Thursday, October 04, 2007

Giving it to ’em with both barrels

There's a kind of stupidity that is, to put not too fine a point on it, morally offensive. I don't mean common-or-garden dimness and/or a propensity for making daft mistakes (we've all been there!). I mean the "only I'm right and the rest of the world is wrong", "there's a conspiracy of mathematicians to cover over Cantor's mistakes", "Gödel proves that mathematics is self-contradictory" kind of stupidity that plagues the net and that is wilfully almost impervious to all reasoned response. So what do we do about the landslides of garbage that you find on newsgroups like sci.logic?

Well, let's ignore a lot of it. But on the other hand, such newsgroups do get thousands of visitors a day and someone ought to stand up for the good name of logic! So I do think it is worth occasionally dropping by during an idle couple of minutes over a cup of coffee and giving the idiot du jour a blast or two with both barrels. A combination of argued refutation and more or less brutal mockery does (eventually) make many of the pretentious buffoons shut up. And if this means that, from time to time, even just a couple of students casually browsing past don't get taken in by superficially plausible nonsense, then why not?

Some do crosswords, some do sudoku: as an alternative way of procrastinating, I can recommend a few bouts of idiot-bashing as mildly amusing fun. Though you can in fact learn a bit from doing it, and learn more from reading the contributions of others who are batting for the sanity-and-reason team. Give it a try!

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