Pathological Science.

Discuss fusion-related developments, personalities, and events. Explore how we got to where we are today.

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Pathological Science.

Postby chrismb » Sat Nov 20, 2010 9:18 pm

Just a gentle [and timely?] reminder of Irvine Langmuir's view on certain types of theory and physics....

(I wasn't sure where this might've suitably been put, but it fits the forum catch-title "Explore how we got to where we are today")

Pathological science, as defined by Langmuir, is a psychological process in which a scientist, originally conforming to the scientific method, unconsciously veers from that method, and begins a pathological process of wishful data interpretation (see the Observer-expectancy effect, and cognitive bias). Some characteristics of pathological science are:

* The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.
* The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability, or many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.
* There are claims of great accuracy.
* Fantastic theories contrary to experience are suggested.
* Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.
* The ratio of supporters to critics rises and then falls gradually to oblivion.

Langmuir never intended the term to be rigorously defined; it was simply the title of his talk on some examples of "weird science". As with any attempt to define the scientific endeavor, examples and counterexamples can always be found.

[as quoted from]

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