Archive for November, 2013

Nov 05 2013

Is Science Broken?

Skeptics are often in a tricky position. We simultaneously are cheerleaders for science, promoting science education, scientific literacy, and the power of science as the best method for understanding the universe.

At the same time the skeptical approach requires that we explore and discuss all the various flaws, errors, and weaknesses in the institutions and process of science. Science in theory is fantastic, but it is practiced by flawed people with all their cognitive biases and perverse incentives (much like democracy or capitalism).

I think the best approach to this apparent contradiction is transparency, honesty, to be as constructive as possible, and avoid sliding into nihilism. It’s easy to focus on all the negatives about any institution, and conclude that it’s hopelessly broken. Some institutions are broken and unfixable, so it’s not an inherently unreasonable position. We should strive for a balanced and fair assessment (just like Fox news).

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Nov 04 2013

Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses

Published by under Skepticism

Deepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.

In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.

Chopra writes:

The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.

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