Image of the day: the “Gotcha!” moment for anti-science zealots

From the University of California – a tactic common across all anti-science movements:


5 thoughts on “Image of the day: the “Gotcha!” moment for anti-science zealots

  1. zooba says:

    When it was discovered that the outer stars of our galaxy moved at the same speed as the inner stars people just plugged enough extra matter into their simulations to account for the breakdown of newtons laws and called it dark matter. Newtons laws didn’t work on the galactic level, but people forced them to work by inserting an undetectable kind of stuff into the maths. Now I cant have a reasonable discussion about astronomy without accepting the supernatural (untetectable by senses or instruments) existance of dark matter. Its a dogma and if you question it you are ridiculed.

    Do you think this is a problem in science?

    • Watching the Deniers says:

      Thanks for the comment Zooba.

      I don’t think it is a problem restricted to science – it’s a philosophical problem. I’d also suggest we don’t confuse “facts” with methodology. Science is not merely a collection of random facts, it is a methodology to examine the natural world.

      Actually – it is not a problem for science: it is the very nature of science to on occasion overturn established facts.

      It is a problem for individuals struggling to understand or accept new concepts.

      Cosmology is a wonderful example of the problem you are referring too: after all, Hubble did not “discover” the Universe was expanding until the early part of the 20th century. Prior to that the steady state model was accepted by most astronomers.

      If you can, check out the earliest images captured by Hubble of galaxies here:

      I have a special fondness for Hubble’s early photography: imagine, he was the first person to recognise those blurry blogs in telescopes were “island universes”, galaxies containing billions of stars.

      Until the standard explanation was that these were nebulae within our local galaxy. It was not fully appreciated the universe consisted of an uncountable number of galaxies. From his work flowed “Hubble’s Law”, which is still critical to understanding the expanding universe model:

      Think of it this way: it was not until the 1920s that the scientific community discovered just how big the universe really was. But it was science that did this based upon sound methodology, the peer review system and verification of Hubble’s work by other scientists replicating his techniques.

      New information will always be forthcoming, and some of that will challenge existing (ugh here comes that word…) paradigms. However we don’t throw out the entire scientific method when we discover new facts about the world.

      To quote Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

      Climate change is simply a new fact.

      Now it is a challenging fact to some – just like Darwin’s theory of evolution which is still rejected by large numbers of people for religious and ideological reasons. Many of those rejecting climate change are stubbornly clinging to old models that attempt to describe complex systems.

      To put it bluntly, a blog post by Anthony Watts is not science. It is opinion. It can’t be replicated. It is not based on empiracal data and is not based upon a methodology.

      To return to your question, let me phrase it this way: “What is truth?”

      Philosophers of science often refer to it as the demarcation problem. Epistemology and formal logic are also tools to bring to any discussion about the nature of science and “how we know what we know”. I’d start basic before going into the works of Popper, Kuhn etc. What is the difference between science and pseudoscience?

      Great questions.

      I’ve found the following books useful starting points:

      1/ Philosophy of science: a very short introduction, Samir Okasah – a general and brief overview that will provide a useful introduction

      2/ Logic: an introduction, Greg Restall – I love this little book. It is a primer on formal logic, and provides a fantastic means to understand language and can help clarify the underlying structure of arguments. It also contains a set of exercises to help deepen your understanding. From what I understand Restall uses this at Melbourne University for first year students. I picked it up and read it and did the exercises for fun.

      They first is an easy read, the later takes more work. But if you have a basic level of numeracy than formal logic should not be too challenging. I didn’t have the maths foundation, being an arts graduate. But I found my explorations of formal logic helped my own level of comfort in trying to understanding complex science.

      Thanks for the respectful manner of phrasing your question.

      Mike @ WtD

  2. zooba says:

    Thanks, expanding universe is another example. Hubble did not discover the expansion of the universe. The expansion of the universe was his explanation for the discovery of red-shifted light. There are other explanations for red-shifted light, and the fact that red-shifts are quantized was not predicted by Hubble’s theory of expansion. And yet it almost impossible to discuss this with other people interested in astronomy. Offering an alternative to the expansion model only gets you ridiculed and dismissed.

    Do you think the photography of Halton Arp is enough to overturn the established fact of expansion?

  3. […] on Watching the Deniers, the “Gotcha” Moment for Anti-Science Zealots […]

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