Science vs. pseudoscience


Presentation Description

A brief discussion of one of our BCBA group supervision topics. Find out more about the Global Autism Project and our BCBA Supervision program at


Presentation Transcript

Global Autism Project Supervision Topics:

Global Autism Project Supervision Topics Science vs. Pseudoscience Presenter: Ann Beirne, M.A. BCBA, Clinical Director

This presentation::

This presentation: How to tell science vs. pseudoscience Standards of evidence-based practice What that means for our field(s) ( FK-01, FK-03, FK-05, FK-07, K-02 of 4 th Edition task list)

Consulting the Guidelines:

Consulting the Guidelines 2.10 Treatment Efficacy. (a) The behavior analyst always has the responsibility to recommend scientifically supported most effective treatment procedures. Effective treatment procedures have been validated as having both long-term and short-term benefits to clients and society. (b) Clients have a right to effective treatment (i.e., based on the research literature and adapted to the individual client).

PowerPoint Presentation:

Science: Gina Green “Evaluating Claims about Treatments for Autism” Chapter 2: Behavioral Intervention for Young Children with Autism, Edited by Catherine Maurice


Science Science = relies on direct objective observation and measurement of phenomena, systematic arrangements of events, procedures to rule out alternative explanations for what is observed, and repeated demonstrations (Green, 1996)


Pseudoscience Pseudoscience = treats phenomena that do not have the hallmarks of scientific method as if they were scientific (Green, 1996)


Antiscience Antiscience = the outright rejection of the time-tested methods of science as a means of producing valid and useful facts

What are some components of science?:

What are some components of science? DETERMINISM PARSIMONY PHILOSOPHIC DOUBT


DETERMINISM The presumption that the universe is a lawful and orderly place in which all phenomena occur as the result of other events.


PARSIMONY The idea that all simple, logical explanations must be ruled out before more complex or abstract explanations are considered.


PHILOSOPHIC DOUBT The continual questioning of the truthfulness and validity of all scientific theory and knowledge.

Some examples of pseudoscience “traps”:

Some examples of pseudoscience “traps” Circular reasoning A need to “have faith” or “believe in” methodology Manipulating facts to support theory

Circular reasoning:

Circular reasoning the reasoner begins with what he or she is trying to end up with e.g. “Why is he in the corner?” “Because he's shy” “What makes you think he's shy?” “He's in the corner”


“Faith” If it doesn't work, you didn't believe it enough

Facts and theory:

Facts and theory The theory must be developed from the facts, not the other way around

Evidence based practice:

Evidence based practice What makes something “evidence based”? “I read it somewhere” “My doctor told me” “It's just common sense”

Definition of Evidence-Based Practice::

Definition of Evidence-Based Practice: To be considered an evidence-based practice for individuals with ASD, efficacy must be established through peer-reviewed research in scientific journals using: randomized or quasi-experimental design studies. single-subject design studies. combination of evidence.

PowerPoint Presentation:

Randomized or quasi-experimental design studies . Two high quality experimental or quasi-experimental group design studies,

PowerPoint Presentation:

Single-subject design studies. Three different investigators or research groups must have conducted five high quality single subject design studies

PowerPoint Presentation:

Combination of evidence. One high quality randomized or quasi-experimental group design study and three high quality single subject design studies conducted by at least three different investigators or research groups (across the group and single subject design studies).

Why does this matter?:

Why does this matter? Wakefield, et al, 1998 Wakefield claimed a link between MMR vaccines and autism, along with bowel disease. No other research has supported this now-discredited theory

PowerPoint Presentation:

“The 1998 publication of an article, recently retracted by the Lancet, by Wakefield et al.3 created a worldwide controversy over the measles–mumps–rubella (MMR) vaccine by claiming that it played a causative role in autism. This claim led to decreased use of MMR vaccine in Britain, Ireland, the United States, and other countries. Ireland, in particular, experienced measles outbreaks in which there were more than 300 cases, 100 hospitalizations, and 3 deaths.” The Age-Old Struggle against the Antivaccinationists Gregory A. Poland, M.D., and Robert M. Jacobson, M.D. N Engl J Med 2011; 364:97-99

What it means for our field:

What it means for our field Without evidence-based practice: Refrigerator mother theory Facilitated communication

Discussion Question:

Discussion Question What has your experience been of science vs. pseudoscience? Has this been an issue in your work?

Discussion Question:

Discussion Question There is always a complaint that evidence based practices are primarily ABA strategies. How do you respond to those who say this is “unfair”?

Discussion Question:

Discussion Question What is the level of philosophic doubt that is appropriate? How open minded should we be?

Recommended reading:

Recommended reading Check out this article on evidence based practice: Association for Science in Autism Treatment

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