Re: META: Psuedo Science
Mon, 8 Sep 1997 15:31:36 -0400 (EDT)

In a message dated 9/8/97 12:01:00 PM, wrote:

> Very often, what is classified as psuedo science is so haughtily
> branded as crap as to shut down discussion, which is nothing less than
> oppressive: humiliate someone into shutting up.

Mockery and humiliation are an important mean of social communication. Some
ideas, including much pseudo-science, really aren't worth talking or thinking
about, and these techniques help deal with them. Sometimes the mockers are
incorrect in their judgement, as with, say, quantum mechanics ("God doesn't
play dice with the universe") and evolution ("*my* ancestors weren't apes").
In those cases the mocked proponents use this as an opportunity to
demonstrate their own cool and the strength of the thought and evidence
behind their ideas.

Also, I wouldn't call humiliation "oppression". Murder is oppression.
Torture is oppression. Starvation is oppression. Denial of education is
oppression. Isolation from people who want to contact you is oppression.
All these things deny you the opportunity to live well and improve your
life. Deserved humiliation is a great way to learn. I rarely make those
kinds of mistakes twice.

>I think the more
>intriguing notions are what press some people to *want* to believe and
>why the myths, both historical and modern, dance so elusively through
>our culture, even causing the types of upsets that they do in this

Well, yes. Humans are what they are, which at present includes being real
suckers for certain types of nonsense. Debunking, while satisfying, doesn't
really address the root causes. So more productive lines of inquiry might

What kinds of nonsense are so attractive (this probably shades more into what
kinds of ideas, correct or not, are attractive)? What is it that makes them

How can we makes ourselves more resistant to nonsense?

Can there be disadvantages to being resistant? Some human behaviors (fashion
springs to mind) seem to operate through similar mechanisms, even though they
have no truth-value. Perhaps being "sensible" makes one prone to be
"unstylish"; certainly that's the stereotype of academia.

How can we make others more resistant to nonsense?

Can we, and should we, exploit those who cannot or will not become more