More on taking ideas seriously

After publishing my prior post, a friend sent me a great long video of a discussion between astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and an out-of-character Stephen Colbert. One exchange in particular resonated in light of what I had just written. That’s embedded below, set to start at this exchange (rewind to 6:15 for the start of the interview). The part I bolded below gets at the core of what I posted earlier today:

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Your toolkit has to be able to morph into what is necessary for what it is that you confront at that moment. So you’re equipped with methods of mathematic analysis, methods of interpretation. You know some basic laws of physics. So when someone says, ‘I have these two crystals, if you rub them together, you’ll get healthy,’ rather than just discount it — because that’s as lazy as accepting it, both of those are just lazy-brained — what you should do is inquire. Do you know how to inquire? And every scientist would know how to start that conversation. They would say, ‘Where’d you get these? What kinds of ailments does it cure? How does it work? What does it cost? Can you demonstrate that it works?’ And you go through this whole thing, and at the end the person’s in tears, because they weren’t prepared for that level of questioning. So science literacy is vaccine against charlatans of the world that would exploit your ignorance of the forces of nature.

Stephen Colbert: Neil, if you don’t like the crystals I gave you, you can just say it.