The Times of Israel has reported a supposed budding breakthrough in curing cancer, but with a lot of hesitation, and rightly so. The Jerusalem Post, that had the scoop and went rather wild about it, now has recanted.
It’s not always easy for the layperson, to decide who’s right when an trendsetter argues with more traditional knowledgeable people. Whom to believe? Maybe the scientific world is just being stubborn or conservative? Like with Einstein, who never got a Nobel Prize for his Relativity Theory, though he died half a century after publishing it. (Or me, who will never get the Nobel Prize for discovering Free Will.)
History — mistakes gone by — may be helpful — also for scientists in doubt.
Medical experts have been highly impressed in the past with large-scale work by a hyper-critical researcher, but fooled for long times because they missed that he was not critical about his own work at all.
In the beginning years of AIDS, there was a bona fide Scandinavian medical researcher claiming that the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was not caused by a virus (that researchers were hurrying to find) but by anti-AIDS medication — or by then-popular recreational drugs in the gay community. Doctors were horrified at the idea that they were not curing but rather causing the deadly ailment. Hundreds if not thousands of pages of the medical literature were wasted on this false scare.
In the Netherlands, there was halfway through the 20th century a guy who seriously claimed that the earth was flat. He wrote a booklet full of proofs. How did he do it, in the age of Sputnik circling Earth?
Well, he disproved all commonly held beliefs why the earth would be round. He was a smart guy. However, his own theory was an uncritically acclaimed set of assumptions. And that’s one way to spot a fake.
The outlying AIDS researcher too proved very good at questioning everyone’s work but not his own shoddy alternative theories.
So that is one thing that jumps out with false medical modernizers. The “innovators” are very critical about every other’s approach but when it comes to their own idea, they’ve no reservation or caution whatsoever.
With these anti-cancer guys, we see clearly a second hint that they are working on an alarming level. They believe too strongly in the success of their method. Hype is nice to maintain strength to continue hard work or if you want to convince others to invest in your project, but it is wholly unscientific. They should rather be the most cautious about their efforts.
One can think up new “scientific theories” faster than a speeding bullet but real science comes when such a super-scientist tries to find out if there is any reality to his flight of thought. Typically, there is not.
Science is not a religion that you must believe in. It is skeptics at work, trying to find proofs. They should do everything to disprove their finds or techniques. When they fail to do that, they might have a cure.
Someone who’s not skeptical about their own work or can’t appreciate doubts of others about it, such a person is not doing science.
So, how to spot a fake scientist? They are not critical enough about their own assumptions and they try to convince you that they must be right, instead of humbly suggesting, with reservations, their latest toil.