Lay Science: Suspending Disbelief

I was listening to an old episode of the SETI institute’s podcast Are We Alone, in which they talked to a CSICOP (or whatever it is they call themselves these days) investigator. He described how he approached claims of the paranormal: he was neutral, and he “suspended disbelief” while he investigated the claim. He is not the only person to state that they “suspend disbelief” when looking at wacky claims. But he is wrong. He described his methodology in greater detail, and with case studies. What he is actually doing is following the stereotype (“type workflow”?) of the scientific method: in science, we make new hypotheses — wacky or tame — about how the world works, but it is assumed that the null hypothesis is true until we have evidence to suggest otherwise. We work on the assumption that our wacky new hypothesis is not true, until we can discover evidence that it is.

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