The null hypothesis: what skepticism reveals about science
Michael Shermer has published his 100th opus in Scientific American and on his own blog. Dr. Shermer has effectively described why the scientific method is our best tool at distinguishing shinola from bullcrap.
The postmodernist belief in the relativism of truth, coupled to the clicker culture of mass media where attention spans are measured in New York minutes, leaves us with a bewildering array of truth claims packaged in infotainment units. It must be true — I saw it on television, at the movies, on the Internet. The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, That’s Incredible, The Sixth Sense, Poltergeist, Loose Change, Zeitgeist the Movie. Mysteries, magic, myths and monsters. The occult and the supernatural. Conspiracies and cabals. The face on Mars and aliens on Earth. Bigfoot and Loch Ness. ESP and PSI. UFOs and ETIs. JFK, RFK and MLK — alphabet conspiracies. Altered states and hypnotic regression. Remote viewing and astroprojection. Ouija boards and Tarot cards. Astrology and palm reading. Acupuncture and chiropractic. Repressed memories and false memories. Talking to the dead and listening to your inner child. Such claims are an obfuscating amalgam of theory and conjecture, reality and fantasy, nonfiction and science fiction. Cue dramatic music. Darken the backdrop. Cast a shaft of light across the host’s face. The truth is out there. I want to believe.
I don’t think that Dr. Shermer hates entertainment, but is probably tired of entertainment devices being the sole means of enlightenment for much of the public. In my opinion, entertainment has a purpose in stimulating our imagination, but should not typically be the basis for believing in extraordinary, hard-to-believe claims and concepts.
Read more on Shermer’s blog and sharpen your skepticism skills.