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August 07, 2006

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As for Newton being into alchemy, that's true. He spent more time on alchemy than he did on mainstream science. However, he believed it was a true phenomenon and tried to go about it in a scientific manner, documenting his tests and experiments. He didn't just claim it worked, he tried to test it (without success). That's science.

Astrology, telepathy, dowsing etc.; they're subjects amenable to scientific testing, too, but the woos don't want that.

It's thanks to the scientific method, fathered largely by Galileo and Newton, that we know you can't turn lead into gold by chemical reactions - because we know how those reactions work, and how nuclear transformations work. We didn't in Newton's day, but he laid the groundwork for us.

Don't know about you, Skeptico, but I'm "invested" in astrology being wrong in the way that if I let go of a hammer, I'm "invested" in it accelerating downwards at a rate of about 32.2 feet per second per second.

"And if you disagree then I have a bridge to sell you. Bring your check book."

If you find any takers, tell them that I have a friend in Nigeria who would like to give them $5,200,000. If it makes them feel better, they can think of it as an "investment".

I've noticed this when arguing with believers too.

It is in fact a subtle ad hominem argument implying that their opponent is mentally ill and in need of therapy.
Love
Kath

I could cope with the "you're just closed-minded"s, ad hominems, irrelevancies and screeds of pseudoscientific stuff I can't even understand, despite a decent IQ, a scientific education and a love of the English language.

When one of the believers trots out quantum mechanics as an explanation, I'd really like to be able to pin them down and see what they uderstand of superposition, Planck's constant, the resolution of the untraviolet catastrophe and the photoelectric effect.

For me, a prime indicator of woo-ness is taking scientific terms and using them in the wrong way, e.g. using force, power and energy as interchangeable terms.

Sorry, believers, either use the terms as they're generally understood to us simple-minded techies (who did, after all, coin them in the first place), or invent your own language.

Instead of "A flux of quantum energy fills the continuum, creating eddies of superimposed probabilistic states," you could have "A flux of fleem fills the shibubble, creating eddies of superimposed galumbic states."

But if you want to use our language, please look up what the terms actually mean first.

I don't have such patience with the woos. Taking a lesson from psychology, I find, "Project much?" is usually a sufficient response to all they say.

It seems more and more woos are resorting to the "I'm not really an advocate of [blah], but you're just way out of line here..." tactic.

Take a hint, guys, we can see through it.

Yes, I remember a time when the argument "I used to be a skeptical, and I thought it was all rubbish, but then I saw a ghost in my house..." carried some strength. Later on I became more cynical, and that has helped me immeasurably.

Now I can "see through it" just as well as Infophile does. Psycobabble does nto convince me of anything, of course, but I still find it extremely bothersome.

Meant to do this entry a long time ago, but this guy helped inspire it, since it reminded me of similar arguments:

Doggerel #31: "Looks Like I've Touched a Nerve!"

It puzzles me that someone would think it a pejorative term to say that a skeptic is "invested" in being right. What's the alternative, not caring whether you're right or not? Shouldn't we all be invested in being right? This reminds me of a passage from one of Carl Sagan's books where he mentioned a true believer who criticized James Randi for being "obsessed with reality".

What else is there to be obsessed about? ;)

Skeptico, I feel your pain. I just had an encounter with a relativist/astrologer over the weekend. Same old shit, different day.

I have banned and deleted similar comments from my blog in the past. Once it's clear to me it's all woo, they're gone. I want to focus on real debates, real verifiable information.

Kaz' accusations fall flat. This is not about you. Hell, you're a lot more patient than I am.

It puzzles me that someone would think it a pejorative term to say that a skeptic is "invested" in being right. What's the alternative, not caring whether you're right or not? Shouldn't we all be invested in being right? This reminds me of a passage from one of Carl Sagan's books where he mentioned a true believer who criticized James Randi for being "obsessed with reality".

The difference (which they often fail to see) is that we're invested in making sure we come to the right answer in the end. They're the ones who are generally invested in their first answer being right.

Kaz has gone suspiciously quiet. I hope he didn't burst his brain with that huge non-informational infoburst.

I'd like to challenge all woos who shrug and mutter "It's quantum, ain't it?" to state without equivocation what they actually understand of that discipline, if anything.

Like I say, if they were forbidden by law to misuse scientific terms they couldn't define, they'd either be dumbstruck or sound like idiots.

Like I say, if they were forbidden by law to misuse scientific terms they couldn't define, they'd either be dumbstruck or sound like idiots.

More likely, the prisons would be overcrowded.

Actually, Al, I went strangely silent only after sending Skeptico a nice email thanking him for his response and making peace with the futility of having a decent conversation with you guys. But there you go Al, dragging me back in, challenging my silence... For the record, my position is simply that the human mind seems to come hardwired to be ritualistic/artistic/symbolic/mystical, as well as rational. And while I prize reason as the best response to trying to solve problems and figure things out, it seems to me that people who ignore or diminish the artistic/symbolic etc. in their lives and are obsessively rational all the time might end up with a diminished existence. I am not arguing that astrology's rules were derived by naturalist-sages who figured out the precise mathematical ways that the planets affect human behaviour. As I've said before, I truly think astrology is a load of bull. I'm just trying to point out that in spite of its non-validity as a predictive system, it appears to hold value for many people precisely because it engages their symbolic and ritualistic faculties in a way that they rate as being useful in some way. Of course, not everyone has to practice astrology to achieve this. You might prefer to read a good novel or play music instead, or find great meaning in the pattern that your turd makes when you take a crap in the morning. Mostly what bothers me is the tone that many of the commentators here take, that as soon as someone dares to veer from the party line, he has become "one of them." Also, just for the record, not once have I resorted to "quantum" explanations of anything. I happen to agree 100% with Skeptico's critique of "What the Bleep...," truly an asinine if unintentionally funny movie if there ever was one. Please don't dismiss me as a "woo" without considering what I am actually saying. There is a place for magic, imagination, ritual, indeed for superstition in the human landscape. Reason is very important, but it's not the only thing. If what I'm trying to say is psychobabble, then I am guilty as charged: a psychobabbler. As accused, I am an acupuncturist as well, which I know is tantamount to being a witch doctor among you guys. Hey, I'm mighty proud of my placebo delivery skills. But that is another argument for another time.

PS - I will go strangely silent for another two weeks, since I will be on vacation.

Try typing in paragraphs, sometime.

And while I prize reason as the best response to trying to solve problems and figure things out, it seems to me that people who ignore or diminish the artistic/symbolic etc. in their lives and are obsessively rational all the time might end up with a diminished existence.

Nice straw man, there. Why don't you try NOT making stuff up about Skeptico?

As I've said before, I truly think astrology is a load of bull. I'm just trying to point out that in spite of its non-validity as a predictive system, it appears to hold value for many people precisely because it engages their symbolic and ritualistic faculties in a way that they rate as being useful in some way.

That comes out my translator as: "It's useful because it's fun."

Yeah, that's real redeeming, especially since people make life decisions based on astrology. Some people even make life decisions for other people based on astrology, like a particular President of the United States.

If astrology was labelled as harmless fun, I wouldn't bother. But a lot of people claim that it can make predictions. That's not true, therefore we oppose it.

You might prefer to read a good novel or play music instead, or find great meaning in the pattern that your turd makes when you take a crap in the morning.

Nice way to change the subject and move the goalposts. Evade much?

Mostly what bothers me is the tone that many of the commentators here take, that as soon as someone dares to veer from the party line, he has become "one of them."

Because if you're not telling the truth, you're not telling the truth. If you are telling the truth, you should be able to show us how you proved it true. That's all we ask.

If you're excusing people from that obligation, that's even worse.

There is a place for magic, imagination, ritual, indeed for superstition in the human landscape.

True. Places like Final Fantasy and The Lord of the Rings.

Reason is very important, but it's not the only thing.

True. You have to have often irrational innovation to come up with potentially useful ideas. You have to have reason to kill the bad ideas.

As accused, I am an acupuncturist as well, which I know is tantamount to being a witch doctor among you guys.

It doesn't work, therefore it is tantamount to being a witch doctor. If you want to argue otherwise, prove that it works.

If what I'm trying to say is psychobabble, then I am guilty as charged: a psychobabbler.

I think you've moved into sophistry here: You've moved the goal posts and made stuff up about us.

Kaz,

You wrote "For the record, my position is simply that the human mind seems to come hardwired to be ritualistic/artistic/symbolic/mystical, as well as rational."

I agree with you up to a point, but I don't believe that the human brain is hardwired to be rational. Many optical illusions and statistical facts stun us because our brains are hardwired to be simplistic.

The modern world with its jet aircraft, mobile phones and computers has come about as a triumph of education over indoctrination. We are no longer poor, frightened creatures scavenging in the African veldt and wondering where our next meal has come from.

I deny my hardwiring! Education has freed me from its shackles.

However, I do recognise the lure of horoscopes, religious ceremony, etc. Many people do feel lost in a confusing world, and they seek solace from some higher power - someone powerful to hold their hands. I don't decry that, and I'm not some skeptical crusader looking to crush the infidel, even though I don't share their views.

I do regard believers who post on an avowed skeptical blog as wishing to engage in debate. If they want to post proof or evidence of their claims, I'll read it.

However, if they are seeking to convert me, then I expect a little more than rhetoric and unverifiable anecdotes. OK, I can't deny that the odd frustrated ad hominem does escape my fingers, and I have to apologise for that.

"And if you disagree then I have a bridge to sell you. Bring your check book."

On second thoughts, bring cash. I'm not going to take your word on how much there is in your bank account.

You're too late, Jurien. I've already bought the bridge, so there!

It's mine, mine, I tell you!

BWAHAHAHAHAHA!

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