Is mainstream science out to get fringe science?

AnotherHeretic wrote:

No, but I play one on TV. <rimshot>

There is a huge difference between hearing personal information about someone and then successfully guessing their astrological sign, and being told someone’s sign and then rattling off appropriate-sounding personality information about someone. If this friend of yours can successfully do the former more often than 1 time out of 12, that’s significant; if your friend can do the latter, it may just mean he’s good at cold-reading or at spouting generalities which sound like they apply only to the listener but which could in fact apply to anybody.

Astrology has been studied scientifically. There was a rather well-publicised experiment in which a bunch of professional astrologers were allowed to question a random sampling of subjects about anything except what day or time-of-day the subject was born. They were then to predict the birth-signs of all their subjects. On average, the astrologers correctly predicted the birth-signs of the subjects 1 time out of every 12 – exactly as would be expected by chance. Furthermore, the odds of any two astrologers picking the same birth-sign for any subject were also 1 in 12. As claims:

“There have been several studies which have shown that people will use selective thinking to make any chart they are given fit their preconceived notions about themselves and their charts. Many of the claims made about signs and personalities are vague and would fit many people under many different signs. Even professional astrologers, most of whom have nothing but disdain for Sun Sign Astrology, can’t pick out a correct horoscope reading at better than a chance rate. Yet, astrology continues to maintain its popularity, despite the fact that there is scarcely a shred of scientific evidence in its favor.”

So I’ll reserve comment on that. Anecdotal for astrology is quite easy to find. It is inconsequential to any scientific examination. Failure to understand such basic principles is one reason why “fringe scientists” gain little respect from the traditional scientific community.

On the Dvorak keyboard: the truth might not be as clear as Reason would like us to think. Bias is a double-edged blade.

I was unable to find any good analysis of the basic question: “Is Dvorak a better layout for speed and error rates than QWERTY”, unfortunately. The issue seems to have been usurped by competing economists in a cause selebre for their particular market philosophies. I ran across lots of anecdotal reports that Dvorak typists consistently outperformed QWERTY typists in direct competitions, but I was unable to find any direct reports of those competitions.

If you’re saying von Daniken is a con artist, I’d agree. (Who is Sitchin?)

To go off on a slight tangent, it seems all of the “mainstream scientists” I know are also out to get all the other “mainstream scientists”. The only ones who think this is a bad thing are those who don’t have enough solid evidence and testable predictions.

Scientists are always throwing rocks at each other. They get dismissive of those who either throw back marshmallows or who go whining to the general public about how mean the scientists are.

Oh, and 'nother, I must reiterate a question you may have not seen earlier in this thread.

As you are far more familiar with Velikovski’s work than I (I have only read Worlds in Collision, Earth in Upheaval, and I think part of Peoples of the Sea, and these were all before the Beatles broke up), I would like to know just how Jupiter being a radio source would validate Velokovskian catastrophism. Theories are not usually accepted as valid based upon one observation, but on the 48,692 little observations that fall into a coherent concept if explained by that theory.

I eagerly await your reply.

I didn’t read the link yet but “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” is close minded, and no offense, ridiculous to me. So if someone comes up with a better method you will not even care to listen because if it were possible to improve it it would have already been done. Am I the only one here that views this statement ahem, dubiously. Again, no personal offense meant, it is just such a radically different world view to mine…

Guys, I wasn’t trying to prove astrology. My point was that if there were a study proving it right no scientist could stand behind it without being ridiculed. And that is a fact. It doesn’t even disturb me. It’s just to point out that everyone has biases and sometimes that bias is so inbred that it can cause you to throw away some good work.

If you haven’t read any of his works, why would you presume to explain why it wasn’t taken seriously. You are just showing your bias. I can tell you he wasn’t taken seriously for the same reason that Arp is not allowed near a telescope after some 20 years at Palomar and being an assistant EDWIN HUBBLE, because his celestial mechanics is a radical view. You may disagree with me, but excuse me if I don’t take your view seriously when you are making an argument over something you haven’t even read. You couldn’t possibly prove my point of BIAS any better.

BTW, What’s WAG? Saw this many times…hmm, let me take a WAG, Wild Ass Guess?

In theory that is how much of it supposed to work. I’m a businessman, and I understand pretty well how politics work. More so than your average scientist who deals with theories, chemicals, professors and such. Money makes the world go wrong and money talks. Not scientific method.

Also, so let’s say you have a theory that the Earth has been around for 100 billion years. How do you perform an experiment to prove your theory? Scientists proclaim as if they know EXACTLY how many millions of years old a fossil is. Prove it. Do an experiment.
Even if you can design one, why does that experiment have ANY relevance to something that happened millions of years ago? Maybe the environment was different, maybe a million variable were different.

So a “mere” prediction is not a scientific way of doing things?? Is this “established” scientific fact? Am I the only one that disagrees with him here? On one thread they want a prediction give 'em one and then predictions are useless. Like I said, you believe what you want to believe, you don’t even have to read it!!

I’m too tired to even answer that one.

I am too tired to tackle the entire post above. Instead I’ll just go for the juciest. Of course a prediction is not a scientific was of thinking. I predict the Red Sox will win the World Series. I am not a scientist. I predict a tin foil helmet will channel alien transmissions. Again kinda obvious. Science is not about predictions. Hypostheses are formed on the basis of observation.

Let’s assume one sees a psychic healer in action and it appears to work. One can then predict that this method can be used to heal universally. Science this is not. One would then subject the hypothesis to rigorous examination. Congratulations you may be on your way to performing scientific inquiry.

If one just accepts “You believe what you want to believe” you have entered the realm of faith and religion.

Actually, that is not a fact. It is your unsupported opinion. In fact, there are numerous instances of the exact reverse occurring.

Yes, the first guy out the door with a radically different idea has to put up with some off-hand comments about his sanity or whether he has some hidden agenda. However, if he actually demonstrates that he has arrived at his conclusions based on actual evidence, others will look over his data–if for no other reason but to disprove him.
Plate tectonics was ridiculed when it was “continental drift” because the earliest proponent(s) had nothing but a hunch that the continents had, indeed, moved. When more information became available regarding the subsurface dynamics of the earth, then plate tectonics came into its own.

Einstein was not initially and universally hailed for his theory of Relativity. He met a lot of resistance–which fell to the side as people proved one after another of the corollaries to his theory.

Darwin was fought for years after his death, only finally being accepted by the bulk of the biological community after his theory was re-examined in the light of Mendelian genetics–and then it took over twenty years for the two processes t be joined.

E. O. Wilson was attacked for a number of people for his theories regarding genetics–much of it cast in political language. While he is still not wholly accepted in all of his conclusions, many of his harshest critics have conceded that the underlying framework that he originally proposed is sound.

Tesla was considered a kook–but we’re using AC in our houses.

Homosexuality was “obviously” a pathology until one woman hammered on the psychiatric and psychological communities to defend that assumption and they finally recognized that they were imposing cultural beliefs on their analysis.

I’m sure that there is all the same backbting, politics, and arrogant dismissal in the scientific community as there is in any other human endeavor. However, that probably leads to more rigorous analysis, not less. If researcher A has been stonewalled by administrator/senior researcher/competitor/whatever B, and B has also dismissed researcher X, then researcher A is quite likely to go dig up the works of X and rework them in order to take shots at B.

The idea that “science” is some megalithic controlling conspiracy that can shut out any dissenting view is simply unsupported by any facts.

In other word, every hypothesis should be attacked, fiercely and vigorously; and only if it’s strong enough to defend itself it should be considered a valid scientific theory.

There are no shortcuts in science, and no free lunches.

Oh. My. God. We’ve got a genuine Velikovskian here!

Perhaps you and the creationists can keep each other company.

Oh, they laughed at Galileo, they Laughed at Copernicus, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the clown. See, there are two things that could be happening when scientist dismiss you theories. One could be that they are charlatans trying desperately to hold back the advancement of knowledge. Yeah, the people we call scientists are really ANTI-SCIENTISTS since they must crush and destroy anything different. Makes you wonder how anything gets discovered, if the scientists are always trying to cover up new information.

Or there’s another theory. Perhaps the scientists treat you like a buffoon and an idiot because you ARE a buffoon and an idiot. Maybe scientist WANT to discover new things! Huh, what a radical concept, scientists trying to discover new things and figure out how things work. So THATS what they’ve been up to all this time!

DrFidelius wrote:

Alessan wrote:

Carl Sagan made basically the same point in The Demon-Haunted World. He said that the first thing any good scientist does, when (s)he concocts a new hypothesis, is to attack that hypothesis with every possible counterargument (s)he can imagine. Ruthlessly. (S)he knows that when his/her hypothesis comes up for peer review, any objections (s)he hasn’t already raised and successfully dealt with will be raised by his/her peers.

Of course, as many “alternative” theorists have discovered, even if your hypothesis doesn’t survive the peer review process, you can always go straight to the popular press and publish your book yourself in an attempt to get “public opinion” behind you instead. In the theater of popular “fringe science” books, having mainstream science denigrate your hypothesis is a badge of honor, proving that “they” are all out to get you because they’re afraid of the “earth-shattering” implications of your hypothesis. :rolleyes:

OK Mr. Dieffenbach, why then did Einstein ask for a prediction?

Did you say Buffoon? Did you say Idiot?

Tracer, I knew this would happen. I don’t mind a “debate” in the spirit of respect and for the goal of learning something. You’ve been pretty quiet. You haven’t made any claims that can be attacked. You’ve been very safe. I’ve put out a lot that can be attacked. Every single poster is against me. I don’t even mind that. But as I expected, the attacks got personal. Lemur, I guess Einstein was a buffoon too for thinking the Astronomers could learn something from Velikovsky. And an idiot too. And a Velikovskian. I don’t consider myself a Velikovskian. I consider him to have been a brilliant researcher, even many of his ardent critics admit that. I don’t agree with everything he said. And the parts I agree with I do with caution in my own mind, always ready to amend. I didn’t like his tone in the book many times, too arrogant, especially knowing he was a Heretic, and he did know long before publishing that it was fire, and I thought he made many stretches. On the stretches he should have been more cautious by giving it as a possibility rather than saying “Must have” etc…

But he was on a much higher level than Shapley who erased the photographic plates that showed variable stars and delayed their discovery because it didn’t fit his world view. (Funny that even after prompting, none of you were even curious enough to ASK about it). He also organized the campaign against Velikovsky. I read the shameful letters myself live in person. Page after page after page after page of letters by Astronomers saying they haven’t read the book but that it’s hogwash anyways.

The fact is Velikovsky hit a nerve that survives to this day. If MacMillan wanted to publish a book on astrology the anger of the scientists would not have been present. Everyone would have had a good laugh. There was a lot of substance to the book and it scared the scientists. The idea of Catastrophism particularly scared the scientists and for good reason. AFAIC he was proven correct more than 50% already because catastrophism is in.

Tracer, I am out of this conversation. I haven’t heard a single argument against Velikovsky that I haven’t heard before many times, or of interest or of value and don’t need Lemur to come in and insult me further. You guys can hold on to your beliefs…

Science may be defined as: “a method of discerning natural laws,” or words to that effect. Possibly a more accurate question would be:

Are scientists out to get those who claim to be scientists but aren’t?

IMHO, this would better reflect the true state of affairs.



Dammit, 'nother, I wasn’t making an argument against Velikovskism, I just asked nicely for you to support one statement you had made.

“Predictions” are not prophesies or prognostications. A scientist cannot just say “If the atmosphere of Neptune is opaque to ultraviolet radiation, then my theory is correct” and expect everyone to accept the rest of his musings.

A prediction is more long the lines of saying “If you look at this, you will see that it shows a link between Observation A and Observation D.” For instance, (since you like Einstein so much) in 1911 Einstein predicted that if his ideas of special relativity were extended, gravitational mass would bend light. He predicted that light from a star passing near the sun (the light, not the star that is) would be deflected by a precise angle, making the star appear to be in a different position than it would be observed when the light was not passing near to the sun. This was a prediction, backed by the math and validated to four decimal places during an eclipse in 1919.

Note that he did not just say “If the position of stars appear different during an eclipse, my theories are correct.” He made precise calculations which proved to be accurate when the opportunity to observe arose. The observed displacement of stellar positions developed as a necessary consequence of the rest of the theory.

Now, in what way is Jupiter’s emission of electromagnetic radiation in the “radio wave” band a necessary consequence of Velokovskian catastrophism?

DrFidelius wrote:

I never thought I’d be rushing to Velikovsky’s defense :wink: , but I tried reading some of that link to Velikovsky’s writings which AnotherHeretic posted. In the middle of Velikovsky’s book Before the Day Breaks, at Before the Forum, I found this little passage:

(Radio emissions were first detected coming from Jupiter in 1955.)

It sounds as though Velikovsky was predicting the emission of radio “noises” as a consequence of the motions of Jupiter’s atmosphere.

AnotherHeretic wrote:

I didn’t ask about it because you’d said all your books were packed. I was afraid I’d just get a rant about how awful Shapley was, without getting even enough information to look up the events in question (such as the name(s) of the astronomer(s) who proposed variable stars and whom Shapley allegedly campaigned against).

It sounds particularly odd because by 1920, Shapley was using a type of variable star called an RR Lyrae star to gauge the distance to nearby galaxies. When I did a Google search on “Shapley variable”, several articles came up about Shapley’s use of RR Lyrae variables, but nothing came up about any attempt by Shapley to “silence the traitorous variable star proponents.” One of the articles I found, at, did back up the notion that Shapley was a jerk (his leadership style was described as “divide and rule”), but made no mention of any anti-variable-star campaign.

Or, rephrased, in order for Velikovsky to be taken seriously, the scientific method that clearly shows his wackjob hypotheses to be a wheelbarrow of horsepucky will have to be radically revised.

Regarding the OP:

Patently absurd on its face. Science is a method. It relies on falsifiability, repeatability, and vigorous attempts at refutation via thorough peer review. People who advocate their theories instead of working hard to disprove them are not doing science.

In other words, “mainstream science” is not “out to get fringe science.” Rather, the scientific method, correctly applied, is unkind to hypotheses that are conceptually unsound and that fail to hold up under vigorous examination. Period. No “fringe” about it.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but you clearly are in possession of not the tiniest amount of understanding of how science works. Your cherished Velikovsky, even under the most generous interpretation of his “theories,” is, by any and all rational bases, little more than an annoying wingnut.

There are a lot of very smart people on this board. I’d advise you to listen carefully to what they have to say. I know I’ve learned a lot here, and I invite you to do the same. I simply caution you not to fall into the trap of confusing personal beliefs with personal identity, or you may suffer an existential crisis when some of those beliefs are irrefutably demonstrated to be hogwash. Many of my own beliefs have withered under the harsh light of objective evidence, and I haven’t climbed a clocktower with a rifle yet.

If I sound impatient, it’s simply because I’m fed up with people who don’t understand that the purpose of the Straight Dope is fighting ignorance, not spreading it.

Thank you tracer, but I never doubted that he had said that Jupiter emitted radio waves before this was confirmed observationally. What I have trouble linking is the existence of this radiation with a mechanism which would allow the formation of planets by ejection, or any other part of his theories. One hit in a throwaway aside in one of his secondary books is not all that impressive. I am still trying to be impartial here, and would like 'nother’s take on how this is significant.

As a prediction, it is a step above Jean Dixon, but as stated it is not a scientific prediction; that is, one which follows logically but in a possibly unexpected direction from the implications of a hypothesis.


Although I want to stay out of it it’s only fair I respond to the shapley thing:

I won’t be responding anymore to Velikovsky stuff. Here it is a fight just to be treated with respect. I know and have met many people that you folks have only read about. I’ve had controversial discussions with scientists around the world and no one, not even Edwin Krupp came close to insinuating I was a buffoon or an idiot despite having a nice disagreement with him. I was only 19 at the time…

Without even trying, I had a new friend, MA in Physics who I started showing articles to and who started out in the beginning to view me much as you folks do, as a wacko, end up a few MONTHS later viewing me differently. We had been talking about the latest revelations about FTL light and one day he says you finally have me convinced. I said convinced of WHAT? He said that Einstein may have been wrong. I was floored because although I did post some interesting challenges to Einstein, I don’t even personally think Einstein was wrong and wasn’t even trying to convince him of that or of anything at all. I just wanted him to see that there is substance in some of the work of those people outcast from science.

One on one, even Lemur probably would not have the guts to call me an idiot or buffoon as he feels comfortable to do on the computer screen. The folks at Straight Dope seem to feel they have nothing to learn from me and only I can learn from them. Well, I’ve learned a fair amount here. And even the ones calling me names are very smart despite their arrogance and I can learn from them too. But it’s clear no one will learn from me so what’s the point? But I do thank you tracer for inviting me to the debate and being a decent bloke even though I have a feeling you view me as a wacko too, which I don’t blame you for, coming from the background you do and not being exposed to the things I’ve been exposed to.