Saturday, October 13, 2012

Weekend Post - Skeptical feedback

Anyone who writes or blogs about science, critical thinking and skepticism is obliged to take criticism. Its part of the job description. It’s also one of the cornerstones of the scientific method. You open your ideas to criticism from others. That criticism can be both positive and negative of course, at its best it’s constructive, opening up the ideas to correction, improvement or perhaps even rejection.

Some belief systems aren’t as logical. I once had a conversation on radio with a senior representative of the so-called Church of Scientology who defended their habit of keeping their “teachings” secret until recruits had paid enough money to climb high enough up their preposterous levels of “Operating Thetans”. They claimed that all religions had secret scriptures like theirs but this is simply hogwash. I don’t share the belief systems of my Christian and Muslim fellow columnists in the Weekend Post but I’ll admit this. Neither of them will hide any of their beliefs from you and me. In fact, like all legitimate religions they seem rather proud of their beliefs. There are no hidden scriptures in a genuine religion. The most senior adherent, whether it’s a Pope or an Imam, believes the same things as the most humble new entrant. Not so the Scientologists. Only when you’ve given them your life savings do they share with you the psychotic claptrap about alien spirits, galactic overlords and evil psychiatrists.

But science is above all of that. Science, and the people who think the scientific method is the most useful intellectual tool we have, are prepared to take criticism. Even when it’s utterly silly.

In March I wrote about the misuse of the word “quantum”. My point was simple. On almost every occasion when you hear or read the word “quantum” you can be certain that the person speaking or writing is about to talk rubbish. I said that very clearly. So few people have a real grasp of quantum physics that you have to be very careful who you listen to. Here’s a simple rule I think works. Never trust anything you read about quantum physics unless the author is either a specialist in quantum physics him or herself or the author names the physicist he or she is quoting. Unless the scientist quoted is called Feynman or Hawking you should do some Googling before believing anything that is said. Trust nothing that is said about quantum physics by a journalist until you have consulted someone who knows a little. All stories written by reporters about time travel, teleportation or multiple universes must not be believed.

Above all, anything you read that refers to quantum physics and also mentions consciousness, healing or God was written by someone who doesn’t understand any of the above.

I got a response about that article I wrote. Someone who preferred to remain anonymous said that my use of:
“words like rubbish to discredit views you don't agree with is a bit intolerant. Nothing in this world is absolutely certain including even our precious science. wisdom whispers: 'when you feel most certain, you should doubt yourself more'. Pride leads to a rapid fall, Lucifer can testify to that.”
Let me take the points one at a time.

Actually it IS acceptable to use words like “rubbish” to discredit view I don’t agree with when those “views” either have no evidence to support them or are based on lies. The claims I was criticizing were, in fact, based on lies, deliberate distortions and fraud. I specifically referred to the “bogus ‘therapists’ offering their health-related services using a device often called the QXCI.”

The QXCI machine claims to be a biofeedback tool that combines:
“the best of biofeedback, stress reduction, Rife machines, homeopathic medicine, bioresonance, electro-acupuncture, computer technology and quantum physics.”
That, I’m afraid is a deception, a lie and a fraud. It’s all utter and complete rubbish.

The complainant also says that nothing is absolutely certain. I agree entirely but at any current moment science has actually given us the best available explanation for the world and it’s contents. The fact that there is doubt doesn’t mean you can replace the doubt or gaps in scientific knowledge with fairytales.

As for doubt, yes, that’s a core part of the scientific method. That takes some confidence to understand.

As for the business about Lucifer, don’t you think it’s interesting that the name Lucifer, often given as the Christian boogeyman, the Devil, can be translated as “bringer of light”? It’s almost as if they didn’t like illumination and preferred their flock of sheep to remain in darkness. But maybe that’s just playing with words.

So sorry to the reader who complained, I’m not planning to change my thoughts or my words about quantum claptrap. It’s hogwash, nonsense and utter rubbish used by either the na├»ve, ill-educated or the fraudulent. Anyone selling such silliness deserves to be in the rubbish heap.

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