Monday, July 7, 2008

Baloney Detection, Episode 2

Hello Ladies, Germs, Rodents, Bugs, etc.

In case you missed the first installment in this series, it was merely a repost of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit in tribute to the great freethinker and scientist.

If you notice, pseudoscience is very much the same no matter what agenda it has to push or what product it has to sell. Creationist Kent Hovind offers a $250,000 to "prove evolution". Michael Shermer writes of a holocaust denier who offered a cash prize to anyone who could prove the holocaust happened (See Why People Believe Weird Things). A few months ago I investigated the million dollar prize being offered to anyone who "proves" abiogenesis (Hint: It was bull). Pseudoscientists (Here after referred to as BSers) love conspiracy theories. It helps them convince other people that the scientific, medical, or just plain common sense folks community are all wrong and involved in a huge coverup of the facts. Remember this when you hear creationists talk about the "materialistic bias" of the "mainstream". Remember it when you hear Kevin Trudeau claiming that "Big Pharma" doesn't want you to know about the cheap, easy, and healthy cures he tells you about in his books.

You will also notice that most often BSers are not simply good ol' folks who stumbled onto a bad idea; Rather it seems that the entire logic department of their brain is warped beyond repair. For instance, did you know that ID proponent Jonathan Wells used to be a member of the Unification Church Cult and is also an AIDS Denialist? Did you know that ICR founder Henry Morris believed in astrology? Did you know that "alternative medicine" guru Kevin Trudeau recommends practicing Scientology at the end of his "Natural Cures" book?

Of course, none of these facts make Henry Morris wrong about creationism or Kevin Trudeau wrong about alternative medicine. But they would instantly lose credibility in the eyes of many people. People who knew these things before taking up a cross and following these hucksters might slow down and submit their claims to skeptical analysis. And that, I believe, would be a great thing. No one should take someone's word for something simply because they are on TV. Do your homework, find out what the evidence is behind their claims, challenge them, question their ideas, and hear from the other side (and there always is at least one other side!).

P.S. A free movie has been circling the internet entitled Here Be Dragons: An Introduction to Critical Thinking. It is just 40 minutes long, it is free, and it is a masterful tribute to Skepticism. Visit the link!


danielk said...

"Rather it seems that the entire logic department of their brain is warped beyond repair."

xkcd - Conspiracy Theories

AIGBusted said...

Awesome cartoon in the above link!

AIGBusted said...
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