Sunday, May 31, 2009

Scientia Causidicus: Steven Dutch

This is the first of what I hope will be a regular series of posts bringing attention to, and hopefully honoring, people who are strong advocates for science. In my own pidgin internet-translation-latin version of the taxonomy of Linnaeus, I am titling this group the Scientia Causidicus (Science Advocates).
To qualify, these people have to say, do, or write something which directly or indirectly advocates good science. If they happen to have a bit of fun with it at the same time, that is even better. There are many people this might apply to, but I will attempt to apply this to people who deserve more attention that they get for their efforts. Note that actual science qualifications are not required (but probably help).
I might have to come up with a separate category for people who promote bad science, and in doing bring attention to what good science really is. I'll need a name for that too, perhaps Scientia Cado (Science Fallacy)?

Steven Dutch Scientia CausidicusBack on-topic though ... with no further ado I present my first Scientia Causidicus honoree, Dr. Steven Dutch, Geologist and Professor of Natural and Applied Sciences at University of Wisconsin - Green Bay. Professor Dutch hosts a most interesting collection of writings on
Science, Pseudoscience, and Irrationalism. [image DaytonACS]

This page links to a large group of articles on topics from Science and Pseudoscience to Vaporizing the World Trade Center.

A few selected quotations:

What evidence would it take to prove your beliefs wrong?

I simply will not reply to challenges that do not address this question. Refutability is one of the classic determinants of whether a theory can be called scientific. Moreover, I have found it to be a great general-purpose cut-through-the-crap question to determine whether somebody is interested in serious intellectual inquiry or just playing mind games. Note, by the way, that I am assuming the burden of proof here - all you have to do is commit to a criterion for testing. It's easy to criticize science for being "closed-minded". Are you open-minded enough to consider whether your ideas might be wrong?



Every so often I get e-mails from people complaining I don't treat these topics or their believers with respect.

There is nothing in crank movements worthy of respect.

First of all, cranks don't treat the orthodox with respect. They can accuse science of willfully neglecting or falsifying evidence. They can accuse their own nation of bringing down skyscrapers and causing thousands of deaths, or deliberately breaching levees to flood New Orleans, but aim a little critical language at them, and they howl about being "disrespected." Aww, poo' baby.

Also, from Dr. Dutch's University Survival Guide (scroll down about half-way), the Top Ten No Sympathy Lines, which includes:

How Am I Doing In Class?

You're failing.

If you don't know the class material well enough to assess your own progress, and you don't know enough math to estimate your grade given your progress to date, you're failing.

You may luck out and get something higher than an F, but as theologians say, don't confuse mercy with merit.

There is much more, go see for yourself.
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