Voodoo science the road from foolishness to fraud
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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud. By Robert L. Park. About the Author: Robert Park. Born in Kansas City, MO in 1931 Obtained BA and MA at University of Texas Austin Received Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University

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Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

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Voodoo science the road from foolishness to fraud

Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to Fraud

By Robert L. Park


About the author robert park

About the Author: Robert Park

  • Born in Kansas City, MO in 1931

  • Obtained BA and MA at University of Texas Austin

  • Received Ph.D. in Physics from Brown University

  • Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, College Park

  • Former Director of the American Physical Society

    Intended Audience:

  • We can infer that it’s for non-scholars, though he doesn’t explicitly say that in the preface.

    • “I had no interest in writing a scholarly book to be read only by other scholars…” (p. ix)


Why did park write this book

Why did Park write this book?

  • Decrease in public support of science after the Vietnam War

  • Few of the major societal problems can be addressed without input from science

  • People tend to judge science according to whether or not it agrees with what they already believe


Categories of voodoo science

Categories of Voodoo Science

  • Junk science

    • Deliberately designed to fool nonscientists, specifically juries

  • Pathological science

    • Results from scientists fooling themselves

  • Pseudoscience

    • Practitioners truly believe it; often fills in uncertainties with political/religious convictions

  • Fraudulent science

    • Intends to deceive; knowingly deceives, but rarely starts out as fraud


Science and the media

Science and the Media

  • Crucial because media is often our first exposure to an idea

  • Beware of the “Talking Heads”

  • Narrative v. Numbers

  • Information informs beliefs or beliefs inform information?


What we already believe

What we already believe

  • Forcing the outcome

    • “The most common of all follies is to believe passionately in the palpably untrue.” –Mencken

  • Worldview matters

    • The Climate Debate: full of gaps that are filled with religious and political views

  • Where beliefs begin

    • We make connections prematurely


Vitamin o about 33 per 4oz bottle

Vitamin O…About $33 per 4oz. bottle


From homeopathic treatment to outer space

From homeopathic treatment to outer space

  • People want to believe that natural medicine and science will converge

  • People want to keep the dream of a space station alive, regardless of what’s practical

  • Politicians v. Scientists

    • Scientists: advances slowly most if the time and designed to take advantage of what has just been learned

    • Politicians: want to agree on a future and establish policies that will get us there


When things go to congress

When things go to Congress

  • We put money on the impossible

    • “Pascal’s Wager”

  • The politicians win with rhetoric


Joe newman and the energy machine

Joe Newman and the Energy Machine

“Scientists and inventors rarely set out to commit fraud”


Some things to take away

Some things to take away

  • We should not accept ideasuncritically or prematurely

  • We should assume that our worldview might conflict with our results to avoid “filling the gaps” of science

  • We should not mistake correlation with causation

  • We should seek advances, not miracles


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