Tag Archives: pseudo-science

Natural Philosophy: Falsifiability and Pseudo-science 

Once again, this subject choice is brought to you courtesy of Coursera, this time spurred on by an assignment in the course I’m currently undertaking on Philosophy and The Sciences, given in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh and EIDYN: The Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity. Perhaps one of the key contributions which modern philosophy and philosophical thinking (I use this distinction, as our current understanding of physical sciences can be understood as having evolved from “natural philosophy” in the first place) can make to the physical sciences is a better and more rigorous understanding of the underpinnings of scientific paradigms by way of falsifiability, and the use of such criteria to better differentiate “real” science from pseudo-science. Many consider this differentiation a key factor in the difficulties facing science education, particularly in the US, regarding the inability of students, as well as the population at large, to differentiate between popular pseudo-scientific ideas and accepted scientific theories.[1] Continue reading Natural Philosophy: Falsifiability and Pseudo-science 

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Does researching casual marijuana use cause brain abnormalities?

The recent “findings” that casual marijuana use causes brain abnormalities lit up my Facebook news feed over the last few days. I had to admit, I was suspicious, but didn’t look into it any further. Lion Pachter has written a great critical analysis of this study, and how warped its findings have been by the researchers and the media. This is fairly ridiculous, and a bit scary in how quickly bad science can be reported by the media. Pachter goes on to say:

“I believe that scientists should be sanctioned for making public statements that directly contradict the content of their papers, as appears to be the case here. There is precedent for this.”

Bits of DNA

In reading the news yesterday I came across multiple reports claiming that even casually smoking marijuana can change your brain. I usually don’t pay much attention to such articles; I’ve never smoked a joint in my life. In fact, I’ve never even smoked a cigarette. So even though as a scientist I’ve been interested in cannabis from the molecular biology point of view, and as a citizen from a legal point of view, the issues have not been personal. However reading a USA Today article about the paper, I noticed that the principal investigator Hans Breiter was claiming to be a psychiatrist and mathematician. That is an unusual combination so I decided to take a closer look. I immediately found out the claim was a lie. In fact, the totality of math credentials of Hans Breiter consist of some logic/philosophy courses during a year abroad at St. Andrews while he was a pre-med student…

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Popularity and Placebos: The UK’s Troubling Acceptance of Homeopathy

Last year I found myself immersed (academically – heaven forbid I should do so in any practical manner) in the workings of Medicine and Bioethics in the UK. I was, for the most part, impressed. Particularly in contrast to some positions in the US and Ireland, the UK system seemed to handle many tricky issues remarkably well. The Nuffield Council on Bioethics, the NHS, the GMC the  were all models which, while not perfect, could certainly serve as examples for some of their foreign counterparts. All in all, I found attitudes to healthcare perhaps a bit more progressive in the UK than in Ireland, in certain areas at least. This makes the widespread tacit, and even official, acceptance of homeopathy in the UK all the more surprising. Continue reading Popularity and Placebos: The UK’s Troubling Acceptance of Homeopathy