Skeptics’ Circle Number 127; Skeptic Fail #10
[I wrote this article last night, then decided not to run it. I was going to rewrite it this morning with just a mention of the carnival and a recommendation for another article.
The 127th Skeptics’ Circle has arrived at
Unibrow One Brow. Go check it out.
One of the articles there has dredged up one of the ongoing dilemmas of this blog. The article is “The Trouble With Skeptics” by James Cole over at Stuff and Nonsense. The article consists of his comments on the 10 “skeptic fails” twittered by Daniel Loxton of Junior Skeptic magazine.
I especially liked fails 8 and 9:
Skeptic Fail 8: Thinking your skepticism makes you immune to error; it should make you more aware of your own fallibility.
Skeptic Fail 9: Assuming that your fellow skeptic is (or ought to be) an atheist.
The one that bothers me the most is #5:
Skeptic Fail 5: Using ad hominems. Ad hominems are as ugly and offputting coming from us as from anyone else.
First of all, a lot of people don’t really know what an ad hominem is. Here’s the Wikipedia definition:
An ad hominem argument… is an argument which links the validity of a premise to an irrelevant characteristic or belief of the person advocating the premise.
It takes the following form:
Person 1 makes claim X
There is something objectionable about Person 1
Therefore claim X is false
As you can see, that is a fallacious argument. It is also something I have never done.
However, I have been accused of making them. Just look at that last article, where I call Ray Comfort retarded. Wikipedia tells us about common misconceptions:
Gratuitous verbal abuse or “name-calling” itself is not an argumentum ad hominem or a logical fallacy. The fallacy only occurs if personal attacks are employed instead of an argument to devalue an argument by attacking the speaker….
I called Ray Comfort retarded, because he thinks that evolutionists contend that a male animal evolves into a new species and then has to sit around and wait for a female animal to evolve into this same new species. No scientists contend this. It has been explained to him numerous times, yet his tiny brain is unable to comprehend it. Ergo, he is retarded.
OK. That leads to fail #10:
Skeptic Fail 10: Thinking that disrespect and mockery are ever effective outreach. At best, superiority entertains the base.
I know I’m not convincing anybody out there. I gave up on that belief long ago. Really, the only thing this blog does is “entertain the base”, if it even does that.
I wonder if I’m doing more harm than good.
I do this blog, because I would have stepped in front of a speeding train long ago if I had to keep all this frustration bottled up.
Look at “Climategate”. The fact of global warming hasn’t changed, but now we have a bunch of retards who have discovered that they were actually called “retards” by some scientists.
Somehow, in their retarded brains, they think this is proof that global warming isn’t real. I know, they’re “really” claiming it’s because they see words like “trick” in the emails. Actually, though, they’re just pissed off about the venomous rhetoric. It must be very painful to go through life not knowing that you’re the village idiot and that everybody is laughing at you, and then to one day gain that realization all at once. They’re reacting the only way they know how: By retreating into the comfortable beliefs that they know so well.
Likewise with the creationists who come across this site. I’m just making them stronger. OK, well those people were unreachable anyway. But what about the fence-sitters? I’m sure I’m turning 100% of them to the other side. Who wants to be on the team with the smug elitists who think they know everything?
We don’t know everything, of course. In fact, we know very little. But we do know a few things with virtual certainty: The age of the Earth, that life evolved and approximately how it did so, etc.
So should I cut the justified insults? Do they really accomplish anything?