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Pathological skepticism

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Pathological skepticism and Pseudoskepticism are terms popularized by Marcello Truzzi in the 1990's. Pathological skepticism refers to the excessive use of skepticism to the extreme detriment of that person and/or in their relationships with others. Pseudoskepticism is a form of argument in which a person pretends to be or thinks they are a knowledgeable skeptic, but is instead merely obfuscating what might otherwise pass as a valid point of view.

Pathological scepticismEdit

Pathological skepticism refers to excessive skepticism to the point of "pathology." It is not a recognized disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. David Hume, to give an example of the concept, said in the late 18th century that someone who insisted on sound deductive logic for everything would starve to death. Pathological skepticism, then, following Marcello Truzzi's usage, is skepticism with genuine logical foundation which works to the detriment of the person and/or the relationships in which that person is involved, including relationships such as, for example, research groups, the scientific community, or even in more personal relationships.

PseudoscepticismEdit

The following are typical characteristics of pseudoskepticism:

  1. Resorting to logical fallacies in order to justify rejecting the position or argument of another.
  2. Assuming unverified or incorrect facts to justify a predetermined skeptical conclusion.
  3. Obfuscating easily verifiable facts to justify a predetermined skeptical conclusion.
  4. Instituting hurdles against new theories by "moving the goalposts".
  5. Displaying a reactionary, hostile and intolerant stance regarding new ideas.
  6. Judging a hypothesis or theory without investigation and insisting on ignoring the details thereafter.

HistoryEdit

The terms Pathological skepticism and Pseudoskepticism appear to have been coined by Marcello Truzzi (sociology professor at Eastern Michigan University) in the early 1990s in response to the skeptic groups who applied the label of "Pathological Science" to fields which Truzzi thought might be better described as protoscience. Truzzi has stated that some self-described "skeptics" are misrepresenting their opinions: "Since 'skepticism' properly refers to doubt rather than denial — nonbelief rather than belief — critics who take the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves 'skeptics' are actually pseudo-skeptics and have, I believed, gained a false advantage by usurping that label."[1]

Since the terms became visible and worked their way further into colloquial use, they have been retroactively applied by someone at some time to nearly every historical case where a scientific theory met vocal criticism before eventually being accepted. Commonly cited are Galileo's heliocentric theory; the myth that Christopher Columbus' contemporaries thought the Earth was flat; Alfred Wegener's theory of continental drift, and skepticism towards rocks falling down to Earth. Thomas Jefferson supposedly commented: "I would more easily believe that two Yankee professors would lie, than that stones would fall from heaven." [2]

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