from the desk of Herb Masters
Greetings Fans of Science,
We certainly are living in a very strange time. It’s hard to separate the facts from the fiction and lies these days without discussing politics. Generally, we try to leave the politics out of the science here at the Schmooze but please forgive us when we just can’t let some things go unaddressed. I have written many times about my belief that “science and art” are the best tools we have to survive in and understand the universe we share and wonder about. The denial of the science, and the evidence of the science, of probably the biggest challenge shared by all on the planet in a bit over 100 years is astonishing and frightening to me. That this denial is being prompted, spread, and even generated within, by some members of our own government is truly shocking. That so many people seem to want to deny the facts at not only their own risk but those they may love as well leaves me speechless.
When we hear claims that the effects of Covid-19 have been far less than predicted I can’t help but reflect on what was going on just over 20 years ago and the accusations of what a hoax it was. Consider this… Because Those Behind the Scenes Took It Seriously (Just because experts disagree) I have to say that I personally find it difficult to let a friend say something crazy or in complete denial of what is going on and not say something. I think it really is important for everyone to try and have reasoned and respectful conversations over things like this and not shy away from them. To be able to change minds I think it is important that it is rare that a single person can change someone’s core beliefs and personal desires. You aren’t going to change your uncle or your best friend by yourself. Most people have to hear reasoned discussion and facts from many different sources to really change their minds. People from different experiences can make a big difference. Consider I was a conspiracy theorist, too. It’s difficult sometimes to think that each of us, in the not so large scale of the state or country, is only one set of beliefs and views. We need to be aware that our own hopes, biases, beliefs, and nightmares can lead us to a poor understanding. How FAKE SCIENCE Can Fool You You may remember some of the controversy about therapeutic touch. (I’d like to note that this webpage was updated and validated by those over at Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia. They are worthy heroes!)
Fortunately there has been a lot more in the media about the falsehoods, misperceptions, and downright dangerous lies being spread on the web and through various communities. Understanding how to recognize bad science is a really important skill these days, especially if you are trying to teach your kids at home. Here are a couple of items to help you.
–Can You Believe It? Seven Questions to Ask About Any Scientific Claim
–How science fails (A bit more intense of a read but a great audio version as well.)
–Tracking the information zombie apocalypse.
– Anti-vaccine movement could undermine efforts to end coronavirus pandemic, researchers warn
Somewhere along the way of this edition of the SciSchmooze I would have broken off to recommend a few presentations this week. I’m going to deviate from that this time. The calendar is loaded with an amazing amount of presentations that are all being presented on-line. There isn’t much risk in any of us wasting time to get to a presentation somewhere only to find it wasn’t what we were looking for. Please check one you’re interested in at their website well before to make sure there are no changes. Now you can check one out and move on right away if you are looking for something different. Please know that Bob Siederer our 3rd Sunday editor is also the backbone of the calendar. I am in awe of what he has accomplished. Please remember that we are all volunteers and you can’t even donate funds or food to us! So instead please donate to your local science based cultural institutions. They are having incredibly hard times and many are losing jobs or being cut way back on income.
Have a great week learning new things about our universe from the safety of the shelter of your choice. Don’t forget to get your best towel ready for next week!
Editor of SciSchmooze Weekly Newsletter (www.bayareascience.org)
explO Volunteer, Proud Oppie member, General explO groupie
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov, January 21, 1980