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.

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5 thoughts on “Factionalism & The Art of Woo-Meistering

  1. Today, again, I found myself yelling at the radio in the van as I was going from one home to another, as yet again, Sean Hannity, instead of simply stating the facts that show that President Obama’s economic policy is dog squeeze, went off on another of his rants about the President and his administration being non-christian and anti-moral. AAAYYYiiieeeeeee!!!!!!!

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  2. > Most pseudosciences are not even cosmetically tenable unless accompanied by a conspiracy theory

    This is not stated often enough.

    The data usually boils down to hearsay; this is explained by invoking a conspiracy.

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    • You’re right about the conspiracy thing, since I remember some of my arguments with a Graham Hancock follower who claimed that there really was evidence for his theories, but that they had been suppressed by a collusion between — get this — the Egyptian government, ‘establishment egyptologists’ and the Three Abrahamic Religions™, as if that last could ever agree to work with each other, much less between themselves.

      This was allegedly to ‘hide the truth’ and ‘prevent the collapse of civilization’ or something equally ridiculous.

      The thought had occurred to me that if this evidence is suppressed, and this conspiracy successful, then how did HE know about it, and all those other millions of cable-television customers who saw Hancock’s documentary? Oops, I guess the cat’s out of the bag, and cable television has in airing this brought about the apocalypse! Then again, maybe not… *ahem*

      Needless to say, he refused to hear any counterarguments, and I decided from that point that the poor fellow was delusional.

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  3. The more I read about “forbidden knowledge,” the more I am appalled by the empty rhetoric of the advocates. You can argue with them over the data and explanations of phenomena, but most of their rhetorical claims are demonstrably false and require no specialised knowledge to debunk (e.g., allegedly “suppressed” info is all over cable and the internet; numerous scholars are NOT afraid of losing their funding/position and frequently DO publish on fringe subjects; plenty of astronauts and service members have reported UFO sightings — and are never arrested for it — despite claims of a massive coverup, etc).

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    • Indeed. I get the impression that their way of stating their claims is not so much “What can we say to put forth a compelling argument for our position,” as it is, “What can we say that will persuade others to believe as we do or want them to.”

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