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I was catching up on Skeptoid episodes this weekend. The episode on The Black Knight Satellite started out with some really convincing stories about a mysterious object orbiting the earth (you’ll have to listen to the podcast for details!). I absolutely loved how Brian Dunning, author of Skeptoid, made the transition to the next part of the episode… spoilers!
What a great story. The idea of a 13,000-year-old alien satellite orbiting the Earth is about as exciting as it can get. People often accuse me of debunking stories like this, but I don’t see it that way at all. I simply want to know more. I want to open the box wider and learn what’s really going on. I don’t want to stop here and say “That sounds weird”; I want to learn the solution to the mystery. To those of you who dismiss this as debunking, I really have to say I don’t understand why learning the whole story is seen as a negative process. I’m excited by it, and I was excited to learn what’s behind the Black Knight satellite.
This is exactly why I blog. I see a story floating around that looks interesting, and I can’t just say “that’s weird” and move on. I have to investigate! This is an essential part of science!
Brian’s right, debunking isn’t the right word. To debunk means “to expose or ridicule the falseness, sham, or exaggerated claims of” and that’s not the goal at all. Ok, sometimes there are stories that are just so absurd that they really do need a debunking! (fungus smaller than a virus, anyone?) Similarly, the goal isn’t to discredit, although sometimes that is needed too. (such as when someone claims to be an expert when they are not)
Most of the time, I just want to gain better understanding. I want to find the most reliable information possible, and share that with others. I really don’t like it when I believe something that sounds right but turns out to be wrong. That’s embarrassing! I blog so others can hopefully avoid that embarrassed feeling, and walk away feeling empowered with more information, as well as the ability to follow links to primary sources if they want more.
I think the best word for what we do here at the Biofortified Blog is skepticism: a doubting or questioning state of mind. Stick around here for a while and you’ll see that we doubt everything, and this makes us better scientists and science enthusiasts.
In the end, staying skeptical reaps more rewards than just accepting a weird story. As Brian concludes this episode of Skeptoid (emphasis added):
I had a lot of fun learning more about this story. I learned a lot of history and some astronomical facts I didn’t know. I’m glad I took the trouble, because if I had simply accepted the story that there’s an alien satellite orbiting the Earth, I’d be wrong and I wouldn’t have learned anything new. Worse, I’d have made a logical error, in being forced to accept a whole galaxy of wrong assumptions in order to shoehorn an improbable alien satellite into my reality. Neither legend nor mere debunking lead anywhere useful; it’s only by tracking down the true facts that we earn the real rewards.
These two paragraphs of The Black Knight Satellite reproduced with permission from the author. Thanks to Brian Dunning!
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