Episode Eighteen – On The Placebo Protest (Skepticism And Communication Part Three)
Welcome to Episode Eighteen! This particular episode is another conversation with Michael McRae, about the #boobquake day, held on the 26th April, earlier this week.
I also, thanks to the Virtual Drinking Skeptically chat which inspired me, have Desiree Schell of Skeptically Speaking included! As a community outreach worker, she brings her own experiences in terms of rallies and protests – what did she think and what did fellow feminists and skeptics say to her?
After he published an essay on the SheThought site, I decided to clear up a few things in regards to what really was happening, was it about communicating science, as some claimed – or was it something that really showed how not many of us are reflecting on the impact of actions skeptics take?
From Michael McRae’s ‘The Rise of the Placebo Protest‘:
“However, for skeptics who actually desire a public change in attitude and have hope that the next generation will have a better grasp of critical thinking, protests and stunts shouldn’t be considered as part of the solution. What’s more, they should be considered as potentially counterproductive, sacrificing the very things that make science so useful for a grab for headlines and nodding heads. In the very least, they should be treated as if they will actually produce some form of results.
Dismissing criticism of such events is no different than those who defend religion, alternative medicine or a belief in fairies as in the least harmless and at the most productive thanks to the mere possibility of their illusionary benefits. Placebo protests are fundamentally little different to placebo medicines, and demand the very same critical evaluation for evidence.
There will be more Boobquakes, homeopathic suicides and similar skeptic protests in the future. They’re simple and get a response that satisfies our confirmation-biased brains. Such events aren’t intrinsically good or bad. But to claim they’re useful for engaging the public in science, promoting skepticism or encouraging more people to think critically simply isn’t supported by the evidence.”