The host of next week’s Skeptics’ Circle asks: What’s the worst argument you can think of?
I think it’s as good a question to close 2006 up with as any, and certainly there have been a lot of really bad arguments used during the last year. Perhaps if we air some of them, we can be inoculated against their return in 2007. Certainly near the top of the list has to be the argument by many pseudoscientists that “all sides deserve to be heard” about issues like evolution/creationism or certain forms of alternative medicine, like the exceedingly ridiculous pseudoscientific treatment known as homeopathy. Science is not a democracy; it is based on observation, experimentation, and reproducibility. In a strictly literal sense, it is true that “all viewpoints should be heard,” but the way this canard is used by cranks is to imply a false equivalence between their pseudoscience and real science, as if creationism is a scientific viewpoint on par with evolution or homeopathy is a treatment on par with evidence-based medicine when such is not the case. In reality, such pseudoscience should only be considered long enough to determine whether it is the least bit scientifically plausible or not. If, as in the case of, for example, creationism or homeopathy, it fails even the most minimal standards of science, then no further consideration of it need be given until advocates can produce evidence of its validity.