Saturday 25 July 2020

Why Dumbdown and Pseudoarchaeology Matter

Nearly half of all Americans believe alien astronauts visited Earth long ago (Guy P. Harrison. 'Why Do People Keep Boarding the Chariots of the Gods?' Psychology today Jul 24, 2020). Good article. The end is important:
Whenever the ancient-astronauts claim comes up in interviews and lectures about critical thinking, a fair question I’m often asked is, “Who cares?” What is the harm if some people get excited by a story of alien visitors long ago and choose to believe it? There are two primary reasons it matters. First, falling for this is a symptom of poor critical thinking skills which is a threat to anyone’s health and safety. If von Däniken or Tsoukalos can convince you that extraterrestrials inspired Plato’s Atlantis and your genome has ancient alien fingerprints on it—without evidence—then you are also highly vulnerable to being hoodwinked by crooked politicians and swindled by snake-oil salesmen, with real-world consequences. The second big problem is that this belief distorts and detracts from the real human story, the one told by credible evidence. This is not trivial at a time when our species is growing rapidly and becoming more technologically powerful while also continuing to struggle with violence, ethnocentrism, racism, and scientific illiteracy.

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