November 20, 2005

rigorous intellectual criticism

as a casual to semi-casual observer of the country over the last few years i couldn't help but notice that a lot of stuff is being dressed up with orwellian epithets that have nothing to do with the qualities of the program or movement being named. i don't want to get into a whole big political thing here, but you know what i'm talking about: the "clean skies" act, tax "relief," the "patriot" act, the "no child left behind" act, "iraq," and so on. i think the biggest mistake opponents of these things make is actually using these handles--they were designed in a totally superficial way so that people who never paid attention to what was going on in the world would just hear the pseudonym and be in favor of whatever it was. and when people who oppose them actually refer to what they're opposing by its given name they hurt their argument by both disseminating the name and sounding like they're against the thing it describes (kittens or warm milk or whatever).

all the titles i just mentioned were invented by the same group of people, but the whole strategy of naming your idea the thing which it is
not has clearly been catching on in other places. particularly in the ironically-named "intelligent design" movement--a creationism in sheep's clothing. these people just whipped out a thesaurus, substituted "design" for "create," and then added the word "intelligent" to offset the fact that they're crackpots.* what i don't get though, is why so many scientists, smart people who should know better, call it by its contrived moniker. don't call it that folks, you're helping them. that's what they want you to do. it doesn't need to be repeated, but the movement is not a theory distinct from creationism. the name and pseudoscience aspects are a facade. and propagating that facade by using their title and being all semantic about it only acts to their advantage. keeping in mind especially that the "controversy" is being disputed entirely on the rhetorical front (by reporters who don't realize it's ok to look things up) and among no real scientists.

that being said, i think this guy is onto something.

*general rule: any time someone feels the need to add a word like "intellectual," "principled," or a phrase like "rigorous criticism" to something you can prettymuch take for granted that they are totally full of crap. conversely, that goes for people who treat the word "intellectual" as a sneer too. those people are sneering because they're idiots.