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Here be dragons: exploring the hinterland of science

Maarten Boudry (UGent)
(2011)
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(UGent)
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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.

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

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.
@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},
}