Sunday, May 15, 2016

Stupidity, as Scott Adams said, Is Not a Point of View

If something is pleasant and possibly useful or, at least, not harmful does it matter if that thing is fundamentally rubbish?  I raised this question or one quite similar to it on my blog a while ago and came to the conclusion that no, it didn't.  A possible caveat to the above is that whatever you do shouldn't be seen as a precedent.  If you find that eating earwax alleviates your migraines then go right ahead and keep eating it.  However you shouldn't attempt to persuade others of the benefits of earwax eating and you really, really shouldn't set up a faux medical business on the basis of the supposed benefits of earwax consumption.  Or at least you shouldn't do that without rigorous trials, experimentation, research and peer reviews of the results so that you understand the reason why the earwax diet is working.  Possibly you will discover that it doesn't and you're just a psychosomatic freak with disgusting personal habits.

The reason my mind has wandered back to these somewhat trampled fields is a massage I had earlier today.  To enjoy my massage (and I do enjoy massages) I had to visit a wellness centre place which is like a medical centre staffed by witch doctors and naive, impressionable but terribly well intentioned children.  As I noted above I enjoy massages and I frequently have them when various other aspects of my half baked fitness regime result in aching muscles.  I have no idea if the massages actually do any good but I refer you to the first couple of sentences of this blog entry.  As I waited for the muscle wrangler to attend me I glanced around the waiting room.

The place was a little like a doctor's waiting room only pleasant.  Gentle music played, water infused with tiny amounts of something else was available for those with a thirst and a sense of humour.  An array of herbal teas were also present for those who can't help taking a joke too far.  In one corner a mister discharged something putatively therapeutic into the atmosphere.  If wishful thinking, quack remedies and homespun bullshit were as effective as their exponents claim then simply sitting in that waiting room is the key to immortality.

As I sat there under a relentless barrage of wellness I felt rather guilty.  Here I was validating with my presence (and of course my cash) the pack wrong headed ideas, dubious suppositions and fantasist nonsense which collectively made up this centre's treatment programmes.  This concerned me sufficiently that I started reconsidering my original position.

It's all very well for someone to believe something stupid.  That is their right and let's face it there's a hell of a lot of precedent on their side.  We've been believing stupid stuff for millennia.  I am also fully in favour of people exercising their free will to the greatest extent compatible with the safety and well being of others.  If somebody terminally ill tries a bunch of quack remedies is that really bad?  After all they're dying anyway and at least now they're dying with hope.  I just can't help worrying about what sort of example we're setting.  Now that we no longer run snake oil merchants out of town on a rail there is a danger that our tolerance is mistaken for endorsement.  Connected with this is my worry that people are mistaking their right to hold an opinion no matter how silly (absolutely true) with a requirement that this opinion be accepted as valid by others (absolute bullshit).

I am starting to get concerned that the human race is not so much losing its capacity for rational judgement as it is deliberately excising it and I'm also worried that our free and easy attitude towards wrongheaded stupidity is encouraging this flight from sanity.  But what to do about it?  History has shown that any attempt to force people to think the right things ends not just badly but horrifically and with a dreadfully high body count.  I think all that is left is to make a personal appeal.

People of Earth!  I shan't tell you not to be stupid as I realise this is beyond many of you and let's face it we all have our moments.  I will just ask this.  Please don't think that being stupid is just as valid as being smart.  Because that is really stupid.

PS:  Scott Adams writes Dilbert where the quote in the title first appeared.  Plagiarism isn't plagiarism if its done with respect.

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