An article in the latest edition of that very non-treehugging journal Scientfic American by a self-confessed skeptic (spelled with a ‘k’ because he’s American and with an ‘s’ very deliberately in lower case for reasons he makes clear), John Horgan, shows how self-styled ‘sceptics’ specifically attack ‘soft targets’ such as homeopathy (which he mentions specifically) while seeing fit to ignore much more pressing ‘hard targets’ such as:

PHYSICS: String theory and multiverses cannot be experimentally detected and therefore lack Popper’s sine qua non of a scientific theory: falsifiability. Nevertheless proponents of these hypotheses gain Nobel prizes etc. What say you astrophysicist and specialist attacker of the soft target of homeopathy, Simon Singh of the Good Thinking Society?  What would the Ministry of Truth say to this?

MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS: Overdiagnosed “Making People Sick in Pursuit of Gilbert Welch”, ‘a courageous health-care analyst at Dartmouth’ who makes the case that in the USA at least, many patients are actually harmed by being over-investigated. Another hard target conveniently ignored by the ‘good thinkers’.

MENTAL HEALTH and MEDICATION: Readers of this blog know that I’ve been talking about this for some time and asking how attackers of the soft targets homeopathy and CAM do not have the time to deal sufficiently with this outrageous issue. Just for starters here is the meta-analysis that really embarrasses prescribers of SSRI antidepressants – Kirsch et al. As I’ve pointed out this pretty much ignored hard target (the amount spent on these largely unproven meds for depression) costs the NHS 20x the amount of money that all homeopathic prescriptions for all conditions combined.

SPURIOUS ‘GENETIC’ REASONS FOR HUMAN BEHAVIOUR: Horgan is horrified by the public being misled into believing that there is any evidence to suggest single genes can explain particular types of behaviour in people eg ‘the infidelity gene’ Where are the sceptics and ‘good thinkers’ on this nonsense misinformation given to the public – something they constantly accuse the soft targets of homeopaths and CAM practitioners with?

BIOLOGICAL ‘REASONS’ FOR WAR: Horgan detests the idea that war is inbuilt to humans – even genetically so. In my opinion, while being unnecessarily and unfairly harsh on the USA in this regard (I guess he is American and thus has the right to do so), he is correct to assert that it is unscientific to claim that we are genetically programmed to fight wars. He claims it has been proven that war is a cultural innovation in the same way that religion and agriculture are.

Horgan ends strongly: ‘I’m asking you skeptics to spend less time bashing soft targets like homeopathy and Bigfoot and more time bashing hard targets like multiverses, cancer tests, psychiatric drugs and war, the hardest target of all.’ Somehow I doubt that sceptics/skeptics on either side of the Atlantic will take the slightest notice. After all it’s much easier and much more fun to attack soft targets than hard ones.