I love Phil Plait. I respect Phil Plait. I follow him on Twitter, shall soon be following him on teevee, and enjoy him immensely. But even the people I love best occasionally do things that earn them a gentle savaging from their peers. And it seems that his Don’t Be A Dick shenanigans (hereafter referred to as D-BAD) earned him said savaging.
Ophelia Benson, Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Jerry Coyne, and now even Peter Lipson (one of the least-dickish people I’ve ever read) have taken some not-so-subtle swipes, when not unloading with both barrels. I’m sure there’s plenty I’ve missed. It doesn’t matter anyway, because the whole thing makes me tired. This “we must be nicey-nice to the poor delicate believers!” bullshit is threatening to condemn me to a life of early dentures.
Just a few thoughts that have been going about in my head during this whole D-BAD drama, and then I am hopefully done:
1. If you run with the skeptics, your sacred oxen are at risk of getting gored. If you faint at the sight of blood, better not run.
2. There is no safety in numbers. Just because several million people believe a delusion doesn’t make it true.
3. Niceness and respect have their place, but all too often, it enables the very woo and uncritical thinking skeptics are supposed to be against.
4. Enable one woo, and you’ve just thrown the doors open wide with a big welcome sign for all the others.
And, most importantly to me personally:
5. Those “dicks” were the people who snapped me out of woo-tainted thinking to begin with. All of the happy-joy-joy nice warm fuzzy people kept me thinking for years that some pretty inane shit was legit, because hey, they didn’t seem to mind. And I’m not a very unique human being at all, so I highly doubt I’m an anomalous data point. Without the dicks, I’d still be susceptible to pseudoscience and magical thinking. Sometimes, what a person really needs is a good, sharp slap by an enormous dick to snap them out of it.
Oh, dear. I suspect that last bit came out wrong, or led to mental images that have you reaching for the brain bleach. Sorry ’bout that.
Anyway. What I’m saying is, dickishness has a place and a purpose. Religious sentiment should not and must not get a safe little reservation all walled off from skepticism. (That goes triple for you, Quinn O’Neil, oh ye of the most bloody stupid argument I’ve read all week.)
Religious freedom is a Constitutional right in this country, and we dicks respect that. But respect for a person’s freedom to believe in irrational bullshit does not translate into treating irrational bullshit with kid gloves, nor should it, and as for those who aren’t tough enough to take it – I’ve got a couple of religious friends you should consult, because they might be able to advise you how to take it on the chin and keep grinning anyway. They don’t burst into tears and run away blubbering whenever I say something not nice about their faith.
You know what all that crying tells me? That the weepy religious believers running with the skeptical crowd aren’t sure their faith is legit. They’re doubting. Why else do they need everyone to tiptoe around them? And how do I know this? Because I did the same sniveling when my faith started crumbling on its own faulty foundations. And everyone who didn’t do their utmost to reinforce those foundations, or at least refrain from breathing on them, seemed like they were personally attacking me. Guess what? They weren’t. They were going after silly superstition. If you think your superstition isn’t silly, then shore up your own damned foundations, grow a pair, and deal with the dicks.
And don’t tell me that a few unkind words about your favorite form of woo is enough to sour you on the whole skeptical movement. That’s just petty and ridiculous. Besides, there are plenty of accomodationists out there happy to wrap you in their loving embrace. Not all of us have to. Not all of us should.
Life is full of slings, arrows, and dicks. You deal, or you don’t. And if that sounds harsh, well, it is. It seems that despite some anatomical disadvantages, I am an enormous fucking dick.
Doesn’t mean I don’t love you, though, irrationality and all.