Know the Quacks, Still Respect Them

Three insightful (and fun!) lists of signs of a “scientific” theory being something “baloney” made up by “crackpots” or “quacks”:

  1. Trademarks of Crackpot Theories
  2. Are you a quack?”
  3. Sagan’s “Baloney’s Detection Kit

Reasonable they are, but by themselves just a recipe for conflict.

To get skepticism effectively to work in the real world, one better follow these quotes by Carl Sagan:

  • You can get into a habit of thought in which you enjoy making fun of all those other people who don’t see things as clearly as you do. We have to guard carefully against it.
  • People are not stupid. They believe things for reasons. The last way for skeptics to get the attention of bright, curious, intelligent people is to belittle or condescend or to show arrogance toward their beliefs.
  • …The chief deficiency I see in the skeptical movement is its polarization: Us vs. Them — the sense that we have a monopoly on the truth; that those other people who believe in all these stupid doctrines are morons; that if you’re sensible, you’ll listen to us; and if not, to hell with you. This is nonconstructive. It does not get our message across. It condemns us to permanent minority status.” 

Methinks there would be far fewer wholly un-necessary confrontations if we only could stick to the above.