TOK Entry #5 : Science & Pseudoscience

Video: Why People Believe Weird Things TED Talk (Michale Shermer)

What does Michael Shermer mean when he claims that science is a verb?

Despite common public belief of science being a “noun”, Michael Shermer claims that science is a way of perception in which searches for explanations in the natural world.

What reasons does Shermer give for our tendency to believe unlikely claims?

Shermer provides the example of the “Face on Mars” to show how humans have a tendency to see faces. “Face on Mars” is a photograph take in 1976 that showed a hill that resembled a face. People thought this was monumental architecture made by Martians. However, the same hill was photographed in 2001, and proved that the face does not exit, but simply is due to poor camera quality . This misinterpretation is due to the fact that humans are socially programmed to search for faces. Furthermore, Shermer also discusses how when we squint, we see less of the picture, and therefore the quality of the data lessens. Lastly, people are also more likely to see or hear something when they are given hints on what to look for regardless if it is inaccurate (auditory illusion).

What two advantages did Christian Huygens have over Galileo in trying to understand observations of the rings of Saturn?

Galileo observed that the farthest planet has three bodies. Without a theory of planetary rings and grainy data, Galileo’s theory was not valid. In 1655, Christian Huygens solved this theory because he was able to collect clearer data as well as he used pre-existing theories to build on his evidence.

According to Shermer, what mistakes do pseudosciences such as astrology parapsychology make that prevent them from gaining knowledge?

Theories are proven correct and sometimes in correct during science experimentation. Shermer suggests that within the pseudosciences, they tend to collect unreliable data because they most often ignore “misses” in experimentation.