Unexpectedly Intriguing!
12 August 2016
Wikimedia Commons: Checklist Noun project 5166 - Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Checklist_Noun_project_5166.png

In exploring the behaviors that characterize pseudoscientists, we came across a category that often part and parcel of what might be called the "pseudoscientific method", which isn't explicitly covered by our junk science checklist.

Via the Skeptical Raptor, a biologist who has made themselves the bane of the anti-vaxxer movement, is a description of behavior that we've also observed from confirmed pseudoscientists: Personalization of Issues. Here's how the Skeptical Raptor describes it:

Pseudoscience is often composed of closely tied social groups, and usually includes an authoritarian personality, suppression of dissent, and groupthink. This social construct can enhance the adoption of beliefs that have no rational basis. In an attempt to confirm their beliefs, the group tends to identify their critics as enemies. Pseudoscience also make false assertions or claims of a conspiracy on the part of the scientific community to suppress results that support the pseudoscience. Finally, they attack the motives or character of anyone who questions the claims, the argumentum ad hominem. As an example, the anti-vaccine crowd has invented numerous claims about Dr. Paul Offit, one of the great researchers in vaccines, just to attack him personally. They’ve done the same with Bill Gates.

Argumentum ad hominem, is something we have been accumulating quite a lot of examples to demonstrate, which we'll get around to at our leisurely convenience.

The amazing thing to us is it takes so very little to unleash a torrent of this kind of antisocial behavior from the practitioners of junk science, as we've found it comes with even the mildest of criticism. We strongly suspect that the typical pseudoscientist is someone who is very unpleasant to be around.

All you need to confirm if that is the case is to ask their colleagues and peers, who are often very happy to have someone from the outside listen to what they have to deal with at work every day. Provided they don't have to watch their backs if the personality in question is someone who also wields considerable power at their work or in their field.


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