Presentation on theme: "General Astronomy. Pseudoscience Crackpots, Fads and Fallacies –There are always individuals or groups who use what appears to be science (or religion)"— Presentation transcript:
Pseudoscience Crackpots, Fads and Fallacies –There are always individuals or groups who use what appears to be science (or religion) to mask some very odd ideas. –Some are actual beliefs –Some are scams –None are science
Some old Pseudosciences Flat Earth Hollow Earth – Old Version – New Version Astrology Spiritualism - Ghosts, Elves, Fairies -The Occult -Speaking to the Dead Dowsing Things that go bump in the night Vampires Lycanthropy Zombies Bigfoot (Sasquatch/Yeti) Trolls, Goblins and the 'Monster Under the Bed'
A Closer Look: Anti-Vaccination In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the United States. The anti-vaccine movement has managed to breathe life into nearly vanquished childhood diseases: measles, mumps, rubella, or chickenpox, pertussis (whooping cough) Let’s just look at measles Looks itchy… It is!
So What started this? In 1998, Dr. Andrew Wakefield published an article supposedly linking the MMR vaccine and autism. In 2010, Lancet retracted the article. Why? An investigation published by the British medical journal BMJ concluded the study's author, Dr. Andrew Wakefield, misrepresented or altered the medical histories of all 12 of the patients whose cases formed the basis of the 1998. Most of his co-authors withdrew their names from the study in 2004 after learning he had been paid by a law firm that intended to sue vaccine makers. Britain stripped Wakefield of his medical license – He has moved to Texas and has a following there.
How did anti-vax get rolling? Celebrity help of course. Like a lot of fads a ‘big name’ has some importance to people who forget they are not experts in the field they are supporting. Jenny McCarthy, Katie Couric, Michelle Bachmann have swallowed the nonsense and pushed it out –All have medical degrees and are able to think critically about detailed scientific results! (Not!) As a result we are losing the ‘herd immunity’ Learn to think critically (before you give up eating bacon try to think about the fact that the anti-bacon spokesperson is Porky Pig).
Close Encounters Of The Jersey Kind? MORRISTOWN, N.J. (CBS) ― Click to enlarge Strange lights were seen hovering over Morris County in New Jersey on Jan. 5, 2009. CBS "Red lights in the sky over the Morristown-Morris Township area, 5 red lights in a weird pattern over the area," one viewer wrote. "The formation of 5 lights were first noticed over Cedar Knolls and then as they approached the Madison/Morris Township border the rear half of the formation slowly faded and appeared to drop from the sky and then the front part of the formation went out one by one," wrote another Nothing more than a prank, roadside flares attached to helium balloons.
Kenneth A. Arnold— a private pilot made what is generally considered the first widely reported UFO sighting in the United States. On June 24, 1947, Arnold said he saw nine unusual objects flying in a chain near Mount Rainier, Washington while he was searching for a missing military aircraft. He described the objects as almost blindingly bright when they reflected the sun's rays, their flight as "erratic" ("like the tail of a Chinese kite"), and flying at "tremendous speed". Kenneth Arnold hadn't reported seeing flying saucers. In a memoir of the incident for the First International UFO Congress in 1977 Arnold revealed the flying saucer label arose because of a "great deal of misunderstanding" on the part of the reporter who wrote the story up for the United Press. Bill Bequette asked him how the objects flew and Arnold answered that, "Well, they flew erratic, like a saucer if you skip it across the water." The intent of the metaphor was to describe the motion of the objects not their shape. Arnold stated the objects "were not circular." A Closer Look: UFOs
Better protect your thoughts A Closer Look: UFOs
The Cottingley Fairies A Closer Look: Fairies In 1917, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle saw photographs some young girls took in the glen behind their home of themselves in the company of fairies. He wrote to the girls and to their father for permission to speak to the girls, aged 10 and 14, to question them about their experiences and for use of the photos for a book he was writing proving the existence of Fairies.
The Cottingley Fairies What convinced Conan Doyle? It wouldn't have convinced Sherlock Holmes!
The World didn’t end December 2012! ‘Doomsday’ rumors had been proliferating, fueled by recent books, shows, and films Most rumors cited the ‘end’ of the Mayan ‘long count’ calendar in December 21, 2012 Doomsday scenarios included: Collision of a rogue planet with Earth Violent solar storms Sudden violent ‘shifting’ of continents and poles Sudden reversal of Earth’s magnetic field ‘Galactic’ alignment Artist rendition of two planets undergoing a catastrophic collision. Such collisions do happen in planetary systems, but are highly unlikely after the system has formed. Prepared for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society by David Brain and Nick Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org - http://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/ - Released 5 December, email@example.com://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/
The Mayan long calendar did partly ‘reset’, but the world did not end Like New Year’s (when both day & month reset), 13 (of at least 20) Mayan time increments reset in 2012 The Mayans recorded recurring astronomical events tied to the Sun, Moon, and visible planets - but did not predict natural disasters or undiscovered astronomical objects There is no known ‘Planet X’ that will impact Earth in the near future A few Pluto-like dwarf planets have been discovered in our outer solar system recently, but none have orbits that bring them inside ~35 AU A planet headed toward Earth would be easily visible Conspiracies in astronomy are unlikely, especially given the large number of skilled amateurs (who regularly pioneer new discoveries) Other ‘doomsday’ scenarios are similarly far-fetched, or based on poor science No! Artist’s conception of dwarf planet Eris. From NASA / ESA / A. Schaller Photo of a Mayan long count calendar Prepared for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society by David Brain and Nick Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org - http://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/ - Released 5 December, email@example.com://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/
The Big Picture Many of these doomsday scenarios are not new, but have been recycled for many years Ancient (and modern) astronomers could not predict the future, beyond repeated events (e.g. lunar cycles, eclipses, planetary positions) based on observations One advantage of studying science at any level is that one learns how to think critically about any topic, such as the 2012 rumors Movie poster for ‘2012’, released in November 2009. The movie features worldwide tectonic activity and natural disasters, triggered by the Sun. Prepared for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society by David Brain and Nick Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org - http://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/ - Released 5 December, 2009 email@example.com://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/
For More Information… Web Resources and Press Releases Astronomy Society of the Pacific - Astronomy Beat on-line column on 2012 by David Morrison http://www.astrosociety.org/2012/index.html NASA Lunar Science Institute - Video by David Morrison - ‘The Truth about 2012’ http://www.vimeo.com/7463829 NASA - 11/06/09 - ‘2012: Beginning of the End or Why the World Won't End?’ http://www.nasa.gov/topics/earth/features/2012.html National Geographic News - ‘2012: Six End-of-the-World Myths Debunked’ http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/11/091106-2012-end-of-world-myths.html Images Slide 1 image from NASA / JPL-Caltech http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/spitzer/multimedia/spitzer-20090810.html Slide 2 Mayan calendar photo from Wikipedia user ‘Maunus’, released to public domain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lamojarra-inscription.jpg Slide 2 Eris image from NASA / ESA / A. Schaller (STScI) http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2006/16/image/a Slide 3 image from Sony Pictures 2012 Official Website http://www.whowillsurvive2012.com/ Prepared for the Division for Planetary Sciences of the American Astronomical Society by David Brain and Nick Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org - http://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/ - Released 5 December, 2009 email@example.com://dps.aas.org/education/dpsdisc/
Why do people believe this stuff? Anecdotal (Testimonial) evidence –Testimonials and vivid anecdotes are one of the most popular and convincing forms of evidence presented for beliefs in the supernatural, paranormal, and pseudoscientific. –Nevertheless, testimonials and anecdotes in such matters are of little value in establishing the probability of the claims they are put forth to support. Anecdotes are unreliable for various reasons. Stories are prone to contamination by beliefs, later experiences, feedback, selective attention to details, and so on. Most stories get distorted in the telling and the retelling. Events get exaggerated. Time sequences get confused. Details get muddled. Stories of personal experience with paranormal or supernatural events have little scientific value. If others cannot experience the same thing under the same conditions, then there will be no way to verify the experience. If there is no way to test the claim made, then there will be no way to tell if the experience was interpreted correctly.
Wishful thinking –Interpreting facts, reports, events, perceptions, etc., according to what one would like to be the case rather than according to the actual evidence. Communal reinforcement –The process by which a claim becomes a strong belief through repeated assertion by members of a community. The process is independent of whether the claim has been properly researched or is supported by empirical data significant enough to warrant belief by reasonable people. –Mass media contributes to the process by uncritically supporting the claims. Often, however, the mass media provides tacit support for untested and unsupported claims by saying nothing skeptical about even the most outlandish of claims. –Celebrities pushing the nonsense Because a person is a talented actor, singer, or just a celebrity doesn’t mean that they are experts in the field Why do people believe this stuff?
Confirmation bias –A type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs. –A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship. Self-deception –The process or fact of misleading ourselves to accept as true or valid what is false or invalid. Self- deception, in short, is a way we justify false beliefs to ourselves. Have you watched some of the first auditions on “American Idol?” Why do people believe this stuff?
A Guide for Identifying the Idiots Do they publish? Don't Confuse me with the facts! Simple answers to complex questions. Playing the Underdog Conspiracy Theories Playing on fear and/or emotion Do they research? Is the hypothesis at risk? 'Scientific' buzzwords
Don't Confuse me with the facts! Ignore, deny or interpret the facts in such a way that the hypothesis seems true. Remember our friends, the Flat Earthers?
Simple answers to complex questions The Universe is rather large. Nature is complex and wonderful. Therefore, trivial explanations are always suspect. –Creationists note that the Hubble Space Telescope' can see to the beginnings of the Universe.' So if there is a beginning, then it must be the Beginning that they promote. Nice and simple, but not a proof –The pseudosciences nearly always point to the gaps in our knowledge
'Scientific' Buzzwords Beware of ads, etc., using fancy wording such as: –Quantum –Vibrations –Essence –Zero-cost energy (free energy) –Aura For example This magnificent product will sense your personal quantum vibration and induce a harmonic which will balance your essence, bringing your meridianal pathways into a natural, soothing alignment rejecting dissonance clearing your aura and curing your hangover, athlete's foot and halitosis?
Playing the Underdog "I'm just like Galileo, the establishment is persecuting me for my ideas." Yeah, right.
Conspiracy Theories The __________ is conspiring to hide the TRUTH from the public Government Church Big Business Mysterious Cabals Aliens ??? Insert from list
Conspiracy Theories There's nothing the media and the scientific world like better than to blow the lid off some deep, dark secrets. This would make the reporter or scientist world famous. If someone is trying to hide something, someone else is trying to expose it!
Playing on fear and/or emotion How many of you have hesitated – just a bit – before throwing out that chain letter that threatened Bad Luck if you broke the chain? Or did you send it to 10 friends? Use of emotional, religious, or other beliefs
Is the hypothesis at risk? If the hypothesis is not at risk; where you can, at least in principle, find a way to prove it wrong, then it is not a science.
And finally Do they do research? –Are you kidding? Do they publish? –Only for the public and themselves ('Preaching to the choir') –Heavy propaganda –Obscure references
Real Science Revolutionary theories like the Special and General Theories of Relativity and Quantum Theory which change our way of thinking are few and far between. Usually these come about by an experiment showing things which defy explanation by the existing theories. Even then, the old theories are not lost, they simply have their applicable range better defined… Classical Mechanics [Slow] Special Relativity [Fast] Gravitation [moderate mass] General Relativity [Huge mass] Classical Physics [macroscopic] Quantum Physics [atomic] They still work, just in their proper realm. "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' " Isaac Asimov
And Now… Presenting … Wackos On The Web From the far reaches of the Globe For your entertainment, education and amusment
(Selected) Wackos On The Web www.onelight.com www.trvuniversity.com www.zetatalk.com www.dowsers.org www.paoweb.com/umacexp.htm www.marlana.org www.synergyforlife.com mypage.direct.ca/j/jliving/landmine.htm www.angeltherapy.com/ www.sonyafitzpatrick.com/ www.jacquelinestallone.com www.remedydevices.com www.tfes.org
Antidotes to Idiocy Debunkers and Skeptics: www.randi.org www.doubtfulnews.com www.quackwatch.org www.badastronomy.com www.skepticreport.com/general/index.htm www.csicop.org www.guardian.co.uk/life/badscience/ www.skepdic.com www.skepchick.org www.whatstheharm.net www.senseaboutscience.org.uk Finding the Kooks: www.crank.net home.swbell.net/drt1/pseudo.html