Sunday, October 14, 2018

About specks, beams, and fake news

No doubt that fake medical news and junk science are dangerous not only in their specific fields but also in the widest sense of eroding trust in democratic conversation and expertise. As we know from Plato, either democracy is balanced by expertise, or it is destined to be ruled only by the law of the strongest and by incompetence. This principle is nicely reaffirmed by the article “Academics fight back against junk science, health scams” by Sylvain Comeau, published on University Affairs, the newsmagazine of Canada’s university community. What is missed by this article is the other side of the problem, scientists and medical doctors. If there is something that I have learned in my clinical practice as a psychoanalyst, it is that one could raise awareness in other people only if he(she) is self-aware. Blind spots in your eyes prevent you right addressing other people’s problems. What are the major scotomas in scientists and medical doctors’ eyes? Let me cite at least three of them,
  • Scientists and medical doctors’ tend to underestimate the amount of medical and scientific disinformation which is transmitted every day through accredited scientific and medical channels. This is due to many reasons, including the awful habit to present preliminary results in press conferences or through press releases, before these results are controlled. Also, the quality of peer review is dramatically decreasing as denounced by many scholars; it is not infrequent that, even in the context of serious papers by accredited scholars, one finds references to fake studies or unproved, or manifestly biased, statements. 
  • Medical doctors pretend to ignore the huge amount of pseudoscientific theories and practices colonizing current medical practice. So-called “alternative medicines” (ranging from homeopathy to the treatment of alleged “alimentary intolerances”) are often and often practiced not only by charlatans but also by registered MDs without anyone takes effective action to halt this unacceptable phenomenon.
  • Scientists often tend to forget the foundational principles of science, which are doubt and inquiry. Too many scientists speak of “Scientific Truth,” oblivious that these two words rarely match when are written in capital letters. A “scientific truth” is not stronger than other truths – as many scientists seem to believe – on the contrary, it is weaker and humbler, the weakest and humblest existing truth; it is a little, local, truth which is discreetly waiting for being contradicted by further little, humble, truths.
In conclusion, to “fight back against junk science and health scams” is unconditionally laudable. Without forgetting Matthew 7:3 "Why do you see the speck in your brother's eye but fail to notice the beam in your eye?”

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Emilio Mordini: GDPR, The Great Gatsby, and Mark Zuckerberg

Emilio Mordini: GDPR, The Great Gatsby, and Mark Zuckerberg: Heterogonie der Zwecke  (heterogony of ends) is an expression coined in 1886 by German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, to indicate an intenti...

GDPR, The Great Gatsby, and Mark Zuckerberg

Heterogonie der Zwecke (heterogony of ends) is an expression coined in 1886 by German psychologist Wilhelm Wundt, to indicate an intentional action which ends up achieving unexpected, even opposite, ends. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enforced by the European Union on May 25th, 2018 to protect the “fundamental rights and freedoms of natural persons and in particular their right to the protection of personal data” (art.1), offers some amusing examples of heterogony of ends (read the full article)