Sunday, January 13, 2008

We've Reached the Target Area. Deploying Rant

I've run into a couple hit-and-run trolls on other blogs over the week that just push a few buttons with their prejudices. They've probably spent their lives being lied to about skeptics because their role models were lied to, and so on and so forth to the point that Hollywood believes the same crap they do and aren't afraid to broadcast propaganda.

What makes it so irritating is that all the propaganda seems to consist of projection: Everything they make up about skeptics more accurately describes woos. One particular example that's stuck in my mind right now is the woos' heavier use of "impossible." They're much more likely to use it in an absolute sense, whereas most skeptics I know will give the word appropriate caveats. Those who don't will likely feel the annoying sting of nitpickery. I chose to put "impossible" into the Doggerel series precisely because woos are so much more fond of it.

To me, that's just one thing indicative of woos being the real naysayers in life. Another is often between the lines: They always seem to believe that it's arrogant to see sense and order in the universe. Whenever a skeptic describes how much we know about the world around us, the woos always seem to pipe up, claiming that some fundamental knowledge we have must be wrong, even though it's accurate enough to give us great advances, technology, and even art. The pessimistic attitude of woos would have humanity stagnate while nearly every skeptic I know has an optimistic attitude towards technological and scientific progress. We just wish woos would get over their basement sulking and let humanity get on with making the world a little bit better.

I once glanced over a start of a woo essay a few years ago, going on about the evils of technology. He used "technology" in his rant, but who knows how extensive he really meant the term to be. He'd rant about the ideal Egyptian society when they used telekinesis to build the pyramids, rather than technology (which leads me to wonder if he included things like the wheel, lever, pulley, wedge, and inclined plane as 'technology'). He'd claim that giving technology to humans is like giving a gun to a child and rant about how pathetic and immature humanity is. Funny that he wouldn't claim the same for the various forms of magic he claimed were available. I find misanthropes like him to be particularly likely to spend their time sulking in their basement. Arguably worse are those who claim many ancient wonders were built with magic or by aliens because the natives were too stupid. That falls right into racism.

The most fundamental aspect of woo pessimism I routinely encounter is the attitude that we can NEVER understand something they claim to be weird. That's just about as pure as defeatism can get, especially since it usually turns out the scientists or magicians investigated the topic decades ago and came up with answers. The most boring puzzle I can imagine is one that you've already solved. That's where a lot of my rage against woos come from: They want us to dwell on boring, solved puzzles for eternity, rather than get on with the real mysteries in life. I, for one, resist stagnation like that.


Anonymous said...

There's not much of anything I can add to that. I agree with just about everything, though I still think that they aren't doing any willing projectionism. I think that term more applies to people who know they are doing something wrong and see everyone around them as just as likely to have done the wrong thing, thus accusing them of it (people cheating for example).

Seriously that technology thing drives me up the wall. Their own magic seems incorruptable, though often times they describe it as having more power than anything we humans have yet built. I mean what makes their magic any less "technology" than what actually exists? What makes it any less capable of destruction?

I have two words for them. Extended phenotype. This really goes into the whole "natural" thing. Humans live by technology. We've lived by primitive versions of it since before we were what most would agree are human. Right near the start we had FIRE, for one. That right there was capable of destroying whole forests left unchecked. Granted technology can and is used for some dark stuff, but it's inherently neutral and in the right hands does a lot more good. Do they really think that living from day to day in squalid ignorance for roughly 30 years of miserable back breaking labor is a golden age to run back to? It's no wonder religion was such a great comfort in those times.

Human technology is just the evolution of evolution itself, into something intelligently done. "Nature" isn't some perfect entity except that humans screwed up everything. It's actually pretty careless. Plenty of creatures have evolved themselves into dead ends where adaptation could no longer save them. Plenty of others are just parasites, who's elimination would only benefit every other creature on the planet. Others can do noticable change to the environment, sometimes harmful. Humanity is just the most extreme example of the latter.

I actually remember an old game on the NES that had this attitude. In the distant future of 1997 (it's an old game) the world destroys itself with nuclear arms (you can't hug your children with nuclear arms, good point, except it's not) and even though the whole planet is radiated and the axis has drastically shifted, the moment humans give up technology, nature kindly "rebuilds" itself all well and good, since it's just so much more caring than us (the idea of an environment actually being aware in and of itself and "healing" itself seems pretty dangerous and irresponsible if you ask me, as well as baseless). Everyone uses "magic" and abandons "technology" in this world. Except, they don't at all. There are windmills, houses, masonry, fireplaces, farming, and of course good old fasioned steel weapons. The magic also seems pretty capable of destruction too, though living by it is SUPPOSED to be better. Anyway the message of the game is undermined by the end of it when the dark wizard/scientist fuses his magic with technology and uses both to try to take over the world, and both are destroyed with the help of some sort of super android and scientists who cryogenically preserved the hero.

I'm not about to say technology WILL solve everything. I'm also not about to say science WILL uncover all secrets. Maybe there are problems it can't solve and secrets that can't be probed. That's a distinct possibility especially for the subtler secrets, like beyond the planck length. However, that possibility shouldn't stop us from trying. It's only a possibility after all and there are certainly a lot of things we CAN solve in the mean time.

N.B. said...

Dark Jaguar wins a prize for referencing Crystalis, which, incidentally, was later remade for the Game Boy Advance. Nintendo Power had entertaining things to say in its October 1997 issue about how the world should've ended in a nuclear holocause on the 1st of the month.

I think it's funny that when people are talking about what's "natural" or "technology" what they really mean by technology is "our most advanced technology to date." No one is ever arguing that shoes are bad when they're being a technophobe, they're talking about pacemakers or computers or Blu-Ray. But technology is just the application of science to make useful things.

The ability to refine plant extracts into soft gelatin capsules to make herbal supplements is apparently overlooked as an unnatural technological advance. Who are we to bottle nature up like that?

Anonymous said...

Actually the remake was for Gameboy Color. I checked into it and though they added lots of extra story, it's all pretty lame. They also made a lot of stuff easier and added some cheesy cutscenes, on top of replacing all the music with bad substitutes. On the other hand, they added an extra boss and more frames of animation to everything. Then again SNK didn't make the remake. NST did, and well, actually I haven't heard a peep out of them since Excite Bike 64.

The other angle I hear is the one about how this or that technology will eventually change the way people live, as though that's an inherently bad thing. Everything we make changes how we live. They still have a choice, they just can't expect everyone else on the planet to maintain the systems they need to live the way they do.

Actually that seems to be what it comes down to. They want to be able to buy things the same way, interact the same way, and know the same things and if the rest of the world stops accepting all that and they have to change (not out of direct force, but just to have what others want for the purposes of exchange). That is, if jobs start requiring more education, if schools start having higher standards, that's a bad thing. Well, I have to say forget that. I know the world will change and I accept that what works today might not tomorrow.

Laser Potato said...

Fun fact: the original Japanese name for Crystalis was God Slayer. The title has nothing to do with the game; it's just one of those random, thrown-together titles that arises every so often.