Pathological Science

Pathological Science

Pathological Science - Irving Langmuir

(PD) Irving Langmuir holding a 20kw tube.

(Photo clarity and sizing by Larry Neal Gowdy)

Larry Neal Gowdy

Copyright ©2017, updated May 14, 2020

"These are cases where there is no dishonesty involved but where people are tricked into false results by a lack of understanding about what human beings can do to themselves in the way of being led astray by subjective effects, wishful thinking or threshold interactions." — Irving Langmuir

In 1953, Irving Langmuir gave a talk on "the science of things that aren't so" (Colloquium at The Knolls Research Laboratory, December 18, 1953, transcribed and edited by R. N. Hall), and he presented numerous good examples of how scientists have invented conclusions that were obviously not correct. Langmuir named the behavior "Pathological Science".

Langmuir offered his opinion of which symptoms marked Pathological Science:

"1. The maximum effect that is observed is produced by a causative agent of barely detectable intensity, and the magnitude of the effect is substantially independent of the intensity of the cause.

2. The effect is of a magnitude that remains close to the limit of detectability; or, many measurements are necessary because of the very low statistical significance of the results.

3. Claims of great accuracy.

4. Fantastic theories contrary to experience.

5. Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment.

6. Ratio of supporters to critics rises up to somewhere near 50% and then falls gradually to oblivion."

Langmuir gave examples of the pathological science found within the Davis-Barnes effect, N-rays, mitogenetic rays, Allison effect, extrasensory perception, and flying saucers, plus several other 'expert scientific conclusions' during a question-answer session with the audience.

In the published paper's epilogue, R. N. Hall added: "Pathological science is by no means a thing of the past. In fact, a number of examples can be found among current literature, and it is reasonable to suppose that the incidence of this kind of "science" will increase at least linearly with the increase in scientific activity."

Series Background

Upon my having completed a research project in 1982, the next logical step was to research ideologies so that I could [1] learn what the public accepts to be true, [2] compare the project's conclusions with popular interpretations, and to then [3] learn how to explain the project's conclusions within a frame of terms and concepts that the public ought to be comfortable with. My assumption at the time was that if I could speak with terms used by each ideology, then surely the people of each ideology could rationalize how the research's conclusions related to the people's own ideologies.

Yes, it is now funny that my assumption was not correct — I did not yet know enough about ideologies to know that ideologies do not permit new knowledge nor independent thought — but the goal did appear to be very rational to me at the time. It is easy to make an error about a topic when an individual does not yet have firsthand experience with the topic.

One of the first ideologies that I began to investigate was western philosophy, but I quickly abandoned western philosophy after only reading a brief portion of the first book: the ideology was disturbingly irrational within its imaginations. Nevertheless, about fifteen years ago I had a personal reason to better understand what some individuals were claiming as truth, so I began a leisurely research of western philosophy along with popular science. In mid-2016 I completed my research, and I celebrated the event by discarding all science and philosophy books from my shelves (the theology, academic, novels, and almost all other aging books also disappeared).

As of 2017, this article began about three years ago as one of many pathological science articles, mostly as a means of articulating and clarifying my own thoughts, but the articles' directness was not suitable for public viewing — the directness would likely appear negative to individuals who believe that science is infallible — so I did not make the articles public. What I have chosen to do is to reword the articles, greatly abbreviate the wordage, and to remove the directness as much as is feasible. Each article in the series will be uploaded when I feel that the wording is suitable for the general public.

Article Foreword

An unfortunate fact of life is that if a thing is left open for the public to touch, then the thing will be polluted, perverted, and destroyed. Numerous English words have been given slang meanings that are dirty, perverse, and now cannot be spoken without negativity; the words have been destroyed. Science is one of the words that has been perverted and destroyed.

From the age of 'natural philosophers', socialized inquiries into the nature of Reality slowly evolved to become today's science. It has been reported that the word science was coined by William Whewell in the mid-19th century, and that Whewell applied a three-step system of inductive reasoning in his own projects: [1] select an idea, [2] form a concept of the idea, and [3] determine the magnitudes. Whewell's inductive approach had merit because the act of determining magnitudes requires firsthand participation and methodical comparisons of contrasts of the thing being studied. If the reported system of induction had included additional clarifications and disqualifiers — which were likely commonsense to Whewell, but not common for everyone — then the word science might not have been destroyed so quickly.

Today, the word science can mean anything that a person wants it to mean — like the word virtue which can mean anything a person wants by how it is used in a sentence — and since the occupations and fields of science have no specific clarifications and disqualifiers, then anyone can claim that their 'knowledge' is science. Some individuals count fingers and toes, and then claim of themselves to be scientists. Other individuals have counted a few emotions and then claimed that their elementary arithmetic was the science of scientifically explaining the nature of emotions.

From my own personal point of observation, perhaps the gravest error has been within individuals having memorized many words from books, and upon declaring themselves to be experts, they assume that they are also experts of related fields that the individuals have no knowledge of. The error becomes dangerous to all living beings when the self-proclaimed experts begin claiming that their imaginative knowledge is science. A later article will delve further into the 'experts'' pathological science, but for the moment it is enough to use a topic that is relevant to today's society: some biologists are claiming that microwave radiation cannot harm organic tissue, but the biologists have no knowledge of electrical physics. The claims are not merely false, the claims also illustrate how beliefs can so easy be accepted by a public that trusts science to be factual truth.

Langmuir's science might have been respectable, but the majority of people who use the word science today apply the term to things that received no determination of magnitudes, and much too often, the science is merely the philosophicalizing of elementary topics.

As an illustrative contrast, I myself have been an electronics tech most of my life; a trouble-shooter. The work is easy, fun, and pays well, plus the occupation provides me ample free time to pursue the research projects that interest me. My self-trained approach to diagnosing problems is to ignore name brands, to ignore what previous techs might have claimed, and to generally ignore everything everyone else has ever believed about everything while I focus solely on the reasoning of [1] how the systems are observed to function, [2] how the systems are wanted to function, [3] how each group of components are observed to function, and to then [4] rationalize which of the groups of components are not functioning correctly. Once I segregate which groups of components are disharmonious to the system's function, I then [5] diagnose the individual components of each group, [6] prove which components are causing the problems in #1, and then [7] either replace the components or modify the circuit/system to perform as wanted.

I have diagnosed hundreds of thousands of circuits and systems, and though my 'tech method' has always worked well and never failed, the method is dependent on my having a thorough understanding of how electrical current works in specific materials, at specific distances, at specific quantities, at specific temperatures, at specific frequencies, at specific harmonics, and many more specific details of every single component throughout the system.

The 'scientific method' too often forms conclusions without the user having an understanding of what they are measuring. An easy and entertaining example is found within Einstein's ether:

"Michelson's Interference Experiment by H. A. Lorentz.

The experiment was carried out by Michelson in 1881. ...The whole instrument... could be revolved about a vertical axis... as nearly as possible in the direction of the Earth's motion. On the basis of Fresnel's theory it was anticipated that when the apparatus was revolved from one of these principle positions into the other there would be a displacement of the interference fringes.

...Michelson thought himself justified in concluding that while the Earth is moving, the ether does not remain at rest."

...There would be this same difference if the translation had no influence and the arm P were longer than the arm Q... (The Principle of Relativity, A Collection of Original Memoirs of the Special and General Theory of Relativity, H. A. Lorentz, A. Einstein, H. Minkowski, H. Weyl, translated by W. Perrett and G. B. Jeffery, Dover Publications, Inc. edition first published in 1952, originally published in 1923 by Methuen and Company, Ltd.)

The focus here is to merely give attention to the researchers' approach to the topic, which in this example illustrated three dominate features: [1] the two-dimensional experiments were formed to prove or disprove a predetermined hypothesis, [2] the experiments were not designed with a knowledge of what the researchers were actually measuring, and [3] the Michelson interferometer conclusions did not include extraneous effects unknown to the researchers (the researchers merely ignored as erroneous any measurements that did not agree with the current hypothesis).

The early 'errors of measurement' are expected, simply because the researchers were attempting to measure a specific thing while not expecting other things to exist that might give similar measurements.

I described the Michelson interference experiment to an individual who has no experience with mathematical physics, but who has a healthy sensory capacity, and the individual laughed for the same reasons as I did; the researchers simply did not know what they were measuring. Perhaps the greatest usefulness of the experiments is that of their illustrating from which point of reference that many current theories of physics evolved from, and are still based upon.

Pathological science is far more prevalent than the public might believe possible. A competent electronic technician can very, very easily prove that the sciences of biology and related fields are satiated with pathological science. I have not personally performed firsthand research into topics of organics, and so I do not make a claim of being an expert biologist, but I can point to countless examples of the science of biology not merely denying the science of physics, but of how biology too often fails elementary-level physical science.

The 'scientific method' and my 'tech method' have similarities of limitations: both work well for the closed systems that the methodologies are meant to be used, but the methods do not work for open systems. One open system is organic life, with the present focus being of the sole cause of pathological science: humans. I might be able to diagnose and fix anything within a closed system, but I cannot fix humans: humans can only fix themselves.

Which Science is the Science of Pathological Science

The word science is a subjectively-interpreted name given to a self-created classification, and all humans insert whatever they want into their own self-created classifications (see Mermaid Effect for more information). Within the classification of animals, some humans only insert mammals, but other humans include reptiles, birds, amoeba, and some types of plants. If the word animals no longer existed, there would still exist the living beings that the word animals pointed to, and the living beings would remain unchanged. Changing a word makes no difference to what is real if the word pointed to real things.

Within western philosophy's self-invented classification of ethics, if the word ethics were no longer used, then what would still exist? If the answer were easy, then western philosophy and science would already have the answer, and philosophers would not have squandered over two-thousand years debating what an ethic really is. Take away the subjectively self-invented classification of ethics, and very few individuals could still point to what is real. For some of us, we know what an ethic is, and regardless of whether the name were changed to morals or to humming birds, it would make no difference because the real thing remains real and unchanged.

Different people insert different things into their own subjective classification of science, which, in turn, renders the topic of science to mean different things to different individuals. Some people think of science as being the human act of acquiring knowledge by researching topics, but many people think of science as implying all knowledge of all things at all times even before the universe was created; to those individuals, even the act of counting fingers and toes is interpreted to be an act of science. If the word science were eliminated from the English language, what would still exist? What would still be real? The men and women who do firsthand research would still exist, but what else? Knowledge? What knowledge? The public's knowledge of information memorized from books, news media, and hearsay, all of which are believed to be true information? Take away the word science, and about all that would be left that is real would be the researchers and a personal subservience to authority; a system of belief and faith. Science is a subjective belief, it changes for each individual human, and if everyone stopped believing in science, then science would no longer exist: science cannot be seen, heard, felt, smelled, tasted, objectively observed, mathematically measured, nor so much as be scientifically proven to exist. Science is not a real being, and any attempt to claim otherwise would be the fifth symptom of Langmuir's pathological science: "Criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses thought up on the spur of the moment". Science is only real within one's own imagination.

A good example of imaginative reasoning is within the scenario of a group of individuals playing a prank on another individual. How the victim responds will illustrate how the individual processes thoughts, and whether the individual has a behavioral trait of inventing self-defense excuses (pathological science symptom #5). The sequencing of a victim's thoughts can be very complex, but the problem is that very few individuals can observe their own thoughts, and so the individuals do not know how their own minds form conclusions. One prank victim might have no personal need for social acceptance, and upon recognizing the error of having been a victim of a joke, the individual might merely learn from the error, and then walk away without further interaction with the pranksters. Another victim might possess a need for social acceptance, and within the series of unconscious reasonings, the person might feel embarrassed. Yet another person might possess a need to believe of themselves to be superior to society, and the individual will become angry at the embarrassment while attempting to excuse-away the original error by placing blame on something or someone else: the individual unconsciously invents imaginary excuses — as well as false social memories — based upon emotional responses.

Some prank victims walk away without caring, some laugh at their own error, some are embarrassed for feeling inferior, some are embarrassed for various other reasons, and some individuals respond violently. If an individual cannot explain with great details of each of the hundreds of mental processes and variables that occurred during and after a prank, then the individual cannot know through firsthand observation the how and why the individual reacted to the prank, and too, the individual cannot present a theory of the mind without the individual merely inventing the imaginary theory (Mermaid Effect).

Since it is so rare for humans to be able to observe their own thoughts, then it is similarly rare for scientists to observe their own thoughts, which sums the conclusion that most science of the mind is made-up, invented, imaginary, and simply the excuses of what the scientists want to believe to be true: pathological science.

The scientific method may work for some closed systems, but the scientific method absolutely cannot work for open systems. A different methodology is required for open systems, and the general methodology is through firsthand experience. I myself have never met nor heard of any scientist at any time having ever performed research of an open system through firsthand experience.

Just for fun, and to philosophically illustrate the circular reasoning of science, apply the scientific method upon science itself: [1] observation, [2] hypothesis, [3] experimentation, and [4] conclusion. [1] The observation is that science does not really exist. [2] The hypothesis is that science is a system of faith. [3] The experiment is to not believe in science, and to then observe if science remains real. Science could not be found outside of a person's imagination. [4] The conclusion is that science only exists within one's own imagination, and therefore, science has scientifically proven that science does not exist.

Circular reasoning (philosophicalizing) is very common and much too easy to do if an individual does not have firsthand experience with the topic being spoken of.

The topic of science could easily be argued for millions of years without there yet being a consensus of interpretation, but it really does not matter what anyone wants to believe, because in open systems everyone believes different things.

The topic of pathological science is uncomfortable to talk about because of the term science meaning different things to different people. [1] Langmuir is reported to have spent most of his career in the research laboratories of General Electric, which suggests that his firsthand experiences would influence how he interpreted the word science, and that his interpretation would likely be held at a higher standard than the public's interpretation. [2] The general public's exposure to science is mostly limited to what they have been trained to believe within news reports, school classes, and hearsay. The two different points of view cannot help but to create differences of interpretations of what science means.


The following are several generalized categories that help to illustrate differences between different people. It is the nature of the human mind that most all functional humans must possess at least some of each category, but all humans are different, each human possesses a different quantity of each category, and it is the difference within each that prompts differences of interpretations.

Natives — people who are naturally talented within a specific topic.

Researchers — people who exert effort to achieve a similar talent as Natives.

Hobbyists — people who enjoy investigating simple topics that require no talent.

Employees — people whose job is to rearrange existing stuff into different shapes to be promoted and sold as 'new and improved stuff'.

Sciencians — radicalized sciencism that preaches science to be a real entity that is to be worshipped as the one true truth.

Philosophians — people without any talent except to imaginatively invent irrational explanations for things that the Philosophians have no knowledge of.

Pulpiteers — people who recite memorized words from the books that were written by Hobbyists, Sciencians, and Philosophians.

Popular Science — a blend of Sciencian and Philosophian inventions based upon memorized words preached by Pulpiteers and the news media.

Each category has individuals who sincerely do believe that their science is true truth, but no two individuals share the same definition of science. Some individuals believe that counting fingers and toes is scientific research, and some individuals believe that counting a few emotions can somehow create a scientific understanding of emotions, but not everyone believes so.

Before a science theory can be judged as valid or pathological science, first there must be a unanimous agreement on what the word science implies. The vast majority of publicly-known science is Popular Science, and so, if all forms of science were considered to be true science, then over 99.999% of all science is pathological science. The Natives and Researchers would likely agree that the other categories are not really science at all, but rather are the mere singers of the Pulpiteers' choir.

An easy example of scientists inventing false beliefs is of Albert Einstein's claim that Spinoza was among the individuals that Einstein believed were 'religious geniuses' with a "cosmic religious sense" (Cosmic Religion : With Other Opinions and Aphorisms, Albert Einstein, Covici-Friede, 1931. Reprint: Einstein on Cosmic Religion - And Other Opinions & Aphorisms, With an Appreciation by George Bernard Shaw, 2009, Dover Publications, Mineola, New York).

A brief quote from Spinoza's Ethics is sufficient enough to illustrate Spinoza's slant of mind:

"VI. By God, I mean a being absolutely infinite--that is, a substance consisting in infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality. ...PROP. XI. God, or substance, consisting of infinite attributes, of which each expresses eternal and infinite essentiality, necessarily exists. ...Proof.--If this be denied, conceive, if possible, that God does not exist: then his essence does not involve existence. But this (Prop. vii.) is absurd. Therefore God necessarily exists."

Spinoza's opinions were formed within two-dimensional thoughts and argued with two-dimensional finite words that held no relevance to the topic. As a comparison, an old Chinese word, 'Wuji' — 'Wu' implying 'void, boundless, infinite, nothingness', and 'ji' implying 'ridgepole, point of reference', that is, Wuji implying a thing that cannot be measured — lends a better concept of an existence that is void of all that man dreams of having substance and measure; no height, no width, no depth, no time, no linear sequencing, and no means of man-measurement. Natives and some Researchers know of Wuji, but no one else knows, nor cares to know. Spinoza's manners of reasoning and Philosophian-like conclusions were absurd, but, Einstein apparently agreed with Spinoza's reasoning, which implies that Einstein knew nothing of the topic, and that Einstein likely held similar manners of reasoning as Spinoza's.

All field formulas that omit the 'Wuji-like' field are inherently incomplete and therefore incorrect. If Einstein had known of the topic, then he would not have created his 'four-dimensional' formulas as he did.

Einstein continued:

"The cosmic element is much stronger in Buddhism, as, in particular, Schopenhauer's magnificent essays have shown us."

Einstein was not a Buddhist, nor was he known to have ever researched Buddhism, but Einstein made claims of knowing Buddhism (he self-invented imaginative beliefs after reading someone else's Philosophian beliefs). Einstein's opinions were illustrative of how individuals without firsthand experience leap to believe what the Philosophians and Pulpiteers preach.

Schopenhauer's Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung II states:

"In any case it must be a satisfaction to me to see my teaching in such close agreement with a religion which the majority of men upon the earth hold as their own; for it numbers far more adherents than any other. This agreement, however, must be the more satisfactory to me because in my philosophizing I have certainly not been under its influence. For up till 1818, when my work appeared, there were very few, exceedingly incomplete and scanty, accounts of Buddhism to be found in Europe, which were almost entirely limited to a few essays in the earlier volumes of "Asiatic Researches," and were principally concerned with the Buddhism of the Burmese. Only since then has fuller information about this religion gradually reached us, chiefly through the profound and instructive essays of the meritorious member of the St. Petersburg Academy, J. J. Schmidt, in the proceedings of his Academy, and then little by little through several English and French scholars, so that I was able to give a fairly numerous list of the best works on this religion in my work…"

Schopenhauer's claim of "my teaching in such close agreement with a religion" was simply not true. Schopenhauer knew so little about Buddhism that he did not know that he was profoundly ignorant of both Buddhism and his own religion. Schopenhauer did not so much as know of (zhong, implying 'middle'), nor (dao, implying 'way'), nor any of the many other core concepts within Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. Schopenhauer was a fraud, a mere European Philosophian, and everything he wrote was made-up, invented, philosophicalized, and imaginary: worthless claptrap nonsense. After countless thousands of translations of Asian texts into European languages, zhong and dao are still unknowns within European academia, and yet academia — like Schopenhauer — continues to make claims of knowing all there is to know about a topic because academicians have read a book written by an extraordinarily ignorant man who knew nothing of what he wrote about.

And so goes the common sequence: one person writes a few words about a topic that the person has no firsthand experience with, a second person without firsthand experience reads the words and writes more words, a third person without firsthand experience reads the second person's words and writes more words, and then a fourth person without firsthand experience reads the third person's words and assumes that the information must be true because all of the writers agreed. Modern science is often little different: someone invents a claim, someone else writes about the claim, and after several generations of men copying the previous person's words, the invented claim becomes accepted by 'peers' as true scientific fact.

One of the few opinions that Einstein got at least partially correct was his claim that he preferred imagination over knowledge:

"I believe in intuition and inspiration. …At times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason. …Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research."

Einstein's personal opinions are immaterial, but his opinions are useful to illustrate how he was similarly inventive within his scientific claims. The story of Einstein is a story of 'pathological science': people without Native talents use their imaginations to invent Philosophian opinions that are preached by the Pulpiteers, which then become Popular Science, and the public is expected to believe in the Philosophians' words. Sciencians cry that Natives cannot exist because the Hobbyists cannot themselves repeat the same talents to verify that the talents exist, and so the circular reasonings continue, with no possible end.

To my own personal knowledge, there does not exist any science whatsoever that is not pathological science in one way or another. Pick any 'science' topic, any topic whatsoever, and it is very easy for a Native and a qualified Researcher to illustrate that the topic has numerous severe flaws of 'things that aren't so'. I am currently deeply involved in two simultaneous research projects that, to me, are the most meaningful and rewarding of all research that I have ever done in life, and the progress has more than paid for the lifetime of effort. One of the projects has clarified to me that there is no boundary and no 'ji' to what is possible, and that all of man's Popular Science is, once again, irrelevant to me.

As an abbreviated and generalized summation, the term 'pathological science' is in many ways itself pathological science, and the only way out of the rabbit hole of circular reasoning is to simply let-go of one's belief that a topic can be known without firsthand experience. For some of us, we can love without claiming to be a Christian, we can be aware without claiming to be a Buddhist, we can recognize the meanings of ancient symbols without claiming to be a Wiccan, and we can research and understand topics without claiming to be a Scientist.

Update May 14, 2020

This article was first published on the old website in 2017. A few words have been changed to better reflect the current year. One word was modified to be more accurate of inference. Little else has been changed except for the page's layout.

The primary reason for having deleted the old website was because of the topics of pseudo-science and western philosophy being so negative (nothing good, nothing positive, nor anything beautiful exists within philosophies and science). While with an aim to create a distance from today's fake science and philosophy, the only option available at the time was to simply delete everything, including the website itself. The new research topic of ancient Chinese texts was positive, and at the time it was favorable to have all of the positive articles on a new website: this one. However, philosophy has its dirty little fingers in all topics of today, making it almost impossible to read any text from any culture of any era that has not been negatively polluted by philosophies.

This article, along with a few others from the old website, will be placed here so as to be points of reference that future articles can use to link to. The current goal is to have a few separate pages that contain information about philosophies and pseudo-science, thereby preventing the future articles from having to insert comments about philosophies and pseudo-sciences, which, hopefully, will enable the new articles to remain of positive topics.