Saturday, April 07, 2007

High Learning

How you ended up there you can't quite describe, but you find yourself seated in a large auditorium, with class currently in progress. The professor has a large runestone on display, and is explaining to the class:

"I have here the Kensington Runestone, one famous example of hoaxed history. It was found in 1898 near Kensington, Minnesota. The text on it suggests that Scandinavian explorers reached the middle of North America sometime around the 14th century, but there are significant doubts as to its validity. Now, let's see if you've done your homework. Can anyone tell me what one of the reasons for doubting its authenticity is?"

A student raises her hand, and when the professor calls on her she speaks up, "Didn't the couple who found it admit that it was a hoax?"

"Oh, no, you're getting it mixed up with the Ica stones," the professor replies. "Those were the stone carvings of humans mingling with dinosaurs that have been touted by creationists as evidence that humans and dinosaurs once lived together. Of course, as you mentioned, they were admitted to be a hoax."

"But that doesn't prove they really were a hoax!" another student speaks up.

"Really?" the professor says. "An admission of guilt won't do it for you?"

"It could have been coerced, or they could have been lying because they didn't like the conclusion it led to," the student says.

You decide to speak up, "If an admission won't do it, even in addition to the fact that the fossil record supports the view that humans and dinosaurs never coexisted, then what evidence would you need to believe it's a hoax?"

"More than you've provided," the student says. "Besides, can we really trust all this evidence coming from so-called experts? Science has a long record of ignoring possible avenues of research just because they don't fit in with their pre-conceived ideas, so how can we expect them to be right? And it's not like they can answer the really important questions anyways."

You glance to the professor, but he seems to be alright with allowing this discussion to continue amongst the students. In the time you spared doing this, another student speaks up, "That's right! I still haven't seen scientists testing out the role of various types of vibration in mediating the body's overall wellness!"

Explain that before science can test a proposition, it needs to be made specific enough and be falsifiable. Vague notions of "Wellness" are untestable.

Explain that scientific tests of notions that go against the popular consensus occur all the time. They're just ignored because they don't coincide with what woos want to believe.

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