Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe

Into my magic eight ball what does appear?

My wife is watching "The Sound of Music," which is motion picture water boarding to me, so I have a few free moments to post about this week's SGU.

A question that was asked by a listener and echoed during the interview with Michael Specter, author of the book Denialism, generally paraphrased to what is the future of skepticism (and I suppose by extension what is the future of woo.)  The rogues gave their responses, and it started me thinking on it as well.  Perhaps it is because I am a pessimist by nature, but I think the future is bleak.  I do not know if it is Terminator future bleak, or The Name of the Rose medieval bleak, but I fear the forces of woo are strong.

Here's my reasoning-  Life has changed an enormous amount in the past four centuries or so, and it can basically be boiled down to the scientific method that has been the key to this explosion of technology and learning.  Diseases have been tamed that ravaged man and beast for centuries.  Crop yield have increased by many factors due to superior plant stock, and farming methods.  People can communicate almost instantaneously at the push of a button.  I'll post this blog, and people in Perth, Australia will be able to read what little old me wrote in Hershey.  We have landed remote controlled robots to drive around on another plant for years at a stretch.  We have asked and answered questions that nobody imaged existed in 1899 Universities around the globe.  Despite the obvious core of all this great "stuff" most of which people in the industrialized world take for granted, mass numbers of people deny science and its utility.

Specter noted that in part this might be because science was oversold in the past, and yet we are left with hunger, drug resistent diseases, cancer is still a major medical problem, we have climate issues, etc.  Science is so complex that nobody understands how the lightbulb works let alone how the world wide web operates -it all just seems to happen.  Yet, despite these issues with modernity, people instead of embracing what science has wrought (and I am the first to admit not everything is peachy keen with science or how it functions), people still grasp tightly to the magical mindset.  People still belief in ghosts, midnight abductors, psychics, medical care based on the same thought processes of shaman, and refuse to fathom the true age of the Earth and the length of time it took for life on Earth to take its current form. Any technology advanced enough will seem like magic, and today we live in a "magical" science fiction world of tiny cigarette box sized computers, while at the same time people believe that they can talk with animals.  The obviously ludicrous world views and means of learning and knowing that existed from the dawn of our species to a few hundred years had snail-like progress, while the world changes form in twenty five years today than it did in the past hundred years before it.  Woo should be on the ropes, and stuck in the darkest depths of the Amazon at this point, but instead watch a mega-church sermon attacking evolution on any Saturday or Sunday morning, and the woo is not going anywhere any time soon.

I hope I am wrong.

On the Skeptic Zone, Krissy Wilson, gave an entertaining and downright hilarious lecture on woo and odd thoughts on Tasmania.  The wife and I found it highly entertaining to listen to in car as we drove from madhouse store to madhouse store on the day after Christmas.

Now time to see if "The Sound of Music" is almost over.

1 comment:

  1. :D Glad you liked our Dr Krissy recording! She was the one who inspired me to do the research I've started. Check out the TANK vodcast (I think it's still online) and the interview Richard did earlier in the SZ show with her. :)

    Oh, if you have time? I've started (still waiting for iTunes to index it, arghh...) - let me know what you think, I have a few ideas already on how to improve. :)


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