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message 1: by Erik (new)

Erik (erikb2000) I wonder if people are interested in this. I've been noticing an explosion in what I would consider "junk sci." I include some evolutionary psychology and sociobiology in this category and so called Freakonomics too, which really had me tearing my hair out. Now I owe you a definition of junk versus 'good' science. I consider the difference to lie in three heuristics (rules of thumb): robustness of data (controlled studies distinguished from chance correlations), ockham's razor (all else equal, we prefer the simplest hypothesis adequate to explain the most data), and falsifiability (it is at least possible to test the theory and prove it false). If a theory passes these three heuristics it is no guarantee of truth, nor is failure necessarily a guarantee of falsity. It just means we don't know yet because we don't have enough information. Any comments, or good recent examples?


message 2: by William (new)

William (acknud) I am not much on junk or soft science. I see it used too much to explain unknown entities in medicine. It seems to have the potential for great harm.


message 3: by Erik (new)

Erik (erikb2000) You know, William, I think medicine is the one case where the explanation or mechanism is often as complex as the phenomenon to be explained (the symptoms). It sort of messes up Ockham's Razor, which works better for physics. Or are there still too many unknowns in medicine?


Susanna - Censored by GoodReads (susannag) | 363 comments I have a sad, sad fondness for pseudoscience TV. The millenium was a great period for it - every TV channel in existence, I think, had a "the world is coming to an end!" show. The great ones had really pompous narrators. Charlton Heston was a natural.

Nostrodamus would seem to be flavor of the month just now, from what I can see on my TV listings.


message 5: by Erik (new)

Erik (erikb2000) I know I used to watch "In Search Of..." when I was a kid, hosted by none other than Leonard (Spock) Nimoy. It was great until I found out none of it was true...Sadly disillusioned by reality.


message 6: by William (new)

William (acknud) Erik wrote: "You know, William, I think medicine is the one case where the explanation or mechanism is often as complex as the phenomenon to be explained (the symptoms). It sort of messes up Ockham's Razor, whi..."

There are still a multitude of unknowns in medicine but a vast majority are answered. Explanations of problems and mechanisms may be complex but they are mostly based on hard science.




message 7: by Tracy (new)

Tracy Black | 39 comments Erik wrote: "I know I used to watch "In Search Of..." when I was a kid, hosted by none other than Leonard (Spock) Nimoy. It was great until I found out none of it was true...Sadly disillusioned by reality."

I had similar disappoinments as a kid. I've been trying to teach my own children how to fish through it all. There's a book we've been reading that has been very helpful.

How Do You Know It's True : Discovering the Difference Between Science and Superstition

It's like Demon Haunted World for children.





message 8: by Tyler (last edited Feb 13, 2009 11:01AM) (new)

Tyler  (tyler-d) For a non-expert, it's hard to distinguish among the experts' arguments. But one "hueristic" that a non-expert can employ is to consider the expert's degree of open-mindedness toward contradictory data or hypotheses. Does this expert acknowledge them and deal with them fairly? Or does the expert ignore them or bury them with specious arguments?

I agree about Occam's Razor, but it doesn't apply in all cases, only generally. So I agree that medicine lends itself to complex explanations, and I think the field is still in it's early stages.




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