In one of the scientific skeptic forums I frequent, there’s a guy who pretty much personifies everything that skeptics fight against. He’s in the habit of posting anecdotes and crap studies he finds places like Natural News to support whatever side of an issue that doesn’t follow the science. He’s into alternative medicine, light therapy, everything natural, etc. I’ve spent a lot of time wondering what he’s doing on a skeptic forum in the first place.
Today, though, I came to a realization, and not about him, but about a lot of the people who believe they’re being skeptics, being scientific, and promoting only pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. They have no idea that they’re part of the problem. They truly believe that what they promote IS being skeptical. To them, you need to be skeptical of the status queue. Don’t listen to what “big science” or “big pharma” or big whatever else tells you. If it’s making a claim and it’s not from one of those things, then it must be the thing “they” don’t want you to know about.
You see this mentality with anti-fluoride folks, anti-gmo folks and anti-medicine or anti-vaxxer folks. It’s a conspiracy theory mentality that works to the detriment of everyone. The only catch is…how do you fix that problem when they have no idea they have a problem to begin with? The moment you pose a scientifically backed counter-argument, you’re just a shill for big-whatever. If you refuse to take their anecdotes as evidence, you’re just closed minded. I’ll admit to reacting pretty harshly to these people here and there as they tend to do jumping jacks on my last nerve.
The way I see it, however, these people are the ones we need to save. These are the ones who are genuinely trying to be rational and critical and skeptical…they’re just taking a bit of a wrong path. But there’s potential there. These are people with the ability and the drive to really do great things…IF they can actually begin to understand the difference between science and pseudoscience, fact and fiction, reality and fantasy.
I mean, how many of us in the skeptic community were into all that stuff once upon a time before we either stumbled upon or were shown how the world really works? Many of us have come from that very path, only to learn that we were wrong. All that needs done is to get them to where they can accept it when they realize they’re wrong. Then maybe we’ll make some real progress.
Contributor: Robert Sacerich
Robert is a Philosophy of Science and Bioethics student, as well as blogger and science advocate/activist. He has worked extensively within the secular community for various secular nonprofit organizations and public communication causes.
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