[Dclug] Open Source Science... caution is needed...
chuck.divine at comcast.net
Tue Jun 2 16:31:02 EDT 2009
There are all sorts of potential problems with both open source and the
now more professional approaches. Yes, opinions -- sometimes derived
from only a subset of facts advocated by people who are more trying to
make points -- can cause problems. Unfortunately, professionally done
science can also have some interesting shortcomings.
I'm not a doctor -- nor do I play one on television. I am, however,
what is called a polymath. I began my adult life by getting a degree in
physics. In my second year of grad work in physics, I tried a career
change -- into social psychology. I later switched back to a more tech
oriented field by taking a job in IT. Along the way I got rather good
at photography and writing. These days people are telling me I'm rather
good at politics. I can easily relate to the Wikipedia article on
polymaths. It seems fairly accurate to me.
Now let's examine the medical profession. There are prescribed courses
of study to enter the field. They are run by people who are already
professionals in the field. The courses of study are agreed upon by
various professional organizations. Research that is done is done by
respected professionals at respected institutions.
Back in the mid 90s I read two books about sleep. The books were
written by professionals. The work was done at recognized institutions.
The first book I read was by Stanley Coren. His book was titled "Sleep
Thieves." Coren is a neuropsychologist. The second book I read was by
William Dement and is titled "The Promise of Sleep." Dement is an M.D.
and heads a sleep research group at Stanford. In both books the
statement was made that physicians had not done much research into
sleep. Given the fact that all humans sleep -- and most of us spend
considerable amounts of time doing so -- this seems like an amazing fact
to me. This, to me, would be like early physicists dismissing out of
hand the phenomenon of "light."
>From 2002 through 2004 I did some IT work for a project run by the CDC
to get a picture of the health of the American public. There were
examinations and questions about a wide range of phenomena. They wanted
to know, for example, not just if you smoked tobacco, but what brand --
and even which subbrand. There were questions about attention deficit
disorder. All sorts of things. What were these top professionals not
asking about? Well, sleep was just one of the obvious things. I was
not a happy camper on that project.
It is unfortunately possible for top professionals to miss important
phenomena and to misunderstand the world in important ways. Wikipedia
and similar things make errors, I am sure, but it could help open the
world to a greater variety of thinking that might help us.
Now I must get ready to go to a HacDC meeting.
On Tue, 2009-06-02 at 15:18 -0400, nicholasdonovan at netscape.net wrote:
> I'm just curious to get opinions on the Wikipedia, Wikianswers etc.
> While I am all for and OpenSource answer to the encyclopedia, my
> concern is that much of the knowledge being propagated is
> pseudo-science and they do no follow real scientific citation or
> debate protocol.
> As an example,I am a medical student with a focus on neurology/sports
> medicine and there was a debate on WikiAnswers in which people that
> refuse to cite scientific sources. I have stated a USMLE text, various
> board exam texts and neurosurgery journals/books as the resource I am
> basing my answer on and these undergraduate kids insist that
> thebigbookofeverything.com is a valid resource.
> My concern is that OpenSource will lose in the academic and ultimately
> professional realms if we allow psedudo-science to reign in the Wiki
> Wanna slim down for summer? Go to America Takes it Off to learn how.
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