Tuesday, April 13, 2010

TED Talk Tuesday: Michael Specter on the danger of science denial

Michael Specter says to rethink phobias of vaccines and genetically modified foods and the efficacy of herbal remedies in this bold talk. He says, "I think we'd have to go back...before the Enlightenment to find a time when we fight about these things more vigorously and on more fronts than we do today. People wrap themselves in their beliefs and they do it so tightly that you can't set them free." Another great quote: "Be skeptical. Ask questions. Demand proof. Demand evidence. Don't take anything for granted. But here's the thing: When you get that proof, you need to accept the proof, and we're not that good at doing that." I wonder what "snake oil science" Sarah Palin would say to that.

Also notable is Specter's acknowledgment of how we have misused science to destroy our planet and many species. He says, "Unless we innovate ourselves out of this mess, we're going away too." Jane Goodall said something along those same lines in her enlightening and uplifting memoir Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey,one of my very favorite books: "You may not believe in evolution, and that is alright. How we humans came to be the way we are is far less important than how we should act now to get out of the mess we have made for ourselves."

Enjoy the talk, and Happy Tuesday!


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  1. Specter on finding evidence that there is no link between vaccinations and autism (6:40sih):

    "There was no correlation. No connection. But it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter. Because we believe anecdotes.We believe what we see, what we think we see, what makes us feel real."

    Wow. We have a lot of growing up to do. How do we educate people then to 'feel real' through science when everything is given in neat tidy packages through anecdotes and stories and authorities?

  2. Leah, you're pretty good at finding interesting TED talks. I always find myself captivated by what your picks have to say. This one especially so; there's a homeopathy section in my local Whole Foods store and it's just so frustrating that people don't understand it for the quackery it is.

  3. Oh, and also, on a related note:



Religion, skepticism, and carving out a spiritual life post-Mormonism