Suppose there is a society where there is a majority consensus on certain principles within science. On laws and mechanisms. However, suppose that minority actually does alternative science that contradicts the mainstream science. This science does not get published by major publishers. Simple becase it contradicts mainstream science.

However, here I assume an idea of open sourse science. Everyone can participate, everyone can read ideas and see mathematics involved. So, it quite soon becomes a place where non-mainstream scientists start to work and cooperate. Instead of merely saying others are wrong just because it contradicts the science they only look for better and simpler explanations. Indeed, every experiment can be explained from different, inconsistent with each other, positions.

But then it appears these theories which are going against the mainstream science allowed to overcome some problems. So, they allowed to advance technology further than the mainstream science. But in this case is it still possible for these theories to be ignored? Given they are open source and more advanced technologies are not hidden.

I consider the society described to be similar to ours. Being heterogeneous in its principles exactly as humanity on the Earth.

As example one might assume a Theory of Everything rejecting relativity but still not being experimentally refuted.

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    $\begingroup$ Not sure what you mean by "science" here. You seem to be talking more about cultural factors or popular beliefs among non-scientists. Most "mainstream science" folks I have known have been very open to new ideas and hypotheses...within the bounds set by Newton's Flaming Laser Sword. Outside those bounds is, after all, rather more murky. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Aug 26 '18 at 2:17
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    $\begingroup$ @rus9384, I'm not offering a discussion - I'm gently telling you that the question seems vague to me, open to (mis)interpretation, and why. I cannot tell if you are offering a world where The Big Science Cabal controls the publishing and schools, and a small-group-of-rebels is off doing real science in garages, or if you're asking about real-world Earth today. I can't tell if your meaning of Open Source Science is the real-Earth movement, or the small-group-of-rebels, or ordinary criminal fraud and quackery. Within this fog, it's hard to tell if it's possible. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Aug 26 '18 at 2:37
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    $\begingroup$ How is this question about world building? $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 26 '18 at 2:50
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    $\begingroup$ @rus9384 "Actually any theory which is alternative (in the sense having different mathematical model but not contradicting observed events) to relativity seems to be rejected." Providing an example of that would help clarify what you're asking. Considering how well tested relativity is, I'm not sure what such a theory would look like. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Aug 26 '18 at 3:50
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    $\begingroup$ Some academics are rewarded for getting published, and others are rewarded for bringing in grants. It depends on the field and the university but if you can do one or the other you can have a career. If your branch of science has the potential to yield useful applications for somebody with money, you can probably get a grant, even if the clique of journal editors shut you out. The different types of rewards may shape the personalities of scientists on different sides of the debates, i.e. more pragmatic vs more sensitive to status. $\endgroup$ – workerjoe Aug 26 '18 at 4:31

You may be very interested in the work of Thomas Kuhn. He is a philosopher from the mid 20th century who explored precisely the concept you are looking at.

He argued that science follows a sort of pendulum like behavior. It has period where scientists refine the status quo, making small incremental updates, punctuated by periods of rapid change where existing models are swept away and new models come in.

Consider relativity as an example. For hundreds of years, Newtonian Physics was thought to be the "correct" model. Then Maxwell's equations predicted some funny things that pointed towards the need for an "Ether." The Ether was needed to maintain the status quo. Well, experiments drew doubts as to the existence of the ether, and within a relatively short period of time we developed Lorentz Transforms, then relativity itself. In the process, we gave up on precious concepts such as "simultaneity." (relativity does not have a concept of simultaneous events in a global sense. Whether two events are simultaneous or not is dependent on the observer)

In theory, non-mainsteam ideas do get tested, especially if they imply something profound. However, in practice they often go untested because it's just not worth the time and money to go test it. Very few scientists go around disproving perpetual motion machines.

Now you describe two very different things in your question. The first is results which contradict mainstream science. In this case, there is at least one experiment which can be done which is predicted to yield different results depending on if the mainstream is right, or the new idea is right. Eventually this does get tested, especially in your "open science" world.

The second thing you describe is a different viewpoint which provides a different explanation for results, even though it predicts precisely the same results. Science actually does not feel the need to concern itself with this. If theories predict the same behavior, they are "equal." This, for instance, is a major challenge for string theorists. The predictions they make which differ from the standard model require experiments well beyond our current capabilities. As far as we can tell, they are equally effective at modeling the world around us.

Another example are the quantum mechanics interpretations. The fundamental wave equations in QM are agreed upon by virtually all scientists. However, there are very different interpretations of how these wave equations should be interpreted in real life. The Copenhagen interpretation presumes a randomness that comes from collapsing waveforms. The Many Worlds Interpretation declares all observations depend not only on the observed, but also on the observer. Pilot wave theory assumes that it is possible for there to be a constantly varying wave function whose behavior depends on the position of every particle in the universe at that very moment (even those outside of your light cone)

These theories are philosophically different down to their very core. They fundamentally disagree on the nature of our universe. However, they all predict precisely the same experimental results -- results defined by the quantum wavefunction. Because they predict precisely the same results, they are permitted to coexist. They are not called "theories." Instead they are called "interpretations."

For a more current example, consider the work on the use of octonions to form a Theory of Everything. In the article, they mention that octonions are considered to be an underdog in the world of subatomic physics, but that many people find the theory intriguing.

So as for your world? We're in it.

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  • $\begingroup$ Ether was not disproved, it was rejected as being redundant. However it is useful to explain why does not speed of light get added with speed of its source, which is hyst taken for a postulate in relativity without explanation. "Very few scientists go around disproving perpetual motion machines." But perpetuum motion machine just contradicts the scince. The constructor just does not provide a theory for it, a justification why should it work. Neither the constructor actually makes use of his own invention, thus failing in technology advance I mentioned in the question. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 13:18
  • $\begingroup$ "If theories predict the same behavior, they are "equal." - one point: computation complexity. Results the same, but more precise predictions, which is useful. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 13:36
  • $\begingroup$ @rus9384 Aether is the notion that there is a stationary, universal medium that matter does not interact with, but carries light waves like water. It made a specific prediction that the speed of light would change as the Earth traveled through the aether. This was conclusively disproved by the Michelson-Morely experiment. Hypothesis, prediction, experiment. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Sep 1 '18 at 22:39
  • $\begingroup$ @Schwern, Poincare had different views on aether. In either way, I see it not bad explanation why is speed of light invariant: when you horizontally throw a ball into the water (it will fall itself), speed of waves does not depend on how strong you throw it, $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Sep 1 '18 at 23:04
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    $\begingroup$ @rus9384 it's not a bad explanation, until empirical experiments showed that light doesn't actually behave that way. It was when we showed that the ball in the waves analogy didn't actually fit observations that things got interesting. $\endgroup$ – Cort Ammon Sep 2 '18 at 4:25

The thrust of your question is #1 very political, and #2 completely ignores what the scientific method is.

Non-mainstream so-called science is not mainstream because:

  1. it ignores all the existing knowledge which has been rigorously obtained, and thus constrains all new hypotheses,
  2. does not perform rigorous studies with large populations,
  3. does not try and criticize itself, and
  4. does not make falsifiable predictions.

Any researchers outside the mainstream who do follow the dictates of the scientific method and the four dicta listed above will be brought into the scientific method sooner than later.

Cranks and con-men will rightly stay outside the mainstream of science because they don't follow the four dicta.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, I am not sure that just creating an alternative theory = ignoring all the existing knowledge. I'm not even sure that relativity itself could be called mainstream on its dawn. It took time for Big Bang model to be accepted. But I guess the more principles to be ignored and replaced, the more time it is needed for a theory to be accepted. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 9:26
  • $\begingroup$ You're still grossly missing the point and are reinforcing my belief that you are a conspiracy theorist (trying to) write a justification for some crank pseudo-theory. For example, nothing in Lemaître's model counteracted existing observations. In fact, he used existing observations. Same with Einstein's Relativity: nothing about it overthrew Newton; it "just" expands upon Newton. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 26 '18 at 12:19
  • $\begingroup$ No, I am not sure conspiracy theories actually are useful. Flat Earth is weird, creationism is vacuous and most political conspiracy theories are speculation (but from the position of high ranking politician it is more clear what exactly are the issues there). And if you look at my last paragrpaph I am not producing a theory which actually gonna contradict experiments. Theory is an explanation of experiments. But (almost?) any experiment can be explained differently, just like almost always there are two Turing machines with different instructions which actually are doing all the same. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 12:29
  • $\begingroup$ I would not equate, however, non-mainstream science and pseudoscience. For example, I have a model that actually rejects the notion of relativistic mass and says that faster moving objects are merely less susceptible to forces: if massive object would have a speed of light it would not be observable. This exactly contradicts mainstream science: my question on Physics.SE was close as non-mainstream science) however it is based on experiments. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 12:46
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    $\begingroup$ "if massive object would have a speed of light it would not be observable. This exactly contradicts mainstream science". But massive particles can't travel at the speed of light, so your "theory" already breaks observed science. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 26 '18 at 13:28

It is not possible for accurate predictions to be ignored, regardless of the source. Accurate predictions make money.

If the alt science folks claim to have antigravity and present persuasive evidence, their alt science will quickly be tested and if true, taken over by mainstream science. Unless they are savvy businesspeople, the alt folks with their funny beards will be left behind.

Example: faith healer develops water diet to cure children of epilepsy. Flaky-ass water diet actually seems to be curing children of epilepsy. The Mayo Clinic, perceiving the success but not believing the alternative philosophic grounding of it, evaluate the diet and figure out it is ketone bodies produced during starvation which is the anti seizure principle. They develop the ketogenic diet for childhood epilepsy. http://www.nevadaosteopathic.org/attachments/article/33/Lin%20Ketogenic%20Diet.pdf

Mainstream science has money and power at its disposal because mainstream science is a tool for those with money and power. The point of mainstream science is to make accurate models and predictions about the physical world. Accurate predictions make money. If my alternative theory is making accurate predictions, people interested more in money than in purity of theory will quickly evaluate and adopt the piece of the alternative theory which produces the accurate predictions.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, I actually do not see much progress in physics. The real progress now is computation, of course. It really allows to make money until technological process is possible. But regarding physics, there were many theories developed recently, actually no one really even tested. They are more like metaphysics than physics turns out to be. I am not even sure there is any practical use of ToE. And in developing (and therefore useful) sciences such as psychology I am not sure there is mainstream. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 2:01
  • $\begingroup$ "because the scientific method is a tool for those with money and power." I think this is a more accurate phrase. $\endgroup$ – RonJohn Aug 26 '18 at 2:53
  • $\begingroup$ Regardless, money and power are also where things get complicated. If money and power can be posited as the reason that truth comes out, it can also be posited as the reason why a truth might stay hidden. Even in an innovation hungry bottom-up culture like ours, science is still neccesarrily tied to industry, where leadership may be reluctant to admit error or and lose investments. But I suspect this is more of a worry in energy, earth science, and medicine than in theoretical physics, OP's focus. (And please note that I am regrettably not talking about anti-gravity.) $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 26 '18 at 3:15
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    $\begingroup$ Of course one difficulty is that "non-mainstream science" can mean anything from "I support a really unpopular model of the K-Pg extinction event" to "I can cure AIDS with crystals." So the lack of clarity there is bound to force any answer onto tricky ground. $\endgroup$ – Random Aug 26 '18 at 3:42
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    $\begingroup$ @rus9384 "But regarding physics, there were many theories developed recently, actually no one really even tested." Modern physics, including particle physics, is extraordinarily well tested. Providing some examples would help clarify what you're getting at. $\endgroup$ – Schwern Aug 26 '18 at 3:53

It depends on your definitions of "ignored," and "successful," I think. There is plenty of pseudoscience still floating around because it makes money, and plenty of perfectly sound science being brushed off because it doesn't make as much money.

First off, technologies could all be open source, but adequate means of production only belong to a handful of people. Just because there is some grand idea or invention that could revolutionize the world doesn't mean it's going to become inexpensive enough for anyone but the most powerful people to produce it. And if said invention unseats the power structure of these powerful people, why would they invest in it? Knowledge is power, and science is knowledge.

Take renewable energy, for instance. Plenty of countries (I'm reminded of Germany and Iceland, specifically) have found that combinations of geothermal, solar, wind, and other alternative power sources can be practical. Scientifically speaking, renewable energy sources are usually agreed to be better both for the world at large, and also for the company selling said energy (renewable energy means a more sustainable business model, hypothetically). However, because renewable energy sources unseat the oil monopoly, they have yet to see widespread international adoption. No one is going to invest in alternative energy sources if they're already making bank on the current energy infrastructure, and no one has the means to invest in said alternative energy except the people making bank. I once heard that you could power most of the U.S if you lined the west coast with power-generating buoys (I have no reference for that, though, so take that with a heaping grain of salt), but nobody's done that. Just because it's scientifically sound doesn't mean it will be adopted, or even accepted by the mainstream, even in the scientific world. I think it's fair to say there's a phenomenon where, if people see something hasn't been done, they will just assume it can't be.

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People openly rejected Galileo despite his proofs of helocentricity, and I don't think he was even the first to figure it out. Overturning mainstream science and belief is hard, remember the Pluto being not a planet controversy? I would say correct science will always prevail ~eventually~, but yes, flawed mainstream science will last for quite a while in some cases before being overturned.

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  • $\begingroup$ Well, the problem with Galileo discovery is that it actually did not result in real technological advance before being accepted. But actually even was no society to run technologies widely at his times. $\endgroup$ – rus9384 Aug 26 '18 at 1:52
  • $\begingroup$ @rus9384 I mean, it takes a while sometimes, but consider that Heliocentricity was rejected for years, but pluto being a planet or not was maybe challenged for a couple months, but mostly by non scientists. Successful theories will quickly become mainstream and disproved theories will be tossed. Anyone who chooses not to change will soon become non mainstream. $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Aug 26 '18 at 2:01
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    $\begingroup$ I'm not sure that the active scientific discussion (with Tycho Brahe over the lack of Stellar Parallax) and the lively political environment that exploded this discussion for it's own purposes makes this a good example of non-mainstream science being ignored. Seems rather the opposite. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Aug 26 '18 at 2:27
  • $\begingroup$ @user535733 Honestly don't know that many examples off the top of my head and just tried to find something simple. I know it wasn't the best example, but honestly I don't know of that many recent times where a major scientific fact was overturned. $\endgroup$ – Clay Deitas Aug 26 '18 at 2:52
  • $\begingroup$ The whole Pluto thing wasn't really even a question of science, it was a question of taxonomy. No data or facts about Pluto itself were revised or challenged, the dispute was entirely over what word to use to describe that combination of characteristics. $\endgroup$ – Dave Sherohman Aug 26 '18 at 9:13

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