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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 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.
The following are typical characteristics of pseudoskepticism:
- Resorting to logical fallacies in order to justify rejecting the position or argument of another.
- Assuming unverified or incorrect facts to justify a predetermined skeptical conclusion.
- Obfuscating easily verifiable facts to justify a predetermined skeptical conclusion.
- Instituting hurdles against new theories by "moving the goalposts".
- Displaying a reactionary, hostile and intolerant stance regarding new ideas.
- Judging a hypothesis or theory without investigation and insisting on ignoring the details thereafter.
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."
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." 
Notes and references
- Some debunkers are criticized as pseudoskeptics, fighting any fringe claim at all costs (regardless of the propositions).
- Scientism is a relatively newly coined word that refers to certain epistemologies based on science.
- Intellectual dishonesty is the creation of false impressions or advocacy of false ideas and concepts using rhetoric, logical fallicies, or insufficient or falsified evidence.
- James Randi is an opponent of various pseudosciences.
- The Skeptical Environmentalist is a controversial book by political scientist Bjørn Lomborg, arguing claims over various environmental issues are exaggerations and unsupported by a proper analysis of the relevant data.
- Skeptic's Dictionary is a web site with a collection of cross-referenced essays over various scientific endeavors.
- Global warming skepticism is a decades-old dispute about the effects of humans on the global climate.
- The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, by Thomas Kuhn, is an analysis of the history of science through various scientific revolutions. Its publication was a landmark event in the sociology of knowledge, and popularized the terms paradigm and paradigm shift.
- Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP) is an organization which professes to encourage open minded, critical investigation of paranormal and protoscientific claims from an empirical point of view. Its criticism have led some to label it as pseudoskeptical.
- Anomalous phenomenon
- Obsolete scientific theories
- Occam's razor
- Philosophy of science
- Truzzi, Marcello, "On Pseudo-Skepticism". Anomalist. (Commentary)
- Truzzi, Marcello, "On Some Unfair Practices towards Claims of the Paranormal". Oxymoron, 1998
- Drasin, Daniel, "Zen and the Art of Debunkery". aol.com, 1997.
- Milton, Richard, "Scientific skepticism".
- Mooney, Chris, "Abuses of Skepticism : Doubting is a powerful tool, but it can definitely be taken too far". CSICOP, December, 2003.
- Haack, Susan, "Science, Scientism, and Anti-Science in the Age of Preposterism". CSICOP, December 1997.
- Sofka, Michael D., "Myths of Skepticism". ISUNY, March, 2002.
- Beaty, William J., "Symptoms of Pathological Sketicism". 1996.
- Hyman, Ray, "Proper Criticism". (csicop.org)
- Martin, Brian, "Strategies for dissenting scientists". Society for Scientific Exploration. Journal of Scientific Exploration, Volume 12 No 4. 1998. (PDF)
- Baez, John, "The crackpot index : Method for rating potentially revolutionary contributions to physics.".
- Kruger, Justin, and David Dunning "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments". Department of Psychology, Cornell University.
- Debunking Pseudo-Skeptical Arguments against Paranormal and Psychic Phenomena by Winston Wu
- Wilson, Robert Anton, interview in which he discusses CSICOP and pseudoskeptism, what he calls "irrational rationalists" and "fundamentalist materialism"
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