Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doggerel #148: "Universe"

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

This short Doggerel entry falls more into the useless pet peeve category. "Universe" is a word that's been diluted by science fiction and fantasy. Woos with delusions of coming up with a Theory of Everything without resorting to math have probably helped it along. The real meaning of "Universe" is everything. There's only one everything. Because of that dilution, when thinking of combining D&D campaign settings and such doing crossovers, I often have to start using weird words writers have come up with like 'multiverse' and 'omniverse' to describe the whole giant mess.

You can expect later entries on specific uses of 'universe' woos use, since those will generally fall into specific claims.


Tom Foss said...

I've just come up with a few suggestions, though I haven't looked at the list incredibly carefully to see if some might be repetitive:
-"Devil's Advocate"--mainly the idea that playing Devil's Advocate means taking up a position but not responding to any criticism of it. The idea of DA is to argue a position you don't necessarily believe in order to feel out your opponent's argument; it's not a license to throw out stupid claims and then say "hey, I didn't say I actually believed it, I'm just playing Devil's Advocate." Also used like "I was only kidding" or "I didn't really mean it."

-I don't believe one way or the other, I'm just asking questions--and variations, this is a favorite of Conspiracy Theory types, who often use it in the same way as the Devil's Advocate thing. It's license to ask questions and make claims (which clearly demonstrate that you're not neutral on the topic) then shy away from providing any proof or justification for them, because you "don't necessarily believe them, just asking questions." This often leads to...

-"There are questions that haven't been answered"-- a nice quote that fits equally well with Creationists and Conspiracists. Unless a theory answers every question--even the bad ones, even the nonsensical ones, even the ones that only make sense if you make unsubstantiated assumptions (if God didn't create the universe, who did?)--then it therefore can be thrown out entirely, or we're "not sure" which answer is better.

Wikinite said...

Those are good, especially Devil's Advocate, since it is used as carte blanche for bad arguments. You might want to consider doing a doggerel or set of doggerel on woo escape clauses since that seems what tom is basically talking about.