Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Some Comments on Time Travel, Sources and Sarcasm

Steven Jones replied to the e-mail I sent him with some follow-up questions to complain about the mocking tone of my questions, particularly my "time travel" comment. One of the commenters here brought up the issue too, so I figured I should address it. I already explained this to Jones.

I was actually going to change that sentence, not so much because I am morally opposed to sarcasm, but because my point was unclear, but I forgot to. The point I was trying to make was how the sourcing of the papers at his "journal" is inconsistent with normal standards. Jones claimed that knowledge of these devices was widespread, but his only "academic" citation was a paper written, by no coincidence, in his own journal after he published his original paper. The paper he was citing, incidently, was not written by an expert in the field of demolitions, but by a lawyer.

I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be a "scholar", but I am a grad student so I read a lot of academic papers, and they invariably go like this:

Research has shown that the primary driver of option value is the volatility of the underlying asset [Scholes, 1973], although the propensity to accept risk is also an important factor [Miller 2003].

With the footnotes referring to other academic works which have also gone through a review process and been generally accepted by experts in the field as authoritative. Occasionally they may also cite some other authority, such as a government report, or an article in an established media source. You don't just leave your claim freestanding, and then try and come up with justification for it after the fact though.

Not so for the "scholars" though. They will cite anything, from any source, under any circumstances. Often they will just cite something they don't even understand in hopes that will work out for them eventually. One common technique is just to pretend something is commonly accepted and understood, so they don't have to provide a reference for it. That technique will work for claims such as "Canada is located in North America", but for far out claims such as "Thermite is commonly used in building demolitions" or "The Pentagon is surrounded by automated anti-aircraft guns", it is bogus.

Not to mention their habit of citing such ridiculous sources as unsourced photos, photos which don't represent what they claim it does, neo-Nazi newspapers, websites set up by people with no particular authority, or YouTube videos of unknown origin. I am not saying that you can never source stuff from the Internet, I do all the time, but I don't claim that this is a "peer reviewed" blog, representing the highest in academic standards either.