Branding skepticism

By Phil Plait | January 3, 2010 8:08 am

Steve Cuno is a skeptic as well as man who knows his marketing — he’s a professional. He’s spoken at two TAMs, both times about how better to market and brand skepticism. His points have hit home with me, because what he says about how we behave as skeptics is something I have seen countless times to be true. He thinks — and I agree — that we need to be more positive about what we know to be true. Instead of only saying "the antivax movement is baloney," (which we know to be a correct statement) we need to promote actual medicine and talk about why vaccinations are important. I try to do that here on the blog, because I know full well how skeptics are seen outside our own circles: naysayers, pointy-headed ivory tower academics, and so on. By being positive, we promote ourselves much better to the public.

Steve Cuno wrote an article for the JREF’s Swift blog which has many excellent points about how we as skeptics need to think about ourselves and our behavior. I think everyone who has ever sat next to an astrology buff at a dinner party or written anything on the web dealing with skeptical topics should read what Steve wrote, and pay attention to it. We could do a lot worse than to follow the lead he’s laid out.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Piece of mind, Skepticism

Comments (49)

  1. But, but, but… Sometimes it’s hard to be nice to people who obviously need to keep their genes out of the gene pool! The level of intentional and willful mental castration is staggering. It’s not that I’m being rude, I am just GENUINELY surprised that these people are allowed in public unsupervised!
    :P

  2. Daniel J. Andrews

    This reminds me of Tim Minchin’s beat poem “Storm” (for the 2 or 3 who haven’t seen it, check youtube). He tries to play nice at the dinner party, follow the good advice, but eventually the nonsense erodes his self-control and awaayyyyy he goes.

    btw, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the advice in Steve’s article is given out by many major religions, and by corporate and advertising agencies who want to promote a more positive image of themselves.

  3. Anarres

    On the contrary “There’s no need to respect silly beliefs, but there’s also no need to treat with open derision the people who hold them”… this one touchs me , sometimes I´m rude like a hammer.

  4. Gary Ansorge

    The old expression “I’M from Missouri” (meaning, “show me the evidence”) has been my standard when faced with woo from relatives, friends and countrymen. It usually, at the least, generates a bit of humor. I do refer to myself as an agnostic, mystic, rational materialist and THAT is often taken as a contradiction in terms, which may, in a thoughtful person, provoke questions and questions can be answered.

    My younger brother is Born Again and when we’ve discussed my spontaneous mystical experience he tries to invoke the old “the devil may appear as a beautiful woman” response. To which all I can say is “Yep! Which is why I am still a skeptic. With out a firm definition/description of (what he means by) God, I cannot say what that was I experienced.”

    Only that it was the most intense experience of my life,,,

    I understand that sentient beings have a very rightful fear of termination of self. Which is one reason (perhaps the only reason) we create religions but once created, like any organic system(or, for that matter, any corporation) , they try to survive by converting everyone to their point of view.
    As in ” I’m only crazy if no one else agrees with me.”

    Chiros, anti-vaxers, psychics, etc, etc, may be wrong but they’re not crazy, since they have others who accept their POV. That’s called a consensual view of reality.

    Just as we(skeptics) don’t run around denigrating 6 year olds for their belief in a mythical Good Guy Gift Giver, so too we must remember to be gentle with those adults who sustain themselves with a belief that Someone will make all the crap in life worth while, that everything will come out right, in the end.

    It really is up to us, as compassionate human beings, to do the work that has been dumped on the Big Guys shoulders, to make everything come out right in the end. We’re shepards, whether we like it or not. Let us be Good shepards and keep on trucking.

    GAry 7

  5. I couldn’t agree more with Steve Cuno. Although I’ve been sorely tempted to rant and rage at the nonsense around us, I’ve decided that a better strategy is to just show the science. Rather than calling evolution deniers idiots, how about a lovely study discussing the evolution of baleen whales? Or the latest study about Homo floresiensis? That’s my strategy, and I’m sticking to it.

  6. Caleb Jones

    Very good article by Steve!

    I’ve been hesitant to associate myself with “skeptic” movements mainly because they (or at least many of their members) seem to have an undertone of derision or hatred. I don’t care how just one’s cause may be or how ridiculous one sees others as, if you have to sacrifice your humanity and good will to maintain your position then your ’cause’ is merely pride and self gratification.

    Case in point, my local government recently banned all seasonal displays except Christmas trees after different groups started to use their displays as manifestos against other groups. Sad that a platform in which groups should be able to tear down walls often built between groups through the year through salutations of peace and good will instead serves to harden those walls. Humanity sacrificed for self-gratification.

    Steve’s article also hit home since I am a Mormon (though not in Salt Lake). I’ve attended those conferences a couple times and just have to shake my head at the slogans chanted at you as you enter. I guess the best thing to do is to take it as a lesson to make sure I never find myself treating people the same way those protesters do.

    I have a personal mantra that says: “Don’t concern yourself with being right only with what is right.” I think that when we concern ourselves with “being right” instead of “what’s right” our interactions with others quickly disintegrate.

  7. Ismael

    Oooh! This is getting exciting. I’m actually watching the birth of sceptical dogma! You’re piecing yourselves together, segregating the others. What a nice little brand of scepticism (Copyright) you’re cooking up in your slow-cooker.

  8. I like showing the science. And this is what I have done on numerous occasions. I offer logical arguments, and tell them about the science. Especially with astrological BS. But sometimes it is like talking to a wall…

  9. Nomen Publicus

    One of the problems is, having irrational ideas doesn’t often cause direct and immediate harm to the person holding the opinions. If someone is a young earth creationist, there is still petrol for their car and coal for their stove. If someone is an antivaxer, their children still benefit from the remaining herd immunity. I could reject general relativity but the universe will not care and my clocks will still show the correct time.

    I do notice with interest that TV drama based on experts doing their jobs well (such as CSI, House and almost every cop show) are extremely popular. Perhaps there is some hope.

  10. Elin

    “Try to be a good person, and be nice to people.” It’s worrisome that these things even need to be said. The Internet has made it possible to speak much more bluntly (and sometimes rudely) than you would in real life, and to make little snide comments that don’t actually add anything to the conversation (see Ismael above…but I’ve certainly done the same thing). So then we have to try to curb these tendencies in order to get along with our fellow humans, and to not isolate ourselves socially.

    I also think this is one reason that skepticism, and many areas of science, are still overwhelmingly male. A female friend of mine, a university student, recently decided not to pursue the astrophysics major in part because, as she put it, her fellow students “seemed more interested in being smart than they were in what they were actually studying.”

    Oh, and watch the details. This same friend recently attended a lecture by one of her astronomy professors on the stars currently visible in the Colorado night sky. At one point, he got into the 2012 thing, and proceeded to aggresively debunk it. As a visual aid, he used a Mayan calendar…except the calendar he used was Aztec, as one of the audience members pointed out. It just made him look culturally clueless.

  11. Gary Ansorge

    7. Nomen Publicus:

    Don’t forget Bones(one of my favorite TV shows). There is even a continual, low level contrast given between the science nerds and FBI agent (Catholic), but everybody respects the Agent, because he’s a very ethical, loving guy.

    Gary 7

  12. Eric S.

    I see the point to being positive about science, reason, and critical thinking but responding negatively to woo (and violations of church state separation) is a positive thing and needs to be done forcefully. Both approaches have their proper place and I think the skeptical community does a good job at both. Really its a matter of tone. When taking on the antivaxers don’t use rude, insulting language, instead give good reasons why they are wrong and why vaccines are safe and necessary.

  13. Eric S.

    Plus, it’s OK to crack a joke or three at the expense of pseudoscience and the like, no harm done.

  14. Thomas Siefert

    @ Daniel J. Andrews

    Tim Minchin performed “Storm” at TAM London.

  15. Utakata

    I pretty much agree with being polite, respectful and diplomatic when presenting skepticism to the public. As well as passionate…in the hope that the viewer will see something positive about it. However, I do not want to fall in the pit falls of accomdationism…where we are phrasing ourselves so the religious and woo’s are made comfortable. Skepticism should never be comfortable. Particular around those who want to make their unproven ideas public policy. Sometimes we really have to go PZ Myers on their behinies.

  16. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    If that material is an ad for something (it is really unclear on that), it is for a strawman skeptic.

    But there are more mistakes, of both tactics and strategy.

    First, know your market. To promote framing and accomodationism among skeptics, many atheists for similar reasons, as Cuno does is provocative. And, without mentioning the debate and all the reasonable alternatives, ill-mannered to the extreme.

    Likewise, it is very unclear that skeptics are “a little-understood, little-trusted minority”.

    What is the statistical basis for that? In most social areas, science and skepticism have a perceived value beyond its actual. People listen to us, and they let themselves be provoked by us. US may have its own troubles, but that is then exceptional.

    And among scientists skeptics are likely a majority.

    Second, the strawman. Of course one needs to use different tactics in different situations. Cuno himself acknowledges that. To think that skeptics are behaving like a one-track mind is to accept the strawman and promote it at the same time.

    Finally, the strategy. Framing and accomodationism has been tested for decades, and it has failed abysmally. ‘Nuff said.

    Now I could make this analysis precisely because it is a skeptics blog. And con Cuno, people also need to be motivated to act.

    Because in the final analysis Cuno manage to get something right. It seems to be a known fact that people tend to remember the subject, not the analysis. If you need to promote “a product” among neutral recipients, don’t use negatives. Because those will supplant the meaning in the long-term memory a recipient model and places in storage. And use memorable subject images:

    Don’t say “creationism is wrong”; people will remember this vaguely as that you are interested in and even arguing creationism. Say perhaps more memorably “evolution, that you have a different hair color than your parents, is a fact”.

  17. > Play nice. There’s no need to respect silly beliefs, but there’s also no need to treat with open derision the people who hold them. We may think we’re standing up for science, when in reality we’re only conveying, “Skeptics are ill-mannered.”

    Time to kill the “The Stupid – It Burns!!!!” graphic, perhaps?

  18. Michael Kingsford Gray

    Cuno is a ‘faitheist’ for skepticism.

  19. While Cuno certainly has some good points, I would like to make two observations:

    1. No matter how nice we are, others can and often do, somehow, see/hear us, as NOT nice. I cannot tell you how many times I have seen Richard Dawkins speak, for example, and in those particular speeches, from my point of view, he was smart, charming, and completely gentlemanly. But others watching the same exact speech have characterized him as strident and snide. Not in general, specifically IN THAT SPEECH…Like Dawkins, we can only try our best to behave well, but we cannot control how others see us.

    2. It’s a great thing that there are so many *different* personalities in the skeptical movement. A variety of people talking about skepticism, each in his or her way, means possibly making sense to a variety of listeners. Some viewers do not like Gregory House but do like Temperance Brennon (sp?) from “Bones”; for others it’s vice versa. Some people don’t appreciate Christopher Hitchens’ manner of expression, but love Sam Harris’ calm personality; others feel the reverse toward both. Some people prefer “Mythbusters” over “Bullshit!”–and some feel the opposite.

    (I like all of the above and am glad I don’t have to choose!)

    I personally like Jon Stewart’s brand of satire AND Stephen Colbert’s brand as well. To a guest’s face, Stewart is usually pretty gentle and positive, whereas Colbert (“in character”) often is much more in a guest’s face.

    I mention Stewart and Colbert because, to my mind, Cuno didn’t address well enough the fact that we should USE HUMOR when possible, as Gary Ansorge (#3 above) mentioned.

  20. moptop

    I am not really sure what this “skeptics” movement is about, but reading the comments, I can only wonder if it has not somehow been perverted from a method of thoughtful inquirey to validate and hone ones own thinking to a cudgel used to bash those with whom one disagrees, while giving oneself license to ignore their arguments, and giving oneself a bigotry based endorphin release of superority.

  21. Barbara

    We need to promote vaccination as the NATURAL way to prevent disease. Points might include: Vaccination activates the immune system. It strengthens the immune system. It prepares the immune system to cope with disease. The statements are all true (well, “strengthen” is a bit vague, but certainly not false) and not only that, they sound good.

  22. Asimov Fan

    Off topic, sorry but did you hear about this BA?

    Link via CNN news on a Lunar colony idea – lava tube discovery :

    http://www.cnn.com/2010/TECH/space/01/01/moon.lava.hole/index.html

  23. SMo

    January 3rd and no mention of the final moments of David Tennant?

  24. Petrolonfire

    @3. Gary Ansorge Says:

    My younger brother is Born Again and when we’ve discussed my spontaneous mystical experience he tries to invoke the old “the devil may appear as a beautiful woman” response.

    How do I get the devil to appear that way for me – I like the sound / imagined sight of that! ;-)

    I think being all soft, PC & cuddly is pretty weak, I spose there’s times for it but, for FSM’s sake, lets say what we think & not hold back too much.

    Skepticism has always been the little boy pointing out the emperors nudity, puncturing the pieties and pompousness of the fools, especially the powerful and influential ones, & their delusions.

    Ridicule of what is patently silly is one of the best weapons in the Skeptics armoury. IMHO.

    @ 15. Dave B Says: Time to kill the “The Stupid – It Burns!!!!” graphic, perhaps?

    Hell no! That’s always a good one -although a little variation with the Skeptipottamous (that should’ve been posted again on Xmas if y’ask me) & DOOMED graphics wouldn’t hurt. 8)

    Skepticism is not an upper class candlelit dinner party – its a full on riot instead! ;-)

  25. So, in short, keep being awesome Phil. You’re doing a grand job of branding skepticism in a positive light.

  26. I find the common assumptions about skepticism to be kind of strange. They would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic.

    Skepticism, science and even academics, practically speaking, have no secrets. One can come to know everything that any expert knows simply by taking the time to learn it. This is in direct opposition to religion and other forms of woo that require things like fealty, ideological surrender and promises to banish doubt.

  27. Cuno makes some valid points, but we have to remember that EVEN IF we are perfectly nice in our skepticism, some people will still feel that we are behaving badly, just because we aren’t toeing their particular line. Haven’t you ever heard, say, a wonderful interview with Richard Dawkins, when he is being patient and well-spoken and gentlemanly, and then a caller or audience member accuses him of being strident and snarky, “as usual”? I sure have!

    We can try to behave well, but we can’t control how others perceive us (or say they perceive us).

    I personally am glad we don’t have to choose between Gregory House and Temperance Brennan (from “Bones”), Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, Eugenie Scott and PZ Myers, or even Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I’m glad we get both “Mythbusters” and “Bullshit!” Lots of styles and personalities will hopefully reach lots of different people.

    I agree with Eric S. and Gary Ansorge that a little humor can go a long way, too.

  28. Jim B

    I have been reading skeptic literature for the past six months on the internet and most of the points discussed are what may be said as ,”preaching to the converted”. I read something and nod in agreement or look at the facts and see it as common sense, so I have no problem with skeptical analysis but as an educator I do have a problem with the tone of the delivery.
    No one ever became smart by being called stupid. The reverse is likely the truth and they will become more stoically convinced that they are right and you must be wrong. If people are to become enlightened about reality and become critical thinkers then they need to understand the how and why of being critical instead of calling everyone a goof-ball. People need to become independent thinkers not heard followers and to do this they need to be educated properly so that they can come to their own conclusion not because someone calls them an idiot for what they already believe to be true.
    What I am saying basically is educating people to think and not name calling will be a much more effective way to get people to become critical thinkers.

  29. Cory

    I think using the term “skeptic” itself is really the most damaging aspect for skepticism from a PR perspective.

    Something more neutral and definitive like “realist” would be preferable imo.

  30. Uniforms or snappy robes or something like that would be good. Maybe all black with a red clerical collar could work.

    Bling. Definately bling.

    Large gold “?” at the end of a chain. Maybe some sort of special incense and an official book of songs about it plus a book that collects all the best sayings and writings about it going back thousands of years.

    Some sort of official course of study and ordination ritual.

    You know, something to let the public know their dealing with a baptized, confirmed and ordained Skpetic, not just some run of the mill carper.

  31. ” because I know full well how skeptics are seen outside our own circles: naysayers, pointy-headed ivory tower academics, and so on. By being positive, we promote ourselves much better to the public.”

    That’s good. That’s very good. Keep the “Us vs Them” aspect STRONG, brother. Always promote the fact that is the SKEPTICS set apart from that foolish PUBLIC.

    And when confronted with a public that is not sufficiently deferential always remember the Skeptics affirmation: I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!

    Oh, burning a candle and incense in front of an image of Darwin can also help in dark times.

  32. Eidolon

    Vanderleun@ 30:

    So what, exactly is your point? I gather you are a creationist, based on your last line, despite all the evidence gathered over the last 150 years. What would it take to get you to honestly examine this evidence and change your mind? I suspect nothing would work. You trot out “there are no transitional fossils” and when shown these fossils, you or others of like mind keep moving the goalpost. Repeat as needed for anything contrary to your viewpoint.

    Antivaxxers ignore any and all evidence and trot out the same falsehoods. At what point do we say they are simply wrong? There are folks who honestly believe the Earth is at the center of the solar system and hold to this view despite clear evidence to the contrary. There is no polite way to point out that everything we can observe shows they are …wrong.

    It’s not about anything other than dealing with the real world and I think it is pointless to try and convert (educate) these people. They have way too much invested in their beliefs to allow reality to intrude upon their world view.

  33. Mapnut

    Cory,, we had an interesting discussion about the term “skeptic” on the Forum: http://www.bautforum.com/bad-astronomy-stories/86873-why-skeptics.html I started out thinking that “Skeptic” means anyone who questions the prevailing wisdom, but was somewhat convinced that the correct meaning is someone who requires facts to make a judgment.

    There are some good examples in these comments of the attitude of contempt that will turn off people who otherwise could be reasoned with. Atheists are particularly prone to this, for instance referring to God as a sky fairy. Wouldn’t that be a good way to get a somewhat religious person to stop reading what you’re saying?

  34. Chris B

    I’ve been lurking around the skeptic blogs now for about 4-5 months. Apart from sometimes coming off as crass (even if you’re right) I think I’ve observed another trend in the skeptic blogosphere that hurts its branding – this need to appologize for being human.

    New Year’s Day and the turning of a new decade seems to really have exposed this. Several times, I’ve read blogs about how a decade is an arbitrary construct that exists because humans have ten phalanges, etc. So what? One of the biggest things that separates humans from the rest of the animal kingdom is our sense of time. The base ten numbering system allows us, as imperfect beings, to describe the world around us. Why appologize or explain yourself for this? There’s no need to. This seems like a small thing, but to non-skeptic, potential convert being exposed to skepticism though a Google search we can come off as sounding weird and can be a put off.

    Another recent example of this phenomena are skeptics who seems to think wishing someone good luck (or good will) needs an explanation or is somehow wrong because there’s not such thing or there isn’t evidence supporting luck, etc. It doesn’t. Decent humans require the ability to wish people they care about good will. Because the universe is a set of complex realities that can seem random at times, and there’s no harm in wishing a fellow human that those probabilities line up in their favor once in while, or at least they find it within themselves to persevere whatever the universe throws at them.

    These are just a couple of examples. But I think what we really need from skepticism is not simply keeping us all logical or being right – at the heart of it should be using reason and logic to make us better beings. Human created constructs like the year or decade – even though they are arbitrary – can be powerful tools in achieving this. For instance, why isn’t there a representative holiday celebrating the eradication of small pox that is revered as a skeptic’s Christmas (without the consumerism)? Why isn’t it a date we all know by heart? It’s one of the greatest goods science has delivered mankind, yet we’ve allowed anti-vaxxer to co-opt the messaging of this achievement through our silence.

    Branding Skepticism is not simply pushing back positively when the nonsense and woo start flying; it’s also reminding our fellow humans periodically of the enormous good science, reason, and logic has delivered us all and celebrating it.

  35. moptop

    “So what, exactly is your point? I gather you are a creationist, based on your last line, despite all the evidence gathered over the last 150 years. What would it take to get you to honestly examine this evidence and change your mind?”

    I would first like to point out that I am not a “Creationist,” BUT, logically, there can never be enough evidence to disprove creationism. The evidence makes it seem extremely unlikely to me, from my reference frame, but who can say what is beyond that and assign odds? Nobody. You have reached the point where you felt fine jumping, but I don’t know how that is any less faith based than creationism, at bottom. I have to say though that creationists attempts to prove creationism have been laughable to date. This does not mean that creationism is wrong, just that the “smart money” bets that way.

  36. Eidolon

    O.K. moptop – you feel it is a “jump” to accept as valid the conclusions based on all that science. Given the absence of evidence for creationism and the abundance of evidence for evolution what more do you require to state that creationism is wrong?

    As for it being a matter of faith, you are incorrect. If you require a proof that it did not happen in the manner pointed to by the evidence and all the tests of that evidence, then you appear to demand a proof that gawd did not do it. You might as well argue that absent proof to the contrary, it was the work of fairies. You cannot prove that statement is wrong except by resorting to objective observations. Is it faith to state that that the sun is at the center of our solar system? How much faith is required to ‘believe’ in atoms? Neither of these can be observed directly but all the evidence says that it is the reality.

    If you consider accepting that the science is valid a matter of faith, I can only respond that if it IS faith it is based in the reality of repeatable observation and evidence.

  37. Steve in Dublin

    Eidolon @ #31

    vanderleun is a fervent anti-AGW troll who was hopping up and down and frothing at the mouth for weeks here over ‘ClimateGate’. Now we have also discovered that he is a creationist. Why does that not surprise me?

    Oh sorry, there I go with the ad hominem attacks again. Blew that New Years resolution already *tsk*

  38. Gary Ansorge

    24. Petrolonfire

    “How do I get the devil to appear that way for me – I like the sound / imagined sight of that! ”

    I don’t know about that. I COULD tell you what I was doing at the time, that seemed to initiate the attack,,,er,,,I mean the “experience”. Unfortunately, it just might kill you and I would feel really bad about that.

    At a couple of Dead shows I attended in 1994, there was a christian bus parked outside the venue, trying to hand out propaganda and admonishing people that , when walking the Golden Path(to Unlimited Devotion) one should “remember the Golden Rule”, which was pretty funny to most DeadHeads, since the song is a re-arrangement/re-statement of that Rule. It seemed to me the christians were mis-interpreting the whole Dead experiment but then, what can one expect of those satisfied with dogma.

    I suggest hanging in until our science succeeds in replicating these experiences consistently(and yes, I’m familiar with the god module experiments, but from what I’ve read of them, people who indulge in that experiment remain completely functional, which seems to not be the case with the spontaneous variety).

    GAry 7

  39. Beryl

    I’d like to highlight the comment of Barbara @21: “We need to promote vaccination as the NATURAL way to prevent disease. ” I’ve been joking about this kind of idea with friends–”Vaccines–Work Gently with your Immune System to Boost your Natural Resistance to Disease(tm)” At first I though it was just funny, but I really think that this approach might work.

  40. Arcturus

    You can’t really create a brand for something as intangible as a “skeptic movement”; all we can agree upon is “show me the evidence.” We don’t believe in the same things, only “let’s hear the criticism.” Sure, we are against woo-woo, certainly a derisive, but deserved term. But woo-woo is only that which has been shown to be false, like astrology, homeopathy, spoon-bending (like that ever did any good to anyone, except one uri), anti-vaccination, and so on.

    What would actually be interesting is to create an international organisation for rational thought, to encourage discussion in the media about science, and also educate people about the dangers of woo-woo like anti-vaccination, homeopathy and other non-working “medicine.” But as we are all independent freethinkers, with differing beliefs or lack thereof, this is hardly possible if we’d be under a dogma of some sort. JREF has been doing a great job, but not good enough. Ask a person on the street, do they know who Randi even is? No.

    This is why Richard Dawkins called for “militant atheism”, meaning teaching, not bombing. His word choice was pretty bad for American audiences.

  41. truthspeaker

    Too bad the 10:23 people didn’t ask Steve for advice on their campaign.

  42. Brian Too

    Never underestimate the resilience of the underdog.

    One of the best assertions of the anti-vaccine crowd is to assert that the vaccines come from “Big Pharma”, that “Big Money” is behind the vaccine efforts, and “Big Science” is engaged in a conspiracy to prevent you (yes, YOU!!) from knowing the Truth.

    For some people these are the keys to unlocking their way of thinking. They already have a generalized belief that these things are true in many areas of life. Say the right words and they will get behind even the wackiest notions.

  43. Solarflare

    I think the term ‘skeptic’ overwhelmingly has a negative connotation. I agree with those who think it needs a re-branding. I think ‘Scientologist ‘would have worked nicely had it not been trademarked by the loonies. (Whoops, didn’t mean to be too negative there!)

    Also, it seems that the term ‘skeptic’ is relative to the prevailing scientific paradigms of a given time period. For instance, hundreds of years ago you might call someone who denied the earth was round a skeptic, as most people then believed the earth was flat. In that context skeptics were certainly on the other side of scientific reasoning compared to today’s skeptics.

    So in that vein, skeptics need a paradigm agnostic label in which to define themselves.

  44. One of the things that gets peoples attention are stories, this is why when people are trying to sell stuff they use testimonials (paid or not they work). We know anecdotes are not evidence, we talk about the science and the facts. The science and the facts are not compelling to the average person.
    Perhaps using anecdotes or other arguments that may be (it hurts me to say this) fallacious (fallacies aren’t always used because people don’t know how to make an argument, they are sometimes used because they work) to get there attention and then back it with real science.

  45. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Picks up sizzling red hot branding iron, walks towards PZ Meyers & the BA who are lying in the dust struggling with their legs tied …

    .. Wait, what’s that – you *don’t* mean *that* sort of branding you say? ;-)

  46. Gary Ansorge

    45. Plutonium being from Pluto

    Wouldn’t a “red hot” branding iron on Pluto equal about 35 degrees C ? I doubt that would be a problem for Phil, since he’s already hotter than that.

    GAry 7

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