QUOTE(Selina @ Sun 5th February 2012, 1:06pm)
Why not just call them conspiracy theorists? they really hate that.. most people would have no idea what you are talking about when you talk about "woo" as a noun
Okay, so I looked up "woo." Fascinating. It's a pseudo-skeptical term for what those stupid people believe, people who are not properly skeptical, like us.
Except that pseudo-skeptics aren't skeptical, they are arrogant.
That is, they aren't real skeptics. Since real skeptics do get involved with skeptical organizations, sometimes, I don't want to toss everyone into the "arrogant" basket. I was a fan of Martin Gardner
since my teen-age years, in fact, and it's one of the pleasures of my life that he once quoted my work.
So when I looked at the article on "woo,"
cited above, I looked, then, at RationalWiki. Is this wiki actually "rational"? Or is it faith in a collection of beliefs, shared loosely by the members?
There are a few fields where I know that the "common wisdom" is bogus, and where a sane definition of "scientific consensus" is different from the beliefs held by many people who are, in some field or other, scientists. A sane definition would mean the consensus of the knowledgeable. It requires a knowledge of the experimental and theoretical work in a field, and this can, under some circumstances, tease out the difference between pseudo-skeptics and genuine skeptics, who don't forget to be as skeptical of their own ideas as they might be of the ideas of others.
So, cold fusion, obviously. I edited a paper published in Naturwissenschaften, Status of cold fusion (2010)
, and there is another Wikipedia editor who managed to get a letter critical of cold fusion researchers in a minor peer-reviewed journal. He complained that they wouldn't let him reply again. Apparently those cold fusioneers have taken over the journals.
Basically, a review that is totally critical of cold fusion will have difficulty getting published under peer review any more, there is way too much evidence to the contrary. Specific criticisms of specific results are still being published, though there isn't much of this -- there should be more! The background of these criticisms is not an alleged impossibility, that's been discarded, the criticisms are now being written by people working in the field. Meanwhile, I found sixteen peer-reviewed secondary source, reviews of the field, that treat it as established, if not explained, over the last six or seven years. None negative.RationalWiki/Cold fusion
. I thought it would be there. Some interesting stuff. However, very sloppy. There is a standard argument against cold fusion, called the "dead graduate student effect." If the reaction found by Pons and Fleischmann were ordinary deuterium fusion, half the reactions would produce an energetic neutron, and anyone approaching the experiment would have received a fatal dose. Q.E.D., eh?
Very powerful argument in fact, and completely irrelevant, because, almost certainly, for lots of reasons -- not just the (mostly) absent neutrons -- that isn't the reaction. Pons and Fleischmann, in their published article, did not call it "cold fusion", they called it an "unknown nuclear reaction." Pretty much, it still is. Unknown, i.e., we don't know what it is. There are some theoreticians who have ideas, though, and one of them might turn out to be right.
This is typical pseudo-skeptical cant:
Although it retained a strong following of true believers for over a decade, most now consider Pons-Fleischmann electrochemical cold fusion to be pseudoscience.
Anyone who accepts the evidence and who decides to work with it, perhaps to confirm results, or to explore new possibilities, is a "true believer," implying a lack of proper skepticism. The actual evidence isn't even considered; rather, there is an immediate appeal to "most." Most what? Most human beings, most scientists, most particle physicists, most experts on solid state quantum mechanics, most electrochemists, what?
The experimental work has mostly been done by electrochemists. It was a difficult experiment for them, and required many weeks of preparation to build up deuterium concentrations to the value necessary for the effect to show. For particle physicists, completely untrained in the techniques of electrochemistry and the difficulties involved, impossible; and they did not wait, generally, the required time. They assumed that if it was going to happen, it would happen quickly. Basically, they had no concept. From later work, all the early negative replications were quite predictable. The early negative replications actually confirm the more mature understanding. (And that's especially true where they looked for helium along with heat, finding neither.)
Even Pons and Fleischmann only saw the effect in about one out of six cells. Often pseudo-skeptics see this and jump on it, imagining that this means the effect is close to the noise. No. When the effect appears, it is often way above noise. It does not disappear with increased accuracy of measurement, that is a claim founded in the fact that the CalTech replication effort made a mistake, corrected it, and an initial small positive finding disappeared. An anecdote, improperly extrapolated to the work of others. The argument, however, should have been over by about 1994, when the work of Melvin Miles became known. He found conclusive evidence that the ash was helium, and he found that the anomalous heat correlated with the helium found. His work had also gotten more successful, he saw anomalous heat in 21/33 cells. The 12 cells with no heat, he found no helium. The cells with heat, 18/21 showed helium in amounts commensurate with the heat, at a value consistent with deuterium fusion. But it's not the d-d fusion reaction that was rejected as an explanation (d+d -> He-4 would produce heavy gamma radiation, there goes the dead grad student effect again). Its likely something else that starts with deuterium and ends with helium. That is, by definition, a nuclear reaction, but we don't know what reaction it is.
The particle physicists hate this. They don't want to accept the experimental evidence until there is an explanation they can understand and accept. Hatred of the unknown. .... isn't that similar to the love of conspiracy theories mentioned in this thread? My training, though, leads me to see ignorance as the foundation of knowledge. When we know everything, we can't learn, we can't grow. In fact, we will never know everything.
I's not clear to me just when, but cold fusion has definitely turned the corner, in the academic press. Compared to the nadir, where there were only about a half-dozen papers being published under peer review a year, it's exploded. The American Chemical Society is publishing books on cold fusion, with Oxford University Press. Springer-Verlag is publishing and so is Springer. The holdouts are a few journals held in high respect by ... nuclear physicists, journals that heavily committed themselves, years ago, to the concept that cold fusion was bogus, a huge mistake, incompetence, etc.
Sooner or later the publishers will notice that others are eating their lunch.... You'd think they would, at least, publish a critical review to counter all the "nonsense" that they might think is being published.
Real skeptics might say, mmmm.... maybe I should take another look at this. Robert Duncan (physicist)
did, when asked by CBS News to look into cold fusion. But pseudo-skeptics believe in nothing more than their own rightness, and they rarely look back and say "oops!" Some of them will take this to their graves, muttering at about how gullible everyone else is. Until it literally is heating their tea. Which might never happen. Not all rare physical phenomena can be used to boil tea!
The RationalWiki article implies that only a few die-hards are still researching cold fusion. You'd never know that the Pons-Fleischmann reaction, producing anomalous heat, has been confirmed by 153 peer-reviewed papers, and that it's being routinely done by now. Explaining the reaction is another matter, but it's almost certainly *some kind of fusion*, just not the kind that everyone thought was impossible, probably because that reaction is indeed impossible.
"Pseudoscience?" No, in fact, this is science, controlled experiment, attempt to falsify, all that. There is plenty of news in the field that isn't science, and they are sure to mention that, Andrea Rossi, for example. Funny, twenty years of scientific research with no coverage. One year of outrageous claims from someone who certainly looks like a con artist, plenty of coverage. That's how pseudo-skeptics operate, they will describe a bad apple in intimate detail, implying that all the other apples in the barrel are similar....
And then I looked at coverage of low-carb diets.
There is a neat cross-over with cold fusion, because one of the major skeptical books on cold fusion was written by Gary Taubes, who was just getting started. Taubes later wrote on salt, and then on low-carb diets, or, more accurately, on the pseudoscience that abounds and that is often the "common wisdom" on diet, that is *not* based on research, or on poorly done research. The authors of the low carb article are apparently utterly ignorant about all this. The Atkins Diet was science-based. Atkins was a cardiologist (as is Agatston, author of the South Beach Diet, which they mention without mentioning the cardiology connection.)
Taube's work on cold fusion was very well-written but he obviously had an agenda, a pre-determined conclusion, which he pursued, alleging fraud, for example, that was not found to be so. On carbs and fat, however, Taubes has written the best book in the field, Good Calories, Bad Calories. It's about one-third footnotes, quite a tome. It's about diet and disease and the history of the "fat myth," which the RationalWiki article simply states as if it were fact. Here is the RationalWiki lede:
The basic low-carb theory
In theory, foods with a high glycemic index, such as most sugars and refined carbohydrates, cause the body to retain more body fat and cause increased hunger due to fluctuating insulin levels.
That's not the best description of the process, but it's not wrong. Carbs in the blood, aside from fiber, which is indigestible, end up in the blood as glucose, which is toxic. However, our bodies evolved to handle this through the action of insulin, which triggers the conversion of sugar into fat, which is then stored for future use as fuel. The body has an independent metabolic system which can burn ketones for fuel, and is able to break fat down into ketones. However, fat is generally conserved by the body, it won't be burned if glucose is available. Yes, when the blood glucose levels has been reduced to non-toxic levels, the insulin continues acting, and glucose levels fall further, inducing hypoglycemic hunger.
With some of these diets such as Atkins, an "induction phase" at the beginning of the diet seeks to induce a state of ketosis, tricking the body into consuming its own body fat and shedding water retention by reducing the carbohydrate intake below a certain threshold.
Atkins begins with an induction phase, yes, where carb intake is held below 20 grams per day. The patient is encouraged to eat all they want of fat and protein, and within the 20 gram allowance, quite a few vegetables fit. Salads are a favorite. Atkins dieters often will measure ketone levels in the urine using Ketostix, the goal is to induce moderate ketosis. It's not some "trick," though. Ketone metabolism is very possibly the "design" for humans. Carbohydrates are not necessary for health *at all.* A diet without protein or fat is truly dangerous. In any case, the body has stores of fat, and when glucose is no longer available in large quantities to build those stores, they will become available for burning as ketones, and the Ketostix simply show that this is happening. Ketone metabolism is not like glucose metabolism, because the body has those large stores of fat. It doesn't run out, except upon serious starvation, blood glucose levels remain stable (the glucose needed can be synthesized by the body, and is, but because insulin is not being released, because it isn't needed to clear the blood of toxic levels of glucose, those are only created from carb consumption, new fat isn't being stored.)
Atkins' primary contribution would be the realization that fat in the diet regulates appetite, get enough fat and the appetite is suppressed, and that weight could be controlled simply by regulating how much carb is in the diet, that calorie counting wasn't normally necessary.
Water retention is commonly asserted as the cause of early weight loss in Atkins diets. It might be true, but that's a transient phenomenon. Atkins is designed as a "Nutritional Approach," not as a restrictive diet. If one does Atkins just to lose weight, and loses the weight (and people often do), and then goes back to prior eating habits, i.e., much higher carb, regaining the weight is inevitable. One of the reasons that Atkins is highly successful as a long-term diet is that it emphasizes eating foods that satisfy. Some people, believing that fat is unhealthy, try to do low-fat Atkins. That is, then, necessarily a high-protein diet, which is apparently dangerous. Atkins is high-fat, moderate protein.
(The Atkins plan involves a phase where one determines the carb level that causes weight to remain stable, and that's recommended as a long-term level. It might be 40 to 60 grams of carb a day, and Atkins himself would occasionally eat a baked potato. I presume with butter and sour cream, yum! (Fat slows down the digestion of starches, thus reducing insulin release and the impact of eating something like a potato.)
In practice, advertised low-carb diets are usually high in saturated fats and excessive in protein intake, leading to increased risk of several diseases from kidney stones to heart disease.
Atkins is not "excessive in protein intake," that's a myth. None of this alleged increased risk has ever been shown, and there is plenty of contrary evidence. Saturated fats, in themselves, aren't harmful and may, in fact, be among the healthiest of foods. (Let's confine this to natural saturated fats, like butter, like coconut oil, not trans fats, an artificial creation.) The connection between fat and heart disease was a major blunder of the 1970s, resulting from an epidemiological study where the studied countries were cherry-picked. Taubes does a fantastic job of showing the history of this. It should have been a clue that high consumption of butter, in the long-term Framingham study, showed no correlated increase in heart disease. Further, more recent studies have shown that the Atkins diet produces better blood chemistry, in terms of measures of heart risk, than low-fat and officially recommended diets. I'm on a very low carb diet, and my blood chemistry is good, if analyzed intelligently. I have very high cholesterol, probably familial, but the HDL/LDL ratio is fine, triglycerides are low, and CRP is very low, and I've had a cardiac CAT scan to check calcification of the arteries. Agatston score, 26. That means that 74% of men my age will have more calcification. Agatston, isn't that the Sourth Beach guy? Yup. Cardiologists, recommending low carb diets. Agatston stayed more toward "saturated fat is bad," Atkins dumped the entire concept, but they really are similar in certain ways.
Critics note that the same weight loss could be achieved through other diets which do not involve such an unhealthy intake of saturated fats.
Most diet plans don't work, particularly because of this myth about saturated fats. The plans leave you hungry, unsatisfied, as a result.
Low-carb diets became popular after sensational stories of rapid weight loss, but the real reason for the weight loss is low-carb diets are so restrictive that most people who try to follow them wind up drastically reducing their caloric intake, especially that consisting of sugary foods. Proponents claim the diet makes the subject want to eat less in total.
Fat is higher in caloric content per unit weight than carbs, much higher. It's not rocket science. Fat tends to suppress appetite. I find that, on a low-carb, high fat diet, I eat much less food! And I'm happy, I'm eating what I truly like, what I ate and loved as a child, just with much less potato! As a kid, they said to me, "have some bread with your butter!" What was my favorite part of a cake? Yup, the frosting, and it wasn't the sugar, it was the fat. You can get low-carb ice cream (sweetened with sucralose) and low-fat ice cream, which might as well be made out of plastic, so unappetizing is it.
I'm rarely hungry. I enjoy food. These "rational skeptics" are fools, believing in their own myths, imagining that their thinking is superior.
Cold fusion and low-carb diets are two fields where political decisions created massive propaganda in a particular direction. It's been amazing to watch. Atkins eventually, having been challenged to do it, funded some research. Even though he chose a researcher who was skeptical of his work, it was, naturally, attacked, because of the funding source. Research showing that butterfat wasn't a problem was attacked as being supported by the dairy industry. But, consider this: the dairy industry and Atkins were small fry compared to Archer Daniels Midland and the corn syrup industry,, and the carb food industry in general. Those who focused on Atkins were straining at a gnat -- or at nothing -- and swallowing a camel. Or a container-load of corn syrup. Yum!
Now, I'll go drink some half-and-half, which, if it's unhealthy for me, would be through the lactose. I use heavy cream in my coffee. And I'll die someday, which will prove?