Sorry I haven't been around. Unlike last year's announced end-of-year hiatus, this year's required extra real-world time snuck up on me.
But I couldn't help but post when I chanced upon some things which, while technically unrelated, smacked me as all-too familiar.
See, I passed by some anti-vaxxer nonsense online. For those still unaware after the Disneyland measles debacle, these are people who claim that vaccines cause death, autism, and all sorts of other issues and that, presumably like Area 51, Lizard-People, cancer cures, and the 30 MPG V-8 designed in the 70s, the government and Big Industry are in cahoots to suppress the truth.
While organized resistance to anti-vaxxers seems to be surprisingly minimal, there are some folks out there in the trenches. True, the public image of anti-vaxxers as laughingstocks after Disneyland makes trench warfare seem unnecessary, but just as we saw when the Saxtonites embarrassed themselves with harassment of Traviss et al. and made themselves pariahs in the fan community, it doesn't mean they silenced themselves forevermore with a proper sense of shame . . . they just kept plugging away, and even reinvented themselves as kinder and gentler wrong-headed folks.
In any case, one anti-anti-vaxxer still fighting the good fight is a fellow who calls himself Orac (so you know I was gonna like him right away).
And he's written some bits that I simply find delightfully familiar:
"I sense a disturbance in the antivaccine Force, which is, of course, by definition the Dark Side.
Whenever I sense such a disturbance, there are a number of possible reactions that it provokes in me. One such reaction is alarm, as when antivaccine activists say something that is just clever enough to sound plausible enough that it might cause trouble. It never is, of course, but it often takes a close reading and some research to figure out what the game is and deconstruct the nonsense. Sometimes, my reaction is amusement, as when an antivaccine activist says something that is so hilariously dumb, so over-the-top in its scientific ignorance that it provokes chuckles or even guffaws as I read it […]. Sometimes, my reaction is boredom, pure ennui. Such reactions are generally reserved for antivaccine nonsense that is so unimaginative, so derivative of lies and misinformation that antivaccinationists have been flogging before, that I’d really prefer to let the cup pass. However, I can’t, because I feel duty-bound […]."
That pretty well covers my general take on things. For example, SciFights.Net was getting coverage here when it graduated from "amusement" and "ennui" to "just clever enough to sound plausible" levels of wrong-headedness, which might've gone unnoticed had he not sought to tangle with me directly with goofy attacks. Now that he's focusing on the new Disney universe he's largely left the field, to my mind, but I'm sure there will be more to come from him later.
Speaking of, Orac quotes someone else making a familiar point against foes:
"This is, by the way, the same mistake that astrologers make (remember that crusty pseudoscience?). They look at many variables then cherry pick the outliers."
This is the crux of the Versus Debate. Folks like me seek to gather all the evidence and find the logical best-fit, discarding outliers like "The Die is Cast" yields or Star Trek V warp speeds. Opponents, however, will plant their standards on the most ridiculous calculations of the most preposterous throwaway lines and call you all manner of names for refusing to agree with their cherry-picking. And if you dare play their game in reverse, such as with the Leia arm shot, ooh boy that really gets their goat.
This is all why I have said before that this topic, irrelevant as it is in a world of rising terrorism, statist collectivism, loony environmentalism, and so on, is still a good practice area for how to think and how to analyze arguments. You can see, in what should be a fun debate, the sorts of foolishness that can have real repercussions elsewhere. Even the death threats this debate has spawned are educational in that regard, as nutty folks will be nutty over any enterprise.
My goal, as ever, is not to tell you what to think, but to help show you how. Thanks for visiting.