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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sat Aug 04, 2012 11:03 am
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a rather odd blog on the Scientific American site

Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com

and an even odder encouragement in io9 : bump the link i've shown above because David Peters not only is an amateur paleontologist, but also a web designer and SEO specialist, hence knows how to push his thoroughly pseudo-scientific views on pterosaur evolution / reptile evolution up the google search rankings

bumping the alternative Scientific American article is an attempt to counter this skewed situation

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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 12:13 am

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This article is a glorified ad hom on the verge of defamation. I will state from the outset that I have no knowledge of Palaentology, and that I did not read Naish's article in its entirety, since it is too long to justify that kind of attention. Sticking to the irrefutable facts at hand in this situation:

1. There is a clear discrepancy between the understanding of certain aspects of Palaentology by David Peters versus the mainstream scientific community (Naish included).
2. There is a distinction between truthfulness and honesty. I suspect that both sides of this argument are being honest; i.e. both genuinely believe that their interpretation of the available evidence is the one that holds up in reality. However, even in Science (which is the closest one ever gets) it is impossible to claim to know the absolute truth. We just never quite get there. For this reason, it will never be possible to say categorically that either David Peters or Naish is 100% correct.
3. David Peters has created ReptileEvolution.com as an outlet for his ideas, since he is unable to penetrate the literature (which, incidentally, may well be because he is being targeted negatively by peer reviewers who have a stake in their own interpretation of the available evidence - as Peters has suggested. Naish refutes this point in his article, but provides no proof against this happening, so I don't see how we can trust his assurances?)
4. Naish wrote the article with the intention of reducing the likelihood that those new to Science will rely on information at ReptileEvolution.com

Pertinent questions:

1. Is ReptileEvolution.com a benign or malign source of information?
2. Does it follow that Naish's article is a fair critique of the website?

Suggested answers:

1. The website is a source of information, just like any other. It is the duty of the reader to decipher the content, nature, origin and purpose of any source of information - and then to form an impression of its trustworthiness or otherwise as a source of truth. Shielding young Science recruits from potential sources of misinformation will only hinder their progress in independently critically appraising sources. Moreover, such wrapping up in cotton wool is not practical: Science recruits have to enter the real world at some point. And guess what: the real world isn't full of clear black/white truth distinctions. It's messy and hard and you have to root through the noise to find bona fide signals of truth. This is the daily reality for scientists.
2. It most certainly does not follow that Naish's article is a fair critique of Peters' website. Naish bends over backwards to assure us that his article is not a personal attack on Peters. Granted, Naish reviews some of Peters' interpretations. But his article is peppered with remarks such as, and I quote: ''the Dave Peters issue." For every criticism of interpretation of evidence, their is a complementary personal attack on David Peters - as an individual.

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:44 am
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Quote:
It is the duty of the reader to decipher the content, nature, origin and purpose of any source of information - and then to form an impression of its trustworthiness or otherwise as a source of truth. Shielding young Science recruits from potential sources of misinformation will only hinder their progress in independently critically appraising sources.


Yes, wouldn't it be nice if all readers were able to critically appraise the source, motives and content of allegedly scientific writings? In an ideal world this would be the case, but not necessarily in Texas where the Republican Party says in its platform that
Quote:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority


So when people are afraid of letting their children think beyond their fixed beliefs, how are we to protect those children from egregiously bad pseudoscience such as the example above? If Naish slipped in a few mild ad homs, well I congratulate him on his restraint.


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tridimity
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 9:25 am

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Quote:
So when people are afraid of letting their children think beyond their fixed beliefs, how are we to protect those children from egregiously bad pseudoscience such as the example above?


Work at solving the underlying problem which is the lack of an educational opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. This would be a much more efficient solution to the problem compared with attempting to flag up all of the factually dubious pseudoscience that ever becomes accessible.

Quote:
If Naish slipped in a few mild ad homs, well I congratulate him on his restraint.


I don't know. Why do people dislike Peters so much? He's just human like any other, with feelings primed to be hurt. I'm not suggesting that Peters' (pseudo)science is an accurate interpretation of the available evidence, but it is worth bearing in mind the fact that sometimes the views of mavericks come to be accepted by the mainstream scientific community as best representing the truth. Therefore it is worth - and only fair - to listen to the views of such mavericks. Moreover, in the event that such views simply prove incompatible with those of the mainstream scientific community, there is no excuse to launch a personal attack on the person who developed the unaccepted view.

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GiantEvil
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 10:07 am
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Hmm... I suppose the Naish article was a bit ad hom. I just skimmed over it myself. I suppose if I want to form my own opinion I'll need to research the imaging technique that Peters has been using. Oh, and start by reading the whole article by Naish and also visiting Peters website. In this case I may not be interested in forming my own opinion.

Quote:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority

Goddamn that's some scary shit! Is that really in the party platform? This is something that need's to be fought, preferably in an arena of public discourse.

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:20 pm
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GiantEvil wrote:
Quote:
We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority

Goddamn that's some scary shit! Is that really in the party platform? This is something that need's to be fought, preferably in an arena of public discourse.

Yes. On another note... If you've lived in Texas for as long as I have, this is not surprising at all. They also tried to remove Jefferson and Payne from the list of enlightenment age thinkers presented to kids in school because those individuals were deist, and (in a powerful example of the thoughtless internal inconsistency in their position) they also tried to change our history curriculum to "teach" children that our founding fathers were all christians and that the separation between church and state guaranteed by the constitution is nothing more than secular propaganda. Yay humanity! :?

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Sun Aug 05, 2012 2:29 pm
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Yes, it's in there:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ans ... _blog.html

They later said it was all a mistake, but there has been no effort to get it removed so I would characterize the "mistake" ploy as a lie. It's a plank in their platform that reflects their beliefs and fears.

Tridimity wrote:
Quote:
Work at solving the underlying problem which is the lack of an educational opportunity to develop critical thinking skills. This would be a much more efficient solution to the problem compared with attempting to flag up all of the factually dubious pseudoscience that ever becomes accessible.


The Republican Party of Texas represents maybe half the population of that state, which has the second largest population among the States. So, yes, work at it as you recommend, but this is 2012 and we seem to be going backwards in terms of respect for critical thinking.


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: Why the world has to ignore ReptileEvolution.com  |  Posted: Mon Aug 06, 2012 6:54 am
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tridimity wrote:
Why do people dislike Peters so much?


i think there's possibly a number of issues at stake here

(1) he may be seen as an interloper, who tried to outgrow his original role as an illustrator, and in the process exceeded his knowledge of the subject - e.g. the stance of a pterosaur on its tippy-toes has now been proven to be impossible
(2) he is an SEO specialist, and such knows how to bump his site and views up the google rankings - this could give the impression to the unwary that anything in a google top 10 search must be relatively mainstream
i think that was the main thrust behind the article
(3) his digital analysis is thought to be nothing more than advanced photoshopping based on personal interpretation, not something that can objectively be replicated by anyone else

as for the peer review, my impression is that initially mavericks may find a home for their initial publications until the professional reviewers cotton on that the amount of garbage far exceeds the potential novelty - in short they may give a beginner the benefit of the doubt, but if the crankiness and lack of rigour becomes a pattern rather than the errors of a beginner, then surely the review system closes its ranks because the author has now become a known quantity

for any further background, there's a link in the original SA blog called The Strange Journey of David Peters

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