Sunday, June 10, 2007

Doggerel #96: "Why Would [Woo Pusher] Lie to Me?"

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

A lot of woos are under the mistaken impression that skeptics think that all psychics, quacks, priests, and general woo pushers are deliberate frauds out for money. Of course, that's not always the case.

Things are more complicated than that, however: There are always the conscious frauds out for money, but there are many with other motives. Some conscious frauds are only out for the thrill: There are some people out there who just enjoy manipulating people, or seeing just how long they can stretch out a lie. In those cases, it's often about power, rather than money. I suspect a number of religiosos and cult leaders fall into that category.

Going outside of deliberate fraud, there are plenty of woos who sincerely believe what they preach: They aren't lying if they believe what they say, however, that doesn't mean they're telling the truth. Some may be part of a hierarchy and trying to preach loudly in order to convince themselves. Some may believe whole-heartedly, and resist introspection. After all, a lot of quacks like to think that they're helping people. They often "KNOW" it, so why bother confirming what they already know, and what the testimonials say? Why deal with epistemology? Wanting to be the hero, or at least helpful, is something most people want. To be a hero, you have to be provably good for the world, and woos typically aren't interested in definitive tests.

Not all skeptics are cutting edge cancer researchers or whatever, but we know a thing or two about spotting fakery, false claims, and so forth. Even if we can't all contribute to expanding the base of human knowledge, we can at least do our part to keep people out of human delusion.

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