Monday, June 26, 2006

Doggerel #19: "Read My Book!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless. This edition inspired by Skeptico and someone else.

This is one of the big fallback responses of published woos and their fans. Granted, some arguments involve so many details, it's hard to condense them into a few forum posts, but that is seldom the problem. This response typically comes up as an effort to avoid answering simple questions. Simultaneously, it can make us skeptics look closed-minded because we aren't going to waste our time reading a woo book indistinguishable from all the others.

Usually, the tactic involves throwing up several non-arguments that avoid answering the skeptics' questions, so that when the skeptics challenge the non-arguments (I fall for that, too, though I try to note the irrelevance every time. I'm obsessive-compulsive or something, because if I feel that if some idiocy goes unchallenged, the terrorists will have won), it looks like there are too many things to discuss, leading to the apparent necessity of reading the book. In reality, most of the "discussion" is a smokescreen of irrelevance created to build up that illusion of necessity.

If the type of book being discussed was fiction (Keep those retorts on hold), there might be some reasonable complaint. Try explaining the original Star Wars to someone. You sound silly, don't you? But these books typically claim to be scientific or historical non-fiction. The quality of such books depend on the quality of their premises, among other things. Suspension of disbelief is not allowed in real life. One false premise in the foundation, and the whole thing collapses. No amount of text will change that.

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1 comment:

Irishman said...

Often, it's not just "Read my book", but "Buy my book!"