“What Is Pseudoscience?: Scientific American”

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So far so good from Michael Shermer, writing at Scientific American, as he quotes Michael D. Gordin in an excellent, pithy analysis:

“individual scientists (as distinct from the monolithic ‘scientific community’) designate a doctrine a ‘pseudoscience’ only when they perceive themselves to be threatened—not necessarily by the new ideas themselves, but by what those ideas represent about the authority of science, science’s access to resources, or some other broader social trend.

[From What Is Pseudoscience?: Scientific American]

But after that it goes downhill:

I call creationism “pseudoscience” not because its proponents are doing bad science—they are not doing science at all—but because they threaten science education in America, they breach the wall separating church and state, and they confuse the public about the nature of evolutionary theory and how science is conducted.

I call Shermer, editor of some supposed magazine on skepticism, a lousy example of a skeptic. He has not applied sufficient critical analysis to claims that there is no creationist science (especially considering that he lumps Intelligent Design in with “creationism”); he has not taken a sufficiently evidence-oriented look at claims that “creationists” threaten science education; he has ignored the relevant evidence concerning “creationism” and church and state; and he is standing in the way of Intelligent Design’s skepticism toward evolutionary theory. All that in one sentence!

The Gordin book he quotes from sure sounds interesting, though!

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13 Responses to “ “What Is Pseudoscience?: Scientific American” ”

  1. My bad. I misunderstood. Thanks for straightening me out.

    I will straightaway accept their definition of skepticism with the proper and expected refusal to question the received wisdom that they offer. That way I can be a good skeptic too.

  2. @SteveK…. How fascinating! They’re rebranding ID by calling it “design detection”. I wonder if anyone will make the connection to how humans love to see patterns in just about everything, and often (selectively) seeing only what they want to see – the Bible Code being a good case of that!

    Frankly, though, if Michael Behe and his “specified complexity” couldn’t make the case that ID was legitimate science to Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, then why should I believe otherwise? ID was ruled religion, and religion doesn’t belong in our science classrooms.

  3. Can you personally detect designed objects, Sault? I don’t see how it’s considered religion to say that something appears designed. That’s quite a broad definition of religion. By that definition some atheists are religious.

  4. I actually come from Facebook, but who’s counting, right?

    From http://www.intelligentdesignnetwork.org/ :

    In a broader sense, Intelligent Design is simply the science of design detection

    (it really is brilliant marketing, though)

    We humans are phenomenal pattern detectors, but it is very easy for us to see patterns where there are none.

    What are the methods for determining design? Is there a metric for complexity, a threshold beyond which design is the only possible origin? How do we differentiate between natural phenomenon like emergence or self-correlation and intelligent design? How do we quantify what it means to be intelligent, since we are the only truly sapient beings that we know of?

    These are important questions… have they been answered? Can someone point me towards a resource that will help cure me of my “pure, distilled ignorance”?

    (any doubt that ID is inextricably linked to religion was dispersed when I learned about the Wedge Document… but this is about science, not plots and schemes)

  5. By the way, Sault, I’m curious who put that link to my blog on Facebook. My logs can’t deliver that much detail. Would you mind letting me know so I can thank the person? Thanks.

    Whoever it is, they do have some power to drive traffic. If somehow it’s my own page, then it’s still a mystery how that page attracted that many visitors.

  6. Sault,

    What are the methods for determining design?

    I’ll ask it again. Can you personally detect designed objects, Sault? I know the answer, I just want to see you type it out.

  7. @SteveK… Ok. I have the general belief that I can discern between things that humans make and things that humans don’t make, at least most of the time.

    @Tom… I am actually serious. The concept that we can scientifically determine what is “designed” and what isn’t is an interesting idea. I am skeptical because I have seen nothing remotely scientific at the ID/Creationist websites that I have stumbled across. No math, no formal definitions, no metrics, etc. The only thing I’ve been pointed at that even attempted to do so was Dr. Gitt’s “In the Beginning Was Information”, and I have been rather biased because of how poorly it was written and how much it relied upon an argument from incredulity than anything else.

    So yeah, if you’ve got something better, please point me to it. I gave ItBWI a good three or four days of study and I’m willing to do the same with just about any other document.

    Oh yeah, and it looks like you figured out where the link came from. *grin*

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