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Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science

[ mexika.org ] via Science Based Medicine

We live in a post-truth, anti-intellectual world where intuition, “common sense,” and fake news are often preferred to scientific evidence and where pseudoscience is often presented as valid science. Assuming that truth exists and is worth searching for, and that science is our most reliable tool in that search, how can we identify pseudoscience and combat it effectively?

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Allison B. Kaufman and James C. Kaufman have edited a collection of articles with the title pseudoscience: the conspiracy against science. The contributors are experts in various fields who have different approaches to the subject. The result is an invaluable volume that examines the cognitive biases that lead to pseudoscience, the history of pseudoscience, the reasons for its wide acceptance, how it is endangering our society, how to recognize it, and how we might reduce its impact.

In the first chapter, David Hecht argues that understanding pseudoscience is as important as debunking it. Science and pseudoscience are opposite ends of one spectrum; we can easily identify the extremes, but there is no clear line separating them. Pseudoscientific beliefs are not as random or indefensible as they seem, and science is not as objective and detached as we would like to think. Science is powerful but imperfect; and until we understand its limitations, we shouldn’t condemn those who choose not to trust it. We must avoid dogmatism and remember that scientific knowledge is always provisional.

In a chapter titled “The Psychology of (Pseudo) Science: Cognitive, Social, and Cultural Factors,” Emilio Lobato and Corinne Zimmerman show that pseudoscientific and scientific beliefs are essentially formed in the same way and are subject to the same cognitive biases and social influences. In a chapter on “The Illusion of Causality: A Cognitive Bias Underlying Pseudoscience,” Fernando Blanco and Helena Matute explain the psychology of causal illusions and argue that they are one of the central problems underlying pseudoscience. Other chapters discuss what pseudoscience costs society, factors that affect scientific soundness, pseudoscience in the mainstream, and science activism.

David Gorski explains how the misguided concept of “integrative” medicine has allowed the infiltration of quackery into academia, taking advantage of the blind spot of evidence-based medicine: biological plausibility. Britt Marie Hermes, a former naturopath turned whistleblower, deconstructs the core principles of naturopathy. Kevin Folta examines the weapons and tactics in the war on crop biotechnology. Chad Orzel argues that scientific failures like cold fusion and the report of faster-than-light neutrinos are a good thing: they demonstrate how science responds to criticism and corrects its mistakes, while pseudoscience fails to engage meaningfully with criticism. Other chapters examine the science and pseudoscience behind the anti-vaccine movement, IQ tests, hypnosis, parapsychology, AIDS denialism, over-protection of children, and the challenges of changing minds. There is an excellent discussion of predatory journals and the failures of peer review. And much more.

Indre Viskontas shows how confirmation bias and pattern recognition affect our search for meaning, and she explains the multiple comparisons issue. In neuroimaging, “By setting a statistical threshold fairly low and not correcting for multiple comparisons, one can find activation in virtually any part of the brain during any task.”

ENTIRE ARTICLE AVAILABLE HERE.

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Kurly Tlapoyawa is an archaeologist, author, and ethnohistorian. His research focuses primarily on the interaction between Mesoamerica, Western Mexico, and the American Southwest. Kurly has lectured at UNLV, University of Houston, and Yale University on topics related to Mesoamerica. His recent book, “Our Slippery Earth: Nawa Philosophy in the Modern Age” was published in 2017. In addition to his work in Archaeology and Ethnohistory, Kurly is a professional stuntman with over 35 credits to his name.

Follow Kurly on twitter @KurlyTlapoyawa

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