Monday, October 18, 2010

McGill U.'s Call to Arms Against Pseudoscience - Montreal Gazette 2010-10-16

Joe Schwarcz, "director of McGill University's Office for Science and Society" writes in "Confronting the Plague of Pseudoscience" in the Montreal Gazette (2010-10-18):

"scientifically unsupported claims about therapeutic interventions that are not science-based offer false hope. Worse, they may steer patients away from proven conventional treatments [...] pseudoscience is enjoying a golden age [...it] can masquerade as science and wreak intellectual and physical havoc [...though] a definition is hard to come by because pseudoscience takes on so many forms [...it is a] plague [...an] intellectual muddling [...and] most scientists [...] would agree that when they see it, they know it. But this is not necessarily the case for people not well versed in science [...] in essence, pseudoscience encompasses any belief, process or claim that pretends to have a scientific basis but actually has none [(yes!)...] real science accumulates facts and formulates testable theories to gain an understanding of the physical world, pseudoscience relies on anecdotes, ideology and cherry-picked data to support preconceived notions [...and] is often mired in dogma [...] homeopathy would be a typical example of a pseudoscience [...per] no scientific basis [...also] distance healing [...] when scientists start raising eyebrows at such mindless twaddle, the pseudoscience champions unleash their usual attacks, claiming that scientists are closed-minded [...though] as Carl Sagan cleverly said, they may have laughed at Columbus and the Wright brothers, but they also laughed at Bozo the Clown. Scientists are quite prepared to stop laughing when evidence is provided [...] where is the comparable evidence for astrology, iridology [a pseudodiagnostic], crystal healing, quantum healing, magnetic healing, 'chi' channels [vitalism], telepathy, or creationism? Where is the proof that John Kanzius's radio waves can cure cancer or that [naturopath] Hulda Clark's 'zapper' can zap it away? There isn't any, and Hulda is not going to produce any, given she passed away from cancer last year [(oh snap!)...] it is time to stem the rising tide of pseudoscience [...] the Lorne Trottier Public Science Symposium is one of McGill's premier annual events and this year focuses on pseudoscience [...it will have] four world-renowned experts on pseudoscience [...] Dr. Ben Goldacre, medical columnist for The Guardian in England and author of Bad Science; Dr. David Gorski [...] a managing editor for the famed 'Science-Based Medicine' blog; Dr. Michael Shermer, Scientific American columnist and founder of Skeptic magazine; and the incomparable and indefatigable James Randi, the world's leading investigator of pseudo-scientific and paranormal claims."

Note: naturopathy, of course, is a world renown pseudoscience. At the Naturowatch site, Dr. Barrett's article is famous for calling the average naturopath a "muddlehead."
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