Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

My Patience Is Tried

By Peter Bowditch

Scientists and skeptics look for evidence and change their minds when evidence requires it. For some people, however, no evidence is enough, no matter how clear.

Peter Bowditch is a former President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (www.skeptics.com.au).

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Sometimes I am surprised at how patient I can be when dealing with people whose grasp of reality is tenuous and who make absurd claims and then refuse to recognise anything that shows those claims to be wrong. Here are three recent examples.

I saw in a television news program that the incidence of a certain class of crime had dropped by 114% over 10 years. I commented that it is not possible for this to have happened unless criminals are now assisting people and giving them money instead of mugging them and stealing, but I was told that I didn’t understand arithmetic.

Apparently it is perfectly understandable that something can reduce by more than its value. All you have to do is start with the end figure and work backwards, an example being that a drop from 214 to 100 incidents would be a reduction of 114% because everyone knows what the person making the statement meant. When I pointed out that you have to apply the percentage to the original number, so a drop from 214 to 100 is a 53.3% reduction, I was told that I obviously could not understand that it was possible in mathematics to work with the square root of minus one.

A 9/11 Truther challenged me to prove scientifically that Building 7 at the World Trade Center could fall down if it had not been demolished by deliberately placed explosive charges. My reply was that the extensive damage to one...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.