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.

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Author: Abd ulRahman Lomax

See http://coldfusioncommunity.net/biography-abd-ul-rahman-lomax/

5 thoughts on “The ultimate pseudoscience”

  1. On the demarcation problem, I generally stick to Popper’s thinking that if there’s no way of disproving a theory then it’s not science. This of course puts String Theory into the realm of philosophy and not science, since there’s no way of disproving it. Much the same with quantum theory. However, such a philosophical basis is necessary in order to arrange our bits of experimental knowledge into a thought-structure that makes sense to us humans. Maybe the problem here is that most people will regard quantum mechanics as a hard science (and it is pretty hard…) and not as a philosophy that can be changed without affecting the many experimental verifications that have been done. A new philosophy would need to explain the experimental results at least as well, and your choice of which to base your thinking on depends on whether the new philosophy explains the experiments more-easily, with easier maths, or with a more-easily visualised structure. It’s quite OK to hold more than one theory (where such theories can be mutually-exclusive) as being valid until one or the other gets disproved by some experiment, at which point you can discard the theory that doesn’t match reality as well. Don’t settle on one theory alone as being the only correct one until it’s become obvious that the other theory isn’t sufficient.

    Basically, science itself is built on a belief-structure. There’s only a problem with that when you start believing in those structures rather than regarding them as temporary housings until we get a better way of explaining things. Such a new structure won’t stop well-tried technology working just the same as it had before, but may lead to new technologies that seemed impossible before that change of viewpoint.

  2. Abd – any physics undergraduate first has to get used to the idea that two of the basic descriptions of how the universe works (quantum mechanics and Einstein’s general theory of relativity) are mutually exclusive. They can’t both be correct, and yet we work with them as if they are both correct – you simply choose the description that is relevant to the situation. This applies to other descriptions of reality and formulae where a different formula is used in different ranges. It’s thus pretty obvious to anyone who dives that bit deeper that our current state of knowledge is only an approximation, and that we should regard even well-tested theory as not totally to be trusted. Where we find an anomaly, and the theory doesn’t predict it, there’s an indication that the theory is inadequate to explain all of Reality and is thus actually wrong, even though for the most part it works adequately and predicts most other events.

    Anomalies are thus far more important in shaping our understanding of the way the universe works than theories that mostly work, and explaining the anomaly can either give rise to a modification of the relevant theory or lead to a totally new theory and understanding. LENR is such an anomaly, and the evidence that it actually works in practice would be more than sufficient for scientific acceptance if it wasn’t so much against the standard hot fusion experience and was somewhat easier to perform.

    A few years ago (sorry, no links) I saw a program about an experiment at Harvard (IIRC) where the investigation was to do with the health impacts of the doctor’s “bedside manner”. They found that the patients where the doctor was pleasant and engaged with the patient and discussed the problems for a longer time had better outcomes than where the doctor was just as polite but treated the illness as being separate from the person who had it, and simply prescribed the correct pills/treatment. Probably similar to the placebo/nocebo effect, and so the “holistic” medicine (such as Chinese, acupuncture, homoeopathy etc.) starts off with an advantage since such people treat the person and not necessarily the illness. There are medical stories of anomalies, too, such as spontaneous remission of cancers, which may be pointers that we could do better with such diseases if we treated them differently.

    Still, for medical problems, there’s always been the option of “getting a second opinion”, where it can be seen that the underlying implication is that there may be a better way than the standard ideas of both the reason for an illness and of the way of curing it. Allergies and auto-immune problems may be fixed by introducing parasites – they give the immune system something real to fight against. Life is complex, and we are continually finding new inter-relationships in the way our bodies work. Maybe the real surprise is that our bodies work at all, since the way they work is very complex.

    However, despite the materialistic view of medicine, where the system can be either mechanically adjusted by surgery or chemically adjusted using pills, or where the brain can be electrically-adjusted to reduce the shakes from Parkinson’s disease, it seems that the mind also has an effect on the wellness of a person. If we ignore that effect of the mind as being “unscientific” then we’re most likely missing something. Still, since everyone has a different mind and because everyone has a unique genetic signature, trying to fix the mind to cure an illness won’t be the standard “do this and it will be fixed” approach that science likes. You’ll need to use statistical methods to analyse results and have a large (statistically significant) cohort to be able to show any effect, and how you measure the effect and how you process the figures will be a source of error. Too easy to come to a wrong conclusion by making a subtle mistake somewhere. In the medical papers published, maybe somewhere over 50% of them can’t be replicated, and thus fail the standards of science.

    I rather like the Royal Institution’s motto – take nobody’s word for it. Go test it yourself rather than simply accepting the standard theory. For LENR, for most people that will mean buying one at Wal-Mart once it’s on sale. Since most people won’t know how their phones work, yet use them anyway, not really much difference in principle.

    What the pseudoskeptics are basically saying is that what they know is the absolute truth, and that people who don’t agree with them are wrong. Real science isn’t like that – all theories are up for being disproven providing the experimental evidence is solid. Proposing an absolute truth is the province of religion, not science. About the only rule that could be seen as absolute is that if you do the same thing, you’ll get the same result, but even there the uncertainty principle tells you that you can’t do the same thing twice anyway. We thus modify that rule to be “if you do near-enough the same thing, then you’ll get near-enough the same result”. That’s of course one of the problems with LENR, in that mostly it’s difficult to do something that’s near-enough the same when we don’t know precisely the conditions we’re aiming for.

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

    My response is “why stick to only two points of view?”. The more diverse ways you have of looking at something, the more likely you are to see some connection with something else and thus gain a different approach that may succeed where other ideas have failed. There’s more strength in diversity.

      1. Abd – It’s fun to go outside the normal discussions here, and the need to put things into words helps me to clarify thoughts where I may not have been sure of my current position.

        “I would not say it that way. Rather than saying that they are mutually exclusive, I would say that neither is complete, and once we understand that, they can both be “correct,” that is, useful for prediction. Contradiction is an interpretation, and the idea that only one theory can be correct is quite limiting. It’s an assumption, not an actual fact.”

        In the standard interpretations, QM and GTR are not compatible. I’d prefer to state this as that QM tells you what is actually happening, whereas GTR tells you what you can measure to be happening, and what you see (and thus measure) is distorted by the finite speed of light. Given that the GPS satellite system will only give you the right answers when we use the Sun-Earth frame of reference, though, there’s an indication that the GTR may not be the best answer we can produce as regards “what we measure to happen”. This is rather interesting, and one of those things where we may find that things we thought were impossible, such as FTL (faster than light) travel, may actually be possible.

        “When pseudoskeptics say “there is no evidence,” they commonly mean “I have not seen evidence that has convinced me.””

        Agreed. That also applies to sceptics, though. For pseudosceptics, if they’ve stated what evidence would convince them and it arrives, they often shift the goalposts. Miles’ painstaking care on measuring Helium concentrations, and the blinded analysis of those flasks, and the resulting correlations, should be convincing to anyone who understands the difficulties overcome and the consequences of a slip-up. Still, it’s just possible that such a correlation may be pure chance, and someone could likely work out the probability. The probability that I win the lottery is up in the many millions to one, yet it happens to someone several times a year.

        “You went a bridge too far, Simon. “Inadequate to explain all” does not mean “wrong.” No theory will ever “explain all of reality,” this would be the delusion of a pile of meat imagining that it can comprehend the ultimate. Unless, of course, the ultimate decides to create that, I can’t say it’s impossible. But I doubt it.”

        Agreed it’s unlikely we’ll be able to explain all of reality, but an anomaly does say that the current explanation is insufficient. For Cold Fusion, if we accept the experimental evidence then the current nuclear theory is missing some interactions that can physically happen. First it’s necessary to accept the experimental evidence, and for people who believe that science is complete that’s a bit difficult.

        During my years of Failure Analysis, the first stage in fixing a problem was to get agreement that a problem existed. That could take a while.

        “I consider reality a miracle.”

        Agreed again…. The whole system does seem pretty unlikely, but then if it wasn’t the way it was we wouldn’t be here talking about it. Rather than producing a plausible-sounding explanation, though, I prefer to leave the origins and reasons (if any) as “unknown”.

        “And then, on the issue of a mind that is beyond material, I remain agnostic. I allow it as possible, I even use it in myth (i.e., in creating inspiring interpretations), but I have no experience that is definitive in distinguishing the my brain and senses from some non-physical mind. The physical mind is an absolute miracle, and can do things that are commonly unexpected.”

        Also agreed. I feel my self as a distinct item separate from my body, but there is no acceptable proof of such a non-material entity that is separate from the material body, so until such proof turns up I’m leaving that as unknown too. The brain forms an analogue of the reality around us and fills in bits it hasn’t (or can’t have) perceived, and gives us the illusion of a continuous reality. Stage magicians exploit the gaps in perception to make it appear that things happen that we “know” are impossible. Part of learning science is learning how our senses fail in specific situations, and also knowing the limitations of our methods of measurement. There are way more ways to be wrong that to be right.

        “Science does not have likes and dislikes, not the real thing. What you are referring to, Simon, is the habit of people to want to believe we understand things, and not understanding something is a threat, a danger, or it is thought to be so. If fear causes us to lose detachment, we actually lose science in the mix.”

        Yep, I was a bit sloppy there. Rather than “likes”, I should maybe have said “aspires to”. My inbuilt thesaurus fails sometimes. For me, I try to maintain that detachment from beliefs and question whether they have a reasonable basis. I’ll most likely fail in some areas where there’s some belief I haven’t recognised as such.

        “And with cold fusion, given that nobody knew WTF was actually happening, many solid experimental reports were rejected for publication “because no explanation.” As if explanation should come before the accumulation of data, springing lotus-born from genius. Probably not.”

        Often the inventor’s explanation of the reason can be wrong, though the experimental data may be valid. An example here would be Brillouin, where their explanations can’t be true based on what populations of the expected intermediate reactions would be produced, and yet I think their experimental results are real and honestly reported. OK, a bit of spin as to projected progress and future development rate, but that’s pretty normal. Interpretation errors are, as you say, pretty usual when it’s something new.

        “Hah! that’s a way of avoiding the question. There is something we commonly know about that is an answer to the question, that actually conveys something. I tend to be a literalist, that might be a clue. I don’t know how to see anything from more than two points of view at a time. I can make a list of possibilities, but that isn’t seeing.”

        Yep, maybe a bit of a side-slip there, but I actually do this sequentially rather than at the same time. Possibly people who can hold two or more viewpoints simultaneously are pretty rare, anyway. You’re probably right that it would lead to confusion, not clarity. I think that the logical processes need to run in steps, so that each step is seen to be valid. At any point there may be a split in the path depending on the theory/viewpoint used, but they’d need to be explored as separate paths rather than following both at the same time.

        The easiest way to get two points of view at the same time is to have two people. Resolve the disagreements in discussion if possible. One of my problems is that at times I skip a few steps in the logical process because I can see the answer already so go to it more directly, and so going through the logical steps with someone else helps in finding those jumps and detailing them as a set of steps rather than a leap.

        One of the hardest things to expose are the hidden assumptions and beliefs we use without thinking about them. The sort of things that everyone knows are true so they aren’t questioned. That can be where a group discussion is useful, providing there’s at least one person who challenges you to justify the assumptions and isn’t part of the group-think that has a set of common assumptions. Digging in the foundations and asking “why do you believe that?” can be useful.

        Answer here because the page you replied on hasn’t got comments enabled.

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