New guidelines help local events identify pseudoscience then keep it off stage.
I had recently watched one of the many "TEDx" productions.... I wondered how such a speech could be allowed to be presented under the TED "brand name"
since mainstream marketing and publicity relations doctrine have become part of the TED paradigm.
This particular speaker mentioned the inherent bias in a certain field of study... sharing the speakers views about such things as "organized" and
"sponsored" science which discounts that which they cannot explain. The topic is immaterial as many who research topics find at least some
interesting rejections of what some believe are legitimate fields of study...
TED apparently found itself in an embarrassing situation recently when a particular presentation was expected in Valencia, Spain. The local
scientific community was outraged... the topics?
crystal therapy, Egyptian psychoaromatherapy, healing through the Earth, homeopathy and even "basic mind control"
These topics among others are considered "pseudoscience" and scoffed at by the academic mainstream community (apparently.)
Another honorable mention was the apparent faux pas of letting one researcher discuss her "aquatic ape theory' including explaining the reason it is
rejected by the mainstream in her own words.
The question of vetting presenters became central - and to that end - TED leaders published an open letter...
A letter to the tedx community on tedx and bad
It's peppered with some troublesome statements .. but first: Here is a bullet point list they are using as a guide.
Marks of good science:
- It makes claims that can be tested and verified
- It has been published in a peer reviewed journal (but beware… there are some dodgy journals out there that seem credible, but aren't.)
- It is based on theories that are discussed and argued for by many experts in the field
- It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy
- Its proponents are secure enough to accept areas of doubt and need for further investigation
- It does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge
- The proposed speaker works for a university and/or has a phD or other bona fide high level scientific qualification
Marks of bad science:
- Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth
- Is not based on experiments that can be reproduced by others
- Contains experimental flaws or is based on data that does not convincingly corroborate the experimenter’s theoretical claims
- Comes from overconfident fringe experts
- Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new, completely
- Speaks dismissively of mainstream science
- Includes some of the red flags listed in the two sections below
Some observations about these generalizations:
1 - "It makes claims that can be tested and verified"
- Excellent and agreed, no?
2 - "It has been published in a peer reviewed journal (but beware… there are some dodgy journals out there that seem credible, but
Hmmm... OK... I guess we'll have to trust that the only good science is that which is peer reviewed in a "good" journal... but:
Have you ever seen the retractions from some of the "good" journals?
Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientiﬁc
which we discussed in this thread: Fraud in biomed research higher than
3 - "It is based on theories that are discussed and argued for by many experts in the field"
Well... it looks like unless it is a package deal with wide-ranging acceptance by unspecified 'experts' in the 'field' it can't be "good" science. So
much for discovery from unexpected places, amateur scientists, or the academically-unsanctioned.
4 - "It is backed up by experiments that have generated enough data to convince other experts of its legitimacy
Umm... wouldn't be expected in anything that rises to the above guidelines? This seems superfluous to me.
5 - "Its proponents are secure enough to accept areas of doubt and need for further investigation"
Most people espousing bad science theories fall into some other category? This is more 'candy' for the list... confidence is not the right word or
notion for determining sound science... imho.
6 - "It does not fly in the face of the broad existing body of scientific knowledge"
Wow!... I suppose there shall be no blockbuster TED talks which reshape the future of science after all. I bet many dramatic discoveries would fail
this test. No paradigm shifts, nothing to remove the stink of mercantilism from the ranks of the talking heads of science.
7 - "The proposed speaker works for a university and/or has a phD or other bona fide high level scientific qualification"
Thank goodness TED wasn't around before the industrial revolution. If the inference is correct, I suspect soon they will amend this last item to
ensure that the speaker works for "an accepted" university... (or is a celebrity of the media world.)
I give them credit for trying to keep it legitimate... but they lose that credit and more for being establishment tools who can't face any kind of
controversy without wetting themselves.
Now for "bad" science...
A - "Has failed to convince many mainstream scientists of its truth"
Oh... scientist now must "campaign" for legitimacy .... (probably unless they come from a certain school, or are popular - these will be simply
B - "Is not based on experiments that can be reproduced by others."
Actually, I can accept this. After all, scientists have claimed many things authoritatively... like smoking doesn't cause cancer, heavier than air
flight is impossible, it is not humanly possibly to run a 4-minute mile, disciplining your children is "bad" for them, beta blockers and statins keep
you from getting heart attacks, vitamins are 'quack' medicine, "junk" DNA. ...
C - "Contains experimental flaws or is based on data that does not convincingly corroborate the experimenter’s theoretical claims"
I wonder why any scientist would even consider 'pretending' the data supports their theory... oh I know.... money. OK - assuming TEDx folks are peer
reviewing and qualified to do so... this is OK.
D - "Comes from overconfident fringe experts"
your 'blank check' for bias... "too confident" .. really? "Fringe" ... is there a list?
E - "Uses over-simplified interpretations of legitimate studies and may combine with imprecise, spiritual or new age vocabulary, to form new,
completely untested theories."
You mean like... "Atoms are collections of tiny spinning balls of energy"... or , the internet is like a bunch of pipes and tubes?... Metaphors and
simile beware!... that knife cuts both ways!
F - "Speaks dismissively of mainstream science"
Don't you dare criticize the mainstream!!!!
G - "Includes some of the red flags listed in the two sections below"
Author's apology: Sorry I forgot to include the thread that inspired me to write this up...
edit on 10-12-2012 by Maxmars because: (no reason