The Absurdity of the ‘Rational Science’ Method

The Absurdity of the ‘Rational Science’ Method March 1, 2013

I’ve recently come across this group that refers to themselves as advocating “rational science.” There’s a Facebook group for it. They are followers of a first class looney tune named Bill Gaede, who is a 9/11 truther and apparently believes that all science after Faraday is wrong. You can find more information here.

If you want to have a good laugh, take a look at their explanation of how science should operate. It’s got all the hallmarks of crankhood, including some absolutely bizarre use of language. For example, in forming a hypothesis, they say, you have to have three things: exhibits, definitions and “a statement of the facts/assumptions.” And here’s what they mean by that last part:

c) Statement of the Facts/Assumptions

  • Describes an object or tells us what happened in an event.
  • Addresses all necessary how questions, and does not address why questions.
In order to understand conceptually how this is done, the following digression regarding fact hood must be made:
  • Fact/Truth = The Universal Movie
Visualise a movie consisting of movie-frames/photographs of the entire universe:
  • Every frame contains every single object in existence.
  • Each object is distinct from one another, with definite location.
  • There is no real movement in such a movie, and it would be perceived only due to memory of past frames when the movie is played.
  • Therefore, each fame contains only shapes. The universal movie is an endless collection of frames with shapes arranged inside.
Such a movie would be fact hood. An uninterrupted sequence of locations of every atom in the universe.
  • Statement of the facts consists of the selection of the clips from the Universal Movie/Fact necessary to keep in mind for the theory in question to be understood.

And yes, the proper response should be A) scratching your had and B) muttering “what the fuck?” They go on to claim that observation and experimentation have nothing to do with science (seriously). All of this fits quite well into John Baez’ crackpot index. Arguing with one of these people is even more frustrating than arguing with a creationist, mostly because they use words in really weird ways. Watch this video and see how much you can take of it:


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  • slc1

    truther and apparently believes that all science after Faraday is wrong. You can find more information here

    Well, that eliminates 2 of the three most important scientists who ever lived according to historians of science (e.g. Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein)

  • Doug Little

    Rational Science

    Holy Tautology Batman!

    Just the mere fact that these two words appear next to one another means they don’t understand the meaning of either.

  • DaveL

    Each object is distinct from one another, with definite location.

    There is no real movement in such a movie, and it would be perceived only due to memory of past frames when the movie is played.

    I’m guessing this is an attempt to disguise what is essentially a gripe that all the counterintuitive weirdness in Relativity and Quantum Mechanics must be wrong because someone finds it philosophically unacceptable.

  • valhar2000

    Was this garbage invented to push some sort of agenda, or does it exist on its own?

  • Jordan Genso

    Visualise a movie consisting of movie-frames/photographs of the entire universe

    That thought-experiment actually led me to my current (probably a mis-)understanding of the fourth dimension, in that I don’t it is possible in to see the entire universe in a three-dimensional way.

    The way I came to terms with the idea is that the fourth dimension correlates to the origin (0, 0, 0) point from which you then graph out the rest of the universe. Even if you hold time (what people often refer to as the fourth dimension) constant, by changing the origin of perspective, all of the other objects in the universe change position.

    Sorry for the tangent.

  • Jordan Genso

    sorry, that first sentence should’ve read “I don’t [think] it is possible”

  • Mark Chu-Carroll at Scientopia occasionally notes in his blog Good Math/Bad Math that the worst kind of math is no math at all.

    I don’t want (and can’t really spare the time) to canoodle around the ‘Rational Science’ website very much, but from what I can see, that crowd is engaged in the worst kind of science – no science at all.

  • slc1

    Re composer00 @ #7

    I think that a statement attributed to Wolfgang Pauli is a perfect description of this crap. “It’s not even wrong”.

  • baal

    The is one ‘science’ much the same way there is one ‘medicine’. What do they call alternative medicine that works? Medicine. What do you call rational science that actually discovers facts? Science. Adding an adjective and woo doesn’t mean you get to appropriate the value from those disciplines while at the same time discrediting them.

  • Is this a form of post-modernism?

  • kantalope

    Woo Hoo towards the end of Faraday’s life anyway: the sun was hot because of meteor impacts – the earth solid and static and the whole solar system only 25-100 million years old and dying fast.

    wtf is “fact hood”?

    and that movie thing sounds like something only someone with a bong their hand would say. Right before or after “dude, look at my hand. Whoa!”

  • And yes, the proper response should be A) scratching your had and B) muttering “what the fuck?”

    …and C) wondering if this guy is listed in the latest edition of “High Wierdness by Mail.”

  • iknklast

    Marcus – I think it’s gone past post-modernism all the way to post-reality.

  • shallit

    Shallit’s law: if your paper uses the word “worldly”, it’s not science.

  • Relativity is just a theory!!

  • slc1

    Re kantalope @ #11

    It’s all very well to make fun of some of the ideas that 19th century scientists had. For instance, the explanation of why the Sun was hot. Neither Faraday or anyone else had the slightest notion of nuclear fusion so postulating that it was a consequence of objects like meteors and asteroids falling into the Sun was no worse then any other proposed at the time. Similarly, the estimation of the age of the solar system being 20 to 100 million years old, which was based on the estimated age of the earth at that time, was consistent with the calculations of Lord Kelvin from the rate of radiation of heat from the earth’s core. Neither Faraday, Kelvin, or anyone else that the slightest notion of radioactive decay so the estimate was perfectly consistent with the state of science that existed at the time.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @slc1 #1

    But note that Einstein was not a scientist, but rather a “charismatic evangelist.”

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @kantalope #11

    wtf is “fact hood”?

    It’s where the facts hang out, dog.

  • slc1

    Re #17


  • D. C. Sessions

    My favorite reply to almost any of these “modern physics is wrong” types is to ask them how transistors (or lasers) work. Is it just a astonishing coincidence that the stuff we build using rules derived from modern physics just happens to work as expected?

    It’s a miracle!

  • D. C. Sessions

    wtf is “fact hood”?

    It’s what you put over facts when you’re done with them.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    @slc1 #19

    You didn’t watch the video, did you?

  • andrewjohnston

    @DaveL: Actually, their main gripe seems to be with theories of gravitation. They have some awesomely cranky theory about gravity being some sort of invisible elastic tether that ties every atom in existence to every other atom. Somehow, this proves that the big bang is impossible.

    Unlike most crank sites, this one isn’t especially interesting due to the articles being VERY long-winded and full of freshman stoner philosophy. However, it is still a classic crank magnet, given all of the other fringe theories featured (abiotic oil, for instance).

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne

    wtf is “fact hood”?

    It’s the guy who shows up at the lab and says, “Nice facts you got there. Shame if something should happen to them.”

  • matthewhodson

    So err umm “Rational Science” seems to involve throwing out that little part of science where we test our ideas and see if they actually describe reality; that is “Rational Science” has no need of rational.

    I think maybe “Imaginary Science” would be a better nomenclature.

  • Hercules Grytpype-Thynne


    I’m not sure their term is as wrong as you think. They describe a science of pure ratiocination – reasoning without empiricism. Maybe to them “rational” means “non-empirical.”

  • robb

    i just joined the facebook group. now i can enjoy Tree lobsters, SMBC, XKCD and Rational Science when I need a good laugh.

  • DaveL


    I’m surprised because their description of the “Universal Movie” inherently takes as axiomatic things like:

    -Absolute length

    -Absolute simultaneity

    -The existence of definite position for everything

    Which pretty much denies SR, GR, and QM by fiat.

  • Are these people in any way connected to Andrew Schafly? This reads like some of his “science” articles on Conservapedia.

  • ohioobserver

    Hey– No math and no experiments. This gets rid of all the hard parts, and lets any moron who wasn’t paying attention be a “scientist”. Hakuna Mattatta!

  • iangould

    So, how do things like atomic bombs and transistors work if the underlying theories are completely wrong?

    And how do scientists and technologists using those theories continue to make new things that work?

  • dmcclean

    #28 nails this whole topic. Actually rational actual scientists moved on from the hypothesis of a “universal movie” (which I’ll grant intuitionistically does seem “obvious”) a long time ago when evidence showed at least two reasons why it can’t exist, and probably others of which I am unaware or uncertain.

  • “Was this garbage invented to push some sort of agenda, or does it exist on its own?”

    That’s what I was wondering. They have weirdo political views that are conspiratorial and don’t fit neatly into the typical left/right spectrum. But beyond that, I have no idea what kind of bee they’ve got in their bonnet. At the simplest level, they appear to be angry at science because it confuses them and they can’t do math. It’s probably not worth digging beyond that.

  • kantalope

    No experiments, no math — sounds aristotelian.

    slc @16

    I was not making fun of the 19th Century (well except maybe Lord Kelvin) but just trying to point out that if you freeze science in 1850 you are going to be living in one weird universe.

    Heck, if you lose a finger in an accident you might be expecting your kids to be born with missing fingers. Leaving your dirty clothes on the floor could spontaneously spawn mice. Oh, yes a mighty weird universe indeed.

  • Igor Kotlyar

    “At the simplest level, they appear to be angry at science because it confuses them and they can’t do math. ”

    So far I believe there are about 3 categories of “rational scientists:”

    1) individuals clueless about most things scientific and otherwise, but want to be be respected for what they perceive a superior intellect, true confirmation of the Kruger-Dunning effect.

    2) Individuals with scientific education of various degrees seeking to be vindicated for what they perceive academic censorship of their ideas when these ideas never gained traction or passed peer review.

    3) Bill Gaede, an individual who seemingly possesses narcissistic/borderline tendencies, enjoying the adoration of everyone in category 1) and feeling victimized for his brilliance.

  • “Rational Science”… hmmm….?

    I think that I’m going to be ‘walking the plank’ on this one with sabre’s at my back from both groups… pirates assembled, ‘you’ on the Right and the Rational Scientists on The Left.

    I do admit that Bill Gaede will use ‘colorful language’ in disparaging those who disagree or who he thinks disagree with him, whether that be the case or no, such as ‘moi’. Personally I see no need or reason for it.

    The problem here as I see it… Is, and many make assertions as to what ‘Science Is’ and as what ‘Science’ is not, as Bill Gaede and his ‘Rational Science Group’, of which I am a member, do. I do not. My ‘take’ on this present controversy is as follows… In as much as I understand the ‘parameters’ of the discussion.

    Before we go much further whether it is recognized or not this problem has a long history and today it is recognized as a problem in ‘The Philosophy of Science’ so it’s an argument about what constitutes ‘proper science’, one particular definition of it that Bill has, is at variance with the ‘traditional’ or ‘mainstream’ view of science.


    Historically I think that Science, even if it was not recognized as what we call ‘Science’, since some ancient peoples are said to not have had the modern day concept of Science such as we have today, the ancient Hebrews for one, and maybe all peoples before and sometime after them up until sometime in the history of Greece and Greek Philosophers. If that’s the case, with no attribution here, then that is interesting in my opinion, but skipping more toward the present time from the Greek Philosophers onward, ignoring those thinkers from the East, China and so on with their tradition that was somewhat different in scope and direction from the West I assume…

    I take it that ‘Science’ has existed by whatever name in the form of ‘What’s Dat’?! A question, ever since people have wondered about the world around them. This assumes that they knew less than we do, which I think in some cases is incorrect, maybe in all cases… But since we were not there and the records from the past are hard to read and too may be hard to make sense of or of belief in we don’t know all of what went on in the past or all of what they knew…

    Leaving that behind, we assume, modernly, of ‘caveman’ that did not know much but did wonder or wonder much and tried to ‘rationalize’ or give a ‘Reason’ for what he saw (observed). Assuming this and not having in his mind the framework of ‘Science’ that we have in ours, I would assume that his ‘Science’ consisted of Observation-Theory-Test through a number of cycles until Theory matched Test at which point he would have useful knowledge and then a ‘Technology’ which he discovered through his ‘Science’, albeit apparently not as sophisticated as our own.

    From here I am going to assume that my prior ‘explanation’ of ‘Science’ is reasonably close to what happened and coming down to Isaac Newton from the Greeks, and to other ‘Scientists’ (independent ‘Researchers’ if you will…) and others who studied light, optics, gases, pressure and such. I think that they too followed this method as well to some extent and also to argue with their contemporaries about the results or procedures of their ‘experiments’ and outcomes of such.

    This I take, as has been practiced down to the present day as Observation-hypothesis-Experiment-Further Hypotheses-Further Experiments-Then Theory-Further ‘Confirming Experiments’-Then Law-Further Continuing Observations-Further Continuing Experiments-Contrary Data Accumulating-Old Theory Dying-New Observations, New Experiments or Further Experiments, New Hypothesis’s-New Theory-New ‘Laws’ and somewhat ‘and so on’… ‘Viola’! “The Scientific Method”, historically at least…

    Ignoring for the moment that Philosophers of Science have seemingly determined and have thrown up their hands about it, that is that they can’t determine, or at least can’t agree just what is ‘Science’. There is or was a problem called ‘The Demarcation Problem’, that is the problem of trying to determine ‘what is science and what it is not’ or who’s ‘stuff’ is to be considered Science and who’s ‘stuff’ is to be considered ‘Not Science’. I’m thinking of one paper that I read titled something like ‘The Demise of The Demarcation Problem’ by R. Cohen and L. Laudan.

    The point being as is pointed out below by the papers and web sites on the subject is that even now there is not a consensus of opinion of what Science is or what is Science. That being the case I think that there is wisdom in not burning too many calories over the discussion.

    Yes I realize that there are ‘Policy Issues’ and such that hang on the definition and teaching of Science and that is why it should be broader and not more restrictive to recognize that there is genuine disagreement on the issue and when sticking to one or the other as a matter of Policy you will disenfranchise one group or another to the harm of all.

    I do however like a video on YouTube titled ‘The Explanatory Scientific Method’ by a member of the Yahoo Rational Science Group I believe. If I can get a transcript of it, it’s a challenge to listen to it yourself and try to make a transcript out of it! I tried. Anyway I think that it’s a good item for discussion. I think that ‘Science’ these days can use more open discussion.

  • slc1

    Re kantalope @ #34

    No less a figure then Charles Darwin took Kelvin’s calculations seriously. Darwin actually said that, if his calculations were correct, there would not be enough time for his theory of evolution to produce the diversity of life then existent, and therefore his theory would absolutely break down. He speculated that there would have to be some mechanism internal to the earth that would replenish the energy radiated away.

  • blurbish

    The rational science hub is replete with stolen concepts and judgmental language. The post attempts to reduce all arguments to understanding the difference between objects and concepts, and positing these terms to be objectively defined. From there, the adherents then postulate the Rational Scientific Method (RSM), which entails only two steps, Hypothesis and Theory.

    Ed is correct in his representation of RSM’s definition of Hypothesis. It is composed of three elements; exhibits, definitions and assumptions. These elements are used to set the stage, depicting a phenomenon in nature the ‘scientist’ wants to explain. But science does not work this way.

    The hypothesis in science is narrowly defined with the intent of confirming or predicting a portion of a theory. In order to do this, a null-hypothesis is formed. Scientific method then examines data pertaining to an experiment, and either accepts or rejects the NULL-hypothesis. The hypothesis is never tested, as acceptance would be a hasty generalization. When enough null-hypotheses have been rejected to satisfy possible problems with a theory, it begins to have wide-spread acceptance as representative of how the world works.

    RSM actually uses hasty induction by employing ‘critical thinking’ and ‘rational explanation’ to determine how the world works. They rely on ‘objective’ definitions of objects and concepts to illustrate their ‘scientific’ theories. Using Hypotheses and Theories as the only two elements of RSM, they want to reject any appeal to ‘observation’ because it invokes ‘subjective’ descriptions and leads to relativity. At least, according to their followers.

    But in order to ‘explain natural phenomena’, they must employ observation. They would have no concept of what happens in the world, let alone how/why it happens, if observation was really abandoned. They will do whatever it takes to avoid using the word ‘observation’ even when defending how objects and concepts are illustrated and formulated. Instead, they will say an object “is pointed to and named”, but not observed. Concepts are “… thoughts [that] are a direct product of [our] environment because anything [we] think about has a relative reference to something else in [our] environment.” These are just verbose descriptions of observation. RSM uses the very scientific notion of observation they wish to deny. Its plainly a stolen concept…

    This goes without stating what many have said about their interactions with the followers of RSM. They are caustic, ridiculing and flagrantly insulting to anyone who does not agree with their stance. This would be an obvious case of abusive language and appealing to ridicule. Any ‘rational’ objection to their ideas will be met with severe taunting.

    Engagers, beware!

  • blurbish

    What’s worse, is that ‘observation’ is not the only scientific notion followers of RSM claim is not ‘true science’. They also claim that the basic axioms of logic are incorrectly used as well.

    They say, critical thinking is used as the primary tool to rationally explain natural phenomena. They will bring up fallacies like reification, begging the question, circular argument, appeal to authority and even appeal to ignorance to examine competing claims. Then they say that science does not use the rules of logic to determine hypotheses and theories. They claim, instead, science is about objective, clear and consistent definitions and theories. But, what do they mean by “objective, clear and consistent”?

    According to RSM followers, objective means ‘observer-independent’, while clear means ‘rigorous, without circularity’. Okay, their definition of objective is pretty good, but ‘clear’? Doesn’t the definition ‘without circularity’ employ the logical notion of avoiding fallacious reasoning?

    How about the meaning of ‘consistent’? They claim a term or theory is ‘consistent’ if it is used in the same manner throughout the explanation. But this means that a term’s or theory’s definition cannot be explained in a different manner than originally posited. They claim a term or theory is either A or not-A, but it cannot be both within the same explanation. But now they are using the logical axiom of non-contradiction to deny the logical axiom of non-contradiction!

    They would lead you to believe that logic is not used for rational explanation, then ‘rationally’ explain why. This is not just a ‘logical’ contradiction, but they ‘steal the concept’ in order to deny it!


    The followers of RSM constantly employ this strategy to defend their stance, not just to deny scientific activities like observation and logic, but with semantic trickery designed to confuse and cloud anyone gullible enough into either joining them or abandoning any attempt to rationally critique their ideas. On the whole, its reminiscent of the BS religion espouses and could qualify as a cult-like activity.

  • Holy crap! its soo good to see an article on this group. I am a neo-nihilist/Atheist/I-Theist philosopher who has debated this guy not only in their FB group but also on their cult leaders blog (Fatfist). He has done a couple posts addressed to me and are blatant misrepresentation of my positions concerning epistemology, truth, logic etc. He has also sent his little trolls to my Facebook and my youtube channel (I-Theist). These guys are nut jobs! I really appreciate this blog post. Fatfists arguments (if they can be called that) are self refuting and out right non-sense! They like to constantly appeal to ridicule, and use childish tautologies, like claiming words have objective definitions according to their definition of “an objective definition”. Instead of realizing a definition of a word are only agreed upon or not. As if Fatfists definitions were inspired holy writ! Their inconsistencies are countless and quite irritating! They make truth and knowledge claims, while claiming no truth or knowledge. Pure insanity! I noticed that one of them has a youtube channel (Micheal Hunter) who seams to believe some wiled crazy anarchist government stuff. Anyway, thanks for the post. : )

  • luiscayetano

    Hi there,

    let me be something of a devil’s advocate for Rational Science.

    This article itself is quite devoid of content. We’re made aware that the author doesn’t approve of Rational Science, as well as his opinion that it’s ‘weird’, but offers little in the way of rational arguments for his position.

    ”who is a 9/11 truther”

    Irrelevant to whether his claims about mathematical physics are valid. Even if we concede that 9/11 truthers are wrong, there are plenty of erroneous things that a lot of the self-proclaimed ”scientific minded” people accept, like cherished myths about their favoured state, or the intrinsic benevolence of US strategic planning. Do these cherished myths and nationalist blind-spots invalidate your scientific claims?

    ”and apparently believes that all science after Faraday is wrong”

    He doesn’t. He thinks that physics went off the rails after Faraday (or someone. The point is, he sees mathematical physics, at least from Newton to the present day crew, as being more religion than science).

    ”It’s got all the hallmarks of crankhood, including some absolutely bizarre use of language.”

    By that rationale, quantum mechanics is the epitome of crankhood.

    ”And yes, the proper response should be A) scratching your had and B) muttering “what the fuck?””

    Why? Because you say so? Why isn’t the proper response to actually explain what’s amiss? Certainly, you provided no explanation for why scratching one’s head and muttering to oneself are ”proper responses”.

    ”They go on to claim that observation and experimentation have nothing to do with science (seriously).”

    I agree that this is too strong, but in the realm of physics, it’s probably largely correct. For these guys, the point of science is to provide actual explanations, not descriptions. For example, physicists haven’t as yet provided a single rational explanation for attraction or electromagnetism. They use verbs in place of physical objects, but a verb isn’t a stand-alone ”thing”. An action can’t exist by itself; it can’t be done unless BY something. Otherwise, you’re talking gibberish by saying ”nothing is doing something”. Trying to explain an action via an action in physics is a non-starter. You’re just saying that something is happening. You’re not explaining how it happens. Physical actions can only be mediated by objects, because equations don’t mediate anything in the physical world; they’re abstractions used by mathematical physicist to describe motion. The ONLY things that mathematical physics does are pattern recognition, registry of events and description of motion. That’s fine for keeping track of matter and saying something about its behaviour, but it doesn’t explain anything. Indeed, the mathematical physicists themselves admit this, and say that they ”just go with the maths”. So, no explanations there, and that’s a perfectly valid point by Gaede.

    ”All of this fits quite well into John Baez’ crackpot index.”

    The crackpot index is an opinion, and an arbitrary one at that. Specifically, it’s John Baez’s opinion. Unless some rational basis is provided for the index’s scoring system, it can be treated as irrelevant. Anyone is free to write up their own crackpot index, and any group is free to adopt it to gang up on a naysayer. Indeed, if we go by surrealistic entities, logical inconsistency and lack of explanation, QM scientists would feature prominently in some crackpot indices that list these sins as being graver than operating outside the mainstream and complaining about persecution (the latter charge might, as a matter of fact, be correct, and issuing it doesn’t disqualify anyone from having something valid to contribute).

    ”Arguing with one of these people is even more frustrating than arguing with a creationist”

    Alas, this is true. I’ve been subjected to a barrage of senseless attacks and insults from these people for even asking a question. I don’t know if this is a feature that’s contagious, that convergently arises, or if Gaede is posing as different people, but yes, it has been frustrating. It should be noted, however, that it’s equally frustrating talking to people who take QM to be some sort of Gospel truth because they’ve been convinced that ”this is the best explanation currently available” or that ”well, it’s what the science shows us”. These people are just as given to offering put-downs and patronising language, and are especially given to appeals to authority, treating Krauss and Kaku as priests who, because they ”understand the maths”, can freely pontificate to everyone else about anything to do with physics, even when the entities they’re nonchalantly invoking are necessarily nonsensical (”dimensionless particles” being one of my favourite whoppers), while we have to lap it up like ignorant peasants. Anyone who even hints at challenging their ideology is subjected to a wall of whining, bluster, sanctimonious drivel and vicious denunciation. I was recently banned from for engaging in a robust discussion about mathematical physics. They apparently wouldn’t have it that someone attack their mathematical mysticism too strongly. All throughout, not a SINGLE rational explanation was offered for why I was wrong, only platitudes and the party line. The question I put before them was qualitative, but they’d had it drilled into their heads that maths trumps all, and would have none of my naysaying that point-particles are necessarily impossible.

    ”Watch this video and see how much you can take of it”

    That’s not an argument for anything.

  • carmel Ka

    ->Übermensch Itheist

    ->Übermensch Itheist

    Hi there,

    do they (FatFist) deleted already your thread post or is available to have a look please?

    It will make sense to see how do you approach this guy and put your arguments against their philosophy, because I noticed he deleted somebody else thread once. I was wondering if somebody approach them correctly and there are still traces left.

    Or does somebody else have any post available with them?