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A Short Response to Steven Novella’s “Bigfoot Skeptics, New Atheists, Politics and Religion”

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Lilandra is a username from a little known comic book character. In real life, I named my children after comic book characters, so my geek credentials cannot be questioned. My husband is a large biker, cyber-viking ape, that opines about religion, and knows his place in a cladogram.  Read the  comment policy before posting.

 

 

 

Dr. Steven Novella of JREF has posted in response to PZ’s post on skeptical consistency in defense of economic policies particularly libertarianism. The gist of Novella’s main contention with PZ is…

Perhaps I am misunderstanding what PZ is saying here, and if so please correct me, but this sounds an awful lot like a desire to purge the skeptical movement of those with a differing political outlook. I find it hard to see how this would be a good thing.

There is the “purge” accusation again.  I responded to his post with minor typo edits (in bold) here to make my point clearer…

A small point about your bone of contention with PZ. 1. His quote identified a very specific type of libertarian that espoused the ideas of Ron Paul. As you probably already know many of Paul’s ideas are in opposition to core skeptical values. He is a creationist who supports the government only funding specifically Christian based charities. I know that there are several flavors of libertarians even ones who support some form of limited government. However, mainstream libertarians as defined by their political party’s platform assign agency to the free market to correct society’s inequities without regulation. These sorts of claims are skeptical fair game because they are making some sort of truth claim.

2. I didn’t read his comment as a call to purge Paulites. He said that the discussion itself particularly if you challenge a prominent Paulite speaker would result in a backlash from their supporters that would result in them decamping from the movement. I don’t necessarily agree about that being a good thing. I do however wish that these differences could be discussed and debated openly and rationally within our movement.

I really do wish that there was a real time dialogue rather than encampment and exchanging volleys.  Evidently, there is way too much discussion of purges going on somewhere.

Comments

  1. murci3lag0 says

    Oh, come on Aron and Ophelia. Steve’s post is thoughtful and interesting. It gives a clean view of the common ground of skepticism above which each one can build their own personal views. What do you have against that? The use of the word purge? You seem to stop in such a minor detail of the discussion without acknowledging the general message of the post. What am I missing?

    • says

      “Oh, come on Aron and Ophelia. Steve’s post is thoughtful and interesting. It gives a clean view of the common ground of skepticism above which each one can build their own personal views. What do you have against that?”

      Umm nothing that’s why there wasn’t any argument against it.

      “The use of the word purge? You seem to stop in such a minor detail of the discussion without acknowledging the general message of the post.”

      You can agree with 95% (99%, 99.99%) of what someone says but still have a problem with a small part of what they said and talk about that.

  2. Psychopomp Gecko says

    “Issues of freedom vs security, individualism vs collectivism, meritocracy vs egalitarianism are all value judgments.”

    Ok, time for a headscratcher here… freedom versus security is a value judgment? I mean, you may argue about what constitutes freedom depending on different takes on liberalism (liberalism versus libertarianism to use the U.S. versions) but we have this tendency to see the most free countries on earth being some of the best. I get the sense of people with a science background looking down somewhat on history, but it is a pretty good indicator of which is better between freedom and security.

    Also don’t know who thinks the economic debate is between egalitarianism and meritocracy. When people like Trump, Rinehart, or the Koch brothers speak out, they are not representing a meritocracy.

  3. Rodney Nelson says

    Also don’t know who thinks the economic debate is between egalitarianism and meritocracy. When people like Trump, Rinehart, or the Koch brothers speak out, they are not representing a meritocracy.

    These people, particularly the Kochs, represent a feudal plutocracy based on corporations rather than an aristocracy.

  4. hjhornbeck says

    Hmmm, I think I see a pattern here. Compare Novella:

    It is NOT that religious claims are untestable (some are, some aren’t), it is only that when claims (religious or otherwise) are framed as untestable then they are matters of faith and not science.

    and Myers:

    most commonly, we’re told that since the claims of religion are completely evidence-free and untestable, True Skeptics™ are not able to address them…and usually these gatekeepers are as bad as creationists in claiming that they have the mantle of science in so constraining their range. They disregard the fact that scientists tend to be extremely dismissive, and appropriately so, of extravagant claims made in the absence of substantive supportive evidence.

    The key difference is the application of Ockham’s Razor; it argues that any claim which is untestable is unworthy of belief, because it has no explanatory power and is thus a redundant premise within any model of the universe.

    Was that a bit wordy? Perhaps an example will help. I will claim that a god started the universe, but then stepped aside and did nothing more. That is an untestable claim; for every bit of evidence you dredge up in favour of a pure-physics start to the universe, I can simply say “my god’s influence was finished by that point.” Note that we’ve got another claim in play here, though: the universe started via pure physics. It says nothing about the existence of a god, and thus makes one less assumption than what I’ve been pushing.

    Myers would say that my claim is bunk, and should be discarded; the scientific method includes Ockham’s Razor, and any good scientist would apply it and dismiss my claim.

    Novella would shrug his shoulders at my claim; since it cannot be tested, it cannot be falsified. Science does not include Ockham’s Razor, and thus cannot dismiss my claim. At best, it can only be agnostic to it.

    This use of Ockham’s Razor, I think, is what drives the skeptic vs. atheist schism on an intellectual level.

    • Francesco says

      Applying Ockaham’s Razor to religion is what drives the skeptic vs atheist schiism. Skeptiks are happy to apply Okahams Razor to Big foot or the lochness monster or the efficacy monster speaker cables. God just gets a pass.

  5. says

    The use of the word “Purge” needs to be completely avoided. At least, until the purges are complete. We dont want to tip our hand while the lists are being compiled.

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