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Ch. 3 - Social Pseudoscience in the Morning of America's... 
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Post Ch. 3 - Social Pseudoscience in the Morning of America's...
Ch. 3 - Social Pseudoscience in the Morning of America's Culture Wars

Please use this thread for discussing Chapter 3.



Tue Feb 26, 2008 2:17 am
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The subject of pseudoscience is one that I'm sure the log-time members of this group have delved into. Is the U.S. somehow unusually prone to the allure of pseudoscience? Pseudoscience seems to be akin to hucksterism, but is the speciality of educated, rather than ignorant, citizens. Pseudoscience is a way a selling people a bill of goods, a high-class sales technique.

I did become a little confused by the way Jacoby seemed to shift her targets from the conservative, anti-intellectual sector of the population to the intellectuals themselves. She makes it clear that intellectuals were responsible for distorting Darwin's theory for the sake of justifying laissez-faire capitalism. They were of the intellectual class, but apparently not in her mind good examples of intellectualism, a quality she always praises.

I also thought it interesting that she gives backhanded credit to the same fundamentalists she scorns. She says that the religious beliefs of William Jennings Bryant prevented him from going along with social Darwninsm (or simply Darwinism, since he conflated the two), so here we have an example of religious values holding the line against a fairly destructive, modern influence.

Pseudoscience is certainly very much with us today. My candidate for the sneakiest pseudoscience is theory supposedly based on neuroscience. This has been responsible for the Baby Einstein products as well as promoters such as Dr. Amen, who had a recent special on PBS about how we can all change our brains. He showed viewers brain-scan images that he says are diagnostic of various problems. He told us how we can change these pictures by doing certain things. The audience was eating it up, but a check on the Quack Watch website shows that he has little scientific substantiation for his techniques and conclusions and is probably in it for the money.



Sat Mar 15, 2008 9:02 am
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Very good points, DWill. One characteristic of intellectualism that Jacoby keeps bringing up is fairness, or the ability to examine opposing viewpoints.
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The ideological fixations of otherwise intelligent men in America's Gilded Age offer a recognizable precursor of the imperviousness to evidence that permeates many ideologies in our current age of unreason. p. 61

So yes, living the life of the mind isn't necessarily the ultimate - if you're bullheaded, you can become "quagmired". For open-minded intellectuals, these dead end roads can be self-correcting, rather like the scientific method.

However, I suspect Social Darwinism is alive and well today. I think if you scratch a little deeper, many Americans believe the poor are lazy and stupid.

Jacoby discusses the Baby Einstein videos several times, she agrees with you...



Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:02 pm
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