Idiocy Creep

Reductio creep, "the process by which an insane extension of some principle, offered as a reductio ad absurdum of that principle, is soon afterwards realized," is one of the defining characteristics of social and public policy over the last twenty … Read More

By / January 2, 2008

Reductio creep, "the process by which an insane extension of some principle, offered as a reductio ad absurdum of that principle, is soon afterwards realized," is one of the defining characteristics of social and public policy over the last twenty years. When tobacco companies were sued for allegedly marketing their products to children, some of us worried that the door would be open for any manner of frivolous lawsuits and prosecutions. "Ha ha," you reply. "Is the government going to prosecute Hostess for selling Twinkies?" Yeah, maybe.

Likewise, who could ever imagine a world in which political correctness has run so far amok that a man can lose his job for using the word 'niggardly'? What lunatic could envision a world gone so crazy that a DA could arraign middle-schoolers on sex crimes charges for slapping their classmates' butts? A world where, in order to protect the integrity of drug investigations, federal agents would shield murderers from justice? A world where, to end the scourge that is consensual adult gambling, SWAT teams will be deployed to shut down charity poker games? Sensible centrist paternalism could never yield crazy consequences like these (could it?).

When Georg Cantor discovered that some infinities are bigger than others, he realized he would need a new nomenclature for the hierarchies of infinite sets. What applies to infinity, in this case, applies to insanity as well. Reductio creep is what happens when the insane extension of an ostensibly sane idea becomes reality. What do we call an insane extension of an already insane idea? I ask not out of academic curiosity, but because the aleph-one of reductio creep — that is, to extend my metaphor, an uncountably infinite insanity or idiocy — has arrived:

The Origin of Speeches [subtitle: Intelligent Design in Language] begins by recapping the history of our views about the source of language. It then debunks the errors that infuse your dictionary, like those about how words in "unrelated" languages could only have identical sound and sense by "coincidence." It does so with both quality and quantity of data. The next chapters give anyone the skills to sleuth out the Edenic origin of any human word. One learns about letters that shift in sound and location, and letters that drop in and drop out. We discover how Edenics works much like other natural sciences, such as chemistry and physics. Like-sounding opposite words were certainly programmed, not pragmatically evolved.

"Edenics," in case you were wondering, is the view that " ALL human words contain forms of the Edenic roots within them. These proto-Semitic or early Biblical Hebrew words were programmed into our common ancestors, Adam and Eve, before the language dispersion, or babble at the Tower of Babel — which kickstarted multi-national human history."

I always suspected that the entire field of historical linguistics has been nothing more than a centuries-long plot to undermine belief in the inerrant word of God, and now I know for sure. (Fun fact: Did you know that Adam and Eve spoke Jacobean English?)

But linguistics and social science generally, let alone evolutionary biology (that is, biology), are just side-shows to the most insidious, sinister scheme ever devised to weaken our faith and corrupt our morals. I refer, of course, to quantum mechanics:

The backbone of obstructionism is electronic interpretation, the tenet that all physical, chemical, and biological processes result from a change in the electronic structure of the atom which, in turn, can be deciphered through the orderly application of mathematics as outlined in quantum mechanics. The philosophy rejects any divine intervention. Scientific obstructionism is judged on these specifics: electronic interpretation and quantum mechanics. Conversely, the view of separatists that God is both responsible for and rules all the phenomena of the universe will stand or fall when the facts are applied. The view, however, is not tested by the definition of science, as determined by the court, but by the weightier principle of verifiable truths.

In other words, it's not unlike electromagnetic charges that attract bodies, and like charges that repel them. Tosh. God does it all by Himself, and doesn't need electrons to help him, thanks very much.

Bonkers though it is, the view that modern physics must be rejected because it shrinks the role of God in the universe, and therefore undermines belief in God, is really kind of refreshing. It's a tacit recognition that neither the compatibilism of Steven Jay Gould — religion and science as non-overlapping magisteria and all that — nor the incompatibilism of Richard Dawkins — belief in the validity of science implies atheism — have it quite right. On the one hand, belief in God is very much logically compatible with belief in science; on the other hand, once you have an adequate natural explanation of a phenomenon, positing God just adds needless theoretical complexity without contributing any explanatory power. Why not believe that the energy of a photon is proportional to its frequency and to God? Because, as Laplace said to Napoleon, je n’ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse — I have no need of that hypothesis. Quantum mechanics + God doesn't explain any more than quantum mechanics alone.

On the other hand, what's the principle behind proposing that children be taught religious alternatives just to evolutionary theory, but not to every single other consensus of modern science? Every confirmed natural explanation of an observed phenomenon yields another question to which science replaces God as the answer.

Incidentally, if you're curious to figure out today what tomorrow's reductio creep will be, The Onion is your oracle:

Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

So for now, it's only some fringe kooks who want to replace science as a whole (and not just biology) with scripture. That batty idea will never become as mainstream as, say, intelligent design. I mean, it's unthinkable, right?

(Hat tip to PZ Meyers for both the linguistics and the quantum mechanics links.)

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