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Old 04-14-2016, 07:13 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Scientists and other Scholars who publish work considered "crank" by most peers

This is probably a big ask but I am hoping to find out who exists--or has recently existed--who fits the following criteria:

1. Is an academic who could be considered well-published in their field
2. Has a view that is considered not just wrong, but "crank" levels of wrong, by a large number--preferably most or even all--others in their field
3. At least occasionally speaks about and publishes about this "crank" idea in peer-reviewed or otherwise "gated" well-established venues* in their field--venues universally or near-universally considered reliable academic venues by people in the relevant field

*so like, journals, conferences, curated academic web/blog sites, etc.

The best example I can think of is any proponent of String Theory, which isn't really a good example at all. But it's my understanding that many physicists do despair that String Theory is at crank-ish "not even wrong" levels of "wrong."

What better examples exist? Are there really biologists out there, for example, who could be considered realistically to be "respected scientists," in the sense outlined above, who openly espouse and even get stuff published on creationism or Intelligent Design? Climate scientists who do the same arguing against global warming? Etc.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:27 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Bjorn Lomborg could be considered a candidate.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:27 AM
USCDiver USCDiver is offline
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I think the Anti-vax researcher, Andrew Wakefield is the poster child for this.
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:59 AM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Fred Hoyle and canals on Mars immediately came to mind. I think another good example would be Lord Kelvin and his views on the age of the earth (though to be fair science was only just beginning to show how much older it was).
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I think the Anti-vax researcher, Andrew Wakefield is the poster child for this.
Wakefield's work is no longer being published in any reputable journal, though. At the time when his original vaccination work was published in The Lancet it was seen as cutting edge rather than crazy. It wasn't until people figured out he falsified his data that everyone (including his peer reviewers and co-authors) caught on.
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Old 04-14-2016, 10:33 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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I think another good example would be Lord Kelvin and his views on the age of the earth
Lord Kelvin simply worked out the age of the Earth based upon heat transfer calculations. He was smart enough to know that the assumption that the Earth had no internal heat source was important to his analysis. He did live long enough to see radioactive sources discovered, but only just. Although devout, he was also smart enough to temper his beliefs about the world with science. Where it gets hard for him is when there were important discoveries yet to be made that invalidated some of his calculations. Nuclear fusion and thus the age of the sun being the obvious gap. But his beliefs were rooted in solid application of scientific knowledge as it was at the time. He wasn't a crank.
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Old 04-14-2016, 01:20 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Fred Hoyle and canals on Mars immediately came to mind. .
Are you thinking Percival Lowell?
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:41 AM
BrotherCadfael BrotherCadfael is offline
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The classic example was "continental drift". There was some evidence (magnetic traces, mostly) that continents could move and had moved, but until a workable mechanism (plate tectonics) was proposed to explain how it could happen, "Continental Drift" was a fringe theory and proponents were considered nuts.

One of the very, very, very few cases of complete woo ultimately becoming the dominant paradigm.

Unfortunately often cited by current advocates of woo.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:53 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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The classic example was "continental drift". There was some evidence (magnetic traces, mostly) that continents could move and had moved, but until a workable mechanism (plate tectonics) was proposed to explain how it could happen, "Continental Drift" was a fringe theory and proponents were considered nuts.

One of the very, very, very few cases of complete woo ultimately becoming the dominant paradigm.

Unfortunately often cited by current advocates of woo.
Yeah that's a good example albeit a very old one, and your last line is unfortunately apropos because I am trying to advocate for an idea a lot of people think is woo but which there _are_ a handful of relevant serious respected scholars who say the idea should at least be taken seriously. So I'm trying to show this idea is in a better position than other "crank" ideas in at least that regard. I hope I'm right.
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Old 04-15-2016, 10:23 PM
lynne-42 lynne-42 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Frylock View Post
I am trying to advocate for an idea a lot of people think is woo but which there _are_ a handful of relevant serious respected scholars who say the idea should at least be taken seriously. So I'm trying to show this idea is in a better position than other "crank" ideas in at least that regard. I hope I'm right.
I am following this thread with great interest. I am also trying to advocate for an idea which places me in the woo category for anyone who has not read it or heard my talks. But of those who have heard it over the last 8 years, I have not a single detractor.

I stumbled over a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and other monuments in the process of writing a book on indigenous knowledge of animals. Yes, there is a link! Unfortunately, it takes a bit of explaining which is a pain because I can't do nice groovy sound bites.

I was doing a PhD as a science writer in the English program at LaTrobe University, Australia. This idea was a major distraction from my nice comfortable topic, and publishing offer on the table. I tried academic journals who would not touch it. None of the rejections could identify any fault, which I would have happily accepted and got back onto the book I was supposed to be writing. The archaeologists at my own university would not talk to me, despite requests from my supervisor and their review of a paper sent to them in which they could not fault the theory.

In the end, I converted to an academic PhD and the university had internationally renown archaeologists and an anthropologist examine it - my background includes neither of those fields. It passed well. I then submitted a proposal to Cambridge University Press who accepted it immediately and published it last year. No reviews yet. It is very interdisciplinary which makes reviews hard to get.

I rewrote it all again for my original mainstream publisher, Allen & Unwin, and it comes out in a couple of months here in Australia. Rights have already sold to the US and UK. The manuscript has been endorsed by archaeologists here, the US and by a leading Stonehenge expert. Those comments are all offered for the public endorsement of the book.

Soon, it will go out into the big world.

So like you, Frylock, I am advocating for a 'woo' idea, but the academic process of review, slow and tedious as it has been, has served me well. Lots of tears on the way, but on reflection, I would not do it any other way.
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Old 04-16-2016, 09:44 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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The US Amazon site has three five-star reviews of it, Lynne.

When will your mainstream book be published in the US?
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Old 04-16-2016, 08:12 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Originally Posted by Exapno Mapcase View Post
The US Amazon site has three five-star reviews of it, Lynne.

When will your mainstream book be published in the US?
what is the title?
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Old 04-16-2016, 11:13 PM
lynne-42 lynne-42 is offline
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The US Amazon site has three five-star reviews of it, Lynne.

When will your mainstream book be published in the US?
Oooops. Thank you! The academic mind-set is too ingrained. I was only thinking of formal reviews in journals. Much appreciated!

The mainstream book, The Memory Code, will be published in the US by Pegasus Books early next year. Atlantic Books are publishing in the UK about the same time. Audible have bought the audio rights, and I imagine that will be early next year as well.

I am not in touch with the others yet - it all goes through my publisher here in Australia, Allen & Unwin. It goes to press here on Monday and hits the book shops June 22. Only a few more months after 8 years obsessive work! Thank you for the interest.

Lynne
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Old 04-16-2016, 06:24 PM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Originally Posted by lynne-42 View Post
I stumbled over a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and other monuments in the process of writing a book on indigenous knowledge of animals. Yes, there is a link!
Did you mean to provide a link here?
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Old 04-16-2016, 11:14 PM
lynne-42 lynne-42 is offline
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Did you mean to provide a link here?
I am not sure if that is OK in terms of protocol. It would be advertising, wouldn't it?
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Old 04-17-2016, 03:37 AM
scoots scoots is offline
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Originally Posted by lynne-42 View Post
I stumbled over a new theory for the purpose of Stonehenge and other monuments in the process of writing a book on indigenous knowledge of animals. Yes, there is a link! Unfortunately, it takes a bit of explaining which is a pain because I can't do nice groovy sound bites.
It sounds interesting - like the kind of thing I would read. Is the idea that the shape of Stonehenge encodes certain information (animal behaviour, astronomy etc) in order to preserve that information for the future?

If so, which things are you suggesting it encodes?
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Old 04-17-2016, 04:49 AM
lynne-42 lynne-42 is offline
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It sounds interesting - like the kind of thing I would read. Is the idea that the shape of Stonehenge encodes certain information (animal behaviour, astronomy etc) in order to preserve that information for the future?

If so, which things are you suggesting it encodes?
I really wish I could explain simply. I apologise for the vagueness. Stonehenge has to be considered in terms of the simple stone circle which it was for 500 years before the big guys (the sarsens) in the middle arrived. The circle is probably simply because knowledge is often stored in a cyclic form in non-literate cultures. Rows and other shapes also work. It is the sequence of stones that is critical, each individual.

The theory is all based around the most effective memory method known, usually referred to as the method of loci, or memory palaces. That method is attributed to the ancient Greeks and still used by contemporary memory champions. My research has shown that all non-literate cultures also use this method and it can be shown that it has been used in Australia for far longer than the age of monuments such as Stonehenge. Using physical locations for memory is a result of the human brain structure, as shown by the Nobel Prize (2014) winning medical research.

The information I am arguing is stored is all the practical stuff, including a great deal on which survival depends. I acknowledge there is a spiritual domain, but my focus is entirely on the way non-literate elders can memorise an entire field guide to the plants and animals - the Navajo have been shown to have a memorised classification of over 700 insects alone! Then navigation charts and extraordinary methods to cross oceans, deserts, through forests and even on moving, featureless ice. Complex genealogies, laws, trade negotiations, resource management, geology ... the list goes on and on. My research question was (academically worded): how the hell do they remember so much stuff?

It is all to do with recognising song, dance, story, mythology and music as forms of mnemonic aids. There is a whole body of research on this called 'primary orality'. I then looked for the physical indicators of the memory methods - landscape, features of performance spaces and handheld devices. There is a universal pattern. I am using some of these devices now and they are incredibly effective.

I then found those indicators in the landscape of monuments built by small scale oral cultures in the transition from mobile (not nomadic) hunter gatherers to small settled communities. Once you get individual wealth and a warrior class, my theory tends to break down. It is also when the monuments are abandoned. Increasingly restricted societies are a feature of early settlement as are seen widely in the Americas and Africa. That's when the sarsens come into play at Stonehenge and the public space is created at Durrington Walls.

The resistance for the academic domain was because I could not explain with sufficient support in a paper. It took a book. Plus they were (rightly so) suspicious of someone from way outside the domain making such claims. The academic process does allow for such claims, but not overnight!
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:51 AM
Grey Grey is offline
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You'd be wrong about String Theory. It's isn't crankish nonsense but it does get a lot of attention despite being just one approach amongst many to get past the standard model and tie the 4 fundamental forces together.

I was thinking of Roger Penrose and his attempts to tie consciousness to to quantum events in the brain. He's deeply respected in theoretical physics and mathematics but his views on consciousness are basically dismissed.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:57 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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You'd be wrong about String Theory. It's isn't crankish nonsense but it does get a lot of attention despite being just one approach amongst many to get past the standard model and tie the 4 fundamental forces together.

I was thinking of Roger Penrose and his attempts to tie consciousness to to quantum events in the brain. He's deeply respected in theoretical physics and mathematics but his views on consciousness are basically dismissed.
Does he present these ideas successfully in "gated" and peer-reviewed venues? Or is it something he talks about just in his popular works?
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:13 AM
cjepson cjepson is offline
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A request for clarification: Are you asking for:

(a) respected scholars who
(b) have something that is widely considered a crank belief and
(c) have publications supporting that belief in peer-reviewed journals?

If so, I'm not sure there's anyone who meets all three criteria... if a belief is truly considered "crank" by most peers (as specified in your thread title), then it seems to me that, by definition, it's not likely to get past a peer review.

(On edit: I'm thinking mainly of scientists. This may not be as true for other scholars.)

Last edited by cjepson; 04-14-2016 at 08:14 AM.
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:41 AM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cjepson View Post
A request for clarification: Are you asking for:

(a) respected scholars who
(b) have something that is widely considered a crank belief and
(c) have publications supporting that belief in peer-reviewed journals?

If so, I'm not sure there's anyone who meets all three criteria... if a belief is truly considered "crank" by most peers (as specified in your thread title), then it seems to me that, by definition, it's not likely to get past a peer review.
In Stritmatter's case, my understanding is that his peer reviewed publications tend to be "stealth Oxfordianism"; for example, one of the obstacles to Oxford's authorship is that he died in 1604, and at least ten of Shakespeare's plays are generally agreed to have been written after that date. So Stritmatter's modus operandi is to argue for an earlier date for one of these works in a peer-reviewed journal (an idea that most mainstream Shakespeare scholars might consider unlikely, but not inherently nutty), without directly arguing that somebody other than Shakespeare wrote it -- and then make the Oxford connection in a non-peer-reviewed venue. Or to argue in a peer-reviewed venue that a passage in Shakespeare alludes to a particular Biblical passage -- a mainstream, non-controversial argument in itself -- and then point out on his website that this passage is underlined in Oxford's personal copy of the Bible.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:14 PM
Hari Seldon Hari Seldon is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grey View Post
You'd be wrong about String Theory. It's isn't crankish nonsense but it does get a lot of attention despite being just one approach amongst many to get past the standard model and tie the 4 fundamental forces together.

I was thinking of Roger Penrose and his attempts to tie consciousness to to quantum events in the brain. He's deeply respected in theoretical physics and mathematics but his views on consciousness are basically dismissed.
I have to agree on Penrose. Not just his ideas on consciousness, which cannot be refuted, but his claim that humans can solve problems that computers cannot, which is easy to refute. And he won't admit he is wrong.

Another example was Linus Pauling, double nobelist, who went off the deep end over vitamin C. I don't agree that Wakefield is an example. Total fraud.

In another era Newton spent a lot of time trying to turn lead into gold.
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Old 04-14-2016, 07:31 PM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
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I have to agree on Penrose. Not just his ideas on consciousness, which cannot be refuted, but his claim that humans can solve problems that computers cannot, which is easy to refute. And he won't admit he is wrong.

Another example was Linus Pauling, double nobelist, who went off the deep end over vitamin C. I don't agree that Wakefield is an example. Total fraud.

In another era Newton spent a lot of time trying to turn lead into gold.
I believe he was rather trying to turn iron into copper (useful for casting bronze cannons). And this was hardly crank or even fringe science in an age before Dalton and the atomic theory.
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:01 AM
Grey Grey is offline
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Phys Life Rev. 2014 Mar;11(1):39-78. doi: 10.1016/j.plrev.2013.08.002. Epub 2013 Aug 20.
Consciousness in the universe: a review of the 'Orch OR' theory.
  #24  
Old 04-14-2016, 08:10 AM
Fretful Porpentine Fretful Porpentine is online now
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Roger Stritmatter would probably qualify in literary studies: he's a full professor at Coppin State University, best known for maintaining a website dedicated to the proposition that the Earl of Oxford wrote the works of Shakespeare. IIRC, he's got at least some publications in respectable venues that touch on this idea.

Last edited by Fretful Porpentine; 04-14-2016 at 08:12 AM.
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:31 AM
Ignotus Ignotus is offline
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Linus Pauling (Nobel laureate) had, in his later years, some weird ideas about vitamin C and whatnot. I believe he even had some articles on this subject published in well-renowned journals.
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:35 AM
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How about Linus Pauling. He is one of the most important theoretical chemists who contributed a great deal to chemistry and quantum physics and won two (!) Nobel Prizes. (OK, one of them was a peace prize, but the other was for chemistry.) He also discovered the biochemical mechanism of sickle-cell anemia.

He was also a Soviet sympathizer, and wrote a book How to Live Longer and Feel Better which advocated that everyone take huge doses of ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) and that this would cure all your ills. I'm pretty sure this is where the myth of Vitamin C curing or preventing colds comes from. He later published papers asserting that Vitamin C could treat heart disease, atherosclerosis, and other maladies.

His experimental trials were laughably bad with poor controls, and followup studies using proper controls found no difference between Vitamin C and placebo for all of these conditions.

Last edited by friedo; 04-14-2016 at 08:35 AM.
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:59 AM
Les Espaces Du Sommeil Les Espaces Du Sommeil is offline
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Linguist Merritt Ruhlen is a lecturer in Anthropological Sciences at Stanford. His efforts to reconstruct the Proto-Human language, the highly conjectural common ancestor of all the world's languages has very few supporters and loads of critics. According to the latter, his theories fall into the "not-even-wrong" category.

"... the search for global etymologies is at best a hopeless waste of time, at worst an embarrassment to linguistics as a discipline, unfortunately confusing and misleading to those who might look to linguistics for understanding in this area" (Campbell and Poser 2008:393).

Last edited by Les Espaces Du Sommeil; 04-14-2016 at 09:00 AM.
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:18 AM
Some Call Me... Tim Some Call Me... Tim is offline
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Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, depending on how you define recent. They managed to publish by inertia after nearly everyone had concluded their Cold Fusion was woo.

Oh, and nobel prize winning physicist Brian Josephson now believes in lots of hardcore woo including parapsychology, but he's not now publishing in the same peer reviewed areas as his earlier, more respectable, work.
  #29  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:24 AM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is offline
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Fred Hoyle has to be the champ.


Quote:
In addition to his views on steady state theory and panspermia, Hoyle also supported the following controversial theories:
  • The correlation of flu epidemics with the sunspot cycle, with epidemics occurring at the minimum of the cycle. The idea was that flu contagion was scattered in the interstellar medium and reached Earth only when the solar wind had minimum power.[citation needed]
  • The fossil Archaeopteryx was a man-made fake.[34] This assertion was definitively refuted by, among other strong indications, the presence of microcracks extending through the fossil into the surrounding rock.
  • The theory of abiogenic petroleum, where natural hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas) are explained as the result of deep carbon deposits, instead of fossilized organic material. "The suggestion that petroleum might have arisen from some transformation of squashed fish or biological detritus is surely the silliest notion to have been entertained by substantial numbers of persons over an extended period of time."[citation needed]
  • The use of the fifty-six Aubrey holes at Stonehenge as a system for the neolithic Britons to predict eclipses, using them in the daily positioning of marker stones as proposed in his 1977 book On Stonehenge. The use of the Aubrey holes for predicting lunar eclipses was originally proposed by Gerald Hawkins whose book of the subject Stonehenge Decoded (1965) predates Hoyle's.[citation needed]
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:40 AM
Surreal Surreal is offline
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Stephen Jay Gould

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/14/science/14skull.html

http://lesswrong.com/lw/kv/beware_of_stephen_j_gould/

http://web.mit.edu/krugman/www/evolute.html
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Old 04-15-2016, 05:31 PM
Busy Scissors Busy Scissors is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Some Call Me... Tim View Post
Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann, depending on how you define recent. They managed to publish by inertia after nearly everyone had concluded their Cold Fusion was woo.

Oh, and nobel prize winning physicist Brian Josephson now believes in lots of hardcore woo including parapsychology, but he's not now publishing in the same peer reviewed areas as his earlier, more respectable, work.
Josephson really is a singular example in the modern era. To be totally brilliant, conducting truly seminal work in your 20s, and then just turn around and show your arse to the entire scientific community. It's sort of awesome in that respect, but at heart it's sad - an exceptional mind losing sight of the art of the soluble, and basically wasting his time for 40 years.
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Old 04-15-2016, 09:08 PM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Josephson really is a singular example in the modern era. To be totally brilliant, conducting truly seminal work in your 20s, and then just turn around and show your arse to the entire scientific community. It's sort of awesome in that respect, but at heart it's sad - an exceptional mind losing sight of the art of the soluble, and basically wasting his time for 40 years.
Yeah. I mean if you are older (Linus Pauling was in his 70's when he went into Vitamin C therapy, but I say that wasnt quite crackpot) things happen. If your work is brilliant until youre 70, then you get kinda crackpotish, you're forgiven, in my book.
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Old 04-14-2016, 08:46 AM
Busy Scissors Busy Scissors is offline
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James Lovelock is held in extremely highly regard - on account of his obvious brilliance and achievements as a scientist outside of the 'system' - but I'm not sure how seriously his Gaia hypotheses are taken. Suspect they might be referred to as 'crank theories' had a less distinguished scientist rolled them out.

Should say that I've not read the papers, and thinking about very large regulatory systems and network effects in biospheres all sounds sensible. I believe he went a long way past that, though, with little data or mechanistic ideas to hand.
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Old 04-18-2016, 07:32 PM
Haldurson Haldurson is offline
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James Lovelock is held in extremely highly regard - on account of his obvious brilliance and achievements as a scientist outside of the 'system' - but I'm not sure how seriously his Gaia hypotheses are taken. Suspect they might be referred to as 'crank theories' had a less distinguished scientist rolled them out.
Part of his problem with his Gaia hypotheses (maybe not the whole problem with it) was that some people saw it has having religious connotations, that the earth is LITERALLY a living organism. But Lovelock probably did go a bit too far in his book, and something that should have been no more than an observation became a 'theory'.

FYI -- Lynn Margulis, one of Lovelocks' main 'disciples' visited my school, Caltech, from scripps to be one of 4 professors of an earth history class (it was a multi-disciplinary class taken by both geo and bio majors). The disdain that the geo professors held her in was palpable. I wrote a little 4-part story about an 'adventure' our class had many years ago: https://haldurson.wordpress.com/2016...ory-chapter-1/
  #35  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:17 AM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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Truly famous names can sometimes get bunk published. Often bunk that's not really up their main area of expertise. Such as Penrose on consciousness or Pauling on vitamin C.

I'm not sure how examples of this support the OP's desire that his particular flavor of "Eminent scientist both supports bunk and gets it published ... a little" be accorded extra respect.

Science publishing is ultimately a human social phenomenon. It's not purely social as in Facebook "likes". But the social aspects of peer review and noteworthiness are things which detract from the truth value of the totality of a given journal's output, not contribute to it. Said another way if you're looking at two articles, one by a big name and one by a nobody, it's more likely the nobody has done the better research and found the better truth.

IOW, bunk remains bunk even if it's popular and celebrities like it. Whether those are entertainment celebrities or science celebrities.

The fact a broken calendar has been right twice in a century is no reason to decide that broken calendars are good Oracles.

Last edited by LSLGuy; 04-14-2016 at 09:20 AM.
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Old 04-14-2016, 09:22 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Originally Posted by LSLGuy View Post
Truly famous names can sometimes get bunk published. Often bunk that's not really up their main area of expertise. Such as Penrose on consciousness or Pauling on vitamin C.

I'm not sure how examples of this support the OP's desire that his particular flavor of "Eminent scientist both supports bunk and gets it published ... a little" be accorded extra respect.
Quite the opposite--my expectation/hope is that what I described in the OP is a really rare thing.

Last edited by Frylock; 04-14-2016 at 09:24 AM.
  #37  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:38 AM
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Eric Laithwaite is a good example. My father was actually present at his infamous lecture.
  #38  
Old 04-14-2016, 09:55 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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Yeah, Fred Hoyle is one of the first to come to mind. Which is really sad. He richly deserved a free trip to Stockholm, but his less mainstream ideas made him unpalatable. His Steady State theory of the universe probably really made it hard. But he gave us the Big Bang as a name, and of course neucleogenesis.

There are quite a few cranks around in acedemia who push ideas outside of their area of expertese. I have personally come across a couple. One local geophysisist tries to debunk global warming, and there are a few creationalists about to say the least.
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Old 04-14-2016, 11:54 AM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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Originally Posted by Francis Vaughan View Post
There are quite a few cranks around in acedemia who push ideas outside of their area of expertese. I have personally come across a couple. One local geophysisist tries to debunk global warming, and there are a few creationalists about to say the least.
Several examples given here are/were noted scholars who published crankish stuff outside of their field, or at the fringes of their field. But OP seems to be asking, more specifically, for crankish stuff published by noted scholars within their field.

If we allow examples of scholars delving into matters beyond their field of expertise, then let's not forget William Shockley, developer of the transistor, the man who "brought silicon to Silicon Valley" and who, later in his career, became a strong proponent of eugenics and "voluntary sterilization" for anyone with IQ under 100. IIRC, he became especially noted -- and scorned -- when he began pushing theories of certain races being genetically inferior to certain other races.
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Old 04-14-2016, 02:10 PM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Several examples given here are/were noted scholars who published crankish stuff outside of their field, or at the fringes of their field. But OP seems to be asking, more specifically, for crankish stuff published by noted scholars within their field.
That's correct.
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Old 04-14-2016, 10:08 AM
wevets wevets is offline
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This is probably a big ask but I am hoping to find out who exists--or has recently existed--who fits the following criteria:

1. Is an academic who could be considered well-published in their field
2. Has a view that is considered not just wrong, but "crank" levels of wrong, by a large number--preferably most or even all--others in their field
3. At least occasionally speaks about and publishes about this "crank" idea in peer-reviewed or otherwise "gated" well-established venues* in their field--venues universally or near-universally considered reliable academic venues by people in the relevant field

Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.

Meets part 1 of your #3 criteria - he was just here yesterday speaking about it (a colleague is a former student of his & keeps inviting him) - although he hasn't published anything in respectable journals about it in years. His webpage lists a 2011 publication on AIDS in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, which I never heard of before today and I doubt has a high level of prestige.
  #42  
Old 04-14-2016, 11:14 AM
Fiveyearlurker Fiveyearlurker is online now
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Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.

Meets part 1 of your #3 criteria - he was just here yesterday speaking about it (a colleague is a former student of his & keeps inviting him) - although he hasn't published anything in respectable journals about it in years. His webpage lists a 2011 publication on AIDS in the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, which I never heard of before today and I doubt has a high level of prestige.
I came to nominate Duesberg. We actually had him come give a talk when I was in graduate school. At this point, I think he has to know that he is wrong, but he was so invested in it, that his pride isn't letting him backtrack.
  #43  
Old 04-14-2016, 11:59 AM
mozchron mozchron is offline
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Originally Posted by wevets View Post
Peter Duesberg certainly qualifies - well-published, and did some very valuable work on cancer and cancer-related viruses in the 1970s and 1980s. Has the certainly wrong idea that HIV is a harmless virus merely found in association with AIDS, and is not the cause of AIDS.
Came in to nominate Duesberg as well. Also Mullis.
  #44  
Old 04-14-2016, 12:30 PM
lazybratsche lazybratsche is online now
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There are a number of biologists who study aging that, IMHO, dance right on the line separating paradigm-breaking research and crankdom*, or pharmaceutical research and snake-oil sales.

Specifically, I'll mention Aubrey de Grey as crank-ish. He's the subject of many breathless articles in the popular press about how we will Cure Aging Forever! But the vast majority of his academic publications have been commentaries and review articles, mostly in a journal that he runs. However, he also runs a small research foundation that does does plenty of legitimate, if unconventional, research.

*The easiest way I've found to find candidate cranks is on TED talks. Even the more grounded scientists (whose work I am very familiar with) that give such presentations are encouraged to make ever more grandiose and unsupported claims... I now assume similar phenomenon happen in just about every other subject of a TED talk, where some core nugget of truth is stretched and distorted beyond all recognition, all in the service of empty intellectual preening.

Last edited by lazybratsche; 04-14-2016 at 12:30 PM.
  #45  
Old 04-14-2016, 01:00 PM
yabob yabob is offline
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What about all the late 19th century scientists who bought into spiritualism, such as Crookes, Pierre Curie and Alfred Russell Wallace?
  #46  
Old 04-14-2016, 01:33 PM
Atamasama Atamasama is online now
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Would Nikola Tesla count? His contributions to science are unquestioned but he had some really out-there ideas, especially later on in life.
  #47  
Old 04-14-2016, 01:44 PM
LSLGuy LSLGuy is online now
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I think he's pretty much the archetype of "bleeding edge scientist becomes obviously crazy crank."

Last edited by LSLGuy; 04-14-2016 at 01:44 PM.
  #48  
Old 04-14-2016, 01:57 PM
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Jeff Meldrum is a professor of anatomy and anthropology at Idaho State University. Not dean of Harvard, but nothing to sneeze at either.

His main research area is Bigfoot, in whose existence he passionately believes:

http://www.oregonlive.com/today/inde..._publishe.html
  #49  
Old 04-14-2016, 02:40 PM
Chronos Chronos is online now
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Hoyle was the second person I thought of. The first, though, was Mordehai Milgrom, who's long been pushing the hypothesis that there is no dark matter, and that instead gravity itself is modified in some way. The problem is that his Modified Newtonian Gravity can't fit all of the many different dark matter observations at once, it's very difficult to make it even self-consistent, and nobody has ever even proposed a relativistic form of the model. It may be that he's stumbled upon some interesting emergent phenomenon in dark matter distributions in galaxies, but it's obscured behind his mountains of nonsense.
  #50  
Old 04-14-2016, 02:53 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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This example doesn't fit neatly into the OP's requirements, but it's an interesting story. Zoology blogger Darren Naish describes it as "taxonomic vandalism." Here's his post on the issue.

The particular idiot in question is an amateur herpetologist, who, for his own bizarre reasons, has taken it upon himself to rename and reclassify Australian reptile fauna. He has succeeded in publishing a LOT of papers, by dint of founding his own "journal." Because of the ICZN's established rules of taxonomy, including the Principle of Priority, the ludicrous new names he applies are, technically, valid.

The guy (I'm not using his name, as he probably has Google alerts up the wazoo and is loudly defensive of his "work") is also known as a cowboy snake exhibit, draping venomous snakes, that he has surgically altered, all over children. He gives me the heebie-jeebies. I really wish he would stop.
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