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Not quite good enough for standup

Wo. Ben Radford decided to get back at that so and so PZ Myers once and for all, by putting on his Jonathan Swift hat and being FUNNeeee. He wrote a satire type piece – not on the CFI blog this time – about PZ using up all the straw in Minnesota. GEDDIT? Super funny, right?

A spokesman for the Minnesota Farmers Union is concerned about a shortage of straw and hay available for agricultural purposes around the state—and he is blaming PZ Myers for the problem.

Myers, a prolific blogger and professor of biology at the University of Minnesota, Morris, has been accused of hoarding hay and straw for use in constructing his straw man arguments and logical fallacies. While some of the larger organizations such as the Minnesota Farm Network have been reluctant to criticize Myers out of fear of being targeted on his often-vitriolic blog, others are speaking out.

Witty? Subtle? Clever?

“Every time he writes something outside of his field [of biology], Myers uses all of the available straw for miles around” to craft his arguments, said Farmer’s Union representative Mike Helms. “I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to buy straw and hay—it’s a free country and all that. But the fact is our farmers and horses need it. He can’t use that much straw [an estimated 3,000 bales per month last year] and not expect it to affect our local ecology and economy. We use straw for feeding our livestock and horses, bedding, and fuel. He’s just using it to make faulty arguments. Where’s the justice in that?”

Helms added that other quasi-famous pundits have been drawn to the area in search of straw for their own arguments (conservative writer Ann Coulter and creationist William Dembksi are frequent customers), but that Myers is by far the most active.

Radford seriously thinks PZ is comparable to Coulter and Dembski? Damn, my credulity gets strained so much these days it’s all but useless to me.

Myers, once known for his work as a biologist, has in recent years become most prominent for his strident criticism of religion, skepticism, and almost anything else he disagrees with. In a famous incident in 2009, Myers overheard a young woman mention that she was a staunch vegetarian, to which he immediately responded: “You know, Hitler was a vegetarian… What other Nazi policies do you agree with?” Myers’s blatant logical fallacies have been catalogued by dozens of people including scientist-and-best-selling authors Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins—and most recently by a bored fifth-grader in Duluth who happened to be skimming Myers’s “Pharyngula” blog for a school project.

Despite his dismissive tone and having yet to publish a single book, PZ Myers has attracted legions of fans.

Where to begin? The completely random Nazi item? The claim about logical fallacies without ever throughout the piece (or his previous slap at PZ) actually citing any? The ass-kissing of Harris and Dawkins, and the naked attempt to use their fame as a club to cudgel someone he dislikes? The “he hasn’t published a book” snobbery from someone who can’t write a decent sentence? The fact that in fact PZ has published a book? The spiteful jealousy of the legions of fans?

Republican political strategists—themselves well versed in straw man fallacies—have long expressed admiration for Myers’s uncanny ability to fabricate controversy from thin air and grossly mischaracterize his opponents. Wilson Moot, a protégé of Karl Rove and the chief writer of Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign ads, is a particular fan. One of Moot’s best-known ads took President Obama’s statement “You didn’t build that” out of context (he was clearly referring to national infrastructure including roads and bridges) and claimed that it was instead an attack on small business owners. “Myers’s ability to twist and spin the facts and misinterpret otherwise clear arguments by others is unparalleled,” Moot said in a recent Washington Weekly interview. “I’m good, but let’s be honest: Myers is in his own class. Up is down, black is white, night is day—if he says it is. If we’d had him on our campaign I really think we could have nailed Obama on that Muslim thing and won the White House.”

God damn. What a stack of bullshit. Radford misrepresented his own blog post, while PZ addressed what Radford had actually written.

Who are these people?

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Stacy says

    Ben telling PZ to stick to biology is rich. PZ writes well on many topics, and he’s funny. Ben’s failed every time he’s stepped outside his narrow area of expertise.

  2. STH says

    It’s a nice trick, though, because the format of an unfunny “joke” post gives him an excuse to not have to back up any of the claims in it. I’d really like to see, for example, all those fallacies that PZ has supposedly committed. And how, exactly, has he misrepresented Radford with all those straw men? He’s been going to great lengths to smear people who have criticized him without responding to any of their criticisms, and this is just part of that. He’s been amazingly dishonest throughout this whole episode.

  3. arthur says

    Comparing PZ to Ann Coulter seems a bit harsh, but it’s somewhat apt. I think the same thing sometimes.

    Don’t get me wrong, I like PZ, but he’s a gobshite with a megaphone covered in spittle. He too often plays the same tune as Coulter. Lots of noise. Lots of denunciations.

    Plenty of people aren’t like that. Dennett isn’t like that. Pinker isn’t like that. Many bloggers here at FTB aren’t like that.

    Fortunately, PZ is almost always right in his arguments, but I don’t always think his antics are a good thing.

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    You do realize, don’t you, that content matters? What you say matters, not just how you say it? I cannot seriously believe you just lazily put PZ on the same level as Ann Coulter. What in the world?

    The problem with Ann Coulter is that she says hateful, false, vile things to hurt people. PZ does not. Just because they’re both theatrical. . .oh gawd, why bother.

  5. arthur says

    Josh, separating Coulter because of her apparent desire to hurt is a good example to bring up and does separate her further from PZ.

  6. says

    PZ also isn’t like that. A year ago I spent an evening sitting next to PZ at a bar with Dennett on his other side. The next evening it was the same pattern at a dinner table. Neither of them was “like that” – and they were not radically different from each other. No spittle, no megaphone, no noise, no denunciations. No gobshite.

  7. notsont says

    I keep hearing how awful PZ is and how venomous and vile his “spittle flecked” rants are. And yet ANY time you ask for a link to PZ saying something vile or “spittle flecked: you either get a link pointing to some anonymous commenter and not PZ, or you get “I don’t need no stinking link because everyone “knows” its true” Put up or shut up already lets see something vile or spittle flecked from PZ.

  8. says

    OMG between this and the Harriet Hall thing, I’m starting to feel like this is just a massive gaslighting attempt on the whole internet. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, just ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG. That is like Skeptic Value #1. A hell of a lot of us (especially those of us who were very religious) have had to admit we were wrong about what was probably the most important thing in our lives (at the time). You could almost consider it the price of admission into the freethought community.

    So why is it so freaking impossible for these guys (Ben, Harriet, etc.) to look at the many many blog posts and comments that a) address their arguments using their own words (so, not straw arguments, then) and b) give citations, data, and evidence (y’know, what we’re supposed to base our opinions and beliefs on), and go, oh, guess I screwed up, sorry guys. OR JUST STOP TALKING. Maybe they think that they’ll lose respect or something, but I have so much more respect and admiration for people who admit their errors than for people who just keep digging and digging and digging, especially as it gets more and more silly. And I think that most people in the atheist/skeptic communities also admire those who can admit they were wrong and move on far more than those who refuse to do so. Like I said, being really really wrong about a fundamental value in our lives is something almost everyone in the secular community has in common. I have so much more compassion (and understanding) for people who make mistakes and admit them, than those who continue to show their ass while going “What? What? That’s not my ass, my pants are supposed to look like this! You’re just being tribal! You just don’t want to associate with anyone who doesn’t wear your type of pants! Besides, even if I was, why should the atheist community even care if a person is showing their ass?!”

    Or I was right before, and it’s just gaslighting on a massive scale. I know there have been a few times these last few weeks where I’ve just stared at my computer and thought, “Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Is this just a mass delusion I’ve been sucked into? What is going on? AAAAARRRRRGGGGGHHH!” *pulls out hair* (And then I have to shut down the internet and walk away for a bit.)

  9. says

    (Um. When I yelled “ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG” I was of course talking to Ben–OK, and the rest of the douchebags you guys have been documenting–not you, Ophelia, or PZ. Hope that was obvious, but when I re-read it, I realized I wanted to make sure that I was still communicating through all my frustration. Sorry.)

  10. says

    They complain about the straw, but say nothing about the burgeoning troll population and its effect on the goats. Won’t someone stick up for the goats?!

  11. PatrickG says

    @ EEB:

    I know there have been a few times these last few weeks where I’ve just stared at my computer and thought, “Is it me? Am I the crazy one? Is this just a mass delusion I’ve been sucked into? What is going on?…”

    Glad to know I’m not the only one. These last few weeks I almost expect to hear an ominous disembodied voice saying “Do not adjust your television set computer”…

  12. says

    just ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG

    I think that what we’re seeing is a deep rift between the people who are skeptics because it lets them feel special, and those who are skeptics because it’s part of their method of thinking. It’s one thing to be skeptical about something – or some group you’re raining urine down upon – but it’s another thing entirely if you reflexively submit your own outputs to skeptical challenge as you make them. It’s one thing to call scientology bullshit (that’s easy) it’s another thing to call your own words bullshit. It just takes a bit more practice and effort. Not much. But it sure wreaks havoc on your sense of certainty.

  13. Ulysses says

    Radford should not try to write satire. It’s a difficult form of humor to write and when it fails the author looks like a hateful whiner. I’d tell Radford to stick to skepticism but he doesn’t seem to be particularly good at that either (1/3 of 1/2 of 7 billion is a little over 1 billion).

  14. left0ver1under says

    Who are they? They’re people who believe their own propaganda. They’re people dim enough to assume no one will check their words, that they can say anything and not be challenged for saying it.

  15. Martha says

    Sweet Jaysus, you’re not telling me that Radford is this much of an asshole without being a Republican Libertarian, are you?

    Who’d’ve thunk it?

  16. bawdybillfirst says

    As I see it, you can try to refute PZ’s position if you can come up with the facts to support your argument. To attack him personally is to ask for your legs to be cut off, and rightly so.

  17. says

    @16

    That makes sense. I never really thought of it like that before. Maybe my assumption (that most skeptics have experienced a powerful, personal, cherished belief being proven wrong and then admitted–at least to themselves, but usually publically–that they were very wrong) is in error, and just based on those skeptics I’ve enjoyed either personally or through books/speaking. Not to pull a fallacy here, but those are the people I’ve always considered “real” skeptics, anyway (whatever that means, I know). Or–hopefully?–those “skeptics” who are in it to feel superior to the “stupid” people who believe in, oh, bigfoot or reflexology or Scientology or whatever, but either haven’t learned to think skeptically or don’t think they need to, maybe those guys really are just a small minority of the community. It’s just like in most communities, where the least informed are the loudest and most obnoxious.

    After all, back in my Christian days, I used to spend a lot of time quite angry and embarassed by all the Christians who managed to get on the TV and news stories, mouthing off about gays and abortion (and keeping silent about all the sell your possessions/turn the other cheek/take care of your neighbor stuff). Having actually studied the bible (I was training to be a minister), I knew that the whole book said a lot more about how God punished people for not taking care of the foreigners and aliens in their community, or oppressing the poor and powerless, or not taking care of the sick and needy (y’know, liberal shit) and said comparatively little (or nothing at all) about the evils of undocumented gay abortionists or whatever. But always, it was the least informed, the most hateful, who were the loudest and got the most attention. Drove me up a fucking wall.

    Guess maybe it’s just not that different in the secular community. Fuck, that’s a depressing thought.

    (And, yes, before people say: I know that the bible is not all happy peace love and harmony. I know that there is a lot of evil shit. I know that people can pretty much make it say whatever they want it to say. That’s one of the reasons I’m an atheist now, and gave up my plans of going into ministry. Still. I would say that most of the loud, hateful Christians are very uninformed about the bible, in my experience. They know jack all about, say, the prophets, which talk a lot about taking care of the poor, the oppressed, the alien, etc.–which is why President Obama quotes from those books a lot. And why conservative Christians don’t even realize that the President is quoting scripture when he does so! But I’ve read a lot of books and blogs by people who would disagree with my take on the Bible as a whole, so YMMV.)

  18. throwaway, promised freezed peach, all we got was the pit says

    Really, what the hell is up with objectivist Vulcans inflicting their brand of ‘selfish utilitarianism’ upon the atheist movement*? I’ve only been into atheism since around 2000, has the libertarian presence ever been so pungently vociferous within skepticism as it has been now? What the hell is with the Randbots?

    *I refuse to think that there actually was a ‘skeptics’ movement myself. I don’t see it as the movement of skepticism itself. This has been, for me, totally about atheism, and being an atheist, and being free to be that atheist, utilizing skeptical approach assuredly, but being permitted and accepted for espousing my lack of belief vocally within my community. Yes skepticism is important as an approach. But slapping a big red skeptic sticker on your forehead isn’t an immunization against credulity.

    Also, yay bourbon! If I’ve rambled, that’s why.

  19. hjhornbeck says

    This bit is annoying me:

    In a famous incident in 2009, Myers overheard a young woman mention that she was a staunch vegetarian, to which he immediately responded: “You know, Hitler was a vegetarian… What other Nazi policies do you agree with?”

    I’ve been a Pharyngula lurker for over five years, and I don’t remember this. I’ve spent fifteen minutes Googling, and still can’t uncover this “famous” incident. Did this happen at a conference? Has Radford started making stuff up?

  20. latsot says

    Unfunny and embarrassing. I think satire has to be *gleeful* to work properly. The wicked delight in overturning a position has to be evident. It has to shine through. That’s why satire is such fun. The observations have to be knife keen and fuelled by a joyful love of truth and of humour. The best satirists joke as much about their own positions as about other people’s because they understand that they could be proven wrong at any moment and because satire is ultimately about opinion rather than fact.

    If what shines through instead is bitterness and slow-footed churning of stupid murky broth then it’s probably not satire. It’s more likely to be good, plain old-fashioned shitness.

    I previously thought that the only people who could confuse shitness for satire were authors themselves but the comments to that piece prove me wrong.

  21. says

  22. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I wish I could say the behavior of Radford and Hall was disappointing to me, but then I would have to lie. I seriously doubt that I can be disappointed at this point since I no longer expect anything but the absolute worst from anyone who still associates with “the other skeptical community”. If someone like Dawkins could go from the closest thing I have had to a hero since I decided not to have heroes to one of my least favorite people on the planet, then losing respect for someone like Radford isn’t even enough of an event to be worth finishing this sen..

    I do however have a thing or two to say about logical fallacies. Names like “strawman”, “appeal to authority” etc. are useful shortcuts, but that’s also all that they are. Throwing out names of fallacies is no substitute for actually analyzing your opponents arguments and showing how they are flawed. In my experience one of the most common strawman arguments out there is lazily accusing others of committing fallacy X without demonstrating why this is indeed the only/most reasonable interpretation of what the other person is saying in the given context. Not every reference to external sources is an appeal to authority, not every personal attack is an ad hominem fallacy*, and sometimes correlation really does support causation.

    It is even possible to attack strawmen by falsely accusing others of attacking strawmen. When I hear the word “strawman”, I think of things like putting words in people’s mouths, deliberately choosing the least charitable interpretation available, oversimplifying your opponent’s view to make it seem more extreme/less nuanced than it actually is, ignoring context and qualifiers, conflating “some” with “all”, “possible” with “probable”, “probable” with “certain” etc., or simply attacking a parody of your opponent’s view (e.g. the “crockoduck”) and passing it off as what (s)he is actually thinking.

    However, accusing others of strawmanning because you didn’t use those exact words (or because your opponent didn’t quote everything you said, whether or not it’s relevant to his/her point), is just a lazy way of not taking responsibility for your own statements. If your argument only makes sense – or if your argument is only relevant to the topic under discussion – given interpretation X, then it’s perfectly legitimate to assume you are talking about X, and to dismiss this as strawmanning because “I didn’t explicitly mention X” is just intellectual dishonesty.

    There is also what I have come to think of as the “opposite strawman” or “Superman” fallacy, i.e. substituting your own view for one that is specifically designed to be invincible, or at least much more difficult to refute. If you have ever argued with a theist who tried to defend the claim that God really exists by arguing that God is possible, you already know what I am talking about. A version that should be familiar to anyone who has been paying attention to the skeptical “war on women” is arguing that “X is/should be legal” as opposed to “X is actually morally defensible”. A lot of the context-ignoring we have seen in the last year (The “not a skepchick” t-shirt was only about not wanting to be defined by your gender, Dawkins’ comments in praise of “rule-free” hugging at TAM was only saying that spontaneous hugging is nice, Radford was only citing an anti-rape poem, the haters are “only disagreeing” etc.) seem to me of exactly the same nature.
    __________________________________________________________________
    *Only if the personal attack is presented as a reason why his/her arguments are wrong.

  23. garnetstar says

    What exactly is wrong with “criticism of.. almost anything…he disagrees with”? Isn’t that what Radford does?

    Whether or not the criticism is “strident” is in the eye of the beholder. Your opponent is strident, you are merely vigorous.

  24. says

    Hjhornbeck:

    I’ve been a Pharyngula lurker for over five years, and I don’t remember this. I’ve spent fifteen minutes Googling, and still can’t uncover this “famous” incident. Did this happen at a conference? Has Radford started making stuff up?

    As far as I can tell, it’s completely made up, since PZ is semi-vegetarian already, and since Radford needed to invent some scenario where he could have PZ unreasonably compare someone to a Nazi. And that’s the best he could come up with.

    But it’s satire! He doesn’t need to be accurate or clever or reasonable or anything, because it’s satire!

    Jafafa Hots:

    Libertarian atheism comes from the same place that Libertarian ANYTHING comes from:
    “No ____ is going to tell ME what to ____ !!!”

    +1

    Bjarte Foshaug:

    In my experience one of the most common strawman arguments out there is lazily accusing others of committing fallacy X without demonstrating why this is indeed the only/most reasonable interpretation of what the other person is saying in the given context.

    Abso frickin lutely. I don’t know if it qualifies exactly as a strawman. It’s almost like an ad hominem argument against an argument–”I’m labeling your argument a [FALLACY] therefore it’s wrong.” It’s not enough to know the names of fallacies, you have to know what makes them fallacious if you want to argue effectively.

    For all the lip service that the people in the “other skepticism” give to rigor and philosophy and open-mindedness and whatnot, for all the (admittedly diminished from a few years ago) dismissal of “armchair skepticism,” I’ve been noticing for years this trend among the accommodationist/civility/let’s be really fucking polite to everyone (except the “dicks”) wing of the skeptical movement that fetishizes logic without understanding it.

    I think it comes back to that same authoritarian streak that leads people to believe in the inerrancy of the Bible or the primacy of the founders’ original intent with the Constitution. As long as you revere a source, it’s not necessary to understand what it actually says or means, and questioning it is heresy.

  25. glodson says

    Abso frickin lutely. I don’t know if it qualifies exactly as a strawman. It’s almost like an ad hominem argument against an argument–”I’m labeling your argument a [FALLACY] therefore it’s wrong.” It’s not enough to know the names of fallacies, you have to know what makes them fallacious if you want to argue effectively.

    I look at it like a Chewbacca Defense. Just through out the accusation of the use of a fallacy, don’t back it up, and shift the argument to over what constitutes the said fallacy rather than the original argument. It is a great way to deflect, and it makes the backers of the person using it believe the person has a sound grip on logic. Rather that seeing the person trying to use a dirty rhetorical technique to dodge the actual argument.

    Also, people who link to TV Tropes often are employing a Batman Gambit to waste the time of his opponents. I trust no one would try something so dirty…

  26. says

    I eat red meat maybe once a month at this point…so no, I’d never say something like the words Radford put in my mouth. He was trying to be…funny.

  27. says

    Charles @ 26 – “This is why I hate faculty meetings.” Ha! I was just thinking that, before I switched on the ignition that fires up the computer. About the morbid fascination of dysfunctional social interaction and what it is that’s so morbidly fascinating about it and how morbidly fascinating I always have found it, for instance in stories told by my brother and sister-in-law and their friends about faculty meeting as well as much fiction about faculty meetings and similar academic group behavior. Then I thought of Jane Austen and her laser focus on the same kind of Bad social interaction and the way it can be utterly trivial and yet utterly consequential.

  28. Pieter B, FCD says

    Marcus Ranum

    I think that what we’re seeing is a deep rift between the people who are skeptics because it lets them feel special, and those who are skeptics because it’s part of their method of thinking

    Hammer, nail, head. QFFT

  29. notsont says

    About a month ago on Neurologica someone made a quote of PZ saying something like ” We need to send all Christians to death camps and be rid of them forever” it went a good 40 posts before someone called the person on it, and then he actually had defenders because “its obviously something PZ would and could have said so it doesn’t matter if he actually did say it” and then it was…”it was probably said by someone in the comments” and all agreed that, Yes “that is what pharyngula commenters are like”

    I don’t know all the logical fallacies but is there one dealing with “common knowledge” as if it were actual evidence?

  30. says

    You know…I have a habit when writing, and I assume a lot of people do, of thinking of objections to what I’m saying while I’m saying it. Or not so much thinking of them, as having a little imp or demon or troll who makes them for me. You know? Anticipating objections. I don’t mean I’m so clever, or I have such a good demon, that I think of all possible objections and thus avoid them, I just mean I do think of some, and I sometimes mention one or more – I interrupt myself to stipulate some reply to an imagined objection – “I don’t mean” or “not that” or “not in the sense of” or the like. It strikes me that Hall and Radford don’t seem to have that habit. Nor does Shermer.

    That’s odd, isn’t it? Doesn’t it seem as if that would be an obvious habit for someone who self-describes as a skeptic (which I don’t) to have and cultivate?

  31. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    It is odd, Ophelia. It also seems to correlate with an unwillingness to acknowledge that the writer you’re reading has, in fact, stipulated these things and anticipated them. Nope. Go right on objecting to a thing she already conceded as if the words weren’t right there.

  32. sawells says

    @38: if I’m writing papers I _have_ to think of objections to what I’m saying, because I’m damn sure the referees will if I don’t. But it surely ought to be an automatic habit for anyone who cares about what they write.

  33. rnilsson says

    Well, being one’s own imp/troll/demon behind an ear, why should they feel any need to think like that? Or maybe god between ears.
    And how could anyone have a problem with what I just wrote?
    Allright, that wasn’t so funny either. Maybe it takes some practice.

  34. Bjarte Foshaug says

    I have a habit when writing, and I assume a lot of people do, of thinking of objections to what I’m saying while I’m saying it. Or not so much thinking of them, as having a little imp or demon or troll who makes them for me. You know? Anticipating objections.

    When I was blogging, I was in the habit of asking myself “If I were my strongest opponent, how would I try to refute what I am writing now?” and answering any objections I could think of in advance. As a result I was very rarely caught off guard by criticism, but perhaps more importantly, it frequently made me think of objections for which I didn’t have a good answer, and something like half of the entries I started writing never made it to publication.

  35. says

    About a month ago on Neurologica someone made a quote of PZ saying something like ” We need to send all Christians to death camps and be rid of them forever” it went a good 40 posts before someone called the person on it, and then he actually had defenders because “its obviously something PZ would and could have said so it doesn’t matter if he actually did say it” and then it was…”it was probably said by someone in the comments” and all agreed that, Yes “that is what pharyngula commenters are like”

    I don’t know all the logical fallacies but is there one dealing with “common knowledge” as if it were actual evidence?

    Yes, around here we call that the “argumentum ad mendacium,” also known as the “argument from lying,” aka, “making shit up.”

  36. says

    sa @ 41 – exactly. Writing for publication also sharpens the habit, because you know damn well someone will raise the objections if you don’t.

    Bjarte – yep, that happens.

    The funny thing is, I’ve just realized I did one in that comment itself, without noticing I was doing it and so without pointing to it as an example. It’s that much of a habit. “I don’t mean I’m so clever, or I have such a good demon, that I think of all possible objections and thus avoid them, I just mean I do think of some…” See? As soon as I typed the preceding bit, I realized it sounded as if I were claiming to spot all problems and deal with them, which obviously I don’t do and don’t claim to do, so I’d damn well better make sure I say that. And that’s how it works. “Oh it looks as if I’m claiming too much there. Fix it.”

  37. says

    @ Ophelia 39, 45:

    I’m actually trying to break the habit I have in writing (and speaking, actually) of constantly qualifying everything I say. I have a hard time writing definate statements without prefacing them with lots of “In my opinion….” or “I believe that…” or “As far as I can tell…”, and then I tend to end with either anticipating arguments and disagreements and trying to address them (which leads to really long comments or posts with many tangents and asides) or I end with more qualifications and insecurity (“let me know if I’m wrong” or “I know people might disagree” kind of statements).

    I have to be careful that I don’t view people who don’t have this bad habit as being overly rude, smug, or cocky. In reality, they’re probably just not near as insecure as I am…or they’re just a much better writer or speaker!

    I remember reading something a while back (I can’t remember at all the author or title) that argued women tend to qualify themselves in their speaking and writing, which can cause a lot of problems in the workforce or academia. I don’t know if it’s a “woman thing” or just the way I was raised (the branch of Christianity my family practiced was very self-effacing, and it would have been considered extreamly prideful and rude–especially as a girl–to speak plainly and make firm statements without qualification).

  38. sawells says

    Maybe the fundamental problem is the people for whom skepticism was always about _other people_ being wrong.

  39. kevinkirkpatrick says

    EEB – I actually go back through every email/post/whatever I write specifically to eliminate (or at least reduce) those qualifications. It seems to be nearly a compulsion; I can’t actually put my thoughts out there to begin with if I haven’t put the friendly cushions on the front. I’ve had emails where I’ve gone back and found all but one or two sentences starting with “In my opinion”, “Near as I can tell”, or some variant.

  40. Stacy says

    EEB, kevinkirkpatrick, me too.

    Somewhere or other I read some good advice, which I can’t recall exactly but the gist of it was that it’s OK to express your position/opinion straightforwardly without qualification (“I think,” “I could be wrong, but…”) because the fact that it IS your position/opinion, and you could be wrong, will be taken for granted.

    I mean, seems obvious, doesn’t it? But I needed to hear it.

    (Too bad more people don’t. The most ignorant people are usually the most sure of themselves, as Messrs. Dunning, Kruger, and Yeats well knew.)

  41. says

    Ye-es, it’s true that it can be done to excess, but when you’re making an argument…well it is better to notice places where you need to qualify or explain. Not doing that is really more a matter of style than of substance – I heard the “don’t say you think, because that’s already taken for granted” advice as an undergraduate, and stylistically it is best to avoid clutter, and a lot of repeated qualification is clutter. But substantively…sometimes you have to.

  42. Claire Ramsey says

    This does not work as satire. It does not work as writing if you ask me.

    People who write and do not consider possible objections are people who write not to communicate to an audience but to blow their own gas baggy horns.

    Also, poor farm stock if someone FEEDS straw to them. Ick. Horses and cows and cattle eat hay, not straw. Hell even I know that.

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