When is it appropriate to call friends on questionable science?

I realize it has been a little while since I last posted, I guess I needed to be inspired.

My roomies and I had some friends visiting from out of town and last night we were talking about some of our favourite shows. I mentioned The Big Bang Theory and that led to a bit of a discussion in which it was clear that my science loving hackles were raised. Upon my mention of the show title one of our guests said that “evidence” shows that it didn’t happen. I being the good geek that I am tried to first understand where this information came from and hopefully try to correct what I suspected was a misrepresentation by a creationist tract.

My suspicions were confirmed by my friends claiming that the “evolutionist” explaination of the big bang couldn’t account for why one moon (they couldn’t say which one) rotates in the opposite direction from what “evolution” says it should. Instantly the flags were raised, since every time I’ve heard evolution being applied to cosmology there has been a creationist argument behind it, and invariably a flawed one at that. So being on the offensive I asked for the basis, and was not impressed apparently all bodies in the universe are supposed to rotate in the same direction and some moon in the outer solar system doesn’t so the big bang is wrong. I didn’t even get into observations from the WMAP of the CMB, we instead talked about their source.  No names could be given (though to be fair I did put them on the spot) just the assertion that this was a “scientist” who said this and not from one of their Christian sites (and no I didn’t bring up religion they did). The discussion then jumped to how the wife’s father in school 50 years ago learned about 3 mutually exclusive evolutionary theories, to show how wrong science can be.  She then rattled off 3 observations that can all be explained by currently accepted evolutionary models.

I was on edge but since they were our guests I quickly dropped the matter and went off to shake my head.  This leads me to the main question of this post, when we have friends that spout anti-scientific and pseudo-scientific talking points just how far in polite company should we go in calling it?  I’d be interested in your thoughts and opinions.

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4 Responses to “When is it appropriate to call friends on questionable science?”

  1. Good question. If you really value the friendship sometimes you have to walk away from the discussion as soon as you see it coming to avoid boiling blood.

  2. The Science Pundit Says:

    apparently all bodies in the universe are supposed to rotate in the same direction and some moon in the outer solar system doesn’t so the big bang is wrong.

    Perhaps that “moon in the outer solar system” your creationist guest was thinking of was the planet Venus which has a retrograde rotation. 😉 Of course, there are many bodies with retrograde rotations–usually evidence of an ancient cataclysmic collision.

    As for your question, I’m not sure. I pretty much have a reputation as a science geek, so people kind of expect me to jump all over pseudoscience nonsense.

  3. Taking the claims to task while not making the claimant feel personally attacked – that’s the trick, and not always an easy one to pull off. I think it often depends on how well YOU can keep your cool. I’ve been getting into quite a few of these conversations lately, and I find that as long as I can make my points calmly, don’t intterupt (sometimes challenging), and show some humility about how many things I don’t and can’t know definitively, then people will generally enjoy the discussion.

  4. Explaining science subjects fo the pseudo-scientist is like explaining palm trees to an exkimo, or speaking chinese to me.

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