Superstitions and pseudoscience aren’t ridiculous (just false)

Sceptics like to present unscientific beliefs as laughable; it’s enough to just name them.

“The universe was created in a few days by some guy up on a cloud.”

Ha-ha!

“Our personalities are determined by the position of extremely distant stars at the moment we’re born.”

Ha-ha!

“Water has a memory that makes homeopathic remedies work even though the ‘effective’ ingredient is diluted out of them.”

Ha-ha!

Okay, how about this one?

“All life today was born by an accumulation of random variations starting from chemicals in a primal soup.”

Ha-ha?

“Matter is made up of particles too small to be seen that can be in many places at once until you look.”

“The universe started out as an infinitely small space that then exploded.”

Well, yes.

Scientific theories and facts only fail to sound ridiculous to those who accept them because they’re used to them. The same applies to superstitious beliefs — though many of them are actually more intuitive when you get down to it.

Science does not reject anything because it sounds ridiculous. It accepts even the most ridiculous-sounding ideas based on a lengthy process of examining the evidence. Science rejects other ideas, ridiculous or not, because they are not found to be true (and/or cannot be tested at all). The methods of science are such that they can be trusted far more than those of its so-called rivals, and that’s what ultimately counts.

Yes, superstitious ideas rightly sound ridiculous once you know why they totally contradict the facts. But it’s only because of this that they sound ridiculous. That something sounds ridiculous doesn’t mean anything, and in any case, would mean different things for different people. Sometimes people are even motivated to think of something in science only in a way that sounds ridiculous, like all the “creationists” whose God is so weak he can only find a place in the gaps.

It’s not wrong to point out how ridiculous something sounds in light of scientific knowledge, but remember the ridiculousness is not what counts, the scientific method is.

How to save cultural moral relativism from inconsistency

Cultural relativism, applied to morality, is the notion that what is right and wrong is entirely determined by which culture the people involved belong to. This is a natural position to arrive at, after seeing that people in different parts of the world believe differently about morality, but it’s also been pointed out that it has the problem of not making any sense. Continue reading