Twitter was… well, atwitter with the news. The skeptical twitter community quickly discovered that Falcon’s father, Richard Heene, was a UFO-chaser, a ‘life on Mars’ proponent and generally a bit of a whack job.
The Facebook and Twitter skepti-sphere was immediately filled with speculation that the whole thing was a hoax.
The skeptic in me points to the multiple appearances of the parents on reality TV shows.
So dad was building a radio controlled UFO. If kid is safe and this was a hoax to promote his Mars Pyramid theory, they better nail him.
Keep in mind, this was hours before the child was found, safe in his house, supposedly asleep in the attic. As it turns out, over the following days, it became more and more likely that the whole thing was a publicity stunt. Today, Colorado authorities are planning on pressing charges against the parents. And now, we’re getting a whole lot of “I totally knew it was a hoax!” This has made everyone feel very validated that they called it first. We were right! It was a hoax! Go Skepticism!
Once again, I don’t want 2 rub it in so I’ll let Elliot do it for me: http://bit.ly/cLNrp I called #balloonboy EARLY!!
Why is the ‘big news’ this morning that the balloon boy was all a hoax. Didn’t we know that less than a couple hours after it happened?
It makes me sad.
One of the most common challenges we hear as skeptics is that we’re really cynics. This incident really brought home why we hear that so often. Many people I like and respect in the skeptical community jumped to the conclusion that the Balloon Boy incident was a hoax, with pretty much no evidence. Taking the fact that the parents believed in strange stuff and making the leap that they would intentionally use their child to deceive the world is a really big leap.
I thought skeptics waited for evidence before drawing conclusions. When did “I don’t a balloon (whose dimensions I don’t accurately know) can lift a six-year-old kid of indeterminate weight” lead to “obviously, this was a hoax, and the cops should throw the book at them”? Was it as soon as we learned Richard Heene was on Wife Swap?
This is real life and real people we’re talking about. It’s not figuring out the ending of an M. Night Shymalan movie early! You took a leap based onÂ very littleÂ and you guessed right. Does that make the leap acceptable? Is that really being a skeptic? Because if so, I don’t want to be a skeptic anymore.
Yes, we should have been suspicious. Yes, we should have had doubts, based on what we knew about the parents — that is, that the parents were human beings.
But to claim immediately that it was a hoax based on individuals’ personalities and no evidence… isn’t that what we accuse conspiracy theorists of doing all the time? I would rather be proved wrong after viewing the evidence than to sneer at claims when I have no evidence. And, because I’m human, that isn’t always going to happen. But we need to be aware that it’s happening. Don’t call it a win when we blindly make the right call. Call it an error in our method. Because otherwise, we’re going down a very dangerous path of assuming first, figuring out the details later.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m too naive for this community. While I’m more comfortable knowing that people might be lying at any time, I am uncomfortable assuming people I disagree with are definitely lying.