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Post Reply What are some scientific "facts" people say a lot that are wrong?
runec 
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Posted 12/13/16 , edited 12/13/16

ran76 wrote:
That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.


This one has practically become the cornerstone of anti-intellectualism in recent years.



thanto_ wrote:
There's that idea of "alpha dog", espoused by know-nothings like Cesar Milan. The whole idea was based on a flawed study of wolves that was retracted and debunked by the original author. Wolves and domesticated dogs are social animals who naturally form cooperative communes. There is no such hierarchy as "alpha male" and "beta male", etc. They have a concept of fair or equitable treatment (many animals do, such as crows and capuchin monkeys), so they share their kills with the rest of the pack. There is no such thing as an alpha male getting the most meat or the first shot at it, etc. That's not to say that such behavior doesn't occur in other species. It just doesn't occur in wolves or domesticated dogs .


You are both right and wrong. You're right in that there was a study of that nature back in the 40s which was retracted. But wrong in that the behaviour does not occur in canines. It does and it varies from species to species. The study you're thinking of referred only to gray wolves and the retracted part did not rescind the idea of pack hierarchy. He retracted the part about wolf packs being a bunch of individuals vying for dominance. When gray wolf pacts are actually a single male/female alpha pair and the rest of the pack is their offspring. The alphas still enjoy first dibs on resources and the pack will still most kill other wolves that might threaten the pack hierarchy and breeding rights.

All that said; Domestic dogs are not gray wolves and Cesar Milan is still a shithead who should probably not be allowed near animals. >.>



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Posted 12/13/16
On the topic of Darwin's theory of evolution, someone once said to me, " Well, if we evolved from apes, how come there are no people walking out of the jungle? I mean, we don't see apes turning into people do we?" I was so speechless, I actually had to do a facepalm, while seriously considering my circle of friends (some of whom seriously responded with, "Oh! That's a good point!") - I may have died a little that day, and I'm sure Darwin turned in his grave.
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Posted 12/13/16 , edited 12/14/16
More history of science than pure science.

"People in the Middle Ages used to believe that the Earth was flat"

As a matter of fact, no one ever believed that. Everyone since at least the Ancient Greeks (and probably before) knew that the Earth was round just by observing the world around them (circular shadow on the moon, the horizon, the movement of stars over the night sky, etc). Every serious scholar knew that the Earth was round and the Roman Catholic Church never maintained that it wasn't.

As an aside, chances are that any so called "fact" about the history of science and religion you hear in high school is either blatantly untrue or in the realm of "eeeeh, its a bit more complicated than that". Assume that whatever you learned from basic education and pop history might just have been a rumour propagated by certain late 19th-early 20th century scholars (looking at you John William Draper).
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Posted 12/13/16 , edited 12/14/16
-Child vaccinations cause autism.
-Colonics/Cleansing gets rid of toxins and free radicals.
-You get the cold from being exposed to cold weather.
-Chiropractors are doctors.
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Posted 12/13/16

auroraloose wrote:


Grimm1223 wrote:

- Stars are on fire (no oxygen in space, they "burn" by fusing atoms in their cores)


Well, I mean... the part of "fire" we see - the flame - is the result of energetic ("hot") atoms/molecules emitting photons to transition to lower-energy states. That's exactly how stars emit light. Combustion produces the atoms/molecules that are hot/excited, just like nuclear fusion produces the energy in stars. But as far as the physics involved goes, there is no difference between what's going on in the hot glowing stuff that comes off of lit candles and the hot glowing stuff at the surface of stars. They are different gases and have different temperatures, spectra, etc., but it's the same thing that's happening.


True but many people still ask me how a star is on fire if there's no air in space so the distinction does still matter, even if the result is functionally the same for both processes (i.e. the creation of plasma). I've even had people tell me it's god keeping them burning, to them that's the only way it could possibly work (well that or the one girl who asked if planes ever hit stars... no idea how she thought they worked).
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Posted 12/13/16

titchestiny wrote:

On the topic of Darwin's theory of evolution, someone once said to me, " Well, if we evolved from apes, how come there are no people walking out of the jungle? I mean, we don't see apes turning into people do we?" I was so speechless, I actually had to do a facepalm, while seriously considering my circle of friends (some of whom seriously responded with, "Oh! That's a good point!") - I may have died a little that day, and I'm sure Darwin turned in his grave.


Clearly they've been playing too much Pokemon...
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Posted 12/13/16

titchestiny wrote:

On the topic of Darwin's theory of evolution, someone once said to me, " Well, if we evolved from apes, how come there are no people walking out of the jungle? I mean, we don't see apes turning into people do we?" I was so speechless, I actually had to do a facepalm, while seriously considering my circle of friends (some of whom seriously responded with, "Oh! That's a good point!") - I may have died a little that day, and I'm sure Darwin turned in his grave.


Yeah, I've heard of that before. It's always more interesting to ask the person who asks this question "how do you think evolution works?" In almost every case, they would immediately dismiss it while admiting their ignorance of the matter but in some rare instances, you might hear someone give you a very simplistic (and wrong) idea.
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Posted 12/13/16

runec wrote:


ran76 wrote:
That a "theory" is an idea that is, so far, unproven. That's pretty much the opposite of what a scientific theory actually is.


This one has practically become the cornerstone of anti-intellectualism in recent years.



Hhh... it is a dangerous misconception that science can prove something to be true. All scientific theories - and laws - are unproven. They are always fairly to incredibly reasonable, but never proven. And even when they're fairly to incredibly reasonable, they can be wrong. Scientists understand this. My favorite example of how important this is to scientists is from several years ago, in the journal Science. I can give you the link to this particular issue (http://science.sciencemag.org/content/332/6035), but you won't be able to access the article unless you're subscribed or have access through your academic institution. I took some screenshots for you:





This is the PI of WMAP, by the way; that means this guy is a huge deal. And the editor, also an eminent scientist, agreed that Science "blew it."

It is fashionable in the current political climate to talk about the danger of distrusting scientists and their theories, but too easily trusting scientific theories can be and has been just as dangerous. I'm not sure what's actually the cornerstone of anti-intellectualism these days, but feigning intellectualism certainly doesn't help. That scientists like Bennett constantly have to remind people that science can't prove anything indicates how deeply this error has penetrated.
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Posted 12/13/16

Grimm1223 wrote:

Clearly they've been playing too much Pokemon...


Lol - though if we could just evolve like that, I'm sure things would become rather interesting! Think I would have to go for a set of wings myself!!



AlastorCrow wrote:

Yeah, I've heard of that before. It's always more interesting to ask the person who asks this question "how do you think evolution works?" In almost every case, they would immediately dismiss it while admiting their ignorance of the matter but in some rare instances, you might hear someone give you a very simplistic (and wrong) idea.


I think I was too afraid to ask. It's truly terrifying how some people think - makes you question a lot of things - mainly, do I need to schedule a hearing test? Because I don't believe what I've just heard!
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Posted 12/13/16

auroraloose wrote:

Schrödinger's cat is both alive and dead.

NO. A MILLION NOs.



Kind of like the uncertainty principle: the more precisely you know the position of a particle, the less precisely you know its velocity.

Well, see, velocity is calculated from the delta of multiple position measurements. If you have exactly one position measurement, and are hence 100% certain of the particle's position, you can't possibly have a velocity measurement and are therefore 0% certain of the velocity.

Why this is regarded as somehow significant is beyond me.
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Posted 12/13/16 , edited 12/13/16
That because we can not truly know anything means that no one is really ever wrong.
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Posted 12/13/16
Nuclear power plants can explode like atomic bombs (well if you extracted all the U238, added D2O and compressed the hell out of it... Chernobyl proved this one wrong)
Evolutionary Biology, Astronomy and Psychology among others are sciences (science requires testability)
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Posted 12/14/16
earth is round
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Posted 12/14/16

randallblair wrote:

Nuclear power plants can explode like atomic bombs (well if you extracted all the U238, added D2O and compressed the hell out of it... Chernobyl proved this one wrong)
Evolutionary Biology, Astronomy and Psychology among others are sciences (science requires testability)


All of those are testable sciences... Biology is based on fossil records, DNA, and genetics. Astronomy is based on telescopic observations from both optical and radio telescopes (and a ton of other data collection tools ranging from spectroscopes to our new gravity wave detector), and Psychology is based on behavioral studies and medical data on the brain.
Posted 12/14/16 , edited 12/14/16

Dogempire wrote:

One thing that comes to mind is when my mom told me to turn off my computer because computers attract lightning.

In response I told her she was an idiot and didn't turn off my computer. 9 year old me didn't tolerate stupid.


while I did have a good laugh at that, back in the day that would have earned us a beating for sheer insolence and nothing else

(you could tell ma she was wrong, but the idiot part was a guarantee to have the yardstick come out)
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