Friday, April 23, 2010

Brenders in HP: Demolishing Ullman But Perhaps Epistemic Delineation as Well

Brenders, D. (PhD ?) states in the Huffington Post's "Want to Help Save 34 Billion a Year in Health Care Costs?  Be a Skeptic" (2010-04-23) :

"I am an expert on B.S. -- a teacher of persuasion, an authority on sham arguments. Let's remove the sham arguments from Mr. Ullman's case and see what's left [...there is an] enlightening word: skeptic [...] a skeptic is a person who proportions his/her belief to the evidence [...] a properly skeptical person does not accept just any 'evidence' that matches his/her preconceptions and ignores the rest; evidence must pass certain tests of verity and must be verifiable independently and abundantly. No evidence, no belief [...] the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee['s...] inquiry and report could not have been more reasonable, thorough, even-handed, or damning to the credibility of homeopathy [...] Professor David Colquhoun, Professor of Pharmacy at UCL put it [succinctly]: 'if homeopathy worked the whole of chemistry and physics would have to be overturned' [read: implausible...] what's left of homeopathy with the sham arguments removed? [...] nothing."

Note: I agree with the 'it's placebo nonsense' verdict per homeopathy, in sum.  But, I have issue with Brenders's choice of the word "belief" to represent 'confidence in facticity' / scientific knowledge.  I classically divide epistemology into that area that is in-evidence / a posteriori [which includes science], and that area that is taken on faith / a priori [religion, dogma].  Belief, in my view, essentially belongs to the second category. So, evidence is antithetical to belief, in that sense.  Or perhaps a better word is irrelevant.  Evidence leads to tentative knowledge premises and degrees of certainty / doubt, while faith / leaps-without-evidence lead to belief.  To say that someone, for instance, believes that the earth is round because so much evidence warrants that conclusion is silly.  We know [not believe] the earth to be round[ish] and not flat.  So, I don't think a skeptic believes, I think a skeptic doubts in proportion to the quality of evidence available. Beliefs occur no matter what facts say.
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