Skeptics usually approach fake science armed with a diagnostic checklist, asking whether the claims in question are falsifiable, naturalistic, parsimonious, and so forth. Philosophers of science, however, have long pointed out that fake sciences need not exhibit such features. Creationist claims, for example, are very often false, not unfalsifiable. Moreover, legitimate science can also fail skeptical tests. A better way to understand fake science is to shift our focus to institutions alongside psychological vulnerabilities and intellectual bad practices. Creationism is, again, a good example: its success depends on institutions that produce apologetics and promote loyalty rather than a process of learning. The work that skeptics do remains valuable, but we can do even better if we pay more attention to institutions and treat our favorite diagnostic criteria as warning signs rather than rigid rules.
Speaker: Taner Edis, Truman State University
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