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Saturday, April 29, 2006

How to spot a quack

I've been 'debating' a David from Texas on Internet Infidels board and was reminded of how easily people can fall for pseudoscientific ideas. Seems as if David encountered a series of videos and other sites on the
expanding earth. Now, before I go on about DavidfromTexas and his hard fall into quackery, it is important to recognize the expanding earth (EE) hypothesis for what it is. The expanding earth hypothesis makes the claim that the earth has increased in size (some 40-60%) in the last 200 million years or so. There have been a number of advocates, but perhaps the most famous is Sam Carey of Australia. During the plate tectonic revolution, Sam Carey and others were arguing that earth expansion was at least equal to plate tectonics (PT) in its explanatory power. As data were added, EE slowly fell off the radar screen because PT explained the earth in a more coherent fashion. As is often the case, those whose hypothesis was no longer considered worthy of investigation, began to exhibt the first of the hallmarks of quack science. Sam Carey cried persecution and bias towards his ideas. Others have followed with the 'lone genius' argument. So, what is it that separates quack science from real science? Here is my list (others have far more comprehensive lists, but Dft reminded me of several that I see in common with other quack scientists.

1. Quack scientists will always claim 'the revolution is here' when in fact their quack science is usually old and discredited.

2. Quack scientists will usually claim bias by the 'blind mainstream'. In fact, mainstream science is all about overturning bad ideas. Ideas are constantly challenged. Scientists question and are accepting of questions. Quack scientists largely whine about science.

3. Quack supporters tend to hop from quack hypothesis to quack hypothesis. Dft was most recently into accelerated radioactive decay. When that proved to be too hard to argue, he latched onto EE.

4. Quack supporters often have a hidden agenda. Despite claims to the contrary, Dft is looking to refute evolutionary biology by adopting the quack science of the week.

In short, quacks and their supporters are not really interested in scientific discovery. They have an agenda and will use/misuse anything to meet that agenda.

Cheers

Joe Meert

1 Comments:

At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Chris Smith said...

Although it makes my chest swell with pride to think that an Australian could be the "most famous" advocate of this hypothesis I think the real contender for this title is in fact someone who is really famous - at least in his own field of research - P. Jordan, the german astrophysisist. He even wrote a book about EE in the 1950's or 60's. although I've seen no mention of him in Carey's and other's websites. Perhaps in fairness to Jordan Carey should be described as the most "infamous" advocate of EE.

 

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