When Neil deGrasse Tyson spoke at N.C. State last month, he gave his usual riff on science literacy:
For me, science literacy is “what is your capacity to ask questions?”
Questions, they’re kind of an inoculation against people telling you stuff and having you believe whatever they say. That’s not science literacy.
When someone says “I have these crystals and if you rub them together you’ll be healed” and you say “oh yeah, great, gimmie!”
Ok? No, that’s not science literacy. But you know what else isn’t science literacy? Saying “that’s bunk, get it out of here.”
Each of those requires no thought, the rejection or the acceptance.
I thought of Tyson’s words today when I tangled online with some hard-core skeptics. The anger and derision shown by some skeptics reveals a surprising lack of balance. Many tend to shout down others who don’t share their opinion.
This is what drives me nuts about skeptics. It’s what Tyson has called “lazy brain,” dismissing something out of hand before one knows the facts. It is wrong for a believer to assume something without evidence, yet is equally wrong for a skeptic to assume something without evidence. Both require no critical thought. Both predispose a result. Both are blinded by their own bias.
True scientists follow the evidence wherever it leads them. True scientists accept experimental results if those experiments can be shown to be solid and reproducible. True scientists maintain open minds. “Prove it to me” is the mantra of a true scientist.
It seems to me that no matter what the issue, the louder one shouts is inversely proportional to the truth of one’s statements. If you maintain that you know all the answers, you don’t. That’s not called science, that’s called zealotry.