Courtesy the AITSE newsletter (which you must sign up for, but it’s worth it). This article riffs off a bunk checklist available in the newletter, but gives pause for thought anyway:
Just for Fun: Evolutionizing Your Life?
This course in life management looks too good to be true. And it is. Married couple Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow promise you a “joy-filled life” and “lighthearted strength.” All you need to do is take their on-line course and learn how to “master your biological instincts and impulses.”
Let’s go through their claims, according to the bunk-detector checklist in the article on the left and see how they stack up.
First, do they claim to prove anything? How about the assertion that “scientists have cracked the code of human nature” and that we now have “measurable knowledge about how our minds and emotions actually work?”
Then, does the article claim something that is beyond what has/could have been done? How about the statement that people have “inherited exquisite skills for self-deception” but, the people offering this course can teach us why. Could they also tell us whether a person who claims they are lying is actually lying?
Next, is the article scientifically accurate? This may be more difficult for a layperson to assess, but some thought makes it possible to guess. After all, is it even possible that scientists should be able to explain “what makes us tick?” After all, aren’t they people, and therefore “ticking,” too?
Grandiose and untestable claims. This article is full of them. After all, they are going to change our lives and help us overcome our habits, addictions, self-destructive behavior, guilt, and more. We will feel our “hearts expanding in gratitude” and will “know the thrill of living in right relationships.” Need we look further?
Do the authors use authority to draw you in? Michael claims to be a best-selling author and Connie a science educator. Using principle #7, a person might want to check if these claims are true. But, more amazing are the allusions to what “leading-edge scientists” have discovered and the claim that “…science has something vitally important to teach us about our minds.” The course directors are using the perceived authority of science to scam you.
Should you sign up for this course? You decide. But, hopefully the AITSE bunk-detecting principles will help you in the decision.
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