The IEEE’s outpost in Victoria is to play host to an airing of the fringe “Electric Universe” theory today. If Melbourne-dwelling members have time, they can pop over to Engineering House at North Melbourne to hear one Wal Thornhill expound the theory under the title The Electric Universe – A Practical Engineer’s Cosmology (ITEE …
Not Just IEEE
IMHO, there have been a number of questionable presentations through Engineers Australia, too. At such presentations, positions presented have been ones that I would describe as "fringe", and I have wondered why these presenters have been given the stage at such a reputable institution.
Here are some questions to which I suggest readers provide their own answers. Could it be that senior members and/or management of prestigious institutions represent archaic views that, while they once might have held sway, have been largely or completely debunked now? Are there ties between business and professional institutions that influence the nature of some presentations? Are some professional institutions, or some of their influential members, guided by a political agenda?
Reading of professional institution periodicals, particularly editorials and letters from members, reveals some rather astounding viewpoints - views that concern me greatly given their impact on the general image of the related profession; views that I would have thought no educated professional member would hold given the wealth of reliable information available on the topics at hand.
Above all, I think it is valid to ask who it is that these professional institutions serve first and foremost - IMHO, it does not seem to be the members!
Is it not also appropriate that such professional bodies provide a platform for alternative viewpoints so that members can make an informed intelligent decision as to the validity of such viewpoints.
When professional bodies are only allowed to toe the line of "accepted" policies we are doing a disservice to our profession. "Silence the critics!" is not a rally cry that I want to be associated with.
Not when those presenting the alternative opinions are whackjobs, nutters and shills for vested interests.
And I'm going to be generous and assume that my fellow professional engineers can tell the whackjobs, nutters and shills for themselves, and don't need you to decide what is acceptable thoughts. We (as a body) are not your average easily lead rent-a-crowd.
Personally I like a good shill. It's so much more fun to heckle when they themselves don't belive what they are pedling, and are just doing it because they're paid to. The nutters are fun to try and see how far into ad absurdium you can push them before they realise you are taking the mickey.
Most of these organizations have problems getting speakers within the budgets they can afford, i.e 5hr old sandwiches or cake and instant coffee. Hence the fringe cosmology nutjobs.
I'm jealous they have the power to control the use of the word engineer in Oz, so you're not lumped in with the same category as the "paint engineer" in B&Q, who matches paint colour. Not having the position of engineer protected does a greater diservice to the profession in the UK than choice of lecture subjects.
Gravity was once a fringe idea
In fact most of the stuff we now hold as scientific fact was once derided and declared nonsense or against god etc etc. Can anyone on here completely disprove the Electric Universe theory? No.
A mate of mine believes in the single electron theory. Now THAT'S F.R.I.N.G.E!!!
Congratulations for demonstrating "the meme of scientific scepticism beloved of [assorted crackpots]" described in the article. You may now receive your Crackpot Theories merit badge.
No one can "completely disprove" any theory, because "complete disproof" is a vacant concept. You can only disprove something under an epistemological protocol, and no such protocol is perfect. For example, you cannot prove that everyone who vets the proof isn't lying, or that they aren't deluded, or under some sort of hypothetical influence over their perceptions (Descartes' "evil genius" argument). You can't prove that the universe isn't the clever trick of some supernatural entity which could at any point choose to override consistency or causality. And so forth.
So no, no one here can "completely disprove" it, which is why we have to use our intellectual faculties - such as reason, and education, and an understanding of probability and plausibility, and an ability to gauge the reliability of our interlocutors - to decide whether to give it any credence.
Not to mention that idea that gravity was once a fringe concept
is just plain wrong.