Responding to the “What are you thinking?” comments

Responding to the “What are you thinking?” comments June 18, 2012

Now that the news has gone up on some of the other atheist blogs, some people in those threads who haven’t really read this blog before are kind of understandably flabbergasted.  What bothers me though, are the some of the “I can’t imagine why she would do something so stupid” or “this is totally incomprehensible, there’s nothing she could have found compelling” comments.  The folks writing those posts are speculating about what could have caused this, since it wasn’t data, and the leading candidate is a stroke.

The reason I’m seeing those comments over there and not over here is because it looks like those folks aren’t bothering to click through on the article.  Which I could have guessed, since hopefully a little poking around my archive here hopefully gives you some idea of what might have been drawing me here.  In contrast, the comments from regular readers here are argumentative and substantive. And friends from my college debating group were the least surprised even though plenty of them disagreed because they had the most data.  I’m not trying to beat up on the subset of atheists over in those threads doing this, since this is a common (and frustrating!) problem with the way people approach arguments.  This is just the specific instantiation of the problem that I’m running into today.

Arguments shouldn’t look one-sided, even if one side is pretty definitely correct.  Unless the other side has got a gun to every adherent’s head, there’s something about the other side that looks attractive, and you should be able to spot it.  Maybe they’re taking a real virtue to excess (the way machismo distorts courage and strength into vice) or maybe they’re directing a good desire to something that can’t satisfy it (hook-up culture), but you need to be able to spot what the adherent’s actually love about their system in order to take it out, since you actually want to attack at the strongest point.   This is why I like the Ideological Turing Test in the first place, as a test that we’re ready for battle.

So, if you have no idea where I’m coming from today, I’d prefer you pause and wait to comment until you do a little browsing through the archives.  (You could try “Radical forgiveness” and/or “Accepting gifts“).  Doing this kind of research is (1) good manners and (2) good tactics, since without it, you’re only going to be able to level very generic or vague critiques, and I’m probably not going to wobble.

– – –

And look, I’m still a giant public health nerd, so let’s take a second out of all this for a quick PSA.  Strokes are terrifying because of the long term neurological damage they cause if not addressed swiftly, but there are a list of physical symptoms and a handy mnemonic that can help you screen symptoms and act if you’re afraid a someone has had a stroke.  The acronym is F.A.S.T.

  • FFace Ask the person to smile.  Check if one side of the mouth or face sags.
  • AArms Ask the person to raise both arms to around shoulder level.  Is one lower than the other?
  • SSpeech Ask the person to talk.  Is the speech slurred or garbled?
  • TTime This one isn’t a symptom, it’s a reminder that the most important thing to do is get medical help as quickly as possible.  Call 911 FAST if you observe the symptoms above.

And good news, team. I’m fine on F&A, and the only reason my speech is hard to understand is just the usual, I talk at a NYC clip.


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