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Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
#1

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
I think I've been watching too many flat-Earth debates, because as if posting lengthy YouTube comments weren't therapy enough anymore, I felt this rant coalescing in my head recently and I finally decided to write it all out for whatever it may be worth.  I wrote it as if I were addressing a flat-Earther, but with a few adjustments to the specifics, I think it's broadly applicable to creationism or any other form of pseudo-science.  So, if it's somehow entertaining for you to listen to a frustrated graduate student blow off steam about the insolent hubris that flat-Earthers almost inevitably display, read on!
 
Dear Flat-Earther,
 
You are challenging a very well-established scientific consensus.  There's nothing inherently wrong with that.  On the contrary, it's actually admirable, in a certain sense.  But here's what you continue to either forget or ignore.  When you ask your questions, sincere or not, the answers you get are coming ultimately from people who have spent years studying the current consensus in their field and working hard to contribute to it in some way.  Most of the time, that contribution comes in the form of extending or refining established theories.  Occasionally, for a lucky few, that contribution instead takes the form of overturning and replacing said theories, or at least vindicating a model which had previously been controversial at best.  These are the people whose names find their way into the history books.
 
Crucially, however, those who successfully instigate a paradigm shift do so starting with a mastery of the preceding paradigm, which almost inevitably requires years of study and no small amount of intellectual labor.  They then put in the further effort of writing papers, submitting them to peer review, and making testable predictions that have the potential to prove them wrong.  Make no mistake here.  Peer review is not a bunch of gatekeepers merely making sure your work toes the line of the current consensus.  In fact, the ideal of peer review is to expose your work to those who are not only qualified to evaluate it but also particularly critical of your hypotheses.  In addition, testable predictions, a staple of good science, are inherently risky for the proponent, since although falsification is always one step forward for science, it can often be one step backward for the individual scientist's reputation.  There is a certain amount of courage required to propose a bold new theory.
 
Take it from someone with an MA in linguistics currently pursuing his PhD in the same field.  It is no walk in the park.  A master's thesis is much more than an extra-long high-school essay, and so is a doctoral dissertation.  You will be expected to become very familiar with the pre-existing literature on your particular topic, which most likely means at least a few months of reading, and then cite such literature rigorously throughout your work.  Meanwhile, your supervisors will be on the lookout for missing references, potential biases, methodological limitations, etc.  And I'm speaking as someone working in a relatively "soft" science who's not even blazing any major trails within it!  The taste I've gotten as such has left me with all the more respect for those who pursue and earn advanced degrees in the "hard" sciences, for whom the process can only be even more grueling.
 
Neither special nor general relativity were proposed by a mere patent clerk with an active imagination.  They were posited by a man who enrolled in a post-secondary institution, attended classes, and earned at least basic credentials in the pertinent field before submitting his work for the scrutiny of his peers (and quite arguably even his betters).  In other words, he had a mastery of the then-current paradigm, the honesty to subject his proposed improvement(s) to the critical assessment of other experts, and the courage to make predictions that could have very well proven the skeptics right instead of him.
 
Now, here's the point.  What I find both laughable and insidious about your brand of pseudo-science is that you essentially want to take a special shortcut through the whole process I've just described.  At best, you study and investigate to an extent that may perhaps seem deep by laymen's standards but falls significantly short of any academic standard, and often, you don't even rise to that modest level in your "research."  Having thus done a fraction of the work that sincere scholars have done, you then act as if you're sufficiently qualified to seriously question their conclusions if not outright declare them wrong.  All the while, you hardly ever even try to submit your highly controversial ideas to the same rigorous scrutiny to which real scholars routinely submit their own, often much more mundane hypotheses. 
 
And look, I won't even say that official credentials are a prerequisite.  Having some formal certification certainly expedites the process of verifying your knowledge, but a lack of a diploma does not inevitably entail a lack of expertise.  If, through years of independent study and inquiry, you've attained informal proficiency that is at least in the ballpark of what a fully credentialed expert has, fine.  You can demonstrate your unofficial mastery by publishing at least one peer-reviewed paper.  Alternatively, you could initiate a formal education only to impress your professors into letting you skip several stages and/or just granting you an honorary degree.
 
Before you say that you actually have acquired such unofficial expertise, allow me to stop you right there.  JM Truth thinks 10^-17 is a negative number, and when pressed on it, he revealed that he apparently can't tell the difference between multiplication and exponentiation.  Anthony Riley can't determine the value of each angle within an equilateral triangle without a "triangle calculator."  Now, neither of these specific examples may apply to you, but they are sufficiently typical of your ilk for the point to be made.  When you struggle with concepts that many fifth-graders understand quite well, you  cannot claim to stand toe-to-toe with cosmologists and astrophysicists.  You may be perfectly willing to insult your own intelligence, but don't insult mine.
 
This is the utter lack of humility that it takes to be a flat-Earther.  Whenever you don't fully understand a particular theory, you leap straight to the assumption that the flaw lies in the theory itself, paying no more than lip service to the possibility that the problem resides in your own conception instead.  Perhaps the worst part is that such a mistaken understanding would often be corrigible if you would only acknowledge your error.  Yet you tend to turn what could be a learning opportunity into an insulting bout of hubris.  You essentially tell all those scholars whose foundations you tread upon that they've wasted their time, effort, and money on a legitimate education.  According to you, some schmuck on the Internet who's done a fraction of the research that actual scientists have done either knows better than all of them or is at least entitled to equal respect and clout in the relevant discipline.  You'll have to forgive me if I find that more than a little arrogant and insulting!
 
So if you want to change the scientific consensus, great!  If your theory is correct, you'll have made a great contribution to science.  But be prepared to put up or shut up.  Enroll in a post-secondary institution and take the relevant classes.  If you're as smart as you think you are, you should be able to resist whatever indoctrination the faculty may throw at you.  In the meantime, you'll be gaining an in-depth understanding of the current scientific consensus, which will only put you in a far better position to challenge it when you complete the curriculum.  When you are at least close to earning an advanced degree if not already there, publish your bold new model in a peer-reviewed journal.  You will initially be met with great skepticism, but at least a few will test your predictions, and if they're confirmed, that will be all you need to start turning some heads.  It won't happen overnight, and there may always be at least a few hold-outs, but if truth really is on your side, a new scientific consensus will accumulate around your theory, as more and more supporting evidence reliably emerges and the criticisms seem progressively less legitimate.  That is how you execute a paradigm shift!
 
But if you're going to try to unfairly circumvent this whole process, whose very purpose is to minimize the effect of bias and other limitations of the human mind, don't be surprised at the vehemence and persistence of your opposition.  You can't enter a foot race, run a tenth of the distance, drive the remainder in a car, and expect to be cheered on when you claim victory at the finish line.  You may beat your opponent to the end, but when he finally meets you there, sweaty and out-of-breath, he'll have earned far more respect than you.
 
So stop insulting sincere seekers of knowledge, put in an amount of work that's at least in the ballpark of what they've put in, truly master the established paradigm before you challenge it, and publish your testable predictions.  Once again, put up or shut up.  It's that simple.  And since you're along way from putting up, well,…I think you know what you should be doing right now.
 
Regards,
 
Greg
The only sacred truth in science is that there are no sacred truths. - Carl Sagan
Ἡ μόνη ἱερᾱ̀ ἀληθείᾱ ἐν τῇ φυσικῇ φιλοσοφίᾳ ἐστὶν ἡ ἱερῶν ἀληθειῶν σπάνις. - Κᾱ́ρολος Σήγανος


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#2

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
Ignorance is waxing. People aren't taking the time to build good bullshit detectors. They see a string of letters after a name and assume there's an education on the other side of it.
Freedom isn't free.
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#3

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-18-2020, 09:22 PM)Glossophile Wrote: I think I've been watching too many flat-Earth debates

One would be too many.

Perhaps we should sick the hollow Earthers on them.
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#4

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-19-2020, 06:46 AM)Paleophyte Wrote:
(04-18-2020, 09:22 PM)Glossophile Wrote: I think I've been watching too many flat-Earth debates

One would be too many.

Perhaps we should sick the hollow Earthers on them.

I know people who want it both ways, "The Earth is flat, and HOLLOW!"
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#5

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
Doughnut hole Earthers? Does the sun go round the outside or does it go in the middle? No, what am I thinking? The middle is where the Moon Nazis come from.
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#6

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-20-2020, 02:09 AM)Paleophyte Wrote: Doughnut hole Earthers? Does the sun go round the outside or does it go in the middle? No, what am I thinking? The middle is where the Moon Nazis come from.

Evidently the Sun can shine on one side of the disc and not be seen from the other side. Because it's "up there" but not too much up there?
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#7

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
The crux of your essay is spot-on. I think the appeal of conspiracy theories, including flat earth, is that you can feel smugly superior to the consensus without actually doing any thinking or hard work around it. In particular your point about having to be an expert in the existing paradigm before you can hope to legitimately dismantle it, is exactly correct. In my experience and observation, the vast majority of people arguing against the theory of evolution don't know what a scientific theory is, much less anything beyond a superficial caricature of what the TOE itself is.
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#8

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
For the past fifty-five years I've been involved in conspiracy theories, starting with Pearl Harbor and a neighbor who secretly confided in my that he was a veteran, having served with George Washington at Valley Forge. The one thing I've seen the conspiracy advocates have in common is they use the CTs to attack a person, group, or idea.
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#9

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-18-2020, 10:11 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: Ignorance is waxing. People aren't taking the time to build good bullshit detectors. They see a string of letters after a name and assume there's an education on the other side of it.

I run into some *way* credentialed people occasionally at meetings or as presenters at various medical stuff. 
I like to needle the ones with too many letters after their names. I say "Congratualtions, you have met your life goal.
You have more letters after your name, than in your name". Some of them think it's funny.  Dodgy
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#10

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 02:30 AM)Bucky Ball Wrote:
(04-18-2020, 10:11 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: Ignorance is waxing. People aren't taking the time to build good bullshit detectors. They see a string of letters after a name and assume there's an education on the other side of it.

I run into some *way* credentialed people occasionally at meetings or as presenters at various medical stuff. 
I like to needle the ones with too many letters after their names. I say "Congratualtions, you have met your life goal.
You have more letters after your name, than in your name". Some of them think it's funny.  Dodgy

I laughed, but the only letters after my name are "SOB".

Still not sure what that stands for, anyone want to help a brotha out?
Freedom isn't free.
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#11

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-18-2020, 10:11 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: Ignorance is waxing. People aren't taking the time to build good bullshit detectors. They see a string of letters after a name and assume there's an education on the other side of it.

I had a rather technical career as an analyst. One new person I met had a PhD, She insisted I refer to her as "Doctor'. I said, "Fine, but I insist you refer to me as Supreme Commander Of The Universe". She never raised the issue again, and quite frankly, she was fired for incompetence a year later.
Theists disbelieve in all deities but one.  I just disbelieve in one less.
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#12

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 03:28 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: ... the only letters after my name are "SOB".  Still not sure what that stands for ...

Still Occasionally Brilliant.  Deadpan Coffee Drinker
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#13

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 04:03 PM)airportkid Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 03:28 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: ... the only letters after my name are "SOB".  Still not sure what that stands for ...

Still Occasionally Brilliant.  Deadpan Coffee Drinker

I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm pretty sure it ain't that. Smile
Freedom isn't free.
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#14

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 04:07 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 04:03 PM)airportkid Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 03:28 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: ... the only letters after my name are "SOB".  Still not sure what that stands for ...

Still Occasionally Brilliant.  Deadpan Coffee Drinker

I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm pretty sure it ain't that. Smile
Swell Old Boy? Consider
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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#15

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 03:28 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 02:30 AM)Bucky Ball Wrote:
(04-18-2020, 10:11 PM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote: Ignorance is waxing. People aren't taking the time to build good bullshit detectors. They see a string of letters after a name and assume there's an education on the other side of it.

I run into some *way* credentialed people occasionally at meetings or as presenters at various medical stuff. 
I like to needle the ones with too many letters after their names. I say "Congratualtions, you have met your life goal.
You have more letters after your name, than in your name". Some of them think it's funny.  Dodgy

I laughed, but the only letters after my name are "SOB".

Still not sure what that stands for, anyone want to help a brotha out?

Short of breath ?
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#16

Dear Flat-Earther: A Rant on the Insolent Hubris of Pseudo-Scientists
(04-26-2020, 07:43 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 03:28 AM)Thumpalumpacus Wrote:
(04-26-2020, 02:30 AM)Bucky Ball Wrote: I run into some *way* credentialed people occasionally at meetings or as presenters at various medical stuff. 
I like to needle the ones with too many letters after their names. I say "Congratualtions, you have met your life goal.
You have more letters after your name, than in your name". Some of them think it's funny.  Dodgy

I laughed, but the only letters after my name are "SOB".

Still not sure what that stands for, anyone want to help a brotha out?

Short of breath ?

Solar Obtuseness Belligerent.
  [Image: pirates.gif] Dog  
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