Cognitive Stagnation?

Cognitive Stagnation?

The topic of this post is unrelated to the pictured Izmir man enjoying his cigarette.

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked me a loaded question about a paradigm shift. He wrote about a shift from deliberation to spontaneity, from the ordered to the chaotic, from regularity to irregularity, from linear to circular and from the synthetic to the natural, and asked me for my comments on what I think the next "paradigm shift" might be. A paradigm shift is a "radical shift in the framework containing the basic assumptions, ways of thinking, and methodology that are commonly accepted by members of a scientific community". By that measure, it would be fair to say that many sciences regularly undergo paradigm shifts, but ever since the introduction of concepts such as Quantum Uncertainty and Quantum Indeterminacy, there hasn't been too many paradigm shifts effecting all sciences at once. Sciences have mostly been "filling gaps".

My friend later tried to clarify that he was not asking about paradigm shifts in science, but rather in "alternative medicine" and "spirituality" - whatever that means. He didn't like my answers, and for good measure, insisted that I was going through a "cognitive stagnation". It turns out, that's the standard New Age lingo for "idiot". If I do not agree with you, then you must be having an episode of "cognitive stagnation"! Carl Sagan had warned us about charlatans.

Cognitive impairment is an inclusive term describing real deficits in intellectual performance or in cognitive abilities such as mental retardation, learning disorders, dyslexia and even alcohol or drug related impairments. On the other hand, "cognitive stagnation" is just a New Age term that is meant to convince you that there is something wrong with you. The next step is to find a guru who will determine your inner-frequency, give you your secret mantra and then send you wave-after-wave of positive energy to cure your cognitive stagnation. I hope that wasn't too harsh?

The use of technobabble and the misuse of scientific terms are nothing new in pseudoscience and the New Age movement. What is astonishing to me is that some - otherwise intelligent - quacks actually believe their own extraordinary claims. That is not to say, everyone who thinks outside the box is a charlatan. Some assumptions, premises and hypotheses can actually be useful.
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