Monday, March 13, 2006

Junk Skepticism

In a March 14, 2006 essay in the New York Times science section, Dennis Overbye, the Deputy Science Editor at the Times, explains why he thinks the message about quantum observation effects, as portrayed in the movie, What the Bleep do we Know, is wrong. At one point in the essay he bolsters his point with the off-hand statement, "The parapsychologists were booted from the American Association for the Advancement of Science 30 years ago."


In 20 seconds of web searching Overbye could have discovered that the Parapsychological Association (PA) has been an affiliate of the American Association for the Advancement of Science since 1969, and it remains to this day a member society in good standing. I know because I've served as President of the PA for four terms, including this year, and I've been a member of the AAAS for over 20 years. You can verify the PA's status at the AAAS affiliates webpage.

This is an example of what happens when something that "everyone knows to be true" turns out to be false. I call this junk skepticism because it's the worst sort of pseudoskepticism -- mistaken ideas that are easily disproven, but no one bothers to check.