Weekly Rochester Events #314: Where in Franklin is Armory High?
Thursday, January 13, 2005I had some ideology I wanted to spread around but I almost forgot. This week's ingredient is "pseudo-science." That movie White Noise got me thinking about it again. Also, The Filthy Critic reviewed it this week which reminded me again. My friend Peri even approached the topic in her journal. Then I remembered that Dr. Robert L. Park wrote an article last year titled The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science which was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education (among other places.)
The question to me is, "how can you prove that something is pseudo-science?" Maybe I should start with "what is pseudo-science and why does it suck so bad?" I guess the name is somewhat self-explanatory, but for the rest of you, it's generally using the language of science in relation to something non-scientific. And science is "the observation, identification, description, experimental investigation, and theoretical explanation of phenomena," at least according to The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 1992, Houghton Mifflin; 1994, INSO Corporation.
Dr. Park's article deals primarily with devices that are based on bogus scientific claims — his point was to help educate judges on when they should consult an independent expert. I'm more concerned with how to derail the scientific clout of a pseudo-science claim without coming off as a complete asshole. I've seen a lot of skeptics resort to mockery and name-calling because it's so obvious to them that a claim is bogus that they can only conclude everyone else is just stupid. For instance, check out The Skeptics Dictionary's article on electronic voice phenomenon.
I just went to The American Association of Electronic Voice Phenomena to see if I could get a better explanation, and here's their answer to "How are EVP messages formed?" from their FAQ:
There is considerable speculation about this question and much of the past and present research is designed to provide a definite answer. The short answer that appears to be emerging from the research is that there is mind-to-mind communication between the communicating entity and the experimenter. The experimenter functions as a medium for this exchange in much the same way that spirit mediums bring messages to the physical. The message, itself, is then thought to be telekinetically impressed into the recording media. Even though the evidence seems to support this view, it is apparent that the experimenter is normally unaware of his or her part in this transfer of information.
To me, this screams of pseudo-science bullshit. See, there are three underlying assumptions: mind-to-mind communication is possible, there exists an entity that is communicating, and telekinesis is possible. With each of these, the answer is "maybe, but it's never been definitively proven but nobody has definitively disproved it either." The paths of research run dry pretty quick, as each of them fails to be demonstrable in a scientifically controlled setting (at least not yet.)
... While its effectiveness was well established, it was not until 1971 that doctors learned the secret of why aspirin was so effective in relieving pain. The process was discovered by British pharmacologist Sir John Vane, who found that aspirin worked by inhibiting the body's production of a hormone-like substance called prostaglandin, which is one of the building blocks that causes pain by stimulating muscle contractions and blood vessel dilation.
With this explanation, I have definitive hooks to start from. The underlying assumptions are that there is a substance called prostaglandin that causes pain, and aspirin reduces the effectiveness of prostaglandin to reduce pain. From here, I can do further research: Does prostaglandin really cause pain? Do people in pain have more prostaglandin than those who don't? If I increase the amount of prostaglandin in someone, do they experience pain? How does aspirin affect prostaglandin? Even if the rationale is wrong, I can at least check the work of the author and make a determination for myself.
My point is that the underlying theory behind pseudo-science is usually poorly formed. What surprises me is that Dr. Park danced around this concept in his article but didn't state it directly. To me, this is the keystone to differentiating scientific theories from pseudo-science theories: the more a theory of operation is based on assumptions that are difficult or impossible to prove, the more likely it is to be pseudo-science.
Science is based on building a foundation of knowledge then using that foundation to make new discoveries. The idea is to take many simple steps to construct complex understanding. On the other hand, pseudo-science is based on taking giant leaps and simply ignoring the intermediate steps. While this method may be shown to be viable, it is not science, but by co-opting the terminology of science, it only reinforces its fraudulent nature.
Last week I quietly introduced a new icon for MySpace.com, , which links to a band's page on that site. I keep finding lots of bands — particularly local ones — using MySpace since it seems to be pretty easy to include their music for web broadcast with or without the ability to download it.
Hmm ... what else ... I also managed to break then fix then break then replace and fix then break then fix one of the crank arms on my winter bike. (Did you get all that?) These are the kind with the squared off axle that fits into a square hole on the crank arm. Periodically the right side arm would get loose and it would dent the square hole. Well, it finally got so bad that there was no way to get it to stay on. My first attempt to fix it was to use aluminum solder to restore the original shape of the hole, but I don't have the right tools, so I tried using a strip of sheet metal to make the square axle larger, but that broke right away.
From there I bought a new crank arm and installed it but in my haste, I either bought the wrong side or I cross-threaded the pedal. I tightened it in hard to see if that would work, but alas no: I stripped the threads right out. So, I figured I'd try the aluminum solder again to restore enough material to cut threads. I did that, then notched the hardened steel threads to roughly approximate a tap. I threaded the pedal into the blank hole and successfully pulled it off. Or, I guess, didn't pull it off. At all. Even when I put all my weight on it trying to get it to strip out. Hooray!
Aside from that, I made it out to Kelli's party for Chad on Friday, and several other shows ... unfortunately, nothing so exciting to write about that I can actually stay awake to do it, so it looks like it's pretty much time to go to bed for me.
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On this day ... January 13
Link of the Week:
Here are some links to organizations that are aiding the relief effort for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsumai on December 26. Please give to their general funds so they can distribute money in a way that makes the most sense.
The American Red Cross is a humanitarian organization led by volunteers that provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies. They are supporting the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) appeal for basic materials for survival and personnel.
Unicef focuses on child protection and immunizations, as well as helping countries in crisis with emergency assistance.
Oxfam International is a confederation of 12 organizations working together to find lasting solutions to poverty, suffering and injustice. They are providing emergency aid equipment to help in disaster relief.
American Red Cross Disaster Relief page is an Amazon.com donation page and it's among the easiest ways to donate from if you're an Amazon.com customer.
is the updated I did on December 30 with the chain letter these links.
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Rochester Music Coalition
Rochester Goes Out (D&C)
Rochester Punk Rock
WGMC Jazz Calendar
Delusions of Adequacy
Mystery and Misery
Kids Out and About
Movie links courtesy The Internet Movie Database. Map links courtesy MapsOnUs. Some movie synopses courtesy UpcomingMovies.com
About the title ... Armory High was located at 314 S Franklin St. in Syracuse. I guess it's now a club called Foundation.
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