From what I know of many of the posters on this thread, most participants either have advanced degrees (beyond the Bachelor degree level) in science courses such as chemistry, IT, biology or physics, or medical/dental (like you).
I admit to having a little 'smart ass' streak sometimes. But having been burned (or, at least. singed) a couple of times here on A|N for not having the 'right' credentials or discussing things in the 'wrong' way, I'm a little bit sensitive. I enjoy what you write, Jacqueline, and appreciate the effort you put into your work and resulting words. Keep up the good fight!
I don't see education, or lack of, as a reason or excuse for anything at all. You cannot teach bullshit detection, you can only learn it. It means having a natural curiosity and wanting to connect the dots. It means being able to assign value to information. This is what this thread is about - the ability to discriminate between good and bad information.
As an example - you receive a piece of information from a source. You google the source and you find that the source has also been caught selling "anti-polio diets" to people. You do some basic value analysis and conclude that the information you received isn't exactly the sort of thing you would stake your life on.
Here's where the education comes in - a person that has recieved a master's degree in inorganic chemistry and a pHD in analytical chemistry freely volunteers to publish his material on the site (in this case because no legitimate science journal would have him).
Education only shifts the % a little bit for the ability to perceive reality in a non-delusional way. It guarantees nothing.
I dunno, Felch. I think baloney detection can be taught. The tools, after all, are susceptible to algorithmic application. And even if education only moves people a few percentage points on the spectrum toward less credulosity, that's a win.
I think it starts with learning statistics, and particularly the various techniques for misleading with statistics. Stats is not a particularly difficult branch of math, and you don't even need advanced stats to be able to better defend against BS.
Of course, it certainly helps if you have the sort of character that doesn't take things at face value. Then again, lots of creduloids think they are skeptics. They just don't seem to recognize that they are only skeptics when it comes to statements from authority figures. They'll pretty much swallow anything a shadowy underdog has to say, though.
Jason:I dunno, Felch. I think baloney detection can be taught. The tools, after all, are susceptible to algorithmic application. And even if education only moves people a few percentage points on the spectrum toward less credulosity, that's a win.
I worded it poorly. What I meant is one must have the intent to apply one's critical faculties. You can arm people to the teeth with analytical tools, but without the intent to use them, you have nothing. That is the bit that can't be taught.
An excellent case is Architects for 911 Truth. Yes, they are all technically architects on paper. But between them they have built a handful of shopping mall car parks and that's it. Life has not dealt them the adulation they feel they deserve for their genius, so they misuse their formal training concocting inside job fantasy tales.
The same goes for the handful of actual scientists on the antivax bandwagon - though it should be noted not one is an immunologist, or even anything closely related to one beyond a couple of disgruntled general practitioners.
The "Sarah Palin" effect - The "folksiness" and "I'm just an ordinary person [usually a mom] that needs to know what's safe for my family" routine. The Barbara Loe Fisher's and Jenny McCarthy's. People that don't even have the most basic of science education, have no concept of logic and even less on how to go about researching a subject let alone critically compring data sources. Consider -
Humanist Mark: Oh yes, these vaccines are soo safe. Yah right. If they are so safe why is there so much controversy surrounding them?
(Doesn't it sound just like Ray Comfort?: Oh yes, these evolutionists are soo right. Yah right. If they are so right why is there so much controversy surrounding them?)
There is no controversy. The concerned nobodies can't deal with that reality, so they keep trying to resurrect some.
Humanist Mark: Take a minute to humble yourself and recognize that you do not have all the answers.
No one from the rational side of the fence has ever claimed "to have all the answers". This is what differentiates them from loons. Crap, crap and more crap, tactics straight out of Schopenhauer's dirty tricks manual. Though I doubt even one antivaxxer would know who he was.