I wrote this in reply to James McGinn who has come up with some ideas about the way water behaves as a gas (which are not totally absurd) who had said:
“It’s funny, but when I first set out to tell the world of my new theory I expected people to be thankful that I was reviving an intellectually dead subject. Convection theory was so ephemeral and vague that I knew nobody would or could defend it, as has been the case. However, I never expected the depth of emotions that people have for what is such a non-starter of a theory. “
What I said, was that coming up with new theories is easy. Off the top of my head I have:
- Caterpillar thermal-tectonic theory**
- Pressure induced climate change theory
- The scientifically credible alternative to “wave-particle” (discussed somewhere I can’t find)*
- Birthplace of St. Patrick**
- The lack of any Celts in Britain**
- & the Germanic origin of (some) of the early British**
- The “Cassandra” theory (which is far too controversial to print)**
*Robust enough that it should be considered
**with sufficient evidence that (in a perfect world) it would be considered and likely adopted as the standard view
I’ve also got some interesting ideas:
So, the problem is not finding a better theory that is more “right” than what others currently accept … it’s basically a PR campaign trying to get people aware of the idea and to slowly accept it … which takes time, effort, facts.
You’ve got to give people a reason for going through the whole laborious exercise of relearning what they thought they knew … then understanding what it is the theory is trying to say … then trying to understand why the theory is wrong … then trying to understand why the new theory is right … and even then … even when people say “yes that’s a better theory” … unless they in turn are inspired to go out and tell other people … it will still be just a small group with a new idea and go anywhere … and even then … if there are powerful interests (like global warming and the political influence of Greens) … then even if you have all the above, the theory may still go nowhere.
To be cynical, over the years, I’ve learnt that theories are just conceptual models that people have that that in practice (not what they say but how they behave), they really don’t care if they are wrong … unless there is a real tangible problem it causes to them.
So, e.g. I keep asking (to James) “is there any evidence you have … in effect that shows using the current theories does not reasonably well predict what happens. Because even with the best will in the world, I’ve got plenty of other things that I’m working on and unless I have something tangible that really affects me personally it is difficult to justify spending the time and energy looking at someone else’s idea.
A very good example of how a theory can be right … yet it just sits on my website is the “Caterpillar theory“. This just says that the temperature expands the crust causing plate movement. There’s nothing new here … it’s just the application of known physics. And there is evidence that it is happening it in the ridges at the centre of the Atlantic (which show modulations over ice-age periods). So, I’d say there is perhaps 70-90% chance of it being correct. However as you will see from the picture right “I see no Caterpillar”, I knew that the theory would struggle to be accepted even amongst sceptics (I might even say especially amongst sceptics!)
So, why isn’t the world biting my hand to get this theory? The answer is simple:
There’s no reason for anyone to accept the theory.
Having come up with the theory …and worse published it outsider academia …. academics who usually credit themselves with all discoveries … now can’t credit themselves with my discovery. (And I knew that would happen! ) Nor is it in their interest to promote this theory because it proves how they missed something pretty simple.
Nor to be frank is it in my interest. I cannot see myself becoming rich as a result- quite the reverse – I can see that the huge effort to make people aware of the theory would consume vast amounts of my time and money.
To put it bluntly neither academics nor I stand to gain commercially from this theory.
This is why academia appears to be the “font of all discoveries”- because in the past, it was far too expensive for any individual to try to run the huge publicity campaign necessary to get public acceptance. So when public paid academics could go out to industry, pick up ideas from people who had no (commercial) interest in telling other people about them … they would then write them up as “their” idea.
Yes technically that is theft – but (unless it could be sold in its own right) as those outside academia had no commercial interest – it really didn’t matter to anyone (except for a few bruised egos).
And because in academia there was personal advantage to be had by “discovering” ideas academics benefited commercially through career advancement and added kudos. So, there was an economic advantage for academics in “discovering” ideas (from others). And (in the past) the rest of us benefited by having people who would systematically record other people’s ideas (even if the whole system was a bit corrupt – those outside USED TO benefit).
So, in reality, we created a useful parasite in academia … one where people got on by taking other people’s ideas and claiming it as their own. But that beast can only work if there are people outside creating new ideas (for them to steal) and if those people themselves don’t go through the process of claiming ownership of these new ideas.
That system worked when publishing was an expensive and time consuming thing to do. Only academics had the commercial interest in going through the laborious process of getting something into print … and even if the original person who came up with the idea complained … what were they going to do? Unless they had already published the idea, they had no proof … and it was academics who wrote up the history of science … so for obvious reason we (USED TO) hear almost nothing about all the people that were written out of (academic) history.
In the past, the only way to get ideas accepted as your own by the academic “gatekeepers”, was to become an academic, then submit to their power and authority … wait for the people whose ideas and theories you were overthrowing to die (so that you were now top of the tree and could dictate what was “science”) … and then to publish.
For obvious reasons – given that new ideas often come from the young – and the old who champion the status quo are in charge – change within academia was measured in life-times (unless someone could come up with unequivocal evidence and then force it through against the old guard)
However, that has all changed with the internet.
Now we have a record of those ideas before academia pinched them … and worse … through the “anti-industry” policies brought on by the “scientific staza governmental advisers”, we (in the UK) have massively lost the engineering powerhouse that used to be the engine of some many new ideas.
So, not only has the source of new ideas dried up, but academia can no longer so easily half-inch everyone else’s ideas and claim it as their own. The result is that academia is now spending more and more of its time trying to police it control of ideas (on the internet and media) and thus spending more and more of its time rejecting news ideas from outside (e.g. climate scepticism).
This is really what the climate “wars” have been about. It is a war for control of the ideas underpinning how we view climate … one which academia lost because it went down a blind alleyway on (anti-engineering) CO2.
So, one of the reasons I do not submit my ideas to academia … is because that old system whereby academia assumed control of ideas and theories can no longer be sustained in an age of the internet.
But climate may also be the way to rejuvenate academia and make it fit for the new internet age.
Academia can no longer thrive as it used to in the past: living as a parasite off the ideas generated in industry & wider society (particularly when it intentionally set out to destroy UK and US engineering). Nor can it, by its control of publishing, now claim to be the source of other new ideas from outside academia (are there any new ideas from within academia?)
I’m not sure what the new world order is going to look like when academia is finally forced to admit it was never the “font of all knowledge” that it has claimed. But I’m sure the sooner we get to that situation in the UK, the better off both wider society and academia will be.
The climate wars – are important, because never before has so much of academia unified together to back an idea that then so quickly proved to be such an appalling disaster. Hopefully that will be a wake up call to academia (along with all the other smaller “turf wars” triggered by those challenging it from the internet).
We can’t uninvent the internet – we cannot stop people outside academia being sceptic of some of its more daft ideas like “doomsday warming”. Thus, the change is going to have to come from within academia itself. Somehow, academia is going to have to learn how to live in a world where it is no longer in control of ideas – where it can no longer “half-inch” ideas from outside and claim it as their own.
That doesn’t stop academia being a useful group within society – it just means that academics (and perhaps all of us) are going to have to find a new way to justify their work which doesn’t involve the false idea that somehow academia is “better” than other people or worst of all that someone we “need” acadmics to “invent” new ideas.