Re: Re: Re: That is a Scientist's Responsibility 23 February 2004
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Christopher J Noble,
postdoctoral fellow
Bern Switzerland

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Re: Re: Re: Re: That is a Scientist's Responsibility

Murali Mohan wrote: "Why don't you write to those journals that published articles by the Perth group instead of trying to "deconstruct" their claims in a non peer-reviewed forum like this , whether you want to do it part time or full time? "

I have absolutely no objection to the Perth Group publishing their hypotheses in scientific journals. I am under no obligation to write to the journals that have published Perth Group articles.

Without exception the articles by the Perth Group present no experimental research to support their hypotheses. Neither are the articles reviews in the normal sense as they are not an objective review of the literature. They conatin only carefully selected quotes that either support or can be construed as supporting their hypotheses and ignore or "deconstruct" any evidence that conflicts with their hypotheses.

The Perth Group articles have been read and dismissed by the scientific community as poor science.

My objection to the Perth Group is that after failing in the normal scientific arena they have resorted to politics and popular media to promote their ideas. Their brand of rhetoric is directed to a lay audience. In this respect they have had much more success. They have courted the president of South Africa and have a small but vocal following on the internet.

I wholeheartedly support the principle of freedom of speech but it is also possible to abuse this right.(1) I hold the Perth Group responsible for all consequences of their actions.

I also agree that there are many cases in history where majority views have been later shown to be incorrect. This, however, does not mean that any particular minority view is likely to be correct. To quote Carl Sagan:

"But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

Every scientist would dearly love to be a "Galileo", most have the honesty to admit that they are not.

You mention Einstein. You must be aware that there is a "growing" group of physicists that question Einstein's theories.

You can find some of these dissident scientists at http://groups.google.com/groups?&group=sci.physics.relativity

You should note that these dissident scientists:

a) produce no experimental evidence

b) find "flaws" in relativity theory

c) compare themselves frequently with Galileo

d) talk about the "dogmatic orthodoxy"

e) claim that their ideas have never been refuted by the "orthodoxy"

f) claim that they are being censored

g) claim that mainstream scientists are just worried about losing their jobs

h) insist that it is the responsibility of the "orthodoxy" to prove them wrong

i) they have mutually exclusive theories - the only thing they agree on is that relativity is wrong

It is obvious that it would be pointless for physicists to spend time trying to change the mind of these dissident physicists.

Fortunately the consequences of adhering to dissident physics theories are minimal. This is not true for HIV denialism. It can be a matter of life and death.

1) U Schüklenk, Professional responsibilities of biomedical scientists in public discourse. J Med Ethics 2004;30:53-60

Competing interests: None declared