Sunday, August 24, 2008

Why? A philosophical question.

No, not one of the big "Why"s, like "why are we here", etc. I saw this question on the Randi boards, and though it's been asked there many times before, it's been a while since I thought about it myself. To quote part of the OP over there:

What stops you from cashing in?
It seems that every idiot willing to lie, mislead, or cheat people can make some if not a lot of money doing so. This message board is full of well-educated and well-informed people who see what it takes to sell BS to the general public. I am just wondering why you people fight on the side you fight on. What stops you from using your knowledge and cashing in?

My basic answer is that I'm not a sociopath. I feel empathy, and dislike being deceived. I don't like the idea of living off of lying to other people. That's why if my company every seriously tries to get a homeopathy business off the ground, I'm going to start a job hunting. Sure, we make a lot of cosmetics with the idea that "You'll look younger" will sell. That's a subjective thing, anyway, though. The whole cosmetic industry is, so I don't feel any guilt there. That's the game, and both the producer and consumer know it. All the drugs we make, though, are proven safe and effective for what they claim. Snake oil, on the other hand, just feels wrong.

I can spout new age drivel with the best of them. I can cold read. I can do enough magic tricks to form a cult around myself. I'll do it all for fun, but not profit. I don't want to take advantage of vulnerable people who want something to believe in, because I don't think I'm a bastard. I know I don't have a higher purpose for doing any of that stuff, and I'm reasonably certain that anyone else who does the things I can replicate doesn't either (at least those who knowingly do so -- it is possible to do some of this stuff unwittingly).

So what do you have to say on the matter?

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