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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #21 (Conclusion: Why Bother?)
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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #21 (Conclusion: Why Bother?)

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In short: Pseudoscience is often seen as trivial, but it is worth bothering about because: (a) it has direct and indirect costs; (b) it undermines the benefits of mass scientific literacy; and (c) it ...

In short: Pseudoscience is often seen as trivial, but it is worth bothering about because: (a) it has direct and indirect costs; (b) it undermines the benefits of mass scientific literacy; and (c) it is unethical.

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    Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #21 (Conclusion: Why Bother?) Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #21 (Conclusion: Why Bother?) Presentation Transcript

    • PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
    • Why bother?
    • Why bother? Direct costs of pseudoscience Misinformation costs Denial of genuine risks, e.g.: AIDS, cancer pseudoscience Poorly targeted public health campaigns Promise of illusory/non-existent benefits, e.g.: Facilitated communication (autism)
    • AIDS pseudoscience (a small sample) • AIDS is caused by recreational drug use, HIV is a “harmless passenger virus” (Duesberg, 1996) • Antiretroviral drugs actually cause AIDS (Duesberg, 1996) • The AIDS virus was engineered by the US military for use in bio-warfare and population control (various) • Natural remedies, such as liquorice, can be used to cure AIDS (various) • Major pharmaceutical corporations suppress knowledge about natural remedies for AIDS to protect profits (various) • The US government allows AIDS to spread in order to cull sections of its own population (Kramer, 1989) • AIDS as a disease doesn’t exist; it is a “social psychosis… a condition of the body politic” (Dean, 1993) • AIDS is a social construction; based on a metaphor for the ruling elite’s conspiracy to rid America of its minorities, the “threat to America’s immune system” (O’Neill, 1992)
    • Why bother? Direct costs of pseudoscience Misinformation costs Denial of genuine risks, e.g.: AIDS, cancer pseudoscience Poorly targeted public health campaigns Promise of illusory/non-existent benefits, e.g.: Facilitated communication (autism) Substantive costs Feasibility of fraud, e.g.: Fraudulent prognosticators, healers, confidence tricksters Adverse effects of untested services, e.g.: Past-life regression therapy, rebirthing therapy
    • Why bother? Indirect costs of pseudoscience Erosion of judgement competence Unwarranted scepticism toward all empirical knowledge Dismissal of global warming Holocaust denial Immigration scare- mongering Reactionary responses to economic recession
    • September 2002 Iraq has biological and chemical WMD stockpiles Iraq has the capacity to deploy WMD within 45 minutes of an order Iraq has “sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa”All claims subsequently demonstrated to be false http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_Dossier
    • Gordon Brown, 2005, calledfor a “Marshall Plan” for theworld’s poor $2.3 trillion spent on aid over last 50 years 5 million child malaria deaths annually; 12 cents each would prevent themJuly 16, 2005, 9 millioncopies of sixth Harry Potterbook delivered toconsumers on the same day No shortages‘Planners’ vs. ‘searchers’
    • Benefits of scientific literacy Benefits to individuals Better personal decision-making Less susceptible to bogus products/services Benefits to civic governance Discerning, critically engaged voters More rigorous challenging of social norms Benefits to the national economy Discerning, critically engaged consumers Benefits to knowledge-makers ‘Buy-in’ from stakeholders
    • Carl Sagan (1934-1996)“Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” (1980)
    • Conclusion:Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience
    • Conclusion:Why psychologists should careabout pseudoscience Pseudoscience exists in a psychological context Ethical prerogatives demand scepticism from psychologists Psychologists hold influence over public opinion
    • Extracts from the Psychological Society of Ireland’sCode of Professional Ethics “Psychologists are scientist-practitioners—that is, their professional practice is grounded in a body of scientific knowledge” (Preamble) “The authority of psychologists derives from the scientific methods of investigation on which their knowledge is based” (Preamble) Psychologists must “participate in and contribute to continuing education and their own and colleagues’ professional and scientific growth” (Sect. 2.4.2) “Psychologists shall be aware of their professional and scientific responsibilities to clients, to the community, and to the society in which they work and live” (Sect. 3.0) Psychologists must “ensure that they maintain the highest standards of scientific integrity in their research” (Sect. 3.2.2) Psychologists must “facilitate the professional and scientific development of those whose work they supervise” (Sect. 3.5.2) Psychologists must “clearly differentiate facts, opinions, theories, hypotheses, and ideas” (Sect. 4.2.5)
    • PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes