Why is there a sucker born every minute?

The E-cat fiasco isn’t that important from the view point of the pathological science it represents– that’s happened many times before and will likely happen many times later. But there is another question, one that is fairly important to the entire field of LENR.

But why are so many people jumping on the bandwagon?  I mean, a secret test, not letting scientists look at your magic box, a history of fraud and legal action…it’s right up there with offers to sell you a certain bridge or beach front property in the everglades.

Well part of the answer is that today, the number of people who are well educated, even to a layman’s standards in the hard sciences is not a very large number.  When trying to evaluate a scientific scam, after all, it’s wise to have at least some knowledge of science (though the opposite does apply– the layman should always be firmly aware that he is just that– and not an expert).

But most importantly, any layperson should remember, and remember firmly, that Great Claims Require Great Proof.  To say that you have invented a new process of fusion, one that produces no neutrons, or any other dangerous radiation, that produces megawatts of power, and does so with desktop equipment– that is a great claim indeed.

And the proof is not found in youtube displays, or magical clients that wish to keep their identity secret and seem to often vanish away, or forever be “just about” to show off their new power units.  It is found in the rigorous testing of these claims by people who are not the friends of the inventor, who infact have no interest in seeing him successful– or unsuccessful.  Who are simply interested in verifying “Was this event properly documented, and does it represent something new?”

Now, the true believers will immediately claim that the scientific conspiracy will work against them.  Beyond the question of whether such a conspiracy exists, that should spur advocates of new discoveries to more, not less, in the way of strict adherence to the measures predicted to convince even skeptics that something is occurring that cannot be explained by chemical or other known reactions.

Rossi’s “work” is in fact a text book example of how not to do it.  By this time, the lack of careful documentation and factual support of his claims points to pathological science at the best, fraud at the worst.   The mindless rush to excuse these failures, especially considering his history, does advocates of non-traditional fusion no favors, making it plain that once again, many have let their hopes run away with their skepticism.

The best way to deal with skepticism is not to excuse shoddy work– it is to be more critical and demand more proof.  Every advocate of alternative energy should be looking at claims and asking themselves : “What would a skeptic think?”  “If I was trying to disprove this, what would I seize as evidence that something wasn’t right?”

Excusing poor testing, or dicey claims, does the quest for alternative energies no good. It simply allows critics to point to those instances and argue that once again, we’re seeing a community that has allowed a laudable enthusiasm for a new source of energy run away with its ability to be skeptical and detached.

Don’t be that community.

Advertisements