The Manners of Skeptisism

I've read and heard far too many political, religious and skeptical rants on what I thought were supposed to be science blogs, podcasts and television shows lately, and it's got me stirred up. So I'm writing one of my own just to get it off my chest.

I admit to being an atheist, and I don't think much of UFO claims, ghost sightings or psychic powers, but I don't close the door entirely on any of this stuff. I'm skeptical, and in the end, all I want is someone to show me proof. Then you can win the argument.

It would be comforting to know that God is somehow responsible for all this mess and beauty at the same time. It would be exciting to finally know for sure we are not alone in the Universe. It would be fun to come back and haunt some of the people I've known in my life after I'm gone, or check in on the great-great-great grandkids one day from the beyond.

Mostly, I avoid getting in these discussions because I've found that the people who rabidly defend their point of view are never interested in hearing your point of view. It is always a one way conversation. No one listens to the other person. It's futile and a waste of time. You are not going to change their mind suddenly with your brilliant argument today.

That is why I wonder at the attitude of so many of the 'skeptics' who write blogs, author books, do podcasts and appear on TV. I've grown as disinterested in reading or hearing their rants as I am of hearing the rants of the fanatics and religious zealots they are so eager to discredit. To me, they come off as arrogant, sarcastic, egotistical, inflexible, bitter, and just plain rude. I don't care how many books you've written, or how many degrees you have, you don't know EVERYTHING. Many of these skeptics act like they DO know everything. Apparently there is a God, and THEY are He.

Infinitely worse, and far more annoying, is the way they talk about anyone who doesn't agree with them. In the "world according to skeptics" if you don't think like they do, believe in what they do, or disagree with them, you are obviously undereducated, narrow-minded, ignorant, j-holes not worthy of breathing the same air as the almighty brilliant ones. The skeptics I'm referring to often condescend to the people who disagree with a wink and a nod to their readers or audience, as if to say, "Just look at these stupid losers. We know how pathetic they are."

The other night I watched Phil Nye, the science guy, on Larry King arguing with a panel of people who had different opinions about what was really going on with the Roswell incident. Some of them were merely recounting what their parents had told them when they were children, or telling of veiled confessions made by people who were scared to death of the long hand of the government. Most of them calmly and succinctly stated their case, or told their story, including a former NASA astronaut. None of them was losing their cool or jumping up and down all excited. They weren't looking for converts or trying to win the argument once and for all.

But the science guy was rolling his eyes and acting like a superior intellect the entire time, dismissing everything and anything these people had to say, often without hearing all of what they had to say because he was too busy being rude and interrupting them. None of his counter arguments were particularly compelling, and yet he acted as if only a fool would disagree with him. What a jerk.

I don't know why so many of these 'skeptics' have this attitude problem, and I don't care. Maybe they grew up in a sheltered environment where they didn't have to live with, respect and cooperate with other people. That's sad. It seems to me they're not as interested in making the world a better place as they are in showing everyone how smart they are. What a waste of potential good.

All I know is I don't want to hear any more from these social retards. I won't be plugging, feeding, linking, reading or watching anyone who can't promote science and rational thinking without making the other guy look bad.

Get some manners or get lost.


Michael said...

But that's just one side of the story. Religious people and UFO nuts are more often than not self-righteous as hell. When you've heard for the umpteenth time about vast conspiracy theories in the scientific community or how the Bible addresses certain issues, you get sick of it. Science and skepticism puts its money where its mouth is constantly and the Jesus freaks and UFO nuts never, ever, ever do. There does come a time where unsubstantiated claims should be met with ridicule! :)

David D said...

I agree with you 100%. I have been a "skeptic" for most of my adult life. WHen I found out that the intertoobs had skeptic stuff on them, I was quite pleased. I quickly became disillusioned with Skeptico, and others, and in particular, BadAstronomy. The condescending tone along with the vile political venom has been a complete turnoff for me. I came to those sites looking for some calm discussion about science topics and some debunking. I am now (thanks to those sites) more willing to examine different issues with an open mind; I certainly don't need a dose of someone's "Bushitler" opinions on a chemistry blog or an astronomy site.

Yes--I agree that the nuts (and their sites) are self-righteous and often don't play nice. I get sick of folks who insist that Kennedy was shot by someone from under a manhole cover in Dealey Plaza. But I try very hard not to stoop to their levels. After all, aren't we supposed to have reason on our side?

A Sky Full of Stars said...

Hoo-Rah! Very well said, Simon! And I, too, was disappointed in Nye's "performance" on Larry King Live. Arrogance, like zealotry, is equal to intolerance, and imho, the only thing that either proves is an individuals' incapacity to put forth effective argument. With that in mind, I think that Bill Nye should be stripped of his "Science Guy" crown.

Aaron said...

"Apparently there is a God, and THEY are He."

Well put! I agree fully. And I've said to more than 1 person that Bill Bye does far more harm for science than good. Not only is he arrogant, as you mentioned, but he reinforces the worst stereotype of scientists. I blame him for a great deal of the reasons behind children thinking science is geeky. -aaron

Doc_Kinne said...

A very nice post, Mike.

What I am finding as I grow older is that both ends of a spectrum down more than 3 standard deviations from the curve have the same problems, just different values.

For me this first came up in political issues. I'm a Liberal, especially a social liberal, and my economics tend toward socialism. So, as you can imagine, Rush Limbaugh is just not my favorite guy in the world. Some months ago we got a liberal talk radio station in Ithaca and I thought I'd be in heaven.

Nope. I listened for about a week and couldn't take it any more. Same strategy. Same attitude. Different words.

From a skeptics blog standpoint, I find that, while I don't want to, I'm forced to agree with you. One in particular (I won't name names) really disappoints me because I want to be on his side. I want to like him. He was a great guy to get drunk with. But, in the end, its the same with the political talk radio - different words, but the same attitude. :-(

My only concern is that as I grow older I can find that I have a danger of taking on those characteristics - if you don't agree with me, you're an idiot. Fortunately we have a mutual friend quickly coming up on gaining his Ph.D. who won't fail to call "bull" to me when I do that and he finds about about it. :-)

Sillysighbean said...

The stakes are too high to ignore religious fanatics or proponents of pseudo-science. People are DYING because of irrational beliefs. You can believe whatever you want, that is tolerance. However, if you are bent on pushing creationism in our schools, or have a holy book that says to kill me because I do not believe what you believe, that by all means you should be ridiculed.
That's is going easy compared what they want to impose on me.