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.

One Reply to “Know the Quacks, Still Respect Them”

  1. Basically it comes down to this — respect. If we can offer respect to other’s beliefs, the same as we wish for ourselves, the world would be so pleasant a place — perhaps sans war even?

    Usually, if we can feel that others have a right to their opinions, just as we have a right to our own, it would be good. Unless the result of the opinion when acted upon harms others. (And this can be a big issue.)

    It is a truth that we all see through our own distortions formulated through our life experiences, no two of us having had the same. So even seasoned scientists with fact-filled results can observe through distorted lenses when drawing conclusions from their findings.

    Bottom line though, if we wish to have others respect our right to our own experience, ideas and belief; and if we give that right to others, life would take giant strides.

    A good way to approach this is to say: “In my experience, and with these facts, I feel that … .” And if this is countered in the same way, — … .

    That is the way of respect. Even the most ignorant seemingly foolish person has his or her story to tell; and it is this writer’s belief that there is no one who hasn’t something to add that is of some value.

    Just listen.

    (with respect)

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