Tuesday, June 19, 2007

It is time for crackpot hunting

Summer time seems to be especially active period for young crackpot hunters and the best season has begun. Only a few days ago Lubos revealed that Tommaso Dorigo is a "small crackpot". The scientific justification was that Tommaso had visited several times in Peter Woit's Not-Even-Wrong (Peter Woit is the "black crackpot" to be distinguished from Lee Smolin, the "blue crackpot"). As Tommaso noticed, the fact that Lubos knew about these visits, revealed that also Lubos had visited the same place, from which Lubos himself can make the obvious conclusion and come out of closet. Note that Lubos has also a special message for anyone trying to get to the blog of Lubos from Not-Even-Wrong.

For some time ago I saw commented Sean Carroll's idea that cosmology explains second law. Lubos Motl had already commented the idea and quite correctly pointed out the most obvious flaw in Sean's thinking, namely the failure to realize that cosmological time scale is totally different than the time scale of second law in laboratory environment. Lubos also concluded that Sean Carroll is a crackpot. What I did in the posting Second law and cosmology was some analysis of basic flaws in the thinking of not only Carroll and Lubos but entire community basically due to the refusal to return to roots and concentrate seriously on the fundamental conceptual problems instead of crackpot hunting. I commented the sad situation also from the point of view of particle physics in the posting About landscape: what's the real problem? .

I did not call anyone crackpot since I would regard scientific argumentation based on ad hominem attacks as a criterion number one for crackpot-ness if crackpot hunting were my hobby. Only the contents matter and if someone lacks the substance needed for a serious discussion, he (as a rule he and almost as a rule from US) should listen and learn rather than argue.

Both these young fellows seem to lack the courage and arguments to attack directly against me: this would be also against the politics of total silence about serious competitors of super string hegemony. However, a comment from someone outside Harward, US, and even academy showing a lack of deep unjustified respect towards anything declared by someone from the academic heights of Sean Carrol or Lubos Motl was too much for the vanity of these young bloggers and empire stroke back indirectly this morning. Sean Carroll devoted his posting to the identification criteria of alternative scientists and also Lubos used opportunity and emphasize that "alternative scientist", the characterization that he uses about me in his article to Physicists category of Wikipedia, is his polite expression for a crackpot. Lubos forgot that he himself is very alternative climate scientist.

Amusingly, someone in the comment section of Lubos noticed Lubos had deemed also Carroll as a crackpot in his comments about Carroll's cosmic explanation of second law. Lubos indeed admitted that poor Sean, the discoverer of the new brilliant crackpot identification criteria, becomes the first victim of his own method. If my proposal that ad hominem attacks as a substitute for a scientific argumentation is also basic signature of crackpot-ness is accepted then both these crackpot hunters suffer the same fate. Perhaps scientists using so much valuable time to the hunting of crackpots deserve this.

P.S. Could one consider some kind of mind police of theoretical physics analogous to KGB in Soviet Union, where professionals would take care of crackpot hunting so that super string theorists could concentrate on deducing new predictions from M-theory;-)?


Kea said...

Hear, hear! This crackpot hunting fad is far from harmless. In a classic sign of Evil at large, its perpetrators have utterly failed to realise in what context they play their petty games.

Matti Pitkänen said...

You are absolutely right. This is milder version for what happened at times of Stalin and Mao: sooner or later the hunters of revisionisists/ enemies of working glass/ whatever "bad" end up hunting each other.

Anonymous said...

Hi Matti,

thanks for the link...
If we analyze the corpus of evidence of accusations in the web, it transpires that all scientists endowed with independent thinking are obvious crackpots.

I like the discussion Jane Howard pointed to in a comment to my blog, about who is a scientist:
www.geocities.com/ ptep_online/index_files/rights_en.html


Matti Pitkänen said...

This crackpot business has reached
comic portions. And also produces a lot of pain for victims.

By the way, I noticed in your blog that Lubos is leaving academy. Sad if true. I have a strong feeling that the aggression of Lubos has roots in a deep frustration. The collision of idealism of youth with the harsh reality is a painful experience.

Theoreticians like to pretend that their assumptions are nothing but cold mathematics. Actually these assumptions which dictate your academic career for decades carry as strong emotional charges as religious beliefs. Crashdown of belief system is very painful.

Thank you for the link,


Anonymous said...

I hardly even read any blogs, I came here by conincidence. I wonder if all this all about competition? Doing something good, or "doing down" someone else is then the same thing in the relative sense.

This stuff brings my mind to the "modern business" based on the stock market. Where it's the companies core business and results are of inferior importance relative to the expectations of the market - is successful research measured by the distribution of funding? If so, the whole thing will converge into researching howto make the funders wanting to spend more? :)

I guess this isn't suppose to be a "comedy" but I nevertheless had some good laughs reading some of the various personal things. Maybe you want to cry, but I may choose to laugh, if nothing else it's alot more fun :)


Matti Pitkänen said...

Also I try my best to just laugh but I am afraid that those who find themselves labelled as crackpot in WWW might not find this always easy.

Hard-elbowed business philosophy permeates the entire society. Archive censorship and and the really dirty tricks that I experienced around 1990 in Finnish academic community are clear parallels for what had become acceptable in stock market at that time.