Tuesday, April 10, 2007
Doggerel #73: "But [Woo] Isn't Paranormal!"
Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.
A lot of woos out there love relabeling. They're just itching to find the perfect label that'll convince us skeptics. They've claimed their favorite brand of woo isn't paranormal, as if that'll substitute for evidence. They've claimed it isn't paranormal in a transparent effort to avoid taking Randi's Challenge.
When I use the word 'paranormal,' I primarily mean something that would require overhauling everything we know if it was true. Homeopathy, for example, would require that we change chemistry on a fundamental level to account for substances becoming stronger the more dilute they get. I imagine the 'like cures like' buzz phrase would also require changing quite a lot we know about medicine.
But it doesn't really matter what I think: All that matters is the evidence, and the evidence I've seen thus far says that "real" homeopathy doesn't do any better than "fake" homeopathy (placebo.) Slapping a "not paranormal" sticker on woo won't change what the evidence says.
What's often annoying is when woos try to explain their non-functioning magic in terms of science, like when they appeal to quantum mechanics to explain telepathy, "The Secret," or whatever. The problem is that there's no telepathy to require explaining. Test it under controlled conditions and give us the result. If you can't do that, there's nothing that needs explaining. It's pretty much the opposite of the urban legend of scientists 'disproving' that a bee can fly. We can see the bee fly, even if we (allegedly) can't explain it. With woo, apparently lots of trolls claim to explain how their woo works, and yet, aren't interested in proving that it does work.
The IDiots out there also perform the fallacy: When around skeptics, they'll often bring up the possibility of naturalistic aliens instead of a supernatural sky daddy. Well, that doesn't change the lack of evidence or even a falsifiable hypothesis.