Over at Cocktail Party Physics, there is an interesting post about ‘skeptic etiquette.’ Specifically, this concerns the question of how aggressive one should be about debunking dubious claims made in social situations, whether those claims are about homeopathy, astrology, conspiracy theories, or what-have-you.
Personally, I tend to take a pretty aggressive approach, especially when the issue is one that has a major direct effect on people’s lives and future prospects. Beliefs like vaccines causing autism cause real damage, as do those about the non-existence of anthropogenic climate change. It may not always make you socially popular to call people on these things, but I think it is important to challenge deeply flawed ideas and modes of thinking, even when doing so produces awkwardness.
Admittedly, this approach has made me unpopular at a few dinner parties. The high point may have been when I conducted a limited double-blind clinical trial to disprove the idea that magnets ordered from infomercials improve the taste of wine.