Confronting Anti-Science Views

Carl Zimmer calls outs Blogging Heads and, to a lesser extent, The Huffington Post, for trafficking in anti-science “quackery.” Zimmer is arguably the best ambassador for science journalism, and I admire the stand he has taken (in ending his participation in Blogging Heads).

But the larger implications of his argument leaves me uneasy. He basically says that if a theory is willfully anti-science, then it shouldn’t be debated (or aired) in a serious forum. Here’s the problem with that: vaccine hysteria doesn’t go away if you ban Jim Carrey from The Huffington Post. (Just don’t give him a free pass; provide a counter.) Millions of people don’t stop believing in Adam & Eve if you ban creationists from Blogging Heads. (Just challenge them vigorously, especially about a 6,000 year old earth.)

I’m not suggesting there be equal opportunity for every fringe theory. Blogging Heads need not have a serious discussion on Bigfoot or UFO abductions. But if millions of god-fearing Americans take the bible literally and millions of MMR-fearing parents don’t innoculate their children, then I’m all for engaging their representatives in the media. How else are you going to reach some of these people?

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