May 08, 2007
Cold fusions detractors call themselves skeptics. But there is a real difference between skepticism in the true sense and the almost religious belief in scientific orthodoxy that masquerades as impartiality. Marcello Truzzi, the founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, eloquently described this distinction. According to Truzzi, a skeptic is an agnostic, a doubter rather than a believer. Doubt is not denial, merely a recognition that a claim has not been proven. The burden of proof of anomalous observations rests with the claimant at all times. Once that burden is satisfied, as with cold fusion, the skeptics must either accept the findings or provide another explanation. If they choose the latter course of action, then by definition, they become claimants with respect to that alternative explanation. As such, they can no longer express doubts about the validity of the evidence without first examining the evidence themselves. They must master the literature and become familiar with the experimental methods and metrics common to the field. In the case of cold fusion, this means becoming fluent in calorimetry. They must then perform the experiments according to the protocols that have been established over the last fifteen years. They must identify mistakes in technique and misinterpretations of results. If those mistakes and misinterpretations are material enough, the original hypothesis may be disproved and the alternative hypothesis put forward. Only after all of these steps are taken will the skeptics be in a position to honestly express doubts about the original claims.
"...the almost religious belief in scientific orthodoxy that masquerades as impartiality." Sounds a lot like the proponents of man-made global warming. Their religious fervor precludes the possibility that they might be mistaken, and causes them to impugn the integrity of all who question their methods, their data and their results. It's a lot easier, apparently, to think someone else is evil than it is to think that you might be wrong.
Update: Scientific American and Nature continue to poo-poo the very idea of low temperature fusion, which is certainly their right. However, bragging that you don't actually read anything which might controvert your beliefs isn't something to be proud of:
Scientific American has mainly ridiculed these subjects lately, in both the print edition and the on-line blog by the editor, John Rennie, on August 24, 2006:
Let's be finicky in our application of the phrase. For example, Newtonian physics did not get sent to Pluto. It was shown to be a valid approximation of Einstein's relativistic physics for objects moving well below the speed of light, and as such was incorporated into the newer theory. And cold fusion, N-rays, Velikovskian planet billiards and similar crackpottery weren't sent to Pluto either because they never enjoyed a significant period of acceptance by the scientific community (perhaps they all reside on another planet... Uranus?).
Note that Rennie takes pride in the fact that he has read no papers about cold fusion. He claims that his views are based on the majority opinion and the "consensus," as if science were a popularity contest. Rennie boldly told us it is not his job to understand the technical issues or offer a falsifiable argument. He thinks the public does not expect that of him. A normal scientist would be ashamed to admit he harbors such strange ideas, but Rennie brags about them.
Interesting idea of what being a scientist really is. I wonder how he travels anywhere, though. His maps probably contain lots of "Here Be Monsters" sections.
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