If you are very observant and read blogs in a very strange way then you may have noticed I have just removed The Dilbert Blog from my links list. This I did because Scott Adams has started making a lot less sense of late than he used to. I can’t be sure of this, and I may have to re-read some older stuff to check he hasn’t always talked nonsense and my brain hasn’t just got better at spotting it, but that’s the theory I’m working on at the minute. Possibly he’s simply never talked in detail about something I already understood before. Who can say?
Anyhow, as is his way, he recently came up with something which already existed and posted it on his blog. In this case, it was the old argument from ignorance (see the highly mockable Atheist Test, question four) and Pascal’s Wager (hence my little story the other week). Naturally, everyone pointed out to him that it was Pascal’s Wager, and his response was to make a blog entry about it.
A few days after that he found that someone else had posted a blog entry about his ramblings. This, he decided, meant it was fair game for him to “stir this fellow into an even frothier foam of cognitive dissonance” by “[making] an argument on such a simple level no rational person could disagree. Then [watching] him disagree”. He abjectly failed to make such an argument, because instead of choosing a definition of “atheism” that could reasonably apply to anyone, he decided to define atheism as the 100% certainty — beyond even the level of certainty with which we say that China exists — that there is no god. Once you start by misrepresenting someone’s beliefs and from there show that those beliefs are irrational you’re really no better than your own characters. This is something Dogbert said some years ago:
Dogbert: I’m trying a little experiment tonight. I’ll attribute a stupid opinion to you, then I’ll aggressively mock you while you sit there saying nothing.
Dogbert: So, according to you, the Internet is a passing fad. YOU MORON! LOOK AROUND YOU! THE INTERNET IS EVERYWHERE! – AND THERE’S NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT! NOTHING!!
Dilbert: How did that feel?
Dogbert: Quite satisfying. I needed a back-up plan in case you ever get laryngitis.
Adams’ defence for this intellectual vacuity is to claim that he’s only doing it in the name of entertainment (or infotainment, or whatever made-up portmanteau word he’s using that day) and that the value in it is not the words themselves but the “philosotainment benefit of watching the Dilbert cartoonist whip people like him into a frenzy”. So essentially, he’s deliberately trying to goad rational people to anger by deliberately being stupid at them. I moderate internet forums, so I know this is called “trolling” and is generally agreed to be the kind of thing that should be deleted on sight.
And it’s not funny for two reasons. The first is that his supposedly not-really-serious arguments are actually very common arguments used by people in all seriousness to make the same point, and so his post becomes totally indistinguishable from those — which means that he can’t really mock someone for believing it’s real. The second is that he’s being… God, you know, I’m sure there’s a word for people who put up deliberately stupid arguments and then laugh at the sane people who try to explain the flaws…
So I’m not going to carry a link to his blog anymore. I have replaced it with a link to Pharyngula, which is far more sensible because Richard Dawkins reads it.