Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Climate Change verses the deniers. Evolution verses creationism and intelligent design. Why does this have to be about denial or scientific understanding? Why are people called stupid, incompetent, or worse?

Belief in hooey is just  the tendency for a social group to hold a common belief even when there is no verifyable evidence. You don't believe in Intelligent Design (ID) because it makes sense. You believe in ID because your buddies in the church or Fox News believe it.

ID came from cognitive dissonance  and a little creativity.  When fairy tales proved too difficult to sell at school board meetings, something had to give . Smooth sailing once you are using the same science speak as the science group. It also helps to vote in your church friends. Nobody is incompetent, just following the groupthink of their peers.

Look at any religion and/or cult. They are populated by learned people and even scientists. They belie

Why do you think you root for your home town sports team? Why is the best? Because it's your team, your town, your people (even if they were from out of town and are paid millions to throw a ball or slap a puck in said town).

This is our greatest issue with pseudoscientific beliefs. They are social and thus can only be defanged by  destroying a person's need to belong to a social group. Because of media we have things bigger and looser than religion. Look at climate change which creates a debate where people gravitate to the side they best identify with rather than examining the facts or trusting a scientist verses other sources.

Back to Climate Change and Evolution. Do you believe because of the evidence? Or, is it because you know a lot of people that also believe or consider yourself as part of the same social group? Have you ever written a peer reviewed paper on climate change? Odds are you have just read some articles or maybe heard Al give his talk. Maybe you are a Democrat? We don't think it is because you are an expert. We don't just need facts.

When did we start believing the Earth was round and revolved around the Sun? There was a lot of socialization and a few dead heretics.

Can you convince someone to discard a fantasy? Yes, but you need to do more than argue facts. A deprogrammer is the best example, though a little more mentally violent an application than we generally accept. The social group has to be challenged, not just the belief. Deprogramming does have its good points. The fact that the Flying Spaghetti Monster doesn't exist is less than the doctoral priest and the henchmen.  Easier to poke holes in something real rather than a belief. This works both ways which is why scientist are demonized by people that believe in demons.

Until the social group can be changed, no argument, no matter how scientific, will sway the herd. There is a tipping point that I don't pretend to understand, but can be seen with the Copernican Revolution. Sadly there is also a revolution in  pseudoscience as can be seen with the resurgence of fundamentalists and politics around climate change - or are those both politics? Look up 'social proof' on wikipedia. 

The problem is that you need sheep to make a flock. How do we create sheep that as a group don't believe arguments based on logical fallacies?

Is there an anti-pseudoscience? Apparently there is. The proof is that we can say the Earth revolves around the Sun and nobody gets tortured.  If you know the secret, comment below!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

There's Always Another Opinion

Watching the History channel today and the wonderful show, Brad Meltzer's Decoded. Why? Because it is some of the greatest pseudoscience on TV. We must learn from the best!

So, why is this show pseudoscience? One concept: Everybody has an opinion. It is so easy to have an opinion and this show goes out of its way to find the most extreme opinions.  In normal science and historical inquiry, you research and present the evidence that is well tested and confirmed. With opinion, you state your idea and if the evidence does not add up, chalk it up to a conspiracy to hide the truth.

Why base a history show on a set of opinions? Easy, the crazy train is much more fun than plain history.

Let's look at the show on the Statue of Liberty for where they seemed to look more for squirrels with loose nuts than historians. The premiss starts with the statement that there are hidden symbols built into the statue. Of course they did spend about 5 minutes talking with legitimate historians. Nothing exciting. But then they looked for the wacko fringe.

The bizarre circus freaks range from numerologists, someone that believed the statue was the devil, another that believed that the statue represents secret messages to those that would rule the world. Throw in that the artist behind the statue was a freaky mother loving Oedipus sex maniac because he used the face of his mom as inspiration and his girlfriend's body. In our opinion here at Boys Books, the only evidence that added up was the numerologist (they always do).

In the end, the investigators of the Statue of Liberty fond the most important fact, there are a lot of opinions.... Yep, oh and it wasn't the devil, but lucifer (not big L Lucifer, but the little l as in the light bearer.

Science or pseudoscience? Simple way to test: How entertaining was the show? Very entertaining! Must be pseudoscience!

Statue of Liberty. [Internet]. 2011. The History Channel website. Available from: http://www.history.com/shows/brad-meltzers-decoded/episodes/episodes-guide [Accessed 1 Jan 2011].