Therefore, Tim Minchin – Should We Be ‘Actual Humans’ As Atheists/Skeptics Too?

Never fear! I saved this post before the work was being done at FtB! Reposted!

From Ophelia Benson’s post:

Just don’t be cruel to ANYONE, ever. On the internet, or in your life.

Just imagine, as you sharpen your pen, that every man is your uncle or your brother, and that every woman is your mother or your sister. Just don’t spread vitriol. It’s not clever, it’s not funny, it doesn’t improve anything, it fails to educate, elucidate or encourage debate. It’s lazy. It’d be boring if it wasn’t so awful.

Just stop. Breathe. Don’t be defensive. Think hard about what you think. Clarify your point of view in your head. Try to find a way to articulate it – if you still feel you must articulate it – in a manner that assumes the person you are addressing is an actual human.” – Tim Minchin.

…How are the sentiments in that so different from this?

In my opinion society is best served with open and vigorous debate about important topics of the day. Such debates are most effective, however, when proponents of opposing views are actually engaging directly with the claims and beliefs of the other side. This requires effort – to understand what the other side believes and why they believe it. This should be taught as a basic intellectual skill in school. Whenever confronted with a controversy, make a sincere effort to understand the best case that each side is putting forward.

Guess who wrote that?

Or how different is Minchin’s sentiments to this?

 And so, I pass the question to you. What are the ethics of skepticism? It’s a question that can’t be answered in a day, or on a single thread; but skeptics should, I think, confront that question on a continual basis. To do that, we need to solve a problem revealed by the “don’t be a dick” controversy and the resulting war over nice. Somehow, skeptics need to find ways to talk seriously about skeptical practices — good and bad, effective and ineffective, right and wrong — without tearing the field apart in the process.

Who wrote that?

Then – who wrote this? And why does it again sound so similar to Tim Minchin?

…Yet as I found myself amongst new friends and role models, my values adjusted accordingly. My ethical palette diversified. I became as critical of my own standards, ideas, morals and beliefs as of others. Then, even more so. I found those beliefs that were loose in their sockets and replaced them.

Some remain entrenched in a scaffold built around a firm belief in the right for all individuals to choose their own beliefs, regardless of how ludicrous they sound. This contrasts against a value in harm minimisation — a distaste for any behaviour that puts one’s physical, mental or emotional wellbeing at risk. No matter how I cut and trim and prune the words that define my morals, they don’t all fit neatly.

Still, I can’t not try.

Why would I do such torturous things to myself? Quite simply, it was because in my travels I’d met people who had done the same. These were strong people. Confident people. Intelligent. Respectful. I liked them. I wanted to be like them. So I learned to be skeptical of my beliefs, and gradually became the person I wanted to be.

It’s been a slow process. And it continues yet. A gradual erosion of who I was. You might use another analogy, of course. Corrosion. Corruption. After all, we don’t share the same beliefs, you and I.

Finally, who wrote this too?

Of course, skeptics always have tackled testable claims that happen to have important implications for religion, politics, or human nature, but Greta Christina’s point nonetheless bears repeating: traditional skepticism can do its traditional work within its traditional scope, and still contribute useful assistance to our friends in other movements. If we look for places to do that, we’re bound to find new opportunities and new allies.

I believe, more than ever, that good fences make good neighbors. Repairing some of the fences that have fallen into neglect would help distinct rationalist movements get along better. But a neighborhood takes more than fences. A neighborhood takes helping hands, cups of sugar, BBQs on summer days. Our rationalist neighborhood is home to many movements, and many of those movements share some common cause.

In short, Ophelia Benson – I know at least one reason why some people haven’t noticed it being called out before. They probably weren’t listening to those who have been speaking for some time.

But yes. There’s voices. Let’s start talking about more being heard, and encouraging them as fellow human beings. Let alone rationalists, skeptics, atheists… and feminists.

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About Kylie Sturgess

Kylie Sturgess is a Philosophy teacher, media and psychology student, blogger at Patheos and podcaster at Token Skeptic. She has conducted over a hundred interviews including artists, scientists, politicians and activists, worldwide.
She’s the author of the ‘Curiouser and Curiouser‘ column at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry website and travels internationally lecturing on feminism, skepticism, and science.


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