Valid viewpoint??

Karen Allendoerfer ravena at cco.caltech.edu
Wed Feb 14 12:19:20 EST 1996


I agree with Bart that viewpoints should be considered valid regardless of
the source, up to a point.  But does this mean that astronomers have to
consider the viewpoints of astrologers valid, and evolutionists have to
consider all the arguments of creationists valid, etc. etc?  It seems to
me that there is a fine line between "considering all viewpoints" and
having to spend all one's time considering and refuting crackpot ideas.

For example, I have an astronomer friend who has to, repeatedly, at parties
and in his position as professor, discuss the "alien autopsy" film as if
it were "real."  People ask him questions about it, they also put forth
ideas that are basically "but it COULD represent a covert autopsy of a
real alien that the government is hiding from us."  He patiently explains
the reasons why he doesn't think this is so, but he sure gets tired of
doing it.  From the outside, I sympathize.  I'm sure he has better things
to do with his time.  

The same sort of thing seems to happen in biology, too, with minority
viewpoints like Duesberg's view that HIV is not the cause of AIDS, or that
the AIDS virus was introduced into the population via the polio vaccine,
a theory that was given a lot of press in "Rolling Stone" magazine a few
years ago.

I am not saying that we should dismiss these ideas out of hand; I agree
that we should address them.  But I still think that considering the
source has some role, too.  There ought to be some difference between
the validity of the New England Journal of Medicine vs. Rolling Stone 
magazine as a source of news about medicine.

Just my $0.02,

Karen




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