How to Evaluate Specious Evidence (Like "Bubbles" in Space)


New Member
In the Flat Earth debate, there's a specific kind of mistake that gets made
over and over again by people who argue that NASA is lying.

I call it Appeal by Jeranism but it probably already has a name.

It happens whenever someone looks at a photo or video that was
taken in space, then asserts that some element of it is incompatible
with being in space and then declares it fake.

For example, a person might look at footage of an astronaut
spacewalking, notice some particles moving across the screen,
assert that those are water bubbles and claim the video was
taken in a pool.

Obviously, in that form the argument has basically no power.

But I'm curious about the right way to discredit evidence...
- how does the scientific method (or similar) help scientists
from making those kinds of errors?

Would it be accurate to say that in the above example, the
person is implicitly suggesting a hypothesis that goes something
like "the particles are bubbles" but then are just assuming it's
true rather than testing it?

Let's say a mainstream scientist is reading about some result
and something about the evidence described in the paper makes
him doubt it's veracity. How would that scientist likely approach
the problem of discrediting evidence?

In other words, what could Jeranism do in his criticism of those
videos such that if he got to the result that they were faked, we
would all have to take it very seriously?

Mick West

Staff member
The time honored way of dealing with such a claim is to say:

"That which is asserted without evidence can be refuted without evidence"

One does not need to refute claims ("those are bubbles") one needs to refute claims of evidence ("those are bubbles because they move upwards", "those are bubbles because there is nothing else they can be")

No obviously if they were bubbles then that would prove that footage was shot in a pool. So what Jeran needs to do is provide conclusive evidence they are bubbles.

Generally there's an implied or loose claim of evidence, like "those are bubbles because they somewhat resemble bubbles". If you think it deserves a rebuttal then you might simply say "they resemble bits of ice that form in EVAs", or you might go further and plot the trajectories of various "bubbles" to show they don't all go in the same direction.

Since the broader claim here is that ALL footage from space is fake, one might focus also on higher resolution footage that is much more obviously not shot in a pool.


New Member
I guess I'm bumping up against fundamental disagreements about what does and does not constitute legitimate evidence. I find it surprising that the argument that there are alternative explanations doesn't seem to have any force of argument as far as Jeran's concerned.

What strikes me as insidious about these arguments is that there are probably cases in which the assertion without evidence is self-evident. A crayon-drawn cartoon of a spacewalk, for example.

And of course if both people agree it needs evidence that's an easy case.

But often it's a variation of this: where one person believes it's as self-evident as a cartoon and the other doesn't think it's even remotely self-evident. So, Jeran can believe - somewhat legitimately(?) - that it's not unreasonable for him to not provide evidence for "such obvious observations." Obviously, I disagree. But I am surprised that there doesn't seem to be a way to adjudicate that disagreement.

Maybe I should go look at how cases of scientific fraud were successfully revealed by scrutinizing the evidence. I feel like there's overlap there.

Mick West

Staff member
Jeran and others are not looking for evidence. They are trying to argue a position. So they take whatever they see and then they interpret it in a way that supports their position.

This isn't science, so I doubt you'd find an analog in the world of science. In some cases it's simple charlatanry, in some it's honest mistakes.

But the way to evaluate claims like this (if they are worth evaluating, which is another question) is to actually bring in the scientific analysis that is missing. With the "bubble" you could invalidate it simply by noting that it moves too fast to be a bubble, or that there's no light attenuation with distance, or that the "bubbles" go in different direction.


New Member
Jeran and others are not looking for evidence.

Right. But they genuinely think they are. That's what I mean by fundamental disconnect. They think that their evidence is rock-solid proof. (I think they do.) Which means we can't even find common ground on the basics of inquiry.

This isn't science, so I doubt you'd find an analog in the world of science. In some cases it's simple charlatanry, in some it's honest mistakes.

I'm talking about cases where someone has a similar goal as Jeran does but approaches it in a rigorous way. So like, when Krammerer was touring the world with his (fabricated, it turns out) evidence of Lamarckian inheritance there was a moment when other scientists were looking at his data and something looked like space bubbles. I don't actually remember the details of what they noticed and how they revealed it but I'm just sort of speculating that maybe if I show Jeran examples where a critique of evidence was done rigorously he'll figure out what's missing from his work.

JBut the way to evaluate claims like this (if they are worth evaluating...

Of course, this highlights one of the fundamental problems with the state of the discussion: I could easily be tempted to do that if it weren't for the fact that I have no faith that it would be given any attention and even if it was that it would be evaluated using any kind of fair criteria. That lack of trust (which I assume I'm not alone in) makes it hard for either side to engage except in superficial ways.


New Member
how do you approach 'bubbles in space' in a rigorous way?
Well, it's all relative but he should probably start by not calling them space bubbles.

But he's got data which leads him to make a hypothesis; the problem is that he thinks it's a conclusion.

Trying to establish the truth of his hypothesis seems like it's possible. Maybe? He could evaluate alternative explanations. Set up experiments under water and in zero-g environments to see if he can replicate what's on the video? And when those aren't feasible then at the very least recognize these limitations and acknowledge how that affects his certitude about the claim?
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