Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

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Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby Marshall on April 16th, 2015, 1:32 pm 

Before you start criticising and proposing alternatives to current professionally researched theory, make sure you understand at least the broad outlines and basic essentials of what you are criticizing. Demonstrate to us that you are up-to-date by commenting on some recent professional research papers in the area in question.

Do not rely on hear-say or popular media, mass-market books by Hawking etc, because popularizations often give misleading impressions. Base you knowledge of what you are criticising on your reading of professional research papers. In several fields, the current research is generally free online here:

Many topics:
http://arxiv.org

Ordinary standard LCDM cosmology:
http://arxiv.org/list/astro-ph.CO/recent

General relativity and quantum cosmology:
http://arxiv.org/list/gr-qc/recent

Particle physics:
http://arxiv.org/list/hep-th/recent
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby HipOl on November 29th, 2016, 5:17 am 

btw, good post. most people like critisizing not just bcos they really have some theories in their heads and arguments to provide to the opponent, but just bcos they enjoy arguing
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 9:51 am 

It's a good post with good suggestions, yes. On the other hand, be careful how we react to those who have these new theories. They teased and rejected Einstein in his early years. Edison's' teacher called him retarded and expelled him from school. They laughed at the Wright brothers.

I'm not defending those who really do simply enjoy arguing, although I do hope it isn't "most people". Those who argue simply for the sake of arguing already know they are wrong. Recognize them and watch seems a good idea. Instant judgements are dangerous.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 9:54 am 

I think you make a very good point, Vivian. Call it promiscuity of ideas. If the ideas are rubbish, they'll get dumped. But let's not block the chimney, so to speak.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 10:09 am 

Vivian, I find myself in that position at the moment. I'm trying to overturn a long held theory in the field of therapeutics. It was developed several decades ago when our understanding of biology and genetics was significantly less advanced, and is clearly holding the field back at the moment. I can tell you this, for how obvious it is when I explain it and present the evidence for it, it has been extremely difficult to change people's mind about it. I've been working six years on this so far (11 if you want to count the five years I spent learning everything there was to know about the subject). I've gathered a comprehensive body of evidence, published several papers, and I'm now finally getting some ears. It's been a lot of work, but I understood long ago that that's what it takes, so I did it. And I'm almost there. Mind you, I could've very well found myself to be wrong in the progress. Though so far the evidence says otherwise (and I try not to get too excited about it - for what dangers that could bring).

How much work by comparison does your average "I have a new theory" visitor do? And would it be fair to consider what I have to say about the subject with the same level of seriousness as someone who has read a couple of popsci books, watched a couple of youtube videos, entertained some analogies, and decided they are ready to debunk a theory - despite showing a fundamental lack of understanding of even its basic principles?

Einstein wasn't the only one who got teased and ended up being correct. Every scientist who ever overturned a previously accepted theory probably had a similar experience. And Einstein had formal training in his subject matter, and obtained exceptional scores in mathematics and physics. In that respect, he is not unique within scientists, and has very few parallels with someone who is trying to debunk a theory they don't fully understand.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 10:10 am 

I smell a rat :)
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 10:12 am 

Fortunately, I don't have to deal with them directly anymore. I am lucky to have competent lab techs who do all the rat work for me now.

So... Check what's in your pockets :)
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 11:05 am 

Biowizard, every bit of what you say ties right in with Marshall's advice. If one is serious about a new idea, he works at it. The hitch comes when you've worked at it, developed it, proven it to your own thinking and still get put down and dismissed as (choose your own word). How do the two sides handle that and still part friends? Something like a draw in chess?

New York Times used to head up their paper with a motto I loved. (Interesting that they have dropped it.) The motto said "I totally disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it."

A lot of people on both sides of the fence find that impossible to deal with. We hate being proven wrong. And, for some reason, we do not much like giving others credit.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 11:09 am 

BioWizard » November 29th, 2016, 11:12 pm wrote:Fortunately, I don't have to deal with them directly anymore. I am lucky to have competent lab techs who do all the rat work for me now.

So... Check what's in your pockets :)



Erm, just Badger's telephone number.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 11:26 am 

vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:05 am wrote:How do the two sides handle that and still part friends? Something like a draw in chess?


Depends on whether we're doing science, or something else, Vivian. Science is not about democratic free speech. It is not about preserving people's feelings and shielding their egos. It is about vicious attack of ideas until there's nothing left to throw at them. Then you go and develop new tools so you have something new to hack with. If you think that goes on here is unfriendly, you should see what goes on in some of my meetings. But everybody understands it's not personal, so nobody takes it to heart. When the meeting is over, the only thing scathed are ideas that failed to stand up to scrutiny. Sure we're all humans and it's very difficult to not take things personally, especially when people are working around the clock to destroy what you may have worked on a lifetime. But if you're cut out for the job, you'll learn to not only tolerate it - but also love it. And there's also the practical aspect of it, which has taught me to not only love it, but also go around begging for it from my colleagues. After all, it's a lot more humiliating to be sucker punched at a bigger venue with a much bigger crowd. That's just what science is and why it works so well when it does. Any attempts to change that is an invitation to corrupt the process. It's not about people. It's about ideas. Bluntly said, anyone who can't learn to cope with it just isn't cut out for the job. I see people drop out every day. Good for them, life's too short and being happy should be a priority.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 11:28 am 

Now, if we're talking about public relations, communication, and education of science, then that's a wholeeeeee different story. If we're talking about the reconciliation of left and right, that's an even more general story. But I don't think that's what this thread here is about.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 11:30 am 

BioWizard » November 30th, 2016, 12:26 am wrote:
vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:05 am wrote:How do the two sides handle that and still part friends? Something like a draw in chess?

Science is not about democratic free speech. It is about vicious attack of ideas until there's nothing left to throw at them. Then you go and develop new tools so you have something new to hack with..



Bio, with respect, I think this is completely wrong. I sincerely mean no disrespect. May I elaborate?
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 11:35 am 

NoShips » 29 Nov 2016 10:30 am wrote:
BioWizard » November 30th, 2016, 12:26 am wrote:
vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:05 am wrote:How do the two sides handle that and still part friends? Something like a draw in chess?

Science is not about democratic free speech. It is about vicious attack of ideas until there's nothing left to throw at them. Then you go and develop new tools so you have something new to hack with..



Bio, with respect, I think this is completely wrong. I sincerely mean no disrespect. May I elaborate?


Yes, of course. But before you do, can you please clarify whose perspective you're elaborating on? And in regards to which aspect? Doing science? Or communicating science to the public?

Regarding doing science, I elaborated the scientist's perspective. The reason I know is because I do this for a living. Day in and day out.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 11:40 am 

Not a pretty picture to this coward. :-) We'd be jumping into a whole new topic with all kinds of thoughts if I went into detail. So, we'll stop there with "good thing I'm not a scientist". Although we do see the same thing in a lot of fields.

All that hinted at, your final thought makes a mountain of sense. Better to find out from your colleagues that you blundered than to shout it to the world. I'll keep that in mind.

As for your "public relations" post, I agree. And there is a thread I could contribute to. Another time.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 11:46 am 

And you make a lot of sense too, Viavian. Sometimes it's just difficult to know what it's like if you don't do it yourself. Most people assume that scientists herd in buildings, wearing white lab coats, whispering to one another about how to protect prevailing theories and shield them from scrutiny. The ultimate irony is that it is most scientists' dream to disprove a theory. I know it is mine. The bigger and longer held the theory, the better.

It's nothing personal. It really really isn't.

vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:40 am wrote:Not a pretty picture to this coward. :-) We'd be jumping into a whole new topic with all kinds of thoughts if I went into detail. So, we'll stop there with "good thing I'm not a scientist". Although we do see the same thing in a lot of fields.


Well, it IS a very tough and mostly thankless job, and not the least for the things we've discussed here. That's why you must absolutely love it and be able to derive enough pleasure from merely doing it to be able to survive.

vivian maxine wrote:As for your "public relations" post, I agree. And there is a thread I could contribute to. Another time.


Science can definitely use all the help it can get there.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 11:52 am 

BioWizard » November 29th, 2016, 10:46 am wrote:And you make a lot of sense too, Viavian. Sometimes it's just difficult to know what it's like if you don't do it yourself. Most people assume that scientists herd in buildings, wearing white lab coats, whispering to one another about how to protect prevailing theories and shield them from scrutiny. The ultimate irony is that it is most scientists' dream to disprove a theory. I know it is mine. The bigger and longer held the theory, the better.

It's nothing personal. It really really isn't.

vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:40 am wrote:Not a pretty picture to this coward. :-) We'd be jumping into a whole new topic with all kinds of thoughts if I went into detail. So, we'll stop there with "good thing I'm not a scientist". Although we do see the same thing in a lot of fields.


Well, it IS a very tough and mostly thankless job, and not the least for the things we've discussed here. That's why you must absolutely love it and be able to derive enough pleasure from merely doing it to be able to survive.

vivian maxine wrote:As for your "public relations" post, I agree. And there is a thread I could contribute to. Another time.


Science can definitely use all the help it can get there.


I'd be the first one run out of the room. Take my word for it.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 11:53 am 

vivian maxine » 29 Nov 2016 10:52 am wrote:I'd be the first one run out of the room. Take my word for it.


I almost did too, once or twice.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 11:56 am 

BioWizard » November 30th, 2016, 12:35 am wrote:
Yes, of course. But before you do, can you please clarify whose perspective you're elaborating on? And in regards to which aspect? Doing science? Or communicating science to the public?

Regarding doing science, I elaborated the scientist's perspective. Someone who does this for a living. The reason I know what it's like is because I do this for a living. Day in and day out.


Thank you. I'm genuinely interested in these things and would love to hear your own opinion as a scientist. I hope before we go any further that it's mutually understood we'd both like to accurately characterize what it is that science does.

First question: Is it possible that scientists misdescribe what they do? (like all the rest of us)

Second question: Do you feel scientists are all of a consensus in what they do? (Quotes will easily dispel this)

Your characterization above, I feel, is a Popperian caricature; one that cannot be backed up by historical facts. Namely, we construct theories and then try really hard to destroy them.

Once again, Bio, I have no idea how far your knowledge of philosophical and historical studies of science extends. And it's not a criticism. You have important work to do. (Philosophers have nothing better to do).

Are you familiar with Kuhn and his ideas about "normal science"? If you are, then you'll know that what generally happens is that scientists do not, as a rule of thumb, just dump theories like that. They try very hard to protect their theories, especially the most cherished ones. To paraphrase Kuhn, "If you can't make observation fit theory, that's your prob, pal; not the theory's." There is a wonderful Dawkins video on Youtube that exactly encapsulates this (I can search if you like).

Is Kuhn right? Ans: Almost certainly not (like everyone else), but I do believe it is a more accurate synopsis than Popper. Lots of examples to support this. Just ask.

Please understand, I'm an not trying to prescribe what scientists ought to do. Just describe what they do do.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 12:00 pm 

NoShips, this is all fine and I presume very good questions. But they should be discussed in the Philosophy of Science forum, not here.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 12:03 pm 

Ok, sorry.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby BioWizard on November 29th, 2016, 12:04 pm 

Just very quickly, yes scientists ought to attack their own ("cherished") theories as much as they ought to attack those of others. But human nature (or funding or pathology or whatever) can get in the way and blind them from doing their job correctly. That's where other scientists come in. And that's why I am OK with the culture of constantly attacking ideas (not people) and trying to generate evidence that would disprove them.

I think this should be enough for the purpose of Marshall's thread.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 12:19 pm 

NoShips wrote:You have important work to do. (Philosophers have nothing better to do).
<G>

Oh, forgive me. I had to laugh whole-heartedly. For the obvious reason of your humor but also because you are asking Biowizard questions I've been wanting to ask of philosophers but didn't dare. Still do not dare.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 12:22 pm 

I'm off to bed. Ask David Berlinski. No one likes him. That's why I like him. :)
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 29th, 2016, 12:26 pm 

BioWizard » November 29th, 2016, 11:00 am wrote:NoShips, this is all fine and I presume very good questions. But they should be discussed in the Philosophy of Science forum, not here.


Is there a Philosophy of Philosophy forum? Or a Science of Philosophy forum?

Nevermind. I'll check it out. Back to NoShips' questions.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 12:27 pm 

No bannings for the last 12 hours. It's been a good day. Goodnight all.
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby NoShips on November 29th, 2016, 9:23 pm 

vivian maxine » November 30th, 2016, 1:19 am wrote:
NoShips wrote:You have important work to do. (Philosophers have nothing better to do).
<G>

Oh, forgive me. I had to laugh whole-heartedly. For the obvious reason of your humor but also because you are asking Biowizard questions I've been wanting to ask of philosophers but didn't dare. Still do not dare.



Can't quite make up my mind if I've been insulted. "A gentleman is a person who never insults inadvertently." :)
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Re: Read this if thinking of criticizing current theory

Postby vivian maxine on November 30th, 2016, 8:29 am 

NoShips » November 29th, 2016, 8:23 pm wrote:
vivian maxine » November 30th, 2016, 1:19 am wrote:
NoShips wrote:You have important work to do. (Philosophers have nothing better to do).
<G>

Oh, forgive me. I had to laugh whole-heartedly. For the obvious reason of your humor but also because you are asking Biowizard questions I've been wanting to ask of philosophers but didn't dare. Still do not dare.



Can't quite make up my mind if I've been insulted. "A gentleman is a person who never insults inadvertently." :)


I never insult anyone. I just trip over my own tongue. You have to admit that "philosophers have nothing bettr to do" was worth a smile at least. We could go into the why of that but not on this thread.

Now I have important (?) work to do.
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