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I have a problem.

It's a serious problem. No, it's not a medical condition. No, it's not the fact that I hold political, social, and sexual views that put me at odds with 90% of the population. No, it's not fleas.

My problem is this: Credulity pisses me off. I mean really pisses me off. When I see people spouting nonsense about how the Egyptian pyramids were built by space aliens or how meditation can teach you to levitate, unlock your psychic powers, and cast out demons or how vaccination is a Jewish plot to murder Christian children or whatnot, I get mad. Breatharians, Bigfoot fanatics, the looney tunes who hang out in Groom Lake, Nevada believing they'll uncover evidence that the government is hiding the wreckage of a crashed flying saucer, and the yahoos who go on about the lost continent of Atlantis and its super-advanced spacefaring civilization produce in me the exact same emotional reaction as I have when I hear someone say something like "This world would be a better place if we killed all the niggers." I get that pissed.

The world is filled with people who dress up turds to look like brownies, and then sell them on the street corner. And the world is filled with people perfectly willing to take a bite. And it's infuriating.

You see, this kind of credulity is never harmless. It softens the brain. It corrodes reason, the one thing that sets us apart from the other animals. It makes a person easy to manipulate. Atrocities happen because the gullible are willing to believe that thus-and-such a person isn't really human, doesn't have a soul, murdered Jesus, whatever. Gullibility is a knife at the throat of civilization.

Even in its less extreme incarnations, the credulity that lets people happily munch on turds and believe they're brownies is expensive. I've ranted before about the gullible nitwits that spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money--MY money--on "psychic drug detectors" (empty plastic boxes from Radio Shack whose "inventor" claimed could harness "psychic energy" to detect drugs and even locate missing persons, which he sold for $8,000 a pop to schools and police departments all across the country). And, of course, there's the yahoos who buy everything from "laundry balls" (which supposedly "energize water" to get clothes clean without detergent) to "AIDS crystals" that use the energy of those Egyptian pyramids to cure AIDS.

It all well and truly pisses me off.

It's amazing, really. I feel like I'm living in a society of people who cannot muster the cognitive skills to tell the difference between shit and brownies. You show a person two Web sites--one published by the CDC, for instance, and the other by that aforementioned Christian Fundamentalist group that believes that vaccination is a Jewish plot to kill Christian babies, and it's a crap shoot which one he'll believe. Basic analytical and reasoning skills are so lacking in the population at large that you might as well flip a coin.

"But," the person will say, "it's important to hear both sides of the story."

Both sides??!! Both sides of the story? One side contains carefully collected, peer-reviewed, objectively verifiable data; the other contains the ravings of religious zealots about how the Jews fabricated evidence of past smallpox epidemics, invented margarine to poison Christian women, and oh, by the way, the holocaust never happened.

Christ, people. Seriously, if that's your idea of "listening to both sides of the argument," you'd best re-open the debate about whether or not the world is flat.

There is absolutely nothing that is so well-documented, so obviously true, that a turd-dresser can't come along and try to make believe that, no, wait, there's another side to the story. Unfortunately, it seems that very few people have functional bullshit detectors; hell, there are actually people willing to believe that water will change its crystal structure in response to human emotion--which, when you examine the methodology (namely, writing words with an emotional content onto a piece of paper and taping it to the side of a glass in a freezer) leads one to the inescapable conclusion that not only is water responsive to human thought, but it's also possessed of the remarkable ability to read written Japanese.

If water is fluent in reading Japanese, and my body is 70% water, shouldn't I be able to read written Japanese with at least 70% fluency? And what happens if a person writes a Japanese word on a piece of paper but doesn't know what the word means--does the water still react? But I digress.

Of course, for the faithful who believe this nonsense, the turd-peddler has many devices for sale. They'll energize the water with, y'know, positive emotions, to, y'know, cure cancer. God help me, I am not making this up.

Why? Why why why? Why are people so goddamn incapable of distinguishing between shit and brownies? Why is it that no matter how many turds these people bite into, they're so eager for the next? Do they so desperately NEED to believe something--conspiracies, sea monsters, anything because their lives are so crushingly dull? Are they completely blind to the breathtaking, awe-inspiring wonder that really exists in the real world? Are they just so intellectually sloppy that they don't know any better--they can't read total gibberish dressed up with scientific-sounding words and tell the difference between that and real science? What makes a person gullible? Why are otherwise intelligent, articulate people so hopelessly credulous that they'll send their bank account information to deposed government officials in Nigeria who want to wire them "THE SUM OF $150,000,000 (ONE HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION US DOLLARS)," believe in Bigfoot and Nessie and space aliens in the deserts of Africa, but will refuse to immunize their kids because "oh, there's no real proof that it works"? Where do these people COME from?

Grr. Maybe I'm the space alien.

All I can say is, God bless James Randi--a far, far more patient man than I.


Comments

( 20 comments — Leave a comment )
wldrose
Aug. 4th, 2005 06:20 am (UTC)
read some of the christian father website.

Im glad to now know the root of all of americas probs is that I have the vote, yup I will sign the compact since I am a "submissive woman of God"

damm I could spend hours being appalled.

but yes your right and ill send you a brownie if you want

ash
haradachi
Aug. 4th, 2005 07:47 am (UTC)
Excellent points!

I enjoy people who deny evolution, and insist that abstinence and the rhythm method are viable forms of birth control. Yet they complain about their grocery bill for eight plus children and require social assistance.

Perhaps you would be interested in Wash Away Your Sins Soap and other gadgets for God? It will change your life!
minniethemoocha
Aug. 4th, 2005 01:26 pm (UTC)
"For that enticing 'Do it Again!'" aroma.
tacit
Aug. 4th, 2005 03:09 pm (UTC)
My word. I love that site! How have I lived this long without knowing about that most outstanding collection of tacky, over-the-top religious kitsch?
peristaltor
Aug. 6th, 2005 01:36 am (UTC)
Love the soap! Bought some a year ago for the sheer outlandish bravado and satire it represented.

Hey, any sink can have some soap, but sin-washing soap? It makes your guests feel special, or at least gives them a laugh.
pyrategrrl
Aug. 4th, 2005 12:52 pm (UTC)
word.

count me in the 10%...
(Anonymous)
Aug. 4th, 2005 01:19 pm (UTC)
What about people who don't believe man went to the Moon?

-Vijay
datan0de
Aug. 4th, 2005 02:42 pm (UTC)
Have them bound and washed, and then bring them to me.

I'll happily deal with them, either with badastronomy.com or, failing that, the crowbar.
minniethemoocha
Aug. 4th, 2005 01:29 pm (UTC)
I'm going to steal that link.

Pictures of frigging *snowflakes* are supposed to be how water responds to being prayed over? I guess that means that if people in hell truly repented, they could indeed get some ice water. Sigh.

The "Mother Teresa" one is my favorite. Because it's lopsided and sort of orange. Just like her.
physicsduck
Aug. 4th, 2005 01:42 pm (UTC)
So you wanna actually do something about it, or just piss and moan? I know a lot of people that recreationally bitch with no direction for change at all.

www.thegeekgroup.org we're bitchslapping stupidity all over the world. Membership is free, and you get to hang out with a lot of other people that beat the piss out of stupidity and scientific myth.

Come, and bring your intellect and attitude, they're welcome here.

datan0de
Aug. 4th, 2005 02:52 pm (UTC)
I'm intrigued, but the site is a bit sparse. Most of it says that it's under construction. Any idea when it'll be fleshed out more?
physicsduck
Aug. 4th, 2005 02:55 pm (UTC)
There's a lot more but it's members only. To read teh forums, FAQs, archives anda ll that you have to be a member.

http://www.thegeekgroup.org/archives/videos/

There's a peek in the back door, have a look at those.

nesteddoll
Aug. 4th, 2005 09:08 pm (UTC)
tacit spends hours every day bitchslapping people. He doesn't need any encouragement... :P
roadknight
Aug. 4th, 2005 03:44 pm (UTC)
I think it's fear. There's a segment of the population that is so freaked out by what they see going on around them in terms of social and technological change that they just flip and abdicate being a thinking rational person and go hunting for somebody to tell them that it's going to be okay and that they'll make the big bad reality go away.

They just WANT to believe so they don't have to think. They are scared and either intellectually incapable or unwilling to grasp the truth. You don't get that stupid without being that way in the first place, or consciously suspending rational thought.

"God created the heaven and the earth". BOOM, there you go. Existential problems solved. No need to worry about whether He did or not or whether He even exist because the Bible says so, so creation in 6 days, geocentrism, creationism, all wrapped up in one neat little package. An entire cosmology to-go.
And well, hey, if God made man just pop out of nothing, maybe the Earth really is flat, maybe water can be enchanted.
nekidsteve
Aug. 4th, 2005 07:44 pm (UTC)
bigfoot was the pilot of the atlantian spaceship that crashed in roswell. i thought everyone knew that.
zotmeister
Aug. 5th, 2005 08:59 pm (UTC)
To quote one Marshall Gatten: "Think about how stupid the average person is.

"Now for the crappy thought: Half the world is even stupider than that."

Minor tangent: My personal belief is that personal beliefs should stop where other people's personal beliefs begin. For example, parents that deny medical treatment for their child due solely to the religious beliefs of the parents should be arrested and prosecuted for all damage done to that child. I believe there are very good reasons for the concept of "ward of the state", and that is one of them. If someone doesn't believe in medicine, let them die - go Darwinism! - but inflicting it on their kids? Patently reprehensible. - ZM
jonnymoon
Aug. 9th, 2005 08:22 pm (UTC)
Nice thought, but take a look at the flip side...there is a passage in the bible which says it's reprehensible to deny your child exposure to Jesus Christ.

I'm sure you'd hear all about how evil you are for not showing your kids the way they can be made to feel guilty for everything they do...and how there is some omnipotent power who watches over their shoulders every minute.

Creepy, eh?
peristaltor
Aug. 6th, 2005 01:49 am (UTC)
More Love!
Love your posts, man, keep up the good bitch-slapping.

I can't provide any answers, but can highly recommend "Why People Believe Weird Things" by Michael Shermer (I think that is his name; sadly, I loaned the book out). He's the president of the skeptics society and has great stories involving many of the freaks you mentioned, including how he tries to trace the original falacy leading to their perculiar brand of Idiocy.

I too stumbled across the unwashed masses in way too many numbers working at <a=href"http://www.electricvehiclesnw.com/">Electric Vehicles NorthWest</a>. You want crazies? Just work for some shop that attracts the Conspiracy Nutz. Oh, the stories I should tell. . . .
zanzibar
Aug. 7th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC)
Would things be different if all brownies were turds?
Would we still crave them?

Ultimately the only brownies you can trust are those you bake yerself.
( 20 comments — Leave a comment )