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Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience. In this tutorial you will learn to distinguish genuine scientific thinking from pseudoscientific thinking. Chapter 15.

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distinguishing science from pseudoscience

Distinguishing Science from Pseudoscience

In this tutorial you will learn to distinguish genuine scientific thinking from pseudoscientific thinking.

Chapter 15

slide2
Pseudoscience is false science--that is, unscientific thinking masquerading as scientific thinking. It is thinking that poses as scientific but is, in fact, faithless to science\'s fundamental methods and values.
  • Genuine science:
  • makes claims that are testable
  • makes claims that are consistent with well-established scientific facts
  • confronts falsifying data openly and honestly, rather than ignoring it or explaining it away
slide3

avoids vague language

  • is progressive
  • is committed to an active, ongoing program of research

Based on what you\'ve learned in Chapter 15, explain why

the following passages are not examples of scientific

thinking.

slide4

I called a psychic hotline last week, and I was really amazed! The psychic told me I had money troubles, and that\'s true; I do have a lot of credit card debt. She also told me that I\'m dissatisfied with my love life; and that\'s also true; my boyfriend and I recently broke up. I guess there really is something to psychic hotlines!

In what ways does this passage reflect pseudoscientific thinking?

slide5

I called a psychic hotline last week, and I was really amazed! The psychic told me I had money troubles, and that\'s true; I do have a lot of credit card debt. She also told me that I\'m dissatisfied with my love life; and that\'s also true; my boyfriend and I recently broke up. I guess there really is something to psychic hotlines!

The speaker has fallen prey to the Barnum effect.

The Barnum effect refers to the tendency to interpret vague, general predictions or personality descriptions as applying specifically to oneself.

Most people who call psychic hotlines are troubled or unhappy about something in their lives. It doesn\'t require "psychic ability" to guess that a particular caller may have concerns about money, love, or both.

slide6

Professor Stanton has suggested that we conduct controlled studies to test my claim that runners who stretch before they run suffer fewer injuries. This would be like conducting controlled studies to determine whether fish live in water. It\'s just common sense to suppose that runners who stretch have more limber muscles, and thus suffer fewer injuries.

In what ways does this passage reflect pseudoscientific thinking?

slide7

Professor Stanton has suggested that we conduct controlled studies to test my claim that runners who stretch before they run suffer fewer injuries. This would be like conducting controlled studies to determine whether fish live in water. It\'s just common sense to suppose that runners who stretch have more limber muscles, and thus suffer fewer injuries.

The speaker displays a pseudoscientific attitude by refusing to subject his "common sense" claim to scientific testing.

Many so-called common sense beliefs have been proved false by science.

In fact, while the evidence is mixed, several recent scientific studies have found that stretching prior to running does not improve flexibility or reduce the risk of injuries.

slide8

Psychic aura reader: I can tell what kinds of emotions you are experiencing by reading your psychic aura--an egg-shaped, multi-colored psychic radiation or emanation that surrounds you.Zoe: OK, what am I feeling right now?Psychic aura reader: You are happy and contented.Zoe: Wrong. My cat Schroedinger got run over this morning. I feel sad and bereft.Psychic aura reader: You only think you feel sad and bereft. Subconsciously, you are pleased that your cat got run over.

In what ways does this passage reflect pseudoscientific thinking?

slide9

Psychic aura reader: I can tell what kinds of emotions you are experiencing by reading your psychic aura--an egg-shaped, multi-colored psychic radiation or emanation that surrounds you.Zoe: OK, what am I feeling right now?Psychic aura reader: You are happy and contented.Zoe: Wrong. My cat Schroedinger got run over this morning. I feel sad and bereft.Psychic aura reader: You only think you feel sad and bereft. Subconsciously, you are pleased that your cat got run over.

The aura reader is seeking to explain away falsifying data.

slide10

Psychic aura reader: I can tell what kinds of emotions you are experiencing by reading your psychic aura--an egg-shaped, multi-colored psychic radiation or emanation that surrounds you.Zoe: OK, what am I feeling right now?Psychic aura reader: You are happy and contented.Zoe: Wrong. My cat Schroedinger got run over this morning. I feel sad and bereft.Psychic aura reader: You only think you feel sad and bereft. Subconsciously, you are pleased that your cat got run over.

Instead of candidly acknowledging that Zoe\'s remarks constitute strong evidence against his professed psychic abilities, the aura reader seeks to explain away that evidence by offering an implausible alternative explanation.

Genuine science, on the other hand, actively seeks out and welcomes falsifying evidence, since scientists know that this is how the greatest scientific advances are achieved.

slide11
In what ways does this passage reflect pseudoscientific

thinking?

Anthropology and other social sciences have shown that there is wide cross-cultural disagreement about what is ethical or moral. Some cultures, for example, consider polygamy to be immoral, while others do not. Thus, science has shown that morality is culturally relative; there is no "absolute" or "objective" right or wrong.

slide12
[This is the end of the tutorial]

Anthropology and other social sciences have shown that there is wide cross-cultural disagreement about what is ethical or moral. Some cultures, for example, consider polygamy to be immoral, while others do not. Thus, science has shown that morality is culturally relative; there is no "absolute" or "objective" right or wrong.

This speaker is confused about what science can and cannot establish.

Science may be able to show that there is, in fact, wide cross-cultural disagreement about ethics. This is a factual question that can be investigated scientifically. However, science cannot show that there are no "absolute" or "objective" moral truths. This is a normative or value question that cannot be settled by any conceivable scientific observation or experiment.

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