Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

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Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby davesmith_au » Fri Oct 22, 2010 8:20 am

October 22, 2010 ~ Dave Smith

Whilst a degree of well-informed skepticism is essential in the assessment of any scientific theory, pseudoskepticism has become rife on the internet, and in the popular media. It is practiced by many who pass themselves off as the voice of authority on a given topic, when in fact they are self-appointed 'debunkers' of anything which challenges their own, often limited, views. [More ...]
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby MrAmsterdam » Sat Oct 23, 2010 9:20 am

Hello Dave,

It was really helpful to place the discussion the right context and framework...it cleared things up.

Thanks!
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby davesmith_au » Sat Oct 23, 2010 5:44 pm

Thanks T. I remember back when Bridgman first had a go at Don Scott's TES. Don was quite happy to ignore him, and quite rightly so in my book, but in the end so many people were bugging him about it, that he offered his rebuttal.

People don't seem to think critically about what they're reading. They see something like Bridgman's blog and think he has some good points. It's not until you break down what he is really saying, that you realize he's not "debunked" anything, he just sets up strawmen which he then burns. Anyone can do that, it takes no scholarly skill whatsoever.

Nereid is no better, she just keeps harping on about peer-review. Once you give her some peer-review, she says it is not relevant. Give her something relevant, and she says that publication is not sound. Give her something sound, and she says no-one's cited it... there's no making her happy. But in the whole fiasco, she doesn't offer anything of substance.

I have little time to address those who show no genuine attempt at a rational discussion.

Cheers, Dave.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby nick c » Sat Oct 23, 2010 7:51 pm

Hi Dave,
Well said. Bridgman's attempt to equate the Electric Universe with creationism via 'guilt by association' is mind boggling.

Stephen Crothers has some comments that tie in nicely with your piece:
http://www.sjcrothers.plasmaresources.com/Bridgman.html

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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby StevenJay » Sun Oct 24, 2010 8:03 am

davesmith_au wrote:I have little time to address those who show no genuine attempt at a rational discussion.

It's been my experience that the lack of rational discussion pretty much always stems from complete ignorance, or at least a serious lack of understanding, of the EU model. Often, it is dismissed out of hand based soley upon what someone else, equally as ignorant/brainwashed, has said.

EU enthusiasts are often treated as if they're completely ignorant of the mainstream gravity-centric model of the universe, even though most of us had that stuff crammed relentlessly into our heads for the first couple of decades of our lives just like everybody else. I, for one, sucked it all up unquestioningly. . . for a while, that is.

The act of waking up almost always puts one on the bad side of those who wish to remain asleep. Cherished beliefs can be difficult to let go of, too.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby mharratsc » Sun Oct 24, 2010 9:26 am

Bridgeman and Nereid are sincere problems to real science, and kudos to Dave for lending everyone more ammo towards shooting down these kind of obstructions to scientific progress. :)

These two (and those like them) are 'spin doctors'... they are 'advertising' people (trained or not) and they are good at it, each in their own way. They have tremendous appeal to that large venue of people whom wish to appear 'scientifically literate' yet are not tremendously educated, and thus they hang on the words of people like these two, whom appear friendly and amicable to them... just so long as you swallow everything they say with no argument. :P

It's almost as if Bridgeman and Nereid are the paid security force for the gravity paradigm- they stand around and make sure that nothing upsets the applecart of their theories... especially rational objections! Sure, it's ok if you come up with some crazy off-the-wall idea like 'Celestial Sheep Grazing Hydrogen Off Nebula'- they will just smile tolerantly and say 'well, you know in Science, you should keep an open mind, but..."

However, provide an actual, rational challenge like EU/PC, and whammo!- the kid gloves come off and they are ready to duke it out to preserve their status quo. :\

*Edit:*
I stumbled upon a quote on Stephen Crother's site that he cites from Bridgeman, regarding Bridgeman himself:
Here is Bridgman's brief description of himself:

W.T."Tom" Bridgman
Maryland, United States
I obtained my doctorate in physics and astronomy in 1994. I currently work in scientific data visualization for the media and public outreach.


Seems I wasn't too far off the mark with my suspicions! ;)
Last edited by mharratsc on Sun Oct 24, 2010 9:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby MrAmsterdam » Sun Oct 24, 2010 9:36 am

davesmith_au wrote:People don't seem to think critically about what they're reading. They see something like Bridgman's blog and think he has some good points. It's not until you break down what he is really saying, that you realize he's not "debunked" anything, he just sets up strawmen which he then burns. Anyone can do that, it takes no scholarly skill whatsoever.


Exactly! This whole EU theory makes you stop and think about all the subjects that pass by. As you long you take empiricism as your guideline and reference point, I foresee a very good and practical future for this theory.

Besides that, this whole discussion about computermodels as proof - I simply dont understand it. In my daily job as unix administrator I see so many mistakes, f--kups, wrong algorithms, wrong assumptions, hidden assumptions... in and about the software model -- Never ever assume that a model on a computer can replace reality. Especially when your math and computer model is based on the not so well understood force of gravity.

There's tons to read about criticism on peer reviewed methodology. Same goes for the use of computermodels. If this is the best critic they can come up with, oh boy, the standard model is in a very bad shape.

Dave, like many people know in this forum, it seems that at least some individuals at the NASA and ESA are willing to listen to the EU theorists and take this theory seriously. Please continue to critic the critics - there are more critical readers out there (then we might believe) that do pay attention...
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby jjohnson » Mon Oct 25, 2010 8:51 am

Mr A is spot on - there are many good people at work in various astronomical and physics programs who may not be cheerleaders for EU in public, but who nonetheless understand much of its relevance and use plasma and electrodynamics every day in their work. I've brought this out before, particularly in the solar and radioastronomy disciplines.

The Space Science Institute is a not-for-profit corporation with a variety of roles, one of which is education. Their web site is at http://www.spacescience.org/index.php .

Click on their Education section (the green tab at the top), then on Project Websites,and then on Space Weather Center; or here:
http://www.spaceweathercenter.org/
Notice that this part sports a NASA logo, National Science Foundation logo and SSI logo. Fairly mainstream, right? Have a looky-lou at what they have to say about Amazing Plasmas.

There's some hope, despite the Bridgemans lurking around.

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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby terry the censor » Sun Oct 31, 2010 12:39 am

> [S][A] One of the problems with Electric Universe (EU) claims is they seem incapable of producing mathematical models that can be used by other researchers to compare the predictions of their theories to other observations and experiments...

You give slender evidence that this statement is wrong. Fine -- it could be wrong. However, the statement is not a strawman argument or ad hominim attack. The writer is merely describing what he has observed. He might be wrong, but that's not necessarily indicative of fallacious argumentation. It's baffling that you would think so.

I had to stop reading after that point.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby nick c » Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:36 am

terry the censor,
You give slender evidence that this statement is wrong. Fine -- it could be wrong. However, the statement is not a strawman argument or ad hominim attack. The writer is merely describing what he has observed. He might be wrong, but that's not necessarily indicative of fallacious argumentation. It's baffling that you would think so.
I had to stop reading after that point.

Now you are the one using the strawman argument. The criticism concerning mathematics is not addressed as an ad hom or strawman attack. Most of the discussion of ad hom attacks and strawman arguments come later, but then you stopped reading, so you would not know about that.
There is math involved in plasma physics and the Electric Universe, and the article goes on to cite how this is so. Perhaps mainstream cosmology has more elaborate mathematical models, but these models do not prove anything in themselves. It must be remembered that mathematical models are limited by the validity of their a priori assumptions, all the logic and calculations that follow mean little if the those assumptions are fallacious. The EU is attacking those a priori assumptions. As an example I would cite the case of neutron stars. Consensus astronomy has elegant mathematical models showing how a neutron star is formed and is powered, but those models are irrelevant if neutrons cannot exist outside of an atomic nucleus, or, if matter cannot be compressed to that point because of electrostatic repulsion.
If electricity in space presents 'inelegant' complications to mathematical models, assuming that electricity in space does not exist and then creating a mathematical model...is not good science.

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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby MrAmsterdam » Sun Oct 31, 2010 9:59 am

Terry, it is baffling that you did not read the whole article.

http://www.thunderbolts.info/thunderblo ... keptic.htm

Tom Bridgman:
[S][A]
One of the problems with Electric Universe (EU) claims is they seem incapable of producing mathematical models that can be used by other researchers to compare the predictions of their theories to other observations and experiments. ...

Not true. The mathematics is all there, in the appropriate books and papers to which EU theorists frequently refer. Physics of a Plasma Universe by Anthony L. Peratt, Cosmical Electrodynamics and Cosmic Plasma by Hannes Alfvén, Gaseous Conductors by J.D. Cobine and many more besides. Bridgman conveniently ignores this fact.

The predictable response to such references is frequently that they are "too old" or irrelevant to today's physics, and this from those who seem to have an unshakeable faith in the work of Einstein. The irony is palpable.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby davesmith_au » Sun Oct 31, 2010 8:42 pm

terry the censor wrote:> [S][A] One of the problems with Electric Universe (EU) claims is they seem incapable of producing mathematical models that can be used by other researchers to compare the predictions of their theories to other observations and experiments...

You give slender evidence that this statement is wrong. Fine -- it could be wrong. However, the statement is not a strawman argument or ad hominim attack. The writer is merely describing what he has observed. He might be wrong, but that's not necessarily indicative of fallacious argumentation. It's baffling that you would think so.

I had to stop reading after that point.


Terry, that "... they seem incapable of producing mathematical models ..." is Bridgman's opinion, but it is addressing the claimant's abilities rather than the claims themselves, and is an obvious ad hom dig at EU theorists. A less emotive statement would be "they do not offer mathematical models" or even "there are no mathematical models". Either of these alternatives would get his message across without providing a slur against the theorists themselves. They would still be incorrect, but it is the way his "observation" should be stated. His opinion is irrelevent in a scientific assessment, which is what he claims to be carrying out on his blog.

The very fact that he is making a false claim, especially when he knows different, and he does know different, is a strawman. Both Alfven and Peratt are "Real Plasma Physicists" (from the title of his post) and Bridgman knows well that where required, the math of plasma physics is what is referred to by EU theorists.

Had you bothered to read past the first paragraph, you would see that within context, my assertions are correct. To allege a "schizophrenic mindset of the EU community", which is in the same paragraph as the one I quoted from, reinforces my argument.

You missed out on all the good bits by dismissing my argument prematurely, I have made a solid case in support of my asertion that he is a pseudoskeptic. If you did not read the whole post, you yourself are taking one very small portion out of context, another tactic pseudoskeptics are fond of and as such it does you no credit.

Cheers, Dave Smith.
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby Nereid » Tue Nov 09, 2010 12:12 pm

davesmith_au wrote:Thanks T. I remember back when Bridgman first had a go at Don Scott's TES. Don was quite happy to ignore him, and quite rightly so in my book, but in the end so many people were bugging him about it, that he offered his rebuttal.

People don't seem to think critically about what they're reading. They see something like Bridgman's blog and think he has some good points. It's not until you break down what he is really saying, that you realize he's not "debunked" anything, he just sets up strawmen which he then burns. Anyone can do that, it takes no scholarly skill whatsoever.

Nereid is no better, she just keeps harping on about peer-review. Once you give her some peer-review, she says it is not relevant. Give her something relevant, and she says that publication is not sound. Give her something sound, and she says no-one's cited it... there's no making her happy. But in the whole fiasco, she doesn't offer anything of substance.

I have little time to address those who show no genuine attempt at a rational discussion.

Cheers, Dave.

Nereid is no better, she just keeps harping on about peer-review. Once you give her some peer-review, she says it is not relevant. Give her something relevant, and she says that publication is not sound. Give her something sound, and she says no-one's cited it...

I do? Where (and when)?

But in the whole fiasco, she doesn't offer anything of substance.

I don't? Can I post some links to posts of mine which (I think) do contain something of substance?
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby MrAmsterdam » Wed Nov 10, 2010 5:26 am

Hello Nereid and welcome,

Before you start, could you give your opinion about Mr Smith's article (click on the link in the first message)?

I would like to know if you consider the EU theory as creationism.

Thanks,

T
Today's scientists have substituted mathematics for experiments, and they wander off through equation after equation, and eventually build a structure which has no relation to reality. -Nikola Tesla -1934
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Re: Dealing with Pseudoskepticism in Astronomy...

Unread postby Nereid » Thu Nov 11, 2010 6:51 am

Thanks for the welcome, Mr Amsterdam.

Mr Smith, in that article, comes across as very sincere and as having some well-formed and well-expressed opinions.

I'm afraid I can't answer your second question, in part because I do not really know what EU theory is. However, at one level, the two seem unrelated, because there appear to be no links in any EU material I have read between the ideas (called EU ones) expressed and the Christian Bible, which is what I understand creationism to be based on (at one level anyway).

If I may, can I ask you a question?

What did you mean by "before you start"? I mean, my first post in this forum contains two questions to davesmith_au (Dave Smith), about comments he made about what I, Nereid, have apparently written; I can't really start anything until he has responded, can I?

Or do you see it differently?
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