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Examining the negative aspects of the social dynamics of science.
Skepticism is a primary tool of science. It would be hypocritical to
never direct skepticism towards scientific skepticism itself. If the
existence of our own imperfections and errors is denied, then they are
free to grow without limit, and skepticism is not immune to this problem.
Unbridled gullibility can destroy science, but unbridled skepticism is no
less a threat because it brings both the excessive preservation of the
status quo and the supression of new ideas. Better to take a middle road
between total close-mindedness and total gullibility. Practice
pragmatism, pursue humility, and maintain a hard, clear, honest, and
continuing view of ourselves and the less noble of our behaviors.
Please leave COMMENTS!
- Journals and organizations for "dissident" science research.
- Critiques of Organized Skepticism
- Bias in peer review
- Peer Review: reform or revolution?
- Psi, Grof, Jung, and the Quantum Vacuum
- Refreshingly humble scientific view of evolution/creationism
- Peer review as scholarly conformity, from Suppression Stories
- A Letter to a Dissident Scientist, by Brian Martin
- The real reason behind suppression of inventions
- Anomalous Meteor Phenomena
- "The Golem", Collins and Pinch debunk scientist's myths
- H. Bauer - Ethics in Science (recommended!)
- Dissident Physics at '95 AAAS meeting
- Myths of Skepticism
- Defending Darwinism: How Far is Too Far? from Origins Research
- Retardation of Science, from Alternate View
- sci.skeptic FAQ: Aren't all skeptics just closed-minded bigots?
- Science and Consensus, from EMF-L
- Science vs. Its Own Popularizers: Carl Sagan
- THE ANOMALIST. Don't miss "Moving the Goalposts",
- Ambiguity in research, Science On-Line
- Scientists' treatment of "mavericks", by Dr. Brian Josephson
- Scientific Misconduct Page
- L. Frank vindicated, new mini-comet evidence (see "Moving the Goalposts"
and CNN article)
- Fund for UFO Research
- Brainmind Bulletin
- Earth mantel heresies
- Some Failures of Organized Skepticism
- Rawlins vs. CSICOP
- Debunking the debunkers
- Science Frontiers articles:
- Post-relativist Physics from 'Sumeria'
- "Three Galileos", article from Duesberg page
- Aquatic Ape Theory
- Psi phenomena papers, Frasca page
- The Sourcebook Project, archive of unexplained observations
- B. Haisch UFO essay from the J. Sci. Exploration
- Farce of Physics, Dr. B.G. Wallace
- Panspermia: life evolved elsewhere
- Ways of knowning: Science vs. Religion
- J. Talbot's "Skeptics" quotations
- The Experts Speak
- Psychology of Invention
- Psychology of Science List
- Cargo Cult Science, R. Feynman
- Forbidden Archeology
- Scientists want to censor a Controversial show. See producer's response.
Dr. Margulis' heresies:
- McClintlock's Jumping Genes
- Heretical catastrophism
AGAINST EXCESSIVE SKEPTICISM
"I am not very skeptical... a good deal of skepticism in a scientific man
is advisable to avoid much loss of time, but I have met not a few men,
who... have often thus been deterred from experiments or observations
which would have proven servicable." - Charles Darwin
"Round about the accredited and orderly facts of every science there
ever floats a sort of dust-cloud of exceptional observations, of
occurrences minute and irregular and seldom met with, which it always
proves more easy to ignore than to attend to... Anyone will renovate his
science who will steadily look after the irregular phenomena, and when
science is renewed, its new formulas often have more of the voice of the
exceptions in them than of what were supposed to be the rules."
- William James
"I know that most men, including those at ease with problems of the
greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most
obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of
conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which
they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by
thread, into the fabric of their lives." -Tolstoy
"It is really quite amazing by what margins competent but conservative
scientists and engineers can miss the mark, when they start with the
preconceived idea that what they are invesigating is impossible. When
this happens, the most well-informed men become blinded by their
prejudices and are unable to see what lies directly ahead of them."
- Arthur C. Clarke, 1963
"It is not uncommon for engineers to accept the reality of phenomena that
are not yet understood, as it is very common for physicists to
disbelieve the reality of phenomena that seem to contradict contemporary
beliefs of physics" - H. Bauer
"If a man is in too big a hurry to give up an error he is liable to
give up some truth with it." - Wilbur Wright, 1902
"It's like religion. Heresy (in science) is though of as a bad thing,
whereas it should be just the opposite." - T. Gold
"I believe there is no source of deception in the investigation of
nature which can compare with a fixed belief that certain kinds of
phenomena are IMPOSSIBLE." -William James
"Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when
they are first produced." - Alfred North Whitehead
"It would seem to me... an offense against nature, for us to come on the
same scene endowed as we are with the curiosity, filled to overbrimming
as we are with questions, and naturally talented as we are for the
asking of clear questions, and then for us to do nothing about or,
worse, to try to suppress the questions..." -Lewis Thomas
"The creative person pays close attention to what appears discordant and
contradictory... and is challenged by such irregularities." - F. Barron
"Genius in truth means little more than the faculty of perceiving in an
unhabitual way" - William James
"When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is
possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something
is impossible, he is very probably wrong."
- Arthur C. Clarke's First Law
"There is no better soporific and sedative than skepticism." -Nietzche
"It is as fatal as it is cowardly to blink facts because they are not to
our taste." - John Tyndall
"The discovery of truth is prevented more effectively not by the false
appearance of things present and which mislead into error, not directly
by weakness of the reasoning powers, but by preconceived opinion, by
prejudice." - Schopenhauer
"Now, my suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we
suppose, but queerer than we can suppose... I suspect that there are
more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of, in any philosophy"
- J.B.S Haldane
"Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward; they may be defeated, but
they start a winning game." - Goethe
"There is nothing particularly scientific about excessive caution.
Science thrives on daring generalizations." - L. Hogben
"As long as we do science, some things will always remain unexplained."
- Fritjof Capra
"If we want to solve a problem that we have never solved before, we must
leave the door to the unknown ajar." -Richard Feynman
"We do not understand much of anything, from... the "big bang" , all the
way down to the particles in the atoms of a bacterial cell. We have a
wilderness of mystery to make our way through in the centuries ahead."
"There is no natural phenomenon that is comparable with the sudden
and apparently accidentally timed development of science, except
perhaps the condensation of a super-saturated gas or the explosion of
some unpredictable explosives." - Eugene P. Wigner
"It is through science that we prove, but through intuition that we
discover." - H. Poincare
"Nothing is too wonderful to be true if it be consistent with the laws of
nature." - Michael Faraday
"I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any
hypothesis, however much beloved (and I cannot resist forming one on
every subject), as soon as the facts are shown to be opposed to it."
"I love fools' experiments, I am always making them." -Darwin
"The philosophies of one age have become the absurdities of the next,
and the foolishness of yesterday has become the wisdom of tomorrow."
-Sir William Osler
"The whole of science consists of data that, at one time or another, were
inexplicable." - B. O'Regan
"The only solid piece of scientific truth about which I feel totally
conficent is that we are profoundly ignorant about nature... It is this
sudden confrontation with the depth and scope of ignorance that
represents the most significant contribution of twentieth-century
science to the human intellect." -Lewis Thomas
"Sit down before facts like a child, and be prepared to give up every
preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses
Nature leads, or you shall learn nothing." -T.H. Huxley
"You cannot teach a man anything, you can only help him find it within
himself." - Galileo
"The high-minded man must care more for the truth than for what people
"In real life, every field of science is incomplete, and most of them
- whatever the record of accomplisment during the last 200 years - are
still in their very earliest stages." -Lewis Thomas
"On any Tuesday morning, if asked, a good working scientist will tell
you with some self-satisfaction that the affairs of his field are
nicely in order, that things are finally looking clear and making
sense, and all is well. But come back again on another Tuesday, and
the roof may have just fallen in on his life's work." -Lewis Thomas
"No matter how we may single out a complex from nature...its
theoretical treatment will never prove to be ultimately
conclusive...I believe that this process of deepening of theory has
no limits." - Albert Einstein, 1917
"A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and
making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually
die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it." -M. Planck
Science advances funeral by funeral. (Planck?)
"Science for me is very close to art. Scientific discovery is an
irrational act. It's an intuition which turns out to be reality at the
end of it--and I see no difference between a scientist developing a
marvellous discovery and an artist making a painting."
- C. Rubbia, Nobelist and CERN director
"The person who thinks there can be any real conflict between science and
religion must be either very young in science or very ignorant of
religion." -Joseph Henry, early American physicist
"If you restrict the journal to publishing only what pleases the
referees, you end up publishing what is popular, and while it does make
everyone feel more comfortable, you are guaranteed to miss the
occasional breakthrough." - A. Dessler, Editor, Geophysical Research
Letters, (regarding small-comet bombardment of Earth.)
"Scientists are not the paragons of rationality, objectivity,
openmindedness and humility that many of them might like others to
believe." - Marcello Truzzi, CSICOP
"One could not be a successful scientist without realizing that, in
contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers
of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded
and dull, but also just stupid."
-- J. D. Watson _The Double Helix_
"When I examined myself and my methods of thought, I came to the
conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent
for absorbing positive knowledge." - A. Einstein
"A man with a new idea is a crank until he succeeds." - M. Twain
"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are that
good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." - Howard Aiken
"Who never walks save where he sees men's tracks makes no discoveries."
- J.G. Holland
"Physical concepts are the free creations of the human mind and are not,
however it may seem, uniquely determined by the external world."
Einstein/Infeld in "The Evolution of Physics" 1938
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connection closecontent-type text/htmla "()5 "A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth." - G. Goebbles
Never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by
Unnamed Law: If it happens, it must be possible.
What I don't understand I despise, what I despise I reject.
- THE REFEREE'S CREED
"Without deviation from the norm, progress is not possible."
- Frank Zappa
SOME SKEPTICS OF THE PAST
"So many centuries after the Creation, it is unlikely that anyone could
find hitherto unknown lands of any value."
- Spanish Royal Commission, rejecting Christopher Columbus' proposal
to sail west.
"I would sooner believe that two Yankee professors lied, than that
stones fell from the sky" - Thomas Jefferson, on hearing reports of
"The more important fundamental laws and facts of physical science have
all been discovered, and these are now so firmly established that the
possibility of their ever being supplanted in consequence of new
discoveries is exceedingly remote.... Our future discoveries must be
looked for in the sixth place of decimals." -Albert. A. Michelson,
speech given in 1894 at the dedication of Ryerson Physics Lab,
Univ. of Chicago,
"Space travel is utter bilge!" -Sir Richard Van Der Riet Wolley,
"The whole procedure [of shooting rockets into space]...presents
difficulties of so fundamental a nature, that we are forced to dismiss
the notion as essentially impracticable, in spite of the author's
insistent appeal to put aside prejudice and to recollect the supposed
impossibility of heavier-than-air flight before it was actually
-Sir Richard van der Riet Wooley, British astronomer, reviewing P.E.
Cleator's "Rockets in Space", Nature, March 14, 1936
"It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two
or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying
machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere."
- Thomas Edison, 1895
"Such startling announcements as these should be deprecated as being
unworthy of science and mischievious to to its true progress"
- Sir William Siemens, 1880, on Edison's announcement of a
sucessful light bulb.
"We are probably nearing the limit of all we can know about astronomy."
- Simon Newcomb, astronomer, 1888
"Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible." - Lord Kelvin,
president, Royal Society, 1895.
"The demonstration that no possible combination of known substances,
known forms of machinery, and known forms of force can be united in a
practicable machine by which men shall fly for long distances through
the air, seems to the writer as complete as it is possible for the
demonstration of any physical fact to be." - astronomer S. Newcomb,
"Professor Goddard does not know the relation between action and
reaction and the need to have something better than a vacuum against
which to react. He seems to lack the basic knowledge ladled out daily
in high schools." - 1921 New York Times editorial about Robert
Goddard's revolutionary rocket work.
"This foolish idea of shooting at the moon is an example of the absurd
lengths to which vicious specialisation will carry scientists."
-A.W. Bickerton, physicist, NZ, 1926
"Space travel is bunk" -Sir Harold Spencer Jones, Astronomer Royal of
Britain, 1957, two weeks before the launch of Sputnik
Bill B's own sayings:
The banner of "Openmindedness" attracts charlatans and gullible fools,
just as the banner of "skepticism" attracts the narrow-minded and the
bigoted. This is no reason for the skeptical scientist to assume
openmindedness to equate with foolish gullibility, nor for the
openminded scientist to assume all skeptics to be narrow-minded bigots.
The Mind of God and Other Musings: The Wisdom of Science,
Shirley Jones, ed. isbn 1880032481
...and the .sig files of numberless internet users with a bent towards
both science and wisdom.
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