Lecture 1_ Science and Pseudoscience by malj


									               Lecture 1:
       Science and Pseudoscience

 1.   Science
 2.   Protoscience
 3.   Pseudoscience
 4.   Pathological Science
 5.   Fraud in Science
 6.   Conclusions
 No clear set of defining characteristics
  to differentiate science from non-
 Karl Popper's notion of falsifiability is
  important ...
Marxism - non-falsifiable?
Psychoanalysis -
    Benchmarks of Science
 “Good science” can be thought of as
  meeting a number of benchmarks.
 Not all sciences, particularly social
  sciences, meet all of the benchmarks
  fully (Edge et al, 1986).
 Parapsychology will be considered
  against some of these benchmarks in a
  subsequent lecture.
   Stent (1972) defines prematurity in
    science as follows: “A discovery is
    premature if its implications cannot be
    connected by a series of simple logical
    steps to canonical, or generally
    accepted, knowledge”
   Alfred Wegener:
Continental Drift (1912)
       Thomas Kuhn’s
    Scientific Revolutions
 Importance of paradigms (or the
  disciplinary matrix)
 Normal vs. revolutionary science
 Will parapsychology force a paradigm
The roots of chemistry
The roots of physics
The roots of astronomy?
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
   (1) Non-falsifiability - e.g., aspects of
    Creationism . . .
Geological and Fossil
Light from distant stars?
Tree rings in the Garden of
Work of God … or Satan?
    Conspiracy Theories
 Government and military cover-ups of
 Ritualised Satanic child abuse ...
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
(2) The “grab-bag” approach to evidence:

 “Pseudoscientists have the attitude that
 sheer quantity of evidence makes up for
 any deficiency in the quality of
 individual pieces of evidence. They pile
 up prodigious amounts of questionable
 data in support of their pet theories.”
 “Books on UFOs report
sighting after sighting of
  mysterious objects.”
   “Charles Berlitz and his
 Bermuda triangle followers
give case after case of ships
  and planes disappearing
      without a trace.”
“Von Daniken trots out artifact
 after artifact in support of his
        hypothesis about
  extraterrestrial visitation in
         ancient times.”
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
 (3) “Looking for mysteries”: The
  assumption that if conventional
  theorists cannot supply completely
  watertight explanations for every single
  case that is put before them, then they
  should admit that the pseudoscientific
  claim is valid.
 Is this reasonable?
Reluctance to allow critical
     investigation ...
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
   (4) Excessive reliance upon ancient
    myths and legends as being literally
    true ...
Von Daniken and Elijah ...
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
   (5) Argument from the basis of
    “spurious similarity” ...
Radner & Radner’s (1982)
“Marks of Pseudoscience”
   (6) Refusal to revise ideas in the light of
    criticism ...
Mario Bunge’s (1980) criteria
    for a Pseudoscience
     its theory of knowledge is subjectivistic,
      containing aspects accessible only to the
     its formal background is modest, with
      only rare involvement of mathematics or
     its fund of knowledge contains
      untestable or even false hypotheses
      which are in conflict with a larger body
      of knowledge
Mario Bunge’s (1980) criteria
for a Pseudoscience (cont.)
 its methods are neither checkable by
  alternative methods nor justifiable in
  terms of well-confirmed theories
 it borrows nothing from neighbouring
  fields, there is no overlap with another
  field of research
Mario Bunge’s (1980) criteria
for a Pseudoscience (cont.)
   it has no specific background of relatively
    confirmed theories
   it has an unchanging body of belief, whereas
    scientific enquiry teems with novelty
   it has a world-view admitting immaterial
    entities, such as disembodied minds, whereas
    science countenances only changing concrete
          Pathological Science

   Wolpert (1992) summarizes Langmuir's
    criteria for pathological science as follows:
         the maximum effect observed is very
          small, near the limit of detectability
         the magnitude of the effect seems
          independent of the cause
         claims of great accuracy

         usually a fantastic theory

         criticisms are met by ad hoc excuses.
          Examples of
      Pathological Science
   The “canals” of Mars - Schiaparelli,
    1877; then Flammarion and Lowell
         Blondlot’s N-rays
   Discovered in 1903
    – increased the brightness of electrical spark
    – emitted by Sun, flames and incandescent
      objects, as well as the nervous system
    – “secondary sources” of N-rays, such as the
      fluid in the eye, would absorb N-rays and
      re-emit them
   Dozens of replications, but ...
       N-rays don’t exist!
   As shown by Robert Wood, American
 Discovered by Russian scientists in
 Hundreds of papers published
 Unusual properties probably caused by
  impurities in ordinary water!
   Based upon two principles:
    – Like cures like
    – Dilution INCREASES potency
     Martin Gardner (1991)
   A moderate homeopathic dose, called
    "30 c," is arrived at by first diluting the
    drug to a hundredth part and then
    repeating the process 30 times. As
    someone pointed out, it is like taking a
    grain of a substance and dissolving it in
    billions of spheres of water, each with
    the diameter of the solar system.
    Benveniste et al. (1988)
 Reported effects of an antiserum when
  diluted to one part in 10120
 Cf. 1020 stars in the universe!
 Replication attempt under the scrutiny
  of a team from Nature:
    – John Maddox (editor)
    – Walter Stewart (chemist, expert in fraud)
    – James Randi (conjuror and sceptic)
            Critical Report
   The series of experiments were:
    – statistically ill-controlled
    – subject to systematic error including observer bias
    – data which did not fit the hypothesis had been
      simply excluded
   BBC’s Horizon reported a update on this case,
    including another failed attempt at replication
     Cold Fusion (1989)
 “Cold fusion” refers to the release of
  energy from the fusion of deuterium
  nuclei within a palladium electrode at
  room temperature.
 Reported by B. Stanley Pons and Martin
  Fleischmann, chemists at the University
  of Utah, on 23 March 1989
 Replication attempts failed
             Common Themes
   1) the adoption of various strategies to
    render the original claims non-falsifiable;

   2) the influence of human bias, allowing
    investigators to fool themselves (and
    others) into seeing what they want to

   3) a tendency to bypass the usual
    channels of dissemination for scientific
    results with prior release directly to the
    world's media.
       Fraud in Science
 A problem in all areas of science (Broad
  & Wade, 1982)
 Not all cases are clear-cut
     Conclusion 1

Universally acceptable criteria to
 distinguish science from non-science do
 not exist. It may be more useful to think
 in terms of a number of benchmarks of
 “good science” vs “bad science” and to
 recognise that fields of intellectual
 activity will vary with respect to the
 degree to which they meet these
     Conclusion 2
Similarly, it has not proved possible to
 produce sets of non-problematic criteria
 to clearly and unambiguously
 characterise fields as “pseudosciences”.
 Although certain common themes run
 through most such attempts, it is
 notable that different commentators
 often produce radically different sets of
 allegedly defining features.
     Conclusion 3
Consideration of these issues is useful,
 however, in that it casts light upon the
 human face of science and may serve to
 alert us to the ever-present dangers of
 our own biases.
With thanks to Hilary Evans, proprietor of
 the Mary Evans Picture Library, for
 permission to use illustrations featured
 in this presentation. These illustrations
 must not be reproduced in any form
 without permission from the Mary Evans
 Picture Library.

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