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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/28/2012 :  12:32:26  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I came across this article by way via Jim Lippard on facebook:

WHY I AM NO LONGER A SKEPTIC

It was written by Stephen Bond, for his blog.

It opens:

This is not a tale of how I found Jesus, of how acupuncture cured my haemorrhoids, or of how my alien abductors revealed the ultimate truth about 9/11. I still have no faith in anything supernatural, mystical, psychical or spiritual. I still regard the scientific method as the best way to model reality, and reason as the best way to uncover truth. I'm no longer a skeptic, but not one of my core beliefs has changed.

What has changed is that I have come to reject skepticism as an identity. Shared identities like skepticism are problematic at the best of times, for numerous reasons, but I can accept them as a means of giving power and a voice to the disenfranchised. And indeed, this is how skeptics like to portray themselves: an embattled minority standing up for science, the lone redoubt of reason in an irrational world, the vanguard against the old order of ignorance and superstition. As a skeptic, I was happy to accept this narrative and believe I was shoring up the barricades.

However, it's a narrative that corresponds poorly with reality. In the modern world, science, technology and reason are central and vital, and this is widely recognised, including at the highest level. On any major political decision, the technocrat speaks louder than the bishop, or anyone else, for that matter. Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that "God wills it" would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you're subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.

Science has a high media profile and a powerful lobby group: in the midst of a global recession and sweeping government cuts, science funding has generally held up or even increased. Hi-tech corporations have massive wealth and influence, and their products are omnipresent and seen as ever more desirable. In fact, the world today would be unthinkable without the products of science and technology, which have infiltrated into almost every economic, political and social process. We live in a world created by and ever-more dependent on science, technology and reason, in which scientists and engineers are a valued and indispensable elite.

That's right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they're now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds a relatively new elite, they're overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they've got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar's cavalry...


It's quite long. And I should say right out front that there are parts I agree with and parts I don't. Truth's and exaggerations and lumping all in one article. I'm posting it here to see what kind of thoughts you all have on it on the article.

The same person wrote this about skepticism back in 2007. It's certainly a different viewpoint than the above article expresses.


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project

HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/28/2012 :  22:56:31   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Just a general first impression (I'm still reading):

Bond seems to be using a shotgun to fire wildly in all directions at a whole lot of the disconnected things that have irritated him. Yet, even with this shotgun approach, he seems to miss a lot.

Sexism, for instance. Yes, it pervades the skeptical community and is always serious and ought to be addressed seriously. But sexism probably is less of a handicap among skeptics than in any "community" one could name. That's because sexism is addressed seriously (though not solved) by skeptics -- women skeptics make sure this is so.

More later, perhaps, including possible retractions for my own shotgun blasts.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/29/2012 :  08:04:17   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Okay, my default position is that people may identify as they want, unless there is clear deception or hypocrisy involved in the identification. In Stephen Bond's case, these are not problems. He says he's doesn't identify as a skeptic, and I am happy to see him making that decision.

I think that more often than not, his screed is bullshit.

Staring here:
On any major political decision, the technocrat speaks louder than the bishop, or anyone else, for that matter. Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that "God wills it" would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you're subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.
Yup, I mostly think those things, Stephen. Bush especially did indeed use religious arguments (and allies among the Religious Right) among the deceptions he used to justify the invasion of Iraq. And you haven't followed the news at all, Mr. Bond, if you think not.

And:
Science has a high media profile and a powerful lobby group: in the midst of a global recession and sweeping government cuts, science funding has generally held up or even increased. Hi-tech corporations have massive wealth and influence, and their products are omnipresent and seen as ever more desirable. In fact, the world today would be unthinkable without the products of science and technology, which have infiltrated into almost every economic, political and social process. We live in a world created by and ever-more dependent on science, technology and reason, in which scientists and engineers are a valued and indispensable elite.
Yeah corporations value technology wherever it's profitable. But NASA and other agencies have been stripped of funding. Science teaching is direly threatened by Creationist theocrats even in public secondary schools. Medical schools are now teaching "alternative medicine" quackery. Tennessee's Monkey Bill is now the Monkey Law. Wake up, Mr. Bond.

Then:
That's right: the nerds won, decades ago, and they're now as thoroughly established as any other part of the establishment. And while nerds a relatively new elite, they're overwhelmingly the same as the old: rich, white, male, and desperate to hang onto what they've got. And I have come to realise that skepticism, in their hands, is just another tool to secure and advance their privileged position, and beat down their inferiors. As a skeptic, I was not shoring up the revolutionary barricades: instead, I was cheering on the Tsar's cavalry.
So skepticism is actually the reactionary enemy, Mr. Bond?

Next:
But such is the character of skepticism that good intentions quickly get swamped by bad ones. Look past the crocodile tears on any online debunking forum, and you'll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They're there to laugh at idiots. I'm not going to plead innocence here: I've often joined in with the laughter, at least vicariously; laughing at idiots can be fun. But in the context of skeptic sites, the laughter takes on a bullying and unhealthy tone. It's never pleasant to watch a group of university graduates ganging up to sneer at people denied their advantages in life, especially when for some of them it's a full-time hobby. It's an unfair fight between unequal resources, and far too few skeptics care about this inequality or want to do anything about it.

If anything, I'm convinced that most of them would prefer to keep the resources unequal. The average skeptic has little time for spreading the word of reason to the educationally or intellectually lacking. His superior reason is what separates him from the chumps around him, and he has no interest in closing the gap. For him, the appeal of the skeptic clique is its exclusivity. It's a refuge from the stupid masses, and a marker of his own special privileges. It's Mensa rebranded.

About ten years ago there was a short-lived movement to rebrand skeptics as "brights". This proposal was widely derided within the community, perhaps because it revealed too much about the skeptic mindset. Many skeptics indeed see themselves as "brights" in a world of "dims". And rather than illuminate the world, they prefer to gather on skeptic forums and try to outshine each other.
[My emphasis.] No, Mr. Bond, most of us rejected "Brights" precisely because it sounded so immensely arrogant and elitist. We didn't, most of us, reject it because it would reveal our elitism. Most of us reject elitism. Most skeptics truly try to reach out and change people's thinking style for the better, and are really good at it. Yes, we also laugh at gullible people. It's impossible not to, and you admit doing so yourself. Plus, such laughter can often demonstrate how stupid some ideas are. Like your own, Mr. Bond, as a matter of fact. Those are hilarious, in the face of reality. They seem more like someone who has been treating skepticism as a competition of oneupmanship arguments, and has lost too many arguments. Of course, that's just a wild guess about what has set off your tirade.

And now:
Skepticism, of course, is only one of the many online interests which attract barely-closeted sexists. But the particular attraction of skepticism is also its particular problem: it allows the sexist to disguise his prejudice as rationality and "common sense". You can spot guys like this easily on skeptic forums: the word "feminism" brings them crawling out, like slugs after a downpour. For them, feminism is an unscientific discipline (but how could it be otherwise?), as nonsensical as astrology or Roman Catholicism, and as ripe and essential for debunking. They're okay with women's lib, within reason; but now it's gone too far, and the firm hand of reason must rein it in. Reason, weirdly enough, never seems to disrupt their own grip on power. It's always on the side of the patriarchy.

To be fair, such unabashed sexists are a minority on skeptic forums, but to be fairer, the general attitude to women isn't exactly healthy.
So, "to be fair," you essentially say that what you began with was wrong and admit that most skeptics aren't hard-core chauvinists. And, sure males all through society are in their infancy in understanding and/or sympathizing with women's issues. You make a serious charge. Strong and very vocal female skeptics are working on our male heads, as they should. Slowly, I think it's working.

But I must ask: Can you point to one other subculture that is dealing with the problem better than are skeptics, Mr. Bond?

For the most part, I think Bond is whining and bitter for some reason. Most of his screed seems to be utter bullshit. And I'm happy not to have to call him a fellow skeptic.

And that's enough for now. Basically, I just ran out of steam while running through this guy's pile of... complaints. It's mean-spirited and unpleasant stuff, and I need better comic relief than that right now. Maybe someone else can take it from here?

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
Edited by - HalfMooner on 04/29/2012 23:33:51
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/29/2012 :  10:14:26   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Did you see any truths in what he's saying Mooner? I understand that he's making outrageous leaps and basically lumping all skeptics as essentially the same. But I can't help but feel that some of his remarks about skeptic forums were pretty on target. And that we do tend to attack ideas with both barrels blazing (my words) without trying to understand the motivations that cause people to default to a made up reality. To varying degrees, we lack empathy. Or we come off as lacking empathy. I can think of threads here where I tried my best to have a discussion with a person who brought us crazy ideas while others just called that person full of crap or stupid and so on. All too often the ridicule kicks in right away. It's rare that while we are happily debunking a claim that we dig deeper and try to understand why a person would hold such a belief. I think that matters too. And I mean this on a personal level. We know the source of many bogus claims for example. But who are these people parroting the nonsense and why? What brought them too it?

He's right and wrong about science having already won. We do indeed live in a world of technology that science has delivered, and in that way the geeks have won. But that's only part of the story. If the politicians will not listen to the scientists in areas that are inconvenient to them, then the game is still on. Global warming denial is a perfect example of that. What exactly have we done to curb what an overwhelming consensus of scientists say is happening? And how about the parent driven anti-vax movement which is only getting worse? While the search for Bigfoot might ultimately be harmless nonsense, the fight over curbing global warming, let alone getting our politicians to acknowledge that it's happening, and vaccination are hardly trivial matters and we have not won those battles. Far from it. Creationism (in science classrooms) is still an ongoing battle, as you pointed out.

I also agree that he's wrong in his conclusions about sexism. I can't think of a movement out there that is facing that reality as head on as the skeptical movement is and trying to correct it. A great many of us took Dawkins to task over his response to Watson durring the elevator gate drama. But the writer is correct that we missed the very broad swipe at Islam in his same comments, or simply didn't care because those things Dawkins brought up do go on in more fundamentalist segments of that population. Perhaps a pitfall of being an unabashed anti theist is to paint with a very broad brush. It's my thinking that even anti-theists should be careful about not doing that.

Mr. Bond sort of tips his hand in his earlier essay about skepticism. He almost came right out and said he was in it for the ridicule, and to be on the side that's right, and said that we will never change anyones mind. But we have changed minds. We can do better, but even small victories are victories. I think most of us are trying to figure out the most effective approach to changing peoples minds. Hell. The whole framing debate is on that issue, whichever side you are on.

Anyhow, those are some of my thoughts. As I said, there is truth mixed with exaggeration and lumping going in in the article.

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 04/29/2012 :  10:38:15   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Yeah, that empathy thing is real, Kil. Sometimes it's painful to see, and too easy to be drawn into. We could, must, improve. But like I said about sexism, I'd like to see some community on the BLOODY INTERNET that does better.

And Bond himself is lacking empathy to such a degree that him lighting into skeptics in general is ludicrous.

I suspect you are right about how he tipped his hand, with that thing about being "in it for the ridicule." I'd go further and say he's a particularly twisty (almost sado-masochistic) kind of troll, and probably was primarily that all the time he posed as/thought he was a skeptic.

Beyond that, this guy and his phony screed is not really much worth discussing.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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Dr. Mabuse
Septic Fiend

Sweden
9669 Posts

Posted - 04/30/2012 :  06:30:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Send Dr. Mabuse an ICQ Message Send Dr. Mabuse a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by HalfMooner

Okay, my default position is that people may identify as they want, unless there is clear deception or hypocrisy involved in the identification. In Stephen Bond's case, these are not problems. He says he's doesn't identify as a skeptic, and I am happy to see him making that decision.

I haven't yet had the energy to read through Mr. Bond's article, but within these passages you've quoted, there are some gems that perhaps saw but didn't bother to comment on:

Sure, Bush and Blair were noted god-botherers, but if you seriously think that, say, Gulf War 2 was their decision alone, or that that "God wills it" would have convinced anyone they had to convince, then you're subscribing to a cartoon view of history. Such decisions are always calculated, reasoned, and backed by dozens of accommodating scientific experts.
Yup, I mostly think those things, Stephen. Bush especially did indeed use religious arguments (and allies among the Religious Right) among the deceptions he used to justify the invasion of Iraq. And you haven't followed the news at all, Mr. Bond, if you think not.
Indeed. People on the ground, like scientists and weapons inspection experts (and probably CIA operatives) in the field said there was no reason to invade. The decision came from higher up in the hierarchy. High level management isn't usually run by scientists or skeptics.


But such is the character of skepticism that good intentions quickly get swamped by bad ones.
Such as?

Look past the crocodile tears on any online debunking forum, and you'll quickly find that the majority of visitors are not drawn there by concern for the victims of irrationality, but by contempt. They're there to laugh at idiots.
False dichotomy. What survey is Mr. Bond relying on for this little factoid? (truthiness?) And just like Mr. Bond provides anecdote to prove that what he is saying is right, I might as well negate it by providing an anecdote of my own: I found SFN while looking to find information and help in arguing against the irrationality of "Dr. Dino" (more commonly known as Kent Howind). That I got the opportunity to point and laugh at idiots was a mere bonus. It wasn't the forum that gave me my cynical tendencies, those are the results of the many idiots I've been exposed to.


I'm not going to plead innocence here: I've often joined in with the laughter, at least vicariously; laughing at idiots can be fun. But in the context of skeptic sites, the laughter takes on a bullying and unhealthy tone. It's never pleasant to watch a group of university graduates ganging up to sneer at people denied their advantages in life, especially when for some of them it's a full-time hobby.
At least he isn't talking about Skeptic Friends Network. We aren't a bunch of university graduates, most of us graduated from the school of life.


It's an unfair fight between unequal resources,
Indeed. Skeptics usually has brains and the knowledge to wield it. If morons to have brains, they haven't been taught how to use it.

and far too few skeptics care about this inequality or want to do anything about it.
I can't speak of other forums, but at SFN and Skepticality, we are trying to teach them how to use their brains.
Their refusal to accept our help cannot be blamed on us.


If anything, I'm convinced that most of them would prefer to keep the resources unequal. The average skeptic has little time for spreading the word of reason to the educationally or intellectually lacking. His superior reason is what separates him from the chumps around him, and he has no interest in closing the gap. For him, the appeal of the skeptic clique is its exclusivity. It's a refuge from the stupid masses, and a marker of his own special privileges. It's Mensa rebranded.
What kind of company was he keeping while he was calling himself a skeptic anyway? I don't recognize this description. Aren't' we all working or at least wishing for everyone to become skeptics? We are recognising that irrational beliefs are destroying our society and planet earth. It's not rational and goes against everything we believe to place ourself on the pedestal looking down at "the lesser" and especially keep them from seeing the light!

I feel insulted because Bond is now comparing me with religious and political leaders who have an invested interest in keeping the sheep in its fold.


Originally posted by HalfMooner
No, Mr. Bond, most of us rejected "Brights" precisely because it sounded so immensely arrogant and elitist. We didn't, most of us, reject it because it would reveal our elitism. Most of us reject elitism.
We reject elitism in the sense of being arrogant superiors looking down and dissing our lesser for being lesser.

Some people call "elitism" when deferring to experts when our own knowledge of a subject is inadequate. That is a kind of elitism that I support: seeking informed advice from experts when needed. "Sheep" are being herded by political and religious leaders into to reject the words of experts other than the words of those same leaders, while sneering "elitism" at them.



Skepticism, of course, is only one of the many online interests which attract barely-closeted sexists. But the particular attraction of skepticism is also its particular problem: it allows the sexist to disguise his prejudice as rationality and "common sense". You can spot guys like this easily on skeptic forums: the word "feminism" brings them crawling out, like slugs after a downpour.
Sounds like sour grapes from the aftermath of elevator-gate. Whatever.


For the most part, I think Bond is whining and bitter for some reason. Most of his screed seems to be utter bullshit. And I'm happy not to have to call him a fellow skeptic.
<snip>
Maybe someone else can take it from here?
Perhaps I will if I get bored enough and high on caffeine at the same time. I started reading it but didn't get far before I grew tired of it. Maybe next time.


Dr. Mabuse - "When the going gets tough, the tough get Duct-tape..."
Dr. Mabuse whisper.mp3

"Equivocation is not just a job, for a creationist it's a way of life..." Dr. Mabuse

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Send them unarmed civilians for target practice..
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/30/2012 :  09:02:08   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well obviously there is much exaggeration and conflation and observations by Mr. Bond that are simply wrong. But I think some of the criticisms of skeptic forums are valid as I mentioned in my last post in this thread. Sometimes I think we are less concerned with teaching critical thinking than we are at taking down someone with a preposterous claim. Of course, some people who visit us pretty much deserve what they get. If they walk in here with a bad attitude, it's natural to get attitude thrown back at them. But I think that the assumption that someone is a moron for believing something crazy does not follow. A lack of exposure to our way of thinking can be the problem. It's easy to debunk a silly claim. And especially because most of the claims that are brought to us have already been debunked. How often to we actually take the time to not simply debunk the claims, but to also act as guides for the promotion of critical thinking? Yelling "strawman" and pointing out other logical fallacies is often presented by us in a combative mode, and not so much to help the person see a mistake in their thinking. When we do that, and I am guilty of doing it too, what chance to we have at an actual learning moment? I think to often we treat people as the enemy rather than people who are misguided in their thinking.

I'm not sure what the solution is. But I know that civility is a part of it. Is it enough to just destroy someones bogus argument, I ask? What have we accomplished by debunking something that's already been well debunked? Where is the promotion of critical thinking, logic and science in doing that? I think we have missed opportunities to present real learning moments in our zeal to take down our opponents. The take down being the goal.

While I don't agree with much of what Mr. Bond has to say about our community, I think you would have to be blind to not see the bullying that goes on on skeptic forums. I think that one was a valid criticism. Interestingly, it seems that Mr. Bond was one of those happy bullies. So he's likely guilty of projecting his attitude on all of us as though none of us were concerned with promoting critical thinking and were nothing but a club of folks who delighted in beating the crap out of our opponents. Well that's his problem. It's okay with me if he resolves his personal issues by leaving the club. But his issues aside, some of his points hit home for me. Especially with regard to skeptic forums.

And look. I'm not pointing fingers or saying I don't do what concerns me or anything like that. I'm only suggesting that some self reflection might be in order. I'm talking about working at being more effective promoters of what we promote. And any suggestions along those lines, or criticism of what I just wrote would be appreciated, even if I think your a moron for not agreeing with me...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 04/30/2012 :  11:43:33   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Where to begin? The whole thing seems hypocritical, in that Bond appears to be setting himself above another group in order to ridicule them, much like he claims skeptics are doing to "normal" folk. And the whole idea of distancing oneself from a label because there exist dickheads in the movement is - like I said about Neil deGrasse Tyson - like refusing to call oneself "white" because of the idiots in the KKK.

You can't begin to fix the problems within a social movement by leaving the movement, not without starting another, competing group for like-minded people to join. Merely calling attention to the problems does not require abandoning the field (in fact, it'd get more attention if you resolutely remain and keep making yourself heard), unless you've got such a high opinion of yourself that you think your absence will cause much wailing and gnashing of teeth. I'd never heard of Bond before now, so I hope he's not that arrogant.

Of course, not all the problems he describes are actually problems.

In his introduction, he conflates scientists, technologists, engineers and nerds with skeptics. When there are a zillion iPad apps made to help with Bible study, it's not because the users have embraced rationality. "High tech" is not synonymous with "reason."

In the section "REASON IS NOT JUST FOR AN INTELLECTUAL ELITE," Bond seems to be engaged in massive projection of his own problems and experiences onto every other skeptic in the world.

In the section "SEXIST BASTARDS," Bond gets the basic facts right about the problems of sexism in the skeptical movement, but then bombs out by suggesting that even portraying fictional women as strong and independent is sexist. When Randal Munroe gives us glimpses at the sort of woman he wants to be romantically involved with, it's apparently as bad (according to Bond) as religiously based misogyny.

Calling "ISLAMOPHOBIA" racist is itself racist, since Bond obviously thinks that Islam is a race. Not that I'm defending Dawkins' post-Elevatorgate comments, but Bond gets so much wrong here, even Dawkins' point.

"SKEPTICISM IS NEOLIBERALISM" is just bizarre. Look at this trash:
Skeptics, in insisting on the primacy of scientific knowledge, deny the value of non-scientific metaphors in future scientific advance. As far as they are concerned, western liberal democracies have made all the political, social, cultural and economic advances they need to.
If that were true, why are so many skeptics lobbying governments, being activists for civil rights, arguing against religion and railing against failed monetary policies (respectively)? Bond seems to be in complete denial of reality here. But he goes even further:
Western thought is already so free that anyone who tries can perceive reality direct and unmediated, with no obscuring metaphors in the way. To the trained western eye, the truth simply reveals itself, in as much detail as our scientific understanding allows. It's difficult to imagine a more absolute statement of confidence in liberal democracy.
A liberal democracy is characterized by free and fair elections and political plurality, and I don't see how any of that follows from "the primacy of scientific knowledge." Bond either created a huge straw man, or he doesn't know what the words mean. And I suspect the latter reason, because he goes on to say this:
Similarly, when skeptics insist that scientific thinking should be spread worldwide, they necessarily mean that liberal democracy should be spread worldwide. Which is to say, they are neoliberals.
I had to look up "neoliberal." It has nothing to do with insisting that one's politics should be spread world-wide. I can't see much practical difference between neoliberalism and libertarianism, but neither is characterized by a desire to see them grow. Conflating neoliberalism with liberal democracy is another problem with Bond's piece, as is his "other sources of knowledge" throw-away line.

The section "SCIENCE ALWAYS HAS A POLITICAL DIMENSION" continues this insanity. While Bond is correct that many (if not most) skeptics wish that science could proceed without political interference, he blames political interference in science on science, and not on politics, by conflating skepticism and liberalism (not neoliberalism this time, go figure). He goes so far as to say "Blame skeptics" after rhetorically asking why we don't have Artificial Intelligence yet, apparently because Linguistics and Computational Linguistics are done wrong, being based upon empiricism while Bond thinks real language requires non-scientific knowledge (he doesn't say where that knowledge might come from).

"WHAT'S SO BAD ABOUT FORTUNE TELLERS?" is basically a plea that most con-men aren't all that bad, and most of the conned people get conned willingly, so where's the harm? For someone who thinks neoliberalism is a bad thing, making such a free-market argument must have left a very bad taste, indeed.

"SCIENCE AS A WARM BLANKET IN THE DARK" just poo-poos skepticism as another form of dogma, and one that ignores the reasons why people believe in baloney. Yeah, I say sarcastically, that's why we have books like Why People Believe Weird Things. There's a largish number of people who are very much trying to figure out why people find nonsense comforting, the field isn't being ignored, and to suggest it is insults the researchers working on the very questions that Bond poses, I imagine.

"POSITIVISM IS PAST IT" is another case of differing definitions, perhaps (it's another word I had to look up). Wikipedia suggests that there still exist arguments over positivism, while Bond would have us believe that it failed and fatally so over 60 years ago. Wikipedia suggests that modern positivism holds many of the same views that we skeptics do about the value and utility of science, and the attitude expressed seem more-or-less necessary for science to get done practically, but Bond dismisses it completely, doesn't say why it failed and promises a piece on that sometime later. So these paragraphs just seem like an excuse to get another swipe in at Dawkins, who Bond was once a fanboy of and who Bond seems to think betrayed him.

The last section, "SKEPTICISM'S UGLY AESTHETICS," is just Bond saying he doesn't like skepticism any longer, and him calling some people ugly and loud. It could have been a much shorter article had he just started with that.

Of course, the piece was written eight months ago, when Elevatorgate tensions were still high. Maybe he's changed his mind since then?

...Reading back over Bond's essay and my response above, I suspect that not a little of Bond's problem is thinking that opinions are knowledge, to some extent. But most of the subjects he refers to other than science are not now and have never been intended to discern truth. Political truths, for example, are determined empirically (say, polling can determine whether a head-of-state has the political capital necessary to push his agenda), not politically, because there is no means within politics to determine what's true and what's not. So it seems all very PoMo despite Bond's insistence that it's not.

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
Evidently, I rock!
Why not question something for a change?
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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 04/30/2012 :  12:16:38   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Sometimes I think we are less concerned with teaching critical thinking than we are at taking down someone with a preposterous claim.
Sometimes, they are the same thing.
Of course, some people who visit us pretty much deserve what they get. If they walk in here with a bad attitude, it's natural to get attitude thrown back at them. But I think that the assumption that someone is a moron for believing something crazy does not follow. A lack of exposure to our way of thinking can be the problem. It's easy to debunk a silly claim. And especially because most of the claims that are brought to us have already been debunked. How often to we actually take the time to not simply debunk the claims, but to also act as guides for the promotion of critical thinking? Yelling "strawman" and pointing out other logical fallacies is often presented by us in a combative mode, and not so much to help the person see a mistake in their thinking. When we do that, and I am guilty of doing it too, what chance to we have at an actual learning moment? I think to often we treat people as the enemy rather than people who are misguided in their thinking.
I think you're considering the target of derision to necessarily be also the target of education. The people who come here with weird ideas and their own pre-emptive combativeness aren't likely to learn from our responses, but if those responses provoke readers to apply more critical thinking to such claims, then we "win" regardless of how the forum thread ends.
I'm not sure what the solution is. But I know that civility is a part of it. Is it enough to just destroy someones bogus argument, I ask? What have we accomplished by debunking something that's already been well debunked? Where is the promotion of critical thinking, logic and science in doing that?
The solution is to recognize the fact that the people who come here promoting their woo-of-the-week aren't very likely to be receptive to correction no matter how civil we are, but that correcting them is necessary for the merely curious who might find their way here via Googling the subject. And we know that some of those people haven't even realized that it's okay to ridicule whacky beliefs, some others will only get the point if it's delivered derisively, and still others might be repulsed by any hint of aggressiveness. In other words, how a random, self-selected prospective learner of skepticism will react is a crap-shoot, but from the studies referenced by Daniel Loxton and others, it sure doesn't look like "always be nice" is a winning strategy.

In other words, we don't control our audience, and so the level of civility they expect from us is varied and unpredictable. Some percentage of our readers will disregard our sentences as not suiting their tastes, no matter what we write. Hell, to an admittedly very small percentage of people, mere disagreement over opinions is something to be shunned, and so "I think you're wrong" may as well be written "fuck you."

In the Tone Wars, the aphorism "you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar" was tossed around a lot. But the reality is that flies love shit even more than honey. My hypothesis is that our "train wreck" threads are a lot more popular with non-regulars than the threads which never stray from dinner-table civility. Maybe, like with actual train wrecks, people are just looking for the gore, but maybe they're learning something (or at least getting some inspiration), too.

(And no, I don't know how to test that hypothesis.)

- Dave W. (Private Msg, EMail)
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 04/30/2012 :  18:23:02   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Welp... Tone. I'm really wondering if we don't sometimes come on like bullies? I think we do. Not all the time. But often enough. This forum has for a long time been one of the rougher skeptic forums around. Check me out if you don't believe me. Has it served us well? I dunno. I know we have had members leave over it, or members who don't like to post here because SFN's too rough for them. And I still wonder if we haven't missed some opportunities to change a mind here or there, because we come on as strong as we do. I couldn't be an administrator at SFN if I were a tone nazi. And long before "tone" became an issue, I was calling for more civility on this forum.

I dunno...

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

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Dave W.
Info Junkie

USA
25997 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  04:35:03   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Dave W.'s Homepage Send Dave W. a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Welp... Tone. I'm really wondering if we don't sometimes come on like bullies? I think we do. Not all the time. But often enough. This forum has for a long time been one of the rougher skeptic forums around. Check me out if you don't believe me. Has it served us well? I dunno. I know we have had members leave over it, or members who don't like to post here because SFN's too rough for them. And I still wonder if we haven't missed some opportunities to change a mind here or there, because we come on as strong as we do. I couldn't be an administrator at SFN if I were a tone nazi. And long before "tone" became an issue, I was calling for more civility on this forum.

I dunno...
I'm saying that we can't please everyone. Some people wilt at the first sign of adversity. Some people recoil if they see a four-letter word. Some people have this weird notion of "respect" in which criticism of ideas is forbidden (except, hypocritically, the criticism of criticism).

To keep all these people happy, we would have to enforce sweetness and light, treat our members like kindergartners, and prohibit skepticism.

But that still wouldn't satisfy everybody, because other of our members have left because we haven't been harsh enough.

So, given that some visitors will leave after first seeing us laughing at the nonsense put forth by the likes of Mozina, while others will leave because we allowed Mozina go on for thousands of posts, where do we draw the line? And we have to make this decision in the absence of data, because only a vanishingly small percentage of visitors will make their displeasure known to us.

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HalfMooner
Dingaling

Philippines
15831 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  06:07:55   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send HalfMooner a Private Message  Reply with Quote
When I first came onto SFN back in early 2006, I became a member because I wanted to post an aerial photo of landscape in Alberta that strongly resembled the head of an Indian warrior. Immediately, some people thought I was up to some kind of woo advocacy, or that the image (which is of real landscape, though entirely natural) was faked. It took some time for me to establish that I was just showing how much natural things could appear to be unnatural. SFN, like almost every place on the Web, is harsh to noobs. (The essential anonymity of the Internet has always made it a notorious den of rudeness and lies.) But I stuck it out and found I was forced to hone my skepticism more and more.

Yet, I, too, was soon unfairly bashing noobs and Creos. I still have this tendency. That's why it's hard to write this, the hypocrisy. I'm like a parent who advises his kids to "Do what I say, not what I do!"

But we do need to struggle to be, if not "nice," at least fair to noobs, woos, theists, and others, while making it clear that we expect them to do most of their own heavy lifting in the areas of thinking and research.

I think a balance where both the seeking of truth and fairness to the seekers is generally possible. We should try to minimize ad hom attacks, and attack bad ideas instead.

That's such general commentary that it may be well nigh useless, but I can't think of anything useful that's more specific.

Biology is just physics that has begun to smell bad.” —HalfMooner
Here's a link to Moonscape News, and one to its Archive.
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BigPapaSmurf
SFN Die Hard

3192 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  10:45:41   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send BigPapaSmurf a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil

Did you see any truths in what he's saying Mooner? I understand that he's making outrageous leaps and basically lumping all skeptics as essentially the same. But I can't help but feel that some of his remarks about skeptic forums were pretty on target. And that we do tend to attack ideas with both barrels blazing (my words) without trying to understand the motivations that cause people to default to a made up reality. To varying degrees, we lack empathy. Or we come off as lacking empathy. I can think of threads here where I tried my best to have a discussion with a person who brought us crazy ideas while others just called that person full of crap or stupid and so on. All too often the ridicule kicks in right away. It's rare that while we are happily debunking a claim that we dig deeper and try to understand why a person would hold such a belief. I think that matters too. And I mean this on a personal level. We know the source of many bogus claims for example. But who are these people parroting the nonsense and why? What brought them too it?


Kil it is not our duty or mission to hand hold people through their journey into the absurd. Do you remember any of the TBs coming in here to try to better empathise with our frustration? Why we behave this way isnt innate, it is wading through the endless sea of nonsense that we come to feel and act this way.

Our skeptic forums are the one place that many of us have where we dont have to hold our tounge in the face of idiocy. Our mission is clear and nobody asked the thin skinned believers to come in here and tell us how wrong we are twice in every sentence. Most of the time they insult us without even trying to do so, yet we are the ones who lack empathy, pfft. A raspberry for Mr. Bond, Lames Bond.

"...things I have neither seen nor experienced nor heard tell of from anybody else; things, what is more, that do not in fact exist and could not ever exist at all. So my readers must not believe a word I say." -Lucian on his book True History

"...They accept such things on faith alone, without any evidence. So if a fraudulent and cunning person who knows how to take advantage of a situation comes among them, he can make himself rich in a short time." -Lucian critical of early Christians c.166 AD From his book, De Morte Peregrini
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  11:24:51   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Dave W.

I'm saying that we can't please everyone. Some people wilt at the first sign of adversity. Some people recoil if they see a four-letter word. Some people have this weird notion of "respect" in which criticism of ideas is forbidden (except, hypocritically, the criticism of criticism).
Of course we canít please everyone. Iím not even coming close to suggesting that we can or that we should try to.
To keep all these people happy, we would have to enforce sweetness and light, treat our members like kindergartners, and prohibit skepticism.
Not bullying and being civil does not mean we must be all sweetness and light. And it certainly doesnít mean a prohibition on skepticism. Being firm in our skepticism and not coming out with both barrels blazing are hardly mutually exclusive.
But that still wouldn't satisfy everybody, because other of our members have left because we haven't been harsh enough.

We will never satisfy everybody. Thatís a given.
So, given that some visitors will leave after first seeing us laughing at the nonsense put forth by the likes of Mozina, while others will leave because we allowed Mozina go on for thousands of posts, where do we draw the line? And we have to make this decision in the absence of data, because only a vanishingly small percentage of visitors will make their displeasure known to us.
Mozina wasnít treated poorly here. While no one agreed with him, those threads were relatively civil. And I wouldnít draw any line if the conversation is productive. What constitutes productive is, of course, a judgment call. One of the nice things about the Mozina threads is that some of us who didnít participate learned a lot about the sun and more generally, cosmology.

Iím not suggesting, perhaps, what you think Iím suggesting. We should always be firm about where we stand, from a skeptical point of view. But when we get into name calling and really, implying or coming right out and calling a person a moron for holding a belief that isnít tenable, we might not lose the debate but we cede the high ground. And we might also be slamming the door on a chance to change that persons mind. Sure, that will not happen often. But if it happens now and then, that's fine with me.

And as I said, if someone comes here with an attitude, they are likely to get attitude back. But there are ways to do that without resorting to their tactics. (If they even have any tactics.)


Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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Kil
Evil Skeptic

USA
13462 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  11:39:42   [Permalink]  Show Profile  Visit Kil's Homepage  Send Kil an AOL message  Send Kil a Yahoo! Message Send Kil a Private Message  Reply with Quote
BigPapaSmurf:
Kil it is not our duty or mission to hand hold people through their journey into the absurd.

And I'm not suggesting that we do.

As for the empathy part. Yeah. I do wonder why some people follow silly ideas and even make the silly ideas their own cause? Maybe that comes from my interest in psychology. I also know that some of those folks have never been exposed to critical thinking, which is what we promote. So what should come first? Showing them where their thinking fails, or calling them idiots?

Uncertainty may make you uncomfortable. Certainty makes you ridiculous.

Why not question something for a change?

Genetic Literacy Project
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sailingsoul
SFN Addict

2830 Posts

Posted - 05/01/2012 :  18:40:59   [Permalink]  Show Profile Send sailingsoul a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Originally posted by Kil


As for the empathy part. Yeah. I do wonder why some people follow silly ideas and even make the silly ideas their own cause? Maybe that comes from my interest in psychology. I also know that some of those folks have never been exposed to critical thinking, which is what we promote. So what should come first? Showing them where their thinking fails, or calling them idiots?

Here are my thoughts for what they may be worth.
I agree with Kil and believe I understand some points he's trying to get across.

Who has a problem with what Tim Thompson ever posted? When he does post it is a pleasure to read for me and I believe by most if not all regulars here. I see a lot to emulate from his style, especially how he responds repeatedly to posters who don't understand the topic or how he responds to any recalcitrant poster requiring in his mind a reply. I can't recall him ever needing to resort to using names no matter how psychologically purging they could be.

It seems to me that this is not the place to come if your not an "A" student needing critical thinking lessons and require some time to really "get it". As we all know knowledge is accumulative. The understanding of anything above the basics requires the basics to be ingrained. The more fully ingrained one's knowledge base is the easier it is to continue advancing. Like with Math skills, students who don't fully grasp any level their on are not likely to pull A's as they move to higher levels. Ones foundation of the basics must be understood well enough before you can advance further with ease. It seems that those needing skeptical/critical thinking 101 will not excel if they sit in a class here.

I really must take my hat off to Brian Dunning of Skeptoid.com when it comes to the task of repeatedly teaching skepticism on the basic levels. He tirelessly puts out weekly podcast debunking all sorts of dribble but he does so in a patient and methodical manner not for the more seasoned here but for those who have no or little skeptical thinking experience and wish to explore it. He guides listeners with example by systematically debunking and explaining the process. Certainly not an activity frequently see here, not that I saying it should be. This place is what it is and it is not for beginners looking to understand why what they believe is so far out. Well! maybe it is for quick (A) students. Maybe it can be said he consistently does the heavy lifting not done, at times, here.

I too wonder, like Kil, how to help those folks who have never been exposed to critical thinking and goes out seeking. Smacking then down for their effort might be a bit counterproductive. Not just for them but for those quietly watching.

ihinsfpt

There are only two types of religious people, the deceivers and the deceived. SS
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