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A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

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A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby wjbeaty » 07 Sep 2010, 15:37

Skeptic D.Burnett's blog "Science Digestive" has this recent post (obviously inspired by Phil Plait's)

A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery
http://sciencedigestive.blogspot.com/2010/08/begginers-guide-to-skeptical-dickery.html

Just how far has the illness spread in Skepticism? When any group becomes infected with Groupthink, then self-criticism from within the group becomes a major taboo (witness Phil Plait's emotional response after daring to 'out' the continuing dickery problem during TAM.) To be healthy, Skepticism needs way more traitors like Plait and Burnett, insiders who decide to ignore the taboo and actually try to shift Skeptics en mass away from their slow downward spiral into twisted self-serving "reasoning."

But perhaps Skepticism has improved over the years though. In the past, talk like this was censored, as when D. Rawlins had to publish his CSICOP-rejected 'Starbaby' whistleblowing article in Fate magazine.

I often wonder what CSICOP and JREF would be like if their current boards had a majority of working scientists. Or, what would skepticism itself have been like if, decades ago, Carl Sagan had pulled rank and really thrown his weight around to put a stop to all the flagrant 'dick' behavior. Or ...what if Marcello Truzzi, rather than resigning in a huff, had stayed and fought? Imagine if skeptic groups today were such that any scientist would be proud to join one? (rather than staying away in droves?)

Ah, also from that blog:

Skeptic now too disgusted to call himself "skeptic"
http://ratherfriendlyskeptic.wordpress. ... mmunity-i/

'A critique of skepticism' podcast
http://poddelusion.co.uk/blog/2010/08/0 ... ence-punk/

Opposite of "dick" ...Socratic Questioning
http://arkadychenko-theblog.blogspot.co ... oblem.html
-----------------------------------------------
'Skeptic' does not mean scoffer
'Skeptic' does not mean debunker
'Skeptic' does not mean csicop member
'Skeptic' does not mean Atheist
'Skeptic' does not mean cynic
'Skeptic' does not mean woo-woo-hater
'Skeptic' does not mean anti-paranormalist
'Skeptic' does not even mean self-declared Skeptic
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Craig Browning » 07 Sep 2010, 20:07

I've always found it peculiar, how the CSICOP group distanced themselves from Randi because he was such a prick back in those early years "too brazen" for the times. The "Problem" is that Randi's "dis-ease" like most low emotions and sensations, is what took route... given the option human beings seem to always choose the more base mode of expression... we're still innately stuck in our caves around the campfire beating our drums or, as with most primates, proving by battle who the alpha is... who has the right to rule the roost... and so we find ourselves in a world filled with worshipers of St. James the self-invented patriarch of modern cynics and certain odd elements of the atheist sect.

But yes, every organization requires its devil's advocates. Unfortunately history has proven that such whistle blowers end up being seen as hieratics or worse; they have literally been drawn & quartered, burnt at the stake and demonized by the less honorable "ruling class"... those good ole boys that think themselves superior to all others and who of course, detest any form of "authority" that can place them under thumb... under scrutiny. Spoilt children after all, hate it when they get caught doing things they know they shouldn't be doing, especially (these days at least) being a bully.
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Arouet » 07 Sep 2010, 23:16

It's not just Phil Plait, there's a pretty healthy debate going on with plenty of people on both sides. Some proponents like to lump all skeptics together, but this clearly shows that one shouldn't do that.

Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place! Do you really think proponents are immune? C'mon. Why is the debate around here aleays so personal and generalizing. We should be talking about ideas and arguments!

Also, while people are disagreeing with Plaitt, is anyone saying that they want him silenced? Not that I've seen (though it could be out there). This discussion is a health one in the skeptical community. Others should follow this excellent example of self-reflection!
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby wjbeaty » 08 Sep 2010, 01:27

Arouet wrote:Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place!


And I'll repeat: this above is called Tu Quoque: appeal to hypocrisy. The issue is dickery in the skeptical community (and the need for checks/balances and self-criticism.) Sure, avoid taking responsibility, divert the subject, look over there, Creationists are far worse: screwing with state education and science textbooks. I guess you don't understand: if skeptics' opponents behave bad, it doesn't reflect on skeptics ...and if skeptics behave bad, skeptics defending this via "well you do it too" are shameless users of Tu Quoque.

Also:

Wikipedia older rule: Don't Be A Dick
http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Don%27t_be_a_dick

Rise of moderation among skeptics (S. Hall, 2000)
http://www.temple.edu/english/isllc/new ... ptics.html
-----------------------------------------------
'Skeptic' does not mean scoffer
'Skeptic' does not mean debunker
'Skeptic' does not mean csicop member
'Skeptic' does not mean Atheist
'Skeptic' does not mean cynic
'Skeptic' does not mean woo-woo-hater
'Skeptic' does not mean anti-paranormalist
'Skeptic' does not even mean self-declared Skeptic
((((((((((((( ( (O) ) )))))))))))))
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Arouet » 08 Sep 2010, 02:00

wjbeaty wrote:
Arouet wrote:Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place!


And I'll repeat: this above is called Tu Quoque: appeal to hypocrisy. The issue is dickery in the skeptical community (and the need for checks/balances and self-criticism.) Sure, avoid taking responsibility, divert the subject, look over there, Creationists are far worse: screwing with state education and science textbooks. I guess you don't understand: if skeptics' opponents behave bad, it doesn't reflect on skeptics ...and if skeptics behave bad, skeptics defending this via "well you do it too" are shameless users of Tu Quoque.


Ummmm, did I try and put forward a "two wrrongs make a right" kind of argument? I don't think so. I'm on record as being in the DBAD camp. My point was that this is not just a skeptic issue (as some of the anti-skeptics are painting it), but a people issue. DBAD applies across the board.
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Craig Browning » 08 Sep 2010, 18:10

Ummmm, did I try and put forward a "two wrrongs make a right" kind of argument? I don't think so. I'm on record as being in the DBAD camp. My point was that this is not just a skeptic issue (as some of the anti-skeptics are painting it), but a people issue. DBAD applies across the board.


Any group but especially niche groups are guilty of this, it's how we end up with so much "Umbrella" viewing of things; all Republicans are white Born Again Christians pushing a Fascist mode of theological government, for example. I happen to know many Republicans that detest that "Tea Party" style of extreme thinking just as I know a large (and growing) list of Democrats that are creeping closer to the right simply because of the extremism and abstract goals.

Given my background one of the best demonstrations of this problem I know of comes from the Magician's clubs in which they pat one another on the back with Kudos even when the performer is TERRIBLE! Which is how we get sayings such as, "Good Magic is Like Good Sex... Just Harder to Find" :lol:
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby wjbeaty » 23 Sep 2010, 10:08

Arouet wrote: Ummmm, did I try and put forward a "two wrongs make a right" kind of argument? I don't think so.


You don't understand Tu Quoque. It's a type of ad hominem. Check out wikipedia etc. "Two wrongs making a right" is not ad hominem.

Briefly, tu quoque is responding to criticism by saying "well, you do it too." It's ad hominem because it's an attempt to label opponents as hypocrites who suffer from the same flaws as the ones they accuse. So, if someone here accuses the Skeptic community of being full of dicks, what would the Tu Quoque response be? "Well, many believers are dicks too!!"

Assholery among skeptics is a serious problem. As Sagan said, it condemns the skeptic community to permanent minority status. Can this problem be treated by pointing out the assholery of their opponents? No, that just makes the problem worse, because tu quoque itself is a "dick" symptom.

Arouet wrote:"Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place!"


What's the cure? Paraphrasing Sagan: A scientist will often say ''You're right, I was using a known fallacy.' And then you never hear them use that particular one again.
-----------------------------------------------
'Skeptic' does not mean scoffer
'Skeptic' does not mean debunker
'Skeptic' does not mean csicop member
'Skeptic' does not mean Atheist
'Skeptic' does not mean cynic
'Skeptic' does not mean woo-woo-hater
'Skeptic' does not mean anti-paranormalist
'Skeptic' does not even mean self-declared Skeptic
((((((((((((( ( (O) ) )))))))))))))
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Arouet » 23 Sep 2010, 10:31

wjbeaty wrote:Briefly, tu quoque is responding to criticism by saying "well, you do it too." It's ad hominem because it's an attempt to label opponents as hypocrites who suffer from the same flaws as the ones they accuse. So, if someone here accuses the Skeptic
community of being full of dicks, what would the Tu Quoque response be? "Well, many believers are dicks too!!"


But that's not what I did. I didn't say that skeptics are justified in being dicks because proponents are too. I'm solidly on record as being in the DBAD camp. What I said was that its unfair to label this particularly a skeptic problem. It's a people problem and is found among proponents and skeptics alike. The argument should be that none of us should be dicks, rather than just pointing the finger at skeptics.
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby wjbeaty » 23 Sep 2010, 17:16

Arouet wrote:I didn't say that skeptics are justified in being dicks because proponents are too.


That's not tu quoque. And obviously that's not what you said!

You said

Arouet wrote:Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place! Do you really think proponents are immune?


How is that not an attempt to deflect attention from the skeptical dick problem with a counterattack of "you do it too?"

Arouet wrote:I'm solidly on record as being in the DBAD camp. What I said was that its unfair to label this particularly a skeptic problem.


That's what tu quoque is! "you do it too." That's saying to ignore the problem, ignore the direct evidence before us, don't take the obvious action to fix things. Why? Because those targeting skeptics are being "unfair." (Exactly why unfair? Think: what if Creationists claimed that it's "unfair" of us to focus on their distortion of biology textbooks, since after all there are many lobby groups trying to alter state science curricula?)

We're supposed to be the good guys, so WHO CARES about Believers' failures; WHO CARES, when there's corruption on our side and here you want to escape the criticism, dilute it. "Fairness" in distributing criticism is trying to pull punches and distort the message (besides being a classic red herring move: deflect attention with irrelevancies.) Our side is supposedly adhering to science, with it's core of self-honesty and absolutely brutal self-criticism. Even self criticism isn't enough, we're supposed to invite enemy attack and then honestly examine any weak points they turn up. But you don't want this critical process to be focused and brutal? You want to halt the checks and balances that keep us honest?

Don't dilute what Phil Plait is trying to do. Phil Plait's talk needs to be 10^3 times stronger. It had far too little result. A pebble in the pond, when we need a truckload of boulders.

Half-seriously, I lean towards treating skeptic orgs as fire-and-brimstone religion, then getting everyone's attention using big public excommunications! :) Don't just post videos suggesting that we might have a slight problem with dicks, instead get angry and throw your weight around and publicly target the bigger of habitual assholes in our midst. Target them as being the most dangerous pseudoscientists ever seen before, dangerous since they do the total opposite of scientists, yet they hide almost indetectably behind the garb of being scientific. Compared to this sort of corruption in our ranks, Creationism and medical scams almost pale to insignificance. Phil Plait's talk pokes small holes in their camoflage. Next time don't pull any punches for fear of stirring up trouble. Use a flamethrower on the bastards. Split the groups into pro-dick and anti-dick factions, the truth lovers versus the intolerant woo-woo bashers. Then fight to the death over possession of the "Scientific Skeptic" banner.
-----------------------------------------------
'Skeptic' does not mean scoffer
'Skeptic' does not mean debunker
'Skeptic' does not mean csicop member
'Skeptic' does not mean Atheist
'Skeptic' does not mean cynic
'Skeptic' does not mean woo-woo-hater
'Skeptic' does not mean anti-paranormalist
'Skeptic' does not even mean self-declared Skeptic
((((((((((((( ( (O) ) )))))))))))))
Bill Beaty Science Hobbyist
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Re: A Beginner's Guide to Skeptical Dickery

Postby Arouet » 23 Sep 2010, 18:25

You're straw-manning me here: read my whole post instead of cherry-picking. It's possible that I was unclear, so let me clarify my original post:


Arouet wrote:It's not just Phil Plait, there's a pretty healthy debate going on with plenty of people on both sides. Some proponents like to lump all skeptics together, but this clearly shows that one shouldn't do that.


I start off by saying that Plait is not a lone wolf, and that there is a healthy debate going on in the skeptical community following his speech. The OP implies the opposite.

Also, I'll repeat again, it's not just skeptics! There are dicks all over the place! Do you really think proponents are immune? C'mon. Why is the debate around here aleays so personal and generalizing. We should be talking about ideas and arguments!


Now, admittedly this post could have had more context. When I say "I'll repeat again" its because there had been some other threads on a similar topic, where this had been discussed before. I was picking up on that conversation. In general, however, I find that proponents apply the "DBAD" accusation pretty unreflectively and hypocritically.

Also, while people are disagreeing with Plaitt, is anyone saying that they want him silenced? Not that I've seen (though it could be out there). This discussion is a health one in the skeptical community. Others should follow this excellent example of self-reflection!


I then round it up by pointing out that no one was trying to silence Plait in the skeptical community (as implied in the OP) and that there was a healthy debate going on - I was thus approving of this debate taking place. Then I expanded to imply myself that proponents should follow suit and have this debate themselves!

In short: I think the discussion Plait started is important for the skeptical community. I also think its important for ALL communities. When proponents bring up skeptical dickery, I would like to see them also acknowledge that skeptics are not the only ones who should be self reflective.
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