[ExI] Do your own research

Stuart LaForge avant at sollegro.com
Fri Aug 7 00:44:50 UTC 2020

Quoting extropy-chat-request at lists.extropy.org:

> On Wed, Aug 5, 2020 at 7:58 PM Stuart LaForge via extropy-chat <
> extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org> wrote:
>> *Being an astrophysicist does not entitle Ethan Siegel to speak on behalf
>> of all scientists. The notion that scientists should stay in their own
>> research lanes and not pursue questions or develop opinions  in other
>> fields is ludicrous.*
> I'll tell you what's ludicrous, the idea that you must do your own research
> and every reader of the journal Nature or Science must personally reproduce
> every experiment in them before he can conclude that what they say is
> probably true. Can you imagine a microbiologist reproducing an astronomer's
> 10 year research project using the world's largest telescopes to determine
> the distribution of galaxies in the universe? Can you imagine an astronomer
> reproducing a microbiologist's 10 year research program to determine the
> expression of genes in a paramecium? I can't either.

I agree that it is silly to expect microbiologists to reproduce  
results from astronomers or vice versa. But that's not what I am  
talking about. What I am talking about is if a microbiologist wants to  
buy a telescope, look at the sky with it, form opinions, ask  
questions, and use the scientific method to answer them, then she is  
within her rights to do so. Same if an astronomer wants to buy a  
microscope and study paramecium. Doing so does not suddenly make them  
an expert in the other's field, but it can still legitimately be  
called science. So is a layperson buying scientific instruments and  
tinkering around in his garage.

That being said, there is a reproducibility crisis going on in  
science. According to 2/3 of the researchers surveyed by Nature,  
irreproducibility of published results are a huge problem in science,  
these days:


> The history of scientists telling other scientists in very different fields
> how they should do their job is full of humiliating failures. I'm thinking
> of the eminent physicist lord Kelvin who told geologists that they got it
> all wrong and that the Earth was not billions of years old but only about
> 20 million;

And the history of so-called laypeople simply following their  
curiosity and exploring natural phenomena that interested them is full  
of resounding successes. Successes like Einstein who became a great  
physicist, but not until after he discovered special relativity as a  
patent clerk. Or Gregor Mendel who was a monk when he discovered  
genes. Or Erasto Mpemba who was a 13 year old school boy in Tanzania  
when he discovered the Mpemba effect. Lay people are capable of making  
important contributions to science. To say otherwise is elitist  

> and the eminent astronomer Fred Hoyle who told biologists they
> got it all wrong and Darwinian evolution can't work and said those who are
> mathematical geniuses got that way because they received mathematical
> genius genes from viruses which came from outer space; and the eminent
> physical chemist Linus Pauling who told doctors they got it all wrong and
> that vitamin C could cure just about everything.

Hoyle and Kelvin were wrong, but so what? And to his credit, Linus  
Pauling lived to be 98 years old so, if it did not help him, then his  
mega-dosing of vitamin-C certainly did not harm him. Come to think of  
it, with all the supplements and nootropic stacks being taken around  
these parts, he probably would have fit right in on this here list.

> If you're an expert in one field of science you must realize that it took
> you many years to obtain the necessary knowledge and skills to reach that
> level, and if you're not only smart but also wise you'll know that there
> are fields of science other than your own and conclude that experts in
> those fields may know more about them than you do. This is even more true
> if you're a civilian and not an expert in ANY field of science.

The advantage that professional scientists has over amateurs by virtue  
of "years of experience" is countered by the high-stakes  
publish-or-perish environment that the scientist lives under which  
incentivises the manipulation and misinterpretation of results which  
in turn leads to irreproducibility.

> And I must conclude that today's science deniers tend to be ideological
> stooges of the right.

Unless the science is genetics as it pertains to things like  
sex-determination, IQ, and genetically modified organisms. Other  
sciences routinely denied by the left are nuclear physics (nuclear  
power) and immunology (vaccinations).

Stuart LaForge

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