Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Doggerel #65: "You Have to Believe in [Woo] for it to Work!"

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

This is one of the more annoying doggerels out there, and, of course, for multiple reasons.

I've seen it employed after a skeptic has revealed that he's already tried it when #46 comes up. So, we're supposed to be convinced by a personal anecdote, but for there to be an anecdote, we already have to be convinced? Someone needs to get their prerequisites sorted out, and it's not the skeptic.

This doggerel also often involves ignoring objective tests: If, for example, we're talking about Reiki, then my belief doesn't matter: All that matters is that we conduct a double-blind study on Reiki believers. I believe the protocols for Sylvia Browne's JREF test requires that all the people who will receive a reading sign a statement that they believe in psychics in general, and Sylvia specifically.

Additionally, nearly all the science we have thus far doesn't require belief to operate. To use an archetypal unfortunate event: A loaded gun will fire, even if you think it isn't loaded. If reality itself altered according to my beliefs, I'd probably be much better at space shooters (There's no way that could have hit me!).

Put simply, this doggerel's only real utility is a method of ad hocking away failure or adding a step to devising a proper test.


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