[extropy-chat] Elvis Sightings

Damien Broderick thespike at satx.rr.com
Wed Jan 31 00:17:37 UTC 2007

At 04:36 PM 1/30/2007 -0500, John K Clark wrote:

> > Do we simply have holes in our brains?
>With all due respect Eliezer that possibility strikes me as far more likely
>than that the editors of Science and Nature and Physical Review Letters have
>all had holes in their brains for the last 17 years.

John has a worthwhile point, of course, and it's one Hal Finney has 
argued persuasively here in the past. It's very risky to bet on an 
outsider rather than the established consensus of scientists familiar 
with a field's theories and data. But that's a heuristic, not the 
Word of God. It's a working guide to minimize time wasting. It also 
has its costs, one of them being the stifling of "heretical" opinion, 
another being the premature dismissal of important new results.

Have there never been any instances where a few researchers found 
utterly astonishing and counter-intuitive results that led eventually 
to acceptance and glory, but only after years of cries of BULLSHIT!? 
Why, yes, and I keep quoting one:


Australian physicians Robin Warren and Barry Marshall first identify 
the link between Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) and ulcers, 
concluding that the bacterium, not stress or diet, causes ulcers. The 
medical community is slow to accept their findings.

Data show that about 75 percent of ulcer patients are still treated 
primarily with antisecretory medications, and only 5 percent receive 
antibiotic therapy. Consumer research by the American Digestive 
Health Foundation finds that nearly 90 percent of ulcer sufferers are 
unaware that H. pylori causes ulcers. In fact, nearly 90 percent of 
those with ulcers blame their ulcers on stress or worry, and 60 
percent point to diet.

The Food and Drug Administration approves the first antibiotic for 
treatment of ulcer disease.


That's swifter than any likely acceptance of the catalyzed heat 
claims, but it shows that expert opinion is fallible, and sometimes 
plain, pig-headed, GET THAT DAMNED TELESCOPE OUT OF MY FACE wrong.

Damien Broderick

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