Finding stuff

Hey! Thanks for checking out my blog. I had my abortion in Dec 2008, so you can find most of the posts about the nitty gritty by clicking on "2008" in the blog archives, and checking out things from there.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Pseudo-science detectors!!

I came across this blog entry about detecting pseudo-science, and thought "What a handy-dandy thing for women and girls trying to learn the facts about abortion!"

This list seems more geared towards avoiding being sold miracle cures, but I still think a lot of this is relevant for identifying the propoganda of the prolife movement and their bajillions of pseudoscience-based lies. Get the full story here or just read the summary I took from that blog.

I thought about inserting a comment or email I have recieved from a pseudo-science flinging prolifer for each of these points, to demonstrate how they use each of these forms of deception, but don't want to make this post too long. The rest of this post is copied and pasted from the Defaithed blog.

Red flags warning of pseudoscience

1. Appeal to Authority
Celebrity endorsements, lab coats, fancy degrees or certifications... all distractions that point to the impressiveness of the claimant, not the truth of the claim.

2. Ancient Wisdom
Commonly seen attached to "alternative" medical therapies, and a pet peeve of mine – lots of "ancient wisdom" will get you killed! As Brian points out: all that matters is not the age of the "wisdom", but simply this: Does it work?

3. Confirmation Bias
The tendency to remember events that coincide with beliefs, and ignore or forget those that don't. Confirmation bias is one of the worst sloppy-thinking offenders, in my opinion - and one of the hardest for us to overcome.

4. Confusion of Correlation with Causation
Another common sticking point for many people. Brian's example: You'll find correlation between rice consumption and black hair, but not causation.

5. Red Herrings
Irrelevant information that distracts without addressing facts.

6. Proof by Verbosity
Information overload to create the appearance of comprehensiveness and thorough research. It's quantity over quality.

7. Mystical Energy
"Chi", "negative energy", "positive energy"... Brian suggests that you replace any mention of "energy" with the word's actual meaning - "measurable work capability" - and ask whether the claim still makes sense.

8. Suppressed by Authorities
Conspiracy! Beware! Yet... Why would pharmaceutical giants suppress miracle cures... or automakers squelch super-efficient engines... instead of embracing and profiting wildly from those discoveries?

9. All Natural
Yes, a pseudoscience health supplement may be "all natural"... but so are poison oak, scorpion venom, lead, mercury, bubonic plague, black holes... Natural doesn't mean safe!

10. Ideological Support
Causes that use courts, marches, campaigns, and so on to push a belief may be fueled more by indeology than by science.

Make pseudoscience detectors part of your toolkit

The above is hardly a complete list, as Brian takes pain to point out. But I'm going to memorize the list and, as he suggests, watch how often they turn up in daily life. Sounds like a great toolkit for tackling nonsense head-on!

Incidentally, I highly recommend the Skeptoid podcast. Each episode plays like a mystery story, with a detective digging up the facts to lay some case of the unexplained to rest. Give it a listen!


defaithed said...

Hello! Thanks for linking to my post. Let me make clear that the "Red flags warning of pseudoscience" are not mine, but are my paraphrasing of points by Brian Dunning of the site and podcast.

And speaking of bad science, thanks for the link to the "atheist's nightmare" banana video. Oops, the ultimate proof for god turns out to be man-made. Oh well. (Maybe the believers should focus on the perfection of something *not* man-made. Like god's neat handiwork on that Ebola virus.)

FYI, I cast a vote for "I am pro-choice" in your poll. (I'm male, so a few choices don't apply...) Your "My Mind, My Body, My Choice" issue at the bottom of your site lays out the issue nicely. Keep on educating!

Psychodiva said...

Hi- I've just come over from RA - what a wonderful blog- in previous life before what i do now I was an abortion counsellor- not the religious variety but the truth variety- so the more blogs like this the better!! keep up the good work!