Friday, February 22, 2008

Doggerel #136: "Deep"

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

Back when I was a kid, my mind was continuously buzzing with religious questions. You know the usual conflicts: Omnipotence versus evil, precognition versus free will, etcetera. Nearly all of them were outright contradictions. People regarded as "deep" just slapped the "paradox" label on them, told stories that failed as metaphor, and just generally didn't answer it. Meanwhile, people like me who kept asking questions, pointing out the cracks in bad metaphors, and preferred uncertainty or even dissatisfaction over false certainty were labeled "shallow." This kind of experience made me wonder if the brainless blond cheerleaders on TV sitcoms grew up to be philosophy professors. Thankfully, that doesn't seem to be the standard case.

Needless to say, woos love to think of themselves as "deep" and will advertise. The problem that they commonly face when dealing with skeptics is that they haven't thought about their favorite transcendent woo and the implications it would have if it were true. Sometimes they'll slap on a layer of ad hoc, and then ignore the implications of that layer. For example, psychics will complain that they can't work in the presence of a skeptic, often to the point that they'll claim physical discomfort from our evil, negative thought waves. Well, then, it should be an easy matter to test their ability to sense skeptics. Lock 'em in a room and see if they get a headache when James Randi walks by. At that point, they typically drop the attempt to add "depth" to the woo and start ad hominems.

My preferred method of determining who's really "deep": who's got the most detail down with the fewest fallacies. So far, I'm seeing a very strong correlation between woo and shallowness.


Anonymous said...

Wow, you just came up with a succint way of handling one of my questions about testing: what if they really are weakened by skepticism? Of course it's all so obvious now, TEST for that :D.

Anonymous said...

woos love to think of themselves as "deep"

Yeah, deep like a cesspool, deep like a played-out mine, deep like a well that you've drilled in dry country that still hasn't hit water after a year of digging. You think it might occur to them to ask what it is that they are deep in. Hint: it doesn't smell good.