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""Science" isn't so much a thing as a way of thinking. "Pseudoscience" is when people, through ignorance or malice, use a thought process that looks like science, but doesn't have the same rigor. This quiz tells the story of how you make that mistake."
15 Points Per Correct Answer - No time limit
This is a story about Bob Johnson, a well-meaning turnip farmer. Bob's career choice is fortunate, because he loves the taste of turnips. Even more fortunately for him, so does his family, so his desire for a turnip-focused diet meets with their approval. They have turnips at every meal: they have them fried, mashed, boiled, roasted and raw. They start each day with a fresh-squeezed glass of turnip juice. One day, Bob notices that he gets fewer colds and his family tells him that they get fewer colds. He concludes that turnips have anti-viral properties and protect his family from infection. Assuming that his observation is accurate (his family does get fewer colds), what pseudoscientific error has he made?
Only a scientist may make that conclusion.
He forgot to check his results with his doctor.
Everyone knows that turnips taste horrible.
Over-reliance on anecdotal evidence.
Having reached his conclusion, our hero decides to create a website extolling the virtues of a turnip-heavy diet and offering turnip and turnip-related nutritional supplements. What's the negative term used for this method of announcing pseudoscientific results?
"Science by press conference"
"Getting yours first"
"Publish or perish"
Farmer Bob's website is a great success. He sells lots of turnips and turnip-related nutritional supplements. More importantly to his pseudoscience, however, he accumulates a lot of anecdotes from people who claim that his turnips, or his supplements, have either prevented disease or cured their disease. He also gets a few stories where people claim that his products have had no effect. Figuring he should focus on the positive, he posts the positive results on the website and deletes the negative ones. This mistake is common in pseudoscience and is described by what kind of cognitive bias?
"Yellow Journalism Bias"
"Bible Code Bias"
"The Red Queen Bias"
Bob's popularity brings him to the attention of some local scientists. They gently point out that Bob hasn't really researched the effect of turnips. Bob decides to run an experiment; he goes down to the local nursing home and interviews many senior citizens about their consumption of turnips (and turnip-based supplements). His data shows that older senior citizens have eaten more turnips in their lifetime. He gleefully reports this data in support of his claim that turnips make you healthier and thus you live longer. Assuming his data is accurate, what's the pseudoscientific problem with using this data?
Old people are senile.
Old people are still sick.
He's just wrong.
Correlation does not mean causation.
Bob writes a short book extolling the wonderful benefits of turnips and turnip-based supplements. He makes the rounds of talk shows promoting his book, and agrees to appear on a panel with a doctor. The doctor points out the pseudoscientific nature of Bob's work. Bob answers these criticisms by claiming that the doctor hates turnips and won't eat them. What's the term for Bob's counter-argument?
An "ad hominem" argument.
A "dead horse" argument.
A "strawman" argument.
A "your momma" argument.
Bob, like many of us, tends to become defensive when criticized. As more scientists argue that he's engaged in pseudoscience, he makes up his mind to show them who's boss. He offers a $50,000.00 prize for anyone who can show that turnips DON'T prevent disease. Why is this a tip that Bob's engaged in pseudoscience?
Because he won't be able to verify the submissions.
Because he doesn't have $50,000.00.
Because you can't prove a negative.
Because the prize will bias the results.
Bob notices that a lot of the people criticizing him have Ph.D's from Ivy League schools. He becomes convinced that Ivy League universities have engaged in systematic anti-turnip brainwashing. This reasoning is common in pseudoscience. However, it violates a common principle of logic: that the less complicated hypothesis is more likely to be correct. What's the sharp-edged name for this principle?
Bob has acquired a reputation in some circles as a visionary. A whole group of people is convinced that their ingestion of turnips (or Bob's supplements) has saved them from any number of diseases. Some members of this group hold degrees in scientific fields, mostly in Engineering and Physics. Bob points to the fact that a lot of "scientists" agree with him as support for his claims. This error, invoking the prestige of a person making a statement as evidence that the statement is correct, is known as what? (Note: "Because I'm your Dad and I said so," is an invocation of the same error.)
"Six degrees of separation"
"You're not the boss of me"
"Argument from authority"
"Argument from bossiness"
Bob's tendency toward pseudoscience is exacerbated by his lack of formal education in the sciences. A prankster takes advantage of that by complimenting him on the absence of "Dihydrogen monoxide" in his turnip-derived supplements, noting that Bob could not fit the turnipy goodness in the capsules if he did not remove most of this "dangerous chemical." Bob posts this praise on the website, quickly removing it a week later when people inform him of the more common name for "Dihydrogen monoxide." What is the more common name for this chemical?
After a long time in the business, Bob has now sold millions of turnip supplements, marketed as "Turnipvita." He creates a commercial explicitly referencing that fact. In the commercial, he offers a month's free supply of "Turnipvita" if you agree to sign up for a monthly shipment. He states, "If Turnipvita didn't do something pretty amazing, could I afford to make this offer?" What is a reason this is a pseudoscientific position?
Because the claim cannot be proven false.
Because only impoverished researchers do science.
Because no scientist has endorsed this position.
Because my mom said so.
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Compiled Dec 04 13