February 25, 2024

“But she said study!” -The trap of pseudoscience

Anyone who argues scientifically and based on studies presents themselves as particularly credible. But sometimes this is just a dangerous publicity stunt.

Physics is complex. Anyone who wants to understand the basic laws of nature will have to deal with cumbersome formulas and strange mathematical symbols. But the physics is actually very simple. No other science deals with such simple things as it deals with individual atoms, for example. Or with the orbit of a single planet around its star.

Simple and complex questions

Most of the time, when you study things like this, you can ignore most of the rest of the universe. When it comes to the behavior of corn in the vacuum chamber, it makes no difference at all whether methane is produced in the stomach of the African water buffalo. It does not matter at all in the orbit of the planet whether caffeine increases the risk of cancer. This is exactly why you arrived Natural Science Like physics, it has a high degree of security and precision: you can look at individual questions in isolation and answer them quite clearly. Sometimes one measurement provides a clear solution, refuting any other opinion.

in Social and human sciences Is this different? There you are dealing with more complex systems – with the interaction of different people, for example. What does freedom mean? How fair is our society? How do we deal with integration problems related to immigration? Such questions cannot be viewed in isolation from the rest of the universe. It is so inextricably intertwined with so many other topics that it is impossible to find a clear answer here. Sometimes you can only discuss opinions but can't provide a clear solution.

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Some people ignore this and try to solve complex social problems in a way similar to solving problems in physics. Scientific studies are referred to It indicates a precision similar to that found in the natural sciencesWhich cannot be found in other areas. This is dangerous. Because when it comes to complex topics, almost every opinion can be backed up with studies — even if the opinion is serious nonsense.

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Equality is not physics

in Equality discussions This can be seen. There are surveys that indicate that women who work part-time are happier than those who work full-time. “Science has spoken!” You can now powerfully say and feel superior. “So women don't want to have full-time jobs, careers aren't important to them, so the demand for occupational equality is unnatural!” But people don't understand how science works. No, that's not what this study says. It is just an isolated result that only makes sense when considered as part of a single result A very complex network of threads Understands.

Why do many women prefer to work part-time? Perhaps because the majority of unpaid care work still falls to women? Perhaps because the work environment is still characterized by a patriarchal hierarchy? Maybe it's because of culturally traditional ideas dating back thousands of years that none of us can shake off that easily?

Or examine the percentage of women in artistic and scientific studies and find that this percentage in countries such as Tunisia or Algeria, which are not necessarily considered bastions of liberalism, is surprisingly higher than their counterparts in the Scandinavian countries that enjoy advanced gender equality. Have we now proven scientifically that women who are truly equal are not interested in science at all?

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No, of course not. That's it Naive negligence Complex problem. For example, countries with little gender equality are often also countries with low levels of prosperity, so the pressure to choose a course of study that matches a good income may be quite different, even for women, than in Scandinavian countries with generous social systems. . . In addition, Scandinavia is of course still a long way from leaving behind ancient, culturally rooted gender injustices.

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Self-representation through apparent sciences

Of course such studies are interesting. Even when dealing with complex topics, you should rely on facts and figures. But the whole matter is more complicated. Whoever believes that he can announce the answer to a social question with one study, just as he can sometimes announce the answer to a social question with one measurement, is committing a grave scientific mistake. You can also lie with facts -If you look at a small portion of facts in isolation, though, a meaningful overall picture will only emerge in the context of many other facts.