Friday, October 10, 2014

Are pseudoskeptics harming science's reputation?

Source: Wikipedia- Pseudoskepticism

Psychiatrist Richard Kluft noted that pseudoskepticism can inhibit research progress:

".. today genuine skepticism of the benign sort that looks evenly in all directions and encourages the advancement of knowledge seems vanishingly rare. Instead, we find a prevalence of pseudo-skepticism consisting of harsh and invidious skepticism toward one's opponents' points of view and observations, and egregious self-congratulatory confirmatory bias toward one's own stances and findings misrepresented as the earnest and dispassionate pursuit of clinical, scholarly, and scientific truth."

David Leiter, a member of the Society for Scientific Exploration, uses the terms 'pseudo-skepticism' and 'pathological skepticism' to refer to the "organized skepticism" he found in one group he had encountered. 

Leiter claimed that many of its members had an "unfortunate experience with a faith-based philosophy" at an earlier period in their lives, and that they had sought an organized skeptical group as a reaction to this. "  Instead of becoming scientifically minded, they become adherents of scientism, the belief system in which science and only science has all the answers to everything" and that even many of these members are unwilling to spend the time to "read significantly into the literature on the subjects about which they are most skeptical". He goes on to characterize members of skeptical organizations as "scientifically inclined, but psychologically scarred."

Susan Blackmore, who lost her initial belief in parapsychology and in 1991 became a CSICOP fellow, later described what she termed the "worst kind of pseudoskepticism":

"There are some members of the skeptics’ groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion."

Truzzi attributed the following characteristics to pseudoskeptics:
  1. Denying, when only doubt has been established
  2. Double standards in the application of criticism
  3. The tendency to discredit rather than investigate
  4. Presenting insufficient evidence or proof
  5. Assuming criticism requires no burden of proof
  6. Making unsubstantiated counter-claims
  7. Counter-claims based on plausibility rather than empirical evidence
  8. Suggesting that unconvincing evidence provides grounds for completely dismissing a claim

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