Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Reflections on the Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense

As the unofficial jester to the court of skepticism, I generally play to a restricted audience. This blog is therefore primarily read by members of the skeptical community and a small subset of people who actively profess a rational approach to the understanding of the universe including Jack of Kent, a couple of nice witches and my mum. *waves*

It’s therefore most gratifying when a post escapes the confines of the skeptical community and tries to make its way in the wider world. This will inevitably generate feedback and comments from a more diverse and therefore less accepting audience.

I don’t plan on being goaded into replying to all the comments received, in that direction madness surely lies, but this post will hopefully address three of the common points raised.


The criticism that I perhaps have the most sympathy with is that making churlish and derogatory remarks does not necessarily advance the cause of skeptisim. We in the skeptical community are quick to spot logical fallacies and cry “Ad hominem” or “Argument from Authority” at the weak reason of the credulous, and I’m not blind to these shortcomings in many of my own posts.

Indeed the primary rebuttal for irrational claims should be made by those equipped with the scientific skills to empirically and logically refute such nonsense (if indeed non bias investigation proves it to be so).

Nonetheless, we must play to our individual strengths and I flatter myself to believe that ridicule (nothing to be proud of), is mine. Although it lacks the rationalism of the scientific method, ridicule can often highlight the hidden laughable aspects of irrational beliefs to the previously disinterested and hopefully enthuse them to seek more reliable evidence.

A perfect example of this is the Mitchell & Webb homeopathy sketch. I’m also rather fond of this quote from Thomas Jefferson’s on the subject:

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus."


People also suggested many other irrational nonsensical beliefs that would have been quite at home on my table. There were also many other pieces of nonsense in my original draft that failed to make the cut, which admittedly defeats the whole notion of using a periodic table supposedly containing a definitive taxonomy of items, but that quite clearly, wasn’t the point.

In the end, the items that made the table were merely an arbitrary personal selection of nonsense that I find particularly irksome, had good comic value or I simply wanted to draw attention to.

Religions were always planned for inclusion in the table as part of the idea of the post was to show socially accepted beliefs on a par with the truly ludicrous in order to deliberately highlight that their prevalence and demanded respect, acquire them no more integrity.

The actual religions used in the table were therefore primarily selected by simply choosing the most popular ones (by number of claimed followers). Although I did ponder for a while with Shinto and Buddhism, which may be seen more as cultural philosophies than religions.

I see nothing nonsensical in celebrating culture and tradition, however I opted to include Buddhism because although it thankfully lacks the supernatural origins of the monotheistic religions, it nonetheless contains enough unscientific concepts, such as rebirth and reincarnation, to afford it a place in the table.

Shinto on the other hand was missed out primarily because of my ignorance of it. I am however an equal opportunities ridiculer and am more than happy to poke a shitty stick at Shinto if suitably armed with evidence of its irrationality.

BTW, I’m thoroughly enjoying the #StupidScientology hashtag currently trending on Twitter. Great fun, and easily the most preposterous of the “religions”.


However, by far the most enjoyable comments were the ones received from people who seemed to find the humour and absurdity in the table right up to the point that they stumbled upon their own sacred cow. To these people, I make no apology; it’s all in there for a reason.

22 comments:

Dale Williams said...

Good post, Crispian.

Ridicule & humour is often mistaken for not taking a subject seriously. However, often it is one of the best ways to point out the ridiculous nature of these beliefs.

There's a place for sober debate, but also a place for pointing out the shortcomings of us humans and our beliefs with humour.

Beliefs should not be a shield against ridicule. I'm an equal opportunities piss-taker.

Pedro Homero said...

This post is a great addendum to the periodic table. Good job, Crispian!

Darrick Lim said...

I was delighted by your table Crispian, and wasn't exactly surprised that it got the sort of flak it did from people who subscribed to one or more of its 'elements'.

Your accompanying post is a graceful, articulate and measured defense of your work. And as is often the case with graceful, articulate, measured arguments in support of science, reason and critical thinking, they can fail to persuade the irrational of their flawed beliefs. Yet it does not lessen the nobility of the one making the attempt, or the validity of his argument.

Michael Kingsford Gray said...

I would like to whinge about the whiney responses you received.
The poster was, and remains, a tour-de-force of biting comic genius.
Seriously.
Except for the entry about Bunyips, which are very real. Just ask my daughter Sera.

Shatterface said...

Ridicule has more claim to represent a different but authentic and complimentary 'way of knowing' from science than religion does.

Keep up the good work!

Jon said...

Irrational peasants used to be ridiculed for saying rocks fell from the sky by educated men. Antoine Lavoisier said "Stones cannot fall from the sky, because there are no stones in the sky!",

There are no cryptids to be found. The loch ness monster cannot be an eel because skeptics have already decided it is not a dinosaur.

Let us laugh at people who don't accept the orthodox.

Jack of Kent said...

"This blog is therefore primarily read by members of the skeptical community, those who actively profess a rational approach to the understanding of the universe, Jack of Kent, a couple of nice witches and my mum. *waves*"

Ha ha! I *love* the implication that I am not in the first named group :-)

DM said...

jack of kent . . another little babbling idiot has appeared...

Crispian Jago said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Crispian Jago said...

DM,

Thanks for taking the time to leave a specific comment.

I only delete multiple copies of the same cut and pasted arse gravy. I like to leave 1 comment up for entertainment though.

Would be deligted if you came up with new one, highly amusing stuff.

Crispian Jago said...

Of course those mentioned specifically in the opening paragraph are not precluded ffrom the groups also listed.

DM said...

you destroyed everything, congratulations...




Is America burning yet?

Maybe we need some more...


we use the DIVINE against the ESTABLISHMENT... you?


we do better DEMOLITIONS than you, savage...


RENOUNCE YOUR ATHEISM AND JOIN THE SOCIALIST FAITH!


let them know if the MDC continues more people will die...

the WORLD TRADE CENTER PROPHECY - THE DANCE OF DEATH

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X0Hez25fFrg

FLUSH ATHEISM!

Actually it is a ROYAL FLUSH!!!

Let me show you how ATHEISTS were partially responsible for 911

These ATHEISTS NEED TO BE ON THE TERRORIST WATCH LIST!

You don’t even have SCIENCE on your side…

You’re a perfect example of when PHILOSOPHY becomes an ENEMY OF LIFE...

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.com/2010/06/playing-mystery-card.html

not quite samantha with her *supernatural spit*, eh?

this isn't one of your little WORD GAMES...

blasphemy is a DEATH SENTENCE

you people actually BELIEVE the BS you preach!

GOD 1 - atheists 0

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQcNiD0Z3MU


Atheists,

you are ENEMIES OF GOD AND ARE GOING TO BE ANNIHILATED...

Repent and turn to God or be destroyed...

YOU HAVE NO CHOICE...

my interpretation of the STATUE FIRE... it symbolizes the SPIRITUAL DEATH of atheism...

http://www.salon.com/news/2010/06/15/us_lightning_strikes_jesus_statue

http://static.guim.co.uk/sys-images/Guardian/Pix/pictures/2010/6/16/1276680110544/The-King-of-Kings-statue--005.jpg

http://www.latimes.com/media/photo/2010-06/54332292.jpg


http://friendlyatheist.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/butterjesus-1.jpg

PRINCESS DI IS WEARING A NEW DRESS!

http://www.princeofwales.gov.uk/speechesandarticles/a_speech_by_hrh_the_prince_of_wales_titled_islam_and_the_env_252516346.html
______________________________
http://skepticblog.org/2010/04/06/would-i-ever-pray-for-a-miracle/

Shermer, I WANT TO SEE YOU BEG FOR A MIRACLE...
___________________
we do like your music Lady Gaga, but...

The B**BQUAKE - 911

Let me show you the FATE OF TRAITORS...

http://www.loiterink.com/photos/products/182_3424_500x500.jpg

they are incapable of telling the difference between SCIENTIFIC *FACT* AND
RELIGIOUS AND PHILOSOPHICAL *TRUTH*... FATAL ERROR!

they also preach a *VALUE FREE SCIENCE* called *POSITIVISM* that ignores the
inequalities of wealth and power in capitalist civilization...

for a sample taste of PZ Myers' GARBAGE...

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2010/06/sunday_sacrilege_imagine_no_he.php

HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

http://hawaiiwebgroup.com/maui-design/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/website-hijacking.jpg

HIJACKING IN PROGRESS!!!

how can these HEADLESS IDIOTS BET AGAINST GOD!!!
________________________________________
what happens when you LOSE Pascal's Wager...

http://www.peterkreeft.com/topics/pascals-wager.htm
____________
you FIGHT PAPER MONSTERS...

the blood and bodies of the atheist movement...

you mofos killed MICKEY MOUSE!!!!

this has more TRUTH then what Dawkins, Randi, Harris, Myers, and Shermer
combined have said in their entire lives...

http://www.youtube.com/watch#!v=5R2wE8Sduhs&playnext_from=TL&videos=hht1U_19anc&feature=rec-LGOUT-exp_fresh%2Bdiv-1r-3-HM

they tried to BULLDOZE the entire METAPHYSICAL DIMENSION...
they LOST THE WAR......

you have FORFEIT YOUR SOUL, shermer... you have become an object in the material world, as you WISHED...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eUB4j0n2UDU

http://farm1.static.flickr.com/7/11792994_ffaaee87fa.jpg

we're gonna smash that TV...

They had become ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE AND OF GOD...

you pushed too much and *CROSSED THE LINE*

degenerates (PZ) or children (HEMANT) - ATHEISTS!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRRg2tWGDSY


THE BOOBQUAKE - 911!
****************************************************
http://dissidentphilosophy.lifediscussion.net/philosophy-f1/the-boobquake-911-t1310.htm

Supergoonybird said...

Blimey

skeptic_sunrise said...

Is there a religious/philosophical equivalent of the "gish gallop" yet? If not I'd like to suggest the word "DMism" ...

Neuroskeptic said...

The Table is really informative actually. I'd never heard of some of them e.g. Rolfing, Consegrity... there is just so much woo in the world.

Anonymous said...

Dooncha just lurve people who hijack other's blogs with their rantings? Here's the thing DM - if you're right, after you shuffle off this mortal coil you can laugh at us. Forever. If WE'RE right you'll never find out. So you are in a Win Win situation here, so why waste your time? Might it be because deep down you know we're right and you're terrified of that knowledge? Methinks DM doth protest too much ....

avalanche said...

Love the periodic table - can't wait to get my hoodie with it on :)

Re DM's rant - irrationality is certainly the right heading for it to come under.

Anonymous said...

You forgot GW - Global Warming or it's partner Cc - Climate change

tcmillerphd said...

As a chemist, I am terrified by the implications of this astounding proposition, and demand experimentation to assure ourselves of the rightful ordering! The implied extreme reactivity of the Gobshite and Dipshit groups (in trying to reach the stable electronic configuration of the Fucktard group) predicts tarot readers abducted by aliens, and alien scientist offspring able to divine through crystal balls, and it gets worse! I immediately question the alleged unreactivity of the Noble Fucktards, as I personally have been hit on (an attempted reaction!) by each of these delusionaries! Mendeleev himself pondered these alignments for a lifetime. I must get back to my lab immediately to try and confirm your proposition. I'm observing a threesome between two psychics and a clairvoyant and intend to see if any offspring smell like rotten eggs!

Anonymous said...

I just saw your periodic table on another blog (http://aebrain.blogspot.com/2010/09/periodic-table-of-irrational-nonsense.html), and I came here to ask why Buddhism was included.

Thanks for the good explanation!

-- Chip Uni

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