Episode 73: Pretending to be true - getting to the heart of pseudoscience with Dr Carlo Martini


Welcome to another episode of The Words Matter Podcast.

It seems like the last episode with Dave Newell and Jack Chew was necessary; the feedback by and large was supportive, but clearly you cannot please everyone and for some people there is no argument, reason or evidence (let alone a podcast) that will ever initiate a reflection or reconsideration of their position and beliefs. 

So as promised, I’ve continued to explore these issues and today I’m speaking with Dr Carlo Martini about pseudoscience and pseudoscientific claims.

Carlo is an Associate Professor in Philosophy of Science at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University (Milan) and visiting fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Social Science at the University of Helsinki.

He has worked on the interface between science and policy, scientific expertise, and science communication. Carlo leads the work package "Behavioral Tools for Building Trust" in the H2020 Project "Policy, Expertise and Trust"

I spoke with Carlo last year in a two-part episode on expertise and experts; and many of the topics around pseudoscience that we discuss today have overlap with expertise and how we recognize and come to trust an expert – so it would be well worth listening or re-listening to those conversations which are episodes 53 and 54

So on this episode we talk about:

  • The value-ladeness of the term ‘scientific’ and how the label can add value to a treatment, practice or person.
  • We speak about the equalising effect the label ‘pseudoscience’ and how this seeks to remove any underserved benefit or misusing the label of ‘scientific’.
  • We speak about the motives, incentives and intentions of those that might make or perpetuate pseudoscientific claims.
  • We speak about how some practices and professions seem more susceptible than others to be informed by pseudoscience; but that pseudoscience can be found in across all disciplines from homeopathy, osteopathy, nutrition, medicine and even physics.
  • We speak about the importance of peer-review and the openness of scientific community.
  • And finally, we speak about the ethics and harms of pseudoscience and pseudoscientific claims.

So this was another great conversation with Carlo; his outsider position affords him a more dispassionate view of healthcare and his philosophical and sociological perspectives on pseudoscience was incredibly insightful.

Find Carlo on Twitter @martinicarlo

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