So, I was (stupidly) wasting time watching some presentation by Richard Carrier, from something called “Skepticon”. (It appears to be exactly the sort of “Hey, we all happen to mouth the same slogans, and have the same enemies! Let’s pretend that this is the basis for ‘community’ among us!”-type event which, quite frankly, strikes me as counterproductive in the extreme, in the long run.
The tendency to gather in like-minded “herds” leads to GROUPTHINK and authoritarianism – unless you’re really, really, really careful (which the sort of person who gets off on “conventions” of that kind typically isn’t.)
Anyway, the presentation itself was abysmally sloppy – starting with the fact that they didn’t have their stupid slide-show worked out in advance, so I had to sit through 10 minutes of video of them fucking around with the video-projector.
Now, that’s inexcusable. Figure out whether your equipment WORKS correctly BEFORE the presentation. Negligence is inexcusable.
So anyway, the “presentation” itself began with the loaded title “Are Christians delusional?” – and went downhill from there.
First, Richard Carrier seems to buy into the notion that humans are essentially incapable of rationality, due to “evolution”. (This strikes me as a ‘secular” equivalent of the Christian “Original Sin” line of thought: especially problematic from an organized “movement” predicated on the notion that humans ARE capable of rationality.
But I digress.
His “evidence” for the pervasive irrationality of humans? Rigged (pseudo)scientific “tests” where people are told to self-rank their ‘”attractiveness”. Such rankings are then compared to how their attractiveness is ranked by others – and then any discrepancy between the two figures is proclaimed to be “evidence” that humans are incapable of judging themselves “objectively”.
Tacitly, “objectively” (in this context) amounts to: in terms of the AVERAGE D opinions of OTHERS.
Additionally, the other piece of “evidence” trotted out is the phenomenon where one tends to (supposedly) overestimate how competent he or she is at a given skill – to the extent that (supposedly) “the less competent an individual actually is, the more competent they believe themselves to be,”
Supposedly (according to carrier and others of his ilk) these psychological pathologies are pervasive and ineradicable. In other words, they are (purportedly) universal, and there is NO means for individuals to correct them.
Now, here’s the problems, as I see them:
- First, any self-ranking of “attractiveness” (no matter the context) necessarily requires that the individual(s) being tested already have some specific standard of ‘attractiveness’ – which they presume to be both universal (IE: not culture-bound), and correct.
I call “bullshit” on that, right there.
My first question (before I would even consider participating in these sorts of ‘tests”) would be: “Attractive” to WHOM? By what STANDARD?
A perfect example of the utter vacuity of this whole “attractiveness” gimmick is the well-known fact that there are many standards of “attractiveness”/”beauty” – even within a given cultural area:
How else do you explain the existence of targeted dating sites such as these:
Now, it may be contenient to stigmatize some (or all) of the above as mere “fetishes” or “paraphilias”, but the fact remains that all of them indicate the existence of “subcultures” whose (implicit or explicit) standard of “attractiveness” or “beauty” differens radically, both from whatever you might consider toe “mainstream” – and from the standards/preferences espoused by all of the others.
So that would be my first question: Attractive to WHOM? By what standard?
Of course, these “tests” he’s talking about typically don’t bother to inquire into that sort of thing. Rather, they typically involve some sort of – perverse and simplistic – variant of “rank yourself from 1 to 10”-type thing.
Further, it is never specified whether or not everyone in a given study “overestimated” their (physical) attractiveness, or not.
Here’s a reminder of something which should be so basic as to not require such a reminder:
If 90% of the students taking an exam fail a test, and “only” 10% manage to pass – that 10% STILL PASSED THE TEST.
So, I would have to be shown conclusive evidence – across multiple such studies (done in radically different cultural/subcultural settings) – where literally 100% of the respondants overestimated their own “attractiveness” – to exactly the same extent – to buy into the notion that such an outcome was either pervasive or ineradicable.
Moreover, all that would actually tell anyone was that everyone over-estimates how accurately they mirror their particular demographic/cultural/subcultural standards of “beauty”.
I honestly didn’t bother to watch the rest of the presentation, given the fact that he had already tacitly claimed that rationality is effectively impossible (thus, also implicitly discrediting the entire “skeptic” movement itself), and the fact that he was already going for snarky “humor” involving a (pseudo)scientific “scale of insanity” ranging from 1-5, with 5 being “batshit insane”.)
Quite frankly, if “skepticon” involves that sort of self-congratulatory in-group asspatting, when they can’t even get the fucking projector working — meh.