Discounting science


Here is an interesting observation from the Journal of Applied Social Psychology, The Scientific Impotence Excuse by G. Munro. I would give the link but it no longer works for me and so I don’t feel comfortable giving it as a hyperlink.

The scientific impotence discounting hypothesis predicts that people resist belief-disconfirming scientific evidence by concluding that the topic of study is not amenable to scientific investigation. In 2 studies, participants read a series of brief abstracts that either confirmed or disconfirmed their existing beliefs about a stereotype associated with homosexuality. Relative to those reading belief-confirming evidence, participants reading belief-disconfirming evidence indicated more belief that the topic could not be studied scientifically and more belief that a series of other unrelated topics could not be studied scientifically. Thus, being presented with belief-disconfirming scientific evidence may lead to an erosion of belief in the efficacy of scientific methods.

This may explain the number of people who profess to wanting the nature of consciousness clarified but who do not believe that neuroscience is a method for getting understanding.

When there is no real evidence, theories can ‘free wheel’. A theory can become elaborate and generally accepted with negligible evidence; some devote their lives to teaching and improving the theory. Then some evidence comes along that does not fit with the theory. Small amounts of counter evidence may be ignored but when it comes thick and fast, many seem to close their minds, not just to individual pieces of evidence but to the whole idea that there is or should be evidence.

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