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SCIENCE SALON # 77

Michael Shermer with Dr. Lee McIntyre — The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience

The Scientific Attitude: Defending Science from Denial, Fraud, and Pseudoscience (book cover)

In this engaging conversation on the nature of science, Dr. McIntyre and Dr. Shermer get deep into the weeds of where to draw the line between science and pseudoscience. It may seem obvious when you see it (like Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography — “I know it when I see it”), from a philosophical perspective it isn’t at all easy to articulate a formula for science that perfectly weeds out all incorrect or fraudulent scientific claims while still retaining true scientific claims. It really comes down to what Dr. McIntyre describes as a “scientific attitude” in an emphasis on evidence and scientists’ willingness to change theories on the basis of new evidence. For example, claims that climate change isn’t settled science, that evolution is “only a theory,” and that scientists are conspiring to keep the truth about vaccines from the public are staples of some politicians’ rhetorical repertoire. In this podcast, and in more detail in his book, McIntyre provides listeners and readers with answers to these challenges to science, and in the process shows how science really works.

McIntyre and Shermer also discuss:

  • the strengths and weaknesses of Karl Popper’s “falsification” criteria for the line of demarcation
  • how conspiracy theorists draw their own line of demarcation between their version of the conspiracy vs. that of others within their own community
  • the problem of anomalies that are not explained by the mainstream theory and what to do with them
  • McIntyre’s adventure at the Flat Earth conference
  • Graham Hancock and alternative archaeology
  • Creationists and why they are wrong (and how evolution could be falsified)
  • similarities between Evolution deniers and Holocaust deniers
  • anti-vaxxers and their motives
  • climate deniers and why they’re inappropriately skeptical of climate science, and
  • how to talk to a science denier of any stripe.

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