Thursday, July 26, 2007

Doggerel #113: "Infinite"


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

One word many woos are fond of is "infinite" to describe various aspects of their pet woo, even though sometimes it ends up being unnoticeable. It seems a number of people out there really don't "get" infinity. There's a difference between "a really, really big number" and infinity.

One of the commonly touted "infinite" things is God. Many fundies out there will assign their deity with omnipotence one moment, but will sometimes shrink his powers into nonexistence when a demonstration is requested.

Other woos will often try to associate "infinity" with whatever they're touting, often trying to make it sound more important or inaccessible to science, like they often do with "invisible." This is pretty much a baseless assertion, as well as transfer. If they want us to buy into something being infinite, they should be able to squeeze in some non-zero value for us to see first.

Recommended Reading:
"Infinite:" I Do Not Think That Word Means What You Think It Means

13 comments:

Rev. BigDumbChimp said...

My old pal George Schollenberger's whole "scientific proof of god" is based on Infinite vs. Finite things. It's a real hoot.

Chayanov said...

This has nothing to do with this particular bit of doggerel, but the other day I had a conversation and thought of you. The woo I was chatting with started talking about "personal logic" -- where magic and religion make perfect sense according to the personal logic of the person who believes in them, which then apparently lends weight to their validity. I was wondering if you'd ever covered this.

Bronze Dog said...

Oh, yeah. It's close to 'works for me', but I've run into a lot of woos who work like that, and I generally call them 'epistemological nihilists/relativists'.

Wikinite said...

"personal logic" would make an excellent topic for a doggerel, as it is both misused and nonsensical. The point of logic is that it is independent of the content of the argument and the person making the argument. Logic at its core is not something that is customizable.

What I assume people refer to when they say "personal logic" is the set of assumptions they begin with. In the case of magic and religion this is a strictly a garbage in, garbabge out result.

Infophile said...

Much of the problem I see with religious logic is it always ends up being circular. That is, it reduces to God in, God out, which coincidentally still fits GIGO.

Wikinite said...

I guess my point is that logic can't be characterized by the agents using it. There really isn't such a thing as 'religion's logic'. An wooser and skeptic have the same set of logic tools available to them. The use of these tools can (often) be faulty and incorrect, but the tool set available doesn't change with the user.

wrg said...

The first thing that pops into my mind at such 'personal logic' is "I refute it thus!" A quick search turned up an amusing item at http://aonb.blogspot.com/2006/01/i-refute-it-thus_30.html which both quotes that story about Johnson and features a TM woo, to boot!

Why do these amaterialists who refuse to commit to believing in anything nonetheless pester us so, even though we supposedly shouldn't be thought to exist? It reminds me of how Chopra claims that he doesn't exist, yet refuses to let his nonexistent self stop spreading foolishness.

wrg said...

Gah! So close, and apparently yet so far. That URL should end in .html, as (hopefully) in this link.

Chayanov said...

"Logic at its core is not something that is customizable."

And at that point the personal logic woo joins up with hyper-relativism: "Based on my experiences, [woo] is completely consistent and logical. You can't tell me otherwise, because you can't tell me if my personal experiences are valid or not." To them there are absolutely never any objective frames, because everything is subjective.

Carolyn the Red said...

Ah, postmodernism. It is a good way to get people to question their assumptions, but this way lies the land of no truth.

Wes said...

The silliest thing about relativism is that it could just as easily be used to "refute" woo/religion as it can to "refute" scientific theories. It certainly doesn't offer any support to someone's arguments to deny the existence of objective knowledge. Why should some bit of woo be any more plausible in a world in which there's no truth? Why is faith in Jesus at all important if everything, including science, is nothing but faith (as many anti-science religious people like to claim). If everything boils down to faith, or culture constructs, or whatever, that doesn't give me any more reason to accept someone's woo than I had before. I could simply retort that in my reality religion/new age/supernaturalism is nonsense, and by their own relativism they can't object to my claim. It's pointless. If there's no such thing as truth then what point would their be to me changing my beliefs? I wouldn't be any less wrong than I supposedly was before.

And if anyone ever tells you about their own "personal logic", point out to them that mathematics is basically formalized logic, and ask them if a "personal math" where 2+2=5 is agreeable to them.

Wes said...

D'oh! There's an embarrassing number of typos in my post above. Sorry about that. I didn't get much sleep last night...

Errr... I mean, in my own personal grammar "their" is not a plural possessive pronoun, and questions end with a period. Ha! Take that, you dogmatic, closed-minded grammar-nazis!

Thursday said...

As Richard Feynman put it: "There are twice as many numbers as numbers!"

Infinite monkeys will produce the works of Shakespeare, perhaps; but they will also produce the love poems of 15-year old Suzi (dotted with a heart) Jenkins of Mobile, Alabama.

This is what you get when you mess with the infinite.