Saturday, May 22, 2010

Luboš Motl calls Sabine Hossenfelder a crackpot

This post is a little off-topic. It's the best I can do at the moment.

I always enjoy Luboš Motl's accusations of crackpottery, even if El Naschie isn't his target as often as I'd like.


Today he pours scorn on Sabine Hossenfelder aka "Bee" of the Backreaction blog. El Naschie Watch readers know her from Chaos, Solitons and Self-Promotion, which was archived in From Cairo with love.

I don't know whether Bee is a crackpot, but I have criticized her for backing down when threatened by an El Naschie sockpuppet called Ludwig.


See also:



Jason's response to Anonymous September 24, 2010 6:09 AM because I cannot post a comment:

Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.


Translate English to Arabic
محمد النشائى El Naschie Watch محمد النشائي El Naschie News محمد النشائى محمد النشائي All El Naschie All The Time محمد النشائى
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76 comments:

  1. So let's get this straight: every time someone other than El Naschie is called a crackpot, it's automatically news about El Naschie because it should have been El Naschie who was called the crackpot?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Yes. Well... I admitted it was off topic ;)

    ReplyDelete
  3. Well, Sabine is connected to Smolin and we know about Motl's feelings towards him:

    http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.com/2010/02/lubos-motl-on-crackpottery-in-physics.html

    ReplyDelete
  4. TY Shrink. I have added that link.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for the feedback! Your blog is amusing. The picture of El Naschie with Gross, Wilczek, and 't Hooft - and its origin - is just hilarious.

    Too bad that I haven't interacted with this El Naschie guy - and the sources that have surrounded me and influenced my environment haven't interacted with him, either. So I haven't responded to his "work" - and I am not even too familiar with it, with some exceptions.

    I guess that if it were different, the "pundits" would agree with me that his sanity is in doubt, to say the least, and a linear combination of compassion and amusement would probably be the right reaction.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks for dropping by, Luboš! I'm glad you liked El Naschie's photoshop exposé. See Introduction to Mohamed El Naschie for an overview of El Naschie's hi-jinks.

    The question of whether El Naschie is a charlatan or delusional has come up often, with most people picking the charlatan explanation. He still has a small cadre of loyal followers, the E-infinity group.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lubos Motl is a lunatic - I am not sure if referring to him in any way increases the credibility of this blog. Mot of his "comments" on other people are just outright lies close to libel. Just forget about him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You nailed it, brother.

      Delete
  8. I have a PhD in pure math, not physics, so I can't judge the string theory arguments that Luboš makes. Some of his "comments", or "taunts" might be a better word, may be beyond the pale; but they are based on his strongly-held scientific opinions, and for me that excuses a multitude of sins. He is an abrasive character but not a troll. You may know something I don't with respect to lies and libel.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I should mention that Peter Woit is Luboš's main nemesis, and I link to his posts too.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Lubos Motl is a psychopath. There is no "strong-held scientific opinion", just intellectual dishonesty. You do not need a PhD to notice that - just read what he writes. BTW, his blog is not about string theory, but AGW denial. Anyway, you seem to appreciate him because he happens to have posted on the douche, and that's your choice.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey, he linked to us! I didn't know that. :) He has the bee-crackpot pic with a link to this post. Anonymous, his post about Bee doesn't mention AGW. Even if it did, this blog is too narrowly focused to allow ideological purity in other areas. We'd have no readers at all! I appreciate all reader comments. Yours, Luboš's -- whose blog gets orders of magnitude more traffic than this one, even Steve Dufourney's in moderation. ;)

    ReplyDelete
  12. Too bad that you are proud of traffic coming in from this mudslinger - that's just pathetic. And it doesn't help neither your cause nor your credibility.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Anonymous, I'd happily take clicks from RealClimate.org, but they aren't sending any. Bee of Backreaction and Ben Webster of Secret Blogging Seminar have refused to link here too. Richard Poynder thinks we're not worth crediting as you recall. So it's not so strange I should have a soft spot for Lumo, besides a common interest in crackpottery. Was there some particular mudslinging of his you had in mind? He calls Peter Woit an enemy of science all the time. If he comes back I can get out of the way while you two roll up your sleeves.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Anybody notice the first piece of evidence in any of anonymous's posts?

    I notice some opinions. At least Lubos has the decency to support his opinions with arguments amd evidence.

    Lying is a pretty serious charge. Is the opinion of an anonymous blog commenter enough evidence for a conviction? I don't think so. We need examples of a Lubos lie.

    -- Curious Down East.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Curious Down East, that's why I asked Anonymous what specific mudslinging he meant. I don't think Lubos is intellectually dishonest. He supports his opinions, some of them unpopular, with strong arguments, and he clearly believes those arguments. He can be insulting and dismissive to those he disagrees with, but he has no monopoly on that.

    ReplyDelete
  16. I don't understand why there is discussion about Lubos Motl as yet. The correct term for him is psychotic; he has lost all contact with reality. He sees himself almost as a messianic figure of great importance who has to pontificate about the correct way of doing science. Actually, Lubos hates proper science, since it implies people can disagree with him; point out to him that some of his views are simplistic and require further evidence, challenge him to make theorems of his 'truths'. But Lubos is not at all interested in that and is really deluded if he believes to be a proponent of the 'real' truth, if he does not take himself seriously he is outright lying all the time. Anyone, who is not capable of seeing those things, should really look at him from a distance... The proper thing for him to do would be to go to a mental asylum for a while and take a break. Perhaps he would learn to relativate his own IQ (oh yes, there are plenty of people in the world as smart as he is), possibly, he might recognize that he is autistic in a *bad* way - there is nothing romantic about that- in the sense that autistic people who have learned something do believe it is the absolute truth and that all room for alternatives is closed (while equally intelligent, but non-autistic people see other possibilities). Anyway, I should not write his doctor's report, but I guess the only reason why some people still support him is (a) that he was a harvard member and holds the same opinions as they do (which gives their 'truths' some weight) (b) they entertain themselves by seeing a former 'professor' making a complete fool of himself. There is something like proper conduct in the world of science and the reason why most of us to run around shouting crackpot to those we disagree with is because we are not sure of our views either. That is why we make models, write papers and investigate our views mathematically with the necessary rigor. Lubos -at some point- has decided that he knows it all and doesn't require further evidence: he literally is on par with the oracle of Delphi.

    ReplyDelete
  17. Well, well, even here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos. So he can go around and try to smear other people's reputations, but nobody can point out an obvious fact about him?

    ReplyDelete
  18. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but feel free to clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    This is El Naschie Watch and we are "All El Naschie All the Time" as it says in the masthead. To me the interesting fact is that Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about everything but they both know El Naschie is a charlatan. Their opinions about non El Naschie matters are irrelevant here.

    I don't know why you say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I don't think I have ever deleted any comment about him, whether true or false.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  26. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  34. See my response appended to body of blog post.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Trying again:

    Sorry, I don't know what "obvious fact" you're talking about, but please do clarify, and thanks for your comment.

    What's most interesting to me (since this blog is about El Naschie) is that although Lubos Motl and Peter Woit disagree about almost everything, they agree El Naschie is a crackpot. I have linked to both their blogs.

    You say "here you cannot post any true comment about Lubos". I am mystified by that. I don't think I have ever deleted a comment about him whether true or false, positive or negative.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Well, I posted it and it dissapeared later on :-)
    Lets keep it this way. I think people should stop calling other people cranks, crackpots and so on (and Lubos should look at himself first). The fact is that most people don't care about El Naschie and some of them find it even somewhat amusing that he could publish many of his 'findings' (I actually read some of his papers and they would not have passed me as referee). Nevertheless, this is still not a reason to tag someone as crank or crackpot. Likewise, nobody really cares about Lubos Motl either; he is a sad case and is clearly psychotic (those who still hold him dear should tell him this). Moreover, his intent is not to promote science, but to pontificate about what he believes to be crackpotism (not always with good evidence). People should simply challenge him to publish his no-go theories in peer reviewed journals and you will see that this pope has no answer to that. Actually, he stopped publishing since he acquired the aura of an oracle, a messianic figure as to speak.

    That said, Hossenfelder is clearly not a genius, but on the other hand Lubos' presumed IQ is not that unique either.

    ReplyDelete
  37. Haha, ok, the gremlins in the Blogger comment software bit you too. :)

    Your advice not to call people crackpots apparently covers El Naschie, and of course I cannot agree. That's the main point of this blog. I think you are right that Lubos made a conscious decision to blog rather than publish. I remember him saying his ideas got much more exposure that way, or words to that effect. He has a good amount of traffic.

    I also agree most people aren't interested in El Naschie. But a few of us are fascinated by his pseudoscience, his self-promotion, his chutzpa, his citation scamming, his anti-Western baiting, and his Nobel Prize claims. It's enough to keep El Naschie Watch going.

    ReplyDelete
  38. The point is that his ideas remain entirely unscientific as long as he doesn't publish; moreover, if he would care to work out his views, he would see that they do not hold up to closer scrutiny in many cases. There is no such thing as shortcuts in science: you have to think about all the details (and often you get surprised by working something out). What Lubos does is totally unscientific and the problem is that he believes to be a messianic figure in search for the holy grail.

    About El Naschie: the only problematic issue here is that this man managed to be chief editor of an elsevier (I believe it was elsevier right?) scientific journal. This says much about the policy of this publishing house and it is really there where the problem lies. Again, I don't see any value -apart from some form of amusement- to talk about him (although I admit he is a clear case according to the Baez crackpot index). By the same standards, you could set up a webpage about Lubos and be fascinated by rather similar things (sometimes replace west by east and nobel prize by comparison with newton and einstein - he actually once did that implicitely on peter Woit's blog).

    You are a mathematician right? So generically I would expect you to be more 'open minded' than a theoretical physicist. How would you feel if another collegue of you would start publicly insulting other mathematicians and generic values of mathematical research based upon taste and shortsightedness? How would you moreover think about this person if he would attack generic researchers in a field in which he got no training whatsoever? Such activity is isomorphic to the behaviour of creationists towards evolutionary biologists. Now, how to distinguish your former collegue from a creationist?

    ReplyDelete
  39. To make my point about not calling people crackpots stronger, let me mention the following:
    (a) it really doesn't matter to identify a real crackpot as such because the chances of him/her getting a job in academia are really slim. Most likely, he/she will not get the necessary reference letters, and even if he/she did his/her work will be too insignificant to get a job at a really good place. For such thing, you have to give a lecture, go to an interview and proceed through some number of checks.
    (b) Once someone went through this due diligence process, you cannot call him/her a crackpot anymore, because of many reasons:
    i) it would imply that the people who hired him/her are also crackpots or where easily misguided by what he/she said (indicating that these people didn't have sufficient quality). This is unlikely to happen in these times where 150 candidates apply for one job.
    ii)just because this person says things you believe to be false (but have no proof of), you should not label him as insane or stupid. It might be that he is better and faster in calculations than you are and that he/she actually knows more math than you do.
    iii) even in the extreme unlikely event that a real crank got through, you still should consider that he/she is clearly not stupid since that might imply that you are actually dumber than he/she is (for not noticing the scam). The best policy then is to try to correct his/her views politely.
    (c) the labelling of someone as crank had some disastrous consequences in the past: the greatest minds mostly got opposition and were often labelled as crank or not taken seriously enough (see eg. german scientists versus the jew Einstein, or Newton even got his share as a matter of fact).
    (d) Suppose you would meet someone whose views you do not understand (and you are supposed to be a specialist in this field) but you cannot pinpoint a logical mistake this person is making. However, the point made by this strange creature *appears* to contradict stuff you know (but if you would look closer it really doesn't). To defend yourself, you might be tempted to call this guy/girl a crank/crackpot. Now it turns out that this person is a future nobel prize-winner... For example 't Hooft got his nobel for something almost nobody did not believe in anymore. Oeepps, I made a mistake... hmmmmmm. Of course, chances for that happening are slim but it still would not justify such behaviour. Instead, you might have encouraged the weirdo to publish his views so that it could be discussed in the scientific way or you might have thought closer about it, and perhaps find a mistake at a later stage; then, you would have learned something and it might also sharpen your own views.
    (e) it is simply true that there exist unusual people in the world. For example I know of a technical engineer who cannot follow the mathematics of modern physics but has a deep physical intuition which allows him to follow the conversation and even suggest things which often I know to be true by calculation. Is this person a crank? Or, does he simply understand things in a different way than a more conventional scientist does?

    ReplyDelete
  40. To make my point about not calling people crackpots stronger, let me mention the following:
    (a) it really doesn't matter to identify a real crackpot as such because the chances of him/her getting a job in academia are really slim. Most likely, he/she will not get the necessary reference letters, and even if he/she did his/her work will be too insignificant to get a job at a really good place. For such thing, you have to give a lecture, go to an interview and proceed through some number of checks.
    (b) Once someone went through this due diligence process, you cannot call him/her a crackpot anymore, because of many reasons:
    i) it would imply that the people who hired him/her are also crackpots or where easily misguided by what he/she said (indicating that these people didn't have sufficient quality). This is unlikely to happen in these times where 150 candidates apply for one job.
    ii)just because this person says things you believe to be false (but have no proof of), you should not label him as insane or stupid. It might be that he is better and faster in calculations than you are and that he/she actually knows more math than you do.
    iii) even in the extreme unlikely event that a real crank got through, you still should consider that he/she is clearly not stupid since that might imply that you are actually dumber than he/she is (for not noticing the scam). The best policy then is to try to correct his/her views politely.
    (c) the labelling of someone as crank had some disastrous consequences in the past: the greatest minds mostly got opposition and were often labelled as crank or not taken seriously enough (see eg. german scientists versus the jew Einstein, or Newton even got his share as a matter of fact).
    (d) Suppose you would meet someone whose views you do not understand (and you are supposed to be a specialist in this field) but you cannot pinpoint a logical mistake this person is making. However, the point made by this strange creature *appears* to contradict stuff you know (but if you would look closer it really doesn't). To defend yourself, you might be tempted to call this guy/girl a crank/crackpot. Now it turns out that this person is a future nobel prize-winner... For example 't Hooft got his nobel for something almost nobody did not believe in anymore. Oeepps, I made a mistake... hmmmmmm. Of course, chances for that happening are slim but it still would not justify such behaviour. Instead, you might have encouraged the weirdo to publish his views so that it could be discussed in the scientific way or you might have thought closer about it, and perhaps find a mistake at a later stage; then, you would have learned something and it might also sharpen your own views.
    (e) it is simply true that there exist unusual people in the world. For example I know of a technical engineer who cannot follow the mathematics of modern physics but has a deep physical intuition which allows him to follow the conversation and even suggest things which often I know to be true by calculation. Is this person a crank? Or, does he simply understand things in a different way than a more conventional scientist does?

    ReplyDelete
  41. To make my point about not calling people crackpots stronger, let me mention the following:
    (a) it really doesn't matter to identify a real crackpot as such because the chances of him/her getting a job in academia are really slim. Most likely, he/she will not get the necessary reference letters, and even if he/she did his/her work will be too insignificant to get a job at a really good place. For such thing, you have to give a lecture, go to an interview and proceed through some number of checks.
    (b) Once someone went through this due diligence process, you cannot call him/her a crackpot anymore, because of many reasons:
    i) it would imply that the people who hired him/her are also crackpots or where easily misguided by what he/she said (indicating that these people didn't have sufficient quality). This is unlikely to happen in these times where 150 candidates apply for one job.
    ii)just because this person says things you believe to be false (but have no proof of), you should not label him as insane or stupid. It might be that he is better and faster in calculations than you are and that he/she actually knows more math than you do.
    iii) even in the extreme unlikely event that a real crank got through, you still should consider that he/she is clearly not stupid since that might imply that you are actually dumber than he/she is (for not noticing the scam). The best policy then is to try to correct his/her views politely.
    (c) the labelling of someone as crank had some disastrous consequences in the past: the greatest minds mostly got opposition and were often labelled as crank or not taken seriously enough (see eg. german scientists versus the jew Einstein, or Newton even got his share as a matter of fact).
    (d) Suppose you would meet someone whose views you do not understand (and you are supposed to be a specialist in this field) but you cannot pinpoint a logical mistake this person is making. However, the point made by this strange creature *appears* to contradict stuff you know (but if you would look closer it really doesn't). To defend yourself, you might be tempted to call this guy/girl a crank/crackpot. Now it turns out that this person is a future nobel prize-winner... For example 't Hooft got his nobel for something almost nobody did not believe in anymore. Oeepps, I made a mistake... hmmmmmm. Of course, chances for that happening are slim but it still would not justify such behaviour. Instead, you might have encouraged the weirdo to publish his views so that it could be discussed in the scientific way or you might have thought closer about it, and perhaps find a mistake at a later stage; then, you would have learned something and it might also sharpen your own views.
    (e) it is simply true that there exist unusual people in the world. For example I know of a technical engineer who cannot follow the mathematics of modern physics but has a deep physical intuition which allows him to follow the conversation and even suggest things which often I know to be true by calculation. Is this person a crank? Or, does he simply understand things in a different way than a more conventional scientist does?

    ReplyDelete
  42. To make my point about not calling people crackpots stronger, let me mention the following:
    (a) it really doesn't matter to identify a real crackpot as such because the chances of him/her getting a job in academia are really slim. Most likely, he/she will not get the necessary reference letters, and even if he/she did his/her work will be too insignificant to get a job at a really good place. For such thing, you have to give a lecture, go to an interview and proceed through some number of checks.
    (b) Once someone went through this due diligence process, you cannot call him/her a crackpot anymore, because of many reasons:
    i) it would imply that the people who hired him/her are also crackpots or where easily misguided by what he/she said (indicating that these people didn't have sufficient quality). This is unlikely to happen in these times where 150 candidates apply for one job.
    ii)just because this person says things you believe to be false (but have no proof of), you should not label him as insane or stupid. It might be that he is better and faster in calculations than you are and that he/she actually knows more math than you do.
    iii) even in the extreme unlikely event that a real crank got through, you still should consider that he/she is clearly not stupid since that might imply that you are actually dumber than he/she is (for not noticing the scam). The best policy then is to try to correct his/her views politely.
    (c) the labelling of someone as crank had some disastrous consequences in the past: the greatest minds mostly got opposition and were often labelled as crank or not taken seriously enough (see eg. german scientists versus the jew Einstein, or Newton even got his share as a matter of fact).
    (d) Suppose you would meet someone whose views you do not understand (and you are supposed to be a specialist in this field) but you cannot pinpoint a logical mistake this person is making. However, the point made by this strange creature *appears* to contradict stuff you know (but if you would look closer it really doesn't). To defend yourself, you might be tempted to call this guy/girl a crank/crackpot. Now it turns out that this person is a future nobel prize-winner... For example 't Hooft got his nobel for something almost nobody did not believe in anymore. Oeepps, I made a mistake... hmmmmmm. Of course, chances for that happening are slim but it still would not justify such behaviour. Instead, you might have encouraged the weirdo to publish his views so that it could be discussed in the scientific way or you might have thought closer about it, and perhaps find a mistake at a later stage; then, you would have learned something and it might also sharpen your own views.
    (e) it is simply true that there exist unusual people in the world. For example I know of a technical engineer who cannot follow the mathematics of modern physics but has a deep physical intuition which allows him to follow the conversation and even suggest things which often I know to be true by calculation. Is this person a crank? Or, does he simply understand things in a different way than a more conventional scientist does?

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  43. Anonymous, it seems you're not familiar with El Naschie's colleague Ji-Huan He, who is also at the top of "his" field (mathematics), as El Naschie of his field (physics); according to Thomson Reuters standards:

    http://sciencewatch.com/ana/fea/10maraprFea/

    This blog also deals with this guy who can hardly be recognized as a mathematician. And, guess what, true mathematicians, like Arnold, attack such individuals with no respect:

    http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.com/2009/12/siam-president-attacks-el-naschie-and.html

    It's true, Jason is a mathematician and his criticisms in terms of expertise would be applicable to He at most. But this blog is not a technical one; it mostly collects information from other sources. Regarding El Naschie it hosts also criticisms from experts like Baez and that would suffice, as far as I'm concerned.

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  44. Anonymous, what Shrink said is right. Here are his links made live:

    http://sciencewatch.com/ana/fea/10maraprFea/

    http://elnaschiewatch.blogspot.com/2009/12/siam-president-attacks-el-naschie-and.html

    I wrote the following response while he was writing his. :)

    Elsevier acquired CSF at some point after El Naschie established it. They inherited him as Editor-in-Chief. They should have fired him sooner.

    Westerners are unaware of him or laugh at him. But he is a corrupting influence on science in the Arab world. El Naschie Watch has readers from both worlds. US, UK, Germany, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are major visitors. I started this blog purely for the amusement aspect, but we gradually became a repository for facts about him, and now we are a serious problem for his reputation in the Arab world. Introduction to Mohamed El Naschie is our most popular page.

    One could indeed devote a blog to attacking Lubos. He provokes Woit, Smolin and Hossenfelder ostentatiously though, and might actually relish the attention. Since I'm a mathematician and all four of them know more physics than me, I watch from the sidelines. El Naschie, however, writes (or used to write) papers that both mathematicians and physicists can recognize as ludicrous.

    Lubos calls Woit an "enemy of science", Smolin "immoral and double faced" and Hossenfelder "incredibly dumb". Very severe. How I felt about one mathematician calling other mathematicians such names I can't answer in the abstract. It would depend on the particular facts, which I would be better able to assess than in the case of Lubos's attacks on other physicists. Whether Lubos is right or wrong, I am convinced that he believes what he says. Mohamed El Naschie, by contrast, is a calculating, cynical liar.

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  45. Whether Lubos is right or wrong, I am convinced that he believes what he says. Mohamed El Naschie, by contrast, is a calculating, cynical liar.

    It's just the other way round, and if you don't know that, you should learn it.

    Anyway, this post is extremely awkward, given the alleged "exclusive El Naschie" scope of this blog. Tho only point one can make out of it is that you are endorsing the insults of the Pilsen psychopath against other people.

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  46. Dear Jason,

    I am again your original anonimous; Lubos' attacks do not merely cover Woit, Smolin and Hossenfelder but he also sneers at Penrose, Alain Connes, Leonard Susskind. He has expressed his doubts about 't Hooft etc... You seem not to be aware of the magnitude of his 'efforts' but I think -as a mathematician- you recognize the genius of at least Penrose and Connes. Also, Lubos thinks John Baez -whom you correctly estimate (Baez is not a genius but respectable)- is a crackpot, loon, loser...

    Even if you just read his blog: have you ever counted the number of conspiration theories this guy launches? I mean, even psychiatric patients do not suffer from such delusions.

    I respect Arnold very much but disagree with his action - I guess eastern europeans are just somewhat more militant when it comes down to ''stupidity'' :-) Anyhow, I believe that cranks get naturally eliminated and sure -sometimes it may happen that ocassionally someone slips trough but I would just accept that as it is. After all, such persons do harm themselves and the institutions they work for more than anything else.

    Moreover, your indulgence argument of Motl is quite weak. I mean, creationists also believe what they say, should we therefore tolerate their insults, their outright attack on evolution? I don't think so. You use the same argument FOR Motl that he uses AGAINST the cult around Lee Smolin. That is, people respect him because he is a scientist of good faith :-)

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  47. To make it clear, I am not a fan of Smolin either. You seem to be reasonable, but you must realize that El Naschie is in a totally different category than Smolin. Smolin is certainly not a crank or crackpot but he is definetly at least a typical (meaning somewhat above average) physicist. Unlike such ''average'' physicists, Smolin puts his neck out which puts him in a precarious position. Even Leonard Susskind in his ''cynical'' tone acknowledges at least that. Woit used to be at Princeton and you definitely know that Connes is a Fields Medal winner (extending far beyond the reach of Lubos who can be found around page 100 of the top participants of the international math olympiad). Lubos, believe me (and if you don't ask physicists or look for yourself), does far more than hunting someone everybody would agree to be a crackpot according to the Baez index (but not everybody would mind saying so)! The alliance you are imagining yourself would be comparable to a
    bank robber signing a treaty with Hitler to overthrow the sherrif of a local village :-) Of course, Hitler has a much bigger scheme of things...

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  48. just a small comment about Ji-Huan He. He appears to be an engineer and it is well known that in engineering the publication lists are extend to a 4 fold of what a mathematician or physicist would produce. Likewise, it goes with the number of citations. This doesn't mean anything and certainly in China many suspect geniuses of that kind arise :-) I would not be very bothered about it; usually, in that corner of the world much money is recently put in academic research in order to meet international standards. But they simply don't have many well educated researchers yet which meet those criteria. Hence, this is a ground where such things can exist... in the US or europe, this would be far less likely.

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  49. Anonymous (last), maybe you're not bothered about this, but others seem to be, e.g. mathematicians at their congress:

    How good is your maths?


    or journalists in a reputable newspaper:

    Professor Hes Zitate-Farm


    You're right in saying that He is an engineer but he's also the chief editor of a journal (IJNSNS) which has the highest IF in the category "Mathematics, Applied" in the last years. And the ground where such a thing exists is Thomson Reuters' "Impact Factor" playground.

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  50. Shrink, are you what your name says or are you a mathematician/physicist? I think the problem you are referring to is much deeper than the issue of a single ''crackpot''. What people usually do when there is a structural problem is to find a witch to burn on the stake: this is simply meaningless. The real problem is that when applying for grants, the impact factor of the journal you publish in is of vital importance (you actually have to refer to it in your application). Also, the citation index of your papers becomes a respectable number. Hence, people feel obliged to publish mean stream and as quick and fragmented as possible so that in many cases the quality/originality of the work severly drops. The old fashioned system of reference letters surely had it's drawbacks but I do still prefer it over these so called 'objective' measures to indicate performance. Another drawback of such system is that there are many more publications and therefore many young phd-researchers/post-docs have to become referees. In the early days, you kind of knew that your referee was a respectable scientist: this is not the case anymore. ''Cranks'' ars simply the exponent of such system, but they are -like witches- not the problem. Every sensible person knows this; unlike Motl you should not look for sensation and talk about a non-problem. Moreover, Motl endorses real ''crackpots'' such as the Bogdanov brothers: he has even written a book ''l'equation Bogdanoff'' which is as obscure as the author himself.

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  51. Anonymous, my qualifications are irrelevant as is my nick name.

    Yes, the problem is in the system and El Naschie and He are just the tip of an iceberg. But their cases can serve as a start to fix this problem what is far from being "meaningless". And, of course, Arnold and others talk about such "non-problems"; it seems sensible to them, obviously. And Motl has nothing to do with their approach.

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  52. I don't share Motl's affection for the Bogdanov Bros. Or his criticism of the obvious greats that you name. It weakens his criticism of lesser beings.

    As Shrink says, Ji-Huan He runs a math journal with a huge impact factor. He's a mathematician in that sense, even though the journal is trash.

    You asked and answered "I mean, creationists also believe what they say, should we therefore tolerate their insults, their outright attack on evolution? I don't think so." I do think so, and I am an absolutist on the matter. Even though I think creationists are feeble-minded. Motl does too. Squelching stupid speech is bad. Throwing critical light and ridicule upon it is good.

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  53. Motl also criticized recent Fields Medalists for results that are uninteresting and merely technical, or words to that effect, and I think he is out of his depth in making that call. But he has a right to his opinion.

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  54. Well, burning witches usually leads to just burning more witches... Anyhow, experience shows me that any scientist is aware of the problem and I had plenty of discussions about this. I think the disagreement we have may be a matter of differences in culture; that is, what are the policies of the fund distributors? If the latter were politicians or bureaucrats, I would tend to agree with you that ''cranks'' may serve as an example. However, if it concerns scientists themselves, then the problem is different and ''cranks'' should not even enter the discussion. Moreover, the reason why I asked you about your ''background'' is because it may matter; the policies in social sciences for example may differ significantly from those in exact sciences (even engineering policies are different) - I did not mean to be intrusive in any way. One simply should at all moments try to remain rational; perhaps a return to the old system would be too much to ask for, but it seems to me that the current system fails. I personally know of several ''not so intelligent'' people who have made it at a very young age to full professor because they had 25 papers in their second year as postdoc. This is clearly not a good situation and the problem is not the endorsement of such people but the criteria by which the rankings are made. Reference letters from internationally well known people could cure such disease.

    To Jason; well I can understand what you say but it is not an effective strategy. The problem with ridicule is that (a) it won't convince the ''cranks'' (b) the general public will regard you as ''elitist'' because they don't understand the source of your mocking. Experience shows me that it will be impossible to convince the ''cranks'' by any means; therefore your strategy has to aim the general public. I believe the optimum way to reach the general public is through education which has to take place in elementary and high schools. The problem, I believe, mainly resides there: many teachers of science simply are too bad. They do not convey the fact that science is not just a working tool, but a way to comprehend the world which is largely on par with (useful) philosophy and effectively weakens religion. I think the same logic applies to the system of higher education; people have to be better informed before they make a judgement. The way in which I can agree with you is that your activities at least put a question mark next to this person's name which will make people think before they hire someone as El Naschie. But in general I largely feel that this kind of activity should only serve as a catalyst for a more important debate.

    My remark towards Lubos versus creationism of course deals with his comments about Climate research. By his own standards, he should be tagged as a crank here - actually he dismisses every researcher in quantum gravity who does not fully learn the picture of string theory as inferior, second class and -actually he really wants to say- crank. However, I am somewhat more broad minded than he is and on the scientific issue I would still give him a slight, slight credit (he is certainly not right, but he might have some ''tangential objections''). The point is that he utters the opinion that almost all researchers in this complex field are corrupt, scientifically dishonest scum whose only purpose in life is to scare people to raise funds for their ''research'' as he puts it. Moreover, he would go to immediate liquidation of some of them... I believe any rational person would likewise question his scientific assertions after hearing such conspiracy theories.

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  55. Well, burning witches usually leads to just burning more witches... Anyhow, experience shows me that any scientist is aware of the problem and I had plenty of discussions about this. I think the disagreement we have may be a matter of differences in culture; that is, what are the policies of the fund distributors? If the latter were politicians or bureaucrats, I would tend to agree with you that ''cranks'' may serve as an example. However, if it concerns scientists themselves, then the problem is different and ''cranks'' should not even enter the discussion. Moreover, the reason why I asked you about your ''background'' is because it may matter; the policies in social sciences for example may differ significantly from those in exact sciences (even engineering policies are different) - I did not mean to be intrusive in any way. One simply should at all moments try to remain rational; perhaps a return to the old system would be too much to ask for, but it seems to me that the current system fails. I personally know of several ''not so intelligent'' people who have made it at a very young age to full professor because they had 25 papers in their second year as postdoc. This is clearly not a good situation and the problem is not the endorsement of such people but the criteria by which the rankings are made. Reference letters from internationally well known people could cure such disease.

    To Jason; well I can understand what you say but it is not an effective strategy. The problem with ridicule is that (a) it won't convince the ''cranks'' (b) the general public will regard you as ''elitist'' because they don't understand the source of your mocking. Experience shows me that it will be impossible to convince the ''cranks'' by any means; therefore your strategy has to aim the general public. I believe the optimum way to reach the general public is through education which has to take place in elementary and high schools. The problem, I believe, mainly resides there: many teachers of science simply are too bad. They do not convey the fact that science is not just a working tool, but a way to comprehend the world which is largely on par with (useful) philosophy and effectively weakens religion. I think the same logic applies to the system of higher education; people have to be better informed before they make a judgement. The way in which I can agree with you is that your activities at least put a question mark next to this person's name which will make people think before they hire someone as El Naschie. But in general I largely feel that this kind of activity should only serve as a catalyst for a more important debate.

    My remark towards Lubos versus creationism of course deals with his comments about Climate research. By his own standards, he should be tagged as a crank here - actually he dismisses every researcher in quantum gravity who does not fully learn the picture of string theory as inferior, second class and -actually he really wants to say- crank. However, I am somewhat more broad minded than he is and on the scientific issue I would still give him a slight, slight credit (he is certainly not right, but he might have some ''tangential objections''). The point is that he utters the opinion that almost all researchers in this complex field are corrupt, scientifically dishonest scum whose only purpose in life is to scare people to raise funds for their ''research'' as he puts it. Moreover, he would go to immediate liquidation of some of them... I believe any rational person would likewise question his scientific assertions after hearing such conspiracy theories.

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  56. Well, burning witches usually leads to just burning more witches... Anyhow, experience shows me that any scientist is aware of the problem and I had plenty of discussions about this. I think the disagreement we have may be a matter of differences in culture; that is, what are the policies of the fund distributors? If the latter were politicians or bureaucrats, I would tend to agree with you that ''cranks'' may serve as an example. However, if it concerns scientists themselves, then the problem is different and ''cranks'' should not even enter the discussion. Moreover, the reason why I asked you about your ''background'' is because it may matter; the policies in social sciences for example may differ significantly from those in exact sciences (even engineering policies are different) - I did not mean to be intrusive in any way. One simply should at all moments try to remain rational; perhaps a return to the old system would be too much to ask for, but it seems to me that the current system fails. I personally know of several ''not so intelligent'' people who have made it at a very young age to full professor because they had 25 papers in their second year as postdoc. This is clearly not a good situation and the problem is not the endorsement of such people but the criteria by which the rankings are made. Reference letters from internationally well known people could cure such disease.

    To Jason; well I can understand what you say but it is not an effective strategy. The problem with ridicule is that (a) it won't convince the ''cranks'' (b) the general public will regard you as ''elitist'' because they don't understand the source of your mocking. Experience shows me that it will be impossible to convince the ''cranks'' by any means; therefore your strategy has to aim the general public. I believe the optimum way to reach the general public is through education which has to take place in elementary and high schools. The problem, I believe, mainly resides there: many teachers of science simply are too bad. They do not convey the fact that science is not just a working tool, but a way to comprehend the world which is largely on par with (useful) philosophy and effectively weakens religion. I think the same logic applies to the system of higher education; people have to be better informed before they make a judgement. The way in which I can agree with you is that your activities at least put a question mark next to this person's name which will make people think before they hire someone as El Naschie. But in general I largely feel that this kind of activity should only serve as a catalyst for a more important debate.

    My remark towards Lubos versus creationism of course deals with his comments about Climate research. By his own standards, he should be tagged as a crank here - actually he dismisses every researcher in quantum gravity who does not fully learn the picture of string theory as inferior, second class and -actually he really wants to say- crank. However, I am somewhat more broad minded than he is and on the scientific issue I would still give him a slight, slight credit (he is certainly not right, but he might have some ''tangential objections''). The point is that he utters the opinion that almost all researchers in this complex field are corrupt, scientifically dishonest scum whose only purpose in life is to scare people to raise funds for their ''research'' as he puts it. Moreover, he would go to immediate liquidation of some of them... I believe any rational person would likewise question his scientific assertions after hearing such conspiracy theories.

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  57. I see someone is having trouble getting a comment accepted. I'm very sorry. The blogger comment form is awful.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Ok, my comment dissapeared...
    To shrink I basically said that our disagreement may be a matter of culture, depending upon whom is the funds distributor. If it is a bureaucrat or politician, I would tend to agree that a ''crank'' may serve as an example. However, if scientists themselves are deciding upon it -as is the case in my country- the problem is of a different nature and I do not believe ''crackpots'' should enter the discussion at all. To my knowledge, everyone is aware of this issue, but it time it should be dealt with. The reason -moreover- I asked for your qualifications is that it may matter: the situation in social sciences may be very different - actually the reality in engineering is already very different; I certainly did not mean to be intrusive :-)

    To Jason, I basically said two things:
    (a) I can agree with him as far as the activities on this blog may serve as a catalyst
    to get the discussion going (and to make ''ignorant'' people aware of El Naschie)
    (b) However, I do not believe ridicule is going to be of much help. A prime example of such tactic is Richard Dawkins: the only public he reaches are well educated academics who already know that creationism is a scam. Likewise, I am afraid that only people who believe El Naschie to be a ''crank'' in the first place come and visit here.

    My first post was somewhat more differentiated but I have no time to respond more now.

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  59. As a final side comment to Motl here. Of course he is way out of his league when making these comments about Fields medallists. You must understand that this is a behavioral trait of his: he wants to be perceived as one of the few remaining universal geniuses. Now, in physics, the judgement of his ''opinions'' is somewhat more complicated because he has extensive knowledge, but essentially the same comment applies.

    I disagree however with you that he has the right to an ''opinion'' if this would mean that free speech is absolute. This is wrong: you cannot go on the street and say for example that your neighbor is a fucking prostitute (even if it is true) since the only objective of that is to harm her. An opinion should always serve a constructive purpose; sometimes a destructive comment may turn out to be constructive later on, but I think it is usually clear when this is the case. Making ''empty'' comments based on ''taste'' about (the work of) people getting the highest recognition from an entire society of academics does clearly not belong to this category.

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  60. Anonymous: Thanks for your thoughtful comments and patience with the comment-shredding comment form.

    Americans like me tend to be more uncompromising than Europeans like you concerning the right to free speech. I knew that, but I am amazed at the size of the gap.

    You say "you cannot go on the street and say for example that your neighbor is a fucking prostitute (even if it is true) since the only objective of that is to harm her". Well, I pity you for your lack of free speech. I'm glad I live here and don't have to watch my tongue.

    You say "An opinion should always serve a constructive purpose." Bullshit. That's just a weasel trick for suppressing opinions based on a vague notion of constructiveness whose interpretation you want to control.

    I think Richard Dawkins gets quite a bit of exposure, I'm not sure why you don't. He's all over YouTube. He debates creationists and appears on widely-watched TV shows. Most people are not interested in the creation vs evolution question and change the channel. For him to abandon ridicule as a tactic would not change that. Perhaps in your country the lack of free speech (because he might offend someone, which would not be constructive) prevents him from getting the exposure he does here.

    You say "I am afraid that only people who believe El Naschie to be a ''crank'' in the first place come and visit here". Let me put your worries to rest. Many people have learned of his crackpottery for the first time by reading this blog. And his supporters don't comment here, but they do read El Naschie Watch.

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  61. To Jason,

    Concerning free speech: you misunderstand the whole concept I am telling you (perhaps this is why europeans usually think of american attitudes as 'naive' - anyway I certainly do not so). The point is not that it is not allowed (it certainly is) but making excessive use of it is frowned upon for very good reasons. You just cannot behave verbally as monkeys, animals and pretend it is ok and it certainly doesn't fit into any scientific discussion. Actually, Americans do tend to think alike, but they prefer to engage more in law suits once someone hurts their good reputation; in Europe we are not so keen on this system and eliminate the verbally agressive one socially. It is actually - I believe - a more efficient system. I think we both agree that one must value words and that verbally agressive claims do require strong evidence (which still would not justify them per se) - actually the whole of modern civilization is build upon that principle. I suspect the european system challenges people more to think before they speak and that is always a good excercise.

    Haha, your argument against constructive arguments is rather 'naive' - but the distinction is quite objective if you think about it. Constructive is defined here in two ways: (a) as a purpose to improve upon a particular situation (this is somewhat subjective, but I think most of us would agree what definitely is not an improvement - and as a matter of fact the rule is mostly applied only to these situations) (b) and most important - a method to reach that purpose which should minimize the harm done (and this one is actually open to scientific study). I don't see how such common sense principle could harm valuable opinions.

    You should really not try to offend people in the third paragraph. And you actually did not respond to my comment about the ineffictiveness of what he does. Creationists won't listen anyway (I actually know a few) since their bias is religion and they use pseudoscience as a means to feel more comfortable about their views. Most of these people also are not too well educated and simply do not understand the fine print of his arguments. And of course, Dawkins' activities are entirely acceptable, but I hope you can see the difference between his and Motl, because if you don't that would be too bad.

    Concerning your comment towards El Naschie, I would not be too sure: I mean before you type in a letter code El Naschie in google one must have heard the name (it is just not a random sequence). I actually heard about it through a collegue of mine who heard it from ... It is probably true that most information they get from him is through this website - although I believe some papers about him have appeared in some journals too.

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  62. Just of the mark, but from all my american friends I know and from personal experience in the US; I must say that you live somewhat in ''police state'' relative to the continental europe. I am not precisely sure about which value makes the difference because we both tend to perceive ourselves as western people (whatever that means). Perhaps (and this is a conjecture), law and force act as a supplementary regulator in your country where society in europe tends to be more 'self-regulatory'. I am sure sociologists have made studies about the origin of these differences, but I am not aware of them.

    Moreover, you should not confuse the more constrained free speach with an inhibition on radical and liberal ideas. Actually, europe is far more liberal than the US (certainly concerning issues such as drugs, sex, religion) and people are on average much better educated in science (the country I live in actually has almost the lowest infection of creationism). It might surprise you that all these values (which could appear to be at different extremes of the spectrum for you) are actually commensurable.

    But it always interesting to learn different cultures...

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  63. It's been an illuminating exchange. Opinions won't change but that's OK.

    I'll just conclude by returning to the example of the prostitute's neighbor, where our disagreement is stark. Who gets to decide whether his statement is constructive? He's angry his block is overrun with crime, and speaks up to gain allies among the neighbors. For him it's constructive. Naturally the prostitutes and drug dealers don't like being called out, and don't consider his statement constructive. I agree with him. You agree with her. You imply with approval that a judge would obviously have your opinion. I believe you, and hope that the American legal system remains relatively unbefouled by European style jurisprudence.

    To "minimize the harm done" is an equally unsatisfactory criterion, depending as it does on who is harmed.

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  64. And I should have added this: I meant that Richard Dawkins is ineffective not because he's rude, but because people aren't interested in the creation/evolution question.

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  65. Ah ok, now you are just adding to the prostitutes example: of course I was only speaking about a 'light hearted' girl who has a private 'practice' (as is common in europe - especially eastern europe). I was intending the boy to make a moral statement about the woman and therefore denigrating her without any good purpose. In case of your example, I would simply call for the police and let them arrange it. I would still not talk about the fucking prostitute though but would certainly be worried about the criminal activities taking place (about which the prostitute usually cannot help anything).

    Sometimes you must learn not to kill a fly by means of a shotgun. For example, people who have drugs here for private use mainly get a slap on the wrist; in Holland, drugs are provided by hospitals to addicts in order to get you cured (almost for free). But hey, in the US you would get to gail because the law probably doesn't distinguish enough between small consumers and big drug barons who are involved in real criminality (such as extorsion, blackmail, street criminality...).

    I hope your last sentence does not reveal that you would consider harm against americans to be worse than harm agains muslims? Would you? It does not matter who is getting harmed: this is a fundamental principle of equality which cannot be touched upon. To say otherwise would be to assign an a-priori superiority of one person over the other and that is just disgusting.

    About Dawkins: I never said he was rude - which he is not - but only that he used ridicule as his weapon. The only effective thing for Dawkins to do would be to go and lecture in high schools in the UK as much as he can. He should go to the young minds and explain them as good as he can - likewise he might want to write books for these kids instead of novels like the God delusion (which I completely agree with btw). That would have an effect of epsilon > 0, but neverteless epsilon is not zero as is the case now. Now he is grand entertainment and if I don't know what to do, I amuse myself listening to his performances. The most sensible think he did however, was to interview steven Weinberg who is still in a somewhat different league :-)

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  66. And to answer the question about the prostitute in detail. Yes, chances are slim that these girls are criminals themselves; in many cases they are exploited and save the remainder of their money for family in a poor country. You also have different situations with girls really liking the profession, but still this does not imply they are criminals. The police knows this and in Holland, these girls are actually *protected* and can have their own union. So, if I were a judge -and the law would allow me to- I would in many cases let the prostitute herself go free. Many of these girls actually do a good work and should get a respectable status in society (but you have to put many moral prejudices aside to understand this). The drug dealer however would be a different issue: he *might* be breaking the law (dealing soft drugs is in some countries legal and wide spread); depending upon the criminal activity (drug dealing, creating public noise -this is also a 'crime'-, extorsion) you must punish him (surely looking for constructive arguments is not the same as serving people to their likes -as you suggested above-; that's rather a deep misunderstanding)

    I guess you must really dislike someone like Micheal Moore since he is just in love with Europe. Hearing your comments, I doubt it whether you have ever been here: you should, it is a very different world in many respects. With actually, much less big criminality than in the US!

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  67. I see my previous comment dissapeared... I am not going to retype it.

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  68. Sorry for your lost comment... The same thing happened to me. My new habit is to save them until I know they have been posted successfully for a few minutes.

    I saw Roger and Me in 1989 and thought it was hilarious, but haven't seen another Michael Moore movie since.

    I lived in Scotland for two years and loved traveling around Europe during that time. Every place in the world has its unique charms and blemishes.

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  69. Ah, Edinborough?? That's a really cool city. Sure, the US has many good things too europe can learn from... I just think it is a nice sociological excercise to determine where the differences between americans and europeans come from given american history. It surely has been made already but I am not aware of it...

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  70. Edinburgh, yes, I miss it terribly. I am no expert in history or social science but the first European settlers were largely people who didn't want to be told what to do, and that's reflected in such things as the 1st Amendment to the Constitution (free speech) and the 4th (guns) which are extreme by global standards.

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  71. Yeh ... sometimes extreme things require extreme measures. I totally agree with that. In most european countries for example, negating the holocaust actually results in procecution in court. The wounds are still that deep; obviously this is a measure which is ripping the naive free speech to pieces. It is far from an easy matter to come to the conclusion that this law should be abandonned, not because of sentimental reasons or the disrespect uttered towards the victims, but because denial of historical truth opens the pathway to commit similar errors in the future. Likewise, it might be that the survival of these questionable principles in the US may be traced back to the very same reasons. One could argue even similarly about evolution versus creationism (and not in a less dramatic way, in contrast to what one may expect). I mean how many murders had religious grounds; whose 'genesis' story was the correct one, which race was the purest? As a teenager, I was fascinated by reading upon the genealogy of european 'volker', from what nobel race they came from and how even pseudoscientific arguments like craniology played a role in distinguishing the intelligence between races. All this was 'crackpottery' and finally Darwin came by and put a scientific end to all these meaningless mumblings and cruelty (athough Hitler still managed too creep in). Denying Darwin -without good evidence- could in this light similarly be interpreted as a potentially dangerous thing. The question of free speech is therefore very difficult and I am sure it will undergo many changes in the future depending on how people will be able to give the past a more rational place in the future epoch. That's one of the reasons why I said in the beginning that we should not tolerate the 'campaign' against Darwinism despite the flavor towards censorship such argument could have.

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  72. Anonymous, regarding "big criminality": I'm an European and despite living in a country with relatively low criminality I really doubt there's much less big criminality in Europe. If big criminality means organized crime, well, I think we all know where the mafia has its roots. And the Sicilian mafia is not the only one which exists in Europe. As to the problem of criminality in Europe in general: I think the enlargement of the European Union served as a catalyst for criminal activities; e.g. Eastern European organized crime took the opportunity to spread its tentacles in some activities (drug trafficking, trafficking in Human Beings).

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  73. Hi shrink, I believe the organized maffia also has it's tentacles in the US. Concerning Eastern european countries, I think it is vital to discern ''small'' criminality from organized crime. There is definetly lot's of ''small'' criminality and organized crime I think mainly comes from russia, albania, bulgaria and such countries. I believe countries like Poland, Czech republic, Slovakia and Ukraine (although it is not a member yet as far as I know) to be reasonably harmless in that respect. I think trafficking of human beings especially towards the UK is a problem much older than the enlargement of the union.

    The mafia mostly is -I believe- a localized problem in the south of italy and the country should deal with it. The main point I wanted to make is that most european countries are much more 'sensible' towards ''small'' criminality than the US is as far as I know. I mean, if I drive 180 km/h, I don't have to fear much, I pay a fine of 350 euro and it's done (I don't have to go to jail; do not appear before court...). Suppose, I would take soft drugs, the chances of me appearing in court (for a very mild punishment) are themselves very low, mostly I will get a ''slap on the wrist''. In the Netherlands, I could even go and smoke pot if I wanted to in a legitimate bar ... even in eastern europe, the police is much more sensible. Most of these guys have a pretty bad salary so they will almost instantaneously propose you a small bribe :-)

    Probably studies should be made to investigate the effect on big criminality - if they do not exist as yet. Anyway, I would not get too carried away against the european union and it is definetly a worrisome trend that nationalistic and sometimes even racist parties are getting again a considerable ''electorat''. I guess we shall have to live with it and evolve towards a more homogeneous europe without giving up upon our core human values. At least it was somewhat nice that Barosso dared to stress the human rights of the Roma due to the exile from france (even if he might be wrong here).

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  74. Anonymous, let me clarify what I mean by "I think the enlargement of the European Union served as a catalyst for criminal activities": the disappearance of borders opened new routes for trafficking, e.g. Slovenia, where I live, by entering the EU became the starting point of a new cocaine route to Europe (the so called Balkan route). In short, my point is: the fall of the borders has some negative outcome. And pointing to such facts is far from being nationalistic. As to human values: I don't think criminals value anything (except personal profit), but I do agree that a more homogeneous Europe would resolve some of its issues.

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  75. Well, I must confirm ignorance about this corner of europe (I am a physicist and certainly do not wish to pontificate about things I did not research in detail). The country were I live in has been a major transit country for drug and human traffic for many decades. I did not intend to relate nationalism to your point; I just observed it was a general trend in europe and -in the heads of many people- these issues might actually be connected. But you are right in saying that it is not nationalistic per se.

    You are probably right in saying that big criminals do not value much, but it does not imply -how difficult the excercise may be- that we too should lose our human values. Judging criminals without an a priori bias is the excercise justice must make at all costs (risking the fact that the public does not understand the common sense anymore of some decisions) otherwise the consequences will be severe.

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