Thursday, September 07, 2006

Doggerel #38: "You're Just Mean!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This bit of doggerel is quite common, and functions as an ad homenim, appeal to motivation, and red herring combo platter. My motivatons for presenting arguments has nothing to do with the validity of my arguments. For that reason, talking about my alleged meanness serves only to function as a subject change.

But enough about that. I don't present arguments because I'm mean. I present them because I have a duty to the truth, and to sharing the truth. Some people may not find my arguments comforting, but that's no reason to jump to the conclusion that I'm performing some sort of emotional attack.

Often, I'm quite critical of things I like: If I complain about problems in a videogame to the producers, they may try to eliminate those problems in the sequel. It's often the same for the paranormal: I think it'd be supremely nifty if magic or psychic powers existed. The world would be a better place if diluted water could cure cancer.

The problem with those things is that the best proponents of them aren't doing a very good job, and actually make excuses not to do a good job. Science works because criticism drives improvements in experiments. I don't like excuses not to address criticism. It feels weird when people who are most vocal about their support for something are the ones doing the minimum to keep the idea alive, but still in critical condition.

As the Huntsman's signature goes, science is about crash-testing hypotheses. Bad hypotheses should die, and good hypotheses should thrive. An idea shouldn't be forced to remain in limbo just because someone likes it.


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1 comment:

Infophile said...

I remember when we came across this point in my Philosophy of Science class. Specifically, it was the point when the scientists studying mass extinctions realized they were periodic. They tried everything they could to explain away this, but couldn't.

In class, we spent a good half hour discussing all the reasons for this behavior. It seems counter-intuitive because we see it so rarely in real life, yet it's how science always operates. This sometimes makes scientific debates look mean-spirited to the layman, I imagine, when they see two scientists trying to find any possible hole in the others' theory. But this is simply the mechanism that evolved in order to make sure that the theories that survive are the ones without holes (much as the IDiots would like to disagree).