Dear “Skeptics,” Bash Homeopathy and Bigfoot Less, Mammograms and War More
Very interesting exploration of an aspect of our current culture. My reactions include, in no particular order:
-As much lip service as we pay to “science” and “rational argument,” the rhetoric of much debate, including but not limited to online, is not really interested in testing ideas and coming to a correct conclusion. It’s about winning. By any rhetorical means necessary.
-The context, mode and arena of communication is important to distinguish. Take, for example, Horgan’s criticism of Neil deGrasse Tyson saying “the likelihood is may be very high that we’re living in a simulation.” If you follow the link, you’ll find these remarks were make on-stage in front of an audience and is full of hedges and caveats – “likelihood,” “may be,” “imagine,””I think.” These are statements made to entertain an audience and get them to think, not a scientific position paper. See, for comparison, the furor over Mike Daisey’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” where the controversy arose not from the simple tossed-off idea that “he lied” but from his transgression in placing a theatrical story in a journalistic context.
-When people who are not scientists respond to an argument with a dismissive line like, “it’s SCIENCE,” it always reminds we on the scene in the movie “Born on the Fourth Of July,” were the young protagonist’s suburban mother portentously intones over the dinner table, “the Communists have to be stopped.”
-We rarely debate anything, rather, we look to obliterate our opponents with one big kiss-off phrase that destroys their entire argument and takes away their legitimacy.
-This is all really depressing.