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The strength of Dawkins, and the murk of accommodationism

Richard Dawkins hits this one out of the park: he slams the ignorance of Rick Perry specifically and the Republican party generally. There is no excuse for the foolishness we get from Perry, or Bachmann, or Huckabee, or Palin, or Robertson, or any of the candidates who have sought validation through the Republicans — it’s as if they’re selecting for stupidity.

There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. What is unusual about today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’) is this: In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

Any other organization — a big corporation, say, or a university, or a learned society – -when seeking a new leader, will go to immense trouble over the choice. The CVs of candidates and their portfolios of relevant experience are meticulously scrutinized, their publications are read by a learned committee, references are taken up and scrupulously discussed, the candidates are subjected to rigorous interviews and vetting procedures. Mistakes are still made, but not through lack of serious effort.

The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world. There is surely something wrong with a system for choosing a leader when, given a pool of such talent and a process that occupies more than a year and consumes billions of dollars, what rises to the top of the heap is George W Bush. Or when the likes of Rick Perry or Michele Bachmann or Sarah Palin can be mentioned as even remote possibilities.

A politician’s attitude to evolution is perhaps not directly important in itself. It can have unfortunate consequences on education and science policy but, compared to Perry’s and the Tea Party’s pronouncements on other topics such as economics, taxation, history and sexual politics, their ignorance of evolutionary science might be overlooked. Except that a politician’s attitude to evolution, however peripheral it might seem, is a surprisingly apposite litmus test of more general inadequacy. This is because unlike, say, string theory where scientific opinion is genuinely divided, there is about the fact of evolution no doubt at all. Evolution is a fact, as securely established as any in science, and he who denies it betrays woeful ignorance and lack of education, which likely extends to other fields as well. Evolution is not some recondite backwater of science, ignorance of which would be pardonable. It is the stunningly simple but elegant explanation of our very existence and the existence of every living creature on the planet. Thanks to Darwin, we now understand why we are here and why we are the way we are. You cannot be ignorant of evolution and be a cultivated and adequate citizen of today.

Darwin’s idea is arguably the most powerful ever to occur to a human mind. The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining. A theory that assumes most of what it is trying to explain is a bad theory. That is why the creationist or ‘intelligent design’ theory is such a rotten theory.

What any theory of life needs to explain is functional complexity. Complexity can be measured as statistical improbability, and living things are statistically improbable in a very particular direction: the direction of functional efficiency. The body of a bird is not just a prodigiously complicated machine, with its trillions of cells – each one in itself a marvel of miniaturized complexity – all conspiring together to make muscle or bone, kidney or brain. Its interlocking parts also conspire to make it good for something – in the case of most birds, good for flying. An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task. And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross. Any theory of life has to explain how the laws of physics can give rise to a complex flying machine like a bird or a bat or a pterosaur, a complex swimming machine like a tarpon or a dolphin, a complex burrowing machine like a mole, a complex climbing machine like a monkey, or a complex thinking machine like a person.

Darwin explained all of this with one brilliantly simple idea – natural selection, driving gradual evolution over immensities of geological time. His is a good theory because of the huge ratio of what it explains (all the complexity of life) divided by what it needs to assume (simply the nonrandom survival of hereditary information through many generations). The rival theory to explain the functional complexity of life – creationism – is about as bad a theory as has ever been proposed. What it postulates (an intelligent designer) is even more complex, even more statistically improbable than what it explains. In fact it is such a bad theory it doesn’t deserve to be called a theory at all, and it certainly doesn’t deserve to be taught alongside evolution in science classes.

The simplicity of Darwin’s idea, then, is a virtue for three reasons. First, and most important, it is the signature of its immense power as a theory, when compared with the mass of disparate facts that it explains – everything about life including our own existence. Second, it makes it easy for children to understand (in addition to the obvious virtue of being true!), which means that it could be taught in the early years of school. And finally, it makes it extremely beautiful, one of the most beautiful ideas anyone ever had as well as arguably the most powerful. To die in ignorance of its elegance, and power to explain our own existence, is a tragic loss, comparable to dying without ever having experienced great music, great literature, or a beautiful sunset.

There are many reasons to vote against Rick Perry. His fatuous stance on the teaching of evolution in schools is perhaps not the first reason that springs to mind. But maybe it is the most telling litmus test of the other reasons, and it seems to apply not just to him but, lamentably, to all the likely contenders for the Republican nomination. The ‘evolution question’ deserves a prominent place in the list of questions put to candidates in interviews and public debates during the course of the coming election.

That Dawkins took to clearly stating exactly what was wrong with these bad anti-science candidates doesn’t sit well with some people. Jamie Vernon at the Intersection (of course) thinks his opinion piece was an ineffective violation of all that the mush-brained accommodationists hold dear.

In one short paragraph, Dr. Dawkins has violated nearly everything we have come to know about effective science communication. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how Dr. Dawkins believes hurling insults, like “uneducated fools” and “ignoramus,” can advance his position. How far do you think readers of the opposite mind continued into this article?

Oh, man. These clowns always practice industrial grade irony. If describing Perry in unflattering terms in the first paragraph is a barrier, what is the fact that Vernon called Dawkins a “crotchety old man” in the freakin’ title of his post? I don’t mind if the softies want to try their supposedly subtler, more psychologically informed tactics on the opposition, but somehow they never do — Vernon doesn’t do anything to persuade Perry, and doesn’t even suggest alternatives — and instead they always resort to hectoring activists who do speak their mind. It’s impossible to avoid the conclusion that all they want is passivity and silence, and that they just love wallowing in hypocrisy.

So get out there, Mr Vernon. What are you doing to inform people of the disastrous ignorance of Rick Perry? What are you doing to oppose his candidacy? Are you even willing to state that he’s unfit for office, and why? Don’t you think evolution-denial is a very good marker for science illiteracy?

This is precisely what infuriates me. We have a functional moron running for the presidency, and a small crop of presumably pro-science people are busily trying to shush the opposition up so they can work their clever psycho-mojo and gently enlighten Perry by…I don’t know, wiggling their fingers, thinking happy thoughts, or maybe they’re going to use The Force.

Perry is a disastrously bad candidate (as is Bachmann). Call me a radical, but maybe it’s a good idea for the opposition to oppose them, openly, and with thorough, rational explanations? And if the candidate is an ignoramus, as Perry clearly is, SAY IT.

And then Vernon perpetrates this nonsense:

The problem is that the Governor, and many like him, subscribe to a type of thinking that embraces hierarchical authoritarianism. People who participate in this form of thinking are not satisfied with the uncertainty that comes from evolutionary science. They need black and white answers…answers that the existing science cannot provide.

Let’s see. Perry is an authoritarian who is unpersuaded by science. Isn’t this sufficient to convince Vernon that he must be opposed?

And then, basically what he’s saying here is that evolution is uncertain. It is not. Evolution is an established fact; Dawkins, no doubt intentionally, chose to make that the focus of the title of his piece, “Attention Governor Perry: Evolution is a fact”. There is no uncertainty here. The community of scientists has spoken, and has said repeatedly, in black and white terms, and with near-unanimity that evolution happened.

Vernon is claiming that Dawkins is all wrong because Perry is looking for clarity. But clarity — clarity supported by evidence — is exactly what Dawkins offers. Vernon is full of crap.

What Dawkins does, as do many of us on the side the accommodationists hate, is provide sharp, clear, strong positions. What Dawkins does in that op-ed is play the role of Joseph Welch, confronting wicked folly and stating his position lucidly and with acid contempt for the forces of ignorance and deception.

You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?

If Jamie Vernon had been writing in 1954, he would no doubt have castigated Welch for his harshness, and suggested some compromise…perhaps a few more hearings, helpfully exposing a few more Communists, perhaps asking for a little more respect for the distinguished senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy. Unfortunately for Mr Vernon, history now regards the apologists and the silent as accomplices to a dark period in American government, and the people who spoke up in opposition as the heroes.

(Also on Sb)

Comments

  1. AJ says

    PZ, I think you misunderstand Vernon’s statement about the uncertainty of evolution. I believe the uncertainty he refers to is the general scientific stance of “this is the best explanation we have, based on the evidence” (which of course applies to more than just evolution), as opposed to the religionist stance of “this is the absolute Truth, handed down by God”.

  2. ss123 says

    Professor Dawkins wrote an excellent piece here. Easy to read and his words just smoothly roll into your brain as you read it.

    It’s hard to tell how people will react, but sometimes harsh words (because they show confidence by the author) give people pause and rethink they’re own position. Kinda like a sudden shake makes one wake up a bit.

  3. Cuttlefish says

    I suspect that Perry knows he is at odds with reality on evolution. I doubt he believes his own press; he has, however, figured out that an effective winning strategy in Texas includes pandering to his natural constituency, those who are True Believers, those who know for a fact that evolution is the devil’s work.

    He does what it takes to win–switch parties, for instance, or coddle those with the potential to donate campaign funds. If it takes an active denial of global warming science to do so, it is still in his short term best interest.

    He is perfectly able to use science to his own ends ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2011/08/22/turns-out-rick-perry-loves-science-after-all/ ) if that science is going to help him win elections. Perry’s apparent ignorance is not the ignorance of one who has not been shown the truth; rather, it is a deliberate, calculated position, a means of carving out a win by grabbing a large majority of a small but fanatical group instead of winning a bare majority of a larger one.

    He’s not ignorant; he’s a crafty bastard.

  4. says

    The current Republican candidates are among some of the scariest, most ignorant people in the running. It’s mind-boggling how anyone could want them to be president, until I remember that the Republican branch is largely voted in by these types of morons.

  5. =8)-DX says

    Goodness, I actually missed the word “uncertain” first time I read that article. That was a really sleazy word to slip in sideways. Of course evolution is a fact and not an “uncertain” explanation of the hows and whys of life at all.

    If you want black and white answers, you’ve got a perfect one here, and all the major concepts in Dawkins’ article were simple and obvious facts. And hard facts need to be stated and restated repeatedly, as often as they are opposed.

    This is one article by Dawkins I really enjoyed reading, he’s got some spirit yet, the old codger =).

  6. Talisker says

    Only a complete idiot would expect to “gently enlighten” Perry himself. But one could target moderate voters who are at least considering support for Perry. They may have heard that he’s a decent family man, successful governor of Texas, etc. (Not to say Perry actually *is* decent or successful, just that this is how he’s been portrayed.)

    Will an opening paragraph full of insults directed not just at Perry, but at Republican voters in general, really inspire these people to read any further or reconsider their views? I very much doubt it.

    At best, Dawkins is just firing up people who already loathe the Republican party. I think he has missed a valuable opportunity to persuade a wider audience that Perry is, in fact, a dangerous fool.

  7. Cryptohominid says

    Thank you. Another great summation I can refer my ‘moderate’ friends to when they wonder why I get so ‘worked up’ about this stuff.

  8. Quodlibet says

    I’m glad that I started my day by reading this – Dawkins’ elegant, cogent essay is very strong, very good. It is essential that Americans understand these issues, not only for their own merits, but as they relate to the candidates and their agendae.

    On a closely related note, did any of you catch Fresh Air yesterday (Wednesday) on NPR? Terry Gross interviewed Rachel Tabachnick, who researches the political impact of the religious right, in a discussion about the growing “Dominionist” movement and its influence and connections in the political world. You can listen here:

    http://www.npr.org/2011/08/24/139781021/the-evangelicals-engaged-in-spiritual-warfare

    Excerpt from the summary:

    An emerging Christian movement that seeks to take dominion over politics, business and culture in preparation for the end times and the return of Jesus, is becoming more of a presence in American politics. The leaders are considered apostles and prophets, gifted by God for this role.

    The international “apostolic and prophetic” movement has been dubbed by its leading American architect, C. Peter Wagner, as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Although the movement is larger than the network organized by Wagner — and not all members describe themselves as part of Wagner’s NAR — the so-called apostles and prophets of the movement have identifiable ideology that separates them from other evangelicals.

    Two ministries in the movement planned and orchestrated Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s recent prayer rally, where apostles and prophets from around the nation spoke or appeared onstage. The event was patterned after The Call, held at locations around the globe and led by Lou Engle, who has served in the Apostolic Council of Prophetic Elders of the NAR. Other NAR apostles endorsed Perry’s event, including two who lead a 50-state “prayer warrior” network. Thomas Muthee, the Kenyan pastor who anointed Sarah Palin at the Wasilla Assembly of God Church in 2005, while praying for Jesus to protect her from the spirit of witchcraft, is also part of this movement.

    Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence. The “mountains” are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.

    … “Lou Engle [has spoken] at length about how one of his sons has started an International House of Prayer in the Castro district of San Francisco and that his son is now expelling demons from homosexuals, and supposedly then this cures them of their homosexuality,” says Tabachnick. “He has also held [prayer rallies] around the world.”

    One of Engle’s previous rallies took place in Uganda in May 2010, shortly after an anti-homosexuality bill had been proposed.

    Dangerous, hateful, corrosive people. Also narcissistic (God loves US better), delusional (End Times are coming!), and self-aggrandizing (we can control God and the End Times!)

    This makes me sick – not so much their delusional thinking, but the hurt they are trying to inflict.

  9. Investigator says

    What I don’t understand is why it seems that Dawkins et al cannot seem to stake out those clear, compelling positions without also being condescending and elitist. Being polite is not the same as being an accomodationist. I am absolutely opposed to any form of religious/magical education or public policy, and I refuse to compromise that. But I’ve also never said (or written) that believers should go fuck themselves, or any of the other invective and vituperation that is common in this blog and elsewhere in the atheist/skeptical community.

  10. says

    PZ, what you clearly fail to understand, is that to effectively communicate science to a creationist, you must concede absolutely every point to them, and not criticize their beliefs in the slightest.

  11. says

    @Investigator:

    If you see a person on this blog say “go fuck yourself” to a religious person, it’s either because:

    1) They have not shown a propensity to try to learn, miming the same repeatedly corrected points regardless of how often those corrections are made.

    or

    b) They come at us full of anger and shout offensive statements at us.

    We do not tell Christian persons to “fuck themselves” if they do not show a need to go perform that action.

  12. Mr. Fire says

    Will an opening paragraph full of insults directed not just at Perry, but at Republican voters in general, really inspire these people to read any further or reconsider their views? I very much doubt it.

    Talisker, this seems to me like begging the question. You’re assuming that these moderates are more likely to be put off by blunt talk as opposed to the soft approach, but isn’t the whole point here that this is a poorly-supported assumption?

  13. Kieran says

    Why is it that the very people that free healthcare,a good education system and welfare support are the very people who support people like Bachmann, Perry et al. it’s like watching sheep vote for more mint sauce.

  14. Carlie says

    Why is it that the very people that free healthcare,a good education system and welfare support are the very people who support people like Bachmann, Perry et al. it’s like watching sheep vote for more mint sauce.

    Because those people aren’t poor, in their own minds. They’re rich people who have temporarily fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. Therefore they have to vote for policies that favor the rich, so that when they get back up to their natural station, everything is properly in place for them.

  15. Zinc Avenger says

    @Kieran, 15:

    And rage that there isn’t enough mint sauce, and blame other sheep for the mint sauce shortage – they must be keeping it for themselves – Selfish! Or sharing it, which is just as bad – Socialism!

    Because deep down, they genuinely believe that one day they will be wolves too.

  16. says

    Talisker says:

    Will an opening paragraph full of insults directed not just at Perry, but at Republican voters in general, really inspire these people to read any further or reconsider their views? I very much doubt it.

    Will they suddenly be convinced? No.

    Might the criticism slowly, along with similar criticism, slowly gnaw at their self confidence, and eventually effect a change? Maybe.

    A “you are stupid, and this is why…” argument will rarely convince directly. However, against beliefs immune to rational discussion, such as creationism, there is usually no other way. By “respecting” them, you are merely encouraging them. However, if such people are endlessly subjected to petty humiliations, they may eventually see themselves as the ridiculous intellectual peasants they really are. They may hate you for it, but ultimately, this debate is about truth, rather than crowd-pleasing.

  17. Bernard Bumner says

    What I don’t understand is why it seems that Dawkins et al cannot seem to stake out those clear, compelling positions without also being condescending and elitist.

    All of the above is without condescension, other than towards those anti-intellectuals who refuse to accept the consensus of experts, but instead wear their contrary beliefs as a badge of honour. Why do those people deserve anything other than derision?

    Would you grant respect to a Holocaust Denialist candidate?

    Also, I’m not quite sure what is wrong with elitism when it comes to positions of power. We should want elite individuals in politics, just as we should expect elite individuals in specialised vocations, like science. If the President of the United States isn’t an elite, then who is? It is just a matter or what flavour of elite you would like.

    Being polite is not the same as being an accomodationist. I am absolutely opposed to any form of religious/magical education or public policy, and I refuse to compromise that.

    I’m sure that your voice is heard and listened to.

    But I’ve also never said (or written) that believers should go fuck themselves, or any of the other invective and vituperation that is common in this blog and elsewhere in the atheist/skeptical community.

    What does this lazy caricature have to do with anything? Are you just a tone troll?

  18. eric says

    I am not sure what religious accommodationists have to complain about here. Dawkins doesn’t really mention or attack religion. He does attack ID of course, but I thought ID’s non-scientific status was something both camps agreed upon.

  19. Talisker says

    @ Mr Fire: Being clear and precise is great, but that’s not the same as “blunt talk.” Simply shouting “Perry is a dangerous fool” is not a clear or persuasive argument. It’s not even an argument. IMO Dawkins is the one begging the question in his opening paragraph. I’m sure he would tell his undergraduates that your conclusion should go at the end, not the beginning.

    For example, consider the Generic Mass of Republican Voters (GMoRV) which Dawkins berates in his opening paragraph. Does the GMoRV include anyone who has voted Republican, ever? Or just the (large) subset of Republican voters who are stupid? If the latter, why bother just saying that stupid people are stupid? What does that achieve?

    It’s faulty logic to go from “group X has collectively made stupid decisions” to “all members of group X are stupid”, as Dawkins appears to. (He probably doesn’t really believe this, but that’s how it comes across.) Like I say, it’s a missed opportunity to persuade the more reasonable members of group X (where X = the GMoRV) that Perry must be stopped.

  20. Dianne says

    I find Perry’s stance on evolution one of the most hopeful thing I’ve heard yet about his candidacy. The fact that he weasel worded instead of coming out and saying he was a proper god fearing creationist suggests that he’s got a speck of rationality and does understand that creationism is a bunch of crap-but doesn’t want to upset the base by saying so. He’s still a disaster as a candidate, of course, but I don’t think Dawkins understands why he’s so disastrous correctly.

    Of course, Dawkins has convinced me that he’s a complete idiot, so maybe I’m prejudiced.

  21. Kieran says

    I much prefer the gombeen politics of home. I thought glen beck was very clever satire ;).I assume it’s because all sheep really want to be shepards as such are willing to endure hardship for the dream of being a shepard and then be rolling in the mint sauce. Not sure but I think I broke my analogy

  22. Talisker says

    @ hyperdeath: That’s really my point. You will never persuade anyone by opening with, “You’re stupid.” By all means, tell them “[candidate/policy/belief] is wrong and must be stopped” in a clear and uncompromising fashion, but that’s not the same thing. Unfortunately, Dawkins opened with “you’re stupid”, and telling people they’re stupid is a really *stupid* way of trying to get them on your side. :-)

  23. amc says

    Somewhere in this there’s a metaphor about babies, bathwater, and Dawkins’s understanding of feminism. But screw that – Dawkins can still hit home runs.

  24. andyo says

    There are some things that even being polite about gives too much credibility to them, and ridicule and possibly scorn is the best way to deal with them. It’s like why a biologist should not debate a creationist, a Dentist a tootheologist, and Leonard Mlodinow shouldn’t have co-written a book with Deepak Chopra.

  25. Dianne says

    An aero-engineer is struck dumb with admiration for the bird as flying machine: its feathered flight-surfaces and ailerons sensitively adjusted in real time by the on-board computer which is the brain; the breast muscles, which are the engines, the ligaments, tendons and lightweight bony struts all exactly suited to the task.

    I also think this is a real misunderstanding of evolution. Evolution doesn’t produce structures “exactly suited” to their tasks, it produces structures that are adequate to their tasks. I have little to say about birds, but as a person specializing in the human body: parts and repair, I find a lot to criticize about the way the human body evolved.

    Take the human cancer suppression system, for example. A number of genes have been identified that suppress tumors. At least some do this by, essentially, promoting aging: functionally, they destroy rapidly reproducing cells. Which, of course, could be cancerous. They could also be normal cells attempting to repair the body after injury or illness. The expression of these genes increase with age, decreasing a person’s ability to withstand and recover from injury or illness with age. Is this really a body “exactly suited” to its task or a kludge that kind of sort of works well enough to be reproduced?

    I agree with Steven J Gould that it’s the “messy”, imperfect parts of biology that demonstrate evolution better than the apparently perfect parts-the panda’s thumb, not the bird’s wing.

  26. Talisker says

    @feralboy12: As I said, if Dawkins only wanted to put some fire in the bellies of those who already loathe the Republican party, he might well have succeeded. Publishing this on his personal website, or in (say) the Guardian, would have made more sense.

    But Dawkins was writing in the Washington Post, which is widely read by American voters, including many of the moderate Republicans who could actually do something to stop Perry’s nomination when primary-voting time comes around. Somehow I doubt he persuaded very many of them.

  27. Dianne says

    Dawkins can still hit home runs.

    I wouldn’t call this a home run. A solid hit and safe on 2nd or 3rd maybe, but not a home run. He’s right in his basic point that Perry’s an idiot and in a sane country we wouldn’t be seriously considering him. And that no even moderately well educated person would doubt the basic facts of evolution (the details, yes, but the basics, no.) But I find the concentration on the “beauty” of evolution a little strange. I suppose he’s trying to counter the “soulless scientists” stereotype, but the important point about evolution is not that it is or is not beautiful, but rather that it is powerful. An understanding of evolution allows us to intelligently design antibiotics, to understand why cancer occurs and how to counter it, to better understand how to protect the environment-and how to avoid “protecting” it when it’s unnecessary and potentially harmful. Beside that, who cares whether it is more beautiful than intelligent design or not?

  28. says

    Dr. Dawkins has violated nearly everything we have come to know about effective science communication.

    That’s because Dawkins is engaging in political communication, which – in case you didn’t notice it – is the land of hyperbole and red-faced podium thumping. Dawkins’ delivery is not going to be compared against Richard Feynman’s, it’s going to be compared against Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin’s. In that light, Dawkins remains pretty damn awesome.

  29. says

    @AJ in #1:

    I believe the uncertainty he refers to is the general scientific stance of “this is the best explanation we have, based on the evidence” (which of course applies to more than just evolution), as opposed to the religionist stance of “this is the absolute Truth, handed down by God”.

    Except that religion doesn’t give anywhere near that certainty, considering how widely believers often disagree about quite fundamental issues.

  30. René says

    Any other organization — a big corporation, say, or a university, or a learned society – -when seeking a new leader, will go to immense trouble over the choice.

    Never thought it would happen, but I cannot but disagree with Richard Dawkins here. Many organizations will just happily choose to put sociopathic morons on their boards. They’re called managers. Anyone who has read a book or two on management knows what utter nonsense it often is — and management theories come close to religions.

    Do I need to point to the monetary crises in Europe and the States? These are caused by the cleptocratic management of big corporations, such as banks.

    Also, in my country, education is suffering because of an old boys’ network of managers. I bet this will be the case in other countries, too.

  31. rad_pumpkin says

    Well, here’s where I am going to have to disagree with Dawkins and PZ. Let’s face it, most politicians aren’t educated in the sciences (which is perfectly fine, provided they don’t see their ignorance as a valid substitution for expertise), so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith. Sure, any real scientist could produce mountains of proof of the veracity of evolution in a heartbeat, which makes this all the more frustrating for us. As a general rule, we shouldn’t expect politicians to be familiar with scientific theories (the big ones in question being evolution and climate change), but we should expect them to listen to real scientists, and to defer to their expertise when making laws regarding funding or teaching of science over some crackpot from their cult of choice. This would not only demonstrate their ability to be intellectually honest, but also their flexibility. But hey, that’s just my 20-something blissfully-ignorate-of-the-real-world self, so feel free to correct me with the icy hammer of reality.

    Funnily enough, even if we were to allow the potential candidates in question to get away with some measure of ignorance, none of them have ever indicated that they would defer to the opinions of experts. Perry’s “shoot, ready, aim” style of economic policy has led to a hefty deficit down here, Bachmann is just batshit insane in every possible way, and the less I say about Palin the better. I guess they’re just spherical imbeciles: no matter from which angle you examine them, they are still imbeciles…

  32. slc1 says

    Somehow, the insistence of the Mooneys and the Vernons of the world that one shouldn’t be beastly towards anti-science loons is forgotten when they write about climate change deniers. Thus, Mr. Mooney shows little respect for Koch shill Marc Morano and shows little restraint in calling George Will a liar in a Washington Post OPED.

  33. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Talisker,

    Where’s your evidence that calling an ignoramus an ignoramus never works. You need a cite from the peer reviewed literature, if you please. Or else admit you’re whining because you don’t want ignoramuses to be insulted because it’ll hurt their liddle pysches.

    This is a put up or shut up demand. Evidence or STFU!

  34. raven says

    General McChrystal said it shorter.

    Paraphrasing, “We tried electing a moron (G. Bush), and found out it didn’t work.”

    And Santayana, “Those who ignore the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.”

    Bush managed to all but destroy the US economy in 8 years. It will take us many years to fix it, estimates from a wide spectrum of economists. One more GOP moron and it might not be fixable for a generation or two.

  35. Doug Little says

    red_pumpkin @38

    so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith

    Not even close.

  36. raven says

    We could be looking at a Toynbee event here.

    All civilizations (colloquilly defined) end. In my lifetime, two have gone down, the British and Soviet Russian empires.

    And 19 of 22 fell from within, they decayed.

    The US civilization will fall someday too, guaranteed. I was hoping it would hang together for my projected lifespan, a few more decades. That is looking more and more unlikely.

    The Tea Party and morons like Bachmann, demogogue christofascists like Perry, and the rest of the GOP lunatic fringe zoo are a sign of decay. Dawkins is right, out of 310 million people, a large proportion of which are college educated and/or have postbac. degrees, and they can’t nominate anyone who can sound coherent for more than 30 seconds.

  37. Bernard Bumner says

    Let’s face it, most politicians aren’t educated in the sciences (which is perfectly fine, provided they don’t see their ignorance as a valid substitution for expertise), so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith.

    And yet, they have an opinion on the validity of the science, rather than deferring to the consensus of the experts.

    I wonder what their opinion is on the best methodology for coronary heart bypass grafting is, or the most economical solution to long span suspension bridge engineering?

  38. Talisker says

    @ ‘Tis Himself: I hope that’s a joke.

    On the off chance you’re serious, it all depends what you mean by “works.” Works to amuse PZ Myers? Sure. Works to persuade (regular or occasional) Republican voters to support your point of view, by saying those same voters are idiots? Not so much.

    There is an inexplicable lack of peer-reviewed literature as to whether insulting people is a good way of recruiting them to your cause. Perhaps you should go out and gather some empirical data.

  39. Kevin says

    I have a confession to make.

    I’m not a big fan of Dawkins. I find his writing style most often to be just a bit too condescending for my taste. It’s a personal thing – I don’t disagree with his message and understand what he’s trying to say. It’s just that sometimes the way he says it is off-putting.

    Except this current piece. It’s a wonder of straightforward writing.

    To those who criticize it because it calls Perry out as a lout — well, one has to be blunt and honest in order to be heard.

    Perry is either a) venal or b) dangerously miseducated and proud of it. He would be venal if he really did believe/understand in the fact of evolution but claimed otherwise to score voting points with the “great unwashed”. Or he could be dangerously and proudly miseducated. There are no other choices.

    Either way, he’s not someone I would ever consider as a potential candidate for leader of this country.

  40. Bernard Bumner says

    @Talisker

    Is that an admission that you’re simply assuming your own premise?

  41. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Rad Pumpkin, you sorta contradicted yourself there, seems to me…

    Let’s face it, most politicians aren’t educated in the sciences (which is perfectly fine, provided they don’t see their ignorance as a valid substitution for expertise), so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith.

    As a general rule, we shouldn’t expect politicians to be familiar with scientific theories (the big ones in question being evolution and climate change), but we should expect them to listen to real scientists, and to defer to their expertise when making laws regarding funding or teaching of science over some crackpot from their cult of choice.

    So, is asking politicians to defer to the experts on a subject reasonable, or is it asking them to have faith? Or do you claim that accepting as valid a well-established scientific concept goes beyond ‘deferring to the experts’?
    I don’t think anybody expects politicians to have in-depth knowledge about any scientific topic (the shit politicians are supposed to know is quite a lot as it is, so cut ‘em some slack with the rest), but “If you are clueless about a subject, don’t go spouting off like you know better than the experts, and don’t get in the way of others who would like to learn” isn’t all that much to ask.

  42. Marta says

    “Leonard Mlodinow shouldn’t have co-written a book with Deepak Chopra.”

    Leonard Mlodinow co-wrote a book with Deepak Chopra?

  43. Matt Penfold says

    @ ‘Tis Himself: I hope that’s a joke.

    No, it a perfectly reasonable request. You made a claim and it is for you to provide the evidence to support it. That you admit you cannot tells us that intellectual honesty is not something you are acquainted with.

    It also tells us you do not give a fuck about being rude yourself. Making a claim and then refusing to support the claim with evidence is not polite behaviour.

  44. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Talisker #45

    @ ‘Tis Himself: I hope that’s a joke.

    If anything’s a joke it’s you. You made the following statement:

    Will an opening paragraph full of insults directed not just at Perry, but at Republican voters in general, really inspire these people to read any further or reconsider their views? I very much doubt it.

    So where’s your evidence to support your “doubt”? If it was up your ass eating a ham sandwich you’d know where it was, but otherwise it actually doesn’t exist.

    You accommodationists like to whine about how being insulting doesn’t work when communicating with people. Well guess what, playing nice with them doesn’t work either. “Oh I say, perchance you might be a slight bit wrong on your ideas about evolution” is not going to convince Perry to reexamine teaching creationism in Texas schools.

    Actually Dawkins wasn’t trying to tell Perry to reconsider evolution, he was telling people who might consider voting for Perry to reconsider their votes because the man is dangerously ignorant, not only about evolution but things that matter to the average voter. So insulting Perry will get voters’ attention much more than your tactic of pearl-clutching and swooning on the fainting couch.

    that being insulting doesn’t work. So where’s

  45. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    In my post #51, please disregard the last paragraph. I’d started to write something and then decided to revise something else written previously and never did get back to my original thought.

  46. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Works to persuade (regular or occasional) Republican voters to support your point of view, by saying those same voters are idiots? Not so much.

    See, this claim right here is the one for which ‘Tis Himself expects you to produce evidence. You obviously think so, and strongly. Now, why do you think so?

    There is an inexplicable lack of peer-reviewed literature as to whether insulting people is a good way of recruiting them to your cause.

    My estimate of the probability that you’ve actually checked this is 0.03.

    Perhaps you should go out and gather some empirical data.

    I gather that expecting you to withhold judgment until then is asking too much?

  47. says

    I have proof that insulting someone can convince people. It’s an anecdote, but all you need is one to disprove that it never works.

    A friend of mine was a Republican. Very strong republican. From Texas. He voted for Bush the first time.

    Later, he did not feel regret — until NoFX released their War On Errorism album. The fact a band he liked came out with an album that both stated the facts, and insulted the President, was enough to make him rethink his position.

    The funny thing is, I’d stated pretty much the same facts, without the insults, and he still defended Bush. Up ’til that album.

    The facts often simply aren’t enough. At times, it takes a little something extra, a little spice, to wake up some people.

  48. raven says

    talisker lying moron troll:

    There is an inexplicable lack of peer-reviewed literature as to whether insulting people is a good way of recruiting them to your cause. Perhaps you should go out and gather some empirical data.

    Normal people aren’t insulting people when they make their points bluntly. You have created a strawperson because you are lying, a dishonest troll.

    There is a huge amount of data that accomadationism doesn’t work. I’ve seen it myself and would still be a victim with it.

    Nonwhites. Being nice to the heirs of the slaveowners didn’t work. Being militant did.

    Women. Women only got the right to vote in the eary 20th century. By demanding it. Women only got the right to be considered full human beings by demanding it.

    The Vietnam war. The people who opposed that war early (I was one) were demonized as commie loving traitors. A few years later, they were the majority.

    Neville Chamberlin and WWII.

    I could go on but the talisker’s aren’t members of the reality based community. Facts and data don’t count.

  49. Waffler, expert on waffling says

    Talisker said:

    There is an inexplicable lack of peer-reviewed literature as to whether insulting people is a good way of recruiting them to your cause. Perhaps you should go out and gather some empirical data.

    The truth, in this case, is insulting (to Perry and Bachmann and the Republicans who would vote for them). I think the burden of proof is on those suggesting not telling the truth.

  50. KG says

    All civilizations (colloquilly defined) end. In my lifetime, two have gone down, the British and Soviet Russian empires. – raven

    Raven, you’re just (persistently) wrong here: the colloquial definition of a “civilisation” does not include the British Empire or the USA, both of which developed within the larger western or Atlantic civilisation, intimately and intricately connected to other states within it by a constant exchange of goods, ideas and people. (The Russian Empire is a better candidate, as it developed largely in isolation from comparably or more technologically advanced cultures until around 1700 – but after that it became increasingly linked into western civilisation.) To suggest that the end of the British Empire was the “end of a civilisation” is absurd on the face of it: I’ve lived through most of it, and it was simply the disintegration of a political formation: throughout the process, the living standards of the majority of its inhabitants, and the technological sophistication of their life-support systems, have continued to increase throughout. In a civilisational collapse, basic life-support systems break down. Toynbee was an interesting thinker but quite fundamentally wrong in thinking that civilisations, by any definition, are like biological individuals, with cycles of birth, maturation, old age and death.

  51. raven says

    One more data point for talisker the lying troll.

    US xianity is dying. Killed off by the fundies and their evil insanity. Trying to destroy science and the USA for a new Dark Age isn’t everyone’s cup of tea.

    The moderate xians haven’t done much. It isn’t zero by any means but very few have spoken up.

    The moderate xians are dying too. In fact, they are dying out faster than the fundies.

    By being apathetic accomodationists, they let their religion be taken over by christofascist morons. In the end, it will destroy them. It’s happening right now.

  52. raven says

    Vernon is claiming that Dawkins is all wrong because Perry is looking for clarity. But clarity — clarity supported by evidence — is exactly what Dawkins offers.

    Vernon is being stupid and lying here.

    Perry isn’t looking for clarity. Perry is a self centered demagogue looking out for number one, Perry. He wants power and money for himself and could care less about what it takes to get it.

  53. truthspeaker says

    Dawkins is not trying to convert Perry to his cause, and I can’t imagine why anyone at the Intersection would think he is.

    Dawkins is trying to convince people not to vote for Perry.

  54. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Dawkins is not trying to convert Perry to his cause, and I can’t imagine why anyone at the Intersection would think he is.

    Dawkins is trying to convince people not to vote for Perry.

    Wait, wait wait. That’s way to difficult to understand.

    Say it again

    Slowly.

    and use smaller words.

    And can you get Grover or Big Bird to say it?

  55. raven says

    Raven, you’re just (persistently) wrong here: the colloquial definition of a “civilisation”…

    No, I’m not. I defined my term. Substitute society or “powerful dominant expansionistic nation state” if it bothers you, “persistently”.

    The Toynbee point remains. All societies collapse sooner or later. Not a single one has lasted. We’ve seen it happen recently, twice. We know from history that it happens all the time.

    If anyone is still confused, where are the Romans, Assyrians, Spanish empire, Greeks, Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs, Mayans, Incans and so on? Successors still exist but they aren’t what they were once. And they didn’t just fade easily into the background. Collapses are usually pretty ugly.

  56. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    I’m awfully bored of Talisker’s evidence-free tone trolling. Can we stop feeding it?

    Talisker, (and, please, read this with a level of derision, condescension and sarcasm -oh yes, some adjectives are just showy- that you might accuse Dawkins of) you’re quite welcomed to your opinion. It would be nice, however, if your opinion had some facts within it. No one here claims that they know a tact that works universally at convincing everyone, or anyone at all, necessarily, of their point. Dawkins chooses to be blunt and forceful with the truth. You don’t deny that Perry (or any of the Republican candidates are) is an indecent candidate, I think, or that he is an ignorant fool or a wilfully ignorant opportunist (which is worse is quite beside the point). If you do not, then why would you approach him or the people who support him on egg shells? How could you condescend to pretend that their position is tenable; that they are not, in fact, ignorant and that they have not made a bad choice and that Perry is monstrously unfit to even consider as a leader of the US?

    Talisker, you’re welcomed to your tact. You have an opinion and you are literate. Pen an editorial that kindly eviscerates the untenable positions of Perry, his ilk and their supporters, without being condescending or mean, without calling anyone what they are, not directly at least. Be the voice you espouse Dawkins should be; be the most condescending of all! For I can think of no condescension greater than reaching out to the ignorant with sweet words and glossed over truths merely to save their feelings to convince them (though I have no idea how) that they’ve been ignorant.

    Yes, you’re welcomed to your tact and we’re all welcomed to ours. Better there be a din, I think, than only the voice of your kind chastising the rest of us for being unkind. Leave off it. If you’re well meaning, let the Perry’s of the US know, I, at least, have heard enough.

  57. Talisker says

    @ NigelTheBold: I never said insults couldn’t persuade people to change, just that it’s not likely. In everyday life, do you try and get people to agree with you by calling them stupid? Maybe you do, but if so I predict your success rate will be low. Dawkins wasn’t playing the odds. In a mass-circulation platform like the Washington Post, it makes sense to exploit that large circulation and target a wide audience.

    This is really simple. I have no problem with saying that Perry is stupid and/or evil and must be stopped. I have no problem with Dawkins saying so in a Washington Post article (the really strong language should have been left to the end, but *not* excluded altogether). But saying that *Republican voters* are stupid is (a) inaccurate, (b) irrelevant, and (c) unlikely to persuade those same Republican voters to give Dawkins a fair hearing.

  58. rad_pumpkin says

    @ Forbidden Snowflake:
    Ah, sorry, not terribly clear on my part then. If you were to ask somebody without the necessary education to explain if they accept scientific concept/theory X, both a positive or a negative answer will be “because Y says so.” That is quite similar to faith. On the other hand, a “I don’t really know, so I’ll listen to my expert adviser” is an honest response. The difference I wanted to emphasize is that in the first case, you are asking someone’s uneducated opinion, while in the second case you asses their willingness to listen to people who understand the subject at hand. Yeah, in retrospect my post was quite stupid, I apologize.

  59. truthspeaker says

    Talisker, Dawkins didn’t say Republican voters were stupid. He said:

    Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

    This is demonstrably true.

  60. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Let’s face it, most politicians aren’t educated in the sciences (which is perfectly fine, provided they don’t see their ignorance as a valid substitution for expertise), so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith.

    This is ridiculous.

    Shouldn’t they defer to the experts? Giving them a pass on this is the exact same thing as saying to everyone that their anti-intellectualism is perfectly ok, because they don’t know any better. They should know better. They’re running for public office. A requirement for getting elected should involve some measure of the candidate’s ability to separate reality from desire.

    If we asked them about the effect of Leprechaun population explosion on world gold prices how should we expect them to respond?

  61. Mox says

    Thank you for this piece PZ. I saw the Jamie Vernon commentary on discoverblogs and could barely contain my disgust.

  62. Bernard Bumner says

    But saying that *Republican voters* are stupid is (a) inaccurate, (b) irrelevant, and (c) unlikely to persuade those same Republican voters to give Dawkins a fair hearing.

    Dawkins doesn’t say this in the article. You’ve invented that part.

  63. Brownian says

    The problem is that the Governor, and many like him, subscribe to a type of thinking that embraces hierarchical authoritarianism. People who participate in this form of thinking are not satisfied with the uncertainty that comes from evolutionary science. They need black and white answers…answers that the existing science cannot provide.

    So, the accommodationists have at least a grasp of the problem. Now what is their solution? To hold everyone’s hands and tell them they’re all a little bit right.

    Yeah, that’ll get right through to those everything’s-black-and-white authoritarians. Everybody responds to kumbaya, right?

    As for the other fucking argument that crops up here about as often as how screaming the word ‘twat’ is an integral part of being Scottish or some other such fuckbrainery,

    Talisker: you might be interested to read comments by actual converts from creationism to embracing science who came to it because of the approach of PZ, Dawkins, and the Pharyngula commentariat.

    But no one’s saying you have to embrace our method. If you’ve got the magic back pat that’ll teach Perry to understand science (hell, I’ll be satisfied if you can just get him to stop flinging his shit at it, like a monkey at a monolith), then have at ‘er, dude. No one’s stopping you. Honestly.

  64. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I have no problem with saying that Perry is stupid and/or evil and must be stopped. I have no problem with Dawkins saying so in a Washington Post article (the really strong language should have been left to the end, but *not* excluded altogether). But saying that *Republican voters* are stupid is (a) inaccurate, (b) irrelevant, and (c) unlikely to persuade those same Republican voters to give Dawkins a fair hearing.

    Look tone troll, we don’t give a shit what you think, if you can’t present solid evidence to back it up. And you can’t. So, pick up your porcupine on the way out and insert it where the sun don’t shine. Or, present real data from the scientific literature to back up your tone trolling.

  65. Loqi says

    @rad_pumpkin
    My education in biology ended in high school. I have the same level of scientific education as the least educated of the Republican candidates (and supposedly less than Perry, who went to college for pre-vet), so everything you’ve said about uneducated politicians should apply to me as well. Asking me if I accept evolution as true is not the same as asking if I have faith. Just because I haven’t done the research myself doesn’t mean I cannot critically evaluate the research of others. Do not confuse scientific expertise and scientific literacy. Literacy does not require advanced study. It requires basic critical thinking skills and knowledge of the scientific method. A person who is not scientifically literate either lacks critical thinking skills or is too lazy to use them. Either way, I do not want that person running a country.

    “As a general rule, we should not expect politicians to be familiar with scientific theories…”
    We absolutely fucking should expect that of politicians! We should expect that of voters as well. Hell, we should expect that of schoolchildren!

  66. Brownian says

    In a mass-circulation platform like the Washington Post, it makes sense to exploit that large circulation and target a wide audience.

    I am so fucking sick of this.

    THEN GO AND FUCKING DO IT ALREADY, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. EVERY MOMENT YOU SPEND HERE TELLING US, WELL ANYTHING, IS ANOTHER MOMENT YOU COULD BE HUGGING A REPUBLICAN INTO EMBRACING UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    GO AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM USING YOUR SUPER-DUPER-OH-MY-GOD-YOU-WON’T-BELIEVE-HOW-MUCH-MORE-EFFECTIVE-THAN-INSULTS-IT-IS TECHNIQUE, AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF OUR FUCKING FACES, ALREADY.

    For fuck’s sake.

  67. AJ says

    @Deen #36

    Except that religion doesn’t give anywhere near that certainty, considering how widely believers often disagree about quite fundamental issues.

    Objectively of course it doesn’t. But from the point of view of the believer, their particular flavour of religion does provide that certainty.

  68. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    What a wonderful article. My impression is that US is in the state that it’s in because ignoramuses have been, not only coddled but encouraged, for too long. As Dawkins says, ignorance isn’t just something that might be accidentally overlooked in an otherwise acceptable candidate, it’s the norm. It’s something that’s looked for and praised. I don’t think tiptoeing around the issue can help, blunt truth on the other hand might serve as a wake-up call to some.

  69. says

    Talisker:

    @ NigelTheBold: I never said insults couldn’t persuade people to change, just that it’s not likely. In everyday life, do you try and get people to agree with you by calling them stupid?

    Effectively, yes, I do. I ask them to back up their claims with evidence. I will say things like, “It is stupid to believe something firmly without evidence.”

    Now. Where is the evidence for your claim, again?

  70. Waffler, expert on waffling says

    Wow, Jamie’s response was remarkably content free. Or perhaps unremarkably. Calling P.Z. and the Pharyngulites two year olds — more of that sophisticated, persuasive communication we’re all supposed to admire.

  71. Investigator says

    Re: talisker.

    He said he doubted. Doubt is not a hypothesis, and does not need to be backed by evidence. Only eradicated in the face of evidence. Suggesting doubt is being a skeptic. He made no claim (originally) and therefore does not need to Support an imaginary claim with evidence. Now, if someone presents evidence that vitriol and condescension are effective strategies, as is the general behavior here, then I’m sure that talisker would revise his doubts.

    It’s one thing to be a bunch of slavering miscreants. It’s entirely another to misconstrue opinion for hypothesis. Nerd and raven, especially, come off as petulant children demanding that they be allowed to stay up past bedtime or they’ll throw tantrums.

    If you are going to demand evidence in favor of a hypothesis, please learn to recognize when a hypothesis has been proffered.

  72. Brownian says

    Jamie Vernon says:
    My response (for now):

    The only sensible response is:

    “Instead of continuing to waste my time critiquing those in the pro-science community who I believe are wrong-headed in their approach to effective science education and communication, I am going to address Rick Perry, Sarah Palin, and those who, like them, doubt evolution, and convince them to embrace science, of which evolution is an integral part.

    Let’s begin…”

  73. Ewan Macdonald says

    That’s your response, Vernon?

    PZ has put forward clear, articulate reasons as to why you’re wrong. You’ve sidestepped every one of them and scolded him for not having a conversation?

    You’ve said that you don’t have time to deal with the “Pharyngulites” because you have science to do… and shown this by 1) composing a pity-party of a blog post and 2) posting it on Pharyngula?

    I would question your ability to tie your own shoes, much less conduct science. What a sickening display.

  74. 'smee says

    Let’s face it, most politicians aren’t educated in the sciences (which is perfectly fine, provided they don’t see their ignorance as a valid substitution for expertise), so asking them whether they accept a scientific concept as valid despite never having actually studied it in depth is equivalent to asking whether they have faith.

    Nope. Not. even. wrong.

    No one is asking a politician to lie tor to have faith. merely to be honest….

    I will seek the advice of experts in the field in order to craft my decisions in that area

    How hard is that? Oh yeah! It’s apparently excruciatingly hard!

    Because then you are admitting that you are not an authority on everything, and that you are explicitly weak because you admit that on some things you need help.

  75. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    So…. calling someone an uneducated ignoramus is rude but totally obviously ignoring PZ’s scientific background and calling him an entertaining character and being generally condescending as hell is polite and a good example of science communication. Well. You learn something new every day.

  76. Screechy_Monkey says

    RevBDC@67: “Shouldn’t they defer to the experts?”

    They certainly have no problem doing so on military matters. Every U.S. politician of either party has learned to respond to any question about the wars with an assurance that he or she would consult with the generals. If you can combine that with an insinuation that your opponent’s position is contrary to what the generals have said, you get bonus points!

    Of course, that’s because in the U.S., the military rates very high on public polling of “who do you trust,” and scientists are decidedly farther down the scale (though still not as far down as politicians).

  77. says

    And then, basically what he’s saying here is that evolution is uncertain. It is not.

    That’s not what he said, though. He said “the uncertainty that comes from evolutionary science.” There is a great deal of uncertainty about from which upright ape we evolved, just how the bacterial flagellum arose, what all the factors were that went into the Cambrian “explosion” (although a great rise in O2 probably played a considerable role), etc., etc.

    That’s not a trivial point, either. Now it’s true that they know really nothing about “creation,” but they’re satisfied with “God said it, it happened.” Dumb as mud, I know, but it’s good enough for them.

    And it’s not just that they dredge up uncertainties in order to rubbish evolution, either. Many really do think that if we don’t know everything that happened, we don’t really know that evolution happened.

    Denton’s stupid book on evolution that convinced dullards like Behe played off of that, claiming that we know that Germanic languages evolved because we actually do know how the changes happened. I mean, how dumb is that claim? No one figured out how it happened without noting first that the languages indubitably did evolve. But that backward thinking is good enough for these morons.

    No, we have more than sufficient evidence that evolution happened. That, however, leaves a good deal of uncertainty about many facts, and these uncertainties do trouble certain authoritarian-type minds, and some others as well, such as relatively naive minds.

    Glen Davidson

  78. Brownian says

    Now, if someone presents evidence that vitriol and condescension are effective strategies, as is the general behavior here, then I’m sure that talisker would revise his doubts.

    See the links in my post #71 for a couple of examples that the general behavior here worked for them.

    It’s one thing to be a bunch of slavering miscreants. It’s entirely another to misconstrue opinion for hypothesis. Nerd and raven, especially, come off as petulant children demanding that they be allowed to stay up past bedtime or they’ll throw tantrums.

    What I don’t understand is why it seems that you couldn’t seem to stake your clear, compelling position without also being condescending and elitist, Investigator.

  79. raven says

    Vernon being stupid some more:

    and the Pharyngulites two year olds — more of that sophisticated, persuasive communication we’re all supposed to admire.

    That isn’t an answer to the real point raised by Dawkins and the comments.

    It’s an minor insult, rather unimaginative.

    Vernon didn’t answer because they don’t have an answer. Which we knew long ago.

  80. Dianne says

    Wow, that response was a lovely example of projection. Vernon accused PZ and us of getting “rowdy” and not communicating-and then proceeds to follow up with a ridiculously condescending and content free post. If we’re wrong, wrong, wrong at least give a broad outline of how or why.

  81. Talisker says

    @truthspeaker: I think it’s fair to interpret the statement you quote as “Republican voters are stupid.” Specifically:

    Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters,

    implies Republican voters like and admire stupid, unqualified leaders, which would itself be stupid;

    who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.

    implies “being like Republican voters” is in conflict with “being qualified to be President”, a more subtle way of saying Republican voters are stupid.

    Importantly, Dawkins does not qualify “Republican voters” in any way. Yes, some Republican voters are stupid, and Perry/Bachmann/Palin would not have gotten so far without them. But that’s not what Dawkins was saying. Instead he went for the lazy, broad-based insult, which as I’ve said is counterproductive.

  82. Dianne says

    Of course, that’s because in the U.S., the military rates very high on public polling of “who do you trust,”

    Wow. People in the US trust the MILITARY? We really are ready for the dictatorship, aren’t we?

  83. Bernard Bumner says

    @Jamie Vernon

    My response (for now):

    Is strangely antagonistic, for an accomodationist.

    Leaving aside your somewhat baited comments comparing Pharyngulites to your toddler, you must be aware that this paragraph in particular is going to go down like a lead balloon:

    If you don’t know Mr. Myers, he’s an atheist blogger who takes a zero tolerance stance against religion. Personally, I think he’s an entertaining character, sort of like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity…Ed Schulz, even. To me, what he does is entertainment, not science communication, but that’s another story.

    So, you only had time to bang out an inflammatory 350 words, because you have to do some science? That seems rather rude, and not very accomodating.

    If we all step back and take a deep breath, we might be able to have a conversation.

    Probably not, if you’re going to rudely hit and run away. Certainly not if you’re going to insultingly imply that our disagreement is hysterical or emotion.

    We might actually learn something from one another.

    Let us see.

    After all, we speak the same language. Yelling is not a more effective way to make your point.

    Who is yelling?

    After I do some work, perhaps I’ll have some time to share my thoughts and I’ll listen to yours, Mr. Myers and Pharyngulites. Even with our differences, I know we’re on the same team.

    Really? I’m not sure I want to be on your team, if your only call is for bovine passivity in the face of dangerous reactionism.

  84. Ewan Macdonald says

    I agree with Talisker’s interpretation of what Dawkins said.

    However, I think that Dawkins’ declining to say “some” or even “most” Republican voters is excusable, because what we have seen so far is that an anti-science candidate will carry the nomination with ease. And I also think that some people may be persuaded by not wanting to be like “those” voters, and thus the article could persuade some to jump ship and paddle towards sanity.

    Additionally, someone else nailed it above: this is as much about mobilizing those in agreement as anything else. Whether it’s people for whom Dawkins has “said what we’re all thinking”, or those who felt vague unease but weren’t sure why, this is a rallying call. And I think it’s had the desired effect.

  85. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yawn, still no evidence from Talisker, who is repeating himself. Typical for tone trolls. Can’t put up, and can’t shut up.

  86. 'smee says

    Loqi@73

    Literacy does not require advanced study. It requires basic critical thinking skills and knowledge of the scientific method. A person who is not scientifically literate either lacks critical thinking skills or is too lazy to use them. Either way, I do not want that person running a country.

    QFT.

  87. Investigator says

    Brownian: comments of that sort are evidence for me, and I appreciate them. They do not, however, rise to the level of the evidence demanded of talisker, who was told he must produce peer reviewed published literature.

  88. Aquaria says

    Jamie Vernon:

    You’re so fucking good at getting these Republicans to stop being morons? PROVE IT, cabron, or shut the fuck up.

    We’re waiting. Get to it, you lazy sniveling LIAR.

    And quit whoring for hit counts. You’re not worth the effort of reaching for my mouse.

    Fuck off, huele pedos.

  89. Beatrice, anormalement indécente says

    Also, I’m not sure what Vernon was trying to say with that clip in the end (link) because I’m reading him as Cris Tucker saying stupid shit and PZ as Jackie Chan with a vaguely amused expression of tolerance for the blubbering fool. It also works with [choose a Republican] as Tucker and Dawkins as Chan. Well, I have to admit that in both cases there is slightly less tolerance to go with the amusement, but the principle is the same.

  90. Anri says

    But Dawkins was writing in the Washington Post, which is widely read by American voters, including many of the moderate Republicans who could actually do something to stop Perry’s nomination when primary-voting time comes around. Somehow I doubt he persuaded very many of them.

    I’m sorry – I’m uncertain as to what you’re saying.

    Are you saying that people who vote for Perry, thiking he will be a good leader aren’t stupid?

    Or are you just saying that honestly calling them stupid is, yanno, rude and therefore bad?

    By the same token, I assume that if someone is supporting racist policies, we should aviold calling them racist as it might hurt their feelings?

    Stupid is as stupid does. People who don’t like being called stupid should avoid doing stupid things. Supporting Perry, or Republicans in general – in case you hadn’t noticed – is a patently stupid thing. After stating this premise, Dawkins then supports it in his essay.

    For the record, what honest things would you say to a Perry supporter to pursuade them to not vote for Perry – but also without insulting them?

  91. ajbjasus says

    And the whole machine is immensely improbable in the sense that, if you randomly shook up the parts over and over again, never in a million years would they fall into the right shape to fly like a swallow, soar like a vulture, or ride the oceanic up-draughts like a wandering albatross.

    A prize for the first person to spot this being “quote Mined” by the fundamentalist lobby !

  92. says

    Ewan Macdonald says:

    That’s your response, Vernon? PZ has put forward clear, articulate reasons as to why you’re wrong. You’ve sidestepped every one of them and scolded him for not having a conversation?

    But Vernon is a “science communications strategist”. With a self-appointed job description like that, he obviously knows more about communication than a guy who’s merely built up a vast audience from scratch.

  93. Left_Wing_Fox says

    And he’s replied.

    You can probably guess whether that reply actually attempts to address PZ’s central challenge, or whining that he’s been criticized by mean ol’ Myers. Just don’t call it a whine, or you’ll have your comment moderated out of existence.

    I tried telling him that whining about criticism instead of responding to it was why I stopped paying attention to Mooney and Nisbet, and said “Fight back! Grow a spine!”. No luck.

    I tried again in civil language, asking him to reply to the central point about his superior communication strategy. Gone too.

    So finally, I left the uncivil version for him to read, and I’m cross-posting it here where I know it won’t get censored:

    You mighty gods of science communication have managed to alienate a large number of formerly sympathetic scientists for your refusal to engage honest opposition, censor or ignore legitimate criticism based on tone, and be SPECTACULARLY tone-deaf in replying to arguments with pettiness and spite. And for what? Whom have you convinced to support science instead of creationism? Where are your success stories?

    There’s a reason PZ is one of the most popular science and atheism blogs on the planet. It’s not just the red meat the throws out to the atheists, but all the powerful positive articles in support of a vision of atheism, clear scientific articles discussing evidence, and tearing apart the petty claims of creationists who try and distort or malign that evidence.

    Frankly, if you guys were half the science communicators he was, perhaps your blog would have the attention he does. But no. No wonder you hate the “new” atheists; You want to be preachers of science, not teachers or scientists.

    Stick that in your moderation que.

  94. Brownian says

    Brownian: comments of that sort are evidence for me, and I appreciate them.

    Glad you do. Others simply ignore them, Investigator.

    They do not, however, rise to the level of the evidence demanded of talisker, who was told he must produce peer reviewed published literature.

    Of course not; they’re anecdotes. Yes, the produce peer-reviewed comment is a little unfair.

    Then again, so is having to have this fucking conversation again and again because people seem perfectly content to simply declare that insults must not be effective because, well, they declared it.

    I notice that you didn’t respond to my second quote, or my response to it, which was ripped, almost word-for-word, from your first comment here.

    Is that because you’ve realised you do understand why people are sometimes condescending and elitist, having become aware that you’ve engaged in the very same thing in the midst of this conversation?

  95. Rey Fox says

    I notice that critical responses are already going down the memory hole.

    Thought it seemed rather quiet there. Mine’s still up. Or is it invisible during that fifteen-minute edit window?

  96. Bernard Bumner says

    @Talisker

    I think it’s fair to interpret the statement you quote as “Republican voters are stupid.” Specifically:

    Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters,

    implies Republican voters like and admire stupid, unqualified leaders, which would itself be stupid;

    That isn’t fair, not in the least bit fair. Others use language precisely, even if you don’t. Dawkins is making a very specific accusation that Republican politicians are publically anti-intellectual and willfully ignorant (which is specifically not the same as stupid). He then says that Republican voters seem to favour candidates who they perceive to be like themselves, rather than elites. (Which seems fair enough, because the average man in the street is, by definition, not elite.)

    Instead he went for the lazy, broad-based insult, which as I’ve said is counterproductive.

    No, he didn’t. You keep asserting that, but haven’t demonstrated it. Also, why is it counterproductive? What are his aims?

  97. Screechy_Monkey says

    I see that Vernon has mastered the “whine like a stuck pig when criticized” routine that is the hallmark of the Intersection. It looks like he’s working on the “I’ll respond on the merits later when I get around to it” technique as well.

    Hey Mooney, how’s the rest of that six-part series on framing coming along?

  98. 'smee says

    Living in North GA I interact daily with a *lot* of Republicans — and they live in two tents…

    Tent #1 is open, spacious, and fairly empty of people. These are the republicans who give a shit about their republican principles, and are disgusted by pandering to big corporations, evangelicals and tea-partiers [note - in North GA many of these are evangelicals themselves!]

    Tent #1 are commonly called ‘moderates’ or ‘independents’ by the media. RINOs by the right-wing attack press.

    Tent #2 is immense. Despite being much larger than tent #1 it is overflowing with people milling about trying to get closer to the folks in front – whoever *they* might be. It seems to be full of people who proclaim their adherence to tea-party principles, or to evangelical christianity; who shout their support for the ‘sanctity of marriage’ and their desire to abolish legal abortion; who proudly support big business, no regulation and low taxes; who loudly shout their disdain for science and ‘liberal elites’ (but who’ll happily put their kids into private schools). It also has an immense number of people who disagree with one or more of these loud proclamations, but support some of the others, and have been convinced of the evils of everyone not republican by the right wing media.

    The followers in tent #2 are potentially open to conversation and conversion – but they are inundated by far right talking points and FUD and rarely look outside their comfort zone of Fox for any information. It will take equally strident, loud and continuous messaging to break them from that mold.

    The Tasliskers & Vernons of the world would suggest that we should embrace these folks softly, and not call their (tacit) support for idiots what it it – stupidity.

    But what else can you call support for idiotic positions?
    What else can you call support for positions that have been demonstrably personally damaging in the past?
    What else can you call support for positions that do no demonstrable good and do only harm – to self, to country, and to future generations?

    I call that stupid.

  99. says

    Jamie Vernon (from provided link):

    Personally, I think he’s an entertaining character, sort of like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity…Ed Schulz, even.

    I see.

    So. Does PZ lie to support his position? Does he disregard rationality? Does he misrepresent our best understanding of reality?

    If not, your comparison to O’Reilly and Hannity is completely unfounded. You are creating a strawman that looks silly, when in fact the truth is far more formidable.

    Supporting rationality over irrationality is vital to science communication. That’s the whole point of science, isn’t it? To sieve ideas, to filter out that which is not congruent with reality?

    Science is based on the assumption that reality is objective and observable. Understanding this is fundamental to understanding science. The things we discover with the application of the scientific method are mere side-effects of these two assumptions. You cannot communicate the side-effects without also communicating the foundation. Otherwise, you are communicating mere knowledge, not science, not the sieve with which we sort that which is congruent with reality.

    In fact, Sir, you do science a disservice when you coddle that which is not congruent with reality. You communicate not science, but its opposite: that we should include ideas which do not represent reality one whit. You peddle a weakened epistemology, a rotting metaphysics, a worldview predicated on subjectivity.

    You do not communicate science. You communicate equivocation and sophistry. You encourage capitulation. You attempt to alloy science with the incompatibility of faith, and the result is weak and brittle, and cannot stand. And when your structure falls, those of faith will remember only that science supported their faith, and so it must be the science that was weak, and not their faith.

  100. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Wow. People in the US trust the MILITARY? We really are ready for the dictatorship, aren’t we?

    People in the US trust the military because:

    (a) The military doesn’t lie to them (unlike the politicians). If the military says they can do something they generally do it. If they say it can’t be done, then it generally isn’t done.

    (b) Unlike some anti-military people who post here (I will not name any names), the majority of Americans know that most of the people in the military are not vacant-eyed murderers, whose toughest question is whether to rape babies before or after dismembering them. Americans know the military is a microcosm of American society, with people like PZ’s son serving in it.

    I now await the inevitable post from a certain Scot who’ll tell us all about the crazed killers in the US military.

  101. Brownian says

    the majority of Americans know that most of the people in the military are not vacant-eyed murderers, whose toughest question is whether to rape babies before or after dismembering them.

    That’s the military that’s supposed to do that? I thought that’s what we New Atheists did.

    At ecological conferences.

  102. says

    Rey Fox says:

    Thought it seemed rather quiet there. Mine’s still up. Or is it invisible during that fifteen-minute edit window?

    I can’t see you.

    I believe the Discover Magazine software publishes comments immediately (unless flagged as spam). If you refresh, I imagine that you won’t be able to see your comment either, which will confirm that Mooney or Vernon have applied their masterful communication skills to it.

  103. 'smee says

    Tis@111:

    I agree with your comments about trust in the military. I trust the military to fulfill their mission.

    I distrust politicians to correctly or adequately define that mission – especially with the size of the military-industrial-combine today.

    One key point to note: While the scale of military spending in the US is egregious, the vast majority goes to contractors and vendors – not to “the military”. Soldiers, sailors and airmen do a difficult job for relatively low pay. Vendors and contractors do a much easier job, for much more money.

    With the budget cuts on the table I would love to see the contractors being eliminated…but the likelihood of that is extremely low – their lobby is too strong. We’ll probably just see grunts being asked to do more, with less equipment, for longer.

  104. Bob says

    @diane #29

    Evolution doesn’t produce structures “exactly suited” to their tasks, it produces structures that are adequate to their tasks. I have little to say about birds, but as a person specializing in the human body: parts and repair, I find a lot to criticize about the way the human body evolved.

    Take the human cancer suppression system, for example. A number of genes have been identified that suppress tumors. At least some do this by, essentially, promoting aging: functionally, they destroy rapidly reproducing cells. Which, of course, could be cancerous. They could also be normal cells attempting to repair the body after injury or illness. The expression of these genes increase with age, decreasing a person’s ability to withstand and recover from injury or illness with age. Is this really a body “exactly suited” to its task or a kludge that kind of sort of works well enough to be reproduced?

    Are you assuming that there is evolutionary advantage to everyone living to advanced old age? Perhaps it is a system exactly suited to its task – making sure we die at a more or less random age?

  105. Rieux says

    Well, Vernon’s Intersocktion-standard nonsense is frustrating and facepalm-inducing indeed, but at least good old accommie tone trolling (and, more to the point, the response to same) is a lot less depressing than Elevatorgate.

  106. says

    ‘Tis himself writes:

    The military doesn’t lie to them

    No, not at all. There have been no recorded incidents of the military killing civilians in Afghanistan or Iraq and claiming they were insurgents. No, no way. And the DoD had absolutely no part in offering the NSC a set of cooked “options” regarding ‘the surge’ all of which amounted to the DoD establishing a desired troop level and telling the CiC ‘this is your choice.’ And I assume you don’t count as “lying” covering up friendly fire incidents like Pat Tillman’s death, because, um, that’d show how horribly wrong you are or something like that.

    Americans know the military is a microcosm of American society, with people like PZ’s son serving in it.

    As a microcosm of american society, I know there are lying despicable douchebags in it, just like there are here at home, is that what you mean?

  107. Talisker says

    @Investigator: Thank you.

    @Anri: Obviously, there’s not much point trying to persuade someone who’s deeply committed to stupid, bigoted, wrong ideas. But plenty of (potential) Republican voters don’t fit that description, and Dawkins has alienated them for no good reason.

    @ everyone telling me to fuck off: All this shouting is boring. I suggest you walk away from the keyboard for a while and get some daylight and fresh air. You’ll feel better afterwards.

  108. Dianne says

    (a) The military doesn’t lie to them (unlike the politicians). If the military says they can do something they generally do it. If they say it can’t be done, then it generally isn’t done.

    Erm…I’m not so sure. The military hierarchy certainly lies to the people they recruit and to people serving. I’ve worked in VAs a fair amount and have heard a number of stories from vets about the military and its tendency to lie.

    (b) Unlike some anti-military people who post here (I will not name any names), the majority of Americans know that most of the people in the military are not vacant-eyed murderers, whose toughest question is whether to rape babies before or after dismembering them. Americans know the military is a microcosm of American society, with people like PZ’s son serving in it.

    The US has the highest per capita number of serial killers in the world. A microcosm of the US will certainly include baby dismemberers. They’re a small minority-most people in the military are more like PZ’s son-but they have power when they’re in the military. Power which they sometimes use to rape and murder. A number of examples have come to light in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo. Also a lot of the basic training in the military is designed-intentionally-to encourage people to think of themselves as part of a group and to negate individual judgements like “maybe this massacre is a bad idea.”

    I don’t distrust individual military personnel and I don’t believe the military as a whole is a cesspool of people who spend their time frothing at the mouth and contemplating how to get the next nuclear war started. But I don’t forget that the purpose of the military is to kill people and that the military in a number of countries has taken over and instituted a dictatorship (Pinochet was a loyal army officer once). It wouldn’t be on the top of my list of trustworthy organizations. But if I were a politician and the military was telling me that this war I planned was a BAD IDEA, I would listen to them.

  109. Investigator says

    @Brownian… Not at all. The context is different. My proscription against insult and cobdescention is for the realm where we try to attract others to our own positions. I have no doubt that insult is effective when the goal is simply to insult someone.

    As I have no ambition to convert Nerd or raven to the camp of civility, I need not concern myself with their response to my heartfelt and honest opinion that they act like spoiled children.

  110. Dianne says

    Are you assuming that there is evolutionary advantage to everyone living to advanced old age?

    There is. Old men can reproduce, though less efficiently than their younger counterparts, and may be wealthier and more able to support their offspring, thus giving their offspring an advantage. Old women (old=past menopause here) improve the survival rate of their grandchildren, at least according to some studies. So there’s an evolutionary advantage to living longer, for a species with a complex social system. (Takes a while to learn it well enough to be able to ensure your offsprings’ survival.)

    Perhaps it is a system exactly suited to its task – making sure we die at a more or less random age?

    I see no evolutionary advantage to making sure that any organism dies. Indeed, immortality would be a huge advantage to the immortal individual (unless it doesn’t include any direct or indirect reproductive continuation) so the individuals without the “die at random age” genes, if they existed, should outcompete the individuals with those genes. Unless the “die at random age” genes had a countervaling advantage-like, say, reducing the rate of cancer occurrence. Which they do. So, no, I don’t think that there are any genes that are “intentional” time bombs, but there are genes that are functionally pro-aging because preventing mutated cells from spreading is a greater survival advantage than allowing continued easy regeneration.

  111. Anri says

    @Anri: Obviously, there’s not much point trying to persuade someone who’s deeply committed to stupid, bigoted, wrong ideas. But plenty of (potential) Republican voters don’t fit that description, and Dawkins has alienated them for no good reason.

    So… what Republican Party in the US is not supporting stupid, bigoted, wrong ideas? I’m afraid I’m only familiar with the one that is.

    Which means that the people who support it are supporting stupid, bigoted, wrong ideas.
    Which, shockingly enough, makes me want to call them stupid, bogoted, or wrong, depending on what in specific they’re saying.

    I’ll ask again – when someone supports ideas that are stupid, bogoted, or wrong, what should we – honestly – call them?

  112. StarScream says

    I was almost on Vernon’s side until I read his incredibly vacuous “response.”

    That said, I still think PZ completely misunderstands a vital point in Vernon’s original piece.

    People who participate in this form of thinking are not satisfied with the uncertainty that comes from evolutionary science.

    PZ responded:

    And then, basically what he’s saying here is that evolution is uncertain.

    I am pretty sure Vernon meant that evolution casts doubt on the existential certainty that a religio/mythical view of origins provides.

  113. azkyroth says

    If these dumb fucks fought the people they claim to oppose with even have the vigor they fight the more outspoken of those to whom they are ostensibly allies the culture wars would be over.

    You have to wonder why they don’t.

  114. Lynxreign says

    One quibble with Dawkin’s piece.

    today’s Republican party (I disavow the ridiculous ‘GOP’ nickname, because the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt has lately forfeited all claim to be considered ‘grand’)

    today’s Republican part is not the “party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt”. They haven’t been since the mid 60s. They are the Party of Thurmond. Stop allowing them to drape the figleaf of good over their modern horror show. Lincoln and TR have nothing to do with the modern Republcian party.

  115. Investigator says

    Talisker: no problem. But you would still be better served to have evidence even for your opinions, not just formal hypotheses. Especially here.

  116. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    All this shouting is boring. I suggest you walk away from the keyboard for a while and get some daylight and fresh air. You’ll feel better afterwards.

    I agree your shouting is boring, insipid and inane. Why don’t you take a walk, and let adults continue to discuss the matter without your immature interuptions.

  117. KG says

    I defined my term. Substitute society or “powerful dominant expansionistic nation state” if it bothers you, “persistently”.

    The Toynbee point remains. All societies collapse sooner or later. Not a single one has lasted. We’ve seen it happen recently, twice. We know from history that it happens all the time.

    You defined your term wrongly: “civilisation” only means what you say it does in Toynbee, not colloquially. It’s simply confusing to equate the disintegration of an empire with the collapse of a society or civilisation: these are different things. As for “All societies collapse sooner or later” well, probably nothing lasts forever, except perhaps the universe and some fundamental particles. So what? Toynbee was still quite wrong in thinking either civilisations or political formations are like biological individuals which are born, mature, age and die.

    If anyone is still confused, where are the Romans, Assyrians, Spanish empire, Greeks, Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs, Mayans, Incans and so on? Successors still exist but they aren’t what they were once. And they didn’t just fade easily into the background. Collapses are usually pretty ugly.

    Well, there’s still plenty of Romans, Greeks, Spanish, Persians and Mayans, and even some Assyrians. Setting that aside, civilisational or societal collapses are usually pretty ugly. The disintegration of empires, not necessarily, as proven by the recent disintegration of not only the British but a number of other European empires. Not without their unpleasant aspects – more for the inhabitants of the colonised areas than the metropolitan ones (as I noted, most inhabitants of Britain have seen their standard of living rise while the Empire collapsed, and the same is true of France, Netherlands and Belgium), but even for the former, certainly no worse than what happened in building those empires. If the “collapse” of the USA is no more than losing its position as “Top nation” as Sellar and Yeatman put it, most Americans would not be seriously discommoded – a bit of wounded pride accompanied by continuing growth in living standards is nothing to get too bothered about. The actual threat we all face from environmental catastrophe through AGW or nuclear or biological warfare is much more serious.

  118. chigau () says

    I don’t need to be angry or shouty when I use the word “fuck”.
    I can just say it.
    fuckityfuckfuckfuck
    I’ve even been known to say it in front of my mother.

  119. M says

    Unfortunately much as I despise the right, and my values are left, the left is full of Vernons and short of Dawkins. And those who DO go full frontal attack on the right-wing (As is WAY overdue in many parts of the world) are shouted down by the gaggle of Vernons.

    To few people on the left WANT to win, want to play hard and rough if need be. That’s the problem. They have many good idea’s worth fighting for, but they won’t fight for them.

    The right on the other hand has nothing but despicable and horrible ideas, but they’ll fight for it without hesitation, and don’t let anything stop them.

    Which is why the right is 100% in charge if they win, and hugely influential when the left wins. And the left is rarely if ever a 100% in charge. No one dares to stick it to the right, kick them in the balls, give them a bloody lip, go full out assault on those fuckers. And so they tend call the shots even when they shouldn’t be.

    If you think liberal/left wing ideas are worth fighting for then stop trying to compromise with the right (Which doesn’t want to compromise with you at all!) and start actively fighting them. Get tough with them. Zero tolerance for their bullshit AND presenting useful alternatives to their nonsense at the same time. And to be honest, throw in a little emotion and self-interest too. Because you’re not going to get the swing vote with just logic. Just the choir you already have, and that alone won’t do it.

  120. Sam Salerno says

    Dawkins is absolutely correct here. If Accommodationists pander to the religious then they’re not helping the cause of science. Yes religious people are people too. And, yes, they have feelings. But that does not make them right. And now is the time to put religion back where it belongs. On the shelf of some ancient history museum.

  121. Fukuda says

    @Dianne(122):

    (off-topic)

    This is an still ongoing important discussion in ecology which has produced some interesting concepts:

    There is an important concept known as Reproductive Value which roughly means how much of your reproductive effort contributes to the following generation during your lifespan.

    An important point is that, as you can see in this graph*, the contribution is maximal around the reproductive onset and it then steadily declines with age. This is because most animals in the wild usually never reach an advanced age, they are either killed by disease or predators.

    But this graph represents humans, not wild animals, why is it still peaking there? Looks like more resources are allocated to the early years than to the late years of the reproductive span. It may seem like a silly thing at first sight, but it has an evolutionary meaning:

    Since the first years of life in wild animals are the ones where there is more reproductive value, the ones that have a greater effect on the following generation, there is way more selective pressure on that period of an animal’s life than in subsequent older periods.

    What would happen if there was a mutation that increased reproduction and/or survival of animals during the younger period but made them more susceptible during periods with less value? It would get selected for! Since the only thing that matters for selection is differential reproduction, replicators that would be able to spread faster but die younger than their peers would still be advantaged.

    This is what we call the antagonistic pleiotropy hypothesis, there are other hypotheses about aging, but it is one of the most widespread ones.

    An example would be p53 and tumor suppressor genes, they pretty much suppress the risk of cancer during early life at the expense of increased senescence at older ages.

    Another example would be ovarian atresia when thousands of ovarian follicles actiavte themselves to release oestrogen every menstrual cycle, effectively suiciding themselves as only one ovum will ever leave the ovaries each cycle. They impprove the menstrual and sexual response every cycle but will finally deplete the ovule pool leading into menopause.

    *Seems this and other graphs of human RV are being used by MRA blogs, eurgh.

  122. Talisker says

    @Anri : As you know, the Republican Party and everyone who has ever considered voting for it are two different things. Not all, or even most, of the latter are wild-eyed fanatics. Sure, I think they’re all wrong, but they ‘re not all stupid. Many are somewhat reasonable people, and open to persuasion. At least they might back someone other than Perry or Bachmann in the primaries.
    So, what good does it do for Dawkins to insult Repblican voters as a group?

  123. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Why don’t you go start persuading the Republican voters then, Talisker? All this strenuous effort toward protecting their feelings could be better spent doing something-anything-other than carping about people on our side of rationality. Honest to fuck. With friends like you. . .

  124. raven says

    Accomodationists are boring and they are so wrong it is obvious.

    Nothing has ever been gained by them.

    The Protestants didn’t break the power of the Catholic church by being nice to them. The RCC just slaughtered them until they fought back.

    Slavery wasn’t ended in the US by being nice to the slaveowners.

    The Vietnam war wasn’t ended by being nice to the warmongers. Millions of people got out in the streets and a few were killed while the rest ended up with FBI files.

    Women didn’t get the right to vote by being passive and waiting for someone to notice them.

    It goes on and on.

    Empircally, accomodationism is just another way of doing nothing and gaining nothing. It’s just a way for lazy cowards to be lazy cowards and be able to look at themselves in a mirror without seeing….lazy cowards. Talisker is a lazy coward who is just trolling rather than actually doing anything. It’s boring.

  125. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Talisker, are you here only to let us know that you disagree, strongly, with Dawkins and his approach? Well, you’ve done that numerous times. You fail, however, to indicate what you would instead have said. Your criticism is far from constructive and it’s full of baseless assertions about how your approach, whatever it might be, would better persuade people.

    You’re repetitive and you’re not convincing anyone of your point. In fact, you’re preaching to the choir. I don’t think that anyone here is attempting to convince you that Dawkins’s approach is the only way to persuade people (and it has and does persuade people, though that matters little). Actually, you’re being encouraged to spend your energy engaging, as you so wish that Dawkins would, Republicans at large. If you have an answer, if you do think that you have a tact more capable of persuading people, go and use it instead of telling us over and over again how ineffective you think Dawkins is and how you think he’s alienated Republicans by, gosh, insulting them (though he did no such thing, unless being called ignorant is tantamount to being insulted, in which case I’d be very interested to see how you deal with such a lack of reason).

  126. Waffler, expert on waffling says

    Talisker:

    So ‘Republican Voters’ = “everyone who has ever considered voting for [the Republican Party]“.

    I would contend ‘Republican Voters’ = ‘everyone who consistently votes for Republicans’.

    He may have insulted these people as a group. I don’t know. He’s told the truth about them, and perhaps some of them will be embarrassed enough by it to do something different the next election.

    The ones who don’t read what he says because he’s so insulting can still be swayed by the forthcoming accommodationist screed which will no doubt reach even the most ardent Teabagger.

  127. Dianne says

    @134: I agree, although I think the graph you show is incomplete because it appears to only take into account the value of producing an offspring and ignore the, for humans not insubstantial, value/cost of getting the offspring to reproductive age. In any case, if I understood bob correctly, he was arguing that some genes are there specifically to make sure older people die off. That I don’t believe. A gene that trades increased reproductive success at 20 for senescence at 50, I believe, but not a gene with no other function than to cause death at a certain age.

    Off topicish, but we need more threads on human evolution and how it is proceeding.

  128. says

    And yet, they have an opinion on the validity of the science, rather than deferring to the consensus of the experts.

    That’s because the GOP has wholly embraced preferring to appear “strong, even if wrong” rather than appear “weak but right.” Because who but a weakling would admit not having a deep understanding of a concept, idea or field and defer to the judgement of “so called experts”? A “real man” listens to his gut and trusts no judgement other than his own because there’s no such thing as facts, just interpretations and “faith.”

    Excuse me while I go scrub out my brain, I feel dirty now, and not in a good way. *shudder*

  129. Hairhead says

    Taliska – “How does insulting Republicans change their behaviour?”

    ME: What kind of a fucking tool are you, voting for Republican X, who doesn’t believe in evolution, who thinks blacks are niggers and are naturally stupid, lazy, and criminal, and who believes gays are perverted pedophiles who ought to be locked up?

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: Why are you calling me names? I don’t believe any of those things!

    ME: You lie down with pigs, you get dirty.

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: I told you, I’m not a racist, I would never use the N-word!

    ME: Then why the FUCK do you vote for some racist, anti-scientific know-nothing who wants to lock up your gay cousin.

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: Well, he has some good ideas about the deficit–

    ME: So if the deficit went down, you’d be okay with telling your gay cousin, who’s a school teacher, that he could never teach school again, and if he was ever caught having the sex he wants, he’d end up in jail — you’d be okay with that?

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: That would be unfortunate–

    ME: You FUCKING TOOL! So you’d help destroy his career voting for that numbnuts? Want to call him up and tell him that?

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: But, but–

    ME: Look, if you support racist bigots, no matter what reason you say you have, that makes you a racist bigot, get it? And so I get to call you any names I want. Get used to it, you fucking tool!

    “MODERATE” REPUB VOTER: That’s so abusive.

    ME: And your candidate calling my own brother a pedophile, and calling me wife a nigger, that’s not? You vote for him, HE SPEAKS FOR YOU, GET IT!!??

    Hairhead here; that’s one way abuse works. I’ve had a number of conversations like that in my life (my wife in not my race, and I am bisexual) and it certainly does change things, and almost always for the better, even if only a little bit.

  130. says

    @73:
    Do not confuse scientific expertise and scientific literacy. Literacy does not require advanced study. It requires basic critical thinking skills and knowledge of the scientific method. A person who is not scientifically literate either lacks critical thinking skills or is too lazy to use them. Either way, I do not want that person running a country.

    QFT. This is the bottom line as to why any candidate who demonstrates the refusal to accept the validity of evolution or climate change should be roundly laughed at to the point where he or she would never be considered seriously. It demonstrates a frightening lack of basic critical thinking skills – not to mention intellectual curiosity or vigor – that is absolutely vital to running a position in government.

  131. amphiox says

    So there’s an evolutionary advantage to living longer, for a species with a complex social system.

    Indeed there is. But there is also a cost, which usually manifests as reduced fertility when younger, as resources are devoted to self-maintenance for the long haul and diverted away from reproducing with abandon in the here-and-now.

    Add into this mix the statistical risk of random accidental death, which renders all that self-maintenance and careful saving for the future useless. Genes promoting survival to 200 at the expense of fertilty at age 30 will not be favored if the cummulative likelihood of being eaten by a tiger, hit by lightning, falling off a cliff, murdered by a rival, killed by a disease, etc, rises to 100% by age 70.

    (And it goes without saying that anything that reduces the statistical risk of early death will help produce an environment that will favor longevity genes)

  132. says

    Accommodationism is nothing more than a thinly veiled ideological purity test. It all depends on whether or not you agree with the person speaking. If yes, then the speaker is an effective science communicator. If no, then the speaker is not. Of course, this has nothing to do with being an effective science communicator. It’s all about marginalizing other view points as either good or bad. Good just happens to be accommodationism. Bad just happens to be anyone else who isn’t a member of the accommodationist circle jerk. Especially atheists.

  133. says

    Yes, I tried to use humor to diffuse some of the (inexplicable) anger. If you will give me time to formulate a response (I actually have a job, you know), I will try to provide my perspective. Insulting me by calling me an “empty suit” for trying to do my job is rather inane, don’t you think?

  134. pj says

    @amphiox #147

    I remember one of my lecturers back in the last millennium mentioning that the unusual longevity of bats and birds relative to their body size would be the effect of their safer environment. They live in a three-dimensional space whereas we ground dwellers basically move around on a surface – and that would make a crucial difference in the likelihood of escaping the predator. Ergo, longevity genes can be selected for in the first place.

  135. Bruce Gorton says

    red_pumpkin @38

    Basic scientific literacy is a mark of curiousity – and the ability to sift through sources to find the reliable ones.

    While nobody expects politicians to be able to double as specialised scientists they should have the ability and basic interest to inform themselves. It is a litmus test.

    If a politician cannot be bothered to inform him or herself on something as basic as evolutionary science, something which any fifteen year old should be at least familiar with, then that politician won’t be bothered to work out the vagaries of economics, that politician will not be bothered to do some homework on the foreign countries he or she will have to deal with while in government, that politician will simply ignore reality where it conflicts with their ideology.

    Accepting evolution may not impact directly on any given issue, but it does speak to the ability to properly weigh evidence and a willingness to do so based on the evidence rather than based on ideology.

  136. Stonyground says

    George William Foote, who founded the Freethinker magazine in 1881 had an interesting take on accomodationists.

    “They object to ridiculing people who say that twice two are five. They even resent a dogmatic statement that twice two are four. Perhaps they think four and a half a very fair compromise. Now this is recreancy to truth, and therefore to progress. No great cause was ever won by the half hearted. Let us be faithful to our convictions, and shun paltering in a double sense. Truth, as Renan says,can dispense with politeness; and while we shall never stoop to personal slander or innuendo, we shall assail error without tenderness or mercy.”

    I had to look up a couple of those words in the dictionary. I think that Foote pretty much nailed accomodationism all those years ago.

  137. Horse-Pheathers says

    Talisker (great whiskey, by the way!) –

    One bit of anecdotal evidence for you, take it as you will:

    I used to be a creationist. I trotted out all the standard arguments like a good little godbot, from “evolution is just a theory” to “life is too complex to have happened on its own” to “altruism couldn’t evolve — ergo god!” Heck, I was seriously considering going to the seminary and training to become a preacher like my uncle and grandfather before me.

    But then a curious thing happened — I discovered the internet. It was the early, pre-WWW days, and USENET was king. I’d spend time there arguing my views in this little group called talk.origins — perhaps you’ve heard of it? — where they were not well or even politely received.

    Guess what effect the insults had on me? They hooked me into the argument and made me fight harder. The had me fired up to research the subject I was arguing, anger driving me to search hard for flaws, _real_ flaws in the evolutionist position. And the more I dug, the more I realized how little of a leg I had to stand on.

    Here I am, twenty years later, standing in front of you and telling you that once I was a creationist and I was once a fundamentalist Christian. I am now neither; derision coupled with rational argument helped make it so.

    That leaves me with this to say about your calls to back off and be less in peoples’ faces about the stupidity of their sacred beliefs: Fuck off. It works, no matter how much you’d like to believe otherwise.

    It’s not like it’s an either-or proposition, either. Just because I choose to be confrontational and dripping with scorn doesn’t mean that you have to. Quit asking me to abandon my own methods, the methods that worked on me, in favor of your kinder, gentler approach that in my experience is just as enabling as shrugging off an alcoholic’s drunken behavior instead of rubbing their nose in it.

    Religion is a destructive addiction. You don’t make it better by coddling it — you confront the behavior and you slap the proverbial shit out of the person engaging in it until they start to see it for what it really is.

  138. Ewan Macdonald says

    Vernon, humour isn’t your area of expertise. In future I advise you to stick to po-faced obscurantism, as you have a much better flair for it.

    Also, I think you mean “defuse” rather than “diffuse”, although you did a far greater job of the latter than the former.

  139. Bruce Gorton says

    @Jamie Vernon

    At the moment your approach your “Everything we know about effective science communication” has been going for decades – and the approach you have used has been specific to America.

    The net effect of this approach of yours is that now a serious contender for president is an ID apologist.

    And instead of recognising how mind blowingly bad this is for science education in America, you are lambasting somebody for pointing out that this candidate is an idiot.

    Jamie, quite frankly you would do more for the cause of evolution acceptance if you just became a standard creationist.

  140. Brownian says

    If these dumb fucks fought the people they claim to oppose with even have the vigor they fight the more outspoken of those to whom they are ostensibly allies the culture wars would be over.

    You have to wonder why they don’t.

    Not at all.

    Look at what Dawkins and the other so-called Horsemen have done: they’ve galvanised segments of the atheist/skeptic/pro-science community and provided outspoken leadership (as it were) for that segment. Like leaders of any movement, it’s blindingly obvious that they’re speaking more to those who already align with their views than to those who oppose it.

    And the accommodationists do the same thing. Whether or not Mooney and Vernon will admit it, what could Vernon’s little reply of “yeah, well, toddlers!” be but a dog-whistle to the other accommodationists? It’s certainly not one of the nuanced, reasoned arguments they inveigh against us to use in place of insults. It’s clearly not meant to convince us of the correctness of their position.

    What it’s meant to do is to rally the troops who will stand and cheer yet another take-down of those foul-mouthed Gnus. And of course, the Gnus do much the same thing, though based on past history, I would trust PZ, Dawkins, or Hitchens over any of the accommodationists. Oh, and we actually spend our time railing against the creationists and Republicans, whereas the only time the accommodationists cross our (well, my) mind is when they publish a whine about how mean we are to the creationists and Republicans.

    But other than that, it’s the same tribalism with different shibboleths: we use ‘fuck’, and they prefer ‘faith’.

  141. uncle frogy says

    I have been thinking lately about what is it about the ignorant less educated lower middle and working class US voters that make them tend to be so easily swayed by anti-elite political sloganeering?
    They are easily swayed by their resentments to vote against their own interests time and time again. No rational explanations seem capable of changing their minds.
    They know that they are cheated and controlled by the “rich and powerful” who do not take them seriously, they understand that it is the people like ENRON and Madoff, that are criminal that banks and insurance companies are not their friends that big corporations lie to them all the time and cheat them and get a free ride.

    I do not understand why they are so peaceful and don’t really get mad?
    maybe the answer to my question is maybe it is just not yet but eventually they will come to realize that who else has been lying to them.
    I would personally prefer that we would gradually become a more rational society not unlike the one envisioned by the “founding Fathers” instead of the bloody convulsive upheaval I suspect is unavoidable. No one else seems capable of that kind of transition without the upheaval and even them it seems to be a continuously precarious situation why should it be any different for us.

    Prof. Dawkins tone is what you would expect from someone who’s whole carrier is the of English Academic. Nothing he said was untrue he is being sincere at times a little blunt but so what nature itself is at times rather blunt. It is an opinion and as such is partly political speech and not the same as information education.
    All that mealy mouth blather we are advised to continue is actually the very type of speech that the is distrusted by those who we would like to influence it is the language of the slick two-faced Crookes who are resented the most wiggling this way and that hard to follow but just sign right here.

    uncle frogy

  142. Brownian says

    Yes, I tried to use humor to diffuse some of the (inexplicable) anger.

    And again, you tip your hand, Jimbo.

    There should be nothing inexplicable our behaviour to someone who claims to understand human groups well enough to have expertise in communication with them. That you find our behaviour inexplicable indicates that you a) haven’t done the research; or b) are again whistling to your dogs.

    But, why not just come out and call us ‘lunatics’? Oh, that’s right; you know your dogs only respond to veiled, weaselly insults.

  143. says

    The problem I have with accomodationists is that by being all “well, your ideas are okay too” you may change a few minds, but that attitude is quickly and LOUDLY edged out by the harshest, most vocal proponents of idiocy.

    With strong, angry leaders, the atheists can change minds, and we’re not going to be pushed aside by the radicals and the fundies.

    Accomodationism doesn’t work cause it makes itself pointless.

  144. ChasCPeterson says

    Have you noticed that when people like Vernon, Mooney, and Nisbet try to “use humor” they invariably come off as condescending, clueless jerks?

    I commented over there but they got immediately eaten with no moderation message, nothing.

    I was struck by the f-f-framing inherent in this contrast:

    Jamie L. Vernon, Ph.D., a research scientist, policy analyst and science communications strategist

    vs.

    If you don’t know Mr. Myers, he’s an atheist blogger who takes a zero tolerance stance against religion. Personally, I think he’s an entertaining character, sort of like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity…Ed Schulz, even. To me, what he does is entertainment, not science communication

    Don’t you just love it? Mr. Myers, an atheist blogger and entertainer, against Dr. Vernon, Ph.D., research scientist and science communications strategist.

    I’ll just point out yet again that these guys are self-styled experts on communicating science–I see where Mr. Vernon actually markets his consulting services on the subject–whereas people like Dawkins and Myers are actual professional science communicators (in the case of Myers, a full-time teacher of college biology!)

    When my car’s broken I prefer experienced mechanics to automotive-repair-strategy-optimization consultants. *shrug*

  145. amphiox says

    I remember one of my lecturers back in the last millennium mentioning that the unusual longevity of bats and birds relative to their body size would be the effect of their safer environment.

    Could be, but that’s not the only potential hypothesis. Both birds and bats have exceptionally efficient mitochondria, that how much lower rates of free radical leakage. Mitochondrial free radical leakage seems to correlate inversely with longevity.

    Now of course this could be the side effect/result of selection directly for longevity. But it could also have something to do with the selection for the energetic demands of flight. In which case longevity was a side-effect that came along for the ride.

  146. says

    I did leave a comment on Mr Vernon’s article, but apparently it’s not going to be approved.

    I told him I was unable to read beyond his condescending, snotty tone.

    I doubt that he’ll comprehend the sarcasm.

  147. says

    Yes, I tried to use humor to diffuse some of the (inexplicable) anger. If you will give me time to formulate a response (I actually have a job, you know)

    You heard the man, all you unemployed slackers and layabouts. Give him time.

    I’m going to pop another beer and lounge about in my underwear scratching my balls this afternoon*.

    *Code for “attend a third committee meeting today, on top of two hours of lecturing”.

  148. says

    I mostly agree with Dawkins’ essay, but I’m not sure what this line is supposed to mean:

    The population of the United States is more than 300 million and it includes some of the best and brightest that the human species has to offer, probably more so than any other country in the world.

    [my emphasis]

    It’s awkward phrasing, but he seems to be claiming that more of the “best and brightest” of the human species reside in the United States than in any other country. If this were true, then – given that the United States has a smaller population than, say, China or India – it would imply that Americans are, on average, more likely to be among the world’s “best and brightest” than people of other nationalities. I see no reason to think that this is true, and he offers no evidence in support of this claim. And it sounds mildly racist, if unintentionally.

    (Alternatively, he could be referring to the fact that many of the “best and brightest” from other countries come to the United States to study and/or work. That may well be true, but it doesn’t seem relevant to the rest of his argument; considering that he’s talking about presidential elections, and migrants from foreign countries cannot be elected President because they are not natural-born United States citizens.)

  149. amphiox says

    There should be nothing inexplicable our behaviour to someone who claims to understand human groups well enough to have expertise in communication with them.

    Sure calls into question Vernon’s self-proclaimed expertise as a communicator, no?

    These accommodationists sure don’t seem very effective in communicating their supposed ideas, or making convincing arguments about them, to the rest of us unwashed non-accommodationists.

    Perhaps they’ve spent all their energies on communicating with theists, and have precious little left for us?

  150. says

    “You heard the man, all you unemployed slackers and layabouts. Give him time.”

    I’m as unemployed as they come, but eternity is asking too much.

  151. amphiox says

    Walton @166;

    It’s framing of course! If Dawkins’ intended audience is the American public in general, a little faint praising and a nod to American exceptionalism, in the one area where there is indeed a little bit of supporting evidence (due to America’s history as a world leader in science and technology in the relatively recent past) to butter them up doesn’t hurt.

  152. Brownian says

    Have you noticed that when people like Vernon, Mooney, and Nisbet try to “use humor” they invariably come off as condescending, clueless jerks?

    There’s a old saying in the comedy biz: all you need to do stand up is a sports coat and a shitty childhood.

    The coat component is a bit outdated, but the shitty childhood part rings true: there’s a certain learned sensitivity to other’s emotions that comes from bearing the brunt of abuse from parents or other kids, and such sensitivity is integral to humour. You can be a narcissist as well, but the death of funny, for any person, is having your head shoved up your ass—you’ll be too focussed on the sweet, sweet smell of your own shit to notice whether or not your audience is laughing.

  153. says

    @ Walton

    I took it to mean that Dawkins was trying to invoke some of that famous American pride, sort of like saying, “Look, you guys think you’re some of the smartest people on the planet and yet THESE are the best candidates the Republican party can come up with? Come on, if you’re really as smart as you keep claiming you are, then act like it!!”

    You are right, however, that it is a pretty blatant appeal to the idea of American exceptionalism, but then again, he was writing for the Post.

  154. says

    Quodlibet @ 10 – “New Apostolic Reformation (NAR)”

    Poit! [/Pinky and the Brain]
    +++++++++++
    Talisker scrawled “I’m sure he would tell his undergraduates that your conclusion should go at the end, not the beginning.”

    In a newspaper article, (or Op-Ed), the lede leads.

  155. Brownian says

    Sure calls into question Vernon’s self-proclaimed expertise as a communicator, no?

    These accommodationists sure don’t seem very effective in communicating their supposed ideas, or making convincing arguments about them, to the rest of us unwashed non-accommodationists.

    Again, only if you buy into their stated claims. Mooney and Vernon et al. aren’t trying to effectively market ideas like the importance of understanding science. They’re trying to effectively market themselves.

    You only need to critique Brand ‘A’ if you’re trying to sell yourself as the better alternative. If your goal is to simply end up with everybody’s clothes clean, the who gives a shit whether people choose you or the leading competitor?

  156. raven says

    It’s awkward phrasing, but he seems to be claiming that more of the “best and brightest” of the human species reside in the United States than in any other country

    The US has 30 of the top 40 research universities in the world.

    We spend ca. 1/3 of the world’s total R&D and publish ca. 1/3 of the world’s science papers.

    The amount of money we spend on science is large and explains a lot. I seriously doubt that Dawkins meant we are genetically superior. The US is a mixed gene pool from all over the world.

  157. Ze Madmax says

    Walton @ 166

    I think Dawkins tried to point that the U.S. has the largest “effective number” of highly-educated people in the world

    This “effective number” originating from a combination of two factors: a) the large U.S. population and b) the large proportion of U.S. residents involved in research/academia (assuming that’s where the “best and brightest” go) when compared to other high-population countries (such as India and China).

  158. Bruce Gorton says

    @Talisker

    Importantly, Dawkins does not qualify “Republican voters” in any way. Yes, some Republican voters are stupid, and Perry/Bachmann/Palin would not have gotten so far without them. But that’s not what Dawkins was saying. Instead he went for the lazy, broad-based insult, which as I’ve said is counterproductive.

    Let me point something out here – that is pretty much a list of the favourites to win the Republican primaries. If you are a Republican, and that is who your party wants as president, saying your party membership does not make you a dumbass who supports putting dumbasses in high office is like saying being a member of the Nazi party is no indicator of anti-Semitism.

  159. Ewan Macdonald says

    I definitely took it as Dawkins’ proposing the existence, and worship, of an American master race.

    Damn these atheists and their eugenics!

  160. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Over an hour ago I wrote a comment on The Intersuction. It hasn’t been posted, even though posts with later time-stamps have shown up.

    I was critical of Vernon and accommodationism. However I was polite, called him “Mr. Vernon” (just like he called PZ “Mr. Myers”) and didn’t use the word “fuck” even once.

    Apparently Vernon and/or Mooney don’t like to post views which call theirs’ into question.

  161. Hairhead says

    Jesus, there’s so MUCH wrong here; I’ll try 30 seconds of fisking

    Yes, I tried to use humor

    Funny thing about humour — it’s far harder than drama or tragedy. Something can be somewhat dramatic, or partly tragic, but when it comes to humour — it either is or it isn’t. Your humour was not funny, it was condescending (the attitude you accuse us and Dawkins of), pompous, and lame.

    to diffuse

    When a nasty jerk (which we are to you) punches you, do you say, “Well, that wasn’t much of a punch, was it?” First, your “humour”, nasty and limp as it was, does not have the effect of diffusing anything. Second, it has the reverse effect, angering us even more. Third, as a “professional communicator” you know EXACTLY what you are doing. You are being disingenuous (lying).

    some of the (inexplicable) anger.

    The reasons for this anger have been explained to you, in detail, by multiple posters. You have in fact understood this. So once again, you are lying.

    If you will give me time to formulate a response (I actually have a job, you know), I will try to provide my perspective.

    Hmm. Everyone on the internet is a cheeto-snarfing, living-in-his-parents-basement loser. Except me. Of course. Oh, and Punching Hippies, who don’t have Jobs, and who therefore can have no opinion worth reading or respecting. And you accuse US of being elitist? So, once again, pomposity, elitism, and insult to those who are on your side. And to your enemies, those who deny science and evolution? Why you laugh right into their balls, the better to tickle their fancy!

    Insulting me by calling me an “empty suit” for trying to do my job is rather inane, don’t you think?

    The phrase “empty suit” refers to any person who has the external accoutrements of qualification, but none of the competence. As a “professional science communicator” you ought to have us all, if not eating out of your hand, then at least disagreeing with you in a calm, reflective, and respectful manner. That you have antagonized us multiple times with sloppy arguments and insults used by right-wingers themselves show that 1) you have zero skills in your self-professed experience and 2) therefore we are perfectly justified in insulting you.

    As for us being “inane” — we aren’t silly or empty, we are actually far more serious about this undertaking than you, and collectively we have more than enough education and expertise to give our opinions weight and significance.

    Fisking over.

    And btw, fuck off and die in a fire you incompetent, backstabbing lickspittle.

  162. Johan Fruh says

    @ Horse-Pheathers:

    Great to hear these kinds of stories.

    But different people, different medicine. I had a friend that was deeply religious. We would often have discussions about the matter, and I wouldn’t refrain about my own beliefs.
    However I never ever insulted him for being religious.
    Through the years, he doubted more and more (which surprised me to be frank)… he basically started thinking for himself, instead of taking everything he learnt as a child for Truth.

    If I’d insulted him it would of closed his mind off.
    He wasn’t the type to inform himself, even for the sake of argument ;), and there are many people like that.

    But anyhow, I don’t think this is about converting people but rather about energising the atheists… which I find is always welcomed!!
    But are the flying insults really necessary?

    Insulting bad ideas, opinions etc… can be a great read, and quite energising :D.
    But insulting a person for stating their opinion? No matter how bad the opinion…. it can be passed for a means of short-circuiting any possible discussion.
    I got sick of seeing that coming from the religious folk… I do hope it can be avoided with the more scientifically inclined.
    (this isn’t aimed at Richard Dawkin’s article, but at what went on between Vernon and Myers.)

  163. Hairhead says

    John, I’m not insulting him for stating his opinion. I’m insulting him for:

    1) Insulting me multiple times.
    2) Insulting my friends multiple times.
    3) Lying, multiply and obviously.
    4) Claiming competence in a particular field while demonstrating in public the opposite

    I do not insult people for being religious. I insult people who express opinions and support actions which degrade and harm other human beings.

  164. says

    “But insulting a person for stating their opinion?”

    It’s a little more complicated than that. In part we’re insulting someone who insulted us because they find us insulting.

  165. Brownian says

    No matter how bad the opinion…. it can be passed for a means of short-circuiting any possible discussion.

    Well then, you won’t be pleased to find that there is no discussion to be had with the accommodationists, Johan. That’s not what they want.

    What they want is to gain political capital at the expense of people like Myers.

    (I recommend using the search function at the old Pharyngula site—the one on Scienceblogs, and look up Mooney and Nisbet. Go back to the earliest posts in which PZ mentions them and ‘framing’. It’s almost sweet how naively he treats them as if they were in it for honest discussion, only to feel the knife between his shoulder blades again and again.)

  166. says

    Johan Fruh:

    But insulting a person for stating their opinion? No matter how bad the opinion…. it can be passed for a means of short-circuiting any possible discussion.

    Sometimes, that’s the point.

    In certain cases, there is no hope of discussion. Ken Hamm is not going to give up fleecing the public through measured and rational debate. Jamie Vernon is not going to cease his condescending, tedious, and boring calls for civility simply because there is evidence that being loud and obnoxious is sometimes necessary for the progression of society. The radical right is not about to give up their push for nationalized ignorance simply because science is right once in a while.

    Some of these discussions are not discussions. Some of these discussions are one side pushing the wrong agenda. If an opinion is not only wrong, but dangerous also, there is no reason for civility, especially for cases in which the person holds the wrong opinion for irrational reasons.

    I got sick of seeing that coming from the religious folk… I do hope it can be avoided with the more scientifically inclined.

    Probably not. Among ourselves, we are generally quite easy to sway with evidence and rational discussion. But, as accomodationists prove, not everything is tractable to simple reason.

    Is it reasonable to assume that they are right, and we are wrong? No, it’s not. It’s been shown that social change often occurs through some amount of upheaval. The accomodationists’ condescending admonishments are simply out of line. We are not children. We are rational and passionate adults with evidence and history on our side.

    They are wrong, and not likely to change their minds. I don’t care how polite they are. I’m sick of them assuming that we’re wrong.

  167. says

    I’m a mild-mannered Canadian, perhaps a little more soft-spoken than most. I love a good argument, however, even couched in strong language. I don’t lose my temper. But when someone says something like

    All this shouting is boring. I suggest you walk away from the keyboard for a while and get some daylight and fresh air. You’ll feel better afterwards.

    or

    If we all step back and take a deep breath, we might be able to have a conversation. We might actually learn something from one another. After all, we speak the same language. Yelling is not a more effective way to make your point. After I do some work, perhaps I’ll have some time to share my thoughts and I’ll listen to yours..

    I get really, really angry.
    Not enough to shout; not my style. But enough to completely discredit anything that person says from here on in. Enough to call the person a dishonest, snivelling coward, with no courage of his convictions, or more probably, no convictions, just follow-the-leader timidity.

    Call me names (whatever you come up with, I’ve probably already been called worse, by experts) or trash my ideas; fine. We can thrash it out. But run away? Stand up and fight, you wimp!

  168. Johan Fruh says

    Brownian, thanks for the recommendation.
    I’ll try and catch the discussion, seems interesting. :)

  169. Anri says

    @Anri : As you know, the Republican Party and everyone who has ever considered voting for it are two different things.

    And they will, rightfully, feel insulted to different extents – that is, by the amount they voted for Republican candidates – a wholly self-determined level.

    Not all, or even most, of the latter are wild-eyed fanatics. Sure, I think they’re all wrong, but they ‘re not all stupid.

    They are either knowingly voting for stupid, racist, worng bastards, in which case, yes, they are stupid – or they are deeply ignorant about the people they are casting their votes for, which I guess makes them smart. Or, you know, not.

    Many are somewhat reasonable people, and open to persuasion. At least they might back someone other than Perry or Bachmann in the primaries.

    Such as…?
    What current Republican presidential candidates would you consider reasonable choices?

    So, what good does it do for Dawkins to insult Repblican voters as a group?

    Some might respect Dawkins as a man of intelligance and examine their voting patterns. Others might be stung enough to wish to refute him by doing research on the stances and policies of their prospective candidates.
    What do you think the result of reasonable, honest, intelligent people doing either of these things might be, if they had been voting Republican?

    (Oh, and if you don’t have an answer to my question, just let me know so I can stop asking it.)

  170. Bob says

    @141

    @134: I agree, although I think the graph you show is incomplete because it appears to only take into account the value of producing an offspring and ignore the, for humans not insubstantial, value/cost of getting the offspring to reproductive age. In any case, if I understood bob correctly, he was arguing that some genes are there specifically to make sure older people die off. That I don’t believe. A gene that trades increased reproductive success at 20 for senescence at 50, I believe, but not a gene with no other function than to cause death at a certain age.

    Off topicish, but we need more threads on human evolution and how it is proceeding.

    No, I am saying that when you claim these genes are not “exactly suited” to their task, you’re presuming to know the task for which they’ve been selected. I question whether you really know this; the type of failures you describe may have been exactly what was selected for.

    I think (and I’m sure the good people here will correct me if I’m wrong) that longevity is a trait that natural selection can act upon. Yet I’m not sure there’s evidence of this occurring over the last several million years of human (pre-)history. I am not convinced that extending human longevity is a pure ‘Good Thing’. Granted, I hope to live forever and I appreciate the work you are doing to make it happen. But we have no evidence one way or the other that our lengthening of human life expectancy over the past 100 years or so has produced a net evolutionary benefit for the human species (no arguments about it’s benefit for individuals). I know it has had and will continue to have significant costs.

    Not a big deal. I don’t want to turn this into a eugenics discussion. I just read your statement as an indication that you knew the goal for the evolution of what you term “the human cancer suppression system,” and that the implementation was flawed. Which I believe is incorrect on a number of levels.

  171. Brownian says

    But when someone says something like

    All this shouting is boring. I suggest you walk away from the keyboard for a while and get some daylight and fresh air. You’ll feel better afterwards.

    or

    If we all step back and take a deep breath, we might be able to have a conversation. We might actually learn something from one another. After all, we speak the same language. Yelling is not a more effective way to make your point. After I do some work, perhaps I’ll have some time to share my thoughts and I’ll listen to yours..

    I get really, really angry.

    When people like that say that sort of thing to me, I’m simply reminded that, with their inoffensive and unobtrusive personalities, they probably won’t even be missed before I’ve had time to hide all the evidence.

  172. Brownian says

    Brownian, thanks for the recommendation.
    I’ll try and catch the discussion, seems interesting. :)

    It’s frustrating, Johan. Start with the Tom Johnson affair if you want to understand why we trust the accommodationists about as much as we would a thief who’s broken into our house at 3 AM.

    What current Republican presidential candidates would you consider reasonable choices?

    Jon Huntsman, Jr. seems by far to be the most reasonable, for a Republican.

    When he wins, then Talisker can tell Dawkins he’s wrong about Republican voters.

  173. says

    Sadly, Huntsman getting the nomination is about as likely as me finding a talking purple unicorn munching daisies in my backyard. In fact, I’m willing to bet I’ll find said unicorn before Huntsman or someone like him wins the GOP nomination.

  174. Brownian says

    Sadly, Huntsman getting the nomination is about as likely as me finding a talking purple unicorn munching daisies in my backyard. In fact, I’m willing to bet I’ll find said unicorn before Huntsman or someone like him wins the GOP nomination.

    Because Dawkins was mean to the Republicans? Is that what you mean? They’re all going to vote for Perry just to spite him?

  175. says

    Susannah,
    I am also a bit of a mild-mannered Canadian, though I do sometimes show frustration through a tendency towards some mild sarcasm. I moderate a Canadian politics group and obviously this is a topic that can result in some great disagreements. I almost never write anything that I would describe as shouting. I try to remain cool, calm and logical while I rip someone’s silly post apart. While I generally do not call people names, I am sure that it is obvious when I find someone’s arguments to be stupid, ignorant and completely lacking a basis in reality. However I have learned that it does not matter how calmly one does this, many people still view a logical, but strongly disagreeing post as being written in anger and it is often considered mean or somehow unfair. This frustrates me more than the on politically oriented posts that I am replying to.

  176. says

    Brownian –

    When people like that say that sort of thing to me, I’m simply reminded that, with their inoffensive and unobtrusive personalities, they probably won’t even be missed before I’ve had time to hide all the evidence.

    You owe me a new keyboard, and my boss an explanation.

  177. Brownian says

    Brownian #192 But I <do find them offensive. Extremely so.

    Worse; they’re not even good for a laugh.

    Fair enough. I’m just saying that if you’re careful, nobody should find them at all.

  178. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Brownian, you may be onto something. The accomodationists make much more sense when I believe the premises behind those questions!

  179. Brownian says

    You owe me a new keyboard, and my boss an explanation.

    And that’s how you do humour, Jimbo.

    Seems like you should step the fuck back, take a deep breath, and learn something from me.

  180. Anri says

    Jon Huntsman, Jr. seems by far to be the most reasonable, for a Republican.

    Would I be correct in assuming ‘reasonable, for a Republican’ carries a fairly strong grading curve?
    (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not disagreeing with you in the least – I just am not familiar with the guy, that’s all…)

    Sadly, Huntsman getting the nomination is about as likely as me finding a talking purple unicorn munching daisies in my backyard. In fact, I’m willing to bet I’ll find said unicorn before Huntsman or someone like him wins the GOP nomination.

    Can that be a daisy-and-daffodill sandwich?
    I’d consider a vote for her a better choice than the Republican front-runners…

    Erhm, not that I’m a fan or anything.
    Nope.

    Nope.

  181. says

    @Brownian
    Because Dawkins was mean to the Republicans? Is that what you mean? They’re all going to vote for Perry just to spite him?

    Not at all – frankly if they vote for Perry over Huntsman, the only ones they’ll be spiting are themselves. I’m just pessimistic about the chances of someone like Huntman getting the GOP nod in the current atmosphere precisely because of the reasons Dawkins skewered Perry and his ilk. In this political climate, it’s more likely that I’ll find a mythical creature frolicking in my back yard than a moderate like Hunstman will be chosen as the GOP’s presidental candidate. Whether Perry believes the horseshit he’s spewing is immaterial – he knows what his constituents want to hear and he’s giving it to them in spades. Huntsman is telling them what they NEED to hear and has been relegated to the bottom of the pile for his trouble. Talking “nicely” isn’t going to do jack to convince these people. There’s a difference between being nice and rolling over and I’m beyond tired of being told that “well, of course what so-and-so said is wrong, but you don’t have to be mean about it” when “being mean” = “pointing out the error at all in the first place.”

  182. Wylann says

    Wait, did JV @149 just try ye olde ‘it was just a joke’ gambit? Really? And diffuse rather than defuse (as noted by Ewan MacDonald)? Not to nitpick, but if you’re going to claim to be a better communicator, maybe you should try and see if your communication is actually, you know, effective. Just a thought.

  183. Horse-Pheathers says

    Johan Fruh @183:

    It’s true that vituperation is not always the best approach — what I am arguing is that it is a valuable tool, not that it need be used in every situation. Folks like Talisker seem to want us to abandon that tool in favor of an approach that I have never once seen work on its own. My experience tells me that being nice is _not_ an effective means of reaching someone mired in faith; they’ve got so many defense mechanisms beat into their heads, kneejerk ways of discounting arguments counter to their established view, that all you succeed in doing is make yourself easily ignored. Being provocative has a much higher success rate, at least when it comes to goading someone to explore their own beliefs; being in your face and confrontational at the very least stands to create an emotional investment in the argument beyond “oh, the poor hopeless unbelievers — I’ll pray for them later”. For many people, stung pride and a touch of anger give a wonderful impetus to keep the discussion going, to drive them to distraction trying to find a chink in your argument they can exploit. The ongoing failure to find that chink as they educate themselves more and more on the subject can very well lead them to doubt. Once they have doubts, they’re actually open to new idea and that’s when polity comes in — civil discussion is for sealing the deal, in a sense.

    Also, it’s not always about trying to build a bridge to the person in question. Often it’s a matter of showing in no uncertain terms that a great number of people look at their ideas and find them ludicrous, it’s a matter of communicating to the people who are thinking of supporting them just how flaming-goat _stupid_ the ideas they espouse really are. In such a situation, reasoned discourse gets lost — a barrage of rotten produce and dead cats, however…..

  184. Brownian says

    Would I be correct in assuming ‘reasonable, for a Republican’ carries a fairly strong grading curve?

    I guess. What are you expecting, a Democrat?

    He tweeted this a week ago:

    To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.

    So, given the current political climate in the US, he is stupid—it’s just a naïve kind of stupid as opposed to the more pugnaciously and willfully ignorant kind.

    Other than that, he’s a social and fiscal conservative, though probably the least socially conservative of the front runners.

    Let’s just say that should a Republican win the presidency, he’s the least likely to bring about the zombie apocalypse.

  185. JohnnieCanuck says

    Why do accommodationists spend all their time shushing us? They claim we are wrecking their plans to gently convince the deluded to become our allies.

    Why are we always hearing of their plans and never seeing any actual attempts at this gentle persuasion they claim to be so skilled at making? Could it be that we are so vociferous that they can never get a word in edgewise? How then do they find the time to complain at us so much?

    Bad enough that accommodationists are willing to lie in order to gain the votes of the deluded, but they are trying to persuade us to abandon our principles and lie, as well.

    As self professed communications experts they claim we should trust them to do the heavy lifting instead of meddling in their business. Funny that, given they are so unpersuasive when arguing with us.

  186. Dianne says

    Don’t you just love it? Mr. Myers, an atheist blogger and entertainer, against Dr. Vernon, Ph.D., research scientist and science communications strategist.

    Hmm…that would be PZ Myers, most highly cited paper (as per Google Scholar, admittedly an imperfect system) 333 cites versus JL Vernon, most highly cited paper 14 cites? I’m not even sure the latter is the right JL Vernon. It’s an interesting contrast and puts their respective contributions to research into perspective.

  187. Brownian says

    @The Pint:

    I was just mocking the cry that somehow all these reasonable moderates are being driven from their reasonable positions because of Dawkins shrillness.

    Like they’re all sitting there, outside the booths, just waiting for their chance to mark ‘X’ next to Huntsman’s name, when someone breathlessly runs in:

    “Didja hear? Richard Dawkins called Rick Perry an ‘ignorant fool’ in The Washington Post!”
    “Dawkins? The God Delusion guy?”
    “Yeah! He was all, all…I can’t even say it.”
    “Take your time. My goodness—you’re shivering with fright! What did Dawkins do?”
    “He…he…HE WASN’T NICE!
    “Why, that smarmy Limey—here I was, all set to vote for Huntsman because I believe in leaving a legacy for my children, but that tears it! Hang on Michelle, baby! I’m votin’ for you!

  188. says

    @Brownian

    No problem. What you posited is pretty funny because it’s patently ridiculous. The sad thing is, that’s exactly the kind of scenario that accomodationists seem convinced will happen if we’re not “nice enough.”

  189. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    For folks who claim to be such great communicators, the accommodationists sure do a lousy job of convincing us about our position versus theirs.

  190. Dianne says

    I am saying that when you claim these genes are not “exactly suited” to their task, you’re presuming to know the task for which they’ve been selected.

    You’re quite right: genes are selected for survival. Nothing else. Claiming they’re selected for anything else is erroneous, possibly anthropomorphizing. Sorry about falling into that trap. Genes like p14ink4a (do I have the name right? I’m going from memory) have a certain effect, i.e. they suppress actively dividing cells and knock out animals lacking them have a certain phenotype, i.e. higher cancer rates, but the gene no more “wants” to suppress cancer than el Nino wants to produce hurricanes. It’s just the effect and it is or is not evolutionarily advantageous depending on the environment.

  191. Brownian says

    Why do accommodationists spend all their time shushing us? They claim we are wrecking their plans to gently convince the deluded to become our allies.

    It’s like libertarianism. The invisible hand is just waiting to make us stronger, faster, smarter, better, more efficient, but it can’t do it as long as there’s at least one scrap of government regulation on the books somewhere in the world. Or like an unengaging speaker at a rowdy wedding, who stands there glowering and tapping the mike until there’s complete silence before delivering a boring and self-indulgent toast.

    Apparently, the juju only works when no one disagrees.

  192. Talisker says

    @ Ewan: Yes, but I disagree with your conclusion. I don’t think Dawkins was trying to persuade “good Republicans” to disown the “bad Republicans”. (If he was, he made a damned poor job of it.) He just casually directed some insults at Republican voters in general.

    @ Hairhead: See reply to Horse-Pheathers below.

    @ Investigator: I’m not sure evidence comes into it. All I’m saying is that people don’t like to be insulted; Dawkins is insulting Republican voters in general; these insults serve no good purpose, and it’s reasonable to suppose they are counterproductive. I don’t see how peer-reviewed publications are relevant.

    @ Waffler: So, anyone “who consistently votes Republican” deserves to be called stupid? I still don’t buy it.

    @Tomathy: I don’t even disagree with Dawkins’ approach. I disagree with the structure of his argument (ie. strongly worded conclusion at the beginning), and the poorly targeted insults. I’m not saying it’s a complicated point, but certain commenters here seem to have a lot of trouble grasping it. My regrets if you find me repetitive, I’ve just been trying to clarify what I was saying.

    @Horse-Pheathers: Yes, it is. :-) And thanks for the anecdote. My answer is that insults should be accurately directed. If Dawkins had said rejecting science is stupid, then fine… maybe not the best tactic in that forum, but at least it’s relevant. But he said *Republican voters* are stupid.

    Let me put it this way… suppose Dawkins blithely announced that Americans were stupid. After all, they did elect W, twice, and didn’t erupt in mass civil disobedience, riots, or impeachment trials at his misrule. I suspect most Americans would take it personally and be uninterested in anything else he had to say. Dawkins seems to grasp this much, hence his flattery of Americans’ collective intelligence.

    But Dawkins has carelessly implied that Republican voters and stupid, backward Americans are one and the same thing, which just isn’t true, and will put off any reasonable Republicans who happen to be reading.

  193. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    and will put off any reasonable Republicans who happen to be reading.

    So the fuck what? Really. So what?

    What’s your stake in this Talisker (and you obviously have one because it’s positively odd how exercised you are over this). You a Republican? Got your feelings hurt? What?

  194. says

    But Dawkins has carelessly implied that Republican voters and stupid, backward Americans are one and the same thing, which just isn’t true, and will put off any reasonable Republicans who happen to be reading.

    Or maybe it’ll get them to stop and THINK that maybe voting for a candidate who advocates for stupid and backward positions and policies just because he’s not a Democrat might be the reason that Republicans in general are perceived that way. It is possible for people to separate criticism of a movement as a whole that they subscribe to from criticism of them personally, just like it’s possible for me as an American to hear Americans be criticized as “stupid” for allowing Bush into office twice without feeling personally offended. Why would I be? I didn’t vote for the guy. If a Republican who wouldn’t vote for Perry in the first place reads Dawkins’ piece and still feels insulted, it’s not Dawkins’ fault.

  195. Bernard Bumner says

    But Dawkins has carelessly implied that Republican voters and stupid, backward Americans are one and the same thing, which just isn’t true, and will put off any reasonable Republicans who happen to be reading.

    Was that before or after he implied that he had a fifteen foot long penis and that he personally invented the bicycle? I can’t seem to find it in the text…

  196. Ewan Macdonald says

    @217 Talisker : As I said, the target would be expected to move out of the way in order to avoid the incoming insult cannonball.

    Put it this way: if someone says to you, “Well, you’re voting for an anti-intellectual, reality-denying thug – are these qualities that you think are in any way admirable?” What are you likely to do – you, personally? Are you going to say, “Yes, and I don’t care what you high-falutin’ atheists have to say about it: I’m closing my ears to every contradictory piece of discourse from now on!”

    Or are you more likely to say, “What? No, I don’t advocate these things at all.”

    Then the follow-up question is… so why the heck are you voting for them?

    This is a large part of what turned me away from being a libertarian. People pointed out the logical conclusions of my argument; people showed me social mobility data and its effects on crime, health etc.; and above all people pointed out what libertarianism actually was, made me look at it, and said, “That’s you, that is.” And it was me. And I didn’t want to be like that, so I stopped.

    It absolutely did work in my case and I know it’ll work in the case of others as well. If a different approach will work for others yet – great, have at it. But as numerous people have told you now, don’t sit there and tell people that a previously successful approach is wrong when it plainly isn’t.

  197. Talisker says

    @Susannah 188: I also am a mild-mannered Canadian. You quoted a comment from me which was specifically directed at the commenters who had been shrieking variations on “fuck off, you fucking Republican-loving accommodationist.” (See #75 for example.) That sort of thing adds nothing to the conversation and is frankly tedious. I realise my response wasn’t constructive either but I was sufficiently annoyed to write it anyway.

  198. consciousness razor says

    “Why, that smarmy Limey—here I was, all set to vote for Huntsman because I believe in leaving a legacy for my children, but that tears it! Hang on Michelle, baby! I’m votin’ for you!“

    Who says they can’t vote for both? (I hope not Dawkins and those filthy, tricksey hobbitses.)

    WARNING: Contains video of Piers Morgan:

    Asked if he would consider being Romney’s running mate if he lost the nomination, he said he could not imagine that happening, but said hypothetically he would be open to a Bachmann-Huntsman ticket — or potentially serving as any nominee’s vice-presidential pick.

    “If you love this country, you serve her,” he said. “If you’re in a position to better the country, to bring whatever background you have to bear, whatever experiences to use in fine-tuning our future, I’ll be the first person to sign up.”

    Quite the opportunist. Pay no attention to that batshit crazy running mate of mine behind the curtain.

    According to Huntsman, Romney isn’t likely because he created “Obamacare before Obama.” Can’t forget to remind voters that they despise getting better and cheaper healthcare.

  199. says

    I don’t normally respond to a thread before reading the entire thing, but I couldn’t get past #121 before having to unload something:

    I FUCKING HATE YOU STUPID FUCKING TONE TROLLING “ACCOMMODATIONIST”.

    Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

    If you think your disgustingly hypocritical “effective communication”, which is, by the way, far more condescending than anything Dawkins has said… then GO FUCKING USE IT ON THE IGNORANT MOTHERFUCKERS WE ARE RAILING AGAINST, who are trying to take us back into the fucking dark ages.

    WE DON’T GIVE A FUCK what you think about how mean you think we are. We find your opposition to the most prolific fucking atheists voices on the planet… the people who ACTUALLY HAVE AN AUDIENCE TO INFLUENCE, you stupid assholes… to be fucking IRRELEVANT.

    Instead, why don’t you go work your magic hand-holding skills on the people using their god damned superstitions to subjugate, oppress and destroy those who don’t believe to the cult? You stupid pieces of shit. Go fucking do something about it.

    WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE, when you could be using your elite communication skills to increase Perry’s critical thought, or better yet, the critical thinking skills of the vast number of ignorant fucks who are supporting him?

    FUCK OFF!

    Ok, got that out of my system. Off to finish the comments. =)

    *Please disregard any grammatical or coherence issues, I iz mad.

  200. Brownian says

    You quoted a comment from me which was specifically directed at the commenters who had been shrieking variations on “fuck off, you fucking Republican-loving accommodationist.” (See #75 for example.)

    Oh, I see the problem, Talisker: you’re not very good at reading.

    In case those of you who can read happen to be reading this, what I told Talisker to do was to take his or her immense knowledge of human communication strategies and put them to use on the Republicans, not Dawkins. Dawkins already understands evolution, and he’s not a frontrunning Republican presidential candidate anyway.

    But in any case, don’t be put off by my comments, Talisker. I’m very interested to hear how your argument is further strengthened by imagining Dawkins said something else.

  201. says

    If anyone (**looks at Talisker**) thinks that accomodating stupid republicans, (yeah, I said it, they voted for Bush, twice, proof enough), is a successful gambit they should read the comments on Dawkins OpEd. The stupid, it burns.

  202. says

    Hmm, sounds familiar. In fact, the whole “whom do Republicans nominate” recalls the old saying, “First-class people hire first-class people. Second-class people hire third-class people.” In this case, “class” refers to competence.

  203. says

    “shrieking variations on “fuck off, you fucking Republican-loving accommodationist.” (See #75 for example.)”

    Lucky for you we can’t use the blink tag. I can see it now. A big, blinking FUCK OFF!

  204. Brownian says

    That sort of thing adds nothing to the conversation and is frankly tedious.

    And I’ve been on this fucking blog for five years. I’ll fucking tell you what’s tedious, you fucking pissant: this same fucking conversation with weaselly milquetoasts like you, again and again for five fucking years.

    As I’ve said multiple times, you think you’ve got an effective strategy for communicating science: go fucking use it on the people who need science communicated to them, not us.

    If you’re so good at reaching the moderates, then why do we have a Harper government, Talisker?

  205. Brownian says

    Quite the opportunist. Pay no attention to that batshit crazy running mate of mine behind the curtain.

    According to Huntsman, Romney isn’t likely because he created “Obamacare before Obama.” Can’t forget to remind voters that they despise getting better and cheaper healthcare.

    That’s odd; I mean, why would he gain from siding with the nutbar, what with the majority of the Republicans being such sane, reason-loving people?

    C’mon, Talisker: tell us all about how people tick, Doctor.

  206. consciousness razor says

    I’m not sure evidence comes into it.

    Because you don’t have evidence, or because you think your claim only applies in magic fairy land?

    All I’m saying is that people don’t like to be insulted;

    If that’s all you were saying, you could’ve said that in your first comment and left it at that. I’m sure we all would’ve been deeply impressed by such a profound statement.

    Dawkins is insulting Republican voters in general;

    If so, then that’s a good thing. Their candidates and policies deserve nothing better than ridicule and outright contempt.

    these insults serve no good purpose, and it’s reasonable to suppose they are counterproductive.

    How do you know that? Because people don’t like to be insulted? Is there only one kind of response to feeling insulted — that of ignoring whatever has been said?

    I know that when people have insulted me in some way, it’s often caused me to pay attention that aspect of myself or my behavior. If they call me “childish” (hasn’t happened in many years), then I consider whether I’ve been acting childishly. If their insult was followed by an explanation, then I will have been able to consider whether that explanation made sense. I don’t instinctively shut off my brain every time someone insults me.

    I don’t see how peer-reviewed publications are relevant.

    Human thoughts and behaviors are natural phenomena, and thus they’re amenable to scientific investigation. Your opinions and whining are worth nada unless you have evidence to back up your claims and can explain how it’s supposed to work.

    Alternatively, as others have said, instead of criticizing Dawkins, you could demonstrate your superior ability to persuade people with your own approach (whatever that is, since you haven’t offered it).

    and will put off any reasonable Republicans who happen to be reading.

    What does it mean to be a “reasonable Republican”? Is that like an invisible, pink unicorn?

  207. says

    Talisker- “Let me put it this way… suppose Dawkins blithely announced that Americans were stupid.”

    Supposing a dog has 5 legs doesn’t make it true.[/Lincoln]

    Suppose I said republicans are generally low information, overwhelmingly white, older, homophobic, &c. &c. &c, voters.

    Would you find that I’ve insulted them? With facts? Facts are facts. If they insult you, it’s your problem.

    Talisker – “I don’t even disagree with Dawkins’ approach. I disagree with the structure of his argument (ie. strongly worded conclusion at the beginning)” — once again, it’s an OpEd, you don’t bury the lede.

  208. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Yawn, still more preaching, but not one iota of evidence, or one example of how Talisker is taking it to the Rethugs. Nothing but we are mean. Boring. So, until you can put up, you need to shut up Talisker, as your opinion is meaningless here. You have nothing to offer in a positive way. Your opinion, inane and insipid as it is, is worthless.

  209. says

    One of the problems, not of persuading Rick Perry to be honest or voters to demand competent candidates, but a sidelight, is that people have been taught to be afraid of the labels themselves. You see it everywhere: in women who expect wage equality but say, “I’m not a feminist;” in parents who love their children until the child announces, “I’m gay;” and in talking about evolution. I’m remembering an anecdote about someone, perhaps chatting with a fellow passenger, explaining their research in following the changes in a population and the causes thereof; and the seatmate being fascinated and thrilled with how it all made sense–until the researcher said his topic was evolution. Then the seatmate became huffy, negative, and — betrayed, as if he’d been tempted into evil.

  210. Kagehi says

    Think this, at the end of one my posts on at Vernon’s site sums up “my” feelings on this quite nicely:

    The middle ground between a bottle of water, and a bottle of poison, isn’t some of both. The middle ground between science and nonsense is not, “some of both”, either.

  211. uncle frogy says

    When people like that say that sort of thing to me, I’m simply reminded that, with their inoffensive and unobtrusive personalities, they probably won’t even be missed before I’ve had time to hide all the evidence.

    thanks! brownian for the best laugh in this whole long thread

    uncle frogy

  212. says

    Wait, look, I’m only part way through the thread but let me get the argument straight so far.

    1. You don’t win people over with insults.
    2. We are slavering miscreants, petulant children, two year olds, a mob.

    Ergo, the accomodationists don’t give a shit what we think. So why are they here again?

  213. Horse-Pheathers says

    Talisker –

    You keep using that phrase, “reasonable Republican”. Does such a thing exist anymore?

    Look at the people they’ve backed since the ’80s. It’s been a steady downhill progression. The party has sold itself out to the religious fundies, to science denialism, to crony capitalism, to the forces out to dismantle every progressive gain this country has made since the beginning of the twentieth century. IT IS NO LONGER POSSIBLE FOR ANYONE REAsONABLE TO VOTE FOR THESE PEOPLE AND WHAT THEY REPRESENT, and it hasn’t been for a long time.

    There are reasonable conservatives out there, but they would have abandoned the GOP during Bush-the-junior’s tenure in office. Anyone who would vote for _anyone_ with an R after their name at this point and time in history? They’d have to be insane, stupid, ignorant or evil. Those are the only options left at this point — that’s how far the GOP has fallen.

  214. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Talisker, you’re not a mild-mannered Canadian. You just a Canadian who happens to be rather insipid. I’m Canadian too, for what it’s worth. Once again, if you have the strategy and we don’t, go employ it. Stop telling us about how much better it is. Stop telling us about how you think Dawkins ought to have saved his strongly worded conclusion for …What? The end of his editorial?

    Seriously, if you have no qualms with Dawkins’s approach, then what are you doing continuing with this tired conversation? Just come back after you’ve convinced the masses that rationality, science and atheism are better than their gut feelings, ignorance and faith. We won’t stop you and we won’t tell you that you’re wrong, unless, of course, you end up being a pandering accommodationist and stupid tone troll. Don’t be those things, go do something.

  215. It'spiningforthefyords says

    In real life, accomadationalism and 120 yen buy you a drink from a vending machine.

    The people, so reasonable as they talk to themselves and as they scold us (but never take on, much less succeed in chsnging the minds of, the Xian Teabagger bigots), who advocate a non-confrontive approach have always – ALWAYS – turned out to be people unwilling to risk anything, anytime, for even the best of reasons.

    In my union work I meet such nice people all the time. When management lies, and lies, and lies and cheats, they cast doubts on the fact and urge the more militant (i.e. realistic) of us to take the bosses at their word.

    And you cannot negotiate with bullies and liars. Almost by definition.

    When they are getting fucked over and are forced, after long discussion, to admit the fact, they STILL demand we all surrender so that they will have their slowly-evaporating percentage today.

    Their response to Dawkins is similar: they see the enemy as whoever does the right thing, since they haven’t the guts to do it, ever.

  216. David Marjanović, OM says

    I found a good quote by PZ from 2007:

    “Look, Simon, when Intelligent Design creationists make up shit, we’re going to call it shit. You may wish you could make up shit and we’d call it key lime pie, but that isn’t going to happen.”

    The power of a scientific theory may be measured as a ratio: the number of facts that it explains divided by the number of assumptions it needs to postulate in order to do the explaining.

    I’m so stealing that.

    Because deep down, they genuinely believe that one day they will be wolves too.

    That’s after all the American Dream! If you just wash enough dishes, you will be a millionaire before Jesus returns. (PZ, I can has <font> tag?)

    General McChrystal said it shorter.

    Paraphrasing, “We tried electing a moron (G. Bush), and found out it didn’t work.”

    “This is a dark chapter in our history. Whatever else happens, our country’s international standing has been frittered away by people who don’t have the foggiest understanding of how the hell the world works. America has been conducting an experiment for the past six years, trying to validate the proposition that it really doesn’t make any difference who you elect president. Now we know the result of that experiment [laughs]. If a guy is stupid, it makes a big difference.”

    – General Tony McPeak (retired), member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War

    War On Errorism

    :-D

    If anyone is still confused, where are the Romans, Assyrians, Spanish empire, Greeks, Babylonians, Persians, Aztecs, Mayans, Incans and so on? Successors still exist but they aren’t what they were once. And they didn’t just fade easily into the background. Collapses are usually pretty ugly.

    Hang on a second. Some of your examples don’t belong. The Aztec and Incan empires never collapsed – they were suddenly cut off in full bloom. Similarly, the Assyrian empire was simply conquered by the Neobabylonian empire shortly before the latter was conquered by the empire of the Medes which then very soon fell to the Persians. The Persian empire then changed hands about twice before the Arabs conquered it, converted it to Islam, and then let it go as soon as the central power weakened; there is still a country of Iran. And Rome… the west collapsed; the east didn’t, it was ruined by the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Shall I go on?

    (…Yeah, OK, the Incan empire had just come out of a bloody civil war. That certainly made conquest easier. But what had brought that war about? The death of the previous Inca. Well, what had the good man died of? Smallpox. Freshly imported smallpox.)

    Denton’s stupid book on evolution that convinced dullards like Behe played off of that, claiming that we know that Germanic languages evolved because we actually do know how the changes happened. I mean, how dumb is that claim?

    Excruciatingly so. The changes were reconstructed hundreds to thousands of years after they happened. There’s still no consensus about the order in which the changes called Grimm’s, Verner’s and Kluge’s Laws happened, let alone when they happened in absolute terms (when the Romans came, or 1,000 years earlier?), or what actually happened during the operation of Verner’s Law, to mention just the most famous cases (which have been an issue since the late 19th century when those laws were discovered). …Each of these laws has a Wikipedia article; look them up if you’re interested.

    Wow. People in the US trust the MILITARY? We really are ready for the dictatorship, aren’t we?

    Seconded.

    If you don’t know Mr. Myers, he’s an atheist blogger who takes a zero tolerance stance against religion. Personally, I think he’s an entertaining character, sort of like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity…Ed Schulz, even. To me, what he does is entertainment, not science communication, but that’s another story.

    Two errors of fact in this paragraph: PZ has nothing against religion as long as it stays out of things like politics and science education; and if this isn’t science communication, what is?

    Unlike some anti-military people who post here (I will not name any names), the majority of Americans know that most of the people in the military are not vacant-eyed murderers, whose toughest question is whether to rape babies before or after dismembering them.

    Well, the people in the military who make the big decisions seem to comprise a large proportion of people who know they have a really big hammer and keep seeing nails…

    Talisker scrawled “I’m sure he would tell his undergraduates that your conclusion should go at the end, not the beginning.”

    In a newspaper article, (or Op-Ed), the lede leads.

    And in a scientific article, you put the conclusion in the abstract, in addition to putting it in the Conclusions section (if there is one) and into the Discussion section.

    Hmm. Everyone on the internet is a cheeto-snarfing, living-in-his-parents-basement loser. Except me. Of course. Oh, and Punching Hippies, who don’t have Jobs, and who therefore can have no opinion worth reading or respecting. And you accuse US of being elitist?

    “(Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with elitism. I admit it: I’m an elitist. I love my elite so much I think everybody should belong to it.)”
    Blake Stacey

  217. Steersman says

    A question of getting the attention of Perry and company, I think. Reminds me of an old joke which I found on a religious site so they are not totally devoid of, at least, a sense of humour:

    There is a really old joke about a farmer and his mule. This mule was the most stubborn thing on four feet. When the mule decided it would not move, it would not move. At those times, the farmer tried everything. He would yell at it. He would pull on the reins. He even tried pushing it, but only once. The farmer realized that he would have to wait helplessly until the mule decided to move.

    One day, the farmer got a late start to go into town for supplies. He arrived, got his supplies, and quickly loaded the wagon so he could make it back home before dark. What do you think happened? You’re right. The mule decided it did not want to leave town yet. Jumping down from the wagon seat, the farmer launched into his usual tirade, even though he knew it probably would not make a difference.

    Another man was walking by at this time and observed the farmer’s emotional eruption. Looking at the farmer, the man said, “You are doing this all wrong. Mules should be treated with gentleness and kindness. You should not yell at a mule or yank on its reins. Be gentle with the animal, and the mule will respond obediently.” At this, the farmer said, “Well, mister, if you think you can do better, be my guest.”

    The other man walked up to the mule and began to talk to it in a quiet voice. Then, he reached down, picked up a big stick, and whacked the mule right between the eyes. At this, the mule staggered a bit, but then began to walk forward.

    The farmer was grateful that the mule was finally moving, but he was shocked by the man’s actions. The farmer shouted at him, “I thought you said the mule should be treated with gentleness and kindness.” The man replied, “It should, but first you have to get its attention.”

  218. tim Rowledge says

    War On Errorism

    Oh yes. Stolen, buffed up, gold plated, preserved in museum grade preservatronium and mounted on a pedestal in front of the Capitol (and other houses of ill-repute; um, government) to inspire the Great Leaders of Our Countries.

  219. says

    Different joke about mules:
    The Quaker found his mule to be stubborn. He quietly told his mule, “mule, thou knowest I will not curse thee. Thou knowest I will not not strike thee. What thou doesn’t know is that I will sell thee to the baptist down the lane.”

  220. says

    Why does anyone get their feelings hurt over words, anyway? They’re just sounds. If someone makes threatening sounds, the sounds are meaningless, you assess whether it’s a likely threat. If someone makes sounds intended to “insult” – that’s what confuses me: so what if someone calls me a “goat scrotum licker” because I know that they have no way of knowing (because I’ve never blogged about it and there aren’t any photos) about my goat scrotum licking. Or, if I am a goat scrotum licker then it’s not really an “insult” is it? It’s just an affirmation. So if someone tries to get my goat (as it were) by accusing me of something I know they are only doing in an attempt to get my goat, then the obvious strategy for me is not to let them get my goat. Or to point out that there’s no way for them to know that so there’s no need for me to care what they say and besides they are “poopy heads” for trying to get my goat.

    Now, when Dawkins points out that Perry is an ignoramus, a rational person wouldn’t let that get their goat; they might think for a second (if they’re slow) and say, “well, yeah!” The only reason for anyone to take offense is if they think that maybe they are being called “ignorami” too. Which, if they think like Perry does, is probably accurate and – if they don’t – maybe inaccurate. Still, why would that bother anyone?

    I guess that what I’m getting at is that I don’t see any fucking point whatsoever to care about someone else’s language (unless, like, they are using “like” every, like, third word – that, like, gets my goat) even if it’s threat display.

    What kind of idiot would ignore the truth part of “this is a fucking true statement” because of the word “fucking”? Only someone who took it so literally that they’re going to brain-lock trying to figure out what fucking the truth feels like? It feels like Palin, but that’s another story.

  221. andyo says

    Marta, #49

    Leonard Mlodinow co-wrote a book with Deepak Chopra?

    Yes. I enjoyed The Drunkard’s Walk a lot, and will probably read The Grand Design later on, but the Chopra book has a bit of a history. I suppose you’re familiar with the fantastic video where Chopra was “debating” with Sam Harris and Michael Shermer at Caltech, and Mlodinow questioned him on the quantum mechanics babble. Well turns out Mlodinow apparently is a Very Nice Guy™ and afterwards they became friendly and started discussing this stuff.

    I follow him on Twitter and they’re still at it once in a while. The worst thing is that Chopra hasn’t missed any opportunity to cite his name and other scientists’s (or more precisely, their “IQ”) like Penrose who also co-wrote with him, in order to appear smart before his audience. He did it shamelessly when PZ wrote about his tweets for instance.

  222. Steersman says

    The Sailor said (#246): “…. What thou doesn’t know is that I will sell thee to the Baptist down the lane.”

    If that wouldn’t put the fear of god into a dumb brute I don’t know what could. Although, to be fair, one might argue that some (many?) Baptists, insofar as they are synonymous with creationists and other Biblical literalists, also engender a quite justifiable fear in me, and many others apparently, of if not god then at least the consequences of their Old Testament morality and ignorance of science.

  223. Kemist says

    I’m not sure evidence comes into it. All I’m saying is that people don’t like to be insulted; Dawkins is insulting Republican voters in general; these insults serve no good purpose, and it’s reasonable to suppose they are counterproductive.

    Evidence always comes into it – else why even call it communication “science” ?

    One has simply to observe how people react to different things.

    Being called stupid by a random asshole you meet on the street obviously does not have the same effect as being called stupid by a great scientist. One might make you automatically raise your middle finger in answer, the other might make you think a second or two, if you happen to be a reasonable… anything.

    Ever been called stupid by a teacher you respect ? Do you immediately puff up in indignation ? Or does it make you think a bit ?

  224. says

    Brownian #199 I just got back here, re-read your comment, and realized what I missed. I’m too mild-mannered, it seems. Or low on caffeine. Or something.

    “Hide the evidence.” Yes, please do. Wouldn’t want you stopped mid-career.

  225. tyroneslothrop says

    While I don’t disagree with much of what Dawkins writes, I would argue that he is fundamentally wrong when he states that “linguistic mastery” is not appreciated among Tea Party followers. This seems clearly false. Tea Party followers do value linguistic mastery, it just isn’t the same linguistic mastery as Dawkins would like. It is a rhetorical style that works and works well for the Tea Party candidates and it displays its own poetics (in the technical sense, following Jakobson). It is a high value linguistic register for a certain segment of the American population. Such ways of speaking do not mark ignorance, but are, instead, simply other ways of speaking (with the associated values assigned to those who align with it and those, like Dawkins, who do not), with emergent structures of use and relatively sedimented structures of use, like any other way of speaking (in the Hymesian sense). To argue that Tea Party followers eschew “linguistic mastery,” is not a claim based on empirical research, for that one would need sociolinguistics and ethnography, but rather on ignorance, or a linguistic ideology that conflates linguistic difference with linguistic deficits.

  226. says

    Talisker #222

    @Susannah 188: I also am a mild-mannered Canadian. You quoted a comment from me which was specifically directed at the commenters who had been shrieking variations on “fuck off, you fucking Republican-loving accommodationist.” (See #75 for example.)

    Here’s Brownian’s comment:

    I am so fucking sick of this.

    THEN GO AND FUCKING DO IT ALREADY, YOU FUCKING ASSHOLES. EVERY MOMENT YOU SPEND HERE TELLING US, WELL ANYTHING, IS ANOTHER MOMENT YOU COULD BE HUGGING A REPUBLICAN INTO EMBRACING UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE.
    GO AND SOLVE THE PROBLEM USING YOUR SUPER-DUPER-OH-MY-GOD-YOU-WON’T-BELIEVE-HOW-MUCH-MORE-EFFECTIVE-THAN-INSULTS-IT-IS TECHNIQUE, AND GET THE FUCK OUT OF OUR FUCKING FACES, ALREADY.

    Brownian’s right. Stop whining, and go do something useful.

    You, again:

    That sort of thing adds nothing to the conversation …

    Ir did; it offered a practical course of action, according to your expressed opinions, and encouraged you to get busy.

  227. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    I’ve never understand the attitude against wanting elites as one’s political leaders. Why the hell wouldn’t I want a team of the smartest, most capable, most well-informed people making the important decisions?

    Did the people of the USA not learning anything from the GW Bush era?

  228. says

    “Did the people of the USA not learning anything from the GW Bush era?”

    I personally believe that US Americans are unable to do so because some people out there in our nation don’t have maps, and I believe that our education like such as South Africa, and the Iraq, everywhere like, such as, and I believe that they should, our education over here in the U.S. should help the U.S., or should help South Africa, it should help the Iraq and the Asian countries so we will be able to build up our future, for our children.

  229. says

    Finishing the comments after my diatribe, from scratch even, I notice that what I screamed had already been expressed multiple times.

    I’m ok with this, it gives the “echo chamber” trolls fodder to use in their trolling, which in turn affords me more opportunities to belittle them.

  230. Steersman says

    tkreacher said (#25?): I’m ok with this; it gives the “echo chamber” trolls fodder to use in their trolling, which in turn affords me more opportunities to belittle them.

    Whatever turns your crank, although absent some constructive comments – which Dawkins was essentially doing with his article, for example by suggesting making questions on evolution a part of the election campaign – that seems rather petty and juvenile to me.

  231. andyo says

    ^^^ Can we get a filter for these? Or is this a “feature?”

    They’re trackbacks, you haven’t seen them in other blogs? They’re harmless but sometimes they’re separated from the comments. I don’t mind either way.

  232. Akira MacKenzie says

    All I’m saying is that people don’t like to be insulted…

    And I should care that a Republican and/or Christian was insulted because…?

  233. Kagehi says

    Whatever turns your crank, although absent some constructive comments – which Dawkins was essentially doing with his article, for example by suggesting making questions on evolution a part of the election campaign – that seems rather petty and juvenile to me.

    Yes, because it would be completely “petty” if 90% of all the candidates running took the stance that wearing underwear on your head made you smarter, ran significant parts of their campaign on either that single point, or things connected to it, then when talking to people that are not completely batshit insane (which is to say the other 99% of the country), suddenly forgot that they had a position on it at all, and instead talking about the importance of tailored suits, as though that wasn’t just as pointlessly stupid.

    Its not petty to call someone on one of many things they do not frakking understand, which will inform their policies, about things like healthcare, medicine, medical research, and even whether or not certain diseases might be dangerous. I can just see one of these idiots going, “What? There is a deadly disease that infects cats going around? Well, people are not cats, so why the hell should I care?”, followed by an epidemic that leaves 80% of the US population dead, due to them refusing to do anything about it. Hell, you could cure cancer tomorrow, using genes from a mouse, and half these idiots would ban it as ungodly, and the other half would be “concerned” that the people getting the injection where going to grow tails and round ears. Why the hell wouldn’t you use their disbelief in the very corner stone of modern medical research as a litmus of whether or not they can run a country? Its certainly at least as important as whether or not some idiot imagines, or thinks it must be true, or is just willing to lie about, terrorist connections between countries that don’t like each other. Last time they where at least in the same part of the world. The next idiot might convince themselves that Canada is conspiring with Argentina to buy Uranium from Pluto.

    Hell, I wouldn’t lay odds that Bachman or Palin wouldn’t both say, without a hint of a clue, that Pluto and Argentina are “located” in Canada.

    Petty? You have got to be @#$@#%@$ kidding me!

  234. says

    Steersman #259

    Your concern in regard to how petty or juvenile you may find one thing or another is noted and has been logged in my journal.

    Thank you for your constructive comment.

  235. DLC says

    Actually, Dawkins does not call anyone “stupid”, he calls them uneducated fools.

    A. There is nothing unusual about Governor Rick Perry. Uneducated fools can be found in every country and every period of history, and they are not unknown in high office. (Richard Dawkins, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/on-faith/post/attention-governor-perry-evolution-is-a-fact/2011/08/23/gIQAuIFUYJ_blog.html )

    A man can be quite intelligent or well-educated (the two are not synonymous) and still be a fool.

    Dawkins is direct, to the point, and doesn’t cut anybody any slack. Why should he ? Dawkins isn’t writing a scientific paper, or participating in a debating society, but engaging in political discussion. Do you really think Rick Perry, given the chance, would reply to Dr Dawkins in a nice friendly “hail-fellow-well-met” tone ? Most likely, Perry would warn Dr. Dawkins not to visit Texas any time soon, lest he (like Paul Bernanke) be strung up.

    This is Perry’s modus operandi. Bluster, pontificate, insult and threaten. Claim the intellectual low ground by calling your enemies “Elitists”, “Damn Intellectuals” and “Ivy Tower Liberals”.

  236. says

    @AJ in #77:

    Objectively of course it doesn’t. But from the point of view of the believer, their particular flavour of religion does provide that certainty.

    Until you start asking questions. Pretty soon they’ll tell you that “God works in mysterious ways”, and “God’s plan is beyond human comprehension”, etc.

  237. Anri says

    “God’s plan is beyond human comprehension”

    …at which point, of course, you say, “Then please stop trying to explain it for me.”

  238. says

    @Anri:

    …at which point, of course, you say, “Then please stop trying to explain it for me.”

    Exactly. Or “Then stop trying to put his plan in the law books.”

  239. says

    As for Dawkins supposedly insulting Republicans as a group, I think the “if the shoe fits” principle should apply here.

    Any “reasonable Republican”, if they’re still out there, should agree with Dawkins that the Republican party has been taken over by anti-intellectual populists. They should agree that the followers of these populists are ignorant fools. If they didn’t agree with these two points, I can’t consider them reasonable. But if they do agree, then they shouldn’t feel insulted at all by Dawkins’ remarks, because they know they don’t support these populists themselves. They know Dawkins isn’t talking about them.

    If the shoe fits, however, wear it.

  240. Marta says

    Andyo@248:

    “I suppose you’re familiar with the fantastic video where Chopra was “debating” with Sam Harris and Michael Shermer at Caltech, and Mlodinow questioned him on the quantum mechanics babble.”

    Right. That’s why I’m incredulous that they have co-written a book together–thanks for that link, by the way.

    Marta

  241. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Whatever turns your crank, although absent some constructive comments – which Dawkins was essentially doing with his article, for example by suggesting making questions on evolution a part of the election campaign – that seems rather petty and juvenile to me.

    Of course it’s petty. Why should we want to know a candidates ability to evaluate various points of view and the evidence backing them and determine which has the best grasp on reality? Or to try and determine if a candidate is more likely to side with emotionally based ideology over well established science.

    That would be silly.

  242. 'Tis Himself, pour encourager les autres says

    Akira MacKenzie #261

    And I should care that a Republican and/or Christian was insulted because…?

    Because if they’re insulted they’ll immediately stop accepting evolution, vote for libertarians for dog catcher, and establish the Christian equivalent of sharia law in their households. Just ask any accommodationist, they’ll explain it to you in the most pompous, condescending terms.

  243. says

    talisker

    Most Americans have trouble accepting criticism from “abroad” because they won’t accept just how ignorant they appear to be. The fact that “ignoramuses” can actually contest for the presidency actually scares the hell out of the intelligent ones in the rest of the world. Some of them liken many of the “tea party” rants akin to the kind of babbling coming out of the mouth of Libyan dictators . . . or have you noticed?

  244. Talisker says

    @ Horse-Pheathers 240: Yes, I do know some reasonable Republicans. On the whole, they are disgusted by the current state of their party, but having supported it for many years they may not want to abandon it; and they vote for individual Republican candidates who align better with their beliefs.

    60 million people voted for McCain in 2008, 45.7% of the total. It’s ridiculous to suppose that all of them are the ignorant bigots caricatured by Dawkins and people on this thread. A great many more Americans have voted Republican at some time in the past, or like and respect someone who does (friend, colleague, parent, whoever).

    So, someone who does not see all Republicans as The Enemy starts reading Dawkins’ article, and immediately sees insults directed at Republican voters in general. Without reading any further, they conclude Dawkins does not know what he is talking about, and turn the page. Simple. And a missed opportunity on Dawkins’ part.

    I’ve just been trying to clarify that simple point and answer the more rational responses I’ve seen, while trying to ignore the people who screech at me to fuck off and rant about an accommodationist staw man who exists largely in their imaginations.

    Mostly a waste of time I admit, but as has been pointed out, blog comment sections are not exactly an arena for getting anything constructive done.

    @Susannah 253: We’re all idly wasting time here. You have no idea what I do when I’m not commenting on Pharyngula. Maybe I’m hugely successful at fighting the good fight for science and rationality, working on a cure for cancer, and saving injured orphans and cute furry animals. Maybe you are. Maybe not. I don’t care and there’s no reason why you should.

  245. says

    @Talisker:

    It’s ridiculous to suppose that all of them are the ignorant bigots caricatured by Dawkins and people on this thread.

    I’m sure you can quote where Dawkins called people “bigots” in that article, right?

    Without reading any further, they conclude Dawkins does not know what he is talking about, and turn the page.

    In my view, that alone would automatically disqualify them from being a member of the “reasonable Republicans” category. See also: my comment at #268.

  246. Owlmirror says

    I’m remembering an anecdote about someone, perhaps chatting with a fellow passenger, explaining their research in following the changes in a population and the causes thereof; and the seatmate being fascinated and thrilled with how it all made sense–until the researcher said his topic was evolution. Then the seatmate became huffy, negative, and — betrayed, as if he’d been tempted into evil.

    Yes; this was in fact written by Richard Dawkins in The Greatest Show on Earth.

    My colleague Dr John Endler, recently moved from North America to the University of Exeter, told me the following marvellous – well, also depressing – story. He was travelling on a domestic flight in the United States, and the passenger in the next seat made conversation by asking him what he did. Endler replied that he was a professor of biology, doing research on wild guppy populations in Trinidad. The man became increasingly interested in the research and asked many questions. Intrigued by the elegance of the theory that seemed to underlie the experiments, he asked Endler what that theory was, and who originated it. Only then did Dr Endler drop what he correctly guessed would be his bombshell: ‘It’s called Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection!’ The man’s whole demeanour instantly changed. His face went red; abruptly, he turned away, refused to speak further and terminated what had hitherto been an amiable conversation. More than amiable, indeed: Dr Endler writes to me that the man had ‘asked some excellent questions before this, indicating that he was enthusiastically and intellectually following the argument. This is really tragic.’

  247. KG says

    60 million people voted for McCain in 2008, 45.7% of the total. It’s ridiculous to suppose that all of them are the ignorant bigots caricatured by Dawkins and people on this thread. – Talisker

    [citation needed]

    You can see here that roughly half of Americans are creationists – that is, they are appallingly ignorant. There is simply no excuse whatever for inhabitants of the world’s most scientifically productive nation holding such absurd beliefs. The figure is considerably higher for Republicans: around 2/3. It is a fair bet that most of these people hold the bigoted views about, for example, gays, associated with conservative Christianity. Results here show that large, although gradually declining proportions of US adults say homosexual activity should be criminalised (35% in 2003) – obviously an extremely bigoted view. Many who do not go this far would clearly count as bigoted against LGBT people to any non-bigot. So while it is almost certainly true that not all of those who voted for McCain are ignorant bigots, a clear majority almost certainly are and the rest should be thoroughly ashamed of the company they are keeping.

  248. Brownian says

    So, someone who does not see all Republicans as The Enemy starts reading Dawkins’ article, and immediately sees insults directed at Republican voters in general. Without reading any further, they conclude Dawkins does not know what he is talking about, and turn the page. Simple. And a missed opportunity on Dawkins’ part.

    Maybe I’m hugely successful at fighting the good fight for science and rationality, working on a cure for cancer, and saving injured orphans and cute furry animals.

    Nobody who’s that in love with using hypotheticals and ‘what if’s and ‘this could have happened’s to advance their arguments is going to be much good at science, neither in its communication or its practice.

    You may have convinced yourself that you’re not an idiot, but we, not being idiots, aren’t so easily swayed.

    If all you’ve got behind your claim is “imagine this happening”, then fuck off, moron. Go cure fluffy animal cancer or whatever imaginary great things you do.

  249. Steersman says

    Kagehi said (#262): It’s not petty to call someone on one of many things they do not frakking understand, which will inform their policies, about things like healthcare, medicine, medical research, and even whether or not certain diseases might be dangerous.

    I think you misunderstand my point and where I’m coming from. I quite agree that it’s important “to call someone on anything they [apparently] don’t understand” and to even call them ignorant as a way of getting their attention – as in the joke I quoted (#244) about getting a stubborn mule to be at least pulling its weight.

    But there is difference between getting the mule’s attention and, to mix metaphors, flogging a dead horse. The former exhibits some intelligence and rationality while the latter is, in my view, simply being petty, as is belittling – particularly when the latter is unaccompanied by any constructive criticisms – the “gentleness and kindness” of the joke.

    And apropos of which I note that Dawkins is calling for and promoting a campaign for a Secular Europe – big marches apparently planned for mid-September. I don’t know whether P.Z. is doing likewise, but maybe promoting similar marches in North America would be some very constructive and proactive criticism – a step in the right direction to get the mule to stop digging in its heels by “gently” suggesting some other ways of looking at things.

  250. Steersman says

    Brownian said (#277): If all you’ve got behind your claim is “imagine this happening”, then fuck off, moron.

    You may be interested to know that there are, apparently, some medications and-or therapies for the “modality” that you, and a few others here, seem to exhibit, i.e., Tourette’s syndrome:

    Tourette’s was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks …

    Oh, and by the way, this is really P.Z.’s blog, not yours, and he is really the only one who can effectively tell anyone to “fuck off”; anyone else is just blowing smoke ….

  251. says

    “It is a high value linguistic register for a certain segment of the American population.”

    Yes, we call that ‘dog whistles’. Fellow ignorant bigots get exactly what they mean when they speak of states rights and urban thugs, &c.

  252. says

    Hurray, the topic that never dies.

    @Talisker

    So, someone who does not see all Republicans as The Enemy starts reading Dawkins’ article, and immediately sees insults directed at Republican voters in general. Without reading any further, they conclude Dawkins does not know what he is talking about, and turn the page. Simple. And a missed opportunity on Dawkins’ part.

    Is it Republicans are too feeble-minded to handle the insults or too delicate of mind to read further without fainting? Which would you have them be?

    Look at your argument – look at how you take a whole group of people and turn them into beings who can’t critically read an article without being mentally coddled.

    You and the accommodationist stance in general arbitrarily seeks to neuter tone without realizing that there are already tens of thousands of articles, books, videos, and movies that deliver the science message in a neutral, non-inflammatory tone. And look at the success of it.

    Ah yes, it failed.

    Over half of America still staunchly believes in fairy tales, including every single GOP front runner for the President of the United States.

    So, you really want to keep arguing this line of logic? The accomodationist path is a failure by itself. People do need to stand up and call idiots out for being idiots.

  253. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Oh, and by the way, this is really P.Z.’s blog, not yours, and he is really the only one who can effectively tell anyone to “fuck off”; anyone else is just blowing smoke ….

    Sorry fuckwitted idjit, anybody can tell you to fuck off, and if enough people tell you to do so, you should fade back into the bandwidth. This isn’t your blog either, and Brownian has posted here for a long time and is well respected, compared to you. So why not you fade back into the bandwidth?

  254. Therrin says

    On the whole, they are disgusted by the current state of their party, but having supported it for many years they may not want to abandon it

    All the more reason to consider them ignorant.

    A great many more Americans have voted Republican at some time in the past, or like and respect someone who does

    Republicans in the past weren’t as crazy as they are now, and those that are staying in it for historical value are enablers of the crazy. If they don’t see that, if they get insulted at someone calling the party’s candidates crazy, they’re part of the problem.

    Maybe I’m hugely successful at fighting the good fight for science and rationality, working on a cure for cancer, and saving injured orphans and cute furry animals.

    Don’t forget to clean off the Cheeto dust before returning to your lab.

  255. says

    Steersman #297

    Your fainting heart when it comes to bad words is positively adorable.

    That shit is fucking adorable.

    Oh, and hey, watch any Episode of the Daily Show, the most watched left leaning “news” show happens to be a fucking comedy show where profanity and ridicule abound.

    You’re a fucking idiot insofar as you don’t realize that being milquetoast is not as widely effective or appealing than being blunt and even profane, especially among the younger crowd, which happens to be the most selection of minds to change or engage.

    Fuck shit, piss ass, just… fuck shit off to god damn hell, k?

  256. says

    Talisker #273

    @Susannah 253: We’re all idly wasting time here. You have no idea what I do when I’m not commenting on Pharyngula. Maybe I’m hugely successful at fighting the good fight for science and rationality, working on a cure for cancer, and saving injured orphans and cute furry animals.

    Good for you. Wonderful. Rah rah rah, and all that.

    That wasn’t the point. You had said that Brownian’s comment added nothing to the discussion, when it was exhorting (to use a good Christian word) people – not only you, who don’t need it, apparently – to do something productive. That doesn’t look like “adding nothing” to me.

    BTW, you may be wasting your time. I am not.

  257. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Oh, and by the way, this is really P.Z.’s blog, not yours, and he is really the only one who can effectively tell anyone to “fuck off”; anyone else is just blowing smoke ….

    Let me guess: when someone criticizes you in Meatspace, you stomp your feet and yell that they can call the cops on you if they want you to stop?

    Anyone can tell you to fuck off. PZ can make you fuck off, directly and unilaterally. That’s all.

  258. Anteprepro says

    Nice stereotyping of people with Tourette’s there, Steersman. Stay fucking classy.

    Why is it that the tone trolls always seem to manage to defy their own magical principle of being polite in order to avoid knee-jerk rejection in the most inept, clueless, and sanctimonious manner possible? Just FYI: If we enjoyed the input of blatant hypocrites failing to practice what they preach, demanding that we behave a certain way with only the flimsiest of rationales behind that demand, we would be hanging on every word of the clergy and Republican politicians, rather than attempting to be vocal critics of same. Especially if we wanted it to come in excessive bulk and with frequent repetitions, as The Chronically Concerned Crew seem to assume we desperately crave. So, just so it’s clear: no, we do not need an crash course in manners from hand-wringers who can’t manage to go a half-dozen repetitions of their “be nice” mantra without letting loose some casual bigotry. Because who cares if you demean entire classes for who they are, the real evil is if you demean idiotic ideas and the people in power who support whilst using the F-word!

    Fuck off, you bog standard Puritanical hypocrite. Just because I or the other commenters can’t ban you doesn’t mean we can’t make it clear to you that you should go away and reflect upon what an ass you’ve been instead of clogging up our toilet with even more of your shit.

  259. cwayne says

    Agree with PZ 100%. vernon is full of crap.. not sterile urine excrement, but actual crap: feces.
    Well done vernon for writing an utterly nonsensical article. Sad that you may have been paid for it.

  260. Kagehi says

    On the whole, they are disgusted by the current state of their party, but having supported it for many years they may not want to abandon it; and they vote for individual Republican candidates who align better with their beliefs.

    They never want to abandon it. A certain percentage are so confused, lied to, or just stubborn, about every other alternative, that the Republicans could re-institute slavery, but determine that white people are outnumbered, so should be the new slaves, call for the daily sacrifice of babies, and ban red meat, and half of them would probably still vote for, “candidates who align better with their beliefs”, what ever the frak that means, by that point. One of the problems is, imho, a basic refusal of Republicans to even acknowledge that two parties is not written in stone, not inevitable, and not in the best long term interest of the country. No, way too many of them, if you propose an alternate party, will gasp, state at you like you grew a new head, and start babbling about how they are *sure* some law or other, if not the constitution itself, or the founders intent, creates a two party system, and daring to change that would be worse than the Tea Party takeover of their own.

    This very same principle, combined with the sad fact that, so far, the only people that have created new parties have been fringe, in every sense of the word, including the “slightly off their rocker” one, makes either convincing people to vote for one, never mind creating one, a serious problem. Hell, there is even mention here of some sort of rationalist party, or something, and its always shot down, not on principle of the wackos that might show up (but there would be those), but the flat inability to get people’s heads out of their asses and vote for something other than the least odious member which ever side of the “two party system” they have convinced themselves semi-reflect their view points.

  261. Steersman says

    Anteprepro said (# 287): Nice stereotyping of people with Tourette’s there, Steersman. Stay fucking classy. Why is it that the tone trolls always seem to manage to defy their own magical principle of being polite in order to avoid knee-jerk rejection in the most inept, clueless, and sanctimonious manner possible?

    Fail to see how that was any stereotyping – if you’d actually taken time to read the article (or maybe it’s a question of poor comprehension skills) then you would have noticed it is a recognized medical condition. And mentioning it is no less classy than mentioning any other condition and suggesting remedies – dandruff, for example. What is really classy, and which really adds a lot to P.Z.’s blog, is that so many here are apparently suffering from that condition – either that or from a bad case of “potty-mouth”. I should ask you how often you have seen Dawkins – or any of the other “Four Horseman” – degenerate to such abysmal levels.

  262. Steersman says

    Forbidden Snowflake said (#286): … when someone criticizes you in Meatspace …

    Interesting phrase; learn something new every day.

    Anyone can tell you to fuck off. PZ can make you fuck off, directly and unilaterally. That’s all.

    Actually, if you had read a little more closely that post of mine you would have noted that that is all I said with that sentence: only P.Z. can effectively tell me, or anyone else, to do that; everyone else is just blowing smoke – and a slight breeze will show how inconsequential those actions really are.

  263. Steersman says

    tkreacher said (#284): Your fainting heart when it comes to bad words is positively adorable.

    Not quite sure how you reached that conclusion – a leap of faith, maybe? A triumph of stereotyping, perhaps? A brilliant use of logic and reasoning that gnu-atheists are supposedly famous for?

    As I have indicated I’m quite prepared to use the “ignorant” word, among others and along with various relevant adjectives (and I’m beginning to think there’s some justification for using them to refer to you and a number of other posters here), to get people’s attention. But at some point the impact of the words themselves are greatly diminished by overuse with a result that is little more than inconsequential noise; the tinkling of an empty vessel twisting in the wind: blowing smoke ….

    Oh, and hey, watch any Episode of the Daily Show, the most watched left leaning “news” show happens to be a fucking comedy show where profanity and ridicule abound..

    Haven’t seen it but might be worthwhile checking out – thanks for the heads-up. But from a brief review of the Wikipedia article on it I see that it seems to provide some useful satire – getting people’s attention. Though I don’t see anything there that indicates it is exclusively used just to allow people the opportunity to exercise their command of profanity.

    Fuck shit, piss ass, just… fuck shit off to god damn hell, k?

    Speaking of inconsequential noise …. But that’s a fucking negatory – asshole – although that is probably being overly generous as even that has a use ….

  264. Anteprepro says

    It’s because you’re intractable fuckwit. Yes, I’m perfectly aware that Tourette’s is an actual ailment: but, unlike you, I also that Tourette’s is more than “lol, he curses randomly!”. Perhaps you saw this on wikipedia: “the more common tics of eye blinking, coughing, throat clearing, sniffing, and facial movements.” Or, in other words, the most common tics aren’t vocal, and vocal tics aren’t necessarily even words, let alone always cuss words, but you might know this if you had heard of Tourette’s from something other than fucking South Park. Also on your precious wikipedia article: “The entertainment industry has been criticized for depicting those with Tourette syndrome as social misfits whose only tic is coprolalia, which has furthered stigmatization and the public’s misunderstanding of those with Tourette’s”. Congratulations. Can I call you “Entertainment Industry” from henceforth? But obviously, I’m the one who lacks reading comprehension or whatever here.

    Now, would you please, pretty please, fuck off? Or do you want to dig deeper and insist, once again, that Tourette’s is just a fancy word for potty mouth?

  265. Steersman says

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls said (#282): Sorry fuckwitted idjit, anybody can tell you to fuck off, and if enough people tell you to do so, you should fade back into the bandwidth.

    You still seem unclear on the concept – almost as bad as Perry, apparently. As I mentioned, you and everyone else here telling me to do so is still only so much blowing smoke – fifty times zero is still zero – and is not really going to be at all effective. Or maybe you’re of the opinion – really classy – that shouting people down in any way detracts from the supposed truth of what they are trying to say.

    This isn’t your blog either, and Brownian has posted here for a long time and is well respected, compared to you.

    “Small minds seldom differ.”

  266. hotshoe says

    Steersman:

    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls said (#282):

    Sorry fuckwitted idjit, anybody can tell you to fuck off, and if enough people tell you to do so, you should fade back into the bandwidth.

    You still seem unclear on the concept – almost as bad as Perry, apparently. As I mentioned, you and everyone else here telling me to do so is still only so much blowing smoke – fifty times zero is still zero – and is not really going to be at all effective.

    Sure, you farkin nannygoat, it won’t be effective when you’re the kind of grade-B troll who chooses to force his presence into a group that doesn’t welcome his kind. Sure, when that’s who you are, the rest of us will have to wait until PZ drops the banhammer, or until you finally wander back to your bridge of your own choice.

    In the meantime, I plan to make your stay here as remarkable as possible in a mockery of your stubborn ignorant trollishness and your hypocritical name-calling and your genuinely childish insults. Potty-mouth, anyone ? Tee hee hee.

    You can choose to go at any time. No one’s keeping you here. You’re as free as a bird. Now shoo. Scoot. Git. Your kind is not welcome.

  267. hotshoe says

    Steersman:

    This isn’t your blog either, and Brownian has posted here for a long time and is well respected, compared to you.

    “Small minds seldom differ.”

    You putrid hypocrite.

  268. Steersman says

    Anteprepro said (# 293): Or, in other words, the most common tics aren’t vocal, and vocal tics aren’t necessarily even words, let alone always cuss words …

    I wasn’t referring to most of those afflicted but, potentially, to one individual; entirely consistent with Wikipedia, I might add:

    Tourette’s was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks (coprolalia), but this symptom is present in only a small minority of people with Tourette’s.

    Anteprepro also said: Also on your precious Wikipedia article: “The entertainment industry has been criticized for depicting those with Tourette’s syndrome as social misfits …

    Did I say anything about Brownian being a social misfit? Seems to me you’re the one reading between the lines and reaching the conclusion that I was. But curious that you are apparently up-in-arms at a supposed affront to the dignity of one group but seem to want to go out of your way to do the same thing to other groups, and in a much more obnoxious way.

    Now, would you please, pretty please, fuck off?

    After you, Alphonse ….

  269. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Steersman, you haven’t fucked off yet? What an egotistical loser. Might as well be a liberturd for all the arrogance and ignorance you are showing. Nothing but loser writ large over your inane posts.

  270. Anteprepro says

    You used Tourette’s as if it meant “shouts obscenities at random” in you first post, explicitly omitting ” but this symptom is present in only a small minority of people with Tourette’s” in your original post. You are digging deeper. Stop it. You can’t change what you’ve already said.

    Also: exactly how you can draw an equivalence between neurological afflictions and political affiliations is beyond me. I assume if I were to mock someone for being a flat-earther, you would then feel within your rights to have a Rush Limbaugh moment and make a little fun at the expense of those with Parkinson’s disease? Plan to give us some stand-up routine about Huntington’s chorea or cystic fibrosis next time someone has the audacity to make fun of birthers or antivaxxers? Because you apparently can’t seem to get the distinction between debilitating problems that people can’t help and really don’t hurt anyone, and incredibly stupid ideas that are presented as facts and will cause harm to almost everyone if enacted.

    And I am now officially done feeding you.

  271. Steersman says

    hotshoe said (#295)… hypocritical name-calling and your genuinely childish insults. Potty-mouth, anyone ? Tee hee hee.

    I offered “potty-mouth” as an alternative to Tourette’s syndrome as a possible explanation for some excessive use of profanity – take your pick. Seems the use of that was here long before I put a name to it, a word, I might add, that’s been around for some 20 years so it must have some applicability.

    You can choose to go at any time. No one’s keeping you here. You’re as free as a bird. Now shoo. Scoot. Git. Your kind is not welcome.

    “Don’t confuse me with facts [or contrary opinions] as my mind is made up”. And you claim to be the antithesis of religious believers? You might want to take a look at the Wikipedia article on “Echo chamber” which has this:

    Participants in online communities may find their own opinions constantly echoed back to them, which reinforces their individual belief systems. This can create significant barriers to critical discourse within an online medium.

    hotshoe also said (classily; #296): You putrid hypocrite.

    Now, that really adds a lot to the conversation. And gives further evidence of gnu-atheists’ very great command of reason and logic in creating relevant, cogent and coherent arguments.

    Really admirable. Not.

  272. Steersman says

    Cath the Canberra Cook said (#298): I don’t think I can take anyone seriously when they use the word “pottymouth” seriously. LOL.

    Yet you, and many others here, seem to find it entirely plausible that other people are going to take seriously those who can’t seem to talk without every second word or phrase being “fuckwitted idjit”, “fuck”, “piss”, “ass” or some other choice, illuminating and relevant words. Seems the use of those words came well before the characterizing of their use; “seems most illogical Captain Jerk”.

    Fuck off now.

    After you, Alphonse ….

  273. Steersman says

    Anteprepro said (# 293): Also: exactly how you can draw an equivalence between neurological afflictions and political affiliations is beyond me.

    Horse-Pheathers (#153) talks – rather cogently and sensibly I might add, and with nary a swear-word to be seen – of religion being a “destructive addiction” – with which I would largely agree. And Dawkins, of course, has the first word from that perspective with his article on Gerin Oil.

    Any reasonably knowledgeable evaluation of drug addictions will show or strongly suggest that it is in fact a very serious “neurological affliction”. There are, of course, reasonable points to be made in the area of volition as it pertains to drug addictions, but the evidence suggests it is at least a major uphill battle to surmount them. As is the case, I would argue, with religion as well.

    And we’re not talking of “political affiliations” here at all, but religious “afflictions”.

  274. F says

    Talisker

    And a missed opportunity on Dawkins’ part.

    This here is one of the central bits of the problem. I would like to know how you, Vernon, and all like-minded folks, presume to tell everyone what Dawkins’ job or intent is, or should be, at least insofar as the article of contention is concerned.

  275. says

    Steersman using “echo chamber” after quoting me anticipating the use of the term: awesome.

    On another note, one of the few things I picked up in the military that was added to my practical lexicon outside of that culture applies here.

    Steersman, you ain’t gonna make it.

  276. Steersman says

    tkreacher said (#305): Steersman using “echo chamber” after quoting me anticipating the use of the term: awesome.

    From what I’ve read, it seems to be a common accusation from both sides – and with some justification in each case. Don’t know if you’ve ever read The Trouble With Islam Today – highly recommended by the way – by a gay Canadian female Muslim [Irshad Manji] who, as the title suggests, has more or less torn a strip off of Islam. But one of her central points is that Islam used to have – some four or five hundred years ago – a tradition of ijtihad – not jihad – which means, more or less, a principle of independent reasoning and thinking. Unfortunately, that has been replaced by dogma which everyone has to subscribe to – group-think; bad karma from square one. Seems to me that the principle might be given a lot more credence in a great many other arenas as well.

    Steersman, you ain’t gonna make it.

    Why? Because you think I can’t rhyme and because I sing out of key?

    Well maybe. But as Yogi Berra said, “it ain’t over till it’s over” …

  277. Tamakazura says

    Well, it’s like homeopathy. See, the only way you can cure an illness caused by a former Texas governor is to elect another Texas governor. I think they’re missing the bit where they dilute perry a thousandfold, though.
    And oh, yes. Condescension, condescension, fuck off.

  278. tyroneslothrop says

    Sailor,

    You seemed to have missed the point. Dawkins made a false claim concerning Tea Party followers having a distrust for “linguistic mastery.” My point was that they do respect linguistic mastery, it simply doesn’t align with Dawkins’ brand of linguistic mastery. There is nothing ignorant about Perry’s use of this high value linguistic register, this way of speaking. He is quite skilled at it. It is ignorant to claim that one’s own brand of “linguistic mastery” is the only desired way of speaking, and that those that speak differently are, in some sense, lacking linguistic mastery. Here, I think Perry and Dawkins would both assert their own provincial ignorance (“my way is better than yours”). But languages are complex sets of practices, and the “rules” of use (better patterned ways of speaking) are emergent, contingent, and relatively sedimented.

    By “dog whistle,” I imagine you mean lexical choices made by Perry and other Tea Partiers that are indirect indexicals that point to shared assumptions that can be disavowed based on a naive referentialist view of language. But note, “dog whistles” are not the only features of Perry’s and other Tea Party followers ways of speaking. The linguistic mastery of this way of speaking is precisely in the illusion of “plain” and “direct” speech, which are indexed by a host of linguistic features (from prosody to phonology to morphology to sentence construction to pause structure and discourse particle use to lexical choices [both "dog whistled" and not]).

    Sociolinguists and linguistic anthropologists have done much research on these topics. It is a pity that the general populace is so unfamiliar with them. Dawkins lack of awareness of these basic facts of the social nature of language has led him to make an ill-informed claim.

  279. brokenSoldier, OM says

    tkreacher says:

    On another note, one of the few things I picked up in the military that was added to my practical lexicon outside of that culture applies here.

    Steersman, you ain’t gonna make it.

    There no laugh quite like a nostalgic laugh…especially when it makes me spit beer on my keyboard.

    tkreacher, I sincerely thank you for that one – I hadn’t heard that in years!

  280. says

    For myself, this debate is soundly resolved by Mike Lofgren’s recent piece:

    the feckless, craven incompetence of Democrats in their half-hearted attempts to stop them

    That’s pretty much how we’re viewed – I’m not a Democrat per se, but it goes double for libtards and progs in case you were wondering.

    Oh dear, did we offend someone’s sensibilities? I take it all back. Ok let’s compromise on unions, and medicare, and universal health, and… f**** it, take the whole country. Do you want fries with that? [because poverty wage jobs will be the only jobs left].

    But, by all means, please continue with the present blindingly effective scientific communications, they are working so well.

    Or you can Speak UP.