Marcoen Cabbolet's VUB homepage
dr.ir. Marcoen J.T.F. Cabbolet
Free University of Brussels
Department of Philosophy
Center for Logic and Philosophy of Science
B-1050 Brussel - Belgium
In the Netherlands, my Ph.D. project on the possible principles of gravitational repulsion led to an enormous controversy, accumulating some 150-200 publications from 2008 to 2020.
Most remarkable, however, is not the size of the controversy but its nature: opposition to my work has, namely, been voiced in the form of pseudoskeptical attacks.
If you want to join the club, here's some free advice as to how to become a pseudoskeptic.
The starting point for my work is a thought experiment illustrated by the figure: the entire controversy is nothing but a series of emotional reactions to this thought experiment.
If we would release a body of antimatter at a height h above the earth's surface with an initial velocity parallel to the earth's surface, then modern physics predicts that the gravitational force exerted by the earth on that body of antimatter is directed towards the earth, thus causing the body of antimatter to fall down:
modern physics thus predicts that the height h(t) of the body of antimatter as a function of time will be a downward curve like the one shown in the left figure (a).
However, this particular prediction has never been tested experimentally: it is, thus, absolutely not the case that we already know that antimatter falls down on earth.
There is, thus, nothing that withholds us from doing the experiment in our thoughts, and letting the experiment have the opposite outcome, which is that the height h(t) of the body of antimatter as a function of time is an upward curve like the one shown in the right figure (b).
In my case this thought experiment led to what Descartes called a clear and distinct idea about the fundamental workings of the universe:
in my PhD project, I have developed this idea into the Elementary Process Theory.
Of course this is speculative, but the point is that thinking through a thought experiment is a perfectly valid technique c.q. method in theoretical physics.
So I hypothesize repulsive gravity, but I do absolutely not claim that it exists.
Many of my opponents went off on a tangent already at this point: they have agitated against my work from the gross misinterpretation that I claim that repulsive gravity exits and that modern physics has to be replaced by my theory — they have
been hell-bent on proving that I am a pseudoscientist, but the only thing that they have proven is that having obtained an academic degree does not exclude that one's analytical skills have remained at high-school level.
Others have quickly listed through my work and have seen that I consider the scenario depicted by figure (b), and from there they have immediately jumped to the conclusion that I am blithely unaware of picture (a), and that I know nothing of modern physics or the arguments against repulsive gravity:
without bothering to check the facts, they have touted that conclusion in peer review reports and/or the mass media.
I am, however, perfectly aware of the arguments against repulsive gravity — I just happened to find it more interesting to think through the consequences of the existence of such a repulsive gravity.
Yet others have agitated against my work from a dislike of the assumption of repulsive gravity: they have proven themselves quite creative in coming up with negative judgments that read like indictments, but fact of the matter is that they haven't truly understood the concept of a thought experiment.
Although I can understand the above reactions, I do not condone such behavior — particularly not when individuals, who yearly rake in a ton of taxpayers' money as ''men of science'', pass off outright fabrications as ''facts'' that impair my work or that portray me as an amateur who doesn't know the first thing about science.
In my 2014 paper in Sci. Eng. Ethics I have therefore suggested to start treating such behavior as scientific misconduct:
that might improve the standard of discussion in the future. In addition I have compiled tell-tale signs of pseudoskepticism; maybe that can help editors to recognize it in submitted articles or peer review reports, so that these can be rejected.
Updated: Fri Jan 31 10:05 CEST 2020