Tuesday, January 24, 2006


June 19, 1998

Let me explain why I don't like the "X-Files" TV show, and thus its new big-screen incarnation. I dislike it because in spite of its lip-service to scientific skepticism, it twists the dialogue of its token skeptic (Dana Scully) to promote its own anti-rational agenda.

Here is a quote from the show:

Mulder: "It's a global conspiracy - bigger than anything I ever imagined."

Scully: "Well you can believe what you like, Mulder, but this time they may have won."

The first part of Scully's response ("you can believe what you like, but...") is not a problem. Scientific skepticism doesn't deny anyone else's right to believe what they want. Skepticism merely comments on the quality of the evidence behind those beliefs. So after that "but...", we ought to be able to expect some sort of criticism of the evidence behind what Mulder believes.

That's not what we get. "But..." is followed by "...this time they may have won". They? They who? The "global conspiracy" which Scully, as the token skeptic, supposedly doesn't believe in? Far from being an argument *against* believing as Mulder believes, she is demonstrating a tacit *agreement* with his conclusions. "They" can't have won unless "they" exist in the first place.

Rather than being the voice of reason and skepticism that Chris Carter says she represents, Scully's dialog is carefully scripted to support Mulder's claims even as she goes through the motions of skepticism.

If you think that I'm over-reacting to one isolated incident, think again. Before I decided to speak out about this, I forced myself to watch several dozen episodes. The production values, script, and acting are all excellent, and I can understand why the show is so popular. But every single episode contained at least one instance of the sort of inside-out logic I've shown you here.

Let me be clear. The problem here is not that the X-Files depicts paranormal events. The problem is that it teaches its audience to think irrationally. By contrast, Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a lot more paranormal stuff going on, and *none* of the X-Files' anti-rational agenda. There's nothing wrong with portraying fantastic events for the sake of entertainment, unless you preach irrationality to your audience at the same time.

In a world awash with irrationalism and superstition, the X-Files' callous disregard for the proper role of science and rationality is, at the very least, counter-productive. At worst, it confuses people about the nature and role of science and promotes even more credulous nonsense.

Fight it.


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