Aphorism of the Day:

The problem with science is that there's really no science to it.

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Here is a perfect example of a very ambiguous enterprise


It has all the trappings of a free energy scam, except for a few things.

a) According to the New York Times, they have raised 60 million dollars from respected CEOs with degrees in Chemical Engineering

b) They seem to have had independent verification from a university lab

c) They seem to have already made deals to license the technology to power plants

Yet, everything they are proposing contradicts fundamental rules of Quantum Mechanics, and they have a number of scientists who reject their claims outright.

As a layperson, I have absolutely no way of knowing if this is a huge crackpot scheme. The company's papers and the papers that have attempted to refute them are using physics that is far beyond my comprehension.

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Link in above should have been

"Authors of science denied access to data"

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As a good Popperian, I would say that it is a lot easier to define what science is not, than what science is. You are making something that is easy, far too difficult. For example:

a) Failure or refusal to explain methodology makes it non-science.

b) Writing scientific publications where the supposed scientist does not have access to the relevant data (or where the sientist is denied access) is non-science

See these depressing takes of academia corrupted (and corrupt adademics) :

c) Refusal to supply raw data to another when reasonably asked to do so, makes it non-science by definition.

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I've been watching a lot of Penn and Teller's Bullshit lately, and they're particularly bad about it, despite the fact that I usually agree with their points already.

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However, science is already very open, so “open-source science” isn’t an answer to the question.

Not really. Finding the information I listed behind hotly-debated topics (truth and policy implications of global warming for example) is already a tremendous chore to compile in one place, effectively closing it off to anyone not willing to invest a lot of time "rubbing elbows" with people already "in the clique" of the predominant ideology.

Now imagine how much harder it is for topics that *haven't* received this scrutiny!

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Surely there are too many good researchers with cluttered offices for this to be a good correlate.

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Any computer models used to justify public policy should be open-source and downloadable

That is a great idea. Although, I fear that most public policy is made without paying much attention to (or even having) computer models. We have many elaborate climate models. We have no elaborate models of our economy or our transportation networks.

However, science is already very open, so "open-source science" isn't an answer to the question.

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I disagree with this 99.9% claim. In fact, in the field that I'm most familiar with (physics), I can think of very few major scientific theories that physicists have been confident in, lasted 20 years or more, and then turned out to be false. There are some examples, but by and large, most foundational theories in physics (Newtonian mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, etc. . .) look exactly the same as they did 100 years ago.

And while I suspect that I'm on the same page as Doug, I wouldn't even refer to Newtonian mechanics as "less wrong." (I recognize that he used scare quotes.) Newtonian mechanics is correct for the orders of magnitudes of velocities, masses, and distances for which it was tested, which is all one can really ask of it.

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There are degrees of wrongness. For example, Newtonian mechanics is "wrong", but it's lot less wrong than what came before it. If you use it to predict the motions of cannonballs, you'll get an answer that's accurate enough for just about any purpose you might care about.

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>It must be well-documented, with traceability for all assumptions going >into the model.

Best of luck. I have trouble getting co-workers on the same teamto tell me what it is their subroutines are trying to do.

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Are philosophers much better reasoning about science in general relative to what scientists actually do?

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99.9% of everything that was thought to be true (scientifically) has been proven false. Only 0.1% more and people will have it right!

Finance, on the other hand, never suggests that the BS they put forth is true.

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I'm worried that our knowledge machine is broken. When you combine the problems of statistical studies, and the fact that so many areas of inquiry are existentially dependent on a single very biased patron who can certainly shift the set of statistical studies in any direction it wishes, with group-think, the biases of researchers who go into various fields, the natural desire for status and power by impacting public policy or gaining popular recognition, and the fact that so many areas of inquiry are in fact obviously quackery (I once took a class in feminist archaeology), I am not sure when I can believe a "consensus" and when I can't. And I haven't even mentioned biases in how this stuff is presented to non-scientists.

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I'm just not sure I agree with that, at a fundamental level.

There's an old argument 'figures don't lie, but liars sure can figure', and at some point one thing I noticed was - actually, no, liars can't., or at least don't While it may be possible to construct a statistical scenario in a way that it's not obvious that countering data is both present and hidden, but liars very rarely do so - rather they present data in such a way that it appeals to an audience that is carefully culled of anyone that is going to look carefully at the data.

The very act of accepting that argument seem to me to be dressing up willful gullibility as cynicism, with the goal of going "I don't know, *AND NEITHER DO YOU*!".

The same fundamental argument - that smart people can pick whatever data they want to fool you - is used by people that want to insist that {insert politically uncomfortable science theory here} is merely bad science being done to fool people is far too common.

The fact of the matter though is that, although I certainly acknowledge I *could* be fooled, and that I have to weigh the question between accepting an expert opinion on an issue I can't personally check versus accepting authority blindly, there is nonetheless something wrong with the people that don't double-check things, or refuse to accept verifiable factual debunking of comfortable dogma because they find the source 'liberal' or 'conservative'.

This has become all too common, and the refusal to believe that some people *do* carefully vet their sources is used all too often to preclude vetting ones own.


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It was in my schools, and it still sucked.

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