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Discuss the note to the TED community on the withdrawal of the TEDxWestHollywood license.

For discussion: http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/01/a-note-to-the-ted-community-on-the-withdrawal-of-the-tedxwesthollywood-license


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    Apr 5 2013: A bit of humor to lighten things up:

    What Kind of Scientist Are You?

    A companion piece,"What Kind of Pseudocientist Are You?" is tempting.
    • Apr 5 2013: Personally, I prefer "What Kind of Pseudoskeptic Are you?", but until that is written, I'll go with "Zen...and the Art of Debunking":

      • Apr 5 2013: It's worth quoting at length. Anybody recognize any of this?


        • Before commencing to debunk, prepare your equipment. Equipment needed: one armchair.

        • Put on the right face. Cultivate a condescending air certifying that your personal opinions are backed by the full faith and credit of God. Adopting a disdainful, upper-class manner is optional but highly recommended.

        • Employ vague, subjective, dismissive terms such as "ridiculous," "trivial," "crackpot," or "bunk," in a manner that purports to carry the full force of scientific authority.

        • Keep your arguments as abstract and theoretical as possible. This will send the message that accepted theory overrides any actual evidence that might challenge it -- and that therefore no such evidence is worth examining.

        • By every indirect means at your disposal imply that science is powerless to police itself against fraud and misperception, and that only self-appointed vigilantism can save it from itself.

        • Project your subjective opinions from beneath a cloak of ostensible objectivity. Always characterize unorthodox statements as "claims," which are "touted," and your own assertions as "facts," which are "stated."
      • Apr 5 2013: II. REDEFINING SCIENCE

        • Portray science not as an open-ended process of discovery but as a pre-emptive holy war against invading hordes of quackery-spouting infidels. Since in war the ends justify the means, you may fudge, stretch or violate the scientific method, or even omit it entirely, in the name of defending it.

        • Equate the narrow, stringent, rigorous and critical elements of science with all of science, while summarily dismissing the value of inquiry, exploration and discovery.

        • Though stubborn negativity can no more be equated with science than a braking system can be equated with an automobile, insist that science consists wholly of the ruthless application of doubt. If anyone objects, accuse them of viewing science in exclusively fuzzy, subjective, or mystical terms.

        • Likewise, while it would be ridiculous to equate a vehicle with a particular destination, declare that "science equals the existing body of scientific conclusions!"

        • Reinforce the popular misconception that certain areas of inquiry are inherently unscientific. In other words, deliberately confuse the process of science with the content of science. If someone should point out that science must be neutral to subject matter, and only the investigative process can be valid or flawed, dismiss such objections using a method employed successfully by generations of politicians: simply reassure everyone that "there is no contradiction here!"

        • While insisting with one side of your mouth that the scientific method is universal in its application and should be free to inquire into anything whatsoever, use the other side to deem it ineffectual when applied to unpopular subject matter. Be sure to assert, in time-honored conservative fashion, that "freedom isn't license," . . . and that "some questions are best left to the theologians!"
      • Apr 5 2013: • Declare that the progress of science depends on explaining the unknown in terms of the known. In other words, science equals reductionism. You can apply the reductionist approach in any situation by discarding more and more and more evidence until what little is left can be explained entirely in terms of established knowledge.

        • Downplay the fact that free inquiry and legitimate disagreement are a normal part of science.

        • Insist that mainstream Western science is completely objective, and is uninfluenced by covert beliefs, untestable assumptions, ideological biases, political pressures or commercial interests. If an unfamiliar or inexplicable phenomenon happens to be considered true or useful by a nonwestern or other traditional society, you may dismiss it out of hand as "anecdotal nonsense," "ignorant misconception," "medieval superstition" or "fairy lore."

        • Declare that individual temperament, personality type and human emotions exert no influence whatsoever on the objectivity of "real" scientists. Ignore the fact that the denial of emotions, prejudices, idiosyncrasies and plain old human insecurity can exert powerful subconscious influences on the scientific enterprise, often with hilariously unscientific results.

        • Avoid addressing the many historical parallels between the emergence of science and that of democracy, both of which originally rested on the revolutionary foundations of independent thought, honest inquiry, the free flow of information and the questioning of established authority.

        • Reinforce the popular fiction that our scientific knowledge is complete and finished. Do this by asserting that "if such-and-such discovery were legitimate, then surely we would already know about it!"

        • Assert that nothing can possibly occur that circumvents Newton's 17th-century formulations of physical law. If someone should remind you that the 17th century did not have the last word on physics, change the subject as deftly as you can.
      • Apr 5 2013: • Characterize any inquiry into a genuine mystery as "indiscriminate," while equating the summary dismissal of unorthodox ideas with "intelligent discrimination."

        • If someone reminds you that "in science, one point of view requires as much proof or disproof as another," invoke the irrelevant truism that "orthodox beliefs have already been proven!"

        • State categorically that the unconventional may be dismissed as, at best, an honest misinterpretation of the conventional.

        • If pressed about your novel interpretations of the scientific method, declare that
        "intellectual integrity is a subtle issue!"

        • At every opportunity extoll the virtues of "critical thinking," while behaving as if the phrase means nothing more than ruthless negativity. Avoid explaining that critical thinking presupposes a willingness to examine all sides of an issue with equal rigor.
        • Apr 5 2013: Excellent, Steve. Of course, I've maxed out thumbs up for you but always appreciate your contributions here.

          There's so much I recognized when I first saw it, especially when at the peak of Jimmy Randy's trolling last weekend. Tried to post a link to the version I found at the TCM Group's website but Akismet blocks that site. Almost all the tactics have been used here at some point or another. It's the perfect guide to the tactics of debunkers.

          Thanks for quoiting it at length. It's well worth it. One of my favourites is:

          "Portray science not as an open-ended process of discovery but as a pre-emptive holy war against invading hordes of quackery-spouting infidels. Since in war the ends justify the means, you may fudge, stretch or violate the scientific method, or even omit it entirely, in the name of defending it."

          Compare this to:

          "they are not ted forum members. they are a zealot army sent here for the sole purpose of creating turmoil."

          That's just one example off the top of my head.
      • Apr 5 2013: I've just had another look at the article and if you were to take each bullet point as a heading, you would be able to fill several pages with examples of each drawn from the discussions over the last few weeks. Every single thing he says is manifest here many times over.

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