The longer I live, the further my understanding of the universe diverges from that of my parents. That's a polite way of saying that they believe some really weird rubbish.

I used to contemplate a question: "If they're happy with what they believe, should I try to convince them it's false?" I'd usually decide it was better to remain quiet unless one of them raised a controversial subject and pushed it at me. Even then I'd sometimes decide it wasn't worth the effort. I reason from a naturalistic mindset, while said relatives rely on religious conviction and anecdotes from sources of perceived authority.

The gulf is getting wider. It's resulting in actions that make me reconsider my libertarianism (or is that apathy?). Just last week, DaughterOfVirge & SonOfVirge decided that they no longer wished to spend time with ParentsOfVirge because of the continual quackery that was leveled at them. They're normal and healthy, so it's understandable that being continually told of the things that they "must" be allergic to becomes an irritation. Now we're at the point where MotherOfVirge has had ChildrenOfVirge performing ideomotor action experiments to test for assumed allergy-related problems. When I heard about it, I asked SonOfVirge, "Did you manage to remain polite?" Unfortunately, as a teenager, he hasn't yet mastered diplomacy, patience and firm reasoned resistance. He admitted that he resorted to mockery and sarcasm.

You can see where this situation is headed--a generation gap fueled on one side by a complete lack of respect for the intelligence of the grandparents, and on the other side by growing isolation and alienation.

It's not a lack of intelligence. Pseudo-science quackery is very convincing for people who, through life's journey, haven't developed the critical thinking skills needed to combat it. Current affairs programs are only too happy to promote the "cures that our staid medical establishment refuse to acknowledge". Churches, even ones that don't actively encourage faith-healing practices, soften people's minds with biblical stories of miraculous healing, and pulpit-delivered anecdotes of the power of prayer in contemporary lives. Even respected scientists like Alfred Russel Wallace were fooled by the ideomotor phenomenon of table turning, despite Michael Faraday's experimental findings. It's not a matter of intelligence; it's a matter of conditioning, of reinforcement of ideas over a long period of time.

I think the time has come for me to start proselytizing scientific naturalism. Either that or watch the family fragment.


Maybe you should point ParentsOfVirge to Pharyngula?

I wish I could. You can lead a horse to water but sometimes you need to provide a very long drinking straw as well.

I've printed out some good reading material (a paper straw) to take to them tomorrow.