That’s nonscience

Chris Mooney (coauthor of the Republican War on Science) has an article in Mother Jones called "The Science of Why We Don't Believe Science."  A sample:

 In other words, when we think we're reasoning, we may instead be rationalizing. Or to use an analogy offered by University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt: We may think we're being scientists, but we're actually being lawyers (PDF). Our "reasoning" is a means to a predetermined end—winning our "case"—and is shot through with biases. They include "confirmation bias," in which we give greater heed to evidence and arguments that bolster our beliefs, and "disconfirmation bias," in which we expend disproportionate energy trying to debunk or refute views and arguments that we find uncongenial.

Read the whole thing.  Read it and despair.

5 thoughts on “That’s nonscience”

  1. John,
    I have a major objection to research that claims that people are irrational because they don't change their minds when confronted by researchers with conflicting information. In that very same article they mention many studies where researchers presented study subjects with fake news articles, fake resumes, etc. Anyone with more intelligence than a potted plant would be skeptical of information received during a psychological experiment.


  2. Still…..I'm not sure not changing your mind immediately is irrational…..The article points this out but doesn't delve into it. People hold the beliefs they hold for a reason and it would be imprudent to immediately change your mind based on a single piece of evidence. Suppose an atheist witnessed a really convincing miracle, should he/she immediately become a believer in the supernatural? In my opinion no. Personally I would have to do some long hard thinking before I signed on to that particular belief.

    Today on WGN news, there was a lady who claimed that Pope John Paul should be a saint because he performed a miracle on her.  He cured her of a nervous disorder in where her eyelids would close without warning (I am assuming for long periods of time, not just blinking). This would be the second "confirmed" miracle he would have performed, and place him one step closer to being a saint. It has already been suggested that he will attain sainthood faster than anyone else before him.
    My response was to completely deny that what this lady experienced was a miracle. There are too many things that would counter that a miracle was performed at all. For me, the first thing that came to mind is the mind itself; spontaneous healing, or in other words, mind over body.
    Having read a lot about the mind, and how powerful it can be, simply believing that you are cured, and living your life as if you were cured, will cause the mind to heal you, and you will no longer suffer your malady.  You have to believe you are getting better, not just think it.  It is then that the mind can become the healer.
    I find it interesting that if you watch people in a close environment, like an office setting, and take note of the people who react badly to a productive cough or a sneeze, the ones who react badly (oh I am going to get sick!) will, in 2-5 days be sick themselves.  Is this just a bad cold produced by an aggressive virus, or are those people setting themselves up to become sick by believing that they will?  My understanding of this is that those people willfully convince themselves that they will get sick, and the mind does the rest.
    In conclusion, do I believe that a miracle happened to this lady?  No.  Do I believe that this lady believes a miracle happened to her?  Yes.  In the end, it is what we believe that ultimately determines what we see, hear, touch, smell, and taste.  We shape our experiences based on our beliefs, just as the quoted article by Chris Mooney said.

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