Daily Archives: Tuesday, 18:10, July 20, 2010
What would people in previous times think of vaccination if they were aware of what we are now?
What do you think they would do?
I suspect that the ultimate antidote for pseudoscience is a scientifically literate public not only familiar with the findings of science, but also its process and a good understanding, not only of how it works when it does, but how it goes wrong when this process is ignored or misused.
For if someone truly understands the basis of science, including its reasoning and methods, pseudo-scientific and anti-scientific beliefs are less likely to take hold in the mind.
Knowing this on some level, perhaps, cranks interested in promoting their doctrines, for ideological reasons or those involving personal gain, have developed a clever rhetorical ruse by arguing not only against the facts of science, but also against the validity of its process and reasoning, against both the products and the very workings of science.
They argue intuitively but speciously against both established knowledge and techniques of critical thinking, a strategy which can be very persuasive in undermining the public understanding of both and its ability to vote soundly on public policy involving science and its applications.
Simply suppressing ideas counter to science and reason is counterproductive since it lends seeming credence to claims of academic elitism and unfairness toward new ideas, and this harms scientific credibility in the long term, leading to an ignorant voting public that is easily manipulated by any who would profit from this ignorance.
Any would-be despot or charlatan is likely to take advantage of this situation, and indeed, historically, the rise of the Nazi party in pre-WWII Germany corresponded with a rise in the popularity of pseudo-scientific irrational claims, like the insane theories of Nazi anthropology.
It’s happened before…it can happen again…
In my view the best antidote for a fallacious argument is to give a better argument, not to silence the opposition, since even though specious arguments are often convincing, a valid argument is even more so.
To me, the best protection from aspiring tyrants is an informed, self-empowered public that can think critically, and not just on science and technology.
And so, today’s pop question is: