Michael Brooks’ Silliness The Sequel

Well it seems I can’t get this Brooks fella out of my head (see the post before this). After having a look through the Skeptiko interview transcript  I was reminded of some of the nonsense from that interview that I didn’t get round to addressing in the last post. So below are a few more of my thoughts on why this interview suggests Brooks is (to put it mildly) not the best source for accurate science portrayals.

Throughout each topic discussed in the Skeptiko interview one thing that repeatedly struck home with me was  how far Dr. Brooks was unwilling to disagree with the host Alex, including when he went off on his rant about his personal favourite pseudoscience topic- pyschic dogs (I kid you not!). This is in some aspects understandable- he was afterall a guest on Alex’s show- but at the same time it really rubbed me the wrong way that he seemed to be remarkably cautious about challenging directly almost everything Alex said, no matter how daft it was. This is not to say that he agreed with all of Alex’s conclusions but it is fair to say that most points of contention were neatly danced around until Brooks could find a point general enough that they could both agree on.

In another surreal turn, Brook’s comments about how science can never really prove what is real/unreal in relation to any subjective phenomenon actually lead to Alex, the arch wizard of pseudo-science, arguing against Brooks relativism by pointing out the entirely reasonable points that A) there is a massive amount of research in the social sciences on subjective experiences and B) science does have the potential through experimentation to discover whether subjective experiences actually tally with reality. Alex’s motivation for promoting this position is due to his belief that science has already proved the existence of psychic phenomena however, despite this faulty premise, the conclusion he draws is correct. Subjective experiences are not off limits to science especially when such subjective experiences are used to make claims about reality i.e. ‘I can travel beyond my body in meditative states therefore the mind must be distinct from the body’.

So far so silly but it seems with Dr.Brooks that the more I look into his views the more silliness descends upon me. The above stances may be silly but they pale in comparison to the following statement from an article written for the Guardian in February 2009 arguing that doctors should prescribe homeopathic treatments :

“Perhaps it’s time to restate that medicine should be considered an art, not a science.”

I don’t know about you but personally I’d like my medicine to be based on good quality scientific testing rather than say artisitic sensibilities or artistic temperament. Certainly there are personal elements to medical treatments but to specifically advocate medicine not be approached as a scientific endeavour… silly.

Michael Brooks is fast becoming a name I dread seeing at the top of science stories.


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