Sunday, April 6, 2008

Serious thoughts on April Fools

Do you recall when I linked New Scientist's April Fools article on poltergeist phenomena?

When I first saw that, I was angry, because I had heard of the decline in New Scientist's quality, but I didn't know it had gone so far. Then I realized when the article was dated.

But then, the poltergeist study is a real study, published in the real pseudoscience journal called Neuroquantology! Perhaps New Scientist really has declined in standards?

It turns out that it was all a double April Fools joke. They fooled us into thinking it was made up, while simultaneously mocking pseudoscience.

I read some of the comments on the New Scientist article, and it seems a lot of people were fooled in different ways. A lot of people think that because the poltergeist study was real, that New Scientist was seriously condoning it. Others are fooled into thinking that the "poltergeist phenomena" is in some way legitimate!

So if I'm an advocate for truth, why aren't I trying to stop this evil holiday? People are celebrating misinformation! Surely, whatever fun we might derive from April Fools is outweighed by the small group of people who go on to be misinformed year-round.

But that's completely the wrong way to go about it. There will always be misinformation. Someone is always wrong on the internet. To combat it, we shouldn't just ignore misinformation in hopes that it will stop forming. We should learn how to recognize it. April Fools day teaches a valuable lesson in critical thinking: don't trust everything you read!

Oh, and I'm not just saying this because I like April Fools. I would totally be the grinch who stole April Fools if I weren't convinced that it promoted critical thinking. I'm actually a relatively serious guy (case in point: see title) who has to mooch off of New Scientist for a April Fools joke. Look at me: I am serious :-[


Ok, I'm not really serious :-)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It's true though. Somebody is always wrong on the internet.