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Skepticism in supernatural universes

Spoiler Alert: This post talks about last night’s episode of True Blood. Read at your own risk if you haven’t watched it yet.
For those of you who don’t know, I’m a bit of a True Blood fanatic. It’s a guilty pleasure. I love the campiness, the puns, the one liners, the cliff hangers, and all of gratuitous sex and beautiful people (Mmmm Eric, Alcide, and Jessica). All of this entertainment is enough to outweigh the sometimes frustratingly bad plot, Sookie’s dues ex machina lightning fingers, and, well, Sookie herself.

But sometimes I overanalyze things, because that’s what I do. Like when, in the last season, the hospital claimed Sookie didn’t have a blood type. …You can’t not have a blood type! Blood type is determined by antigens on the surface of red blood cells. If you lacked all antigens, you’d just be type O and negative for every other type, like Rh factor. Extremely rare, but not “no blood type.” Hell, even if Sookie didn’t have any red blood cells, she’d still come up negative on all of the tests.

The thing that stuck out for me during last night’s episode was something that I think of more and more when I watch the show. Andy Bellefleur, the town’s sheriff, was walking through the woods alone at night. He had been dumped there by his cousin and told to walk home alone because he was sobering up from V – vampire blood – which is a powerful drug in the series. In a poof of light, a beautiful fairy pops in front of him and seduces him in return for him pledging to protect her. And they do it right there in the woods. …Which thankfully we don’t see, because it’s Andy.

Me: Come on, would you have sex with some random hot person who just popped up in front of you in the woods?!
Male Friend #1:
Male Friend #2: …Probably
Me: This is so goddamn stereotypical.

That wasn’t really my issue, though. When Andy finally gets home, his cousin’s wife Arlene asks what took him so long. He recounts the story of how a beautiful woman appeared out of a ball of light and they had sex. Arlene thinks he must be hallucinating because he’s coming down from V.

This is the same Arlene who just saw a spirit exorcised from her possessed friend who stole her baby. The same Arlene who was possessed by a maenad into having crazy orgies. The same Arlene who went to a witch to abort her potentially evil baby. The same Arlene who knowingly serves vampires synthetic blood in the bar she works at. The same Arlene who knows her coworker Sookie can read minds.

How can you live in a universe where it’s common knowledge that vampires, werewolves, werepanthers, shape shifters, ghosts, telepaths, and witches exist, but a beautiful woman appearing out of a ball of light is obviously a hallucination? If someone recounted that story to me in that universe, my reaction would be “Holy shit! You obviously just banged some new supernatural being we personally don’t have any knowledge about, since we keep discovering new supernatural beings all the time! Let’s do some investigation on what it could possibly be!”

Because really, skepticism is based on the scientific method, rationality, and logic. If we lived in a universe where we know magic is real and that numerous types of supernatural beings roam the world…well, it wouldn’t be “super”natural anymore. It would be natural, and we’d need to figure out where we went wrong with the laws of physics. I’d love to research the biology behind vampires never dying by feeding on other’s blood!

But if we lived in such a universe, where would we draw the line? Was Arlene right to still be skeptical about the fairy, even though we, the viewers, know what it is? If we lived in a universe where physics and biology didn’t work as we expected, how would we establish between “real” supernatural things and “fake” ones? For example, many characters on the show are very skeptical about religion or God – but what makes angels and deities unbelievable when you have vampires and shifters running around?

…I guess you have physical evidence of the vampires and shifters.

Anyway, what do you think? Is Arlene being a good skeptic, or is she being a little dimwitted? If you lived in a supernatural universe, how would you react to a situation that described a new supernatural creature or event that you personally aren’t familiar with?

Comments

  1. BunyipAndler says

    Arlene is right to be skeptical. If werewolves, vampires, and whatnot existed in this universe, then clearly they aren’t supernatural. Supernatural things by definition cannot exist. They are biological beings, which must have evolved and exist through natural processes.Concepts such as air travel, radio, and cars would seem like the supernatural to someone from 500 years ago. If they encountered them, it wouldn’t be logical to assume they were supernatural and that *other* supernatural things must exist as well.

  2. says

    Yeah, I’ve had the same thought.  Here’s what I wrote about it at the time…I’ve had enough of shows, books, or movies set in fantasy settings that want to play two characters off each other, one as a cynical skeptic who doesn’t believe in magic, and the other as a credulous believer who believes in all kinds of crazy things. The problem is that this dichotomy only works if there’s ambiguity about what’s real.  If your setting is a fantasy setting where magic is demonstrably real and is observable on a daily basis, you have to try to adjust the characters to fit, and it never, ever works. Imagine what it would be like to have a cynical, scientific minded skeptic character on Buffy. Skeptic: I don’t believe in magic.  Stories about magic are ridiculous tales for children. Buffy: I have magical vampire fighting powers.  One of my friends is a witch who can cast magic spells.  Another is a werewolf.  I’ve personally met multiple demons, and tonight I’m going to kill a bunch of vampires in a martial arts battle.  Here goes!   *Buffy beats up vampires alongside a witch and a werewolf* Skeptic: Oh.  Excuse me while I reevaluate my belief system. See the problem?  Its unstable.  To fix it they have to adjust both the skeptic and the credulous believer to fit the setting.  And it never goes well.  After a few episodes you end up with this: Skeptic: I believe in vampires, werewolves, and witches, because I’ve personally met a bunch of them.  But I think Frankenstein Monsters are ridiculous superstition.  Oh my gosh!  The fact that I said that guarantees that this episode we will meet a Frankenstein Monster!  There he is over there!  I guess I was wrong again.  But I don’t believe in leprechauns!  At least, not until NEXT episode! Credulous Believer: I believe in vampires, werewolves, witches, Frankenstein monsters, and leprechauns.  But the stereotype that I’m supposed to embody is that of a guy who believes in wacky conspiracy theories and ridiculous tales, and since all of those things are demonstrably real, I’m completely failing to live up to my own intended characterization.  So I guess I also believe that, I dunno, My Little Ponies are running the Russian Mafia.  By believing in something that crazy that genuinely isn’t real in the setting of my story, I can kind of sort of be the character I was intended to be. See the problem?  They’re trying to tell a story that doesn’t make sense in the context given.  The skeptic has no grounds for his skepticism- it just looks like stubbornness.  And the credulous believer has to be written as ridiculously as possible because otherwise, instead of embodying the trope of credulity, he just looks like a regular person in the given setting of the story.

  3. says

    I call this Scully Syndrome, after the X-Files character who always doubted the supernatural, even when the evidence was overwhelming. It’s definitely one of the more annoying plot devices.

  4. says

    Ultimately it stems from fundamental misunderstandings about science. Science is about continuous re-evaluation of our understandings of natural operations based on evidence. But in most fiction involving the supernatural, the “Scully” character is there to represent science as a fixed body of knowledge: vampires don’t exist! you can’t travel to other universes! instead of doing what a real scientist would do, gathering data and evidence.

  5. Laurence says

    One of my favorite characters in the Vampire: the Masquerade table-top RPG is a vampire named Dr. Douglas Netchurch who studies vampires scientifically to discover what he can about them.  He’s also cool because he comes from a bloodline of vampires that are all crazy in some way (they are called Malkavians).  He’s particular disorder is an extreme scientific detachment and obsession with research. If anyone is interested, here’s some more information:  http://whitewolf.wikia.com/wik

  6. says

    Sort of reminds me of the Dresden Files novels which I enjoy. Sometimes I just grit my teeth when Chicago’s only professional wizard recounts how nobody is ever willing to accept the supernatural explanation and how people look to science first and foremost to explain things. If only.It drives me nuts to think that if you had openly capable wizards that could produce fire and light at whim that you might be able to convert a few hardcore skeptics in the population.Goddamn escapism!

  7. says

    I would like to suggest a third possibility explaining the behavior of this Arlene “character.” Her dialog is being written poorly because her skepticism in this case is a  plot device cobbled together by a fanservice committee of producers. The scriptwriters don’t have time to come up with any plausible character reactions fulfilling the predetermined plot between cashing their paychecks at the liqueur store and sobbing into crumpled rejection letters from Harper Collins.Never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.  That’s skepticism.

  8. says

    I agree with this in common conversation but this is really just a definitions game. In the context of this conversation (a world with undead and werewolves) you are pretty much halting it and asking the word “supernatural” to be replaced with “an unusual power we can not explain” which takes a great deal of time to say for mostly the same effect.

  9. says

    Not that I have anything much to add, but I thought I’d point out that Cracked.com actually made note of this curious phenomenon (#6) of supernatural world denizens constantly forgetting they deal with supernatural stuff all the time.In the end, though, spot-on as always. What we call the “natural” world is simply the totality of all phenomena that occur in it and that we can analyze, predict and even sometimes expect. If we regularly experienced stuff like monsters and God and whatever, then those things wouldn’t be “supernatural”, seeing as they’d obviously be accommodated by the laws of nature, and thus, part of the natural world.Which would mean people should be a bit less hasty in dismissing reports of them. Sheesh.

  10. Killer_Tapir says

    My only possible defence of Arlene’s temporary skepticism is that she actually had good reason to think that Andy was ‘compromised’ in his ability to distinguish fact from fiction. She knew he was on (or probably detoxing from) vampire blood. A drug that has been shown to produce hallucinations in other characters. To put this in slightly more ‘real-world’ terms: A person in real life who believes in God and angels and demons (let’s call them…A Christian for the sake of argument) might very well doubt a story told by a known alchoholic about the time he did the sexy sex with a fairy. On that scale it kind of seems normal. Arbitrary skepticism exists.(If you’re going to have a guilty pleasure show, you might as well make it the one with the rocket launcher wielding vampires and Orgy holding minotaur witch things)Did anyone else find it odd the whole fairy thing was introduced last season and then completely vanished after the classic line “You just ate my fairy godmother” and only now seems to be returning?

  11. PDX_Greg says

    Don’t mess with Scully!   Smart, strong, and striking,  she had it all!   Although I sort of divorced her after a few years of putting up with her increasing pouting and I also grew weary of her constant sullen mood.  Then she got into the whole sticken wounded victim thing.  Sure, she still enters my mental conversations , but I’m not moving her back into my mind until she learns how to lighten up a little.   Plus, somebody HAS to play the prosecutor on Parry Mason, if you know what I mean.

  12. says

    This bring to mind, for me, the Inheritance books by Christopher Paolini (the series that srts with Eragon – and if you’ve seen the film, ignore it please). Now, I’m not recommending them as great literature, or massively thought-provoking generally, or anything like that, but they are fun and readable, and a little thought-provoking.It’s a fairly stereotypical fantasy world, elves and dwarves and so forth, and there is magic. The main character learns about it, and we share some of this experience, including tutelage from elves, the race most adept at magic. The thing is, in this world, there are solid rules of magic, as inviolable as the physical laws we know (and as near to consistent with them as you could get, including conservation of energy, at least in principle). The elves even use magic to probe other aspects of nature to find the laws that govern them. So, what we consider supernatural can coexist with the scientific approach.That said, there are fantasy situations where it doesn’t seem like there are rules amenable to scientific pursuit – for instance, Harry Potter. I barely know anything about True Blood, so I can’t comment on that so much, but perhaps Arlene’s approach is reasonable – after all, it’s a manifestation she’s not used to, when there are many she is, and perhaps the incredulity isn’t entirely at the woman appearing from nowhere, but rather to her sleeping with Andy. It depends how regularly stuff happens that was previously completely unheard of, I suppose. I was once told (without proof, so I don’t know if it’s really valid, but it kind of makes sense) that only three abstract cardinalities make sense – zero, one, and unbounded. If you’ve got ample evidence of plural weird shit, it should increase credulity towards any new weird shit that is proposed. That shouldn’t ever mean everything would be accepted without doubt, though, to me.

  13. Mike says

    Sometimes Doctor Who verges on this.  The Doctor will see something, and keep exclaiming that it’s impossible, despite the millions of things he’s seen.  The results are actually often interesting: sometimes there’s really no such thing, and we get a Scooby-Doo ending.  Sometimes he’s proven wrong.It’s interesting, I think, in a supernatural world, to let characters really understand how their world works well enough to reject things that don’t belong.  Too often, it’s like that scene you described: a character who seems to keep finding new weird things unreasonably draws a line.  But in really good stories, I think, you can have a person who’s totally at ease in the supernatural happenings call out a specific non-existence, and be successful.  It’s a sign of worldbuilding done right.

  14. says

    I love this post.I don’t watch True Blood (though now I’m intrigued), but I’ve noticed the same thing in other stories.  Maybe Arlene did not believe him because he was “coming down from V”; maybe she would have believed the story if it was someone else who said it?This reminds me of the Five Exceptions to Gamp’s Law of Elemental Transfiguration.

  15. Andrei Anghel says

    Here is my attempt to out-geek you: It is possible to have no blood type, if you use a certain liberal definition of “blood type”. Doctors define “blood type” as a reaction to certain kinds of antibodies, and no reaction is defined as O blood type. But from a biochemical point of view, people with O blood type still have an antigen on their RBCs. The O antigen is a surface molecule made in all humans. People with A blood type have an extra enzyme that adds a galactose to this molecule, resulting in the A antigen. People with B blood type have another enzyme which adds an N-acetylgalactosamine to the O blood type, resulting in the B antigen. Here is a picture: http://www.web-books.com/MoBio…So if you do not make the initial O antigen, then you can say you have no blood type. This has in fact been documented. People with two recessive copies of the allele which makes the H antigen do not make any of the ABO antigens, regardless of what alleles they have in the ABO locus. This condition has been referred to as the Bombay Phenotype http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H…Now my input on the skepticism bit (I should preface this with the fact that I have never seen the show): I think Arlene is being a moderately good skeptic. Just because there are some things out there which you don’t understand doesn’t mean you should abandon questioning altogether. If, say, someone documented that vampires existed on Earth (asides from the fact that I would surprised, considering I actually come from Transylvania) I would still not believe in God. Because it means just that we got it wrong about vampires. That doesn’t mean we got it wrong about everything. Methodological skepticism is not a way to find the ultimate proof, it’s just a particularly good way of finding the best working hypothesis. And the best working hypothesis IMHO is that Nessie, the Chupacabra, vampires and Hogwarts are all made up things. If you give me solid evidence that one exists, I’ll believe you. That doesn’t mean I’ll change my mind about the others. Now, I say Arlene is being a moderately good and not a great skeptic for this reason. One could make the point that in the context the claim about the lady out of the light ball is not that crazy. Fair point, maybe she should have said “more data needed”. As in the verdict you would give on whether acupuncture helps chronic pain (it may, for reasons having nothing to do with chi and meridians), not the verdict you give on whether someone else praying for you helps you heal (it just doesn’t). But I will make the point that this is still an entirely new kind of creature for that world. Skepticism is still warranted. Best,

  16. Elerena says

    If I recall right, the explanation on that one is that for the most part, magic is governed by a whole bunch of really, really old guys who are extremely resistant to change and remember the times when showing powers like magic was a death sentence.  It’s not so that they *can’t* convert people, as that it’s actively suppressed.

  17. Brandonfl86 says

    Isn’t it possible that Arlene wasn’t skeptical that a beautiful woman could appear out of a ball of light, or even that the beautiful woman would sleep with some random person, but that she is skeptical that a beautiful person that appeared from a ball of light would choose Andy to sleep with of all people. Andy isn’t all bad, but I don’t think he’d make the cut for a random forest hookup. The “good” he has comes out after you’ve gotten to know him, he certainly isn’t physically appealing.

  18. Adam.B says

    oh yeah and what about the Atheist/Agnostic knight of the cross who doesn’t believe in God despite receiving his sword from the freaking angel Michael while  fighting demons and monsters nonstop.

  19. Adam.B says

    I think you hit the nail on the head, and yeah I find absence of the fairies from almost the entire season to be odd as well.

  20. says

    Yeah certain other fantasy worlds specify a kind of energy, sometimes called thaumatic energy that permeates the universe and can be harnessed, by individuals with the ability. Terry Pratchett uses this explanation in the Discworld books, and a now defunct webcomic that I used to read gave a biological explanation. The elves, who could do magic, had a gland with which they harnessed thaumatic energy from the sun. In that world technology could be used to harness the energy as well, and it powered the entire civilization.

  21. Eric RoM says

    “! Let’s do some investigation on what it could possibly be!”Because, then it would be “Buffy”.  Where librarians are heroes.

  22. says

    That works in the history of the story but the protagonist is a wizard in the yellow pages. They aren’t being suppressed in the modern day version of the story for the most part. In their universe everyone is skeptical of supernatural even though there exists people who would happily demonstrate their power to prove a point.

  23. Tisha Irwin says

    You have the immunodeterminant sugars reversed, but mostly you’re correct. There are many more blood groups than ABO and RH, but in practice labs really only type those two groups. If she was lacking all the ABO and RH antigens, the lab would call her O negative and be done with it. If she had no red blood cells, the lab wouldn’t report a type because there are no cells to type. They’d ask for a new sample.

  24. Marian says

    I agree.  Add to this that she does know he has an addiction and that it has been a major problem for him.  And that this experience happened after he was forced to walk home while on withdrawal.  Plus, Arlene doesn’t know about faeries, shifters and werewolves.  And I think the town got their memories cleansed, more or less, on the whole orgy affair.  So the only “supernatural” things she really knows about are vampires and some experience with possession and witchcraft.  If you knew about only those two would you automatically assume that everything else fantastical existed?Also, she called what Andy saw an angel.  I know her character is Christian and fairly conservative minded, so maybe her disbelief is because she doesn’t think angels go around fucking people in the woods.

  25. Erp says

    Well that could be the difference between God, the omniscent and omnipotent creator of the universe, and God, an extremely powerful but not omnipotent figure.  Sanya might be atheistic towards the former.

  26. lomifeh says

    Considering Sookies background it is not surprising she has no discernible blood type.Regarding Arlene, she is skeptical due to the circumstances.  He is a guy coming down off what can be a powerful hallucinogen so she figures he imagined it all.   I bet if he said he saw some aliens come down and anally probe him she’d be all “you are crazy” as well.  Just be cause a number of supernatural beings exist doesn’t mean you automatically believe everything.  They are normal parts of the world but that does not discount the fact other crap can go on that no one believes.  Oh and in the end, all that matters is what is in the script ;).Quick edit: If some hot faery lady showed up in the woods wanting to have sex with me, I’d definitely think about saying yes.

  27. says

    I don’t think Arlene thinks that deeply about anything, quite honestly. From another character, I would have issues with it, but it’s Arlene and she’s pretty consistently written as rather shallow. Also, keep in mind that the majority of people in the True Blood universe ONLY know about vampires, and the show takes pains to show that most people don’t even know that much about vampires, like their vulnerability to silver, the fact that they’re actually dead, etc. (Remember that the official line on vampires is that they suffer from a disease that makes them briefly *appear* to be dead and then makes them allergic to sunlight.)I don’t think anyone outside the main characters know that werewolves, shifters, witches, and fairies exist in their world. Remember that most of Bon Temps thought Sookie was crazy or retarded instead of psychic at the beginning of the show. Now, most of the other main characters have seen enough weird things that they would probably have the reaction you described– “hm, probably some new kind of weird creature we haven’t run into yet”– but Arlene is not one of them. I actually would not put it past Jason to be skeptical about fairies either, despite, you know, the whole werepanther thing and the other stuff he’s dealt with.So overall, I didn’t think her reaction was all that odd. Of course, I was mostly thinking about what kind of terrible deal Andy has gotten himself into with the fairy. That’s pretty much rule #1 of fairy tales after all: Don’t make deals with the fae.

  28. Adam.B says

    The thing is Sanya is not just a Skeptic toward a God or even specific type of God but the supernatural as a whole too. If I remember correctly back when  Sanya was introduced he tells Harry that he is an atheist and Harry retorts by  bring up the fact that he’s a knight of the cross who fights demons and talks to angels all the time to which Sanya replies that he could just be having hallucinations or be insane. That is the only reason he ever brings up for being an Atheist(later Agnostic) if he has problems believing in a certain type of God he’s been keeping that problem to himself.

  29. says

    It would be irrational for her to deny the supernatural as a whole. However, denying the isolated account of someone possibly suffering withdrawal symptoms, or potentially suffering from exposure? Admittedly, I wouldn’t simply dismiss the account out of hand because it might be some new kind of creature, but I would remain skeptical of the claim if it couldn’t be backed up with other evidence.

  30. Adam.B says

    The reason given for why the supernatural community doesn’t just come out is because ignorant humans are vulnerable and can be taken advantage of while an informed human population may group together out of fear and try to kill them. Presumably the non-Recurring characters who are there to be saved or killed all the time probably don’t have much interaction with the supernatural and could be excused for thinking they mistook the situation. That said the latest book really grated me with that classic work around for the problem of evil: freewill.Why is it that all the stuff the protagonists do don’t violate freewill but if an angel so much as sneezes on a cat without the proper paper work fill out it’s a horror show.

  31. says

    Actually, in all the blood typing I do (every night at work, both by hand and using two different diagnostic robots), no red blood cells would give me an invalid result, not a negative one.  But I wouldn’t call an invalid “no blood type”- I’d call it “someone lysed all my cells, damnit”.And your point re: skepticism and evidence in fantasy worlds is what used to bug me about Sculley in the X-Files too- she sees all this crap, is abducted by aliens herself, etc etc… and her reaction is still “I am scientist, so I don’t believe!”  The scientist should be the first person to acknowledge mounting evidence.

  32. Dana says

    I remember reading an article years ago, but have never been able to find it since, that claimed there really were people matching the definition of vampires and werewolves, and that both suffered from the same condition (maybe copper deficiency?) The point was that iron deficiency and some forms of albinism are (or can be) related, and that, in long-ago times, one way to make up for iron deficiency was to drink blood. Thus, vampires.Also, the body protects itself from a lack of pigment by growing excessive hair. People who were forced out of the village (again in ancient times) would tend to live in dense forests and be active at night to stay out of the sun and would eventually be covered by hair. Werewolves.It’s interesting that legends about vampires and werewolves often claim they are related.

  33. Chris Lawson says

    One of the great horror/comedy TV series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker, made a running joke of this.*The original series, not the remake that by all accounts was pretty terrible.

  34. says

    I know about the Bombay phenotype – but the point is it still comes up as typo O in the tests. So even if Sookie was lacking all antigens, she would come up as O negative – there’s no such thing as “no blood type.”

  35. Katy says

    I thought her skepticism had more to do.with the idea that a beautiful woman would want to seduce Andy…

  36. Anissa says

    Hmm.  I read that more as “I don’t want to deal with this”, as in it’s Arlene HOPING Andy was hallucinating, because she’s had enough supernatural shit on her plate lately.  Especially with the ghost kidnapping her baby that same episode.  Wouldn’t you want to look for a an explanation that doesn’t involve your cousin-in-law getting involved with some new and dangerous supernatural critter?  Well, yeah, but you would catch yourself leaning towards denial and force yourself to evaluate the situation logically.  Arlene, not so much.

  37. ckitching says

    The plot device was fine near the beginning of the series, with no one witness to the incredible things that were happening.  But as the producers increased the utter strangeness of the events in the show, and exposed her directly to so many things, it got more than a bit absurd when she continued to deny that there was anything out of the ordinary going on.

  38. says

    Totally unbelievable.I mean, who honestly lives in a world where a man coming home, especially while high/stoned/drunk, and the first thing out of his mouth he says… TO HIS WIFE… was about this hot broad he banged on the way home….and then, we are expected to believe that her reactions do not involve a frying pan upside the head, or at least several hours of yelling and guilt trips, but instead involve just disbelief?Werewolves and vampires and pixies… yeah, yeah, yeah… It’s the humans they can’t write for.

  39. John Small Berries says

    Yes, I agree as well.  Even if nothing supernatural at all occurred – if Andy said he was late because a beautiful woman got out of a car and had sex with him – Arlene would probably be just as skeptical. Even if he weren’t a V addict.

  40. says

    Harry Potter has the crumple-horned snorkack, nargles, the deathly hallows, etc.Even in a supernatural universe there may be some things that people are familiar with or consider to be plausible, and other things that they consider to be far-fetched.  In most fantasy novels where magic is used, there is some sense of rules and limits to the magic.

  41. says

    Also, speaking of our pony overlords:”In My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Twilight Sparkle exhibits symptoms of this character trait in the episodes “Bridle Gossip” and “Feeling Pinkie Keen”, in regards to the concept of Curses and Hexes in the former, and Pinkie’s ability to foretell the future in the latter. And this is in spite of Twilight Sparkle having magical talents, as do all Unicorn Ponies. Subverted, however, in that such magical powers are seen as a natural talent of Unicorns, having a valid explanation. Also, Twilight Sparkle herself has a far more scientific approach to her methods, rather then relying on mystical-babble.”From http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmw

  42. Svlad Cjelli says

    “Come on, would you have sex with some random hot person who just popped up in front of you in the woods?!”I probably don’t count, because I tend to assume that strangers who approach me outside of professional establishments are trying to murder me.But Jesus doesn’t equal aliens. http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmw…We do, in this universe, have very strange animals aplenty, and still manage to disbelieve leprechaun gold at the ends of rainbows.

  43. Svlad Cjelli says

    (I should note that my word choice is for the purpose of reference. Jesus is, traditionally, an alien.)

  44. Svlad Cjelli says

    Yar, I’d think the complete lack of blood cells would be a more conspicuous circumstance than the lack of a blood type in the not-blood.

  45. OverlappingMagisteria says

    We believe in bears, gorillas, sloths, eels, squids, and fish but we don’t believe in big foot or the loch ness monster? Someone unfamiliar with zoology would find this distinction very arbitrary.

  46. says

    Ah, the Fear Street problem. Remember those? They were touted as being kind of the teenage Goosebumps, they were generally predictable as hell and ranged from mildly kind of spooky to laughable? One consistent factor in all the “R.L. Stine” books, actually, was the invincible skepticism of all adults. No one was ever believed by any authority, whatever the precedent and evidence.”Mom, in the past month, there’ve been a vampire, two werewolves, and a banshee clearly active in the area, five of my friends have been murdered by their cheerfully identified besties and seven by their significant others, and our house is clearly haunted. Can we move?”It’s actually one of the built-in troubles with Urban fantasy as a genre, given the standard premise of a world like this one, but with magic stuff. There’s a lot to address when building such a world. Is the lady who claims to be a Gypsy and wears a turban a real psychic? Or is she a cynical cold reader unaware of the passage of real magic around her? I spent years running a game set in an UF world, and one fun thing to do was mess with my players. Once they thought they’d found a nest of vampires unlike any they’d ever seen. Turned out they’d found people playing a role-playing-game. I’m surprised we of the GM team didn’t get lynched for that…I’m currently working on a team of monster-fighters/investigators, three of whom are active skeptics/atheists, seeing magic as just another kind of force to address as best one can and employed in such a way as to make systematic investigation VERY important.

  47. Andrei Anghel says

    You’re right, thanks for the catch. Goddammit I should read my replies before hitting “Post”.

  48. Guest says

    Her skepticism makes a little sense if V is a hallucinogen.  Are its effects ever actually stated?

  49. says

    I think the fairy war is clearly going to be the major plothook of the next season… they just wanted to introduce it early so that Sookie’s powers were explained and people weren’t broadsided by it at the end of this season.  The next (last) episode of this season I’m guessing will be full of fairies and their creepy/crazy war thing.

  50. Andrei Anghel says

    That’s totally true that it would come up as O negative, if they did not test for this phenotype (which I am guessing is pretty much all labs on the planet). But if the lab is for some reason suspicious and they do test then they would learn something very important. Because a Bombay individual cannot get a transfusion from a O individual, there would still be an an agglutination reaction as the O blood will still have the H antigen, right? Now I know this is a ridiculous way of trying to rationalize what is surely a piece of the script which was written by a person with no idea about antigens and such things. But I still think that it can happen. And it may not be a “no blood type”, but such reductionist terms are often used in the medical profession when communicating with patients. Patients don’t care about biochemistry, they just want to understand what is going on. And doctors have a duty to the patient not to be 100% scientifically accurate (doctors do have the duty to science when actually arriving at a diagnosis) but to explain all the relevant facts in the way the patient understands them and can make the necessary decisions.

  51. Tisha Irwin says

    They would figure out (or at least suspect) the Bombay phenotype with the antibody screen, because all true Bombay people make anti-H, which is why they can’t be transfused with group O blood. So their plasma would react with every cell in the screen. However, as someone who has worked in and run blood banks for 10 years, I have never said someone has “no blood type”.

  52. says

    I remember Fear Street!  Yes, it did become really predictable (which is why I stopped reading them).  The horror stories in which no one believes the kid are sometimes frustrating.  It makes sense if they didn’t believe them at first (thinking, oh the kids are just goofing around) but when they continue to not believe it in the face of evidence (in the story) it does get rather laughable.  I guess it’s sort of the “hero saving the world all by themselves” theme being put forward?Also, reading about your trick with the nest of vampires/role-playing game made me smile.

  53. says

    Is Arlene being a good skeptic, or is she being a little dimwitted?Yes, but she is not skeptical of the existence of a fairy, but rather that the fairy did it with Andy, of all people. :)

  54. says

    The effects are broad, and pretty much whatever the plot needs at the time. It causes extremely rapid healing of pretty much any injury, enhanced strength and endurance, euphoria, limited telepathy, sexual arousal, shared acid-trippy dreams, and apparently the effects of withdrawal are just as varied.

  55. says

    Yeah, that.Always pissed me off, the ‘Scully’ bit on X-Files. It was actually, for at least a good chunk of time, a kinda insidious slander, when you think about it. Reads as such a standard and dishonest stereotype: see, this is what a scientist just *does*, children: denies the obvious conclusions of the evidence on absurdly silly pretexts if it doesn’t fit her preconceptions… Let’s construct an SFX fantasy universe in which it would be completely *perverse* to deny the aliens are there, and then we’ll put in this equally fantastic character who does anyway… Oh, let’s also and incredibly consistently and improbably have her look away or get knocked out at *just* the right moment that there’s *some* silly excuse, but the balance of evidence she receives would still make this behaviour ridiculous…So it’s all so nicely illustrated, see: the conspiracy theorists aren’t being unreasonable, it’s not that their evidence is hilariously poor or absurdly obviously hoaxed. It’s just them *really* seeing stuff the scientists keep missing (against, again, all reasonable odds) and then them durn unreasonable scientists also completely and obstinately and unreasonably refusing to add it all up fairly.I thnk it would have been fair in the narrative to give Scully *some* resistance to drawing the obvious conclusion. This would have been only human, after all. Extraordinary claims, and all. But spinning it out the way they did: again, it’s feeding a stereotype. A very dishonest one. And we wonder that mouthbreathing wanks go on about scientists also having ‘faith’? Seems to me they’ve been nicely set up for that, by such material.

  56. says

    Best part? Several of our player characters decided to join said meta-LARP, creating endless recursive loops of confusion. It was also a fun opportunity for a little silly self-satire.

  57. David_Neale says

    Well, I can hardly laugh at Jen’s True Blood obsession, seeing as I used to watch Charmed. :-p(All this talk of supernatural universes reminded me of one of my favourite childhood cartoon shows, though. So I went on YouTube to watch an Extreme Ghostbusters episode. It’s years since I’ve last seen that show!)

  58. Paddy says

    Actually, in Buffy, I’m pretty sure there was at least one episode where something Giles thought actually was mythical turned out to be real.  Groups like the watchers in such an episode would have a lot of scholarship to draw on on which supernatural stuff was real, and which of the abilities attributed to it were real as well, and sometimes they’d get stuff wrong.  Which all in all made his stance in whatever that/those episode(s) may have been a lot more believable than the straw man sceptic you usually get in such shows.

  59. Annatar says

    Since the other angles seem explored, here’s my take on the random sex:It seems to me that from a man’s POV, there isn’t much downside to it. There’s a risk of STDs, but that risk is always there. If he’d have a one night stand with somebody he just met in a bar, doing it in the woods isn’t all that different. And meeting in a place like that almost guarantees nobody knows who the other is, and that they won’t meet again, avoiding the possibility of any complications that might happen after they part ways.In my anecdotal experience, women seem to fear random men much more than men fear random women. A man in general doesn’t fear being forced or kidnapped by a woman he just met, and would feel fairly confident that if something goes badly wrong they’d come out on top. If in a movie you see a woman tie a man to a bed against his will it’s supposed to be hilarious 90% of the time, and righteous revenge 9% of the time because you know, the idea of a woman raping a man is completely absurd. But if reversed it’s obviously a rape scene. For a woman there’s also a risk of pregnancy, and even if she’s entirely fine with abortion in principle I don’t think that many are so comfortable with it that they’d do it without a second thought.So yes, I can believe that quite a lot of men if offered sex in the middle of the woods would figure there isn’t much downside to it.

  60. says

    If you want to pick at it, I think one of the more glaring oddities is that vampire blood has magical healing powers when consumed by humans, which can cure any kind of injury, and the medical world is somehow completely ignorant of this, with hospitals operating as normal.

  61. donK says

    How could vampires not become the dominate species of a world where their only weaknesses were sunlight, wooden stakes, and an inordinate respect for property rights?  Crucifixes are geometry garlic is a spice but they won’t come in without an invitation and then there’s a plot line that bothers you.In a world of magic science couldn’t or at least likely wouldn’t exist.  If there was science in a world of magic it would be the science of magic.  What good could you gain from learning the properties of plants or animals or chemicals if it could be negated with an incantation?  Who would work if wealth could be spoken?  

  62. alteredstory says

    I gotta say – as a writer who deals chiefly in scifi and fantasy, even NOT living in a supernatural world, I would be unlikely to have sex with a woman who just appeared in front of me. Living in a world where I KNOW the supernatural runs rampant, the ONLY way is if I already knew and trusted said apparition (and knew that it was her) or if I was under a spell, in which case, not a choice, so – if I was raped. The array of bad that can happen with supernatural seduction more or less boggles the mind. I think that if you lived in a world like that, it would be your responsibility to learn as much about what’s out there as possible, just like it’s our responsibility in this world to gain at the very least a basic understanding of science on which to base our assessment of the world around us. Ignorance is the downfall of the ignorant (the first rule of the tautology club, I know), and not to be callous, but anyone in that universe who makes a choice like that that gets their soul sucked out or their genitalia mutilated, or demonically impregnated or anything else like that, brought it on themselves.

  63. John H says

    She’s being an arbitrary skeptic in the scene described if things LIKE beings suddenly appearing out of seemingly nowhere are already known to be possible. If she would have no reason to think that it’s possible (I’m unsure what kind of ‘magic’ has been shown to be possible, as I don’t watch the show), then she’s being perfectly reasonable. The existence of vampires and werewolves is no more reason to believe that creatures can *poof* appear in a flash of light than the existence of trees is, and we doubt people who make similar claims in our world.These days we can build devices that use a combination of infrared light and sonar to construct 3d images (“see”) through walls, but that would have been magic 100 years ago, and a skeptic would have every reason to doubt the veracity of a claim that it was done at that point in time. At this point in time, I know of no successful abiogenesis demonstrations (other than the one or several that led to life on the planet in the first place), but given what I know of chemistry and biology, I know that abiogenesis is not only likely, it’s inevitable, given the proper conditions, so I would initially accept a claim to have demonstrated abiogenesis as plausible, if not be instantly and completely credulous.Proper skepticism is all about what we know to be possible: we should neither believe nor dismiss a new situation out of hand; with strong evidence to suggest that the suggested thing should or should not be possible, based on what we know, we can form an operating thesis of credulity or incredulity until further evidence/analysis becomes available/possible (and obviously we might be wrong, which is, of course, perfectly okay, as long as we’re willing to revise our appraisal when we get new evidence and stay open to different possible interpretations of inconclusive data).Frankly, I think that given a proper understanding of physical systems and skepticism, it should not be at all difficult to imagine what proper skepticism should look like in a given fantasy world (though, as far as I know, most television writers are not trained scientists of any sort).

  64. says

    Or more analogously, if someone on hallucinogens claimed to see a rare bird far from its natural habitat, or saw an animal believed to be extinct in the wild, or claimed to have discovered a completely new species it would be considered somewhat suspect

  65. Great American Satan says

    Scully became credulous of God partway through while Mulder was skeptical of that.  Man, that show was messed up.

  66. Jurjen S. says

    I don’t watch True Blood, but I’ve had a similar feeling about other shows. I recall an episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which Harry Kim wakes up to find himself in an alternate timeline in which he accepted a position with Starfleet Engineering instead of joining the Voyager’s crew, and nobody’s prepared to believe him. My reaction was “But this kind of stuff happens all the time in the Star Trek universe!”

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