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Today, people are credulous about science, not religion


Reflecting on the recent Jonah Lehrer pop neuroscience scandal (plagiarism and making stuff up), the Daily Beast (2012/08/01) offers a backgrounder on the trend, “Jonah Lehrer, David Brooks & More Malcolm Gladwell Wannabes,” noting:

The transformation of Malcolm Gladwell the business and science reporter into Malcolm Gladwell the ideas guru—who, in the process, sold millions of copies of books—is one of the most incredible publishing stories of the millennium. Gladwell reportedly received a $1 million advance for his first book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, and it paid off—the book has since sold millions of copies. So has Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking and Outliers: The Story of Success. On top of that, he now makes hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees. His mega-success has produced what The New York Times called the Gladwell Effect, as writers and publishers scramble to copy his seemingly counterintuitive yet easily understood and very persuasive approach. But have pop-science books become pseudo self-help manuals? From the recently disgraced Jonah Lehrer to the progenitor of Freakonomics, here are some other Gladwell clones and wannabes—what Gladwell wrought.

The problem is, these materialist ideas are generally oversold and untrue, which likely makes fraud easier.

Because our culture is credulous about science, people are as prone to believing science frauds and fluff as people in mediaeval times were to believing fraudulent miracles.

Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose

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