History is to Mythicism and Science is to Creationism as McDonald’s is to…

History is to Mythicism and Science is to Creationism as McDonald’s is to… January 3, 2012

In discussing areas related to my teaching and interests lately, whether Biblical studies or biological science, the question has come up whether it might not make sense to actually examine an example of pseudoscholarship or junk science in teaching students to recognize the real thing.

It is easy enough to say that young-earth creationism is to genuine science, or Jesus mythicism is to genuine history, as this place is to a real McDonald’s:

The question is how to train someone to spot the difference, and what one does in view of the fact that, with a sufficient degree of either postmodern apathy or conspiracy theorist hyperskepticism, one can surely challenge what seems to be an obvious conclusion. With the right sort of denialism, one could make the case for the “restaurant” in the photo above having every right to be considered a genuine McDonald’s, just as mythicists do in claiming to have genuine historical insights, or cdesign proponentsists in claiming to have genuine scientific ones.

For instance, I can well imagine the objection that the institution does not have a franchise license being met with the sort of answers creationists and mythicists give: the academy stifles dissent, they say, and so genuinely honest and novel ideas don’t get published, so it is no surprise that one has to go beyond the official franchise/academy to do pioneering work.

How might one make the case that what we see in the photo above is or is not really a McDonald’s? And what do you think we can learn about science and pseudoscience, scholarship and pseudoscholarship, from the comparison?

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