Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Are you a crackpot?

I am not sure whether you know what a crackpot is. According to wikipedia, Crackpots are: "Pejoratively, the term Crackpot is used against a person, who writes or speaks in an authoritative fashion about a particular subject, often in science, but is alleged to have false or even ludicrous beliefs." They are especially common in my home field of theoretical physics. Either they claim to have disproven Einstein, or have found the laws of physics that unify all fundamental theories from quantum mechanics to general relativity. A negative response from the physics community often leads to claims of conspiracies. Examples are here, here, and here. When I was a visiting researcher at DAMTP (the institute where Prof Stephen Hawking works) at the University of Cambridge, the news went around that a Japanese person called up Hawking in the middle of the night: "asking to talk to the prof to tell him that he had solved all mysteries in physics". I also had my share of crackpots. It is virtually impossible to convince them why their theory is not correct. Here is a test for physics.

So how about in the field of PDS? Here is Tom's ...

Are you a crackpot? test

1) Do you have a cure for stuttering?

2) Have you cured yourself from stuttering?

3) Did you have an inspirational moment, where suddenly you instinctively you knew what stuttering is really about?

4) Do you often refer to big names to agree or disagree with them like "I agree with Freud that..." or "I disagree with van Ripper that..."

5) Do you dismiss brain imaging and genetics studies as irrelevant without having read the research articles?

6) Do you think that people ignore your ideas to protect their own interests? Or that there is a secret conspiracy against you and your ideas?

7) Do you firmly believe that PDS is purely psychological?

8) Do you write a blog making comments about PDS research even though you only have a PhD in theoretical physics? (quote from a university professor)

9) Do you talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk about your experience instead of asking others about theirs?

10) Do you over-use words like holistic, in-touch-with-oneself, and so on?

If you have answered more than three questions with YES: Congratulations!, you are a crackpot! :-) Please note that a university degree or a professorship does not neutralise the results, as experience shows in physics.

Here are the solutions:

1) There is no cure that works for everyone.

2) You might well have become fluent through hard work or / and an X event, but you are not cured in the sense that you have the same speech system as normal people.

3) You might well have had such a moment, and as a consequence became more fluent, but that does not mean that you understand PDS. You can very well become fluent by using a wrong theory of PDS. Like someone who thinks the treatment is a cure will be more successful that Tom who knows about relapse and so on.

4) Science is about strength of arguments and not about who made an argument. Personally, I couldnt care less about who said what. For example, in my field of physics, I have never heard any of the world leading people say "Einstein said that...". All the so-called authorities in PDS are just human beings who also make mistakes. And then again, why does someone become an authority??

5) Dismissing this kind of research without trying to understand it is just insane.

6) They might well protect their interest, but that doesnt make your theory right! Because if your theory is wrong, they would have behaved in the same way!

7) There is now so much research on brain and genes that this position has become untenable.

8) :-)

9) If you start talking to other people, you will realise that your stuttering is very different to others, and that generalising your situation or building a theory only on your experience is not possible.

10) These terms are very vague and not useful for a scientific discussion.

No comments: