Sunday, September 20, 2015

Casey Luskin and Deepak Chopra, brothers under the skin?

Recently I wrote a bit about a post by little casey luskin and how pissed off he is about Wikipedia daring to enforce their policies about Pseudoscience topics, like Intelligent Design.  Wikipedia policy on fringe science and pseudoscience is this policy.  My post (Wikipedia deserves an Award! They Annoyed the DI! Yea!) discussed this.  Little casey, of course, whined a great deal because such a policy makes it difficult for the DI, and other folks, to publish their pseudoscience as if it was actual science.  What they are after is the ability to use Wikipedia not as an encyclopedia, but as a way of marketing their pseudoscience and selling their ideas.  Don't enough people buy into their crap?  I mean the DI certainly isn't spending their own money pushing their religion, are they?  One of the points I made was for anyone curious to examine the history of edits on Wikipedia and see what pseudoscience supporters keep trying to have added to various pages.  That was the focus of little casey's whine.

Well, lil' casey is not alone.  Recently Jerry Coyne wrote a take down of Rupert Sheldrake, which included a small take down of another pseudo-scientist, Deepak Chopra.  It's a great article, "Pseudoscientist Rupert Sheldrake Is Not Being Persecuted, And Is Not Like Galileo".  Apparently Sheldrake made whines about 'militant atheists' editing his bio page.  Basically his whine sounds like: 'Those bullies who edit Wikipedia pages are being mean to me.'  Translated what it means is Wikipedia is following their policies and not allowing unsupported nonsense to be claimed as science.  Sound familiar?  Exactly!

Well Deepak Chopra didn't take it too kindly either and wrote a rebuttal.  It's hilarious!  "Deepak Chopra Responds to Pseudoscience Allegations. Jerry Coyne Fires Back.".  At no time did he try and defend his ideas or even his arguments.  He tries a logical fallacy argument called an "Argument from Authority", not that he is actually an authority, but he tries to sell his credentials to demonstrate that he should be taken seriously.  One of his comments struck me:

"These facts should be enough to convince an unbiased reader that Coyne's pose as a defender against arrant charlatans doesn't pass even the most basic test of fairness and objectivity."
One of the common claims of pseudoscientists is that their ideas should be treated as equal, after all that's fair, isn't it?  How often have we heard similar complaints from groups like the DI?  So, Deepak thinks that voicing unsupported ideas, ideas that have no basis in reality and since Jerry Coyne is painting him with the same brush as one would paint 'arrant charlatans' that is somehow unfair.  Really?

Journalism tends to make that mistake.  We've discussed it before as well, the last time was in the same post about Wikipedia.  Journalists error in thinking just because two ideas are opposite, that they are equally valid and give each idea equal coverage, claiming this is some sort of journalistic neutrality.  My point is that in an effort to be neutral the result is that often journalists tend to inflate pseudoscience by giving equal coverage.  What should be the deciding factor isn't equal time in front on a camera or equal inches in a newspaper article, but the validity of their ideas.  Journalists should do what Wikipedia does and check things out.  When you discover their ideas are made up more of conjecture and wishful thinking, coverage should reflect that.  That would be a better definition of fair and objective, not Deepak's.

The facts are Jerry Coyne represented Sheldrake and Chopra in ways that are honest, but unflattering and it might impact their ability to sell their pseudoscience.  That probably bothers them more than anything, it might impact sales.  They make a very good living pedaling the modern version of 'snake oil'.  As you can tell by the title, Jerry Coyne responded to Chopra and if you enjoy a good take down, you should read it all the way through.

So what it sounds like is two group, one the Discovery Institute, and the other Deepak and his buddy Rupert, are certainly philosophical brothers when it comes to how they feel about Wikipedia.  The basic problem is Wikipedia has standards, and those standards include something the DI, and Deepak and Rupert seem to refuse to understand.  What they want is free rein, but the real question is what have they done to deserve it?  Absolutely nothing!  They are being held to the same standard, not a different standard, but the SAME standard as actual scientific topics on Wikipedia, and that's something they can't seem to handle. 

It would be different if Wikipedia held actual scientific ideas to a different standard, but that's not true.  Wikipedia desired valid references, not pie-in-the-sky foolishness.  Just look at the edits yourself, don't take my word for it at all!  

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