Respectful Insolence

Woo-meisters will not be pleased. While perusing this week’s Skeptics’ Circle, I was reminded of something that I had meant to post about a couple of days ago.

I don’t know how he did it or where he got it, but somehow he has found the Holy of Holies for woos everywhere. He found The Woo Handbook. In it, he finds the twenty main strategies for dealing with Skeptics. They’re pretty much all there: shifting the goalposts, labeling skeptics as “close-minded,” introducing quantum mechanics, and appeals to ignorance, along with #18, the technique of woos that probably annoys me the most (at least, it did back when I was on Usenet and actually used to participate in debates that stretched over days or weeks):

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.

It’s as if a football team managed to get a copy of the playbook for its arch-rival. Of course, when that happens in football, the team whose playbook has been compromised will change its strategy. Woos, however, are unable to change their playbook, because the fallacies in it are all they have.

Comments

  1. #1 JMG3Y
    October 13, 2007

    In case you missed this from theScientist.com:

    Calling all charlatans: A group of researchers puts companies making scientific claims on the spot

    “One day in early July, a customer service representative for a company called Crystalite Salt received a phone call from Jennifer Lardge, a physicist. Lardge was curious about the science behind one of their products: lumps of salt, called lamps, that are meant to improve your health when they are heated. . . .”

    “The researchers were particularly irritated by companies that used scientific-sounding claims to back their products and market them to the public. Like Lardge, several of the researchers took it upon themselves to call up some of the companies whose advertisements they’d noticed and ask some more questions about the scientific research that went — or didn’t — go into them. . . .”

    Sense About Science Promoting good science and evidence for the public

    “Sense About Science is an independent charitable trust. We respond to the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence on issues that matter to society, from scares about plastic bottles, fluoride and the MMR vaccine to controversies about genetic modification, stem cell research and radiation.”

    “Our recent and current priorities include alternative medicine, MRI, detox, nuclear power, evidence in public health advice, weather patterns and an educational resource on peer review.”

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