What’s Your Heresy?

I was going to do a Batman post today, but I’ve got annoyed again, so you’ll have to wait.

Specifically, I got annoyed by this , something that’s been going round on the internet for a few days.

It calls itself The Periodic Table Of Irrational Nonsense, but it is itself nonsense at least as irrational as anything it attacks, and I’m *SICK* of this.

Before I go any further, let me make something clear: I am a scientific rationalist. I have had papers I co-authored published in more than one scientific discipline. I consider the scientific method the only reliable way of discovering knowledge that humanity has ever discovered. I am also a sceptic and, I believe, a clear-headed thinker.

But *as* a scientific, clear-headed, rational thinker, I consider that list to be utter, unadulterated, concentrated irrationality.

Because I can see two possible ways that list was put together:
Possibility a – The author has, himself, researched into all these categories, read all the relevant literature, looked at the arguments used by the most prominent advocates of those beliefs/hypotheses/ideas, checked their data, and somehow come to the conclusion that only those things that are attacked regularly by Ben Goldacre, Richard Dawkins and other prominent ‘skeptics’ are irrational nonsense or
Possibility b – He has chosen a list that, within the group of people he wishes to associate with, is completely uncontroversial, a list endorsed by the alpha males of his group, without actually thinking rationally about any of it.

There is quite a bit of evidence for possibility b. (In the next two paragraphs I’m using examples that my friend Gavin brought up in a discussion with me. I’d probably have used these examples anyway, but credit where due):

“Faith healing” supposedly works through the placebo effect. Double-blind clinical trials rely on the supposed efficacy of the placebo effect to have any validity. Either the placebo effect is real, in which case faith healing works, or (as I consider the evidence to show) it isn’t, and double-blind trials should be on there too.

“Memetics”, on the other hand, is just a set of Just-So stories, a supposed ‘science’ with no explanatory power, which makes no falsifiable predictions that are not trivially true without it, and which insists on treating a metaphor as having objective reality. Judged purely rationally, it should be right there snugly next to Scientology. Yet it’s strangely missing…

Other things that are strangely missing from there, but are irrational as hell, include meta-analyses, libertarianism and supporting illegal wars, all of which many of the ‘rational’ ‘skeptics’ (always spelled the American way, even though the creator of this image is British) on that person’s blogroll support. Those would certainly be on any list of the ‘irrational’ I put together…

And on the other hand, several of the things on there simply shouldn’t be. The obvious one is ‘conspiracy theories’. *ALL* conspiracy theories? Even the ones we know demonstrably to be true (such as Brown agreeing to stand down in the Labour leadership so long as Blair stood down in his favour eventually as Prime Minister)? So *no* conspiracies ever happen? We should probably get rid of the laws against conspiracy then, I suppose…

I’ve looked into *some* of the things on that list for myself – the majority I haven’t. Of those I have, some appear to me to have some truth, some appear to me to be almost certainly false, and some are in a grey area. I suspect that that would be true for anyone who looked into them *without the bias of trying to fit into a pre-approved ‘skeptic’ mould*.

So I’ve made a decision – I’m not going to believe in the ‘rationality’ of anyone who isn’t prepared to defend at least one of the things on that list as being reasonable. I won’t fall out with anyone over it, but I’m going to assume that anything you say is justified not by reason but by appeal to authority. (Of course some of you already get a pass on this – like Debi, who is a rational, sceptical, scientist but also a Buddhist – Buddhism’s on the list).

So what’s your heresy? What, out of that list of thoughtcrimes, do you think has some merit?

In my case, it’s vitamin megadoses.

I take a minimum of six grams of vitamin C every day, rising to much more whenever I’m even slightly ill. I take many other supplements, too, at much higher than the RDA. These ‘megadoses’ have improved my physical and mental health enormously. Having read many books co-authored by my uncle Dr Steve Hickey (here are two of them, both of which I proofread. That’s my Amazon affiliate link, but you can buy them without that) and, more importantly, checked the original papers he cites, I have come to the conclusion that there is an *overwhelming* body of evidence in favour of the hypothesis that many vitamins can have health benefits at levels far beyond those in the RDA.

To take the most egregious example, in the mid 1970s Prof Linus Pauling – possibly the most important scientist of the 20th century, and the only person ever to win two Nobel Prizes – and Dr Ewan Cameron tried giving vitamin C in very large doses to terminal cancer patients. These patients outlived their expected lifespan by significant periods (in some cases people expected to live hours or days stayed alive for years on this treatment).

The Mayo Clinic, a ‘prestigious’ medical centre, claimed to have ‘proved’ that Cameron and Pauling’s research was flawed – they tried to replicate the tests and failed, and their publication effectively meant that any investigation of vitamin C’s role in cancer was laughed at as ‘pseudo-science’ for more than twenty years.

Except that the Mayo Clinic used oral doses while Pauling and Cameron used intravenous doses. And that the Mayo Clinic cut their trial short. And that before the Mayo Clinic cut their trial short there had been no deaths from cancer, but the death rate went up as soon as the vitamin C was withdrawn. There were methodological errors in the Mayo paper that would get someone a fail in GCSE Biology, let alone when dealing in serious oncology.

I could go into this much, much more, but I’m tired and too hot. But I’ll discuss in comments. But if you want me to discuss more of my reasoning here, first tell me: What’s *YOUR* heresy? And while you’re at it, what do you think *should* be on that list that isn’t (my big one would be ‘making lists of things and claiming those things are irrational nonsense, as if “irrational nonsense” was a property attached to them rather than an opinion’)?

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39 Responses to What’s Your Heresy?

  1. Oliver Townshend says:

    The saving grace of Science is that it doesn’t stand still, and is constantly re-inventing itself, despite this guy’s attempt to pin it down. Someone’s psuedo science today can be disproved or proved tomorrow. The classic case being the antibiotics cure for ulcers found by the Australian scientists Warren & Marshall (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/4304290.stm) who battled against the scientific establishment who were certain it was caused by stress.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Absolutely. That’s the example I always use against people who say “There’s a word for alternative medicine that works – medicine”.

      • Dave Godfrey says:

        But how effective were the treatments proposed by the “ulcers are caused by stress” group? I wouldn’t suggest that antibiotics are “alternative medicine” in any way either.

        That’s not to say that there aren’t parts of medicine that don’t work that well, but when evidence comes along that its wrong it changes its mind. It can take a long time to do this, but that’s always been the cases in all branches of science- Plate Tectonics and Continental Drift took ages to be accepted, even when a mechanism was found.

        • Andrew Hickey says:

          Oh, absolutely. The thing is, though, *for the time period between first being discovered and becoming accepted*, which was many years in the case of the ulcer treatment, that treatment was ‘alternative’ medicine, just as Plate Tectonics was ‘fringe’ science until it became part of the mainstream.

        • pillock says:

          Medicine’s actually pretty remarkable for sheltering old and disproven stuff, though, I think.

          • Andrew Hickey says:

            True, but that’s because it has to be, in many ways. If you come up with the wrong mass for the top quark, or accidentally identify a bone as belonging to a new species when it belongs to a known one, the worst that can happen is you look a bit daft when your mistake is found out. In medicine, on the other hand, ‘the worst that can happen’ is your patient dies.
            From that, it’s only a short step before self-preservation makes doctors do *exactly what everyone else does* – because if your patient dies because you followed the same practices as everyone else, then it’s not your fault. But if she dies because you were trying something ‘experimental’ then it *is* your fault.
            So from a combination of the very best motives and the very understandable one of not wanting to be personally blamed, medicine becomes by far the most conservative of all the sciences.
            Which, most of the time, is what we’d want. I know if i was going in for surgery and i heard the surgeon saying “I wonder what would happen if I cut this bit out?” I wouldn’t be filled with confidence. But it does have the unfortunate side-effect that bad treatments last too long as well as good ones having a slow uptake.

          • Debi Linton says:

            All scientific disciplines are.

            The trouble with medical science is of course that they also have to compete with bullshit mongers (and for all the picking apart of that table, I consider homeopathy, for example, to be a huge pile of bullshit marketed for profit and exploitation of sick people), so there’s this “if you’re not with us you’re against us!” mentality which is creating the Skeptic Community. it’s that mentality and Group Think that Andrew’s so heartily sick of.

            • Andrew Hickey says:

              Exactly. And I hope that neither here nor in your LiveJournal have I given anyone the impression that I think homeopathy worth defending (I’ve read things from practicioners of homeopathy, and they neither present any clinical evidence for their claims,nor any mechanism by which it could possibly work. And their claims would require a substantial body of current knowledge to be wrong. )

              In fact as someone who strongly supports *some* aspects of what might be described as ‘alternative medicine’, I’m angrier at the homeopaths than most, because they give people a very easy excuse to tar *all* ‘alternative medicine’ with the same brush, and thus dismiss the very real evidence that exists for *some* of it.

              (N.B. that ‘some’ is a very small percentage, and I consider it all to bwork by comprehensible physical/biochemical processes, and the failure of it to be adopted as part of mainstream medicine as a social failure that will be rectified rather than as evidence of a gigantic conspiracy or evidence that the scientific method is flawedc).

          • pillock says:

            Well, you’re not wrong, but I guess what I was going for there is more like: the legitimacy of medical authority is (I believe) something that is quite jealously guarded even by the standards of conservative scientific establishments. If geologists disagree, there’s not much of a political dimension involved if people know they disagree. But medical professionals have a lot of reasons not to argue in front of the children, no?

            I’d go on a bit more, but it’s a friend’s research topic, not mine — don’t wanna steal her thunder. Anyway, what I was clumsily saying: medicine’s authoritative “umbrella” can be indiscriminate in what it protects, because it has to worry about the umbrella protecting the umbrella, too.

            If that makes any sense.

  2. Karl Musser says:

    Well the obvious one is acupuncture, I wouldn’t be supporting two SO’s through acupuncture school if I didn’t think the evidence that it works is pretty solid.

    I’ll give the Neopaganism and related entries a pass as despite being one I think it is largely irrational nonsense – just happens to be nonsense I find useful in explaining my worldview.

    I note the lack of Discordianism – that must be rational then :-)

    The quackery block is missing several things that are more quackish than those listed like say Radionics.

    • Debi Linton says:

      I was struck by the lack of Flat Earth, Sentient Earth, and Geocentrism. Also rational, I assume?

      • pillock says:

        “It’s time the heliocentrists admitted that they don’t have all the answers!” I can hardly wait for Sarah Palin in 2012, can you?

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Yeah, I’ve read that there are quite a lot of studies that show that acupuncture works, but I’ve not actually *read* those studies, so it’s something I put into the ‘don’t know’ camp myself…

  3. pillock says:

    It’s a pretty big stretch to claim that Taoism is irrational nonsense, but I think that’s just the most blatantly non-irrational of the religions listed there…amazing that out of all the available toxic and repulsive religions/ideologies in the world, it’s this particular grab-bag that we get! Also, though both Tarot and palmistry are (in my professional experience) tricks, they’re at least tricks that are capable of being done really, really well, and neither makes any particular claim to being anything like a physics or even a paraphysics. Tarot comes close to lot-casting in a superficial way, but the card images are so intensively patterned for symbolic effect that I think it evens out the sortilage (a sin to the Catholics!), and besides nobody just reads the cards, and not the person…in fact the “psychic justification” is just so handwavy in the case of Tarot that it doesn’t even construct a bad argument…it’s all Not Even Wrong in a good way, since it doesn’t even make any comprehensible claims. Ha, I didn’t expect to go up one side of this and down the other, but you see I’ve made my living as a professional fortune-telling charlatan before, and I even wrote a book on how to do it once. Numerology’s defensible on similar grounds, like palmistry but better since the substrate you treat on isn’t even “people use their hands for doing shit” but rather “numbers and names have a similar linguistic functionality, ain’t that interesting”, and while I’m here I might as well say that they both blow handwriting analysis out of the water in terms of rational respectability, which fact has the amusing consequence of them both being about five miles above the pure devil we call the polygraph test. And for that matter, where’s ECT on this list? Its theoretical justification has been far more comprehensively exploded than orgone energy’s has, for heaven’s sake…!

    Pareidolia must be being used in some crazy-specific sense, here — I thought it was just a feature of human cognition? I’m not sure “Levitation” is even a thing. The Bermuda Triangle obviously exists, but I don’t want to be an asshole about it — it’s that “In Search Of” fascination with it the guy’s talking about, so that’s fine. The inclusion of “Fairies”, on the other hand, I feel I might quibble with if I wanted to reveal my wicked thesis on the origin of that particular, let’s call it, animistic belief

    (Except it’s not animism, really…)

    “Chi” is probably real, at least realler than Aristotle’s physics. Acupuncture I don’t know how you can call irrational. Things don’t actually have to be scientific to be rational, they can “just” be empirical…”Chinese Medicine”, in the herbal-remedy sense, being the classic example of that. If shamanically-transmitted European folk medicine gave us ASA, it’s hard to get pissed at folk medicine that broke free of the limits of shamanic transmission, isn’t it? Sad: I live in a temperate rainforest that’s been well-populated for tens of thousands of years. But the shamanic transmissions got broken, and now we don’t know what medicinal qualities practically any of these plants have. Oh, and also white guys like me ruined other human lives like runing lives was going out of style, but whatever

    “Science” can’t do it all, you know? Pretty often you need some basic empirical bank that you can apply the scientific method to

    Chiropractic is surely real, isn’t it? Also “Channelling” and “Automatic Writing” are the same thing, as far as I can see…the same thing as “Prayer”, really (or “poetry”), but I do note that prayer is named here as a medicinal technique, so that’s probably fair. But also probably kind of stupid — how many people are there in the world whose only medicine is prayer, and who actually believe in it as “medicine” rather than religious detachment from medicine? You could sneak medicine in, if you cloaked it in some other symbology, surely! And maybe there are many doctors out there who manage that, but they just don’t write any episodes of House about them. Uh…

    Half of the other stuff, I don’t even know what it is. The Loch Ness Monster I think it’s somewhat reasonable to believe in — here in B.C., the famous Ogopogo has pretty much been agreed on as a bunch of big-ass sturgeon, and to me that basically means “Ogopogo was real, those people weren’t lying or crazy when they said they saw it.” It was just a corporate entity, that’s all. Meanwhile the famous Oarfish of the South Pacific is a fucking sea serpent in truth, so what odds? How now? Bigfoot is maybe a little sketchier since as yet there is no hundred years of decently hard scientific evidence for coexisting hominids…but, y’know, we are getting a fair amount of evidence these days that other hominids persisted for far longer than we previously thought they did, so…who knows?

    I dunno what is meant by “Detox” in this regard. Colonic irrigation — seriously! — must be good for something. Kinesiology is just a study of mechanics, right? And Feng Shui makes houses look nice…and besides Feng Shui is geomancy anyway.

    Oh, I have to run off — will return with more overly-serious engagement soon!

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I didn’t even notice Pareidolia in the list. That’s a pretty amazing category error there – that’s like putting astigmatism or tinnitus or something in there…

    • Debi Linton says:

      I think – think that what is meant by ‘chiropractic’ is ‘chiropractic cures lots of stuff, and isn’t just a pretty damn effective therapy for spinal issues’, but that’s giving Skeptics the benefit of the doubt.

      • Andrew Hickey says:

        Oh, we should *absolutely* give the benefit of doubt to anyone – I always try to take the most charitable interpretation of anything given the facts, and given the libel cases and so on I would assume that he was talking about the whole “chiropractic can cure cancer and exploding spleens and badgers in the brain and *EVERYTHING*” stuff.

        That said, I read what seemed to me like an interesting explanation for chiroprcatic’s *perceived* efficacy in some things, in a letter to Private Eye by a GP a few months back.

        According to this letter, many people are routinely misdiagnosed by busy GPs, because trapped nerves can send pain signals that appear to your brain to come from elsewhere. So you go to the doctor and say you’ve got a stabbing pain in your chest and she diagnoses it as angina, say, when it’s just a trapped nerve. Chiropractic, or any decent massage, can release the trapped nerve, and then the chest pains go away, and your ‘angina’ has been ‘cured’…

        That makes sense to me, and doesn’t require anyone to be lying or evil – just to be mistaken about the cause of the problem they’ve cured.

  4. Debi Linton says:

    I’m glad I get a pass, because it’s not considered a good idea to ‘defend’ Buddhism to people who don’t want to know. Evangelism isn’t Right Speech. :)

    You know what I’d like to add under ‘pseudoscience’?

    “Appropriating scienitfic imagery and illustrative methods for cheap insults with no understanding of the systematics behind ‘periods’, ‘groups’, and the Atomic number’.”

    ‘Periodic tables’ and ‘tube maps’ are the worst for this horrible meme of just bunging words onto an illustration without any understanding of what the illustration illustrates. If you’re not using it to demonstrate relationships, GTHO.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      I absolutely agree. I just thought I was attacking the poor bloke hard enough for the content without starting in on the form as well ;)

      And the fact that Buddhism argues *against* evangelism is one of the reasons I admire it.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      BTW, and on a tangent, do you have any links to a useful resource on Buddhism? I tried that Zencast thing you linked a while back, but didn’t have the patience to weed through it for the useful material. I ask because I know relatively little of Buddhism, but it’s always seemed one of the more sensible religions/philosophies, and I can see from having known you over the last few years that it’s made a real difference to you, and appears to have made you both a more content and a more ethical person (not that you weren’t ethical before, it’s always been one of the things I’ve most admired about you as it happens, but one would always hope to become more so with time and I believe you have).

      As being more content and more ethical sounds like something I’d like, I’d like to look into it more, but ideally in a ‘here’s five things you can do that will have an immediate practical effect/five things you might be interested to think about’ way to start with, rather than ‘here’s the collected texts of six thousand years of tradition – read them, there will be a test’…

      • Debi Linton says:

        This is a difficult question to answer, because immersion in the Dharma through Zencast is such a huge part of my practice, picking up other parts as I go. I have an intention to write a series of posts, but I’m not ready yet.

        But I can give you a few links, if they help?

        The Big View outlines the important things: the Four Noble Truths, the Eight Fold Path, and the precepts. (The precepts are not commandments. They’re things to think about)

        Access to Insight – study guides.


        I think, if I were going to boil my practice down for someone else starting out, I’d say

        1) Meditation and mindfulness of the present moment (paying attention)

        Gil Frondsel’s introduction to Meditation course on Audiodharma, which is the basics for a meditation practice that doesn’t involve fighting with your brain.

        A Guide to Meditation for the Rest of Us – Bing showed me this yesterday.

        2) Metta, loving kindness and compassion
        Loving Kindness – A guided meditation on metta

        Metta on Audiodharma

        3) Ethical conduct and speech.
        Which is enabled by mindfulness (you can’t act sensibly unless you’re sensible of how you act) and compassion (you can’t act ethically unless you know what is ethical).
        The precepts and the eightfold path provide lots of guidelines for what consititutes ethical conduct, as does the Audiodharma.

        This is where I could provide lots and lots of links, but I think that it’s best to start with cultivating mindfulness and compassion, while bearing in mind the precepts and the Eightfold Path.

  5. Zom says:

    Obviously conspiracies happen, but I loathe it when people habitually reach for conspiracies to explain pretty much anything from How The World Works to Why I Didn’t pass My Driving Test.

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Oh, I absolutely agree. I’ve got no time for the David Ickes of this world, but nor am I going to automatically dismiss any given conspiracy theory without hearing the evidence…

      • Zom says:

        I’m not really talking about the Ickes. Saying we shouldn’t have much time for them as anything other than creative writers and eccentric curiosities, at best, isn’t saying much at all. I’m talking about a more common malaise. I know it’s not the intellectually rigorous thing to do, but I am inclined to dismiss most conspiracy theories out of hand, because I want to look at things I know to be the case or believe to be more plausible before I start to consider factoring in improbable explanations that often include faultless systems of control. If there’s one thing about the world that I am absolutely certain of it’s that it’s a messy place, that people and processes are unreliable, and that things go wrong and if I see something that suggests the world works by different principles then I’m afraid my alarms start clanging. I believe that conspiracy theorising all too often distracts from thoroughgoing and intelligent and, and I know this might sound a bit weird, humane analysis, because by seeing control everywhere it denies the complexity of human existence, and the mundane detail that is often of the most importance when attempting to understand why something is the way it is.

        Obviously conspiracies happen, I can think of a good number off the top of my head, but that doesn’t change the fact that they should only be our first port of call in very unusual or suspicious circumstances, usually, I would have thought, where a great deal of money is involved and the apparatus is available to ensure compliance – airline price-fixing springs to mind as an example.

        • Oh, I agree. Saying “It’s all the fault of THEM”, whatever ‘it’ is and whoever “THEM” are, is almost always a sign that the person saying it hasn’t bothered to think about what it is they’re saying. And saying it detracts from ‘humane’ analysis doesn’t sound weird at all – there are very good reasons why conspiracy theories and racism are so often linked.
          It’s the simplistic nature of this person’s response that bothers me, though – ‘conspiracy theories’ ‘are’ ‘woo’, whether they be price-fixing, the Kennedy assassination, Princess Diana faking her own death or the world being run by shape-shifting lizards, with no appreciation of the differences between those things…

        • pillock says:

          Maybe the flaw in conspiracy theories isn’t that they’re irrational but rather the opposite? Believing in a world so terrifyingly un-messy that everything is intended by somebody for some precise purpose strikes me as coming close to the fail mode of rationality — when everything’s got a reason, some of the reasons must not be real, but if you insist on them anyway

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  7. IandI will take Rastafari. It’s hard to generalize about what Rastas believe because Rastafari is even less centralized and hierarchical than Islam. But in a way Rastas and “skeptics” share a core belief: that the standard Christian Bibles are full of lies and used to oppress people. Rastas worship Haile Selassie and count Marcus Garvey as a prophet. Both of them were definitely real. Their lives are well documented and it would be hard to argue that they didn’t exist. I don’t believe that Haile Selassie is immortal or Jesus, or that Marcus Garvey could see the future, but being definitely real should score some rationality points over lots of other religions/ways of life. It’s also definitely true that white people invaded Africa, enslaved Africans and stole their culture. This is an uncomfortable fact for white people to acknowledge but most certainly a fact. The concept of Babylon is a useful way of describing white power structures in the same way that patriarchy is a useful way of describing male power structures. It’s fairly clear that this is a metaphor – I don’t think many Rastas believe that white empires are literally continuations of the ancient Babylonian empire. Similarly, the story of the Israelites in the Bible is reasonably analogous to the history of African slaves. The idea that alcohol is harmful is very well supported by science. Ultimately the Rasta belief that the world would be better without war, racism and imperialism seems pretty rational to me.

    As for what should be on the list, perhaps the biggest one is gender ideology. Most widely held assumptions about gender are not particularly rational (by any definition) or scientific, and have very bad effects on people’s lives. When people who don’t specialize in biology or gender studies talk about “biological sex” they’re most likely really talking about their own unquestioned assumptions and perceptions which are influenced by patriarchal ideology. Gender assumptions have led to lots of really bad science.

    Also Nazism: surely one of the most irrational and dangerous belief systems ever. It’s kind of in there because Holocaust deniers tend to be Nazis who hate Jews, but since Judaism is also in there it would be reasonable to assume that the person who compiled the table also hates Jews. I suspect there are lots of racist assumptions in the table.

    • Debi Linton says:

      I object that Andrew’s ranking system’ll only let me +1 this comment once.

    • I should’ve added that there can be quite a bit of gender and sexuality fail in Rastafari, and Jamaican culture in general, but the same goes for Babylon, and Babylon is much more powerful. We need to sort out our own misogyny and homophobia before we can start telling black people what to do.

    • pillock says:

      My friend Ed’s observation about Holocaust deniers is that it’s the only way they think they can rehabilitate fascism — they yearn for the jackboots and the sashes and the fists gripping lightning bolts and all that lovely marching up and down Main Street, but that darn Jew-murdering business is keeping people from accepting the fashion choice…!

  8. Justin says:

    Well, I read The Invisibles same as anyone, so half of this stuff I will at the very least listen to someone talk about, although I suppose I’m more INTERESTED in this sort of thing than I am an actual true BELIEVER in alien abductions, ghosts, etc.

    “Detox” I was surprised to see as well. Is that not a thing?

    The really dodgy bit about this table, though, is that it sort of puts all of these various beliefs on equal footing. I mean, I’m not a moon-landing denier or anything, but looking at NASA photos and making some wrong assumptions based on a misunderstanding of the science is VERY different than being a Holocaust denier. It’s disingenuous at best to claim that both of those beliefs are coming from the same place.

    • Absolutely. There are irrational views which are dangerous and should be fought (but should only/principally be fought using evidence and rationality, not the same arguments turned against the people holding those views – “You’re a poo-head!”, “No, you’re the poo-head!”, “Yeah well my book says that you’re the poo-head!”, “Well Christopher Hitchens’ book says that *you’re* a poo-head and your mum smells!”). Nazism is the obvious one there.
      Then there are irrational views that don’t really hurt anyone, like believing the moon landings were a hoax. If you want to believe that, go ahead.
      And then there are irrational beliefs that actually *help* people. I believe I love *my* wife because she’s objectively the most wonderful person in the world, but all you deluded fools out there loving your less-perfect partners probably think the same about yours, too ;)

      And a single box on that table can fall into multiple categories, when looked at like that. The Christianity of Dr Albert Schweitzer, for example, which led him to travel to Africa and make a fourteen day raft journey in order to treat thousands of people for leprosy, sleeping sickness and so on at his own expense, is a very different thing from the Christianity of the Westboro Baptist Church, which leads them to picket funerals with signs saying things like “AIDS From God You Hellbound Fags”. Even if one considers Schweitzer’s actions irrational, it’s an irrationality I would like to see more of…

  9. Sam le Meerkat says:

    I first saw this and thought it should be sub-titled “something to offend everyone”…while i principally take it as it was obviously intended, a joke (and a T-shirt) with some nice touches (homeopathy’s woo number…), i think it also makes clear that few of us get through this life without at least some irrational nonsense (also,imho, that the crucial thing is how much harm that irrational nonsense does.). As a talking point i think it’s doing its job, and comments and suggestions after both this and the original post suggest it could be made MUCH larger…personally i’d go for a whole column for various theories of economics……

    • Andrew Hickey says:

      Actually, I think it’s the *rational* theories of economics that are the worst ones here – the ones that start “assume all human beings will act in their own best interests and have perfect knowledge…” and then go on to reason perfectly logically from that starting point ;)

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