5

votes

What other academic disciplines are as misrepresented as nutrition?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 24, 2011 at 11:24 PM

As a disclaimer, I know there are exceptions. There are some universities and professors who are extremely diligent in their search for the truth. Also, there is rarely any one correct answer to any field.

However, it has become apparent to me (studying kinesiology and nutrition) that in certain disciplines, the commonly accepted viewpoints are completely off base from the true nature of the issue.

Any obvious example to everyone here is nutrition- no need for further detail on that.

Also medicine as it is normally practiced.

After taking several economics and poly-sci classes and doing a lot of outside reading, I've decided that economics fits in to this category as well.

I don't have the information to evaluate this properly, but climate may be another one.

We have a lot of really smart people with a wide variety of specialties on this board, and I'm interested to hear what you think

What other academic disciplines do not represent the preponderance of quality evidence?

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 17, 2011
at 10:14 PM

@Jayan, I think sociology is following modern econ into GIGO-land. The math gives a false sense of precision.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:54 AM

By 'evolutionary' I mean gold floats, dross sinks on bodybuilding boards.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Bodybuilding. It's got the evolutionary mechanism that academia wishes it had.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Nice. Forgot how sucky 'climate science' is.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:52 AM

Absolutely right on econ. Maybe 3 departments in US are even remotely Austrian (GMU, Auburn, Hampton-Sidney, sprinkling elsewhere), meaning 99% of professional economists have no idea what they are doing.

2afe070b43de645b908b3cb1f4723811

(144)

on February 05, 2011
at 11:28 AM

It all started, of course, with the special theory of relativity (at base an action at a distance theory) and its concomitant rejection of aether (an ontologically necessary concept, imho.) Fields could then become mythical un-mediated 'things' described by mathematical equations. To add further philosophically unsound woes to what was still a decent science at the time, Einstein then went and introduced a further dualism, via the photon concept. After that, well... as you put it, no one has a clue anymore.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:14 AM

"inanimate object" may have not been the right word for the universe. I mean it's not like a God, or a computer program. Science can only go based on facts. I personally like the idea of "The Force" from Star Wars. I wish that was real. Am I rambling? I like to ramble. Sorry.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:04 AM

How would it not require some consciousness? I would rather see these scientists admit that the theory needs an Observer. Say I could have not posted this answer to PaleoHacks. Are you telling me "the universe" splits off into another universe where I did not? The universe doesn't care about us. As far as we KNOW, it's an inanimate object with no relation to our actions and possible actions.

034c678bff434ab3781e3f1771018af9

(279)

on January 26, 2011
at 03:53 AM

The idea of "hard evidence" in sociology is really suspect. Dressing up sociology with numbers and statistical techniques doesn't necessarily make its findings any more valuable. I think this sort of stuff (i.e., scientism) probably misleads more than it helps.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 08:21 PM

Maybe it's silly. Or maybe it's true? I mean, the people who do this research aren't dumb. I don't think it would *require* a consciousness. In any case, it's unlikely we'll find the answer in our lifetimes. But before you say quantum physics is all spiritual/metaphysics, you should read up on what quantum physics actually is. We've been applying quantum mechanics to real life problems for almost a century now. Everything from transistors to lasers, information transmission of every kind, computers, televisions.. Saying it's all armchair science is a little silly.

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:09 PM

String Theory - hypothesis that can't really be tested by design... yet

9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on January 25, 2011
at 01:53 PM

All true. I come from a geology background, and know several paleoclimate researchers - the people who drill the rocks out of the ground and then spend years in university labs analyzing them. However, their information is re-interpreted and becomes very political, very quickly once the media and politicians get ahold of it. I would say that a lot gets blown WAY out of proportion or totally misunderstood, by BOTH sides. FWIW our department chair, who had done climate work in Antarctica, said he wasn't half as concerned about climate change as about corn being used for fuel instead of food.

9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on January 25, 2011
at 01:35 PM

I was also going to say economics as soon as I saw the question!

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:39 AM

Thanks for writing this Shirey. Climate change is something I have wondered about for a while, having heard good arguments for both sides, but never had the knowledge to truly evaluate the arguments. I appreciate your writing, very interesting. Could I possibly interest you in writing a guest article for my blog when you are well rested and feeling better?

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:19 AM

I like your last question there Eva- what things do we actually know a lot about? Not much apparently.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:11 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and physics mostly just lets us figure out more of exactly how much we don't know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics has.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:11 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and physics mostly just lets us figure out more of exactly how much we don't know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:10 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and Physics mostly just figures lets us figure out exactly how much we *don't* know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:08 AM

Sociology has made strong shift away from qualitative, more anthropological and philosophical research towards hard data, sophisticated statistics and quantitative research on broad trends. There are countless examples of social policies which a general consensus of sociologists knew were misguided and bound to fail, but they weren't listened to. One of the surprising things about sociology for me, was that over and over again common sense/trivially obvious facts turn out to be directly contradicted by hard evidence - and this has consequences. We really don't know ourselves all that well.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:07 AM

Sociology has made strong shift away from qualitative, more anthropological and philosophical research towards hard data a, sophisticated statistics and quantitative research on broad trends. There are countless examples of social policies which a general consensus of sociologists *knew* were misguided and bound to fail, but weren't listened to. One of the surprising things about sociology for me, was that over and over again common sense/trivially obvious facts turn out to be directly contradicted by hard evidence - and this has consequences. We really don't know ourselves all that well.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 04:52 AM

you make very good points, Eva. This is what most of us studying paleoclimate issues are trying to glean out of the geologic record: how bad is bad and how fast will anything happen, and what feedbacks will help or hinder the process. There are a lot of unknowns, and I cringe through anything that says definitively that a certain area will freeze over, or a certain species will go extinct. I go back to the Precautionary Principle and know that nature is complex and will always surprise us. Meanwhile, our "grand experiment" may be some Frankenstein we can't control. The signs are already here.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 04:02 AM

That said, some of the predictions about quantum mechanics are being proven in labs, but only under certain (unnatural, on Earth anyway) conditions. I have a bunch of my own curiosities about matter at absolute zero, but we haven't been able to achieve those temps as far as I know. I want to know if the "strong force" still holds atoms together at that point when all motion cease. In that light, dark matter might not be so mysterious.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I have to agree with you there. I've met some physicists who seem pretty "out there" and are convinced they'll discover a particle that will let them have sex with god. Umm, I mean, understand mysteries of the Universe. In the mainstream, Brian Greene is a big proponent of String "Theory" (hypothesis that can't really be tested by design... cough, cough...) and today was on NPR talking about parallel universes. Why? Well... because... or as he says in that String "Theory" program, "What if, just what if..." and it's all a bunch of A + B = 9,842,974,318,996, just because.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 25, 2011
at 03:44 AM

I was going to also say weather research, but not just because I think those pushing global warming may be wrong but also because I think those who are pushing that global warming is for sure wrong are also possibly wrong. I think too many people are claiming they know for sure what is going on when they don't. End result is the truth falls victim to political infighting.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 03:23 AM

Thanks, Melissa... It was a new (and pleasant) experience to write to an audience that I knew would be much more likely to do their own research about some of the things I posted and actually look things up. Although people into paleo diets certainly have varied views, I think one common thread is a desire to seek out information and make decisions based on education and experience, rather than ideology. After all, we've all made dietary sacrifices that most people would never consider doing long term due to comfort and familiarity!

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 25, 2011
at 02:18 AM

That was extremely interesting Shirley! Thanks so much for sharing!

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 01:18 AM

It would take weeks or months to write down just lists of all of the aspects that have been/are being misrepresented, but fortunately, www.skepticalscience.com has taken on that task. They've gotten close to 150 rebuttals written up now, and other than semantics, I can't disagree with any of the rebuttals. I started taking an interest in the subject 5-6 years ago, and 3-4 years ago, due to other environmental interests, I went back to school at 37, got a BS in Geoscientific Environmental Analysis and am now working on the Master's in geology, focusing on paleoclimate. More in an answer.

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 12:18 AM

Agreed, I'd like to hear your opinion and a little about what's led you there.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 25, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Great comment. I know that it's kind of (well alright, very) off-topic, but I'm sure that I'm not the only PaleoHacker* who'd be extremely interested if you posted a potted summary of your opinion on the misrepresentation of climate science. *Right guys?

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 24, 2011
at 11:51 PM

I think it's probably safe to say that the pharmaceutical industry is not big on proving something is wrong since they have big financial investments into formulations once they make it to the "proving" stage. That's about as scary as it can get (besides anything Monsanto-related, anyway) and the reason I won't take any meds that haven't been on the market for a good long while.

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 24, 2011
at 11:47 PM

I absolutely agree.. If you try to prove something wrong in as many ways as you can, and still fail, then it is a pretty good idea. If you use that principle on nutrition, it invalidates nearly every university's teachings, however they still teach it. I'm looking for the other disciplines where this same thing has happened.

50637dfd7dc7a7e811d82283f4f5fd10

(5838)

on January 24, 2011
at 11:46 PM

I think you're spot on with economics.

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6 Answers

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5
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 02:06 AM

So... since I was asked... and this seems to be a respectful group (and I know I'm opening myself up for the kind of headaches I get all over the place, from which I actively shield myself to some degree)... I'll write a little about what I do and why I decided to become a climate researcher.

I started out on my Bachelor of Science almost 4 years ago because some local environmental issues (a proposed industrial site, literally 'in my backyard) led me to learn something about myself: I love research. I had already been studying climate issues as a lay person for quite a few years, and especially reading up on whatever the latest denier arguments were. it usually went like this: I'd start with an open mind, start to really embrace what the denial argument was about, research further, and start to realize that Parts A, B and C were either omitted from the argument against the science, or some major aspect of their argument was simply wrong or without evidence completely. And then there are folks like Monckton, who just plain old make up lies. After dealing with him live in action for one of his lectures (for which he's paid an enormous amount of money), I can honestly say that I think he's convinced he can convince anyone of anything, and that's what he's currently getting off on. I think he really believes that as long as he behaves authoritative and condescendingly enough (he presents himself as an absolute genius, above all he encounters) that he can talk all of us simpletons into anything he feels like - mercury is safe to eat, DDT is harmless and banning it killed people (complete with sad pictures of poor starving African children) when basically, he's just a shill for Big Business. Not all deniers are shills for Big Oil or Big Business, but he most certainly is. He uses graphs that are zoomed into an area that shows a change in seasons while he talks about climate on a decadal scale. You have to really watch to see this, but he does it, and so convincingly and over the top. he's one who still insists that the Earth is actually cooling (and uses those zoomed in graphs from spring to winter to show it) when 2010 has turned out to be the second hottest on record. To be fair, I can be condescending myself, and it's something I've been working on, but this guy is way, way over the top.

Some of the others, like Heinrich Svensmark, just seemed hell bent on one idea and making a name for themselves and their pet idea. Svensmark thing is galactic cosmic rays. Unfortunately, he hasn't addressed the fact that we're in a deep solar minimum and average Earth temps are still increasing, for too long for his lag time to account for it.

And the other major problem - and this is perhaps more relevant to paleo (diet kind of paleo) is that even if pumping massive amounts of CO2 from out of the Earth and into the atmosphere wasn't causing the global temperatures to rise, it most certainly is turning the oceans acidic, and that's a huge base of the food web. When forams can't make shells, massive extinctions occur across the oceans, and evidence for such events can be found in the rock record.

So instead of climate modelling which seems to be the only kind of climate science most people are familiar with, I started studying how climate has changed in the past (paleoclimate). The Earth has seen some big changes, and there are only a few known big drivers for climate change, and of course, these factors can work together or against each other (feedbacks) in big or small ways. That's where the big unknowns for us today and going into the future. It's not "If" but "What and how much and how fast?" basically.

The main drivers are:

Milankovitch Cycles: this is the change in the Earth's axis, orbit and "wobble" which affect how much energy the sun's rays have when they hit the Earth. The Wikipedia entry has some good pictures and more details. These aspects are affected by the Sun and the gravitational pull from Jupiter and Saturn, and operate no 1,000-10,000-100,000 years, all too small to be noticed in a few generations.

Changes in Atmospheric Chemistry (Greenhouse gases): before human times, this would come from massive volcanic eruptions (like the Siberian Traps) or meteor impact, and some theorize conditions where massive upwelling of deep ocean water (where millennia of decayed stuff resides) could bring massive amounts of methane and other gases into the atmosphere. These sorts of changes could happen abruptly, say over decades or 100s or 1000s of years, which is still a blip geologically.

Plate Tectonics Geography: Pangea was one massive land body, so some areas would have been more sensitive to small changes than others. Once it started to break up and continents stared moving around again, climates in those locations would change dramatically, but over 10s of 1000s and 100s of 1000s of years and more.

Surface Albedo: This is how much of the sun's energy is reflected back off of the Earth's surface. The sun's rays come in as shortwave radiation, and are reflected back up off the Earth as longwave radiation, some of which is blocked by greenhouse gases, while some of it escapes back towards space. Albedo is more of a feedback than direct cause, but is a huge part of the Earth's energy budget. Light surfaces like snow, ice and even deserts reflect more of the sun's energy away than forest cover. As sea ice disappears, that dark open water won't be as reflective, and will instead slowly absorb and retain the incoming heat.

I know I'm probably missing something because I'm tired and haven't been feeling well over the past few days. A couple of good books to read are "The Two Mile Time Machine" which explains the ice cores and a lot of the science, and "Snowball Earth" which looks at the controversy about whether the Earth was once covered in ice, and the science behind it, and a lot about how some researchers might go about their work.

Something else I'd like to mention... one of the big misconceptions about "academics" that I have seen is that the profs are wealthy fat cats with lots of privilege. Maybe at expensive private schools, but I've only experienced researchers at state universities. They have to teach classes, deal with undergrads and grad students. Yes, they have TAs, but that also comes with training, oversight and meetings. They have to scramble for grant money so thay can pay for students to go to school and bring in equipment, and part of this is encouraged by the university to bring prestige to the school. They have a lot of meetings, they have to promote the department, they have to set up lecture series, they have to advise students, have office hours, and oh yeah... do their own research and get published... regularly. I often don't know how they do it or how they manage to have lives outside of the U.

Well, that was a book... honestly, I was so tired when I started writing that I didn't think I'd have much to say... hope some of it is useful. What I come away with at the end of the day with all of this is that ocean acidification is probably as bad or worse than the effects of warming, because once ocean life dies off, a lot goes with it, and feedstocks and balance are already stressed by overfishing. The other thing I take away each day is that it's sad to me that we don't live by the Precautionary Principle, and instead, leave every thing from chemicals to pharmaceuticals to global climate to chance instead of putting safety first.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 03:23 AM

Thanks, Melissa... It was a new (and pleasant) experience to write to an audience that I knew would be much more likely to do their own research about some of the things I posted and actually look things up. Although people into paleo diets certainly have varied views, I think one common thread is a desire to seek out information and make decisions based on education and experience, rather than ideology. After all, we've all made dietary sacrifices that most people would never consider doing long term due to comfort and familiarity!

9722850c9a1c47b79edf7c4233040248

(1276)

on January 25, 2011
at 01:53 PM

All true. I come from a geology background, and know several paleoclimate researchers - the people who drill the rocks out of the ground and then spend years in university labs analyzing them. However, their information is re-interpreted and becomes very political, very quickly once the media and politicians get ahold of it. I would say that a lot gets blown WAY out of proportion or totally misunderstood, by BOTH sides. FWIW our department chair, who had done climate work in Antarctica, said he wasn't half as concerned about climate change as about corn being used for fuel instead of food.

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:39 AM

Thanks for writing this Shirey. Climate change is something I have wondered about for a while, having heard good arguments for both sides, but never had the knowledge to truly evaluate the arguments. I appreciate your writing, very interesting. Could I possibly interest you in writing a guest article for my blog when you are well rested and feeling better?

7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

(18701)

on January 25, 2011
at 02:18 AM

That was extremely interesting Shirley! Thanks so much for sharing!

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Nice. Forgot how sucky 'climate science' is.

2
C1c86f42410cd4788bd9c5cf801dcd8f

(2246)

on January 24, 2011
at 11:30 PM

Well, it depends.

A lot of stuff gets proven right, instead of trying to be proven wrong.

What I am saying is for something to be accepted as right, first you must set out to try to prove it wrong in every possible way, if you can not prove your statement wrong then it is accepted as right.

At least when it comes to health and nutrition, i'm sure pretty much all other academic disciplines are similar it depends on were the funding for the research is coming and what that person/company funding the research wants the end result to be.

Not saying this is how all researchers operate, however I believe that the many that due out weigh the few.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 24, 2011
at 11:51 PM

I think it's probably safe to say that the pharmaceutical industry is not big on proving something is wrong since they have big financial investments into formulations once they make it to the "proving" stage. That's about as scary as it can get (besides anything Monsanto-related, anyway) and the reason I won't take any meds that haven't been on the market for a good long while.

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 24, 2011
at 11:47 PM

I absolutely agree.. If you try to prove something wrong in as many ways as you can, and still fail, then it is a pretty good idea. If you use that principle on nutrition, it invalidates nearly every university's teachings, however they still teach it. I'm looking for the other disciplines where this same thing has happened.

1
8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:01 PM

Quantum physics seems to be based on more spiritual/metaphysical ideas of the universe. Mostly theoretical things of course that can't be proven, but are fun to talk about. Parallel universes, time travel, etc.

I don't see time as a physical force that these physicists seem to. Time is just how we measure motion. Even without the movement of the Earth and the Sun (upon which our system of time is based), time would still be needed to organize our lives. Its existence in our life socially does not mean it is a real physical force.

The idea that a universe splits off based on possible events on Earth is just silly. That would need some kind of consciousness to the universe to organize the splitting off of universes based on observations of events.

Not that I am closed minded but these things are taken for granted by a lot of these quantum physicists. I think they would be let down if time travel was not possible.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/7904712/Quantum-time-machine-allows-paradox-free-time-travel.html

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:14 AM

"inanimate object" may have not been the right word for the universe. I mean it's not like a God, or a computer program. Science can only go based on facts. I personally like the idea of "The Force" from Star Wars. I wish that was real. Am I rambling? I like to ramble. Sorry.

8287c6ddae0d78eae0a09fdd5999617c

(2581)

on January 26, 2011
at 07:04 AM

How would it not require some consciousness? I would rather see these scientists admit that the theory needs an Observer. Say I could have not posted this answer to PaleoHacks. Are you telling me "the universe" splits off into another universe where I did not? The universe doesn't care about us. As far as we KNOW, it's an inanimate object with no relation to our actions and possible actions.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 08:21 PM

Maybe it's silly. Or maybe it's true? I mean, the people who do this research aren't dumb. I don't think it would *require* a consciousness. In any case, it's unlikely we'll find the answer in our lifetimes. But before you say quantum physics is all spiritual/metaphysics, you should read up on what quantum physics actually is. We've been applying quantum mechanics to real life problems for almost a century now. Everything from transistors to lasers, information transmission of every kind, computers, televisions.. Saying it's all armchair science is a little silly.

1
62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 25, 2011
at 03:53 AM

Physics is supposed to be a hard science right? But in my opinion, they have no clue. Once they got enough tech to look at what goes on at a very small level, what they found was total weirdness that they couldn't explain and they are still flailing to explain. Things like being in two places at once, spooky action at a distance, etc. They have no clue really. They don't even really understand basic things like gravity. It's all mostly just wild theory with little evidence at this point. But still very interesting and I don't blame them because looking at what they've found in the last 20 or 30 years, it's all just mind blowingly strange stuff!

Edited to add: Really the reverse question is what interests me.
What academic disciplines DO represent the preponderance of quality evidence? Are there any?

0bc6cbb653cdc5e82400f6da920f11eb

(19235)

on January 25, 2011
at 04:09 PM

String Theory - hypothesis that can't really be tested by design... yet

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:11 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and physics mostly just lets us figure out more of exactly how much we don't know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics has.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 04:02 AM

That said, some of the predictions about quantum mechanics are being proven in labs, but only under certain (unnatural, on Earth anyway) conditions. I have a bunch of my own curiosities about matter at absolute zero, but we haven't been able to achieve those temps as far as I know. I want to know if the "strong force" still holds atoms together at that point when all motion cease. In that light, dark matter might not be so mysterious.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 03:59 AM

I have to agree with you there. I've met some physicists who seem pretty "out there" and are convinced they'll discover a particle that will let them have sex with god. Umm, I mean, understand mysteries of the Universe. In the mainstream, Brian Greene is a big proponent of String "Theory" (hypothesis that can't really be tested by design... cough, cough...) and today was on NPR talking about parallel universes. Why? Well... because... or as he says in that String "Theory" program, "What if, just what if..." and it's all a bunch of A + B = 9,842,974,318,996, just because.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:11 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and physics mostly just lets us figure out more of exactly how much we don't know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 07:19 AM

I like your last question there Eva- what things do we actually know a lot about? Not much apparently.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:10 AM

? Sure quantum weirdness is baffling, and Physics mostly just figures lets us figure out exactly how much we *don't* know, but there are few disciplines that have resulted in as much applied science and improvements to our quality of life as physics.

2afe070b43de645b908b3cb1f4723811

(144)

on February 05, 2011
at 11:28 AM

It all started, of course, with the special theory of relativity (at base an action at a distance theory) and its concomitant rejection of aether (an ontologically necessary concept, imho.) Fields could then become mythical un-mediated 'things' described by mathematical equations. To add further philosophically unsound woes to what was still a decent science at the time, Einstein then went and introduced a further dualism, via the photon concept. After that, well... as you put it, no one has a clue anymore.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:54 AM

By 'evolutionary' I mean gold floats, dross sinks on bodybuilding boards.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 16, 2011
at 12:53 AM

Bodybuilding. It's got the evolutionary mechanism that academia wishes it had.

1
034c678bff434ab3781e3f1771018af9

(279)

on January 25, 2011
at 02:23 AM

You might pick on any of the soft/social science. Think of psychology, sociology, economics, etc. Most of these fields make great claims to truth. Their attempts at explaining behavior, much of the time, end up being dressed up, jargon-y statements of trivially obvious phenomena. Pretty much any "science" of human behavior is a joke.

034c678bff434ab3781e3f1771018af9

(279)

on January 26, 2011
at 03:53 AM

The idea of "hard evidence" in sociology is really suspect. Dressing up sociology with numbers and statistical techniques doesn't necessarily make its findings any more valuable. I think this sort of stuff (i.e., scientism) probably misleads more than it helps.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:07 AM

Sociology has made strong shift away from qualitative, more anthropological and philosophical research towards hard data a, sophisticated statistics and quantitative research on broad trends. There are countless examples of social policies which a general consensus of sociologists *knew* were misguided and bound to fail, but weren't listened to. One of the surprising things about sociology for me, was that over and over again common sense/trivially obvious facts turn out to be directly contradicted by hard evidence - and this has consequences. We really don't know ourselves all that well.

902a7cd8f96bbc917a04e92b1f49dbd7

(787)

on January 25, 2011
at 05:08 AM

Sociology has made strong shift away from qualitative, more anthropological and philosophical research towards hard data, sophisticated statistics and quantitative research on broad trends. There are countless examples of social policies which a general consensus of sociologists knew were misguided and bound to fail, but they weren't listened to. One of the surprising things about sociology for me, was that over and over again common sense/trivially obvious facts turn out to be directly contradicted by hard evidence - and this has consequences. We really don't know ourselves all that well.

13db020c06c22c2f8b129034ddc013e4

(340)

on May 17, 2011
at 10:14 PM

@Jayan, I think sociology is following modern econ into GIGO-land. The math gives a false sense of precision.

1
E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 24, 2011
at 11:49 PM

I've been studying climate science for a few years now. It's grossly, disturbingly misrepresented out there, and sometimes I ask myself why I put myself through that kind of aggravation! I'm a paleoclimate researcher, which is entirely unrelated to paleo diets. I look into what climate was doing in the past, currently during the Quaternary but my older research went way back into the Devonian.

I think a big problem with anything scientific (including nutrition, about which there is so much to still learn) is that reporters are generalists. They get things very wrong because they're just skimming the surface of ideas. They might go from a science story to a newborn animal at a zoo to a crime scene investigations, etc. They don't have time to dig deep, and then it becomes the Telephone Game among the viewers. With climate science, people are often protective because they don't want to feel responsible for changing their ways, so they read or hear what keeps them protected. And then the need for headlines...

I know someone who was an early researcher on zinc lozenges and colds. Their research was showing that if taken early enough and in high enough doses, prevention or lessening of severity of the cold became more likely. This is what their press releases stated (far more eloquently, I'm sure) but the headlines read "Cure for the Common Cold!" which was frustrating for the researchers.

The other problem is that people are busy (and some are lazy) so doing research, or knowing where to look for accurate information, is difficult, so they go by the sound bites they hear.

For these reasons, I think there will always be a strong level of disconnect between any kind of complex research and public knowledge about it.

E5d59ab6d79320caf1e991cdc7971326

(801)

on January 25, 2011
at 12:18 AM

Agreed, I'd like to hear your opinion and a little about what's led you there.

62ed65f3596aa2f62fa1d58a0c09f8c3

(20807)

on January 25, 2011
at 03:44 AM

I was going to also say weather research, but not just because I think those pushing global warming may be wrong but also because I think those who are pushing that global warming is for sure wrong are also possibly wrong. I think too many people are claiming they know for sure what is going on when they don't. End result is the truth falls victim to political infighting.

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 04:52 AM

you make very good points, Eva. This is what most of us studying paleoclimate issues are trying to glean out of the geologic record: how bad is bad and how fast will anything happen, and what feedbacks will help or hinder the process. There are a lot of unknowns, and I cringe through anything that says definitively that a certain area will freeze over, or a certain species will go extinct. I go back to the Precautionary Principle and know that nature is complex and will always surprise us. Meanwhile, our "grand experiment" may be some Frankenstein we can't control. The signs are already here.

Fa9f340eddbad9a544184c688fa4dcdd

(6433)

on January 25, 2011
at 12:03 AM

Great comment. I know that it's kind of (well alright, very) off-topic, but I'm sure that I'm not the only PaleoHacker* who'd be extremely interested if you posted a potted summary of your opinion on the misrepresentation of climate science. *Right guys?

E7be2ce38158357f5dacae07b43d1b29

on January 25, 2011
at 01:18 AM

It would take weeks or months to write down just lists of all of the aspects that have been/are being misrepresented, but fortunately, www.skepticalscience.com has taken on that task. They've gotten close to 150 rebuttals written up now, and other than semantics, I can't disagree with any of the rebuttals. I started taking an interest in the subject 5-6 years ago, and 3-4 years ago, due to other environmental interests, I went back to school at 37, got a BS in Geoscientific Environmental Analysis and am now working on the Master's in geology, focusing on paleoclimate. More in an answer.

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