Just so you know, I do love the new roomies, and the house is awesome, and most of the people I’ve met have been quite interesting. There are even many science-oriented ones! But there is also so much woo, I am not even kidding. I mean, we’re living atop a shaman, what could you expect?
It’s quite awkward, being the resident skeptic. It’s never comfortable, having someone come up eagerly telling you about quantum this or energy that, and ooo you should totes look up this one dude who’s revolutionizing science. Several years ago, I would’ve been in a sort of ecstasy. I mean, I loved quantum and energy and revolutionary stuff. Then I fell in with the skeptics, and, as I told S, I can’t believe anymore. I mean, pretty much every bit of woo has been so shot full of holes, there’s nothing left for me to believe in. All of the advocates of quantum and energy and revolution have either been exposed as cons, frauds, or people whose experiments, statistics and suchlike are so full of problems that they’re worthless. I do mean, all. Every single woo-meister I’ve ever encountered has been either inadvertently or deliberately peddling bullshit. Even the ones who sound scientific on the surface get found out and shown up. I cannae take any more, Captain!
So far, in the last week or so, I’ve had someone press Rupert Sheldrake upon me as a man remaking the foundations of science. And I had no idea who they were talking about, until they mentioned how Rupert had revealed problems with the speed of light, and I was all like, “Oh, that guy.” Sorry, dear new friend, but he hits far too many alarms on the quack-o-meter: boasting about how settled science is wrong without producing convincing evidence, complaining about some measurement that’s well within the margin of error, screaming persecution and censorship when people don’t accept his ideas…. yeah. Not wasting my time until I’m presented with a paper of his published in a reputable peer-reviewed journal, thanks.
Astoundingly, such a paper has not yet materialized.
Not long after, we were sitting round the firepit with a delightful bunch of young people. One of them turned out to be a global warming denier, but he got piled on by everybody else, so that was sweet. Another wants to get a degree in neuroscience and combine it with energy work, because he believes energy fields are real. I’m all for the neuroscience degree, and he plans to go to a reputable university, so I figure a robust science curriculum will steer him gently away from the shoals of woo. I just kind of smiled and nodded and wished him well. Then he told me I should look up the work of Al Seckel, who’d done some really extraordinary work on optical illusions. I’d never heard of Seckel before that. Damned if it wasn’t the very next day that dude gets exposed as a fraud, too.
This, darlings, is why I can’t just shut my mouth and nod along as people spout their favorite woo at me. And I realized, sometime after, that I don’t have to feel bad about it. Sure, it may make people feel upset, having someone deflate their every theory and hero. But you know what? I get pretty uncomfortable having this crap thrown at me as if it’s all wonderful and good and not at all a problem. People are thrusting their beliefs upon me left and right. I get to thrust right back. And so far, everyone’s been pretty accepting of it, anyway, letting me have my say and sometimes debating in a friendly way without taking it personally. Which rocks.
And if they do manage to come up with some convincing evidence that’s passed scientific muster, well, that will be an awesome day. It’s just that I ain’t gonna be holding my breath, waiting. There was a time I really really wanted this stuff to be true. I wanted the universe to be more astounding than we’d ever imagined, full of supernatural awesomeness. I thought a universe without magic and sacred energies and mystical quantum stuff would be bor-ring. But then I got over the initial disappointment when I realized none of this stuff was ever proved, and then I started digging deeper into science, and let me just say that the natural universe is more than intriguing enough. Why, just this week, I’m going to show you an example of how everything we thought we knew about something is probably wrong, and how discovering that opens up whole new lines of inquiries that tell riveting stories of the ways the world works, complete with strong evidence backing it all up. It’s a beautiful example of the difference between real science and woo. And it’s part of the reason why woo doesn’t fascinate me anymore, aside from the how do people get sucked in by that? question, and the entertainment value of watching fraudsters get exposed. Reality is a lot more fun!
I’ll settle into my role as resident skeptic here. In fact, I believe we shall all enjoy it. And those who don’t will quickly learn to keep the woo to a minimum around the skeptical person, which will do wonders to balance our energies and harmonize our quantums – or something like that.