Monday, October 26, 2009

Doggerel #207: "Eastern"

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

The "East" is almost a magical place for many of us "Westerners." Wildly different culture, home to many impressive tourist attractions, birthplace of many exotic martial arts, gunpowder, rocketry... and filled to the brim with so-called healers who have their own very detailed systems of medicine.

The region certainly has its own mystique, but just like "Western" pseudoscience, there's no shortage of "Eastern" nonsense, and it uses many of the same defense mechanisms and logical fallacies, whether it's the genuine article or the watered-down commercial version.

"Eastern" pseudoscientific practices like acupuncture, Ayurveda, Eastern astrology, Feng Shui, and so forth are not immune to scientific investigation. The demands of logic and evidence don't change just because some system originated from a different part of the globe.

It's true that many skeptics you encounter online may have "Western" biases, but one of the most important jobs of the scientific method is the removal or at least reduction of bias. We live in one universe that operates one objective set of rules. Our standards for understanding and revealing those rules must remain the same.

It isn't racist to judge everything fairly. To be frank, many who invoke this doggerel ask us to lower our standards for anything vaguely Asian, and that is what I find racist. In science, it shouldn't matter who came up with an idea, only if that idea has merit when tested.


Dark Jaguar said...

Hey if both Batman AND Dr. Strange learned everything they know in "the east", it MUST be magical!

MWchase said...

IIRC, at least one version of DOOM's origin story partially took place in Tibet.

The disorienting thing, when you think about it, is how much "the West" got glorified in various "eastern" countries, for being all modern and stuff, but also because it was exotic. I mean, this is why there's anime that's obsessed with knights and western dragons and stuff. The mythology that wooish westerners drool over is considered commonplace, and Europe is thought of as OMGCOOL FOREIGN STUFF.

Dark Jaguar said...

Yeah, and the same way we obsess over their samurai and ninjas, they go nuts over our cowboys.

The funny thing is with this back and forth, there are countless mythologies that often get overlooked. I would dearly love to see an RPG where the whole mythos of the world was based on some african mythology.

Bronze Dog said...

Somewhere, I remember seeing a d20 book based on ancient Mesopotamia.

Dweller in Darkness said...

Green Ronin Publishing published an ancient Egypt book and Testament, which was about roleplaying in the biblical era. Both decent sourcebooks, although understandably sketchy archaeologically.