I just grabbed the first article I found on the steel but as a follow up, his process was taken out of state to Ohio I believe and duplicated there at a university. I had read a brief followup where they described what they thin k is happening and it does appear to be effective as a principle--not as a fluke. (He doesn't have magic ore or a enchanted furnace--he buys ore on the market like everyone else).
Methods similar to his (but not the same) had been tried a few times but it was determined they were scientifically "not possible" for producing an effect so no one tried anymore.
And you're right, the guy was being scientific when he tested and measured his results--but he initiated the test based on his gut--not evidence and despite the fact that all the experts at that time said what he was doing wouldn't matter.
I actually am not a "believer" in the ESP stuff but I'm not a disbeliever either. No problem with me if someone wants to work at proving its true and seemingly positive results don't threaten me. Would everyone who believes in telekinesis please raise my hand right now.
I am familiar with Feynman's speech and agree with both you and he there. But there are counterpoints to that as well. The American medical scene for decades dismissed all forms of herbal and holistic remedies--such as Chinese herbal medicines, aloe vera testimonials and chiropractic patient's endorsements. Turns out, all of them had something to them. Sure, there were quacks, and superstitions and ridiculous beliefs as to how or why the worked but mixed within were some efficacious treatments and medicines.
I can testify to aloe vera for example. When it first began to be touted, the AMA called it a placebo and cautioned against using it on wounds and burns for fear of infection or allergic reaction. They did nothing to really study it at first and then the first studies were simply to "prove they didn't work"--they were bad science.
I had just come back from overseas and knew none of this...not to mention I didn't even know what aloe vera was at the time. I was cooking bacon and grease splattered very badly on my hand leaving a half-dollar sized blister. My aunt snapped the tip off a plant and smeared sap from it onto the burn--while I called her crazy and tried to jerk my hand away. The burn vanished almost instantly. How did professional medical doctors miss that? Bias and presumption influenced by the "accepted thinking of the day". Afterwards, I heard an interview with an AMA representative cautioning people about trying things like aloe vera "just because someone said it worked". I nearly fell from my chair laughing.
This sort of thing is the result of too much unquestioning skepticism. The sort that dismisses the need to examine or test because they "know it can't be right". Scientific groups have a record of building heavy institutional beliefs that just need someone to come along every now and then and whack at with a sledgehammer.
At the end of WWII the Russians were playing catch-up with the US technologically. They began by stealing and copying anything from us they could get their hands on. In areas where they lacked infrastructure or experience, they'd often tell their scientists, "Find a way to do that!"--whether it was possible or not. The Soviets developed several things out of necessity that we had assumed couldn't be done any way than how we had learned to do them. A notable example is the supersonic torpedo. their's didn't steer well and wasn't practical but until in just the last few years their torpedoes had twice the speed and warhead of our own here in the US. The science they discovered is now just starting to be used practically and will revolutionize undersea warfare--all with "impossible" technology.
There has to be a venue somewhere for the intuitive or desperate guess theory. Without this, stagnation occurs or you have to wait for a lab accident someone notices the results of.
Think about why so many breakthroughs occur during wars--experimenters are willing to try things in peacetime they would never do.