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18 November 2009

With Utmost Love

I love my parents. I know that I'm hard on them sometimes, and I can tend to take a more combative approach when dealing with pseudoscience—especially with my family's sacred cow, alternative medicine. But I do not think that they're idiots—I truly don't—even though I can be prone to drama in this area. Dr. Steven Novella has recently summed things up quite nicely:

It is easy for anyone to be overwhelmed by an organized campaign of misinformation. I know very bright people who were blown away by Loose Change when they first saw it. I know otherwise intelligent people who just cannot handle the systematic lies and distortions of the creationists – they don’t have the background and the volumes of information it would take to tackle each false claim and logical fallacy.

The same is true of the alternative medicine and anti-vaccine movement – they have a highly developed package of propaganda, misinformation, and subtle distortions  – wrapped in a feel-good and empowering philosophy, that can easily overwhelm even an intelligent person.

I care deeply about my parents, about my soon-to-be-wife, about my friends, about Steven Novella (on whom I'll admit a I have an "intellectual crush" of sorts), and about everyone with curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, and an openness to inquiry. We all have our sacred cows, I'm sure, and we can do no more than examine our beliefs as reasonably as we can, and stand ready to abandon them when it is pointed out to us that our positions are untenable.

I don't remember if it was Bob or Jay Novella who said that he has no emotional attachment to his beliefs, but only to the process by which he arrives at them (I always had trouble getting their voices straight), but whomever it was, I think that this is a laudable goal. Although it is far from easy, it is something toward which we ought to strive.

My parents are both very intelligent, and they both have an abiding desire to learn and to know, for which I am grateful, as I share in it too, and they doubtless can take some credit for that. So let it be known that, although I will occasionally poke fun at them, and at anyone who attempts to blind me with pseudoscience (to paraphrase a song that is often stuck in my head, these days), I love them and wish them only happiness.

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