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Nov 03 2013

Just Gossip

In which a “skeptic” reacts poorly to questions. The full Storify is here if the embed doesn’t load for you.

15 comments

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  1. 1
    A. Noyd

    He sounds like one of those people who wants skepticism to be useless for anything other than self-congratulatory rejection of obvious idiocy.

  2. 2
    Tom Foss

    skep·ti·cism

    noun
    1. Writing or speaking about cryptozoology, ghosts, UFOs, alternative medicine, maybe religion, in a critical fashion.

    2. Nothing else.

  3. 3
    Rational Feminist

    This is why so many won’t say they are skeptics! Those that do seem to be without critical reasoning skills.

  4. 4
    Stacy

    As skeptics say often, the plural of anecdote isn’t data.

    Yeah, skeptics do often say that.

    They’re wrong, of course. But they say it.

    Anecdotes certainly are data. An anecdote is an expression of somebody’s observation or experience. Whether or not a given anecdote constitutes good data–well, that depends. If you trust a person’s judgment and veracity, you’ll give more weight to their anecdote than you will to one by somebody you distrust or don’t know.

    If the anecdote describes something extraordinary, you’ll require more evidence than just the say-so even of someone you respect, because “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Notice the corollary–ordinary claims don’t require extraordinary evidence.

    When you have multiple anecdotes, over a period of time, from different, unrelated people testifying to certain behavior on the part of an individual, that’s evidence it’s pretty damn unskeptical to dismiss.

  5. 5
    Stacy

    And of course, in this case the “anecdote” heuristic doesn’t even apply: DJ testified under oath to Shermer’s behavior. That’s a fact, not an “anecdote.” Swung on and missed.

  6. 6
    Tom Foss

    Wait, DJ testified about Shermer? Where/when?

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    Carrie didn’t give any details on that aside from that it had happened. She felt pretty good about it in the case of someone trying to claim she libeled them.

  8. 8
    Tom Foss

    Gotcha. I must have missed that detail.

  9. 9
    Brony

    The whole point to the problem with anecdotes are not that they are not data. They are data and are typically presented as a single piece of data as a person tries to assert that their experience is reality.

    Several anecdotes are also not data mostly because the same person typically goes out and cherry picks a collection of similar things. Anecdotes are dangerous because they are a person trying to claim that what they experience is the whole of reality.

    If you carefully collect several defined experiences and make sure that bias does not effect the story that reality tells, then that is a whole different situation. If you can manage to collect enough anecdotes without any emotions getting in the way of how they were chosen at that point you might be able to start talking data.

  10. 10
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Argh, an anecdote is the story of an event that happened. Like the one time my BFF showered me in the mead she was about to swallow because I was telling another friend a joke and she remembered the punchline be fore I told it and laughed.
    See, that’s an anecdote. It is a story that actually happened. There are also at least three people who tell the same story, which is me, the friend who never got to hear the punchline and the friend who spit her mead in my face. It is not any data that’s useful for determining the ballistic power of a joke I’ve long forgotten, but the important point is: IT IS REAL: IT TOTALLY HAPPENED and being hyperskeptic about it unless I drag my BFF to court for negligent assault with mead or something like that* is just being an obstuse idiot.
    So, while strictly speaking Carrie’s story is an anecdote**, it doesn’t make it any less real.
    I also consider it another datapoint for establishing DJ Grothe as not giving a shit about sexual assault and harassment of women on his conferences.
    He’s like the vice principal of my highschool. He was always very concerned about the image of the school. He didn’t care much about the actual pupils and was more than happy to kick them out instead of helping them if they threatened that precious image.

    *Because we all know that people never lie in courts and that courts are infallible
    **Disregarding the connotations of “funny” and “harmless”

  11. 11
    carlie

    Yes, what Giliell just said “Anecdotes are not data” means that you can’t extrapolate large-scale trends or causation from single isolated incidents without strict variable controls, not that those incidents didn’t happen at all.

  12. 12
    Brony

    Just to be clear I don’t have a problem with the particular anecdotes being discussed. They fall under the category of data to me because bias does not change the nature of the information. Particular people are saying that they said something. That does not change no matter what ones feelings are. They do represent data here.

  13. 13
    Jacob Schmidt

    What a moronic misuse of that phrase.

    “My grandad smoked for 50 years and never got cancer.”

    “No, sorry, that’s just an anecdote. Your grandad is actually dead and you’re just gossiping.”

  14. 14
    UnknownEric the Apostate

    We’re now at the point where one of the “prominent skeptics” could come right out and say, “Yes, I have sexually harassed women” and the anti-SJ clique will reply, “But it’s just gossip, you can’t actually believe it or talk about it.”

  15. 15
    Ibis3, Let's burn some bridges

    Well, Stephanie, didn’t you know that you’re committing the Female Sin of the Internet?

    We will lose this movement and this work of God, men, if we do not govern our households. And that means lovingly shepherding our wives. The less you love your wife and the less you shepherd your wife, the more you create an open door for the female sin of the internet. The male sin of the internet is pornography. The female sin of the internet is gossip-mongering…

    …We don’t live in the type of communities where our wives tend to go from house to house gossiping. They tend to go from blog to blog gossiping. And they spend their day going from blog to blog gossiping. And some of you are letting them.

    Doug Wilson of Vision Forum Inc. says so. I guess you’ll just have to genuflect before Tim Fletcher now and tell him you repent, you rebellious woman you.

    (h/t Libby Anne

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