For some time now I’ve noticed woos using the same type of arguments or argumentative technique, over and over again. It’s almost like they’re using some kind of handbook, or something. I already knew about The Woo Woo Credo, but it seemed to me some new arguments had crept in – almost as if the whole thing had been updated. Well, thanks to stellar undercover work on behalf of Skeptico.Net Enterprises, I can reveal the source of these new woo arguments – The Woo Handbook. And it is indeed an updated handbook of the
best most irritating arguments the average woo has to offer. Without further ado, I reproduce below the portions of it I have been able to procure to date. Undoubtedly there is more I don’t have (perhaps some of you can add some additional pieces), but I’ll give you what I have managed to obtain so far. So without further ado, I hereby present extracts from:
The Woo Handbook
My fellow woos – this handbook will enable to you debate effectively with skeptics on the web, or at least irritate them for a bit. Read and absorb its contents and you should be able to debate with skeptics without having to know any actual “science” or anything hard like that. And lets face it, if we wanted to study hard stuff and learn any actual facts or evidence, we’d be real scientists and not woos. And where would be the fun in that?
Before you start though, you should remember that skeptics have many things on their side. Things like evidence, facts, logic. But don’t despair. If you follow the techniques described below it may seem like you have a valid argument more often that you would imagine, given your actual lack of knowledge, evidence or facts. Good luck, and I’m visualizing your success.
Here are the main points to successfully
annoying debating with skeptics:
- Start by telling skeptics you want to “educate them on the facts”. This puts them on the defensive (see next point below) and makes it seem like you’re the knowledgeable one with facts on your side, even though what you’re about to tell them is mostly made up.
- When the skeptic comes back with demands for “evidence” (they love that word) for your claims, you should say the skeptic is being “defensive”. Alternatively you could try a passive aggressive approach and say the skeptic is “attacking”. Either works as well as the other. With a bit of luck, no one will notice that you didn’t have the “evidence” the skeptic wants and it will now look like the skeptic really is on the defensive.
- If the skeptic has scientific studies that appear to support his point of view, you should point out that scientific studies have been wrong before. Vioxx is always a good word to bring up here, as is Thalidomide. And if that doesn’t work, you could point out that doctors don’t always agree in their diagnoses, or that Einstein showed Newton was wrong. Really, the possibilities are endless – after all science has been wrong many times before. In fact you should say that science has been wrong many times before.
- Remember, your personal experience is always more valid than their scientific studies (or your lack of them). Anecdotes will convince more people you’re right than any number of “studies”, so have a couple ready. It doesn’t matter if they’re true – you’re on the internet so no one knows who you are and can check them anyway.
- Move the goalposts. For example, if you’re claiming that Thimerosal in vaccines causes autism, and the skeptic points to a lack of studies that support this (or the continued increase in autism even though Thimerosal has been removed from vaccines), just start talking about other environmental sources of mercury, or about heavy metals in general. Make it seem the skeptic is a fool for not realizing that (for example) mercury is a “neurotoxin”. No one will notice that the skeptic was arguing something different and you’ll look like the one who really understands the science.
- Question the skeptic’s experience or qualifications. This usually scores you some points since they’ll normally reply that this is an “appeal to authority” (or some such skeptic-like jargon), and their refusal to state their qualifications will seem like evasion. Remember you’re on the internet, and so no one can possibly know you don’t have the science degree or other experience you claim you have.
- Skeptics are closed minded, but these days you’ll need to be subtle about saying this or they’ll just say that you’re closed-minded for not agreeing with them. Instead, refer to “closed minded scientists” who are missing the big picture that only you know about. That’ll leave the impression that the skeptics really are too closed minded to see what you see.
- Question the motives of everyone. A scientist writing a paper must be getting funding from somewhere, after all. If you can’t find actual evidence of nefarious motives or conflicts of interest, no matter – just claim the conflicts exist. That’ll be enough in most cases.
- Introduce quantum mechanics to the debate. For example, you might say that the observer, in the act of observing, changes the observed, or something similar. If the skeptic asks you any questions on quantum mechanics (for example to see if you really understand it), you can just click here or here and copy and paste some pretty impressive sounding scientific explanations that will silence all but the most knowledgeable. You should then act as though the skeptics are fools for not knowing all this.
- Say that skeptics are “not skeptical enough”. This Zen-like approach makes you seem like the real skeptic while the skeptics look like rubes. In fact, extra points if you call the skeptics “Rubes” who have been fooled by _____________ (insert whatever they appear to support – big pharma / conventional medicine, you name it). You are then the “real skeptic” and can refer to the skeptics as “pseudo-skeptics”.
- Alternatively you can say “skepticism is healthy, but…” (and then explain why it isn’t), or you can say the skeptics are being “too skeptical”, or their skepticism goes “too far”. Avoid all discussion about how far is too far, or exactly when their skepticism has to stop. You might also not want to use this argument too close to the argument in the point above, as some skeptic might point out they contradict each other.
- If all else fails, use the phrase “The Church of Skepticism”. That always gets them annoyed.
- Remember that conventional doctors are “allopathic doctors” or “allopaths”. This seemingly scientific term will make it sound like you know technical terms the skeptics don’t. Few people will know they’re meaningless.
- After the debate has been going for a while you should say you’ve provided studies to support your position, even though you haven’t. You can then periodically refer to these studies as though everyone now agrees you supplied them. Few people will remember you haven’t.
- Equivocation is your friend. For example, when talking about how when Columbus first arrived in the West Indies, the natives were literally unable to see his ships (it’s all in “What The Bleep Do We Know!?”), and the skeptic doubts this, just suggest that perhaps the Indians just didn’t realize they were large ships containing people. Or, perhaps they didn’t realize the significance of the ships – that they contained colonizers who would steal their lands and kill most of them off. The skeptic will seem stupid for not agreeing with this and few people will realize this is not what the film was actually claiming.
- Drop into the argument the fact that hundreds of years ago we didn’t know radio waves existed, but they obviously did exist, so how does the skeptic know that “qi” (or whatever) does not exist today? If nothing else, that’ll change the subject.
- Be careful with the “we only use 10% of brain” maneuver – most skeptics will by now have handy a link to sites such as Snopes that debunk that claim. Instead talk about 7% or 3% of the brain, which should confuse them. At least it should muddy the waters. If that doesn’t work, claim you meant 7% of the “mind” and “not the physical brain”. You can then enjoy sneering at them for being stuck in the materialist paradigm, not knowing that the mind and the brain are completely separate things. Now would be a good time to mention “quantum” again. (See above.)
- In debates that continue over several days, you should repeat arguments you made earlier as though the skeptic is a fool for not having answered these points. In a long debate, few people will realize the skeptic did refute those earlier arguments. At the very least, the skeptic will now have to waste time searching back and quoting what was written before. Few people will bother to follow the argument in this much detail.
- When talking about whether prayer or The Secret works, say something like God (or The Secret) does answer prayers (wishes to the universe), but that “sometimes the answer is no”. There is really no way they can prove this wrong, and you will appear wise and Zen-like in comparison.
- Finally, when you’ve used up all the above tactics, say you’re not going to waste any more time with the skeptics you’ve been debating because they’re too sad, stupid, closed-minded, ______ (insert other flaw the skeptic has) to understand your brilliant arguments. Make a big grandiose statement and exit to start anew somewhere else.
Look out for our new section for Intelligent Design Creationism, and how to debate Darwinists.
(Skeptico notes – that section will follow if I can get the full text.)