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October 09, 2007

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That's odd...I once saw an older copy, with additional material between #5 and #6. I only got a quick look at it before the woo stormed off, but I'll see if I can remember it accurately.

Remember your homeopathy! For any poisons, including deadly neurotoxins like mercury (see how saying that makes you look scientific?), the harmfulness of the chemical (make sure, in verbal debates, to say "chemical" the same way you might say "horse dung") has nothing to do with the amount. A poison is a poison in any dosage, even just a single quantum molecule of it. In fact, if you're paying attention homeopathically, you know that the quantum molecule is even more poisonous than the larger dose!

So, for instance, when a skeptic notes that they took the Thimerosal out of MMR vaccines and autism rates are still rising, remember that there's probably still a little mercury there, and that little mercury is far more potent than the greater amount of Thimerosal from before.

Note: It's not always necessary to bring up homeopathy in these cases, but it's nice if you need to change the subject. Usually claiming "a poison is a poison" or asking "do you want doctors putting dangerous toxins in your children?" is enough.

I guess they must have revised this edition.

Perhaps if you send a sample of one of the pages from the Woo Handbook to Mr. Krugel, he could locate the remainder with his magical quantum box.

JC

This handbook makes my spleen hurt. Owie.

Yes, this was funny. But it'll come off as arrogant to the people we're trying to sway. As a skeptic with a public outlet, you're representing me, so please be on your best behavior.

1. There's virtually no appeasing woos, so ANYTHING we say, no matter how humble, will come across as arrogant to their ego-oriented minds.

2. Multiple approaches work better. It was the skeptics who played hard ball that won me over. If the woo does something dishonest, it should be pointed out without mercy. No double-standards.

*** FOR GENERAL ATTENTION ***

It has just come to the attention of the sceptics of the world that a new document provisionally entitled 'The Woo Handbook' is being distributed among woos everywhere.

A number of references therein to the phenomenon of 'long debates' (also referred to as 'debates that continue over several days') leads us to believe that it is necessary to draw the attention of our fellow sceptics to one of the key rules in our own Protocols. Rule One, in fact.

Do. Not. Feed. The. Troll.

We thank you for your attention.

(Signed in the absence of) The Elders of Scepticism

PS Great post though!

*sigh* It does make woodom (wooness? woohood?) sound like more fun . . .

Dan, I'm one of the people Skeptico is trying to sway (naturally credulous, love a great story & would love the 'woo' stuff to be true) and this doesn't come across as arrogant to me. Having read some of the archived comments, I support Skeptico in his / her right (to be a hermaphrodite and) to unrelentingly mock the poor arguments of woos.

Reason does not work on woos, or they wouldn't be woos. So maybe directed laughter therapy (i.e.: pointing and giggling) will do the trick. Time for some field trials, anyhow.

Of course embarrassment and being laughed at can be painful. That pain you're feeling? It's just teh st00pid leaving the body.

do all skeptics have an implicit "i know better" attitude?

Only when we actually demonstrably know better.

Care to elaborate on anything, ed, or are you just going to languish in your elitist naysayery, rather than actually try doing something positive with your life?

Tom Foss, comment #1: that section was removed for a reason.
Applying homeopathic principles, if mercury in vaccines causes autism, then surely a vaccine from which all traces of Thimerosal have been removed ought to be a cure for autism.
Thus, bringing up homeopathy in the context of an anti-vaccination rant is counterproductive.

Sounds logical to me. Then again, when have woos been known for their logic?

Still, I hope the "poison at any dose" bits stayed in someplace. I always like seeing that bit of idiocy.

Bronze Dog, i was just asking the question, nothing more.

You can tell me if i'm a skeptic or not. My whole belief system got turned upside down when i was in university. i was taking a nerdy postgrad, probably to get an extra few years out of college but more likely to impress my father. I've never been a logical person, more a daydreamer than anything else, but i had to think a lot more logically to get through the course, which i did'nt entirely complete. It's funny that you suggest 'doing something positive with your life', because i think that's where logic is most important. I had to gently hang up on my mother last nite ranting on about social problems, with no aim in mind at all, as if we should give up and do nothing because a few people like to shoot each other dead in one neighbourhood of a city that i'm thinking of working in. It's partly because of our different beliefs i temporarily live in a different part of the world to my parents.

If i am a skeptic, i think logic and evidence should be used with care, or we'll end up like the people we're trying to bring down to earth. Perhaps, the only way these woos can talk sense is when they figure things out for themselves. Personally, i consider things like a sustainable environment, advancements in gene research, and social solidarity as more important topics than waisting time shooting down my mother's rant about crime. When i was trying to figure out the origins of life, i did a google search and wrote off the many religions to get down to the hard truths of evolution and the complex beginning of the universe, of which i still don't have a complete understanding. When i get in an argument with someone i try to get an idea of their basic beliefs and how independent they are before taking them seriously. It'll be a long hard battle before good people are governing our society, but i think the EU, for example, is at least moving in the right direction.

Nonetheless i think this website is a good thing, but that woo article, i think, makes it look like "we know better," something we should avoid to keep an open mind and open others.

Ed,

I have a suggestion. Read Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World. Its chock full of great stuff about skeptical thinking. But there is also a part where he addresses your exact question, about how skepticism leads to 'snobbery' and how its as much part of the dynamic of critical thinking that anything else. Its very hard to help. Even if you are polite, it comes out condescending. If you are assertive, it comes out obnoxious.

The Woo handbook is another version of things like Lists of fallacies, or Talk Origins list of creationist claims. They should be written, because this stuff is so old, and the arguments so tired. The only reason they exist is because new people are introduced to the nonsense every year.


Eric/Tom:

Just as long as the Thimerosal isn’t diluted. Because, as we know, that just makes it stronger.

Okay, ed, I misread you. Thought you were a woo trying to uselessly change the topic to arrogance, rather than a skeptic expressing concern over tone.

The way I read the article, it's not about skeptics knowing better: It's about woos being dishonest, and us calling them on their dishonesty. I don't think we should tone that down at all.

I've been in an extremely foul mood lately, with the ignition point being a mother who feels that deliberately exposing her children to potentially deadly and/or crippling diseases is better than vaccination, and I've been on a bit of a campaign to show woos how they're really just like what they claim skeptics to be. So, bumping into what I initially read as an evasive, unconstructive woo gave me a direction to explode.

Three points: First, yes, there are more important things to worry about than Emoto's magic water crystals and Sylvia Browne's loopy predictions. That doesn't mean that these aren't legitimate things to worry about and fight against, and it doesn't mean that fighting against one set of problems takes away from fighting against some other set of problems.

Second, we have to know our limitations. Alone, I can't make a sustainable society or improve the economy. But alone, I can educate people about the problems with woo, I can work to help people become more skeptical, more rational, more logical, and more open to the facts as presented by science and reason.

Finally, stemming from that point, I don't think these issues are unrelated. If people could think critically and consider the consequences of their actions, could evaluate the science and facts without dogma or ideology getting in the way, then we'd be working toward a sustainable, socially-solid society. By promoting rationality, we're helping to create a populace that will more readily accept reality, without the trappings and fallacies and delusions that people typically append to it. If that's not a step toward eradicating these greater social ills, I don't know what is.

I just noticed that the skepticwiki.org website no longer exists.

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