There is a reason for the scientific method

Dr. Ford in TCS uses a recent work by Seth Roberts, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, as an example of a weakness of intellectual integrity. In this case it is looking for the quick fix to a vexing problem.

His hypothesis is clearly testable with a controlled trial by a careful scientist willing to be proven wrong if necessary. That hasn’t happened. Presenting a highly speculative idea as proven science to an audience unlikely to appreciate the difference between an academic psychologist dabbling in this field and seasoned experts who have devoted their careers to it is misleading at best and disingenuous at worse.

My objection to Roberts is not that his ideas are implausible but that he should have subjected them to review by his peers before widely popularizing them to a public desperate for a simple, effortless way to lose weight. Rather, he published a book that as of this writing is number 2 on amazon.com.

A psychologist is, by definition, a scientist. And this one is also an academic. There are expectations that a person with such a position would exemplify those characteristics that established the prestige of recognized scientists and academies. In this case, it appears that such charactersistics have been abandoned in favor of preying upon the desires of the public to make a quick buck.

Whether the motive is greed or a zeal to share an amazing personal experience, it is still expected that a trained and educated person will realize why a process has been developed for qualifying ideas. A discipline is needed to not go off half cocked but rather to use the lessons of history and experience and develop the quality of the idea through proper testing and evaluation. Roberts failure to use the methodologies in his profession should create significant skepticism about his ideas and his motivation.

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