User talk:Martin Cohen

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Welcome, new editor! We're very glad you've joined us. Here are pointers for a quick start. Also, when you get a chance, please read The Editor Role. You can look at Getting Started for other helpful introductory pages. It is essential for you as an editor to join the Citizendium-Editors (broadcast) mailing list in order to stay abreast of editor-related issues, as well as the mailing list(s) that concern your particular interests. It is also important, for project-wide matters, to join the Citizendium-L (broadcast) mailing list. You can test out editing in the sandbox if you'd like. If you need help to get going, the forums is one option. That's also where we discuss policy and proposals. You can ask any constable for help, too. Me, for instance! Just put a note on their "talk" page. Again, welcome and thank you! We appreciate your willingness to share your expertise, and we hope to see your edits on Recent changes soon. Supten Sarbadhikari 04:55, 6 November 2008 (UTC)

Martin, welcome--it is great to see another philosopher here! --Larry Sanger 02:51, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Hulo Larry, and gang of editors/ authors!

Thanks for you message, glad to be here, at the best part of the project methinks. You've got the principles absolutely right, and the technology works, we just need the content now. I hadn't realised there was so much to be done before CZ reaches 'critical mass' - enough material for people to start using it as a real reference work - at which point everyone will flock here and we'll need to spend our time correcting pages rather than writing them.

I put some details of what I plan to do on the 'philosophy talk' page too, and am getting down to work straight away - we must get those key philosophers 'rolled out'!

I'm going to copy this to my own talk page as well.


Martin Cohen 13:12, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

Hi Martin, i saw your note on the forum and I'd say what you are doing is exactly what we need. Good extensive first drafts to give this ball some more momentum. On the forum you should add your talk page here as a link in preferences (should appear as a hyperlink at the bottom of each message you post. it helps us cross reference comments in the forum with user pages in the wiki. Welcome, Chris Day 15:15, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Here is what you need to do. Go to the following link:;u=1195;sa=forumProfile

and paste in

to the signature box. Chris Day 15:19, 10 November 2008 (UTC)

Plato and Socrates image

Martin: See my response to your query at User talk:Chris Day, it may be helpful or so I hope. Milton Beychok 02:49, 11 November 2008 (UTC)


First, please make up your mind if you want to discuss things on a talk page or have me make edits; you earlier complained when I discussed something on the article talk page rather than making the change.

Howard, I complained before that if something should be done it was better to do it unless it is expected to be controversial. This is scarcely controversial, although being a reversion it implies a need to explain

The change I made was quite in keeping with CZ conventions on maintainability and navigation.

Are we imagining the readers are familair with/ following this rule book too? Or are we also going to use common sense?
It was appropriate to have a redirect of Objectivism to Ayn Rand. 
Right, one step forward...

Once at the Rand page, the redlink makes it obvious that there is no separate article.

It implies that there is no information on objectivism in the encylopedia. The reader looking for it specifically might be excused for not reading furhter. It is a misleading signpost. If they followed the link from Jimbo, they will be irritated and think the CZ is a 'shower'.

Perhaps someone would care to write it, or perhaps not. Nevertheless, bolding adds absolutely no information that is not given by a redirect and a redlink.

Bolding - to my mind - made the term more obvious on the page, showing that there was a degree of interest on the page in the term.

Linking to non-pages is a basic CZ convention to help identify pages to be written.

That is exactly the point. We do not need the page to be written. - there is sufficient information on the Rand page. A page 'could' be added, but until that day, objectivism is described on the Ayn Rand page. For example, if I describe Plato's theory of forms on the Plato page, it is pointless to redlink the term there, on the grounds that someday someone may write a separate page.

There is, indeed, a bot that lists "wanted pages" in order of the number of redlinks to them. I have rather substantial experience with CZ navigation and still ask and explore.

CZ policy notes advise against overuse of the redlink. I suggest it is far and away a bigger problem than people using 'bold' for emphasis.

I don't see anything that bolding accomplishes; it might have been useful, on the article talk page to have mentioned your concern.

I probably confused things by mentioning there are times where bolding a blue or red link is necessary, purely for readability, often in specialized contexts such as model numbers.

Could you help me understand the information that was added by bolding, which was not added by the redirect? Reversing edits, which seem to be technical errors, a simple correction. I suggest you drop suggestions that people are antagonistic, or at least ask before accusing. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:58, 2 December 2008 (UTC)

I've asked, let's say it's just a technical dispute. Martin Cohen 10:56, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Politics of Water (and homeopathy)


It's strange: in the forum ("Neutrality notes"), I was saying that there is a lack of philosophers (of science); of people who could help us with the demarcation problem in "controversial" scientific topics (such as the scientific basis of homeopathy) and help especially with the socio-political and mediatic pressures (sometimes/often) leading to the exclusion of controversial scientific topics and facts.

Gareth referred you to the Memory of water article. Most of it was written by myself when I was working on the Homeopathy page. I was (and still am) opposed to the exclusion of these considerations from the homeopathy article (this is precisely a demarcation issue), and thought we needed to work more on that, but, hey, I'm not an editor and there was no philosophy editor active on these issues.

I would enjoy collaborating with you on the social and mediatic forces that colour and orient the debate between the Institutions and the scientists who work on the scientific basis of hoemopathy. I also think that it is essential to be neutral when we encounter instances of fraud or misrepresentation, especially when these frauds/misrepresentations occur in the mainstream media (I am talking here about the issue with the BBC "replication" of Ennis' study and with Dana's correspondance with her).

I am curious about what the reception of your recent forum post will be

May I offer another go at 'summarising' the idea (since my first go is said to have been pretty wide of the mark?)

Is what Larry is suggesting is a box on certain pages where there are, shall we say, 'interesting' divergences of opinion (rather than more brutal ethical divides), where

• the main areas of contemporary debate are briefly summarised • relevant sociological observations about the editors are offered • and issues the page has deliberately NOT gone into are set out?

--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 01:39, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

Excellent, yes, there are potentially some very interesting insights to be gained from closer examination of scientific consensus building - do you know the term 'Cascade theory'? Let's see if we can work together on some pages. Do you want to suggest to me where I might start/ join in with ideas?

Martin Cohen 11:03, 3 December 2008 (UTC)

I read the WP article on information cascades ( One thing I find interesting is that a single very simple information can reverse a trend in groupthink. My own way to deal with herd behaviour consensus building used to be less optimistic. I tended to rely on Kohlberg's conformity-based scale. Most adults rarely go beyond stage 4. The scientific community, especially the medical community (, for a recent application of Kohlberg's sclae), is conformity-driven (for various reasons, some known, some unknown). Add to this that there exists organizations that have an explicit mandate to chase pseudoscience (they demand to be called "skeptics"); they are in the "Law and order" stage of Kohlberg's developmental scale.
But a theory that is less vertical, such as the one that you present, is more attuned to the information society. Tides of information can occur at unprecendent speed and scale. BTW, what do you think of Manuel Castells? in a few words...?
There are a few things that we may adress.
Sorry for the delay in responding - I started earlier and lost the ntoes when I had a computer crash! But no matter, the gist is, no I am not (I regret) familiar with all this debate within Social Sciences, but then it is a large and fast moving area. I would rather concentrate (and then I am allowed a little flexibility here 'as a philosopher' - no more!) on the ideas and general social implications/ influences. A page on 'Cascade theory' might be a good idea - looking at it though in the most general sense, and drawing on actual cases from science and contemporary life.

John Maddox and Randi the magician

First, the role of John Maddox and Randi the magician in all this. Yes, persons. Masses need individuals. I quote Martin Chaplin, who is regarded by most as a quotable specialist -- he's an impressive fellow (the one that Dana referred you to; there would be interesting things to say about how he is selectively quoted in the CZ homeopathy article, but judge by yourself, and see how his analysis differs from what is in the CZ memory of water and homeopathy articles):

Published evidence

In spite of many (most?) people knowing of success stories (and the opposite) concerning the use of homeopathy where it is practiced [120], scientists have difficulty in regarding this form of alternative medicine as any more than a placebo effect.e A controversial paper in Nature [132] containing data from several laboratories, claiming to prove the efficacy of extreme dilution (the 'memory of water' [1112])a has not been generally accepted after the results were reported as not reproducible under closely controlled and observed (by Nature's self-acknowledged biased observers (comment from P-A G: Maddox and Randi), but strained, overly-demanding and unsympathetic, conditions with negative results from only one laboratory being cherry-picked from amongst otherwise positive results [133]. The original results [132] were, however, confirmed in a blinded study by the statistician Alfred Spira [346e] and also in a rather bizarre Nature paper purporting to prove the opposite [346b],b and were subsequently comprehensively confirmed by a blinded multi-center trial [346a]. (PAG: Ennis and others) In spite of this apparent confirmation by several laboratories, there are still doubts over whether the experiments are truly reproducible and whether the noted effects may be due to the origin of the biological samples or human operator effects [1362].
Can CZ afford to present such a view? I hope so. It has not been refuted, only ignored (excluded). As far as I can tell.
Maddox and Randi as leaders chief Inquisitors of the so-called skeptic movement deserve ample space on CZ. Again, will it be possible? Note that Maddox issued the edict that a major book of biologist Rupert Sheldrake (very sensitive topic; personal note: I'm corresponding with Sheldrake to translate some of his works), that this book was a "book for burning". How closer can you get to Inquisition?
I've started this page, Alternative_Medicine_(theories) which I hope we can develop togther. For instance, we can discuss 'water memory' theory there.

Misunderstandings between specialities

One reason why the debate always derails, and derailed again on the CZ homeopathy page, is that most scientists think in terms of logical reductionism. Precisely, they keep looking for molecules or atoms. No! Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that we should speak in terms of "energies", "vital force" or so forth. But if you watch the Memory of Water page (initially the scientific section of the Homeopathy article, that I created -- I'm not talking about the Benveniste story, but what follows), you'll see (and it's even clearer in the Homeopathy page), that there is a need to find comfort in finding substances that are responsible for the purported effects. Clathrates are water-made cages around... molecules, silicates are impurities that explain in extremis that there is something in fact, thank god. OTOH, Solitons and nanobubbles are underdevelopped sections and they do not involve anything but water molecules. This demonstrates my point a contrario.

What's so difficult for most scientists is to think of systems and structures (not molecules; analytical vs synthetic, reductionist biology vs systems biology, building blocks vs large scale behaviours). This is the basic point I have tried to make, but with little success. Philosophically, no one ever proved that water was just a pack of H2O molecules randomly interacting together. It may as well be what other, different but not pseudoscientific, scientists say: I summarized:

The research on the plausibility of homeopathy is an attempt to characterize how the behaviour of the molecules of a solvent could differ depending, first, on the solute that was diluted in it and, second, on the kinetic energy imposed on the solvent ("succusions", "dynamisations", "shakings"); it tries to answer the question: are all waters equal? Should we recognize that "water is water, period", or can some non-random, biochemically significant conformational changes happen in the way water molecules behave with each other, when a molecule is "imprinted" in a solution by dilutions and dynamizations?

The structure of liquid water is generally assumed to be a network of H2O molecules forming short-lived (on the order of 10−12 s) hydrogen bonds. According to this model the existence of long-term structural changes appears unlikely, and if by chance such structures are formed, they will disappear in a few picoseconds.

Materials scientists and physicists studying liquid water challenged the assumption that the unquestionably short life of these bonds determine an equally short life to the structures found in water, at the larger scale of 200 or more H2O molecules. At an even larger scale, it can be easily observed that a wave keeps existing despite of the constant doing and undoing of hydrogen bonds, and that ice sculptures are also made of H2O molecules constantly bonding and separating. In the same way, water clusters of a hundred or more molecules are actually structures that have a longer life than the individual bonds composing it.[11]

Note that this has beem brought up recently by physicist Paul Wormer. In accordance with the reductionist paradigm, he assimilated all large scale molecular arrangements (including hurricanes and bronze sculptures) to the example I was quoting (from Chaplin, again (waves, ice sculptures)). Is it logically sound? yes. But I responded that we don't eat sculptures and hurricanes, but we do consume water. No answer yet. Two different paradigms.

This is all interesting stuff, but also (I think) new and unpublished research. We should try to broaden what you are saying so that it can achieve the same ends, but without relying on tendentious arguments. CZ cannot go into detail on these things - it is a forum for clear and accessible summaries of research. I like your notion of exploring the different 'pardaigms' of scientists from different backgrounds. We should aim to include this.

Ethical aspects

As I suggested earlier, I am inclined to think in terms of ethics. One thing that is bad, I contend, is to reject things that are plausible but not understood yet, especially when those things are medical. Homeopathy is an excellent example. I started on a possible treatment for environmental toxins. As you probably know, homeopathy often uses poisons to protect against poisons. There exists a body of evidence suggesting that homeopathic preparation with an imprint of arsenic can help people who drink and eat arsenic. There exists no other solution to arsenic contamination (except social solutions). Reasoning in ethical/medical/humanitarian terms, it is better to try an innocuous, almost free, but still misunderstood treatment modality than to do nothing, especially when some studies suggest that it may be very helpful. I won't spend my time explaining the counterpoint of skeptics: I don't think it deserves mention -- I'm not even sure it is intelligible.

Still, Dana (and I) witnessed the exclusion of the evidence in favour of homeopathic arsenicum in the mitigation of arsenic intoxication in countries that are too poor (or politically unstable) to address the root causes. This is what convinced me to leave CZ. I kept trying to edit, but I had lost my confidence.

Finally, it is fair to tell how I personally position myself. I could take homeopathic remedies, there could be good reasons, but I don't. Yet? I have no personal interest in homeopathy, seriously (I used to). I am dismayed by the state of science for innumerable reasons. I look forward to working on the recent (but poorly covered) validations of acupuncture (through medical imagery) as a distinct and validated view of biology. I also have a commitment to moledules! I think that the orthomolecular approach is an idea which time will come when the civil society realizes that medical ressearch is privatized and focussed on innovation as a source of profit.

No problem if you don't respond to all that I said, of course. In a spirit of collaboration, I wanted to present my ideas and offer opportunities to start a collaboration. Last personal note: I dropped out from philosophy studies thrice! Does this make me a philosopher?

--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 06:09, 4 December 2008 (UTC)

Yes, thanks for all this detail! Better keep the worst secrets to email contact! No, seriously, we can start work I hope on these two pages - the alternative medicine theories one and the cascade theory one, and see where we get! Bear in mind, the need to write 'inclusively', and to avoid technicality - especially for me!
As for dropping out of philosophy, that is the mark of a free-thinker. Don't waste the gift! Martin Cohen 15:02, 4 December 2008 (UTC)
Martin, you should be careful in deleting sections, but you can always add as much matter as you want. You may also consider editing the Wikipedia article on Homeopathy, at ''.—Ramanand Jhingade 11:16, 5 December 2008 (UTC)

Thanks, Ramanand, and I'm an 'inclusionist' not a 'deletionist'! Keep in touch! Martin Cohen 20:35, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

Paracelsus, the shame of homeopaths?

HI Martin,

I just added supportive evidence for your edit on Paracelsus. see here

--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 18:47, 7 December 2008 (UTC) ps: I'm aware that you may not respond soon, since you'll be away from CZ for a little while. I'll wait.

Excellent quotes = we'll see what happens. Still travelling, but I'm hoping you'll want to make the 'alternative theories' page into a real resource. Martin Cohen 20:16, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

I try to visit the homeopathy page infinitesimally. I just noticed that there was a formal dispute resolution process taking place. I copied my quote to my own talk page so that it can be easily used when necessary:
Ho-ho-ho meopathy
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 18:07, 24 December 2008 (UTC)
ah ha ha! Shame, yes, as I was conveying in my recent response on the homeopathy talk page. Oh yes, i read the 'alternative theories'. I'll get to it right now, but i may need to sleep as well. ;-)
--Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 08:11, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

It's good stuff you're doing there! And we're making some progress over on homeopathy too - I hope! It's inch by inch though, limited 'waking' time is best spent on new pages... Martin Cohen 22:14, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

I've put a detailed comment about the Paracelsus point on the Homeopathy talk page. I have also put a comment on the alternative medicine (theories) page, wondering that if you consider this a collaborative effort, why you made no comments, in a discussion of theories, on the existing complementary and alternative medicine article talk page. Equally, if you consider it a collaborative effort, I wonder why the "theories" article page has not one Wikilink to any other article in CZ, especially when articles already exist on a number of terms you are using. I urge you to look at the community's existing formal rules and informal customs, and not attempt to force your idea of "how things should be" onto work in progress, or, if you disagree with such, to create an unlinked page based on your views, or what the rules of other Wikis may be. Bluntly, I find absolutely no way I can consider it collaborative for your "theories" page to make no reference to the existing complementary and alternative medicine page. Howard C. Berkowitz 22:48, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

Hi Martin (and Howard and Pierre),

Just wanted to say thanks for your help on Homeopathy and draw your attention to the response by Howard to Martin's comment. In it he mentions some ways to change an editor's decision. I just wanted to encourage you all to do own research and make yourselves familiar with the written roles of authors, editors and conflict resolution. Keep up the good work, but do remain professional. D. Matt Innis 01:15, 13 December 2008 (UTC)

Democritus vs. Plato: 0-1

With regard to this question modern physics takes a definite stand against the materialism of Democritus and for Plato and the Pythagoreans. The elementary particles are certainly not eternal and indestructible units of matter, they can actually be transformed into each other. ... The elementary particles in Plato's Timaeus are finally not substance but mathematical forms.

Werner Heisenberg, Physics and Philosophy (1958)

But let's not forget this definitive work. --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 07:47, 17 December 2008 (UTC)

Homeopathy approval

Martin, I'm not sure if you understand my argument here or not, but to be clear, I want to pursue the subject of Paracelsus and Hippocrates in depth, not just for homeopathy, but for all articles involving healing arts. We need to grow the entire subject of the ancient history of these articles. By the way, after my research, I see that Aristotle actually mentions likes to cure likes, so we have a lot of work to do. Approval does not mean 'in stone', it is just the first stopping point from which to build. The Chiropractic article was approved three times before we all felt satisfied, and it will likely change again when another perspective is brought to out attention. We'll approve homeopathy then move to the history. Make sense? D. Matt Innis 02:31, 4 January 2009 (UTC)

Matt, I think the Homeopathy article is 'okay' now, and would NOT have been without my criticisms (and of course the good points made by so many others). Yet I am rather disillusioned by the way relatively uncontroversial matters have been fought over, with much unpleasantness and mud-throwing - so anyway it seems to me. Re. Paracelsus, the compromise is as I say 'okay' but not a credit to the system. Re. the general issue of tracking back ideas tot he Ancients, I quite agree with you, and yes, Aristotle was one of the people I had in mind when I made the vague reference to the 'ancient roots' of homeopathy. But as you know, 'His Larryness' has ruled that in writing on Aristotle in a Healing Arts context, I write only as an author and can have material unceremoniously deleted (as happened to the Paracelus material - 'at the moment' I have saved it to here - but what will happen when the 'hordes' arrive fresh from approving 'their' strange, un-neutral and misleading version of the history of homeopathy?? I understand why authors get fed up!)) So why spend time on it? I await reassurance, if any can be given. Martin Cohen 15:13, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Text here was removed by the Constabulary on grounds of civility. (The author may replace this template with an edited version of the original remarks.)

I have to admit, Howard, I have no idea what you are saying here, whether professional or not, it does seem rather inflammatory. Martin, you are welcome to delete anything you like on your user page. D. Matt Innis 16:47, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Martin, I'm glad that the approved homeopathy version is 'okay' with you. I know it is not perfect, but you have to admit, the fact that it made it to the approved state does say something about the 'system'. We have a long way to go. Maybe starting with History of Homeopathy is not the place to start, but wherever it is, I can't let anyone make a mockery of anyone else. Referring to fellow contributers as anything other than their names is disrespectful at the very least. You are dealing with real people using their real names in a public forum. You complain about people treating you badly, but you treat them badly in return. Please consider rephrasing your comment. D. Matt Innis 16:47, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Matt... er... which comment? Can you 'unpack this too: 'starting with the History of Homeopathy?... mockery'? Martin Cohen 18:12, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Sure, Martin, what I am trying to delicately say is that if you don't feel comfortable starting with History of Homeopathy because there are authors and editors that don't write what you consider neutral or accurate, then perhaps you should start with some other article. When you characterise your fellow contributers as 'hordes...', they react as Howard has. Also, the professionalism rules protect the EIC just as any other contributer, so impugning his character is also a bannable offense. That's all. D. Matt Innis 19:13, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
Hmmm... Matt qua constable, the 'EIC' has referred to himself as 'Valdemort', as as Howard, and many other affectionate soubriquets adorn the pages of CZ. Why not my one? You and Howard seem to take it as disrespectful, when I am only intending it as a way of distinguishing between the various Larrys. This is a fact of the place: Larry is both citizen, editor, EIC and CC. Which one is speaking when? I offer my soubriquet to distinguish, but of course if Larry qua Citizen or anything else, were to say it is not 'fine with him' then I would apologise and stop. In this case, the Constabulary seem to be offering a general rule which is not applied universally. Martin Cohen 19:40, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
By that logic I should have used the {{nocomplaints}} template on both Howard's and your comments above, but I gave you the benefit of the doubt. D. Matt Innis 20:43, 5 January 2009 (UTC)
My 'complaint' about Howard is not name calling, but that he appears on my userpage apparently hoping to 'bait' me into resigning! Anyway, Matt, I take your point. I'm emailing Voldemort-like now about his alternative soubriquet. Martin Cohen 13:02, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
Here I am, appearing Voldemort-like, when my name is mentioned. Bwa-ha-ha! I will resist further attempts at cleverness and will say simply: yes, Martin. I don't know what names you called me, and I don't actually care, but for the sake of our abiding by CZ:Professionalism, please don't insult me, or anyone else. --Larry Sanger 03:00, 6 January 2009 (UTC)
Larry, I don't know what 'names' I called you either. To reiterate, I am certainly not aiming to insult you or anyone else. Martin Cohen 13:13, 7 January 2009 (UTC)

Hippocrates the allopath

Would you like to...

join the party? --Pierre-Alain Gouanvic 06:45, 5 January 2009 (UTC)

Bonne Année P-A! Not very tempted - see my note to Matt above! When and if CZ moves to a more democratic form of collaborative editing where material is judged on its merits, rather than by 'who' has submitted it, then I might be tempted. (Anyway, at least in a reference work, I have trouble seeing the point of pages about things no one has ever heard of - unless its to provide an outlet where editors can follow the most famous guidance of Hippocrates and 'do no harm'!?) Martin Cohen 15:22, 5 January 2009 (UTC)