What makes weird beliefs thrive? The epidemiology of pseudoscience

Philosophical Psychology 28 (8):1177-1198 (2015)
Download Edit this record How to cite View on PhilPapers
What makes beliefs thrive? In this paper, we model the dissemination of bona fide science versus pseudoscience, making use of Dan Sperber's epidemiological model of representations. Drawing on cognitive research on the roots of irrational beliefs and the institutional arrangement of science, we explain the dissemination of beliefs in terms of their salience to human cognition and their ability to adapt to specific cultural ecologies. By contrasting the cultural development of science and pseudoscience along a number of dimensions, we gain a better understanding of their underlying epistemic differences. Pseudoscience can achieve widespread acceptance by tapping into evolved cognitive mechanisms, thus sacrificing intellectual integrity for intuitive appeal. Science, by contrast, defies those deeply held intuitions precisely because it is institutionally arranged to track objective patterns in the world, and the world does not care much about our intuitions. In light of these differences, we discuss the degree of openness or resilience to conceptual change (evidence and reason), and the divergent ways in which science and pseudoscience can achieve cultural “success”.
Reprint years
PhilPapers/Archive ID
Revision history
Archival date: 2014-11-03
View upload history
References found in this work BETA
Relevance: Communication and Cognition.Sperber, Dan & Wilson, Deirdre
Relevance.Sperber, D. & Wilson, D.

View all 54 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA
Why Do Irrational Beliefs Mimic Science? The Cultural Evolution of Pseudoscience.Blancke, Stefaan; Boudry, Maarten & Pigliucci, Massimo

View all 11 citations / Add more citations

Added to PP index

Total views
2,540 ( #702 of 49,102 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
253 ( #1,497 of 49,102 )

How can I increase my downloads?

Downloads since first upload
This graph includes both downloads from PhilArchive and clicks to external links.