Critical thinking vs. emotional appeal, and Einstein.

The latest Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast is really fantastic.

♦ Skepticast #150: 6/4/2008

It starts with a wonderful criticism of the anti-vaccine/autism movement versus reasoned thinking. For example, one of the main tactics of the anti-vaccine movement is to claim vaccines contain known dangerous chemicals. But to do this, they scan ingredient lists and pick out “bad sounding” chemical partial names and hold those up as being a significant and viable ingredient.

It’s like saying: “Salt is dangerous because it contains chlorine!” because they found that salt is sodium chloride. These people paid no attention in high school chemistry when you learned that a chemical when bonded with another creates entirely new properties. And this is just a small sample of the lack of critical thinking among this group. And the media is just furthering this erroneous pseudo-science by giving them all the support they need without offering any kind of skeptical scientific counterpoint.

Also in the show is a great interview with Walter Isaacson, author of the biography, Einstein: His Life and Universe. The fact that he was a relatively uneducated patent clerk may have helped allow him to become the genius on the level of Issac Newton and Aristotle that he was.

And in their weekly game, (spoiler warning!) they discuss the counter-intuitive findings that talking about (read: reliving) a public trauma, like 9/11, is actually potentially more psychologically harmful than keeping it inside!

Good show, I highly recommend it!