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346 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Depend On The Press For Science Reporting

  1. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan.

    “BillyJoe, Thanks for the really good description of outliers. I’ve have been seeing that word in the media and have and been meaning to look it up.

    You seem to have a real knack for explaining concepts. This is one of the reasons I enjoy SBM. The opportunity to read comments about a broad range of science based subjects from a variety of personalities with varied expertise from around the world.”

    Thanks. :)
    It’s just a small contribution – a little payback for all the information and explanation that has come my way from others in forums such as this one.

  2. Scott says:

    There is NOTHING in physics or biology saying that energy healing can’t work.

    That’s really quite interesting, given how many different lines of evidence have been explained to you showing that it can’t work. Why don’t you actually try to refute some of them, instead of lying?

  3. lizkat says:

    “If it was a good one it would outweigh an infinite amount of bad ones.”

    If there were one absolutely good study it would outweigh an infinite number of absolutely bad studies. But that is not how it goes with scientific research.

  4. lizkat says:

    “different lines of evidence have been explained to you showing that it can’t work. Why don’t you actually try to refute some of them”

    What?? You haven’t shown ANY evidence that it can’t work! None!

  5. weing says:

    “What?? You haven’t shown ANY evidence that it can’t work! None!”

    You are the one making the preposterous claims and it is incumbent on you to give satisfactory evidence that it exists and that it works. Sorry. The evidence has to be extraordinary given that the claim is extraordinary.

  6. Scott says:

    What?? You haven’t shown ANY evidence that it can’t work! None!

    Read, oh, ANY OF THE PREVIOUS POSTS!

  7. lizkat says:

    “Read, oh, ANY OF THE PREVIOUS POSTS!”

    There are NO previous posts showing EVIDENCE that energy healing CANNOT work. NONE. There are none explaining logically or scientifically that energy healing cannot work. NONE.

    You can say there is no “plausible” mechanism, but that’s just saying you don’t believe it, just because you don’t.

  8. Scott says:

    There are NO previous posts showing EVIDENCE that energy healing CANNOT work. NONE. There are none explaining logically or scientifically that energy healing cannot work. NONE.

    You have been presented evidence that energy healing cannot use any currently known interaction (as it would be readily detected). You have been presented evidence that energy healing cannot use any currently unknown interaction (as any interaction relevant at such energy scales would have been detected already). These combine to form exceedingly strong evidence that energy healing cannot work.

    Are you seriously too emotionally invested in your irrational belief in energy healing to even NOTICE when evidence against it is presented?

  9. Fifi says:

    lizkat – There is also no evidence proving that magical elves or Russel’s Teapot don’t exist. You seem to be having some difficulty understanding how science works.

    You’ve yet to even propose any valid or plausible mechanism (and your claims about wifi and qm have been shown to not provide plausible mechanisms so, at the moment, you’re simply promoting a faith based belief that you want to pretend has some scientific validity rather than simply being honest with yourself and others about the nature of your beliefs). I, for one, don’t bother arguing with people about their faith – that’s a personal affair (if believing in Tinkerbell makes your subjective world more tolerable or enjoyable, fantastic). However, when you try to impose your subjective fantasies on reality and want people to waste real resources on things you’d like to believe are real based on no good evidence, then you’re moving into the realm of being an evangelist (no matter how many others share your subjective fantasies and no matter hwo many times you protest that you’re not promoting a faith-based belief that you’d like others to believe and accept as reality based on no sound evidence and despite the fact that it contradicts natural law).

  10. lizkat says:

    “Are you seriously too emotionally invested in your irrational belief in energy healing to even NOTICE when evidence against it is presented?”

    NO, I am seriously invested in considering the evidence. And I am seriously invested in NOT assuming that what is already known is all that will ever be known.

  11. lizkat says:

    “based on no sound evidence and despite the fact that it contradicts natural law’

    There is no natural law that is contradicted by energy healing. And there is experimental evidence, which can be found in Pub Med. You are the one who goes with faith instead of reason or science.

  12. Scott says:

    NO, I am seriously invested in considering the evidence. And I am seriously invested in NOT assuming that what is already known is all that will ever be known.

    Then why do you persist in ignoring the evidence? And “assuming that what is already known is all that will ever be known” is either a deliberate gross misrepresentation, or conclusive proof that you haven’t actually read what I posted.

  13. lizkat says:

    “energy healing cannot use any currently unknown interaction (as any interaction relevant at such energy scales would have been detected already). ”

    It is a common mistake to confuse science with the set of already accepted scientific facts. But science is an evolving process. Clinging to the already-known is a dead weight on scientific progress. Unfortunately, it is human nature (for many but not all) to hang on to the past and present, and to fear the future.

    People who call themselves scientific skeptics are often actually a reactionary force that does not want the currently known “laws” of nature to change. They crave stability. How can the laws of nature change?

    Well the laws can’t change, but our understanding of them certainly can. And like it or not, our understanding does change and will continue to change.

    It’s laughable when you pretend to understand all about qm and to know exactly why it can’t be relevant to biology.

  14. weing says:

    lizkat,

    If you want science to validate your faith in the tooth fairy aka energy healing it will not do that. Keep on believing, but don’t call it science. It’s called faith for that reason. As someone once said, “I believe it because it’s not true.”

  15. lizkat says:

    I never said I believe in energy healing weing. I said there is evidence for it, and nothing in the laws of nature to rule it out. And our species does not have a complete understanding of the laws of nature. Very far from it.

  16. weing says:

    “And our species does not have a complete understanding of the laws of nature. Very far from it.”

    Who said we do? We know some things. We know santa , the tooth fairy, and healing energy do not exist.

  17. Ah! Ah! Ah!

    Anyone following this thread will greatly appreciate the following:
    http://ow.ly/1eGKm

  18. Fun and games for everyone folliwing this thread. Nominally about homeopathy, but energy medicine would be even better.

    http://www.jakearchibald.co.uk/homeopathy/

  19. lizkat says:

    “We know santa , the tooth fairy, and healing energy do not exist.”

    It would be interesting to see how you explain your certain knowledge that energy healing doesn’t exist. No adults believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, and no scientific studies have ever suggested they might exist. No studies have even been done on them, because there is no anecdotal evidence suggesting they might exist.

  20. lizkat says:

    >We know santa , the tooth fairy, and healing energy do not exist.

    It would be interesting to see how you explain your certain knowledge that energy healing doesn’t exist. No adults believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, and no scientific studies have ever suggested they might exist. No studies have even been done on them, because there is no anecdotal evidence suggesting they might exist.

  21. lizkat on Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy:

    “there is no anecdotal evidence suggesting they might exist.”

    There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence suggesting they exist! Vast!

  22. weing says:

    What makes you so certain santa and the tooth fairy don’t exist? Lots of anecdotal evidence. Ask any child that’s written to santa. They will tell you. Unless they have been indoctrinated into believing otherwise.

  23. micheleinmichigan says:

    lizkaton 05 Mar 2010 at 1:38 pm

    >We know santa , the tooth fairy, and healing energy do not exist.

    “It would be interesting to see how you explain your certain knowledge that energy healing doesn’t exist. No adults believe in Santa or the tooth fairy, and no scientific studies have ever suggested they might exist. No studies have even been done on them, because there is no anecdotal evidence suggesting they might exist.”

    I know people who believe that the tooth fairy exists. In fact I have seen her with my own eyes, when she came to get my tooth one night.

    I am not aware on any studies that have been done on the existence of the tooth fairy. Maybe we should put a million bucks into it, see what comes up?

    Of course in opposition, there IS all the evidence of parents putting money under pillows. But, there is also a lot of evidence of con-artists faking energy healing. And just because some parent’s are con-artists doesn’t mean that ALL the money came from parents.

  24. BillyJoe says:

    lizkat,

    You want scientists to take energy medicine seriously. Right?

    Well, scientists WILL take energy medicine seriously when they are shown either one of the following:
    - mechanism.
    - clinical evidence.

    Mechanism:
    You have suggested a couple of possible mechanisms and you have been shown how these cannot be the mechanism for energy medicine. Unfortunately, it seems you don’t have sufficient knowledge of these fields of physics to understand the arguments against your suggestions, even though they have been put as simply as possible.
    Also it is not sufficient to throw up your hands and say: “well, there might be some as yet unknown mechanism” because there might be an as yet unknown mechanism for almost anything you could come up with.

    Clinical evidence:
    Of course the reason that you say: “there might/must be some unknown mechanism” is because you are swayed/convinced that there is clinical evidence of an effect of energy healing. At this point your lack of knowledge centres around what constitutes a good quality clinical trial and you lack the experience to evaluate clinical trials properly and to understand the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

    So its a circle for you. Your lack of knowledge about clinical trials allow you to conclude that there is evidence for energy medicine, and your conclusion that there is clinical evidence of an effect for energy medicine allows you to say that there could be or must be some as yet unknown mechanism for energy medicine, which would be an absurd thing to say if there was actually no clinical evidence for an effect of energy medicine, which your lack of knowledge of clincal trials prevents you from seeing is exactly the case.

    Unfortunately, we can argue till the cats come home, but unless you obtain the necessary knowledge in these matters of science, we will fail to convince you that your position on energy healing is unscientific and untenable.

    regards,
    BillyJoe

  25. wales says:

    For those interested in learning more about physics’ quantum enigma, these books are all written by physicists:

    Einstein’s Moon, Bell’s Theorem and the Curious Quest for Quantum Reality (1991) by F. David Peat

    From Paradox to Reality: Our New Concepts of the Physical World (1989) by Fritz Rohrlich

    Quantum Physics: A First Encounter: Interference, Entanglement and Reality (2006) by Valerio Scarani

    On Physics and Philosophy (2006) by Bernard d’Espagnat

    Quantum Reality: Beyond the New Physics (1987) by Nick Herbert

  26. BillyJoe says:

    Wales,

    If you want see what’s really going on, get out of your office and come down to the work floor once in a while.

    It is a pity after reading all those books that you cannot actually discus the topic without quoting extensively from them. There comes a time when you really have to consider putting in your own words the things you have learned. Only when you do this will it actually become clear, to you and everyone else, that you have understood what you have read or what ti si that you ahve understood. An inability to repond effectively to those who have a different interpretation is a sure sign that you have either not understood what you have read, or that you have read the wrong books and only the wrong books.

  27. BillyJoe says:

    I’m beginning to think it’s the authors wales reads.
    Here are quotes from two of the authors he mentions:

    Bernard d’Espagnat:
    “I believe we ultimately come from a superior entity to which awe and respect is due and which we shouldn’t try to approach by trying to conceptualize too much. It’s more a question of feeling.”

    Nick Herbert”
    “So the real question is why is telepathy so dilute? I would expect a proper science to explain that fact. Then, of course once we had that explanation, we could increase it, make it greater, or overcome the diluteness if you didn’t want to have telepathic contact with certain people.”

  28. micheleinmichigan says:

    BillyJoe on 06 Mar 2010 at 1:31 am

    “I’m beginning to think it’s the authors wales reads.
    Here are quotes from two of the authors he mentions:
    etc.”

    Well, that’s not quite fair. Just because someone’s wrote something crazy once doesn’t mean they are completely unreliable. I’d have to find the books you quoted and read them to even see if the quotes are an true representation of what they were saying. I’ve been burned by quotes to many times. And even if they are accurate that doesn’t tell me that the rest of their work isn’t brilliant. Even a great batter strikes out sometimes.

    Wales, on the other hand. You are not going to be able to convince me by giving me a book list to read. I’m happy to educate myself, but I do have my own priorities. If you want to be convincing, you have to give me a plausible summary of how some sort of psychic energy could be connected to quantum physics beyond “it’s mysterious, we don’t really know what’s happening” Unfortunately, I think that BillyJoe already refuted the “observer” theory pretty well*.

    Of course, I will concede that you may have no interest convincing me, in which case, ignore my advice.

    *Which corrected a misconception of mine and made me aware of how foolish one of my blog postings looks to a physicist. Gee… thanks BillyJoe. :)

  29. wales says:

    It appears that Billy Joe’s point (in trying to discredit physicists d’Espagnat and Herbert by cherry picking quotes, which incidentally has been attempted by others with regard to Einstein as well) is that scientists who are open to the possibility of the paranormal or spirituality cannot perform accurate science. Well there are many examples which disprove this idea, but let’s take an obvious one: nobel laureate physicist Brian Josephson. Though I suppose it’s possible he was awarded the nobel prize in error…….

    Michele, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. I leave that to others who are certain they know all the answers. I simply offer sources that I have found to be educational. The idea that Billy Joe (who I assume is not a physicist) has successfully “refuted” the observer theory is amusing. I guess he had better quickly inform all those physicists who are still uncertain about what’s really going on.

  30. weing says:

    I’m not sure you can really say that. Take Linus Pauling for example. Brilliant guy, one of my heroes. But a fruitcake when it comes to medicine. I think we are all susceptible to the irrational. BTW my Teaching Company course in QM just arrived.

  31. BillyJoe says:

    micheleinmichigan,

    “Well, that’s not quite fair. Just because someone’s wrote something crazy once doesn’t mean they are completely unreliable. ”

    Yes you are right .
    But, in the case of these two individuals, the quotes are actually representative of their preconceived ideas about the paranormal that drive their rather quirky interpretation of quantum physics.

  32. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “Billy Joe.. trying to discredit physicists d’Espagnat and Herbert by cherry picking quotes”

    Unlike micheleinmichigan, you are obviously familiar with the writings of these two individuals, so you must know that what you wrote above about cherry picking is not true.

    “which incidentally has been attempted by others with regard to Einstein as well”

    That is a logical fallacy. Meaning that you can’t use this as an argument in support of d’Espagnat. In other words, just because someone said this about Einstein and it turned out not to be true, doesn’t mean that the same thing is true about d’Espagnat.

    “It appears that Billy Joe’s point…is that scientists who are open to the possibility of the paranormal or spirituality cannot perform accurate science.”

    That is not actually my point.
    In fact, I don’t even believe that to be true.
    My point is that these physicists have allowed an underlying belief in the paranormal to cloud their *interpretation* of the valid science that they (and others) have performed. It has nothing to do with the physics itself but their philosophical interpretation of physics.

    I still don’t know, though, whether they believe that nonsense about the significance of the observer or whether that is just your misinterpretation of what they have said.

  33. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    “Michele, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything. I leave that to others who are certain they know all the answers.”

    That is not fair.
    I don’t know all the answers, and I have never said so.
    But I do know that you have a misunderstanding about the significance of the “observer”.

    “I simply offer sources that I have found to be educational. The idea that Billy Joe (who I assume is not a physicist) has successfully “refuted” the observer theory is amusing.”

    What I said was also meant to be educational.
    And it would be more accurate to say that I have explained a common misunderstanding about the observer.

    ” I guess he had better quickly inform all those physicists who are still uncertain about what’s really going on.”

    Most physicists are already well aware of this misunderstanding.

    But, anyway, I think the ball is now in your court:
    If you are so convinced that I am wrong, please point out exactly where I have made my mistake. Please show me the result of any experiment in quantum physics that demonstrates that my understanding of the observer is incorrect.

  34. wales says:

    “Most physicists are already well aware of this misunderstanding.” If you read any of the books I’ve cited you’ll realize that some physicists, granted a minority (though some nobel laureates and some from our finest universities) believe that the observer and nonlocality problems cannot be dismissed or reconciled by any particular interpretation. The physicists who question conventional wisdom on these topics are not doing so out of ignorance or misunderstanding.

    The ball isn’t in my court, I don’t consider this a debate. We agree on one thing, there are the undisputed scientific facts of quantum theory, and there are the interpretations of those facts. Given the odd experimentally verified facts of the observer/measurement problem and of nonlocality/entanglement, I am interested in exploring the interpretations of the physicists who question the “conventional” or “practical” viewpoint. Go Weing go.

  35. micheleinmichigan says:

    “Michele, I am not trying to convince anyone of anything.”

    Fair enough. my bad then.

  36. BillyJoe says:

    wales,

    (First of all, thank you for pointing out that the authors you have referenced hold minority opinions and that their subject is the *philosophical interpretation* of quantum physics.)

    I will state this one last time:
    You have misunderstood the meaning of the word “observer”.
    (…as I have explained to you before)

    This is a fact that you seem unwilling to face.
    No quantum experiment ever done supports your version of the observer.
    If you disagree, please point to one that does.
    I will promise to have a look and demonstrate to you that it doesn’t mean what you think it means.

    ——————-

    Here is an example of how easy it is to misread or misunderstand something.
    This is from d’Espagnat:

    “two particles that have once interacted always remain bound in a very strange, hardly understandable way even when they are far apart, the connection being independent of distance.”

    The problem word here is *always*
    He actually means “always – provided neither of them interacts with any other particle”. As soon as these particles start interacting with other particles, the connection quickly fades and is lost. But, unless you had some grounding in quantum physics, you would not know that would you?
    Of course, he doesn’t really mean *particle* either does he?

    And just in case you think this is all about you, I must tell you that I had haboured the same misunderstanding that you seem to have about the observer untill these misunderstandings were pointed out to me. I also thought that *always*, as in the above quote, meant *always* and was surprised when it was pointed out to me that this was not so and was not even intended to mean that.

    —————

    “We agree on one thing, there are the undisputed scientific facts of quantum theory, and there are the interpretations of those facts.”

    No we don’t.
    That is the problem.
    It is an undisputable fact that consciousness plays no role in experiments in quantum physics.

    You, and the authors you reference are entitled to your philosophical interpretations of the facts, but you are not entitled to your facts. If your authors think that the consciousness plays a part in experiments in quantum physics, they are simply denying the facts of the matter. If their philosophy is based on these erroneous “facts”, then their philosophy has no grounding in reality.

  37. wales says:

    “You have misunderstood the meaning of the word “observer”.
    (…as I have explained to you before)” Perhaps, but if the authors I have cited also misunderstand it, then I am curious as to why. Amongst physicists there are a variety of opinions on the matter. As physicist David Mermin says “Does quantum mechanics give consciousness a special role to play in our description of the physical world? Opinions range all over the map.” (American Journal of Physics, March 2007)

    Why you insist that these authors are not saying what they clearly state they are saying is interesting, given that you have not read the books. The authors write with great clarity and one of their explicit messages is precisely that they do not want the reader to misunderstand their interpretation.

    “He actually means “always…….”. How can you know what d’Espagnat “actually” means, not having read his book?

    I don’t know who has “pointed out” your previous “misunderstanding” about physics and has helped you achieve physics enlightenment, (interesting that you rely upon this “source” as the ultimate truth, but dismiss the authors I have cited as “denying the facts of the matter”) but there are others with as much or more scientific expertise who differ in opinion. Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. I have nothing more to say.

  38. pmoran says:

    I cannot see how Billyjoe and his physicists can be wrong, if human awareness of quantum effects is limited to what inanimate detectors show.

    Is there any independent evidence of human consciousness being involved? Might that not require observers examining the same printout and seeing something quite different?

  39. BillyJoe says:

    wales.

    “Perhaps, but if the authors I have cited also misunderstand it, then I am curious as to why.”

    I don’t know. My inclination is to think that they are driven by preconceived ideas about how they would like things to be. It seems to me that most of them have a firm belief in something beyond the physical.

    “Amongst physicists there are a variety of opinions on the matter.”

    But those who reject the straight forward understanding of the word “observe” in quantum experiments must surely be in the minority.

    “Why you insist that these authors are not saying what they clearly state they are saying is interesting, given that you have not read the books. The authors write with great clarity and one of their explicit messages is precisely that they do not want the reader to misunderstand their interpretation.”

    I have not read books by those authors, but I have read others, perhaps half a dozen, and all them trying their best to be really clear about what they are saying. Nevertheless it took direct discussion with actual physicists – admittedly in a forum setting – with whom I could actually interact and ask questions, to set me straight. And it all makes perfect sense.

    BillyJoe said: “He actually means “always…….”.
    wales replied: “How can you know what d’Espagnat “actually” means, not having read his book?”

    I am merely assuming d’Espagnat actually knows something about quantum physics – after all, his bio says he worked with John Bell and Alain Aspect who between them resolved the EPR paradox – so he would know that entanglement is lost once the particles interact with other particles.

    “I don’t know who has “pointed out” your previous “misunderstanding” about physics and has helped you achieve physics enlightenment, (interesting that you rely upon this “source” as the ultimate truth, but dismiss the authors I have cited as “denying the facts of the matter”) but there are others with as much or more scientific expertise who differ in opinion.”

    The thing is it all suddenly makes sense once you realise that “the observer” simply “the detection device”. Especially when it is then pointed out to you that consciousness cannot alter the result of the experiment.

    As you said yourself the outcome of experiments in quantum physics are amonst the most accurate in any field. They are completely predictable. You set it up this way and you will get this result. You set it up that way and you get that result. All completely and utterly predictable outcomes. Where could consciousness possibly enter into such a picture of quantum physics. And where are the experiments that demonstrate that you can use your conscious mind to change the predicted result. There aren’t any? Doesn’t that surprise you? Why are there no such experiments? Simply because there’s no need to. When those experimenter said “the observer” they simply meant “the detection device”.

    ” Let’s just agree to disagree on this one. I have nothing more to say.”

    Okay, I can’t hope to persuade you in the space of a week that a view, that has taken years of reading books to arrive at, is wrong. May I simply ask you to do this. Go back and read the details of, for example, the double slit experiment and see whether taking “the oberver” to mean “the detection device” makes sense. Then tackle a few of the other scenarios. I think you will be as surprised as I was.

    regards,
    BillyJoe

  40. BillyJoe says:

    Here is an example of what I mean when I said that these scientists have “a firm belief in something beyond the physical”.
    All these quotes are from d’Espagnat:

    “[I am] convinced that those among our contemporaries who believe in a spiritual dimension of existence and live up to it are, when all is said, fully right”.

    “underlying…empirical reality is a mysterious, non-conceptualisable ultimate reality, not embedded in space and (presumably) not in time either.”

    “Partly from my own intuition and partly from my physics I came to the view that there is something that is greater than us in every respect,”

    “When we hear great classical music or look at very great paintings, they are not just illusions but could be a revelation of something fundamental.”

    “Mystery is not something negative that has to be eliminated. On the contrary, it is one of the constitutive elements of being”

    “contrary to those who claim that matter is the only reality, the possibility that other means, including spirituality, may also provide a window on ultimate reality cannot be ruled out, even by cogent scientific arguments.”

    —————-

    You will note that he says that the spiritual cannot be ruled out by science, not that science proves the spiritual; and that it is more an appeal to intuition rather than an appeal to science that convinces him of the existence of the spiritual realm.
    Science, of course, seeks natural explanation for phenomena.

  41. micheleinmichigan says:

    Hmmm, well generally I’d have to say I agree on everyone one of d’Espagnat points. They tie into what I was talking about earlier (existentialism, etc)

    But, his words usage leaves things very open to semantic interpretation. “matter is the only reality,” well define reality? etc.

    So I think that when I read these statement they come across as philosophical and they do not suggest a disconnect to the information you presented regarding quantum physics.

    It sounds to me, when you read the statements you do see a disconnect.

  42. micheleinmichigan says:

    But I will admit, the your last paragraph suggests I may be interpreting your comment wrong?

  43. micheleinmichigan says:

    Oh shoot, I was bottom up reading and somehow missed the “firm belief in something beyond the physical” reference. So now I get the point.

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