Evidence-Free Evangelism – A Guide
Posted by softestpawn on December 20, 2008
Following Martin Robbins’ article about the fanatic fringes of skepticism, here is a guide for evangelists – perhaps the opposite of skeptics – with global warming deluders and homeopaths as examples.
Homeopaths believe that water ‘remembers’ what was in it, but only the things that the homeopath put in it (rather than all the other things that have been in it once upon a time) and that this pure water can be used to treat medical conditions.
Global Warming Deluders are those who insist we know the climate so well that we know we must reduce CO2 emissions immediately to avoid wrecking the planet, according to a strained chain of reasoning.
Both are believed because the world is a very complicated place, we see patterns in things, we mis-associate events, but mostly just because we want to. To help this along, we can:
Select: The world and the human body are complicated. There’s plenty of data sets to select from to prove your point.
At any one moment the human body is adjusting; recovering from lunch, getting hungry for dinner, climbing down from that coffee high, pain and stiffness comes and go, you feel more exuberant or less so. We are never static in every possible measurement until we are dead. So we can pick and choose; did you feel better after the treatment? How about your foot, is that feeling alright? Better? Good. Don’t worry about the headache that’s just come on, we’ll deal with that.
Similarly the environment consists of many many major measurables and an awesomly large number of smaller ones. These too are all always changing; nature is not static, there is no ‘balance’. So we can pick any change and associate that with our cause; cloudiness, lemming populations, rainfall, snowfall, temperature, particulates, saltiness, pirates, blueness, transparency, sunspots, etc.
Change: If the evidence you were using suddenly stops cooperating, change your evidence set. Until it starts cooperating again, it really wasn’t appropriate to use it anyway.
So your foot has started hurting again? Shame, we’ll try something else. But your headache has gone? Excellent, see? It worked! And everyone knows that randomized controlled trials can’t be used on homeopathy. Unless it shows it works.
So global temperatures are no longer rising? But the ice caps are melting! Not quite as much as we would like? They must be, polar bear populations are falling terribly! They’re not really? Well that ice over there is melting. There, that showed you.
Say it loud and often and in public: And people will start to believe you. Eventually. You don’t even need to back it up with anything, although putting in numbers is more convincing. Any numbers.
Pick your Priests: It’s important to keep support in your evangelising community or you may get disheartened. You will need to pick representatives that have authority; some kind of appropriate qualification or title, and who present well, and have time and resources to commit.
Then in moments of doubt you can revisit their blogs and regain your faith.
Similarly, as you don’t care about the wiffly waffly ‘science’, you can defer to them when anyone asks you about it, because they are important, and they’re qualified, and they use the same words as your dastardly opponents.
Personalise it: If you can’t do the science, make it an argument on principles and people. Whatever, make it an argument rather than a discussion about a hypothesis. As soon as you make it an issue with winners and losers then people invest pride in their position, and you’ll have some supporters for life.
Demand an alternative: If you’re having difficulty supporting your faith, demand your opponents support theirs. This is great, as for a start it demands they dream up a new faith to support, and lots of people will get caught by this. It diverts attention from your faith – which is after all what is under discussion – and you can now happily destroy their even more vacuous attempts.
After all, how else did your foot suddenly get better if not by the homeopathic treatment? Why else would the world change if not by evil, selfish human industrialisation?
Establish a presence in the establishment: Nothing provides an air of respectability like getting The System to support you. Obviously you need to avoid any real experts, so if you can persuade some bureaucrats to include homeopathy in the NHS, or even just a page on a respectable health website, then you’re in. Similarly if you can get non-expert scientists to sign up to your cause, then everyone will hear the words ‘scientists say…’ and you’re in. Or any group of celebrity politicians.
Veneer: It’s important to look and sound as if you’re scientific. This means using scientific words and even, perhaps, sometimes, doing real science (as long as it’s only to look for supporting evidence). But importantly it means having your own journal, reviewed by your own people, and/or your own committees staffed by people with an interest in the faith.
Complain to mum: Don’t let your opponents speak! It is clear that you are right, so they are just confusing people. In fact, if people don’t believe you, it is because they are being misled by these deliberate liars. This might be done by:
Threats: with law, ideally. This tends to persuade the timid to go elsewhere and consider other things, no matter what useful things they may say or do. You can do this directly by threatening litigation, especially to ISPs who are hosting the little twerps, or indirectly by promising dire punishment for high crimes
Assigning Dodgy Motives: It doesn’t actually matter if someone benefits from their opposition. Doctors who pan homeopathy are obviously in the pay of the big drugs companies. Energy experts are obviously being funded by big oil companies. Occasionally you will find someone for whom this is even a little bit true, which obviously proves they all are, and therefore they are lying to line their own pockets, and therefore you are right.
Claim Persecution: Everyone likes the plucky underdog, especially mum. If you say your opposition are getting more publicity than you, or stopping you from getting what you deserve, then some people will believe you. And if mum does, she’ll get you on your pedestal where you deserve to be.
Have Secret Proof: Only let other people in your industry check your data. It’s not appropriate that anyone else have ready access to it; they would not understand it – they’ve not been trained – and they’d only pick what appear to be holes in it but aren’t really.
Stick to your faith: No matter what. With you standing there declaiming your faith with a completely straight face, some people will continue to believe you. Some of them will be important.
Use the Precautionary Principle: A great favourite for the lazy of head, this will persuade anyone who doesn’t like to think things through. Use homeopathy because it might just work, and save your life. Reduce CO2 as if you don’t, it might just kill us all.
Ensure Tradition: No one really trusts new stuff, as it means there hasn’t been time for it to have been proven. Homeopathy has been around for two hundred years or more, and global warming was predicted by Arrhenius in 1896, so they must be true.
He’s your idiot: This is an excellent argument and can be used by anybody. All you do is point to some obvious twonk(s)* who believes the same things as your opponent, and this demonstrates how stupid your opponents are to believe the same thing. Coincidentally it also proves that your faith is true. And, because we’re all still children at heart, it’s great to laugh at twonks and the things they say.
* The twonk need not be stupid; if you’re a capitalist then a hippy will do, and vice versa.
He’s your kind of idiot: That’s this article obviously, as well as Martin Robbins’ and this one. Showing similarities between a particularly stupid group and a careful selection of your opponents means all your opponents must be particularly stupid, and therefore of course you are exceptionally bright. This is well known.
Move on: As time goes on and more research is done it will become harder and harder for the clear voice of hysterial passion to ring out. It’s important to find a new cause before the current one gets bogged down in the complications of real life.
If you’re still touting Global Warming for example, you might want to consider “Climate Change”, as this handily means you can preach your cause no matter how the climate changes.
Similarly, if your homeopathy becomes unpopular then aromatherapy is very successful, cures cancer and baldness, and smells nice.
(While this kind of exercise can be fun, it has of course no value to any serious debate)
This entry was posted on December 20, 2008 at 11:10 pm and is filed under Environmentalism, Global Warming, Metadebates, Politics. Tagged: Arguing, Climate Change, debating, Evangelism, Evidence Free, Global Warming, Global Warming Deluders, Homeopaths. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.