Oct 07 2011

Against “Consensus”

""){ ?> By Valkyrie Ice


Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions that differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.
Albert Einstein

You hear the word Consensus a lot these days. It’s used over and over all over the web as a means to try and end discussion on any number of topics, and to give the person using the word a sense of “superiority” for “defending consensus.” It’s been used to justify Wikipedia editing wars, with “Defenders of Consensus” preventing “Crackpot Loons” from modifying articles with information on nearly any topic that “Consensus” says is “wrong.” It’s justified over and over with such defenses as: “Well, a majority can’t be wrong!” or “Most scientists agree” or “Consensus is a vital tool of science!”….

The problem is that history shows repeatedly that Consensus is meaningless in science. Ptolemaic “epicycles” were “consensus” for centuries, but two scientists, both labeled “Crackpot” by their peers, proved “consensus” wrong. Copernicus had a play written about him called “Morosophus” or the “Foolish Sage.” Galileo was tried by the Inquisition and forced to “recant” as a heretic. Both were brilliant men, but they dared to “go against Consensus” and were mocked and ridiculed for it. But despite this, they still proved “Consensus” wrong.  Louis Pasteur also faced such mockery, with his “germ theory” when “Consensus” believed in “spontaneous generation”, yet every child today is taught the germ theory of disease, and not that rancid meat turns into maggots. Antonj Van Leeunhoek faced it for his “little beasties” until his microscope proved their existence beyond a doubt. Even Albert Einstein faced such opposition in his early years before his theories became “accepted fact” (despite still being a “theory”)

I could probably make a book listing the examples in history of the “giants” of modern science and how each of them had to “go against consensus” in order to get their theories examined, and the battles that were fought before the evidence was accepted, but that’s not really my point. It’s that historically, “Consensus” has never been a “help” to science, but is instead a “hindrance.”

Why? Because science is about asking questions, while consensus is about demanding that you not question. It’s a blind appeal to “authority” in order to silence questions, a blunt force demand that you cease thinking and accept the status quo. It has nothing to do with “science” and everything to do with enforcing the “will of the herd.” It is a demand that you “BELIEVE!!!!!!!” instead of an appeal to logic and evidence.

Yet everywhere you go online, regardless of the branch of science under discussion, you will be exhorted to “accept Consensus” as incontrovertible fact, regardless of evidence for or against. If you just so happen to be in possession of evidence of any sort that disagrees with “consensus,” it’s not even possible to have a rational conversation and discuss said evidence. It is automatically dismissed as “crackpottery” or “craziness” or “idiocy,” and for having dared to examine it you might find yourself called a “denier,” “insane,” or “superstitious.” In almost every case, you will find staunch refusal to examine said evidence or even worse, a statement like “Well I checked Google and consensus says such and such, so you are (insert insult here).”

I’ve often asked people why they have such a hard time discussing differing opinions without resorting to juvenile name calling; why two rational people can’t rationally discuss differing conclusions based on examination of differing evidence without there usually being one who will question the sanity of the other for daring to have a different opinion. I’ve yet to get a good answer.

Why is this? Well, recent research has revealed that people don’t actually act rationally as a general rule. No matter what they might like to think, when faced with a “challenge” to a deeply held belief, the normal instinct is rejection. What that belief is tends to be pretty meaningless, but when faced with evidence that their beliefs are not as “true” as they believe they are, sticking your hands over your ears and going “lalalalalalala” is an automatic first response. It’s instinctive to reject the possibility that you might be wrong, and it makes no difference if you are discussing a religious belief, a political one, or a scientific one. The “appeal to consensus” is thus “I agree with these people, and so do a lot of others, so that must mean I am right and this evidence being presented is thus wrong.”

You might have heard of a recent story about neutrinos traveling faster than light? The OPERA project is one of the most precise experiments of its kind, with numerous scientists checking and double checking all the data and equipment for accuracy. We’re talking as close to fementometers as they can get levels of precision. And before releasing the report, they exhausted every single other possible cause before asking the world community “prove us wrong!” They want to be proven wrong because their experiment “goes against Consensus” that states that nothing can travel faster than light. They don’t want their evidence to be right because it means that consensus is wrong. They released their findings with a plea to the science community to find “where they went wrong;” rather than saying “this evidence indicates the possibility that the reigning theory may not be complete” despite the fact that even Einstein himself was unsatisfied with his theories and considered them incomplete.

And what was the immediate result? Well on “Next Big Future” where I read the article first, the replies were filled with “they must have been stupid” responses… you know, the kind where the competence of the scientists in question is challenged rather than the results. These are CERN researchers. I have every confidence in their competency, and doubt that such basic errors as “they measured wrong” or “they didn’t take into account the curve of the earth”, or “they didn’t account for vibration” were responsible for their readings. Even Fermilab stated that it would take a “year or two” to upgrade their instruments to the sensitivity of the CERN ones and re-run the experiment, which indicates that the OPERA team had the best, most precise, most accurate instruments available. But rather than examine this data, it was nearly universally dismissed as “wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong!!” because “Consensus” said it had to be wrong. (one exception I’ve found is here.

This is not science. It is, indeed, the furthest thing from science imaginable.

It is however, a pattern seen commonly in another universal human institution —Religion. “Consensus says” is no different than “God says” in its basic semantics. It’s an appeal to “higher authority” to make an argument seem to not just have a weight of evidence on one’s side, but “moral force” — in essence making anyone who “questions the faith” a heretic who deserves nothing but ridicule and derision and hatred lest he “poison the minds” of the faithful with things like evidence and lead them “astray” from the “one true path.” Indeed, in a recent “discussion” I was told this flat out: “Because you are a blogger/writer and your words have impact, You can potentially skew the opinions of thousands of people (millions if you somehow became a famous figure) and make life very difficult for those of us who are actually trying to be constructive about climate change.”

The “variation” of my views on climate change from consensus is probably less than a few percent. The chief difference is that after nearly 20 years of reading evidence from all sides in the “debate,” I have failed to reach the conclusion that “man” is the single *sole* cause of climate change as there is sufficient evidence that said changes were occurring prior to the “Industrial Revolution” to conclude it is a natural event made significantly worse by mankind and initially caused by mechanisms other than “carbon pollution”. But because “consensus” says that man alone is responsible, I was branded a heretic. I had to be “corrected” lest I spread a dissenting opinion to consensus, however slight.

It’s not my job to “make life easy” by not asking questions or doing my own research and reaching my own conclusions. As a rational human being, it’s my duty to ask questions, find answers, and if those answers later prove incorrect, or flawed, it’s my duty to reject them and find new answers. I have always gone where the evidence leads, not where consensus demands I follow. As a believer in “Science” I cannot “accept things on faith” because a “higher authority” tells me too. And that includes even “Consensus.” I freely admit that I might reach a wrong conclusion, but if I do so based on evidence, and if I have to change my conclusions when different evidence is discovered, such is life in a universe we are still learning to understand.

But please, don’t simply take my word for it. Because as a rational human being, it’s up to you to do your own research and seek your own conclusions. If you simply accept my opinion, then you are simply joining another “consensus.” If you refuse to simply blindly accept “consensus says” as a reason, but demand evidence, study said  evidence, and draw your own conclusions from said evidence, then like Isaac Newton, you can say “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Even Albert agrees:
He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would suffice.
Albert Einstein

  • By SHaGGGz, October 7, 2011 @ 6:50 pm

    I don’t know where you got the idea that the consensus is that climate change is due SOLELY to human activity. The implications of such a view are too absurd to even bother listing. The more prevalent anti-consensus view is that human activity has NO contributing role in climate change, and the utility of such a view is obvious to certain sectors of the population.

    Consensus has a legitimate value in how we arrive at the truth; the choice is not a dichotomy of mindless, sheepish groupthink and an all-encompassing doubt about absolutely everything, regardless of the weight of established evidence. The kneejerk pointing to Galileo is a tired and overused tool of dissidents, most of whom do indeed turn out to be wrong, if not crazily so. The mere fact that consensus has been proven wrong in the past is not an automatic argument in favor of whatever dissenting argument one may put forth.

    That said, I do hope that the consensus in the CERN case is wrong, as that would lead to an even more exciting era for science and discovery. However, I do see the sense in the researchers pre-emptively defaulting to the assumption that their measurements are wrong, as, in all probability, they are. This is realism, and is not the same thing as them mandating everyone unquestioningly close themselves off to any new possibilities. Always defaulting to the other possibility, that our conceptual framework is faulty and thus has to be overturned, would serve to hinder science overall.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 8, 2011 @ 6:42 am

    Where I got the “man is the sole cause” is from countless defenders of the AGW faith I’ve had to argue with for more than ten years. I quite agree it is absurd. I also find the view that man has NO impact equally absurd.

    That is however, besides the point, as the majority of the people using “consensus” to settle their arguments do so out of blind faith, instead of having arrived at their conclusions following examination of all evidence. No attempts to rationally discuss contradictory evidence is possible, because they will not examine it. In most cases, if they make any effort beyond just insults and derision, they will look up ONLY other “consensus” defenders opinions ABOUT the evidence rather than the evidence itself.

    Nor do I advocate “all-encompassing doubt” as I did make clear in the article. I advocate DOING YOUR OWN RESEARCH instead of simply allowing your opinions to be handed to you. Read the evidence and the counter evidence. Inform YOURSELF of the details of both the pro and the con. Do not let ANYONE tell you to “take something on faith”, which is what the majority of people do. Try asking someone to give you details of why they think what they do, and 9 out of 10 times it will be because someone else said so, and they are just parroting it. As my ending quote should have made clear, YOU HAVE A BRAIN, SO USE IT.

    Which brings us to CERN, and astrophysics in general. I’ve been watching this for a long time, and quite bluntly, I’ve rarely seen a news story about space or physics that isn’t “And scientists are surprised at (insert new discovery) that is completely unexpected” and which is usually followed up with some new mathematical “Dark something or other” which is unseeable, undetectable, and which I have to take on faith as existing, because it’s the only way the math will work. See my paragraph above on “taking things on faith.” If they find a Higgs Boson, I might be less skeptical, but considering it’s running out of places to hide…

    I’m an engineer type. I couldn’t care less what works on paper or in a computer model. I’ll take real experimental evidence from work conducted in the physical world over mathematical abstractions every time.

  • By Beeblz, October 8, 2011 @ 1:21 pm

    Valkyrie Ice, surely you acknowledge that it is physically impossible for everyone who is curious about a subject to undertake every single experiment that they have ever been told about for themselves to determine whether it’s true or not?

    Like the Krebs cycle in mitochondria, for example – I have never seen it happen and probably never will, and were I to try to prove it to myself I would waste decades (it took like 30 years or something originally to decipher) of my life rehashing what has already been done. As such, we HAVE to accept some things on trust.

    So how do we determine which people to trust and which not to? Scientific consensus.

    Respected scientists who tell us “X is true, Y is not.” have earned the right to do so by working their way up through the ranks of other respected scientists, the collective of whom form the scientific consensus.

  • By whiskey26, October 8, 2011 @ 3:42 pm

    Lol – the people who gave maverick scientists a hard time for outlandish new ideas were perfectly right to do so – there are a million crackpot ideas out there, they’re a dime a dozen. The only way to distinguish the tiny fraction of correct ones is with evidence, which the proposer of the new outlandish idea has to present. In the case of Pasteur, Einstein etc they did so, and so scientific consensus was changed.

    That is NOT an argument against scientific consensus.

    It’s perfectly reasonable not to immediately accept a new idea (even if it turns out eventually to be correct)if it doesn’t match the scientific consensus of the time. If you went back to the 1800s and started talking about satellites and computers, it doesn’t matter how correct you’d be – the scientists of the time would be perfectly justified in dismissing your ideas as BS until they discovered and worked out a framework for concepts like electricity, spaceflight, LCD screens etc. Then eventually they’d be like “Oh, you’d never have guessed it – turns out she was right after all!”

    Scientific consensus keeps out a whole load of crap, and only very, very occasionally slows down the acceptance of a correct idea (notice I say “slows down” not “stops wholesale” – over a long enough time frame ALL correct ideas will get through to mainstream when a method like the scientific one is used).

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 8, 2011 @ 6:04 pm

    Again, I am not saying do the EXPERIMENTS, I am saying DO THE RESEARCH. Don’t take someone’s opinion about a “controversial” topic as gospel, either for or against. In the case of AGW, there is an enormous body of legitimate research that is IGNORED solely because it shows flaws in the “consensus” research. If you refuse to even examine that evidence, you have no basis for making any claims about it.

    And I quite agree that not every theory is legitimate, but you’ll never know what is or is not if you refuse to even hear anything but what has been given a “seal of consensus approval.” Again, YOU HAVE A BRAIN, USE IT.

    So for the last time, If you refuse to examine both sides of an issue, you have no basis to actually know what you are talking about, and are merely parroting what others have told you. You are “taking things on faith”


  • By Beeblz, October 9, 2011 @ 1:52 am

    And what of all those individuals who HAVE done the research and can find no flaw with the scientific consensus? They’ve used their brains – they just don’t agree with you. Does that make them mindless sheep?

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 9, 2011 @ 6:28 am

    No Beeblz. It depends on what data they have looked at. And whether they are willing to discuss said data without resorting to name calling, demanding I take things on faith, or refusing to look at data that they were unaware of. That may include data and evidence outside of “consensus approval” in more than one field of science.

    There are a very great number of highly educated, scientifically literate, and mathematically gifted people who have pointed out numerous flaws in many reports both for and against. Enough so that it is clear that neither side has “all the answers” and despite what it would appear likely you believe, more than sufficient evidence to indicate significant “fudging the facts” has occurred by several highly influential people in the AGW advocacy group and the IPCC.

    And I will note it appears highly likely you either ignored or missed the fact that I stated I mostly agreed with the AGW crowd on needed steps to correct mankind’s additions to the warming issue. I do not however think that they will be either sufficient to halt warming, as mankind is merely one among several factors, nor will they be possible under the current economic conditions without causing massive global instability, and likely massive loss of life (which said steps are supposed to PREVENT)

    And again, I will point out that the AGW debate was not the point of this article, but to remind people that despite arguments such as yours on the “value of consensus” there are very few historical accounts to back up your assertions, and that the majority of historical evidence in fact indicates the opposite. Even in recent history (as in the past two days)there’s been yet another story about “consensus” treating a true discovery that “consensus” said was “impossible” with scorn and derision WITHOUT ACTUALLY CHECKING THE EVIDENCE UNTIL THEY HAD NO OTHER CHOICE. How many years were the Wright Brothers actually flying airplanes before “consensus” had to admit heavier than air flight was possible? And can you recall the Drexler-Smalley debate?

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 9, 2011 @ 6:51 pm

    Oh, and here’s Micheal Crichton on the subject:

    I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.

    Let’s be clear: The work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

  • By whiskey26, October 9, 2011 @ 7:59 pm

    “The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.”

    No. That is completely and utterly wrong. By that reasoning, astrologists, quantum-field healers, homeopaths and countless others are brilliant scientists too.

    Also, I’d love to see some evidence/references for the numerous volatile claims you make, like this:

    “Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels…Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”

    This: “…sufficient evidence to indicate significant “fudging the facts” has occurred by several highly influential people in the AGW advocacy group and the IPCC.”

    And this: “…without causing massive global instability, and likely massive loss of life”

    “…despite arguments such as yours on the “value of consensus” there are very few historical accounts to back up your assertions, and that the majority of historical evidence in fact indicates the opposite.”
    Oh yeah? There are ALWAYS more crackpot ideas which turn out to be wrong than turn out to be right, by the sheer laws of probability – think how many off-the-top-of-their-head ideas are being dreamed up as we speak. What’s the chance of a particular one being right? Here’s a list of some which went against consensus (with supporters as fervent as you) which turned out to be… WRONG. A lot of these people provided “evidence” to support their claims just like you. They were still wrong:

    Cold fusion
    Orgone energy
    MMR vaccine causes autism
    Erich von Däniken’s proposal of ancient astronauts
    Ear candling
    Chelation therapy

    And on and on and on….

    I would also like to see some references to stuff you mentioned in your original article, like the specific research which says people are not rational that you a referring to, or the conversation you had where the quote about climate change was said to you (which btw, I don’t think was that unreasonable) so that we can check whether you were indeed persecuted in this “witch-hunt” manner which you paint for yourself.

    And the way in which you twist the intentions of the people at CERN is just despicable. What’s wrong with wanting the scientific community to be ruthless in their dissection of your results? Faster-than-light neutrinos are a VERY, VERY ANOMALOUS DISCOVERY, with earth-shatteringly profound implications for the entirety of physics, and as Carl Sagan once said: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

  • By Mammago, October 9, 2011 @ 11:15 pm

    @whiskey26 I think I love you for asking this question: “…or the conversation you had where the quote about climate change was said to you”

    I am the other party she is referring to in the text – our conversation can be found here:
    Scroll down to where it says “Submitted by Mammago on September 18, 2011 at 8:31 am” and starts “I won’t go off on a rant…” that’s basically where it started to kick into high gear (and one of the comments is out of sync, so come back to it once you’ve reached the end of the thread).

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 10, 2011 @ 5:37 am

    Whiskey, Michael Crichton said the first quote, and for the second, actually read the CRU emails for yourself instead of relying on what someone told you were in them.

    And yes, Mammago, I recommended you look into a theory which has significant evidence for it that “goes against consensus”, enough so that a large organization, the IEEE takes it seriously, and you refused to examine said evidence. Are you a plasma physicist? Do you understand how plasmas interact? Do you understand how electrical currents in plasma interact? Are you aware that a “stream of charged particles” moving through plasma is by DEFINITION an electric current, which is exactly what the “Solar Wind” is? If your answer to any of these questions is no, then what basis do you have to dismiss the evidence presented other than it’s “not approved by consensus?”

    So yes, please do continue to do exactly what I described above, and keep your hands over your ears going lalalalalala.

    And I’ve already told you I could care less if I am eventually lead to different conclusions when further data is accumulated, but I have at least based my conclusions on having actually examined the data from all sides. All you’ve done is looked up what someone else had to say and then insulted me repeatedly.

    Oh, and increase the readership of my articles. Thank you.

  • By SHaGGGz, October 10, 2011 @ 3:04 pm

    Val, I don’t doubt that you’ve come across people who claim that man is the sole cause of AGW. Talk to enough people and you’ll hear all sorts of crazy nonsense; this is unremarkable. What is remarkable, however, is your specific claim that this view is the CONSENSUS. You must either have an astoundingly incorrect understanding of what the word “consensus” means, or you’re willfully manipulating into a straw man the thing you wish to rail against in this, frankly, pretty poorly argued article, as evidenced by the influx of comments above.

    You may say that you don’t advocate an all-encompassing doubt, but this is the prescription your words seem to imply when you advocate researching every single scientific research paper. You seem to be completely unacquainted with the notion of “rational ignorance.” You may have countless hours of free time to dig into mounds of research papers so that you can spew vitriol at your opponents with the imprimatur of evidence behind you, but the vast majority of people simply do not have that luxury. How do you propose reconciling your high-minded ideals with this reality? Also, I really don’t think your near-childish attitude of sardonically telling him to increase the readership of your articles is useful in any way, unless you’re actively seeking to foment a flame war.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 10, 2011 @ 7:15 pm

    Actually SHaGGGz, I DON’T claim that they are consensus. I claim that THEY CLAIM to be consensus.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 10, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

    As for the last line to Mammago? He’s the author of the quote used in the article about how much of a threat I am as a writer. I’m merely pointing out that continuing to provide illustrations of my thesis is counterproductive to his stated aims.

    And to be blunt, “Rational ignorance” is bullshit. If you refuse to examine evidence you have no basis to “have an opinion” on it.

    I don’t draw conclusions on data I haven’t examined personally, and demanding I ignore evidence that I HAVE examined personally to blindly put faith in claims that I can no longer support due to having examined said evidence is neither rational, nor scientific.

    You are free to think what you wish. I will continue to base my conclusions on hard evidence and not “groupthink.” I’m not someone who you will convince to ignore facts because you don’t feel comfortable leaving your “comfort zone.”

  • By Mammago, October 11, 2011 @ 1:46 am

    Don’t worry SHaGGGz, she seems to accuse everyone who disagrees with her of being sheep and/or part of a conspiracy to crush dissenting voices. No amount of evidence to the contrary (or illustration of the dodgy quality of her sources – one which she cited has been known to accept computer-generated “nonsense articles”) will sway her. I tried both approaches in the thread I posted to whiskey26, any interested readers may have a look.

    And Valkyrie – yes, people already know I’m the person who said that to you, as it was in my message to whiskey26. And I stand by it. In fact, if it were not for the individuals in this comment section pointing out the flaws in your arguments, a less scientifically-oriented reader may have swallowed your condemnation of scientific consensus hook, line and sinker.

    Though I hate to make sweeping statements, I think it’s not unreasonable to conclude that, after substantial interaction with her, Valkyrie’s approach to science is simple: “Anyone who does not agree with the theories I like is either uninformed, blind or a conspirator.”

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 11, 2011 @ 6:04 am

    Actually Mammago, I’ve not made one claim about you other than that you’ve refused to actually discuss things like an adult (without continually insulting me) and have refused to actually examine evidence presented, demanding instead I conform to your worldview regardless of how factually inaccurate I find it to be..

    But, please, do feel free to continue your attempts to paint me as a “loon”, precisely as I described in the article. It makes me laugh to see you continually illustrating my points for me.

    And before you accuse me of being a “conspiracy theorist” it might be a little more believable if I had actually accused anyone of conspiring. I’ve merely pointed out that refusal to examine evidence is neither scientific, nor counts as a refutation to said evidence, it merely illustrates that you base your worldview on FAITH instead of REASON.

    Regardless, your opinion means nothing to me. Nor do your attempts to make me out as “crazy” intimidate me. I AM A SUCCUBUS, Mammago, do you REALLY think I give a damn about your estimation of my “sanity?”

    But again, I do thank you for being such a wonderful “case in point” for my article. You’ve done a great job being everything I described.

  • By Beeblz, October 11, 2011 @ 4:30 pm

    Yeah, I’ve gotta say Valkyrie that you’re not doing yourself any favours here…

    I have to say, although I think Mammago’s line at the end was sort of needlessly inflammatory, I can see his point. The conversation he showed between you two (which is ridiculously long as well – how long exactly has all this been going on?) seems to show him being a lot more reasonable, and providing lots of references.

    You provide one or two, but he kinda shoots them down – with good reasons…

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 11, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    He did not shoot the *DATA* down, Beeblz. He smeared the *journal*, not the articles referred to. That’s not a refutation of the data. He refused to examine the data at all, preferring ridicule and insults to actually looking for himself. He’s expended far more effort trying to “shame” me into submission with his worldview than he has anything else. That’s a fairly standard tactic of someone who can’t discuss things impartially. He cannot accept that anyone could have examined evidence he refuses to, or that said data could lead someone to a vastly different conclusion than the one he believes in. I’ve not insulted him once, or questioned his sanity. I’ve asked him for the courtesy of the same behavior, which he has refused at every turn.

    Simply put Beeblz, I cannot and will not willfully blind myself to evidence. I don’t give a damn if said evidence is ignored by others. Refusal to examine evidence is not a refutation of evidence. Mockery of evidence is not refutation of evidence. Ridicule of the journal evidence is presented in is not a refutation of evidence. Derision against acceptance of evidence by a large professional body which deals with the subject is not a refutation of evidence. Mockery of me for having examined evidence and finding the conclusions drawn from it more convincing than the “consensus view” is not a refutation of the evidence. Ganging up with others who also have refused to examine the evidence for a little group mockery is not a refutation of the evidence.

    I couldn’t care less what your *opinions* are Beeblz. If you refuse to examine hard evidence that your worldview is in error, that is your choice. I will still take take evidence over faith and deliberate ignorance every time. And the evidence indicates that consensus is one of the biggest and most pernicious hindrances to scientific progress, and historically has been a barrier that has had to be overcome by nearly every “giant” of science.

    Insult me all you like. I stopped caring about such juvenile responses somewhere back in grade school. Seriously, my entire writing career is based on examining evidence that “consensus” ignores to analyze it’s effects on future technological trends. Do you really think I’m going to stop doing that just because you disagree with me? I’m perfectly happy to admit when I am wrong, but I will not change my mind just because you demand I do so. It takes actual evidence, and not merely repetitiously presenting the same evidence I’ve already examined and found flawed over and over while hurling insults because I refuse to conform to your beliefs.

  • By whiskey26, October 12, 2011 @ 3:29 am

    Err Valkyrie, I’m checking through the conversation from that other place and Mammago doesn’t seem to have insulted you anywhere – certainly not more than you did to him. The antagonistic phrases he uses towards you are linguistically measured in their tone (at least at the start), similar to yours towards him. They build up over time for BOTH of you as your disagreements become more apparent. Would you care to provide some quotations to support your argument? (I love how we have to keep reminding you to provide references, citations, quotes and the like rather than polemic, especially as you claim to be an individual well versed with the sciences).

    “Ridicule of the journal evidence is presented in is not a refutation of evidence.”
    Technically no, but when that journal accepts randomly generated sentences from a computer, it’s time to ask some SERIOUS questions about the quality of the work presented in it. And the fact is, the vast majority of scientists don’t have the time to waste on something with such a high risk of being nonsense. I mean, do you SERIOUSLY regard that as a worthy expenditure of YOUR time? Would you read an article I randomly generated off MY computer?

    “Derision against acceptance of evidence by a large professional body which deals with the subject is not a refutation of evidence.”
    Whoa, whoa, whoa – you mean that IEEE thing? Would you like to know what he actually said? Here, I’ve lifted it from the convo he sent out: “It doesn’t matter if a thousand electrical engineers at IEEE stand up and vouch for it, if it disagrees with the experiments that everybody else carries out (provided they use the same equipment, conditions etc), it’s wrong.”

    This is a COMPLETELY VALID statement to make! If millions and millions of scientists all over the world are producing results which do not support the opinion of even a thousand senior engineers, and they are all using the same equipment, protocols and blah blah blah, then those (thousand) scientists are WRONG.

    In the words of Richard Feynman: “If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. It doesn’t matter how beautiful the theory is, or how smart you are, or what his name is, the person who made the theory. If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong.” It looks to me like this “electric universe whatever” was brushed aside for a reason: it disagreed with experiment. So it was wrong.

    (By the way, I would love to see some evidence that “a bunch of down to earth electrical engineers in the IEEE accept this view as more probably accurate than a series of mathematical “figments of the imagination” like dark matter and black holes” as you so eloquently put it.)

    Straw man after straw man after straw man. It’s like it’s the only debating tool you know. I might just respond: *straw man* when you do this in future, just to save everyone the hassle.

    Look, you’ve made your mind up. I think Mammago’s pretty much hit the nail on the head – it’s time for us to go and leave you to your apoplectic hatred of the scientific establishment. We’ve done all we can, and presenting evidence to someone who “knows” she’s right and her cherry-picked evidence is better than the millions of tonnes of opposing evidence is most tiresome.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 12, 2011 @ 10:14 am

    187 hits on papers from the IEEE official digital library.

    That a sufficient number of publications for you Whiskey? Took me all of five seconds to find.

    The “reasons” EU was “brushed aside” had nothing to do with experiment. It has to do with the fact that if one accepts the theory, the entire history of the universe, and our solar system, would have to be rewritten, as would the bulk of current astronomical theory, including some parts of Relativity theory and such “mathematical fictions” as Black holes, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, Neutron stars, and the Fusion model of the Sun. It would also replace gravity centric theories with electric forces, relegating gravity to a secondary role. It is precisely because of experimentation in the lab that I am convinced of it’s validity. The lab results match and explain actual observations without the need of undetectable “ghost” matter making up 99% of the universe.

    And the strange thing is that you take it as an insult when I question your beliefs, but you seem to think it’s okay to question my sanity and that doing so is not insulting? That does not compute Whiskey. You don’t get a free pass just because you believe you’re on the “right side”.

    And you are wrong about one thing. I didn’t make up my mind. The evidence made it for me. So all your demands amount to is insistence that I ignore the evidence, take your beliefs on faith, and become a good little believer too. Since you are secure in your “rational ignorance” , and I abhor deliberate ignorance, regardless of “reasons”, I have very little incentive to comply with your demands.

    And god’s I wish I *were* guilty of cherry picking, but since I’ve actually read the evidence and you _haven’t_ that’s little more than projection on your part.

    And nice efforts to dismiss my article by acting exactly as my article predicted you would. I couldn’t have asked for better examples. : )

  • By Beeblz, October 12, 2011 @ 5:38 pm

    Lol, yeah it must be SO difficult to predict the actions of people who agree with what evidence tells them, mustn’t it?

    The part that I found excruciating was when you said “the fusion model of the Sun”. You do realise that fusion models work don’t you? Do hydrogen bombs ring a bell? How about the ITER fusion reactor?

    Tbh, you’ve kind of made our point for us. By throwing out pretty much the entirety of modern established physics. I suppose you’re going to tell me that our Earth is only a few thousand years old next?

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 13, 2011 @ 12:38 am

    Thought you were leaving?

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 13, 2011 @ 12:53 am

    And not that I expect you to actually read it but:

    And for the record, no, the earth is not thousands of years old. You’re confusing me with someone who takes things on faith.

    And fusion does indeed work, in magnetic z-pinches supplied by electric currents compressing dense plasma, and in the highly specialized form of the hydrogen bomb, which uses FISSION to produce sufficient energy and pressure to enable a very small amount of fusion. But it does not occur in the interior of the sun.

    You are aware that when you’re ignorant of what the evidence says, all you have is insults and faith, right? You can’t actually expect to have a rational discussion when only one side knows what they are talking about, right?

  • By Beeblz, October 13, 2011 @ 3:14 am

    Whiskey26 said that, sweetheart, not me. Nonetheless, you raise a good point – I think we’re all done wasting our time here. This will be my final message:

    You can never expect to be taken seriously when you have such a warped view of reality. Even a humanities major could crush you on scientific literacy – and in the society we live in, that is really saying something.

    As for us being “predictable” – when you act like the most tragically stereotypical anti-establishment conspiracy-theorist that it’s possible to have, and then when people who understand the scientific method act in an incredibly annoyed and impatient manner (after a long time, I would add – not straight away, as evidenced by Mammago’s frankly saintly attempts at debating the subject rationally with you in the other conversation), you have the nerve to say:

    “Ohhh, how well I predicted this!”

    don’t be surprised if the people watching mutter something along the lines of “No shit, Sherlock…”

  • By SHaGGGz, October 13, 2011 @ 8:25 am

    Actually, Val, if you go back and read your own words, you’ll see that you did indeed claim they were the consensus, not that they merely made the claim in error.

    Your expectation that everyone examine every piece of evidence for themselves before having a right to form an opinion on something is absolutely and laughably absurd. Taken to its logical conclusion, this mandate would necessitate every person recapitulating the entirety of human intellectual development from prescientific times until now. The only alternative is what actually goes on in the real world: students take the vast majority of scientific theories at face value, getting caught up and ready to tackle the hot topics of the day, for to reembark upon in painstaking detail every piece of data and research ever produced to arrive at today’s razor edge of scientific knowledge would only ever be a requirement uttered by someone completely divorced from reality (or someone who clumsily said something foolish but is so incapable of admitting fault within themselves that they’ll defend to the death the foolishness in question (hint: I may be talking about you)).

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 14, 2011 @ 1:00 am

    And still, you continue to try and browbeat me into submission.

    And again, if you refuse to examine the evidence, you have no basis to criticize it, but you’ve certainly not let that stop you.

    And again, thank you so much for being such fine examples of exactly what I was discussing in my article.

    Bai Bai now!

  • By Daen de Leon, October 14, 2011 @ 1:27 pm

    “These are CERN researchers. I have every confidence in their competency, and doubt that such basic errors as “they measured wrong” or “they didn’t take into account the curve of the earth”, or “they didn’t account for vibration” were responsible for their readings. Even Fermilab stated that it would take a “year or two” to upgrade their instruments to the sensitivity of the CERN ones and re-run the experiment, which indicates that the OPERA team had the best, most precise, most accurate instruments available.”

    You’re making a few unsupported assumptions here in support of your point.

    You assume that all systemic error sources have been accounted for because these are smart people, but the evidence to support that assumption is just not there. It’s been pointed out that the OPERA paper is not particularly clear on how timing is synchronized, for example, although clarification has been made. That’s not a criticism of the OPERA team, just an indication of what a slow and error-prone process it is to communicate the procedures and methods of these complex experiments to people who haven’t been intimately involved with them. Given more information and time, it’s more than possible that even smarter people might be capable of finding an elusive systemic error.

    You’re also conflating sensitivity in receivers with precision and accuracy, which it isn’t.

    That the OPERA team issued the paper at all is an indication of the level of head scratching and frustration that they must be feeling. The team is apparently experiencing some tension over whether to go to print. It’s no wonder. Their results don’t just challenge the “consensus”, they go against results which have been established time and time again. But apart from the automatic naysayers, this is proceeding as science should – anomalous results being put out for wider scrutiny and explanation. Either way this goes will tell us something interesting about physics and complex physics experiments.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 14, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    @Daen quite true, but not really pertinent to the point I was making about the immediate jump to assume incompetence being made by the “defenders of consensus”

    There is indeed a rather sensible possible explanation given recently that is entirely plausible: But again, the fact that a FIRST RESPONSE WAS TO ATTACK THE SCIENTISTS CREDIBILITY rather than simply examine the data is the problem being caused by “consensus.” Rational discussion is impossible when the first response is to attack the presenter of evidence rather than examine the evidence itself.

  • By SHaGGGz, October 14, 2011 @ 8:08 pm

    Yes, that article does sound like it gives a plausible explanation. And yet it is a result of the measured assumption that the overturning of such a well-established theory as relativity is probably erroneous, and thus a source of error was sought out. That is all anybody here is arguing for, to which your response is thunderous resistance.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 15, 2011 @ 5:08 am

    No it has not Shagggz. My complaint about consensus has been precisely what was stated above, Attacks against the messenger rather than simply examining the evidence. Blind faith in “consensus” being used as an excuse to deny the existence of evidence you do not wish to acknowledge.

    Which is all you have done so far, precisely as predicted in my article. You have defended attacking the messenger and leaving the message unread at every turn.

    And note, I am aware of the claims of “relativity” in regards to the GPS clocks. I knew previously that such discrepancies existed. I don’t need to agree with the claimed causes of that discrepancy to acknowledge the existence of it could account for the data collected. In other words I think an alternative explanation of the “error” in the GPS timing is feasible, but acknowledge that the error exists and could have caused this event.

    But despite that, there was still no excuse for attacking the competence of the scientists simply for delivering evidence. This response has no value in science, and does vastly more harm than good in the advancement of science.

    Good evidence will continually prove itself. Bad evidence will not. Refusal to examine evidence prevents discovery of whether any given point of data is “good” or “bad” by making the decision on blind faith rather than logic or empirical testing. This enables “bad” evidence to remain accepted as “good” evidence regardless of it’s failure to prove itself. Mathematics can model complete fantasy as well as reality, and the sole means to determine which is which is to compare it to the observed universe. When it fails to match observations, it must be accepted that regardless of how “pretty” the math is, it is false. Creation of hypothetical entities to “make the math work” does not make the fact that the math failed to match the observations cease to exist. After examining significant amounts of evidence, I have concluded that alternate explanations which do not ask me for leaps of faith, but rely on empirical evidence, laboratory experiment, and already known processes to explain the observations exist and fit the observed facts much more closely than a continually evolving mythology of “dark” entities manufactured to refit the math again and again to observations because of continued failure of the math to match observed reality.

    I have arrived at this conclusion following a lengthy period of rational analysis, comparing explanations given for observed reality, and find one has consistently proved simpler and more probable, and explains even “mysteries” that the “consensus” keeps discovering as more observations are made. That it “overturns” a centuries worth of “knowledge” built upon data that appears to be pure fantasy is rather meaningless. In all cases, false knowledge is valueless. Does that mean that my conclusions are “absolute truth?” NO. But they have been reached rationally, and irrational demands to accept consensus on faith will not change that fact. Additional data will always need to be examined and re examined as time passes, and new conclusions sought. In this, I’ve been far more willing to change my mind than you have, my sole requirement is evidence that can survive the “real world” test. If it cannot do so, it matters not how many people agree on it’s “correctness”.

    If this makes me a lunatic, a danger to “consensus”, a “problem” for true believers, and “against science”, then I have to question your understanding of the terminology.

    Regardless, I am also quite well aware I am talking to the other readers of this thread, and not any of you, as you’ve got your earplugs in and your blinders on, and are quite impervious to anything I have to say.

    So, once again, I will thank you for being such fine examples, and call it a day.

  • By SHaGGGz, October 15, 2011 @ 7:31 pm

    I don’t know why you insist that I’m “attacking the messenger” or doing anything approaching an ad hominem attack. All I’ve said was that in light of the historical record, these anomalous results are, in all probability, inconsequential, a heuristic which still appears to be likely to be vindicated, if it hasn’t already.

    I haven’t “closed myself off” to the possibility that I’m wrong, as you for some reason keep insisting. In fact, I’ve explicitly told you that I hope my prediction is wrong, I just believe it probably won’t, for aforementioned reasons.

    No, I don’t think you pose any sort of danger, threat or problem to science. If anything, you’re merely an eccentric character with a high level of vehemence and an overly quixotic dedication to ideals with no regard for mundane reality. But that’s good, it makes for entertaining reading and is the primary reason I keep reading your articles all these years.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 16, 2011 @ 7:15 am

    And I quote: “You seem to be completely unacquainted with the notion of “rational ignorance.” ”

    This is a paradox, a contradiction in two words. You cannot “rationally” remain ignorant. You can WILLFULLY blind yourself to evidence, and you can fool yourself into thinking you are doing so for logical reasons, but the fact will still remain that you have made a decision based on belief, justified after the fact.

    Thus I do include you in the group that is blindly defending consensus, and justifying themselves by claiming that they have no need to examine evidence for themselves because of their faith in “consensus”. You might not be as aggressive as Whiskey, Beeblz, or Mammago, but you are still defending the “true faith”.

    The funny thing is that I am constantly accused of “vehemence” when I show people evidence the contradicts their beliefs. I was accused of “religious zealotry” for my article on stem cells and their possible use for gender change. I’ve been accused of flights of fantasy for years. The problem is that my sole “eccentricity” is a willingness to examine data that others ignore because it’s “outside the norm.” I hold my “dedication to ideals” precisely because I carry far more regard for mundane reality then you believe. Most people have no concept of what mundane reality is, preferring instead to live in a nice safe fantasy world in which “rational ignorance” keeps them from having to face anything “outside the norms”, spoon fed their daily gossip, and shielded from all knowledge that they find uncomfortable to know.

    And yes, I will acknowledge you are the sole person to even express a willingness to accept an “outside the norm” result, and I quite agree with you that it probably won’t, just for different reasons, those being that someone will be clever enough to figure out how to jigger the math in some manner in order to show that the anomalous results don’t actually refute consensus, much like the “gps/relativity” explanation. Either the gps solution will become the official story, or some new math variable will be postulated, and once again consensus will be safe.

    And the problem of the facts not matching the story will continue on until the next time an observation fails to match the math. And the next, and the next.

    The mundane reality is this: If you will not examine the evidence, any claims you make about the evidence are made in ignorance and are based on faith, not knowledge or reason. Attacking the messenger in order to justify refusing to examine the message is not science, does not help scientific progress, and has no positive value in science. A “consensus” of opinion about evidence that is based on ignorance of all counterevidence is valueless, and serves no purpose but to prevent a system of belief from being challenged by refusal to accept challenges.

  • By Daen de Leon, October 16, 2011 @ 7:09 pm

    Still, this is how science works. You seem to believe that the science will be settled by comments on “Next Big Future”. It won’t. It will be settled by exchanges of emails between the OPERA team and other scientists, publication of letters and articles, and analysis of data produced by further experiments. Eventually, either a new and exciting result will be clearly found, independently, by other researchers, or another experiment will find their neutrinos arriving at the expected time, or an as-yet-undiscovered error will be found in the OPERA experiment. You seem to have an awful lot of faith in the OPERA results, based on the fact that (no doubt) the team are very smart. But smart people still make mistakes, especially when they have been working very closely on a very complex experiment for a very long time. Groupthink and fatigue affect even the smartest of people. Regardless of the final outcome, resolution will not come from the comments section of “Next Big Future” or “Acceler8or”. It will come from science itself doing what it does quite well, which is self-correction (or not) based upon experiment, analysis and discussion of the results. If that’s consensus, then good.

  • By SHaGGGz, October 16, 2011 @ 11:09 pm

    Rational ignorance is not the same as willful blindness. The former is choosing to not fully investigate everything, because there is only so much time in the day. The latter is actively trying to shield oneself against some set of knowledge, often for the ideologically-driven reasons you describe.

    Yes, I do admit that what I’m engaging in is an act of faith. I recognize that I lack the credentials/expertise to make heads or tails of the relevant research, so I entrust in the mechanisms of the greatest knowledge-creation engine ever devised by man (science) to gradually do it for me. The difference between me and you is that I’m comfortable in admitting that there are things that I don’t really understand and yet have faith in their workings. However, this is a “faith” of a qualitatively different sort than the irrational and unfounded religious dogmatism that you not-so-subtly attempt to conflate with the quite reasonable and, frankly, indispensable heuristic for functioning in today’s world that I describe (a conflation which I find unwarranted and contemptible). I don’t mean to insult your intelligence or make you out to be less knowledgeable on these matters than you are (I’m sure you know more than I), but I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you aren’t some sort of unprecedentedly-superintelligent supergenius who is intimately acquainted with the entire line of reasoning and research leading back to prescientific times in the mind-numbing plethora of disciplines and subdisciplines and subsubdisciplines that make this global technological civilization of ours possible and functional (call me rash).

    Again, I’m not nor have I ever defended the merits of attacking some particular scientists’ credibility in order to kneejerkedly “defend consensus,” nor have I seen anybody challenging you here do so. Perhaps it’s time to give this particular canard a rest.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 17, 2011 @ 6:29 am

    @Daen I really wish I could be assured of that, because what I generally see is far more similar to what occurred with quasi crystals. “Consensus” stated flat out the quasi crystals were “impossible.” Major “defenders of Consensus” such as Linus Pauling led a round of ridicule. The evidence remained unexamined for decades. And now, 30 years later, “consensus” got a black eye when the scientist who discovered them finally won a Nobel. What you describe is how SCIENCE works. But that is NOT how “CONSENSUS” works. If it did, there would not be examples like this still occurring today.

    And SHaGGGz, are you willing to actually state when you know nothing about a particular topic and therefore have nothing to say about it for or against? Or are you like Mammago, who spent five seconds looking up someone else’s opinion and decided that was sufficient to proceed to mockery instead of discussion? Are you arguing against my point because you have counter-evidence to the historical record I referred to, or because “consensus” believes that “consensus” is “vital” to “science” and that therefore I have to be wrong because “consensus” says so? Can you name me ONE SINGLE “FAMOUS” SCIENTIST OF HISTORICAL NOTE who is famous for agreeing with “consensus”? One who’s taught about in the history books, who’s name can be expected to be known by a fifth grader?

    You are right that no one can know everything. But neither can anyone know anything about a subject that they refuse to examine. This is what most people who use “consensus” as an argument generally do, claim to “know everything” while refusing to examine any evidence that they might be wrong. And there is still nothing RATIONAL about ignorance. It is a choice arrived at by chance, interests or belief. I am a technician. My customers use Windows, not Linux. I know nothing about Linux. Why, because I have not exposed myself to any knowledge about it because I have not as yet needed to and I am not terribly interested in it for personal use. Linux users generally have no need to call a technician as they are primarily technicians themselves. I have NO OPINION on Linux because I am ignorant of it. I do not go around defending Linux on the basis that a “consensus” of IT technicians claims it is better than Windows. Why? because that is an act of faith taken WITHOUT ANY KNOWLEDGE OF THE SUBJECT. If I was asked about Linux, I would have to state I DO NOT KNOW, I will have to research it. And I would have to examine both sides of the issue and draw my own conclusion before arguing for one side or the other. It is RATIONAL to admit your IGNORANCE, not to defend it.

    As Michael Crichton put it, consensus is invoked in an area where the facts are not incontrovertible. No one claims consensus of proven fact. No consensus exists that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. No consensus exists that red is red or green is green. People who thus use “consensus” as an argument are not expressing FACTS, they are expressing OPINIONS, often opinions arrived at without any knowledge of counter-evidence or alternate explanations. This is, again, NOT SCIENCE. This is social herd behavior, irrational, and detrimental to the advancement of science.

    So, I can quite agree that we all make choices about what to remain in ignorance of. But we do so not based on reason, but convenience, personal interest, and far too often, on faith, and any “reasoning” comes after the fact, when we are making up justifications for our choices. That’s just human nature. To be rational requires a willingness to give up ignorance and learn about a subject PRIOR TO BLINDLY ATTACKING OR DEFENDING IT.

    And if you CANNOT see that, then there really is very little point in further discussion.

  • By Daen de Leon, October 17, 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    There’s an interesting video interview with Shectman himself here …

    As he says, the existing paradigm of crystal symmetry between 1912 and 1982 arose through observation, not theory. It’s actually not true that, after 1982, the evidence remained unexamined for decades. Things actually happened quite rapidly, with Shechtman publishing a paper in 1984 with three other scientists (, and, according to him, the evidence quickly converted crystallographers.

    That Pauling was dismissive is no surprise: old scientists often, although not always, become resistant to change. The list is long: Bruno, Galileo, Copernicus, Darwin, Wegener, and Marshall and Warren, all had to overcome the kind of resistance to their ideas that Shectman experienced, or worse (Bruno, especially). The process, perhaps, could have been less combatative and more calmly discussed, but scientists are human beings too, and we, sadly, are subject to the same passions and flaws as the rest of humanity. Nevertheless, those scientists’ ideas are now part of the scientific paradigm.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 22, 2011 @ 4:01 pm

    Thank You Daen. The article I read left a different impression. However, you make my point for me again in the last paragraph and then EXCUSE IT AS “HUMAN NATURE”

    Sorry Daen. already covered the fact that it’s human nature to deny any challenges to one’s worldview. It DOES NOT EXCUSE such behavior in science, which in theory, relies on EVIDENCE and ANALYSIS, not POPULARITY CONTESTS, HEARSAY, or INSULTS.

    That this is STILL “default” mode, and still DEFENDED after centuries of evidence that it is harmful and detrimental to the advancement of science is little more than a sad testament to how little rationality actually matters most.

  • By Valkyrie Mice, October 22, 2011 @ 7:37 pm

    Ummm, Val people’ve already pointed out how&why your evidence was flawed… I’m with ShaGGGz – you’ve lost this long, looonnnggggg ago…

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 23, 2011 @ 7:19 am

    Have you actually EXAMINED the evidence, Mice? If not, then you are free to BELIEVE whatever you wish, but it will still be merely BELIEF.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, October 24, 2011 @ 6:47 pm

    Ah, the distinctive aroma of troll.

    Nice to see. You know you’ve touched a nerve when the trolls show up.

  • By elmo, October 24, 2011 @ 7:40 pm

    Nope. Sorry. Your fantasies have nor more ability to be realized in reality than the fantasies of E.E. Doc Smith or Tolkien.

    and if they could be realized, you would be opposed and stopped by a number of factors economic and political.

    your sick fascist delusions are nothing more than excessive indulgence in DnD and comic books.

    your “singularity” aka “Nerd Rapture” is exactly as irrational and mythical as the Christian Rapture.

    neither of ’em is _ever_ going to happen, chuckles.

  • By Robotic engineer, October 28, 2011 @ 4:07 pm

    Elmo, quite true!

    Singularity = Utopian religion = 100% Wishful Thinking = Pseudoscience

    Transhumanist philosophers = Utopian cranks

    Raymond Kurzweil = Deepak Chopra of the computer science

  • By Daen de Leon, February 22, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    These are CERN researchers. I have every confidence in their competency, and doubt that such basic errors as “they measured wrong” or “they didn’t take into account the curve of the earth”, or “they didn’t account for vibration” were responsible for their readings.

    Except, of course, that’s exactly what happened: they made a mistake.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, February 25, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    And you STILL miss my point Daen.

    The FIRST impulse of consensus is to kill the messenger, not examine the data.

    Science CANNOT be about killing the messenger, because when it is IT IS NOT SCIENCE.

  • By Chico Chico the Rainmaker, February 26, 2012 @ 11:13 am


  • By Daen, March 30, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    The first impulse of science is to challenge extraordinary claims. In this case, probably one of the most extraordinary claims ever made; the detection of particles in the standard model travelling > c. The onus is entirely on the team making the claim to produce proof, or to show that there was zero experimental error. Which there was. Which reinforces exactly my point; that whatever you or I think is irrelevant; the *scientists* in the OPERA collaboration eventually found and corrected their own error. Nothing to see; move along. Oh, apart from:

    “Two leaders of the OPERA collaboration, which stunned the world in September when it announced data suggesting that neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light, have stepped down.”

  • By Daen, March 30, 2012 @ 1:13 pm

    Anyway, it’s utterly wrong to say that “The FIRST impulse of consensus is to kill the messenger, not examine the data.” Previous data, from very similar experiments, showed no such effect. So yes, “consensus” *was* examining the data; by comparing the OPERA to what had already been well established. You don’t get special treatment if you’re an outlier; precisely the opposite. You get extra scrutiny for it, so you had best be absolutely sure if you think you’ve discovered something new. The OPERA experiment management made a premature announcement, and 16 of the 29 group leaders returned a vote of “no confidence” in them because of it.

    To reiterate, because you very clearly don’t get *my* point.

    Yes, scientific consensus can often be wrong. But *if* you are going to successfully challenge it, you need to have gathered a bargeload of evidence in your favour, and exhaustedly eliminated every potential avenue of error. The OPERA management were utterly, pathetically deficient on both these counts. I knew when I read their initial paper that there was something amiss – there was no mention of any testing of the detectors or any other part of the experimental setup. It’s entirely about simulations, data analysis, and schematics about the timing setup. The only sources of error considered are systematic.

    Look, I called this exactly as it turned out to be. The very reason consensus is so powerful is *because* the world doesn’t behave arbitrarily most of the time – hell, we couldn’t even *do* these kind of experiments if it did! I predicted that it would be because there was an error in the OPERA experiment – and it was.

    And next time someone comes up with a faster-than-light result, I’ll make the same prediction.

  • By Valkyrie Ice, March 31, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    Argumentum ad populum

    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin for “appeal to the people”) is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or most people believe it. In other words, the basic idea of the argument is: “If many believe so, it is so.”

    This type of argument is known by several names,[1] including appeal to the masses, appeal to belief, appeal to the majority, argument by consensus, consensus fallacy, authority of the many, and bandwagon fallacy, and in Latin as argumentum ad numerum (“appeal to the number”), and consensus gentium (“agreement of the clans”). It is also the basis of a number of social phenomena, including communal reinforcement and the bandwagon effect. The Chinese proverb “three men make a tiger” concerns the same idea.

    So tell me again how “most scientists agree” is NOT an example of this logical fallacy? Aristotle himself warned against it. And as you can see from my quotes above, so did Einstein. It’s a real pity that too many people believe that “consensus says” equals “established fact”.

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