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What is Rationalism?

rationalistsRationalism is the belief that reason, not experience, is the most important source of knowledge. It is a direct contrast to empiricism, which is a theory that experience is the most important source of knowledge in the world. From this belief, there are three distinct types of knowledge that a rationalist could use as supporting his beliefs.

Rationalists may argue that humans posses a form of innate knowledge. As opposed to the belief that humans are born with minds like blank slates, rationalists believe that we are born with certain basic instincts. It is also believed that we are born with the ability for certain concepts, such as the faculty for language.

Secondly, rationalists also argue that there are some truths that can be figured out without world experience. Some examples of this are mathematics, logic, or ethical truth. They believe that we have the ability to tell the difference between right and wrong without having to base that knowledge in experience.

The rationalists also argue there are some truths that, although grounded in experience, cannot be derived from experience alone. One example of this is aesthetic truths. For example, two people can observe the same object and conclude contradictory opinions of its existence. This proves that aesthetic qualities do not present themselves to our senses, but instead are born from experience by reason. Also, we do not see causation, we only observe one event and then another. Rationalists believe it is the mind, not the world, that gives us the idea that the former causes the latter.

Rationalism is not a modern basis of philosophy; rather, rationalist thought dates back to 570 BCE. Pythagorus was discovered to be one of the first philosophers to stress rationalism. Although he was a great mystic, mathematician, and scientist, it has been said that he was one of the first men known in history to call himself a philosopher. Other rationalists throughout history were Plato and Aristotle.

René DescartesModern rationalists, such as René Descartes, developed popular rationalist thought that is used today. Descartes held the belief that only knowledge of eternal truths, are attained by reason alone. Some other knowledge, such as physics, is aided by scientific method. Other modern rationalists include Baruch Spinoza, Gottfried Leibniz, and Immanual Kant.

Even though rationalism has roots that date back to the dawn of recorded history, many of its beliefs and theories still hold true today. The basis of rationalism is still taught in many philosophy classes throughout the world.

Who is Robert Baker?

Robert Baker, otherwise known as Robert Allen Baker Jr., is a primarily a psychologist. He is a professor emeritus of the psychology department in University of Kentucky. He is well-known for being a skeptic and a prime investigator of UFO abductions, lake monsters, ghosts, and other paranormal phenomena. He serves as the editor of Psychology in the Wry, which is a satire collection. In the past, he was the co-editor of Approaches, which is a quarterly journal of contemporary poetry. Most of his works were published in Worm-Runners’ Digest, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, Saturday Review, Vogue, and many other journals. As of the moment, he was able to write 15 books like ‘They call it hypnosis‘.

Baker was born in Kentucky. They are not entirely a rich family. His father repaired shoes while his mother served as a clerk for a drugstore. But the lack of money did no hinder Baker from studying. He spent primary school at Hopkinsville, Kentucky, and was able to graduate from Hopkinsville High School. Later on, he served as a cryptographer in the Army Air Forces during World War II. That is where he learned much about psychology.

He was able to obtain his diploma from University of Kentucky. He also took a masters degree in psychology. Later on, he obtained his doctorate degree from Stanford University. Soon, he worked as a staff scientist for the Lincoln Laboratory of MIT where he did mostly military research. Later on, he transferred to Fort Knox where the Human Resources Research Office was. There, he did researches related to the army.

robert-a-bakerAfterwards, Baker became a part of a lot more other universities. He spent the last 20 years of his career at University of Kentucky where he was chairman of psychology department for almost 4 years. He served as the president of the Kentucky Psychological Association as well.

His trait of being a skeptic was said to be instilled by his parents since he was a child. He once had this first encounter with a supposedly haunted cave where sounds could be heard but he became frustrated only to find out that the sounds were of natural origin. Later on in his career, he was known as a “ghost buster” seeking non-paranormal explanations of everything believed to be paranormal. He once worked hand in hand together with Joe Nickell and they even wrote a book together.

Baker’s studies were mostly about scientific skepticism and anomalistic psychology. His books were mainly about false memory syndrome, alien abductions, ghosts, and hypnosis. According to him, paranormal occurrences can sometimes be explained through psychological phenomenon. For example, hidden memories, hallucinations, or sleep paralysis may cause memories in altered form which are processed by the brain.

Baker has been involved in overlapping findings with other skeptics and this has put his name in some controversies. Most of them were dismissed as plain oversight while some even went as far as plagiarism charges. But above all this, he was still named as one of the most outstanding skeptics of the 20th century.

Relationships Between Science and Pseudoscience

First of all, what is the difference between science and pseudoscience? Science is an organized body of knowledge. On the other hand, what happens when “pseudo” is inserted in it? “Pseudo” means fake so therefore, pseudoscience is a system of beliefs that one may mistake as being based on a scientific method.

One must be wary enough to distinguish between the two. Pseudoscience is very evident nowadays in reflexology, iridology, medical astrology, therapeutic touch, meridian therapy, subluxation-based chiropractic, and other health-related aspects. Do not believe anything that the media tells you. Always search for the truthfulness and scientific bases of things.

In science, the findings are often lifted out from scientific journals that have already been reviewed by a lot of people. Their accuracy and honesty are already proven, most of the time. While in pseudoscience, the facts they present are often just aimed at the general public without any review given by notable people. This lack of verification makes its precision and accuracy questionable.

In terms of results, science delivers results which can be duplicated in the future through experiments. A precise description of the methodology would allow one to do so. On the other hand, pseudoscience results usually cannot be reproduced. How could you verify it then if it cannot be reproduced? Also, methodology is usually vaguely described and one would just be confused how it was done.

In case there are failures, science makes sure that these are carefully scrutinized to know what went wrong and what could be done right in the next time. With science, it is a practice that incorrect theories may make correct predictions by accident but no correct theory can every make incorrect predictions. In the side of pseudoscience, failures are often ignored, hidden, and lied about. If not, it tries to rationalize illogically or just avoid the matter.

As time progresses, you still continue to learn with science. In pseudoscience, learning just seemingly stops because no concrete and physical phenomena can actually be observed.

Science is purely evidence-based and anchors on logical and mathematical reasoning most of the time. New evidence that contradicts old ideas are welcome. Meanwhile, pseudoscience merely convinces people by appeal to belief and faith. Therefore, it primarily tries to convert and not to convince. You are made to believe in spite of the facts, and not because of them. If sticks to the idea it promotes, whatever happens, despite the evidences.

Finally, science do not make you buy products that are not tested or proven to be effective. Pseudoscience on the other hand, aims to profit by making you buy different products that are supposed to be helpful. These are usually in the form of books, dietary supplements, courses, and even services such as character readings, spirit messages, horoscopes, and predictions.

Know how to distinguish between the two and do not be fooled. It is important that you do a careful scrutiny of things first before jumping into conclusions. Always do your own research as it would not hurt to know more. Be wary of pseudoscientific beliefs cloaking themselves as legitimate scientific beliefs.

Pseudoscience in America: How bad is it?

Pseudoscience has been known to be rampant across different practices such as reflexology, iridology, medical astrology, therapeutic touch, meridian therapy, subluxation-based chiropractic, and other health-related aspects. The question is, how bad has pseudoscience been affecting America? Read on and find out.

Just last July 2013, propagandist Jenny McCarthy became a co-host at the popular daily time show “The View”. This irked some because back in 2007, McCarthy campaigned for anti-vaccine campaign when she said in the famous talk show Oprah that her son’s autism was caused by MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccination. In this interview, she described how she noticed changes in her son. She even said that it was like the soul was gone from her child’s eyes. But the truth of the matter is, whatever affected her son was certainly not because of the MMR vaccine as extensive research showed.

Since McCarthy was famous, a lot of parents believed in her claim which is scientifically bogus. As a result, some parents did not allow their children to be administered with vaccines. A measles outbreak occurred at the time she was promoting her advocacy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) even said that was the most widespread whooping cough outbreak so far since 1955. 18 children even died of the disease. Still, parents would not let their children be vaccinated because they were misled by the claims of McCarthy.

In 2011, experts from the Institute of Medicine analyzed a lot of research articles about vaccines, and not only the MMR vaccine. They discovered that very few health problems were associated with vaccines and that certainly, the MMR vaccine does not cause autism. Vaccines are guaranteed to be safe and effective in providing immunity for the body.

This is just one example of a case of pseudoscience that has become successful in proliferating in America. How bad is it? It is very bad indeed. Here, you can see the impact of baseless and pointless beliefs that are not even based from scientific evidence, and yet, people believe it just because a prominent person tells it. So while you’re still at it, make sure that you do not believe immediately anything that you see or hear from the media. Whether it’s your favorite superstar or somebody dressed as a doctor explaining something, do your own research on different things. Pseudoscience should not be taken lightly as it continues to grow in a wider scale. See the effect McCarthy’s belief caused? Well death of children and the spread of disease is nothing to be disregarded. Be vigilant and keep yourself informed.