What is the most effective way to challenge orthodoxy, knowledge consensus, pseudoscience, junk science and apparently simple claptrap?
Michael Shermer is the founder and Editor in Chief of the Skeptic magazine. Shermer’s position has long been that the most effective way to challenge fallacies and myths is to publish from a position of seeking to understand rather than ridicule (Shermer 1997). The same conclusions have been put forward by Hyman (2001) and Loxton (2011). But how do they know they are right? This is a strangely unexplored area and it is surely perverse that these leading and acknowledged healthy sceptics should accept their own intuitive and appealing beliefs in this area albeit supported in part by anecdotal evidence possibly gathered from an unintentional position of confirmation bias. For all we know, sceptics in their aim to be effective myth busters have created anotherbraced myth. Because ridicule, done the right way, might possibly turn out to be the most effective way to spread the word that certain myths are busted and to stop others from publishing claptrap.
Mike Sutton (2011)
Hyman, R. (2001) Proper Criticism. The Skeptical Inquirer. Volume 24. 4th July. Available free online from The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. http://www.csicop.org/si/show/proper_criticism/
Loxton, D. (2011) What Is the
Shermer, M. (1997) Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition and other confusions of our time.