Monday, February 03, 2014

where is the proof in pseudo-science?


physorg |  The word "pseudoscience" is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria.

This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which is to say it works), and pseudoscience attempts to ride on the back of this credibility without subjecting itself to the hard intellectual scrutiny that real science demands.

A good example of pseudoscience is homoeopathy, which presents the façade of a science-based medical practice but fails to adhere to scientific methodology.

Other things typically branded pseudoscience include astrology, young-Earth creationism, iridology, neuro-linguistic programming and water divining, to name but a few.

What's the difference?
Key distinctions between science and pseudoscience are often lost in discussion, and sometimes this makes the public acceptance of scientific findings harder than it should be.

For example, those who think the plural of anecdote is data may not appreciate why this is not scientific (indeed, it can have a proper role to play as a signpost for research).

Other misconceptions about science include what the definition of a theory is, what it means to prove something, how statistics should be used and the nature of evidence and falsification.

Because of these misconceptions, and the confusion they cause, it is sometimes useful to discuss science and pseudoscience in a way that focuses less on operational details and more on the broader functions of science.

What is knowledge?
The first and highest level at which science can be distinguished from pseudoscience involves how an area of study grows in knowledge and utility.

The philosopher John Dewey in his Theory of Inquiry said that we understand knowledge as that which is "so settled that it is available as a resource in further inquiry".

This is an excellent description of how we come to "know" something in science. It shows how existing knowledge can be used to form new hypotheses, develop new theories and hence create new knowledge.

6 comments:

BigDonOne said...

PsuedoSale on homes...only OneDollar. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/15/us/a-chance-to-own-a-home-for-1-in-a-city-on-the-ropes.html?_r=0

Tom said...

Still waiting for someone to post a link to an experiment linking IQ test scores to genetics, along with the resulting data.


(NB: Telling me to look for data myself in some pile of source material does not convince me that you know what you're talking about.)

ken said...

This is what happened...

"Grant and his colleagues say this happened around 500 million years ago as a result of a sudden increase in the number of brain genes possessed by our early invertebrate ancestors. The researchers say that these simple ocean-dwelling animals experienced a ℠genetic accident´ that resulted in an unintended multiplication in the number of brain genes that they possessed. In the millions of years that followed, these extra intelligence genes provided survival benefits to the animals that inherited them and gave rise to increasingly sophisticated behaviors. In humans, these abilities reached their peak with our unique abilities to analyze situations, understand abstract concepts and learn complicated skills.

The study results, which have been published as two papers in the journal Nature Neuroscience, also point to a direct link between the evolution of complex behavior and the origins of a number of brain disorders. The scientists say that the same genes that gave us our enhanced cognitive abilities are also to blame for a variety of common brain diseases.

This point 500 million years ago provided our ability to learn complex skills, analyse situations and have flexibility in the way in which we think.

Professor Seth Grant, of the University of Edinburgh, who led the research, said: "One of the greatest scientific problems is to explain how intelligence and complex behaviours arose during evolution."

The research, also shows a direct link between the evolution of behaviour and the origins of brain diseases. Scientists believe that the same genes that improved our mental capacity are also responsible for a number of brain disorders.

The research team studied the mental abilities of mice and humans, using comparative tasks that involved identifying objects on touch-screen computers.

Researchers then combined results of these behavioural tests with information from the genetic codes of various species to work out when different behaviours evolved.

They found that higher mental functions in humans and mice were controlled by the same genes.

The study showed that changes, or mutations, in these genes lead to learning problems in both mice and humans, as well as psychological disorders in humans, said Jeffrey Boore, the CEO of Genome Project Solutions, who was not involved in the study. That supports the notion that these genes "have diversified throughout evolution from their ancient duplications to perform important, specific, diverse roles in mammal cognition in behavior."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/12/121202164325.htm

ken said...

Perhaps this is the case Tom:

"Humans may be gradually losing intelligence, according to a new study.

The study, published today (Nov. 12) in the journal Trends in Genetics, argues that humans lost the evolutionary pressure to be smart once we started living in dense agricultural settlements several thousand years ago.

"The development of our intellectual abilities and the optimization of thousands of intelligence genes probably occurred in relatively non-verbal, dispersed groups of peoples [living] before our ancestors emerged from Africa," said study author Gerald Crabtree, a researcher at Stanford University, in a statement.

Since then it's all been downhill, Crabtree contends....

"A hunter-gatherer who did not correctly conceive a solution to providing food or shelter probably died, along with his/her progeny, whereas a modern Wall Street executive that made a similar conceptual mistake would receive a substantial bonus and be a more attractive mate. Clearly, extreme selection is a thing of the past," the researchers write in the journal article."

Here's your big punch line...

"The hypothesis is counterintuitive at first. After all, across the world theaverage IQ has increased dramatically over the last 100 years, a phenomenon known as the Flynn Effect. But most of that jump probably resulted from better prenatal care, better nutrition and reduced exposure to brain-stunting chemicals such as lead, Crabtree argues."

http://www.livescience.com/24713-humans-losing-intelligence.html

Tom said...

Ken,
It's theory not data, and it's far from what I'm asking for subject-wise as well.
But FWIW (not much) it sounds plausible to me. I think the intro to the big-screen comedy Idiocracy put the theoretical case pretty well.

Tom said...

Not as massively off-topic as the previous attempts in this discussion, but certainly not what I've been asking for. People are smarter than mice irrespective* of environment. But my question isn't "do genes affect intelligence over the animal kingdom as a whole?"

My question is "can someone supply data proving that IQ test differences between Americans designated 'white' and 'black' are due to genetic difference?"



The volume of off-topic responses suggests that the answer is No.


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*almost irrespective