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  •  And I don't think it lays neatly on the (23+ / 0-)

    intelligence axis either. Mayim Bialik is obviously brilliant, as are many other persons who buy in to the anti-vaxxer movement. Why would that be?  I think that there intelligence paradoxically may make them more vulnerable to fringe science and fringe beliefs. They may think that there intellect would be protective of them falling into error, but then they fail to understand the power of social pressure  and in-group thinking.

    Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

    by JeffSCinNY on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 12:56:45 PM PDT

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    •  Why did Linus Pauling (29+ / 0-)

      believe that vitamin C cured everything, even cancer and AIDS, even in light of evidence that it didn't?  Intelligent people are as vulnerable to self-delusion as anyone else.  We all have our blind sides.

      -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

      by gizmo59 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 01:10:22 PM PDT

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      •  Isaac Newton spent much of his later years (15+ / 0-)

        when he wasn't tracking down counterfeiters (great story there) or defending his primacy of the calculus, doing alchemy, and writing crackpot theories about the Bible.

        Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

        by JeffSCinNY on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 01:15:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I believe alchemy (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          hawkseye, bartcopfan

          is gaining a little more credibility these days as we learn more about what its practitioners actually did.  IIRC it was illegal with severe punishments, so what we have long known about it is thought not to very well represent the body of work.

          And even if there were some screwy ideas involved, generating hypotheses is a creative endeavor that benefits from including, not excluding, far-out ideas.  Think of all of the scientific advances that have depended on someone's coming along and seeing the problem differently from everyone else.  That doesn't happen if you criticize every idea according to current belief before even trying it out.

          •  From what I know about alchemy, (5+ / 0-)

            which is admittedly not much, it was not really practiced as a science, but more like a religion.  Those learning the discipline received the wisdom of their teachers and from ancient texts without question.

            This began to change around the time of Paracelsus, who insisted on science based on observation rather than simply following directions from ancient texts.  That would correspond to the early Renaissance.

            -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

            by gizmo59 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 02:01:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Alchemy is not gaining any credibility! (6+ / 0-)

            Alchemy is the idea that you can turn one element into another.  For example, lead into gold.  Other than radioactive decay, this does not happen.

          •  Rec'd for this.... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RiveroftheWest
            And even if there were some screwy ideas involved, generating hypotheses is a creative endeavor that benefits from including, not excluding, far-out ideas.  Think of all of the scientific advances that have depended on someone's coming along and seeing the problem differently from everyone else.  That doesn't happen if you criticize every idea according to current belief before even trying it out.

            "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

            by bartcopfan on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 01:56:00 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

        •  I seem to recall reading somewhere (9+ / 0-)

          that 90 % of Newton's writings were on the Bible, which is stunning when you realize that his most important contributions to the world had nothing to do with what he spent most of his time doing.  It makes one wonder what more he might have done had he devoted all his energy toward physics and mathematics.

          -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

          by gizmo59 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 01:42:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Probably got bored (9+ / 0-)

            Newton was unbelievably brilliant;  there was no one living who was really on his level, and arrogant bastard that he was, he knew it, too.  I'd guess that his feud with Leibnitz needs to be seen in this light; he probably couldn't believe that some piker from the Germanies might have bested him on this, and he damn well wasn't going to use that piker's notation to do math he thought up himself.

            It took a long time before people understood his work well enough to get the basics.  So, from his point of view, since he solved the whole celestial motion problem, he went on to other endeavors.

            Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

            by mbayrob on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 04:15:59 PM PDT

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            •  except that Leibniz was no piker (6+ / 0-)

              He was one of the few people in Europe, ( maybe the Bernoullis' too) who could think on his level. He spoke 5 languages, including Latin and Greek, and was a diplomat also. He also wrote a book of philosophy and metaphysics, that was the basis for Voltaire writing "Candide"

              Necessity is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.-- Wm.Pitt the Younger

              by JeffSCinNY on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 05:55:26 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  So Leibnitz was Pangloss! (0+ / 0-)

                I didn't know that!  Voltaire was pretty merciless on Leibnitz' philosophy, though.  Perhaps he should have stuck to math?

                -5.13,-5.64; GOP thinking: A 13 year path to citizenship is too easy, and a 5 minute background check is too burdensome. -- 1audreyrenee

                by gizmo59 on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:49:23 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

              •  For Newton, even a genius like Leibnitz (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                bartcopfan, RiveroftheWest

                There's a lot of suspicion among historians of science that no -- not even Leibnitz, nor the Bernoullis ("I recognize the lion by his paw.", as brother John once said) -- were full really competition for that guy.  Lacking it, they suspect that as astonishing as Newton's output in physics turned out to be, that he underachieved what he was capable of.  

                Lebnitz and the Bernoullis certainly were all great mathematicians, and certainly peers of Newton in that area, even if Newton likely didn't consider them competition, Newton being Newton.  But Newton's output in physics goes beyond the math behind it.  Like a number of great physicists,  he could often see the solutions of problems before he did the math, something a friend of mine once called "physical intuition".  It was simply unreal, what he was able to accomplish in optics, in putting the laws of motion on a firm basis,  and his work on gravitation and celestial mechanics.  And many areas in math, as well.

                Not a nice guy.  A very strange guy.  But very likely the most brilliant scientist who ever lived, excepting perhaps only Archimedes, who appears to have figured out most of calculus, almost 2000 years before either Newton or Leibnitz.  

                Quote of the week: "They call themselves bipartisan because they're able to buy members of both parties," (R. Eskow, Campaign for America's Future.)

                by mbayrob on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 12:57:28 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

          •  I'm not sure he would agree with you (0+ / 0-)

            about the relative importance of his various work.

            Personally, I am quite happy that he chose to spend as much time on science as he did.

            BTW, if you ever have a bit of time to kill, read Neal Stephenson's Baroque Cycle.  Incredibly good fiction, as you would expect.

        •  mercury poisoning. (5+ / 0-)

          A great deal of his alchemical experiments would have led to an inevitable mental decline. There's only so much lead and mercury your kidneys can clear. It wasn't like they actually knew about chemical safety in those days ('sugar of lead' i.e. lead acetate was an acceptable ingredient in candy through the late 1800's).

      •  Pauling, vitamin C, and cancer. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RiveroftheWest

        Evidence requires proper interpretation. It turns out Pauling was most likely on the right side.

        It has only recently been realized that the "controversy" over the inability to replicate a beneficial effect of vitamin C in reducing cancer growth was due almost entirely to a difference in the mode of administration employed in the initial and follow up studies.

        Positive effects were seen when ascorbate was administered intravenously (first study), no effects were seen after oral administration (the so called attempts at replication).

        Why this difference was ignored at the time is unclear.  We know now that it is very difficult to raise serum levels of ascorbate beyond a certain point by ingesting vitamin C.  In order to achieve very high levels it is necessary to  bypass the gut and go straight to the blood stream.  Those very high levels are required to "kill cancer".

        There is current active investigation of IV ascorbate in cancer and other diseases, all of which seems quite promising.

        For more information search Pub med for parenteral ascorbate and cancer, or read the following.

        Losing and finding a way at C: New promise for pharmacologic
        ascorbate in cancer treatment

        Everyone born after Star Wars came out is basically a Democrat. -- Save The Clock Tower

        by jotter on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 02:38:30 PM PDT

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    •  People aren't necessarily brilliant about (14+ / 0-)

      everything.

      I remember when I was in grad school being floored by a couple of conversations with my advisor, an undeniably brilliant man.  Our field was physical chemistry, kind of on the borders of chemistry and physics.

      Once I was working on zone-refining a chemical.  Repeated attempts at concise description repeatedly deleted!  Bubbles were produced, and my advisor was convinced they were "bubbles of vacuum."

      There's no such thing as bubbles of vacuum (not in a liquid, anyway).  Bubbles in a liquid exist because of the internal pressure.  If not for internal pressure, they would collapse.

      The other conversation regarded aircraft flying faster in a tailwind than in a headwind.  I think this is easily understood as a problem of moving reference frames.  Say the wind is 50 mph, and the jet flies 500 mph relative to the air that surrounds it.  Going with the wind, it makes 550 mph, into a headwind a net of 450.  This is a standard way of considering a problem in physics, but my advisor had a real mental block about it.

      Neurobiology doesn't seem like it's as closely related to immunology as these problems are to physical chemistry.

    •  It's because of our educational system (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      gffish, sajiocity

      School districts are afraid to do more than "teach to the test", which means kids don't learn the science they need to understand the world.

      Visit http://theuptake.org/ for Minnesota news as it happens.

      by Phoenix Woman on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 05:41:49 PM PDT

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      •  I'm not sure that's the only reason (8+ / 0-)

        It may be that the path to a PhD and afterward leaves little  room for exploring beyond one's narrow niche. (That's one reason I stayed at a community college- no pressure to publish so there's much more variety, if not depth.)  I recall doing a laser safety seminar with some PhD students in physics- they were pretty clueless about the basic workings of the eye. In their own fields they could blow me away with their knowledge and skills, but they didn't have the time or inclination to find out what might lie beyond.

        beam me up Scotty- there's no intelligent life down here

        by ladybug4you on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 06:03:23 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  The big problem is that when a very smart (3+ / 0-)

          person develops expertise in a field, something that requires lots and lots of work as well as intelligence, he/she can easily come to believe that either that expertise transfers to unrelated fields or (more insidiously) that he/she will be able to develop that same level of expertise in an unrelated field with much less work than it took him/her to develop it in his/her current field.

          However, this simply isn't the case; the amount of work needed to develop expertise (according to most psychologists, a minimum of 10,000 hours which is about 5 years of full-time work) depends only on the field itself, not on what other fields one may have already mastered.

          One can see the fallacy in action when creationists talk about all the people with "STEM" degrees who reject evolution. The problem is that the majority of STEM degrees are in engineering, and expertise at engineering simply doesn't magically translate into expertise at biology.

          Unfortunately when smart and educated people get crazy ideas they can come up with plausibly truthy arguments. -- Andrew F Cockburn

          by ebohlman on Mon Mar 10, 2014 at 02:47:51 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Obviously brilliant (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sajiocity, bartcopfan

      And yet a moron.

    •  Lies, not lays. Why does no one understand this? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RiveroftheWest

      Lay is transitive, and must have an object.  You lay (down) something or someone.  Lie is intransitive--no object.  You lie down.  Lie somehow dropped off the grammar radar for people born after 1950, and a few older who should know better.

      Don't bet your future on 97% of climate scientists being wrong. Take action on climate now!

      by Mimikatz on Sun Mar 09, 2014 at 07:14:49 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's unclear what Bialik actually thinks (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bartcopfan, ebohlman, RiveroftheWest

      It may just be that she doesn't want to talk about her kids.

      However, being highly intelligent isn't a protection against delusion. It helps prevent it in many cases, but can also provide more elaborate rationalizations of beliefs held for unperceived or denied irrational reasons.

    •  Humans are still human (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      belinda ridgewood

      People of all kinds are generally able to be swayed by non-statistical arguments. It seems to be just how our brains work, unfortunately.

      Things like anecdotes, oft-repeated myths, and political bias tend to have a massive effect on our discernment capabilities, so that disjointed factoids can come together to make a convincing argument.

      Big industries, including Pharma, tend to cut corners, and mislead where they think profit is at stake. This is NOT a controversial fact. It's also the truth that the vast majority of chemicals currently in common use in America are almost entirely untested, with regard to health impacts.

      Pile up a few things like that, and you can get an argument that might make an intelligent person wonder whether there's something more to it.

      And if that person hasn't actually taken the time to look at the research, and wrap their identity around a willingness to accept peer-reviewed evidence even if it proves them wrong, then you'll get someone who thinks that maybe vaccines ARE problematic.

      Or you'll get someone who thinks that they MIGHT be, and they want to look into the matter more, but they just don't have time, so doubt remains indefinitely.

      And to a large degree that would be fine, if we didn't spend so much time demanding the opinions of famous people because they're famous.

      •  Thanks for your first comment, Alteredstory. (0+ / 0-)

        I agree; it's very difficult for people, even well-educated and intelligent people, to avoid being influenced at times by arguments that appeal to the emotions. (When I was in high school in a small town, I assumed people had right-wing political views because they weren't smart enough to know any better. I was quite surprised to go away to college and find that wasn't necessarily the case.)

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        by belinda ridgewood on Mon Mar 17, 2014 at 06:21:42 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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