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Medicine Pseudoscience Religion Science Skepticism/critical thinking

A Sunday exercise for my readers: Spot the error(s) in this argument

I’m busy working on a talk today, but there is a tidbit that lends itself to a brief (and hopefully amusing and educational) Sunday exercise. It comes, not surprisingly, from the anti-vaccine blog Age of Autism. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with vaccines per se, but it is a perfect encapsulation of the sort of fallacious statements and arguments that pseudoscientists in general make. Indeed, this comment could easily have come from a creationist, religious, alternative medicine, New Age, or 9/11 Truther website, among others and fit right in.

Specifically, it is a comment that the machers at AoA liked so much that they actually gave it an award for commenter of the week:

This whole “science has spoken” business is absurd and misses the point of what “science” is supposed to be. Somehow this country has traded religion for science apparently ignoring the fact that they are two totally separate things. Science isn’t something to be worshipped or even worse, to have faith in. Science is a method of questioning. To say “science has spoken” on an issue is to betray the very meaning of science.

Perhaps I’ll weigh in tonight or tomorrow; that is, unless you all have, as I expect you will do, so thoroughly and brilliantly deconstructed what is wrong about this burningly stupid quote that I don’t need to add anything. All I can say without giving too much away is that this quote demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of what science is and does, all wrapped up in a classic example of crank false equivalency.

No wonder AoA liked it so much.

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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