Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense" 
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 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"


Science, semi-science and nonsense
A professional skeptic talks about what's real science (evolution, the Big
Bang), what's balderdash (ESP, Creationism) and what lies between (hypnotism,
superstring theory).

- - - - - - - - - - - -
By Suzy Hansen

Aug. 27, 2001 | Michael Shermer, editor in chief of Skeptic magazine and author
of "Why People Believe Weird Things," spends much of his time casting Holocaust
revisionism, UFOology, creationism and astrology out of the realm of
possibility and into the intellectual netherworld of "nonscience." Yet there
are ideas being floated around that, while falling short of fully proven,
aren't quite as kooky as the belief in alien {*filter*}s. Shermer dubs these
"borderlands" sciences, theories that -- for now, and in his eyes -- land
somewhere between firm-footed disciplines (evolution, quantum mechanics) and
faddish bunk (Freudian psychoanalytic theory).

Shermer has a method for diagnosing this semi-madness. In his latest book, "The
Borderlands of Science: Where Sense Meets Nonsense," he applies a "boundary
detector kit" to such vexing issues as racial differences among athletes; the
belief that, unlike Europeans, indigenous peoples live in harmony with nature;
and cloning. Shermer's 10 boundary detectors include some obvious questions --
for example, have the scientist's claims been verified by another source? --
but what's remarkable is how open-minded Shermer remains during his assessment.
In one chapter, Shermer looks at the life of Carl Sagan who, in his
relationships with UFOlogists and SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial
Intelligence) people, managed to strike an admirably "exquisite balance"
between curiosity and doubt. With wit, grace and skepticism, "The Borderlands
of Science" does the same -- and dishes on the behind-the-scenes head-butting
and gentlemanly agreements that have molded much of what we believe about
science and nonscience today.


Shermer spoke to Salon about the myth of genius, hypnotism and Tiger Woods from
his office in Los Angeles.

Why do you think that science is the best lens through which to view the world?

There are checks and balances in science. There's somebody checking the people
doing the science and then there's somebody who checks the checkers and
somebody who checks the checker's checkers. Personally, I don't have time to
run all these experiments so there's a certain amount of confidence that I put
in this system. The fact that I understand how the system works gives me
confidence that if someone's claim is incorrect, then somebody else is going to
nail him on it.

Take superstring theory. I don't understand it. Almost nobody does! But I can
go down to my buddies over at Caltech and say, "Hey, what's the story with
this?" And they'll give me the terms of the debate and say there's this guy at
New York and this guy at Chicago who believe this and this. I get a feeling
that they are watching each other.

What about when big business funds science? How can you be so sure that there
isn't an agenda behind someone's research?

For example, I don't worry that the American Medical Association is heavily
influenced by drug companies. You know, it is. Drug companies give a lot of
money for research. If you go to conferences sponsored by the AMA, the drug
companies are there giving away stuff. Recently, I was paid fairly well to give
a talk at a Pasadena medical association. The whole thing was sponsored by a
drug company. There they were, handing out samples. And before I spoke, the guy
from the drug company was up there plugging his wares! But, while I worry about
that, there are a lot of medical researchers out there -- post-docs and Ph.D.
and M.D. students -- who are not influenced by the drug companies. They would
love nothing better than to show that, in fact, a particular drug doesn't do
what the company claims. Those are the checks and balances that keep me
confident that science really works.

The difference between science and nonscience is somewhat subjective. You have
a boundary detection kit. I'm wondering if other scientists agree with your
methods of assessment of what's science and what isn't.

The questions that I ask -- the quality of evidence, who's doing the research,
what else do they believe, what else have they done, have they tested their own
claims -- is the way of science. All skeptic stuff is science. Scientists are
skeptics. It's unfortunate that the word "skeptic" has taken on other
connotations in the culture involving nihilism and cynicism. Really, in its
pure and original meaning, it's just thoughtful inquiry..."

Continued at website above.

Sun, 15 Feb 2004 03:24:23 GMT
 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"

> Jen the link did not work, but here is a link to Zombies on the Web>>

Bummer, sorry it didn't work.  If anyone wants the whole article, it's
available from the Fortean Times news page at:

Artificial Intelligence, hehe...  I could use some -the homegrown organic kind
just ain't what it used to be.   Thanks, Lynne.

Sun, 15 Feb 2004 08:39:14 GMT
 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"


>PUFSTUFF wrote.

Shut your mouth

Remeber me
I came to blow your house up
Now i wanna blow it down

Tue, 17 Feb 2004 06:06:59 GMT
 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"
 who's doing the research,

I am baby xxxx

Tue, 17 Feb 2004 06:07:47 GMT
 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"

> who's doing the research,

> I am baby xxxx

hey the slime just oozed out from under a rock. Net Bug killa Ha

Wed, 18 Feb 2004 02:35:37 GMT
 Article: "Science, Semi-science, and Nonsense"
hey the slime just oozed out from under a rock.

I see dog now go crawl up your daddys shit hole lol

Mon, 01 Mar 2004 05:08:46 GMT
 [ 6 post ] 

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