Sep 19 2013

Holding the Line Against Pseudoscience

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8 Responses to “Holding the Line Against Pseudoscience”

  1. davewon 19 Sep 2013 at 11:27 am

    There is something weird about that Indegogo campaign. I have contributed to several of these before and you can usually add up the contributions at the various “perk” levels and come up with a rough idea of the total raised. In this case, however, these added up to only $5,700 of the $18,064 raised. I noticed there were a few “undisclosed” amounts donated so maybe they made up the difference.

    I also found it odd that none of the contribution levels either got you a free or discounted free-energy device. This is unusual too. Usually when you Kickstart a thing the number one perk is a copy of that thing. I guess you just have to be happy with your $1000 sweatshirt.

    The part that made me howl was the “free energy” demonstration that was just an old magnetic induction experiment with a neodymium magnet inside a copper tube. I’ve made free energy inside my own house and never knew it.

  2. halfastroon 19 Sep 2013 at 12:46 pm

    The Tucson Festival of Books has become quite a large event the last few years. One of the big section is called Science City where they group lots of different organizations together. Many of them are astronomy or optics related (this being Tucson) and the many U of Arizona science departments have exhibits and hands-on activities as well.

    But of course one of these things is not like the other: the creationists had a booth there as well. Full on 6,000 year old Earth was being promoted in Science City. I instantly tweet-shamed them and got no response and wrote them a longer letter when I got home and again, got no response. There is a section at the Festival of Books that is dedicated to religious and spiritual organizations. My suggestion was not that they be banned from the festival, but that perhaps there is a more appropriate area for this organization and that it makes them look bad when groups such as this are in Science City.

    I will be looking for them again this year and will again let them know what I think if this repeats.

  3. cjwinsteadon 19 Sep 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I’ve wondered about TEDx quality ever since I found out that Thad Roberts (the moon rock thief) delivered a TEDx talk a couple of years ago. I can’t say whether his presentation involved pseudoscience (I haven’t actually seen his talk), but I think there’s a major trust issue involved, and a respectable venue would probably want to avoid associating itself with a convicted felon.

  4. locutusbrgon 19 Sep 2013 at 8:13 pm

    Steve
    I see your point and we all know what is going to happen at that hotel. That said, I am not going to deny a private venues right to dismiss your concerns. You can make a case that he has a long track record of fraud and that is definitely the purpose of this conference room use. Here is my point.
    There is a subtext that I think you are missing.

    To use your example. Kicking out a active prostitution ring is different than allowing a person with a history of a prostitution ring organizing, onto your property.

    There may be no chance that this person will ever reform or “go straight” but is it a private entities job to police this possibility?

    If a person, that is not a police officer, provides evidence of past wrong doing is that enough to cancel that event?
    I am just as disturbed by continual fleecing, but if the police and SEC cannot keep the public safe, can Motel 6?

    Your argument holds up much better in a public venue like a library, but public venues blur free speech issues. I would not like it if the the discovery institute could stop NECSS because of a religiously sympathetic owner. I understand that in that example you have committed no crime. But what if they used Brian Dunning’s guilty plea as a basis for refusing him use of a venue?
    Either way the venue loses.
    Just saying.

  5. Steven Novellaon 19 Sep 2013 at 10:29 pm

    Would they let someone convicted multiple times of running a prostitution rings, with outstanding warrants in other states, host a “dating service” at their hotel? What if they were tipped off that his dating service was really a prostitution ring?

    Anyway – I said this was in the gray zone, etc. I don’t disagree with you.

  6. Kawarthajonon 20 Sep 2013 at 9:32 am

    There is probably no criminal court means of addressing the use of these venues. Civil court, however, could be very effective in limiting the use of these venues. If one of Dennis Lee’s scam victims sued the hotel for their role in getting people ripped off, then it would be terrible publicity for the hotel and they would probably think twice about hosting scams in their rooms, although this would also eliminate some of their business. Taking a business approach, you have to make the hosting of these events more expensive (in terms of bad publicity) more expensive than the income that they generate from them. I don’t think that it would stop Dennis Lee from trying to scam people, but at least it would throw some additional barriers.

    Alternatively, a letter to the local newspapers outlining Dennis Lee’s history of criminal convictions and his outstanding warrants would likely serve to put some pressure on the hotel not to host the event as well, especially if the hotel is named in the letter.

  7. SimonWon 20 Sep 2013 at 8:56 pm

    I think you should also inform the local legal authorities (police?) for such an event.

    The organisers likely won’t like law enforcement turning up to listen in, and learn to take your advice.

    I’m curious at what point folks turn into an accessory to the crime.

    I know when we have numerous public clients in a previous employment we took informal criminal allegations against our clients very seriously, although that may be in part because the legal position itself was unclear on liability. It was more awkward with things that fall under “legal” cons; homeopaths, chiropractors etc, and strangely we never got any allegations against people who used our services to promote such weird esoterica. Indeed most criminal allegations were attempts to silence critics, in one case by a convicted criminal and fraudster. The main reliable criminal allegations came from government authorities, the police, and well organized vigilante groups.

  8. Davdoodleson 23 Sep 2013 at 12:29 am

    “I know when we have numerous public clients in a previous employment we took informal criminal allegations against our clients very seriously, although that may be in part because the legal position itself was unclear on liability.”

    Indeed, potential liability is the crucial issue here. While the hotel might have publically (ie to Dr Novella) said that Lee’s history of carpetbaggery in conference-venues-just-like-theirs was none of their concern, I’d be very surprised if they didn’t in fact take the issue quite seriously. Ignorance may be bliss, but advance notice of possible fraud raises the real spectre of liability for the hotel.

    If/when the police come asking questions, or a disgruntled investor in Lee’s flim-flam sues the hotel, the hotel needs to be in a position to say what they did in response to allegations that they might be hosting a fraud. If the answer is “Dr Novella warned us, but we turned a blind eye to it”, at best, they could be in a very expensive legal gray area.

    My guess is they’ll quietly raise it with the cops…
    .

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