THE GREAT WOO-WOO-SKEPTIC CULTURE WAR: A CAUTIONARY TALE
by Jeffrey A. Corkern
(Actually posted 9/27/009)
Long, long ago, and far, far away, there lived a number of tiny little tribes in tiny little connected mountain valleys.
These tribes were divided into two groups, the Woo-Woos and the Skeptics. The Woo-Woos were called Woo-Woos because they were a religious people, and “Woo-Woo” was the name of their god. The Skeptics, on the other hand, were the complete opposite of the Woo-Woos. They didn’t believe in religion or a god of any kind whatsoever. They were firm believers in the strict scientific method, and the strict scientific method only. They knew anything religious was automatically wrong. The Skeptics looked down on the Woo-Woos with pitying eyes, because they knew the Woo-Woos were doomed in the long run. They knew Skeptics were fated by evolution to move in and take over all Woo-Woo valleys after the Woo-Woos had choked on their own self-contradictions and disappeared into the mists of history. The Skeptics knew from their study of history that only societies whose practices were rational, in conformity with physical law, survived over the long course of history, and therefore the Woo-Woos didn’t have the slightest chance of surviving as history proceeded and evolution did its cruel thing. History demonstrated beyond all possible doubt that evolution was really, REALLY rough on societies whose practices had no basis in physical law, whose practices were in sad fact COMPLETELY irrational. In the historical contest between cultures, the record showed the culture whose practices were closest to physical law was the one that won, that ate the other cultures for lunch. History showed that cultures whose customs violated physical law vanished FAST, baby, and the poor, benighted Woo-Woos certainly had plenty of those. They had all sorts of weird, nonsensical rules, beliefs, and customs, not one of which the Skeptics knew had even the slightest basis in physical law.
Take the way they worshiped their god, for example. The Woo-Woos had a highly entertaining way of worshiping their god and made a great deal of money from selling tickets to watch their services to Skeptic tourists. Each Sunday Skeptics would go to a Woo-Woo church---a Woo-Woo church was a large flat piece of ground marked off in squares---buy a ticket, find a seat in the stands set up for Skeptic tourists and wait expectantly.
The first sign would be a booming sound coming from far off. Every Skeptic would raise his camera and focus it on the horizon. A mass of hundreds of Woo-Woos would come marching into view, arranged in a huge square and all marching together in synchronization. Each Woo-Woo would be barefoot, wearing a skimpy tight-fitting tunic, and be carrying a tom-tom underneath his right arm, with a bucket and a sack hanging off his left shoulder, and each one would be chanting the same thing over and over in rhythm with his marching.
“GREAT God Woo-Woo! GREAT God Woo-Woo!” they would chant, hitting their tom-tom with a tremendous BOOM at the beginning of every sentence, creating a roll of continuous thunder that washed over the Skeptics like an ocean wave. Chanting and banging their toms-toms, the Woo-Woos would march onto the great flat squares, each Woo-Woo onto his own particular square, and when each Woo-Woo was marching in place in his own square they would bang their tom-toms and do their all-sit-down ritual.
And they would all sit down with a great crash.
This was all performed with such surgical drill-team precision that Skeptics seeing this for the first time would quite often burst into spontaneous applause.
But the service wasn’t over yet. Each Woo-Woo would set his tom-tom down to his right, then unsling his bucket and sack and place them in front of him. Each Woo-Woo would pick up his bucket and hold it up high in front of him until every Woo-Woo had his bucket up. Then with a massive cry of “Great God Woo-Woo is great!” each Woo-Woo would pour the contents of his bucket---The Holy Red Molasses---all over himself and spread it uniformly over his body. When he was finished, each Woo-Woo would set his bucket to his right, pick up his sack, hold it high, and wait.
When the last Woo-Woo held up his sack, they would again cry in unison “Great God Woo-Woo is great!” and empty the contents of the sack---The Holy Green Chicken Feathers---all over himself. All the Skeptic cameras would click at this point. A cloud of Holy Green Chicken Feathers erupting into the Sunday morning air was quite a spectacular sight.
When the cloud settled, every Woo-Woo would be revealed plastered in Holy Green Chicken Feathers from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. From out of nowhere would come the sound of music---Sixties rock-and-roll, to be precise (Great God Woo-Woo alone knew how they had gotten hold of it)---and each Woo-Woo would jump up and explode into The Holy Funky Green Chicken dance, putting his hands in his armpits and flapping them like they were wings, scratching at the ground with his feet, and making pecking motions with his head, dancing The Holy Funky Green Chicken for Great God Woo-Woo as Great God Woo-Woo had commanded they do, as Sixties rock-and-roll lilted upon the air.
“If there’s a smile upon my face, it’s only there to fool the public---“
(“Tears Of A Clown” was a particular favorite.)
Each Woo-Woo was allowed to express himself in the dance as he liked, dancing The Holy Funky Green Chicken for Great God Woo-Woo in his own particular fashion. Most of the Woo-Woos were no more than average at this, as you might imagine, but a few were true artists, dancing The Holy Funky Green Chicken so convincingly more than one Skeptic found himself looking for Holy Green Chicken Eggs.
Each Skeptic tourist made sure he took lots and lots of pictures, because they all knew the Woo-Woos were doomed in the long run, and the time would one day come when clouds of Holy Green Chicken Feathers erupting into the air and Woo-Woos dancing The Holy Funky Green Chicken would exist only in pictures in some Skeptic museum built as a memorial in some former Woo-Woo valley.
When the last Woo-Woo had collapsed onto the ground exhausted, the service was over, and the Skeptics went home to develop their pictures and keep them where they could be preserved for future generations of Skeptics to laugh at.
One day one particular tribe of Skeptics decided they had had enough of this silliness, that while what the Woo-Woos did was entertaining, it was time to civilize the Woo-Woos, to drag them out of the darkness of ignorance and superstition they lived in. So they sat down to try and find the best way to convert the Woo-Woos to the one true way of Skepticism.
This wasn’t the first time Skeptics had tried to do this. Previous Skeptic tribes had tried to do the same thing by sending missionaries to the Woo-Woos to demonstrate with ice-cold logic the irrationality of their beliefs, to no avail. No Skeptic had ever been able to argue any Woo-Woo out of his belief in Great God Woo-Woo.
So this tribe decided to try something new. Instead of trying to argue them out of it, they decided to SHOW them their beliefs made no sense. They decided to randomly pick one of Great God Woo-Woo’s laws and publicly break it. They decided to break one of Great God Woo-Woo’s laws and let the Woo-Woos see that breaking one of Great God Woo-Woo’s laws had NO effect whatsoever. And when the Woo-Woos saw that breaking one of Great God Woo-Woo’s laws had no effect, it was hard to see how any Woo-Woo could avoid the conclusion that Great God Woo-Woo wasn’t actually there, had in fact NEVER been there.
The Woo-Woo’s had a great book, “Great God Woo-Woo’s Laws”, that listed all Great God Woo-Woo’s laws in numerical order. The Skeptics got a copy of Great God Woo-Woo’s Laws, rolled some dice and came up with 78. Great God Woo-Woo’s Law 78 was a law regarding the planting of crops. Great God Woo-Woo stated that certain crops could only be planted when certain stars were above certain mountain peaks. He had a quite precise, rigid, arbitrary schedule for planting crops, which was mostly in the springtime and a few in early summer, which is when the right stars lined up over the right mountain peaks. This tribe of Skeptics decided to break that law and plant their crops at any time other than the Great God Woo-Woo designated time, and they made sure the Woo-Woos knew what they were about to do. Quite a few Woo-Woos begged them not to do it, because Great God Woo-Woo didn’t like it when his laws were broken, and promised great punishment to all those who broke Great God Woo-Woo’s laws. This tribe of Skeptics just laughed and laughed and said “Watch this!” and went ahead and planted their crops whenever they wanted.
All their crops failed, and every single member of that particular tribe of Skeptics starved to death that winter.
Since that valley was empty, the Woo-Woos moved in and took it over.
This result caught the remaining Skeptic tribes by surprise. Laboratory investigation of the catastrophe by Skeptic scientists showed that plants---and seeds, unfortunately---contained biological clocks. Skeptic scientists determined that seeds, alas, would not germinate and grow unless planted at the correct time of the year. Great God Woo-Woo, it seemed, had known what He was doing when He laid down Law 78. That law had been rational, in complete conformity with physical law.
There was a great deal of I-told-you-so from the Woo-Woos. More than one Woo-Woo took enormous delight in rubbing his Skeptic friends’ nose in the fact that an experiment designed to show Great God Woo-Woo didn’t exist had turned out EXACTLY the opposite of what the Skeptics had expected.
This got the remaining tribes of Skeptics mad. So mad one tribe decided to try again. That poor previous tribe had just happened to hit on the one Great God Woo-Woo law that turned out to be rational. So what, Great God Woo-Woo had just happened to get lucky. There was NO way that could happen again!
This time, instead of picking out a law at random without thinking about it, this new tribe sat down, thought about it a little and picked one of Great God Woo-Woo’s truly crazy laws, just about the nuttiest one they could find, Law 32. Law 32 said no Woo-Woo could eat pork. This Skeptic tribe defied that law with a vengeance. The entire tribe went on a pork binge. They lived and breathed pork. They had pork for breakfast, pork for lunch, pork for supper, and pork for dessert, and they made sure the Woo-Woos knew all about it and were watching. Every Skeptic tribal member couldn’t wait to see the expression on the Woo-Woo’s faces when as they watched them break one of Great God Woo-Woo’s laws---and NOTHING happened.
That tribe of Skeptics all got trichinosis and died in agony.
The Woo-Woos were not converted.
The Woo-Woos again moved in and took over the deserted valley.
More after-the-fact laboratory investigation by Skeptic scientists showed Great God Woo-Woo had somehow managed to make a rational law again, a rule that actually was in conformity with physical law. Skeptic scientists discovered pigs carried trichinosis and all pork products had to be VERY carefully checked to make sure they didn’t carry the trichinosis parasite. The Woo-Woos shook their heads sadly and pointed out Great God Woo-Woo had just gone two-for-two. A number of Woo-Woos offered to teach the Skeptics some basic Holy Funky Green Chicken dance steps and sent them some Sixties rock-and-roll records.
Now EVERY Skeptic got boiling mad. Now every single Skeptic was bound and determined to find SOME way of demonstrating to the Woo-Woos the ultimate irrationality of their beliefs. The Skeptic tribes all got together and had a great council of war. The method of breaking a law and letting the Woo-Woos see there were no resulting bad consequences, they decided, was perfectly sound, the error had been in picking the wrong law to break. What the Skeptics had to do was find the most impossible, the most irrational, the most absolutely insane Great God Woo-Woo law there was, and break THAT law. When the Skeptics finally showed that breaking Great God Woo-Woo’s laws had no effect, the Woo-Woos would have no choice except to become Skeptics.
What was the Woo-Woos’ craziest, most irrational belief?
Actually, when they got down and dirty with it and looked as hard as they could, the Skeptics realized they had overlooked what was easily two of the stupidest beliefs in the world, Great God Woo-Woo Law 1 and Law 2.
Great God Woo-Woo’s Law 2 stated that every human being was an eternal being and, since their bodies were certainly not eternal, everybody therefore had a soul and survived the death of his physical body. This was the most central belief of the Woo-Woos. All of Great God Woo-Woo’s power over his subjects was based on the idea that Great God Woo-Woo judged everybody’s soul, Woo-Woo and Skeptic alike, AFTER they died, and would reward or punish each according to whether or not they had broken Great God Woo-Woo’s most fundamental law, Law 1, which was “Great God Woo-Woo loves everybody forever.”
Both those notions---that everybody was an eternally existing being who had a soul, and Great God Woo-Woo loved everybody forever---was enough to make every Skeptic at the council just fall down and roll around on the ground laughing until the tears rolled down his face. Of all the stupid, irrational, idiotic notions that had no chance whatsoever of being real, this one was the most stupid, irrational, and idiotic of them all. Somebody surviving his physical body’s death, what a supremely absurd notion! It was obvious at a glance death was the total destruction of the personality. No Skeptic had ever seen a soul. (Although there were Skeptics and Woo-Woos alike that reported very strange experiences from time to time, these stories were dismissed as the product of a hysterical fear of death, wishful thinking, and overactive imaginations.)
And Great God Woo-Woo loving everybody forever? This was such a ridiculous notion it wasn’t even discussed. The Universe had so many ways of hurting people it was flatly impossible for anything even close to that to be true. The Skeptic council decided to concentrate on the souls law, Law 2.
How to break this law? It wasn’t at all obvious what the Skeptics had to do to break this law, and there was a deal of loud arguing, until one brilliant Skeptic genius pointed out that the most important thing the Woo-Woos did with that law was TEACH it to their children. They taught their Woo-Woo children Great God Woo-Woo said EVERYBODY had souls.
So the way for Skeptics to break this law was to TEACH their Skeptic children that NOBODY had souls.
This was the perfect solution, absolutely perfect! Although every Skeptic already believed nobody had a soul, there was no formal program of teaching this in their schools. The Skeptic council immediately decided to institute a program of pounding into their children’s heads over and over again that nobody survived his physical body’s death, that NOBODY HAD SOULS. And they would toss in the statement that the Universe didn’t care about anybody.
There were a few radical, wild, and crazy Skeptics at the meeting. They suggested, given previous bad results, it MIGHT be a good idea to test for souls in the lab first this time. Before something bad nobody could anticipate happened, like before. That maybe Woo-Woos might know something Skeptics didn’t.
The sheer impossibility of this idea caused every other Skeptic at the meeting to fall down and roll around laughing again. Skeptics were so vastly superior in knowledge and intellect, and Woo-Woos were such fuzzy-headed morons. Their was certainly no need to test this idea in the lab as it was a religious idea, and Skeptics knew anything religious was automatically wrong. The proposal was rejected without another second’s thought. They voted to implement their education program starting with the next school year.
The Woo-Woos heard what the Skeptics were about to do. They sent a delegation to the Skeptic council.
“We beg you not do this,” they said. “You are deliberately breaking Great God Woo-Woo’s most fundamental laws. Twice you have broken Great God Woo-Woo’s laws, and twice it has led to disaster. Have you not learned? We warn you. Doing this will start a fire that will consume you all.”
The Skeptic council sneered a mighty sneer and did it anyway.
The school program went on for years and years and years. Ten, fifteen, TWENTY years.
The Skeptics began to grin from ear to ear as each year went by. They took great joy in pointing out to the Woo-Woos that they had broken Great God Woo-Woo’s most basic laws, and there hadn’t been even the first bad consequence.
The response from the Woo-Woos was always---silence. There wasn’t the first Woo-Woo convert.
One fine day a couple of Skeptic teen-agers took two assault rifles to school and massacred twenty-three students and a teacher. When the cops closed in, the kids put the muzzles of their assault rifles in their mouths and blew their brains out. The cops found a note the teen-agers left behind.
“The Universe doesn’t care about me---I don’t care about the Universe. Screw you all.”
The Woo-Woos finally broke their silence. They asked “Is this not perfect Skeptic logic?”
Now it was the Skeptics turn to be silent, because there was no question that it was. But they decided it was best to just forget the incident, because there was no way such a horrible thing would ever happen again.
It happened again a week later, eleven children dead in a murder-suicide committed by another child. With another note, longer this time. “The Universe doesn’t care about me---I don’t care about the Universe. No human life has any real meaning. Human life means nothing, not even mine. It’s all going to Hell. It’s all going straight to Hell. Screw you all."
And again, a few months later, ten children dead. Then a year later, six children dead, then eighteen months later, with a new record of thirty students dead, over and over, until the Skeptics got used to hearing about the occasional school massacre, with the record for the number of children murdered being constantly broken, until it seemed strange to them that there was ever a time when school massacres were not routine.
Some Skeptic scientists were more than a little discomfited by this, and they investigated, trying to discover why their children were doing such terrible things they had never done before. They discovered the social environment their children were living in was a horror.
The first thing they discovered was their children were rude to each other. Their children had evolved a society where the insult was considered to be high art and the resulting anger a way of life. The way their children were screaming at each other had to be seen to be believed.
The second more shocking thing they discovered was their children were heavy drug users, as an escape from all their pain and anger. They couldn’t achieve happiness with all the rudeness and anger in their daily lives, so they achieved it with drugs designed to force their brains into feeling happiness, emotion drugs. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, meth, mescaline, LSD, peyote, barbiturates, mushrooms, cocaine, crack, uppers, downers, the Skeptic scientists found a new emotion drug their children were using every day.
The Skeptic children had invented a dead-on-target term to describe somebody under the influence of emotion drugs. They observed that when somebody was under the influence of emotion drugs, he just faded away and stopped interacting with the rest of the Universe. He interacted with the Universe exactly as much as a rock did, and so the Skeptic kids called using emotion drugs “getting stoned.”
The Skeptics launched a “Just-Say-No” program to get their kids to stop using emotion drugs. They pointed out all the bad things that emotion drugs did to people and society. Some emotion drugs could even lead to the user’s death.
It didn’t have the slightest effect.
“Screw you all, dudes,” the kids said with their ingrained rudeness. “One day I will die and disappear completely from the Universe. I want to be happy while I’m here. Emotion drugs MAKE me happy. They are the easiest and cheapest way. Why should I care what happens to society? Why should I care what you freaking idiots think? I’m all alone in the Universe. The Universe doesn’t care about me. My life has no real meaning. I’m not really connected to anything. There’s no real reason why I should care. Why should I care if it kills me? I’m gonna die and disappear anyway. At least this way I’ll be guaranteed to die happy. Screw you all, dudes. I’m tired of all this talk. I’m gonna go get stoned.”
The Woo-Woos commented “You have trained your children well. Is this not also perfect Skeptic logic?”
The Skeptics had to acknowledge it was. In fact their kids had struck right to the heart of an issue, as children do, and from that moment on the “Just-Say-No” program stopped and the use of emotion drugs began spreading through the rest of Skeptic society. Particularly the smart Skeptics. From that moment on, intellectual and scientific progress slowed down in Skeptic society. The smarter and smarter a Skeptic was, the more and more likely he was to spend his time stoned rather than doing scientific research, or writing books, or composing music, or painting pictures, or whatever it was creative he did.
Emotion drug use became so common and pervasive in Skeptic society the Skeptics were eventually forced to make emotion drugs legal. The Skeptics didn’t really like this, but there was nothing they could do about it, so in the end they shrugged their shoulders and decided if the occasional school massacre, lots and lots of their smartest people getting stoned and staying that way, and a general slowing down of Skeptic society was the worst bad consequence, they could live with it.
But it didn’t stop there.
The killing got worse and spread out of the schools. Massacres began happening at totally unexpected times and places, and the child killers got better at it with practice, building massive bombs that killed hundreds, then thousands.
The Skeptics felt a cold wind on their backs. They tried to stop it. The child killers were few, never more than one in a thousand. The vast majority of their kids were content with getting stoned. They asked their kids why some of them kept turning killer.
“You absolute, complete, utter fools,” their kids replied. “Nothing could be simpler. Because they feel like it. Because it makes them feel happy.”
The Skeptics were nonplused.
“You really don’t see it, do you?” their kids asked. “You’re all going to die screaming, and you all deserve to die screaming for being stupid. Life has no physically real meaning, you freaking idiots. My life, yours, everybody’s. Everything’s meaningless. The Universe doesn’t care about anything. You can do anything you want. You can kill if you want. If there are no souls, the only rational thing to be is a sociopath.”
The Woo-Woos commented “Perfect Skeptic logic. Your children are geniuses. We now understand Great God Woo-Woo’s purpose in making us eternal beings.”
Again the Skeptic kids had struck to the heart of an issue, and again this perfect reasoning spread through the rest of Skeptic society. The smarter and smarter a Skeptic was, the more and more likely he was to turn killer, until murder was as common as rain in Skeptic valleys, until no Skeptic dared leave his house at night. Murder became another high art among Skeptics. Skeptic geniuses found thousands and thousands of ways of killing people, in whatever number you wanted.
Some of the smarter Skeptics sensed the end was near. They began quietly trying to leave their respective valleys and emigrate to the Woo-Woo valleys.
The Woo-Woos barred their way.
“No,” they said. “A Skeptic now stands a good chance of being an angry, homicidal, emotion-drug-using sociopath capable of murdering millions. We are NOT going to take that kind of chance with our decent, civilized, stable society. YOU MAY NOT PASS. You created this disaster, and you will suffer the consequences.”
The end came quickly and explosively, and again it came from a child. A child Skeptic genius realized the only way he would ever be safe from other Skeptics killing him was if he killed all the other Skeptics first. He created and released a virus that killed only Skeptics. He left the Woo-Woos alone because they had always been kind to him and once had even tried to convince him he mattered.
The virus made Skeptics feel like they were being burned at the stake. It spread through all the Skeptics like fire through dry grass. As they got sick and began dying, a number of Skeptic scientists saw that breaking Great God Woo-Woo Law 1 and Law 2 had once again led to total disaster, as if those loony-tune laws might somehow have been rational too, and wondered to themselves if perhaps they really should’ve tested those laws in the lab first before breaking them, but it was way the hell too late now, and they died screaming just like all the other Skeptics.
And so in this fashion the Skeptics all annihilated themselves and died out. And, natural as gravity, the Woo-Woos moved in, cleaned up all the bodies, colonized all that empty land, built some museums to remember the dead Skeptic culture and the fundamental mistake they made, and the sound of The Holy Funky Green Chicken now echoes through their peaceful mountain valleys forever and ever, amen.
“If there’s a smile upon my face, it’s only there to fool the public---“