Saturday, January 16, 2010

Fair and Balanced Pseudoscience

Why is there so much pseudoscience? One reason might be journalism and debate. Journalism often takes the approach that there are always at least two sides to a story. If someone believes in one thing, there must be someone that disagrees. Each opinion is then explored and the reader is allowed to make a decision.

I was clued into these ideas in part by an excellent paper out at the Discovery Channel web site. I take a slightly different approach had similar concepts. The pseudoscientist needs to use the right research, just not always the right way.

This balanced coverage of an issue is in part meant to reduce the bias of the reporter. This is partially because we might assume that the reported is stupid. There may be some stupid reporters, but actually this is fairly smart. Reporters get paid based on their popularity. The more readers you have, the bigger your income. By showing one or more sides to an issue, the reporter gets readers from both sides.

Balanced coverage also creates content. The other thing reporters get paid for is words. The more words, the better the pay. By having two sides, you get double or more the content. Not only do you get both sides of an issue, but you get extra bonus content from arguments about why the opposing point of view is wrong.

Last but not least is that people arguing is entertaining. You get tension in the writing from the arguments. There is also a lot of creative writing, especially from the pseudoscience side of the fence. Think about it, you get mystics, fantasy, and creative stuff pulled out of the air all the time.

The good news for the pseudoscientist is that as long as there is a scientist to argue with, you can push just about any idea. The only thing you need to do is find someone that disagrees with you.

There are ways you can push pseudoscience without critics, for example Oprah or uTube, but it is usually required to have some type of critic for the traditional media. The reason you want traditional media of course is to get on Oprah or to increase your hit count on uTube.

What if you don't have critics? The simplest is to just find a generic critic. Just look for anyone who labels themselves as a 'skeptic'. Skeptics are rather nondenominational and will argue against anything that does not have a 100 years of scientific inquiry and repeatable experiments.

To utilize a skeptic, start commenting on their blogs and articles. Just contradict them and throw in your idea. The formula to success is to deny whatever they are talking about and then push whatever your pseudoscience idea is and say they probably don't believe in that either. It also helps to call them by a bad name, question parentage, and especially call them close minded. They will usually reply and give the alternative skeptical opinion on your idea.
Once you have a comment from a skeptic, use it. This is especially useful when you can use some part of what they said out of context. For example, if they call you a bad name, just quote that. Makes them look mean and bitter about your success. It is even ok to quote their explanation as to why you are wrong as long as you creatively destroy their argument (please see the earlier post on The Language of Pseudoscience and the sister blog's Ending an Argument.

Looking for examples of balanced reporting? Just google vaccinations, politics, abortion, creationism, or just think about any subject where the discourse includes calling the other guy names or questions parentage.

So, have you been wallowing in self pity because your wacky idea about unicorns curing cancer? Now you have the way forward. Success in pseudoscience isn't about proving you are right, it is about being the other voice in an argument.