Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd, Massimo Pigliucci

SERRC —  May 2, 2016 — 9 Comments

Author Information: Massimo Pigliucci City College of New York, platofootnote.org, mpigliucci@ccny.cuny.edu

Pigliucci, Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): 1-6.

The PDF of the article gives specific page numbers. Shortlink: http://wp.me/p1Bfg0-2Vs

Please refer to:

Image credit: magro_kr, via flickr

I am thankful to Ian Kidd (2016) for his piece in defense of Feyerabend’s defense of astrology, even though, as I shall argue in a moment, I think Feyerabend failed precisely on virtue ethical grounds, which is how Kidd wants to rescue the enfant terrible’s work. 

Encountering Feyerabend

First, a couple of preliminaries. I must admit that the first (and second, and third) time I encountered Paul Feyerabend, when I was a practicing scientist, I pretty much had the sort of knee-jerk, negative reaction that Kidd describes in his paper. However, later on in my career I switched full time to philosophy (of science), and have come to grudgingly admit that Feyerabend had a point or two, though he could definitely have expressed them more effectively.

Second, and despite my pushing back against Kidd below, Feyerabend can be credited with identifying a real problem with modern science, which he did not name, but which has only grown substantially since: scientism (Pigliucci 2013, 2015). The infamous episode that triggered Feyerabend’s wrath, the publication of a “manifesto” against astrology back in 1975 that was high on authoritative tone and low on arguments was the prelude to what has become a barrage of scientistic claims overstepping the epistemic authority of science, pronounced by major public figures (Stephen Hawking, Stephen Weinberg, Lawrence Krauss, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye “the science guy,” to name just a few) and largely directed at delegitimizing the humanities and establishing a sort of scientific imperialism on all human knowledge and understanding. Despite my disagreements with Kidd and Feyerabend, then, I feel very much on board with their concerns regarding scientism—we just disagree on how most effectively to deal with the menace.

Preliminaries out of the way, let me get down to the main business. In what follows I will argue that Feyerabend failed on virtue ethical grounds, despite Kidd’s attempt to use such grounds to defend him from criticism. I will proceed by highlighting key parts of Kidd’s paper and commenting in a way that will hopefully further this important debate.

It needs to be recalled that there are different approaches to virtue epistemology (Greco and Turri 2011), and I am particularly sympathetic toward broad treatments that attempt to map intellectual virtues and vices (e.g., Roberts and Wood 2007), discuss epistemic virtues as analog to moral virtues (e.g., Battaly 2010), and explore the concept of “epistemic malevolence” (e.g., Baehr 2010). It is from this larger perspective that I think Feyerabend, while rightly chastising (some) scientists for their epistemic arrogance, himself fell short of virtue: he did not seem to be overly bothered by the lack of integrity on display when one defends—in however qualified a manner—practices that are not only indefensible epistemically, but in some cases positively dangerous, such as certain kinds of so-called “alternative” medicine. Moreover, it seems that it didn’t even cross his mind that his scorched earth attitude would damage not just his own credibility (which it very clearly did), but that of his whole field of inquiry, philosophy of science. Indeed, current facile rejections of philosophy by prominent scientists, especially physicists, often cite Feyerabend’s (unwanted, arguably) intellectual offspring: extreme epistemic relativists and social constructionists, which are taken, mistakenly, to be representative of philosophy in general.

On Astrology and Voodoo

Kidd (2016, 4) states that “Feyerabend explained that he discussed astrology and voodoo, not because he ‘believes’ in them, but because he had found them to be convenient ‘examples of the limits of a scientific approach.’” Except that those are egregiously bad examples. Setting aside the arrogant and unarmed for 1975 manifesto in the The Humanist magazine, and at the risk of being accused of adopting the same attitude, both astrology and voodoo have no epistemic value whatsoever. We do have published, peer reviewed, studies on the practice of astrology, for instance (Carson 1985; Kelly 1998), showing that the best professional astrologers fail abysmally at what they claim to do. And we have very sound theoretical arguments to account for why astrology does not work. What else could one reasonably want? So when Kidd (2016, 4) cites Robert Farrell, saying that for him “the defence of astrology is, ‘at its strongest, a claim as to the possibility and as yet unfalsified status of schemes of reality incompatible with science’” one cannot but shake one’s head: astrology has been falsified, over and over; it is incompatible with science because it is not real, regardless of one’s “scheme.”

We learn (Kidd 2016, 8) that “Feyerabend in fact sketches out an objection, focusing upon the historical degeneration of astrology as a ‘research program,’” which would be interesting if applied to approaches that actually have been cast as research programs and have then manifestly become degenerate, like several decades of research in parapsychology (Odling-Smee 2007). But astrology has really never been a research program, and to apply that modern category, framed by modern philosophy of science (Lakatos 1978) with reference to modern science, to a practice that originated when there was no clear distinction between science, magic and religion is strangely anachronistic and concedes far too much to astrology. Moreover, it is somewhat odd to say: “astrology is an excellent example of the way scientists deal with phenomena outside their area of competence. They don’t study them, they simply curse them” (Kidd 2016, 10, quoting Feyerabend), since this is patently false. The particular scientists and others signing off the 1975 anti-astrology declaration may have been so guilty, but astrology is most definitely not outside the area of competence of science, it has been studied, and it has been found wanting. Seriously so.

As for voodoo, Kidd (2016, 4) adds: “The strongest claim that [Feyerabend] makes, in fact, is that voodoo had a ‘firm though still not sufficiently understood material basis,’ for instance in psychopharmacology, which is perfectly sensible.” Well, it depends on what one means by “sensible.” Yes, voodoo practice has, in fact, been explained in terms of both psychology and psychopharmacology (Davis 1988; Desrosiers and St. Fleurose 2002), but that is most definitely not what both practitioners and believers claim. They talk about magic and supernatural entities, and it should not require the adoption of a questionable scientistic approach to reject such concepts on both evidential and plausibility grounds.

What was Feyerabend trying to achieve, exactly? “What he was criticising was the negative intellectual attitudes evident in the unfair derogation of astrology by the authors and signatories of the Humanist statement” (Kidd 2016, 9). That is, he had identified an early example of what is nowadays considered scientism (Sorell 1994). But it is the hallmark of a virtuous person to be wise and recognize what sort of approach works best under whatever circumstances one happens to be operating. When Kidd (2016, 5) says “typically a person tries to provoke others for some principled reason, such as trying to get others to take seriously a new idea, or to rethink a deeply-held conviction” and “the use of radical alternatives can afford new and otherwise unavailable forms of empirical and theoretical critique” one simply has to ask what Feyerabend was thinking. Provocation, even (perhaps especially) for principled reasons, rarely works as a psychological technique, especially with an already highly self-important social cast such as that of professional scientists. And radical alternatives are fine if they are credible and constructive, but astrology, voodoo, homeopathy and the like are light-years away from being either.

Kidd (2016, 9-10) makes a good argument that “Feyerabend invariably articulates [his criticism] in terms of what contemporary virtue epistemologists call epistemic vices … The vice being targeted here, albeit implicitly, is most likely epistemic arrogance.” I am sympathetic, but in reacting the way he did, Feyerabend himself incurred in the vice of epistemic recklessness, and we see the results of his attitude (and that of so many of his followers in academia) today, with rampant denial of climate change, the anti-vaccination movement, AIDS denialism, and so forth. All of which is costing us in the hard currency of actual pain, suffering, and death.

It is, therefore, rather ironic that Feyerabend explicitly stated (Kidd 2016, 11) “I don’t just want to replace maniacs of one kind by maniacs of a different kind—Jews by Christians, dogmatists by sceptics, scientists by Buddhists, I want to put an end to all manias and to the attitudes in people that support manias and make it easy for their prophets to succeed.” Except that such replacement of maniacs by other (arguably worse, in terms of consequences) maniacs is precisely what has happened since skepticism of science has spread to additional quarters of the ivory tower and beyond, exploding in the so-called “science wars” of the 1990s and beyond (Parsons 2003).

Dogmatism and Plausibility

I want to turn now to what seems to me one of the most intriguing aspects of Kidd’s paper, the different positions of Feyerabend and Polanyi. The latter defended the “reflexive” dismissal of pseudoscientific notions (like Velikovksy’s claims in astronomy):

What seemed, to non-scientists, to be reactionary dogmatism was, in fact, a spontaneous evaluation both generated and justified by a tacit sense of plausibility. Polanyi concluded that since that sense is historically informed, collectively supported, and a product of practice and discipline, those scientists were right to trust it (Kidd 2016, 13).

Polanyi was right on target here. Scientists often use the same kind of heuristics we all apply to all sorts of situations where we cannot afford to expend time and resources: we use historically informed background information to at the least provisionally file away a given claim as plausible, implausible, or worth considering further. How many times, exactly, do we have to investigate a claim of UFO sighting, or of a haunted house, and convincingly show that it was yet another meteor or cracking door, before we can be justified—on virtue ethical grounds—in dismissing the next such claim? Or, to put it differently, at what point does the burden of proof seriously shift to the other side (Pigliucci and Boudry 2013), so that the ufologist or paranormalist needs to come up with compelling prima facie evidence before a professional scientist or skeptic embarks in yet another investigation?

According to Kidd (2016, 13-14), for Feyerabend:

The citizens of democratic societies ought to be able to critically appraise the authoritative institutions that influence their lives. [But] The predominant epistemic authority of those societies—namely, the scientific institution—can only be understood and appraised by those already initiated into it—namely, by scientists. If this worry holds true, then democratic control of science is impossible, a view that Feyerabend attributes to Polanyi … [he] emphasises that the general public cannot ‘participate in the intellectual milieu’ in which scientific judgements are made because, to do so, they would require initiation into the tacit dimension of science.

This is a real conundrum, and one that Feyerabend is right to point out. Too much trust in the authority of science, especially when applied to areas where it doesn’t belong, can be a danger for society. But Polanyi is absolutely right when he says, effectively, that there is little alternative available. Again, we are seeing now the horrible results of “democratizing” scientifically-informed decisions, like that of vaccinating or not one’s kids. And we will increasingly all suffer from this type of democratization on a global scale, in proportion to just how many people will disbelieve that we are going through dramatic, man-made, climate change.

Moreover, imagine making Feyerabend’s counter-Polanyi argument in other areas of expertise: shall we democratize brain surgery? Car mechanics? Bridge engineering? Our societies are founded on a highly effective division of labor, and consequently rely on expertise. The experts are, by definition, our best bets in their own domain of competence. They are not perfect, and they do make mistakes, but statistically speaking they beat any other alternative. Still, they cannot be given complete freedom of initiative, especially where the stakes are very high. But the best way to do that is by broadening the conversation, increasing the variety of points of view within science (Longino 1990) as well as adding second-level expertise, for instance, somewhat ironically, that of philosophers.

Some of the best critiques of the excesses of science in recent years have come from philosophers of science (e.g., Kaplan 2000), people who know enough of the science to smell baloney when its likely to be there, and yet whose interests are not aligned with those of the scientific community. Add to that group those of historians and sociologists of science, who are also well positioned to point out science’s own limitations and tendency to overreach, and we have a more vibrant, more diverse conversation going on. That may still not satisfy radicals like Feyerabend, but as his own failure to achieve his stated objectives clearly argues for, it’s the best chance we have.

References

Baehr, Jason. “Epistemic Malevolence.” Metaphilosophy 41, no. 1-2 (2010): 189-213.

Battaly, Heather. “Epistemic Self-Indulgence, Metaphilosophy 41, no. 1-2 (2010): 214-234.

Carson, Shawn. “A Double-Blind Test of Astrology.” Nature 318, 6045 (1985): 419-425.

Davis, Wade. Passage of Darkness: The Ethnobiology of the Haitian Zombie. University of North Carolina Press, 1988.

Desrosiers, Astrid and Sheila St. Fleurose. “Treating Haitian Patients: Key Cultural Aspects.” American Journal of Psychotherapy 56, no. 4 (2002): 508-522.

Greco, John and John Turri. “Virtue Epistemology.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2011): accessed 28 April 2016. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/epistemology-virtue/

Kaplan, Jonathan M. The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic Research: Dangers For Social Policy. London: Routledge, 2000.

Kelly, I.W. “Why Astrology Doesn’t Work.” Psychological Reports 82, no. 2 (1998): 527-546.

Kidd, Ian James. “Why Did Feyerabend Defend Astrology? Integrity, Airtue, and the Authority of Science.” Social Epistemology (2016): 1-19. doi: 10.1080/02691728.2015.1031851.

Lakatos, Imre. The Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1978.

Longino, Helen. Science as Social Knowledge. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990.

Odling-Smee, Lucy. “The Lab that Asked the Wrong Questions.” Nature 446 (2007): 10-11.

Parsons, Keith M. The Science Wars: Debating Scientific Knowledge and Technology. Amherst, New york: Prometheus, 2003.

Pigliucci, Massimo. “New Atheism and the Scientistic Turn in the Atheism Movement. Midwest Studies In Philosophy 37, no. 1 (2013): 142-153.

Pigliucci, Massimo. “Scientism and Pseudoscience: A Philosophical Commentary.” Journal of Bioethical Inquiry 12, no. 4 (2015): 569-575.

Pigliucci, Massimo and Maarten Boudry. “Prove it! The Burden of Proof Game in Science vs. Pseudoscience Disputes.” Philosophia 42, no. 2 (2013): 487-502.

Roberts, Robert C. and W. Jay Wood, Intellectual Virtues: An Essay in Regulative Epistemology. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Sorell, Tom. Scientism: Philosophy and the Infatuation with Science. London: Routledge, 1994.

9 responses to Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd, Massimo Pigliucci

  1. 

    This is a very interesting exchange. Since a section of my recent book Objectivity (Polity, 2015) also discusses on Feyerabend, and Pigliucci’s understanding of the demarcation problem, I am appending the relevant parts of it below, as its treatment of scientism may help mediate the differences between he and Kidd.

    8 The Demise of the Demarcation Problem?

    Like Popper, with whose name the demarcation problem is closely associated, Lakatos was quite interested in the question of whether there is clear demarcation criteria that distinguishes science from pseudoscience. He wanted to ask, “If all scientific theories are equally unprovable, what distinguishes scientific knowledge from ignorance, science from pseudo-science?”37 Popper thought that falsifiability was the defining feature of science that pseudosciences lack, for they are untestable and even try to insulate themselves from refutation by way of ad hocery. If I am prepared to hold a claim in an objective manner, then I must also be prepared to subject it to the widest possible range of observational tests. 38 But subsequent discussion of Popper ’ s position seems to show that empirical falsification is both too narrow and too broad to serve this purpose of providing demarcation criteria. The things we call pseudoscientific are not necessarily unfalsifi -able: often they are falsifiable and, in the eyes of everyone except their adherents, are in fact falsified. The underdetermination problem and cases from fields such as scientific cosmology already challenges the view that scientific theories are always directly falsifiable by tests.
    Lakatos shared with Popper a commitment to the importance of the demarcation problem. “The demarcation between science and pseudoscience is not merely a problem of arm-chair philosophy: it is of vital social and political relevance.” 39 Given the persistence of creation science, global warming denialism, HIV denialism, and the popularity of various conspiracy theories of the political left and right, one might well be inclined to agree. This problem is a social one, and one that philosophers can contribute to. But Lakatos did not agree with Popper’s H-D model being a core rational method of science, and took a substantially different tack in responding to the demarcation problem. Criticism of theories, and in turn the question of demarcation criteria, is far more objective on moderately holistic and historicist grounds, Lakatos thought, than it can be on conventionalist accounts, among which he counted verificationism and falsificationism.
    Kuhn introduced an element of pragmatism in holding that belief systems like astrology are pseudosciences not because they are unfalsifiable, but because they show no ability to sustain a normal-scientific puzzle-solving research tradition. Lakatos develops this more pragmatic, problem-solving approach further. The real question isn’t just distinguishing science from pseudoscience, but progressive from degenerative research programs. Much as time-sensitive theory virtues are pertinent to answering the latter question, how supporters of a theory respond to objections and modify their theory over time settles scientific status as well. Theories are pseudoscientific when they solve no open problems and can only criticize established theories but develop no alternative “positive heuristic” or problem-solving capacities of their own. It has been argued, for instance, that this approach indicates the pseudoscientific status of Intelligent Design Theory more clearly than the falsifiability standard. So in contrast with Popper, it is history again that plays a lead role in Lakatos’s approach: “It is a succession of theories and not one given theory which is appraised as scientific or pseudo-scientific.” 40
    But other philosophers of science have been less inclined to think the demarcation problem is either as important as Popper and Lakatos maintained, or as tractable. Inspired by Kuhn’s historical and social analysis of science, others like Paul Feyerabend were around the same time questioning the whole enterprise of trying to identify a core method of science, and saw this attempt as putting a lid on innovation. Feyerabend called for a kind of “methodological anarchism” while questioning the view of science as the rational enterprise par excellence. He may have been the first to hold that science is just one tradition of thought among others, not one characterized by uniquely cognitive aims or uniquely rational method. But many post-positivists would further insist on a more egalitarian conception of knowledge-producing practices than science-centric philosophies allow for, or at least argue that there is no single method of science that the social and natural sciences share.
    These issues are explored further in Chapters 4 and 5 , but our approach leaves open the questions of whether there exist clear criteria by which to demarcate science from pseudoscience, that is, from theories or worldviews that claim scientific status but are really only pretenders. Feyerabend ’ s book The Tyranny of Science was arguably opposing a scientistic view that Lakatos did not hold: Lakatos in the quote above clearly makes his claim to be about the importance of demarcating science from pseudoscience, not science from nonscience. There are many fields including philosophy, humanities, and the arts that are nonscientific but not pseudoscientific, because they do not aspire to be recognized as scientific. The motivation for seeking to demarcate science from nonscience is oftentimes a scientistic worldview in which the scientific worldview is privileged as the only source of knowledge. This view devalues nonscientific practices and sets up a hierarchy of knowledge producers, whereas Feyerabend calls for a democratization of academic fields. Scientism can be a strong motivator of concern with the demarcation problem, since from this perspective nonscience is essentially nonsense. But the specialness of science that scientism plies upon will be reduced if one holds with Dewey, Peirce, and Haack that scientific patterns of reasoning are refinements and directed applications of everyday reasoning. Scientism seems incompatible with the view of Thomas Huxley that the person of science “uses with scrupulous exactness the methods which we all, habitually and at every minute, use carelessly.” 41
    There are others like Larry Laudan who, while by no means agreeing with Feyerabend’s view, finds the demarcation problem even between science and pseudoscience less interesting that Lakatos does. Laudan thinks pseudoscientific and unscientific are basically “just hollow phrases” marking disapproval. Scientists are willing to consider any-thing and everything on its merits, providing it is open to repeatable experiments. We are better served to speak about scientific status as a matter of degree rather than of kind, and just to worry about distinguishing good science from bad science. Attempts to identify a small and exception-free set of epistemic or methodological features that all and only genuine sciences share have been less than successful. Given also that many views that were scientific in their day would be deemed unscientific today, Laudan thinks that there is no need to make pseudoscience into its own generalized category.
    Let’s examine this claim more closely…. [section on scientific error vs. fraud]…..
    While there is some truth to the demise of the demarcation problem, this may be because the description of the problem has often conflated distinct issues, some more intellectual and some more practical. Nickles thinks that “what began as a logical or metaphysical issue ends up being a concern modulated by pragmatic reasons.” 44 It is best to avoid the trap of thinking of demarcation criteria as an all-or-nothing affair. Instead, the issues can be approached on multiple fronts. These claims by Nickles overlap with the approach of Massimo Pigliucci, who also finds Laudan’s claim of the demise of the demarcation problem somewhat too quick. There are limits to proper tolerance, and Pigliucci thinks the problem is not just an important one socially, but one that philosophers of science should continue to play a key role in addressing. Yet a substantially new tack is needed if we are not to repeat the lessons of the past. Rather than looking for necessary and sufficient conditions for something to count as scientific or pseudoscientific, Pigliucci applies the view that both of these are what Wittgenstein called “family resemblance” concepts. This kind of concept is one where there are multiple identifying features but no feature on the list may be necessary, and different combinations of features may suffice for identification as the kind of thing in question. If science is a “cluster” or family relations concept, then one needs a more varied set of features and an understanding that there are degrees of theoretical soundness and of empirical support. This means letting go, as Laudan demands, of the expectation that there are a small set of demarcating features of science that will fit all scientific endeavors, or, for that matter, all pseudoscientific ones. Pigliucci contrasts the expectation to identify a universal criterion with his cluster approach. Even today ’ s best known skeptics and debunkers of pseudoscience, like Michael Shermer, recognize the difficulty of identifying one universal criterion, and take the more guarded approach that “we can demarcate science from pseudoscience less by what science is, and more by what scientists do.” 45 So he, too, has what might be termed a less strict, cluster approach to distinguishing science from pseudoscience, but he thinks this can still be useful in science education and readily applicable in the courts.
    According to critics of the logicist account we have focused on in this chapter, the objectivity of science should never have been associated with completely value-free inquiry, nor presented as unique from all other forms of inquiry. But if in the end some of the issues logical empiricists associated with the demarcation problem have turned out to be less philosophically important than once thought, there still are issues of genuine concern. Establishing and knowing the markers of pseudoscience, especially in ways that comport to scientific literacy and the needs of the courts, remain an important concern even if they must be approached in the alternative way we have suggested. For somewhat different reasons, so does understanding the markers of scientific fraud and the varied sources of scientific error.

  2. 

    What all the philosophers of science and scientists seem to obviously disagree is “what constitute falsification?” God hypothesis (God of Abraham) has certainly been falsified beyond reasonable doubt in the minds of staunch disbelievers but it did not in the minds of people of faith because even after being demonstrated that geocentric model is wrong and flood did not happen and Earth is not 10000 years old and evolution by natural selection has been the origin of humans there still can be plenty of (circular) reasonable arguments why God of Abraham is real in spite of accepting those scientific findings. A truly believing substance dualist can always find plenty of (again circular) reasonable arguments why afterlife was not falsified in spite of no observation of contacting the dead has been found after long search and explaining of neural connections with no immaterial component by arguing (you did not show receiver hypothesis impossible) although it would be a falsification to a person who was not quite convinced. The same with astrology: you can falsify every horoscope published in every newspaper in every metropolis and it does not constitute falsification of astrology because they can always say “well most horoscopes are bad and a good one is hard to run into” and while to a person who (reasonbly) claims astrology is frivolous that would be “what more disproofs do we need” it doesn’t disprove astrology in the eyes of the person insecure enough in his reasoning (unable to draw conclusion) to be open to such ideas let alone an astrologer. You cannot disprove astrology because astrology is NOT a hypothesis. It is a supposedly a field of study but a study divises a hypothesis astrology does not have really a hypothesis in a scientific sense of the word as hypothesis has to be reasonably plausible and describe how world would appear to be if it is correct. Claim of cosmic meaning and fate cannot be a falsifable hypothesis since world governed by them will not parsimoniously appear different from the world governed by chance and meaningless laws of nature (which makes it meaningless) and evidence of it’s effects has no clear standard when to be expected if they are real. That horoscopes can predict fate is not a theory in as scientific sense of the word BECAUSE there is no conditions (like how many bad horoscopes and how specific they are to the control group) that will PROVE it wrong. Instead astrology is a collection of ASSRERTIONS that world is governed by fate and cosmic meaning and that stars are a guide to them and only talented few can read them and if shown not to they must not be that talented (circular argument). While Popper did separate unfalsifiable in practice (no means to test it) and unfalsifiable in principle where not having expected evidence for (religious claims like God, souls, afterlife) or no ammont evidence against it (like tons against astrology) constitute falsification. Well, Massimo when he said astrology was proven false he meant it was DISCREDITED BEYOND ANY REASONABLE DOUBT which would mean the same thing in “commonsense” of it but has fundamental epistomological difference as DISPROVED even beyond REASONABLE doubt means it was demonstrated IMPOSSIBLE to be true beyond reasonable doubt or that ALL of it was proven false. Which is impossible because while specific horoscopes are testable and specific claims of astrology are testable their basic premise about nature of reality and basic tenets of how to obtain knowledge about it are not because you cannot possibly test every horoscope or every astrologer (especially when some make predictions so limited to moment and LOCATION and different outcome can always be explained as they don’t make it will happen but rather either this or that or something third will happen and it depends on this choice and the parents must have made whatever different choice somewhere for different twins that must have been significant, blah, blah, blah). Discredited means however means there is enough evidence of its implausibility and ENOUGH of it HAS been proved wrong NOT TO BE SERIOUSLY BY ANY SERIOUS SCIENTIFIC OR ACADEMIC BODY OR reasonable and competent group of people. And THAT IS THE CASE ABOUT ASTROLOGY. Why whether the word DISPROVED or DISCREDITED matters as after claiming in to be PROVEN FALSE astrologer can and WILL demand to prove every horoscope in history to be proved false as they will shift burden of proof at which they are talented at and will claim it proves them right (as every correlation that has been discovered and was explaied by rational means without invoking stars and planets but astrologers made themselves believe it confirms their premise) and those who lean on their side will with them. While using word DISCREDITED will send a clear mestage that enough of their claims been shown false or implausible to require astrologers to devise a horoscope that will demonstratebly correlate with the reality and demonstrate it and show that explanations other than planets and stars light years apart are even more implausible than horoscope being competently devised on astrological premise (and my best bet it won’t happen). However Massimo has correctly pointed that Feyerbend is mistaken at best (or possibly even deluded) to expect scientist to take seriously every idea that has actually BEEN effectively DISCREDITED by science BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT rather than simply DISMISSED A PRIORI simply because it cannot be PROVEN false as the burden of proof is on the CLAIMANT especially if claim of that kind HAS BEEN EFFECTIVELY DEMONSTRATED TO HAVE NO CREDIBILITY AGAIN AGAIN AND AGAIN. Nor should Feyerbend promote that those claims be taken seriously in public arena without scientists saying that they have been DISCREDITED and instead demand scientists give them free pass when you have medical practices like AIDS denying making claims that lost credibility and promote cures as such with shifting burden of proof on the skeptic. When you have treatments that have established their credibility it is irresponsible for scientists to give free pass from criticism to those that lost credibility or at least have not establushed such in spite of quite good efford and because no effort was made because it cannot be PROVED ineffective (as prving inefficacy is unrealistic provided tendency to wishfully interpret data and you can always find positive data and explain away and sometimes even attack negative data). In fact I am concerned about wording to prevent the mystics and occultists entrapping scientists into having shifted burden of proof in the eyes of the public and beating them with exhaustive justification especially in the climate of distrust for science.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. Whewell’s Gazette: Year 2, Vol. #39 | Whewell's Ghost - May 9, 2016

    […] Social Epistemology: Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd, Massimo Pigliucci […]

  2. How Should Feyerabend have Defended Astrology? A Reply to Pigliucci, Ian James Kidd « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - June 8, 2016

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

  3. How Should Feyerabend have Defended Astrology? A Further Reply to Kidd, Massimo Pigliucci « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - August 16, 2016

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

  4. Feyerabend and the Cranks: On Demarcation, Epistemic Virtues, and Astrology, Jamie Shaw « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - March 22, 2017

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

  5. Feyerabend and the Cranks: A Response to Shaw, Massimo Pigliucci « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - June 2, 2017

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

  6. Cranks, Pluralists, and Epistemic Vices, Ian James Kidd « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - June 5, 2017

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

  7. Regarding Alternative Scientific Theories: A Reply to Pigliucci, Val Dusek « Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective - June 7, 2017

    […] Massimo. “Was Feyerabend Right in Defending Astrology? A Commentary on Kidd.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 5, no. 5 (2016): […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s