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Scientific and Pseudo-scientific Wonders

I've been rereading Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark in which he advocates for science as a tool against pseudo-science and charlatanry. Ok, that's a fairly big theme in a lot of his works and among most scientists and science educators. This one is specifically about debunking bogus claims like astrology, the Loch Ness, monster, ghosts, etc in general through a systematic process we call science. People are attracted to these things for sake of wonder or marvel; a sort of grandiose religious experience they get from believing these mystical things to be true. The irony, that Sagan and others like Neil deGrasse Tyson often mention, is that while the evidence for the above is so weak or outright dismissive, the actual universe (that is, evidence backed by repeated tests, performed by multiple people, identifying and removing bias, etc) has a lot of examples of things that are much more fascinating and mind blowing. And it's in almost every field of science: the structure of DNA, properties of bacteriophages, big bang theory, black holes, quasars, the relation between mass and energy, plate tectonics as a grand theory used as a basis for both earthquakes and volcanoes, the lifetime of the Earth. There are also plenty of topics where we are clearly missing some key piece (although you don't use pseudo-science to try to fill it), like the incompatibility of general relativity and quantum theory, if that kind of mystery is your thing.

But I think they miss something when they talk about people who gobble up tabloids about aliens or stories about demons, and yet deny concepts for which there is plenty of data, as silly or a coverup. The real stuff is obviously harder to fully grok since it can be incredibly complex and require some advanced math skills to understand. But more than that, I think there's a big psychological component that has more to do with identity and power. Science is mostly open, but this very openness might make it feel like a privileged social structure to those with a poor science education. They feel turned off to learning real things because it's hard and people are going to know more than them anyway. So here's some bogus conspiracy theory about crop circles that offers secret information, that lets them feel like a part of some special club while giving them a sense of wonder about the universe. It gives them identity as a member of a privileged class of knowledge wielders.

Of course, it's all completely false, and the idea of science merely being a privileged social structure to be undermined by the common man is ludicrous. The obvious, practical solution here is better science education that continues to let everyone share in its "arcane" knowledge (which Tyson and Sagan work on frequently). But I do wonder, if we can put aside the ethics for the sake of argument, if you could sort of trick some of these people who are highly susceptible to pseudo-science into embracing actual science by framing it differently for them. For instance, a sort of layman's version of DNA and evolution marketed under the title "Secrets of Life Revealed" or something.

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