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Forging a Head: The Upside of Scientific Hoaxes 201

An anonymous reader writes "In a very funny piece over at Science Careers (published by the journal Science), scientist-comedian Adam Ruben suggests that a lot of good can come from a well-intentioned hoax. 'Hoaxes have infiltrated science for centuries,' Ruben writes, 'from fake fossils (Piltdown Man, archaeoraptor, Calaveras skull) to fake medical conditions (cello scrotum, the disappearing blonde gene) to fake animals (Ompax spatuloides, Pacific Northwest tree octopus, Labradoodle).' In contrast to fraud, Ruben argues, such hoaxes do a great service to science by illustrating 'failures of our most important tool: our skepticism.'"
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Forging a Head: The Upside of Scientific Hoaxes

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  • Yes but (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mr100percent ( 57156 ) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @08:34AM (#35990004) Homepage Journal

    While it's true that we need one of these every so often to remind us of the need for scientific rigor, it also does great damage to science for many. e.g. Climategate gave ammo for global warming deniers, piltdown man gave more credence to creationists, etc.

  • Moon landings (Score:2, Interesting)

    by sentientbeing ( 688713 ) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @08:37AM (#35990024)
    The Moon landings is my favorite. A hoax demonstrating against something that really DID happen. How meta is that?

    Oh and the Creationist hoax, obv.
  • It goes both ways (Score:1, Interesting)

    by JamesP ( 688957 ) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @08:45AM (#35990062)

    I guess the biggest failure is not skepticism, but failing to recognize a hoax. There's an important difference.

    Most skeptics reject everything outright (instead of "ok, let's wait for more evidence"). This is also bad. With a hoax the answer is usually dancing in front of you.

    Remember, the platypus was considered a hoax for a long period of time. The Gorilla was also considered in the same league as 'Bigfoot" once

    From TFA "between one-quarter and one-half of the students voted to regulate or ban outright the scary-sounding DHMO.These were college students"

    Really, THINK "Di - Hydrogen Mono-Oxyde" "two hydrogen oxide", gee where have I seen this...

  • Re:It goes both ways (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mindcontrolled ( 1388007 ) on Sunday May 01, 2011 @10:16AM (#35990460)
    We rightfully call this kind of people "deniers" or "denialists". They may foam at the mouth as much as they like, that is what they are.

There's no such thing as a free lunch. -- Milton Friendman