Thursday, March 28, 2013

Laughing at those who laugh at science

Chris Mooney had one of his usual good Point of Inquiry shows back in November that I just caught, an interview with Michael Gordin, who wrote The Pseudoscience Wars. Gordin considers the idiot Velikovsky to be one of the originators of modern pseudoscience. Astronomers of the time tried denouncing him, tried ignoring him, and then Carl Sagan even tried engaging and refuting his nonsense one step at a time. None of it worked. Instead, just as science advances one funeral at a time, pseudoscience sometimes gets scrubbed away one funeral at a time. Nobody cares about Velikovsky any more.

It's still unclear how to handle idiotic attacks on science. A latest idiotic attack by people who don't understand science and therefore respond by laughing at it, is an attack stating the study of evolution of duck genitalia is so stupid that it's funny. At the link, Carl Zimmer disposes of the idiots, but I think he's using Carl Sagan's technique of engaging and refuting them on the facts. As Sagan found out, that doesn't really work.

Eli's trick has been to engage, refute, and laugh at the science deniers. I think it's worth a shot but I don't know if it'll work, and I've not quite figured out the right tone to take myself. I've also tried engage, don't refute, just bet them, but that hasn't gone all that far. I can't figure out how to bet people who laugh at the scientific value of biology experiments, so maybe just laughing at those people is the best bet right now. The experiment of figuring out how to handle pseudoscience will have to continue.