Why do so many people believe in conspiracy theories? Do we need to evaluate the evidence for ourselves, or should we just trust the experts? This week on Philosophy Talk, we’re discussing science and skepticism, and the role that trust plays in deciding what's true.
What Is It
In recent decades, we’ve witnessed intense cultural wars waged on scientifically established phenomena, such as climate change and the benefit of vaccines. Of course, we might agree that some degree of skepticism about the world around us is good—it would be impractical and even dangerous for us to blindly accept everything we are told as fact. But is skepticism always healthy? Or is there a point at which one’s skepticism regarding a given phenomenon becomes unwarranted or even detrimental form of denialism? And if there does exist such a point, how do we know when we’ve crossed it? Josh and Ray won't deny their discussion with Michael Shermer, author of Giving the Devil his Due: Reflections of a Scientific Humanist.
- Roving Philosophical Report: A discussion of faith as a source of skepticism of science.
Ray and Josh welcome Michael Schemer, founding publisher of Skeptic magazine,, Josh and Michael discuss what motivates people to deny climate change and social distancing. Michael thinks it is politics. Conservatives believe in some science--they fly in planes, for example--but when science is affiliated with another political party it becomes suspect, which is what happened with climate change. Asked how we might decide who to trust, Michael claims trust should be placed in the scientific method and not in the authority of any individual, since this method is self-regulating. Josh agrees but wonders how we can convince people the scientific method is trustworthy in the first-place. Michael suggests giving visual evidence and removing the political and religious element of a belief when discussing science with someone.
- Sixty-Second Philosopher: Ian Shoales theorizes about skepticism and prominent conspiracy theories in the US.
Why does so many people believe in conspiracy theories?
Do we need to evaluate the evidence for ourselves?
Or should we just trust the experts?