29 May 2010

The Scientific Impotence Excuse

John Timmer at Ars technica discusses a newly published study by Geoffrey Munro on what Munro calls the "scientific impotence excuse," used by those who wish to dismiss scientific findings that conflict with their preexisting beliefs. The notion here is that the question at hand is depicted by the person using this excuse as being beyond the scope of science.

The article citation is Geoffrey D. Munro (2010), "The Scientific Impotence Excuse: Discounting
Belief-Threatening Scientific Abstracts," Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 40:579-600. The article is hidden behind an unusually elaborate paywall (hence I haven't read it); it costs $29.95 from Wiley InterScience for 24-hour access to a 21-page pdf.

(As will become clear to those who follow this blog, I intend to cite the prices of all research articles that are placed behind pay walls because of the chronic absurdity of the access prices, particularly given that a very large proportion of the funding behind such research is ultimately public.)

In order even to learn the price of Munro's article, I had to register at Wiley's site and give them my credit-card billing address (although not my credit card information). 

For a rather sad example of the use of a the scientific impotence excuse by a prominent scientist, see Francisco Ayala, "Evolution can be Religion's Friend" at Standpoint.

And I thought that Gould's "non-overlapping magisteria" had been assigned to the dustbin of intellectual history. Silly me.

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