Scientists are only people, and most people do or say dumb things sometimes. You can decide how to classify these “scientific” ideas.
Overhyped Martian claims of the past: While the world eagerly awaits NASA announcing “something big” about Mars next week,* Clara Moskowitz reminds us on Space.com that there were at least five overhyped claims in the past: (1) the canals on Mars, (2) flowing water on Mars, (3) the face on Mars, (4) microbes in a Martian meteorite, and (5) claims of possible life from Vikings 1 and 2. Many of these were taken very seriously by renowned scientists of the day.
Alien Breck: A long time ago in a beauty salon far, far away: We may be able to detect aliens by their hairspray, Charles Q. Choi announced on Space.com: “Alien hairspray may help us find E.T.” Presumably space babes would wish to keep their locks in place with chloroflurocarbons, which astronomers might detect in a planetary atmosphere. That’s probably enough said, except to note that NASA considered this story newsworthy enough to give it good press on their Astrobiology Magazine website.
Organized ignorance: When you don’t know what you are talking about, does it help to organize your ignorance? Apparently Claudio Maccone thinks so. Astrobiology Magazine said Maccone took another look at the Drake Equation for calculating how many aliens inhabit the galaxy.
But the Drake equation must not be evaluated only by the numerical values it produces. Some say the Drake equation is a way to organize our ignorance. By exposing the extraterrestrial intelligence hypothesis mathematically, we limit the real possibilities to each term and approach the final answer: how many alien civilizations are there?
Maccone massaged the ignorance with new inputs and came up with a new estimate of how many alien civilizations there are, which nobody can check. He simultaneously solved another problem of organized ignorance: why hasn’t SETI detected any aliens yet? Answer: the average distance of these unknown civilizations might put them too far for our current detectors to find. How convenient; maybe we can use that method to explain why we haven’t found ghosts.
Minds by mistake: Someone didn’t think this through. Maybe Darwin made him do it. Take an ape brain and zap it: instant intelligence! That seems to be the gist of a story on Science Daily, “Origin of Intelligence and Mental Illness Linked to Ancient Genetic Accident.” What does the prestigious University of Edinburgh think of one of their own, Seth Grant, proposing that a genetic accident led to his brain? He proposes that a mistake caused a gene to make multiple copies of neurons, which led to both intelligence and mental illness. This makes mental illness the flip side of intelligence, leading readers to believe that Grant may not be able to tell one from the other.
*We learned later the latest Mars hype was due to a misunderstanding; see Live Science’s explanation.
What’s disturbing is that nobody in the press called these people on these claims, although Clara Moskowitz came close.
Evolutionary scientists have the gall to declare their critics ignoramuses. We simply show you what they say; you decide.