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Is “havening” pseudo-scientific or effective?

Is “havening” pseudo-scientific or effective?



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A fairly recent answer here offering havening as a therapy has only upvotes. But a quick internet search found a rather brief and contested Wikipedia page alleging havening is pseudo-scientific.

So what's the status of this technique/therapy in psychology? E.g are there meta-analyses showing that it's effective? And how is the quality of primary research assessed in this area? E.g. is the sub-field reasonably free of publication bias (which nowadays is also assessed in the better-off meta-analyses)?


First off, I am not familiar with this therapy. There seems to be 251 hits on Scholar (excluding citations and patents) at the time of this writing with a search for "Havening Technique'. Of these 251, there seems to be one single journal article from Gursimran et al. (2015). The publisher of this 'journal', i.e. the Health Science Journal (Insight Medical Publishing) is listed on Baell's list and hence a suspected predatory publisher.

In all, this Havening technique can safely be considered as a technique that has not been described in the scientific literature.

I am deliberately leaving out the reference to the paper, as I regard it a source, not a reference


Criminal Profiling

Criminal profiling is an important part of a criminal psychology. This part of an article will partially answer questions about what criminal profiling is, what it is used for, what is aim of it, in which cases it is mostly used, what are it’s types and what kind of approaches it has.

In short, Criminal profiling (also known as offender profiling and specific profile analysis) is to create a psychological and not only psychological portrait, determine location of the offenders by gathering their personal attributes from crime scene behavior in order to assist in detection of them.

Criminal profiling is typically used when offender’s identity is unknown and with serious criminal offences such as murder, sexual assault. Profilers also work on crime series, where is considered, that the crime is committed by the same offender.

What creates an offender profile is not clearly agreed, but the process of profiling draws both, physical and nonphysical information. This includes the layout of the crime scene in terms of disposition of the victim and the presence or absence of significant items, evidence on what was done to the victim and the sequence of events,and the perpetrator’s behavior before and after the crime. From these data, inferences are drawn about the possible meaning and motivation of particular acts. For example, tying up a victim may mean a necessity for control, while stabbing the victim before sexual intercourse may mean a need for arousal from pain or blood. Characteristics of the victim, location of the crime, use of a vehicle, and relation to previous crimes may also suggest social and demographic features of the offender, such as race, age or occupation.

The goal is to narrow the field of investigation, basic assumptions are, that an offender’s behavior at the crime scene reflects consistencies in personality and method of committing crime (Holmes, 1989). In the majority of cases Criminal profiling is used in serial crimes and sexual assaults and 90% of profiling attempts involve murder or rape. Holmes suggests, that profiling is most useful when the crime scene reflects psychopathology, such as sadistic assaults, rapes or satanic and cut killings. However, there have been cases of it’s use in arson, obscene telephone calls and bank robbery.

There are two main directions of Criminal profiling: The profiling of an criminal’s personal characteristics and geographical profiling. Most commonly, the first one is what people most commonly associate with criminal profiling.

A geographical profiler could be asked to identify the location of an offender’s home, an offender profiler might be asked to construct profile of an unknown offender based on his/hers behavior at the crime scene. A profiler may also be asked to advise police about which particular suspect should be interviewed and how. In addition to it, Ainsworth has identified four main approaches to criminal profiling, these are:

The geographical approach – this looks at patterns in the location and timing of offences to make judgements about links between crimes and suggestions about where offenders live and work.

Investigative psychology – this grew out of geographical profiling and uses established psychological theories and methods of analysis to predict offender characteristics from offending behavior.

The typological approach – this involves looking at the characteristics of crime scenes to assign offenders to different categories, each category of offender having different typical characteristics.

The clinical approach – this approach uses insights from psychiatry and clinical psychology to aid investigation where an offender is thought to be suffering from a mental illness of other psychological abnormality.


Science, Pseudoscience and Antiscience

The Importance of Informed Treatment Decisions
““Your child has autism.” With those words, a parent’s world comes crashing down. What to do? Choosing a treatment is one of the most important decisions the parents of a person with autism will ever have to make. How do parents find truly effective treatment for their child? In an ideal world, the person who dropped the autism diagnosis on a family would provide the answer. But the unfortunate fact is that many who make this diagnosis are not well informed about the wide array of autism treatments, and the degree to which these treatments have proven effective (or not). So until the day comes when parents can count on data based professional guidance, they will need to become very discerning about the various treatments, therapies, and programs that are claimed to be effective for autism. The same applies to those who are concerned with helping families get effective services. There is a need to do a lot of homework, and to do it quickly. Why the urgency? Because the stakes are high, and every moment is precious.

Children and adults with autism can learn, and there are effective methods for helping them develop useful skills and lead happy, productive lives. At the same time, research has shown that many currently available interventions for autism are ineffective, even harmful, while others have simply not been tested adequately. Every moment spent on one of those therapies instead of effective intervention is a moment lost forever. Besides, common sense suggests that it is wise for parents and professionals alike to invest in interventions that can be reasonably calculated to produce lasting, meaningful benefits for people with autism—that is, interventions that have withstood scientific testing.

As parents and professionals seek information about autism treatments, they discover a long and perplexing list of “options,” many of them promoted by sincere, well-meaning, persuasive people. Everyone claims that their favorite treatment works, and parents and practitioners are often encouraged to try a little bit of everything. This can be very appealing to people who are seeking anything that might help. How does one choose wisely? To quote the late Carl Sagan, “The issue comes down to the quality of the evidence.” So the first step is to find out exactly what evidence is available to support claims about autism treatments. But all evidence is not created equal. How does one sort pure hype from solid proof, wishful thinking from rigorous testing?

Science, Pseudoscience, and Antiscience
Approaches to answering fundamental questions about how the world works can be grouped into three broad categories: science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. Science uses specific, time-honored tools to put hunches or hypotheses to logical and empirical tests. Some of those tools include operational definitions of the phenomena of interest direct, accurate, reliable, and objective measurement controlled experiments reliance on objective data for drawing conclusions and making predictions and independent verification of effects.

Science does not take assertions or observations at face value, but seeks proof. Good scientists differentiate opinions, beliefs, and speculations from demonstrated facts they don’t make claims without supporting objective data.

In contrast, pseudoscience tries to lend credibility to beliefs, speculations, and untested assumptions by making them appear scientific — for example, by using scientific jargon, endorsements from individuals with “scientific” credentials, perhaps even some numbers or graphs. But instead of objective measurements from well-controlled experiments, pseudoscientists offer testimonials, anecdotes, and unverified personal reports to back up their claims. Antiscience is the outright rejection of the time-tested methods of science as a means of producing valid and useful knowledge. The extreme antiscientific view is that there are no objective facts all knowledge is made up of personal interpretations of phenomena.

Pseudoscientific and antiscientific treatments and approaches for various conditions, including autism, abound. They are promoted enthusiastically, not in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but in materials published by their promoters, such as newsletters, videotapes, books, advertisements, and the Internet. These treatments have several distinguishing features (see side-bar). Some may seem benign at first glance, but that can be misleading. Over the years, many such treatments have proven to have very harmful physical and emotional side effects. They also exact a great societal toll by diverting precious resources from effective treatments and sound research, raising false hopes, and perpetuating illusions (for some examples, see the books Controversial Therapies for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and Crazy Therapies, listed below).

Smart Questions
Parents and professionals can protect people with autism from the harms of bogus and ineffective treatments by exercising healthy skepticism, and asking several questions of everyone who claims to have an effective intervention for autism: What is the intervention, precisely? Exactly what is it supposed to do? Have its effects been tested in controlled experiments using direct, objective measures? If so, were those studies published in peer- reviewed scientific journals? What did studies show about positive effects and negative side effects? Did the effects carry over beyond the immediate treatment setting? Is there another scientifically validated treatment that is similarly effective but has fewer negative side effects? Who will administer this treatment, and how can I be sure they are qualified to do so? How will its effects on this individual be evaluated, and by whom? What will happen if we do nothing? Listen to the answers, but don’t take them at face value. Seek out published research on the treatment, and, if necessary, someone with expertise in scientific research methodology to help you evaluate it. Also take note when no answers—and no solid supporting studies — are provided. What is not known or said matters, too.

When families seek treatment for a child diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, they aren’t simply given a long list of interventions that someone somewhere believes to be effective, and told to choose from that list on their own they can usually expect to be informed about treatments that are based on sound scientific research. Why settle for anything less when the diagnosis is autism?

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC THERAPIES: Some Warning Signs
(adapted from the American Arthritis Foundation)

  1. High “success” rates are claimed.
  2. Rapid effects are promised.
  3. The therapy is said to be effective for many symptoms or disorders.
  4. The “theory” behind the therapy contradicts objective knowledge (and sometimes, common sense).
  5. The therapy is said to be easy to administer, requiring little training or expertise.
  6. Other, proven treatments are said to be unnecessary, inferior, or harmful.
  7. Promoters of the therapy are working outside their area of expertise.
  8. Promoters benefit financially or otherwise from adoption of the therapy.
  9. Testimonials, anecdotes, or personal accounts are offered in support of claims about the therapy’s effectiveness, but little or no objective evidence is provided.
  10. Catchy, emotionally appealing slogans are used in marketing the therapy.
  11. Belief and faith are said to be necessary for the therapy to “work.”
  12. Skepticism and critical evaluation are said to make the therapy’s effects evaporate.
  13. Promoters resist objective evaluation and scrutiny of the therapy by others.
  14. Negative findings from scientific studies are ignored or dismissed.
  15. Critics and scientific investigators are often met with hostility, and are accused of persecuting the promoters, being “close-minded,” or having some ulterior motive for “debunking” the therapy.

Barrett, S., London, W., Kroger, M., Hall, H., & Baratz, R.S. (2012). Consumer health: A guide to intelligent decisions. (9th ed). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Foxx, R.M. & Mulick, J.M. (2015). Controversial therapies for autism and intellectual disabilities: Fad, fashion, and science in professional practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Green, G. (1996). Evaluating claims about treatments for autism In C. Maurice, G. Green, & S.C. Luce, (Eds.), Behavioral intervention for young children with autism: A manual for parents and professionals (pp. 15–28). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Green, G. (2015). Fads, follies, and frauds. In J.M. Johnston & D.H. Reid (Eds.), The promise of behavioral services for people with intellectual disabilities (pp. 79 – 91). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S.J., & Lohr, J.M. (2003). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Park, R.L. (2000). Voodoo science: The road from foolishness to fraud. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Randi, J. (1982). Flim – flam! New York, NY: Prometheus Books.

Sagan, C. (1995). The demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. New York, NY: Random House.

Schick, T. & Vaughn, L. (2010). How to think about weird things: Critical thinking for a new age (3rd ed). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Shermer, M. & Gould, S. J. (2002). Why people believe weird things: Pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.

Singer, M.T., & Lalich, J. (1996). “Crazy” therapies. What are they? Do they work? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Vyse, S. (2013). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Citation for this article:

Green, G., & Perry, L. (1999). Science, Pseudoscience and Antiscience. Science in Autism Treatment, 1(1), 5-6.


Psychology Theorizes

Psychology relies upon various theories of personality to help people with the problems of life. Psychologists propose biological theories that suggest genetics are responsible for personality, and promote behavioral theories that suggest personality is a result of interaction between the individual and their environment.

These theories emphasize the influence of the subconscious mind and childhood experiences on personality and they promote humanistic theories that emphasize the importance of free will and individual experience in the development of personality.

The authors of each of these types and sub-types of personality theories have decided what their standard for normal and abnormal are based on their criteria.


Conclusion

Pseudoscience is largely used today and is most expressed in the beauty and skincare industry. Brands use big words, epithets, or mention clinical trials that they didn’t conduct coupled with promises that are even too good for fairytales. However, it’s important to mention that pseudoscience doesn’t only indicate misleading but also disrespect to loyal customers. It’s important to think twice before you purchase a certain product and make sure it’s really effective.


Pseudo Scientific Methods of selection

Pseudo-Scientific Methods of Selection: In the past, and to some extent even now, stereotyped impressions of personality and characteristics were used as a basis of selection. These impressions were gathered through pseudo-scientific methods, like phrenology, physiognomy and graphology.

Evaluating the abilities of a human being is an extremely difficult task. This fact has not entirely prevented the use of various techniques of quick appraisal, some of which are well organized can be called “pseudosciences.” Among such practices are phrenology (skull protrusions), physiognomy (facial features), astrology (birth date), and graphology (handwriting).

Most people do not consciously practice any of these pseudosciences, but many have favourite techniques of their own. We must emphasize that there is no easy shortcut to the accurate evaluation of a human being under any circumstances.

PHRENOLOGY Which focuses on personality and character, Phrenology is the study of the structure of the skull to determine a person’s character and mental capacity. In this science in which the personality traits of a person were determined by “reading” bumps and fissures in the skull. Developed by German physician Franz Joseph Gall around 1800 .Phrenologists would run their fingertips and palms over the skulls of their patients to feel for enlargements or indentations. The phrenologist would usually take measurements of the overall head size using a caliper. With this information, the phrenologist would assess the character and temperament.

GRAPHOLOGY The term ’graphology’ was first used by the Frenchman Michon in 1875, from the Greek ‘grapho’ meaning I write, and ‘logos’ meaning theory. The study of handwriting and its analysis was first developed by the Chinese 3,000 years ago. The Romans used graphology is the study and analysis of handwriting especially in relation to human psychology. It is now an accepted and increasingly used technique for assessment of people in organizations. Handwriting analysis is an effective and reliable indicator of personality and behaviour, and so is a useful tool for many organizational processes, for example: recruitment, interviewing and selection, team-building, counseling, and career-planning. Handwriting must be studied taking into consideration the size and slant of letters, word spacing, line spacing the way zones are used, pressure and margins applied.

Example:
Small size hand writing
Such persons are meticulous and observant, reserved and restrained. They are mentally alert but lack self-confidence.

Large size
Such persons are bold and aggressive. They are ambitious, enthusiastic and extrovert. Lacks concentration and discipline. Strongly motivated, confident and optimistic.

Moderate size
Such persons are conservative, conventional and traditional, practical and realistic. They are honest, sincere, adaptable and moderate in attitude.

Variable size
Such persons are moody and quick-tempered. They are indecisive and inconsistent. They are naive and immature, unpredictable and emotionally off-balance.

Extreme Left Slant
-Such persons have a repressed
-Child hood and are fearful of the life itself.
-They are emotionally withdrawn,
-Apprehensive of intimacy and defensive.

Extremely Right Slant
-This pattern indicates insecurity and impulsiveness.
-Such persons are sensitive, possessive and intense.
-At times they are unrestrained and capable of hysteria.

Heavy Pressure
Such persons are aggressive, possessive violent and egoistic. They are creative enthusiastic, sensuous and enduring. It shows an emotionally strong and deeply committed person

Light pressure
Such persons are sensitive, tender, tolerant, spiritual, adaptable and forgiving. They are passively indifferent,weak-willed and lack vitality. It indicates physically weak and fragile person who prefers pastel colors.

PHYSIOGNOMY Is the assessment of a person’s character or personality from their outer appearance, especially the face. The term physiognomy can also refer to the general appearance of a person, object or terrain, without reference to its implied characteristics.

The practice was well-accepted by the ancient Greek philosophers but fell into disrepute in the Middle Ages when practiced by vagabonds and mountebanks. It was then revived and popularized by Johann Kaspar Lavater before falling from favour again in the 20th century. It is now being revived again as some new research indicates that people’s faces can indicate such traits as trustworthiness, social dominance and aggression. The latter trait seems to be determined by the level of the hormone testosterone during puberty which affects the ratio between the height and width of the face – aggressive individuals are found to have wider faces.

Physiognomy of Men
Height:A tall man is usually a symbol of good personality of man. A tall man with well-proportioned body parts is lucky and leads a comfortable life. A short statured man is sexy in nature often he is clever and cunning.

Head : If the head is round and big in size, it denotes that such a person will be a good administrator and will hold a good position in life. When the head is level and full of hair, it indicates an intelligent, witty nature full of good qualities. If the head is more broad than long, it means that such a person will be unlucky and devoid of wealth. If the head is small, the person will be devoid of intelligence and will not be so lucky.

Ears: When the ears of a man are small in size, it indicates his foolish nature. a long eared person is very often intelligent. If the ears are twisted and hard like stone, the person will be stout of body and wrestler. If the ear frame is thin, the person will either be a king or a scholar, but if it is thick, he will be a cheat, unreliable and may commit evil acts.

Physiognomy of Women
Eyebrows: When the eyebrows are like a bow and the hair is soft, black and neither scanty nor bushy, that is the sign not only of beauty but also of good luck and strong character. When the eyebrows are hairless or have scanty hair, it is an omen of bad luck. When eyebrows join in centre above the nose it is a sign of widowhood. Such a woman is wicked and a cheat. If the eyebrows are straight, lengthy, thick, ill formed and reddish, with broken joints, it indicates an unlucky woman. When the eyebrows are curved and bent over the eyelids, black coloured, soft, of even thickness, it is a sign of a lucky damsel.

Hair: Long, dark hair is considered as part of beauty. Shoulder length hair (naturally) indicates a self-praising, envious and jealous woman. If the hair is red in color, the woman is considered to be harsh tempered, quarrelsome and ill natured. Black and curly hair indicates that the woman is lucky and wealthy. A woman with thick, coarse, short and rough hair is considered to have bad luck. When hair is soft, silky, thin, dark, very long up to knees, it is an indication of beauty and good luck.

Nose: If the nose of a woman is hooked like a parrot, she is good natured, enjoys fame, is clever and a well-wisher of her family. A straight nose and of normal length makes a woman beautiful, wise, witty and diligent. A woman with a small nose is cunning, shrewd, mischievous and lustful. If the nose is depressed in the middle, the front part very high, crooked or very fat, then such a woman will be devoid of love and sympathy. she will be wicked, cruel, loose in character and hasty in decision. If the nostrils are fat and wide, the woman will be lazy, strong headed, proud and fond of a pleasurable life. If the tip of the nose is small, the woman will pass her life as a slave. If the tip of the nose is long, she will be of harsh temperament. If the tip is depressed, it is an omen for longevity of her husband. If there is hair on her nose, she is shrewd and unlucky.


Further Reading

Paranormality: Why We See What Isn't There, by Richard Wiseman, MacMillan, London, 2011. [Highly recommended!]

Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal– A Critical Thinker's Toolkit, by Jonathan C. Smith, Wiley-Blackwell, MA, 2010.

The Skeptic's Dictionary, Robert Tood Caroll, John Wiley, NY, 2003.

The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, ed. by Gordon Stein, Prometheus, NY, 1996.

Science, Nonscience and Nonsense, by Michael Zimmerman, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, MD, 1995.

Exploring the Unknown, Charles J. Cazeau, Stuart D. Scott, Jr., Plenum, NY, 1979.

Nonsense on Stilts, by Massimo Pigliucci, University of Chicago Press, IL, 2010.

Invented Kmowledge, by Ronald H. Fritze, Reaktion Books, London, 2009.

Fact, Fraud and Fantasy, Morris Goran, A. S. Barnes, NJ, 1979.

Flim-Flam! By James Randi, Prometheus, NY, 1982.

Paranormal Borderlands of Science, Ed. by Kendrick Frazier, Prometheus, NY, 1981.

Science Confronts the Paranormal, Ed. by Kendrick Frazier, Prometheus, NY, 1985.

Science, Good, Bad and Bogus, Martin Gardner, Prometheus, NY, 1981 Avon, NY, 1982.

Science and the Paranormal, Ed. by George O. Abell and Barry Singer, Scribners, NY, 1981.

Extrasensory Deception, Henry Gordon, Prometheus, NY, 1987.

Pseudoscience and the Paranormal, Terence Hines, Prometheus, NY, 1988, 2003.

A Beginner's Guide to Scientific Method, Stephen S. Cary, Wadsworth, NY 1998 (2nd Ed.)

“State of Denial,” various authors, The New Scientist, 15 May 2010, pp. 35-45.

Internet resources for identifying and evaluating pseudoscience claims can be found here. Other good, short summaries of symptoms and signs of pseudoscience and quackery are to be found here, here, and here. A discussion of the relation between science literacy and pseudoscience is here. Why science illiteracy rapidly increased between 2000 and 2010! Is religion the greatest enemy of science literacy? Are college science courses the only hope for science literacy improvements in the US?


Why B. F. Skinner, Like Freud, Still Isn't Dead

Behaviorism is back! That's what David Freedman proclaims in the June Atlantic cover story, "The End of Temptation: How the creepy science of behavior modification is reshaping our desires." The article is, on one level, a hyperbolic report on apps that are "transforming us into thinner, richer, all around-better versions of ourselves" by helping people (including Freedman's brother) overcome overeating, smoking and other bad habits. Freedman inflates this pop-culture mini-trend into a grandiose claim that B.F. Skinner, "psychology's most misunderstood visionary," who popularized behaviorism more than a half century ago, "may finally get his due."

Giving Skinner credit for apps like "Lose It" and "Habit Breaker"—which I predict will turn out to be as effective, or ineffective, as other self-improvement programs—is a stretch. Freedman's article is nonetheless a wonderful illustration of a thesis I advanced 16 years ago in "Why Freud Isn't Dead." My conceit was this: Ever since Freud invented psychoanalysis, critics have viciously attacked it, denouncing it as the equivalent of pseudo-scientific twaddle like phrenology, which held that skull shape mirrors personality. Countless alternative theories of and therapies for the mind have emerged in the past century, ranging from Jungian psychology up through cognitive neuroscience, behavioral genetics, evolutionary psychology and psychopharmacology.

Some of these allegedly new-and-improved fields have yielded valuable insights. The shocking experiments of Stanley Milgram, the reciprocal altruism hypothesis of Robert Trivers, the rise in IQ scores identified by James Flynn, the exposure of cognitive bias by Daniel Kahneman. And yet psychoanalysis is still hanging in there, not—as Freudians claim—because of its scientific merits but because a century of research on the brain and mind has not yielded a paradigm powerful enough to obliterate psychoanalysis once and for all. If Freudian psychoanalysis, in some sense, resembles phrenology, so, in some sense, do all its rivals. A corollary of my thesis is that psychological paradigms never really die they just go in and out of fashion. Their creators endure too, neither dead nor alive but undead, like zombies or vampires.

Case in point: the "revival" of behaviorism, which treats subjective mental states as an irrelevant distraction for understanding humans only objectively observable, measurable behavior matters. (The essence of behaviorism is summed up by an old joke: After two behaviorists make love, the man says to the woman, "It was good for you. How was it for me?") Freedman suggests that behaviorism fell out of favor because people found the behavior-modification techniques proposed by Skinner to be "manipulative," "fascist" and "morally bankrupt." Some critics did indeed raise moral objections to behavior modification. (See for example "The Clockwork Condition," a fascinating essay written in 1973 and printed in the June 4, 2012, New Yorker, in which Anthony Burgess traces connections between his 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange, which yielded one of my all-time favorite films, and Skinner's "evil" proposals.) But scientists abandoned behaviorism for reasons that were primarily empirical, not moral.

MIT linguist Noam Chomsky pointed out behaviorism's flaws in a coldly brutal 1959 vivisection of Skinner's views of language. Chomsky argued out that children cannot possibly acquire language through the simple stimulus-response mechanism postulated by Skinner they must possess a priori knowledge that helps them learn rules of grammar so quickly. Children, Chomsky wrote, "generalize, hypothesize, and 'process information' in a variety of very special and apparently highly complex ways which we cannot yet describe or begin to understand, and which may be largely innate, or may develop through some sort of learning or through maturation of the nervous system. The manner in which such factors operate and interact in language acquisition is completely unknown."

Note what Chomsky is saying: that neither behaviorism nor any other scientific model can explain—or is even close to explaining—how humans learn language, which is arguably our defining trait. (In spite of his own emphasis on the genetic underpinnings of language, Chomsky has been cruelly dismissive of evolutionary psychology, which he once called a "philosophy of mind with a little bit of science thrown in.")

In a recent column on philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn, I pointed out that some fields, especially "hard" ones like physics and chemistry, converge on a paradigm and rapidly progress, while others "remain in a state of constant flux." Fields that address human thought and behavior—anthropology, economics, sociology, political science, psychology--are prime example of research endeavors that lurch faddishly from one paradigm to another.

Will psychologists ever find a paradigm powerful enough to unify the field and help it achieve the rigor of, say, nuclear physics or molecular biology? William James had his doubts. More than a century ago he fretted that psychology might never transcend its "confused and imperfect state." Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner has argued that James's concerns "have proved all too justified. Psychology has not added up to an integrated science, and it is unlikely ever to achieve that status." Gardner once told me that questions about free will, the self, consciousness and other topics with which psychologists (and, tellingly, philosophers) wrestle might not be amenable to conventional scientific reductionism, in spite of all the advances of modern genetics, neuroscience and brain imaging. Gardner suggested that researchers should perhaps consider adopting more "literary" styles of investigation and discourse, as practiced by Freud and James--and, I would add, even Skinner, who was a decent writer, if not in the same class as Freud and James.

And if literary psychology doesn't work out, we still have weight-loss apps.

Photo of Skinner courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The views expressed are those of the author(s) and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


Science, Pseudoscience and Antiscience

The Importance of Informed Treatment Decisions
““Your child has autism.” With those words, a parent’s world comes crashing down. What to do? Choosing a treatment is one of the most important decisions the parents of a person with autism will ever have to make. How do parents find truly effective treatment for their child? In an ideal world, the person who dropped the autism diagnosis on a family would provide the answer. But the unfortunate fact is that many who make this diagnosis are not well informed about the wide array of autism treatments, and the degree to which these treatments have proven effective (or not). So until the day comes when parents can count on data based professional guidance, they will need to become very discerning about the various treatments, therapies, and programs that are claimed to be effective for autism. The same applies to those who are concerned with helping families get effective services. There is a need to do a lot of homework, and to do it quickly. Why the urgency? Because the stakes are high, and every moment is precious.

Children and adults with autism can learn, and there are effective methods for helping them develop useful skills and lead happy, productive lives. At the same time, research has shown that many currently available interventions for autism are ineffective, even harmful, while others have simply not been tested adequately. Every moment spent on one of those therapies instead of effective intervention is a moment lost forever. Besides, common sense suggests that it is wise for parents and professionals alike to invest in interventions that can be reasonably calculated to produce lasting, meaningful benefits for people with autism—that is, interventions that have withstood scientific testing.

As parents and professionals seek information about autism treatments, they discover a long and perplexing list of “options,” many of them promoted by sincere, well-meaning, persuasive people. Everyone claims that their favorite treatment works, and parents and practitioners are often encouraged to try a little bit of everything. This can be very appealing to people who are seeking anything that might help. How does one choose wisely? To quote the late Carl Sagan, “The issue comes down to the quality of the evidence.” So the first step is to find out exactly what evidence is available to support claims about autism treatments. But all evidence is not created equal. How does one sort pure hype from solid proof, wishful thinking from rigorous testing?

Science, Pseudoscience, and Antiscience
Approaches to answering fundamental questions about how the world works can be grouped into three broad categories: science, pseudoscience, and antiscience. Science uses specific, time-honored tools to put hunches or hypotheses to logical and empirical tests. Some of those tools include operational definitions of the phenomena of interest direct, accurate, reliable, and objective measurement controlled experiments reliance on objective data for drawing conclusions and making predictions and independent verification of effects.

Science does not take assertions or observations at face value, but seeks proof. Good scientists differentiate opinions, beliefs, and speculations from demonstrated facts they don’t make claims without supporting objective data.

In contrast, pseudoscience tries to lend credibility to beliefs, speculations, and untested assumptions by making them appear scientific — for example, by using scientific jargon, endorsements from individuals with “scientific” credentials, perhaps even some numbers or graphs. But instead of objective measurements from well-controlled experiments, pseudoscientists offer testimonials, anecdotes, and unverified personal reports to back up their claims. Antiscience is the outright rejection of the time-tested methods of science as a means of producing valid and useful knowledge. The extreme antiscientific view is that there are no objective facts all knowledge is made up of personal interpretations of phenomena.

Pseudoscientific and antiscientific treatments and approaches for various conditions, including autism, abound. They are promoted enthusiastically, not in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but in materials published by their promoters, such as newsletters, videotapes, books, advertisements, and the Internet. These treatments have several distinguishing features (see side-bar). Some may seem benign at first glance, but that can be misleading. Over the years, many such treatments have proven to have very harmful physical and emotional side effects. They also exact a great societal toll by diverting precious resources from effective treatments and sound research, raising false hopes, and perpetuating illusions (for some examples, see the books Controversial Therapies for Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and Crazy Therapies, listed below).

Smart Questions
Parents and professionals can protect people with autism from the harms of bogus and ineffective treatments by exercising healthy skepticism, and asking several questions of everyone who claims to have an effective intervention for autism: What is the intervention, precisely? Exactly what is it supposed to do? Have its effects been tested in controlled experiments using direct, objective measures? If so, were those studies published in peer- reviewed scientific journals? What did studies show about positive effects and negative side effects? Did the effects carry over beyond the immediate treatment setting? Is there another scientifically validated treatment that is similarly effective but has fewer negative side effects? Who will administer this treatment, and how can I be sure they are qualified to do so? How will its effects on this individual be evaluated, and by whom? What will happen if we do nothing? Listen to the answers, but don’t take them at face value. Seek out published research on the treatment, and, if necessary, someone with expertise in scientific research methodology to help you evaluate it. Also take note when no answers—and no solid supporting studies — are provided. What is not known or said matters, too.

When families seek treatment for a child diagnosed with cancer or diabetes, they aren’t simply given a long list of interventions that someone somewhere believes to be effective, and told to choose from that list on their own they can usually expect to be informed about treatments that are based on sound scientific research. Why settle for anything less when the diagnosis is autism?

PSEUDOSCIENTIFIC THERAPIES: Some Warning Signs
(adapted from the American Arthritis Foundation)

  1. High “success” rates are claimed.
  2. Rapid effects are promised.
  3. The therapy is said to be effective for many symptoms or disorders.
  4. The “theory” behind the therapy contradicts objective knowledge (and sometimes, common sense).
  5. The therapy is said to be easy to administer, requiring little training or expertise.
  6. Other, proven treatments are said to be unnecessary, inferior, or harmful.
  7. Promoters of the therapy are working outside their area of expertise.
  8. Promoters benefit financially or otherwise from adoption of the therapy.
  9. Testimonials, anecdotes, or personal accounts are offered in support of claims about the therapy’s effectiveness, but little or no objective evidence is provided.
  10. Catchy, emotionally appealing slogans are used in marketing the therapy.
  11. Belief and faith are said to be necessary for the therapy to “work.”
  12. Skepticism and critical evaluation are said to make the therapy’s effects evaporate.
  13. Promoters resist objective evaluation and scrutiny of the therapy by others.
  14. Negative findings from scientific studies are ignored or dismissed.
  15. Critics and scientific investigators are often met with hostility, and are accused of persecuting the promoters, being “close-minded,” or having some ulterior motive for “debunking” the therapy.

Barrett, S., London, W., Kroger, M., Hall, H., & Baratz, R.S. (2012). Consumer health: A guide to intelligent decisions. (9th ed). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Foxx, R.M. & Mulick, J.M. (2015). Controversial therapies for autism and intellectual disabilities: Fad, fashion, and science in professional practice (2nd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.

Green, G. (1996). Evaluating claims about treatments for autism In C. Maurice, G. Green, & S.C. Luce, (Eds.), Behavioral intervention for young children with autism: A manual for parents and professionals (pp. 15–28). Austin, TX: Pro-Ed.

Green, G. (2015). Fads, follies, and frauds. In J.M. Johnston & D.H. Reid (Eds.), The promise of behavioral services for people with intellectual disabilities (pp. 79 – 91). Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY: Sloan Publishing.

Lilienfeld, S.O., Lynn, S.J., & Lohr, J.M. (2003). Science and pseudoscience in clinical psychology. New York, NY: The Guilford Press.

Park, R.L. (2000). Voodoo science: The road from foolishness to fraud. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Randi, J. (1982). Flim – flam! New York, NY: Prometheus Books.

Sagan, C. (1995). The demon-haunted world: Science as a candle in the dark. New York, NY: Random House.

Schick, T. & Vaughn, L. (2010). How to think about weird things: Critical thinking for a new age (3rd ed). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Shermer, M. & Gould, S. J. (2002). Why people believe weird things: Pseudoscience, superstition, and other confusions of our time. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.

Singer, M.T., & Lalich, J. (1996). “Crazy” therapies. What are they? Do they work? San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

Vyse, S. (2013). Believing in magic: The psychology of superstition. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Citation for this article:

Green, G., & Perry, L. (1999). Science, Pseudoscience and Antiscience. Science in Autism Treatment, 1(1), 5-6.


Criminal Profiling

Criminal profiling is an important part of a criminal psychology. This part of an article will partially answer questions about what criminal profiling is, what it is used for, what is aim of it, in which cases it is mostly used, what are it’s types and what kind of approaches it has.

In short, Criminal profiling (also known as offender profiling and specific profile analysis) is to create a psychological and not only psychological portrait, determine location of the offenders by gathering their personal attributes from crime scene behavior in order to assist in detection of them.

Criminal profiling is typically used when offender’s identity is unknown and with serious criminal offences such as murder, sexual assault. Profilers also work on crime series, where is considered, that the crime is committed by the same offender.

What creates an offender profile is not clearly agreed, but the process of profiling draws both, physical and nonphysical information. This includes the layout of the crime scene in terms of disposition of the victim and the presence or absence of significant items, evidence on what was done to the victim and the sequence of events,and the perpetrator’s behavior before and after the crime. From these data, inferences are drawn about the possible meaning and motivation of particular acts. For example, tying up a victim may mean a necessity for control, while stabbing the victim before sexual intercourse may mean a need for arousal from pain or blood. Characteristics of the victim, location of the crime, use of a vehicle, and relation to previous crimes may also suggest social and demographic features of the offender, such as race, age or occupation.

The goal is to narrow the field of investigation, basic assumptions are, that an offender’s behavior at the crime scene reflects consistencies in personality and method of committing crime (Holmes, 1989). In the majority of cases Criminal profiling is used in serial crimes and sexual assaults and 90% of profiling attempts involve murder or rape. Holmes suggests, that profiling is most useful when the crime scene reflects psychopathology, such as sadistic assaults, rapes or satanic and cut killings. However, there have been cases of it’s use in arson, obscene telephone calls and bank robbery.

There are two main directions of Criminal profiling: The profiling of an criminal’s personal characteristics and geographical profiling. Most commonly, the first one is what people most commonly associate with criminal profiling.

A geographical profiler could be asked to identify the location of an offender’s home, an offender profiler might be asked to construct profile of an unknown offender based on his/hers behavior at the crime scene. A profiler may also be asked to advise police about which particular suspect should be interviewed and how. In addition to it, Ainsworth has identified four main approaches to criminal profiling, these are:

The geographical approach – this looks at patterns in the location and timing of offences to make judgements about links between crimes and suggestions about where offenders live and work.

Investigative psychology – this grew out of geographical profiling and uses established psychological theories and methods of analysis to predict offender characteristics from offending behavior.

The typological approach – this involves looking at the characteristics of crime scenes to assign offenders to different categories, each category of offender having different typical characteristics.

The clinical approach – this approach uses insights from psychiatry and clinical psychology to aid investigation where an offender is thought to be suffering from a mental illness of other psychological abnormality.


Updated: The Miserable Pseudo-Science Behind Face Masks, Social Distancing And Contact Tracing

Once upon a time, there was something called science. It included the discovery of truth about nature, the elements, the universe, etc. It was practiced by honest and accountable practitioners called scientists and engineers. They often invented cool new things as a result of their studies, but generally they had no primal urge to use their knowledge to dominate other people, groups or even entire societies.

Then certain other scientists and engineers rose up and made a discovery of their own. If true science was ever-so-slightly skewed and engineering disciplines were applied to society at large, then they could indeed use their “knowledge” to dominate and control other people, groups, entire societies or even, heaven forbid, the entire planet.

The first group pursued science. The second group pursued pseudo-science.

Merriam-Webster defines pseudo-science as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.” The Oxford dictionary clarifies by stating, “a collection of beliefs or practices mistakenly regarded as being based on scientific method.

Pseudo-science quickly emerged as the principal domain of Technocrats, but they soon found that scientific debate with those promoting real science was most inconvenient to their social engineering goals. The solution was simple: claim that their own pseudo-science was indeed the real science, and then refuse debate by excluding all other voices to the contrary.

In the context of pseudo-science, this report will examine the three primary tools of fighting COVID-19: face masks, social distancing and contact tracing.

Face masks

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) website plainly states that cloth face masks “Will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.”

But, what about surgical masks? OHSA is clear here also that they “will not protect the wearer against airborne transmissible infectious agents due to loose fit and lack of seal or inadequate filtration.”

But then right under these statements, OSHA furiously backpedaled by adding an FAQ section on COVID-19 directly underneath and stated,

OSHA generally recommends that employers encourage workers to wear face coverings at work. Face coverings are intended to prevent wearers who have Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) without knowing it (i.e., those who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic) from spreading potentially infectious respiratory droplets to others. This is known as source control.

Consistent with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation for all people to wear cloth face coverings when in public and around other people, wearing cloth face coverings, if appropriate for the work environment and job tasks, conserves other types of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as surgical masks, for healthcare settings where such equipment is needed most.

So, wearing a face mask cannot protect you from getting COVID, but it is supposedly able to keep someone else from getting it from you? OSHA is speaking out of both sides of its mouth. What it calls “source control” likely puts the real motive out in the open: since you are the source, it’s about controlling YOU. There is no true scientific rationale for anyone but the sick and medical workers to wear masks.

The truly healthy have no business wearing a mask, period.

But, what about asymptomatic carriers?

On June 8, 2020, Maria Van Herkhove, PhD., head of the World Health Organization’s emerging diseases and zoonosis unit released a compilation of a number of contact tracing programs from various nations and plainly stated “From the data we have, it still seems to be very rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”

This writer hates to think what happened to Dr. Herkhove overnight at the hands of her WHO handlers, because the next day she also furiously backpedaled and stated “I used the phrase ‘very rare,’ and I think that that’s misunderstanding to state that asymptomatic transmission globally is very rare. I was referring to a small subset of studies.”

It is clear that Dr. Herkhove’s first statement that naively repeated the clear facts of the matter did not follow the WHO’s justification for non-infectious people to wear masks. In fact, the entire mask wearing narrative hangs on the single pseudo-scientific idea that asymptomatic people can spread the virus.

In a recent Technocracy News article authored by highly-respected neurosurgeon Dr. Russell Blaylock, MD titled Face Masks Pose Serious Risks To The Healthy, he concluded, “there is insufficient evidence that wearing a mask of any kind can have a significant impact in preventing the spread of this virus.” (Blaylock represents real science.)

Nevertheless, in the face of clear evidence of the worthlessness of face masks for preventing disease,

  • States and municipalities are mandating that face masks be worn by all citizens when outside their home
  • Large and small companies are forcing their employees to wear masks
  • People at large are scared to death to not wear a face mask for fear of getting sick or being mask-shamed by others if they take it off.

Breath Is Vital To Life

Many people believe that face masks lower the percentage of oxygen available for inhaling because you rebreathe much of your exhausted breath. However, a face mask itself does not retain a significant amount of your exhaled breath since most of it is exhaled through the mask into the open atmosphere. Furthermore, when you inhale, most of the air delivered to your lungs comes from outside the mask.

The real science is much more complicated than the amount of residual air contained within a face mask.

The real problem with breathing through a mask is that the lungs and chest muscles must exert a lot of extra energy to inhale and exhale. In other words, you must work harder to breathe the same amount of fresh air that you would normally breathe without a mask.

For this reason, those who already have impaired lung functions, minor as they may be, should never wear a mask unless it is for a specific purpose for a very short period of time. The older you are, especially those over 70, lung capacity and muscle strength decline rapidly.

This writer has already encountered several retail store employees, forced by their employers to wear a face mask during work hours, who exhibit symptoms like headache, shortness of breath or dizziness. When asked if they relate their symptoms to wearing the mask, every single one has emphatically said “Yes!”.

Workers with the most physically demanding jobs are the most likely to exhibit these kind of symptoms. Other considerations are age, any preexisting conditions of the lungs (like pleurisy, COPD, chronic bronchitis, pneumonia, etc.) or chest muscles and factors like poor physical condition and obesity. Actually, any debilitating health condition should be a red flag. In other words, those who are prone to get winded without a face mask will immediately be at a disadvantage when wearing a mask. The net effect is that the lungs receive less fresh air with vital oxygen even as the body is under more physical stress.

Every employer and government entity that mandates the wearing of face masks should be required to do two things: first, they should carefully consider each employee as an individual to determine their suitability for wearing a mask. All factors mentioned above should be included, and in any case, no one should be required to wear a mask if it puts too much stress on their lungs.

Many state-level politicians are now mandating the wearing of face masks for all citizens in public places. They have fallen prey to pseudo-science and are now putting entire populations at risk for physical harm that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 virus.

In sum, lung strength, physical condition, age, pre-existing conditions, physical demands of the job, etc., should all be carefully considered by all. A blanket statement that all employees or all citizens should wear face masks it wholly inappropriate.

Social Distancing

Adding to the fear of contagion, people across the nation are driven to practice social distancing, or staying 6 feet apart at all times. This is practiced to excess in almost every commercial establishment with markers taped or painted on the floor and shopping isles converted into one-way travel only.

Yet, two real scientists at the University of Oxford in Britain, Professors Carl Heneghan and Tom Jefferson, wrote in The Telegraph (UK) recently that “the two-metre rule has no basis in science.” Their article was titled There is no scientific evidence to support the disastrous two-metre rule.

According to these scientists,

The influential Lancet review provided evidence from 172 studies in support of physical distancing of one metre or more. This might sound impressive, but all the studies were retrospective and suffer from biases that undermine the reliability of their findings. Recall bias arises in research when participants do not remember previous events accurately, and it is problematic when studies look back in time at how people behaved, including how closely they stood from others.

More concerning was that only five of the 172 studies reported specifically on Covid exposure and proximity with infection. These studies included a total of merely 477 patients, with just 26 actual cases of infection. In only one study was a specific distance measure reported: “came within six feet of the index patient”. The result showed no effect of distance on contracting Covid.

Heneghan and Jefferson further noted,

On further independent inspection of 15 studies included in the review, we found multiple inconsistencies in the data, numerical mistakes and unsound methods in 13 of them. When assumptions over distance were made, we could not replicate any of them.

This is the hallmark of modern pseudo-science: inconsistencies in the data, numerical mistakes, unsound methods and inability to replicate results.

What is the real purpose of social distancing? It certainly is not to curtail contagion. The only other possibility is to curtail economic activity and prevent social cohesion. Humans are social beings, after all, and lack of close proximity leads to depression, anxiety and even serious health consequences.

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing is an established practice in modern medicine. It is useful for the early stages of serious infectious diseases like Ebola, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia.

Every credible expert on contact tracing says that it is effective only up to the point of mass distribution. In other words, during the early stages of a contagion or a slow moving or very serious disease.

In the case of COVID-19, the horse has already left the barn. Except to harass people, there is nothing useful that contact tracing can accomplish.

Yet, almost every state in America is implementing a wide-ranging contact tracing program that may ultimately employ some 300,000 tracers.

The Center for Disease Control website states that “Contact tracing will be conducted for close contacts (any individual within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes) of laboratory-confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients.”

Furthermore, CDC complete definition of “close contact” is,

Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

If you are “exposed” to such a person, your personal information will be collected and you will be contacted by the “tracer” to be instructed to quarantine for up to two weeks. The infected person could have been mistaken about having contact with you. They could be someone who just wants to get you in trouble. If you live in Washington state, where all restaurants are now required to record the contact information of every patron, you might not have a clue who was infected, but you will be quarantined anyway.

Now, the CDC’s declaration of 𔄞 feet” above takes us back to social distancing, where we just learned above that there is “no effect of distance on contracting COVID”in the first place.

Thus, find that contact tracing misses the mark on two main points: first, the virus is too widespread throughout the population to make tracing effective and second, the criteria of six feet for defining a “contact” is bogus.

So, why are governors, mayors and health departments ramping up for a nationwide exercise in obtrusive contact tracing? Again, pursuing a path of pseudo-science, the intended outcome is control over people.

Conclusion

The American public is being spoon-fed a steady diet of pseudo-science in order to justify the wearing of face masks, social distancing and contact tracing. Yet, the actual science points in the polar opposite direction.

Furthermore, those who try to present the real science are shamed, ridiculed and bullied for having such narrow-minded views.

This is a clear sign of Technocrats-at-work. Instead, these are the ones who should be exposed, shamed and ridiculed.

In sum, these dangerous and destructive policies are designed to curtail economic activity, break down social cohesion and control people. Moreover, they fit the original mission statement of Technocracy as far back as 1938:

Technocracy is the science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population…

It is highly doubtful that most state and local leaders understand the lack of real and verified science behind their actions and mandates. Nevertheless, they are implementing policies that are destructive to our economic system, harmful to our personal health and ruinous to personal liberty.

This writer suggests that you print multiple copies of this report and deliver it to every political leader, every commercial establishment, all family and friends, etc.

Permission is granted to repost or reprint this article with original credit and direct link back to Technocracy.news. An updated PDF version suitable for printing may be downloaded here .

Patrick Wood is editor of Technocracy News & Trends, and a leading and critical expert on Sustainable Development, Green Economy, Agenda 21, 2030 Agenda and historic Technocracy.

He is the author of Technocracy: The Hard Road to World Order (2018), Technocracy Rising: The Trojan Horse of Global Transformation (2015) and co-author of Trilaterals Over Washington, Volumes I and II (1978-1980) with the late Professor Antony C. Sutton.

Wood remains a leading expert on the elitist Trilateral Commission, their policies and achievements in creating their self-proclaimed “New International Economic Order” which is the essence of Sustainable Development and Technocracy on a global scale.


Pseudoscience in Popular Psychology

Pseudoscience is simply false science. That is, anything that superficially resembles science, yet isn’t science, is pseudoscience. The difference between them is one of degree rather than of kind, with no single clear boundary demarcating the essential difference. Although the boundaries are fuzzy, however, the distinction is a very important one, especially in the field of psychology. As a relatively young science, which unlike physics or chemistry has yet to enumerate a set of fixed principles that operate nearly universally, psychology is a discipline in which the distinction between real and false science is often unclear, especially to people outside the field.

One major distinction between science and pseudoscience lies in the concept of falsifiability. A central feature (possibly the defining characteristic) of science is the susceptibility of our hypotheses to refutation. In other words, for an idea to be considered scientific, it must be possible to conceive of evidence that could prove it wrong. An idea that cannot possibly be shown to be false is not scientific. It may be metaphysical, religious, or philosophical, but science is concerned with empirical testing of hypotheses, and testing an idea that cannot possibly be proven false is simply a waste of everyone’s time.

For example, the idea that colds are caused by microscopic organisms is easily falsifiable (or has been, at least, since the invention of good reliable microscopes). All that is necessary to prove this is to examine mucus from both sick and healthy individuals. If there is no difference in the number and kind of microorganisms found in the secretions of the two groups, the hypothesis was wrong. This begs several questions. What about the idea that disease is caused by mischievous invisible demons that have no physical substance? What evidence could prove it wrong? Well, scientists could argue that the demons don’t exist, because they don’t see them, but the retort is fairly obvious: “Of course you don’t see them, they’re invisible.” Ultimately, believing in them will come down to faith, not scientific physical evidence. The demon hypothesis is unfalsifiable because there is no way to demonstrate their existence, but also no way to prove their nonexistence, and it is therefore unscientific. This hypothesis is remarkably similar to the real-life argument made by sellers of subliminal perception self-help tapes. “Of course you can’t hear (or detect, with sensitive laboratory equipment) the hidden messages. They’re too quiet for you to hear.” The obvious question, then, is how can we establish that they are even there? If the answer is, “You can’t,” then we are dealing with pseudoscience rather than science.

Beyond the lack of falsifiability, there is a set of characteristics typically found in pseudoscience that may help you to identify it (with a thank you to Bunge, 1984).

If a person proclaims that something is true, then they must produce evidence to support that claim. Without evidence, there is no expectation that anyone will believe the claim. In pseudoscience, this burden is shifted to the critic. Rather than providing compelling evidence that he can actually communicate with the dead, a medium may demand proof that he can’t. This puts the scientific critic in a difficult position, because the scientific method cannot prove a negative.

This counterintuitive idea is well illustrated by an example that James Randi has frequently used to demonstrate the absurdity of a reversed burden of proof. First, assume that millions of people have come to believe that once a year, in the dead of winter, a large man in a red suit pilots a flying sleigh around the world, pulled by eight caribou or reindeer. The skeptical reader, may say, “But that’s absurd! Reindeer can’t fly!” The response from the true believer? “Prove it!” So, the skeptic sets out to prove that reindeer can’t fly. This will require taking some reindeer into the air, either aboard an aircraft of some sort or to the top of a tall building, maybe Rockefeller Center in New York City. On the roof, the first animal is led up to the edge and given a good push. Sadly, it fails to fly. How many more reindeer carcasses would have to pile up on the ice rink below before the point was considered proven? Unfortunately, all that has been demonstrated is that those reindeer couldn’t fly, or chose not to fly for reasons unknown, or were depressed and suicidal and welcomed the chance to end it all. For the Santa-supporters to prove their side of the argument, all they would have to do is produce, for public examination, one actual flying reindeer.

  • Overreliance on Testimonials and Anecdotal Evidence—Real science uses controlled experimental designs, with results that are reproducible by other experimenters, not biased reports of individual people’s uncontrolled personal experiences.

Right now, for example, there are clinics in California and Mexico that claim to prevent or cure cancer via the regular administration of coffee enemas. No controlled clinical trials have ever even hinted at the possibility that such a treatment might be effective, nor is there any good reason to believe that it would be, but the clinics are happy to provide evidence when asked. Unfortunately, the evidence consists of personal statements from people who believe the treatment worked for them. Missing is any medical evidence that these people ever had a proper medical diagnosis of cancer or have actually been cured of anything. The use of testimonials in television advertising is often taken to an absurd degree. One memorable ad for headache medicine, for example, featured treatment recommendations from a soap opera actor who presented his credentials thusly: “I’m not a doctor, but I play one on TV.” To confuse this approach with scientific evidence is inappropriate.

  • Emphasis on Confirmation Rather Than Refutation—Experimental design and statistical analysis in psychology are built around asking the question, “If I am wrong, could I have gotten these data anyway?” If other plausible alternative explanations for our results can be ruled out, only then can a hypothesis be accepted.

The true mark of a pseudoscientist, on the other hand, is the willful ignoring of evidence that fails to support a hypothesis, while clinging to any bit of evidence that seems to support it. Psychic investigators have sometimes ignored famous psychics’ complete failure to produce their claimed effects (blaming the failure on other factors), while emphasizing the testimonials of witnesses to the effects under less controlled conditions.

  • Overuse of Ad Hoc Hypotheses to Escape Refutation—An ad hoc hypothesis is simply one that gets invented on the spot, rather than one that was already part of the theory.

Speaking of psychics, the list of excuses provided to explain away their failures (the hypothesis that their powers don’t exist is rarely considered) is nearly endless—here are a few of the more popular ones: “The skeptical people present are sending out negative vibrations that interfere with the powers, gifts, spirits, etc.” For some reason, being watched very closely by people who might spot cheating tends to shut the psychic powers down “Of course he cheated this time, the powers weren’t working properly, and he didn’t want to disappoint you. But he usually doesn’t cheat, and his powers are real” “He got more wrong than we would expect by chance, that means negative psi is at work here, which is just as impressive as the positive kind.”

  • Absence of Self-Correction—No amount of evidence ever seems to get rid of a theory. True science is self-correcting over time. Theories that turn out not to be true tend to be dropped in favor of theories that are better supported by evidence.

In medicine, for example, the accumulation of evidence on the actions of microorganisms eventually led to the disappearance of the humoral theory of disease (that disease is caused by an excess of blood or bile, for example) in favor of the germ theory of disease. Within psychology, for example, some psychoanalysts have continued to view autism as a response to poor parenting in early childhood, despite the solid evidence that the disorder has physiological underpinnings and a genetic component.

  • Use of Obscurantist Language—This simply refers to the pseudoscientist’s tendency to use hazy, scientific-sounding language, that doesn’t necessarily make any sense, to sound rigorous and complicated.
  1. Ron Hubbard’s DIANETICS (1950) is filled with classic examples. Here’s a favorite:

The scientific fact, observed and tested, is that the organism, in the presence of physical pain, lets the analyzer get knocked out of circuit so that there is a limited quantity or no quantity at all of personal awareness as a unit organism.

One can read and reread the section of the book in which it appears and still have no idea what it means.

  • Absence of Connectivity with Other Disciplines—In pseudoscience, it is not unusual for a claim to require that a large area of human knowledge be wrong in order for the claim to be true.

Uri Geller, an Israeli psychic famous in the 1970s, claimed that he could bend metal objects using only the power of his mind. This can only be true if modern physics, chemistry, psychophysiology, and metallurgy are simply flat-out wrong about how the world works, and yet books celebrating his “gifts” remain in print and continue to be written.

As psychologists, we should be very concerned about the influx of pseudoscience into our field, especially in the clinical realm. A gulf has developed between psychological scientists and clinicians, with a number of therapies being widely promoted despite a lack of empirical support, and sometimes despite not especially making any sense.


Watch the video: Havening (August 2022).