Once again, the “tone” argument’s making the rounds (does it ever cease? It circles like a dog attempting to capture its own fugitive tail). Ophelia Benson’s already pointed out a few of the more annoying examples. And she led me to this delightful bit by Jason Rosenhouse, which comes just in time, because a dear (and horribly neglected) friend of mine posted rather more sensibly on the issue (hi, Paul!). I’d meant to come up with something thoughtful and considered that would explain my position, but find I don’t have to. All one has to do is read Jason’s post and imagine me standing there jumping up and down going, “Me, too!”
I’d quote from it, but I can’t find a single bit I want to excerpt because I want to excerpt it all. But if you’ve ever wondered what we shrill, strident, unabashed defenders of evolution, atheism, and all things rational are thinking, this is pretty much it in a nutshell.
And remember, my dearest Paul, that we’re not trying to convert the unconvertable. Nothing we do will reach the men and women who spend their days swearing Jesus rode a dinosaur. Politeness won’t do it, any more than a good sharp smack will. Think of the old psychologists-changing-a-lightbulb joke: the only way anything works is if they want to change.
No, we’re rallying the troops and aiming at the fence-sitters. And as one of those who got knocked off the fence and had some good sense jolted in to me by those horrible shrill Gnu Atheists, as a person who disavowed woo for science because PZ, Orac et al didn’t have any trouble calling a spade a silly little shite, I can testify that being contentious sometimes does more than raise morale for the choir. Sometimes, it awakens passion, wonder, and courage in people who might’ve sat it out.
It takes all kinds. Changing the world isn’t a simple task!
(For those who haven’t had the pleasure, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paul’s lovely Cafe Philos blog. After a long day in the trenches, it’s nice to sit with a cup of coffee and just enjoy some thought-provoking serenity.)