The flaw in using the "do your own research" call in an argument without providing a starting point.

Mythic Suns

Member
First I'll clarify a little: the specific "do your own research" call that I'm talking about is one that I've often seen a particular group of conspiracy theorists use as a sort of counter argument, however the flaw lies in the fact that this particular group doesn't provide a source to reinforce their argument and are basically just trying to make the person they're arguing with feel special when they inevitably find the "research" that fits into the worldview of the CT and backs up their original claim, eventually leading to the borderline cliche "I was so blind, this makes a lot more sense" line being uttered (or words to that effect).

In reality when the aforementioned CTs say "do your own research" as a counter argument they are in essence saying "I'm right because someone out there agrees with me". It doesn't matter if that someone is a credible scientist or Beer Gut Bill from the local pub, in their world the claim that fits their worldview is automatically right and anyone who dares to scrutinise it is automatically wrong.

Basic rule: If someone says something you believe is wrong then you need to provide proof that the claim they're making is wrong; you can't just shift the burden on to basically everyone else; such an action is cowardice, especially if you're just going to blindly dismiss any researched claims that don't match your worldview anyway and ignore the evidence that supports the claim. The one counter I often hear to this point is "well it's not my job to convince other people of my beliefs" to which I say mate...you started it, if you'd kept your mouth shut or kept your fingers off the keyboard nobody would've said a word and you wouldn't have to suffer the consequences of your own actions.


Final note: Just to be absolutely clear: not all conspiracy theorists do this; some do actually make the effort to provide sources to back up their claim (sometimes they even go overboard with it: see Gish Gallop) but the fact that it seems to be a reoccurring trend suggests that the method sadly worked on enough people for a big enough number of CTs to take it seriously.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
the opposite of "do your own research" is "cite your sources"
the latter is a hard and fast rule in actual science
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
Do (1) your own (2) research (3).

(1) Watch
(2) Somebody else's
(3) YouTube video
_____________________________

This seems to be the common usage on some conspiracy discussion sites, but with an obscene modifier denoting low-quality in front of "YouTube video." Pointing out how wrong-headed that is does not make one popular, but hopefully makes an impression on the "lurkers."

It is worthwhile having some simple "experiments you can do at home" to drop into the conversation for CTs where this is possible.
 

Mythic Suns

Member
the opposite of "do your own research" is "cite your sources"
the latter is a hard and fast rule in actual science
Not just in science either; if for whatever reason I asked a surprisingly civil 3 year old what 50 / 10 = he'll most likely choose any number that isn't 5 and I will be left blindly believing a lie. A more sensible approach would be for me to get him to ask his mum and then relay the answer back to me. His mum presumably would've learnt Maths and, more specifically, division at school, therefore is more qualified. In essence he will be telling me the correct answer and citing his mum as a source.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
"Don't trust me", which is effectively what "do your own research" is, is a statement of strength when you are sure you're right, but a statement of weakness when you know you're wrong.
 

Ann K

Senior Member.
"Don't trust me", which is effectively what "do your own research" is, is a statement of strength when you are sure you're right, but a statement of weakness when you know you're wrong.
It's also taking a risk, because that "research" is generally going to start with an internet search ... which can easily lead to falsehoods instead of truth. Best to be sure your listener has a strong grasp of the art of choosing trustworthy sources.
 

JMartJr

Senior Member
It's also taking a risk, because that "research" is generally going to start with an internet search ... which can easily lead to falsehoods instead of truth
That seems to be the point in many cases ... "Do your own research!" is a cry in the Flat Earth ranks to send you into the YouTube rabbit hole, not to get you to actually do any research.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
It is worthwhile having some simple "experiments you can do at home" to drop into the conversation for CTs where this is possible.
You'd think so, but my experience says otherwise.
My most popular Flat Earth video refutes "water doesn't stick to a spinning ball" (typically demonstrated by a FEer with a wet tennis ball and a power drill). Source: https://youtu.be/-XRqpyc4Lpo

It uses a styrofoam ball from a craft store, a blue soft drink, and eye dropper, and some LEGO for the mechanical part, though a hand crank would've sufficed. Nobody who criticised it tried to replicate it at home, although there were various accusations of trickery.

I think it was fun, and therefore worth it for myself, to do this video, but I believe the impact of these "simple experiments" isn't all that great.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
"Don't trust me", which is effectively what "do your own research" is, is a statement of strength when you are sure you're right, but a statement of weakness when you know you're wrong.
No.
When I don't trust someone, that is when I especially want to review their sources.

The losing of the attribution obscures that a large part of the misinformation out there originates from a small amount of original resources.

I am obviously going to do my own research, but if you're ashamed to show me yours, that is always a sign of weakness. Not strength.
 

AmberRobot

Senior Member
Unless one is an experienced researcher, one is likely going to do the research wrong, or at least incompletely, and quite often end up in a worse state than ignorance.

The cooling light of the Moon “experiments” are a great example.

It can be worse than ignorance because one will be more confident in their wrong answer because they believed they did research to get it.
 

LilWabbit

Senior Member
Basic rule: If someone says something you believe is wrong then you need to provide proof that the claim they're making is wrong; you can't just shift the burden on to basically everyone else; such an action is cowardice, especially if you're just going to blindly dismiss any researched claims that don't match your worldview anyway and ignore the evidence that supports the claim.

When anyone claims anything suspect, the basic rule is to ask the claimant to support it with some credible evidence (which may or may not include sources). That is of course if the claim is a testable one. If it's purely speculative, then the basic rule is to point that out.

Obviously, a reasoned conversation is a genuine dialogue where it's both helpful and fair if both the claimant and the critic make at least some effort to offer reasoned arguments and sources to back up their points. However, a fair dialogue between people with differing views is increasingly a thing of the past and obtuse ideological monologue a thing of the present.
 

econ41

Senior Member
I think it was fun, and therefore worth it for myself, to do this video, but I believe the impact of these "simple experiments" isn't all that great.
There is another problem. The "spinning ball" experiments all illustrate the wrong aspect of physics and are not valid rebuttal of Flat Earther claims about gravity versus centrifugal force at "whole earth" scale. At the scale of playing balls or the styrofoam one shown in the video the main force holding the water to the ball is surface tension - applied in both direct and indirect ways. There is effectively zero gravitational attraction at that micro scale. So, no matter how persuasive the arguments may be, they are not valid. Essentially the "pro-Globe" person using playing ball scale models as proof MAY win the "argument" but they are right for the wrong reasons, And "right for wrong reasons" hypotheses can be very difficult to correct. (Witness the 8-9 years of wrong explanations about WTC 9/11 collapses which resulted from persons misunderstanding Bazant.)
Unless one is an experienced researcher, one is likely going to do the research wrong, or at least incompletely, and quite often end up in a worse state than ignorance.
Exactly. And "Flat Earth" debate is overloaded with "wrong research" of the "micro" small ball scale which does NOT validly scale to fit the more macro "full earth" scale. The globers may be correct in asserting that water does not fly off a spinning earth". They are correct. But the explanations are flawed more often than they are correct.
It can be worse than ignorance because one will be more confident in their wrong answer because they believed they did research to get it.
Or, in this case, more confident in their correct answer even tho the research is inappropriate.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
There is another problem. The "spinning ball" experiments all illustrate the wrong aspect of physics and are not valid rebuttal of Flat Earther claims about gravity versus centrifugal force
the claim and the physics are about centrifugal force
my centrifugal force is calibrated to match Earth"s, theirs is not


the main aspect is to provide a visual, intuitive "at home" demonstration how small that centrifugal force actually is (I think C ≈ 3% of G at the equator).
 
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LilWabbit

Senior Member
b) gravity G is greater than the force F that holds water to the ball (because it drips off)
so G > F > C, which proves G > C.

It's a fun experiment. Thanks for sharing. Whilst sound, your employment of syllogistic logic might be totally lost on the FEer.

In response to your experiment, the FEer who's argumentatively clever enough could invoke 'glober science' against the glober and point out that the earth rotation speed is 1,656 km/h (approximately 1,000 mph) and similar surface tension doesn't apply to earth's objects at whole earth scale. Surely at that speed stuff would fly off. Obviously this argument wouldn't withstand closer scientific scrutiny, but it goes to show your experiment will only invoke further demands for evidence on much larger objects resisting C at that speed. It's easy to provide calculations and sources for such earth scale evidence (which the FEer wouldn't read nor understand) but not intuitive home experiments.

a) the force F that holds water to my ball is greater than the centrifugal force C

This phrase cracked me up for all the wrong reasons. :D
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
"Do your own research" transmits 3 things:

1) "Trust me, I did my own research."
2) "I don't want to debate my research with you."
3) "If you don't trust me, I'll make it very cumbersome for you to prove me wrong."

Again, all of this runs counter to established science practices. If you want to have your research accepted for a degree, you need to
1) demonstrate the research you did,
2) take questions and "defend" it in oral debate, and
3) be complete in showing your observations and sources.

That's why "I did my own research" now means "I watched a dodgy video" to many who hear that claim. People who actually did their own research don't need to proclaim that fact, they can explain the topic, answer questions, and refer to their sources.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
No.
When I don't trust someone, that is when I especially want to review their sources.

The losing of the attribution obscures that a large part of the misinformation out there originates from a small amount of original resources.

I am obviously going to do my own research, but if you're ashamed to show me yours, that is always a sign of weakness. Not strength.

That there may be better statements of strength does not preclude this one of not-particularly-helpful arrogance also being one. "Strength" does not imply "useful", often the contrary. We're talking slightly at cross purposes here, our stances on the matter are very highly overlapping.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
That there may be better statements of strength does not preclude this one of not-particularly-helpful arrogance also being one. "Strength" does not imply "useful", often the contrary. We're talking slightly at cross purposes here, our stances on the matter are very highly overlapping.
well, if you meant that it's a statement of arrogance revealing an unshakeable belief, then yeah.
Personally, I still wouldn't call it strength.
 

Mythic Suns

Member
I think it was fun, and therefore worth it for myself, to do this video, but I believe the impact of these "simple experiments" isn't all that great.
Yeah, sadly it feels like a lot of people seem to be drawn more to videos that either confirm their beliefs, make them more angry, or even both. It doesn't help when some of the comments on your video are just Flat Earthers upping the ante without considering what the maximum ante is for a practical experiment. If you somehow managed to launch them into space naked (so as to avoid any distortion from the curved helmet) at a distance far enough to clearly see the whole Earth they'll still happily die out in the vacuum of space believing the Earth is flat.
 

Mythic Suns

Member
It's a fun experiment. Thanks for sharing. Whilst sound, your employment of syllogistic logic might be totally lost on the FEer.
Or just the typical laymen like me :S
But to be fair I am currently working my way up through college to learn about Astrophysics at Uni which, I believe involves a physics stop along the way so I'll get there eventually . I should probably get more into the habit of reading some books though.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
well, if you meant that it's a statement of arrogance revealing an unshakeable belief, then yeah.
Personally, I still wouldn't call it strength.

Self-perceived strength at the instant of delivery. A lot of behaviours which are performed as a show of strength I consider to be nothing of the sort. Semiotics involves two important parties, and they don't always agree.
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
In response to your experiment, the FEer who's argumentatively clever enough could invoke 'glober science' against the glober and point out that the earth rotation speed is 1,656 km/h (approximately 1,000 mph) and similar surface tension doesn't apply to earth's objects at whole earth scale.
Firstly, I apologize, I deleted the G>F>C relation because it is flawed, and because it's not what the video was originally about.

Secondly, Earth's rotation speed is ω = 1/day, with centrifugal force C=m×ω²×r. It is easy to see that Earth's centrifugal force scales with r. Earth's volume scales with r³, so at full size we have more than enough volume/mass/gravity to go around.

Thirdly, the punchline of the video is that the claim "water doesn't stick to a spinning ball" is obviously false for the amount of centrifugal force involved, even if "1000 mph" gets bandied about. It can only be demonstrated if you artificially increase that force. Whoever claims this obviously never did a honest, simple experiment to test this claim—which feels like it should be the minimum amount of "do your own research".

A typical airliner flies at 500 mph, and does not require passengers to fasten their seatbelts for standard turns (180⁰/min) on much tighter radiuses than that of Earth—at night, a passenger has a hard time detecting that the turn is even occurring. Why should a 1000 mph circle on a much wider radius be detectable?
 
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Henkka

Active Member
Imo, a good way to understand the phrase "do your own research" is to learn both sides of some argument, so you can effectively "steelman" both of them. From Wikipedia:
A steel man argument (or steelmanning) is the opposite of a straw man argument. Steelmanning is the practice of addressing the strongest form of "the other person's argument [(the steel man argument)], even if it's not the one they presented". Creating the strongest form of the opponent's argument may involve removing flawed assumptions that could be easily refuted or developing the strongest points which counter one's own position, as "we know our belief's real weak points". Developing counters to these strongest arguments an opponent might bring results in producing an even stronger argument for one's own position.
If you can do that, I'd say you've "done your research" as much as a layman can be expected to. So it doesn't just mean typing ae911truth.org into your browser, reading what they say and immediately believing all of it. It means doing that yeah, but also reading what the official explanations are, what rebuttals skeptics have to their arguments, what counter-rebuttals the truthers have and so on and so forth.
 

Rory

Closed Account
If you can do that, I'd say you've "done your research" as much as a layman can be expected to. So it doesn't just mean typing ae911truth.org into your browser, reading what they say and immediately believing all of it. It means doing that yeah, but also reading what the official explanations are, what rebuttals skeptics have to their arguments, what counter-rebuttals the truthers have and so on and so forth.

My first questions these days to conspiracy theorists (if I'm thinking straight) are generally "what's the conventional explanation?" and "what's wrong with it?"

I have yet to receive a sensible answer. Which tells me there's not much point going on with the conversation.

"Do your own research" transmits 3 things:

1) "Trust me, I did my own research."
2) "I don't want to debate my research with you."
3) "If you don't trust me, I'll make it very cumbersome for you to prove me wrong."

Also: "if you do your own research (and do it properly) you will come to the same conclusion I have."
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
It means doing that yeah, but also reading what the official explanations are, what rebuttals skeptics have to their arguments, what counter-rebuttals the truthers have and so on and so forth.
this demand equates to "make it cumbersome to respond".
 

Henkka

Active Member
this demand equates to "make it cumbersome to respond".
Well, the hope is you would reach some kind of endpoint eventually where the arguments end or just go around in circles. To give an example from 9/11 stuff, there's the flow of molten, yellow metal from WTC 2 moments before collapse. Truthers claim this flow is suspicious, and probably iron or steel, which should not melt in the temperatures of an office fire.

Is there an official explanation for this event? Yes, as the NIST FAQ claims the flow is probably aluminum from the plane, which melts at a much lower temperature. What do the truthers say in response? They say it can't be aluminum, because molten aluminum is silvery, not yellow. Does NIST have a response to that? Yes, they say the molten metal was likely mixed with "furniture, carpets, partitions and computers", giving it an orange glow. Do truthers have a response to that? Yes, they say Dr. Steven Jones did an experiment mixing molten aluminum with such materials, but did not observe the aluminum actually changing colour, beyond a few burning embers on the surface. Do NIST or debunkers have a response to that? Well, it depends... They would likely say something in response, but as far as I know, nobody has done an experiment where we could observe aluminum changing colour as NIST claims it did. So that's kind of the endpoint of that particular point of debate. So that's that I would mean by "doing your own research", hearing out both sides.

Of course, an even better way of "doing your own research" would be to melt some aluminum yourself in your backyard or whatever.
 

AmberRobot

Senior Member
The problem with this is that the conspiracy theorists will declare victory once you get to a step you can’t explain 100%.

And sometimes the “research” has to involve experiments at proper scale. If we could fly more airplanes into more World Trade Centers we could better answer some of the outstanding questions. Even better to rig up the buildings with sensors and telemetry.
 

FatPhil

Senior Member.
Well, the hope is you would reach some kind of endpoint eventually where the arguments end or just go around in circles. To give an example from 9/11 stuff, there's the flow of molten, yellow metal from WTC 2 moments before collapse. Truthers claim this flow is suspicious, and probably iron or steel, which should not melt in the temperatures of an office fire.

Is there an official explanation for this event? Yes, as the NIST FAQ claims the flow is probably aluminum from the plane, which melts at a much lower temperature. What do the truthers say in response? They say it can't be aluminum, because molten aluminum is silvery, not yellow. Does NIST have a response to that? Yes, they say the molten metal was likely mixed with "furniture, carpets, partitions and computers", giving it an orange glow. Do truthers have a response to that? Yes, they say Dr. Steven Jones did an experiment mixing molten aluminum with such materials, but did not observe the aluminum actually changing colour, beyond a few burning embers on the surface. Do NIST or debunkers have a response to that? Well, it depends... They would likely say something in response, but as far as I know, nobody has done an experiment where we could observe aluminum changing colour as NIST claims it did. So that's kind of the endpoint of that particular point of debate. So that's that I would mean by "doing your own research", hearing out both sides.

Of course, an even better way of "doing your own research" would be to melt some aluminum yourself in your backyard or whatever.

"Glow" is the important word - that tells us we're not looking at the conventional (surface, reflected) colour of a material, but of emitted thermal radiation. Plank's law states that the spectrum from a hot body is a function purely of its temperature, and therefore you cannot deduce the composition of the material. As presented, "probably iron or steel" would be no better supported a claim than "probably aluminium". Thus one I would dispute. Carpets should be irrelevant, I'm not sure why they were introduced into the argument, they will already have fully combusted (I'm assuming that if there's enough oxygen to power of fire that will melt Al, there's enough oxygen to burn all the sundry combustibles too).

Those who wish to "do their own research" would probably now be googling "Plank's Law" to see whether it's relevant or not, and whether I've described it accurately or not.
 

AmberRobot

Senior Member
Those who wish to "do their own research" would probably now be googling "Plank's Law" to see whether it's relevant or not, and whether I've described it accurately or not.
For grad school orals, my cohort and I learned how to derive Planck’s Law from first principles should that come up as a question. Now that’d really be doing one’s own research.
 

econ41

Senior Member
For grad school orals, my cohort and I learned how to derive Planck’s Law from first principles should that come up as a question. Now that’d really be doing one’s own research.
One of my ongoing frustrations - when we persist in putting "sources" on too high a pedestal.

As a young graduate engineer, I was one of many engaged in designing the foundation anchors for a long (25 miles) and large diameter (120") trunk water main. If such a large pipe is left empty in full sunlight it will heat on the sun exposed side and tend to walk off its foundation anchors towards the sun. (Just give it a moment's thought. ;) ) All the designers had adopted the practice of referring to a source in a well publicised academic paper which gave them a formula. I wasn't persuaded. So at made a couple of assumptions and developed the very same formula in 3 or 4 lines of algebraic calculation.

I NEVER again referred to the source. So much of what we debate in these columns is readily arguable from base principles. Without the pseudo "authority" of "sources".
 

obiwanbenobi

Active Member
i've never talked to a FEer to know how they deal with this topic, but when you meet one could you ask them where the center of the earth is at where you can stand and watch it all spin around? or do they deny it is spinning? i dunno. it just all seems rather far fetched...

as for melted aluminum color i've seen some that is not silver.

as an example you can point someone to this video on youtube at the 4:21 mark you can see it is orange/yellow (and moments after) as he's pouring...

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfziMOxSzhw
 

Mendel

Senior Member.
or do they deny it is spinning?
yes.
FE is motionless.
(A select few have proposed the theory that FE is accelerating upwards, which accounts for weight without needing gravity.)

The century-old technical device that disproves motionless Earth, routinely installed on steel ships, is the gyrocompass.
 

Henkka

Active Member
i've never talked to a FEer to know how they deal with this topic, but when you meet one could you ask them where the center of the earth is at where you can stand and watch it all spin around? or do they deny it is spinning? i dunno. it just all seems rather far fetched...

as for melted aluminum color i've seen some that is not silver.

as an example you can point someone to this video on youtube at the 4:21 mark you can see it is orange/yellow (and moments after) as he's pouring...
Yeah I've seen similar videos, aluminum can have a red hue when it is very hot, but quickly loses that hue when it's actually poured out. But this is what we're looking for:

Source: https://imgur.com/a/l1LRW4X

I don't mean to make this into a 9/11 thread, so stopping here, but just wanted to clarify that.

Edit: To tie this back to the "do your own research" topic a bit more... As I've said, what I would mean by "doing your own research" is looking at both sides of some issue, like this molten metal, and then coming to a conclusion. But I think some here would argue that where I go wrong is the part where I come to a conclusion that contradicts what some "official experts", like those at NIST, have said about the issue. Because they are the official experts at the very official National Institute of Standards and Technology, I should take their word for it that it is aluminum, over my own eyes and brain telling me I've never seen aluminum looking like that. And I don't really buy that. I think we should also be skeptical of official institutions and experts if what they're saying doesn't seem to align with nature, which is the ultimate authority.
 
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econ41

Senior Member
But I think some here would argue that where I go wrong is the part where I come to a conclusion that contradicts what some "official experts", like those at NIST, have said about the issue.
Sadly that is true. Certainly in 9/11 debate far too many "debunkers" accept that NIST and Bazant are the standard. The highest level of "authority".

Utter hogwash! The test of any claim is "Is the claim true" NOT "What does NIST claim?" or "What does Bazant say?"
Because they are the official experts at the very official National Institute of Standards and Technology, I should take their word for it that it is aluminum, over my own eyes and brain telling me I've never seen aluminum looking like that.
But you have created a "false dichotomy". The options are not "Don't believe NIST">> THEREFORE << "Trust my own eyes". You are ignoring the third option: "I don't know therefore I cannot offer an opinion!" IF you dont believe NIST it is either because (a) you actually understand why NIST is wrong OR (b) You don't "like" the NIST conclusion but you are not competent to know that NIST is wrong. And, IF you are not competent you have at least two choices. (c) Recognise that you don't know and cannot claim "NIST was wrong" OR (d) make the totaslly invalid claim "NIST is wrong" when all you can legitimately claim is "I don't know!"
And I don't really buy that.
Great. Then decide that you will not push claims that you cannot verify.
I think we should also be skeptical of official institutions and experts if what they're saying doesn't seem to align....
OK as far as there. The NEXT few words should say "...with the truth which is the ultimate authority" BECAUSE:
with nature, which is the ultimate authority.
...who interprets "nature"???
 
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Mendel

Senior Member.
over my own eyes and brain telling me I've never seen aluminum looking like that
why would you trust yourself when you are not an expert, and haven't done any research?

you're succumbing to "argument by incredulity" ("I can't believe" aluminium looks like that), which is a logical fallacy because it is not logically related to truth.

much of the youtube CT "research" stops with such a moment of incredulity (e.g. "can you believe we're spinning at 1000 mph?"), which causes personal incredulity to convert into personal belief ("Earth does not move") even though the argument has been suggested (but not supported!) by someone else.

When the believer tries to repeat this argument to someone else, they find they can't support it, assume this is caused by their own fault (rather than realize they've been conned), and so appeals to "do your own research" in the hopes that the person they're talking to will go down the same path they have (and end up in the same rabbit hole together).


In your case, @Henkka , this starts with "I can't believe it's not CD", which shapes your attitude towards evidence and those who produce it.
 
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