If science is wrong, should you believe bullshit?

Sean Carroll over at Cosmic Variance recently posted this video. It’s a comedian making great fun of alternative medicine .

I particularly like this set because it makes a joke out of the way people misuse what philosophers call The Pessimistic Meta-Induction (PMI).

PMI says roughly that since science has always been wrong in the past, it is probably wrong now. This challenge to scientific realism has raised a lot of interesting responses which I don’t want to discuss here.

You’ll often hear alternative medicine practitioners defend their practice by appealing to something like the PMI. As Dara Ó Briain says in the clip above, such practitioners will exclaim “But science doesn’t know everything”. The idea seems to be that since science is probably wrong, we ought to believe the claims of alternative medicine.

Ó Briain’s response is to say “Of course science doesn’t know everything. It knows that. Otherwise it would stop!”.

I think that’s a great response. We might also add that having a reason to doubt the truth of one claim, does not give you any reason to believe another. Just because current science is almost certainly incomplete is no reason to believe utter hogwash.