The main skeptic of the Earth explained why the stories about the Yeti will never disappear

© RIA Novosti / Maxim to Bogodeeva in fotobanka carnival in KazanThe main skeptic of the Earth explained why the stories about the Yeti will never disappear© RIA Novosti / Maxim to Bogodeeva in Photobacterium to daily updates RIA Science

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Michael Shermer, the famous science popularizer and historian, told RIA Novosti on why ufologists, cryptozoologists and other supporters of pseudoscientific theories will never disappear from our lives, and explained how scientists can find a common language with them.

Last week Shermer delivered a lecture at the Geek Picnic festival in Moscow, where he told his visitors about how people are close to becoming immortal, is it worth to aspire to, and how humanity can become invulnerable to all types of disasters and threats.

— In fact, nothing unusual in this – this is just an example of normal human behavior. The human brain is so constituted that we always believe everything that we hear in the news, from friends or relatives. We just think that everything that goes through a «social filter», cannot be true.

The denial of it requires a Herculean effort from the potential of a skeptic. The fact that you need to understand what and why you believe your sides. This usually implies that you yourself believe it!

To force myself to doubt very hard, because such thoughts usually cause discomfort. We are programmed by nature so that faith in the supernatural makes us a surge of dopamine, the pleasure hormone. A lack of faith or skepticism do not bring such pleasant emotions.

In addition, Bigfoot hunters and supporters of the «homicidal» just don’t have enough knowledge to understand that they are wrong. Such people sincerely believe that they are, for example, holding the real footprints of bipedal Primate running around in the mountains or forests, or evidence that the «world government» is spraying dangerous substances in the air.

The attempt to learn something about these theories will require great emotional, psychological and sometimes financial efforts. Much easier to agree with the «opinion of the crowd» and to show that you’re a part than to try as it is to resist it. In other words, in the direction of such theories pushes us not only nature but also society.

— The resurgence of discussions around the «fake news» makes us think about how the media is involved in spreading pseudoscience. Whether they do it out of greed or because some journalists sincerely believe in the existence of Bigfoot or aliens?

— This question is difficult to give a definite answer. Some people, for example, the most well-known online conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and his associates, most likely, do believe in some things they are talking about. On the other hand, dozens and hundreds of other supporters of the anti-scientific views promoted them solely for profit and intimidation of the population from which they then begin to «suck» money.

In order to survive in the social networks and just in a global network, need to attract readers. The easiest way to publish unscientific climatie article. Their authors rarely interested in what is contained in these materials, and how you feel about it.

The only solution to this issue is to always test what they say. In recent years, websites such as Snopes, who are engaged in this business. Other options we have — any attempt to silence conspiracy theorists mouth only confirm their theories and make their ideas more popular.

— There is a flip side to this issue, many scientific concepts lately turn into something like dogma, for example, global warming or gender identity. Any attempt to explore or clarify their causes a sharp rejection in many people. How could this happen?

The issue here is more complicated than it seems at first glance. The idea that not everything in science «cut down with an ax,» applies not only to such sensitive issues, but absolutely all the theories, facts and concepts.

On the other hand, people pay attention and think only about the ideas and scientific facts that call into question their deepest beliefs or moral principles. For example, imagine that you are a conservative. The idea that the Earth’s climate can change, and associate it with al Gore, liberals and other «socialists».

Therefore, a sharp increase in the number of believers and the rapid spread of anti-scientific views in a democratic Russia in the early 1990s was, in fact, a statistical anomaly, had little to do with reality. People just become more honest.

On the other hand, the General level of enlightenment in the world gradually increases — fewer people believe in various «paranormal», and even the most religious States are more secular. In other words, I don’t think that Russia in this respect is in some unique or dangerous situation.

— Is it possible to convince these people to listen to scientists and popularisers of science and not ignore what they are trying to convey to them?

It is quite possible. First, you need to respect people and to listen to what they say and actively interested in why they believe in what you are trying to refute. It is essential that they clearly explained their position and the details you spoke them with them.

In this case, educators will be able to operate on those terms and concepts with which agree the supporters of the various conspiracy theories, not substitute for them simpler and more caricature-like ideas, as often happens in such disputes. Such rhetorical devices always cause rejection of any reasonable person. It is not necessary to transform the position and values of the conspiracy in «Scarecrow», only preventing civilized discussion.

Finally, it is important to understand that you can’t force someone to abandon the principles, beliefs and ideas that he considers the basis of his life. It is impossible to tell a Christian that he should renounce their faith in order that he could be the supporter of the theory of evolution. They will never do – in a dispute between Darwin and Jesus will always win the last. The main skeptic of the Earth explained why the stories about the Yeti will never disappear© Photo : NASAУченые figured out why some people do not believe in scientific discoveries

On the other hand, if we just talk about the evolution and will not affect the values of our interlocutors, then they will initially be positive to treat it. For example, many Catholics today believe that evolution was created by God.

— Conspiracy theories, as you already noted, more attractive and understandable for ordinary people, it is complicated and boring science. Whether it is possible to make scientific knowledge more interesting to the public?

— Actually, this stereotype is only true for a very small part of the science – everything else is quite accessible to ordinary people. For examples one need not look far – as I said, just open YouTube and start watching any one of countless scientific and popular channels.

In addition, over the last two decades many leading researchers, including Stephen Hawking, Steven Pinker, Carl Sagan or Richard Dawkins, wrote hundreds of books in which science describes is very simple and accessible language. They are not formulas or some other difficulties. They are simple to understand, but there’s no distortion or any undue simplifications. I don’t think we need anything else.

— Will the situation change in the near future?

— I think all the major «horror stories» of today will not disappear in the next few decades.

Such unscientific views are typical not only for conservatives, as it may seem, but for the liberals. Many American «leftists», for example, do not believe in vaccinations, I believe nuclear power plants are more harmful for the environment than coal plants, and are afraid of GMOs.

On the other hand, nearly all conservatives will continue to doubt the theory of evolution, the existence of global warming and sincere will to believe that both these theories were «invented» by the world government to fight against America. The main skeptic of the Earth explained why the stories about the Yeti will never disappear© Photo : Chris HadfieldУченые joke: the Universe gave rise to a conspiracy, and aliens have visited the ISS

If we talk about science, now one of the main threats for her is political correctness, which is especially true for social Sciences. Many things, not only can not learn, but also to talk about them if you don’t want to get into the insulation. This is very dangerous, because we will never be able to find a solution, not discussing the problems and uncritically.

It is much easier to believe in something than to be a skeptic, and this is something that scientists and journalists, and educators should pay attention in the first place.

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