Should blogging scientists engage pseudo-/anti-science cranks?
I’ve been having an internal argument inside my head regarding whether or not practicing scientists should directly engage with psuedo- and/or anti-science cranks and zealots.
I waffle on this because attempting to have a real (and ultimately constructive) discussion with these people typically ends in frustration. I forgot where I read it … on some other blog somewhere … but the attribute that best describes these people is arrogant ignorance. The important part is the adjective … obviously there is nothing wrong with being ignorant (i.e., a lack of knowledge/awareness about a subject).
It seems to me that this condition inevitably leads to a discussion/debate that solves little to nothing thus rendering the entire exercise futile. On the other hand … if we, science bloggers and blogging scientists, don’t call the cranks out on their nonsense, who will?
The rise of the internet and ability to self-publish widely has certainly led to an increased number of shouting cranks. That’s fine … the advantages of a networked global population still vastly outweigh the negatives.
Which brings me to my question. Since blogs have provided pseudo-/anti-science cranks a “platform” should we also use blogs to battle them? Real science is conducted within the realm of peer-reviewed journals and scientific conferences — thankfully the cranks have little opportunity to spout their malarkey in that venue (unless they create their own “journal”). Since we (scientists) can publish and participate in science elsewhere, does a blog become an appropriate medium to battle cranks?
I still struggle with this issue … I’d be interested to hear thoughts from you.
Finally – and what prompted me to write this post – a superb example of effective crank-battling is this post by Suvrat on the geoscience blog Reporting on a Revolution. He very nicely chronicles his ongoing interaction with someone claiming they can predict earthquakes with astrology. Good stuff.