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 Science vs. Pseudoscience (1)

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Science vs. Pseudoscience

This debate is regarding a conversation between Terminator and me. Feel free to contribute.

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I believe that we were in agreement regarding the dangers of the politicization of science, were we not?

Some may be intentional, others may not.

I agree that often the media, politicians or other special interest groups take scientific studies out of context or try to twist the facts to suit their own interests. Science itself though is as close as you can get to objective.

ake, for instance, the conclusion that many have reached that homosexuals are "born that way", whereas other studies suggest differently.

To what science are you referring? I haven't studied the subject extensively, but I do know that homosexuality is found in most mammal species, in addition to many fish, reptile and bird species. This seems to indicate that homosexuality comes about by birth, and not environment.

There was an experiment back in the '60s or '70s which "proved" that life can form from nonlife. The experiment turned out to be - what's-the-word - Bunk - that's it.

In science when people make claims about experiments they publish a paper about their results. Then other scientists attempt to repeat these experiments to get the same results. If they cannot repeat the experiment with the same results, then the conclusions are rejected. The Fleischmann-Pons experiment in which two scientists claimed to have discovered cold fusion is a great example of this. Other scientists read what these two did, and attempted to replicate it. When they couldn't the scientists results were invalidated.

In addition, other scientists can look at the methodology of the experiments in order to determine whether or not the conclusions reached are actually validated by the experiment.

As you can see, science has a built in system for detecting "bunk". Something may be accepted as true that isn't for a short time in science, but very quickly other scientists will catch the error and correct it.

The system isn't perfect, but it has gotten advanced the human race to the point where two people like you and I are thousands of miles away and communicating instantaneously.

Also out of curiosity, would you mind telling me which experiment you were talking about?

There was an Indian palaeontologist who blatantly lied about the dates of his fossils - by many millions of years, I might add.

Like I said, if someone makes a claim in science it can be verified, or scientists can attempt to falsify it.

Once again, could you cite your source: it's starting to sound like you're quoting a creationist website.

Once you have read so many such incidences of this, one becomes quite skeptical of the whole 'scientific process'.

So out of hundreds of thousands of scientists, a handful make mistakes and these mistakes are caught by the scientific community and you doubt the process? Allow me to repeat: these mistakes were caught by the scientific community!

Then there are times in which two scientists can reach different conclusions from the evidence

Yes, when evidence is incomplete then there may be multiple theories that explain the evidence, however usually all we have to do is wait a couple years and more evidence will show one to be right.

as is perhaps most notable by a rejection of Global Warming by a portion of the scientific community.

Wrong. I can't really respond to this one other than just saying that you are wrong. I can only think of one legitimate climate scientist who is skeptical about anthropogenic global warming. There is an overwhelming majority of climate scientist, and if you want me to actually go over the science with you I will, but it would save us both some time if you just looked at my last debate, specifically in my response to enigmaticman's argument (which was a response to my response to you).

This is a subject I have studied (a lot) so I would be more than happy to talk about the science with you.

Of course, next comes science's total rejection of the paranormal. Many millions of claims, sightings, reports, interactions - you name it - and yet they continue to insist that no such activity has ever happened. Pyrokinesis, psychokinesis, spontaneous human combustion, ghosts, poltergeists, alien abductions, etc.

Uggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhh. Seriously?

Okay, let's go through these one at a time.

First let me say that anyone can make a "claim". Right now I can call the police and claim I just saw bigfoot, but that doesn't mean anything. Add to this the unreliability of the ability of humans to witness things as they actually happen, and you do get people from time to time who claim to see weird shit.

Pyrokenisis, Psychokenisis

If there are people who have this power, then why haven't any of these powers been confirmed by doctors or scientists? I mean there's no reason why these people's conditions couldn't be analyzed. The reason that there are no actual reports of people who have this power is because they have all been hoaxes. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

spontaneous human combustion

Huh? A handful of cases where we can't explain why someone caught on fire (usually because there wasn't a very thorough investigation) and you think this shows that science is unreliable. Listen, I can tell you like the paranormal, but just because you want to believe something is true, doesn't mean it is.

What makes more sense: that there have been a couple of rare cases in which someone caught fire for a weird reason that someone could solve, or that there is some type of...well actually I don't even know what your suggesting the alternative is. What are you suggesting?

ghosts, poltergeists

Now we are getting ridiculous (although we may have crossed that line as soon as you started this list). I'll let Pen & Teller deal with this one.

My only comment is that I find it funny that these "witnesses" see something strange and jump to the conclusion that it's ghosts.

alien abductions, etc.

Were I a smart person I would end the debate now. Unfortunately I am not, so I'm actually going to try and talk to you rationally about an issue that deals with human irrationality.

Scientists are currently looking for aliens. They aren't doing this by listening to crazy accounts of people who claim to abducted, or trying to unearth government conspiracies. They do it using a very scientific approach.

They've tried to explain somethings - when public opinion of them becomes too strong for them to ignore it - but never suitably.

Never suitably for who? The people who make the claims? The people who are eager to believe the claims? Of course they don't, because the people who believe these ridiculous stories aren't going to listen to rational explanations. No explanation would ever be good enough. Humans aren't 100% rational creatures, and often we confuse belief with knowledge, and if someone believes they saw something enough, then no amount of rational explanation is going to convince them otherwise. This is why we have people who claim to talk to god, or moses, or Xenu or magical leprechauns. We look for patterns and we see them.

Let me give you an example from one of my favorite youtubers AronRa:

...if I go into my front yard and I see a large sauropod walking down the middle of my street, I will of course be quite convinced of what I see. I may be even more satisfied when I follow the thing and find that I can touch it, maybe even ride it if I want to. When I gather sense enough to run back for my camcorder, I may not be able to find the beast again, because I don't know which way it went. But that doesn’t matter because I saw it, I heard it, felt it, smelt it and I remember all that clearly with a sober and rational mind. But somehow I'm the only one who ever noticed it, and of course no one believes me. Some other guy says he saw a dinosaur too, but his description was completely different, such that we can’t both be talking about the same thing. So it doesn't matter how convinced I am that it really happened. It might not have. When days go by and there are still no tracks, no excrement, no destruction, no sign of the beast at all, no other witnesses who’s testimony lends credence to mine, and no explanation for how a 20-meter long dinosaur could just disappear in the suburbs of a major metropolis, much less how it could have appeared there in the first place, -then it becomes much easier to explain how there could be only two witnesses who can’t agree on what they think they saw, than it is to explain all the impossibilities against that dinosaur ever really being there. Positive claims require positive evidence. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and that’s what I’d need –since what I propose isn’t just extraordinary; its impossible. But since there's not one fact I can show that anyone can measure or otherwise confirm, then my perspective is still subjective -and thus uncertain. Eventually, even I, the eyewitness, would have to admit that, although I did see it, I still don’t know if it was ever really there –regardless whether I still believe that it was.

Witness testimony is not empirical evidence and therefore cannot be used to prove something. If you can show me empirical evidence of any of these phenomenon then we can actually discuss them. Otherwise it's just crazy people making ridiculous claims.

Nick Pope, Britain's ex-UFO expert, said that 95% of UFO sightings can be explained away. It's the 5% that completely defy any possible rational conclusion that convinced him that they were real.

Someone who claims to be a UFO expert believes in UFOs and therefore UFOs must exist? What are you going to argue next: a politician didn't fulfill a campaign promise and therefore he is actually working for the devil? Oh wait you actually did try and argue that once.

These arguments are getting tiresome, and I am not going to constantly address the rantings of crazy cooks who claim to be brought aboard a mothership by hominid aliens (a concept which doesn't make any sense btw. I'd be happy to talk about why this is almost impossible).

Seriously though: I'd be happy to talk about climate change or the other areas of science (I believe you mentioned evolution indirectly). I will not continue to humor you by taking seriously what can only be described as nonsense.

Side: Pseudoscience cannot be taken seriously