Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Doggerel #32: "Both Sides"

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

One of the common woo complaints is that they say skeptics don't present or don't look at "both sides" of an issue, and that they should strive for a "balanced" approach. Unfortunately for them, reality doesn't see things that way: Claims are either true or not. It's entirely possible, and even commonplace, for one side to be completely right and the other side to be completely wrong. The classic example of this is evolution versus Creationism: All the evidence thus far points to evolution.

Often, when I hear this doggerel, I wonder if the woo wants us to perform better research (in which case, they should be helpful by providing some evidence) or if they want us to patronize them. Often, when I watch television shows dealing with a woo topic, they present one of the woo arguments, and then fail to present the fallacies in that argument. They also tend to present a token skeptic, often quote-mined, to create the illusion of fairness.

The real problem that leads to people using this doggerel is a misunderstanding of the concept of fairness. Both sides should be allowed to present their arguments. Both sides should be held to the same standards. This, however, does not mean that both sides are inherently equal. Just like in any competition, one player may be vastly superior to the other. In the arena of truth, that's exactly what's supposed to happen as we gather evidence. Unfortunately, the lack of real controversy doesn't make for good ratings.

*Sorry about the political part in the last panel of the above comic, but the principle still applies, regardless of your affiliations.


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Anonymous said...

But Bronze Dog, you didn't even consider the benefits of a double standard! Why won't you present both sides of the argument? Teach the controversy!

Seriously, I love that comic.

Infophile said...

Sadly, reality has become politicized by the current administration (even more so than the media). They even had the gall to ask scientists to change their findings to match political agendas (which is about the worst thing you can possibly do in the mind of a scientist). Just wait, sooner or later reality will be subject to a Lord-of-the-Flies-style vote.