What is Blinding with Science?

Science enjoys an enormous prestige because it has got so many things right. In the popular imagination, the dedicated scientist in his white coat is a fount of real knowledge as opposed to mere opinion. The fact that he is using that knowledge to make Frankenstein monsters scarcely diminishes the respect for his pronouncements. Many people, anxious to invest their own views with the authority of the scientist, don the white coat of scientific jargon in an attempt to pass off their own assertions as something they are not.

The fallacy of blinding with science specializes in the use of technical jargon to deceive the audience into supposing that utterances of a scientific nature are being made, and that objective experimental evidence supports them.

 

The amotivational syndrome is sustained by peer group pressure except where achievement orientation forms a dominant aspect of the educational and social milieu.

(Which means roughly that people don’t work if their friends don’t, unless they want to get on. Now this may be true or false, but many are daunted from challenging what is dressed up to look like an expert view.)

 

The white coat of technical jargon is so dazzlingly clean (never having been tainted by any real scientific work) that it blinds the audience to the true merits of what is being said. Instead of evaluating contentions on the basis of the evidence marshalled for and against them, the audience recoils from the brilliance of the jargon. The fallacy is committed because this irrelevant material has no place in the argument. Just as loaded words try to prejudice a case emotionally, so does pseudo-scientific jargon try to induce an unearned respect for what is said. The proposition is the same, whatever the language; and use of language to make its acceptance easier is fallacious.

Although blinding with science can be used in any argument, many will recognize the special domain of this fallacy as the subjects which like to consider themselves as sciences, but are not. Science deals with things from atoms to stars at a level where individual differences do not matter. The scientist talks of ‘all’ rolling bodies or whatever, and formulates general laws to test by experiment. The trouble with human beings is that, unlike rolling bodies, the individual differences do matter. Often, again unlike rolling bodies, they want to do different things. Although this might prevent us from being scientific about human beings, it does not stop us pretending to be so. What we do here is to add the word ‘science’ onto the study, giving us ‘economic science’, ‘political science’ and ‘social science’. Then we dress them in that white coat of scientific language, and hope that no one will notice the difference.

 

The transportational flow charts for the period following the postmeridian peak reveal a pattern of decantation of concentrated passenger units in cluster formations surrounding the central area.

(You could spend years formulating laws to predict this, and might even be in the running for a Nobel prize. Just remember never to mention that people are coming into town to have a bite to eat, followed by a movie or a show…)

 

The first rule for using this fallacy is to remember to use long words. (‘When the pie was opened, the birds commenced to sing.’) Never use a four-letter word, especially if you can think of a 24-letter word to take its place. The jargon itself is harder to master, but a subscription to New Society is a good investment. Remember that the basic function of words is to prevent communication. Their real task is to transform what is banal, trivial and easily refuted into something profound, impressive and hard to deny.

 

The small, domesticated carnivorous quadruped positioned itself in sedentary mode in superior relationship to the coarse-textured rushwoven horizontal surface fabric.

(With its saucer of milk beside it.)

 

The fallacy of blinding with science is well worth the time and trouble required to master it. The years of work at it will repay you not only with a doctorate in the social sciences, but with the ability to deceive an audience utterly into believing that you know what you are talking about.

The above article is from the book How To Win Every Argument by Madsen Pirie. The article is only for educational and informative purposes to explain and understand formal logic and logical fallacies. It is a great book, definitely worth a read!