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THE VORTEX-L DISCUSSION GROUP

To put it bluntly, Vortex-L is a forum for "true believers."

People of the "CSICOP Skeptic" or scoffer/debunker persuasion are tolerated but not welcomed. For yet another definition of the two types of people, see the excellent article in SKEPTIC, V5 #2, "Skepticism and Credulity: finding the balance between Type I and Type II errors" by B. Wisdom.

The article discusses the philosophy behind two extremist mental attitudes:

   1. 'Scoffers:' those who, in order to reject all falsehoods, don't mind
      accidentally rejecting truths.

   2. 'Believers:' those who, in order to accept all truths, don't mind
      accidentally accepting falsehoods.
A few rare individuals fall between these two descriptions. However, there is significant polarization as well: whose who are solidly in either the "Skeptic" or the "Woo-woo" camp greatly outnumber those who succeed in maintaining a scientist's stance by remaining between the two.

I have observed that each highly-polarized camp holds their opponents in contemptuous disrespect, bordering on outright hatred. The Scoffers regard the opposite camp as dangerously gullible "true believers" who'd allow Science to be damaged by irrational beliefs in such things as UFOs, psi phenomena, Free Energy, etc. And the Believers regard the other side as dangerously closeminded "pseudoskeptic" bullies who stifle curiousity, block free investigations, and "preserve" science from the crazy time-wasting projects of folks like Galileo, Goddard, the Wrights, Margulis, etc. One side worships at the altar of Khun's Normal Science, while their opponents worship at the holy "Khunian Revolutionary" shrine.

A few years ago the sci.physics.fusion newsgroup was increasingly becoming a battleground for the two types. Those who reasoned that "we must study cold fusion because there is some evidence that it is real" were constantly attacked by those who believe "we must reject cold fusion because there is little evidence for it." And vice versa. Particularly shameful was the amount of hostility including sneering ridicule, emotional arguments, arrogant self-blindness, and great use of the low, unscientific techniques outlined in ZEN AND THE ART OF DEBUNKERY. (See http://amasci.com/weird/wclose.html)

Modern science should indeed arouse in all of us a humility before the immensity of the unexplored and a tolerance for crazy hypotheses. -Martin Gardner

I started this group as an openminded quiet harbor for interested parties to discuss the Griggs Rotor away from the believer-skeptic uproar on sci.physics.fusion. It quickly mutated into a "believers forum" for discussion of cold fusion and other anomalous physics. I created Rule #2 to prevent this list from becoming another battleground like the sci.physics.fusion newsgroup. Be warned: if you self-identify as "non-woo," then you could be removed from the forum at any time. Rather than placing yourself on the spectrum between Skeptic and Believer, instead why not self-identify as "Scientist?" Scientists must maintain a tolerance for crazy hypotheses and brutal SELF-skepticism, qualities which both Skeptics and Believers are sadly lacking. Vortex-L is then for you: a discussion area for researchers who have little attraction to Kuhnian Normal Science, who practice extreme openmindedness, and who will "accept falsehoods in order to avoid rejecting truths".

Even so, I believe that many scientists have a habit of rejecting new ideas because they unknowingly maintain an illusory worldview which is based on concensus of colleagues, rather than upon evidence, and as a result they become irrational. They become very intolerant of all ideas which violate that consensus, and will instantly and thoughtlessly reject the evidence supporting such ideas. This forum is for scientist-types (including amateurs!) with a low tolerance for anything resembling mob-rule, and a high tolerance for those crazy hypotheses.

Vortex-L is for those who see great value in removing their usual mental filters by provisionally accepting the validity of "impossible" phenomena in order to test them. This excellent quote found by Gene Mallove clearly states the problem, and reveals the need for "true believers" in a science community otherwise ruled by conservative scoffers:

"It is really quite amazing by what margins competent but conservative scientists and engineers can miss the mark, when they start with the preconceived idea that what they are investigating is impossible. When this happens, the most well-informed men become blinded by their prejudices and are unable to see what lies directly ahead of them."
- Arthur C. Clarke, 1963
So, on Vortex-L we intentionally suspend the disbelieving attitude of those who follow the stereotypical "scientific method." While this does leave us open to the great personal embarrassment of repeatedly falling for hoaxes and delusional thinking, we tolerate this problem in our quest to consider ideas and phenomena which would otherwise be rejected out of hand without a fair hearing. There are diamonds in the filth, and we see that we cannot hunt for diamonds without getting dirty.

Note that "small-s skepticism" of the openminded sort is perfectly acceptable on Vortex-L. We crackpots don't want to be *completely* self-deluding. :) The ban here is aimed at Debunkers; at "certain disbelief" and its self-superior and archly hostile results, and at the sort of "Skeptic" who angrily disbelieves all that is not solidly proved true, while carefully rejecting all new data and observations which conflict with the widely accepted theories of the time.

"Every fact of science was once damned. Every invention was considered impossible. Every discovery was a nervous shock to some orthodoxy. Every artistic innovation was denounced as fraud and folly. The entire web of culture and 'progress,' everything on earth that is man-made and not given to us by nature, is the concrete manifestation of some man's refusal to bow to Authority. We would own no more, know no more, and be no more than the first apelike hominids if it were not for the rebellious, the recalcitrant, and the intransigent. As Oscar Wilde truly said, 'Disobedience was man's Original Virtue.' -Robert Anton Wilson


 





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Updated: Apr 2 2005
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