The term is one commonly used by serious non-credentialed inquirers to distinguish themselves from academic historians and academic scientists, all of whom have achieved their status by way of acquiring a diploma from some institute of higher learning. The term “alternative research,” does not indicate much to the average person on the street, but there is an increasing number of people who can distinguish that it means quite a lot.
To this audience the term indicates that the inquirer whose work they’re going to read or listen to at a conference is someone who is not bashful about stepping on toes, who calls a spade a spade, whose career does not depend on toeing some line and playing it safe.
To the “credentialed inquirer” (an academic) the term “aternative researcher” means someone who has few if any standards, has not accrued any standing, who has not learned how to think critically, and who is close to being a snake oil salesman. OUCH!
One has only to look at the history of science to see that it is replete with many early researchers who would today be considered dabblers – mere “researchers”. Some point to Einstein himself as a dabbler, since he was working in the Swiss Patent Office at the time he developed his Theory of Relativity. But Einstein is not an appropriate example of a non-credentialed inquirer, because he had only taken the job as a stop-gap measure. He had attended university and was already known a little bit in the academic world.
Benjamin Franklin would be a more appropriate example of a non-credentialed inquirer. He had little formal education and but had a fervent interest in multiple areas of inquiry and – eventually – a wide circle of influential people in science as an audience. At that time, evidently, the wall between the two types of researchers had not yet formed.
“Alternative” implies “pseudo” to credentialed scientists, it seems, and certainly suggests outside of science. It is difficult to address history or archaeology in this present essay, since both of them use so much interpretation that is not quantified, leading to two fields that are so rife with personal prejudice, subjectivity and belief system as to render them both little more than compendia of opinions. A close friend who is degreed in history amazed me with assertions that everyone is allowed to have an opinion, and that no opinion is considered true above any others. As an engineer, to hear that even FACTS are debatable and only opinion – well you can imagine my reaction… I DO ask that friend if 2+2=4 is just an opinion. So far no answer… Continue reading