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Pseudoscience

MAR 01, 1985

8 Copyright 1985 by Ralph E. Kenyon Jr.

People are afraid of responsibility and fear having to make choices, particularly moral choices. Most moral choices are institutionalized and externalized in the form of religion, law, social norms, etc. Few individuals fully embrace their own responsibility. Often individuals turn to pseudoscience for sources of decision regarding life situations.

What is the wrong with using such pseudoscience activities such as astrology, E-ching, palm reading, Tarot cards, etc.? What's the harm in entertaining beliefs in such systems? I can think of five (5) ways using such systems are harmful.

(1) Initiative and responsibility is sapped.

The individual who believes in the system is encouraged to look outside of himself to deal with situations of life. Two aspects of this are dependence upon something other than himself for answers to choices, and a reduction of personal experience with choice. Extreme cases result wherein the individuals cannot make even simple decisions without consulting the system. There is a tendency in this direction. Both personal initiative and responsibility suffer as a direct result of use of and dependence on the system as a source of decisions.

(2) Time is taken away from developing initiative and responsibility.

The energy and effort put into learning and using the system is energy which is no longer available to use in other life situations. Time which could be spent unearthing real causes, exercising initiative, and deciding about life situations is used to access the system. Most systems rely on random events, or predetermined events, neither of which correlate to individual life situations.

(3) Individuals do not develop effective coping mechanisms.

The events of the system are random, or predetermined, and are not correlated to the individual life situations. Use of the system is not an effective coping mechanism because these events of the system are not correlated to individual events. As long as the individual continues to use the system as his means to cope with life situations, he will be engaging in inappropriate coping behavior, and will not learn effective coping behavior.

(4) The individual's dependence on the system is increased with use.

As long as inappropriate coping behavior is engaged in, the coping mechanism will remain ineffective, and the situations to be dealt with will remain, or will recur. Having adopted an inappropriate strategy, using the system, the individual continues to need to go back to the system to try for more answers as to how to deal with that life situation.

(5) An uncritical attitude is fostered.

The systems all contain numerous admonitions to accept on faith what is not understood. This discourages development of a faculty for critical examination of life situations. Lack of ability to examine life situations inhibits discovering real factors to deal with. A tendency to accept other situations without examination results in greater reliance on the system. Depending on these systems inhibits the development of critical thinking.

Some systems depend upon random events: flip a coin, roll dice, cast bones, date of birth, shuffle of cards, etc. -- Random events bear no causal relation to the life situations of an individual. Some systems depend upon predetermined events: position of planets, position of stars, etc. -- Predetermined events bear no causal relation to the life situations of an individual. Some systems depend upon non-existent entities: ghost of ancestors, spirits, demons, etc. -- These entities cannot be detected, tested, or proven to exist in any way. Some systems depends upon non-existent forces: telekinesis, telepathy, etc. -- The universe is accounted for by 4 basic forces: Strong nuclear, Weak nuclear, Electromagnetism, and gravity; no other forces are needed. Proposed mechanisms for the non-existent forces violate conservation laws, and are not observed.

The Structure of the systems

The systems postulate something which

(a) can never be observed,
(b) can never be incorrect,
(c) can never be tested,
(d) can never be explained.

There is no scientific basis in fact in any of them.

(a) No significant statistical support for claims.
(b) No significant statistical support for predictions.
(c) No scientific mechanism to achieve the claimed effects.

None has any basis in fact regarding the explicit claims of the system. Each system requires a human interpreter who uses the system to make pronouncements about other people. In each system, the interpretation of the system is ambiguous.

All systems claim that there is some connection between the person and something else, be it the stars, planets, cards, electric and magnetic forces, generic "energy", etc. The claims have no statistical support and no verified mechanism.

Summary

Many pseudoscience systems are left over superstitions from days prior to monotheism or prior to an effectively developed science. Others are the result of accepting "authority" without question. Critical thinking requires that these pseudoscience systems be rejected as nonsense.