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Oct 21 2010

Non-Prophets 9.9!

Well, here it is at last, gang. Probably the last of the guerilla episodes, as the regular series is set to resume, I do believe, this coming weekend!

Gia Grillo, Chris Conner and I reteam, and end up spending a lot of this episode wagging our fingers at some of our fellow heathens, expressing our dismay at the way some people in the atheist camp got caught up in the wave of Muslim-bashing that arose around the Park51 controversy. While none of us likes Islam, naturally, most of the rhetoric was simple hate speech from the Fox News wingnut camp that grossly generalized all Muslims, even those who are peaceful and loyal U.S. citizens, under the “terrorist” banner. That some atheists actually fell into that trap of emotion-clouded unreason is something we hate to see.

Then we smack around Phil Plait a bit for his “Don’t Be a Dick” speech, and talk about accommodationism vs. confrontationalism.

Not to be a whiner, but holy hell balls this one was tough to edit. But I think the mix is superior to 9.6, even though our different mics and the fact we were basically recording a three-way Skype call means it still isn’t audiophile material by any means. (I apologize for my harsh S’s.) I hope you all enjoy it, and I’m off for a nap. If you’d rather wait for the iTunes feed, Matt tells me he’ll do the necessary admin stuff to get it up on the feed either tonight or tomorrow, so you won’t have to wait days and days like last time. And if you want art for your iPod, download the above graphic and stick it in yourself. With 9.6 Russell told me I inadvertently changed the art for the whole feed by embedding it in the episode beforehand. Durp.

Consider the comments to be an open thread on the episode.

38 comments

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  1. 1
    D. Ebdrup

    Just out of sheer bloodymindedness, there's this: Topic for #nonprophets set by debdrup![email protected] at Fri Jun 18 23:00:38 2010 – and the hiatus was probably announced around there.. Well, it's some kind of late September, I'll admit – just not as early one might've otherwise expected.

  2. 2
    magx01

    Sweet, listening material for work tomorrow.Thanks!

  3. 3
    vallwarrior

    Thank you Martin! Can't wait to listen. This is the icing on top of the cake. I won an autographed book on Jerry Coyne's web zone this morning so I've been pretty happy all day. Now I want some pizza rolls for some reason.

  4. 4
    John K.

    Any word if Matt is going to take the podcast up again? He has done a lot for the ACA in general, and I won't blame him for not having the time to continue doing the podcast on top of everything else he does. After all, it has been all on a volunteer basis as far as I know.It is a pity that the podcast ground to almost a complete stop without him though. If it were not free I might almost feel justified in complaining.Keep the podcast coming. If you don't, the movement will become that much more dick-less, and Phil will have won.

  5. 5
    JT

    Question: Why the occasional musical intermissions (Not that I mind, just curious)?Does someone's cell phone ring, or just bathroom breaks?Or is it an art thing?

  6. 6
    Martin

    JT: Breaks, mainly. The show was recorded in three sessions, one in the afternoon and two later the same evening.John K: Yes, the regular NPR crew is starting the show up again. Matt's plan is to do it weekly.

  7. 7
    JT

    It's a good episode, as always.My addiction is hereby placated for another day.

  8. 8
    hellboundsmoker

    Jolly good show, folks… and much needed with the regular show being whittled down to an hour. Just because the 'regular' Non-Prophets is coming back, don't let it stop you if you feel the urge to knock out a few more 'guerrilla' episodes!Also, I was pissing my pants the whole time Gia told the story about the 15 year old kid who still believed in Santa Claus… does that make me a dick? Sorry, Phil =)

  9. 9
    scorinth

    I'm tired of hearing the phrase, "Don't be a dick". Still, loved your show, as always. I especially like bringing in people from outside the usual NPR crowd. It's fun to get a chance to "meet someone new" every once in a while.

  10. 10
    vallwarrior

    Your guest Chris made a point that I've had in the back of my head about the accomodationists, that they are basically tone trolls. The recent CFI podcast with P.Z. Myers made me want to scream. I think you guys recorded this episode before that came out or you surely would have mentioned it. I also agree that Phil Plait went a little (way!) over the top in his description of gnu atheists. I've read his blog for a long time, and he shows no mercy on the moon hoaxers, as you pointed out. I don't think his shift came from the new T.V. show as much as it comes from hanging out with Wil Wheaton whose motto just happens to be "don't be a dick." Not that I disagree with that motto, it was just applied too broadly with that particular strawman. Great show, and guests. Once more, thank you.

  11. 11
    Mark B

    Martin and Russell, with a little* help from your friends, have done a great job handing out the methadone to keep this junkie from hurting too bad.Religion may be the opiate of the masses, but I guess religion-bashing is too. Not that we bash, that would be dickish. Forgive me. You stupid fucking faith-heads. There I go again.*understatement.

  12. 12
    Justin

    Just stumbled upon the show and glad I did.

  13. 13
    Mark B

    On the topic of Phil Plait–I'm paraphrasing Matt from the TAM report (NP ep. 8.15) when he paraphrases Plait as saying "for instance, James Randi is an atheist, I am not". If that's the case, then he is a theist.I also gotta say that if somebody told me that they believed dinosaurs existed alongside humans I might not mock them or laugh at them, but I'm pretty sure that I'd get a big old "did I just step in dog shit?" look on my face.Sorry, can't help it.

  14. 14
    Martin

    Yeah, in the recording I wasn't sure if Gia was thinking of Phil or Hal Bidlack, who identifies as deist. The fact that these guys are so highly placed in one of the top skeptical organizations in the world is enough to give one pause. It's got nothing to do with any kind of ideological purity or anything, just simple skeptical standards. If Phil and Hal believe there is some kind of "higher power," can they defend that belief with evidence? If not, are they simply being selectively skeptical and intellectually — well, I won't say "dishonest" — how about "inconsistent."

  15. 15
    Me

    Awesome! Thanks for upping this!

  16. 16
    Jeremy

    The thing that gets me about accommodationists is that it comes across as dishonest to me. It’s like they are trying to tell theists* that they can accept science without any conflict with their theism or religion- no need to add batteries or water, it’ll just happen with no effort. Unless the individual has a rather atypical belief this will simply not be the case. Further, it’ll likely lead to some very uncomfortable questions that the believer will have to tackle, perhaps ending with the choice between science or their god/ religion. The accommodationists may be hoping that they’ll go with science but, given the believers I’ve encountered, I strongly doubt it. At any rate, once the difficult questions start the theist will probably end up suspicious of those that said that wouldn’t happen. In the end I feel that this tactic would only serve to drive many would-be allies away and maybe even into a hard fundamentalism. *Granted they do not claim that this is so with just any given theist.

  17. 17
    Mark B

    @ Martin: "Yeah, in the recording I wasn't sure if Gia was thinking of Phil or Hal Bidlack, who identifies as deist."Jeez, you mean like I just did? That WAS Hal Bidlack at TAM (dur) and it was NP 8.12 to boot (double dur) so Phil Plait is still a mystery. Sorry about that, long day.

  18. 18
    Afterthought_btw

    Really enjoyed it – thanks guys! :)A couple of comments on the 'Atheist Islamaphobia' bit – I could really have done with you defining the people you were talking about a bit more strictly, seeing as you weren't naming names! It's just I've seen a lot of unfair abuse of people who criticised the building of it, whilst making it perfectly clear they were within their rights to do so. And these people were then called bigots etc, whilst in reality their attitude is no different to most gnu atheists when it comes to theism full stop.i.e. They respect people's rights to be religious, but they really wish people weren't. That, essentially, is the attitude of any atheist that tries to convince people to question their faith (well, through non violent means, anyway!).Now I just assumed that the people you were talking about were… more rabid – Pat Condell-like, you might say if you've followed YouTube – until this point in the conversation: ~10:30 to ~11:30; which I hope I either misunderstood or Gia misspoke.Incidentally, just to make this clear, I am not against Park 51 or whatever it's called, in any way shape or form. Although I can understand people's emotional reasons for being uncomfortable, I don't think there are rational reasons to oppose it.I just really dislike this suggestion that people who say 'they have the right to do X, but are still arseholes for doing it' are somehow being illogical meanies.Free speech is exemplified by sticking up for the free speech of those people you completely disagree with – the same with other rights, like in this instance. Rather than being vilified, those people should be commended for saying: 'I disagree with you, and really think you shouldn't do this – but I will stand up for your rights to do it'. There seemed to be a lot of equivalence with Terry Jones' Koran burning. Many people said that he had the right to do this, and that they would stick up for his right to do this, but they thought it was a bad thing to do.But like I said, I hope I just misunderstood.Oh – yeah – one more bit of devil's advocate, or maybe just trying to avoid a bit of a strawman of the anti-Park 51 people's claims.At least with some of the objectors, the claim was that Muslims built mosques wherever they conquered and thus allowing the building to be built was allowing the symbolism that 'Islam' had won. Therefore a better 'abortion clinic/church analogy' might be:The abortion clinic bomber says beforehand that after he has bombed the clinic, his supporters will build a church beside it to celebrate his victory. He then bombs the clinic, and plans for a nearby church come into fruition.Obviously legally there's still no issue, but I think that's a closer analogy to what they are saying. Indeed, as far as I am concerned, it's still not a good reason to oppose the church being built, however, I think there would be a better argument from the point of view of how it might affect people emotionally.Again, I'm not against the 'Mosque' in any way, but I can understand why some people think it's a dick-ish thing to do to build it. Of course, calling something 'dick-ish' things tends to be an emotional judgement, so it can be harder to talk about rationally.One more thing that comes to mind (I listened to it last night, so I may have forgotten something else I want to mention), Martin dealt with a comparison of theology to evolutionary biology.There's a big difference between the two. Namely 'god' is an entity, and evolutionary biology is a scientific theory. A theory only exists in the sense that the arguments, data, and conclusions inside it are consistent both with itself and the external world. If god exists, then it exists separately to the field of theology.

  19. 19
    Curt Cameron

    The new show is not listed in the RSS list of episodes (nonprophets.xml), therefore podcasting software like iTunes will not find it.

  20. 20
    James

    I think I get it now. Phil was ridiculing people for ridiculing people. He's trying to see if it works!If he ridicules you guys and you stop ridiculing others, then it is an effective tool because it got you to stop (and also means you shouldn't stop).If he ridicules you guys and you don't stop ridiculing others, then it is not an effective tool because you didn't stop (and also means you should stop).Ridiculing is supposed to get you to rethink your position. However, I think you guys did rethink your position and came to the conclusion that you were right all along (which I agree with).

  21. 21
    Thomas

    @ Afterthought_btw'I disagree with you, and really think you shouldn't do this – but I will stand up for your rights to do it'(I understand you were quoting someone else here). I know this is how the oppoenents state this, but I think it could better be rephrased as this:'I am offended, but cannot state why. I cannot legally discriminate against you, and do not want to be "__that guy__", but, I think you owe it to us to self-discriminate. kthx bye!'

  22. 22
    JT

    If this episode came from guerilla, why is there still guerilla?

  23. 23
    Afterthought_btw

    Thomas:See I disagree, I think some of them can state why. I just in the main don't think their reasons are good enough.For example, if someone says (a common argument):"You're entitled to do it, but given the history of Islamic mosques being built at sites of their victory, I consider this a really dick-ish thing for you to do. Even if you don't believe it yourself, Muslims in the countries we are fighting will take it as a sign of victory, and thus will find it easier to recruit new people to their ranks."Now they are clearly stating why they don't like it, and, given certain assumptions, there is logic to their thinking. You can argue with their assumptions (and/or conclusions of the proper actions to thus take), if you like, but just throwing them in the same pool of people as those whose arguments are essentially:"Muslim!!! Muslim evil!!! Me no want Muslim to do what they want!!!"not only does them a disservice, but also does you a disservice imho. Ironically, it makes you look like the bigot. Unfortunately, I have actually seen a large amount of this kind of attitude in the online community.(I am using 'you' as a general term, not accusing you or anyone else in particular of anything. If you prefer, substitute the word 'one'.)As a complete aside, this is the problem of having terms like 'Christian' and 'Muslim': there is such a wide spectrum of beliefs from people that claim to believe in the same book. It would make things so much simpler if those Christians, say, that don't take parts of the Bible literally, actually went through the Bible and clearly marked every non-literal passage (or deleted them altogether), and then called themselves something other than Christian.I think it would really help avoid the kind of generalisations of 'all Christians are homophobic' or 'all Muslims are terrorists' that we end up facing. :-/

  24. 24
    Mark B

    @ afterthought: "i.e. They respect people's rights to be religious, but they really wish people weren't."It's not a free speech issue when a theist attempts to ban behavior which conflicts with his beliefs and it's not a free speech issue when the Mosque opponents try to argue against the Muslims' rights either. It's free speech in both cases, but the issue is the attempt to deny the rights of others.And even if they have reasons for their point of view that doesn't mean they are sound or valid. So it's legitimate to disagree with them. In both cases"It's just I've seen a lot of unfair abuse of people who criticised the building of it, whilst making it perfectly clear they were within their rights to do so. And these people were then called bigots etc, whilst in reality their attitude is no different to most gnu atheists when it comes to theism full stop."I wholeheartedly disagree. While it's true that atheists don't agree that being a Muslim is rational that is not the same as equating any Muslim with Muslims who perpetrate criminal acts. When someone invokes 9-11 to argue against building a mosque near ground zero, that IS bigotry.

  25. 25
    Afterthought_btw

    Mark B, I'm not sure you understand what I am arguing, because your response doesn't really seem to have much relevance to what I was trying to say, I'm afraid.It's not a free speech issue when a theist attempts to ban behavior which conflicts with his beliefs and it's not a free speech issue when the Mosque opponents try to argue against the Muslims' rights either. It's free speech in both cases, but the issue is the attempt to deny the rights of others.And even if they have reasons for their point of view that doesn't mean they are sound or valid. So it's legitimate to disagree with them. In both casesI'm not talking about people who are trying to ban the building of the Mosque – I thought I made that clear. I'm talking about people who stand up for Muslim's right to build it, but would far rather they didn't build it. In other words, they are saying:"You are perfectly within your rights to do so, and I will not attempt to stop you other than by voicing my disapproval. Ultimately the decision as to whether or not this is built resides with you."Just like as an atheist I will not try to stop people practicing their religion (or building religious buildings) but if I argue with them and try to persuade them otherwise, that does not make me a bigot, or intolerant in any way. It merely means I disagree with them, and have stated my disagreement.I wholeheartedly disagree. While it's true that atheists don't agree that being a Muslim is rational that is not the same as equating any Muslim with Muslims who perpetrate criminal acts. When someone invokes 9-11 to argue against building a mosque near ground zero, that IS bigotry.Again, I really don't think you've understood the point I was trying to make. This has nothing to do with what I was saying, and I was making no such comparison.Incidentally (and this has nothing to do with what I've been saying), bigot is the wrong word to use anyway – a bigot is someone who is completely intolerant of any creed other than their own. You have no evidence to suggest that someone is a bigot merely because they do not believe a mosque should be built near the site of 9/11.

  26. 26
    Mayhemm

    I'm really disappointed by the amount of accommodationist BS coming out of the Center For Inquiry lately; their "Center Stage" panel on New Atheism, the recent articles by John Shook, and the last few eps of "Point Of Inquiry" are prime examples.Figures I just donated $100 to them yesterday (I try to donate to freethought a couple times a year). In retrospect, given my disgust with accommodationism, perhaps something like RDF would have been a better choice for donation.

  27. 27
    Dances_with_the_beast

    How did you people use the phrase "taking the dick position" and keep a straight face?Or am I just a dick?

  28. 28
    Doc

    "Incidentally (and this has nothing to do with what I've been saying), bigot is the wrong word to use anyway – a bigot is someone who is completely intolerant of any creed other than their own. You have no evidence to suggest that someone is a bigot merely because they do not believe a mosque should be built near the site of 9/11."~Afterthought_btwSo the white guy who hates blacks but not asians isn't a bigot? I think your definition of bigot is a poor one.

  29. 29
    Tom Foss

    Mark B: At least with some of the objectors, the claim was that Muslims built mosques wherever they conquered and thus allowing the building to be built was allowing the symbolism that 'Islam' had won.First, I'm not sure that claim is historically accurate, but I haven't done the research. However, I do think the point could be made that every religion does this. Second, this still relies on the "guilt by association" fallacy, or at least some hasty generalizations. In particular, it requires one to ignore all the differences between Muslim sects. If someone built a liberal pro-choice Unitarian Universalist church near the site where an abortion clinic was bombed, it could hardly be called a "victory church" for fundies. The point people often miss is that there's just as much animosity between the liberal and fundamentalist sects of Islam as there is between the equivalent groups in Christianity. Moreover, it requires one to ignore the fact that Park51 is not a mosque, but a community center with a prayer room. If having a Muslim prayer room makes a building a mosque, then the south tower was a mosque, since it had just such a prayer room on the 17th floor. There's one pro-Park51 argument that I haven't seen many making, even though it dovetails perfectly with the atheist desire to keep the good parts of religion and discard the unnecessary supernatural stuff. Park51 is a building with a culinary school, a fitness center, and a basketball court, in addition to the prayer room. It actually serves beneficial secular purposes, in addition to the religious stuff. If we're going to have religious buildings in various places, taking up valuable space and mooching off the taxpayers, isn't Park51 exactly the kind of religious building we want? I suspect that the various churches and cathedrals in the vicinity are nowhere near as useful.

  30. 30
    Afterthought_btw

    Dances_with_the_beast, the trick is to use the phrase when no-one can see your face!! ;)Anyway, I hope I don't appear like I'm being a bit snarky in this post, but I feel like – assuming Tom Foss' comment was directed at me, as I suspect it should have been – that I'm being accused of making some arguments I expressly said I wasn't making. (As a result, I see no point in replying any more than this paragraph.) That just irritated me, and whilst I think I've ironed it all out, apologies if I haven't – it's not often easy to control how other people read long posts.Doc:So the white guy who hates blacks but not asians isn't a bigot? I think your definition of bigot is a poor one.First off, my definition came from the dictionary. Of course, it is possible that you've been using the word 'bigot' when you actually mean something different, like 'racist' (or even just 'scumbag' :-p). The colour of your skin isn't an opposing creed, whereas Muslim beliefs would be – that is why 'bigot' is appropriate when mentioning intolerance of other people's beliefs, and it wouldn't be when it comes to 'blacks' or 'Asians'. (And certainly not the case in the proposed argument, which was if someone is (paraphrasing here) against the Mosque at ground zero because of the 9/11 attack then they are a bigot. Bigotry is just an odd conclusion to jump to from that – there is no reason to believe there is any intolerance of beliefs/creeds/opinions/whatever going on there; well, unless you have the presupposition that the entirety of Muslims were behind 9/11, I guess).Secondly, if they are intolerant of people who don't have the same belief about blacks (which is possibly a fair bet) then they would be a bigot, yes.If your disagreement with me was just about the definition rather than the argument I was making, then feel free to skip this third thing but if your disagreement went further, then I will try to explain fuller what I was saying. (The point holds with words like 'racist', too.)That point is… There is no possible way you can go from: Person A believes that Park 51 should not be built because of 9/11.To:Person A is a bigot (or prejudiced against Muslims).There is no possible logical connection between the two.Just to give a few counter examples off the top of my head:Person A has made an error in their reasoning, but if this error is pointed out, they would change their mind. Person A is then not a bigot.or…Person B's argument against the building of Park 51 is not based upon any one group of people, or beliefs/creeds whatsoever, but is rather an argument based upon the unintended consequences of that action. Person B is not a bigot.or…Person C actually has a good argument which you won't listen to because you are too busy calling them a bigot. Person C is then not the bigot.What the claim that 'When someone invokes 9-11 to argue against building a mosque near ground zero, that IS bigotry' essentially says is that anyone who holds this position can not give you any argument that would sway your mind. Like I said in a previous post, the person who makes that claim is the one who ends up looking like a bigot. And to my disappointment I've seen a number of people in the online community do just that, whilst preening themselves on their rationalism.Unless, of course, we both ignore the above counter examples, and you can provide a logical argument which shows clearly that the sole act of mentioning 9/11 in an argument against the building of Park 51 is an act of bigotry, rather than merely claiming it to be the case.Good luck with that.Disclaimer: I am again using 'you' in a way not directed at anyone, but rather synonymous to (but less formal than) 'one'. Also, when I say 'appears like a bigot' or words to that effect, I mean appears.

  31. 31
    Tom Foss

    Afterthought_btw: assuming Tom Foss' comment was directed at me, as I suspect it should have been Yeah, whoops. My bad. However, though I apparently skipped over your name, I did recognize the "devil's advocate" nature of your proposed argument there, and tried to be clear that I wasn't going after you specifically, but after that argument. As to bigotry, it all depends on your dictionary. You used the (first) definition that's available on Dictionary.com, but Merriam-Webster gives: "a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance," which is quite a lot more in-line with how it's typically used. Remember, dictionaries are descriptive more than prescriptive. And I replied to the rest of your post, but then realized that it all hinged on your somewhat nonstandard (or at least not-detailed-enough) definition for "bigot." I can see how your points work with the definition you provided, but I think they fall apart a bit when the more common definition is applied. But perhaps the word "prejudiced" would be more accurate than "bigoted" in this case, since it may indeed result from unconscious or unintended feelings or generalizations about Muslims.

  32. 32
    Afterthought_btw

    Tom Foss:Yeah, whoops. My bad. However, though I apparently skipped over your name, I did recognize the "devil's advocate" nature of your proposed argument there, and tried to be clear that I wasn't going after you specifically, but after that argument.Well, I wasn't even being devil's advocate with that in so much as making the (rather facile it seemed to me) point that saying they didn't have any arguments was not true. That you could go after the arguments and conclusions, but saying they were basing it or nothing was just plain wrong, and claiming such just made you look bad, regardless of whether those arguments were any good or not.As to bigotry, it all depends on your dictionary. You used the (first) definition that's available on Dictionary.com,Actually, I didn't, I clicked on a number of links, and chose the one most commonly used. The one you quoted is pretty much the only one that changes bigot from being about beliefs to also being about (say) skin colour. As you say, dictionaries are descriptive, and not prescriptive, so the one that is most commonly used is the one I went for. It was the Merriam-Webster that was the unusual one, and indeed, apart from the last couple of words which invoke race, it pretty much agrees with the one I used.And I replied to the rest of your post, but then realized that it all hinged on your somewhat nonstandard (or at least not-detailed-enough) definition for "bigot."That is emphatically not true. (Indeed, it would be odd if it did, because I quite clearly said that it had nothing to do with what I was saying when I mentioned the definition of bigot.) As I stated in my later post, the point holds with words like 'racist' too. It holds with any word that implies prejudice, for the same reasons. To put it a third way:You can't know whether or not someone is prejudiced based upon the fact that they disagree with you. And that is exactly what has been happening. Someone says: 'I oppose the building of the mosque'. Someone else says: 'You're a bigot.' If you care to use words like racist, or prejudiced, they work just as well as bigot. By definition, these words have the following in common (which happen to correspond to the three counter examples I gave in my post above this one):Unreasonable. (No one would call someone who held negative views about murderers (as a group) a bigot/prejudiced, for example, because they would have a reason for it.)Unwillingness to change. (If someone is genuinely willing to evaluate their views, and change them, then they are not a bigot/racist/etc.. They might be mistaken, but not a bigot.)Blanket views. (If someone's argument is based upon individual circumstances, rather than a group as a whole, calling them a bigot/racist would be wrong, for obvious reasons. Namely they are making no statements about a group.)Hence it is perfectly possible that someone holding the view that Park 51 should not be built is not a bigot/racist/prejudiced in anyway.

  33. 33
    Josh111485

    You kept saying that Phil Plait was referring to atheists when he made his "Don't Be A Dick" speech. Where in the speech did he specifically target/single-out atheists for being "dicks"?

  34. 34
    Tom Foss

    Josh: He didn't. In fact, the thing which made his speech so infuriatingly useless was how nonspecific it was. But in his follow-up, all of his examples were of theists who felt ostracized as skeptics, which certainly suggested that the focus of his speech was toward atheist skeptics who make the theist skeptics feel unwelcome.

  35. 35
    Ing

    @AfterthoughtYour views are repugnant and those of a horrible horrible bigot like the KLan. Your opinions should not exist in a free state like America. You and everyone like you are SCUM!Of course it's your right to say it and I (regrettably) have no legal way to stop you…though I certainly imply that if I did I would.

  36. 36
    Tom Foss

    Afterthought_btw: I tried posting this earlier, but it apparently didn't go through. Actually, I didn't, I clicked on a number of links, and chose the one most commonly used. The one you quoted is pretty much the only one that changes bigot from being about beliefs to also being about (say) skin colour. As you say, dictionaries are descriptive, and not prescriptive, so the one that is most commonly used is the one I went for. It was the Merriam-Webster that was the unusual one, and indeed, apart from the last couple of words which invoke race, it pretty much agrees with the one I used.Merriam-Webster is the version which falls in line with how the word is described on Wikipedia, and with how I've always heard the term used before. It's not as though the term is uncommon, and the common parlance uses "bigot" as a blanket term to cover a variety of specific prejudice-descriptors, like "racist," "misogynist," "homophobe," and so forth. Regardless, argumentum ad dictionarium is kind of anon-starter.You can't know whether or not someone is prejudiced based upon the fact that they disagree with you.I agree. That's not, however, how you originally phrased the problem. You originally said that you can't get to "Person A is a bigot (or prejudiced against Muslims)" from "Person A believes that Park51 should not be built because of 9/11." The fact that they disagree with me is not enough to say that they are being prejudiced. The reason for that disagreement, however, would be enough to say that. To kind of parallel your argument, I can't see how you can form this argument:"1. 9/11 happened.2-n. [...]n+1. Therefore Park51 should not be built"And not have it rely on either conscious or unconscious prejudice against Muslims.If someone is genuinely willing to evaluate their views, and change them, then they are not a bigot/racist/etc..And here, I think, you're emphatically incorrect. Things likeinstitutionalized racism and cultural misogyny are clearly prejudicial and lead people to discriminate, but people are often not even consciously aware of the assumptions and views that underlie their prejudice. That's a major part of the concept of privilege, that people in the majority benefit from prejudice even if they aren't aware of it. People can similarly make statements or assumptions that are prejudicial regarding race, sex, etc., without being aware of the problem, and being willing to change once the problem is pointed out.I suppose we could hair-split between "being a bigot" and "saying bigoted things/holding bigoted views/taking bigoted actions," but I don't think it would be a useful distinction. It doesn't matter if I'm a card-carrying member of the KKK or the ACLU, if I say or do something that, for instance, generalizes a non-racial characteristic to an entire racial group, then I'm being racist. Apologizing andchanging when it's pointed out to me doesn't make the initial assumptions or actions any less racist.Indeed, including this criterion suggests that no one is a bigot unless they are always a bigot, which is unnecessarily limiting. In high school, I was a homophobe. That I have since been convinced of my error doesn't mean that I wasn't a homophobe then.If someone's argument is based upon individual circumstances, rather than a group as a whole, calling them a bigot/racist would be wrong, for obvious reasons. Namely they are making no statements about a group.Right, and this is why I can't see how any argument against Park51 because of 9/11 is not prejudiced. I suppose there are arguments that I have not considered, but until I see evidence of such an argument, I'm skeptical of its existence. So far, any Park51 objections I've seen or been able to imagine that used 9/11 as a reason have relied on prejudice, particularly of this kind.

  37. 37
    Martin

    Josh: Though that is a good point and I should have been more clear in my statements. However, Tom's reply is accurate. Phil didn't really start anything with his speech. Rather, his speech was the culmination of an ongoing concern that, within the skeptical community, there are some folks who are taking the position that religion, for whatever reason, ought to get a break from the same harsh critical scrutiny we apply to other woo. Why this should be is never fully articulated by those who wish to shield religion from such scrutiny, but as Chris points out, it seems to come down to tone-trolling in the end.

  38. 38
    Afterthought_btw

    IngThat made me laugh – thanks! :)I'm not American, though… ;) (Also, that wasn't the kind of people I was sticking up for, but I suspect you know that.)Tom Foss:"Regardless, argumentum ad dictionarium is kind of anon-starter."Agreed – so is argumentum ad Wikipaedia… ;) It's hard to know what to say in reply, other than I've never used bigot as regards to race, and never had it used that way around me. Perhaps its a cultural usage.The way I've always looked at it, is we have a word for race (racist) we have a general catch all word (prejudice) and a word for beliefs (bigot). I still maintain that the way it was used when I objected to it is unsound even if you use it as a catch all word, however.To kind of parallel your argument, I can't see how you can form this argument:"1. 9/11 happened.2-n. [...]n+1. Therefore Park51 should not be built"And not have it rely on either conscious or unconscious prejudice against Muslims.I think the initially suggested argument does it okay, actually."You're entitled to do it, but given the history of Islamic mosques being built at sites of their victory, I consider this a really dick-ish thing for you to do. Even if you don't believe it yourself, Muslims in the countries we are fighting will take it as a sign of victory, and thus will find it easier to recruit new people to their ranks."They aren't being prejudiced here, what they are saying is that they think this is a bad idea in the grand scheme of things. (It's rather like that argument against Koran Burning Day which said that it would put American troops in danger.)Now, you can say their argument fails, if you like, but unless you want to claim they are lying I can't see how you can call them a bigot.Also, this is actually an argument from ignorance – you're saying that you can't see how they could say it without being a bigot, therefore they can't say it without being a bigot.Put another way, it's judging them as guilty until proven innocent. I prefer to think of them as not guilty until proven guilty.I said:If someone is genuinely willing to evaluate their views, and change them, then they are not a bigot/racist/etc..You replied:And here, I think, you're emphatically incorrect. - snip -I believe even the Merriam-Webster definition included something to this effect – whilst I agree that argumentum ad dictionary is rather pointless, I think you're in danger of using a different definition to everyone else.Here's the definition you gave:"a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices;(…)"Anyway, I honestly don't think it is hair-splitting to make the distinction between actions and people. Indeed, I think it's the only reasonable thing to do. As an analogy – does doing an immoral action make you an immoral person? Isn't that rather like Ray Comfort's claim that one lie makes you a liar? What if at the time you did the immoral action you believed you were doing a moral action? Are you then immoral?I'd suggest intent has a very important part to play here, especially when you think of the power of the words. Ask a random person to name a racist and I virtually guarantee you they will mention someone closer to a White/Black/Green(!) Supremacist, than someone mildly uncomfortable when in a room of predominately another skin colour.Also, it doesn't mean that one is only a bigot if they're always a bigot. It is perfectly possible to have been unwilling to change your views at one point in your life, and then have become willing to change them later. I'm not sure I've met anyone who that doesn't apply to to some extent. There is no reason why you can't have been a bigot at one point of your life, and that you aren't now, or vice-versa.

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