Friday, July 22, 2005

bad science from sam

A bit of bad tempered guest-blogging from Sam...

I'm a regular reader of Ben Goldacre's Badscience column in the Guardian, and it's getting to the point where I can't control my anger and frustration.

As a psychology undergraduate I was astounded by students failure to grasp even the basic distinction between valid common sense empiricism and total nonsense. I lost count of the number of psychology students who didn't think that thought processes could be understood as arising out of neuronal processes, or that psychology shouldn't be a science (most psychology isn't science, or at least is bad science, but you can at least try!).

I had a conversation with an old friend of mine a few months ago. She is towards the end of her final year as a psychology undergrad, with straight-A marks. She was babbling about psychic healing, and some anecdote in which she has 'transferred' an injury from herself to her father through mind power. When I countered that this would violate some fairly fundamental laws of physics, she was incredibly defensive, and other people in the room reacted as if I was being the silly one.

I remember, when I was about 17, my school science department invited a 'well respected expert' to talk to us about 'parapsychology'. She rambled on for about 2 hours about 'quantum wave dimensions' in hyperspace, and the history of psychics (the ouija board is, apparently, a very effective scientific tool, if used correctly!). Afterwards, our physics teacher commented that he thought "she had a lot of good ideas" and that we should be open minded to possibilities, etc.

In Brighton, where I live, they distribute a free magazine called "Waves", which is stuffed full of adverts and editorial on alternative therapies. One of our favourites is the "School of Vibrational Medicine". Brighton must have more stupid people per capita than any other city or town in the UK.

Ok, I think I'm spent. I'm glad I got that off my chest.

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