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Pseudoscientific Scientists July 12, 2012

Posted by mareserinitatis in career, work.
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I talked a little while ago about trying to get my kids thinking critically about things that they read.  I think it’s important to try to be realistic in expectations of how our kids develop those skills.  It takes time to learn to question things and understand the role of evidence.

But what about when you have a colleague who is into pseudoscience?  It recently came to my attention that someone who I know rather distantly and has a technical profession is rather heavily involved in some of this stuff.  Now before you say anything, I am considering pseudoscience and religion/spirituality separate issues and won’t tolerate comments ragging on people’s religious beliefs.  Pseudoscience, to me, is something which is easily tested and has been disproved…but people choose to believe it.  One example would be astrology…which is what I’ll use as the problem ‘belief’ in this situation.

I began thinking I was relieved that I don’t work with this person because I wouldn’t be sure what to do.  But what if I did?

I suppose this is where academics are lucky.  Tenure is supposed to allow them to get involved in whatever they’re interested in without having to worry about how those interests, research or otherwise, impact their job.  People outside academia or those who haven’t yet received tenure very often have to be more careful about those things.  However, I thought tenure was meant to protect either lines of research that were not terribly popular or even political activities.

In my present position, I would be very nervous about someone like that working within my group.  If word got out that one of my coworkers was actively promoting astrology, I would be terrified that somehow that person’s activities may somehow be associated with me and my research.  I would hope that I would not be the victim of guilt by association.  Unfortunately, I think that such activities may be identified with where I work and therefore carry over to me personally.  After all, a scientist engaging in an activity that’s scientifically disproven can’t look good.

That brings me to an interesting question: do I have the right to ask them to keep their activities under wraps?  If they’re actively promoting them and could be associated with me, I think that gives me a valid reason to ask them to do so out of courtesy.  I am guessing it would be out of line for me to ask them to knock it off entirely, as much as I disagree with it.  Or do I have to sit there and silently worry?

I am fortunate that this is a hypothetical situation, but I do have to wonder what the colleagues of this person I know might be thinking…

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Comments»

1. marksackler - July 12, 2012

Keep two arms length…

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