Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Excerpts From "Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies"

Those who sneer at “pseudoscience” reveal scientism: the belief that only science is authoritative when it comes to knowledge.

One trouble with that attitude is that a great deal within science is incorrect “knowledge.” The history of science is a continuing chronicle of old ideas discarded, theories superseded, “facts” modified.

Since science as well as “pseudoscience” suffers from mistakes, it makes little sense to attempt to distinguish them on grounds of what is true or not.

If scientific knowledge were the only knowledge important to human beings - which it is not - then one could simply turn to science for guidance on what to believe.

If scientific knowledge were always correct - which it is not - then one would know what to believe at least on those matters with which science concerns itself.

If science were easily defined - which it is not - then it would also be easy to know when claimed knowledge is pseudoscience rather than the real thing.

But as things stand, there is available no quick or easy guidance about what to believe, not only on the many matters over which apparently competent people differ but also over some where the experts seem to be in agreement. At times we do well to believe what 
we’re told; at other times we had better not. Sometimes there’s no better guide than the experience of what you’ve seen for yourself; at other times your eyes deceive you. We should be open to new ideas - but on the other hand we should always be skeptical and critical before accepting a new idea, for old beliefs are often well tested by experience whereas new ones may be untested hunches. It’s good to see the whole picture, to be holistic, to be interdisciplinary - but on the other hand, in many fields progress requires concentration on ultraspecialized techniques, theories, and facts.

Bauer, Henry H. Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies. 1st ed. Urbana and Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press, 2001. ix, x, 2. Print.