I know because I think

Skeptics CircleThe people out in woo woo land have what they consider an excellent weapon against us skeptics. It starts with the question “Have you tried it?” and ends with the question “Well if you’ve never tried it, how can you know it doesn’t work?”. They don’t seem to see the obvious fallacy in this argument. This weapon is a dud.

The most common examples I’ve seen of this argument are:

“Scientology worked for me. You won’t know if it works for you unless you try it!”

“If you’ve never been treated with [insert alternative therapy of your choice], how can you know it doesn’t work?”

“You’re just not attuned to people’s auras, you won’t really understand them unless you experience them.”

This is nonsense, and I’m going to use this argument in some different ways to illustrate why it’s nonsense:

“If you’ve never responded to a Nigerian email offering you millions of dollars, how do you know you won’t get paid?”

“If you’ve never slit your wrists, how do you know you would die?”

“Vioxx worked for me, you won’t know if it works for you unless you try it!”

“You weren’t at the Battle of Hastings. How do you know it happened?”

These arguments obviously make no sense, and for the same reasons neither do the first examples I gave. We “know” that things don’t work because we are able to think; to use our brains to evaluate the available evidence and make an informed opinion.

I don’t have to join Scientology to find out that it is a money grabbing cult because I’ve read all the literature; I’ve heard the victim testimonials; I know about the cult’s crimes.

I don’t have to take homeopathic medicine to know that they don’t work. I’ve read about the “science” involved and know that it makes no sense. I understand how placebos work.

So next time someone tries to use this argument on you, tell them that if they give you all their money they’ll experience eternal happiness. They won’t know it’s not true unless they try, will they?

7 thoughts on “I know because I think”

  1. “So next time someone tries to use this argument on you, tell them that if they give you all their money they’ll experience eternal happiness. They won’t know it’s not true unless they try, will they?”

    Aha! A strategy to remember. Nicely done.
    -Paul

  2. Actually I was at the Battle of Hastings. You mean you didn’t sense my past life aura?

    Thankyou for allowing me back to your blog.

    I was subject to some kind of lock-out for a while.

  3. I like your wrap-up better than Rockstar’s (no offense, Rock), and even better, I don’t think it can be distorted into some homophobic straw man.

    If you’re not sure what I’m talking about: There are some nuts who will take the “Have you stopped beating your wife” as an accusation of spousal abuse, even if you’re blatantly giving it as example of a false dilemma.

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