Dear Token Skeptic Bloggess (About That Massimo Pigliucci Post)

Dear Token Skeptic Bloggess,


Seriously. Just chill. Every time that you see one post that just really piques you, you end up losing your faith in the general skeptical community and end up either having to go for a run that has you stranded half-way across the city with only Spice Girl songs left on your iPod (urgh) – or baking a Black Forest cake at 4am in the morning.

[Long story.]

You know perfectly well that there’s plenty of writers out there who have more time on their hands to address posts where…

Well, it appears that Massimo Pigliucci has already put it quite well:

Here is a (surely incomplete, and I’m even more sure, somewhat debatable) list of bizarre beliefs I have encountered among fellow skeptics-atheists-humanists. No, I will not name names because this is about ideas, not individuals (but heck, you know who you are…). The list, incidentally, features topics in no particular order, and it would surely be nice if a sociology student were to conduct a systematic research on this for a thesis…

[Massimo, if you’re reading this too? Please don’t tempt the Token Skeptic Bloggess with that kind of conclusion; she has been musing about a good topic for a PhD thesis or at least some paper topics for next year…]

What are some of the points he’s given? Let’s try not to cut and paste the entire blogpost that he’s worked so hard on (as much as we wish we had written it…):

* Science can answer moral questions. No, science can inform moral questions, but moral reasoning is a form of philosophical reasoning. The is/ought divide may not be absolute, but it is there nonetheless.

* Feminists are right by default and every attempt to question them is the result of oppressive male chauvinism (even when done by women). These are people who clearly are not up on readings in actual feminism (did you know that there have been several waves of it? With which do you best connect?).

* All religious education is child abuse, period. This is a really bizarre notion, I think. Not only does it turn 90% of the planet into child abusers, but people “thinking” (I use the term loosely) along these lines don’t seem to have considered exactly what religious education might mean (there is a huge variety of it), or — for that matter — why a secular education wouldn’t be open to the same charge, if done as indoctrination (and if it isn’t, are you really positive that there are no religious families out there who teach doubt? You’d be surprised!).

* Insulting people, including our close allies, is an acceptable and widespread form of communication with others. Notice that I am not talking about the occasional insult hurled at your opponent, since there everyone is likely a culprit from time to time (including yours truly). I am talking about engaging in apologia on behalf of a culture of insults.

…The point of this list, I hasten to say, is not that the opinions that I have expressed on these topics are necessarily correct, but rather that a good number of people in the CoR, including several leaders of the movement(s), either hold to clearly unreasonable opinions on said topics, or cannot even engage in a discussion about the opinions they do hold, dismissing any dissenting voice as crazy or irrelevant.

Seriously, go read his entire post everyone. I don’t agree entirely with his first point about religion (the claims of religion, sure – what is testable is what we can apply skepticism to, but that is a post for another time), but he does have some excellent points about where “rational communities” are heading and what they could do – in short:

But once the anger subsides, perhaps we active members of the CoR can engage in some “soul” searching and see if we can improve our own culture, from the inside.

Blog moderation. Know when sarcasm and humour are appropriate. The principle of charity. Civility, respect for experts in their domain – and yes, for not-god’s sake fellow rationalists… read more philosophy.

Want some suggestions? Hell, you know perfectly well after nearly a decade of teaching or teaching alongside philosophical ideas that the Token Skeptic Bloggess has a bookshelf that is the envy of most of the skeptics you know. Let’s see about putting more of these kinds of suggestions out there for people. You’ve already got a very nice brainstorm of Top Twenty Skeptical Books as it is.

What are some other things we could do?

documenting science communication conferences around the country and even overseas for people who didn’t / can’t go (just how many conferences can people go to these days? Let’s network! Seen the use of Storify on Twitter recently? Oh, that’s right – you do that already);

working on podcasts and blogposts and articles – ranging from interfaithsecularism and atheism to science and science outreach – keep the dialogue going!
promoting and donating to good causes – even music tours you can’t attend and events you’re not going to;
producing lessons and resources for philosophy and critical thinking

Oh, that’s right. Some of us do those kinds of things already. More of it, thanks, Token Skeptic Bloggess. Less cake-making at 4am for a start.

As a palate cleanser, some other blogger has written about the Jamy Ian Swiss video that will have you less frustrated and annoyed – and as much as people pish-tosh about blog hits (and gnash teeth about advertising on blogs – hey, Discover blogs advertises too!) – it’s nice to spread the love around.

In fact, I think that’s an element missing in Massimo’s post when he writes amongst his many fine suggestions as to how to improve the situation we’re facing: “Pick the right role models for your skeptics pantheon” – also remember to also look out for those role-models who aren’t given as much credit as they should be getting. 




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