Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Boilerplate fringe
Most writers of fringe science and history adheres fairly closely to certain stylistic conventions. Their style drips with equal parts self-pity and conspiracy mongering, contempt and bitterness at the academic establishment that fails to accept the writer's theory. Naturally, their theory is not rejected because the establishment thinks that it is wrong or poorly argued. No, their theory is rejected because it challenges the prevailing paradigm, because the establishment academics are protecting their jobs, and because academia is restricted club, run by a bunch of mean gunky-heads, and the writer wouldn't join their stupid club even if they begged him to, and they will, mark my words. At this point the author compares himself to Galileo or some other persecuted martyr to the truth.

The style remains the same whether the subject is creationism, holocaust denial, alternative medicine, or something less harmful. Take the following example. By replacing a few key words (indicated by square brackets), this could be about almost anything:
[Some science], when interpreted with an open mind, has now actually proved beyond reasonable doubt that [my theory is right], but the proof is ignored. Vested interest in the status quo has won the day. Huge amounts of public money are being spent on studying [the accepted theories], and hundreds of books written about them .... Sadly, it seems no one in academia has had the courage publicly to question seriously the basic assumptions upon which [the accepted theories are] founded.

Sadly the response to innovative thinking in academia is often to try to drown both the innovator and his work in a tide of ridicule and misrepresentation. The dogma of the Establishment, which strictly controls what is taught to the next generation, has ever been fiercely defended. But it has often been wrong. To take a much quoted example, the Catholic Church burnt Bruno alive at the stake in 1600AD for refusing to believe that the Earth was the centre of the Universe, a dogma they had been teaching unchallenged for some 1300 years. Academia today is exerting an ever-tighter control on what is taught, and on the subjects suitable for research. The politically accepted, yet seriously flawed system of 'peer review' plays into the hands of the Guardians of the Dogma who control research publications, enabling them to stifle innovative theories which contradict their own.

Without peeking, would you have known that the subject was archaeology?

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