PDA

View Full Version : Is de-bunking desirable?



JohnD
2005-Dec-29, 03:22 PM
All,
I see from the original (and only) Bad Astronomy site that the BA has been up against an arch-unbeliever in the Apollo story again. See: http://www.badastronomy.com/bablog/2005/12/12/mooning-st-louis-denouement/

Recently, I read a collection of Richard Dawkins' essays on evolution, 'A Devil's Chaplain', in which he tells of a correspondence with his friend, opponent and fellow evolutionary scientist, Jay Gould. They agreed together that meeting the proponents of 'Young Earth', 'Intelligent Design', the anti-evolututionists, in public debate was a mistake that they would not make again. Their intention to say so publicly and to invite fellow scientists to ignore the misled and misleading was pre-empted by Gould's death. (See the chapter,"Unfinished Correspondence with a Darwinian Heavyweight")

I will not try to reproduce the argument that lead to this conclusion, except that they found the publicity was all to the benefit of the 'anti' lobby and that the scientists' participation gave the anti's argument substance.

The book is available, if not in print - see Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0753817500/qid=1135869186/sr=1-1/ref=sr_1_2_1/203-1678142-3044711

What do you think?
Do the BA and others waste their valuable time in debunking the deluded?
These people are clearly not to be pursuaded by rational argument.
When rational and erudite scientists debate with them, does this give the public the impression that there is another rational view?

John

Draconis
2005-Dec-29, 03:38 PM
What an interesting question. I'll try to answer it, as best I may, from my own perspective.

Do the BA and others waste their valuable time in debunking the deluded?

Well, no, not a waste of time at all. Many, many people who have only a passing knowledge of science go here (and other similar boards) to try to learn something. We would be doing them a vast disservice if the response they received was always "Einstein didn't know WHAT he was talking about," or any other similar responses.

These people are clearly not to be pursuaded by rational argument.

Unfortunately, that's largely true. But it still has to be done, regardless. Else, they will "win," and flood what are science boards with nonsense portrayed as legitimate science. And everyone loses.

When rational and erudite scientists debate with them, does this give the public the impression that there is another rational view?

Some perhaps, and that can't be helped. But I also believe that a large percentage of these people will be tripped up in debates, and end up proving to the audience that they are spouting pap. And, so, it's a good thing to debate them, come what may.

Hope that answers your questions.

twinstead
2005-Dec-29, 03:40 PM
For every deluded soul posting on a thread, there are probably 20 lurkers who may be on the fence about the issue and are reading every word of every post.

Gotta keep that in mind even when debating with somebody who obviously won't ever change his mind no matter what.

Bob B.
2005-Dec-29, 04:35 PM
What do you think?
Do the BA and others waste their valuable time in debunking the deluded?
These people are clearly not to be pursuaded by rational argument.
When rational and erudite scientists debate with them, does this give the public the impression that there is another rational view?

The pseudo scientists are out there spewing their nonsense whether the real scientists pay attention to them or not. And, sadly, some media seems more than willing to give them a platform to present their case. No matter how ridiculous their claims are, they will win over some people simply because the general public doesnít know any better. I think it is essential the public be given an alternative voice of reason to keep the situation in check. The truly deluded ones probably canít be helped, but the collateral damage can certainly be mitigated by the efforts of BA and others.

The downside is, as you say, the impression of legitimacy that comes from the attention paid to them by real experts. However, I believe the good that comes from debunking the pseudo scientists is far greater than the potential harm.

SolusLupus
2005-Dec-29, 04:37 PM
For every deluded soul posting on a thread, there are probably 20 lurkers who may be on the fence about the issue and are reading every word of every post.

Gotta keep that in mind even when debating with somebody who obviously won't ever change his mind no matter what.

Y'know, this puts into perspective a lot of the things I've said on this board.

...what have I done?

ToSeek
2005-Dec-29, 05:14 PM
The main complaint of the scientists, at least in the evolution-creation controversy, is that a creationist can come up with 20 issues in 5 minutes that take 5 minutes each for the scientist to explain. And a debate in any case isn't the best way to settle a scientific issue: a creationist with a sense of showmanship can almost always come out looking better than a scientist with a grasp of the facts but no grasp of what holds an audience's attention.

parallaxicality
2005-Dec-29, 05:54 PM
Whatever happened to the great showman scientists? A hundred years ago they were drawing crowds!

I hear Richard Dawkins on the radio every now and again, and while I respect him as a scientist and as a writer, I don't agree with his position vis a vis the Creationist debate. His point seems to be that to engage in debate with these people is to create the sense that there is a debate to be had, when really there isn't.

For me, this is preaching to the choir. Naturally, someone taking a course in evolutionary biology will agree that there is no debate to be had, but the general public, and the politicians they vote for, seem to be under the impression there's a debate going on. The problem as I see it is that no one has ever adequately drawn the line in the sand between science and religion for the public. You either get people like Dawkins claiming that religion should be abandoned or banned, which isn't likely to win converts among the civillians, or you get scientists who, as beskeptical said in the Dover thread, don't know how to present the case to the public because they don't have the rhetorical skills to do it properly.

This is a fault of modern education, I think. Newton and Galileo could not have called themselves college graduates without complete mastery of rhetoric. Scientists, if they are to take on these people, need to learn the rules and strategies of debate. They also need to be clear on where science ends and metaphysics begins.

Gillianren
2005-Dec-29, 08:27 PM
Jay convinced a friend of mine that the Moon Hoax people are not merely wrong but kinda stupid to boot. Not on this board, either--she saw him on the National Geographic Channel special that he was on. I had just seen it before the last time I ran into her, and she said she'd seen it, too, and now she knew for sure that there had been an Apollo mission. That's what debunking is all about.

There are some people we're never going to convince. This, I will not deny. However, there are people like my friend Debbie, who have merely a passing interest and think, "well, it could be true." Our duty, as debunkers, is to them.

BertL
2005-Dec-29, 08:47 PM
The debunking is not necessary to convince a HB that the moon landings happened; I think it has become clear a real HB is never convinced.

For me, the debunkings are necessary to give doubters a safe feel, so that they can sleep without thinking too much about it.

EDIT: Gah, wasn't finished yet. I wanted to say: and debunking feels good as you 'prove' HBs wrong. Gives a good feeling.

Bob B.
2005-Dec-29, 09:44 PM
Here are some samples of why we debunkers do what we do...


I must start by saying thank you sir. I recently visited your WebPages that debunks the lunar hoax theory, wow, I feel so gullible! I can't believe I let those idiots convince me. I often found holes in their theories, especially the photo theories, but the one thing that had me convinced of a hoax was the fact of the radiation belt. That was a convincing argument, and until now I've not heard a good explanation of how they achieved it. Even president Bush touched on that today in his speech about going back into space. Well I'm happy to say that I'm no longer fooled by the rantings of those ill informed conspiracy theorists. And now I have some apologies to make to friends and acquaintances that I have convinced that the moon missions where hoaxes.

I believed the moon hoax theory. But your site has answered all the doubts I ever had. The conspiracy theory sounds stupid now that I know the reason for certain 'inconsistencies'.

I would like to thank you for the insight and information you have assembled regarding "Did we land on the Moon?" Ever since I saw the special on TV, I have been very confused and didn't know what to think. I found myself asking the very questions outlines on your Web site: footprints, waving flag, multiple light sources, etc. I have reviewed many Web sites and found yours to be the most informative and helpful. After carefully reviewing your Web page and the comments page, I now believe that we did in fact land on the moon.

Although I was familiar with the Moon Hoax debate, I never expected it to impact my life until my 12 year old daughter came home form school questioning whether we had landed on the moon. Her science teacher, in an apparently well intentioned but poorly executed attempt to teach skepticism, showed some version of the Fox presentation and then invited "debate" among the students. Of course, the students did not have the training or information to allow them to evaluate this presentation. Accustomed to receiving information from a television set, the students bought into much of what was shown. My daughter informed me that, based on all the "facts" she saw, she did not think we landed men on the moon.

I have been in touch with her science teacher, but the damage is done. I have since been trying to work with my daughter to correct this mis-information delivered by the public school system. I am using your site as a means of exploring the "facts" she was given. Again, thank-you for taking the time to compile this thoughtful response.

I have recently seen the program 'Did we Land on the Moon?' here in the UK and was a little upset to think that it could have been a hoax. Especially as I clearly remember getting up in the middle of the night to watch it on TV when I was only 6 yrs old. Reading your comments on your Website has been very interesting & I wish that someone was able to present such facts in a balanced TV program, which the Fox production obviously was not. It had the desired effect for them & got people to watch it, "How on Earth could this be a hoax?" was my immediate reaction when I started watching. I must admit I was taken in, especially as the NASA representative didn't seem to be willing to convince us otherwise - or his side of the story was edited out.

I now believe we (well the USA) did land on the moon, as you have clearly covered & explained all the hoax claims that I can recall from the show.

I recently saw the program you discuss in your paper (DID WE LAND ON THE MOON? A Debunking of the Moon Hoax Theory) and was more than a little depressed once it had finished. Ever since I was a little boy, I had always taken it as a fact that man had landed on the moon 'till I saw this program. I watched with dismay as argument after argument was put forward with little or no counter-arguments being given by NASA. By the time the program had ended I had come to the conclusion that much as I wanted to believe that man to had landed on the moon - they hadn't. It was the lack of counter-arguments from NASA that helped convince me so I would like to thank you very much for restoring my faith in these landings with your own points of view. ... Your paper has given me the final reassurance I was looking for that the boyhood idols I had can remain very firmly on their pedestals.

Hello. My name is Heather, and I'm 16 years old. I saw the FOX special a few months ago, and found it very interesting. By the end of it, I was VERY convinced America never actually saw these "astro-nots" land on the moon. I read serveral books by hoax advocates that strengthened my faith that this was indeed a hoax. I was convinced without a doubt that this was a gigantic hoax and that all of America had been decieved. I voiced this (what I called a "fact") to many of my friends. I found your website about 4 hours ago, and have read everything on it, as well as visited your links. You have made me think twice for sure. In fact, I have had a complete turn around. Kaysing is a baboon (excuse me). Instead of all of America being decieved by something so real (as I thought), I was, in fact, decieved by something COMPLETELY far-fetched. Thank you for letting me see the error in my way of thinking. My mind was contaminated by FOX and Kaysing, as well as others. Now I know the validity of NASA's achievement of sending the first man to the moon.

I thought I would just drop you a line to say thank you for such an informative site, especially with regards to your debunking of the moon landing hoax theories. The FOX program has just been shown on Channel 5 here in England, a channel noted for transmitting programs of this nature. Whilst I had heard about the conspiracy theories before, this was the first time I had seen the actual accusations and whilst most of them were obviously very unsound and pure fantasy there were a few that did make me question if NASA really did put men on the moon. In particular the problems with radiation and light sources.

Fortunately the first site I was able to find refuting these theories was yours and you do an excellent and thorough job of explaining the apparent anomalies. You will be glad to know that my mind has now been put at rest.

JohnD
2005-Dec-30, 12:42 AM
All,
Thank you for your arguments - my I refine mine? I should just say, read Dawkins(and Gould) in that essay, as I have nicked them from there, but anyway.

I am sure that RD has no intention of retiring from the field. His expertise is evolution, but his chair is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, and I have no doubt that he intends to fulfill his duties by informing and aiding the understanding of the public. It was public debate, in the special case of live media or lecture theatre that he, and Gould rejected.

Bob and Gillianren offered reassuring evidence of the value of expert presentation of the facts to the public. I have no argument with that and I presume to doubt that Prof.Dawkins does either. But to dignify the loony fringe by appearing as an equal in debate may lend them power by reflection.

JOhn

montebianco
2005-Dec-30, 01:13 AM
The main complaint of the scientists, at least in the evolution-creation controversy, is that a creationist can come up with 20 issues in 5 minutes that take 5 minutes each for the scientist to explain. And a debate in any case isn't the best way to settle a scientific issue: a creationist with a sense of showmanship can almost always come out looking better than a scientist with a grasp of the facts but no grasp of what holds an audience's attention.

Well, this is a general issue in many areas; it is always easier to poke holes in something than to construct a coherent alternative. And I think people in this forum tend to fall into the trap of doing all the tap dancing themselves, and letting the woowoos sit on the sidelines waiting for them to foul up (e.g., MoonMan). Inevitably, mistakes get made, people say things that don't make sense, etc., and that's an opportunity for the woowoo to exploit. I know it's difficult, but I think people here might want to try harder to get the woowoos to do the tap dancing...

montebianco
2005-Dec-30, 01:15 AM
Here are some samples of why we debunkers do what we do...

Bob B., that's amazing :D

Maksutov
2005-Dec-30, 01:22 AM
[edit]But to dignify the loony fringe by appearing as an equal in debate may lend them power by reflection.

JOhn"Appearing" is a key word. Any time a dialog occurs, both participants will be seen by most of a new audience as equals (unless of course one of the participants does something initially that causes him/her to be not taken seriously*). This is the effect of perception and appearances in action.

First of all, there will be those who find out they are true believers in what the antiscientist presents and who will not be swayed by any evidence, observation, logic, or reason. To this part of the audience the antiscientist is already seen as not equal to the scientist, but superior, and this perception will continue that way no matter what transpires.

The rest of the audience will stick with their initial perceptions and keep their minds open. Where the science participant has a real advantage, if the cards are played right, is that the information and evidence provided by science will win over that part of the audience that uses critical thinking. As they are won over by reason, logic, and objective evidence, their perception of the antiscience participant will change. This is basic human nature.

Another part of the audience will not have well-developed critical thinking skills, and will be initially won over by the antiscience participant's appeals to emotion, authority, paranoia, etc. This is where the science participant has an opportunity to defeat the opponent by keeping things as simple as possible and using debate tactics to corner the antiscience participant.

This will not have much to do with how the case is presented to the critical thinking group, but is necessary to keep the non-critical thinkers from being duped by the antiscience person. Once this part of the audience has been helped to see through the sham, then they will be more receptive to logic, reason, and objective evidence. And, as with the critical thinking group, their perception of the antiscience participant will change.

Therefore, to be successful at taking on antiscience types, one must be not only a scientist, but a seasoned debater, tactician, and psychologist (among other things). Carl Sagan was a science advocate who displayed these skills and talents, but he mostly confined his dismantling of antiscience to the written word or monologues.


*Those of us who already know the antiscience of Sibrel, for instance, have a pre-existing perception of the person.

Obviousman
2005-Dec-30, 01:25 AM
I think everyone has painted a better picture than I ever could.

I think debunking is not only desirable, but crucial.

When I've had communications with people in the Apollo programme, and ask them why they don't vigorously respond to the claptrap some people publish, they often say it's simply not worth the effort. They ignore them, treat them as person non grata, 'kill' them with silence. I respect that, but I still think of a (para)phrase in this matter:

"For evil to reign, all it takes is for good men to do nothing".

That's how I feel about it.

SolusLupus
2005-Dec-30, 01:33 AM
"For ignorance to reign, all it takes is for knowledgable men to say nothing". I made that up.

Superluminal
2005-Dec-30, 03:57 AM
Lonewulf: You need to copyright that, before someone uses it as a sig.

Fraser
2005-Dec-30, 04:25 AM
While the Planet X conspiracy theory was huge, I used to get a few emails a day asking what I thought about it. I would take my time to carefully explain and debunk what was going on. You can never stop the true believers from furthering their agendas and conspiracy theories, but I've found there are many people sitting on the fence who don't know what to think.

SolusLupus
2005-Dec-30, 05:16 AM
Lonewulf: You need to copyright that, before someone uses it as a sig.

Doesn't that cost money? I don't have much money.

Obviousman
2005-Dec-30, 05:41 AM
Doesn't that cost money? I don't have much money.


Too late!


(evil laugh)
Hahahahahahaah!

SolusLupus
2005-Dec-30, 06:48 AM
Oh well.

MY NAME WILL BE KNOWN!

ToSeek
2005-Dec-30, 04:15 PM
Well, this is a general issue in many areas; it is always easier to poke holes in something than to construct a coherent alternative. And I think people in this forum tend to fall into the trap of doing all the tap dancing themselves, and letting the woowoos sit on the sidelines waiting for them to foul up (e.g., MoonMan). Inevitably, mistakes get made, people say things that don't make sense, etc., and that's an opportunity for the woowoo to exploit. I know it's difficult, but I think people here might want to try harder to get the woowoos to do the tap dancing...

Yes, if I were debating a creationist, I think I would take two approaches:

- Point out all the ways that evolution could be disproven but hasn't (multiple genetic codes, mammals with feathers, dinosaur and human fossils together, etc.).

- Poke holes in the creationist theory: how did the kangaroos get to Australia, how did all the animals fit on the ark, why are the Appalachian mountains so worn down while the Rockies aren't, etc.

swansont
2005-Dec-31, 02:15 PM
Doesn't that cost money? I don't have much money.


It's moot anyway. You can't copyright short phrases, and to the extent it would be protected, by posting it here the copyright may belong to BAUT. But if it doesn't, you own the copyright as soon as you write it down. (I'm using US law, but it's similar most places that allow free access to the internet)

SolusLupus
2005-Dec-31, 05:29 PM
It's moot anyway. You can't copyright short phrases, and to the extent it would be protected, by posting it here the copyright may belong to BAUT. But if it doesn't, you own the copyright as soon as you write it down. (I'm using US law, but it's similar most places that allow free access to the internet)

So the BAUT owns me?

o_o I'm not sure I'm ready for that level of commitment.

peter eldergill
2005-Dec-31, 11:10 PM
You can't copyright short phrases

Is there a difference then, between copyright, trademark and registered trademark? Lots of companies have short phrases which are trade marked (McDonald's has about a billion). Donald Trump has his "you're fired", although I'm sure no one will care within a couple of years

L8R

Pete

Gillianren
2006-Jan-01, 12:41 AM
Is there a difference then, between copyright, trademark and registered trademark? Lots of companies have short phrases which are trade marked (McDonald's has about a billion). Donald Trump has his "you're fired", although I'm sure no one will care within a couple of years

L8R

Pete

Yes, there is. Trademarks are used for products. As Al Franken pointed out back when Fox News was suing him, Bill Gates has trademarked the word Windows, but as long as you're not applying that word to your software, you're fine. Bill Gates could not copyright the word Windows, because he didn't create it. (I'm missing a great deal of legal technicalities, here, because I don't feel like going into the other room to find the book I have with all this information.)

JayUtah
2006-Jan-01, 08:05 AM
First a word on intellectual property.

A trademark is an identifiable mark used in trade: a word, a phrase, a logo or logotype. Its protection as the property of the tradesman is limited to the market in which the trade is conducted. The superscript TM identifies a mark that its writer intends to stand as a trademark; no special application is necessary. The circumscribed R indicates that the mark has been registered with an office of the government that will vouch for the date on which the mark was first used in commerce. It is first come, first served. If someone, for example, can show that he was using the word "Windows" before Microsoft in the context of a software GUI, he would have a case that Microsoft is the infringer. "Windows" as a trademark for, say, an educational methodology would not necessarily infringe because it would be a different industry.

Copyright protects the content of creative work insofar as it can be established in a fixed form. There is one set of protections for unpublished works, and another for published works. Copyright provisions are extensive and intricate. Copyright differs from trademark in a number of important ways. The circumscribed C asserts copyright protection over visually-fixed items such as printed text or visual depictions. The circumscribed P asserts copyright protection over material fixed in audio recordings.

A patent is an assignment of proprietary right for a method or apparatus, allowing the inventor sole advantage of it. A patent need only describe the method or apparatus; its inventor need not actually build or employ it in order to enjoy patent protection.

In modern terms, copyright arises implicitly from the act of creation. The post I am writing right now is protected by copyright simply because it exists and I wrote it. Statutory copyright may be granted following due process and recognized by government authority. Trademarks are not implicitly created, but may be created simply by assertion in use. Patents are created only by due process. Although copyrights and trademarks may be registered with government authority, this does not mean the registrar certifies the uncontestability or noninfringing nature of the right granted. Trademark and copyright registration merely certifies the date so that when questions of precedence arise, the registrar is able to certify uncontestably regarding when the claim was made. Infringements must still be contested in court.

You cannot easily copyright a phrase. Copyright is intended for more substantial content. You can trademark a phrase, but it would be difficult to understand in what form of commerce a phrase originating on BAUT would apply.

That said, why do we debunk?

It is always a gamble. Refutation draws attention. However, it is not clear that the lack of refutation dispels attention. In the most rabid cases, conspiracy theorists are intentional hucksters who actively promulgate their messages.

However the cure for bad speech is not suppression or appeasement, but more speech. Where bunkum congeals and makes itself readily manifest, assertively ignoring it conveys the impression of fear and discomfort. If no one talks about it, fine. But if it is being talked about, let it be examined fully. After the cat is out of the bag, there is no point to denying the meowing.

Along with Bob B. I can supply a very long list of testimonials. Clearly the work is appreciated for various reasons.

But the prevalence of conspiracy theories -- especially the more insidious 9/11 theories -- leads me to believe our population is losing its ability to consider ideas critically. We are becoming far too accustomed to letting others do our thinking for us, and this will ultimately come to no good. And so I believe that ideas lacking a sound foundation ought to be challenged as a matter of principal, whether they have grave or benign implications.

I pose a rhetorical question. Even the honest and well-meaning are subject to authoritative challenges. Do you want a jury, school board, or legislature ruling on your personal future who has not learned the distinction between claim and fact, and who is unable to detect a poorly-framed argument? Individual conspiracy theories may be largely irrelevant or unimportant, but the patterns of faulty thinking that they reinforce -- however benign they are singly -- undermine the very basis on which any civilization must be founded.

Now I do not advocate contrarianism. I do not believe that every idea must be challenged simply because it has been propounded. One can be as fallacious in refutation as in proposition. Just as we must guard against propositions that have an ill-conceived basis, we must also require proper foundation for criticism. It is not the critic's job always to challenge a conclusion, but to illustrate by example how properly to consider whether a proposition merits challenge.

That is, a "debunker" may be dismissed merely as a contrarian if his activity is limited to gainsaying unpopular notions under an assumption that all such must be bunk; while a true critic is able to lay bare the bones of the argument at hand and show the signs of bunk for all to see. The honest critic's duty is to the truth, however ill-favored it may turn out to be.

JohnD
2006-Jan-01, 08:43 AM
Jay,
Thank you for returning this thread to its course, and for doing so with such a powerful argument.

Yes, I am using authority, that of Dawkins and Gould, but Jay, your powerful opinion was just that - we have no evidence.
I have bothered to go and get the book, and I drafted a precis of the article, but fearing my ability to do it justice, I hope the book is widely enough available for you to read it for yourselves.
I fear also that I have coloured this thread by titling it, "Is debunking desirable." Dawkins, Gould and, if I may join their company, I would avoid public debate, not refutation, debunking, expert explanation and argument in print or spoken media. It's "sharing a platform with a real scientist" that they seek, not to win the argument.
See; A Devil's Chaplain, "Unfinished correspondence with an evolutionary heavyeight." (My copy - paperback,pub. Phoenix, 2003, pp256-261)

You may be familar with the idea of "denying them the oxygen of publicity", a quote from UK politics about the IRA. When such pesky pests are concerned, I think many of us would be glad to deny them the oxygen of oxygen.

Happy New Year!

John

PhantomWolf
2006-Jan-01, 09:43 AM
Well said Jay, and welcome back. I hope you enjoyed your Christmas.

gwiz
2006-Jan-03, 05:19 PM
The main complaint of the scientists, at least in the evolution-creation controversy, is that a creationist can come up with 20 issues in 5 minutes that take 5 minutes each for the scientist to explain. And a debate in any case isn't the best way to settle a scientific issue: a creationist with a sense of showmanship can almost always come out looking better than a scientist with a grasp of the facts but no grasp of what holds an audience's attention.
This is where a web forum differs from a public debate, there's no time limit on replies. Jay Windley in particular is very good at taking apart an opposing argument on a point-by-point basis, and if it takes a paragraph to explain why an opposing sentence is wrong, he'll write it.

JayUtah
2006-Jan-03, 05:58 PM
Not every argument requires a paragraph response. In fact, I often do the opposite: if a conspiracy argument is a paragraph-length exposition of a begged question, I'll often just respond with "Begging the question" and move on.

But other questions involve specialized knowledge. It's often necessary to convey the rudiments of that knowledge in order to examine claims in a proper context. You can't simplify your way into erudition.