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Here be dragons: exploring the hinterland of science

Maarten Boudry UGent (2011)
abstract
This dissertation is an exploration of the hinterland of science and the strange ‘creatures’ dwelling there. In philosophical circles, the subject of pseudoscience has stirred relatively little philosophical excitement. The demarcation project has fallen on hard times, and many philosophers have grown suspicious of the very term ‘pseudoscience’, as it is believed to suggest a naïve conception of science and its borderlines. In this dissertation, I argue that, instead of abandoning the demarcation project altogether, we should search for more sophisticated tools to distinguish pseudoscience from bona fide science. The ‘silver bullet’ approach to pseudoscience is criticized, particularly with regard to the principle of methodological naturalism in science and the controversy about supernaturalism and intelligent design. I develop a theoretical framework for analyzing the structure of pseudosciences, based on the concepts of immunizing strategies and epistemic defense mechanisms. The recurrence of these theoretical features, which is illustrated with a number of case studies, demonstrates the surprising resilience of pseudoscience and other ‘irrational’ belief systems. These epistemological considerations are then integrated with cognitive and psychological findings on irrationality, in order to construct a broader framework for the generation and dissemination of belief systems (epidemiology of representations). I argue that the self-validating nature and internal epistemic rationale of certain ‘weird’ belief systems go some way to explaining their wide appeal and pervasiveness. We conclude that pseudosciences are worthy of philosophical investigation, and that the rumors of the death of demarcationism have been greatly exaggerated.
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
promoter
UGent
organization
alternative title
Exploring the hinterland of science : philosophical investigations on pseudoscience and irrationality
year
type
dissertation
publication status
published
subject
pages
274 pages
publisher
Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy
place of publication
Ghent, Belgium
defense location
Gent : Zebrastraat 32/001
defense date
2011-03-15 15:00
ISBN
9789070830182
language
English
UGent publication?
yes
classification
D1
copyright statement
I have retained and own the full copyright for this publication
id
1191286
handle
http://hdl.handle.net/1854/LU-1191286
date created
2011-03-17 14:38:51
date last changed
2017-01-16 10:38:01
@phdthesis{1191286,
  abstract     = {This dissertation is an exploration of the hinterland of science and the strange {\textquoteleft}creatures{\textquoteright} dwelling there. In philosophical circles, the subject of pseudoscience has stirred relatively little philosophical excitement. The demarcation project has fallen on hard times, and many philosophers have grown suspicious of the very term {\textquoteleft}pseudoscience{\textquoteright}, as it is believed to suggest a na{\"i}ve conception of science and its borderlines. In this dissertation, I argue that, instead of abandoning the demarcation project altogether, we should search for more sophisticated tools to distinguish pseudoscience from bona fide science. The {\textquoteleft}silver bullet{\textquoteright} approach to pseudoscience is criticized, particularly with regard to the principle of methodological naturalism in science and the controversy about supernaturalism and intelligent design. I develop a theoretical framework for analyzing the structure of pseudosciences, based on the concepts of immunizing strategies and epistemic defense mechanisms. The recurrence of these theoretical features, which is illustrated with a number of case studies, demonstrates the surprising resilience of pseudoscience and other {\textquoteleft}irrational{\textquoteright} belief systems. These epistemological considerations are then integrated with cognitive and psychological findings on irrationality, in order to construct a broader framework for the generation and dissemination of belief systems (epidemiology of representations). I argue that the self-validating nature and internal epistemic rationale of certain {\textquoteleft}weird{\textquoteright} belief systems go some way to explaining their wide appeal and pervasiveness. We conclude that pseudosciences are worthy of philosophical investigation, and that the rumors of the death of demarcationism have been greatly exaggerated.},
  author       = {Boudry, Maarten},
  isbn         = {9789070830182},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {274},
  publisher    = {Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy},
  school       = {Ghent University},
  title        = {Here be dragons: exploring the hinterland of science},
  year         = {2011},
}

Chicago
Boudry, Maarten. 2011. “Here Be Dragons: Exploring the Hinterland of Science”. Ghent, Belgium: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy.
APA
Boudry, M. (2011). Here be dragons: exploring the hinterland of science. Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, Ghent, Belgium.
Vancouver
1.
Boudry M. Here be dragons: exploring the hinterland of science. [Ghent, Belgium]: Ghent University. Faculty of Arts and Philosophy; 2011.
MLA
Boudry, Maarten. “Here Be Dragons: Exploring the Hinterland of Science.” 2011 : n. pag. Print.