Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Doggerel #100: "Truth"

Welcome to a special 'big round number' edition of "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the key things that separates science from woo is that science knows how it arrived at its conclusions: Everything we know can usually be traced back to experiments that can be repeated at just about any time. With woo, however, a process almost never emerges: The vast majority of it was just made up and presumed to be "Truth" with a capital T.

Those of you who regularly read my comments on various blogs may have noticed that I talk about people 'handwaving away epistemology' lately. Epistemology, in short, is the philosophy about knowledge: "How do we know what we know?" Scientists and skeptics can track down the origin of a theory, and cite experiments that verify it (or, at the very least, fail to falsify it, depending on how deep you want to get into the philosophy of science and semantics), and, if necessary, repeat the experiments.

Woo, however, seldom deals with this issue: They will troll skeptical forums and blogs by claiming that we're resisting 'the Truth' with science, which directly measures reality, and that their 'divine revelations' that don't have to undergo any rigor at all are true: They just ignore and evade any questions that deal with how they arrived at their conclusion. Instead of walking us through their twisted 'logic', they're more often content to jump ahead to presuming that they've proven the 'Truth' and claiming that we'll be miserable, or immoral, or whatever if we don't blindly accept their 'Truth.'

To put the whole thing into soundbite size: Woos answer all the difficult philosophical questions with 'because I, in my infallibility, said so.'


Anonymous said...

I get tired of discussions with those who claim to have received "divine revelations" or "revealed truths" that contradict reality, along with their "it's true to me, therefore it should be true to you" attitude. A case in point: magick (spelling intentional). Magick is "true to them" even though its supposed effects are indistinguishable from a complete absence of effects. But when I say that magick is not true to me for precisely that reason, that leads to accusations of me being close-minded or unaccepting of "other ways of knowing."

Anonymous said...

I'm not the smartest person in the world, but I have learned one thing. And that one thing is you can't change someone else's mind.

If someone chooses to believe nonsense -- no matter the subject -- there is nothing you can do.

I tried to express this idea in the "Join in the Debate" comments section... in the middle of a raging debate... but I doubt anyone will hear me. (Even now they're probably looking to stone me.)

Bronze Dog said...

I've seen a handful of conversions, so it's not impossible. Or at least not for every one.

It's fun, either way.

Anonymous said...

Ah, those "magick" nutters. That's always a fun conversation. Generally they always seem to be these late teen to early twenties goths running around thinking they figured out deep forbidden mystecism. The funny thing is how utterly close minded they are with their open minded magics. For one, magick is ALWAYS spelled magick. Even though it basically means the same thing as the spelling "magic" I guess the extra k is more mystical, and also I guess they think that the word "magick" has always been used to describe it, in english, using the roman alphabet (oh excuse me, sometimes it's celtic runes). The most closed minded thing though? First they go on about how magic and witches have been around in all sorts of cultures, then they make the blanket statement that ALL these cultures behaved the exact same way across all time periods and all of them had the exact same rituals about magic. All of them thought there were 4 elements (China and their 5 elements like wood and metal just doesn't count I guess), all of them were Wiccans (every single one, from african witch doctors to native american shaman to caveman elders) and all of them used frickin' celtic runes. Take a history lesson people! This is just a recent fad religion (not a religion, we are rebellious even tnough any contradiction of our very specific and anti-science history is met with scorn) and they all act like this about it.

They also tend to mix liberally with tarrot, astrology, and dreamcatchers (the latter being about the only native american thing that's easy and cheap enough to aquire/make for them to bother adopting it), but NEVER with the "mainstream" as they define it. I think at this point thanks to certain Metals that are Full, alchemy is probably getting mixed up in it too. I always seem to meet more around after some cult hit dumb movie about this or that sub culture comes out, like The Craft back in the 90's or that recent one about OTHER teenagers running around with magic powers (it had an exploding car that reformed).

Anyway, besides that, screw vampires. Look I have no problem with these sub cultures as a thematic thing and rebellion is just a part of youth and all, but it is sad to see an industry (called Hot Topic, which smells like hackey sack) grow up around people abandoning their parent's religion just to get caught up in an even more hazy and in some ways even more damaging set of religions, ones that deny that alternative "alternate life styles" even exist. Wiccans never seem to want to even acknowledge that maybe other kinds of witches existed at some point (and I say witch not in the "magic actually exists" sense but in the "they think magic actually exists" sense).

Sorry for the topic change, I just sorta went on a tangent. On topic again, this sort of "divine revelation" thing gets to me too. The idea there is simply that you can "just know" it's true by BYPASSING reading a book and accessing a "well of knowledge" directly. However, a question to ask is simply "How do you know that well of knowledge of whatever nature you just accessed is even telling the truth? Is there even a big ol' book of absolute data the universe keeps in storage to keep track of itself?".

Bronze Dog said...

Don't worry about the off-topic. :) It's a splendid rant.

One thing: Some woos claim they use the k in magick to distinguish it from stage magic. You know, they bend spoons with one, and they'll sue you if you say it's the other. ;)

Okay, bit of cross-woo in that, but I think it's good.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I'm not saying no one ever converts from one philosophy to another. I myself have changed my mind on religion and alternative medicine... so it definately happens.

But my own opinions changed over a long period of time and involved years of study into both topics. I was searching for answers... making an honest effort to find the truth... and I did not have a position I was trying to defend.

This allowed me to approach the subject matter without emotion.

My only point is, I just don't think it's worth the effort to debate with someone who has already made up their mind.

I sincerely believe you can't change somebody else's mind, they have to change it themselves.

And I don't see that happening during a heated argument.

I mentioned in an earlier comment that -- because I have articles on my website exposing chiropractic -- that chiros try to badger me into debates.

I refuse because I'm not going to waste my time on them. They're not interested in an honest discussion. They're only interested in defending their incomes.

They think that if they can "win" a debate with me that that will somehow "prove" that chiropractic really works.

I mean how stupid is that?

I understand you guys enjoy getting into these heated debates... I'm not trying to talk you out of doing it... I just have a slightly different point of view.

The people who want to debate me are using debate to make up for the fact that they have no scientific research.

To me, discussing anything with them is a total waste of time.

- Dean

Berlzebub said...

Splendid rant, anon, and I wouldn't call it OT as much as a more specific account of the topic at hand.

I completely agree. We've all dealt with those who either ignore any evidence we provide that disproves their assertions, or they try to give a reason why said evidence doesn't apply. Kind of like us pointing out the errors of an alternative medicine study, but then they say it can't be studied.

No, we may not change their mind. However, maybe, just maybe, someone else will come to the blog researching the subject. If they have already decided it's what they want, our argument probably won't change their mind (it might, but not likely). If they have already realized said subject is a crock, we might just give them extra ammunition to use in debate at a future time. However, if they're a fence-sitter, we can hope they are intelligent enough to look at both sets of arguments and draw their own conclusions by looking at what evidence we provide (especially since we normally provide links supporting our observations).

Plus, I just like imagining steam blowing out of the other persons ears, because I have the audacity not to just take what they assert for granted. :-D

Dikkii said...

Congratulations on your 100th Doggerel post, BD.

It's a big achievement. And a splendid post to boot.

Anonymous said...

Berlzebub and BD,

Yes, I see your point. I hadn't considered the effect the discussion might have on a third-party observer looking for answers.

Still don't plan on debating any woo-meisters myself... (don't have the time) but I'm going to continue linking to blogs like this (and forums like Chirotalk) where people can have the opportunity to experience different points of view.

(And yes, I do agree that it's fun to rattle their cages.)