Sunday, November 6, 2011

Is Futurology Pseudoscience or Religion?

By Rich Kozlovich

Jennifer Marohasy runs a site that I visit a few times a week to see what she has posted.  Jennifer posted an Pseudoscience as a Consequence of Confirmation Bias: Matt Ridley.  on  November 4th, 2011.

Mr. Ridley gave a lecture called "Scientific Heresy".Please read this article.  I think it is insightful with good historical foundation.  It is a good basis for foundational thinking regarding these "scientific" experts, green activists and the whole idea that we need to turn our lives over to "experts" who know what is good for us.  Winston Chruchill made an observation that I have found to be absolute truth. Experts should be on tap, not on top. But the only experts that seem to get anything correct are those experts of the past; not 'experts' predicting the future.

Ridley says; "Experts are worse at forecasting the future than non-experts.  Philip Tetlock did the definitive experiment. He gathered a sample of 284 experts – political scientists, economists and journalists – and harvested 27,450 different specific judgments from them about the future then waited to see if they came true. The results were terrible. The experts were no better than “a dart-throwing chimpanzee”.

One of the points he makes is; "What sustains pseudoscience is confirmation bias. We look for and welcome the evidence that fits our pet theory; we ignore or question the evidence that contradicts it. We all do this all the time. It’s not, as we often assume, something that only our opponents indulge in. I do it, you do it, it takes a superhuman effort not to do it. That is what keeps myths alive, sustains conspiracy theories and keeps whole populations in thrall to strange superstitions.

Bertrand Russell pointed this out many years ago: “If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.”

So who or what is he talking about? Please read the whole lecture to find out, but I will tell you that he confirms the view that we need to question everything and that everything we are told should bear some resemblance to what we see going on in reality.

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