Pseudoskepticism vs Skepticism: Case studies:

There are some resident skeptics on LENR Forum. There is no clear dividing line between “skeptic” and “person interested in science.” However, pseudoskepticism, by the name, imitates genuine skepticism. The core of it is skepticism toward the claims and views of others, combined with apparent certainty — or at least practical certainty — toward one’s own beliefs. A pseudoskeptic may often assert that, no, they don’t believe in their own beliefs, but this is simply denial, and the belief is obvious to the discerning and knowledgeable.

“Pseudoskeptic” is not a complete description of any person. No argument is wrong because it is advanced by a pseudoskeptic and, in fact, most pseudoskeptics hew toward the mainstream, and a result of that could be that there is a substantial possibility that they are right. Some believers think that “mainstream” is an insult, instead of representing a general agreement, including many who are relatively knowledgeable and worthy of respect, even if there can be exceptions where necessary knowledge is rare. Those exceptions become more common when some topic challenges existing understandings and expectations. That those challenges may arise through artifact, error, or worse, doesn’t change this. Real science is always testing its own frontiers, but the level of such effort may be low, confined to small groups or even individuals.

This post will ultimately link to pages that accumulate studies of individuals who may be pseudoskeptical in some way. I want to emphasize that this is not a synonym for “wrong.” I aspire to genuine skepticism, and consider that the deepening of skeptical commentary on cold fusion is essential to the progress of the community and the field.

Rather, one of my interests is how we respond to skepticism and pseudoskepticism, because, historically, we have not necessarily been effective in advancing what we might want to see happen. “We,” here, means the “community of interest” in cold fusion, that is or seeks to become knowledgeable in the foundations and history of the field.

So today’s inspiration is interested observer, who started posting on LENR Forum February 10, immediately on registration.

His first post was: (5:33 PM)

As an interested observer, I have a question for most of the folks here. As far as I can tell, every single demonstration of e-cat technology has been discredited by whatever efforts at real analysis have taken place. Even long-time supporters now discount pretty much anything Rossi has ever claimed. Despite that fact, it appears that most people here – regardless of their opinion of Rossi – believe that at least some version of the e-cat actually does produce excess energy. Can anyone explain why they think so?

“Most of the folks here.” However, anyone who answers will not necessarily be representing “most,” because the question only seeks answers from those who “think” in a certain way, i.e., they “believe that at least some version of the e-cat actually does produce excess energy.” And notice the use of the present tense. There are those who think that it is possible that some Rossi device, somewhere in history, produced some excess energy. Notice “possible.” That is not a belief that this occurred, and any genuine skeptic might agree with the possibility, while also possibly asserting that it is unlikely, or that, because of the lack of evidence, there is no particular reason to think it actually happened.

Many more may think that there has been some excess heat in NiH experiments, but to my mind, NiH is a subclass of LENR investigation with relatively weak evidence, compared to PdD. Some who are interested in the field have been and continue to explore NiH. Does this mean that they “believe” in it? “interested observer” actually came out swinging here, with insults, but it was relatively hidden, seemingly reasonable. The question itself was a reasonable one to ask, and could have been asked in this way:

“Is there anyone here who believes that some Rossi device actually produced excess energy” If so, why?”

And then the responses might show the spectrum of understanding that exists, without waving the red flag of pseudoskepticism. Rude responses there would say more about the rude one than the newbie. But that is not what happened.

Notice that the post is off-topic where proferred. It was almost three weeks before a moderator coughed. Alert and active moderation would have moved the post to its own topic (or to a related one from the past).

Paradigmnoia wrote:  a balanced response, as I’d expect from him. From his response, as with from much (all?) of his writing, I can’t tell what he “believes.” He is observing and reporting what he has seen and inferred.

Hermes wrote: what gave a possible answer as to why, but not expressing his own belief, and expressing a stronger reason to think not.

interested observer wrote: (8:03 pm)

Well, so far the responses to my question have not been very illuminating.

There has been no response to his question, as it was stated. However, there is a counterexample to his theme, and he doesn’t apparently notice it. Self-centered cluelessness is a characteristic of pseudoskepticism, and now IO provides more characteristics.

Of course wanting the e-cat to be real is a powerful inducement to thinking it is real. And of course already being convinced that Ni/H anomalous heat is a real phenomenon helps. However, if one looks at an analogous situation for superconductivity, one can see the fallacy in that way of thinking.

What way of thinking? Wishful thinking? Who is “convinced that Ni/H anomalous heat is a real phenomenon?” What I’m seeing is that IO has a fantasy of how “plenty of people” might be thinking, and he’s probably correct about some of that. The planet is huge, and to use the technical mathematical term, there are a friggin’ lot of people on it. If I want to feel superior, I can go out on the internet and easily find people holding on to dumb ideas. Hey, flat earth! NASA fraud!

There is a “real phenomenon,” I trust (not believe, there is a difference). The real phenomenon, I could write in a paper to be submitted for peer review, is that excess heat has been reported. And I can say by whom and how. I could also give possible reasons for doubt or skepticism, and to my knowledge, none of this has been conclusively addressed, so far. NiH remains open as an issue or question, as it should. I can say this much: if NiH is real, showing it is real has been elusive, but, from another example, I know that this is not any kind of proof. The 1989 US DOE review, in fact, pointed out that proving cold fusion was a mistake might be impossible. The 2004 review was evenly split, half of the reviewers opining that evidence for anomalous heat was conclusive. Chew on that for a while, digest it!

However, what is possible, sometimes, is to pull the rug out from under reasons to think some claim is real. Did that happen, as it happened with N-rays and polywater? If so, when and where? Inquiring minds, truly interesting observers, want to know. Got anything to contribute, IO?

Superconductivity is a well-established phenomenon with over 100 years of rock-solid experimental (and practical) verification. Nevertheless, back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, there were plenty of badly-mistaken as well as totally fraudulent reports of breakthroughs in it around the world. Once those were discredited, nobody took them seriously any more.

Interested observer has a different agenda than his question indicates. He is bringing in superconductivity. Why? First of all, there are various kinds of “discredited.” Replication failure is the weakest, what is far stronger, when it happens, is replication that then, with controlled experiment, more precise measurements and tests, etc., demonstrates artifact.

However, I get the impression that no matter how discredited Rossi may become, plenty of people will still hold on to the belief that he really has something. I was hoping that somebody who still thinks the e-cat is real could explain why they think so – assuming they have a rational basis for their belief.

He was hoping, why? He got two answers, both of which were counterexamples to what he is claiming about plenty of people. He had only waited three hours. Years ago, my policy became, when asking questions or presenting something for decision, on-line, the minimum time to wait was ten days. This question was asked within the Rossi v. Darden thread, and a “true believer” might not be following it, being disgusted with the discussion, deciding to wait until the trial.

I suspect that he is looking for a claimed rational basis that then he can attack. (I use “he” because 99%, this is a man. While women who think like this exist, they are relatively rare.) A crude way of expressing what IO is doing is claiming that he has a bigger dick. (or is smarter, etc.)

Rigel wrote: a response that is, again, a counterexample to IO’s theme. He actually points to Krivit and the Thomas Clarke paper, i.e., reasons not to believe.

interested observer wrote: (9:51 PM)

Thanks for responding. I don’t need to come up to speed on all of this stuff. I’ve been watching the circus for a long time. I am not looking for the arguments for or against CF. It is still a faith-based subject and there is not much point in arguing about such things. If there is a smoking gun, I haven’t seen it.

IO is clearly pseudoskeptical, but he doesn’t recognize it, he thinks he is just stating fact. But he’s not stating fact, he is stating his own belief. We don’t know what he has looked at, so “I haven’t seen” actually tells us nothing about what he has actually seen. This is the closest we have to a smoking gun, direct evidence for the reality of “CF” — whatever it is, we don’t actually, know, except that there is strong confirmed evidence that in a subset of CF experiments, heat and helium are correlated, at a ratio that is within experimental error of the expected ratio if deuterium is being converted to helium with no losses to radiation or other leakages. This is not “faith-based” other than a general faith in independent science, that professional scientists rarely lie, even if they make mistakes on occasion. IO is setting up for a flame war. This is trolling.

I am quite aware of the Rossi saga and its manifestations including the obsessive deconstruction of the ongoing lawsuit. I guess being on Team Rossi or Team IH is almost as much fun as Team Edward or Team Jacob – both are obsessions with essentially fictional characters.

Rossi is fictional? IH is fictional? What is fictional is “Team IH,” and Team Rossi is largely fictional, though we talk about Planet Rossi, it’s an abstraction that can be useful in conversation about the people and about memes.

To a pseudoskeptic, careful study of Rossi v. Darden is a waste of time, because both Rossi and IH are essentially idiots, in the IO world. To a pseudoskeptic, the world is simple. If everyone would just think like them, we could solve the world’s problems and not waste our time on obvious bullshit.

In fact, one of the greatest features of the human collective consciousness and its power is diversity. Conformity and uniformity are deadly in a species-survival sense. The entire way that we reproduce is, as it were, designed to develop and maintain diversity. The same is true for how we think, “avoiding domination” is instinctive.

Like I said, I am just trying to understand why anyone still thinks that the e-cat is something real, regardless of their opinions about CF. There is not a single aspect of the e-cat story that stands up to any critical analysis and yet it appears that most people here still think that there is a pony under that barnful of… well, pony stuff. One just has to wonder why.

His original question asked for people who still “believed” to respond. So far, he has 3/3 responses that don’t believe. Does he notice the contradiction? One factor not mentioned so far: it is always possible to find criticisms of anything. That a critical analysis exists that questions a claim does not demonstrate that the claim is false. People have different levels of tolerance for “standards of proof,” and it is clear that some knowledgeable people were willing to extend Rossi the benefit of the doubt. Reasons for this can be adduced. So far, no cigar.

He is insisting on his topic where it is off-topic, and no moderator intervenes, so, of course, more off-topic discussion ensues. I argued, last year, that LENR Forum needed more moderators, and needed clear policies and practices to avoid the arbitrariness of individual moderator responses clearly based on personal prejudice and erratic availability. No dice.

Okay, one bite, I think.

Axil wrote:

Why Rossi’s reaction does something as LENR: transmutation, replication, third party verified radiation generation.

Classic Axil imright anonymous confident claim, fuzzy, referring to claimed evidence but not actually linking, and ignoring the extensive reasons suggesting otherwise. However, this did answer the question. How does IO respond?

Rigel wrote:

Who are you addressing? Not sure.

Axil did not actually address anyone, but it is obvious to whom he was responding.

Rigel wrote: (Another response explaining lack of belief, but continuing with:)

… to be fair, we have others who are quite articulate in their defense of Rossi’s technology.

Here my suggestion would be to either let those “others” respond and not dilute the threat with more useless explanations, or directly confront the blatant pseudoskepticism. We now have on actual response, brief, essentially trolling (i.e., Axil knows that what he writes will be controversial and could be challenged, and, in fact, Rigel challenges it with “salted the reactor.”)

JedRothwell wrote: (answering one reading of the IO question):

They are deluded by wishful thinking.

4:1 no belief.

Axil wrote: (this time quoting the IO question):

Why Rossi’s reaction does something as LENR: transmutation, replication, third party verified radiation generation, $10 million paid by IH for a successful test run.

This does not mean that the E-Cat is ready for a commercial release. IH could be within there rights to reject Rossi’s claims, The court will decide.

I don’t want to turn this into a debate with Axil, but briefly:

  1. transmutation only from samples handled by Rossi.
  2. no actual replication, but file-drawer effect very possible, and some replications known to be seriously defective
  3. “third party verified radiation.” Who is this? Radiation from what? Me356, anonymous, strong claims, disappeared? Classic Axil: refer to a report as if proving Axil is Right, he always has explanations.
  4. We only know about the $10 million from Rossi v. Darden, and IH immediately claimed (press release) that they had been unable to confirm Rossi claims, and later (counterclaim) they asserted that the “successful test run” may have been fraudulent.

However, again, Axil did answer IO’s question.

Eric Walker wrote: (another attempt to answer the “why” question, but not expressing the belief allegedly held by “most people here.”)

So the direct answer score is 5/1. However, more than that can be seen. Some answers have votes. The Paradigmnoia comment, the first answer to IO, has six upvotes, from wishfulThinking, Shane D., bang99, Malcolm Lear, Jack Cole, and sigmoidal. Zeus46 upvoted Eric Walker’s post. So a more complete “survey” here is 11/1.

JedRothwell wrote: (confirming Eric Walker’s post as expressing his view.)

it is tedious to review the succeeding 800 comments or so for responses to IO, so I’m not sure there are any. Probably not. 11/1 is pretty definitive, I’d say. The sample, though is skewed. In spite of what Rigel wrote, this was not the best place to ask the imagined sincere question. It would have been better as its own thread, if on LENR Forum, or it would be better asked on Planet Rossi, i.e., on E-Cat World, where believers tend to dominate. The Official Planet Rossi view is that LENR Forum is bought and paid for by Industrial Heat or APCO. IO came back, a week later:

interested observer wrote:

Again with the paid poster idiocy? Could somebody explain to me why anyone would spend money to have posts made on a fringe website impugning the character of either a free-energy scammer or a shell company that invests in cold fusion? What is the payoff and to whom? Do people think that this childish infighting will affect a multimillion-dollar lawsuit in any fashion? Will it affect the course of science? Do people here actually think that the petty squabbles on this website are important to anyone but those who hang out here? That strikes me as delusions of grandeur.

This was pseudoskeptical trolling. A group of people interested in Rossi v. Darden, and in various issues, with various motives and specific interests, are effectively accused of “delusions of grandeur.” This is blatant disrespect of an entire community, which already demonstrated, quite effectively if anyone was paying attention, that IO is clueless about the reality of the community. LENR Forum mixes investigative discussion with debate and flame wars. People learn from these discussions, particularly those that check sources, do the math, etc. IO misses all that. At root, pseudoskeptics can be boring, stuffed-shirt, arrogant assholes. (But genuine skepticism shades into pseudoskepticism, because genuine skeptics are also human beings.)

Sadly, THHuxleynew seems to agree with IO. Of course, IO’s comment about affecting the lawsuit has a point. However, the goal of my own study of Rossi v. Darden is not attempting to affect the suit. While not entirely impossible, that is not my goal. It is to understand it, and, as well, to understand Industrial Heat, which is putting millions of dollars into real LENR research, there is Life After Rossi.

interested observer wrote: (February 20), sniping at Ascoli65, a long-time pseudoskeptic apparently upset that nobody believed his 2011 speculation, based on inference from missing evidence. IO’s comment would be otherwise unremarkable. (And I’ve written more or less the same thing. Ascoli65 is denying “conspiracy theory” while asserting it without using the word.)

interested observer wrote:

It is utterly astonishing to watch people argue for months over the question of whether a piece of apparatus produced a megawatt of power for an entire year and think the answer depends on arcane quibbles about pipe diameters and tiny temperature differences. This can only happen when people with no technical background are enamored with a “cause” as opposed to a “technology”. As for the few who don’t have the excuse of ignorance, I can only shake my head.

This was his first post to get some substantial upvotes (4). IO is largely insulting the entire community, but it’s obvious that various people think he is talking about the “other side.” One of the upvotes was from Rionrlty, who is a clear believer, a person using the name of his former business (Rion Realty) to write, and routinely attacking Dewey Weaver and Industrial Heat and anyone agreeing with them, at least that’s my impression.

However, Eric Walker replied:

I think some of the participants here are interested in nailing down the details as much as possible in order to put the case definitively to rest, sort of like pursuing an investigative story even when the general conclusions are not in much doubt.

Yes. There are some people who write about some topics Because They Are There. The issue of the obviousness of a megawatt has been commonly raised; and how Planet Rossi responds to this is fascinating. Mostly, the sanest comments are on the order of “it’s not over till the lady in a black robe sings, wait for the trial.” But that’s no fun! Pseudoskeptics generally have little concept of fun, the only humor they have is actually ridicule of others.

I am especially fascinated by Reality, and even more so by aspects of Reality that anyone can observe, if they look, but most people don’t look, which doesn’t stop them from giving strong opinions in the internet!

interested observer wrote:

In keeping with pretty much all debates related to Rossi, the fact that there is no such thing as a NATO colonel does not prevent Rossi supporters from believing one of them accepted the blue box of old for “the military”.

I and a few others use Planet Rossi as a term for the “body of believers,” but they are not uniform. That is, there is diversity on Planet Rossi. IO ignores the obvious: Rossi might make some mistake in expression. Now, what is widely accepted, even by “believers,” is that Rossi commonly exaggerates or states as a realized result what is only a possibility. Pointing out that there is no NATO colonel, as such, is pointing to possible fact (though IO doesn’t actually point to evidence), and this is an old assertion — my guess is that it’s true. But it simply does not mean what IO makes it mean, and this points up his theme: “idiots!” I’ve not seen any regulars from Planet Rossi, of late, asserting what he claims they “believe.”

Nigel Appleton skewers the IO comment without showing any trace of belief, in fact the opposite.

This must be frustrating to IO. Here he comes with some perfectly good trolling, and nobody is biting, except maybe Axil, whom he ignored, I don’t know why.

February 27, interested observer tries a bit harder.

All the talk about how to get and what to do with millions of dollars of research money for LENR puzzles me. The discussions of commercialization paths and scaling up power seem completely beside the point. This is table-top science, not billion-dollar installations. How about if any of the legitimate researchers builds a reactor of any size and power and delivers it to an independent laboratory with appropriate reputation and expertise so that they can unambiguously prove that the thing works? Don’t argue that this has already happened. Clearly it hasn’t. If it were to happen, funding will be no problem. However, if doing that is out of the question (and please skip the usual litany of lame excuses why this should be so), why does anybody continue to think this is a real phenomenon at all?

IO is now making classic pseudoskeptical arguments, someone like Jed has been writing about this for maybe 25 years. I’ll led Jed speak about that and only fill in if he misses a major point. But first:

Alan Smith wrote:

Two problems are immediately apparent. 1. Universities won’t touch it because they fear reputational damage (The Bologna EFFECT). 2. Independent testing labs like UL are very expensive places – and they don’t take on jobs for fun.

Otherwise it is a splendid idea.

It’s just not accurate. There are universities “touching it,” and a UL lab would not be involved until there is a product to certify. Alan did not answer the real question, and the false assumptions behind that question.

oldguy wrote:

interested: “How about if any of the legitimate researchers builds a reactor of any size and power and delivers it to an independent laboratory with appropriate reputation and expertise so that they can unambiguously prove that the thing works?”

That is why I said reserve 2M (i.e. 20%) for duplication, verification, and analysis and why I said 100W or 1kW levels. You can control that level on a lab bench with accurate controls and properly dump the heat. Much smaller than 100W and it is hard to convince people of scale ups.

Today, a half $M per year is about what it takes for good lab work with material, machining, data systems and analytical support. Only a few “cold fusion” labs ever got that level of support.

Better. However, 100 watts reliably may be beyond the state of the art. It is also something like four — or even five or six — orders of magnitude beyond the measurement precision with good calorimetry. Looking for Big Heat is not a good idea until it is known that the reaction is under decent control. Rather, aiming for control of smaller scale heat is better, and even better is looking for nuclear correlations with heat. That was done in 1989-1990 and ultimately led to Miles’ discovery of the heat-helium correlation announced in 1991. Since, for historical reasons, Miles’ discovery was not widely understood, even though it was later confirmed by labs with high reputation, adequately funded for first-level confirmations, I suggested a new effort, and pointed to how this could be done with increased precision even without equipment improvements; in fact, that work was funded ($12 million for the project!) and will do both. This is science. What IO is looking for is not science, which deals with what is known and then tests it.

Peter Gluck replied. (Peter Gluck is clearly a believer in Rossi technology, but doesn’t address IO’s issue, only the latest incarnation, and even that obliquely, if at all.)

Finally, JedRothwell says what he can be expected to say, with his knowledge and history and predilections.

interested observer wrote:

This is table-top science, not billion-dollar installations.

Very expensive table tops. See, for example, this machine at the ENEA:…id=187#PhotosENEAFrascati
This is what you need to do a cold fusion experiment. There is no point to doing one on a shoestring.

I’ll disagree. There is always a point to doing experiments. What IO has in mind, though is “proving” something outside of normal expectations. Miles did his heat/helium work relatively inexpensively, by using a sampling protocol, he didn’t need that mass spectrometer, for example. However, to do his work with increased precision — otherwise it is not much worth doing at this point — will require a lot. Texas Tech got $12 million, much of which will be doing this (they have at least one other project). This crap — debate about reality — has been going on for quite long enough, it’s about time to nail it. Unobtainium is not necessary, we already know how to confirm the effect, and it is a matter of doing it more thoroughly and even more definitively than has previously been done, and with, indeed, “reputable laboratories.” But no “reactor.” No Big Heat necessary. Just enough heat to measure to decent precision. With enough samples, it doesn’t even have to be high precision. Correlation can kill stupid doubt. (And lack of it, stupid belief.)

There are actually many interesting experiments that can be done at home, “table-top,” but I don’t suggest doing any experiment to “prove cold fusion,” rather, do them to find out what happens! To demonstrate LENR can be difficult, mostly because of uncontrolled material conditions. But lots of accessory stuff can be demonstrated or tested. There is material for many different science fair projects, if there are interested students. I want to see what happens if I expose an LR-115 stack to Am-241 alphas, edge-on. Has anyone ever done this? My guess is, not. Will this prove anything? No. Not by itself, other than the possible utility of a technique. But it might point to a more definitive way to investigate SPAWAR claims of neutron radiation from codeposition experiments, even though that is, itself, a side-issue compared to the big banana.

interested observer wrote:

why does anybody continue to think this is a real phenomenon at all?

If by “this” you mean Rossi’s claims, there are no reasons.
If you mean cold fusion in general, because it has been replicated thousands of times at high signal to noise ratios in over 180 major laboratories. Replication at high s/n ratios is the only way we can ever know that a phenomenon is real. There is no other standard. When you deny that a replicated effect is real you are no longer doing science. You have rejected the scientific method. Anything might be true, and anything might be false.

Jed and I have a long-term conversation over this. “Replicated thousands of times” is a bit misleading. Rather, the possible existence of some LENR effect has been confirmed thousands of times. This is not all the same as replication. There are replications, SRI did some, but this is generally circumstantial evidence, until there are direct nuclear correlations with heat, which is relatively rare. When we see enough circumstantial evidence, it’s fairly normal to “think” something real may be behind it. Jed is, overall, correct, because there are “replicated effects.” I wish he’d point to my paper, because it was designed to address this issue and, believe me, it was difficult to get that through peer review, the reviewer was initially very skeptical. By the time I’d rewritten the paper to address his concerns, and he’d read the sources, he ended up suggesting conclusions (and I accepted his suggestions).

IO has no clue as to this level of evidence. Watch what happens.

Bob wrote:

interested observer wrote:

Clearly it hasn’t.

It has possibly happened or at least is getting close! Brilliouin [sic] […]

Brillouin work is mostly secret. The SRI report recently published by Brillouin does not  seem to have gone through the SRI vetting process, and it has other issues. This is not something to be presented as definitive evidence, and with no identified ash, it’s shaky. This level of argument is more or less “Is not!” “Is so!” “Is not!” It can be expected to go nowhere unless it becomes an evidenced and careful discussion, which is not common.

predictably, interested observer wrote:

Well, lots of answers with the party line of the LENR community.

IO has actually received, directly and indirectly, lots of answers, and they strongly indicated that his original thesis was dead wrong. However, he has never acknowledged that.

LENR has already been proven and replicated and it is just the entrenched and biased mainstream science community that has rejected the overwhelming evidence. Do you seriously believe this or does it just feel good?

Who said that? This is all his fantasy from other discussions he has “followed.” He is not actually engaging with the people who show up in the conversation. Again, this is common for pseudoskeptics. They are boxing with their own shadows. Genuine skeptics, genuinely interested in exploring a science, will not write like this. There are some genuine skeptics who have engaged a little with IO. He’s not paying any attention to them, no, he was looking for “believers” to attack as stupid feel-good believers in pseudoscience.

If anybody had an LENR device that actually works, they could stick it in a box and send it to NIST or NREL or any of a number of other places and tell them to repeat the experiment. Do you really think they wouldn’t do it? They have tested lots of other “free energy” devices in the past but alas, they didn’t work.

I’m not sure what a “LENR device” is. An experiment that demonstrates an effect? Does IO have any idea of the difficulties? JedRothwell will skewer this idea of “sticking it in a box” and sending it to some lab, and the labs IO names don’t behave as he imagines.

SRI, a highly reputable independent laboratory (“research institute”) was retained to do what IO claims to want to see. They did it. Does IO care about their conclusions? Has he read the reports, in any other way than possibly looking for some mistake, real or imagined?

This is completely unreal, pseudoscientific argument that pays no attention to extant evidence, but imagines that if something were real, it would follow his fixed ideas. The two US DOE reviews did much better than he, but he’s not aware of all that. He is stuck in a fantasy world.

I have no opinion that it is worth the effort to dig him out.

Let someone who says they have a working LENR reactor step forward and offer to have it tested by interested laboratories and see what happens. I dare them. You really think they won’t get volunteers? If they have something that works, it will work for someone else in a different place. Or does it require magic and a special stethoscope?

He is really talking about Rossi, tossing Rossi Crap at the entire field. There are a number of possibilities. Mostly, nobody has a “working LENR reactor.” Rather, there is a body of experimental evidence, not “reactors,” though occasionally someone will write about an experimental cell as a “reactor.” Brillouin claims to have a controllable effect, but this is not really confirmed, and those results are not published, yet, under peer review. Standard stuff.

Brillouin has been supported by millions of dollars in private funding. The claimed technology is proprietary. At this point, they don’t give a fig about the testing IO wants to see, why should they? They have work to do! Whether or not their work is successful is between them and their investors. It is impossible to independently confirm, so the situation with Brillouin is similar in some way to that of Rossi, except that Brillouin is clearly working with scientists, and there is no evidence of fraud or deliberate deception, so most of us will give them the benefit of the doubt, until there is better evidence. As we eventually did with Rossi, when it was possible to believe that Rossi had convinced major investors and was sharing his technology with them. In that environment, I continued to warn LENR scientists not to “approve” or “rely on” Rossi results.

And don’t howl about intellectual property or other lame excuses. And Jed, I don’t think you really understand the term “replication” as applied to science. When an experiment is replicated, other people can follow the recipe and get the same results.

Right. And that is very difficult with LENR, because of the difficulty of controlling material conditions, or at least that is the “excuse.” Sometimes excuses are actually what is happening. I think Jed does understand this — he can correct me! — but he is simply expressing what is, for him, a simple truth based on massive familiarity with evidence.

I’m not even sure that anybody in this field can follow their own recipe and get the same results. Does this show that the phenomenon doesn’t exist?

Really, he should read my paper. The “result” from heat/helium research is not a particular level of heat-on-demand, but a correlation between measured heat and measured increase in helium levels. And, yes, this has been confirmed many times, that within reasonable experimental error, the ratio is the same. This is so well-known in LENR that when we see “reliable results” — meaning heat — we are suspicious! IO is repeating a very old, oft-repeated, pseudoskeptical belief, that if something is real, it must be reliably predictable. Nate Hoffman totally skewered this in 1995, in A Dialogue on Chemically Induced Nuclear Effects (A guide for the perplexed about cold fusion), published by the American Nuclear Society. He wrote, as a response to the argument, “People in the San Fernando Valley, Japanese, Columbians, et al., will be glad to hear that earthquakes are not real.”

Hardly. Perhaps there is a real effect. But what has happened so far sure doesn’t provide any confidence that there is even if there are 10,000 unrelated and irreproducible reports (see UFOs). What is it you claim has been replicated in 180 laboratories? I mean specifically. Doing some sort of experiment with palladium or nickel and measuring “excess heat” of some magnitude by some method or another does not constitute replication of anything.

Those questions have answers. However, Jed and others have, too many times, seen an apparently infinite regress.

IO has not looked at what has “happened so far,” or if he has, doesn’t show that he is aware of it. There have been exact replications, the example that comes first to mind is the SRI replication of Energetics Technologies “Superwave” experiments, done jointly with ENEA. Jed’s comments overstate the matter, as I have mentioned above. However, even a very few actual replications should be adequate to establish an effect, and what we have is something even better, something that IO doesn’t mention: correlated nuclear effects across many samples, and with independent groups (about twelve or more, Storms lists), actually using different protocols, making it very unlikely that a heat/helium correlation (which is not a temperature/helium correlation!) is some systematic artifact.

I agree with the comment that merely showing some effect isn’t replication. Many have been very sloppy about this.

And I am of course speaking in general. As for Rossi, he is unequivocally a fraud and probably has done more damage to legitimate research in LENR than any perceived conspiracy or suppression effort. There is nothing like a con man to taint an entire field and there is nothing like believing a con man that destroys the credibility of anybody who does so.

But who “believed” him? IH probably didn’t. What IO is doing is jumping to easy conclusions, knee-jerk thinking. I agree that Rossi has done some damage, but … it’s recoverable with real science — and with fact. Rossi is probably a liar, untrustworthy, perhaps deluded, we now have more fact on which to base such an impression than we had a year ago. He might or might not have something real behind the curtain. However, without noticing that most people interested in the field have rejected the Rossi claims, considering them inadequate at best, he is tarring the whole field with the same brush, expressing a kind of concern that is called being a “concern troll.”

Zeus46 wrote:

Plenty of LENR experiments have been replicated…

You just haven’t bothered to do enough research before opening your mouth.

Yes, there are replicated experiments, and there are more “confirmations.” The exact nature of all this is complex and few are aware of all the evidence. I don’t know if IO is not aware, or if he’s purely a troll; however, this is clear: he is stated alleged fact without evidence. Zeus 46 doesn’t give examples, this is bar conversation.

Nigel Appleton wrote:

Replicated thousands of times in over 180 laboratories? Maybe so. But I wonder what the average COP is. Most of all I wonder if any one particular method has been replicated in a laboratory independent of the original workers.

COP is a term that came into fashion in LENR work with Rossi. It is highly misleading. Some of these experiments and results have shown infinite COP, but it is not particularly meaningful, unless high COP is maintained for a substantial time, which can be an indication of some process beyond chemistry … if there is no systematic artifact. The “wondering” is a reasonable question to ask. Mostly, not. Sometimes, yes. There is a huge pile of unconfirmed work, and there is the file drawer effect to be concerned about. This is why correlated effects become so important. They cut through the noise.

With a controlled effect, it should be fairly easy to push COP to infinite. The major problem with cold fusion has been, since the beginning, control. It would be premature to arrange infinite COP, to do the engineering, if there is no solid control of the effect. And it is not –at all — scientifically necessary. It is only desirable for “killer demonstrations,” which some keep searching for, not for scientific understanding.

Bob wrote: (more)

THHuxley wrote: 

When an experiment is replicated, other people can follow the recipe and get the same results. I’m not even sure that anybody in this field can follow their own recipe and get the same results.

The Brillouin experiment has been replicated, but with the same experimental setup so any systematic calorimetry errors could lead to replicable false positives. Since there is an obvious possible cause for these not yet considered by SRI (at leat not mentioned in the preliminary report) that is a hole that will need to be closed before the work can be evidence of LENR.

I have been coming to the conclusion that THH is a pseudoskeptic, but, this is important: he engages as a genuine skeptic, he understands the value of that, so what he “believes” underneath doesn’t matter to me, he creates genuine conversation and exploration, and he’s done a great deal of work, he’s not just shooting off his mouth — or his other end. I agree with his comments here, quite well (but without examining the possible errors in detail, yet, as anything I am yet ready to publish).

interested observer wrote:

Bob : of course I did not literally mean to stick the reactor in a box and Fedex it to a lab. It would take some back-and-forth communications to arrange a test. My point is that if a researcher had an LENR reactor that he/she was confident demonstrated the effect, they could send their data to a lab along with the offer to send the reactor to that lab for independent testing. I know enough scientists in such places to confidently say that they could easily find someone to do a test under those circumstances. On the other hand, finding someone to do an orchestrated piece of nonsense a la Rossi is an entirely different matter. And yes, everything costs money but lack of budget would not prevent such a test from happening if the opportunity was presented appropriately.

I agree, in principle. The fact is that such work has already been done, quite a few times. IO imagines that this has never occurred. The real situation in the real world is quite complex, and there are political forces operating, this is all well-known and documented by sociologists of science. The basic problem, however, is relatively simple and Eric Walker will point it out, see below. The available work, the kind of replication work I have pointed to, is quite expensive and difficult. Nevertheless, it’s been funded and is under way.

I really don’t understand where this wildly distorted view of scientists comes from on LENR websites. Scientists are the most curious and most interested people in the world in new phenomena. Show them something with real promise and they go nuts (see superconductivity in 1986/7.) Given the opportunity to get their hands on a device displaying an exciting new phenomenon, any scientist worth beans would jump at the opportunity. The notion that only a bunch of internet science groupies are the only truly openminded people in the world is just dumb.

Notice the mindset: “only a bunch of internet science groupies.” Who somehow manage to convince a major philanthropist to toss in $6 million, matched by the State of Texas, and to convince Woodford to toss in $50 million, with $150 million more committed if needed, i.e., if there is something useful to toss it at, what is wrong with this picture? Who, exactly, is “dumb”? Notice that he began by accusing the entire community of stupidity and lack of reasoning ability, and he has not retreated from that one bit. He is showing extensive ignorance combined with a belief that he has nothing to learn from such a collection of idiots. Classic pseudoskeptic “debunker.”

Anyone who has studied the history of this field, including Huizenga and Taubes and all the skeptics, and including that of the involved scientists who have confirmed what is called, in Texas, the AHE or Anomalous Heat Effect, knows that the idea of scientists presented by IO is also distorted. I recommend reading Gary Taubes on information cascades and how they work — and the damage they do. Scientists are human, and vary.

There is no such device to hand to people, unless Mitchell Swartz has one. How much is he charging for it? Are scientists rushing to buy one to test it? No? Why not? Look, it’s obvious!!! I personally have no idea if the Nanor works or not. I have seen no independent confirmations, only MIT demonstrations.

Eric Walker wrote:

What you’re asking for is often called a “lab rat” experiment in LENR circles. Everyone would like for there to be such an experiment. There is little to no dispute that there currently is not such an experiment. Different people will have different views of what can be concluded from this fact. But people are trying to get such an experiment sorted out.

Right. As ordinarily imagined, there is no such experiment, as far as we know. However, that does not mean that there are no replicable experiments. The heat/helium work can use more or less any protocol, though I recommend — strongly — using a known one. Varying it much can create some noise. Miles damaged his correlation by trying a PdCe cathode. Something is different, he created an outlier, standing out clearly. Looks like — most likely — something about a PdCe cathode traps all the helium, and Miles never had the resources to analyze his cathodes, he only did gas sampling. (Miles correlation still showed a probability of 750,000:1 against his results matching by chance. Later confirmation greatly increases that statistic.)

interested observer wrote:

It isn’t necessary to conclude anything from the lack of such an experiment. My only contention is the the claim that LENR been proven and replicated and so forth is not backed up by the facts.

This assumes that a lab rat experiment is necessary to show what he mentions. He has not created, here, the discussion needed to examine the “claim.” He has not really referred to any specific claim. “Proven” is a word that I advice avoiding. Science doesn’t prove things, rather, evidence creates preponderance. The direct evidence for LENR, as distinct from the circumstantial and indirect, is the correlation between generated heat and a candidate for the ash. This is what was missing in 1989-1990, and was an important element in the rejection cascade, and all that was reasonable — to a degree.

That correlation has been replicated. But IO doesn’t even seem to be aware that it exists. He talks about “the facts,” but he knows very little of the facts, he has probably watched some debates between fanatics — on either side — and has opinions. There are thousands of papers publishing in the field. To become reasonably familiar with this takes years of reading and consideration. I know of one pseudoskeptic who has done some of that. Not much — not really enough — , but enough to be able to raise the more difficult arguments. He’s mostly disappeared. A real skeptic will be very interested in what Texas Tech is working on, will be highly interested in their experimental results, because this could easily nail the affair. Isn’t it about time?

If it was true, funding and widespread research would be a no-brainer.

The Miles discovery was first published in 1991. Huizenga noticed it and featured it in the 2nd edition of Cold fusion: scientific fiasco of the century. He simply expected that it would not be confirmed. Well, was it confirmed or not? How much funding was available for confirmation or disconfirmation? My opinion was, in fact, writing my paper, that funding a new replication of Miles with increased precision was, in fact, a no-brainer, because it would not be wasted. Someone with a lot of money apparently agreed. But why did it take more than 25 years? Yes, SRI and ENEA — and others — confirmed, why wasn’t this enough? Why were deficiencies in all that work not addressed? A simple answer: nobody was paying for that.

Coming up with conspiracy theories, claims of suppression, and the idea of some sort of locked-arm intransigence by all of science are just ways of avoiding the fact that the existing evidence is not convincing to almost anyone who looks at it (apart from the frankly cultish group that frequents sites like this one.)

I don’t believe in any of that. Conspiracy, there were various actions by the Washington office of the APS, but I don’t think there was any widespread conspiracy. There is no locked-arm intransigence, just an ordinary information cascade, the kind that afflicts science from time to time, creating impressions of rejection, in this case, where the actual experimental work to show artifact was never done (as to the primary claim, anomalous heat — and then as to the stunning finding that the heat and helium generation were correlated). That is, an impression of scientific consensus is created without any actual scientific foundation, only communicated opinion.

Suppression, there is history that can only be read that way. The first time a doctoral candidate’s thesis was rejected because it was about cold fusion — without any regard for the quality of the work, which still stands as probably accurate — there went the major source of replication labor. This had an impact!

I have shown my work to scientists, and the general response is interest and encouragement. IO imagines that he knows how scientists respond to the evidence, but when scientists have somehow been taken beyond a belief that they already know and understand, perhaps by taking some responsibility to look carefully seriously, they are far more likely to become interested. Robert Duncan is a clear case in point. We don’t know who IO is, nor his qualifications.

The knee-jerk reaction is that if you don’t agree, then you didn’t really look at the data. These days, it seems as if the societal norm is that if somebody disagrees with your point of view, they must either be an idiot or corrupt. There is always the alternative, however: they might also be right and you might be wrong.

Except that IO misses something huge. He doesn’t know the data, he is not showing familiarity with it, only with certain internet memes. Sometimes someone who seems to be an idiot isn’t, well, not an idiot, but oblivious to what might be right in front of his face. If he were to look. Right in this discussion, he barged in with claims that most people participating “believed” that the Rossi Effect was real. What appeared was massive evidence that he was incorrect. Instead of acknowledging the error, he simply moved the target, moved the goalposts, making yet another familiar argument. Jed has been debating this for, what, 25 years? Don’t be surprised if Jed calls you an idiot when you say something stupid. As IO did.

JedRothwell wrote: (straight contrary fact, confronting IO’s assumptions).

and there was more commentary.

interested observer wrote: [deeper and deeper trolling, or ignorant argument, take your  pick]

JedRothwell wrote: [still displaying some patient explanation, but losing his patience, and I don’t wonder at it. He ends with:]

The individual researchers are dead, as I said. “Institutions” never stand up and talk. All you will find are scientific papers and books. I suggest you read them, or shut the hell up. You apparently know nothing about this subject. It never looks good when someone blathers on ignorantly about scientific research he knows nothing about.

Spend a few weeks reading and learning. Read some books. Then, perhaps, you will be in a position to judge this field.

This was actually straighforward, honest advice.

Interested observer wrote:

Thanks for the bunch of ad hominem comments. After all, I don’t see things the way you do, so I must either be an idiot or evil. I’ve been reading and learning for many years, Jed, and I’m in a perfectly good position to judge this field. And it is filled with people like you who are incapable of supporting their position without personal attacks, which is not helping it one bit.

 Rank hypocrisy. This is an ad hominem response that does not engage on any substantive issue. IO is anonymous but is claiming personal authority. He is ignoring substance and focusing on an argument he imagines he can win: that the field is “filled with people like you who are incapable of supporting their position without personal attacks.” And then he adds the concern troll kicker: it’s “not helping it one bit.”

I have a message for this troll: we DGAF what you think. You are not anyone of any significance or importance, such that we would have a rational motive to convince you of anything. You barged into LENR Forum and attacked the entire LENR community, lying about it, or at least showing reckless disregard for fact. You continued and widened your attack, and when someone points out how fact-free your claims are, how ignorant, someone with extensive knowledge, you call it ad-hom. How do I represent on this blog the sound of spitting? PTUI?

JedRothwell responded with more. Finally, Barty, an LF administrator, demanded a return to the topic. What a concept! Topics? WTF?

While IO hasn’t yet returned, users continued to ignore the topic. Including another administrator and a moderator.

Herding cats. It’s actually not difficult to herd cats, you just need to know what they want and invite them to follow it. It takes some attention, just saying “Now, behave!” does nothing.


Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax


10 thoughts on “Pseudoskepticism vs Skepticism: Case studies:”

    1. Welcome to Cold Fusion Community, tyy. Having an approved post here, you are now automatically approved for comments. However, that does not mean that you will be permitted to continue to post deceptive garbage. Pseudoskepticism.. Truzzi is one of my heroes, and one of the highlights of my life was being quoted by Martin Gardner. In my experience, pseudoskeptics will deny that the phenomenon exists at all. It is one of the signs, in addition to those given in the article. But we will not ban you merely for being a pseudoskeptic. You would have to also be persistently obnoxious and useless.

      By the way, “woo” is a term used almost exclusively by pseudoskeptics, and “promoters of woo” is even more diagnostic.

  1. As a borderline pseudoskeptic I should have interesting personal experience to bear on this topic!

    I do have some detailed views on it, since it has always interested me. First, the label pseudoskeptic is profoundly unhelpful unless accompanied by certainty you have got it right. The whole point about debate is to argue the arguments, not the personality of the arguer. The label pseudoskeptic only has use as a marker: this person has been dismissed as someone wholse views are predictable and therefore uninteresting (and wrong).

    In fact, labelling anyone a pseudoskeptic is the same phenomena as what I think Abd means by pseudoskepticism, and just as odious. Abd I believe defines pseudoskeptic to be somone whose beliefs are so limiting that they are prevented from paying attention to contrary evidence and therefore erroneously keep a biassed view.

    Unfortunately, here convenience is the enemy of attention. It is true that somone (say IH) who is convinced that LENR does not exist may both overlook evidence that it does and talk in a way that is unquestioning (even while overtly asking questions). Equally someone who is convinced that LENR does exist (say Jed) will overlook or dismiss contrary evidence, and dismiss contrary people as idiots or worse.

    These two phenomena exist and both are problematic regardless (let us say) of whether Jed or IH is correct, or whether this question is an open one where an objective viewer would reckon there is no clear answer.

    If (for example) Jed is correct, then his unwillingness to examine the issue with care is less harmful than if he is wrong. In PR terms it may be equally harmful, since certitude does not convince others.

    Again, Jed has, I believe him, spend a great deal of time and effort considering these matters. That makes his views of more weight than somone who has not done that. But it does not make them ineluctably true. Just as, for example, a believer he has spent a life studying his faith, does not make his belief more plausible to agnostics or someone of a different faith. Science is not faith, and there can be scientific judgements which any open-minded expert would validate based on current evidence. But often (and my view is that LENR has this character) the evidence is cloudy and does not allow clear answers. But it does allow, maybe attracts, conviction.

    So, my point here is that convictions are human. They are a necessary shortcut. We all have them, often they are incorrect, occasionally they are very harmful. The way we progress with science is to admit we are fallible humans, with convictions, and then bend over backwards to try and question them and see the other side. The way we respect other people is to realise that even when we are pretty sure their convictions are wrong, we should respect them as people, and pay attention to their arguments and views, which still have merit. And convictions matter to people. Sometimes, in such dialog, convictions can change. Regardless of the bottom line details matter. And even if my convictions are unshaken by evidence contrary to them, I still want to understand and weigh that evidence. For me I want attention to details, and the capacity to follow through a train of argument to its conclusion.

    Abd I think conflates two things in the label pseudoskeptic: someone who has strong conviction that LENR is false, and somone who is incapable of processing contrary points of view about LENR. Then, he labels interlocutors as pseudoskeptic or not. That label is obviously a convenience, it saves effort. But it is inherently wrong. Just as wrong as I would be if I labelled Jed as a believer incapable of looking at contrary evidence because he is often dismissive of it and impatient with people propounding it.

    As for IO – is he a pseudo-skeptic?

    I’d much prefer not to answer that. I’d happy label any of his posts as more or less pseudoskeptical. Some are quite strongly so, others are not at all that.

    Oh – and me? Make up your own mind! Or, don’t.

      1. My apologies for the lack of a user edit facility. I’m working on it. It might be necessary for users to register as a subscriber in order to be granted that privilege. The reason for that is probably obvious.

  2. Abd,
    You are on fire today, these counts are very rough.
    Document length est. 8849 word count
    27 variants on “pseudo” 13 variants on “troll”
    Can any of these synonyms for pseudo be used? From the list and just add skeptical on the end such as (bogus, sham, phony, artificial, mock, ersatz, quasi-, fake, false, spurious, deceptive, misleading, assumed, contrived, affected, insincere).
    Since the title is pseudoskepticism vs skepticism you get a pass. You are a very creative writer. It started to read like the “Florida man” meme. — From the latest in Miami ….. Florida man (Rossi) did florida man stuff blah blah florida florida something Rossi, florida floridian.

    -Can Rigel just get an upgrade to be quasi-ignorant?- Rigel

    1. I cleaned it up a bit and made it less soppy.
      “Was the E-cat an artificially bogus phony sham? Tests being false and spurious while also being misleading and deceptive? Or were the affected and assumed quasi arguments just ersatz from a Planet Insincere Skepticiant?”

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