The amusing perspicacious proprietor of the Skeptoid website, Brian Dunning, accepts no comments on the transcript of his weekly podcasts, apparently. Hungover from my recent rant on science denial, I eagerly hoped to hang, even for a few minutes, with a hardcore science accepter. Bill Nye was nowhere around. Neil deGrasse Tyson was featured in that previous post. Stephen Hawking bummed me out recently by noting that advanced extraterrestrial civilizations are more than likely just to squash us like bugs, or something analogous to the genocide inflicted on indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere. And then Brian Dunning showed up in my inbox. So there you go.
This week’s Skeptoid podcast was titled “Principles of Curiosity,” which happens also to be the title of Dunning’s new book. The Principles of Curiosity, curiously enough, can be boiled down to the Three Cs. Here’s Dunning’s description:
They consist of Three simple steps I call the Three Cs: Challenge, Consider, and Conclude. First we challenge the new idea we’re presented with, to see if it’s even true as reported or not. If it is, we proceed to consider alternate explanations for what we observe. And finally, we conclude which explanation best fits the facts.
Dunning then applies the Three Cs to a number of common issues discussed at cocktail parties, bar fights, sporting events, and parent-teacher conferences:
- That aliens built (or helped build) some of Earth’s ancient marvels.
- That you can remove toxins from your body with a juice cleanse.
- That Hitler escaped World War II and lived out his life in secret in South America.
- That vaccines carry more risk than benefit.
- That inflammation from sports injuries can be relieved with cupping.
He then proceeded to apply the Three Cs to each of these five topics in turn. And for each one, I found myself waving, gesturing broadly, issuing sharp hooting sounds, sort of like an owl: “Ooo ooo! Ooo ooo!” But yea, I say onto thee, there was no comment section to be had. No comment section whatsoever. At the bottom of the page, an arid wasteland, devoid of…ah, you know what I mean. And because I’ve spewed out these several hundred characters thus far, even a simple tweet would not suffice.
So this is my DIY comment section, which I’ve now certainly overbilled, as Dunning’s podcast was, on the whole, a breath of fresh air among the stinking halitosis wafting from Washington, DC, these days. But I jotted down a few notes as I read his transcript. And here, for your reading pleasure, are my notes to Brian Dunning:
- Ancient astronauts? Archeologists do indeed have explanations for these ancient structures. But hey, I don’t accept them! I challenge (the very first C)! Some of those stones are pretty massive; some of those joints are pretty tight. Massive and spectacularly tight, with abutting faces yards and yards long. Cut how? With ropes pulled back and forth? Large wooden buzz saws? And the stuff left in the quarries, partially excavated? Maybe humans were trying to duplicate the ET’s work and gave up in disgust. Maybe ETs started the work and are taking a coffee break. Maybe they’ll be back later to squash us like bugs, tipping over Hawking’s wheelchair without a shred of empathy.
- No toxins in the body? Have you seen most bodies? Isn’t there a garbage pickup service in the body? What if that service goes on strike for a while? Little cigar-chomping lymph thugs, fondling brass knuckles, jealous about the circulatory system receiving all the attention. “There are no ‘toxins’ in your body”? Who died and made you king?
- The risk from vaccines? I agree with you on that one.
- Cupping? What you write is true. But is it also possible (consider alternatives, the second C!) that all sorts of things could be going on under the skin after an injury like that, including a temporary muscle strengthening having nothing to do with inflammation? This might require in vivo studies that haven’t happened yet, or are only marginally legal. But there is some empirical evidence, and a polka-dot Michael Phelps must get the benefit of the doubt.
- Finally, Hitler? Why the hell would you mention Hitler?
Thanks, Brian, for the Three Cs and everything else you’ve ever done in your life to support clear thinking and honest reporting. If you believed in single-payer health care, I’d absolutely vote for you for President. Your candidacy itself could be the featured topic at cocktail parties, bar fights, sporting events, and parent-teacher conferences around the country.