Sunday, November 19, 2006

Doggerel #45: "Why Are You So Obsessed?"

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

Regular readers can probably guess what I'm going to get around to: Motivations are irrelevant to the arguments that are being presented. Alleged obsessions are irrelevant to the validity of an argument. A sound argument is a sound argument. There's no getting around that.

There is, of course, some truth to the obsession, if you can call a strong opposition to letting people get hurt an obsession. If you've been directed here by a skeptic, this may be news to you: People get hurt by paranormal beliefs, quackery, fundamentalism, and so forth. Quackery can harm people in a wide variety of ways, including supposedly hopeless cases. People have died from quackery. "Psychics" can drain lots of money from desperate people. Religion can make people perform atrocities. They're all capable of damaging a person's ability to think critically. Nearly all of these involve lots of people who claim that their magic is exempt from science, despite the fact that they claim to have exactly what science measures: Results.

What really annoys me about this bit of doggerel is that it often implies that there's no value to learning the truth. It seems some have made it explicit: I've seen a few skeptics quoting woos who called them "reality-obsessed" as if that was a bad thing. Is escapism a virtue, now?

What's sometimes even worse: Many woos don't even understand our position, and claim we're obsessed with something that we're not. As a skeptic, I'm not obsessed with disproving the existence of the paranormal: I'm "obsessed" with making the paranormalists prove it. There's a big difference. The universe would be a niftier place if the paranormal existed, but I'm not going to expend energy on hypothetical scenarios if the big promoters aren't going to expend energy on proving them under proper scientific protocols. Their passion often vanishes when it comes to such things.

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7 comments:

austinatheist said...

I've also encountered the charge that, for an atheist, I sure am "obsessed" with religion, as if that somehow makes me a hypocrite. It's as if they expect an atheist to be completely apathetic about religion. I have rights, and I pay my taxes. Religious institutions often try to violate the former, and squander the latter. Need I say more?

Akusai said...

I've heard the same criticism, and I like to point out that if religion wasn't constantly shoving itself into my face, my TV, my government, my bedroom, etc., then I wouldn't even think about it. I'm only obsessed in self-defense.

Infophile said...

Me: Hello, my name is Bryan, and I'm obsessed with reality.

Religioso: Good, now the next step is to admit there's a higher power and you're powerless to control your obsession.

Me: Frak you, I like this obsession.

Akusai said...

Stumbled across this video that nicely sums up the whole thing.

Enjoy.

Akusai said...

I got one! Looks like someone things I'm "obsessed with being right."

Which, of course, makes me rigid and inflexible and closed minded.

notalabel said...

Great post! Personally, I thought my skepticism grew from my curiosity about the how and why of things. Apparently, I’m just obsessed; I guess I should ask fewer questions in life and just be more accepting.

~chris

notalabel said...

…accepting of “Because I said so!” as evidence.