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Seven Rules For Spotting Bogus Science

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the she-blinded-me-with-science dept.

Science 759

keynet writes "Robert L. Park is a professor of physics at the University of Maryland at College Park and the director of public information for the American Physical Society, wrote a list of warning signs to help federal judges detect scientific nonsense. (OK, so it hasn't worked and the Patent Office sure hasn't got a copy.) As he says, 'There is no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it'. What he doesn't say is that there are plenty more who will invest in it or base legislation on it."

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They have to care first (4, Insightful)

ralphart (70342) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457965)

With so many judges being appointed for purely ideological reasons, it may be a bit much to ask that they be expected to be concerned about scientific nonsense. Can you spell Creationism?

Re:They have to care first (4, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458041)

Well, yeah, and although he doesn't mention it, "Intelligent Design" fails pretty much every one of his tests. The Biblical-literalist/"Young Earth" creationists at least don't pretend to be scientific -- their beliefs boil down to "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" -- which makes them less dangerous to our educational system. But the ID crowd have done a really good job of getting courts and legislatures to listen to their psuedoscientific babble.

Re:They have to care first (3, Funny)

spakka (606417) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458043)

'Creation' preceding the word 'science' should have been one of the indicators.

Re:They have to care first (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458073)

Can you spell "Evolution makes up so many rules and was proposed by a 'scientist' working on his own"

Evolution doesn't hold up to any of these tests I'm afraid.

I am the one who originally found the evidence (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458080)

I am the one who originally found the evidence to support this. Here are the facts. All the information presented here is true as of March 7th, 2003 at 8:30 AM.

Reading ekrout's last journal entry, which occurs on December 18th, 2002, you will see that he is comparing Fans counts of some of the more popular slashdot users, himself among them. CmdrTaco has the most at this time. This is ekrout's last journal entry, and his last comment is posted the next day. He is never heard from again.

Reading $$$$$exyGal's journal entries, you will see that she is similarly comparing users' Fans counts. Her list and ekrout's list contain mostly the same people, obviously. Also, her first journal entry occurs on January 3rd, 2003. This is precisely two weeks after ekrout disappears. It is possible that $$$$$exyGal arrived even earlier, though there are no journal entries or comments to support it.

Here is where it gets interesting. Look at the lists of the popular users in both ekrout's and $$$$$exyGal's journals. Now, compare those lists of popular people to each user's Fans/Friends lists. Notice that ekrout is not on $$$$$exyGal's Fans list. More importantly, however, $$$$$exyGal is NOT on ekrout's Fan list. $$$$$exyGal is on everyone's Fan list EXCEPT ekrout's.

"As it stands, I'm more than halfway there toward gaining more fans than Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda. That would be a neat accomplishment and one that I'd be very proud of." - a direct quote from ekrout's journal.

If you read a couple previous entries of $$$$$exyGal's journal, you will see that she gradually overtakes CmdrTaco's Fans count. The latest entry contains the following:

"Just for fun, I compared my number of fans vs. some other Slashdot folks:

1328) $$$$$exyGal (+135)
1207) CleverNickName (+16)
1128) CmdrTaco (+8)
753) John Carmack (+6)
726) Bruce Perens (+2)
545) ekrout (+0)
454) FortKnox (+2)
357) hemos (+1)
308) SlashChick (+15)"

From all this information, it is possible to conclude that ekrout and $$$$$exyGal are one and the same.

Timeline:
December 18th, 2002 - ekrout does a comparison of Fans counts in his only journal entry
December 19th, 2002 - ekrout posts last comment, then disappears
January 3rd, 2003 - $$$$$exyGal writes first journal entry
February 11th, 2003 - first mention of Fans count comparison in $$$$$exyGal's journal
March 3rd, 2003 - $$$$$exyGal overtakes CmdrTaco in Fans count

I have a theory supported by this evidence. One day last December, ekrout decided for whatever reason to see who was the most popular user on slashdot. He was in the top 5, and became obsessed with being the most popular user. He decided that either he could not accomplish this with his current username or it would be much more impressive if he could accomplish this under a new username with a clean slate. So, about two weeks later, someone by the name of $$$$$exyGal comes along. She gradually builds a large fan base, and eventually overtakes CmdrTaco. Overtaking CmdrTaco was something ekrout would "be very proud of." About two and a half monts later, $$$$$exyGal does just that.

Of course, much of this evidence could be purely coincidence. But what are the odds that ALL of it is just a coincidence? There is only one conclusion to be made.

$$$$$exyGal is, in fact, ekrout.

Oh puhleaase. (-1, Troll)

carlcmc (322350) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458110)

Creationism is not scientific nonsense. There is a LARGE body of scientists that recognize the potential validity of Creationism based on scientifically observed evidence without even relying on faith. Just because you don't believe in Creation doesn't mean it didn't happen. You nor can anyone else "prove" the creation did or didn't happen or that the "big bang" did or didn't happen. There is as much evidence demonstrating the young age of the creation the earth as there is suggesting it is old. If you are interested, do a bit of reading on halo formation left in deposited rocks etc.

Hardly convincing (-1, Flamebait)

cameldrv (53081) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458166)

See rebuttal here:
http://www.talkorigins.org/faqs/po-halos/

Re:Oh puhleaase. (3, Insightful)

gorilla (36491) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458175)

You can't prove that creation (or any thing else) did happen, but you can easily prove that it did not. That is why 18th C scientists who belived in a young created earth and looked at the evidence, and saw that it just wasn't true. The halo's are specifically not evididence of a young earth, the Talk.Origins [talkorigins.org] faq's are a good place to start. With all the evidence for a 4.5 billion year old earth, and the evolution of life that has occured over that time, the only reason to belive in creationism is ignorance.

Re:Oh puhleaase. (2, Funny)

dave_f1m (602921) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458242)

Actually the world was created all in one tick, about 1billion seconds ago. The gods created everything (fossils, old starlight, bible-thumping fundementalists, etc.) to fool us, and lead us to follow the dark side.

Re:Oh puhleaase. (1)

manyoso (260664) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458256)

Creationism is *non-scientific* nonsense. It is a theory looking for evidence. That is not how science is conducted. Scientific theories are formulated based upon known evidence and observables. You can't turn it around and do it the other way, especially with such a huge and unprovable (see: non-scientific) idea. Science requires experiment and fact. Theories that account for the most observable data and require the least amount of leaps of faith are preferred. Note that the theory is still not the science! Many theories have been refuted and/or refined in the history of science. See the theory of the aether and Einstein's Special Relativity.

That said, your 'much evidence demonstrating the young age of the creation the earth' has been refuted and can be explained with simpler means. It wasn't much evidence at all. This 'young age' theory does not explain the large body of evidence that indicates the world is very old.

http://www.csun.edu/~vcgeo005/wood.html

"His ideas are presented in a book, Creation's Tiny Mystery, where he suggests (pp. 51-62) that elliptical and dual 210Po halos in coalified wood in uranium deposits in Triassic, Jurassic, and Eocene rocks of the Colorado Plateau are evidence for a young age for the creation of coal as well as for the age of the Noachian Flood (Gentry, 1988). In the following sections I show that the 210Po halos in coalified wood can also be explained by natural processes without relying on miracles or supernatural events such as the Flood."

That reminds me... (4, Informative)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458168)

If anyone is interested, check out NCSE's Project Steve [ncseweb.org] . NCSE is an organization of proper scientists, and their project Steve is sort of a half-joking, half-serious stab at creation pseudo-scientists.

dare to dream... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5457970)

first post?

YOU FAIL IT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458088)

You tried very hard and came very close but
YOU FAILED IT! You didn't get first post.

Conspiracy theory buffs (2, Funny)

Registered Coward v2 (447531) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457981)

will of course point to this list as yet more proof of the gov'ment trying to silence them.

Re:Conspiracy theory buffs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458050)

hey, the shoe seems to fit, doesn't it??

Govt:"We're shutting you down because you're bogus"

Scientist:"Why am I bogus?"

Govt:"Because you think we'll shut you down."

Scientist:"Ah...grumblefreaknmonkeysgrumble..."

Dangit... (3, Funny)

TopShelf (92521) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457985)

Does this mean all those infomercials for "like-magic" healing bracelets on TV might be bogus to? These rules seem tailor-made for them.

Owwww, my wrists!!! I think the placebo effect is wearing off... Curse you, /.!

Re:Dangit... (3, Funny)

sanctimonius hypocrt (235536) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458016)

Every day I take a big placebo. It works for me!

Re:Dangit... (1)

dave_f1m (602921) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458270)

What I find unbelievable is that pharmicists actually dispence "placebo" - marked as such. Aren't the doctors afraid they might accidentally give that to a patient that can read? Or watch TV?

Pseudo Science and Crystal Homeopathy (4, Informative)

gowen (141411) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457992)

On a similar note, surfers may be interested in this crystal homeopathy site [the-crystal-chamber.net] , and the New Scientist article [newscientist.com] that accompanies it. The top left hand corner of the original site is particularly interesting.

What about the 8th rule? (4, Funny)

CFBMoo1 (157453) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457993)

8. Logically if it weighs as much as a duck, it must float. Since it floats it's made of wood, and therefore!
A WITCH!!!!!!!

Re:What about the 8th rule? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458099)

Who are you, who are so wise in the ways of science?

Re:What about the 8th rule? (2, Funny)

dkh2 (29130) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458191)

The rule numbering actually ranges from 1 to 8. This is because...

"There is no rule number 6."

More Bad Science links (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5457995)

Bad Science [psu.edu] page is a good introduction to Skeptical Inquiry [dmoz.org]

// Posting anon since this is blatant whoring, plus the subscribers proly have better written posting rearing to go anyway....

Bad science link... (1)

Hydraulinen_Androidi (657289) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458227)

Our robotics messageboard is REALLY BAD science: http://robotti.hyperboards2.com/ Our knowledge is based on Howstuffworks.com, Battlemech games and Isaac Asimov. Sorry but i just have to give myself a Nobel of bad science.

To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (1, Insightful)

fw3 (523647) | more than 11 years ago | (#5457998)

All well and good, but this adviser has his own axe to grind:

The most important discovery of modern medicine is not vaccines or antibiotics, it is the randomized double-blind test, by means of which we know what works and what doesn't.

Hmm -- by which we have come to the state of affairs where FDA approves a treatement on the basis that there is any statistical significance that it's better than the placebo effect. Thousands of hideously expensive prescription and OTC drugs result, many of which achieve less incremental benefit than the placebo against which they are tested.

The FDA basically perpatuates it's own existence and creates a monopoly-prone environment thru the high regulatory barrier to market-entry.

I've got nothing against the scientific method, it's a valuable tool, however it's also a tool with limitations, and one of those is that those who practice technology mostly use it for profit, and that in turn is more than a little likely to skew the results.

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (4, Insightful)

spakka (606417) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458105)

I've got nothing against the scientific method, it's a valuable tool, however it's also a tool with limitations, and one of those is that those who practice technology mostly use it for profit, and that in turn is more than a little likely to skew the results.

The whole point of double blind is that nobody has enough information to skew the results, accidentally or deliberately.

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458218)

Sorry, but if someone ends up skewing the results (by whatever means) then they are not practicing science, simple as that.

The complication is that a lot of stuff is claimed to be scientific, when it is not.

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458246)

D'oh! I didn't mean to post that as an AC. But I also agree with you on the limitations of science: unless something is testable and repeatable then the scientific method is not particularly helpful. Almost all of economics and politics fall into this class, for example.

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (1)

KyleCordes (10679) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458130)

It seems like you are saying two different things here:

1) The FDA puts up a very low barrier to approval, it approves things that are statistically barely better than a placebo.

2) The FDA puts up a very high barrier of approval, in order to create monopolies etc.

These appear to be the opposite to me. I'm happy to accept that the FDA is doing something wrong, but which is it?

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (1)

torinth (216077) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458173)

It seems like you are saying two different things here:

1) The FDA puts up a very low barrier to approval, it approves things that are statistically barely better than a placebo.

2) The FDA puts up a very high barrier of approval, in order to create monopolies etc.

These appear to be the opposite to me. I'm happy to accept that the FDA is doing something wrong, but which is it?


Any drug that the FDA approves must only be statistically barely better than a placebo (1), but through bueraeucractic nonsense the FDA makes it very difficult for non-established organizations to get something approved (2).

-Andrew

Re:To the man with a hammer every problem's a nail (2, Interesting)

Mac Degger (576336) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458193)

"Hmm -- by which we have come to the state of affairs where FDA approves a treatement on the basis that there is any statistical significance that it's better than the placebo effect. Thousands of hideously expensive prescription and OTC drugs result, many of which achieve less incremental benefit than the placebo against which they are tested."

Huh? First you say that the treatments have to work better than a placebo, then you say that that produces treatments which work worse than placebo's? You are contradicting yourself there.

Anyway, I think you're off the mark anyway, seeing as a treatment only gets FDA approved if it does better than the placebo by something like 10% in Phase III trials, due to the costs involved (if it only helps 10% of the people, it's not worth having).

does this really matter? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458002)

ist ost?

Rule #1 (3, Funny)

SpanishInquisition (127269) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458003)

If you saw it on slashdot, there's a good chance it's a hoax.

Re:Rule #1 (1)

arglesnaf (454704) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458092)

Oh come on, Slashdot has never posted a scientific hoax. After all, Ask Internet Icon Alex Chiu! [slashdot.org]

Not only that, (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458106)

If you saw it on slashdot, there's a good chance it's a hoax.

You probably saw it multiple times ;)

Only need one rule (4, Insightful)

Bitter Cup O Joe (146008) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458005)

Is it too good to be true? That is pretty much the only thing you need to check. Simple antigravity? Too good to be true. Car that runs on water? Too good to be true. Honest politician? Too good to be true.

The big problem is that people are greedy, lazy, and generally lacking in common sense. Another set of rules isn't going to change that.

Re:Only need one rule, but not this one. (5, Insightful)

Uninvited Guest (237316) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458086)

"Too good to be true" is heavily related to the evaluator's background in the subject matter. That's part of the problem: judges are not steeped in the evidence they must weigh. They need a more thorough guideline of what "too good" would mean to a knowledgeable expert.

Re:Only need one rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458108)

The transistor? Too good to be true.

Microwave oven? Too good to be true.

Superconductivity? Too good to be true.

Penicillin? Too good to be true.

Vacuum energy? Too good to be true.

The last one is deliberately ambiguous: the energy density of the vacuum is undoubtably greater than zero. But whether it is useful as a source of energy is unknown, and actually rather unlikely. I don't know any scientists who would stake their life on it though, either way.

The point is, I think its much harder to judge than you suppose.

Re:Only need one rule (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458118)

Bread mold holds the secret to curing disease? Too good to be true.

Some bicycle repairmen in Ohio built a machine that flies? Too good to be true.

Need I go on?

Re:Only need one rule (1)

mrtroy (640746) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458244)

Eye, thats the rub [macbeth]

However, the key to sucess is finding the one out of a million things that sounds too good to be true; and grasping onto that. Of course you have to rely on people being greedy, lazy, and lacking common sense, that is how you take advantage of the masses with one of these too good to be true items.

Currently I am working on a "jump to conclusions mat"...although it is quite idealistic and may sound too good to be true, I plan on marketing it in office spaces worldwide :P

Yes. It was intentional.

8. If it looks like shit and smells like shit... (2, Insightful)

Keith Gabryelski (65602) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458006)

Fantastic guidelines for a part of society that has influence over the direction of law and has no basis for understanding fact from fiction.

Bogus science (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458010)

Can you say "Global Warming"?

Re:Bogus science (1)

amcguinn (549297) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458214)

I don't think it's quite bogus enough that it can be dismissed by non-scientific judges. It is media-heavy, but most claims are made through the journals. It does claim that those who disagree are part of a conspiracy of big business, etc., but the sceptics make the same sort of claim -- that the supporters are riding a profitable bandwagon (at least I do, and I expect you do too). It doesn't hit the other 5 criteria at all.

All in all, the situation with Global Warming is not that it is being considered when it should be dismissed out of hand (which is the category this article is concerned with), but that it is being taken as proved when it the evidence only merits consideration.

If the science involves an alien cult (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458012)

It's probably pretty crappy.

hang on a minute... (4, Funny)

GeckoUK (58633) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458017)

Why did he release these so called new "rules" direct to the media instead of having them peer reviewed first? I smell a rat :)

Re:hang on a minute... (2, Funny)

llamalicious (448215) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458096)

Because a shadowy goverment agency is conspiring to prevent him from releasing the list in the first place!

Re:hang on a minute... (1)

Uninvited Guest (237316) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458124)

Because these new rules are not scientific claims of new discoveries.

Bogus science: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458026)

Can you say "Aspect-Oriented Programming"?

Huh Wha? (5, Informative)

IWannaBeAnAC (653701) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458028)

Can the submitter not even read English?

As he says, 'There is no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it'. What he doesn't say is that there are plenty more who will invest in it or base legislation on it."

From the article, the full paragraph of the quote is:

There is, alas, no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it. And many such claims end up in a court of law after they have cost some gullible person or corporation a lot of money. How are juries to evaluate them?

The very next sentence indicates that there are very many people who are willing to invest or base laws on bad science!

Re:Huh Wha? (1)

Jedi Paramedic (587254) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458267)

That's the whole point of the Daubert decision mentioned in the article. Judges are supposed to act as gatekeepers for opinion testimony. If the proferred expert is helpful, duly qualified, there's a factual basis for the opinion, and the opinion is reliable (beyond the old Frye standard), there's a strong likelihood that the judge will let the expert testimony in.

Juries are finders of fact, not law - if a judge finds that even a qualified expert's testimony would be irrelevant, confusing, or cumulative, she can keep it out.

Hmmm, (4, Insightful)

xA40D (180522) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458032)

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs -- even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate.

I just know the above disclaimer will be ignored by most. Which makes the whole thing a bit dangerous. Afterall, according to the rules, Quantum Physics could be considered bogus.

Re:Hmmm, (1)

ctimes2 (38940) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458136)

Afterall, according to the rules, Quantum Physics could be considered bogus.

Al, Sam and Ziggy at project Quantum Leap would disagree; they have already proved that quantum physics is not bogus. And they did it by time traveling, projected holograms, and are linked via their mesons and neurons (giving some amount of credence to telepathic science). How can you argue with that? ;)

Re:Hmmm, (1)

kolbeinn (101301) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458152)

Quantum Physics could be considered bogus.

But they are. "God does not play with dice".

Huh? (4, Interesting)

jbennetto (41159) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458294)

Afterall, according to the rules, Quantum Physics could be considered bogus.

By which of these rules, exactly? Even when it was first proposed, Quantum physics was NOT pitched directly to the media, was NOT claimed to be suppressed by the establishment, was NOT at the edge of detection, was NOT based on anecdotal evidence, was NOT based on centuries-old information, and was NOT developed by one person in isolation. Yes, it was a radically new theory that descriped new laws of nature, but atomic-scale physics was already known to be different, since Rutherford and before.

Yes, science is often weird and disturbing and hard to understand, but that's not a reason to confuse it with pseudo-science.

(Anti-disclaimer: IAAP)

It's a great idea... (1)

Mossfoot (310128) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458038)

(from the article)

---
There is, alas, no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it.
---

Which means that at some point these seven points are going to be debunked by one of these guns for hire scientists :D

Re:It's a great idea... (1)

Uninvited Guest (237316) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458162)

Which means that at some point these seven points are going to be debunked by one of these guns for hire scientists :D

Indeed, it seems the article comes pre-debunked.

I have identified seven indicators that a scientific claim lies well outside the bounds of rational scientific discourse. Of course, they are only warning signs -- even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate.

Sure, there's bogus science (0, Offtopic)

(1337) God (653941) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458057)

Just like there's bogus religion, bogus reality shows, and bogus politicians.

For example, religions that claim to be "all loving" are actually responsible for more murders over all of time than any other cause.

Furthermore, many reality shows are actually scripted and use actors; the people are, in fact, barely real -- they're simply reading scripts.

Finally, many politicians don't really have the qualifications necessary to hold public office -- many of them can barely read/write at a junior high school level.

Like evolution you mean? (0, Troll)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458063)

Darwin proposed his "Theory of evolution" in a book. The equivalent of TV as far as popular media at the time goes. Proponents of this claim that it is always being supressed by religious groups, and local government officials.

Fortunately, they have chosen a theory that can't be proved, and only has anecdotal evidence. Animals 1 000 000 years ago were different, so we must have evolution.

The only way this could possibly be true is for Darwin to propose a new law of nature!

Re:Like evolution you mean? (1)

Mr Guy (547690) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458216)

Except:

Books were the accepted way of transmitting data to his peers. Consider the comments about disproving, finding evidence, and other scrutiny. Darwin intended for other 'scientists' to look at it.

The problem isn't anecdotal evidence, the problem is extrapolation. IE Microevolution DOES exist and is provable, therefore Macroevolution exists.

He didn't proposed a NEW law of nature, he simply followed survival of the fittest to new levels.

I think Darwin would fit inside the realm of "acceptable" in terms of deliberate hoaxing. What the article doesn't address, and possibly should, is that some things are entirely outside of the realm of science, evolution being one of them.

Science just isn't intended to answer every question. One question it doesn't answer is WHY. Science can give you many equally valid explanations of HOW species could have resulted, stemming from different base assumptions, demonstrating which one is accurate is completely outside of the realm of science. Think back to your science fair days, Can it be reproduced? Can it be verified?

It's just not science. Evolution is religion and superstition just as much as Creationism or Hinduism. It's no more provable than either, at least, until you die.

Evidence of macroevolution (5, Insightful)

spanky1 (635767) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458278)

Most anti-evolution people are simply religious folks too afraid to face the facts. I suggest reading 29 Evidences for Macroevolution [talkorigins.org] . I still do not see any objective evidence PERIOD for the existence of a supernatural deity. But objective evidence for evolution is abundant.

Think about it: man has invented various Gods all throughout history. The ancient Gods (Greek/Roman mythology, etc) were easy to disprove... (no Atlas dude holding up the Earth). The only reason the Christian God has hung around so long is because he is defined as untestable. News flash: You cannot invent something, make it untestable, and put the burden of proof on the opposing side to disprove it.

Schematic for sale... (3, Funny)

phrantic (630202) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458071)

....The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator....

For sale desgin for Flux capacitor, will pay shipping in US....

Alternative list of 7 ways to detect bogus science (4, Funny)

llamalicious (448215) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458075)

  1. Scientist making claim lives in isolation in the cellar of a large mansion or castle.
  2. Scientist's hair is pure white, sticks out perpendicular to his/her head at all tangents, and/or carries it's own, large static electric charge
  3. You are not allowed to view the creation because "you could be working for them"
  4. You are told you cannot understand the principles involved with the new creation because your brain is not sufficiently advanced to comprehend it.
  5. The invention/revelation has been "coming real soon now" for so long that no one remembers what the hell they're waiting for.
  6. The scientist has an assistant named Igor, Quasimodo, Hand, Pinky, etc.
  7. The invention/claim is patented at the USPTO.

Re:Alternative list of 7 ways to detect bogus scie (1)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458183)

Most of these apply to programmers I know. Ironically, including myself.

Re:Alternative list of 7 ways to detect bogus scie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458228)

And rule number 8:

Must have a power supply of exactly
"0ne-point-twenty-one Jigawatts!"

Re:Alternative list of 7 ways to detect bogus scie (1)

Mac Degger (576336) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458233)

Wow....rule 2 and 4 (and rule 1, if you change it to a Patent Organisation [not to much of a change :)]) means Einstein was a fraud!

Re:Alternative list of 7 ways to detect bogus scie (0)

essiescreet (553257) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458238)

Sounds like that stupid fucking segway scooter.

Parrot VM - does it meet the 7 requirements? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458076)

Because something about it doen't smell right.

reduced to one line (4, Insightful)

BenjyD (316700) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458079)

For judges that don't have time to read the whole article:

"Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." -- Carl Sagan.

Peer Review (2, Insightful)

pyr0 (120990) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458081)

I think his whole list can be summed up by this question: has it been reviewed by a panel of the "scientists" peers and subsequently published in a respected journal? If the science is too bogus to pass this, then likely most or all of his points apply.

Re:Peer Review (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458202)

While Peer Review is probably the best thing we have, it's not a perfect process. Getting an article published in a respected journal involves as much politics as it does science. There are many scientists out there who, on the basis of one important discovery, build a strong enough reputation to get every thought they have published no matter how absurd it is.

Seven Rules for Spotting Bogus Warmongering (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458083)

s/discoverer/warmonger/

Wiggle room (2, Insightful)

The Stranger (24022) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458085)

The points made in the article are apt, but I worry that some of them may sound a bit too much like "common sense." Just as Park points out that modern scientists have learned to distrust isolated anecdotes as evidence, I have found that I am learning to distrust common sense. There are too many instances when the commonly accepted way of thinking about something is wrong.

I'm not a conspiracy theorist, so I'm not automatically inclined to believe in, for instance, claims that a powerful establishment is suppressing certain scientific work (Park's point 2). However, I think we should be careful about dismissing out of hand the possibility that the establishment might stop at nothing to suppress discoveries that might shift the balance of wealth and power in society. Instead of making this a criterion for junk science, perhaps we should be sensitive to the influence of the establishment. After all, we're willing to question research that is funded by a party that has something to gain by the results. Why not keep an eye out for cases where the opposite might be happening?

I suppose what I'm saying is that we should allow for some wiggle room in our interpretation of Park's criteria. Park seems to think so too- just before he gives his list, he notes that "even a claim with several of the signs could be legitimate."

What about the ever-popular crackpot index?? (5, Interesting)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458097)

Why don't they just use the Crackpot Index [ucr.edu] to judge them?

Ancient folk wisdom can still trump modern science (1, Interesting)

Qzukk (229616) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458100)

From the article: Ancient folk wisdom, rediscovered or repackaged, is unlikely to match the output of modern scientific laboratories.

Now would be a good time to point out that science still doesn't understand how aspirin (derived from salicylic acid, which was discovered at least 2000 years ago, works.

Re:Ancient folk wisdom can still trump modern scie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458171)

You are a bit behind the curve on aspirin. Try looking up information on COS-2.

Re:Ancient folk wisdom can still trump modern scie (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#5458203)

Oops. Meant COX-2.

Re:Ancient folk wisdom can still trump modern scie (4, Informative)

happyDave (155169) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458250)

Incorrect. John Vane discovered how aspirin works in the 1970's. He was a British pharmacalogist who discovered that aspirin inhibits the body's production of prostaglandins. These substances are what your body uses to promote swelling. Aspirin stops the prostaglandins, which reduces the swelling, which reduces the pain, in some instances. Nice try, though. By the way, I'm sure more people will be able to be more specific about how it works.

You're right about one thing though: it did take a long time.

This bears a link to the crackpot index: (3, Interesting)

caffeineboy (44704) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458101)

This is just a shortened version of The physics Crackpot Index [ucr.edu] .

It's written for physics but seems to apply pretty well to any science...

Re:This bears a link to the crackpot index: (1)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458187)

haha, beat ya to it [slashdot.org] ;)
Though I bet you were writing this as at the same time I was. I'm suprised no one else mentioned this sooner.

Re:This bears a link to the crackpot index: (1)

feed_me_cereal (452042) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458245)

hmmm, maybe this is just known to we osu cis students on slashdot ;)

Teach it in your schools (5, Insightful)

Raindeer (104129) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458114)

At university I was given several courses in Methodology, not all of them fun unfortunately, but all of them relevant. Certainly in my current work as a government employee I continuously see claims being made by government and private sector alike which are shaky at best. I still value what I learned in Methodology to judge those.

Methodology or anything that teaches kids to discern right from wrong should be taught in schools, so that we can protect ourselves from wrong ideas based in nothing. This could be by just explaining kids how you can know something is true and when something hasn't been proven yet, but might be true and when things are real BS. (BBC's Panorama had an illusionist who debunked the claims of homeopathy. Entertaining and educational)

I also have one fundamental rule I adher by: Never trust data given by the person that is going to benefit from the decision you make upon it.

Re:Teach it in your schools (1)

happyDave (155169) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458277)

mod up, please. This is an extremely undervalued part of education.

Best quote from the article (2, Insightful)

Jack William Bell (84469) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458119)

"The most important discovery of modern medicine is not vaccines or antibiotics, it is the randomized double-blind test..."

I'm particularly stuck by this one (5, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458122)

6. The discoverer has worked in isolation. The image of a lone genius who struggles in secrecy in an attic laboratory and ends up making a revolutionary breakthrough is a staple of Hollywood's science-fiction films, but it is hard to find examples in real life. Scientific breakthroughs nowadays are almost always syntheses of the work of many scientists.
This one is important because "big science" is a favorite villain of both pseudoscientists and cost-cutting lawmakers. What the lawmakers don't get -- and the pseudoscientists, I suspect, know but choose to disregards -- is that big science is the way most science gets done these days because the small science has been done. Alexander Fleming leaving a couple of dishes next to each other and discovering penicillin, or Robert Goddard and a team of dedicated fanatics working day and night to build the foundations of space flight, are powerful images; the "Eureka!" moment is every scientist's dream. But in well-established fields such as microbiology and aerospace, those moments have all pretty much happened; we need the big expensive labs with bunches of people working on expensive equipment, because that's how new discoveries and inventions get made.

The only real exception to this is in new fields, such as computational biology; sometimes a whole new way of looking at the world comes along, and for a few years -- even decades -- the frontiers are wide open. Quantum physics was an example of this in its early years. At that moment, individuals and small groups and big organizations are roughly on a level playing field. But once the easy discoveries in the field have been made, the balance tilts back toward big science. That's just the way it is.

Re:I'm particularly stuck by this one (2, Insightful)

Jack William Bell (84469) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458209)

Well said, and you would get an 'Insightful' mod if I had one.

But you did forget one thing; to this day almost all advances in pure math are made by single people working alone. Often after years of thinking about a single problem to the exclusion of everything else (including food and hygene).

Quacks and Greed (1)

slothbait (2922) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458135)

Back in my Freshman year I had to take an Engineering Seminar at my university (as with all the Engineering Majors.) My teacher was a department head of Engineering and he literally got 4-5 pieces of mail/email a day from Quack theorists. Ranging form mumblings about aliens and the moon to the decay rates of photons. Most of the bad Science could be shot down by noting the logical fallacies that were oh so rampant.

He also brought in a clipping once of an advertisement (From Parade Magazine or was that Popular Mechanics/Science) that promised to be selling an device that could derive energy by burning water. It used a jumble of big words like Hydrogen and Oxygen. That would be nice to get free energy by exploiting the energy taking conversion from water to Hydrogen Peroxide.
Of course things like that are money seeking monkeys, while the quacks tend to just be insane.

That's fine, but . . . (4, Insightful)

Badgerman (19207) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458143)

I'm all for spotting bogus science. The problem with some of these rules is assuming:
A) That there's always a friendly attitude towards actual innovation in science.
B) That there's no corruption in "accepted" scientific communities.

The "respected" scientists of various fields can be manipulated and manipulating, have their own vested interests, and have their reasons to be questioned as well.

That being said, I think a lot of these are spot-on, and that people do need the knowledge to ask good questions and spot frauds.

Too Many Rules... (1)

LordYUK (552359) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458154)

Religions only need two rules regarding science:

Rule one, you do not ask questions about Science.

Rule two, you do not ask questions about Science!

Isolation (1, Funny)

Vollernurd (232458) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458164)

"6. The discoverer has worked in isolation."

But this list was developed by one guy. Ack, I don't know what to believe anymore :(

Maybe he knew that I could not handle the truth?

Now, where's my hazel twigs...

Another rule... (3, Funny)

HedRat (613308) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458165)

...should be: if it has a missing step before Profit!, it's probably bogus.

I beg to differ... (1)

gomerbud (117904) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458172)

When Doc designed the flux capacitor, he had to keep it as a secret. If it was common knowlege, people would abuse the ability to travel through time and create disturbances in the space-time continuum due to great carelessness.

Don't ever call Dr. Everet Scott a phoney. It may just ruin your chances of enjoying one of the best trillogies known to man.

How does the Segway hold up? (2, Funny)

kevinvee (581676) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458180)

It fails on the first two counts, and probably a couple others too. (These were just the easiest to find examples of.)

1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media. (Good Morning, America [go.com] )

2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work. (beware of elderly [com.com] )

They missed rule one (1)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458194)

The opening line being

"I might not be a scientist BUT that doesn't mean I shouldn't comment on ..."

something as important as quantum mechanics....
How Challenger blew up and why it was a terrorist attack
Why SUVs are environmentally friendly

etc etc

Oh and anything with an "ology" at the end of it, real biology is called genetics :-)

Rule number One. (2, Insightful)

index72 (591909) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458237)

Bogus science premises usually are well thought out, extensively researched but are dependant on one imaginary component, like carbon fiber nanotubes.

Missleading science on TV (5, Interesting)

Simon Hibbs (74836) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458247)


Warning sign number 2 :

>2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress
>his or her work.

Well, a member of the secret scientific establishment brotherhood would say that, wouldn't he?

I'd like to add another tell-tale sign :

8. The scientific study was funded or conducted under the auspices of a media company.

Recently in the UK we've had a number of TV documentaries about controversial theories. One was an investigation into homeopathic medicine. The other was into the idea that otherwise very mild diseases might lead to obesity. In both cases the TV company funded a small scale test.

The problem was that the tests involved only about 100 subjects, far too small to have any statistical validity whatsoever. They said so in the show, but is that enough? Several people I've talked to afterwards recieved the impression that the tests in the show proved something.

Far from promoting an understanding of science, the shows succeeded in missleading the public not only as to the validity of the theories under examination, but also as to the value of such small scale tests.

I've never come across this kind of thing in the UK before, is this happening on TV in other countries too?

Simon Hibbs

Not sure about this rule (1)

h00pla (532294) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458257)

This was posted on aldaily.com last week. I'm glad it's here, because it's a great article. I do have a problem with this rule, however.
6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.

There have been quite a few lone wolves in history who have made important discoveries. (Farnsworth [time.com] and TV for example). Though the article states specifically that this happens less nowadays, I don't think if some individual makes an important discovery on his or her own that it should be greeted with so much skepticism that it's just discounted sight unseen.

hmmmm... (1)

terraformer (617565) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458261)

The submitter: ...the Patent Office sure hasn't got a copy.

and from the article:The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator, which is supposed to snatch free energy from a vacuum.

Really, if this was all they were handing out patents for we would not be in the mess we are in now.

bogus rules (1, Interesting)

g4dget (579145) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458273)

Park's rules are as bogus as the junk science he tries to expose. Let's just look at them:
  • [The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.]
    The discoverer may not have much choice in the matter. For example, a reviewer may have leaked the story, or he may worry that someone else is going to scoop him, or he may work (horrors of horrors) for an institution with a PR department (meaning just about any university, research lab, or company).
  • [The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.]
    Just because you are paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get you anyway. Sure, scientists rarely reason like "well, if this guy is right, I'm going to lose my research funding/market/whatever". Thinking usually is more along the lines of "well, this guy obviously can't be right, because we get so much money for our way that a lot of people with a lot of money think we are right; so this guy must be wrong, end of story".
  • [The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.]
    Like a lot of particle physics or astrophysics these days.
  • [Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.]
    All scientific evidence is anecdotal in some sense. Just because someone has impressive sounding credentials doesn't mean his scientific anecdotes (=research results) are necessarily true. Just look at Schoen. Ultimately, the only way to know for certain is to reproduce the results. All one can ask of a scientific paper is that it contains all the information necessary to reproduce the results. If the results can't be practically reproduced or verified some other way (occasionally, experiments work like a public key cryptosystem), then they just don't matter.
  • [The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.]
    This statement is followed by a pretty nasty put-down of things like traditional medicinal knowledge. Of course, such knowledge isn't "scientific knowledge". But that doesn't mean that it's not true, and it certainly doesn't mean that a court should disregard it. In fact, most evidence a court hears is not scientific evidence.
  • [The discoverer has worked in isolation.]
    Einstein worked in isolation--does that make relativity "junk science"?
  • [The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.]
    Again, like a lot of astrophysics.

With his rules, Park demonstrates simultaneously that he is too gullible when it comes to "reputable" sources and that he is too prejudiced when it comes to sources that he doesn't know. I don't know whether that makes Park a quack, but I do know that it makes him the kind of person that seriously hurts the scientific community and scientific discourse.

Scientific truth depends not on "warning signs", it depends on logical consistency and experimental reproducibility, and it depends only on that. Sadly, that often means that science can't give definitive answers because logical consistency or experimental reproducibility can be very hard to achieve or verify. But that is no excuse to substitute Park's own unscientific approach for them.

Now all we need... (2, Funny)

ConfusedMongoose (636679) | more than 11 years ago | (#5458288)

Is a similar set of 7 rules for spotting vaporware ;o)
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