Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #20 (Mystic, Postmod, Econ)

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In short: Popularity of pseudoscience may also result from a need for mysticism, the lobbying of postmodernists, or economic (cost-benefit) considerations.

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Psychology, Science, and Pseudoscience: Class #20 (Mystic, Postmod, Econ)

  1. 1. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes
  2. 2. Question:If pseudoscientific reasoning is flawed, then why is it so popular?
  3. 3. Why does pseudoscience prosper? Socio-cultural explanations Consolation Luddism Mysticism “The academic left” and postmodernism Economic explanations Incentives of pseudoscience
  4. 4. Socio-cultural explanations:Mysticism That pseudoscience benefits from people’s apparent wish to explain life (or at least parts of it) in terms of concepts for which there is no clear evidence
  5. 5. Percentage of Irish population Number of CAM providers perdeclaring a religious affiliation 10,000 population Hughes (2006), J Rel Health
  6. 6. 4.5 r = -.57** 4.0 p = .002CAM providers per 10,000 population 3.5 3.0 2.5 2.0 1.5 1.0 .5 0.0 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 Percentage religious Hughes (2006), J Rel Health
  7. 7. Why do some people prefer mysticism to science? Comfort in things that are “tried and tested” Change destabilizes homeostasis, threatens resources Mysticism is adaptive in evolutionary terms Promotes group solidarity, prosocial behavior Hard-wired into human brain? “Costly signaling” adaptation
  8. 8. Adaptiveness of mysticism(Sosis & Alcorta, 2003) Promotes group solidarity, enhances survival Minimises individual distinctiveness, emphasises unity Fosters commitment and loyalty Exemplifies “costly signalling” Mysticism advertises abundance of own resources Deters “free-riders”
  9. 9. Sosis (2000)
  10. 10. Sosis & Bressler (2003)
  11. 11. Socio-cultural explanations:“The academic left” and postmodernism That pseudoscience is promoted by some academic disciplines as a protest against the dominance of the traditional sciences
  12. 12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Highe http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Far_Superstition shionable_Nonsense
  13. 13. “The academic left” (Gross & Levitt, 1994)“an influential segment of the academic community…whose doctrinalidiosyncrasies sustain the misreadings of science…”, “unambiguously hostileto science”, “comprised, in the main, of humanists and social scientists”Branch of “Views science as…” Academic disciplines whereacademic left branch has prosperedPostmodernism “…a social construction, no more ‘true’ than Philosophy, literary criticism, other ways of knowing” social history, anthropologyMarxism “…a bourgeois manifestation of the capitalist Political science, economics order”Radical feminism “…poisoned and corrupted by an Philosophy, social anthropology, ineradicable gender bias” women’s studiesRadical “…a ‘Western’ pursuit, inherently inaccurate Ethnicity studies, various mono-multiculturalism by virtue of its failure to incorporate the full ethnic ‘studies’ range of cultural perspectives”Radical “…an embodiment of the alienation from the Philosophy, sociology, culturalenvironmentalism direct experience of nature that is studies, social history accelerating us toward our ecological doomsday”
  14. 14. The Sokal Affair (Alan Sokal, NYU)Sokal, A. (1996). Transgressing the boundaries:Towards a transformative hermeneutics ofquantum gravity. Social Text, 46/47, 217-252. • Argued that quantum theory had profound sociopolitical implications, but that an “emancipatory” science and mathematics should be developed to provide intellectual support for forward-looking political activistsSokal, A. (1996). A physicist experiments withcultural studies. Lingua Franca, 62-64. • Revealed the Social Text paper to be a fraud, to be based on nonsensical statements and factual errors, “a pastiche of left-wing cant, fawning references, grandiose quotations, and outright nonsense…structured around the silliest quotations I could find about mathematics and physics”
  15. 15. Economic explanations That, economically, pseudoscience presents both provider and consumer with (apparent) benefits that (apparently) outweigh (apparent) costs
  16. 16. Economic explanationsPseudoscience provides a belief-systemakin to a “low tax economy” Caplan (2001) – Empiricism serves as “a tax” on beliefs – Taking assertions “on faith” removes this tax – Consumers, when free to choose, will gravitate toward “low-tax” options
  17. 17. Economic explanations
  18. 18. Economic explanationsPrinciple of “rational ignorance” Downs (1957) – Low “private error costs” disincentivize knowledge – Ignorance becomes economicalPrinciple of “rational irrationality” Caplan (2001) –
  19. 19. Why does pseudoscience prosper? Socio-cultural explanations Consolation Luddism Mysticism “The academic left” and postmodernism Economic explanations Incentives of pseudoscience
  20. 20. PS409 Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience Dr Brian Hughes School of Psychologybrian.hughes@nuigalway.ie @b_m_hughes

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