Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Respectful Insolence: Homeopathy debate at the University of Connecticut: Is it ever wise for scientists to debate pseudoscientists?:

While I admire salute Steve Novella for no doubt answering the call of the organizers of this event and being willing to step on the same stage, along with Donald Marcus, to go toe-to-toe homeopaths like Iris Bell, Andre Saine, not to mention water über-woomeister Rustum Roy, I hope they're ready for the sheer number of logical fallacies, cherry-picked studies, and examples of science twisted beyond recognition that are likely to be thrown at them during the two hours that they're on the stage. As much as I understand the impetus that sometimes makes scientists agree to them, I've said before that in general, like Phil Plait, Eugenie Scott, P. Z. Myers, Richard Dawkins, and Lawrence Krauss, I consider such debates between pseudoscientists and scientists to be usually a bad idea, even though I realize that, all reservations taken into account, it's sometimes very difficult to abstain from them.

As someone who detests seeing pseudoscientific quackery like homeopathy go unanswered and with enough pride to be stung by criticism of "cowardice" over refusals to debate, over time I've come to the conclusion that such staged events inherently favor the pseudoscientist so much that it's rarely worth it to try to overcome this.

9:29 PM