It’s been awhile.
Allow me to explain. First off, the company I have kept for the past 4.5 months has been less than intellectually stimulating with most conversations being about women’s breasts or the size of a recent bowel movement. Inspiration for research into a stated scientific fallacy by a coworker has been sparse to say the least. Also, the combination of reduced free time to do research and reduction in the number of tubes my ISP provides has culminated in a great deal of frustration when conducting said research. Taking 2-4 minutes per website pushes my patience to Job-like limits. Despite this, I could not resist delving into the topic of “acid/alkaline theory of disease” after a coworker brought it up.
The conversation went something like this:
Me: “Did you know bad breath is caused by a specific kind of bacteria on the back of your tongue?”
Coworker: “Did you know that if you eat alkaline foods your body will naturally fight off that bacteria?”
Me: “…. Did you know that you’re full of s*^&?”
This happened awhile ago but a) demonstrates by extreme preoccupation with the accuracy of other people’s statements and b) my tenacity in arguing points when I know I am right. I feel these aspects of my personality are important for me to pass on to you lest you get the impression that I’m a jerk. I’m not… I just have a lot of pet peeves. Also, this story is hilarious and demonstrates the type of people I work with. More…
I studied psychology in university. One of the first things I learned about the study of brain and behavior was that it is often seen by other scientists as “soft science”. Instead of rightfully being considered a relatively new and difficult application of the scientific method in order to better understand the brain and behavior of living things, it is usually referred to as “not physics” and its validity constantly challenged. I also learned that a giant hurdle for this faculty is so-called “folk psychology” which limits its interpretation of behavior to observation free from any controlled variables and relies purely on anecdotal evidence. This is where popular maxims such as “birds of a feather flock together” originate (also it’s incongruous, yet equally lauded “opposites attract”). The problems with “folk” widsom are self-evident but I never suspected other scholarly pursuits faced similar issues.
Etymologists. I’m sorry. I was wrong.
So in my job, I have to travel a lot. Most people would write that sentence as “I *get to* travel a lot” but not me. I like to be at home and comfortable in familiar surroundings with my wife and a solid internet connection. Call me crazy. Anyway, on this most recent trip, myself and my coworkers had a 24 hour layover in Germany. Our work was kind enough to supply us with a room at a hotel and we managed to enjoy the sights and sounds of Koln for one day.
Amongst our group was one person who had spent some time in Germany a few years ago. He was happy to share his experience with us to help us get around but I noticed a distinct pattern in his “advice”. Every time one of us noticed someone doing something out of the ordinary, he would say something to the affect of “that’s German culture”. But never in a bad way, it was always in the light of them being better than us North Americans in some way.
I was determined to find a term for this attitude and when I FINALLY got internet where I am (long story) I managed to find the perfect term: Xenocentrism. A bus driver slams the brakes too hard? Well that’s just because Germans are used to going fast! Waiter takes too long to get us the check? Well that’s because Germans are relaxed and spend all evening at restaurants.
But then came the craziest thing I’ve ever heard anyone say: Every year, Germans celebrate “Fasching” and on that night, women are allowed to do whatever they want including sleep around on their husbands/boyfriends. If a man comes home to find another man’s shoes outside his door on that night, he must relent his wife to that man for the evening and all is forgiven. In addition, any child concieved on that night will be taken care of by the state.
I’m on the other side of the world right now and internet is sketchy at best. What’s worse is I am hearing soooooooooo many good bullshit stories to research and share/debunk. Grrrrr!
Well anyway, I should have plenty of time to work something out. In the meantime, “Skeptic at Work” will return someday soon.
Recently, in the course of a heated debate about science and evolutionary biology a “friend” let slip some of his true feelings about me (Mojo) and my atheism/skepticism. In his defence, he was upset and may not have known what exactly he was saying, but as you may have already guessed, I no longer consider this person a friend as I once did.
Chances are, if you read this blog, you are a skeptic or critical thinker and you may even be an atheist. If this is the case, you may do well to remember this article as a bit of a warning. If you are not a skeptic but have friends that are, maybe this article will help enlighten you to what it is like for them and perhaps increase your tolerance to their way of life. Either way, this is purely a cathartic experience for me to get a few things off my chest. More…