As we gradually figure out what categories we might want to have, one area that I wonder about concerns topics about pseudoscience, or “alternative science” to be more kind. As you know, we get the occasional supporter of the Electric Universe, Nibiru, “I have a revolutionary idea,” and the like. Should we have an area for this kind of thing on the forum? I have my own thoughts, but I’d like to hear yours.
I would not carve out a distinct place for it. If/When it creeps in, we should respond to it and debate it as needed but at the same time try not to give it too much credibility.
If you do carve out a category for it, it should be titled “Debunking Pseudoscience” or something similar.
Final Answer: Nay
I’m sort of on the fence. Sorry. I can see where there is the need to allow it for discussion - but not to give so much allowance as to lend credence to it. It being those things you listed: electric universe, even flat earth. There are enough of those sites and posters to have their own… convention.
I tend to agree that a “debunking alternative science” section might prove useful, since this forum is for those of us wanting to learn, without all the insults and just flat-out crazies that post all sorts of things. That said, intelligent discussion of topics like how the Apollo crews avoided the V/A radiation belts would be enlightening, etc.
So again, still on the fence…
A healthy mod group will make a lot of things easier. I feel the big concern is going off rails and ending up with a hostile forum. But if there is a good group of moderators, most of that can be caught before it gets out of hand. Maybe give someone the last word on a thread then just shut it down.
One of the reasons I chose to use this particular platform (discourse) for the forum is that it tries to encourage good moderation. As folks gain reputation as a good contributor they gain moderation privileges. Ideally, setting a good tone overall will foster thoughtful discussion on all topics.
When I hear “pseudoscience” a long laundry list of things pop up, everything from “the Earth is flat” to “this study proves remote prayer promotes healing!” I don’t think you could have one policy that addresses every kind of misconception.
@briankoberlein, do you have a working list of categories you would like to share with the group?
The only ones I’m pretty sure of is a blog category for individual post comments, and this one for discussions about the site. Other than that I’m open to ideas. I’m also sure it will evolve and change over time.
I vote Yes, not because I think any of it has any validity, necessarily, but because it gives us a place to send people when they go into that. If comments on a legitimate thread begin to drift into the EU stuff, we can direct people to take that conversation to the EU thread in the Alternative Science section. Your intro to that forum could be kindly worded such that people don’t feel like they’re being dismissed or ignored. In my opinion, we want to encourage discussion, but not go terribly off-topic.
If there is a place for it, perhaps comments & posts can be moved to the Alt Science forum.
As a means of equipping all defenders of good science with adequate identification and robust debunking arguments such a section should be there. Often a good cause is lost when defender uses inadequate arguments in local debates. On the title I am not so sure. Pseudo science seems to label a category as false, and alternate science seems to elevate it to a higher status.
I think a section that takes some of these unfounded/wrong ideas and shows why the various arguments made for them don’t stand up to scrutiny would be helpful.
I agree that it would be helpful to have a reference for debunked ideas, even if it is only a sticky post with links to your previous articles.
I am reminded of Wegener and continental drift: we want to distinguish between unproven and disproven.
I like the idea of having sticky posts, @Barthel. Just a static list of well written posts that can be referenced.
For me I’m a bit on the fence. On the one hand, we don’t want to give pseudoscience more credence than it’s due, but I also think that clear (and not belittling) rebuttals on why we dismiss the ideas can be useful to people on the fence.
In that case, @briankoberlein, I say do nothing for now and just play it by ear. We have thrown around some ideas on how to handle it. Now let’s just wait and see if it actually becomes a problem here.
I’m for. Ain’t science itself arise itself from mud without all trial and error from the beginning. All we talk can be accidentally true or false. Two way is always the best. All constructive ideas should be welcomed. It should be easy to determine who went off the tracks too much and who gives all he/she can to benefit the cause. Educated advice and easy push toward right way shouldn’t be bigge.
That is my opinion.
In my experience, @dRNAcro, conversations about pseudoscience often pull everyone into an odd world where the laws of physics no longer apply. It is really difficult to reason when there is no common basic foundation of scientific fact to rest on. Plus, some of the people who go in this direction do it for the laughs and purposely try to get other people worked up. I want to be able to share information for those who might be genuinely curious but not build a playground for trolls.
Just to be clear, I don’t want this forum to be MY way. I want it to be OUR way. Yes, I plan on using the forum for blog comments, but I also really want this to grow into a thoughtful community if it can. Together we can raise the bar on scientific discourse on the web.
I think that there does need to be an area for pseudoscience, if only to be used to debunk the latest “discoveries” and point people to “real” science answers. So I say “yes”, but it will need some very diligent, and unbiased, moderation to prevent it becoming a free for all.