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May 10 2013

Then the community can embrace

I know of two people who heard Jamy Ian Swiss say this before his talk at Orange County Freethinkers. One source is a comment on Unity through shouting.

A person asked him: “Do we like Matt Dilahunty?”. His response was that Matt was OK but that the biggest asshole there was PZ Myers and he was planning to “call him out” in his talk. He also stated that Greta Christina is a “fucking asshole” too as she’s involved with Atheism +.

Well. That’s blunt. We know where we are with that.

So I just listened to a few minutes near the end again, where he talks about unity and how to get unity, in order to transcribe it.

…and I’ll tell you something else about the people inhabiting the space that comprises skeptics and atheists – the very people in the skeptic community who have been accused by some of not welcoming atheists are not only hardcore atheists themselves but are public figures who are routinely in the habit of publicly declaring our atheism, including James Randi, DJ Grothe, Daniel Loxton, Barbara Drescher, Steve Novella, countless more thought-leaders in the skeptic movement AND ME – [very loudly and pugnaciously] READ MY LIPS THERE IS NO FUCKING GOD. But that is my PERSONAL BELIEF, it is not my public cause. My cause is scientific skepticism.

He says the skeptical movement doesn’t need redefining, thanks. It’s fine to have differences and to develop, but.

The fact that the movement is fighting over those differences, however, is not a good thing. Let’s not be arguing as combatants, let’s be discussing as allies, and let’s be presenting a unified front, based on all the things about which we agree so strongly.

That way people of all kinds of different politics can work together – anarchists, libertarians, conservatives, liberals.

If scientific-based skepticism is neutral about non-scientific moral values then the community can embrace people who hold a wide range of perspectives on values issues. On the environment, nuclear power, same sex marriage [etc - long list]. The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.

That’s where he goes wrong. If scientific-based skepticism is neutral about non-scientific moral values then the community can embrace people who hold a wide range of perspectives on values issues.

Really? Really? Is it really that simple?

No it’s not. He chose carefully. He left out the part where the wheels come off.

Suppose it’s anarchists, libertarians, conservatives, liberals, racists, gay-bashers, MRAs, anti-Semites, xenophobes.

You see where I’m going with this? No, it’s not true that neutrality on values issues guarantees unity, because the community cannot and does not “embrace people” who are objects of hatred and contempt to part of said community. If “the community” has a large proportion of people who freely express contempt for women, then that community cannot embrace women; cannot and does not.

Neutrality on non-scientific moral values just is not some kind of magic that ensures that everyone will get along well enough to work together. There are some moral values, however non-scientific, that make a necessary baseline for working together.

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  1. 1
    magicthighs

    He says the skeptical movement doesn’t need redefining

    Every time I hear this I can’t help but think of fundamentalists claiming that legalising gay marriage devalues “traditional” marriage.

  2. 2
    John-Henry Beck

    I can understand the idea of trying to focus on some overarching goal. We want more science and critical thinking and skepticism? Try to get everyone who agrees with that to all unify under that banner. It actually seems to be similar to the fuss over A+; people want to unite under the atheism and anti-religion and not fight over other topics.

    But in the end it seems pretty naive. Life, culture, society, etc – it’s much more complex than that.

    Our local freethinkers group did one night have someone show up who considered herself a skeptic and was certain she’d seen evidence that astrology works and is a real thing.

    So a scientific skepticism umbrella can’t include both people who think that science has demonstrated that sexism is a widespread problem imbedded in the structure of society with those convinced science says it’s just sporadic individuals being assholes any more than it can include those who think astrology is thoroughly debunked with those who think it’s demonstrably true.

    Personally, I think it’s pretty well demonstrated that astrology is bunk and that sexism is a widespread problem. You could assume that further study and debate might clear up the disagreements eventually if only everyone is polite and respectful to each other. But what about the harm being done to real people now? And when some are pretty convinced it’s clearly demonstrated already and it’s time to start lessening the harms?

  3. 3
    Argle Bargle

    Shorter Swiss: Don’t worry your pointy little heads about stuff like religion and sexism that concerns you. We got Bigfeet and dowsing to be skeptical at and that’s enough.

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    I commented on that striking hypocrisy when I first wrote about his TAM talk: he says he wants everyone to work together and is dismayed at the infighting…while giving a wildly antagonistic talk in which he pisses on the atheist movement. The angry comments that he thought were private are not surprising at all.

    I wonder if he specifically asked to have the very last talk of the meeting so he wouldn’t have to deal with the reaction? I wouldn’t put it past him.

    Meanwhile, I gave a talk that didn’t talk about any schisms at all, but just addressed a common problem in science education. And I am the asshole. OK.

  5. 5
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    He chose carefully. He left out the part where the wheels come off.

    He did choose carefully, but even so, he left in “same-sex marriage”. So, he apparently is fine with a movement that is inclusive of homophobic assholes who want to deny others basic human rights.

    ***

    Also, the phrase, “thought-leaders in the skeptic movement”, made me snortle.

  6. 6
    evilDoug

    Neutrality was a Swiss thing wasn’t it? Let them do banking for all of the very best people.

    The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.

    Ho. Lee. Fuck!
    That is one hell of a grand assertion without evidence from someone so impressed with his own highest-order skepticism.
    The bigger you make the container the less it will hold?

    I don’t have the stomach to watch JIS’s whole talk (or am I supposed to call it a “lecture”? – his very badly written Wikipedia entry makes much of his lecturing), but I did note the bit where he put up the Venn diagram of (beliefs, or something to that effect) of skeptics (at the top, of course), humanists and atheists. Right off the bat, it is another assertion without evidence – three circles, all of equal size and overlapped symmetrically. He asserts that the intersection of the three circles is much bigger than the non-intersecting parts. It isn’t, though I suppose for stuff that is just made up that doesn’t really matter much. (It may actually be true that the intersection of the three is the largest area, but he is so bad at presentation that he can’t even make a simple illustration of his own point.)

    My assertion: Swiss is an egotistical asshole who doesn’t want scope expanded because he will become less “important.”

  7. 7
    PZ Myers

    Not so carefully: he also left in “environment” as one of those things the movement is going to be neutral on. So, what? Are we going to avoid questioning climate change denialists? Are extinctions and habitat destruction to be ignored?

  8. 8
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    And I am the asshole. OK.

    Well, you are trying to shove your feminazi agenda down our dear thought-leaders’ throats.

    ***

    There are some moral values, however non-scientific, that make a necessary baseline for working together.

    I can’t believe this is controversial.

  9. 9
    Jafafa Hots

    I’m gonna skeptic the way I wanna skeptic and nobody’s gonna tell me how NOT to skeptic.

    I don’t care if concerns like the environment and nuclear power ARE “non-scientific.”
    I’m gonna skeptic them just as much as the “scientific” concerns like Bigfoot.
    I’m gonna skeptic the HELL out of them.

    And I don’t even need a freaking tent to do it in.

  10. 10
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    I, like evilDoug, am trying to wrap my head around,

    The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.

    I’m trying to grok how this makes any sense. How does broadening the mission statement to include more topics for critical analysis chase anyone away?

    You can still focus on your favorite topics, there will just be others there along side you working on topics that impact and interest them.

    The only people who would be chased away are people who are not willing to work with* these diverse new people with their diverse new topics of inquiry. Losing these people does not strike me as a great loss. Gaining the participation of myriad new people with diverse new issues to think skeptically about seems like a great gain.

    *”work with” meaning just working under the same banner.

  11. 11
    Jonathon

    “The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.”

    By his logic we should not chase away, skeptics who are racist , skeptics who are anti-semits , and skeptics who are womanizers, among other things. This is gross over simplification. Seems as if he wants to work against his own cause.

  12. 12
    Ophelia Benson

    I too snickered – and rolled my eyes – at the “thought-leaders” bit. Man they just can’t let go of that idea that they’re “leaders,” can they. What is it with skepticism and claims to be “leaders”?

  13. 13
    evilDoug

    I wonder if he specifically asked to have the very last talk of the meeting…

    Unlike science where the first person to (…) often earns big accolades, in the stage-performance amusement trades the first are the warm-up acts and the feature performer is always last.

  14. 14
    Argle Bargle

    The people likely to be chased away are those who don’t want to skeptically examine certain topics like religion, economics, AGW, sexism, other sociological conflicts. Would theists be happy if the contradictions in an interventionist deity were considered? Would the libertarians still come to TAM if some neo-classical economist lectured about fringe economic ideas like the Austrian School? Would the slymepit welcome an honest assessment of misogyny in the skeptical movement?

  15. 15
    Feline

    You know what the feeling I get from the American organised skeptic groups is?
    A fourteen-year-old shouting “I’m more goth than you” at me when I’m wearing a black leather longcoat.
    Sure, whatever makes you happy, that might have mattered a decade or more ago but really, this is now. I care about things that are more important than that, but you can pose for photographs all you want.
    I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader to work out similes with ageing male goths and similarly afflicted skeptics.

  16. 16
    evilDoug

    Are extinctions and habitat destruction to be ignored?

    Bigfoot is mythical, so it can’t be driven to extinction. And as long as there are stands of trees for it to not live in, it doesn’t matter if it is a real forest or a monoculture of future two by fours.
    Plus there is that annoying problem of these matters requiring vast amounts are hard field work and lab work and mathematical work and educational work and political work and none of that plays well on the stage and anyway god said something about dominion and we mustn’t question faith.
    Excuse me. I have to go order some conjunctions.

  17. 17
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    I laughed at “thought leaders,” too. But then I thought about how, like “Key Opinion Leaders,” it’s pathetic corporate-speak.

    Wikipedia:

    Thought leaders usually demonstrate view points that are directional in nature or offer clarity to ambiguous perceptions, thereby presenting opportunity or solutions where none were expected. Thought leaders frequently present contrarian views or radical interpretation of situations which can build a considerable following to their commentary. Thought leaders are by nature mentors and are sought after strategists.

    What a sad, comedic culture we live in.

  18. 18
    surreptitious57

    I would say that better than not having those with unacceptable opinions within the atheist community that such opinions should be challenged instead = Because the opposite can happen where it just becomes an echo chamber = Now neither position is entirely acceptable but I would prefer the former over the latter any day = So all ideas regardless of other factors should be taken to pieces = It is perfectly possible to do so without recourse to ad hominem though that may be hard to believe given how some engage with others and this is true of both sides = Though why we have to constantly reference tribalism I do not know = Habits I guess are hard to break and us ground apes have been doing this for a long time now = When I read an opinion piece I am interested in what is being said not who is saying it but expecting this to stop any time is wishful thinking of the highest order = This is probably never going to stop = But anyway back on topic = No one within the atheist community should be expressing misogynistic views or any other prejudicial ones for that matter but dealing with it head on is the right and proper thing to do = One needs to remember that not everyone associates atheism with social justice though the two are not of course incompatible = And also that given the nature of the medium that some may be antagonistic just for the sake of it = But one has to deal with what is there irrespective of anything else

  19. 19
    michaeld

    ….remind me again why we want to share a tent with Swiss?

  20. 20
    A. Noyd

    evilDoug (#6)

    The bigger you make the container the less it will hold?

    No, it makes sense. You’re using the wrong model. Rather than a container, think of those signs they put up near roller coasters saying “you must be this tall to ride.” The “broader” (ie. taller) that minimum height, the fewer the people allowed to ride.

    In the case of skepticism, Swiss sees the mission statement as saying “you must be willing to question/investigate claims on this number of topics to be a skeptic.” The greater the number of topics, the fewer the individuals who can call themselves skeptics. This, of course, assumes that total compliance with the breadth of the mission statement is what ought to determine who uses the “skeptic” label. And Swiss is making that assumption because a unified front is so absurdly important to him he’d rather the movement as a whole was intellectually dishonest.

  21. 21
    Eristae

    If scientific-based skepticism is neutral about non-scientific moral values then the community can embrace people who hold a wide range of perspectives on values issues. On the environment, nuclear power, same sex marriage [etc - long list]. The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.

    1) What is the difference between a “scientific moral value” and a “non-scientific moral value?”

    2) I actually don’t see how the bolded part follows from the non-bolded part, and I think his words are correct but not in the way that he meant them. If one has a wildly broad mission statement such “we will not allow people to deal with bigotry within our spaces; instead, bigots should be free to express their bigotry and the targets of the bigotry should STFU,” I will in fact be chased away. I am not going to endure bigotry, either to myself or others, in any place or at any time. So I wish he’d take a look at his own words. So long as his mission statement includes silencing victims of abuse while providing a platform for the abusers, the abused will leave. This is only one example.

  22. 22
    Sophia, Michelin-starred General of the First Mediterranean Iron Chef Batallion

    I seriously don’t understand this “religious claims can’t be investigated” bullshit. Bigfoot and gods are both “things which people believe in but don’t actually exist” as is dowsing and alien abductions and so forth. There’s no difference other than the fact that religion is given a free pass in most societies because of tradition and fear.
    It’s just like saying “Oh, you can’t use science to debunk cold-reading psychics or alt-med because they work using non-scientific principles.” Yes they fucking do, they exist in the same universe as us and are bound by the laws of physics. People might claim that gods don’t, but again if they’re supposed to have any effect whatsoever on reality as we know it, then they ARE fucking testable! Grr.
    Anything that supposedly interacts with anything we know to exist on any perceptible level is testable and therefore scientific. Fuck off with your cherry picking.

    Secondly, this whole thought leader shtick. It’s a very libertarian concept – I think these self-styled leaders want to be the guy on the poster holding the flag, fighting BIG GOVERNMENT and leading their free people into a golden age of prosperity personal freedom to be as horrible and uncaring to everyone as you want. It’s a distinctly narcissistic, privileged and authoritarian way of thinking.

  23. 23
    brucegorton

    Jamy Ian Swiss is precisely what is wrong with society, if the reaction to his last talk on Skepticism and ‘identity politics’ is anything to be believed.
    I haven’t watched the talk, so recognise what I am talking about is how other people perceive what he said.
    Now I had watched his previous talk at TAM and figured that Swiss isn’t a skeptics backside – mainly because he took one of his measures of being a skeptic as knowing who James Randi is.
    Randi is awesome, and you really should look up his stuff, but it isn’t like he brought down two tablets from mount Sinai bearing the rules of what defines a true skeptic.
    Skepticism is not simply about not buying into bigfoot, it is about questioning all claims. This is not only claims that are testable, but also claims which at first appear not to be.
    When we think of claims which are genuinely untestable what we actually mean is that they have precisely zero implications for being true. An untestable god is an irrelevant god and the principle of economy demands one get rid of it.
    And besides, how do we know something isn’t testable? In the 1960s the Higgs Boson was an untestable claim, then we tested and found it a year ago.
    Skepticism isn’t a big tent movement. It is a movement that demands certain standards be applied to one’s beliefs. It demands that we question things in a genuine manner.
    That supports feminism – because when push comes to shove the best data on gender inequality we have in society is furnished by feminists.
    Feminists can point to the net benefit greater equality has had for societies that are more feminist, they can genuinely point to data detailing how gender inequality harms women and as a consequence harms all.
    Heck feminists are even the ones who supply the best data on how patriarchy is harmful to men – with concepts such as toxic masculinity arising out of feminist gender theory.
    When we turn to the Men’s Rights Activist side of the debate, we tend to find claims which are often outright lies, or that feminists had pointed out the same things forty years ago.
    Genuine skepticism sides with feminists because when you actually listen to the arguments and assess them ignoring that cancerous urge to shut down the complainer, the feminists have the facts on their side.
    It is not because MRAs tend to disagree with feminists that makes them objectionable to skepticsm, while despising women and thinking of them as another inferior species makes them bad human beings what makes them bad skeptics is their tendency to lie their asses off.
    The same goes for anti-racism, the same goes for environmentalism. While one may bemoan the “greenies” who are less than scientific about it, global warming is a fact and so are the dangers of heavy metals in your water supply.
    It is not about liking nature, it is about one side presenting facts mixed in with a little bit of bullshit, and the other side simply presenting bullshit.
    One of the great slogans of the last decade or so was Stephen Colbert saying “Facts have a liberal bias.” Skepticism is about weighing up facts, trying to figure out what is true and considering the data set before us.
    One cannot exclude social and identity issues from skepticism, one cannot proclaim that ‘politics’ is ‘divisive’ to unity within the skeptical movement. Skepticism is by its nature discordant, it is the voice asking for evidence as everyone else cries their assent and it is the voice that demands basic honesty.
    Silencing that voice because it seems divisive is killing skepticism in the name of the skeptical movement. It is groupthink by definition, it is putting unity ahead of the goals of the skeptical movement.
    And that is the cancer that eats at society’s core, the idea that it is better to be unified than correct. The idea that one shouldn’t “switch horses mid-stream” or that reality is by its nature democratic and that even if they are technically right the complainer is always wrong.
    We see this in every single debate, whether it be something as trivial as video games or as large as civil rights. If you are demanding somebody leave identity politics at the entrance to the tent, then you what you are saying is in essence “stop thinking about it because thinking is hard.”
    And that is precisely what the skeptical movement should oppose.

  24. 24
    Stacy

    brucegorton:

    Skepticism is by its nature discordant, it is the voice asking for evidence as everyone else cries their assent and it is the voice that demands basic honesty.
    Silencing that voice because it seems divisive is killing skepticism in the name of the skeptical movement. It is groupthink by definition, it is putting unity ahead of the goals of the skeptical movement.

    QFT.

  25. 25
    Great American Satan

    @bruce – I saw the wall o’ text and feared this was going to be philosophy dudebro nattering, or infiltration by a slymer who was in too much of a hurry to format. But that was all quite good. Thank you.

    BTW, I don’t remember for sure if Colbert said that one quote, but I seem to recall Jon Stewart saying “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Then again, I haven’t had a TV for a few years, so I could be wrong.

  26. 26
    kellym

    Here Swiss is quoting Daniel Loxton:

    If scientific-based skepticism is neutral about non-scientific moral values then the community can embrace people who hold a wide range of perspectives on values issues on the environment, on public shcools, nuclear power, same sex marriage, taxation, gun control, the military veganism and so on”

    First, the environment is a “non-scientific moral value”? THE ENVIRONMENT?! There is considerable evidence that anthropogenic global warming poses an existential threat to human civilization. If “scientific-based skepticism” is neutral about that, embracing both the environmentalist and the AGW denier, then what the hell good is it? Why should I give a fuck about the skeptics?

    The more you broaden your mission statement the more you isolate poeple and chase people away from your movement.The more you narrow your focus, … the more you can unify and find diversity.”

    It’s been about a year since the JREF leadership decided to become openly hostile to the Skepchicks, who had actively and enthusiastically engaged in outreach to women and girls to promote the JREF. The skeptics may examine the evidence to determine if that decision has helped to increase the size and the diversity of the JREF and TAM. Who knows? It may have done so. I no longer think the answer is very important.

  27. 27
    hyperdeath

    Woo_Monster:

    The more you broaden the mission statement, the more you isolate people and chase people away.

    I’m trying to grok how this makes any sense. How does broadening the mission statement to include more topics for critical analysis chase anyone away?

    It’s authoritarian thinking leaking through. He assumes that if certain things enter the skeptic movement, then they’ll lead to forced compliance, and thus drive people like him out of the movement. I’ve seen several of them try to justify this point with ham-fisted arguments based on set theory and probability theory. The ignore the point that different people can have different concerns and specialities.

  28. 28
    Argle Bargle

    kellym @24

    First, the environment is a “non-scientific moral value”? THE ENVIRONMENT?!

    All those environmental scientists need to change careers because Jamy* Ian Swiss has declared the environment to be “non-scientific.”

    J. Ian was right in one respect. His talk is being ripped apart on the blogs. There is a reason for this, Mr. Swiss, and it’s not because we’re feeling mean to you. We’re applying skepticism to your talk and finding it quite evidence free.

    *I always read this as “jammy” with a mental image of a small boy with a jam-smeared face.

  29. 29
    irisvanderpluym

    **adding to the applause for brucegorton @ 21**

    It seems the one subject Mr. Swiss and his fellow travelers wish to avoid skeptically investigating at all costs is their own privilege. Yeah, you know what? You don’t get to be “neutral about non-scientific moral values” like toxic sexism and expect me to work with you. On anything.

    If PZ Myers is an asshole, he’s my kinda asshole: he only uses his Asshole Superpowers for good. Mr. Swiss? Not so much.

  30. 30
    evilDoug

    *I always read this as “jammy”

    Given his propensity for avoiding important issues, I have come to think of him as The Jammy Dodger.

  31. 31
    Jeremy Shaffer

    To me unity is kind of like a secret; the only way to really have it is for only one person to be involved. The second you let someone else in it is no longer unity because no two people are alike. I say if Swiss really wants unity within the skeptic movement then he can be founder, president and sole member of the Jamy Ian Swiss Skeptical Movement. Otherwise, he’s just going to have to deal with the fact that skepticism can and should be applied far more broadly than he is apparently comfortable with.

  32. 32
    Penthisilea

    Frankly, has anyone considered that the movement has been infiltrated?

  33. 33
    michaeld

    Ok I’m finally biteing the bullet and listening to this talk.

    His opening little story is kind of interesting. He talks about how at the world fare he was duped out of two weeks allowance on what he thought was a handwriting reading computer that gave out personality information but was in fact a punch card sorter and how after he learned the difference between a computer and a punch card sorter he went back and confirmed that the machine was a sorter.

    He finishes the story by saying he had come full circle and started from seeing and and being skeptical about the device, to investigation and ultimately proving it couldn’t be what was claimed. This made him a scam buster. What strikes me however is that this is where the story ends. It’s echoed in the repeated idea that skepticism is about how we think.

    There’s an absence in how a lot of skeptics talk about skepticism of any sort of activism or actual action on these issues. Upon finding a fraud at the world fair he (metaphorically) pats himself on the back as a cleaver scam buster and that’s it. There’s nothing in the story about informing those around him or in talking to the people at the fare about this scam going on or in general doing anything at all to stop it.

    Skepticism is portrayed as a purely mental exercise without any commitment to social improvement or protection. You see the same sort of thing in the Barbara Drescher comment Stephanie blogged about yesterday. Sharing your beliefs or wanting others to come to the same realizations is considered anathema.

  34. 34
    Woo_Monster, Sniffer of Starfarts

    Sharing your beliefs or wanting others to come to the same realizations is considered anathema.

    Then whence came these thought-leaders?

  35. 35
    Marcus Ranum

    Sharing your beliefs or wanting others to come to the same realizations is considered anathema.

    Actually, that’s kinda the definition of “anathema” – the pope or lateran council shares his opinion with you, and then everyone has the same belief. :)

  36. 36
    Dave W

    kellym @26: That is indeed from Loxton, giving a summary of the diversity panel from TAM9, just a month after “Guys, don’t do that.” It’s amazing how that summary ends:

    …Greta Christina’s point nonetheless bears repeating: traditional skepticism can do its traditional work within its traditional scope, and still contribute useful assistance to our friends in other movements. If we look for places to do that, we’re bound to find new opportunities and new allies.

    But apparently Greta is an asshole for (merely?) being involved in Atheism+. Did Swiss fail to read on to the end of Loxton’s piece?

    But the bit, “If science-based skepticism is neutral about nonscientific moral values…” still gets to me. Every goal of the scientific skepticism movement is based on a non-scientific moral value, so Loxton is saying that his own goals are unskeptical. “X is a good thing” (where X is “science education” or “consumer protection” or the like) is the motivator behind doing scientific skepticism, unless you’re a scientifically skeptical hermit, which the editor and illustrator of Junior Skeptic most certainly is not. Not saying things like this, either:

    I’ve spent 20 years of my life in love with scientific skepticism—a distinct and distinguished public service tradition which is worth preserving.

    “Worth preserving?” A moral conclusion which can’t be defended skeptically. So how do we know if it even approximates the truth?

  37. 37
    Great American Satan

    kellym@26- This kind of thing is why the “deep rifts” posts appeal to me. They inspire clever people to craft awesome little vessels of righteous fury, like you did there. Fantastic. :-)

  38. 38
    Dave W

    great1american1satan @25:

    BTW, I don’t remember for sure if Colbert said that one quote, but I seem to recall Jon Stewart saying “Reality has a well-known liberal bias.” Then again, I haven’t had a TV for a few years, so I could be wrong.

    It was Stephen Colbert at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

  39. 39
    Captaintripps

    Before PZ served divorce papers, I’d never heard of Jamy Ian Swiss. After you posted video of this talk I watched the whole thing.

    What a dim bulb. Not impressed.

    In fact, with people like this as supposed thought leaders, I’m not surprised skepticism has taken so long to advance from the big feets of the world and had a generally poor showing on the anti-vax nonsenses. I’m not even convinced it’s done much good on the consumer protection front yet.

  40. 40
    michaeld

    Had to take a break in the video to get stuff done finishing it off now. What’s actually really telling is the examples he chooses for unskeptical atheists and how he presents them. After spending the first half of his talk repeatedly saying the conclusion isn’t what matters its the method what do we get presented with. First Bill Maher but instead of focusing or mentioning is flawed thinking we’re just given the conclusion he’s reached, antivaxxer.

    Then we get a tale of at a meet up of atheists over the american pledge in schools a woman he’d never met before started a conversation with “what’s your sign?” This one is particularly telling, not only does the phrase not actually tell you much on her beliefs on astrology, unlike Maher we know even less about her motivations or other beliefs. Maybe she was a strong proponent of vaccination, well read fighter against climate change deniers, knew all about the problems with spiritualism and ghosts? But she said what’s your sign without any ellaboration that we’re given, so what a bad skeptic she must be.

    You see here the double standard that people talk about despite their protestations about skepticism being about the process not the conclusion at the end of the day they judge people regularly on their conclusions not their thinking processes. It’s fine for the woman who believes in astrology but they don’t act that way to religious believers.

  41. 41
    Jadehawk

    On the environment, nuclear power, same sex marriage [etc - long list].

    ew. no. categorically no.

    and this is where the BS about moral values being non-scientific pretty much runs head-on into reality: basic ethical axioms are non-scientific, ok. but those are usually VERY basic things like “it’s better when humans don’t suffer”. everything up from there should absolutely be evidence-based and consequentialist (in the broad sense of the word that ethics should be based on whether they produce ethically sound effects)

  42. 42
    Ophelia Benson

    Well spotted, Michael D.

  43. 43
    A. Noyd

    Jadehawk (#41)

    and this is where the BS about moral values being non-scientific pretty much runs head-on into reality: basic ethical axioms are non-scientific, ok.

    Well, and even if skeptics want to leave the specifically ethical bits to other experts, there are still plenty of testable or disprovable claims made by opponents of same sex marriage. That’s especially so now that there are places where it’s been legal for a while. Where skepticism isn’t an ultimate solution doesn’t stop it from being a valuable tool.

  1. 44
    Bruce Gorton pummels the idea that it is better to be unified than correct » Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] post by Bruce Gorton, originally a comment on Then the community can [...]

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    Dancing at Two Weddings: Skepticism and Irrational Beliefs | The Daily Anti-Libertarian

    [...] Jamy Ian Swiss recently gave a speech on his view of the Skeptic Movement which raisedsomehackles. The basic question he raises is how broad the Skeptic Movement’s mission should [...]

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