Friday, March 06, 2015

Psychometrics is mainstream psychology

Wikipedia has an article on List of topics characterized as pseudoscience. Most of it has obsolete or crackpot ideas.

These two items are somewhat out of place:
Psychometrics – is the field where practitioners have claimed to be able to measure various abstract mental attributes such as intelligence or creativity in individuals and groups using various contrived tests. Additionally, environmental and pre-exposure factors are often disregarded. ...

Scientific racism – ... the claim of "classifying" individuals of different phenotypes into discrete races or ethnicities.
Both are justified by Stephen Jay Gould's book, The Mismeasure of Man. The book has been one of the biggest selling American science books ever, and is probably still required reading at many colleges.

The book is garbage. As you can see from the Wikipedia page, the main claims were proven wrong. It is a Marxist-influenced political attack. Only the part on skull measurement was published as peer-reviewed science, and even the ideologically-sympathetic NY Times said in 2011 that almost every detail of his analysis is wrong.

Psychometrics has been central to the study of psychology for a century. Besides the IQ tests, there are dozens of widely respected tests to diagnose mental disorders, detect personality types, or measure other features.

Classifying people into races and ethnicities is also common and well-accepted. I noted that it is essential to recent research on Neanderthals.

The Wikipedia editors say, paraphrasing:
Of course psychologists believe in psychometrics, just as astrologers believe in astrology. That means nothing as long as we have reliable sources who say that it is pseudoscience.
It ought to be possible to find reputable scholars to say that frequentism is pseudoscience, such as from the journal that banned it.

I once proposed that the list include Continental Drift, as it meets their criteria for inclusion. Others suggested evolution. Reputable sources have said that it was pseudoscience. In the world of Wikipedia, having a reliable source is more important than truth.

I used to think that pseudoscience was a useful concept. But the term seems to be almost entirely used by people with some sort of political agenda. While I think that I have an idea of what is or is not scientific, I do not think that we have a good definition of pseudoscience.

Update: I tried to add t his:
However modern geneticists and anthropologists routinely divide people into those of African, European, and East Asian ancestry. ref: NY Times, Feb. 19, 2015.
It was reverted, as was my attempt to fix the psychometrics paragraph.

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