Notes from The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe-How to Know What’s Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake, By Dr. Steven Novella.
1. Antiquity as expert.
“Millions of people can believe something for thousands of years, even if that belief has no basis in reality.”
I am thinking of acupuncture and religion for starters.
2. If it is natural it is good for you.
…”every organism and species is out for itself.Plants for example have evolved all sorts of chemicals that are poisonous to animals as a deterrent to eating them. In this sense, nature is actively trying to kill us.”… some herbalists have taken a decidedly creationist approach.They argue that God or some benevolent being created natural things specifically to serve humanity.
It takes that extreme level of hubris to conclude that nature is inherently healthful to humans.” My advice, don’t go wandering around the woods sampling random plants, especially mushrooms.
3…”all physical effects have physical causes. There are no non physical or nonmaterial causes of physical effects. p. 145
4. “Supernatural” therefore, is untestable magic. p.146.
5.”It actually does not matter how scientists come up with their ideas.They can get them from science fiction, popular culture or a drug trip. It simply doesn’t matter. What does matter is how those ideas are tested— later justification”. p.154.
6. Objective science. Through observation we see that the earth is round: a sphere. Then we studied more and found it is flattened at the equator and slightly fatter in the Southern Hemisphere. “These detail however don’t change the basic understanding of Earth as roughly a sphere. That is objectively its shape. This paradigm will never shift into a model of the Earth as a cube”. p.155
7. The UFO problem.
So far the UFO problem has not resulted in any visit by aliens to the White House lawn.
Occam’s razor applies here and the supporters of alien visits introduce a new explanation for every hitch in their narrative.
“For each question, they introduce a new assumption to explain the apparent problem away.
They don’t just violate Occam’s razor, they dig up the corpse of Ockham and pound his bones to dust.
Sometimes Occam’s razor is all we have between us and belief in nonsense. It’s often true that the elaborate and highly rigged theories of pseudoscientists aren’t impossible. We may even not be able to prove they are not true. But they’re often simply unnecessary. Once sliced away by an appropriate use of Occam’s razor, there is no reason to reject the far simpler conclusion that aliens are simply not visiting Earth.” p. 160.
I love owning this book, and so far it has afforded me many belly laughs. I am half way through, and will write more on the subject in the future, but may not post it to sensitive relatives who would be insulted by the contents.