Is mainstream science out to get fringe science?

In the Atkins Diet thread here in Great Debates, AnotherHeretic took the thread on a little tangent dealing with the ways in which, he asserts, mainstream scientists denigrate and unfairly attack any scientists that don’t toe their line. I figured this discussion merited a thread of its own, which is why I’m starting this thread here.

I’ll start by recapping what was said near the end of the Atkins Diet thread. AnotherHeretic wrote:

AnotherHeretic’s mention of a “proof” claiming that heavier-than-air flight was impossible piqued my curiosity. I poked around a little and found an article about the subject. Here is what I, tracer, wrote in reply:

AnotherHeretic replied:

I asked AnotherHeretic if he’d like to start a new thread on this topic, and AnotherHeretic replied:

And that’s where the discussion now stands. So, teeming millions, is the treatment fringe scientists receive really this unfair? Are we losing many potentially great discoveries because we don’t want to shake the scientific status quo?

a related question and on that might deserve its own thread is, “which current fringe theories will be proven true in the future?”

I, for one, think that the idea of healing energies that can be transmitted from a person to others will be proven true, probably in the next 20 years. Also the auric field will be scientifically measured.

I’m sorry, Tracer, but where in all that did you mention “fringe scientists”?

A fringe scientist is one who fails to base his theories on documented observations and repeatable experiments. Yhe examples you brought were simply of nonconformists.

berdollos wrote:

Oh good gravy, please tell me you’re kidding. Reich thought he’d discovered such a thing back in the late 1930s, and he was deluded. Kirlian photography buffs are likewise convinced that they’re seeing living creatures’ auras, when in fact inanimate inorganic objects will create the same impressions. Worse, the whole notion of an “aura” got started by people who had never heard of negative afterimages. No two people who claim to be able to see the aura will, if isolated from one another, see the same color aura or give the same interpretation of a given person’s aura – and can even “see” an “aura” around a cardboard cut-out silhouette of a person if they think it’s a real person – yet they are all convinced that their visions and interpretations are 100% accurate.
AnotherHeretic wrote:

The notion that Dvorak’s keyboard layout is significantly superior to the standard QWERTY layout appears to be a myth, created primarily by Dvorak himself. See

(Note, however, that it’s a myth that I’ve personally fallen for. The keyboard I’m typing this message on right now [in my home] has a Dvorak layout. My keyboard at work has a standard QWERTY layout, and although I am familiar with and extensively use both, I don’t type any faster in one than in the other. I just haven’t got the heart to get rid of the Dvorak layout on my home system.)

Alessan wrote:

You mean like Velikovsky?

But you’re right, Alessan, the term “fringe science” has become well-associated with pseudoscience, and that was not what I really meant.

Perhaps I should have titled this thread “Is mainstream science out to get nonconformist science?”.

Yep, and Arthur C. Clarke. He also had some good guesses.

Ah, I see. I guess I was mislaid by Bordellos’s post.

Or possibly misled.

Fringe science is on the fringe for a reason. You can always cherry pick ideas that were once ridiculous but are now accepted scientific theory. The dustbin of history is fraught with examples though of scientific fads that are now rightly ridiculed. As one example A. Conan Doyle was quite convinced that fairies existed. Two little girls in Cottingsley UK perpetrated an addmittedly ingenious hoax that brought out a host of pseudoscientists that claimed to have proved the existence of fairies.

The fairies of today range from Feng Shui to astrology to astral projection. The reason it is hard to pick an idea currently on the fringe of science that will someday become commonplace is that you are searching for a crumb in a vast sea of crap.

Rigorous scientific inquiry is routinely avoided by hucksters who want people like Berdollos to spend money on therapies using “healing energies”. There is a vast industry of people and companies who profit off of this shameless hucksterism. Just take a look at what a Feng Shui consultant is making these days in CA.

Yes I know I didn’t provide cites and I’ll probably get flamed for this, but what the hey.

On this board? Hardly.

AnotherHeretic wrote:

The “Plasma Universe” model that Arp supports was originally proposed by Hans Alfven, and popularized by Eric Lerner in the book The Big Bang Never Happened. The Plasma Universe of Alfven et al. was not attacked because it “bucked the mainstream”, it was attacked because it had serious errors, and made more erroneous predictions than the Big Bang model(s) did. See

Incidentally, the “missing mass” and “dark matter” were predicted long before the Big Bang hypotheses called for their existence. The rotation curves of galaxies, using completely standard Newtonian/Keplerian models that have been used successfully for centuries, indicate that the masses of galaxies are several times the mass we can “see” in the form of stars and other “bright” matter. A cosmological model that does not predict the existence of “missing mass” would thus contradict our observations!

Alright guys, those who are picking on Velikovsky, have you read his books? Have you read “Before the Day Breaks” which is his encounters with Einstein over on

Einstein asked Velikovsky to make a prediction on which his entire theory hinges. He said he’ll rest his entire thoery on Radio Noises being found on Jupiter. Some 13 days before Einstein died, they of course found Radio Noises on Jupiter. You mainstreamers have come up with excuses that there was no logical reason for his prediction. Convenient for you isn’t it? Einstein was going to help Velikovsky after his prediction came true. But he died in the meantime. Helen Dukas, Einstein’s secretary confirmed it after his death. You call this cherry picking? You are OBVIOUSLY biased but you don’t see it and never will.

Einstein was no fool. He gave serious thought to Velikovsky and there is much to learn from him and Einstein said the Astronomers were wrong for not studying him. Be a good student and listen to your favorite teacher. You may learn something. Or maybe Einstein who learned something from Velikovsky was not smart enough like you are to see through after several readings what you can tell by probably reading only ONE of Velikovsky’s books…

But I don’t believe that any astronomer who went through astronomy classes will be able to look at it objectively any more than people some time ago were ready to hear that the Earth was round.

I keep wanting to stay out of this because I know how it will end anyway but I can’t keep from writing :slight_smile:

Velikovsky had a great point when he said that Newton’s gravity came about without Newton having the benefit of a lightbulb. That was a brilliant observation. Even if the qwerty vs. dvorak thing turns out to be wrong (thanks for the ref. Is it true that the qwerty came out to slow down typing so the hammers wouldn’t jam each other or is that fake too? I can’t believe qwerty is the best design because I find it counter-intuitive even though I type pretty dam fast), the power of inertia is strong.

If you put yourself in Newton’s shoes and add electricity to Newton’s repretoire of explanations for “gravity”, you have to assume that he would have incorporated electricity into the scheme. Astronomers believe that the planetary motions are almost completely electrically inert. And they do have a good reason for it. But speak to some plasma physicists and they may show you a different view which supports Velikovsky’s ideas which may look ridiculous when you have ingrained astronomical scientific “knowledge” giving you a bias.

Einstein too, at first, (at second actually because they had met long earlier and collaborated on something), thought that Velikovsky was a charlatan. After speaking with V. you can see that he changed his tone over time. Astronomers assumed that Velikovsky did not understand what he was criticising, but he wouldn’t have laster more than 10 minutes in conversation with Einstein if that were true.

He did understand it very well and made some brilliant observations. I’m not saying that Velikovsky was right about everything. He boldly touched on so many fields he was bound to make many mistakes which he did, but mistakes notwithstanding there is much to learn in his works to this day and it is too easy and indeed unfair to brand him as a charlatan or a nonserious researcher.

I personally enjoy reading Daniken or Sitchin. It’s fun. But I don’t think they actually believe half of what they write. I think they’re smart people but they want to make money. And they present some interesting things that you can learn from if you check the sources independently and ignore their “interpretation”. But Velikovsky is on a whole other level and should not be compared to Daniken and Sitchin like many mainstreamers do. And catastrophism was in many ways the basis of a lot of his work and is neither cherry picking nor luck no matter what you say.

Only a mainstreamer would have the guts to claim when he’s wrong and someone else is right that the person that was right you’re “cherry picking” a positive result and the mainstreamer who was wrong? Oh, well guess what? Mainstream was WAY OFF. Admit you’re wrong and move on. THAT will never happen and this thread is a waste of time.

How about this: we could say that there exisit 2 classes ‘fringe scientists’ and ‘non-conformist scientists’. THe fringe scientists are the ones working with out reason or method who push totally unsupported ideas and who make very little sense. The ‘fringe scientist’ is an intelligent preson who is exploring a directoin that the mainstream scientific community considers to be probably fruitless, but who uses solid methodology.

I do think that the interaction bewtween these two very different types causes all sorts of problems:

  1. It can be very diffucult to tell the two classes apart, esp. for a layman. If oyu are an expert in a field you know if someone is a crackpot, but it may be diffucult to explain to Johnny-on-the-Street without pputting him through at least a few years of university science.

  2. The romantic image of the “non-conformist scientist” (When these guys realy are sucessful, it tends to be impressive) bleeds over into “fringe science” and can be milked for credibility. We can call this the “Galelio Syndrom”

  3. Fear of being associated with the “fringe scientists” causes mainstram scientists to also be very hesisitant to listen to non-conformist scientists. A good example of this would be the debate over man’s arrival in the New World. For years the othodox position was that man arrived 14,000 years ago via the bering land bridge and that there was no other contact until the Vikings (briefly) landed and then none again until Columbus came. For years, you couldn’t even talk about other possibilities becasue if you did the Atlantis-exile, Alien-influence crowd would jump on you and clain you as a ‘supporter’ of thier theisis and that was just insufferable. It took an incredibly anal 20 year excavation before a reputable scientist was able to feel secure enough to come forward and clain that the Americas had been settled earlier than 14,000 ybp. There is no doubt in my mind htat te standard of proof for this claim was higher because ohf the pressure from fringe science.

All in all, I think we need both othodox and non-conformist scientists–we need people working on the obvious possibilities, becasue over all they are the most productive. We also need people working on the unusual (and we do have people like this–it’s not like we are rounding them up and burning them. Often, we give them nice jobs at think tanks and plenty of toys)because science does seem to often advance on the periphery. And perhaps what we need most of all is good science education in the schools so that people can tell the difference between a serious, non-tradidtional thinker and a quack.

Thanks for the ref. I wouldn’t say that Arp supports (meaing personally) the Plasma Universe. Arp is a mainstreamer through and through. He is a reluctant heretic. He just did his job every day and one day he woke up, called it like he saw it and turned into a heretic.

You’re right about Alfven but I thought it was Hannes rather than Hans? I’ll look at lerner_errors, but did Lerner admit these errors? These kind of things can usually go both ways. I wouldn’t even say that I understand plasma physcis and don’t base my belief that the Big Bang will die on that. Although it may survive in some form I just think we are making too big a leap to presume how the Universe started. That we see the edges of the Universe. There is way too much we don’t understand. And I think Arp’s evidence is compelling and even if it’s disagreed with, why can’t the mainstream astronomical publications allow his pictures to be published? Give him access to a telescope? As Hubble’s assistant and some well accepted work and objects named after him, doesn’t he have enough credit with you guys to get published? Peer review in action. He can get published but only by writing things that toe the line.

I’ve seen some other spins on this but I don’t want to get into it and I’ll just concede your point on this.

BTW, I found it interesting that none of the mainstreamers even commented on the Harlow Shapley thing. That’s a perfect example of misuse of power, inertia of current accepted scientific fact etc… You folks won’t concede a single point like I will? Scientific American had an excuse on the Wright Brothers that’s acceptable to you? You don’t see ANY misuse of power, or unwillingness to look at new ideas? You don’t see how these 2 examples might hide something rampant in science? You have rose colored glasses on…

AnotherHeretic wrote:

That link takes me to a webpage that says “This .com domain name is available”.

Since the link to the website above doesn’t work, can you tell me which part of Velikovsky’s theories predicts the existence of radio noise coming from Jupiter? And were there “mainstream” theories at the time that also predicted Jovian radio noise, which Velikovsky may have been aware of and used – consciously or unconsciously – as the “real” basis for his prediction?

Whoa – are you implying that the only record of Velikovsky having told Einstein that Jupiter would produce radio noise is a verbal confirmation by the late Einstein’s secretary after the fact?! If that’s the case, then it’s no wonder this “prediction” hasn’t been taken seriously by the rest of the scientific community – it may not have been a prediction at all.

Nice post. It is worthwhile to differentiate the two, but I’d like to add that “scientific method”, what does that mean? Is there a God-given (heh heh) scientific method? Is there ONE man-made scientific method? Is the scientific method “improvable” upon? Reading Velikovsky, it’s clear to me that more can be added to scientific method.

My point above of Newton not having a light bulb (and V provides other interesting observations very similarly) points to a whole field of science that can be undertaken. There are books written on the history of science. They will typically list the great discoveries and who made them. Something Velikovsky did is to read the works of the scientists AS WELL as his contemporaries, analyze the bias of the scientist when he came up with his discovery and then try to figure out what he would have done differently with the benefit of today’s knowledge. This is a lot of work and I think merits a whole specialty which will “review” scientific discoveries in many different fields to see if we can come up with some new discoveries or amend current ones. Can a mainstreamer see value to this even though it is the “method” Velikovsky used? Or are you so clouded up just because I mentioned his name with something positive?

I’m sure it has been done here and there to some extent, but not systematically.

Oops. I think it’s

Check the new link. V. wrote many books, which one did you read?

Not that I know of…are you implying that he “stole” the prediction? The guy staked everything on one prediction, if you actually read enough of his work you would see clearly that the prediction follows his celestial mechanics, he didn’t steal it at all, why can’t give him the benefit of the doubt until you read up on it? Just because he’s unconventional?

Nope, Dukas confirmed that Einstein was planning to help Velikovsky get other predictions tested but died first. The prediction was made in front of a very large group of mainstream scientists, physicists etc… And is I believe on tape and is in writing.

Mainstream science has not taken it seriously because they don’t take his celestial mechanics seriously. So predictions are only important when they fit your idea of the way the world works, not when they come true. V. staked his whole reputation on it, but mainstream laughed it off anyway…and I’m sure you will check out the refs and find an excuse too…but you obviously have not done much reading about Velikovsky, I can tell from your questions. Sagan did a bad job of criticising Velikovsky’s work, and his first criticisms were done OBVIOUSLY without reading the book. On the strength of that, tons of his followers felt confident enough to follow Sagan’s lead. But eventually Sagan did read it all (I believe) but he never corrected one thing…it was really shameful if you read it. I read Velikovsky, the critiques which said things like NOWHERE in V’s book does he provide evidence for XYZ in the geographical record when one of V’s books showed the answer just in the table of contents. What’s that called, hatchet job?


Are you a scientist btw?

Assuming you are, another couple of questions for you. Let’s say thanks to my link you now do some research and shock of all shocks, you find, like Einstein to his surprise, that there is something to learn in Velikovsky. Is science open-minded enough that you can tell your colleagues about it without ridicule? Will they listen to you? Or will you become a Heretic like me?

Also, take astrology. I look at it and laugh. And have done so for many years. Until I met a friend who can talk to a person for about 5 minutes and then tell them what sign they are. I’ve seen him ask someone what their sign is, then add the chinese astrology for what year they were born in. He just met them, he’ll rattle of for 10-20 minutes all kinds of info about their personality in detail and their mouths will drop open. He’s a good friend and really believes in the stuff. But he doesn’t make any money from it, when people read the typical horoscope from the paper he’ll make fun of it, but when they talk about their sign he takes it seriously and what can I tell you. It makes as much sense to me as Velikovsky does to you. I don’t understand it. But I see with my own eyes that it works. It embarasses me because it isn’t logical and I don’t know what to think. WHY would it work? But I do have the guts to tell you about it here.

After this experience, I wish there was a scientific body open enough to design a serious study on the topic and publish it no matter the outcome.

Put together unique aspects of each sign, ask people to provide their birthdays and to check x character traits and see what comes up.

Funnily enough I posted another thread asking people about their sign and I expected to see the thread flamed. To my utter shock it’s a pretty popular thread and most people seem to be saying that their sign and character traits match. I would have thought that a guy like you would have jumped on that thread and said my traits do NOT match my sign. But there wasn’t too much of that there…

Don’t get me wrong, I know that thread proves nothing at all, but my point is, no serious scientific researcher could with a straight face come up with such a study. And if they did and it turned out to prove astrologers right after all, no serious scientist would accept the study. Am I right? If I’m right then the study only matters as long as it fits your pre-conceived notions…

Finally, let’s say aliens are abducting humans. I think it’s BS but let’s say there’s some evidence that it’s happening. Same as with astrology, you could take it to the news because even if it’s wrong as long as it sells papers or gets ratings they’ll show the info. But in science, no serious scientist would be willing to look at the question objectively and if by chance they did, they couldn’t present it because scientists will laugh at them.

These are 2 extremes on purpose. It’s to show that a bias exists. That’s how humans are, biased. But once in a while you need a Heretic like me to cherry pick the Velikovskys, separate them from the Von Danikens and force you guys to listen.

As shown hereI think the scientific method is pretty basic and straight-forward. Not much to improve or add. And many brilliant people have studied and used this method, so if it were possible to “add to or improve it” it would have been done.

Well, Astrology is pretty general, Modern Popular Astrology (different from the ancient chineese astrology) was apparently started or refined by Claudius Ptolemaeus back in the time of alexandria, around 127-141 Ad. Meaning it has had lots of time to be perfected. (at least theoretically). A little bit of wanting to believe in something “different” and its easy to get sucked in.

If perhaps, and just a WAG here, I havn’t read any of Velikovsky’s works, his celestial mechanics were not taken seriously, it could be because he did not have enough evidence to be taken seriously. Which is not surprising.

For “mainstream” science to take anything in consideration it requires ample observation, The formation of a hypothesis, and the preformance of experiments that can be reproduced by OTHERS. If said experiements are proven to be sound, but still go against the consenses of how the current understanding of physical laws operate, then the theory, while contraversial, will not get thrown out, just disputed untill one is proven to be the more accurate.

A mere prediction, shown to be true or not, is not a scientific way of doing things. Said method is too easy to let fraudulent ideas in, hence making science accept too many faulty ideas. One must have a set method that is proven to work.

“Mainstream science” is probably full of politics in a sense. They may poke holes in “fringe science” beliefs, but that is the way science operates. If said belief were sound, holes would not be produced. Science attempts to poke holes in other seemingly sound theories constantly, filling in areas that prove not to be sound. It is the way science advances. (Or at least as far as I can tell)