Arguments from authority?

Round-Earth is just a theoryDespite appearances, there is a fundamental difference between arguments from authority (or from majority) and scientific knowledge. That fundamental difference is that attacks, independent verification and repeatability are not only expected but necessary to the whole process.

To dumb it down in the extreme, I know that Thailand exists although I've never been there. Not just because people say so, but because I could go there and verify. I don't need to go there, just being able to is enough.

A fallout of it is that democratization of that knowledge, its diffusion to people who may feel they don't have access to it, is possible. There are good authors out there who can explain scientific theories in ways that you will not only understand but that will give you the keys that you need to trust that it's actual solid knowledge and not just speculations. If you need more than that, there is nothing that is ever inaccessible. Even the experiments at the LHC are accessible if you know where to look. That is by design.

Pseudo-sciences, in contrast, tend to only raise objections to established scientific theories, and do not provide the means to verify their claims. Although they are usually easy to refute, objections to those refutations often do exist. That doesn't give all those objections the same value, nor does it make their truth a matter of opinion. Those things are verifiable and verified. The very fact that you too could (not have but could) verify the validity of knowledge and evidence is what makes it more trustworthy than any argument from authority.

For example, flat-earthers do exist, their objections to a round-Earth are well known, and are easily refuted, but those guys do have refutations for those refutations that could look convincing in a vacuum.

I can show you how to set-up simple experiments to show that the Earth is round, and it should convince anyone in their right minds, but it won't convince flat-earthers, who are not in their right minds, and who will have objections for each of those experiments and objections. Or they will ignore the arguments and keep repeating the same BS. Creationists are doing the exact same thing.

There is an easy way to recognize pseudo-science for what it is though: so-called creation science has not resulted in a single real world application. You don't have to and shouldn't consider creationism or flat-earthism in a vacuum to judge whether they are likely or not to be true. All you have to do is see whether it *works*. Creationism and flat-earthism have produced nothing and just don't work. On the other hand, you need General Relativity for GPS to work, you need Quantum Mechanics for computers to work, and you need Evolution for biology, medicine and genetic engineering to work.

Tags: Science

Saturday, March 31, 2012 4:23:13 PM

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