Sunday, May 30, 2010

More dubious science.

It looks as if science has just given up these days. Instead of reason and logic, many now seem to be depending on 'This is how it is because we say so, just shut up and do as you are told'.

Those 'units per week' limits on alcohol consumption weren't the result of any research at all. They were made-up numbers. That 'five-a-day' rule for fruit and vegetables was made-up too. No research behind it at all. Second hand smoke has not a shred of evidence behind it. Third hand smoke is risible. Global warming is not actually happening - the whole thing is based on a short period of warming that ended a decade ago, and since then the planet has been cooling. It has been much hotter in the past according to those ice-core samples and life wasn't erased.

Even in the 'debunkers' camp, those who spend a lot of time trying to disprove every aspect of the paranormal, they're just not trying any more.

A group calling themselves scientists claim to have proved that those out-of-body experiences reported by people close to death are just sparks in a dying brain. Yet when you look at the report, they have proved no such thing.

What they did was to run brain scans on dying patients. A perfectly logical and sensible way to look for an explanation of near-death experiences. What they saw was a burst of furious brain activity in the unconscious patient, followed shortly by death.

None of the patients came back after that burst of activity so there are no reported visions or experiences to link to it. Furthermore, they describe the activity like so:

'We think the near-death experiences could be caused by a surge of electrical energy released as the brain runs out of oxygen,' Dr Chawla told The Times.

'As blood flow slows down and oxygen levels fall, the brain cells fire one last electrical impulse. It starts in one part of the brain and spreads in a cascade and this may give people vivid mental sensations.'

That does not sound like brain activity leading to coherent and remembered images. It sounds like the sort of random cascade that happens in cases of epilepsy.

They found a random cascade of last-burst activity in a dying brain. A final firing of neurons that have done their job and are shutting down forever. Not a series of logical and coherent pathways firing, just a last blast of random noise. None of the patients survived so there were no reported visions to link with this random noise.

From that, they conclude that they have explained the phenomenon known as near-death experience.

This is not science. This is starting with a conclusion and forcing a tenuous link from the data to pretend you've proved that conclusion. There is an awful lot of this about these days and it's time the higher echelons of science took these ludicrous experiments to task. Science seems to me to be in a seriously bad way nowadays. It's losing credibility at an alarming rate - and I say that as a scientist working on the paranormal, a field of study these same scientists deride as 'woo'.

It's not much fun battling sceptics and debunkers if they're not even going to try for the slightest shred of credibility. When nobody challenges the science, when those who do challenge it are simply labelled with whatever label they now apply to heretics and then ignored, then science is not science. Paranormal investigators are challenged on every detail and that is how it should be. It makes us take more precautions to rule out errors, and it makes us cautious in interpreting results. All branches of science must be subject to that scrutiny or there'll be more and more rubbish spouted by people who should know better.

If this slide into pretend science continues, the paranormal could well end up as the only credible branch left.

I don't think I'd like being mainstream.


Regina Richards said...

"I don't think I'd like being mainstream."

LOL! I can't even imagine it!

But I agree with you completely that the scientific method has been highjacked by people posing as scientists who are actually just pushing agendas of one kind or another for various reasons.

heyjude said...

dubious or no?
Does Scotland have a death wish?

Southern Writer said...

Well and briefly said, Regina. I don't think I can improve on that.

Romulus Crowe said...

Regina, SW - I can't be mainstream. If it ever happened I'd have to switch to something more bizarre. Climate science, perhaps.

Heyjude - there is so much hype over lifestyle here it's beyond a joke. Scientists have no business acting as social engineers and neither, to my mind, does anyone else.

The five-a-day fruit and veg rule was just made up. Those alcohol limits were just made up. So much of it is just made up now and it's all about controlling other people. That's something that disgusts me.

If someone wants to drink themselves to death then I would go as far as pointing out that they will seriously damage themselves if they continue, but no further. I would never try to force them to stop. It's their choice. Knowing the risks, they make the choice.

I stopped smoking because it was hurting me. If it wasn't hurting me I would not have stopped. Nicotine is not dangerous at all in smoking concentrations. It's the tar and particulates and other chemicals that cause damage.

Now I have the electrosmoking and that contains only nicotine and steam. It can do no more harm to me than a cup of coffee and it can do no harm at all to anyone else. Yet some places have banned it even though it is the only really effective way to stop tobacco smoking.

Most of these declarations are based on spite and all are based on control.

Well. I'm uncontrollable. And always will be.

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