Friendly Atheist interview

By Phil Plait | July 20, 2010 3:00 pm

While I was at TAM 8, Hemant Mehta and Robin Ferguson from The Friendly Atheist and interviewed me about the JREF, my Sooper Sekrit Project, and many things skeptical. It was too long to transcribe, so they put it up as a recording.

If you’re wondering about my razor joke right at the very start, I was poking fun at their recording device, which looks much like my shaver. But we covered a lot of ground, including PepsiGate, Skeptologists, and of course my talk at TAM 8 which has caused, to my bemusement, so much controversy. I’ll have more about that later, but for now you’ll hear something about it in this interview.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Skepticism

Comments (49)

  1. I’m guessing their recording device was a Zoom H2: http://www.samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=1916&brandID=4

    It does look a lot like an electric razor.

  2. Sili

    Very fun and informative. I liked the take on Pepsigeddon.

    Bit strawmanny towards the end, but without references I can’t say whether any actual misrepresentation took place.

    Good luck with the project.

  3. Chris

    Downloaded to listen to later on my mp3 player. That way I don’t have to be tied to the computer looking at “Russian Bride” ads.

  4. MosesZD

    Martin Luther King was clear that the people that hurt the civil rights movement the most were not the bigots. Those guys were easy enough to handle. What hurt it the most was the accommodationist, polite liberal who eschewed the fight for civil rights for “civility.”

    Civility, for all its politeness, does not work. And while you think we’re punching grandma in the face… We’re not, we’re punching intolerant thugs in the face.

    And while you rightly note we’re probably not winning that person to the cause. We’re not fighting to win that person. We’re dealing with the spectators, many of whom will have authoritarian-following tendencies and will not follow the meek-and-mild approach that so many accommodations endorse.

    I respect your views on science. But when it comes to these social dynamics out-side your field, you’re over your head. And just plain wrong.

    Listen to the authoritative ignorance being spewed by Beck, Limbaugh, Hannity, etc. It is the aggressive, authoritarian tone that carries the debate. Not the facts.

    Facts work on people like me. They don’t work on people like my mother and father. With them, it’s authoritarianism or lose. Perhaps you should have gone to SciBlogs instead of Discover. There are some really good blogs there, like the Frontal Cortex which directly and indirectly touch on this, and related, subjects.

    • MosesZD: Where did I say we need to be meek and mild? Perhaps I missed that, or perhaps you have created a strawman.

      In my talk, specifically, I discuss anger and passion, and their importance. I am not saying we should not have those, and claiming otherwise is false.
      What I AM saying is that hurling insults is counterproductive. It won’t convince your opponent (studies do in fact show that) and makes you look like a jerk… which won’t convince fence-sitters either.

      Be angry, be passionate. Just don’t be a jerk about it.

  5. Love FA. Great interview… and yeah, BOO HOO, you had to turn down going to Australia?? LOL, must be nice. “How do I answer this and not sound like a total d*bag” hahaha, that line dropped me from my chair. Enjoyed your comments about passion and abilities.

    Re:above… true, insults are counterproductive. As you were ;)

  6. Joey Joe Joe

    RE: Your TAM talk (I haven’t heard it, yet).

    I say, be nice to the nice people and a jerk to the jerks. Look at Dawkins on O’Reilly a while back. He got pwned because he was being all nicey-nicey whilst O’Reilly was just screaming (does he do anything else?) over the top of him.

    Take PZ as an example. I think he has built such a rep. for himself as the foaming-at-the-mouth atheist that he feels he needs to constantly live up to it, which isn’t always constructive. He blows up at people who probably didn’t see it coming and they walk away thinking he was an irrational raving lunatic.

    Hope I can hear a recording of it at some point. It sounds like an interesting discussion.

  7. Re the interview, I can’t get it to play!!

    Also bothered by the format of the zSHARE site, where the ads are far too prominent for comfort.

  8. Robin Ferguson

    Thanks for being so nice and letting me sit in :)

  9. jaranath

    With all due respect, Phil (and I have oodles for you), the example you chose to use wasn’t a good one. Who, in your shoes at that lecture, yells at the creationist student? Who calls her an idiot? Hitchens, maybe…?

    I actually agree with your point for the most part, but I suspect that in some situations, you DO have to be a jerk, or at least risk being taken as one. At least I know ridicule is an important part of human psychology.

    I’m uncomfortable with being seen as a jerk, so I tend not to risk it. But I very much do think clear, direct criticism needs to be voiced when appropriate, and my biggest complaint in this interminable debate is that many people seem to judge “appropriate” purely by how many people they think it’s likely to upset.

  10. Colin

    Sigh… Being Christian and a skeptic and a fan of this blog gets harder all the time.

  11. Malachi Constant

    Since your talk is getting so much attention, is there any chance that those of us who couldn’t make it to TAM will get a chance to hear it? It’s kind of hard to discuss your argument when we haven’t been able to hear it.

    I saw what looked like an abbreviated transcript elsewhere, but I’d very much like to hear the whole thing.

  12. Messier Tidy Upper

    Good talk. :-)

    A transcript would be better methinks – I can read faster than I can listen! ;-)

    I liked what you were saying towards the end there about a non-confrontational gentle approach to Creationists, (eg. the fifteen year old YEC girl) etc .. and will just note (as a former climate change skeptic myself) that it may be worth keeping in mind when talking about Anthropogenic Global Warming.

    Be polite and engage with the actual arguments rather than polarise folks with name calling – which almost always leads to flame wars and turning folks further *against* what you want them to think – hear hear! :-)

    You are a role model. That’s the approach that I try (not always successfully I’ll admit) to take myself in these sort of discussions.

    I’ll also just note that many (most?) Christians go with the verdict of science and disagree with Biblical literalism & YEC – and I say this as an agnostic non-Christian, non-atheist.

    Hope you don’t get in trouble for giving too much away about your “sooper-sekrit project” eg. debunking Santa in the first ep! ;-)

    PS. Hey, *I* for one really enjoy & will always comment on your great astronomy posts – probably too often! ;-)

  13. Colin (11): How so? What did I say about Christianity?

    jaranath (10) I had hundreds of people approach me after my talk telling me how they have had arguments where either they got rude or their opponent was. So, to answer your question, it happens all the time.

  14. Messier Tidy Upper

    I did think we might have a post from you today on this being the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon-landing. Since you haven’t I thought I’d just note it here myself for folks – frankly, I reckon this should be a national holiday set aside for what we can achieve via science and technology and the gumption to do these things because they are hard – and because if we don’t explore then we die.

    ***

    On this day in 1969, Apollo 11’s Lunar Module ‘Eagle’ successfully landed on the Moon at 20:17 UTC on July 20. Forty-one years ago today.

    While Michael Collins was arguably the loneliest and most isolated man in history facing the job of flying the CSM home and leaving his companions dying or dead on the lunar surface if something went wrong, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin took that first giant leap for Humanity onto the regolith of Mare Tranquillitatis.

    Mike Collins was 38 at that time and is now aged 79.
    Buzz Aldrin was 39 at that time and is now aged 80.
    Neil Armstrong was 38 at that time and is now aged 79.

    (Ages at landing calculated by me from the astronauts respective Wikipedia pages which was also the source for their current ages.)

    The Apollo craft would land a further five times – 12, 14, 15, 16 & 17 from July 1969 to December 1972 and since then we have, rather staggeringly and pathetically, not returned. :-(

    Earlier too in April this year was the 40th anniversary of “NASA’s finest hour” with the Apollo 13 astronauts returning alive from near disaster and surviving against high odds and huge troubles.

    ****

    PS. CSM = Command and Sevice Modules just in case anyone doesn’t know already.

    PPS. Sorry if this is going too far off topic just strongly feel it should be noted.

  15. MadScientist

    Are you sure that was a recording device and not just a trick like Randi’s substitution of beard trimmers for microphones? Then again maybe they did build a recording device into a beard trimmer …

  16. Joey Joe Joe

    Sigh… Being Christian and a skeptic and a fan of this blog gets harder all the time.

    Yet another reason to ditch religion. :P

  17. Joey Joe Joe

    Hey, Phil. In case you’re interested, Matt D. has posted a well thought-out response to your TAM8 talk on the Atheist Experience blog. It’s an interesting read.

  18. spurge

    “Just don’t be a jerk about it.”

    But what exactly does this mean.

    I want specific examples of people being jerks.

    Many people thought that not sitting in the back of the bus where you belong was acting like a jerk.

    Who gets to decide what is and is not jerky?

    Atheists just existing and telling people we are here is considered jerky by many.

    Just look at how theists deface and/or fight against completely unoffensive billboards.

    If all you mean is “don’t yell at and insult 16 year old students” then all I can say is Duh.

    Show me a prominent skeptic that would do that.

    Some people are jerks. When you see them do it tell them to stop.

  19. truthspeaker

    Colin Says:
    July 20th, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    Sigh… Being Christian and a skeptic and a fan of this blog gets harder all the time.

    How so? Neither Phil’s post nor any of the comments here mention Christianity.

  20. jaranath

    What spurge said.

    I have no doubt it happens, at least occasionally. But yelling at and insulting 16 year olds? Punching grandmas when they say “bless you” when you sneeze (to steal Myers’ example?)

    “William” over at The Intersection was so convinced negative versions of examples like yours were common that, since he could produce no evidence for one, he fabricated it.

    On this blog, every time you discuss any controversial topic, you get tons of people whining, the gist of which is how much nicer the blog is when you don’t say things they don’t want to hear. Heck, Colin above is (apparently) whining that you reminded him of the existence of atheism by giving one an interview.

    I know you aren’t arguing that “Atheists just existing and telling people we are here” is jerky. But I think a lot of those people who spoke to you don’t have the clearcut examples that even they might think they do. I think they are uncomfortable with challenging and upsetting the dominant social norm, and are translating that into some usually nonexistent atheist/skeptic behavior. I think, subconsciously, they’re doing what “William” did deliberately: Assembling a nebulous collection of second and thirdhand unsupported anecdotes into a sense of real evidence. Yet when pressed, we find the the evidence tends to get foggy.

    I could be wrong about my general impressions, and I’m all for criticizing the student-yellers and “conservation meeting” hecklers and grandma-punchers, when they exist. But if this is really about defining which actions are jerky and which aren’t, I’d rather not be told I’m taking actions that I’m not.

  21. truthspeaker

    I know you aren’t arguing that “Atheists just existing and telling people we are here” is jerky. But I think a lot of those people who spoke to you don’t have the clearcut examples that even they might think they do. I think they are uncomfortable with challenging and upsetting the dominant social norm, and are translating that into some usually nonexistent atheist/skeptic behavior. I think, subconsciously, they’re doing what “William” did deliberately: Assembling a nebulous collection of second and thirdhand unsupported anecdotes into a sense of real evidence. Yet when pressed, we find the the evidence tends to get foggy.

    Agreed. It’s like the stories of Americans spitting on Vietnam veterans when they returned from the war.

  22. Celtic

    Phil,

    I’ve got great respect for you, and I can’t wait until your super secret project can be revealed, but I’d really like to actually hear what you said at TAM rather than get secondhand info filtered through memory.

    The problem I’m having with the whole situation is prior to a month ago, I probably would have agreed that “being nice” was great. Then I sat in a panel where I listened to multiple atheists stand up and talk about how worried they are to “speak up” because they may lose there jobs, or will cause their institutions problems.

    I then had to think about my basis for the “being nice” thoughts, and realized most of it delved from online discussions where I read comments by anonymous people. These discussions would devolve into name calling at times, but would I see this in real life? Well, it depends, I’m sure there are examples but I’m also sure they’re few and far between. I’d say people who came up to you have memories of “rude” behavior…but who defines “rude” and is it equal to being a jerk? And is the “rude” behavior called out just being an atheist in the first place?

    Look at it another way…in a lot of your AntiVax posts you would be classified as a jerk by most AntiVaxers which I hope you’re unapologetic for. Does your being a jerk get some of the people who read your blog to re-think things?

    Again, I hope I can hear the whole speech at some point and decide things based on that, rather than secondary sources.

  23. Phil, “don’t be a dick” sounds great, but so far you’ve completely refrained from pointing to any such specific instances. It’d be so much more productive and illustrative if you took an instance of purported dickery and said “that, right there, should not have happened”.

    At this point, all you’ve offered are hand-wavey broad strokes like “people tell me all the time”, and preposterous concoctions like someone calling your creationist student an idiot, which not even Hitchens would stoop to.

    You say there’s too much meanness out there; I (and I presume others) don’t see it. Please point it out!

  24. Was the razor joke a nod to Randi? (There is a video where he uses a razor as a microphone, then takes it away, the audience surprised that they can still hear him (via another microphone) and he uses this to illustrate how easily people are fooled by their own assumptions. I’m sure someone can post a link to the video in reply to this comment.)

  25. @ 11 (and late to the game):

    Sigh… Being Christian and a skeptic… gets harder all the time.

    As well it should.

    A skeptical approach to Christianity reveals so many gaping lapses of logic and blatant contradictions it’s kind of silly. And putting more weight in “faith” than evidence couldn’t be more antithetical to the skeptic ideal.

  26. truthspeaker

    I think it’s obvious that taking candy from babies hurts our cause. So all of you who have been taking candy from babies, please stop. You’re not helping.

  27. Tribeca Mike

    Enjoyed the interview, but about the tidy summary about PepsiGate by Mr. DiSalvo — I don’t know why he wrote “PepsiGate may be over…” Seems like it’s just getting started.

  28. jaranath

    I wouldn’t say that…PepsiGate was just one symptom of a far greater problem, which is finally coming to a head. Remains to be seen if the Seed folks have the will, or the resources, to turn things around. I don’t know enough to say what they should do, but I liked Bora’s recommendations.

    But enough OT rambling. Back to strawmen and Sooper Seekrit Projects! (ohpleaseohpleaseohplease announcements at ComiCon!)

  29. Mike

    Having met the friendly atheist at TAM, I can say with certainty that he is.

  30. Celtic

    OK, just finished this interview and got a bit more of what you’re talking about with “jerks”…and hearing you say straight out that people are different behind keyboard than in real life, wouldn’t that tend to mean that there may not be as many “jerk” confrontations in the real world as people tend to think?

    I’m wondering how much of the battle between “jerk” atheists and “nice” atheists is due to a forgetting that conversations on the internet tend to devolve into negative due to anonymity? How much of the “atheists are jerks and it’s not good” is due to internet versus real world conversations?

    I’m basing this off sitting in a room listening to PZ speak less than a month ago, who many would argue is a “jerk” atheist, and he’s a really nice guy in person and flat out said things that my imagination’s view of “he’s a jerk atheist” had built up evaporated instantly. I think rather than fighting between skeptics we should realize that internet discussions are full of jerks, but in person most aren’t.

  31. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    At this point, all you’ve offered are hand-wavey broad strokes like “people tell me all the time”, and preposterous concoctions like someone calling your creationist student an idiot, which not even Hitchens would stoop to.

    You say there’s too much meanness out there; I (and I presume others) don’t see it. Please point it out!

    It is the Mooney frame: facts doesn’t count, anecdotes can substitute for data – _but only when it affirms the frame_! This has now, seemingly, become a concerted effort to marginalize vocal atheists in the portrayal of the science vs religion divide: many media efforts do not invite atheists, even though they are the majority of the scientists!

    Such are the arguments, or lack of arguments, against for example PZ above, who isn’t a “foaming-at-the-mouth atheist” whatever that means (no references, so it likely can’t be defined) nor hurls insults around. The worst one can see is when he characterizes Ruse and Ayala as waffling or something such. [I'm not giving references, because it will stick the comment in moderation; but it is easy to google.]

    This characterization of style and content, in the mind of religious people and like minded believers in belief (aka accommodationists) somehow becomes “hurling insults” on the person. Probably because religion can’t stand criticism, it can’t accept criticism as is.

    Which, ironically, is an excellent example of waffling. The real argument is to be forgotten.

    What we should need is actual statistics of insults across the board. That is the, you know, skeptic way. Lacking that, I claim “foul”.

  32. @Celtic:

    I think rather than fighting between skeptics we should realize that internet discussions are full of jerks, but in person most aren’t.

    This.

  33. Robert Arrington

    Interesting sub-topic operating here. One criticism I have heard about the Internet is that it is more difficult to be insulting when speaking to someone face-to-face than it is in an online post due partly to the lack of visual and auditory cues such as changes in facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and so forth to use as in determining the emotional response generated which can cause an approach change in order to avoid conflict.

    As far as those who have the ability to scream at someone in person rather than engage in rational discussion, I’ve heard and read quotes that basically say something like “He who has the least to say talks the loudest.”

  34. HangInThere

    Years ago, I was going to school at University of Utah. I was approached by a young fellow who attempted (politely at first) to convert me to Mormonism. I responded with a few facts that I knew about the origins of his faith. I was polite, and kept a smile on my face. He got very angry and accused me of religious oppression because I didn’t listen and agree. I politely left.

    A short while later, he wrote an letter to the school paper complaining about how Mormons were being discriminated against on campus. He specifically used the example of our converstaion. (I recognized the incident and location and date.)

    I responded to the paper with my own letter pointing out that I didn’t try and convert him, he tried to convert me. I simply didn’t go along. This is the logic with which many of us have to deal. I am allowed to proseletyze anyone, anywhere, anyway, but nobody better do the same to me, or they are religious bigots.

    And they wonder why some of us get angry. Nonetheless, politeness can occasionally work wonders. Impoliteness almost never helps. But it ain’t easy sometimes.

  35. Phil,

    If you want to read one more take on the dick debate for your post on it, my contribution is here:

    http://www.uncrediblehallq.net/2010/07/21/why-not-be-a-dick/

  36. Grand Lunar

    Neat interview, Phil. Alway’s fun to hear you speak.

    I do have to say that History Channel does, or at least did, show some good stuff; they would air “The Universe” every now and then.
    I think you were on it. Not sure now, though…

  37. Gary Ansorge

    The easiest way to re-inforce civility on the Web is to require people to use their legal monikers in their posts. I do that most of the time, except for those sites where I originally registered under my nick name(Gary 7). Re-reading my BA posts I can’t find a single one in which I’ve ever been less than polite.(Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. I just didn’t see any).

    11. Colin

    I see no difficulty with being both religious(as long as one is not unduly dogmatic) and skeptical. I often refer to my personal belief system as Agnostic/Mystic, Rational/Materialist. I perceive no dichotomy inherent in that statement, since mysticism is about the (anecdotal) experience of spirituality and has little to do with organized religion(ie, started and maintained by people who never HAD that experience) but it is the basis of most religions(unfortunately). I was an Agnostic/Rational/Materialist long before my SME and I am that still. I was just lucky enough to have kept my mouth shut around the offensively (proselytizing) religious. Since I was in Saudi Arabia at the time, being unduly loquacious could have resulted in being buried upside down in a sand dune. Note that this is in no way a statement about Islam. It would have been just as risky in a strongly Catholic or Orthodox Jewish environment. People really don’t like being told all their religious interpretations are Ca-Ca from one who has actually been there(euphemistically speaking; on Top of The Mountain).

    ,,,but in my experience, God IS a rational intelligence. The only magic (getting something for nothing) in this universe is Love; you can give it away, yet still have it and the only way to understand ones God, is to understand its works in their total complexity.

    I’m still working on that,,,(Darwin was a good start).

    Peace,

    Gary 7

  38. Q.E.D

    Colin @ 11

    I suggest you are a christian and a skeptic about everything else

  39. Q.E.D

    Gary @ 38

    “I see no difficulty with being both religious(as long as one is not unduly dogmatic) and skeptical.” – Gary

    Please explain how one can be both a skeptic and believe the catholic miracle of transubstantiation.

  40. ryedo

    “…but in my experience, God IS a rational intelligence. The only magic (getting something for nothing) in this universe is Love; you can give it away, yet still have it and the only way to understand ones God, is to understand its works in their total complexity.” – Gary Ansorge

    Gary, I don’t wish to sound insulting here, but your above statement seems like a load of twaddle to me.

    What confuses me about your position is your claim to be agnostic while making a positive statement about what god IS. To me, it seems an irrational statement to make – especially when claiming to be agnostic and, of course, rational.

    There are, of course, many other things wrong with your above statement… perhaps you should give it some thought.

  41. jaranath

    I might agree with you ryedo, but I’m not exactly sure what Gary meant. Keep in mind that for some people, “God” is a concept that doesn’t have to be supernatural nor even “real,” but rather a “state of mind,” to use an overused phrase. I’m not exactly fond of many versions of agnosticism, but yeah, some of them use “God” in a way that could be compatible with skepticism.

    Heck, I think it’s even compatible to believe in the traditional religious way, while admitting you have no good evidence…as long as you stay honest about that, and don’t demand others believe the same. That sort of religious belief is not skeptical and is an exception to the way one applies skepticism in one’s life, but humans are good at doing that sort of thing.

  42. Gary Ansorge

    40. Q.E.D

    Transubstantiation requires the believer to be dogmatic in their belief. I specifically rejected dogma.

    41. ryedo

    “What confuses me about your position is your claim to be agnostic while making a positive statement about what god IS. To me, it seems an irrational statement to make – especially when claiming to be agnostic and, of course, rational.

    I am agnostic because, even though I’ve been to the top of A mountain, I have no idea if a greater mountain exists, so I can’t make a completely dogmatic choice(ie, Yes, it was God or no, it was just a psychotic break). The above statements are based on a personal experience and we all know how reliable those can be.

    As far as God being rational, just look at how much sense the universe makes from a purely materialistic POV. It’s all cause and effect. Nothing happens w/o a reason. So, if there IS a god, it must be rational.

    42. jaranath

    ” for some people, “God” is a concept that doesn’t have to be supernatural nor even “real,” but rather a “state of mind,” to use an overused phrase. I’m not exactly fond of many versions of agnosticism, but yeah, some of them use “God” in a way that could be compatible with skepticism.

    State of mind is an excellent way to put it. I might note that many religions consider god to be “The most high, the highest of the high”, implying there can be no greater intellect. I am certain that somewhere in this universe, there is an intellect greater than any I’ve ever met, greater than any other single mind. Some might call that God.

    I have had the spontaneous mystical experience and I’m pretty sure most people would consider what went on there as a manifestation of God but since it was anecdotal, I have no evidence to present. It was more “real” than our usual perception of this mundane reality. Yet I’m still agnostic in my interpretation of that experience. Interpreting it as a psychotic break is the easy way out, for a materialist. On the other hand, perhaps that was/is what mystics down the ages meant by God.

    Which leaves us in the dark as far as evidence is concerned and while I like the dark when doing astronomy, it sucks to not KNOW. Evidence is the only way to know( in a consensual reality way).
    ,,,and that should qualify as a rational response to a non-rational event.

    Gary 7

  43. ryedo

    Gary, if there was, or is, an intellect “greater” than ourselves, I still wouldn’t – necessarily – call it a god. For example, I’m sure Einstein had a greater intellect than me; yet, I wouldn’t call him a god. That said, I’m not exactly sure why people assume a “god” or “creator” needs to be of greater intellect – if any.

    “…So, if there IS a god, it must be rational.”

    I disagree. In fact, if there was a “god” (or not), we could be the result of an unintelligent or irrational phenomenon.

    “I have had the spontaneous mystical experience…” – I’m unsure of what you mean by mystical experience. If you mean you had an “unintelligible” or ” strange” experience (something many of us have had), how do you associate that with an intellect “greater” than yourself? – when, in all reality, it could have just been a brain-fart, a chemical imbalance, or a misunderstanding/misinterpretation of events.

    “On the other hand, perhaps that was/is what mystics down the ages meant by God.”

    Well, I am inclined to agree with jaranath: god is a state of mind – and, perhaps, nothing more. I’m still unsure how god belief would be compatible with scepticism: because scepticism seems to negate unsubstantiated “twaddle”.

  44. Anthony McCarthy

    Please explain how one can be both a skeptic and believe the catholic miracle of transubstantiation. QED

    Tell me how you can be a skeptic and believe in memes or other allegedly scientific stuff of that sort.

    There are no pure skeptics, every single last person accepts things as true without verification, most of what we hold as true are things we haven’t verified and many of the ideas current in “skepticism” are unverified, accepted by the adherents of “skepticism” exactly on the basis of authority. To deny that is true is silly.

    I hadn’t thought about it before this but believing in transubstantiation, which begins with the idea that it’s not something that can be understood and which doesn’t happen within the natural order, might be more consistent with skepticism than belief in a huge range of ideas generated in the behavioral sciences which get junked and overturned with alarming regularity. Yet the number of organized “skeptics” who are psychologists, both old school and the kind who like to pretend they’re biologists, is impressive.

    I’ve found there is no faster way to ignite a furious and irrational reaction among “skeptics” than to bring up the lapses in skeptical standards among them and their heros. Most of the Catholics I know are more open to criticism of the dogmas of the church and the moral and legal crimes of its leadership than the “skeptics” are.

    And, just for the record, a lot of Christians don’t believe in transubstantiation.

  45. Anthony McCarthy

    I’m still unsure how god belief would be compatible with scepticism: because scepticism seems to negate unsubstantiated “twaddle”. reydo

    Marcello Truzzi made some clearly valid points:

    Over the years, I have decried the misuse of the term “skeptic” when used to refer to all critics of anomaly claims. Alas, the label has been thus misapplied by both proponents and critics of the paranormal. Sometimes users of the term have distinguished between so-called “soft” versus “hard” skeptics, and I in part revived the term “zetetic” because of the term’s misuse. But I now think the problems created go beyond mere terminology and matters need to be set right. Since “skepticism” properly refers to doubt rather than denial–nonbelief rather than belief–critics who take the negative rather than an agnostic position but still call themselves “skeptics” are actually pseudo-skeptics and have, I believed, gained a false advantage by usurping that label.

    … But if a critic asserts that there is evidence for disproof, that he has a negative hypothesis –saying, for instance, that a seeming psi result was actually due to an artifact–he is making a claim and therefore also has to bear a burden of proof.

    … Critics who assert negative claims, but who mistakenly call themselves “skeptics,” often act as though they have no burden of proof placed on them at all, though such a stance would be appropriate only for the agnostic or true skeptic. A result of this is that many critics seem to feel it is only necessary to present a case for their counter-claims based upon plausibility rather than empirical evidence.

    http://www.anomalist.com/commentaries/pseudo.html

    “Skepticism” is a sadly degraded practice in the post CSICOP period, it has been ruined by dishonest people who lack rigorous integrity. It’s more akin to an anti-social, social club than a serious intellectual practice.

  46. Celtic

    Phil,

    A podcast was just released of the talk I was at earlier in the month that changed my mind. I hope before you write your response to the “don’t be a jerk” discussion, you listen and can hear what I did from the people on the panel.

    http://www.thesecularbuddhist.com/episode_022.php

  47. qwerty

    I’ve never met a rude atheist, and see no evidence that any have ever existed.

    The burden of proof is with you.

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