A journalist friend once remarked to me that “fair and balanced” reportage is an impossible ideal because the two terms are at war. To be fair is to tell the truth as best you can. To be balanced is to consult a flat-Earther for a counterpoint every time you write a story about a shuttle launch. This is a fine distinction, and one that I'm guessing the good folks at Atlanta Progressive News failed to grok while attempting to justify the firing of senior staff writer Jonathan Springston because of his unseemly attachment to... objectivity.
I had intended my recent Swift article to be an empowering piece on personal responsibility. I also wanted to bust a few myths about advertising’s alleged powers of control. Judging from many of the comments, it seems that some readers took the piece for a unilateral defense of marketing, abuses included, and a disavowal of marketers’ responsibilities for what and how they sell.
During a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show, Oz discussed Reiki — an alternative medicine that Oz says might be the “most important alternative medicine treatment of all.” Oz explained to the audience that his wife was a Reiki master, and from time to time she uses the treatment on him. “I can’t even tell when she’s treating me. Sometimes she secretly treats me,” says Oz. After a brief introduction to this alternative “energy medicine,” Oz introduces Reiki master Pamela Miles. At this point, there is a lady from the audience — with a headache — sitting in a chair in front of Miles. Before Miles treats the headache she explains, “Reiki is a balancing practice, and so rather than addressing the headache or whatever else is the problem, what it does is influences the person’s overall system towards balance.” After a brief intro on basic Reiki, Miles performs her magic, and presto: The lady’s headache is gone.
One of the perks of basing conclusions on evidence rather than whims or emotions is that you tend be right more often. Yes, that sounds like an arrogant thing to say, but face it... the reason we're skeptics is because we love the truth and we're constantly searching to refine it. That tends to make us more informed on any topic than the general public who often seem to go with the flow and not question what they're told. I'm generalizing, but you get the point.
Be that as it may, it's easy to take pride in this fact. "Hey, I've done the research, and I'm right a lot of the time! Look at me!!!" Saying it like that may seem ridiculous, but it's not far from what I've been observing lately. I believe that such an attitude is not only counterproductive, it also ignores the best thing about being a skeptic, and that is... being able to freely say "Oops, I was wrong about that."
Richard Dawkins talks about Darwin Day and communicating with the public about Darwinism, and which should be the highest priority: evolution education or widespread skepticism about the supernatural, including theism. He denies that he is strident. He explores concerns over immorality that may fuel opposition to Darwinsim. He explains how creationists are like Holocaust deniers. He describes the benefits of accepting the theory of evolution. And he details lines of evidence for evolution, such as those coming from molecular biology.
For more information and to listen online or subscribe via iTunes, visit forgoodreason.org.