Why does science matter?

Or, more pointedly, does it matter that some of us out there believe in pseudoscience? Writers at The Stone make a strong case for why it matters quite a bit. Among the most compelling reasons is the negative externality one person’s belief in pseudoscience can impose on those around them:

[…] if we are positing Qi [the Chinese medicinal concept of the energy channeled through the body] and similar concepts, we are attempting to provide explanations for why some things work and others don’t. If these explanations are wrong, or unfounded as in the case of vacuous concepts like Qi, then we ought to correct or abandon them. Most importantly, pseudo-medical treatments often do not work, or are even positively harmful. If you take folk herbal “remedies,” for instance, while your body is fighting a serious infection, you may suffer severe, even fatal, consequences.

That is precisely what happens worldwide to people who deny the connection between H.I.V. and AIDS, as superbly documented by the journalist Michael Specter. Indulging in a bit of pseudoscience in some instances may be relatively innocuous, but the problem is that doing so lowers your defenses against more dangerous delusions that are based on similar confusions and fallacies. For instance, you may expose yourself and your loved ones to harm because your pseudoscientific proclivities lead you to accept notions that have been scientifically disproved, like the increasingly (and worryingly) popular idea that vaccines cause autism.

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