by Jesse Galef
When I was a kid, I was something of a smart-alec. To be honest, I still am. I can definitely relate to the wise-ass kid in today’s SMBC:
That kind of misleading statement always upsets me. I want expressions to have meaning, and I feel cheated when the meaning disappears upon close examination.
Far too many sayings *cough theology cough* try to appear meaningful without actually asserting anything. At the 2009 Atheist Alliance International Convention, I got to see Dan Dennett give a wonderful talk on the subject, described by Jerry Coyne thusly:
a hilarious attack on theologians like Karen Armstrong, who mouth pious nonsense like, “God is the God behind God.” Dennett calls this kind of language a “deepity”: a statement that has two meanings, one of which is true but superficial, the other which sounds profound but is meaningless. His exemplar of a deepity is the statement “Love is just a word.” True, it’s a word like “cheeseburger,” but the supposed deeper sense is wrong: love is an emotion, a feeling, a condition, and not just a word in the dictionary. He gave several examples of other deepities from academic theologians; when you see these things laid out — ripped from their texts — in a Powerpoint slide, they make you realize how truly fatuous are the lucubrations of people like Armstrong, Eagleton, and Haught. Sarcasm will be the best weapon against this stuff.
You can watch the whole hour-long speech on the RDF website if you like; I certainly enjoyed it.