Monday, August 07, 2006

Doggerel #31: "Looks Like I've Touched a Nerve!"

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

More trollish woos enjoy the fact that they can arouse the anger, or at least annoyance, of a skeptic. Others often perceive our annoyance as evidence that our worldview is tumbling down as a result of their (non-)arguments, and we're trying to deal with cognitive dissonance, or other psychobabble.

Of course, they always neglect to think of other reasons for our ire. We could be annoyed by their mannerisms. We could be annoyed by the fact that they're defending known charlatans. We could be annoyed by the fact that they don't understand, or even don't read our arguments. We could be annoyed by having words put into our mouths. There is no shortage of alternate reasons for anger.

Of course, the anger may not even exist. I could be arguing with less emotion than Spock, and still have woos misinterpret every short sentence as shouting. People often see what they want to see, especially when it deals with the behavior of others. Forgive my own bit of psychobabble, but as silly as "Hollywood skeptics" are, they're the comforting contrarian stereotype woos have of us. It allows them to live by prejudice and reject our arguments out of hand by pretending they're similar to those depicted in Hollywood.

Of course, the reasons for our apparent mental discomfort are moot, because the "nerve" observation and its ilk are red herrings: The emotional state of an arguer has no relevance to the validity of his arguments. Such things serve to distract from failures in logic and reframe the argument in terms of emotions and feelings, rather than verifiable facts. Because of this, I often interpret such fallacies as declarations of forfeiture: They've given up on discussing the issue and are trying to change the subject.

Wonder if I could rephrase that as a "Bronze Dog's Law" to accompany Godwin's.


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Infophile said...

Sorry, but you're not allowed to declare a new law you've just made. (In fact, it's one of the big indicators of crackpottery!) You'll have to wait for someone else to coin it as Bronze Dog's Law.

Also, Godwin's Law doesn't say anything about mentioning Hitler/the Nazis meaning you've forfeited; that was a development by Usenet guys. All the law said was that as a thread gets longer and longer, a comparison to Hitler/the Nazis becomes inevitable.

Bronze Dog said...

I know they don't match up, except for a bit of flavor, and involvement in pointing out stereotypical bad logic.

Let's wait and see what sitemeter says when people start linking.

Anonymous said...

infophile: What about Hawking radiation, then? ;)

Anonymous said...

Yeah, joshua, but Hawking is notorious for naming things after himself.