Ignunt Fool of the Week

This is a toast which I wrote for Teen Skepchick on questioning people and investigating things for yourself. I also decided that it would make a good Ignunt Fool of the Week.

I have definitive proof that unicorns exist. I’ve heard testimonies from various reputable people who have seen unicorns with their very eyes. There are documents with code names and code numbers of secret government projects involving the investigation of unicorns. I have papers from a bunch of zoologists about resonance biological quantum fields which allow unicorns to have inter-dimensional phase matrices.

If I just said unicorns exist, it would be a good starting point to say “prove it,” but now that I’ve said that I have proof are you just going to be content with that? Or are you going to question me further?

Two nights ago, I went to see a man named Dr. Greer (an actual medical doctor) give a talk on the Metropolitan State College of Denver campus. He wasn’t talking about his specific field, medicine. Instead he was talking about how he had definitive proof that extraterrestrials have been visiting us and that they’ve given us the capability to have sustainable energy.

He wants to get a ballot initiative passed in Denver that will create an “Extraterrestrial Affairs Comission” and get the government to disclose all this information they’ve been keeping secret.

The talk began with a man saying “there are a lot of people out there who want to keep this information secret, so if you read anything out there that is completely negative of what Dr. Greer is saying, obviously they’re part of it.” Since this post isn’t going to be particularly fond of what he’s trying to do, I guess most of the people who heard that are just going to start going on about how I am working for the government without caring for my reasons why I don’t think he has much substance behind what he’s saying.

Most of what he talked about on that stage with a few hundred people packed in the lecture hall was the conversations he had had with people in government who had seen UFOs or who had told him that Eisenhower was hiding information locked away in a little black box which could bring about sustainable energy and world peace.

Besides people diverting their resources which could be spent doing actual science to find sustainable energy, he wouldn’t ordinarily cause harm… except… he wants us to spend tax payer money on his quest to find sustainable energy and our government to support him.

Okay, so the government does stupid things without good reasons, but we ought to do things for good reasons. Since whether or not he’s correct affects the way taxes get spent should we take these words at face value? Or should we ask him for evidence?

We could just absorb all that he’s saying, or we could wonder if there really is any possibility behind his affirmation that we already know how to do things like extract zero point energy and the government just isn’t telling us. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Perhaps we could look on his website to see if he has papers from peer-reviewed scientific journals.

And look! Under “research” there are links to some papers, but do they have any substance in them? Should these links cause us to throw all our support behind him?

Most of the papers are just put up on the website without any reference to having been published in the journal Nature or another reputable journal, but let’s take a look at them anyway.

One of them is by a man named Stanley A. Meyer. The paper doesn’t get off to too great a start with him saying (emphasis added, grammar unedited):

The Law of Change

A law of Physics establishes a proven function based on “Preset” conditions…

Change anyone of the conditions and the law no longer applies…

A “new” law emerges in the consciousness of Physics

Why? … Atoms possess intelligence

Pseudoscience has a talent for abusing scientific terms that people are unfamiliar with to appear as if they know what they’re talking about. If it appears nonsensical, then there’s a reasonable chance that it’s because it is nonsense. I’ve had quite a bit of physics in school and I’ve read quite a bit about it and it appears to me that’s he’s just throwing out jargon so that he sounds scientific even though he hasn’t a clue what he’s talking about.

Now, I won’t pretend to be an expert in physics but, in another paper

Another theoretical breakthrough by Puthoff is the derivation of Newton’s Law (F=ma) from ZPE electrodynamics. It appears to be related to the known distortion of the zero point spectrum in an accelerated reference frame. We therefore have an understanding as to why force and acceleration should be related, or even for that matter, what is mass. Puthoff explains that the resistance to acceleration defines the inertia of matter and it appears to be an electromagnetic resistance. To summarize: the inertia effect is a distortion at high frequencies whereas, the gravity effect has been shown to be low frequency effect, according to the Puthoff theory.

Three things:

  1. How the hell did he get from Newton’s second law of motion to talking about inertia?
  2. The parts of Puthoff’s Wikipedia entry which contain citations (we should be skeptical of the parts which don’t have citations since anybody can add or change Wikipedia) says that he was involved with the church of Scientology in the 70’s and was convinced that Uri Geller had psychic powers (here’s a 9 minute video with James Randi on why he almost certainly is not psychic). Already he doesn’t seem to have much credibility.
  3. I showed this to two engineers I found in an office at the Metropolitan State College of Denver who spent several minutes rereading it before telling me that it didn’t make any sense to them as respectable scientists.

Two more things:

  1. This time I asked people smarter than me to verify that this was indeed gobledy-gook. However, just because it doesn’t make sense doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t actually  have any idea what they’re talking about.
  2. The argument from authority can be a logical fallacy. Just because somebody is a fancy-pants scientist doesn’t mean that they’re not wrong. Ultimately it’s the evidence they use to back up what they’re saying that has weight on what is true. But it seems that he’s not saying anything.

Most of the papers are like this. Non peer-reviewed gobledy-gook which, if it were true, would be revolutionary enough that they could probably get published easily and win nobel prizes.

The lesson here, don’t take the words of people for granted. Investigate for yourself. Ask other people where your knowledge ends. Use logic. Most importantly…

Demand evidence.

One response to this post.

  1. Inertia from Newton’s second law is straightforward. The first law, also known as the law of inertia (an object will not change velocity unless acted on by an external unbalanced force), is simply a negative statement of a special case of the secons law (an object will accelerate when an external unbalanced force – the magnitude of acceleration is directly proportional to force and inversely proportional to mas). It’s nothing new.
    The rest of it though is utter bullshit.

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