Werewolves in scientist’s clothing

Posted on January 14, 2012


Reminded by a point I raised in my last post, I realised that I have apparently failed to mention an article of mine that is forthcoming in a University of Chicago volume edited by Massimo Pigliucci and Maarten Boudry – The Philosophy of Pseudoscience. I have now put an almost final draft of that paper on my academia.com page:

While claiming the authority of science and bearing a similarity to scientific claims that might fool at first glance, most pseudoscientific beliefs have very little in common with real scientific beliefs and should instead be understood either as a version of supernatural claims that has taken on a guise more fitting to the modern world or as drawing their motivation from such beliefs. This basic picture is best appreciated with the help of an approach that focuses upon the cognitive and cultural mechanisms that produce pseudoscientific beliefs and the evolutionary processes that likely shaped those mechanisms. This does not require giving up on the epistemic considerations, but it does mean putting them into the proper context.

The method pursued in this chapter is to relate pseudoscientific beliefs to the cognitive picture that Robert McCauley (2010, forthcoming) has put forward of the relationships between theology and popular religion on one hand, and science and commonsense beliefs on the other. The effect is to show that the fundamental difference between science and pseudoscience is to be found in the way they relate to beliefs that humans find intuitively attractive. Science, unlike pseudoscience and the other kinds of beliefs McCauley considers, does not seek to maintain agreement with those ‘maturationally natural’ beliefs but instead investigates their shortcomings.