Monday, June 12, 2006

Something to remember

'Don't you believe in flying saucers, they ask me? Don't you believe in telepathy? — in ancient astronauts? — in the Bermuda triangle? — in life after death?

No, I reply. No, no, no, no, and again no.

One person recently, goaded into desperation by the litany of unrelieved negation, burst out "Don't you believe in anything?"

"Yes", I said. "I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be."'
- Isaac Asimov

I am trying to avoid reading too much about Tony bleedin' Blair and his fellow band of mendacious incompetents at the moment. It's just bad for my blood pressure. In fact, I am generally trying to avoid confrontations with people I disagree with full stop, because it is not good for me, or those around me, to grab people by the lapels and bellow 'CAN'T YOU SEE WHAT IS GOING ON?!?!' at full volume. I don't do it because I feel superior, I do it because I desperately want people to start using the brains they have been born with, I want desperately for them to open their eyes. And because it is just not nice, not polite, to attack people. Pick your fights, they say, and they are right.

But, this is why I get so confused and perplexed about astrology, alternative medicine and pseudoscience. The truth of the universe around is staggeringly beautiful, so why are you covering your eyes and filling your brain with nonsense? To quote the great Dr Asimov again:

"Inspect every piece of pseudoscience and you will find a security blanket, a thumb to suck, a skirt to hold. What have we to offer in exchange? Uncertainty! Insecurity!"


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