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On debating science

Lawrence Krauss' essay (in the New York Times) on the rhetorical disadvantages of debating against pseudoscience includes this little observation:

We do know, absolutely, how much on-board fuel will be needed to speed up a substantial spacecraft to near the speed of light — an enormous amount, probably enough to power all of human civilization at the present time for perhaps a decade.

That means that aliens who want to come here from a distant star will probably have to have some better reason than merely performing secret kinky experiments on the patients of a Harvard psychiatrist.

The rest of the essay is worth reading, too. It's worth noting, though, that those who argue for pseudo-scientific beliefs, and against theories for which we actually have scientific evidence, aren't actually interested in arriving at any greater understanding, but, rather, in scoring rhetorical points for something they've already bought into. In such a debate, what's right matters less than what sounds good — as Krauss himself realizes, judging from the essay's conclusion.

April 30, 2002 3:14 PM

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