Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Doggerel #157: "It's Like the Allegory of the Cave!"

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

I had an art class about projected media a while back with a hack of a teacher. He had entirely too much love for the words "didactic," "tautology," and "irregardless." He also had us do projects that referenced the allegory of the cave. I was never impressed with that little piece of rhetoric. Plato talking about it doesn't make it any better. BS'd my way to an A anyway.

What the typical woo does with the metaphor is essentially an extra-pretentious version of "You need to think outside the box!" The woos love to pretend that their arbitrary, unjustified decisions are like stepping out of the cave to see the sun. They're more like someone who has closed their eyes and imagined something. A person who does science would be a more appropriate example: A cave dweller who saw the sun and the shadow puppets would be able to manipulate the shadows everyone sees. He would be able to make predictions and make them come true. That's what science is. Of course, the metaphor breaks down because with the scientific method, anyone can remove their shackles, not lucky individuals who have only faith and rhetoric.

So, if you're a woo claiming to have broken out of the cave, show us the shadows you can manipulate. Do it reliably and consistently. Science is already doing it right now with my laptop, invisibly sending signals back and forth to manipulate the things I can see directly on screen. This is done in such a reliable manner, I might as well regard those signals as visible, even if I don't have built-in senses for them.

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