i-7003db10ceca9707402285a60e34329b-Giraffe_standing.jpgIn my recent blog entry “Skepticism and Informed Consensus“, I pointed out that a real member of the skeptical movement is not universally skeptical (as may seem evident when you first think of it), but follows scientific consensus. The entry has spun off a lot of side effects: a long supportive reply by Orac, loads of comments at both our blogs, a blog entry of mine about the discredited idea that gays are nuts, and the first troll banned from commenting on Aard (not because he was one of several people who disagreed with me, but because he was being obstinately rude to myself and one of his fellow disagreeing commenters).

In the following is a further clarification in response to a comment by Dear Reader Rob Koepp. Quoth Rob:

“You’re correct that creationists and neo-Nazis are not the sort of company I enjoy, but so what? When did the term ‘skeptic’ come to mean ‘someone who travels in the same social circles as I do’?

If creationists are skeptical about evolution, and neo-Nazis are skeptical about the holocaust, well, then they’re skeptics (of a sort). So from their perspective, I suppose members in good standing of your ‘skeptical movement’ aren’t ‘real’ skeptics. This talk of ‘real skeptics’ becomes just a matter of which club one belongs to, and the term has lost it’s connection to concerns about what sort of epistemic warrant attaches to knowledge claims.”

My original blog entry was in fact entirely intended as a statement about which club can call itself the real skeptics. It’s not about epistemology in the abstract, how “society knows things” or how “science progresses” — it’s about how individual amateurs in the skeptical movement should relate to factual claims without ending up with the denialists. Hands-on skepticism.

To explain what I mean, Dear Reader, let me tell you about the event that opened my eyes to the primacy of informed consensus.

I’m a co-editor of Folkvett, the quarterly journal of the Swedish Skeptics Society. It’s sort of a Swedish-language Skeptic Magazine. A few years ago we received a manuscript from a member of our society — I’ll call him Giraffe. The paper he had written was a thoughtful and reasonable-seeming piece of strong global warming skepticism, which was by this time already a highly controversial standpoint. Giraffe was no climatologist. Nor was any of us co-editors.

One or two of my co-editors said, “It’s crap, just tell him we’re not taking it.” But at the time I found this (as have many Aard and Insolence commentators) to be a profoundly unskeptical attitude: basically just argument from authority. So I replied, “Hey, I can’t actually find anything wrong in this guy’s reasoning. Shouldn’t we find out what’s wrong with it before we junk the piece?”.

And then the others explained to me, patiently, in approximately the following terms.

“We’re the Society for Science and Popular Enlightenment, OK? The first paragraph of our statutes says that we’re very strongly pro-science. So when an amateur like Giraffe writes something in a field that us editors don’t know much about, and he challenges the scientific consensus, then we don’t need to understand exactly what’s wrong with his work to know that it’s not for us. All we need to know is that our journal is not a forum for amateurs to challenge informed consensus in.

And why? Because that’s the only really good argument we have for not accepting Holocaust denialism, creationism etc. in our pages. None of us is either a 20th century historian nor a biologist, but we know that knowledgeable historians and biologists call those positions pseudoscience. If Giraffe has somehow made a big breakthrough in climatology (and let’s be fair, none of us is equipped to judge that), then he shouldn’t try to publish his work in an amateur journal put out in a minority language by a 2000-member skeptical society. He should send it to a respected peer-reviewed international academic climatology journal. If it’s accepted and published, then we can look closer at his manuscript.”

I found this convincing, and that’s where my thinking is still at on these matters today, a few years down the line.

(Incidentally, Giraffe soon decided that he did not in fact wish to remain our kind of skeptic: he left the society when we turned his manuscript down. A global warming denialist paper of his from 2002/03 is still on-line at his web site.)

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Comments

  1. #1 Markk
    January 6, 2008

    This is a good argument, but it assumes good faith on the part of the “establishment”. This is generally true in science, but if the majority of funding in a certain area is, say, from the government, and political – not evidence based – criteria start to slip in as selection criteria, then your point will lead to the promised land for people like creationists. I think this is exactly what some groups are trying to accomplish inside the U.S. Happily the science “establishment” is not taking it lying down, and I guess as long as that happens we’ll be ok here.

  2. #2 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    A good thing about science being a global enterprise is that, although it may be pressured by politics, it is never pressured in exactly the same direction all over the world.

  3. #3 bob koepp
    January 6, 2008

    Martin -
    I think it begs the questions that were raised in the earlier thread to now simply substitute ‘real member of the skeptical movement’ for ‘real skeptic.’

    Perhaps without realizing it, you are trying to articulate rational constraints on skepticism, and opting for a social criterion (consensus among scientific experts). But articulating and defending such constraints is most definitely a matter of epistemology.

  4. #4 Caledonian
    January 6, 2008

    So when an amateur like Giraffe writes something in a field that us editors don’t know much about, and he challenges the scientific consensus, then we don’t need to understand exactly what’s wrong with his work

    This presumes that there IS something wrong with his work. It is entirely possible that there’s something very right.

    If the editors didn’t wish to determine for themselves which of the possible explanations was correct, they didn’t have to. And they certainly had no obligation to publish submitted articles.

    But that doesn’t make consensus-opposition an unskeptical act.

  5. #5 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    I think it begs the questions that were raised in the earlier thread to now simply substitute ‘real member of the skeptical movement’ for ‘real skeptic.’

    That would be an unnecessary mouthful to pronounce all the time. Also, you forget our agenda to monopolise the term and define people who don’t agree with us off the game board.

  6. #6 Russell
    January 6, 2008

    Creationists are not characterized by their skepticism about evolution, which would cause an entirely different kind of behavior, but by their credulity about a creation story.

  7. #7 MarkH
    January 6, 2008

    Forgive me for being a broken record, but what I think you are trying to articulate in this case and others is that the tactics reveal whether or not someone is a real skeptic.

    Ordinary scientists challenge consensus all the time, but they do it using data and papers submitted for peer review. No one gets published by just repeating the same experiments over and over (or at least not anywhere good). The papers being published in the prominent scientific journals are almost always challenging a consensus, showing novel results, opening up new fields of inquiry etc. It’s perfectly ok to attack a consensus, but you have to bring data, and work, and published papers to the conversation to a degree commensurate with the power of the consensus being challenged. If it’s relativity for instance, you better have a whopping amount of data, confirmed by other researchers, and providing an adequate theoretical framework to understand the result. If it’s evolution, you better have more than some bad math published by a fundamentalists with an axe to grind.

    So I agree with Martin that in a situation like this it is fair to dismiss an attack on consensus without much effort. Real skeptics would do the work, generate the data, go through channels, and overturn the consensus the way it should be overturned – through the peer-reviewed scientific literature. Scientific consensus is not overturned using PR campaigns, crank letters to the editor, and through articles in the lay press or self published manifestos. It’s the tactics that reveal the crank or denialist, and that’s what Martin’s editor was responding too. Ultimately, that crank might be right, stranger things have happened. But if we don’t abide by standards for introduction of data and evaluation of scientific evidence and theories then the process breaks. And they will never be believed until they do the work to convince the scientific community.

    Further, I’ll point out that a sure sign of a crank is an attack on the mere idea of consensus, and is a far more telling sign. It reflects no knowledge of the process of scientific discovery or change in theoretical knowledge through history. And if you’re going to attack scientific consensus it’s inappropriate to do so with a crank website or article. Real scientists bring data to the table and do the work, often very hard work, to convince their peers they are correct through peer-reviewed publications.

  8. #8 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    Real scientists bring data to the table and do the work

    I agree. But I’m not talking about scientists. I’m talking about the amateurs of the skeptical movement. Some of us may be working scientists in one field or another, but we don’t confine our activities to a single field, and we don’t expect most members of the movement to be working scientists.

  9. #9 Caledonian
    January 6, 2008

    Why would you consider it better to use a short but wrong phrase instead of a longer but accurate one?

    Incidentally, Giraffe soon decided that he did not in fact wish to remain our kind of skeptic

    See? You’ve switched to the correct meaning of ‘skeptic’ again. Why didn’t you just say ‘skeptic’ if you think the word is an appropriate substitution for “our kind of skeptic”?

  10. #10 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    In the movement, we simply call ourselves “skeptics”. I realise that this may be confusing to people who only know the word in its general dictionary sense. When I find a need to explain, I usually say “think of us as the anti-New Age movement”.

    BTW, I’ve been blogging about skepticism for over two years, and I don’t believe anyboday’s asked me what I’ve meant before. Probably because I often link sites that explain.

  11. #11 Caledonian
    January 6, 2008

    In the movement, we simply call ourselves “skeptics”.

    That’s just fine.

    You cannot, however, simply replace the generally-accepted usage of the word with your organization’s name for themselves. The two are not in any way equivalent.

    Do you consider people not in your movement to not be skeptics?

  12. #12 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    Actually, when in a particularly generous mood, after a good dinner, for instance, as I sit with one arm around my lovely wife and watch the sun go down into the sea, I sometimes contemplate allowing people to use the word “skeptic” in the sense set out in dictionaries. But then it passes.

  13. #13 Lennart Nilsson
    January 6, 2008

    But then again, after a good dinner etc., you might consider renaming your movement septic. You know, as in preventing the sh*t from infecting the rest of the world.

  14. #14 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    January 6, 2008
  15. #15 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    January 6, 2008
  16. #16 Martin R
    January 6, 2008

    Lennart, let’s call it the spastic movement.

    Tegumai, if I told you that you have a wonderful Alaskan body, would you hold it against me?

  17. #17 bob koepp
    January 6, 2008

    Martin – Might I assume, then, that you would have no objections to creationists calling themselves ‘scientists’, and calling their empirically unfounded speculations ‘science’? Or don’t your “real” generous moods extend that far?

  18. #18 miller
    January 6, 2008

    It’s worth noting that the modern skeptical movement is usually traced back to Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science in 1952. It’s fairly recent, but not something Martin made up just the other day.

  19. #19 Martin R
    January 7, 2008

    Bob, I must say that I fail to see the parallel you’re implying — but no, in fact I object strongly to creationism being called science.

  20. #20 bob koepp
    January 7, 2008

    Martin – The parallel consists in the use of terms with fairly well-established, even if somewhat vague, uses in ways that directly conflict with those established uses. Now, if it’s not objectionable for your “skeptical movement” to do this, why would it be objectionable for “creation scientists” to do so? Speaking for myself, I think it’s objectionable across the board.

  21. #21 Martin R
    January 7, 2008

    Aha, but you’re forgetting something! We’re the good guys, they’re not.

    Anyway, I didn’t name the skeptical movement and any attempt at renaming it is unlikely to succeed at this late stage. They’ve tried “brights”, but that never caught on.

  22. #22 bob koepp
    January 7, 2008

    Are you using terms like ‘forgetting’ and ‘good’ in their usual senses, or do they have “special” meanings in the language used by real members of the skeptical movement? ;)

  23. #23 jre
    January 7, 2008

    It appears to me that the objections to your usage of “skeptic” raised by Caledonian, Bob et al. derive from a reluctance to let anyone start wikifying the dictionary (a reasonable concern). On the other hand, your concern that cranks not be allowed to assume the mantle of “skeptic” seems pretty reasonable as well. If it’s possible to be a skeptic and also a crank, then we need a different term — hence the practice by MarkH and others of using “denialist” instead. Of course, that term comes with its own set of misunderstandings and hurt feelings as well, so I don’t think there is any perfectly safe course. You just have to make it clear, on a case-by-case basis, that cranks are defined by their behavior, not by their membership in this or that group.

  24. #24 Lewis
    January 8, 2008

    ‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,’ it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.’

  25. #25 john
    January 9, 2008

    after a good dinner etc., you might consider renaming your movement septic. You know, as in preventing the sh*t from infecting the rest of the world.

  26. #26 Martin R
    January 10, 2008

    Haha, yeah, the skeptical movement is truly a horrendous epidemic.

  27. #27 Lewis
    January 10, 2008

    Septic = “preventing the sh*t from infecting the rest of the world” – John’s description

    Septic = “Infected, or denoting infection” – Medterms.com definition

    You seem to have it exactly the wrong way round. Perhaps you meant “antiseptic”. But then of course, using your analogy, that would mean Martin R’s movement was “anti-skeptic”…maybe you’re on to something.

  28. #28 Sávon
    January 10, 2008

    Let thousand flowers bloom…
    all of them will die later or rather soon…
    Like many histories written by historians (on political demand) will be. Much of the “scientific” knowledge have been proved false, and still it exist and are the ground for more speculation, without any sceptic stops this!

    The viking era what was it really, how many ships have been unearthed? People still quarrel about were Birka really was? And what did they really find in the big gravemounds at Upsala? So little this kind of science really know. An archaeologist can dig up things and tell at what time they were abandoned in the ground, but they know very little about geology, climate, were the ice had melted, when, if the ground were tilted and so on. They can deny it (the knowledge) at one time and the next time they can discuss it as if they never denied it earlier.

  29. #29 Martin R
    January 10, 2008

    Yeah, they’re basically just ripping everybody off, making things up as they go along. Bloody academics.

  30. #30 Sávon
    January 10, 2008

    And you will not answer me. I don´t exist. “To be or not to be”, that is not the question. It is something else.

  31. #31 Sávon
    January 10, 2008

    You did answer. But why now?

    No, I am an academician myself, I know there are honest scholars, but I´ve learned that there are also those who don´t know so well, but they cling to the accepted results, because they might not have the self critisism. Oh, they can be cowards too. They can know that it might be incorrect the results, but they don´t side with the one who doesn´t accept the consensus. They can even help to teach the one who doubts, how dangerous that can be socially. They need not do anything, they can be silence, freeze out the one that doesn´t “belong”…
    A real sceptic asks these questions too, in my opinion.

  32. #32 Martin R
    January 10, 2008

    I’m not saying that scientists are always right. I’m saying that their consensus — and there are many, many questions where scientists have not reached any consensus — is far more likely to be true than the ideas of lone amateurs.

  33. #33 Sávon
    January 10, 2008

    But Martin, I don´t write about lone amateurs.

    If you mean that I side with that “guy with the stones”, you are wrong, I don´t know enough for that. But I know that there are scientist out in the world now working on a new way to come near the history and archaeology, that doesn´t seem to have reached all the swedish archaeologists and historians. I read “The Rise of Bronze Age Society”, K. Kristiansen and Thomas B.Larsson and despite the very interesting approach and also a new more “continental” way to look at the artifacts, they still are oldfashioned in their way to see humans, men and women.

    I study now “The Elemenmtary Forms of Religious Life” by Emile Durkheim, written 1911(!) and I must admit that the way he describes “primitive” religion” and compares it to christianity (indirectly) is more relevant today than more younger scientists way to study the humanities.

  34. #34 Martin R
    January 10, 2008

    I don’t know which scientists you’re referring to, but I believe that if they’re any good, then they will have little problem getting their work published in peer-reviewed journals.

    As for Durkheim, I think most historians of religion would say that he was very good for his time, yet that scholarship knows more today about his subject than he did back then. And that’s how it should be.

  35. #35 Sávon
    January 10, 2008

    You answer me as if I am an idiot :-)
    I’ve studied Durkheim, some years ago, so I know how other scholars think of his idea of how to work. But what is more interesting is that his way to work has a lot to do with “new knowledge” if we compare with what we know today. AND it has nothing to do with “his time”. So your completely wrong in your opinion “..that´s how it should be”.
    Of course I understand that you are tired (when I see your answer), and I will not push this question further. Have a nights nice sleep, and really good dreams, Martin!

  36. #36 Lewis
    January 11, 2008

    Peer review in science is almost invariably claimed to be impartial. But how can one be sure that it’s free of vested interests, whether in maintaining a consensus or of the you-scratch-my-back… variety? In fact – since scientists have the same human weaknesses as other people – isn’t it certain that the peer-review process is distorted by just these vested interests?

  37. #37 Martin R
    January 11, 2008

    Sure, there is such influence. But since scientific results actually tend to work, it seems that reality’s influence on what’s published in scientific journalst is considerably stronger than that of such sociological factors.

    Also, if one journal turns your manuscript down, you send it to another one. There is no global conspiracy among scientists.

  38. #38 Lewis
    January 11, 2008

    No “conspiracy” is needed for a consensus to hold sway long past the time when hindsight shows it to have been wrong. “Groupthink” can do the job just fine. I wonder what the objective differences are between “consensus” and “groupthink” and whether they can only be seen with hindsight.

  39. #39 Martin R
    January 11, 2008

    Scientists really, really want to know the truth. If “group think” were a big problem, and if there were any effective ways to combat it, then scientists would be using them simply to get at the truth faster.

    Lewis, is there any particular discipline where you think this kind of unreflected consensus is a problem?

  40. #40 Citizen Deux
    January 11, 2008

    Wow.

    Scientists really, really want to know the truth. If “group think” were a big problem, and if there were any effective ways to combat it, then scientists would be using them simply to get at the truth faster.

    I think it is fair to state that scientists are first and foremost people and subject to human failties – especially groupthink! There are very real internal, peer and external pressures to adhere to a line of reasoning. This includes mentors, accepted areas of study and at times ethics.

    It’s refreshing to see Hoofnagle here to defend the denialist label. I think there are very legitimate reasons for classifying the validity of one’s skepticism. I also think that if someone challenges accepted theory, data or other hypothesis, they should be able to make a reasoned case.

    Martin, you pointed out that the reasoning from Giraffe was rational. It may not have been to the taste of your journal, but it sounds like it met the criteria for skepticism. When did you relabel Giraffe a denialist? Has he/she altered his position? Are his arguments still reasonable? Or has the data changed so clearly that his/her position is ridiculous.

    I think of Thabo Mbeki and his ludicrous belief about HIV. At one point, I don’t know when, he may have had some reason to his position. But as the data and science advances, his position becomes more and more incredible. This does not change his position as an AIDS skeptic – however you may find that qualifying this is useful.

    “Thabo Mbeki’s beliefs about HIV and AIDS are counter to all accepted medical understanding of the virus. Furthermore, there seems to be a strong religio-cultural basis for his position which is unrelated to scientific thought.”

  41. #41 Martin R
    January 11, 2008

    Giraffe’s paper seemed rational within its assumed parameters and given the data it presented. I don’t know if either were correct, though.

    Thabo Mbeki has most likely never known anything in scientific detail about AIDS. Neither do I. But, as I’ve said so many times here, I’m confident that the people who spend their lives studying it are not conspiring to trick me.

    Got any opinions on the chronology of 1st Millennium Scandinavian jewellery fashions?

  42. #42 Lewis
    January 12, 2008

    Scientist says: “Scientists really, really want to know the truth”

    Lawyer adds: “Lawyers are concerned for nothing but justice”

    Politician chips in: “Politicians care only for the welfare of humanity”

    Real estate agent contributes: “We just want people to buy good houses for a fair price”

    Journalist says: “We’re with the scientists”

    Mandy Rice-Davies sums up: “Well, they would say that, wouldn’t they?”

  43. #43 Martin R
    January 12, 2008

    And still, you’re reading and commenting on blogs using a computer that actually works. And I’m pretty sure you have had a few vaccine shots in your time (I hope you have!). Perhaps you drive a car or use some kind of public transport. So science seems to work. That is actually one of the definitions of science. Modify your models of reality until you have one that works against the data.

  44. #44 Lewis
    January 12, 2008

    Ah, now I understand your argument:

    Most scientists belonging to a consensus are honest most of the time.

    This implies all scientists belonging to all consensuses are always honest, always tell the truth, never suppress or ignore inconvenient evidence, never err and are never self-interested at the expense of the truth.

    Therefore the consensus is always right and should always be followed by the ignorant.

    Nah, can’t see anything wrong with that. How could I be so stupid? Surely all right thinking people must agree with that?

  45. #45 Martin R
    January 12, 2008

    Time after time during these discussions I get the feeling that some commenters don’t know what consensus means. It means “everybody agrees” or “almost everybody agrees”. I’m not talking about believing just any individual who wears a lab coat.

    In order for an insincere consensus to arise in any scientific field of reasonable size, hundreds or thousands of scientists have to conspire to trick the world. That simply doesn’t happen. What may happen is that a few scientists get bought by Big Pharma or whoever and make insincere statements. That can postpone a consensus that would have arisen earlier otherwise, e.g. when the link between smoking and lung cancer started to become accepted. But Big Pharma can’t buy enough scientists to establish an insincere consensus.

    So a scientific consensus, when it is finally established, is always sincere. That doesn’t mean it’s always correct. But if working scientific specialists can’t see that their consensus opinion contains an error, then neither can untrained members of the public.

  46. #46 Lewis
    January 13, 2008

    “In order for an insincere consensus to arise in any scientific field of reasonable size, hundreds or thousands of scientists have to conspire to trick the world. That simply doesn’t happen.”

    Um, no, it doesn’t. Suppose an inconvenient piece of evidence is discovered by just one scientist. It calls into question a consensus he supports. The scientist and his colleagues rely on the consensus holding sway for their influence, reputations, grants, conferences, invitations, access to powerful people. Suppose the scientist is more swayed by the possible loss of the latter (and the approbation of his consensus colleagues) than by the pursuit of truth.

    If he doesn’t publish that inconvenient evidence, the life of the consensus is extended. It doesn’t need a conspiracy of hundreds or thousands: just a few people independently taking small decisions. Do you think that never happens?

  47. #47 Martin R
    January 13, 2008

    Scientists in large well-financed fields of this kind are intensely competitive. If research group A finds something interesting out, then chances are that research group B will soon also find it out. Scientists don’t hold on to influence by keeping their own discoveries secret, on the contrary.

    It would help this discussion if you would mention a field where you feel that the conspiracies and quieting-down you mention are likely to be going on.

  48. #48 Lewis
    January 13, 2008

    “It would help this discussion if you would mention a field where you feel that the conspiracies and quieting-down you mention are likely to be going on.”

    Before I do that, will you answer the question I asked?

    Just to remind you, do you think it never happens that scientists suppress inconvenient evidence which is counter to a prevailing consensus?

  49. #49 Martin R
    January 13, 2008

    Yeah, I believe that may happen e.g. in corporate research where marketability rather than scientific advancement in itself are a research group’s highest priority. But I don’t think it’s common.

  50. #50 Citizen Duex
    January 14, 2008

    Martin, I think your comment;

    So a scientific consensus, when it is finally established, is always sincere. That doesn’t mean it’s always correct. But if working scientific specialists can’t see that their consensus opinion contains an error, then neither can untrained members of the public.

    sums up the inconsistencies in the argument. Agreed that a consensus is not unanimous. Agreed, by your admission, that it may be incorrect. Agreed that members of the consensual group (sounds salacious) can be blinded to their own error – for whatever reason. Disagree that a non-member (you define as general public) can not discern the flaw in the view.

    Critical thinking is critical thinking. With the ability of almost anyone to read source information and make logical deductions and inferences, an argument may be posed. I may not offer any thoughts on open-heart surgery, however, I can certainly educate myself on the topic and make intelligent observations and even ask a few relevant questions.

  51. #51 Martin R
    January 14, 2008

    And I argue that the skeptical movement should not pay any attention to the objections of unskilled people like you and I to the consensus among e.g. heart surgeons.

  52. #52 Lewis
    January 14, 2008

    (Martin) “I believe (scientists [may] suppress inconvenient evidence which is counter to a prevailing consensus)”

    (brackets indicating composite quotation)

    and

    (Martin) “I argue that the skeptical movement should not pay any attention to the objections of unskilled people”

    As far as I can see, if the skeptical movement is genuinely interested in truth, these two statements can only be consistent if it’s impossible for unskilled people to detect suppressed inconvenient evidence which is counter to a prevailing consensus.

    Now this can of course be trivially true if by definition anyone who detects suppressed inconvenient evidence in some field is automatically promoted to being a “skilled” person (even if they have no previous history, qualification or position in that field) but that’s either circular or post hoc reasoning, both of which are fairly dubious.

    I’m sure Martin wouldn’t be guilty of such elementary errors of logic so I’d be interested in just how the two statements above can be reconciled.

  53. #53 Martin R
    January 14, 2008

    I do believe it is impossible for unskilled people to detect suppressed inconvenient evidence which is counter to a prevailing consensus. If it’s sufficiently well suppressed, it’s impossible for skilled people as well.

    But I also believe that this is not a common problem in actual science. If I suppress stuff I find out, someone else will find it out too.

  54. #54 Lewis
    January 14, 2008

    Martin: “I do believe it is impossible for unskilled people to detect suppressed inconvenient evidence which is counter to a prevailing consensus.”

    Please define “unskilled”.

  55. #55 Citizen Deux
    January 15, 2008

    Martin, for some reason this topic seems to strike a nerve. I think part of it stems from human nature in reserving the right to doubt.

    PS – Loved the sword post!

  56. #56 Martin R
    January 15, 2008

    Lewis, AFAIK you don’t see self-taught gentleman scholars publishing in Nature any more. Contributing to science takes a lot of study, not to mention all the expensive gear. I’d say that “unskilled” might be translated with “incapable of publishing in respected peer-reviewed specialist journals”.

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