Thursday, June 26, 2008

How wacky ideas gain credance

Wallace Sampson over at Science-Based Medicine gives an overview of how fields once viewed as quackery have gained credibility over the last few years.

However, this process is something that's readily applied across the board in pseudoscience. From psychics to creationists, they all have managed to escape the label: "Bulls@$^" (except for those caught by Penn and Teller).

And the media, of course, isn't helping. As Sampson brings up, "objective journalism" does not mean presenting both sides. It means presenting the facts. And, of course, if both sides have a comparable number of facts (as in a genuine scientific debate: Is cancer genetic or environmental (or some combination of the two)). When one side generally has far more facts than the other (as is the case with pseudoscience), you don't give the other side equal time because they don't have equal facts. The point of "objective" journalism is to inform the reader to make his/her own opinion. You do that by presenting the facts (or the absence of them). Saying that there is no solid evidence for astrology is not biased, because it's true. Astrology is just as effective as asking your son how your day is going to go (except with more big words). To say anything else would be either straying for the facts, or downright lying. Saying "Astrology might have revealed why this person got a promotion" is a conjecture, not a fact. Likewise, saying "Astrology did reveal why this couple broke up" would be a downright lie, because Astrology has been shown to be as effective as chance through and through. But anyways, I'm not going to write too much now. Right now, I have about three posts partly-written that I probably should get working on. But, I hope you enjoyed this little rant by both Dr. Sampson and me (though his is far more persuasive).

1 comment:

larry said...

To be honest, I think astrology is just as radical as astronomy. Considering we can only use abstract mathematical equations to prove one, and coincidence to prove the other