Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pseudo-Science Watch

A blog we often enjoy making fun of for its charming assortment of wacky and earnest ideologues of the far right is now featuring a political "scientist" selling his snake oil about "liberal bias" in the media, in, it appears, roughly the original formula:  see here and here for earlier discussions.

UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 6):  David Bernstein (George Mason), the legal academy's poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect as well as our favorite mockable earnest ideologue, bizarrely surfaces in the comments of a rather timid commentary on this item to ask, "[W]hat does it mean to be accused of peddling pseudo-science by someone [meaning mild old me] who defends Freudian psychiatry?"  As we know from recent discussion, this is not necessarily a fallacious ad hominem, but it is still a remarkable instance of the phenomenon to which Messrs. Dunning and Kruger have given their name.   Bernstein remains in the dark as we have noted before, about the actual empirical literature on the Freudian theory of the mind, which both confirms some distinctively Freudian hypotheses and disconfirms other ones.   This is not an esoteric literature, and someone who was a scholar and not an ideologue, might have bothered to investigate.  But that someone is not, alas, David Bernstein.   (In response to a reader query, a decent place to start is this literature survey, which is fairly non-technical.)

ANOTHER (SEPTEMBER 10):  In a remarkable display of restraint, Professor Bernstein waited a full 24 hours before posting a "reply"to my September 6 update!   As usual, he conflates my (obviously correct) point about the inefficacy of rational persuasion in political blogging with the value of discursiveness in academic discourse among actual scholars (a telling conflation, needless to say), but we can put that to one side.   Among the new gems on offer:  (1) this putative "expert" on "junk science" thinks there is a "scientific method" (hint:  read any book in philosophy of science in the past 25 years--say Richard Miller's Fact and Method [1987]); (2) he defines the alleged method in such a way that large parts of geology and evolutionary biology and astrophysics would turn out not to be sciences; (3) he is in the dark (what else is new) about the role that speculative hypotheses play in almost all major scientific advances; (4) he appears to believe that clinical evidence is not "scientific" evidence, apparently does not know what consilience and inference to the best explanation are, and apparently doesn't know what role they play in Freud's theory of the mind; and (5) he continues to conflate Freud's theory of the mind with psychoanalysis as a therapy.  If there were any evidence that Bernstein is capable of rational belief revision with respect to subjects about which he is massively ignorant, it might be productive to expound on these points, but since there isn't....

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