Jan. 25th, 2011

gmonkey42: cartoon Sephiroth (Default)
There was a troll post on ontd_science and it's already baleeted. It's good that the mods are on top of things. But the last time I saw it, there were only 9 comments and three of those were mine; I'm sure it got a lot worse and now I've missed it!

The OP asked us to comment with common misconceptions about science. The first comment was a link to the relevant Wikipedia page (which I didn't know existed until that xkcd strip!). The second comment was mine with a few of my favorites and a humorous quip about each one.

The OP replied that they weren't really looking for common misconceptions held by the general public, but by scientists. And that comment included the word "experts" in scare quotes. This was the first sign that the thread was headed for deletion. Another commenter and I replied briefly to explain that it doesn't really work like that - if experts (or, indeed "experts") disagree over the interpretation of data then yeah, one will turn out to be more right than the other but that doesn't mean the other one has a misconception. That's not what that word means.

Also we both used the phrase "by definition" and my final comment was to give the other explainer an internet high-five for that.

Then the OP replied that in fact there could be experts who cling to misconceptions but true experts will evaluate new information and be willing to change their minds. Yeahhhh, that second one is called "doing science." So the OP is saying there are experts, who actually adhere to the basic principles of science, and then there are "experts" who... don't? but they're still somehow regarded by other scientists, who know them to be wrong, as experts? Whut? The OP was obviously fishing for something but I can't really articulate what it was. Something involving the OP not understanding how science works, I think. Like the goal of science is to assume we know everything about everything and then we write it down in a bunch of big, heavy textbooks and force everyone to believe in it because we think we're smarter than everyone. You're right, OP, scientists should totally stop doing that!

So at that point I left to watch stand-up comedy on YouTube for a while and when I came back, the post was gone.

You know what's cool, though? The way the OP seems to think science works is itself a common misconception!

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