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…through the great PZ Meyers today. He has written up a wonderful piece on the development of snake fangs. Take a look 🙂
Edgar Mitchell, the 6th man to walk on the moon, is also an avid believer in ongoing alien visitations here on Earth. This aspect of his personal life isn’t really news, but a recent radio interview focused on this belief of his and the media, of course, has flown with it.
Now let’s step around the obvious fact that yours truly is an alien visitor. Strictly coincidence. I have never met Dr. Mitchell, and I have only been here since 2003. Not a factor.
You can hear the interview here, but here are the tidbits I want to focus on.
Mitchell: I happen to be privileged enough to have, uh, be in on the fact that we have been visited on this planet, and the UFO phenomenon is real, although it’s been covered up by governments for quite a long time.
Interviewer: I’ve heard, like, you know, crazy UFO nuts tell me this kind of thing before. I’ve never had Dr. Ed Mitchell, you know, the 6th man to walk on the moon, respected scientist in his own right, announce to me that we’ve been visited by aliens from other planets, and they definitely are out there, there’s no debating it.
Whether the interviewer buys it or not, I don’t know, but it is his job to stir up controversy. He leads the audience into the trap of the Appeal to Authority, by reminding us that Mitchell is a respected scientist and an astronaut, distancing him from those crazy UFO nuts. What the interviewer failed to mention was Mitchell’s Institute of Noetic Sciences, or that he put his life in the hands (so to speak) of a remote healer several years ago. Wacky beliefs rarely fly solo, after all.
Just to be clear, I have the utmost respect for Ed Mitchell. Space travel is hard work! But people in high places are still subject to the rules of evidence. Mitchell, like any other plebeian UFO nut, fails to present any. When pressed on the issue, he replies:
I don’t know all the inside details, because that isn’t my really main interest.
Not your main interest? Not your main interest?!?! Solid evidence of, not only extraterrestrial life, but intelligent life visiting this little rock would be the most incredible thing ever! I don’t care who you are– learning about aliens on earth would quickly become your main interest. So yeah, he’s got nothing. And until he (or anyone else) produces something tangible, nobody’s word can be taken over anybody else’s.
Of course, we’re all overlooking the most obvious flaw in all of this… The moon landings were faked! So who cares what some fake-o moonwalking wannabe says about aliens!
At least once a week I’ll post a few blurbs from the news that caught my eye, but didn’t earn a full posting. The first half will include “good news” from the realms of science– technology, biology, medicine, astronomy, et cetera. The second half will be made up of “bad news” from the realms of magic and mystery– conspiracies, pareidolia, ghosts, cryptozoology, psychics, religion, astrology, et cetera, ad nauseum. Without further ado…
- NASA Successfully Tests Parachute for Ares Rocket – Rockets are heavy. Dropping them from 35 miles requires some badass parachutes. Video will be available Monday.
- New HIV Inhibitor – New drug blocks the virus’ ability to integrate with healthy cells.
In order to participate, patients needed to have more than 1,000 copies of HIV-1 RNA per milliliter of blood while receiving antiretroviral therapy. After 48 weeks, 62.1 percent of raltegravir recipients had HIV-1 RNA levels below 50 copies per milliliter of blood compared with 32.9 percent in the placebo group.
- Ex-Astronaut: Aliens Are Real and Government Knows It – Edgar Mitchell gives us an excellent reminder that even astronauts can go batty (remember Lisa Nowak?). I’ll have a full posting on this tomorrow, with video!
- Plumber Claims Virgin Mary Sighting In Drain – I am always amazed that drivel like this is considered news. I see a snowman. Or maybe Bigfoot.
And speaking of Bigfoot…
- Bigfoot Body!!!1! – I don’t know how long this story has been around, but I first got wind of it this week. They claim to have a body, but they won’t show anyone until September 1st. Until then, you are welcome to sign up for their next bigfoot tracker expedition, conveniently taking place September 4th! Only $499!
“100% REAL NO FAKES, NO SCAMS,,WE GAIN NOTHING TILL WE PROVE IT!!!!!”
Except for customers, of course.
The wide world of woo-woo is a “shades of gray” kind of thing, a continuum, ranging from the mildly wacky to the extremely bizarre and downright dangerous. The question I ask myself is where do I draw the line between what I should worry about and what I can let slide? At what point does a silly belief become harmful to the point that I should step in and say something? It can be hard to tell sometimes.
For example, who would have thought that the Catholic Eucharist was anything more than the benign remnants of an old ritual? Not having any significant exposure to Catholicism myself, I had no idea of the underlying belief that communion wafers were literally transformed into flesh, or wine into blood. Yes, literally. This is magical thinking. This is nonsense. But even then, who would have thought such a silly idea could be dangerous? Could inspire assault and death threats??
After much thought, I come to the conclusion that the line need not be drawn at all. The beliefs themselves are not to blame. They are merely the symptom of something greater, and trying to knock them all down one by one is like playing whack-a-mole– only with hundreds and thousands of transforming, self-replicating moles. Knock one down and 30 more pop up.
Instead, we need to correct the problem at its source. We need to fix the faulty logic that is responsible for it all. People believe weird things because they don’t know how to ask the right questions. They don’t understand the shortcomings of personal anecdotes. They don’t realize the importance of real, tangible evidence– or what qualities evidence requires to hold scientific validity. Most importantly, they fail to accept their own fallibility. “I saw it with my own two eyes! It must be true!”
This is where the problem lies. Fix this, and we won’t need to draw the lines between crazy and crazier.
I am speaking not of the unscientific creationist bumblesnot which threatens to infiltrate our educational systems– Not now, at least. I am speaking of the design of this website, which will be evolving (not by natural selection, but by my almighty fingertips) over the next few weeks until it matches the concept I have in my head. I’m not sure I will leave it on the WordPress servers. They are nice, but I might require more control. They want $15 just to let me edit the CSS. Meh.
What a wonderful little messed up planet you have here!
Don’t get me wrong– there are a lot of really awesome things going on all over this rock, every day. A lot! But so many of you are living in a self-inflicted Dark Age! What is this astrology nonsense? And feng shui? And homeopathy? And Intelligent Design? And please, what is your infatuation with crystals?!
I can remain silent no more. Pseudoscience will be the end of you. My approach, however, will not be to rant about the vast ocean of intellectual vacancy I see before me, but to rave about the good things, the amazing feats of intelligence that are happening every day. After all, education is far more productive than ridicule. (Occasionally though, I may point my finger and have a grand belly laugh at the expense of those who misuse their little brains. They deserve it.) Do I expect to change the world? No, not entirely. Like a black hole, once you’ve crossed the event horizon of incredulity, there is little hope for you. I can only frown and wave bye bye. Instead, I write for those still spinning around in the accretion disk, who are not yet enlightened by the scientific method, but have not yet been sucked into the oblivion of illogical thinking. If I can save one human being from throwing money away on a useless sugar pill, I will have achieved something admirable.
That’s the gist of it. Hope you’ll stick around.