Friday 15 July 2011

Science, Reason and Critical Thinking Time Lords

When I was a child, my favourite TV programme, at least until the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy came along, was Doctor Who.

Anyone of a similar vintage to me will, no doubt, have the same bias for the crazy-eyed, mad-haired, yo-yo-fiddling, jelly baby offering, elongated scarf-touting fourth doctor portrayed by Tom Baker.

I was reminded of this fact back in April this year when Marsh, Nicola and Mike Hall from the Merseyside Skeptics Society stayed at my house for a few days. I spent some enjoyable time reminiscing about past doctors with Mike, the skeptic communities’ resident expert on the itinerant Time Lord.

All this however seems fairly irrelevant to the remit of this blog. Which in case you’ve forgotten, is to promote the scientific method and critical thinking whilst tweaking the nose of irrational beliefs based on traditions grounded in supernatural, paranormal or pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo.

However, I suspect that the Venn diagram of Skeptics and Doctor Who Fans might look a little like this:

Following Mike’s visit back in April I have acquired myself a complete back catalogue of the Tom Baker Doctor Who years which I am currently using to revisit my childhood. As I’m working may through the episodes, I can’t help but notice numerous references and examples of the good doctor promoting the scientific method and critical thinking whilst tweaking the nose of irrational beliefs based on traditions grounded in supernatural, paranormal or pseudoscientific mumbo jumbo.

I’m unsure if the connection with science, reason and critical thinking was something that just passed me by on my first childhood encounter of the doctor, or whether some of these ideas unconsciously helped form my current way of thinking.

Either way, I consider the link between Doctor Who and skepticism valid enough to warrant a blog post or two. To this end I have spent a few weeks cobbling together an ambitious Doctor Who infographic, which is now just about finished. It may be a slight departure from my normal fare, but I’m hoping it may reach some of the people in the right hand part of my Venn diagram.

I shall be publishing it here d'rectly.


anarchic teapot said...

I have a vague recollection of reading about the BBC actualling putting the kibosh on Matt Smith appearing in something promoting scientfic thinking a few months back.

Thanks for reminding people that Dr Who was always about science and discovery being fun, even if it did contain a large dose of fantasy (and terrible acting).

It was also pro-feminist, being one of the few instances where women weren't systematically portrayed as fluffy-brained eye-candy. Ah, Jo Grant and those dreadful jackets... Sarah Jane Smith...

Excuse me, I'm off to dig out Revenge Of The Cybermen.

Anonymous said...

I'm also a sceptic and Doctor Who fan. And I think you're right that there's an overlap. After all, the series was partly intended to be educational from the start.

It does therefore bother me a little how slapdash the series can sometimes be when it comes to science. And that's not a new thing: it's never had very high standards in that respect.

David Rutten said...

Well, I'm a skeptic (I hope) but most definitely not a Doctor Who fan. The three or four episodes I actually have seen have been so utterly dismal in their science content that I would not categorize it under SF at all.

You really think there are 20 times more Doctor fans in the world than skeptics?

Anonymous said...

I'm 13, I have been with the show since the 10th doctor (I think), I really like the 11th doctor.

SpeakerToAnimals said...

I'm an atheist and a Doctor Who fan.

Doctor Who helped me survive Catholic school without getting brainwashed.

Anonymous said...

I'm a skeptic and atheist, but not a Dr Who fan. I've tried to watch a few episodes but found them... lacking in any reason to watch.