Falsifiability means that a H/T makes predictions that can be disproved. These predictions must follow from the H/T. If any observation or experiment result can be accommodated by changing the predictions, it is not a scientific H/T. Even if there are falsifiable predictions that follow from a theory or hypothesis, it can still be made infalsifiable by assumptions about critics that effectively make criticism impossible.
- 1 Examples
- 2 Similarities between different non-falsifiabilities
- 2.1 Freudian psychoanalysis and modern psychology, same infalsifiability under cosmetic differences
- 2.2 When Karl Popper glitched critical rationalism
- 2.3 The bias hoax
- 2.4 Small biases magnified by institutions
- 2.5 Totalitarian lack of falsifiability
- 3 Infalsifiability of "evidence" standards
- 3.1 The mismeasure of sex
- 3.1.1 The pseudoscience of measuring penises
- 3.1.2 Misogynistic, intersexphobic and transphobic implications of phallometry
- 3.2 Self-fulfilling prophecies of manipulation
- 3.1 The mismeasure of sex
- 4 The myth of innate religiosity
- 5 Content over formality
- 6 Falsifiabilization and the origin of falsifiability
For example, the H/T of absolute space predicted that light would not change its course when passing objects of massive gravity, while general relativity predicted a change in the direction of light. When stars located slightly behind the Sun were observed by blocking out the light of the Sun itself (gravity lensing), the H/T of absolute space was falsified. It was scientific by being falsifiable, but it was also shown to be wrong. General relativity was not falsified, but it was still falsifiable in the sense that it would have been disproven if light had not been gravity lensed. So general relativity is scientific. This is a classic example by Karl Popper.
A classic example of the opposite, non-falsifiability, is Freud's psychoanalysis. Karl Popper pointed out that if a man agreed with Freud on the "Oedipus complex" (him being sexually attracted to his mother), that was taken as confirmation. If he disagreed, that was taken as a result of shame and denial, which was also taken as confirmation. That left no way to falsify psychoanalysis, making it non-falsifiable and therefore unscientific. Karl Popper also mentioned Adler's individual psychology and Marxism as examples of non-falsifiable immunization to criticism.
Micro level infalsifiability of macro level false worldviews
The fact that there are identifiable flaws in a worldview at a fundamental level may, in some sense, count as falsification of it. However, it does not change the fact that it can still be immunized to criticism at an individual or group level. The evolutionary flaws in the concept of psychopathy, for example, does not stop the infalsifiability of the claim that "psychopaths are manipulative" that can be used to label anyone as a psychopath masquerading as empathic and moral. Indeed, the infalsifiable claim could build a whole network of evasive nonsense around it, such as claiming that the evolutionary evidence against psychopathy was hoaxed by psychopaths. That would be analogous to Marxists claiming that the economical history showing that concentration of capital can be reversed without revolution (which in the absence of assumed interest would have falsified Marxism) was hoaxed by capitalists. This active immunization to criticism can immunize any claim to criticism, even one that makes falsifiable predictions, as long as there are assumptions about critics that deter them from expressing criticism. Infalsifiability need not necessarily be passively immunized to criticism by simply lacking any falsifiable predictions.
In all of these cases the verdict is: not falsifiable and not scientific. This type of claim is known as a falsis.
Similarities between different non-falsifiabilities
I abandoned Marxism when I was reading an excerpt from "The Communist Manifesto" by Karl Marx in a philosophy book when I was in high school. I saw the similarity between Marx' claim that ideologies are a justification for economy, and bias psychology's claim that rational arguments are justifications for irrational preconceptions. Immediately I thought about the fact that if the brain was for justifying preconceptions, there would have been no way for the disproving of hypotheses needed for science to exist. And therefore, the entire claim invalidates its own claims of being scientific. So I threw Marxism in the same trash where I had already thrown bias psychology, the trash of hypotheses that are actively immunized to criticism by assumptions of motives. Since all assumptions are fallible, science needs falsifiability. All infalsifiabilities are therefore unscientific.
Freudian psychoanalysis and modern psychology, same infalsifiability under cosmetic differences
Most bias psychologists nominally agree that Freudian psychoanalysis is a pseudoscience, but when looked at in detail they aim their criticism at the concept of repressed memories that can potentially be recovered. They do not in any way disagree with the element in psychoanalysis that makes it non-falsifiable, namely the claim that facts that do not fit irrational preconceptions are somehow made unavailable to conscious thought. That makes bias psychology non-falsifiable and therefore unscientific too. Whether such alleged unavailable information is permanently deleted, prevented from entering long term memory in the first place, or merely repressed has no bearing whatsoever on falsifiability.
In addition to the infalsifiable claims of some men "being unaware of or denying" some sexual attractions, which is explained in the section "The mismeasure of sex" further down the page and is also analogous to the infalsifiability of the Oedipus complex as explained by Karl Popper, psychologists are recycling Freudian claims about the origins of human society. The claim that primitive hominids lived in troops where the strongest male kept the females as a harem, and a later transition to monogamy, is a ripoff from Sigmund Freud's Totem and Taboo (Totem und Tabu). The "modern" version is somewhat modified by saying that it was gradual evolution and not a sudden event, but that only adds another layer of infalsifiability to an already infalsifiable hypothesis as it excludes the prediction of archaeological evidence. So modern psychology is more infalsifiable than Freud's psychoanalysis!
Sigmund Freud's claim of sublimation is also being recycled in the form of the claim that cultural norms of sexual abstinence allowed for more cultural creation, which is promoted by psychologists who claim that shyness was important for the origin of civilization. They show the exact same infalsifiability by ignoring cases such as Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger who created scientific hypotheses while having sex, and both of whom were noted for having sex often. There are also many other time thieves in modern society that the psychologists hypocritically fail to recognize as problems for creative work, such as menial office work and other bureaucratic nonsense.
And of course, they do not realize the problem with considering humans naturally aggressive. In fact, bonobos (the apes noted for solving conflicts by copulation) are better problem solvers than chimpanzees as the chimps are distracted by fighting. Apparently, violence is more distracting than sex. So if distraction is a problem, violence is a greater obstacle than sex towards forming civilization. But the psychologists ignore it, showing the infalsifiability of psychology. Psychology is not science.
When Karl Popper glitched critical rationalism
While Karl Popper first explicitly formulated the criterion of falsifiability, that does not mean that everything that he said or did follows from the falsifiability principle. He may, for instance, have made bad compromises to avoid censorship. It is even possible that he may once have formulated the principles of falsifiability and then de facto abandoned them later. Even if he did not nominally abandon the falsifiability criterion, his later work may have included adding "exceptions" that de facto nullified it and turned the use of falsifiability by the older Karl Popper into an empty phrase devoid of meaning.
The danger of exceptions
So-called "critical rationalism" websites often cite things that Karl Popper said that undermine the consistency of falsifiability. For example, the claim that there are some things about "human nature" that "must" be assumed to "overcome" it. However, making exceptions from falsifiability places the exceptions outside falsifiability, allowing nonsense to make exceptions for itself. Over time, this leads to more and more pseudoscience gaining official "science" status, and glitched "critical rationalism" that makes exceptions cannot criticize it. This is the danger of making exceptions. Any claims that an ignorance "must" be willful or have certain motives "because we know better today" are in that category. This have caused a stealthy Kuhnization of the Popperian program, to the point at which the line of critical rationalism have lost its significance. Pancritical rationalism is necessary to give science a chance long term. Pancritical rationalism knows the dangers of exceptions.
By criticizing all assumptions by the principles of universal fallibility, the dangers of making exceptions can be eliminated. There is no such thing as halting the problems while considering the exceptions that have already been made "irreversible", like an otherwise randomly moving particle that cannot move in one particular direction will inevitably end up in the outer edge in the opposite direction. Ratchets have entropy, they cannot be held in one position indefinitely. As long as the illusion of irreversibility persists, the movement in the wrong direction will continue. Criticizing everything will not only stop, but reverse, pseudoscientificization.
This has vast societal implications.
The bias hoax
By making a test that arbitrarily assumes one answer to be "correct", and assuming that anyone who makes a different answer must be "biased", it is possible to "prove" any arbitrarily made up allegation of "bias". Hence the many "debates" in which both sides claim that the opponent's views are "in human nature" while they claim their own views to be to "overcome their human nature". For more information, see pathologizing criticism.
When claims of bias nullifies falsifiability
Even when a claim makes some "falsifiable" predictions, it ceases to be falsifiable if it is immunized to criticism. For example, even though geocentrism did make "falsifiable" predictions and was successfully used to predict eclipses and much of the apparent movement of worlds and stars, the Church's claim that any observation that actually did falsify geocentrism was "temptation by the devil" made the system of claims infalsifiable. What the Church did was to cherry-pick "predictions" in cases where the measured results agreed with its doctrine while immunizing it to actual criticism. To cherry-pick successful predictions while hand-waving away false predictions by assuming that criticism is biased against the claim is not scientific. At all.
There are present-day examples of the same thing. For example, so-called "evolutionary" psychology does not use evolution for general rigorous criticism of psychology's claims, but instead takes psychology's claims for granted and makes up "evolutionary" stories to fit them. It does have an equivalent of the Church's claim of Satanic temptation: the claim that any criticism of it is due to some straw man "bias", claims of which include but are not restricted to Christianity and Marxism (which are claimed by the "evolutionary psychology" peddlers to advocate "cultural determinism" when in fact none of them does*, while both share the same immunization to criticism as psychology with or without "evolutionary" prefix that is in fact not shared by critics who point out lack of falsifiability). While "evolutionary" psychology cherry-picks the example of parental investment as a "falsifiable" prediction, claims of "bias" are used to hand-wave away actually false predictions. Listing some examples of correct predictions does not prove that a hypothesis or theory is correct. To say that humans "are" the way psychology claims despite the evolutionary absurdity thereof just because "evolutionary" psychology made some correct predictions about parental investment would be like saying that Geocentrism is correct despite its false predictions just because it made some correct predictions about eclipses.
An example of the latter is that "evolutionary" psychology's claims of sex differences includes the claim that technical problem solving AND dominance behavior are linked to testosterone. In other words, a factor structure claim that predicts a positive link between technical problem solving and dominant behavior. Since low-ranked individuals have the greatest need to solve problems, such a factor structure makes absolutely no evolutionary sense. The fact that "evolutionary" psychology handwaves such examples away by making up straw men and alleging psychological and/or ideological "motives" for criticism (which, since the question of whether or not a fallacy is "intentional" has no bearing on the question of falsifiability, is equally unscientific as conspiracy theories) shows that it is immunized to criticism and therefore not science. This does NOT contradict the fact that evolution is a falsifiable and well tested theory (for example, a discovery of a fossilized rabbit in a Precambrian layer of geology would disprove evolution). It is not the evolution part in "evolutionary psychology" that makes it infalsifiable. It is the psychology part that does. Psychology, by assuming motives, is infalsifiable with or without evolution.
- Karl Marx claimed a "human nature" including, among other things, needs for social belonging, creative work and control over the products of one's creative work. That is far from "evolutionary psychology"'s stereotype of "cultural determinism". Some psychologists even claim that there is a "Soviet conspiracy to destroy Western society", ignoring something as obvious as the fact that the Soviet Union does not exist anymore! Many Western countries have also imported psychiatrists from the Soviet Union, debunking the claim that antipsychiatry is "communist". Pills were also widely used in Soviet psychiatry, contrary to the claim that "the Communists only explained behavior socially, not medically". Christianity's belief in hereditary original sin is far from "cultural determinism" too. Some forms of Christianity claim differences between humans in inherited sin based on more recent sins than the Fall in Genesis, such as "murdering Jesus". Psychology's claims about alleged "motives" for criticism are even ignorant of what they are claiming themselves!
Why do not high IQ people use more drugs?
While it is true that there are very serious flaws to the concept of IQ, it is important to reason as if IQ was a valid concept when calculating what a model that assumes that IQ is a valid concept predict. Cognitive bias psychology claim that high IQ (and high knowledge) can be used to justify any preconception or desire, and not to question it or change. If that was the case, people who want to use drugs would be more likely to justify it to themselves and actually start using drugs if they have high IQ than if they have low IQs.
Since high IQ people are also said to be more acutely aware of problems and suffer more from them, this would give high IQ people more trouble to want to flee from, e.g. by doing drugs.
Small biases magnified by institutions
It is often said that biases are not black or white, that there may be influences of bias that may be overcome. If we suppose that individuals have weak biases of that non-absolute kind, what would happen if multiple individuals were put together in an institution? That depends on whether bias varies so much between individuals it becomes random noise at a collective level or if there are some biases that are shared by many individuals.
Zebra finch males that are raised only by their mothers and not by their fathers do not learn to sing. If those songless males are the only males in a new zebra finch colony, each generation will add some elements of zebra finch song until 3 or 4 generations later when it sounds like "normal" song of zebra finches again. That is, there is a combination of learning ability and an element of individuals creating specific results.
If we suppose that humans have such weak biases that may skew interpretations of scientific results, they would hardly at all influence the results of individuals who had never discussed scientific findings in groups. However, if institutions that are alleged to reduce bias discuss scientific results, their discussions would be influenced by such hidden bias in ways that build the bias into the rules that are claimed to decrease bias. Those biased rules would then falsely classify themselves as less biased than the initial and actually less biased ways to think. And then the very biased institutions and rules would claim that the virtually unbiased individuals were the most biased. A collective whackjob depicting itself as a protection from individual whackjobs when the individuals who are alleged to be whackjobs actually did do good science and criticize the big collective whackjob.
Since psychology claims that many biases are shared by most if not all humans, such magnifying effects of bias would, if cognitive bias psychology was correct, be inevitable. And this applies specifically to weak biases that were initially not absolute or insurmountable!
Circus Natural Opponent or alleged bias strategy
Along with the typical publish or perish culture in peer review journals, an academic culture in which the institutional approach to science is prominent also has its own problems with determining what is an actual bias and what is an alleged bias. If the culture in academia says that false beliefs are due to "natural" human cognitive biases and that science is about overcoming them, the publish or perish culture will create an incentive to depict one's own article as an "overcoming of bias" and articles written by one's competitors over financial grants and publication space as "driven by human nature". That is, everyone claims to have overcame their own human nature and explain away all criticism as a result of the critics not having overcame their human nature and cognitive bias. Everyone will then make up their own claim of what human nature is, which is invariably to believe in the polar opposite of what one have published oneself. One example of this is that some psychologists who say that men are much more horny than women also claim that people who say otherwise are men who wishfully think that women were as horny as them (ignoring the fact that some of those who say otherwise are women themselves), while some psychologists who think otherwise say that the aforementioned psychologists are sadists, sex buyers or crypto-rapists who wishfully think that women have no sex drive of their own but only do it to get money and protection from their male partner. The phenomenon is not even restricted to psychology alone, for example there are many supersymmetry theorists who say that it is in "human nature" to want to believe in a "more grandiose" Multiverse, and lots of multiverse theorists claim that it "is human" to believe in a "designed" supersymmetric universe fine-tuned (possibly by some kind of deity) for humans.
This does not stop people who have always believed in what they publish from claiming that they only recently started to believe in it after a long struggle against their human emotions. It becomes a reward hack to say that one's natural feeling is to believe in the opposite of what one believes in, as it gives the status of "being closer to objectivity". The academia does not answer how this could possibly prevent bias from making up stories about alleged biases that are the opposite of "real" biases. This makes institutional "science" into a circus show in which the one who is loudest in claiming the existence of biases to believe in anything but their theories gain status to claim to be right.
Those can then say that any criticism of their claims of bias is an irrational rationalization of a hardwired agenda to promote the putative bias. That is immunization to criticism that allows any nonsense allegation of bias to avoid falsification, making them impossible to test scientifically.
Claiming to be biased against one's own papers
Since the culture in academia give privileges to those who allegedly "overcome their human nature", there are incentives to make up false claims of having emotional bias against the theories one have invested one's economically paid career in promoting. The stronger you claim to emotionally wish to believe in the opposite of what you have written in your paper, the more likely you are to be classified as "trustworthy" by peer review (analogous to, but not quite the same as, making up demands that one do not care about and then giving them up in a negotiation so that one get all actual benefits with the appearance of a "compromise"). This leads to "scientists" being effectively forced to claim to have cognitive biases that they do not have and a general pattern of those who get published falsely claiming to have a natural instinct to dislike what they wrote in their own papers. Those who say that they like their own theories are likely to be dismissed as having "conflict of interest", while those who say that they do not care if the theory is correct or not will most likely be dismissed for "lacking insight" in their own (alleged) biases.
For example, if you are going to publish a paper that says that Earth-like exoplanets are common, you will increase your chances of peer reviewed publication if you claim that you emotionally wish that the Earth was unique. If you say that you like the idea of many exoplanets similar to Earth, you will likely be dismissed as emotionally biased. If you are publishing a paper saying that Earthlike exoplanets are very rare, the opposite is the case; then you will increase your opportunities of getting peer review published if you claim to have an emotional wish to think that there are lots of Earths out there.
As these lies about alleged biases are published as if they were actual biases in the papers that do pass peer review, reading the journals gives an illusion that the institutions make the scientists overcome their cognitive biases. The more likely and simple explanation is that the institutions force them to deceptively claim to have the biases as a strategy of negotiation.
Totalitarian lack of falsifiability
When cognitive bias psychology assumes "agendas" and "motifs" behind expressed views today, they create a demonized view of critical thinkers. Even without direct criminalization of critical thought, such assumptions still act as indirect criminalization if criminal investigators and courts trust cognitive bias psychologists who claim people who express that-or-that criticism to be "more likely to commit" either a certain type of crime or crimes in general. By making courts more likely to convict people who are denigrated in such a way, it creates self-fulfilling prophecies. It eliminates freedom of expression. This makes criminology informed by cognitive bias psychology and statistics in Western "democratic" countries equivalent of covert political trials that are officially about non-political crimes in known dictatorships. Even without actually being convicted, the threat of being arrested and put to trial for an alleged crime merely for expressing critical thought is oppressive, especially if it is a socially stigmatized crime for which falsely accused people are likely to get rumors of being guilty even if they are found not guilty.
An example is the assumption that people who express criticism of "animal protection" inspectors on the Internet are people who are banned from owning animals after animal cruelty sentences. That is an assumption of "motifs" for criticism that effectively suppress freedom of expression. It also ignores the fact that people who have never been banned from owning animals can criticize "animal protection" inspectors for any number of reasons, such as philosophical criticism of the assumption that people can know when it is for another being's "own good" to be put to death.
Pushing into straw man organizations
In some cases, anti-falsificationists push (or at least try to push) people who do not (instantly) buy official accounts, whether it is critical thought or something else, into straw man organizations. There are many examples:
People who criticize any aspects of psychiatry often receive troll suggestions of joining the Church of Scientology. This often happens even if they are atheists or agnostics and have a materialist view of the brain completely incompatible with Spiritualism and reincarnation that simply differs from the massive modularity model used by psychiatry. Also, the many similarities between psychiatry and Scientology, including the fact that L Ron Hubbard was inspired by psychiatry and tried to publish his claims in a psychiatric journal, are completely ignored by those trolls. They also ignore the fact that materialism implies that consciousness is inextricably tied to the brain while Spiritualism implies that consciousness could exist without the brain. As the claim that an intact consciousness could survive with no brain at all predicts that it could also survive intact when "seated" in a damaged brain, it makes it absurd to assume that Spiritualists would oppose psychiatric drugs for the risk of them causing brain damage. This type of trolling is common in most if not all countries. It is one of the most common types of straw man organization trolling in the world.
People who ask to see the evidence for historical genocides often receive troll suggestions of joining racist (often anti-Semitic) organizations, even if they would be convinced that the genocides in question did happen by simply getting off one's lazy ass and pulling the historical documentation out of the archives. The question of why someone who hates a certain people would want to deny a genocide of said people instead of saying that "it was good to kill them" is also ignored by these trolls. These trolls exist in all countries but are most common in the United States, even more so than in Israel. Far from all being Jewish, many of the trolls are Christians. Regardless of intention, laws against genocide denial may hide the true historical evidence that the genocides did happen and make it look as if it was an argument from authority, leading to more denial. When combined with assumptions of "motifs", this may turn "anti-racism" into a counterproductive whip-in that support racist movements.
People who say that the ability to decide independently appears at a critical threshold of brain development and not at a continuum for the government to impose "draw the line somewhere" on often receive troll suggestions of joining pedophile organizations, even if the concept of a critical threshold is incompatible with the claim of little kids having the ability. The question of how a biological flaw in the brain could result in going after those under a certain chronological age instead of those with arrested development when registry of birthdate was invented long after humanity left Africa is also ignored by the trolls. When confronted with the existence of arrested development, they sometimes claim that pedophiles are attracted to children because it is illegal, ignoring that it would make any "legalization", putative or actual, counterproductive to them. That type of trolls are confined almost entirely to the United States in their base, but do global harm by spamming international forums.
People who ask for the empirical evidence for the anthropogenic global warming often receive troll suggestions of joining climate change denying organizations with ties to big industries. This often happens even if they would be convinced that anthropogenic global warming is real by simply being shown the spectroscopic evidence that carbon dioxide traps infrared radiation and is thus a greenhouse gas. And again, the fact that some people who deny global warming are anti-capitalists who view it as a distraction from other environmental problem which they view as far more serious (including but not restricted to poisons such as mercury and PCB, some also refer to problems such as fish depletion, deforestation of rainforests and other species extinction as more serious problems) is totally ignored by those trolls. These trolls are based mostly in rich countries, which is ironic given that they claim that it is rich people's economic interest that cause the denial that they claim to hate! The trolling also has the consequence (intentional or unintentional is irrelevant) of concealing the true empirical evidence for anthropogenic global warming by making the argumentation look like arguments from authority (e.g. peer review).
One common trait in all of the troll suggestions listed above is that they, if they have the purpose that they are said to have, would have been counterproductive if the assumptions on which the trolls act were correct. If you want to stop a movement, how smart is it to tell people who you suspect of sympathizing with it where to find it? That would be like anti-terrorism agencies handing out the addresses to actual illegal recruitment websites to people they suspect of wanting to join the terrorist organizations that they are supposed to fight!
Regardless of intention, the consequence of such trolling is that some critical thinkers are pushed into organizations with ideas that their critical thoughts do not support, and that they really do not want to be in. Some critical thinkers resist, but the fact that many others are pushed in is unacceptable. It only contributes to postmodernist totalitarian demonization of critical thought. In some cases, it also has the suspicion of crime effect. It must be not only stopped, but reversed. People who have already been pushed into such organizations must be able to leave them without being ostracized by the rest of society. They must be able to reject the straw man ideas they were pushed into without having to reject their original critical thoughts. The classical skeptic debunker organizations are all full of "cognitive bias" claims and assumptions about "motivations" that make them incapable of taking on the role as a sanctuary for critical thinkers leaving straw man groups.
Ironically, the mainstream "sceptical debunkers" use the same claims about "human nature" and "justification" as do many of the conspiracy theorists and Spiritualists that the "sceptic debunkers" claim to oppose. For example, the "arguments" used by the fundamentalist Christian "wiki" Conservapedia and similar Internet groups when they claim that it is "hard to imagine" any other "motif" for "believing" in evolution than a "desire to justify" zoophilia aimed at apes are, in their underlying lines of assumptions and apart from the specific examples, identical to those used in mainstream "cognitive bias" psychology. There are also Spiritist websites that claim materialists to be "cognitively biased" not to believe in an afterlife out of a sense that it would be horrible to live forever, also with arguments that do not differ qualitatively from mainstream psychology. What it takes to form a sanctuary for free critical thought is a network for skeptic debunking based on true falsifiability, one that rejects the "cognitive bias" claims.
Infalsifiability of "evidence" standards
The mismeasure of sex
The pseudoscience of measuring penises
There are also infalsifiabilities of measurement standards that are claimed to constitute "evidence", with arbitrary distinctions that make no falsifiable predictions. One example of this type of infalsifiability is when psychologists and psychiatrists claim that phallometry (sometimes known as penis pletysmography or penile pletysmography), measuring erection of the penis, is an accurate measure of sexual arousal in men, at the same time as they claim that vaginal pletysmography, measuring the amount of blood in the walls of the vagina, is not an accurate measurement of sexual arousal in women. When asked what they have as evidence for such a distinction, they cite that there is a much greater likelihood for genital measurements to correspond to what the test subjects *say* in male subjects than in female subjects. That is, their claim boils down to trusting what people say, even though they claim physical measurement to be necessary because they cannot trust what people say (which clearly shows that phallometry is pseudoscience).
If the psychologists or psychiatrists claim that men who get an erection from watching something are "proven" to be sexually attracted to it, such as saying that men who say otherwise "are unaware of" or "denies" sexual attraction, they remove the possibility to falsify the hypothesis that erection in men indicate sexual arousal. It is comparable to Sigmund Freud's use of the claim of "denial" and/or "repression to the subconscious mind" to defend psychoanalysis from being falsified. If any psychologist or psychiatrist will tell what would falsify the "for men, phallometric response equals sexual attraction" hypothesis, please add at least one falsifiable prediction! So far, none have done it. Phallometry is a pseudoscience.
A simple explanation based on the obviousness of erection but not of vaginal wall swelling (while some women may produce large amounts of vaginal secretion just from observing a vaguely sexual situation, those who do not feel mentally turned on may simply think they peed themselves) is volunteer bias. As test subjects volunteer for the experiments, people who are aware that they have non-specific genital arousal responses unrelated to any feeling of attraction are not likely to sign up for the experiments due to the risk of getting caught with a physical response to something that is taboo (studies that say that men respond genitally more specifically than women often show not only heterosexual, gay male and lesbian scenes but also something as taboo as copulating chimpanzees). This skews the sample group of people who are the most aware of their physical responses to only or almost only those with category specific physical arousal volunteering to the experiments. It is also likely that cultural assumptions about male genital arousal being supposedly more linked to sexual desire than female genital responses, as well as cultural assumptions of men being supposedly less capable of controlling their sexual impulses than women, make men more ashamed of arousal nonconcordance than even women who are aware that they respond non-specifically. Those with less awareness of their genital responses (usually women) will have approximately the same likelihood of volunteering no matter if their physical arousal is category specific or not. The apparent overrepresentation of category specific physical response in men and the variable degree of category specificity with a low average observed in women may be due to such a volunteering bias in men that leave most of the individual variation in males out of the test samples.
If men who volunteer to penile pletysmography are slower to get erections than average, which may be linked to them being more category specific in their erections than men who do not agree to be examined as a result of the time difference between merely recognizing an act as sexual and the longer time to actually categorize the stimuli as appealing or non-appealing, it can explain the apparent difference between the genital arousal time observed in laboratories and those reported by most heterosexual couples. Pletysmographic labs report that women's genitals become ready for sex faster than men's genitals, while most heterosexual couples report that the man is physically ready before the woman is. One possible explanation of that apparent contradiction is that only or almost exclusively men from the slowest erection fraction of the male population agree to penile pletysmographic studies. Comparisons between volunteers to erotica research and people who do not volunteer, while showing little evidence of volunteer bias in women, do show that male volunteers are not only older on average than nonvolunteering men but also more likely to have erectile dysfunction than non-volunteering males of the same age. Despite their higher incidence of erectile dysfunction, male volunteers are more confident and less ashamed of their sexuality than male non volunteers. While the studies show little difference between penile pletysmography and other assessments in volunteering bias for men, believing oneself to be "subconsciously perverse" as a result of being aware of certain erections may cause people to avoid other methods too.
In the case of non-taboo depictions, consensual sex between living adult unrelated humans, being the only stimuli shown, polarized ethics may cause men with non-specific erections to think it is "unethical" to be part of sexological studies out of a belief that the notion of specific male response is somehow important for gay male rights. Since men who question the claim of such a link between theory and values are often pushed into homophobic social groups by allegations of homophobia ostracizing them elsewhere, it is likely that men who volunteer despite nonspecific genital responses have been socialized homophobically. This can explain why a majority of homophobic male volunteers but only a minority of non-homophobic male volunteers respond nonspecifically. Phallometry is not a science.
Problems with rape preparedness evolution theory
The "evolutionary" model that women evolved lubrication response to unappealing sexual stimuli to avoid physical damage when raped (the preparedness hypothesis) predicts that vaginas should instantly become physically "ready", which is debunked by the fact that rape victims often arrive to hospital with dry and severely physically damaged vaginas and that a long foreplay is usually required to avoid damage even during consensual sex. Even the most nonconcordant and nonspecific responding women with faster than average response still respond slower than it would take to minimize damage from a surprise assault, no women get fully lubricated and vaginally swollen in two or three seconds. Also, why have not the very high rape frequency in some local human populations homogenized female response in fast nonconcordant mode and eliminated individual variability in those populations? And if lesbian rape with tools was extremely rare in the Stone Age, why would such preparedness even biologically evolve to include recognition of other women's acts as unappealingly physically sexual? Claiming that response to apes is a side effect of preparedness to extremely ugly men with very small penises (nonhuman apes have very small penises) ignore the fact that a VERY small penis would not cause serious physical damage, and repairing the hypothesis by saying that the very ugly rapist may be temporarily flaccid would contradict its own premise of male arousal concordance.
Furthermore, assuming that 1) it was men who raped women and 2) men need a refractory period after ejaculation before they can have sex again, a man busy with a sex act would not be a threat of raping another woman within the timeframe relevant for her lubrication. Therefore there would be no rape preparedness (to rape by a man) advantage in a woman being lubricated by seeing a sex act.
In the case of the claim that women evolved a large individual variability in the degree of genital arousal by non-appealing sexual stimuli due to a sufficiency of just enough blood flow in the vagina to cause lubrication, the claim cannot explain why some women evolved much higher degrees of vaginal blood flow than the minimum required for lubrication to avoid physical damage during sexual intercourse. Much higher lubrication than necessary would, in the case of risk of dehydration and/or salt deficit, be wasteful and selected against. This applies to both rape and consensual sex. Nor can the hypothesis explain why a significant portion of the female population have vaginal secretion deficit and need lubricants during sex even at childbearing age and not only after menopause.
Also, in Paleolithic times groups were so small there would, if a frequency of homosexuality similar to that in modern times is assumed, often be only one gay man in a group. That paucity of consensual gay male sex would most likely cause an overrepresentation of gay rape in the Stone Age hunter-gatherers (not transferable to modern times but still shaping physical evolution). That would, if the rape preparedness hypothesis was correct, lead to men evolving preparedness responses in their asses to avoid internal bleedings in the rectum that could cause lethal infections and blood poisoning. That is, men would have evolved a physical response to the most unappealing sexual stimuli.
The rarity of phallometric "signs" of bisexuality in volunteer non-homophobic men as well as the fact that homophobia varies a great deal between cultures while sexual orientation is said to be largely innate (especially in men) contradicts the explanation that men become homophobic because they are gay. It is possible that homophobes are usually from religious conservative cultures in which there are taboos against exploring one's body, resulting in not only the women but also the men having poor knowledge of their own bodies. That in turn may result in the phallometric volunteer base of homophobic men being more representative of the erection pattern of the general population and less skewed by bias.
It is also relevant to men who have been raped by women and are often silenced from talking about it or filing charges due to prejudice against sexual arousal nonconcordance in males.
The pseudoscience being used to let criminals loose
In Canada, the pseudoscience of phallometry is now believed by authorities to be useful for examining child molesters. That is, the Canadian authorities show virtual reality images that are said to represent children and use pseudoscientific phallometry on the dicks of the suspects. Apart from the fact that phallometry is not scientific in itself, that also ignores the fact that outward appearance may not represent age. Even the most accurate X-ray methods cannot tell the difference between someone who is 17 years old and an 18 year old. Outward appearance give even greater uncertainties. Why are the psychiatrists focusing on traits such as height, leg/torso ratio, facial features and breast size (which all vary by ethnicity) and ignore traits that are associated with maturity regardless of ethnicity (such as pubic hair and armpit hair) when assigning levels of sexual maturity to their visual imagery? Are their definitions not at all harmonied with the principle of human mentality being globally shared?
It is also possible that the pseudoscientific practice of phallometry may be used to falsely classify men who are going to reoffend as unlikely to reoffend, by a difference in surveillance influencing reconviction statistics or that men who have trained to control their erections with meditation are better at hiding their crimes too which may explain apparent predictive value of penile pletysmography as an artifact of cheating and not of correlation between erection and actual offenses. It is sometimes claimed that the observation of phallometry/recidivism correlation in sex offenders who have recently migrated from a jurisdiction where phallometry is not in forensic use to one where it is rules out the training effect, but that claim ignore that skilled crime hiders who plan to migrate are likely to research the forensic situation in the jurisdiction they are planning to move into and adapt their strategies accordingly including training before the actual migration. As no jurisdiction use vaginal pletysmography in forensic assessment of parole, the difference in incentive to train response control can explain why pletysmography appears predictive of recidivism in men but not in women. It is possible that the simple fact that the men who are classified as likely to reoffend are more watched by the authorities while it becomes easier for the men who are considered less likely to reoffend to get away with more sex crimes. That is, the apparent correlation between "inappropriate" penile response and reoffending may simply be due to lax control of those without such responses, while they commit exactly the same number of new sex offenses in real life.
Apart from the scientific error sources in recidivism studies, the visual definitions used may also victimize children who look older than they are (if only by white ethnocentric standards).
Misogynistic, intersexphobic and transphobic implications of phallometry
If phallometry becomes widely used to test men who apply for certain professions (such as anesthetic doctors or teachers), it may lead to a belief that men who have been phallometrically tested and passed as "clean" are safe. If it is combined with the claim that there is no objective way of measuring sexual arousal in women, that may lead to a future society in which most (tested) men are considered safe but all women are considered potential sex offenders. That is a misogynistic potential of phallometry that can lead to rules about only men being allowed in certain professions being reinstated.
In addition to the traditional misogynist potential of phallometry, there are transphobic potentials of phallometry also. The claim that men must have category specific sexual arousal to be acceptable while women are acceptable on different grounds of lower libido and stronger sexual inhibitions predicts that people who are neither biologically typical males nor biologically typical females would be a serious risk of lacking both supposedly different safety mechanisms. That leads to allegations of transsexuals being sex offenders, that is, to severe transphobia. While empirical studies appear to show category specific responses in the neovaginas of trans women, empirical data cannot change the predictions of a hypothesis or theory, they can only falsify hypotheses with the predictions of which they do not agree. In the context of the hypothesis that erotic plasticity is linked to low arousal concordance and low genital arousal specificity, this contradicts the claim that "feminization" causing a "less fixed" sexual behavior could account for the existence of trans women who met in their biologically male form and remain lovers post-op. A possible hypothesis that is not contradicted by the empirical evidence is that the trans women who dare to go to psychiatric assessment and get gender reassignment treatment in the first place are those with category-specific and concordant erections (volunteering bias) while the rest suffer unrecognized and untreated.
Other people at risk of being demonized by such assumptions are women with high sex drive, especially if blood samples show slightly elevated levels of testosterone which may trigger "medical evidence" alarms in psychiatry. Intersex people are also under threat.
Another hypothesis, that of arousal concordance and specificity being determined by the genitals of birth and not of gender identity, is not only transphobic in its rejection of people's identity but also contradicts its own premise of gender identity being linked to the brain's masculinity or femininity. It is, after all, the brain that interprets a situation as sexual or as non-sexual. Whether or not the recognition of a situation as sexual in a completely non-appealing way leads to the brain sending a signal to a different part of the body is, of course, determined by the brain and not by that other organ or the form the other organ had at birth! The hypothesis of birth genitals determining concordance and specificity has even more transphobic implications for trans men, that it is alleging them to combine a "female" lack of specific arousal combined with a "male" high libido resulting from testosterone treatment during gender reassignment. That is, the claim that all (post-hormone) trans men are sex offenders according to the psychiatric assumptions. Fortunately, the hypothesis' contradiction of its own premise is undermining it.
Transphobic phallometry, self-contradicting and breaking the law in Canada
In some countries, including the Czech Republic, the Slovak Republic and Canada (and some states in the United States), phallometry is already used on trans women, also known as male to female transgenders, in assessing their identity. According to the law in these countries, these people need a certificate of their gender identity from a psychiatrist to be given any treatment. And they test the trans women who still have penises - by measuring that unwanted penis while showing them images of poorly sex treated transsexuals with obvious androgynous traits! Apparently the psychiatrists believe that penile response to such people is an indicator of transgender identity.
One absurd thing about it is that they treat trans women as men when they assume that the alleged concordance for men applies to trans women, and they treat trans men as women when they decide that vaginal pletysmography in their unwanted vaginas does not constitute a valid assessment technique. Not only is this a violation of these people's gender identity, but it also contradicts the very premise that true trans men have masculine brains while true trans women have feminine brains. In other words, the practice lacks the consistency that is needed from a scientific theory or even just a hypothesis. Apart from that error, it also confuses a gender identity with a sexual orientation.
Since Canadian law considers it hate speech to refer to transgender people as the sex of their birth genitals instead of their identified gender, the practice of phallometry is illegal in Canada with regard to transgenderism. And yet it is used there for the illegal purpose. Also, the skewed system of considering trans women testable for transgenderism, making some of these people approved, while trans men are considered untestable in this regard, largely accounts for why more trans women than trans men are approved by psychiatry to treatment. Many trans men suffer in silence because of this practice.
Self-fulfilling prophecies of manipulation
Another example of this type of lack of falsifiability is the claim that "psychopaths are manipulative". That gives psychologists and psychiatrists the possibility to explain away anything a person whom they want to classify as a psychopath says or does as "manipulation", making it nonfalsifiable and thereby unscientific. That is, if the psychiatrists used a lottery to decide whom to classify as a psychopath, they would be able to find "evidence" that their classification was "correct" in every case. Self-fulfilling prophecies, in other words. Being treated with such suspicion is also likely to affect brain activity, which can act as a self-fulfilling prophecy of psychopathy in brain scans.
It is also likely that people who know that some people consider them to be "manipulative", no matter if there was any substance in the allegations from start, are more culturally pressed to learn to lie about what some people think about them when they interact with people who do not know the people who consider them "manipulative". This may give a training effect of lying. The initial start of the assumptions may discriminate against people with hereditary traits that are biologically unrelated to social behavior, but still be lumped in the statistics as "correlated with psychopathy" due to this effect. The biological traits that cause the discrimination may be anything from physical appearance to sensory and motoric details in behavior.
The claim that "psychopaths" are more capable of saving more people at the expense of a smaller number of people, e.g. the trolley problem, when combined with the claim that "psychopaths" are egoistic, creates an absurd assumption that saving many people is egoistic. Given that our ancestors depended on the de facto survival of other members of their group, it makes no evolutionary sense to assume that there would be any predispositional negative link between cooperation and the ability to help the greater number of others. Given the trolley problem with five people versus one person, it is not even necessary to exceed any low cap on Paleolithic group sizes imposed by nutrient restrictions to make this point. Pointing out that you saved the few and only passively let the many die would not help you, in your decimated group, pass on genes in the Paleolithic! Some cultures, such as the Aymara, make no moral distinction between actively killing someone and passively letting someone die. The claim that helping the many "is egoistic" also presumes that everything from donating to charity to paying taxes is "egoistic", especially if you would otherwise have used the money to help a smaller number of people that you know personally instead, perhaps just one other person. Just the absurdity of claiming that someone who risked his or her own life as well in the process of saving many others at the expense of the few "did it for egoistic reasons" constitute an example of the type of "explanation" of behavior being a totally nonsensical making up of any bullshit.
See also Can a diagnosis be a falsifiable H/T?.
The myth of innate religiosity
Why waste time translating footprints to carnivores?
It is often claimed that a religiosity gene evolved to allow our ancestors to quickly associate a footprint with the dangerous predator that left it, making them escape faster and be more likely to survive. However, the "hypothesis" of the religion gene does not explain why running from a predator would require translation of a footprint into a mind image of a carnivore at all. Translating an image of the footprints into an image of a carnivore, as the God gene model says, would waste time on an extra step in the brain. Given that it is as fast a reaction as possible that matters in this case, evolution would take the solution of responding directly to the footprint instead, saving one step in the brain and make the flight faster.
Nor does the hypothesis explain why religiosity would have evolved in humans only, given that not only humans but many other animals have been hunted by carnivores throughout their evolutionary histories. Given that primate ancestors could obviously escape from danger before the human/chimp ancestor split, the fact that there were ways to detect predators all along debunk any claim that "religion stuck around because it could detect carnivores". If there ever was a deficit in carnivore recognition that required religion to be resolved, those ancestors would have died out from predation before religion had time to evolve.
Complex brains did not keep hunter-gatherers together
Another claim for how a genetic basis for religiosity "evolved" is that religion added social cohesion to our ancestors. However, insects with very small brains keep together without the complex brains that would be required to believe in God. Complex brain mechanisms increase the cost of brains in nutrients, reducing the groups in terms of hunter-gatherers limited by food supply.
As for the claim that religion allowed more inter-group diplomacy, complex brains cost more nutrients which makes the groups more distant for hunter-gatherers. This diminishes the chances of inter-group diplomacy. It also lowers the chance of outgroup allies arriving in time to a battle, as well as making trade more tedious.
It have been claimed that a genetic predisposition to dogmatism, including religious conservatism, evolved to "enslave" hedonism to prevent reward hacks such as contraception. Apart from the fact that a dogmatism that felt offended by rational criticism would make the very existence of brain circuits capable of critical thought a waste of nutrients and that dogmatism is achievable in a thrifty way by small brains, there is also the fatal flaw in dying for cult leaders.
It is said that religion evolved in early modern or near-modern humans by the same models that claim that bigger social networks of non-kin evolved at the same time. That means the model predicts that people who were genetically susceptible to indoctrination would have joined fights for cult leaders who were not their blood relatives, possibly after persuading their close relatives in their local communities sharing their genetic predispositions to join too. Then they and their close relatives would likely die at war while an unrelated cult leader got the conquered resources. That is, not an evolutionarily stable strategy.
No religion without indoctrination
There are examples of human children who grew up as the only deaf child in villages in which everyone else could hear, preventing them from learning sign language or participating in the invention of a sign language. Some of them did learn language later (contrary to the myth of critical periods for language), but none of them believed in God or an afterlife! So there is no religiosity instinct.
One common theme in religion is threatening against critical thought. The Abrahamitic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) says that non-believers go to Hell. Buddhism says that people who do not believe in it are "not enlightened" and will suffer through many more lives, while Hinduism says that non-belief gives "bad karma" and many reincarnations as lower castes or lower animals. New Age and similar "positive thinking" faiths threaten with bad health effects of not believing 100% in "positive thinking", and so on. With all those threats coming from religion, their widespread distribution can be explained by blackmail without a "religion instinct".
Content over formality
The claim that the scientific method is a cultural whim for which the capacity for syntactic language is a sufficient underlying neurological condition is falsified by the fact that it is easier to build computers that can deal with formal syntax structures than to build computers that can meaningfully deal with content (formalization was invented as a way to simplify data so that less powerful computers could do the job) and by the fact that many nonhuman animals including wildebeest forage on paths that structurally correspond to the formality of Chomskian models for human language grammar, i.e. recursive paths.
How can science exist?
More connective neural networks can make more precise distinctions. While the precise distinctions between word classes needed to meaningfully put messy real life words into the right places in said sentences is beyond the neural networking of any known nonhuman animal brain, that distinction is still doddle compared to the even more precise distinction between a reductio ad absurdum and a simple false belief or even a fantasy.
To reason as if a claim was true and showing that it makes false predictions, thereby abandoning the claim itself, is the true hallmark of sapience. The precise distinctions needed to avoid slipping into "false is false" and thus failure to actively throw out false hypotheses, are monumental.
The difference between determinism and fatalism
Causal determinism is the notion that each event is determined by events before it in a causal chain. Determinism implies that the end result is determined by means of intermediate steps. It is, according to determinism, the impossibility of the intermediate steps to go differently that makes the end result determined.
Fatalism or predestination, on the other hand, says that the end result is predetermined without regard to intermediate steps. Fatalism accepts non-deterministic changes with limited effects, but claims that the end result will somehow be the same anyway. According to fatalism, it is not the intermediate steps that cause the end result to be determined.
Debates on the existence or non-existence of free will have traditionally mixed up determinism with fatalism due to them both saying that an individual could not have chosen differently. However, the determinism versus fatalism distinction does have massive implications for the ability to learn from mistakes and falsify hypotheses. In a deterministic universe, where the intermediate steps determine the outcome, observational data can causally affect the brain in ways that changes the brain's function, enabling learning from mistakes. A fatalistic brain that comes to the same final conclusions regardless of data input, on the other hand, would be incapable of learning from mistakes. The data input would not matter for such a brain. Thus, the fatalism versus determinism distinction is a distinction of impossibility of knowledge versus possibility of knowledge.
Even though the discovery of quantum mechanics shows that not everything is deterministic, that does not mean that such non-determinism is a necessary condition for the existence of minds that are capable of science. It is true that an otherwise deterministic universe with some non-deterministic characteristics (such as quantum mechanics) opens the possibility for the originally small non-deterministic effects to spread through the otherwise deterministic cause and effect, changing the outcome of everything. However, the deterministic magnification of effect would work even in the absence of non-deterministic qualities, such as a phenomenon from classic physics being observed by an observer and having effects in the observer's brain, which lead to falsifications of a false hypothesis, in turn paving the way for a better hypothesis that leads to inventions that changes the world. Chaos theory is not quantum mechanics. Chaos theory is about cause and effect in a way that make initially extremely small differences magnify (and is based on interaction), and it works in classical physics. Quantum mechanics is a completely different set of laws that work on very low levels of interaction, usually extremely small though very low temperatures can be a substitute. Is the distinction between quantum mechanics and chaos theory lost on cognitive bias psychologists?
So the as of yet undecided question of whether or not there are any quantum effects involved in the function of the brain has no bearing on the existability of science. No matter whether or not some element of non-determinism is involved in deciding whether or not a neuron fires, it is the mostly determinist function that allows the storage of knowledge. Non-deterministic effects does not change the fact that predestination is incompatible with the existence of knowledge. Even if some quantum effects affect some intermediate steps, that is of no use if the end conclusions remain the same regardless of the intermediate steps.
The claim that brains are wired to justify preconceptions and not think critically is an example of fatalism that is incompatible with the existence of science, see can a diagnosis be a falsifiable H/T?.
Constructing reality: a no-go
Why are there no quantum computers at room temperature?
It is sometimes claimed that the brain constructs reality instead of understanding it. One version of that claim is a misapplication of the measurement problem of quantum mechanics. While it is true that there is empirical evidence for the instruments of measurement making quantum superposition end, it has nothing to do with whether or not a conscious observer read the results. It is the interaction between the particles that matter. If it took a conscious observer to make quantum states collapse into reality, quantum computers would be functioning at room temperature as long as no conscious person was looking at them. And yet quantum computers need to be cooled to near absolute zero and shielded from radiation in order to work.
Reality exists even without consciousness.
The placebo effect and its limitations
Another version of the claim that the brain is constructing reality is about the placebo effect. It says that a brain capable of beliefs give survival advantages by the placebo effect curing diseases and averting death. However, there are limits to the placebo effect. It is true that it can affect some things that are going on, but the placebo effect cannot cure everything. In most cases of lethal diseases, the illness is so severe a moderate effect such as the placebo effect and its limits has no chance of tipping the scale to survival.
It could be argued that while the placebo effect is limited and cases in which the placebo effect can save your life are rare, some increase of the chance of survival is better than nothing. Until you consider that the brain consume nutrients, especially big brains do, and that the nutrient drain decrease your chance of surviving an illness.
It is sometimes claimed that people of "strong faith" have a stronger placebo effect. Apart from the lack of evidence that such a thing can cure lots of lethal diseases, there is also the population genetic fact that a small fraction of the population that was "enlightened enough" could not tip evolution in favor of an ability that saved very few of its carriers while increasing the risk of dying for most of them. The placebo effect is limited and it did not drive the evolution of the brain.
Intelligence as critical thought, not a list of answers
It is time to stop asking "how do you define intelligence?" as if intelligence was an arbitrary list of specific abilities, essentially circus tricks. It is the universal key quality that allows scrutiny of hypotheses towards theories that allow the creation of technological civilizations that matters, not answering a list of questions with fixed answers within a certain amount of time as if IQ tests fell from the sky. Scientific Method Wiki will not put up with any antisapient postmodernist quibble about "what is sapience" that denies its objective existence!
The assumption that more time to think is all it takes for an inferior brain to solve the same problem is taken for law by the theoretical underpinnings of IQ tests, but cannot explain why a chimpanzee's inability to make a reductio ad absurdum is decoupled from the amount of time available for thinking. Outside that box, it is easily explained as a resolution issue: a chimp brain cannot make a reductio ad absurdum regardless of thinking time for the same reason as you cannot see a bacterium with your naked eye regardless of observation time.
Falsifiabilization and the origin of falsifiability
It is possible for non-falsifiable claims to act as inspiration for the creation of a falsifiable hypothesis. When a claim is falsifiabilized in that way, it becomes a new hypothesis. One way to falsifiabilize a claim is to make it more precise.
For example, since it may simply mean that space and/or time expands along with everything in it with nothing to compare to, saying that space and time are not constant is in itself not scientific as per the falsifiabilistic method. However, the statement that the presence of energy causes a distortion of space-time that decreases with the square of distance makes falsifiable predictions and is therefore scientific by the falsifiabilist method.