Ervin Laszlo's Forum

Anyone who has actual read through the older postings here may be aware that an article he wrote provoked the first substantive post on this blog.

Since then he's established what he is calling the "Forum On Science And Spirituality". So far it is heavy on the latter and light on the former.

The most recent posting there to catch my eye is one that decided to make use of a popular tactic employed by people who peddle bizarre claims that science has dismissed or shot down. It goes something like "oh yeah!? Well scientists thought Einstein was wrong once upon a time!".

The offending article in question is right here.

My response can be read in the comments section there, or right here:


I find myself continually disappointed in the understanding of basic scientific principles demonstrated by contributors to what is supposed to be a “science and spirituality” forum. This time we find ourselves confronted with the old canard that once upon a time people resisted proposals from the likes of Einstein or Galileo and therefore science types should be more open minded to new ideas because they’ve been wrong to dismiss hypotheses before.

Completely overlooking the fact that these were both examples of science working the way it is *supposed* to work. Science is skeptical by design, and for good reason. You are not entitled to simply stroll in with a new hypothesis that sounds interesting and have everyone instantly take you seriously. You WILL be challenged, vigorously and ruthlessly. Your idea WILL be required to bring evidence to the table to support it… the more “revolutionary” it is the higher the bar will be set because the more currently established evidence it must call into question and require re-interpretation of and we don’t just do that willy nilly because someone thinks “wouldn’t it be neat if…” That would result in limitless wastes of everyone’s time to the detriment of the entire process. Sagan summed this principle up most succinctly with his observation that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”.

You will notice that initially harshly challenged these revolutionaries may have been.. but they were given opportunity to make their cases, and when that was done their ideas were relatively rapidly accepted, incorporated, and built upon. If you have a revolutionary idea that is actually correct, then you can find the evidence to demonstrate that and you can present it, and your hypothesis will undergo *and survive* all the testing and challenges and attempts to falsify it which it will then be endlessly subjected to and science will continue it’s march forward with your new idea tucked firmly in with the other theories and hypotheses which have met the very deliberately harshly rigorous criteria science sets for claims to knowledge. If you cannot bring that evidence to the table then your idea will rightly be marched right over top of and ground underfoot.

To imply that the proper and deliberate application of the critical review required by the scientific method is nothing more than the stubborn clinging to of “old dogmas”, and to attempt to draw any degree of relation between this and the resistance to contradictory information encountered in the confines of religious teachings and church hierarchies demonstrates a profound lack of familiarity with how science operates and why it enjoys it’s unparalleled success at uncovering new information about the world while slaying erroneous or just plain useless ideas one after another.



I miss that guy... as a posting at Pharyngula just highlighted.

Ignorant, Stupid, or Delusional?

a.k.a. "the three degrees of cluelessness".

It's an unfortunate fact that there is a strong tendency for people to lump these three things together, mainly because their observable effects tend to be prettty much identical... the making of spectacularly stupid statements.

The problem is if you don't differentiate between someone saying something stupid because they've never been taught any better, someone saying something stupid because they're genuinly not bright, and someone saying something stupid because they've decided they have a preferred view of the world and to hell with any pesky facts that contradict it... then you've basically decided that you're not in the business of changing anyone's mind about anything. The status quo is just fine with you. For example, this guy appears to have no interest in doing anything but hurling invective at people on the internat all day. Does he need to differentiate between the ignorant and the stupid to do so? Well, no. I'm not sure exactly what he gets out of doing what he does, but whatever.

For those of us interested in actually teaching people things however differentiating between those three classes of people matters. Because an alternate set of terms for them is:

Teachable, Teachable With Difficulty, and Not Worth The Effort.

If you are responding to every stupid infactual statement someone makes by calling the person who makes it a retarded fuckwad you are driving away those that might be educated with even a little effort. And if the existence of people who make stupid statements is irritating enough to you that it evokes that kind of response one would think you had a legitimate interest in reducing their numbers. Which means at least engaging with the teachable, if not the "teachable with difficulty".


At first glance it can be hard to tell the difference between these three types of people of course. Some individual came storming in to your discusion of the evidence for the age of the earth ranting about how the magnitic field of the planet is decaying therefore the earth HAS TO BE YOUNG!!!!


Ranking Presidents

Every few years the Sienna College Research Institute conducts a survey of historians to rank the US presidents. they just finished the latest round since 2002. Anyone who follows politics in the US even a little will probably have heard Bush or his supporters saying how history will judge his legacy kindly. Well, history has a long way to go:

Worst Ever: A. Johnson, Buchanan, Harding, Pierce and G.W. Bush

Bush was ranked 5th worst of all time.

Now that alone is pretty bad... but frankly if I was surprised by anything it was that he managed to come in that high. So I decided to figure out why. It's just... sad.

The rankings were conducted based on 20 independent criteria... these were Bush's rankings in each (out of 43):

Now, there are 3 categories he did uncharacteristically well on relative to his general performance... and 2 he did somewhat better on. Let's take them in order.

Bush's Great Presidential Strength
Criteria # 7. Bush's top score out of all 20 criteria evaluated. He ranked 18th out of 43 on this one. It was....


I shit you not.