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Black Coffee, Psychopaths, and Pseudoscience

The internet says if you drink black coffee you're more likely to be a psychopath. So it must be true, right?
2 min

A “news story” currently trending online suggests that psychopaths take their coffee black. Or taking your coffee black is a sign of psychopathic tendencies. Or something.

I take offense to this--not because I drink black coffee, but because it’s so tiring. For starters, this study is old. It was pounded to death in 2015, and even then media couldn’t get it right.

At the time, the Independent declared, “How you drink your coffee ‘could point to psychopathic tendencies.’” Jezebel thundered, “Study Says People Who Take Coffee Black Have Psychopathic Tendencies.” Delish’s headline read: “If You Drink Black Coffee, Experts Say You Might Be a Psychopath.”

Um, no. As a Slate editor noted at the time, the study said nothing of the sort.

“The study in question does not actually say that people who take their coffee black have psychopathic tendencies. The researchers who wrote the study didn’t actually ask anyone about whether they take their coffee black. And what the study does say about the relationship between taste preferences and personality traits is probably meaningless and worth ignoring.”

If you wish to read the actual study for yourself, you can do so here. Which brings me to the science and the study itself.

Is anyone else skeptical of the value of such a scientific pursuit? Today we laugh at the scientists of the past who practiced in pseudomedicine, such as those kooky phrenologists who believed the shape of one’s skull determined one’s psychological attributes and intellectual abilities.

But is spending intellectual energy and valuable resources to investigate a supposed correlation between bitter taste preferences and antisocial personality traits any better? I’m not sure it is.

Regardless, seeing clickbait stories once again cropping up around the internet like vile weeds (here, here, here, etc.) on this tenuous hypothesis reveals something.

We obsess over human behavior to an unhealthy degree today. It is a kind of scientism, I think. And there are consequences to such a philosophy.  

By treating man as an amoeba-like creature that is destined or likely to perform a certain function (X, Y, or Z) when poked or prodded, we reduce man to a mere organism. He is no longer a creature made in the image of God who possesses inherent rights and the power to choose.

I’ve always believed humans have a duty to use science to better understand nature and seek truth. But I worry that people increasingly confuse science, and even pseudoscience, with truth.

Jon Miltimore

Jon Miltimore

Jonathan Miltimore is the Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writing/reporting has appeared in TIME magazine, The Wall Street Journal, CNN, Forbes, Fox News, and the Washington Times.

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