Monday, January 29, 2007

Doggerel #57: "You Use Bad Words!"


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

As has been mentioned before, it's not at all uncommon for skeptics to become extremely annoyed as an argument carries on, especially if it involves a woo repeatedly ignoring arguments, spouting doggerel, changing the subject, or making specious accusations. Naturally, some start using a chunk of language that has been arbitrarily declared taboo in an effort to get a point across.

One way to get skeptics to use even more nasty language is to complain about their language while ignoring the arguments containing the objectionable words: Like many entries in the Doggerel series, it is, as you probably guessed, another subject change, specifically in the vein of the "style over substance" fallacy. Whether or not a skeptic uses taboo words has nothing to do with the validity of his arguments. If a drunken sailor makes a valid point, it's still a valid point, even if he's suddenly mobbed by the FCC.

Personal note: I've got nothing against the forbidden words, but I like to carefully choose when to use them. It helps to add emphasis.

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Doggerel Index

24 comments:

Rockstar Ryan said...

This probably goes without saying for me:

I was a deist who did not believe in the paranormal, but thought "maybe...".

Then I started reading works from Bob Carroll of Skeptic's Dictionary fame. While he doesn't swear like I do, it took harsh words for me to pull my fingers out of my ears and realize I could be wrong.

So I curse for the fence-sitters who were like me.

The most important point though is that my arguments are based on evidence, damn evidence, and farking evidence!

Tom Foss said...

As usual, a great Doggerel post. I'd say it's too short, but you made your point.

I'm in with Ryan on this one, though on a different wavelength. I was quite the creduloid as a kid; I devoured my parents' and libraries' numerous books on Mysteries of the Unexplained and UFOs and Psychic Phenomena and how to enhance your own ESP (honest-to-FSM, but I was like, 9). I watched Unsolved Mysteries religiously, and believed every word of it.

I'm not sure when or how my skepticism started to grow, but I suspect it had to do with my love of science and my unconventional (to the point of greater than usual ridiculousness) religious background. I was about half into that mode when I discovered Snopes, though I got suckered in by every one of their Lost Legends, even repeating a few of them to family and friends as fact. The eventual revelation was really embarassing, but it taught me the value of doubt and good research.

I imagine that's about the time I started reading Scientific American, where one of the few things I read consistently was Michael Shermer's Skeptic article. I don't know how much credit I'd give to that, but it's at least some.

During my freshman year of college, I experienced that whole "just enough knowledge to be dangerous" thing, where I had just enough background on religion and philosophy from a couple of honors classes, and enough background on science from being a Physics major, that I could synthesize them into the finest woo. I even wrote a quick one-page paper on the way a non-material entity (i.e., God) can effect the material world through the Uncertainty Principle, that the immaterial observer can change the material outcome through the act of observation. I thought it was a new idea, and one which worked nicely with science and religion. I hadn't seen the horrors of "What the Bleep" yet.

And then, Sophomore year, I discovered the brilliant bluntness and harsh language and plain speech of Penn and Teller (mostly Penn, I guess), and the Bullshit burned away. Episode after episode, I found myself thinking "but, wait, no, well" and finally realizing, no, these guys are right.

Eventually I'd come to deny some of that, too. I disagree with a number of P&T episodes (Gun Control, College, some aspects of Recycling, and of course Secondhand Smoke), but that's a result of coming into my own, realizing that no one has a monopoly on truth, and everyone's susceptible to woo of one form or another. And I'm not sure I could have done that without the help of Shermer, science, and Bullshit.

Sorry to monopolize the comments.

Bronze Dog said...

That's okay. It helps to get the point across.

I would have expanded the post, but I couldn't really think of a way to do that: It's a subject change, style over substance fallacy, and that's about it.

Tom Foss said...

What I mean is that I really like reading the Doggerel posts, so it's sad when they end :).

Bronze Dog said...

Ah. Well, here's some random fun stuff to cheer you up, then.

The Rev. Jenner J. Hull said...

I think it's funny that people who refuse to use "bad" language try to cast those of us who do as "unintelligent."

This from the people who were taught to fear words (Words!) and never bothered to wonder, "Why?"

To these people, I can only offer the sage advice of Mr. John McCrea; "Shut the fuck up. Right now."

TheBrummell said...

This happened to me in the only repeat-visit (yet) of a woo-ish person to my blog.

I called his argument "bullshit" (he was rambling on about metaphysics and "other ways of knowing" in a very vague and annoying fashion). It was right around the time of the doggerel entry about other ways of knowing, so I was primed to stomp on that kind of thing.

After that, nothing I said registered with him because he just kept returning to how rude and "juvenile" I was in using such words. I guess he took it personally.

IAMB said...

Bad language? Who uses bad language?

(not that I'm as bad as Al Swearengen, mind you)

Rockstar Ryan said...

I forgot to point out another guy who's not afraid of the words "bullshit" and "fuck" -

Skeptico.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

it's not at all uncommon for skeptics...

Yes you know that elitist attitude that states, "How dare you be so stupid to question my intelligent analysis."

Typical.

How to get ad hominems from a skeptic:
Present him with the devastating truth. It works every time.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

The most important point though is that my arguments are based on evidence, damn evidence, and farking evidence!

Ha! You fogot to add, "my evidence."

Bronze Dog said...

How to get ad hominems from a skeptic:
Present him with the devastating truth. It works every time.


1. I find that particularly rich coming from someone who has made arguments to the effect that truth is relative and/or democratic.

2. When your "devastating truths" aren't readily demonstrable lies, self-contradictory, or just plain irrelevant to the discussion, they're usually trivial, and, despite your attempts at defining evolution contrary to how all the various dictionaries, science texts, and scientists define it, are in complete agreement with evolution.

Ha! You fogot to add, "my evidence."

Evidence is evidence is evidence. You can't own evidence, maaaaan. When you find some evidence, we expect you to share it with the world. Too bad the ID crowd hasn't been bothering.

Bronze Dog said...

As for questioning our analysis: You haven't been doing any of that at all: You've been questioning the analysis you wish we made for the absurd magical Creationism-like stories you wish we believed in.

As for us questioning your analysis, well... It's hard to speculate in a vacuum.

Tom Foss said...

How to get ad hominems from a skeptic:
Present him with the devastating truth. It works every time.


Oh FSM, he's done it. He's become a parody of himself. Everyone, look away from the recursive parody loop before it's too late!

Rockstar Ryan said...

Present him with the devastating truth.

I'd like to see it. Unfortunately C-snack comes up empty.

Weapon of Mass Instruction said...

Maybe you should all try taking that monkey wax that's been piling up for millions of years.

I can assure you that that can help.

Bronze Dog said...

We were warned to look away from the recursive parody loop before it's too late. If you looked at the above post, it's too late.

Tom Foss said...

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JanieBelle said...

Sorry if this is only vaguely on topic, but I just stopped in to bitch about being de-listed by WordPress.

Apparently, people surfing the sex tag category at WordPress might not want to read "adult material".

I shit you not, that's what I've been told by the guy at WordPress staff.

Apparently I use a lot of bad words strung together in bad sentences and they make up bad stories.

Bronze Dog said...

WTF?

JanieBelle said...

Was I weird and incoherent?

Sorry, I'm still seeing red about being censored for my "mature content".

My content has been "arbitrarily declared taboo" by some guy at WP, regardless of the fact that most of it is non-sexual and science related.

I was venting.

Sorry.

Bronze Dog said...

Nah, it's not about your incoherency: Just found an excuse to use that exclamation, and thought some people would appreciate one other thing that provoked it for different reasons.

JanieBelle said...

Well, I enjoyed it even when I thought you were saying my comment was similar.

You know we love you.

:)

Kisses,

bo'fus.

Rockstar Ryan said...

Maybe you should all try taking that monkey wax that's been piling up for millions of years.

I can assure you that that can help.


That's your "devastating truth"? You're going to have to do much, much better than that here.