with increased precision, the classic test of “pathological science.” Does the effect go away with increased precision?

Precision was, in fact, increased, and the effect did not go away but seems to have settled closer to the theoretical value. Again, this is testable, though Cude and friends will call it pseudoscience. At some point, that becomes a lie.

In any case, that kind of disagreement and large variation in such a critical experiment simply cries out for new and better experiments. So what have we got since?

Many experiments. He names one which was inconclusive.

A very careful set of experiments looking for helium by Gozzi, which was published in peer-reviewed literature in 1998, concludes that the evidence for helium is not definitive.

The only results since Miles that Storms has deemed worthwhile (i.e. cherry-picked) to calculate energy correlation come from conference proceedings, and the most recent of them from year 2000. Nothing that Storms considers adequate quality in this critically important experiment has met the (rather modest) standard of peer review. And they’re not good enough to allow Miles results to be replaced; Storms still uses some of Miles results, one assumes because it improves the average.

Again, “peer review” is desirable but evidence from outside of peer review is citable in peer-reviewed reviews.

The SRI work was, in fact, published under internal review, which would be as stringent or more stringent than normal peer-reviewed publications, and it was then passed on to EPRI members through that organization’s process. These were people with a need to know.

Mile’s extended work was the only work with enough experiments to look at more than an anecdote. It is not the best work, which would be SRI M-4 and Apicella et al (ENEA) Laser-4, where attempts were made to capture all the helium. In Laser-2 and Laser-3, there were

In writing my own paper, I considered compiling the results of all the experiments. It’s extremely difficult because of the varieties of work involved, results were not necessarily reported in ways that can be compared. Hence my hopes for the new work, using a hopefully maintained and identical protocol, taking steps to recover all the helium (variation in the recovery ratio probably explains the extant variation in results as to ratio — and Storms is emphasizing the general correlation, not the ratio itself, and all that work is general confirmation on that point, which Cude is ignoring —

Most of the results come from McKubre’s experiments, which Krivit claims to show (with considerable evidence) were cooked. McKubre has very little scientific cred anyway with his interest in the Papp engine and willingness to support cons like Dardik and Godes, and (if I recall correctly) Rossi.

Again, a series of ad hominem arguments, with assumptions that “McKubre has very little scientific cred,” contradicted by the trust place in him by the Duncan project in Texas, and by EPRI over many years, and governmental organizations, and  that someone finds something “interesting” does not establish any kind of lack of scientific integrity, in spite of the fervent beliefs of pseudoskeptics, and then that Dardik and Godes are “cons,” which they are not, and as to Rossi, McKubre never “supported” Rossi. He found the Lugano test interesting (as did many) but also pointed out the glaring deficiency.

Cude clearly has a collection of strongly-held beliefs which he asserts in a farrago of arguments without actual evidence. (He accepts Krivit’s ignorant critique and yellow journalism, without any actual examination of Krivit’s “evidence,” which is mostly innuendo and sometimes dead wrong.) This is all libel, actually. Of course he wants to remain anonymous!

And then there’s this from the review: “The paper provided insufficient information to check the claimed values, so the values in Table 3 are based on detailed information communicated to Storms by Bush in 1998 (Storms 1998).” Translation: The results didn’t fit, so I called Bush up, and suggested adjustments, which he accepted. Talk about confirmation bias.

Lies. No, the results without Bush and Lagowski were fine. The claim that he “suggested adjustments” is libelous. These are scientists and that would be highly unethical behavior. What Storms reports asking for is “detailed information,” so the “adjustment” would simply be more information. So Cude presents asking for additional information as “suggested adjustments,” implying data falsification. Shame on him!

The error in the end result, even if you accept Storms’ cherry-picked, dubious analysis, which I don’t, is still 20%. On an experiment that removes the dependence on material quality. Heat, it is claimed, can be measured to mW, the helium, it is claimed, is orders of magnitude above the detection limit, and yet the errors are huge.

The major variation is in capture ratio, not in the heat or helium measurements themselves. If Cude were a genuine skeptic, he would see the actual problem.

One of the best sets of experiments is Apicella et al (2004). There were three experiments reported. (Unfortunately, ENEA has often not reported all results, only “positive” ones, which in my view is a serious error. McKubre has generally reported all experiments, so one can see the situation far better. But this is what we have.) In the first two, there was relatively substantial heat, and helium was reported at about 60% of the expected level from the 24 MeV/4He hypothesis. That is generally consistent with Miles and other work, including the first part of SRI M-4. With the third experiment, heat results were much lower. My sense is that in an attempt to stimulate heat production, they stripped the cathode (“anodic erosion”) which sometimes works for that. They found more helium released, the level came up to roughly the expected value, but the error bars would be about 20%, as I recall. Krivit did not understand what they did and made all kinds of accusations. What I noticed with SRI M-4, which also made attempts to strip the cathode, also more or less inadvertently, the helium levels rose as well, to within 4% of the expected value under that hypothesis. Hence I suggested that future work would also strip the cathode before completing. The hypothesis here is that helium is trapped in the cathode (which would be expected), that something more than half of the helium is not trapped), and that the rest is trapped near-surface, where only a thin etch will release it.

This is what passes for conclusive in the field of cold fusion.

The issue is not “conclusive.” It is “preponderance of the evidence.” According to whom? Cude? Lomax?

Well, sometimes, according to the editors of peer-reviewed journals, but even more significantly, those who make funding decisions for research. What I know is that I was promoting heat/helium research, encouraging replication with increased precision, way back. I was asked to write my Current Science paper by a physicist, at the end of 2014. But before the end of 2014, the project led by Robert Duncan at Texas Tech was funded, with $6 million from an anonymous donor and $6 million from State of Texas matching funds. The donor is known, and is no dope. This is exactly the kind of research that both U.S. DoE reviews suggested and I assume that, when complete, it will be published in the “journal system.”

This is good enough that no measurements of helium-heat in the last decade entered Storms’ calculations.

No, Storms considered all that. His figure for the heat-helium ratio is obviously an estimate, not a “calculation.” He gives 25 +/- 5 MeV/4He.

These are clearly pseudo-scientists, one and all. Real scientists obsess about details, especially in critical experiments like this. Any real scientist thinking there is anything to cold fusion would not rest until this error was nailed down. Millikan’s experiment was not accepted as good enough, but was repeated endlessly. Scientists are still toiling to reduce the limit of error on measurements of Einstein’s time dilation, and improve the value of the gravitation constant, and so on.

Cude has no idea. Cold fusion research and especially heat/helium research is expensive. Measuring helium at the predicted levels is difficult. Setting up the FP Heat Effect is difficult. But it’s being done. what Cude is more legitimately describing is not “pseudoscience,” but “pathological science,” at best. There is plenty of it around, sometimes supporting the “mainstream views.” That’s a long story, and coldfusioncommunity.net is telling some of it. Cude would actually be welcome to contribute, if he would tone down the pseudoskepticism and ad hominem arguments. There are real problems with many cold fusion experiments. One of the goals of the research I am supporting is to identify possible artifacts and test them. Pseudoskeptics are content to identify some “possible artifact” and then blame researchers for not ruling it out, but what is being demanded is more than available funding and time may permit. Until it is ruled out by controlled experiment, a “possible artifact” cannot be completely excluded.

What is offensive about Cude is not the criticism of some cold fusion work, but the general debunking rejection of all work, without discrimination, based on knee-jerk, unsupported claims of “con men” and guilt by association and all the other techniques of “debunkers.”

No, the pseudo-scientists are not pursuing it (or not admitting it) because they’re afraid that more careful results will be negative, and they would rather remain ignorant than to have to admit they wasted 2 decades of their life chasing wild geese.

Actually, my suggestions for confirmation of heat/helium were opposed by some in the field because they believed that work was already sufficient to establish the correlation, and scarce research dollars should not be spent on confirming what is already known. I disagreed, and, thankfully, funding sources also disagreed. A new result with increased precision should be publishable, and I would argue strongly for publishing results, if carefully done, no matter what they show. My trust is in reality itself, not in “cold fusion” or any particular scientist. Anyone can make mistakes. Bauer did a good job of deconstructing “pathological science,” but the pseudoskeptics on Wikipedia covered that up. It’s worth reading his paper.

I have argued for a long time that cold fusion researchers should publish all work, not just “positive results.” (If results are boring, fine, publishing on-line is enough.) Recently, I’ve been going over certain “replication failures,” they have been called. JCMNS has been publishing some of these. Real science is not about “positive” or “negative.” It is about actual results, and then careful analysis. “Replication failure” is usually a failure to replicate, not a proof of original error, but, obviously, it can raise some suspicion of that. Cude elsewhere calls cold fusion the same as “N-rays” and “polywater,” but with those, there was positive replication that, then, showed by controlled experiment that the original results were artifact. That never happened with cold fusion (other than as to some level of speculation, Cal Tech speculated that excess heat was the result of failure to stir, but that was shallow. Yes, with failure of electrolyte circulation, hot spots can develop and be mistaken for excess heat, with some forms of calorimetry. That the Pons and Fleischmann results, and other results using, say, flow calorimetry, were such artifacts was never shown. Heat/helium measurement cuts across protocols and should clearly distinguish between artifactual heat and helium and heat and helium as products of the same effect.

Instead of supporting confirmation, Cude attacked me and prior work. He was a pseudoscientist when it comes to cold fusion, asserting scientific belief without evidence. He attacked real people, real professionals, from behind a screen of anonymity. Which may have come unravelled, for which he blames everyone else, not taking responsibility for what he’s done.

Isn’t it an amazing coincidence that of all the possible products of nuclear reactions, the only one they claim to observe commensurate with the heat is the only one that is present in the background at about the right level?

As Huizenga pointed out, the experimental results are indeed amazing. However, the results show that this is not background helium. Miles was very careful about that. In the Case work, helium levels rose with accumulated excess heat, and continued rising in two of the experiments, showing no sign of slowing as they approached the background level and then exceeded it. So to explain it requires some hypothesis of sequestered helium, somehow released with the experimental conditions, rather Rube Goldberg, but I would not rely on the Case work, myself, because it was a gas-loaded protocol.  I used a diagram from Case in my Current Science paper because I was asked for “eye candy,” and it was the best thing I could come up with on short notice. I’d have preferred something more like the histogram that Storms later produced, showing results from many experiments. There are problems with that. There are problems with anything. The newer work, if I have any say, and I might, will address many of the old objections, but there is already enough evidence for what is important: a conclusion that either the preponderance of the evidence shows the heat/helium correlation already, or at least enough evidence to encourage new efforts to study it.

The within-the-field opinion contrary to this was based on another need: to develop a “lab rat,” a protocol that will demonstrate the FP Heat Effect with reasonable reliability. Long-term, this is very important, but my position was that as long as the reality of the effect was in serious question, as it is in the eyes of many, nailing that issue first would then open up and broaden interest and make more funding easier to obtain. Years ago, the genuine skeptic, Nate Hoffman, skewered the argument that because it was difficult to reproduce, cold fusion was therefore unreal, in his Dialogue book.

All the more plausible products that can be detected easily at levels orders of magnitude lower, are found, surprise, surprise, at orders of magnitude below the expected level. Nature is toying with them. (The transmutation situation is similar: all the precursors and products are stable, when of course, only a tiny fraction of radionuclides are stable.)

The FP Heat Effect produces heat and helium, the experimental evidence indicates, without those other effects. The other effects are reported, but at levels far below helium. The one most persistently reported is tritium. Often no attempt was made to correlate with heat, a mistake, in my opinion. That was because the levels were not “commensurate” with the heat, very far from it, but that reason depends on a theory of mechanism. Tritium is obviously not a major product, my standard rough estimate is that tritium is a million times down from that idea. And then neutrons are also reported at very low levels, which often gets people excited. A million times down from tritium. Basically, tritium, neutrons, and transmutations are generally a side-show, if real. The plethora of “nuclear effects” reported actually confused the entire field greatly. It is possible that there is more than one possible nuclear reaction under FP conditions. One of the benefits of improved heat/helium measurements would be setting limits on other reactions.

Deeper understanding will likely have to await the development of lab rats, so that various groups can be studying the same animal. Until then, the corpus of cold fusion research is largely, though not entirely, a collection of anecdotes, and anecdotes are properly indications for further research, not proofs of anything.

To sum up: An objective look at the heat/helium results does not provide even weak evidence for cold fusion. And given its extraordinary nature, that means it is almost certainly not happening.

Cude has not come close to an “objective look.” That summary conclusion, at variance with what has been published in not just one peer-reviewed review, but many, is clearly pseudoscientific and highly biased, relying on nonscientific argumentation and imprecation. This is typical. “Not even weak evidence” is obviously biased polemic. It is Cude believing in his own ideas — unless he actually knows better and is purely trolling.

I find no way to search moletrap for comments by joshua cude. Google for “joshua cude” site:moletrap.co.uk I get five hits. But cude has 107 posts made there according to the statistics. A search on-site for cude generates 77 hits, but only finds responses to him, not his posts. I can still compile a list, but it will be tedious. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. 

disqus blogs

earliest post:

joshuacude November 6, 2011 11:32 AM

So what you’re saying is that the following people are total idiots;

that was a comment from cmoo, and the listed people were:

• Physicist professor Foccardi [sic]
• Physicist professor Levi
• Physicist professor Loris Ferrari
• Physicist professor Sven Kullander
• Physicist professor Hanno Essen
• Professor Roland Petterson
• Physicist professor Christos Stemmenos [sic]
• Professor Enrico Campari
• Professor Ennio Bonetti
• Professor Pierre Clauzon
• Chemistry professor Edward Jobson
• Matt Lewan (Physics Phd) [sic]
• All the staff and Board of Defkalion
• All the staff and Board of Ampenergo
• And finally most recently the scientist employed by the purchaser to oversee the latest test, Domenica Fioravanti [sic]

[sic] is for spelling errors that leap out at me. I don’t know all the names mentioned….

If the shoe fits…

Whether you want to call them idiots or not, it is clear that on the question of the ecat, they have demonstrated incompetence, and have failed to do their jobs, if their jobs were to extract a useful evaluation of the ecat performance. And you don’t have to believe maryyugo or anyone else to come to this conclusion. You only have to read a freshman physics or chemistry or thermodynamics text book, to realize that claims of nuclear reactions in the ecat are simply *not* supported by the evidence presented.

This was misleading, though, in fact, there was probably no nuclear reaction. There is no information in a those textbooks that would allow an a priori evaluation of such a claim. The issue with nuclear reactions is not possibility (they are possible) but rate. To calculate the rate, one must know the reaction and conditions, and with Rossi, at that point, the claimed reactants were not known and the conditions were secret. It was clear by this time (late 2011) that the Rossi tests were inconclusive, and it appeared to be very possible that (1) Rossi was a con artist or (2) Rossi was a real inventor paranoid about his invention being stolen and (3) Rossi was attempting to look like a con artist to discourage imitation. There was no way to truly distinguish these possibilities. By 2012, a group of investors decided they need to know, and it was worth risking a substantial sum to find out. They found out. Rossi lies.

But were all those people “idiots”? Well, Ampenergo was paid a lot of money for the investment they made. They may have made a profit. The goal of Industrial Heat was to facilitate the development of cold fusion in general, and their risk with Rossi — they knew it was a long shot — appears to have inspired an investment of $50 million for cold fusion research (not for Rossi!), so it paid off for them (not personally, that wasn’t their goal, this was all high risk, and they have reported nothing so far that would be an immediate commercial possibility (nor do I know of any such. Brillouin has some results, nothing spectacular, they have a long way to go, if they ever succeed. What I know is that cold fusion is, preponderance of the evidence, a real effect, nuclear in nature, but difficult to control, and without control, commercial possibilities remain elusive. So, anyway, Cude sits in his chair and condemns others for not immediately “knowing” that this was bogus, imagining that he has a better grasp of physics. He doesn’t. He is simply young and arrogant.

All but one of the semi-public ecat tests (including the megawatt test) rely on the claim that all (or nearly all) of the water passing through the ecat is converted to steam. However, credible evidence for this claim is never presented. That several of the named professionals accept visual inspection or measurements of relative humidity as evidence for complete vaporization, alone impeaches their competence on evaluating the ecat. Instead of looking for evidence for dry steam, they measure the temperature every few seconds, even though the temperature (always near the boiling point) tells us nothing about the fraction of liquid that is vaporized. Pure incompetence!

They were, in fact, outside their field. The relative humidity meter had a g/m^3 function, which some of those people named apparently assumed was measured. Quite simply, they did not know how the meter worked. That was simply a calculated reading from the humidity. Devices that can measure steam quality are very expensive and complex. Any steam engineer would know that. Rossi kept steam engineers far away from his demonstrations. He also rejected a visit by Jed Rothwell, who was quite sympathetic, because Rothwell said he would bring his own instruments. The last thing Rossi wanted! He was famous for shutting down demonstrations when anyone attempted to verify what he was claiming.

If you read a physics textbook, you will learn that when you pass water through a system, it takes a certain power to raise its temperature *to* the boiling point. You will also learn that (if you are starting from room temperature), it takes about 8 times as much power to convert all the water to steam.

All this is true and well-known.

None of those professionals seem the least bit bothered by the fact that the ecat takes on the order of hours to deliver the power required to reach the onset of boiling, but only a few more minutes to deliver 8 times that power to vaporize all the liquid.

And that could possibly be explained. (To produce the necessary power, the fuel must reach a certain temperature, and at a critical temperature, power rapidly increases and the problem is preventing runaway. Yes, it’s bullshit. Cude’s objection was reasonable. It’s an issue. However, mysteries prove little, this is the “how come” argument that pseudoscientists use to argue for, say, flat earth theory. Something unexplained is found that may imply the pseudoscientific theory.

One of the problems with Rossi is another unwarranted assumption. To attempt a fraud as Rossi was attempting, “he would have to be crazy.” He even sued his major investor, and his followers said, if he didn’t have a real technology, “he’d have to be crazy.” Well, he’s still alive, and didn’t go to jail, and he got to keep the money he had been paid. How crazy is he?

At this point, though, with all the evidence that is now available, someone who invests in his technology, thinking it is real, would “have to be crazy.” But we know that with high certainty now because some investors were willing to take the risk. They could afford it. These are people who invest $25 million in a long shot, commonly, and who only need to occasionally win the bet.

The reason that this is so easily accepted appears to be because both of those scenarios occur at the same *output* temperature.

That would explain acceptance by the ignorant, not those who know the basic physics.

But if you take a little time to think about it, then you should understand that the two scenarios require vastly different temperatures of the ecat heating element. In fact, the power transfer scales with the temperature difference between the water and the heating element.

It is obvious that the internal design of the e-cat, for it to mean anything, required substantial thermal resistance between the “heating element” (i.e., the fuel) and the cooling water. The fuel must be a lot hotter than the water. If we assume a constant thermal resistance (it might not be), then, yes, the transfer would “scale with the temperature difference.”

This kind of a discontinuous change in the temperature of the heating element is simply not plausible, given the time it takes to reach the onset of boiling.

We were allowed no information on the temperature of the heating element. We were allowed no information on the heating protocol. Perhaps, for example, the heating was slowly ramped up to approach a critical temperature. My own analysis was that the Rossi design practically required water overflow if the flow rate was constant. So was water overflow measured? No. Kullander and Essen did not look for overflow water, apparently trusting the humidity meter. Huge mistake. And to compound it, they never acknowledged the error. (And, later, the other so-called “independent professors” made huge mistakes in the Lugano test, and never acknowledged them.) All this was glorious idiocy for Cude. I’m somewhat sympathetic. But … apparently scientists are human.

What makes it even more implausible is that the discontinuous change in the heating element temperature is presumed to happen exactly at the onset of boiling. How does it know? That these professionals can believe this means the shoe fits.

Cude has not established that change. I agree that a detailed analysis wasn’t done.

Finally, the notion that power is so accurately regulated indicates that the output fluid is almost certainly a mixture of phases at the local boiling point. The variation in power that corresponds to the variation in temperature corresponds to about +/- 1 %, which seems a little rich, given the variations reported in the February run (that didn’t rely on steam), and from the fact that the various demonstrations give powers that are all over the map.

Something was always fishy about every Rossi demonstration. That was obvious by the end of 2011.

(By the way, the only semi-public test that did not rely on conversion to steam, claimed a much lower COP, and used an inexplicably indirect method to measure the water temperatures, which almost certainly resulted in errors in favor of the ecat.)

Rossi seems to have found many ways to create an appearance of significant power.

It is indeed surprising that so many scientists and engineers can miss these simple considerations. I think it speaks to Rossi’s skill at vetting the observers that he invites to the demonstrations.

Indeed. Rossi also strongly resisted the presence of independent experts as requested by his actual customer (in 2013), and they allowed that, because they knew that if they objected, I infer, Rossi would simply have pulled the plug, as he had many times. They wanted to give Rossi every chance to prove the technology was real by teaching them how to create the reaction. He never did. Always some excuse or other, and then he faked a megawatt plant. But …. he’d have to be crazy! How can you fake a megawatt?

You probably can’t, but you can create distractions and confusion and the appearance of expert testimony. In actual court, they were setting up to present the opening arguments when Rossi’s attorney suggested a settlement. Many critics of Rossi were disappointed that Industrial Heat agreed to a walk-away. My own analysis was that, legally, they would not be able to recover their original investment because of estoppel. They could have recovered as much as a few million dollars from the later 1 MW frauds, not enough to recover their legal expenses, and some level of risk that Rossi’s attorneys might have been able to sway a jury. I was there and I’d already seen the opening arguments and the jury and my opinion is that, no, IH would have prevailed, but at high cost. A month of trial with four or five high-paid attorneys sitting there. Not cheap. Was anyone ready to pay their legal expenses? I don’t think so.

In fact, what came out in the trial — it is all on this site — was quite enough to expose Rossi as a fraud. He is still continuing to snow some of his followers, but some of them are bailing.

Some of them of course are LENR advocates from before,

That is not true for almost all on the list. In fact, had they been “LENR” knowledgeable, they might not have been so vulnerable. The majority opinion among CMNS researchers was that Rossi was not at all to be trusted. Some were much more negative than that. Focardi is the major name who had done prior LENR research, and he was old and shortly to die. Nobody had every shown anything like what Rossi was claiming. It was outside the box. But if one had an existing opinion that LENR was real, from having seen it oneself, yes, one might be more vulnerable to thinking Rossi had something.

some have been associated with him for a long time (including the customer consultant in the megawatt test), and some have made public statements in support of the ecat.

there was no customer yet. Defkalion was the initial customer and bailed (and then fell into massive disrepute themselves). Rossi claimed to have sold many 1 MW plants. The only actual sale was to Industrial Heat in 2012, delivered in 2013, and returned, apparently as worthless, in the Settlement Agreement in 2017.

If Rossi really had confidence in his ecat, the invitees would include scientists on the record as being skeptical. For example, he could invite Steven Krivit to bring a few scientists of his choosing. Convincing them would carry some weight.

Rossi had already rejected Krivit as a “snake and clown.” The assumption here is that if the technology were real, Rossi would want to prove that in his demonstrations, by doing what Cude thinks he would do.

Cude does not consider an opposing argument, that Rossi had a real technology but also knew that someone else, highly motivated, seeing such proof and willing to put millions of dollars (or hundreds of millions or billions) could do what he did, and find it. So he would want to make it look like he was a con artist. So why have any demonstration at all, until he is ready for market? Well, perhaps to attract enough interest and investment to carry on until market-ready. This is what people who could see the problems were thinking in 2011. My personal opinion back then was that “fraudulent and insane” was more likely, but I could not rule out the possibility of “real inventor and insane,” i.e., paranoid. Everyone agrees, including Rossi’s friends, that he’s paranoid. A few think it is justified.

Storms apparently still thinks Rossi had something, but that he lost it. That has apparently happened in the history of LENR. Something works, they keep trying to improve it, and then it doesn’t work any more and they can’t get back to what works. Basically, some original condition was not recognized as important, the original materials that worked were lost and it never worked again. The Case material may have been like that. A particular batch of coconut charcoal. There are aspects to the history of LENR that might forever be mysteries. Or not. Until we know what the reaction actually is and know how to reliably create it, true knowledge is likely to remain elusive.

Of course, we could simply ask Joshua Cude, the authority, who doesn’t need facts but can assess truth through personalities and who supports what.

There were a total of 19 comments under this Disqus account. The rest of them:

Discussion on NetworkWorld  91 comments

Cude jumped in with this: Feb 17th 2016

Abd wrote:

No, what is needed, ordinarily, and even with something like cold fusion, is preponderance of the evidence. It is not necessary to prove every detail, and unless one has unlimited funding, it is probably impossible.

Cude did not link to the original, so here it is.

A preponderance of evidence is a legal term, but used descriptively, presumably it means that, based on the evidence, someone judges something to be more likely than not. You are saying, presumably, that in your judgement, the evidence indicates cold fusion is more likely to be real than not.

Yes. And from my study, that evidence is not weak and not merely circumstantial. To be sure, we need a definition of “cold fusion.” I use that to refer to the Fleischmann-Pons Heat Effect, and it appears that half the U.S. DoE review panel agreed with this in 2004. However, I go further. That review, as reported by the summarizer, did not understand the helium evidence and radically misstated it. The production of correlated helium is direct evidence that the heat is generated by a nuclear reaction, Pons and Fleischmann called it “unknown.” Calling it fusion was quite misleading. I use this term, instead of the more neutral LENR, because the helium evidence does indicate that the reaction is converting deuterium to helium, by unknown mechanism. That is a fusion result, so … until we know better, it’s like some kind of fusion. But it is very unlikely, for reasons Cude knows well, to be “D-D fusion.”

But you are not in a position of authority to make such a judgement for anyone else.

That is correct, unless I am placed in that position. I am a journalist, primarily, and an activist. My responsibility is to my readership. In general, I present evidence for readers to judge. I also disclose my own judgments, and I am responsible for them. However, this is a truly remarkable argument to make, I would call it trolling.

You don’t have a science degree or any experience in scientific research. Moreover, you have admitted that your advocacy has been paid for.

If I had such a degree, would it make any difference? Would I therefore be qualified to “judge for someone else”? I have an education, which has been disclosed. I have a great deal of experience writing for an expert audience (on the CMNS mailing list).

As to being “paid for,” that is a report that shows that Cude either doesn’t understand what he has read, he confuses his interpretations with truth, or he has believed trolls who make that claim. What actually happened that could be taken that way is that I wrote, in private email with a scientist, about Wikipedia and how it worked, the policies, and how it doesn’t work. There was someone on cc who then asked me to bill him. I told him that he could donate to my nonprofit, $50 or $100, it would be fine. He then asked me to bill him for a far higher figure, through the nonprofit. So I did. He did not pay for advocacy, there was one request, that I review a certain web site, but it wasn’t ready yet. I’ve still not been asked to complete that, and the review would have been for him, not for publication.

I have not been paid to advocate anything. Advocacy is my choice, and what I am advocating is not “Cold Fusion is Real!” but research; as part of that deciding what research is to be supported is important, and, years ago, I identified confirming heat/helium determination as crucial, as the only direct evidence that the Anomalous Heat Effect, it is also being called, is both real and nuclear in nature. Determining the value of the ratio is difficult, something Cude doesn’t seem to realize. Part of the problem is capturing all the helium, and then there are issues in the mass spectrometry, which is expensive. Etc.

Recently, I was also crowd-funded to report on the Rossi v. Darden trial, such that I actually met Rossi and Darden and Vaughn and other involved people. Because that trial settled unexpectedly on the fourth day, I have money left over, so I have funding for expenses and travel. Cude it attempting his classic move: ad hominem argument. It’s false and it is trolling.

Those who do have relevant expertise and experience, for the most part, are not convinced cold fusion is real, so that means that, in their judgement, the preponderance of evidence fails to make cold fusion more likely to be real than not.

And who is Cude to be making this judgment? I am known, I have a long public history, people can review it readily. Cude is an anonymous skeptic/pseudoskeptic/troll. His “for the most part” is a complex judgment. Is it based on evidence? What evidence, and when was that evidence collected? How would we know?

I was aware of the Pons and Fleischmann announcement in 1989, and knew the basic issues, but not the experimental details. In fact, nobody knew other than a few, at that point. When what we know of as early cold fusion history came down, I assumed that it had all been a mistake. Much later, I had become quite involved with Wikipedia, and came across an abusive blacklisting. I request that the administrator undo it. He blew me off. Eventually, this went to the Arbitration Committee and they confirmed my assessment and the admin was reprimanded. And then his faction came after me.

I had started to work on the Cold fusion article. I was not a “believer.” (It is still not fair to call me that and I consider it very possible that I will never see a commercial cold fusion device, it is possible –though perhaps unlikely — that such will never exist, so “wishful thinking” (Cude’s classic explanation for the belief of scientists and others “in cold fusion” — that is a radical insult to a scientist) has nothing to do with it. Because I realized the potential importance I bought all the major books, something I had never done before researching a Wikipedia article. Taubes is one of my favorites, for his historical research. Cude has no clue.

Genuine skeptics support what I’m doing. Trolls attack it.

Such experts are of course considering the copious and consistent and reproducible evidence from a century of nuclear physics that collectively suggests strongly that nuclear reactions would not happen in the context of cold fusion experiments.

That argument was known to be defective in 1989. (Teller, Schwinger, Cold fusion is not a “nuclear physics” topic, in origin. It was a finding in electrochemistry, of anomalous heat. The first and foremost question was the reality and origin of this heat. Not “is it theoretically possible,” that is a Cargo Cult question. Science does not ask if experimental results are “possible,” and a science that rejects experimental results in favor of its own theoretical construct has lost science and has become scientist.

(Experimental results are experimental results and are distinct from their interpretation.)

Yes. The heat was very much unexpected. Pons and Fleischmann were looking at a problem that I remember from Feynman: we cannot calculate the solid state, it is far too complex. They knew that certain simplifying assumptions were made to calculate fusion rates in the solid state. (i.e., in a material like PdD). They suspected that the actual rate might be different. This was ordinary science. They expected that there was a difference (that is practically inevitable), but they also thought they would probably be unable to measure it. Nevertheless, they decided to look. And then their experiment melted down. They spent almost five years attempting to create controlled experiments, and it was … difficult. They were not ready to announce. But Jones was actually investigating along the same line of thinking, and thought he was finding neutrons. That pushed the university into announcing, prematurely. The rest is history.

What happens when experts are charged with investigation and report? Cude is quite unspecific. He is asserting a vague consensus, as if it is fact. It is probably true that “most scientists” or “most nuclear physicists” think “cold fusion was rejected long ago.” This was mentioned in my paper and in other reviews in Current Science in 2015. That is what Tiernan called an “information cascade” (referring to the “scientific consensus” on fat in the diet and obesity and heart disease). It is an opinion that spread without ever being scientifically confirmed.

The most recent public expert panel was the 2004 DoE review. It does not support Cude’s idea of some massive scientific rejection. That review as brief and badly managed, I’ve written extensively about that. But it was a sea change from 1989. And 1989 did not conclude impossibility. It noted the theoretical difficulty, and, to my mind, both reviews focused far too much on theory. There is no satisfactory cold fusion theory as to mechanism. It’s an enormous challenge. There is a hypothesis, that falls out of the heat/helium work: the heat is from the conversion of deuterium to helium. That is testable. It does not require “reliable experiments.” It does require setting up the AHE, at least occasionally. It is known how to do that, but it’s still largely an art. There is no “lab rat” you can go out and buy or put together from instructions. But if one is determined, one can see the effect.

And that work is under way in Texas.

Next to this, the erratic, marginal, inconsistent, and irreproducible results associated with such experiments are far more plausibly explained by artifacts. Which is to say, in the mainstream view, the preponderance of evidence points to artifact, and by a vast margin.

Helium production correlated with anomalous heat is reproducible and has been confirmed many times by many groups. Cude knows this, so he is lying. Where does the “mainstream view” exist?

In the minds of some. In the Sixty Minutes report on Cold fusion, Richard Garwin is quoted, about SRI calorimetry, the work of experts, “They must be making some mistake.”

That is an understandable, though knee-jerk, opinion. There is a belief in the impossibility of “cold fusion”, but like many such beliefs, it requires a definition. How would we know that “cold fusion” is impossible? We would have to know what it is. Or we would have to have such thorough and deep knowledge of all the possible conditions that can arise to be able to claim, sensibly, that if it was real, we would already know about it. That assumption of adequate knowledge is common and ordinary, but … if accepted, such that experimental evidence is simply discarded because “impossible,” science could not advance beyond the limits of the already-known.

The basis of Cude’s position, then, is belief. Rational skepticism would sit with “I’m not yet convinced,” but not advance into the arrogant, confident, rejection of the work of others, that Cude so often indulges in.

“Scientific opinion” is properly, the opinion of the knowledgeable. Cude is more knowledgeable than any other skeptic I have encountered. Shanahan is actually published, but is common unable to see his hand in front of his face. Cude has collected an armory of arguments. I have collected these before, on newvortex, I’ll probably pull that in.

Cude is not, however, practicing science. He is not seeking to test his ideas. He advances arguments that appeal to some audiences, but that are not at all scientific, such as his obvious ad hominems.

He is dissmissing the work of hundreds of scientists as all “artifact.” He has elsewhere claimed that cold fusion is “N-rays” and “polywater,” but those were found to be artifact through replication and then a showing of artifact, not through simple claims and replication failure.

The work on those topics that led to rejection was actually replication first. Creating the artifact! So what happens when careful calorimetry is done? Many fail, that’s what Cude relies on, but he is ignoring that many have succeeded in seeing the heat. And then he is ignoring the extensive work showing helium correlation. Again, there must be some mistake, and it’s easy to postulate that the helium is from leakage. But that explanation does not fit well with the actual results. It’s just an idea without foundation in the experimental evidence. And, then, “artifact” does not fit well with the observed correlation. Wouldn’t helium also leak in hydrogen or other control experiments? Why does helium show up with heat, and not with no heat? The “heat” involved is not “higher temperature,” necessarily, or if it is higher, it is a few degrees C., not a major heating that could affect seals.

No, Cude is essentially ignoring any inconvenient evidence, or attacking it with pseudoscience.

Of course, absolute proof of anything is not possible, but something like cold fusion could surely be proved to arbitrary certainty if it were real, much as high temperature superconductivity was not doubted by any experts after the first publication became available.

Reasoning by defective analogy. I would say that “cold fusion” has been shown to be real by extensive experimentation by many different research groups. That it is not accepted as HT superconductivity was accepted is an issue for the sociology of science, and there are books on this. It is not about science, per se, but about people and how people behave collectively.

And what matters is not my opinion, or Cude’s opinion, but the opinion of those who decide on research funding. The DoE recommended modest research funding, but the only research we know of that was funded by the DoE was Shanahan’s Abortion. Why were there no fundamental projects funded? Probably, politics.

But there are other sources of funding. EPRI needed to know, and they funded McKubre’s work at SRI, and published it. Cude completely disregards that SRI was charged with sober investigation, by people who needed to know. DARPA needed to know, and also funded SRI. Others managed to continue research out of discretionary funds. I’m told that the SPAWAR program was shut down because a manager freaked out over Rossi. I just read the other day on E-Catworld a 20aa claim that SPAWAR was the “military customer” that Rossi pretended to have tthen. That might just have led to that program cancellation. It was completely false.

And, more recently? Industrial Heat needed to know, and was willing to put money into finding out. Their interest was LENR in general, and Rossi was depressing research. (Why fiddle with milliwatts or a few watts if Rossi is claiming kilowatts?)  They raised and invested in Rossi, $20 million.

Woodford Fund investigated LENR and decided to invest. In Rossi? No. They gave Industrial Heat $50 million for LENR research, which was spent, maybe $25 million of it, on other LENR projects, with theory and experiment. One of the projects they supported for a time was the Letts work with dual laser stimulation, which I had also suggested as scientifically significant. (That work was unsuccessful, apparently, but inconclusively so, and it was stopped, apparently because IH needed to focus on the lawsuit. Rossi did a lot of damage! IH is mostly secretive, so I don’t really know what is happening now.(

And then, a major donor gave $6 million to Texas Tech for a project that featured heat/helium replication, to be matched by $6 million in Texas State funds.

Those are the people who need to look at “preponderance of the evidence,” and in some cases, even weak evidence might be worth investment. The reason for that is that cold fusion, if real, could be extraordinarily valuable. Sane investment does not require certainty. It requires a sober estimate of risks.

It is almost inconceivable that an energy density a million times that of dynamite, accessible at ordinary conditions could not be made obvious in 27 years,

The conditions of cold fusion are far from “ordinary.” He means “not at temperatures of millions of degrees.” That energy density is apparently in a thin layer under not-well-understood conditions. This paradox appeared in the attempts to replicate Pons and Fleischmann: the Japanese though that they should use the purest palladium. It flat-out did not work.

When people do see the effect, it’s often obvious. Cude knows that. The truth behind his claims is that it’s quite difficult to set up the conditions. He is demanding, not mere obviousness, but readily repeatable and reliable obviousness.

I proposed the new heat/helium work because it does not require that we have what Cude demands. If one experiment out of ten, say, with a confirmed protocol, were to produce XP (and some protocols have done much better than that), and then one were to run a hundred trials, producing 10 examples of excess heat, and one were to analyse the outgas from those experiments, what would it show?

From the history, I expect that heat and helium would  be correlated and if these are FP-class experiments, about 60% of the helium expected from the conversion of deuterium to helium for that energy release would be measured. And if the surface is stripped, dissolving palladium and releasing trapped helium, the rest would be measured. Within experimental error.

That would be as close to “proof” as I can imagine.

And then the focus can turn to creating the lab rat, because further investigation requires commensurability across the work of multiple groups.

What I have found is that genuine skeptics are interested and support this approach. Pseudoskeptical trolls attack my lack of a degree and my age and my alleged this and that.

but it is completely plausible that artifacts producing a variety of confounding effects that look like cold fusion if you squint would be too elusive to be nailed down in 27 years.

Plausible but not likely. There are artifacts that afflict the research, but there are also studies that were quite careful, where artifact is unlikely.

EPRI also funded Hoffman’s study, published as a book in 1995 by the American Nuclear Society, A Dialogue on Chemically-Induced Nuclear Effects, Guide for the Perplexed about Cold Fusion. Hoffman goes over the evidence that existed as he began. He does not mention the later Miles work, and I’m not sure why. But Hoffman was a skeptic, not a “believer,” but he knew that the question or reality was open. He considered the calorimetry, in general, to be sound.

So is the heat a chemical effect? The calculations of energy density, I do not find convincing. There are too many assumptions being made. (In fact, though, it appears that the effect is a surface one, and so the energy density is higher than estimated by Pons and Fleischmann based on their idea that the effect was in the bulk.) The problem is generally the level of the effect compared to some possible unexpected recombination.

Shanahan makes the general point that there is an anomaly, something unexpected, but he assigns it to chemistry, not a nuclear reaction. Shanahan’s ideas are rejected by experienced electrochemists, but … that would be an argument from authority, so we have been and will be looking at details.

But Shanahan’s chemical anomaly does not approach an explanation of correlated helium.

Many cold fusion students will also point to tritium (often found, but correlation with heat has not been studied), neutrons (found at extremely low levels, no far above background, at least not generally), and transmutations. I consider all this a distraction, mysteries that will become far easier to resolve with the existence of a lab rat. The main show is heat and helium and apparently almost nothing else being produced. No gammas, or if there are significant gammas, they are low-energy.

Cude went on to generate a total of 261 posts on LF. The last was July 16. 2016.

Skeptoid

On February 27, Cude dumped a huge text bomb on that blog….  There were followup posts. Nothing appeared like what was commented the first time.

Cold Fusion Now

March 12, 2012

April 12, 2013
“Your historical analogy is not accurate. The energy released by Ra-226 is not fission; it’s alpha decay.”
This is bizarre. As usual, Cude is half-right. The energy is from alpha decay. But alpha decay is obviously a form of fission, a special case. This is typical trolling. Cude’s argument was irrelevant. French was correct. All analogies are inaccurate in some way, so this objection was purely pedantic (and only correct within a very restricted use of language).

April 13, 2013
April 14, 2013

Mass Use of Cold Fusion in One Year – or Less


October 24, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011
October 26, 2011

Letters to the Senate request hearings on DOE and USPTO.

Electron capture by a proton – Where would the energy come from?


March 18, 2013 (Except for the “attorney” comment, he is totally correct.)
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 19, 2013
March 20, 2013
March 18, 2013
March 19, 2013

Scientific American Attacks Cold Fusion Research with Twenty-Year-Old Claims

In this case, Jennifer Ouelette wrote a critique of cold fusion on her Scientific American blog, then left comments open and censored them without cause. It does appear that she deleted a comment by Joshua Cude, of which one line is quoted by Rothwell.

I’m not aware of a single major university that has expressed the opinion that evidence for the claims of P&F is overwhelming.

Ouelette refers to pro-cold fusion fanatics, as if these are the only trolls infesting fora.

That Cude statement is a great example of how Cude argues. I am not aware of such an expression either. Notice all the qualifications. “Major,” which then allows Cude to claim, if one points to a counterexample, that it’s not a “major university.” Then, universities rarely express opinions and then not opinions like that. Then, what are the “claims of P&F”? What claims? Some of their claims were erroneous. And finally, is the evidence “overwhelming,” presumably, “beyond a shadow of doubt”? — or is it merely convincing or even reasonably conclusive?

Jed responded with his own hyperbolic polemic:

Professors at universities and at other institutions express that opinion. For example, the Chairman of the Indian Atomic Energy Commission said that, as did the world’s top expert in tritium at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (NSF p. 13-3). In 1991, The Director of the Max Planck Institute for Physical Chemistry in Berlin wrote: “. . . there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take place in the metal alloys.”

Hundreds of other distinguished experts in nuclear physics and other related disciplines have said they are certain cold fusion is real. They know this because they have conducted experiments and detected the reaction at high signal to noise ratios, and their experiments have survived rigorous peer-review. That is the only way anyone ever knows anything for sure in science. Replicated, high sigma experiments are the only standard of truth.

He has not read the Cude comment carefully, so he responds to a different claim, and I could suspect that Ouelette recognized this and thus dismissed his comment, which is unfortunate. As is not uncommon with Jed (there are many examples in the discussions I have been linking to in studying Cude), his comments overstate the case. Usually the ‘case’ would be reasonable, but not the details of how he presents it, so a troll like Cude can take it apart, and a pseudoskeptic like Ouelette can dismiss it. Jed’s response to critique on this point is often “I don’t care what skeptics think.”

That is where we differ. I do care what genuine skeptics think, and will also attempt to carefully address even some pseudoskeptical arguments, because the boundary between pseudoskepticism and genuine skepticism can be obscure. In the end, my target is ultimately decision-makers (for funding, publication, and other issues), who will properly be skeptical.

Jed gives three references.

  1. A BARC publication. 8 pages. I searched it while having migraine symptoms. So maybe I missed it, but I found nothing in that publication that supported the claim of “overwhelming evidence.”
  2. EPRI publication. 13-3 (pdf page 266) does not support the statement. This is not looking good.
  3. This reference is a note from Bockris about Gerischer, about a shift in Gerischer’s position that took place in the Como Conference, 1991. A fuller quote than Jed gave:

In spite of my earlier conclusion, – and that of the majority of scientists, – that the phenomena
reported by Fleischmann and Pons in 1989 (3) depended either on measurement errors or were of
chemical origin, there is now undoubtedly overwhelming indications that nuclear processes take
place in the metal alloys. The early publications were so full of errors in measurement technique and
in the interpretation that the euphoria to which the discovery gave rise was rapidly replaced by
disappointment when it turned out that the laboratories with the best equipment could not reproduce
the results. Only very few groups found similar effects, but even these groups could not find
reproducibility in their own laboratory.

And then:

AN EVALUATION OF THE RESULTS OBSERVED SO FAR

Although there are many discrepancies in the reports which are at hand, and although there
are many open questions, there now lie before us several indications that fusion reactions do occur
between deuterides in metals. This gives rise to a new situation. It is entirely an open question
whether such processes could be used as the source of energy but this, of course, can only be
decided if the processes which have been revealed in the work discussed here are researched and
given a theoretical basis. In any case I consider it absolutely necessary that these phenomena are
systematically researched and the conditions for their reproducibility cleared up. That a nuclear
reaction can be stimulated by interaction with a solid lattice and made to take another path from that
which it would take in the plasma, is an entirely unexpected discovery with possibly wide-ranging
consequences. It demands confirmation and further experimental evaluation. In the following a
number of experimental and theoretical questions are raised which are at the present time entirely
open.

That “evaluation” shows what was already reasonably concluded from what Jed quoted. There are “indications.” Jed synthesizes it into “that opinion” (what Cude claimed did not exist, perhaps correctly), and then goes on to consider it, probably, as an example of what he then claimed about hundreds of scientists, “they are certain cold fusion is real.” Gerischer didn’t say that and did not mean that.

As Jed well knows, there was a rejection cascade, where an unscientific scientific consensus appeared, and incorrect or misleading opinion became common. It is not fair, but to counter this requires extraordinary evidence, and those who seek to transform any broad consensus need be particularly careful. If you are going to shoot the King, don’t miss.

Jed became cynical, and just expresses his opinion, without that caution. The “certainty” expressed, if that is the actual position, and without being careful about what “certainty” means, would be pseudoscientific. There is no successful cold fusion theory. There is no lab rat allowing wide and ready confirmation. Gerischer points out the problems, he does not think they have been solved. His actual claim is that the “indications” are strong enough to justify further research. This is not, as Cude claims in his “poetic” post (great catch, Ruby!) N-rays or polywater, where controlled experiment revealed the artifact under the original claims. But it is not the confident conclusion Jed imagines.

So, in a discussion that will be read by a general audience, including those who are ordinarily and reasonably skeptical, but perhaps they are not aware of the developed evidence, as Gerischer became, and you make a claim that appears to contradict what they thought was commonplace, what “everybody knows,” you have made a major accomplishment, if they bother to check your sources (most won’t!). But if the sources do not clearly show what you claimed, you have completely blown the opportunity, poisoned the well, and they may think the same about anyone else who makes the same claims. They won’t even look. They will think, with Garwin, “They must be making some mistake.”

Pogo: we have met the enemy, and he is us.

An Impossible Invention

Aleklett’s blog

misc

http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2011/12/05/the-nuclear-physics-of-why-we/

Mats Lewan’s blog

Cude also acknowledged writing as “popeye”. (lovely comment, by the way, on Skeptoid. If Cude/Schroeder ever wonders why some might be motivated to document his activity, he could look at that.) Retrieving posts from ecatnews.com may be difficult or impossible. It has also been claimed that “fact police” was Cude. I found a post on E-Catworld, but the user did not create a profile. While this could be Cude, it is far from obvious.