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Re: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi

Subject: Re: your valued opinions- writing on trees/body languages/fungi
From: Jerry Ross
Date: Jan 03 2012 14:24:18
Jon -
I think you do Paul Stamets a disservice in comparing him to the
convicted fraudster & embezzling hotel manager Erich Von Daniken -
Stamets is a serious and knowledgeable practical mycologist
I agree that in Mycelium Running he does plunge head-first into bold
statements together with some unwarranted analogies, but that (I assume)
is largely to grab the attention of those who'd just get bored and go
away if faced with a couple of scientific citations.
Much of his theorising is, no doubt, un-backed up by any rigorous
research; but unless he's lying in his teeth, he seems to have had a
good deal of success in getting things past the FDA (for example), which
I suspect means that he's been able to put forward some fairly
rigorously researched evidence.
Not that I'm any kind of Stamets apologist - Personally I find his
over-enthusiastic prose style rather wearing.
I simply suggest that you shouldn't judge a book by its Amazon Look
Inside entry (let alone use it to dismiss someone's entire oeuvre).
Some might even say that such an approach is itself a touch unscientific!

On 03/01/2012 13:30, Jon Heuch wrote:
One of my Christmas books this year was Paul Stamets' Mycellium Running.
Tremendously full of science and references, but he doesn't  hold back
by making suggestions as to what may also be happening. He may be wrong,
he may be right, but it's clear that it is a statement of his thinking
and yet to be proved.

I would regard a book like that rather like Erik von Daniken's books of the 
1970s - some interesting
observations and facts that others may have overlooked but unscientific in 
its approach; others' work has been
looked for to support a notion (not a hypothesis) and dressed up with 
references to give it some plausibility;
the scientific results that contradict the proposed "notion" are just neatly 
ignored, either through ignorance of
the writer or their unscientific approach.

I'm still intrigued by the markings on the plains of Nazca (in Peru) and the 
large carved stones at
various locations around the world defy our understanding of what was going 
on a few thousands years ago.

How? Why? are questions that still seem to need answers; extra terrestrial 

Well it's a thesis that can be included in the list of possible answers I 
guess; that's science for
you but the idea seems to have preceded the facts.

As for Stamets: references? Yes - I see almost 20 pages of them. Science? I'm 
less convinced. By
Page 4 he starts to compare mycelium with the "computational powers of our most 
advanced supercomputers". I wonder
whether he is running ahead of sound observations. Unfortunately 
(fortunately?) Amazon Look Inside
doesn't allow a more detailed look. Perhaps I will never know.

As for advice on writing, if you are not a scientist with at least some 
scientific training you are
likely to come

unstuck if you pretend to be able to take scientific thought forward. 
Quotations of a small number
of references, taking authors' conclusions at face value

has the potential to mislead. You may be able to write a book that is deemed 
"successful" - as von
Daniken did - but that is another matter.

Two of my Christmas reads were titled:

"the importance of stupidity in scientific research" which talked about 
"productive stupidity" where
you are ignorant by choice. The more you know it becomes apparent that the 
less you know; it comes
as something of a shock to successful students (who have obtained high 
grades) that science doesn't
know the answer to lots of questions and scientists operate in a world of 


"Why most published research findings are false". More about statistics.

If you're interested in science they're worth reading.

  Jon Heuch Tel:          +44 (0)1233 713 466 Mob:    +44 (0)7810 610 712

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