Daily Archives: Friday, 17:43, August 6, 2010

Factionalism & The Art of Woo-Meistering


On this blog’s “about” page I’ve mentioned my tendency for arrogant and condescending diatribes…Well, this post is going to be one of those, and likely to offend some. But this is moi, speaking from the proverbial heart.

Still here? Oh goody…Let the tirade begin…

To be a successful proponent of woo, you don’t have to know a thing about science or concern yourself with such extraneous details as facts, evidence, sound reasoning, or those terrible inconveniences, reality or a concern for anything like truth.

In fact, you don’t need any qualifications, to know anything about anything, except the ability to make stuff up and enough skill and chutzpah to make it sound convincing to the uninformed.

Even the most scientifically incompetent among us can become an accomplished purveyor of nonsense, though it is also a big plus to have a massive ego, a persecution complex a mile wide, and a generous helping of a conspiratorial mindset.

Most pseudosciences are not even cosmetically tenable unless accompanied by a conspiracy theory involving suppression or willful ignorance of the doctrine’s claims by a dogmatic, entrenched scientific, corporate or governmental establishment, with the Evil Pseudo-Skeptics™ standing in as the New Inquisition, to substitute for any genuine explanation for the rather apparent lack of supporting evidence or valid argumentation in the doctrine’s favor.

After all, it’s trivially easy to argue that any evidence against a conspiracy is really evidence for a conspiracy if you’re good at pulling things out of your posterior. Why are there no files on record of the conspiracy’s existence? Of course! Because any incriminating data have been purged from the records! How can you possibly be proven wrong?

After all, if you’re willing to ignore the limits of what really is, you’re free to make up, believe and/or propound on whatever factually absurd or illogical claims you want, limited only by the blazing fires of your fertile imagination and your persuasiveness.

This lack of ability or concern for the requirement of scientific methods, epistemological soundness, consensus, thinking or competence has led to a pronounced tendency for factionalism and even mutual derision or demonization among competing groups of fringe-enthusiasts of the even same general sort of claim, like separate UFO or Bigfoot organizations, even different flavors of Creationist or pseudo-astronomical groups who vehemently disagree and denounce each other over even seemingly minor points of doctrine or belief.

Pseudosciences tend to blend into each other around the edges, with UFOlogy, as an example, having a spectrum of views ranging from the ostensibly scientific to those of New Age mysticism.

It’s been my experience that even within a given field of fringe-science, the various advocates of these ideas seem, due to an absence, even at times a willful disdain, for consensus and doctrinal coherence, to be as individuals unable to keep their claims consistent even within a faction.

One thing I’ve noticed though, is that many fringe proponents, the really good ones, tend to be highly proficient in polishing their arguments and their skill in delivering their baloney. They know their own bullpucky with masterful skill. My hat is off to them.

Why should pseudoscientists have to feel bound by rules of evidence, criteria of theoretical adequacy, or clear thought, when these merely serve to inconvenience their pet doctrine? Why dogmatically adhere to the way the world really works when they can just dream up whatever feels good without regard for what’s true?

Why use rigor of methodology and reasoning when fast-and-loose technique and fuzzy thinking are so much easier?

After all, if you don’t consider yourself bound by mere facts or logic that disagree with you, you can just ignore them whenever it’s convenient. This quality of pseudoscience coheres often with that of the world’s religions, where entire religions, sects, denominations and cults have often violently contended with each other and indeed, anyone else who disagrees with them, over what would be irrelevant differences of opinion to an outsider.

In my view, no ideology attempting to pass itself as revealed and eternal fact, whether political, religious or pseudoscientific, has been successful at self-correcting its errors, and sometimes, of washing off the metaphorical and sometimes literal blood on its hands from the misery, confusion, fear or death that has often accompanied it along the way.

Why?

Because none of these ideas has an adequate way of telling itself about its missteps, its mistakes, as with any sort of idea that relies on an uncritical acceptance of its assertions by way of its own authority.

Unlike science, none of these ways of believing, NOT ways of knowing, has a built-in set of methods for alerting itself to when it has been led astray by its own error by those working within it.

George Hrab — The Assumption


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Geo (well… nine of him) sings The Assumption, from the album INTERROBANG

Zoom in on the dying star T Leporis


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The ESO’s Very Large Telescope was used to create an incredible closeup of the star T Leporis, which is dying. This zoom-in starts just south of Orion and winds up on the star, surrounded by a dense shell of material expelled outwards as the star dies.

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