A Short List of Bamboozlers
Posted: 24 October 2006 02:11 AM   [ Ignore ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

Religious or quasi-religious bamboozlers: any philosophy promising perfection in this or the next life. Any time someone provides a purported way to perfect all your personal problems, or even worse, all the world’s ills, he’s selling snake oil. Sorry, but it just ain’t that easy, and no matter how smart a person may set himself up to be, he ain’t got all the answers. These usually depend illicitly on giving up power to the bamboozler or his minions, at which point the religion becomes a cult or totalitarian political organization.

Pseudo-scientific bamboozlers: these ones love using scientific terminology to ‘fake you out’, yet when you actually go investigate, you find that no actual scientists who are experts in their field (or no more than the inventor and his neighbor) believe that this stuff is worthwhile. Often they will recruit scientists from entirely unrelated fields to shill for them, like astronomers supporting creationism. Some pseudo-scientific bamboozlers can be all but impossible to distinguish from true science by laypeople. They are very good at wearing labcoats. These guys bamboozle by being apparently ultra-complex and "over your head". Sometimes they literally sell quack medicine on TV.

Obscurantist bamboozlers: these ones usually hit you with the simplicity first, like they have some ultra simple and often secret answer to your problems. But then when you press for specifics, they either: (1) refuse to reveal the secret "publicly" (they can’t be effectively argued against in private; that’s where they put on the cultish ‘hard sell’, or simple brainwashing techniques), or (2) they start blowing the smoke, getting all vague on you, using undischarged metaphors, or using the standard techniques of post-modernism: if it appears that the snake oil is contrary to logic or reason, that’s because there’s something wrong with logic or reason. Of course, this can be a powerful marketing technique, since if you swallow it, there is simply no escape from the bamboozler’s clutches.

I’m sure we can come up with some more general types. Also, these aren’t hard and fast distinctions. Many bamboozlers will pick their technique depending on the argument or time of day. But they are strategies to keep an eye out for and beware of.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 02:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Jr. Member
Rank
Total Posts:  9
Joined  2006-10-22

Don’t forget about the Fear Peddlers.  Lots of people I work with were packed up for Y2K back in ‘99.  And to a person they were all very religious.

At about that same time I was becoming aware of just how skillfully Abrahamic religions play on this fear and link it to selfishness.  The Fountain of Youth, El Dorado, Shangri-La and Heaven salesmen all play on a person’s selfishness to sell their product.  But no matter how you slice it, it’s selfishness, “I wanna get mine.”

No christian that I’ve ever spoken to, for example, would give up salvation to improve the lot of the next ten-thousand human generations.  This afterlife is even more important to them than the welfare of their own kids.  It’s both sad and scary.

But that’s a good list.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 03:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

Yes, excellent addition, Cholla. A lot of fear peddling is of the sort: if you don’t buy my snake oil, something terrible will happen to you or something terrible will happen to the world.

But we do have to be clear that—in order to be snake oil—this sort of peddling has to be allied to one of the bamboozling techniques I outlined above: either allied to religion, quasi-religion, pseudo-science or obscurantism.

There are legitimate scientific ‘fear’ issues as well, such as global warming, ozone depletion or asteroid impact, that could cause wide and deep problems for the earth. The problem is that much of this is time-sensitive, that is, it is the sort of thing we need to deal with soon, and yet the data is thin, incomplete and preliminary. No knock on the scientists, they’re working as hard as they can, but it is not easy to gain data on these sorts of things.

I don’t call these snake oil because they are supported by the scientific community, not by a small group of outsiders. They are our ‘best guesses’. That said, it wouldn’t be wrong in my eyes to call these sorts of issues ‘proto-science’ in some way. The data is still coming in.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 03:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

What about people “in love”? :twisted: I remember in The God Delusion Dawkins compares religion to being in love. He says it’s equally irrational, even though being in love has obvious advantages. I guess my point is: could we really exist without religion? Could we also exist without having to fall in love? Should a humanist tell a woman instead of “I love you” something like “you seem pretty symmetrical, ergo healthy, ergo ready to reproduce”?  :wink: There really isn’t much of a difference between being romantic or being religious: they are both illusions! Wasn’t Neruda the primoris bamboozler?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 04:05 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14
[quote author=“George Benedik”]What about people “in love”? :twisted: I remember in The God Delusion Dawkins compares religion to being in love. He says it’s equally irrational, even though being in love has obvious advantages. I guess my point is: could we really exist without religion? Could we also exist without having to fall in love? Should a humanist tell a woman instead of “I love you” something like “you seem pretty symmetrical, ergo healthy, ergo ready to reproduce”?  :wink: There really isn’t much of a difference between being romantic or being religious: they are both illusions! Wasn’t Neruda the primoris bamboozler?

Weeeeell, I’m not sure I’d go there. “Love” is an emotion like fear, anger, sadness, etc. It’s true that sometimes it’s irrational, but not always. It’s also true that some peoples’ beliefs about love are irrational ... but I wouldn’t chalk the problem up to the emotion itself, rather to our tendency to hyperbole.

At any rate, these emotions are biologically based, so they’re not the sorts of things we’re going to get rid of. The best we can do is to hope to understand them, and in particular to know when they’re likely to misfire.

Of course, able marketers for snake oil can use love to sell their wares just as easily as they can use fear. So we have to keep our eyes focused on the data and arguments rather than on the emotional pitch ...

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  241
Joined  2006-07-17

could we really exist without religion?

Yes, billions of people around the world today, and billions throughout history do so and have doen so, and many countries, like Japan, South Korea, and the ones in Scandinavia are almost compeletly devoid of religion.

 Signature 

http://www.rationalrevolution.net

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 05:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

[quote author=“rationalrevolution”]Yes, billions of people around the world today, and billions throughout history do so and have doen so, and many countries, like Japan, South Korea, and the ones in Scandinavia are almost compeletly devoid of religion.

I looked around for data on this and found an interesting website. Decided to post on it separately, look here .

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 05:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

billions of people around the world today

Hmm, billions of people around the world, 90% of them in Europe. Perhaps Alexander the Great’s world?

Also, Doug said

[love, etc.]

are biologically based

And religion is not? I don’t think we know enough about religion to come to these kind of conclusions. I strongly believe now is the right time to start speculating about what it is, why it has been part of our societies for thousands of years, etc. The only thing we know for sure is that higher the IQ (and education) the less of a chance there is for an individual to engage in any superstitious and religious acts. I have an idea how to expand on it but I really don’t know how to discuss this without sounding racist.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 06:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

[quote author=“George Benedik”]And religion is not? I don’t think we know enough about religion to come to these kind of conclusions. I strongly believe now is the right time to start speculating about what it is, why it has been part of our societies for thousands of years, etc. The only thing we know for sure is that higher the IQ (and education) the less of a chance there is for an individual to engage in any superstitious and religious acts. I have an idea how to expand on it but I really don’t know how to discuss this without sounding racist.

To be serious here, I don’t believe that IQ suffices to eliminate religious belief. There are plenty of very high IQ believers; we can start with people like Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, et al. Intelligence may help one to ask the right questions, but what is needed is a certain kind of intelligence, something like an awareness of critical thinking, probabilities, statistics, as well as an understanding of things like biological evolution. One probably has to be in the right sort of cultural climate as well.

I’ve now read some of the works looking into the potential link between religion and biology ... clearly it’s tenuous, but basically people think that we have a tendency to over-interpret agency in the world. That is, we have a biological propensity to think that occurrences are designed by minds, rather than simply random. When we hear a door slam at night we think it must be a prowler rather than the wind, that sort of thing. When the child gets sick, some blame the neighbor’s jealousy. (A lot of this sort of thinking persists in contemporary Western culture also with the tendency to accept conspiracy theories: overinterpreting the data).

There are many other roots of superstitious or supernatural beliefs; these are the sorts of things that are basically cultural universals. That is to say, they exist in all cultures at all levels of complexity, from everyday simple superstitions to awareness of dead ancestors and the evil eye to the meddlings of saints and gods.

So if we take ‘religion’ in its most general form, that is, superstitions and beliefs about the supernatural, then I don’t honestly think it’s ever likely to go away. Only very careful and constant schooling in critical thinking will ever work, and then only with a few of the better students.

Large, organized religions may come and go however, depending on the force of their political power and “memes”, for want of a better term.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 07:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

I don’t believe that IQ suffices to eliminate religious belief. There are plenty of very high IQ believers; we can start with people like Newton, Copernicus, Kepler, et al.

The key word here is, I believe, “are” as opposed to “were”. If Newton, Copernicus and Kepler were alive today, I think we can say with certainty they would be atheists. But you’ve actually said that in the following sentence:

One probably has to be in the right sort of cultural climate as well.

The rest of your post, Doug, I find very interesting. And I certainly agree with everything you said.

I’ve now read some of the works looking into the potential link between religion and biology

Can you recommend some?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 07:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15435
Joined  2006-02-14

[quote author=“George Benedik”]Can you recommend some?

Religion Explained by Pascal Boyer

In Gods We Trust: The Evolutionary Landscape of Religion by Scott Atran

I can’t recommend either of them unreservedly, and neither of them is easy going, although Atran is the better writer. Both Boyer and Atran are anthropologists, coming at the problem with a very wide take on what qualifies as ‘religion’ ... really what they’re after is the evolutionary background to beliefs in the supernatural and superstitions, since those are the historical antecedents to present-day religions. Also, as anthropologists they are pretty sympathetic to religion as an element of society. This is particularly true of Atran.

I haven’t read Dan Dennett’s book on religion, but believe it probably is in the same general mould. Dennett has the virtue of being an excellent writer as well, and a generally clear thinker.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 24 October 2006 07:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  9301
Joined  2006-08-29

Thanks, Doug!

Profile