Amateur scientists vs. cranks

It’s absolutely vital that when people make statements like …

“Er, no. They’re fringe theories, what predictions they’ve made have not been supported by observations.”

… that the statements be made with respect to examples. If I made such a statement about a conventional theory, clearly it would be too vague to be considered a claim if I left it to the reader’s imagination to fill in the blanks.

For instance, consider these more specific claims …

(1) The gravitational constant is the least constant of all of the “constants”. Rupert Sheldrake speaks eloquently on this subject in his “Science Set Free” lectures. For a graph of the different measurements of G, see the article titled “G-whizzes disagree over gravity”. Notice that the error bars seem to not really be confining the discrepancies.

(2) We now know that 99%+ of what we see with our telescopes is matter within the plasma state – basically, a gas with some percentage of unbound charged particles. For references, see This is important because in the laboratory and in novelty plasma globes, plasmas routinely conduct electrical currents. It’s very difficult to model them, and so even with today’s supercomputers, astrophysicists will make many approximations when modeling the cosmic plasma. Many of these simplifications are not ideologically neutral. For instance, cosmic plasmas are routinely modeled as though they lack any electrical resistance whatsoever – as if they are superconducting. We know from the laboratory that a minute electrical resistance does indeed exist, and this is incredibly important because it is this tiny resistance which permits the plasma – in the lab, at least – to form electric fields. But, the cosmic plasma is modeled as though it cannot sustain E-fields. And where there might be magnetic fields, they are treated as though they are frozen in place, rather than the complex electrodynamic phenomena we see in the lab. For a more technical treatment of the cosmic plasmas, see George Parks’ papers “Why Space Needs to Go Beyond the MHD Box” and “Importance of Electric Fields in Modeling Space Plasmas”. It’s important to realize that there exists a debate over how cosmic plasmas are being modeled.

(3) The human side to the story of the cosmic plasma models is incredibly fascinating. The magnetohydrodynamics (MHD) models which are today used to model most cosmic plasmas were invented by Hannes Alfven at the start of his career. By the end of his career, he came to realize that they were being applied by conventional astrophysicists incorrectly, and so he actually used the occasion of his Nobel acceptance speech for those models – as he had done many times before, actually – to distance himself from that approach. For an excellent historical summary of that story, see David Talbott’s article in Edge Magazine at This is one of the greatest untold controversies in science today. Needless to say, Alfven’s warnings were repeatedly ignored, and 43 years have passed with little serious contemplation given to them. In fact, he predicted that these models would set the astrophysical community onto a path of crisis – and some critics see the 4% universe we now have as evidence for that.

(4) Many years ago, science was consumed by the catastrophist debates – which proposed that (a) catastrophes had wracked Earth, and (b) these catastrophes happened in the recent past and were witnessed and recorded by humanity. What is quite interesting to observe is that Carl Sagan and the “uniformitarians” were said to have won that debate against Immanuel Velikovsky. And to be sure, V was an interdisciplinary explorer of ideas who made mistakes. But, the interesting part that is rarely discussed by proponents of conventional theories is that uniformitarianism is increasingly on the defense. Global catastrophic events are part of our scientific lexicon today. But, point (b) remains a heretical statement. It’s an interesting situation because Velikovsky was far more of an expert on the mythology side of that debate than on the global catastrophe aspect. And yet, it is on the global catastrophe debate which the catastrophists seem to have been on the right side of history thus far.

What I’ve personally witnessed is that the most vocal critics of the mythology arguments tend to not even realize the distinction between religion and mythology. They are basically noise machines.