External feedback is important in our job. The right conversation can prevent you from presenting to international experts a whole study based on wrong assumptions (inspired by true events involving weeks of my life that nobody is going to give back to me). What if the external feedback comes from someone who’s not a scientist? Is their point of view, unchained by years of religious beliefs in ‘mainstream science’, worth listening to? Amanda, who must have a very interesting email on her hands, wonders:
How to reply to emails from ‘enthusiastic amateurs with great hypotheses that are going to change the way we view geophysics’?
The smart thing to do is to ignore them. Ain’t nobody got time for that! If they wanted to revolutionize geophysics they would have published in a geophysics journal.
That said, you may rightfully argue that part of our job as scientists is to educate the masses and engage with interested people. Be careful though. As Murphy’s laws tell you: “never argue with an idiot. People watching won’t be able to tell the difference”. Even if nobody is watching, the person looking back at you in the mirror every morning will know what you did.
If then you are a ‘free speech absolutist’ you should feel compelled by your moral imperative to enable amateurs with outrageous theories to get a stage and share their fanciful ideas with an audience of scientists and students. Give them a slot to your institute seminar and don’t worry if this shatters your academic career forever. As you sit there surrounded by colleagues wondering why on Earth would you sponsor and enable a flat-earther, you can bask in the feeling that you just defended the very idea of democracy!
The Sassy Scientist
PS: Incidentally, you would be surprised how many established scientists have alternative ideas to, say, the geodynamo theory or anthropic origins to climate change. These people teach and publish. So, is it really that different from the random nutcase whose email did not get caught by your spam filter?