Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Doggerel #189: "Settled, Once and For All"

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

This is a two-sided bit of doggerel. The first part is a straw man of science: Many woos like to assign false certainty and absolutes to science. They think we're closed-minded because we consider just about everything "settled, once and for all." That is how faith works, not science. In science, all conclusions are tentative. For the strongest theories, it's unlikely there'd be something to falsify them, except for special cases where scientists would need to adjust.

The other side of the doggerel comes from a well-known phenomena among woos: Moving the goalposts. Many like to claim that some single piece of evidence will convince them, but have formulated their arguments so that they can keep retreating into more elaborate ad hoc hypotheses, semantics games, double standards that involve raising the bar for the scientific theory and lowering the bar for psuedoscience, changing the subject, and so on and so on and so on.

There are many cases where one particular solid piece of evidence can quickly overturn opinions, but one of the main features that separates science from woo is that woo is built to resist evidence. When someone can honestly change their mind from a key piece of evidence, that's great. With a great deal of woo, however, we can't be naive to expect that sort of honesty and open-mindedness.

Of course, presenting large amounts of evidence anyway is a good tactic for discrediting a denialist. Sometimes, though, it's not worth the time and resources to cater to their every whim. We do not live to spoon feed the baselessly stubborn.

1 comment:

Valhar2000 said...

Good job, BronzeDog! Now this is finally settled once and... wait a minute...