Listener Feedback: Denial and Aliens
Time once again for a trip to the mailbox, and hear what you, the listeners, have had to say. This is a great one today because I got some good, thoughtful feedback, to offset the inevitable crazy feedback. So get out your letter opener and let's get to work.
The Term "Denier"
We'll start with my use of the word "denier" that I applied to those who reject anthropogenic global warming in my episode on the urban legend that scientists in the 1970s predicted a coming ice age. People of all stripes listen to Skeptoid, all across the political spectrum, so I got plenty of complaints for using this negative word. Here's one representative email, from listener Brad Tittle:
Well, that's not what an ad hominem argument is, but let's stick to the point. Three times in the episode, I used the term "denier" to refer to people who don't believe in global warming. In an early draft, I actually spent time discussing my reasoning for using this term, but had to cut it out for length. So I went rogue, and just threw the term out there as needed. The result was predictable: people were upset at being called deniers. They said I was being political, that I should be above name calling, that it was inflammatory and gratuitous, that I'm a liberal extremist trying to insult and belittle those who don't agree with my socialist anticorporate agenda. (All of those phrases were actually used in the feedback I received.)
Here's what I said to one guy on Twitter, who was in the minority by giving measured, intelligent, non-insane feedback. He argued I was being partisan. I asked him if it would have been partisan if I'd said vaccine denier? Evolution denier? HIV denier? These are all other hard, proven sciences that plenty of people disagree with passionately. The fact is that the term does apply to them. It is an accurate term. It's not an insult. Denying is exactly what they're doing. They hate it when the term is applied to them; yet they have no problem when it's applied to deniers of other things. Denying is exactly what the global warming deniers are doing. I didn't use a less "inflammatory" word because the shoe fits. We don't say people who accept that 2 + 2 = 4 are being unskeptical and closed minded, and we don't describe the 2 + 2 = 5 crowd as skeptically considering an alternate explanation. We say they're wrong. We correctly say they are denying a hard science fact, because they are. That's not an insult, it's not unskeptical, and it's certainly not partisan politics. I am a psychic denier. I am also a ghost denier. Hold up something that's factually false, and I'm proud to be called a denier. I am happy for a spade to be called a spade, and the conversation is better for the incisive honesty. If I ever need to be coddled with a more friendly term than ghost denier, then maybe I should reconsider whether I actually deny them.
Alien Music and Pythagoreans
Onto other things. Recently I did an episode laying out the case for why I believe a musical alien culture is likely to use the same musical scale we do, and as part of my argument, I discussed the work done by Pythagoras. Well, I got an onslaught of emails from music theorists, all attacking and disassembling the credit I gave to Pythagoras. So I went back to one of my main sources for the episode, Professor Robert Greenberg. You may know him from the 26 (!!!!!) different courses he has created for The Great Courses. Bob came to my rescue thus:
So, scratch out wherever I said Pythagoras and write in Pythagoreans, and pedants are satisfied.
The Lead Masks of Vintém Hill
Brazilian listener Walter Spielkamp offered some additional information on two Brazilian men who committed suicide in the episode on the Lead Masks of Vintém Hill, mysterious only because the men had brought with them some crudely made lead eye shields, for no obvious reason:
This is a very nice additional layer of insight, and my thanks go to Walter.
The Alice Hamilton Award
Here is another valuable addition to another episode from Chandra Deeds Gioiello:
You may remember one of the things I said in that episode was that an entire book could easily be written on each of those women, and I regretted having to cut each one down to a few sentences. Thanks, Chandra, for giving Alice the extra recognition.
Human Beings and Pseudoscience
Here's a thought from listener Ady from the UK:
Ady, I completely understand where you're coming from. Over 500 episodes, and every one of them makes me want to pound my face on my desk. Why do people insist on believing this? It's usually something so far out there. But we've talked about this specific question. They're not stupid, they're just like you and I, but their life experiences have included different inputs from ours. They're interpreting the world the same way you and I do, but getting different results, because their database of experience is different. But the one thing we can all do, regardless of our life experiences, is to learn the errors that color all of our interpretations. So it wouldn't be a case of saying "Hey, humanity is still pretty great despite all of these weirdos", it's more like "Hey, being human is a pretty complicated thing." And I think that's the one lesson we can all take home from the entire body of Skeptoid episodes as a whole.
Ridiculing the Yonaguni Monument
Let's head west across the Pacific to an underwater formation of rocks off the coast of Japan, that a small number of people have interpreted as a manmade city they call the Japanese Atlantis. Parker from Indiana writes:
Folks, as a rule, I don't ridicule things, and I certainly didn't ridicule anyone in this episode, so please don't claim that I did. All I can say is go back and listen again. All of these questions were answered comprehensively in the episode. Sometimes people hear only what they want to disagree with.
As a nod to Skeptoid's long and honorable history, I'll include one piece of old-style feedback. This comes from Steve Kroschel, who runs a wildlife center in Alaska, but unfortunately is also voraciously hostile to science. He's best known for his feature documentaries The Gerson Miracle, Dying to Have Known, The Beautiful Truth, The Grounded, and Heal for Free, all of which are wholesale infomercials for worthless alternative cancer therapies. I appeared as a token skeptic in one of those films, and as his thanks, he periodically emails me insults out of the blue. Recently I got:
So that's the beautiful truth from someone dedicated to natural healing, and here is his philosophy, as presented in a PBS Digital Studios promotion for his films:
Love you too, Steve.
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