Para and Science, the borderline

Para-science yourself

Para-science, is a qualifier that takes the risk of disqualifying a scientific work that could be an attempt in the right direction. If the qualification is unjustified then it’s a para-scientific judgement against a potentially para-scientific subject. In that case we have simply to accept that sometime we cannot conclude as we do not have enough information to judge if a work is scientific.

On some other cases, it is easier to disprove an article as a counter example could be enough. The validity can be checked by looking at some indicators, such as the references or similar studies. A classic pitfall is taking conclusions out of a simple time contingency correlation, which is a honest but naive approach as influenced from how our brain works.

Case studies


In this blog post, counseling service case study for Emotional Eating , we can read a plot that has been personified into a marketing style Persona. The personification is intended to provide a better message by attracting the reader. The plot has started by disqualifying the strategic enemies, which compete around the same market. The market is the people who want to loose wait. No numbers are provided, and the success rate of the opponents has been compared to null (the weight was gained back). One sentence is required to disqualify the skeptics by admitting her own reluctant attitude in the beginning, and then comes the key answer which has to be completely psychological in order to fit in the plot. An emotional shock has changed her attitude. The rest of the blog post is a clear road of success.

Given the number of one person, it is not possible to pretend that the approach was right, but it is also not possible to pretend that the approach is wrong.

So why could we not qualify something that works, as scientific. Although it is proven to work. Simply because a lots of things work without us understanding why. In this case it could be because of the reason described, but who could prove that this was not due to another reason ? Such as paying money and having long recurrent sessions resulting in a dogmatic brain wash helping her to stop the eating disorder. The tragic story of her mother’s loss could be completely independent from this process, yet, this process could have worked.

Let us assume that these “consultant” systematically pick the most tragic event from someones life and explain to him that it is the reason of his eating disorder. In case this also works, then  we could conclude that the method is applicable to absolutely all subjects, as long as they do own a most tragic moment. Now as what ever conditions we would live in, we all do have a most tragic moment, for some it could be the loss of a close family member, for others the loss of a favorite pet, or the loss of a good we were attached to, or a job, or an exam, so this looks like an easy system that is guaranteed to work every time.

The only problem with this method, is that it is hard to explain to the users that actually it is only talking and paying the money that helped them and not the recognition of the tragic event. Because otherwise this process could not be sold and people would refuse to pay, which would break the business model. But why would someone refuse to pay for a method that works ? Well, it is hard to say, probably that’s part of human nature that likes to believe in stories, and pay to hear them, but would refuse to pay money to get to know a fact. As an example, I like to pay to go to watch a movies with a nice story, but who would ever pay to watch the news ?

More on the criticism of the psychoanalysis.


This other example of a blog post looks more like an article, the intention behind the link is not to read nor analyse if this is a scientific work but simply compare the structure. Ironically, the suggested article is a study that would like to show the positive effect of treatments given by non-specialists.

The studied subject never have any influence on whether the study was performed in a scientific way or not. As an example, anyone could study the effect of a black-box in a scientific way. The results would of course have limited a reliability, but still useful. Such as leading a study in summer without realizing that the studied black-box actually has a different behavior in winter, who could tell, it is a black-box, still, once more samples are collected in winter, and the study completed, the first part would not have been useless, rather a good start.

Back to this linked article, it has a format that starts with an abstract, introducing the background and providing more than 20 references, this work looks like a scientific work, or at least has the required elements. These elements are definitely not enough to qualify it as scientific. Under the pressure of social recognition, considerable efforts are sometimes spent to try to make a work look like scientific.

So how to better judge if a work is scientific ? Usually, papers before a publication acceptance, are evaluated by at least three pairs scientists from the same field while masking details that could influence their judgement (The author and his background). A majority vote would be what gets the closest to a scientific approach of evaluating a scientific work.

Para-ethical science

Articles evaluation costs money, which brings the content only at a cost. It also induces issues of business models that do not allow access of such work to a wider community without having to pay fees. The scientists writing those articles are nevertheless often paid by the governments from the peoples taxes. So this scientific method of judging a scientific work could be right, nevertheless somehow unethical.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s