Thursday, October 10, 2019

Science - Extraordinary Groupthink Leads to Extraordinary Ignorance

(Valley of Elah, Israel)

I enjoyed this article in Scientific American - "Science Is Not About Getting More 'Likes'" (Extraordinary groupthink leads to extraordinary ignorance).

How many people "like" a belief has nothing to do with whether or not the belief is true. That's called an ad populum fallacy. It goes like this.

1. 63% of Americans believe X.
2. Therefore, X must be true.

Many physicists commit this fallacy. From the article:

"The mathematical constructions of supersymmetrystring theoryHawking radiation, anti-de Sitter/conformal field theory (AdS/CFT) and the multiverse  are currently considered irrefutable and self-evident by the mainstream of theoretical physics, even without experimental evidence to support them. In the words of a prominent physicist at a conference that I attended a few months ago: “These ideas must be true even without experimental testimony in their favor, because thousands of physicists believe in them and it is difficult to imagine that such a large community of mathematically-gifted scientists would be wrong.”"

This is also the problem with opinion polls. How many people affirm the truth of a belief is irrelevant to the truth of that belief.