How to distinguish a true scientist from a wannabe cosmologist

The internet has enabled communication on a scale never before seen. For the most part, that's a good thing. Unfortunately, it comes at the price of the usual proportion of human mendacity.

It has become fashionable for some bloggers to pass themselves off as authorities on subjects they know nothing about.

When it comes to cosmology, there is a simple test to distinguish the wannabes from true scientists. Just like the void-kampf test to distinguish replicants from humans in Blade Runner. Even better, it takes only a single question:

Describe in single words only the good things that come into your mind about MOND. Let me tell you about MOND!

A true scientist will give a cautious answer laced with appropriate caveats.

A wannabe will answer with a hail of emotional vitriol.

I write this as a joke, obviously. But joking about it makes me reflect on just how personal (and ad hominem) some of the debate over dark matter and MOND can become. While this should be an objective matter of science, I find that people's reaction to the subect (and to me as a scientist) is strangely colored by personal history.

Scientists who knew me "before MOND" treat my opinion with respect and dignity, even if they disagree. They know me well enough to realize that my interest in the subject is not the intellectual bender of some crackpot. (I'm sure I've said this elsewhere, but WHY would I do that? It brings me nothing but grief.) Those who do not know me personally, or worse, only know of me because of MOND, seem to be very quick and eager to dismiss everything without a second thought. One colleague reported an anecdote about how the mere mention of my name sufficed to send a prominent cosmologist into a frenzy of name-calling. He wasn't one of those who knew me before MOND.

If people like this bothered to learn something about the subject, they might see that there is merit in the case. They can never have that epiphany if they refuse to consider the possibility. I'm not saying MOND has to be right, but the matter does warrant objective investigation. I've tried to do just that, and yet find myself accused of the opposite, like ignoring topics (e.g., the CMB) that I've written enitre papers on.

The emotion surrounding this subject is not a healthy thing for science.