I met Ray Comfort tonight »« For the men

I officially divorce myself from the skeptic movement

Thanks, Jamy Ian Swiss, you’ve opened my eyes and I will no longer consider myself a “skeptic”. I am a scientist, and from the talk he gave tonight (which was pretty much exactly the same as his TAM talk, except for the additions where he called me stupid and a liar), it is clear that “scientific skepticism” is simply a crippled, buggered version of science with special exemptions to set certain subjects outside the bounds of its purview. In addition, its promoters are particularly sensitive to having their hypocrisy pointed out (that, by the way, is what triggered his outburst — you’d have to be stupid or a liar to think that skepticism gives religion special privileges.)

But what else can you call this logic? Skepticism has no sacred cows! Except that skepticism only addresses “testable claims”. By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.

That’s a pretty explicit loophole by definition.

I was also annoyed by the skeptic movement’s appropriation of the term “scientific” all over the place…except that it’s a “science” that doesn’t make use of accumulated prior knowledge, that abandons the concept of the null hypothesis, and that so narrowly defines what it will accept as evidence that it actively excludes huge domains of knowledge. It’s toothless science that fetishizes “consumer protection” over understanding.

So don’t call me a “skeptic”. I’ll consider it an insult, like calling a writer a stenographer, a comedian a mime, a doctor a faith healer, a scientist a technician. I’m out.

It was an incredibly repellent talk that was not improved in the past year, but only made uglier and more grotesque. He ignored all of my previous criticisms, answering them only by yelling louder. I coulda gagged at the end when he piously announced we all ought to be fighting together for the cause of reason…after an hour of caricaturing atheists as ignorant and smug posturing of “scientific skepticism” as the great good virtue.

Earlier tonight I spent 15 minutes getting interviewed by Ray Comfort. That was a far more pleasant experience than an hour of listening to Jamy Ian Swiss.

Bleh. And then the hotel bar was closed early.

Comments

  1. says

    And yeah, I’m really pissed off. It was a good meeting that ended on a bad note, thanks to one of these asshole “skeptics”.

  2. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Can’t wait to see the video/hear the audio of this. I’ll lay money on it being about not making the Pamela Gays and Hal Bidlaks of the world feel like bad “skeptics” for their uncritical acceptance of supernatural theistic bullshit. Tribal protection and don’t-you-upset-my-good-friends, I suspect.

  3. says

    You’ve already seen it. Really, it was the TAM talk with extra indignation.

    He repeated his claim that he valued skeptics who believe in god over atheists who are not skeptics. He can have them — but that was another declaration that religion gets a special exemption. Would he also say the same of skeptics who believe in homeopathy? Of course not.

  4. drivenb4u says

    Ray Comfort? First I spot a picture of him and Matt Dillahunty on fb (like 5 min ago) and then you mentioned he interviewed you? I guess I’m out of the loop, are you all at the same con or something?

  5. John Morales says

    PZ,

    And yeah, I’m really pissed off.

    I got that just from the OP.

    Skepticism has no sacred cows! Except that skepticism only addresses “testable claims”. By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.

    Ophelia-level snark.

  6. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Ugh. What a sorry mess this all has become over the past 7 years.

  7. says

    This is depressing. I always considered myself a skeptic, but now…

    Why does no one want to attack religion? What is so fucking special about religion that we have to leave it alone?

    If these people want to give religion a pass, then fuck them. I don’t give anything a pass.

    Period.

  8. says

    At one time, I subscribed to Skeptical Inquirer. Later, I tried to follow sci.skeptic on usenet.

    I gave up after a while. The skeptic movement is too narrowly focused and to formulaic.

  9. Darwin Woodka says

    They aren’t all bad. But any “ism” can be taken to extremes. Assholes are assholes, whatever genre…

  10. Stacy says

    I want a skeptical movement. But I don’t want to be part of the one we have now.

    The old guard–Martin Gardner, James Randi, Ray Hyman–taught me a lot. But time went on, as is its wont, and who are skepticism’s leaders/big names these days? JREF’s president is a person with multiple personal and ethical issues. Penn Gillette, Shermer–dogmatic libertarians. Ben Radford? *cough*

    As long as those guys and their cronies are in charge, I’ll find something else to do with my time, kthx.

  11. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    They aren’t all bad. But any “ism” can be taken to extremes. Assholes are assholes, whatever genre…

    Don’t do this.

  12. says

    Josh:
    I have only been following FtB for the last three years, so when you mention “the past 7 years” I clearly have some more background to learn about. Where is a good place to start?

  13. Anthony K says

    No problem. Just become a sceptic instead.

    One of those sticks you use when you cut yourself shaving?!

    Anyway, I’m sorry PZ. Josh is right; this is all a big, sorry mess.

  14. John Morales says

    PZ noted:

    He repeated his claim that he valued skeptics who believe in god over atheists who are not skeptics.

    Oxymoronic accommodationism fails on both those levels.

    (I don’t think you were around for the accommodationism spat, Tony)

  15. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Tony: I don’t know where to tell you to begin. I started hanging round the atheist/skeptic/new atheist watering holes online in about 2006 or 2007 shortly after Dawkins’ God Delusion came out. It felt energetic and new, and it WAS. I volunteered for Dawkins’ foundation in 2007 at AAI and staffed his book tables while he signed.

    It looks v. different today. But that’s from many years of slogging through forums and online meeting places that are lost to history now.

  16. says

    I’ve been hanging around with you and Greg almost as long as we’ve all been blogging (over ten years for me) and, while I agree with most of the ideals of “skepticism” I have, from day one, been turned off by the skeptics community. I won’t go into all my early issues. Over the last few years, the whole business of misogyny in the community has made it so that, even if I could get over my philosophical differences, I could never get over the fact that these are just not people I want to associate with. Through you, I’ve met a lot of people who I will continue to follow individually, but I have no use for the “movement.”

  17. Kimpatsu says

    In addition, it’s promoters are particularly sensitive…
    You must be upset to misuse the apostrophe like that…

  18. John Morales says

    [meta + OT]

    Kimpatsu, nah, it’s one of PZ’s puny failings.

    (He knows better, but is frequently careless. That’s blogging, though)

  19. says

    @Stacy,

    I want a skeptical movement But I don’t want to be part of the one we have now

    Isn’t the solution to that already existing, A+? Scepticism where the menu of items to apply critical thinking to is not limited, also its clearly atheist centred so no accomodationalism to contend with.

    Seems a pretty good argument for a separate movement and easily defended from the usual you are being divisive crap. You’d think atheists on the whole would have no issue with this being a reason for separation, but I’m sure plenty will try and criticise. Especially now the secret outer head of A+ has declared he is “”not a skeptic”, that will somehow now translate to everyone at the A+ forum not being sceptics or sceptical. Easy to defend as not being a Jamy sceptic.

  20. says

    He just doesn’t understand PZ, I think we can improve the situation by chipping him behind the eyeballs with a secret telepathic link going to my cute White Rabbit plushie doll, and bring him in line with your Master Plan slowly as I microwave cult acceptance thoughts about King PZ into his head by cranking the hidden dial inside of my White Rabbit.

    Seriously though, anyone calling you stupid is not the sharpest tool in the shed. ((hugs))

  21. says

    I gave up on the Skeptic Movement several years ago. They seem to only focus on trivial things that can be debunked in about 2 minutes by anyone with a baseline level of common sense. There’s only so many times you can say that homeopathy is just water, Bigfoot isn’t real and psychics are scam artists before you get boring and repetitive. All of that stuff is fluff compared to the harm that religion is causing. I still love The Skeptics Guide to the Universe but the rest of the movement can go soak their head.

  22. Jonny M says

    Hey PZ, glad to hear you are finally out of the movement. I haven’t heard or seen you say anything that wasn’t chock full of negativity or calling someone else out, especially intellectual allies, on their point of view. Must be the WoW player in you.

    In addition, “it’s” = “it is”. You’re welcome.

  23. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Jonny:

    Hey PZ, glad to hear you are finally out of the movement.

    Hey, Jonny, your gladness is irrelevant.

    I haven’t heard or seen you say anything that wasn’t chock full of negativity or calling someone else out, especially intellectual allies, on their point of view.

    Your proud ignorance is lamentable.

    Must be the WoW player in you.

    Nah, it’s your imagination, since you’re predicating your belief on a mistaken apprehension.

    In addition, “it’s” = “it is”. You’re welcome.

    Been noted already, so it’s foolish to expect gratefulness for something that is un-needed and unsolicited.

  24. cranesnotskyhooks says

    I haven’t seen Swiss’s TED talk yet but this definitely fits into a pattern of the “skeptic” community losing credibility. They seem to be ducking controversial issues and just picking on easy targets. There was almost no criticism of Brian Dunning even though he recently admitted to a charge of wire fraud for example. They had a perfect chance to prove that they had integrity and wouldn’t hesitate to criticize one of their own on a serious issue and they dodged.

  25. John Morales says

    PS Jonny, I feel I should make it clear to you that the grammatical error PZ made was to use “it’s” instead of ‘its’, since he intended the possessive pronoun rather than the contractive copula)

  26. says

    “By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.”

    I never understood where the fuck this idiotic sentence came from. Existence of gods is indeed testable, the same way functionality of homeopatics is testable – you look at proposed properties/effect of the god/homeopatic, you form the null hypothesis of nonexistence/noneffectivnesss, you try as hard as possible for data to reject the null hypothesis on the basis of proposed properties/effect and…

    This “skepticism” is giving me headache. It has the same illnes over here in CZ too. Our head of skeptic movement is devout catholic. Laughing at homeopathy and Loch-Ness monster believers is OK, but do not dare to say Mary was not a virgin!

    Phuy.

    I consider myself being skeptic nevertheless, only not “Official Skeptic”.

    And BTW, grammar nazis, could you please take your nitpicking where it belongs – into english lessons class?

  27. Robert B. says

    @ Ouabache: Though when you think about it, religious claims are not any less obviously wrong, just more popular. (And causing more harm, I quite agree with you on that – though medical unreason like anti-vax and homeopathy does non-trivial damage.) It’s only religion’s popularity, and people’s emotional investment in it, that makes it seem plausible. We’d be boring too if we were just debunking religion all the time, rather than moving on to all the other stuff we do. (Is debunking all that skeptics do? I don’t actually follow them enough to know.)

  28. bastionofsass says

    PZ wrote:

    Skepticism has no sacred cows!

    Of course it doesn’t. The sacredness of cows is a religious, therefore, non-testable claim.

  29. franko says

    I first tuned into “skepticism” way back in the 1960s thanks to Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies. I remained a fan of Gardner over all the years, but was always disconcerted by his (unconvincing) rationalization of his own unshakeable christianity. It just made no sense to exclude the nonsense of religious superstitious belief from all the other daft nonsense people keep believing in despite all the evidence to the contrary. Randi is probably an atheist, but JREF largely avoids promoting atheism, so it’s no surprise to hear Jamy Ian Swiss coming up with a Gardneresque approach that affords religion a free pass from skepticism. CSI seems to suffer the same problem.

    Ouabache hits the nail on the head. Religion causes far more universal harm than the other nonsenses. Application of the same scientific approaches that debunk the medical fads, the UFOs and the rest also debunks religious claims. There are no overlapping magisteria. People’s beliefs and intuitions are the most unreliable evidence for anything. “Common sense” applies only to very small, locally relevant situations. The hard road to real evidence that science has trodden for centuries is the greatest achievement of the human race. To make exceptions to the evidence base is intellectually dishonest.

  30. John Morales says

    [OT]

    franko, Randi identifies as an atheist, and is no accommodationist.

    I want this fully understood: the James Randi Educational Foundation is not an atheist organization; it is an organization dedicated to offering down-to-Earth, rational, explanations and discussions of the so-called paranormal, supernatural, and occult happenings and claims with which we are constantly bombarded by the media and by groups – including religious groups – who try to convince us of such matters. While I, as JREF president, and those presently working in our office, are declared atheists, there is no bar against others taking positions with us, appearing on our web page or forum, doing business with us, or attending any of our functions. My personal stance is that religious claims are of the same nature as any other claims made without supporting evidence, that is, they are superstitious claims; if those claims come up for examination by the JREF, they must undergo the same sort of analysis as any others.

  31. Konradius says

    I totally understand the sentiment. But I see no reason to burn the term ‘skeptic’ in effigy. I agree that the movement has a lot of problems. A lot of people that are regarded as ‘skeptics’ are only able to be sceptical in their own special field of expertise. A field they often stumbled upon by accident and where they chose the right side of the argument seemingly by chance.
    The caricature of scepticism painted by Jamy Ian Swiss is incomplete as you eloquently point out. But he does not have the power to redefine the term. He can claim as much authority as he wants, or others can do that for him by inviting him for such talks; but according to even his version of scepticism he can not appeal to that authority in lieu of actually having arguments.
    True skepticism does make use of null hypotheses, prior and other forms of knowledge*.
    True skepticism has at its hart one sacred value: honesty. Think of Richard Feynman: The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.
    You talked of two people in this piece, Jamy Ian Swiss and Ray Comfort. It is damning for Jamy Ian Swiss that Ray Comfort came across as the more honest person.

    *other forms of knowledge?!? Yes, even imaginary knowledge such as provided by religion or ‘spirituality’. We do that after we acknowledge that such imaginary knowledge does not necessarily describe reality. But that knowledge is still there! And we can investigate how it got there and then suddenly religious statements get to have far more testable claims than JIS ever imagined (not that that is very hard)

  32. Minestuck says

    I consider myself a skeptic, but I was an atheist before I was a skeptic and that’s because I was simply unaware of skepticism despite being aware of the failings and criticisms of religion. For him to say that religious skeptics are more important than atheist nonskeptics is insulting. Instead of marginalizing me and people like me, he should be reaching out and communicating skepticism to atheists who aren’t skeptics because they’re already primed for it: they’re already skeptical of religion on some level. This is just another example of our culture’s long-standing tradition of downplaying atheists as intolerant extremists of no social value to any cause.

  33. chrislawson says

    franko,

    I’m a longtime skeptic and atheist who admires Martin Gardner and I think you are misrepresenting his position quite badly. Gardner not only was a Christian, but believed in miracles. He dealt with this from a skeptical point of view by stating that the problem with miracles is you could never demonstrate that they were miracles and it would always remain a matter of personal faith. I don’t agree with him, of course, and there’s plenty of flaws in his reasoning, but he at least defined a clear line between faith and reason that wasn’t subject to ever-changing personal whim and he openly acknowledged that his beliefs were not logically or empirically defensible. I don’t believe I ever read anything by him arguing that religious claims should not be critiqued (he himself said he expected studies into the efficacy of prayer to be negative).

    To lump him in with *anti*-atheist skeptics and people willing to give religious claims a free pass is just plain wrong.

  34. chrislawson says

    Oh, and I forgot to add that Gardner was quite happy to work alongside vocal atheists without feeling the need to put them down or tell them to back away from fake religious claims.

  35. raven says

    Why does no one want to attack religion?

    In the past 2,000 years, it has been a reliable way to get killed in various horrible ways.

    PZ gets death threats. On a hopping day he has been known to get up to 100. In one day.

    Fundie xians do that a lot. They also sponsor xian terrorism and occasionally assasinate someone. And it isn’t just PZ. Lots of scientists, MD’s, and so on have gotten death threats, including myself.

  36. John Morales says

    [meta]

    nukedsinuses tries to troll PZ:

    Oh jebus. Do you have any self-awareness whatsoever? “No sacred cows” – except pudgy pink things with blue hair and glasses. “Testable claims” – you mean like all critics being Marc Lepine’s waiting to happen?

    You clearly know not to what the ‘sacred cow’ idiom refers any more than you know to what “testable claims” refers.

    What a fucking clown you are peezee. Lucky you have such a pile of subnormals to keep you in business.

    He has the likes of you keeping him in business too; those who would aspire to rise to sub-normality had they the nous to thus improve themselves.

  37. says

    PZ:

    Except that skepticism only addresses “testable claims”. By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.

    So… we’re perfectly justified in accepting any of the non-testable claims behind homeopathy, bigfoot, and UFOs?

  38. Ichthyic says

    So… we’re perfectly justified in accepting any of the non-testable claims behind homeopathy, bigfoot, and UFOs?

    I’m curious.

    which nontestable claims, specifically?

    what’s more while you CAN make the question of a deity untestable… it really depends on how one defines it.

    for every concrete definition of a god that has any impact in the natural world, it is indeed testable, and HAS been tested, and rejected. You can define bigfoot as something that is intangible, invisible, and leaves no discernible trace of any impact on its environment… but as soon as you actually say it is “apelike”, you’ve defined it in a testable fashion.

    Under your definition of skepticism Ian, is Ken Miller a skeptic?

    he has retreated his definition of god into quantum fields FFS. However, even THAT is inherently testable. In fact, physicists have already laughed at his idea.

    atheism is in fact a natural conclusion OF proper skepticism. To reject it as an ideology is to not understand what it actually is.

    this is why Jamy Swiss is an idiot, just to transect the inevitable ignorant discussion and get right to the point.

  39. John Morales says

    ianmiller, nope — it’s not stating that accepting such claims is justifiable, but that they’re beyond the purview of skepticism.

    (It is a very, very stupid claim)

  40. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    ianmiller,

    Try reading that sentence in context: it is not PZ giving his own opinion.

    you mean like all critics being Marc Lepine’s waiting to happen? – nukedsinuses

    Fuck off, you lying scumbag.

  41. franko says

    @chrislawson. I think there’s only a semantic difference between the way you’re putting it and the way I did. Gardner was a card-carrying believer in christianity – even in miracles, as you add. Sure, he was cheerfully tolerant of people skeptical about religion, and he wrote plenty of pieces that suggested he sometimes teetered on realizing he might be standing on thin ice, but he clung to the superstition. And his rationale ultimately amounted to the overlapping magisteria stuff that Jamy Ian Swiss talks about.
    @John Morales. I stand corrected about Randi. I had missed his direct declaration of disbelief. But (with the exception of the forum) JREF has for years tiptoed round atheism while staunchly hanging in there against other forms of ‘woo’. I just browsed the 5 most recent pages of ‘Swift’ and found only one item (about a man beheaded in Uganda for “witchcraft”) that could remotely be regarded as concerned with religion.
    I gave up on Skeptical Inquirer when issue after issue had become suffused with endless self-concerned articles about what skepticism is. PZ is right to raise the issue. Skepticism can’t have self-imposed exceptions to scientific scrutiny. Period.

  42. John Morales says

    franko, alas, Randi is old and frail these days*, and that link dates from 2005.

    Note the clarification: “While I, as JREF president, and those presently working in our office …”

    (But I get your general thrust, and don’t dispute it or your perception of it)

    * He’ll always be a giant colossus in my eyes.

  43. Sili says

    Ted Janet,

    So if Bill Maher is conspiracy crackpot, does that invalidate the atheist movement?

    I don’t know.

    Has Maher verbally attacked those who advocate vaccination for not being proper atheists?

  44. w00dview says

    Stacy:

    Penn Gillette, Shermer–dogmatic libertarians.

    One of the big ironies I find with those two is despite their distaste for alt-med woo, in their ideal society quacks would thrive with little to no oversight. The fact that many libertarian skeptics fail to notice this giant failing in their ideology as it relates to other skeptical issues shows that introspection seems to be another area that the modern skeptical movement ain’t so keen on. Why examine the bullshit you believe when it is so much easier to laugh at Bigfoot believers? Which completely destroys what skepticism is about. It is about examining your own prejudices and ideals and seeing if it is honest to keep holding on to them. The skeptic community nowadays seems to just be based on a smug sense of superiority. What a shame.

  45. says

    This is such bullshit, scientific skepticism is a useful and accurate term, what is supposed to be its replacement? PZ might be an actual scientist, but a layperson like me is a scientific skeptic, and scientific skepticism is also the reason why I’m an atheist. Jamy Ian Swiss is just a stupid magician, I follow both the atheist and skeptic movement, and I’ve only ever come across him twice before now, once in a confused rant about tents on SGU, and the second time in his TAM talk about the same topic. Why does it matter so much what he says? There’s plenty of vocal dumbasses among atheists as well, does that mean they taint the entire atheist movemenet? Seriously, screw Jamy Ian Swiss, but this reaction is childish.

  46. Abdul Alhazred says

    There is no “skeptic movement”.

    There are various organizations with differing goals.

    PZ has quit something that doesn’t exist.

  47. John Morales says

    Reinis:

    PZ might be an actual scientist, but a layperson like me is a scientific skeptic … Jamy Ian Swiss is just a stupid magician

    Tsk.

    Why does it matter so much what he says?

    It’s worth a blog post, is that so much that it’s excessive to you?

    There’s plenty of vocal dumbasses among atheists as well, does that mean they taint the entire atheist movemenet?

    But isn’t he “just a stupid magician”? ;)

    (‘Just’ means ‘only’ in that context)

    I follow both the atheist and skeptic movement …

    Unfortunate phrasing, that, but revealing.

    … and I’ve only ever come across him twice before now, once in a confused rant about tents on SGU, and the second time in his TAM talk about the same topic.

    And for you, this suffices. Gotcha.

    Seriously, screw Jamy Ian Swiss, but this reaction is childish.

    How so?

  48. Tyrant al-Kalām says

    @Ichthyic

    “he has retreated his definition of god into quantum fields FFS. However, even THAT is inherently testable. In fact, physicists have already laughed at his idea.”

    You can always state it such that god only interferes where he needs/wants to, e.g. abiogenesis, and not in lab experiments. It’s the usual non-explanatory crap.

  49. =8)-DX says

    @Charly Heh, I haven’t interacted with the local skeptic movement in CZ. Greets to another pharyngula reader from this country =).

  50. says

    Meh. Should we really allow these people to appropriate the term skeptic? Aren’t plenty of CAM claims untestable? Pretty sure you can’t test accupuncture, because it is impossible to have a true placebo (Most patients would notice whether or not they have needles on their backs). Does accupuncture get a free pass too?

  51. John Morales says

    Abdul:

    There is no “skeptic movement”.

    There are various organizations with differing goals.

    You are very confused if you don’t recognise the symptom of a social movement in that adumbration.

    (What criterion is it you employ to distinguish the specific “various organizations” which together don’t constitute the “skeptic movement” from the general set of organisations?)

  52. franko says

    Skeptic (sceptic): among (Oxford and Collins UK) dictionary definitions — a person who doubts the truth of religion, esp. Christianity. The other definitions include, in essence, a person unconvinced of the authenticity of a particular fact or hypothesis. From Wikipedia: skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. That’s lovely.
    PZ is surely being ironic. He remains a skeptic, he just dislikes people who think they can separate those two dictionary definitions on a whim. You don’t have to be a professional scientist to follow the scientific approach to gathering evidence.

  53. Snoof says

    There is no “skeptic movement”.

    There are various organizations with differing goals.

    Like in every other movement I’ve seen.

  54. says

    I’m sorry, I missed something — when did this shitheel get the authority to redefine “skeptic”, and since when is falsifiability not an important thing? Jiminy Crickets — isn’t that sort of a central idea behind much of their favorite debunking? Bigfoot, alien visitors, unicorns, and the Loch Ness Monster suddenly become *astounding mysteries* once you start accommodating stuff that doesn’t need to make sense or can’t be tested. I will not relinquish the words ‘skeptic’ or ‘skepticism’ to this tool.

  55. says

    @John Morales:

    It’s worth a blog post, is that so much that it’s excessive to you?

    It’s not just a blog post, it’s a blog post where PZ says he doesn’t consider himself a skeptic because of something stupid that a segment of self-identified skeptics think.

    (‘Just’ means ‘only’ in that context)

    English isn’t my first language, so I hope it can be excused if I’m unclear, but I should be able to authoritatively say that I didn’t mean “only”, i.e., I didn’t mean to say Jamy Ian Swiss is not a skeptic. I might as well have said “Jamy Ian Swiss is just some fool”.

    Unfortunate phrasing, that, but revealing.

    What does it reveal? By “follow both the atheist and skeptic movement” I meant that I read blogs and books and listen to podcasts related to both topics. For instance, I’ve read Pharyngula since before it was in ScienceBlogs.

    And for you, this suffices. Gotcha.

    I have no idea what you mean by this. My point was that Jamy Ian Swiss doesn’t seem to have too much presence among skeptics since I’ve only heard about him in relation to this tent crap.

    How so?

    Throwing away a useful term like “scientific skepticism” because some skeptics have stupid ideas is silly. How am I supposed to say that I consider scientific standards of inquiry as essential to generating reliable knowledge about the empirical world? Unlike PZ, I can’t say that I’m a scientist.

  56. marcoli says

    I am going to join with the others up there to say that dropping the term ‘skeptic’ as a moniker is not necessary. For example the atheist movement has its share of misogynists and other assholes, sure, but that became an issue as it has grown in size. So the skeptic movement, which I understand is also growing, has picked up some people who are a bit of an embarrassment. In the case of Swiss it seems the problem is they call themselves skeptics but they are not. So? Why should that induce anyone to quit the movement? If Ray Comfort comes out and declares himself an atheist, then goes on to give some talks where it is clear he is not, should anyone quit that movement? Of course not. Comfort would just be laughed at and pretty much quarantined as much as possible. Same should happen to Swiss. I am asking you to stay in it and do what you do best: analyze and when necessary criticize. Consider him a non-member; not you.

  57. says

    Skepticism is a way of helping us understand what is reasonable to believe, given the set of available evidence. This should apply to any belief, including beliefs about God.

    We don’t need to wait until all the evidence is in or have a scientifically testable claim or be 100% sure about anything. All we need to do to be a skeptic is to critically examine the evidence we currently do have and decide what is reasonable to believe, based on that evidence.

    For the God issue, we have an enormous body of evidence that humans have been prolific inventors of all kinds of gods over the centuries and we have no compelling evidence that there actually is any kind of God. Considering all the evidence we currently have about God, it is very reasonable to believe that there probably is no God, or at the very least that it is not reasonable to actively believe and act as if there actually is any sort of God.

    It’s possible that we may learn new things that may change that, but all we can do is make the most sense out of what information we have available at any time. Skepticism is the process for making sense out of available information, and it applies to everything we do.

    If we exclude any areas of our life from our skeptical ways of making sense of things, then we are simply not very good skeptics.

  58. sqlrob says

    @Charly:

    I think you’re making the same category error that Jamy is. I don’t think gods are testable (can someone prove me wrong here?)

    Particular gods however, may very well be testable. The god of “Last Tuesday”? Not testable. Abrahamic god? Oh yeah, he’s testable. I can’t think of any religion that has an untestable god, I think even deism is amenable to quantum mechanics and cosmology. The only untestable ones that I can think of are those that wouldn’t even have a religion around them. As religions try to mutate their gods into untestability and/or into the gaps, they mutate further and further from the god that the religion was started on.

    You say particular gods are testable, same as I am, but extending that to the category of gods. Jamy is saying the category of gods is untestable, as I am, but extending it down to specific ones.

  59. says

    No, Swiss is definitely a skeptic. He’s a founding member of several skeptical organizations and is very influential within TAM; he’s an atheist, he doesn’t believe in homeopathy or other magic.

    He has just appointed himself official fence-builder and tent-erecter of the skeptical movement, and has announced exactly (well, confusedly) where the boundaries must lie. I’d rather be outside his tent, and he prefers it that way too.

  60. says

    #58: He also mocked Atheism+, saying that unlike atheism, skepticism doesn’t need a plus — apparently it’s supposed to be a sign of stupidity in atheists to expect more of their movement, and skepticism needs none of that bullshit.

  61. says

    #49: Scientific skepticism would be a useful term, except that the “scientific” part is a modifier used to limit the range of topics, instead of to suggest greater rigor and empiricism. Instead of conforming skepticism to science, they butcher science to make it conform to their wimpy version of skepticism.

  62. shawn says

    The problem as I see it is that skepticism is at heart an all or nothing proposition. You can’t pick and choose what it applies to. That being said, there is no practical way to do that in the real world. Nobody has the time or resources. If you want to set up an organization that applies skepticism to a set of topics and not include the existence of god for whatever reasons then go ahead. I won’t say I don’t have a problem with that. I think time and resources could be better used. However, I won’t stop you and I won’t say you aren’t a skeptic.

    I get angry when people do something like exclude the god question and then turn around and say those who don’t aren’t skeptics. Fuck you. I personally find that there is way too much of this “true skeptic” syndrome in the movement for my tastes. It’s to the point that I don’t use the term any longer to describe myself. For me, there is too much association with this kind of attitude and I do just fine without it.

    This same phenomenon seems to happen with other things such as feminism, human rights, and other “political” topics that leaves me feeling like the movement is rife with privileged self-righteous assholes and I don’t feeling like carrying that card. Sorry.

  63. shawn says

    I also resent the fact that choices about what to include and not include in your skeptical organization are clearly made for political reasons a lot of the time but if you try to point that out there is a ready made rhetorical device given as to why that isn’t the case because of some bullshit reason or another. Spin skepticism. Barf.

  64. notsont says

    I think you’re making the same category error that Jamy is. I don’t think gods are testable (can someone prove me wrong here?)

    Particular gods however, may very well be testable. The god of “Last Tuesday”? Not testable. Abrahamic god? Oh yeah, he’s testable. I can’t think of any religion that has an untestable god, I think even deism is amenable to quantum mechanics and cosmology. The only untestable ones that I can think of are those that wouldn’t even have a religion around them. As religions try to mutate their gods into untestability and/or into the gaps, they mutate further and further from the god that the religion was started on.

    You say particular gods are testable, same as I am, but extending that to the category of gods. Jamy is saying the category of gods is untestable, as I am, but extending it down to specific ones.

    This is the bait and switch, why bother saying “gods are not testable” when EVERY single god anyone believes in is perfectly testable. EVERY religion makes testable claims. No one is talking about those “untestable gods” and yet over and over the supposedly untestable gods are brought up as a shield to defend all the other gods as if they aren’t testable either.

  65. says

    Let’s say that god-claims were untestable. So what? If a thing is untestable, then there can be no evidence for it. If there can be no evidence for it, the reasonable position is to reject the claim. Null hypothesis or Occam’s razor: take your pick, either principle results in doubt and disbelief.

    I’ve argued this point with several gatekeeper/wallbuilder skeptics like Swiss (in particular Doctor Atlantis and Daniel Loxton), and never got an answer as to why they reject those basic skeptical principles when it comes to religion. Loxton in particular has this special category called “metaphysical claims” that covers and protects all claims that are so abstract that skepticism can’t test them and thus cannot apply to them. I seem to remember him saying that alien or Bigfoot claims could be abstracted like god claims enough to fall into that category, so I guess he’s at least consistently terrible.

    It’s all special pleading and rejection of the two principles that make the work of professional debunkers work in the first place–Joe Nickell and Ben Radford can’t investigate the actual paranormal incidents they purport to explain, all they can do is provide possible explanations that are more parsimonious than the supernatural ones. Without Occam’s razor, we have no reason to prefer their claim to the claims of ghosts or cryptids. Without the null hypothesis, we have no reason to prefer the explanation that dowsing doesn’t work to the explanation that dowsing works but not in the presence of skeptical testing. Reject those two principles, and the whole of movement skepticism falls down.

    And let it. I’m tired of intellectually lazy libertarians and magicians thinking they can set themselves above the rest of society by considering themselves “skeptics” as though having common sense about Bigfoot and alt-med were someone enough to give all your opinions and beliefs the air of having been examined, questioned, and based on the available evidence. I think there are lots of skeptics who see skepticism as something you are rather than something you do, and use it as an excuse to not do the hard work that skepticism actually entails, instead throwing out a Latin phrase and patting themselves on the back.

    I’m sure PZ will continue to do skepticism. But I’m with him on the term “skeptic” as a menaingful description of any person.

  66. says

    It is possible to test acupuncture scientifically. First, you can stick your lucky volunteer full of needles which are not on “chi meridians” (or whatever system the acupuncturist claims is necessary for properly placing them). Second, you can use sheathed needles which put pressure on the skin but don’t necessarily puncture it; because of the limited resolution of human touch sensitivity, the volunteer can’t tell whether the needle has actually gone in or not. Specially constructing the needles is also important for double-blinding, i.e., ensuring that the people doing the sticking don’t know which patients got the according-to-Hoyle version and which didn’t.

  67. says

    Yeah, skepticism is dead. Long live skepticism!

    I think the mantle has been definitively passed: it’s out of the hands of the tired old guys and moved on to grassroots groups like Skepticon … which, by the way, was condemned by many of these same fence-building skeptics as not “True Skepticism”, for these same reasons. They actually have no sacred cows, unlike these gomers who say they have no sacred cows.

  68. anteprepro says

    They actually have no sacred cows, unlike these gomers who say they have no sacred cows.

    “Nope, no sacred cows here. Just the occasional holy heifer, and a blessed bovine here and there. No big thang”

  69. CaitieCat says

    I think, PZ, that the fellow saying he wanted to still use “scientific skepticism” is a) not a native speaker of English, and b) meaning to say “skepticism done scientifically”, rather than what sounds like to us as “skepticism of science”.

  70. says

    I am somewhat torn on the subject of the blogpost. I am foremost a skeptic, and secondarily an atheist (well, I am foremost a progressive, but that’s besides the point), so I feel more connected to the skeptic movement, than the atheist movement.

    Heck, as somebody who runs the local Skeptics in the Pub, I can hardly claim to not be part of the skeptic movement.

    That being said, there are very large parts of the Skeptic movement that I don’t want to touch with a 10-foot pole – TAM being foremost. They belong to a completely different segment of the movement than I do, and definitely not a segment I want to have anything to do with. This doesn’t mean, however, that I won’t call myself a skeptic, or not consider myself part of the movement, just that I don’t want to have anything to do with them.

    Much the same can be said about my feelings about the atheist movement (though I have now left the official atheist movement, Ateistisk Selskab, as they were becoming anti-intellectual and anti-skeptic, and have become too welcoming to racists).

    When I ever get around to making a skeptic organization in Denmark (any day now), it will be progressive and it will not try to keep out of criticizing religion.

  71. says

    I am somewhat amazed at the cheek he displayed calling PZ stupid and liar when he was seated right there. Did he get a negative audience reaction? I am going to use this in my podcast today about atheists and meanness.

  72. says

    Skepticism as a method is a valuable and honorable century-old discipline and still relevant today.

    It’s just the current brand of organised good-weather skeptics that are giving the discipline a bad name. And the fact that the slymers are gleefully all over twitter with this one just demonstrates that PZ did the right thing.

    Boy, is TAM ever going to be an awkward spectacle this year. The NRA convention will look like a kid’s birthday, compared.

    @62,

    In the case of Swiss it seems the problem is they call themselves skeptics but they are not.

    As measured by whose standards? I don’t buy this No True Scotsman argument. This is the kind of skeptic that the paying audience gets to listen to at skeptics events, so presumably his opinions are considered at least ballpark compatible with current mainstream skeptical values and ideas.

  73. says

    If the goal is to educate the public about science, then it makes sense to work with religious people. Dr. Pamela Gay, for example, is a great science educator. To me, it is like a coalition where people from different backgrounds unite to work for a cause or series of causes. To be polite at those functions, you don’t attack someone’s religious beliefs. Maybe in another forum, but just not at the coalition’s functions.

    It seems like some leaders in the skeptical movement are trying to turn this idea into “we are intellectually superior because we parse how we talk about religion.” As an atheist, that kind of talk drives me away from the national movements. That kind of talk is just as isolating to the public as criticism of religion, if not more so.

    Plus it strikes me as odd that the JREF talks about how open they are to religious skeptics, then they host a night of atheist comedians who freely attack religion at TAM. Plus they didn’t invite Pamela Gay back to TAM this year, or have made any serious attempt to bring Hal Bidlack back into the fold that I’m aware of.

  74. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Skepticism™ the movement and skepticism, the practice of thinking critically, shouldn’t be conflated. The latter is no great intellectual achievement and should be in the skill set of grade schoolers. That it isn’t may be the motivation of the former, but we shouldn’t expect any intellectual advances to emerge from the movement, because what it’s doing is necessarily remedial.

  75. tuibguy says

    I never understood where the fuck this idiotic sentence came from. Existence of gods is indeed testable, the same way functionality of homeopatics is testable – you look at proposed properties/effect of the god/homeopatic, you form the null hypothesis of nonexistence/noneffectivnesss, you try as hard as possible for data to reject the null hypothesis on the basis of proposed properties/effect and…

    Because the existence of god(s) is a continually shifting set of goalposts; since so many believers are quick to respond once disproven (as Stenger did in “The God Hypothesis,”) that their concept of god(s) is different than the one that had been shown not to be possible, the existence of god(s) is not a testable hypothesis. Homeopathy as least makes consistent claims, and while disproven, they are still accepted.

    But, I have had a problem with skeptics who don’t like atheists ever since I learned of them. I am perfectly willing to be friends with skeptics who are religious, but I would like for them to be able to accept challenges to their faith rather than run off screaming at how atheists are mean to them and then to turn and call us names because we are skeptical of their god-belief. Skepticism involves more than trying to peak behind the curtain to see how the illusion is created, it involves checking to see if a phenomenon has any natural grounding in fact and cause and effect.

  76. shawn says

    cethis @ 79

    “Plus it strikes me as odd that the JREF talks about how open they are to religious skeptics, then they host a night of atheist comedians who freely attack religion at TAM. Plus they didn’t invite Pamela Gay back to TAM this year, or have made any serious attempt to bring Hal Bidlack back into the fold that I’m aware of.”

    I seem to remember Pamela Gay doing a little talk about women that may have struck some as feminist…

  77. ChasCPeterson says

    Skepticism™ the movement and skepticism, the practice of thinking critically, shouldn’t be conflated. The latter is no great intellectual achievement and should be in the skill set of grade schoolers. That it isn’t may be the motivation of the former, but we shouldn’t expect any intellectual advances to emerge from the movement, because what it’s doing is necessarily remedial.

    quoted in full for motherfucking Truth.

  78. Amphiox says

    He has just appointed himself official fence-builder and tent-erecter of the skeptical movement, and has announced exactly (well, confusedly) where the boundaries must lie.

    A notable quality of both fences and tents is that they are comparatively flimsy and vulnerable to the probing of sharp objects.

  79. atheist says

    @NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS… apparently… – 5 May 2013 at 12:44 am (UTC -5)

    Why does no one want to attack religion? What is so fucking special about religion that we have to leave it alone?

    Probably the exact same reason people don’t want to attack the military, or attack capitalism. Because religion has a huge amount of power, in other words, and can really fuck up your life if it decides you’re its enemy.

  80. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Quoting Antiochus Epiphanes’ comment again right after Chas did is unnecessary, but I also agree with it wholeheartedly.

  81. atheist says

    @Amphiox – 5 May 2013 at 10:00 am (UTC -5)

    A notable quality of both fences and tents is that they are comparatively flimsy and vulnerable to the probing of sharp objects.

    Also, to quote LBJ, now PZ Myers is gonna be outside the skeptical tent, pissing in, rather that inside the skeptical tent pissing out. I guess that was what Mr. Swiss wanted, though I’m not sure why.

  82. says

    It seemed pretty antagonistic to give a long shouty lecture on why the JREF is being picked on, complete with ‘one third of our attendees are women so obviously women must feel welcome there’. (Not a direct quote, but I think I got the gist). I did *not* come away from Swiss’s speech with a desire to attend the next TAM. Most of the time, I was thinking, ‘he doth protest too much.’

  83. says

    PZ said in #73: “I think the mantle has been definitively passed: it’s out of the hands of the tired old guys and moved on to grassroots groups like Skepticon … which, by the way, was condemned by many of these same fence-building skeptics as not “True Skepticism”, for these same reasons.”

    That’s interesting, I’d like to read more. Does anyone have a reference to skeptics criticizing Skepticon?

  84. Sonja says

    Now I don’t know what I am — I’m just a person who happens to think a lot like PZ. But I can’t say I’m a scientist, because I’m not. I usually identify myself more with my politics. However, most of my progressive political friends are not skeptics. Do I go with free-thinker? People (who aren’t) don’t know what that means. Atheist doesn’t cover everything. Help!

  85. atheist says

    @Sonja – 5 May 2013 at 10:17 am (UTC -5)

    Now I don’t know what I am — I’m just a person who happens to think a lot like PZ.

    I feel your pain. I never know whether to call myself a liberal, a socialist, an atheist, or just a cynic. You could call yourself a free-thinker, or a free spirit. (It’s true that confuses most folks.)

    Or you could try this: just show up and start speaking, without worrying about describing yourself. Let other people decide what you should be called. The words that people come up with to describe you will clue you in to who you’re associating with.

  86. says

    By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.

    Yes, it is. It’s been tested over and over and over and over and over and has failed consistently.

  87. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    By the way, the existence of gods is not a testable claim.

    There are many logically disctinct claims regarding the existence of gods; some make empirical predictions and some don’t.

  88. Stacy says

    #oolon, yeah, you’re right of course. I don’t participate on A+ simply for lack of time (I already spend too much damn time on the internet!) but the “skeptical movement” I support is that one, and the one represented by the folks here, and at Skepchicks, and Skepticon, etc.

    For the record, Jim Underdown, who runs the Independent Investigations Group in Los Angeles, is a good person, and supportive of skeptic/atheist feminists. IIG is a pretty big group, so JU counts as a “leader” in the movement. (Full disclosure: he’s a friend.) Too bad he keeps a low profile and the big names tend to be the douchecanoes.

  89. says

    OK, here’s the way of resolving the “testability” claim:
    Bigfoot is god.

    Oh, I’m sorry. You don’t believe in bigfoot? Why not? Bigfoot is this all-loving nebulous woo-woo thing that existed before time and space and is undetectable but created the universe. I know it because I believe it and I was able to imagine it, therefore – to a certain extent – it is real and therefore must be true. Your puny efforts to detect bigfoot in the Pacific Northwest are simply an indicator of your lack of understanding of the greatness that is bigfoot.

  90. erik333 says

    Seems to me that untestable claims is exactly the thing you can’t fail to be sceptical of while calling yourself a sceptic with a straight face…

  91. skeptico says

    @ Tom Foss #71:

    Exactly. That is the exact correct way to think. It baffles me how someone can claim to be a skeptic and yet ignore Occam’s Razor. Many years ago I was in a debate on the JREF forum (on the subject of whether Skepticism should lead to atheism) where I was told that Occam’s Razor isn’t reliable, or shouldn’t always be used, or something. I asked one of the regular skeptics who was also a Christian, how (using the tools of skepticism and critical thinking) one came to the conclusion that god exists. I never got an answer. IMO a skeptic needs a reason to accept the truth of something. And ‘it’s not testable’ doesn’t seem to me to be a good enough reason.

    I’m sure PZ will continue to do skepticism. But I’m with him on the term “skeptic” as a menaingful description of any person.

    That’s unfortunate, as I’m rather stuck with my screen/blog name. I know what you mean though – I have no enthusiasm for the JREF or TAM while they adopt these absurd positions.

  92. says

    I was told that Occam’s Razor isn’t reliable

    In the sense that it’s merely a guideline, that’s true. It just happens to be one of the most profoundly useful guidelines ever, ranking up there with “buy low, sell high” and “do unto others as you’d have them do unto you” and “never fight a land war in asia” These are great precepts that do not have the weight of law in the same way that gravitation does.

  93. Sonja says

    Wow, I just listened to the Jamy Ian Swiss talk from TAM 2012 — he does totally contradict himself. He gives a pass to someone who labels him/herself as a skeptic to believe in god, ghosts or whatever. But if someone labels him/herself as an atheist, he/she gets no such pass. It comes across as an obvious attempt to grow skeptics organizations by insulting new atheists as not being “pure” skeptics. It’s a tactic worthy of any religious organization.

  94. Rey Fox says

    I think the mantle has been definitively passed: it’s out of the hands of the tired old guys and moved on to grassroots groups like Skepticon

    That’s what I figured. The religion apologists are just an annoying minority.

  95. anteprepro says

    Seems to me that untestable claims is exactly the thing you can’t fail to be sceptical of while calling yourself a sceptic with a straight face…

    This. I mean, seriously, defending “untestable claims” is entirely the realm of charlatans. I don’t even understand how they can consider themselves skeptical of anything if they consider God to be untestable. Bigfoot is “untestable” unless we scour every last square-foot of forest on the planet, ideally at the same time, lest Bigfoot stealthily dart into areas we had just been in from areas that we are just about to explore. The Loch Ness monster is “untestable” because what if it moved off into the Atlantic Ocean? UFO claims are “untestable” because sufficiently advanced aliens are indistinguishable from a fever dream. Homeopathy claims are “untestable” because woo works in mysterious ways. Ghost claims are “untestable” because what if the ghosts don’t want to be measured and hide from skeptics using magic? And God forbid if quantum gets involved.

    Any of the bullshit skeptics are rightfully skeptical of could be de-bullshittified using the same paltry excuses for God that allegedly puts it from the realm of Falsified into Unfalsifiable. Almost any other hypothesis could do the same tap dance, but none receive quite the number of relieved sighs and pretentious applause as when the hypothesis being dishonestly protected this way is an ancient one with inexplicably massive modern-day cultural clout. Unfalsifiability Shuffle for Jesus.

  96. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’m always amused at these “this is the true definition of X” types, be it skepticism, patriotism, liberturdism, atheism, etc. These definitions usually follow the inclinations of the speaker, no matter what the evidence says. Humans aren’t clones, so there will always be variations in thinking around a central theme, and that should be acknowledged by everybody.

    Skepticism and atheism are large enough to have several subgroups these days. None of the subgroups should be trying to define what “pure” skepticism or atheism is. Skepticism is merely a tool used to evaluate claims. How far you want to use that tool is a personal preference. Don’t want it to apply to religion/god, don’t do it. But keep quiet if others do apply it to religion/deities. Atheism is the disbelief in gods, but since rejection of religion could leave one nihilistic, developing a moral code is a plus as it replaces a religious based system with something more rational. You may not wish to develop your own moral code, but there is no need to complain if others do (or don’t), or if they choose to join humanist organizations (or not).

    I’m both an atheist and skeptic. Unfortunately, this grouping also includes folks, like the Slymepit. I can acknowledge that while progressing beyond their limited thinking.

  97. Reginald Selkirk says

    chrislawson #36: Gardner not only was a Christian, but believed in miracles.

    I have read Gardner’s The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener, in which Gardner claimed to be a “philosophical theist.”
    Here is an article in Spectrum in which Gardner repeats the claim.

    am a philosophical theist. I believe in a personal god, and I believe in an afterlife, and I believe in prayer, but I don’t believe in any established religion. This is called philosophical theism…

    No specific mention of Gardner being a Christian, other than a reference to his “Protestant past“. He was also very clear that his theism was not rooted in evidence, and that he had no evidence or arguments to offer to atheists in support of it.

  98. Reginald Selkirk says

    The Martin Gardner Interview Part 2

    By CambridgeBlog ⋅ September 25, 2008
    .
    (Gardner, on his novel The Flight of Peter Fromm.)…
    Gardner: It is partly autobiographical. I don’t resemble Peter, the book’s hero, in personality or looks, but I did put him through changes in my own beliefs because when I was in high school I was converted to a very ugly Protestant fundamentalism, mainly through the influence of a Sunday School teacher who was later a counselor at a summer camp I went to. That didn’t last very long, but it lasted long enough for me to try to figure out some way I could preserve a belief in Christianity. I finally ended up deciding I couldn’t. So I put Peter through changes in my own beliefs, and in that sense it’s autobiographical.
    DA: It’s a book you seem especially fond of. What motivated you to write it?
    Gardner: I wanted to put into a novel my reasons for abandoning Christianity, but retaining a belief in God. I’m what in academic circles is called a “philosophical theist.”

    So here we have Gardner specifically denying Christianity. I don’t know where chrislawson gets the information to claim otherwise.

  99. Reginald Selkirk says

    franko #46: Gardner was a card-carrying believer in christianity – even in miracles, as you add.

    I have posted evidence that Gardner did not consider himself a Christian, but rather a “philosophical theist.” Deal with it.

  100. says

    Gardner was also well known as a skeptic who openly recognized that his faith was completely unskeptical. He just acknowledged that we’re all going to have irrational bits in our brains, we just accept it and move on, without trying to invent elaborate justifications for it.

  101. Larry Poppins says

    I was there, and I was appalled at what I was hearing from Swiss. I wanted to walk out as soon as he said “identity politics” but somehow I managed to keep my seat until he was finished yelling at us. My table seemed bewildered. My wife reports that she also felt agitated and confused since she knew he was attacking something but she didn’t know what since she’s new to all of this. She that she felt intimidated and would not want to talk to Swiss. For my part I can do without Swiss’s tent. If he’s the barker selling seats in the skeptics big top we’re not buying any.

  102. says

    #54 =8)-DX

    Hi there :). I did not interact with local skeptic movement either. But it is easy to verify that Jiří Grygar, leader of czech skeptics, is catholic. He even wrote a series of tedious apologetic articles for http://www.vira.cz trying as hard as he can to rationalize his faith using the same nonsensical “NOMA” rhetorics that has been debunked a thousand times. Essentialy all such arguments are derivations of “God of the gaps”, only the gaps shifted from the complexity of biology to the quiantness of quantum physics.

    #64 sqlrob & #81 tuibguy

    Particular Gods are indeed testable based on their particular (proposed) properties. The idea of god(s) in general is however also testable in broader sense – the null hypothesis is nonexistence. Untestable and unfalsifiable claims can be made, but those are not worth the effort to even think about in terms of existence/nonexistence or skepticism, since there is no way to distinquish them from pure fantasy. Moving the goalpost is definitively big part of those rationalizations, but moving the goalpost does not mean that the “gods” idea is untestable – it only means, that people proposing the idea are inconsistent and/or dishonest in their reasoning.
    ________________

    It is saddening to see, that even though the “No True Scotsman” fallacy is long known and explained ad bleeding nauseam all over the internet, even people in skeptic and/or atheist movement are prone to use it. No single word is broad enough to describe any single person in full.

  103. Greg Amann says

    I am a skeptic by the definition Spinoza gives. Or what I think Spinoza says. If the skeptic movement goes all higgldy piggldy, so what? I am still a skeptic and they can all go hang.

    In 5 years I may need to start a “We’re takin’ it back” campaign to reclaim the word skeptic. ;-)

  104. says

    On the issue of “scientific skepticism”:

    There’s a whole lot of letter of the law (at least the ones who actually have some idea of what the word means) without the spirit of the law running around under the heading of skepticism, and slapping science on it as an adjective doesn’t make it any better.

    When I teach composition, I teach the scientific method. I try to present not just the steps, but the way of thinking that goes with it. It’s not just the ability to spot fallacies or the ability to criticize ideas in a systematic fashion, it’s a mental discipline that requires you to change the way you think.

    There are a lot of people who can spot the categories, and relatively few who appear to understand the commitment necessary to actually be a skeptic, including applying that same rigor to one’s own thoughts. It is NOT easy to do, especially if skepticism is treated as a lifestyle commitment.

    It is not skeptical to simply name fallacies or name errors. Slapping science on it as if the use of that word can compensate for taking skepticism seriously is a little….. sad. It is as if they recognize that the word is special, and are sticking it on whatever they can to see if it makes people respect them more.

  105. Sastra says

    I was at the last TAM and heard Jamie’s talk. At the time he seemed to me to be making a reasonable point: people who are generally skeptical but have a blind spot (religion, global warming, alternative medicine) should be welcomed into the ‘movement’ on certain terms: no sacred cows. Whatever their particular blind spot is — the skeptics will be going after it. And if this is an issue you think matters to the public then you will have to defend your ideas. Chances are you will end up changing your mind.

    That was my interpretation, at any rate. Perhaps it was too generous. Seems so.

    Technically speaking, the existence of God per se is NOT a ‘testable claim’ if we’re looking to see if it will meet the terms of the Randi Challenge. The challenge has to have something clear and specific enough to design a controlled test for. But of course I think it’s perfectly legitimate to apply scientific skepticism to the God hypothesis. As far as I can tell all the major skeptic organizations have put out articles and talks arguing against the existence of God. That’s not accomodationism. Accomodationism would insist that “God” is completely off the table. It’s only off the table for the Challenge.

    I thought that was Jamie’s position. Doesn’t sound like it from PZ’s description.

  106. says

    @miller #90:

    That’s interesting, I’d like to read more. Does anyone have a reference to skeptics criticizing Skepticon?

    It was the heart of the GelatoGate nonsense a few years back. Jim Lippard was the skeptic I most remember doing the criticizing. I wrote a post at the time that should have most of the relevant links.

    @Skeptico #92: It’s always good to see you’re still around, and still right :).

    @antiprepro #105:

    This. I mean, seriously, defending “untestable claims” is entirely the realm of charlatans. I don’t even understand how they can consider themselves skeptical of anything if they consider God to be untestable.

    It’s so transparent, because once you make the claim anything but god, you know that any skeptic would skewer it. Saying “god is untestable” is exactly like saying “homeopathy can’t be evaluated with double-blind trials” or “my psychic powers don’t work around skeptics’ negative energy.” It’s pure special pleading, and any skeptic would recognize it as such.

    It also relies heavily on equivocation. There are god-claims which are untestable–the Last Tuesdayist god, or the deist god, for instance–but there are also testable god-claims–like the god who created everything exactly as it says in Genesis or a god who answers prayers of healing or a god who throws lightning bolts at the wicked or a god who appears when you pray to ask it into your heart. Lumping them all in together as “god claims are untestable” ignores the fact that many god-claims, including most of the gods that people actually believe in, are not only testable but tested and shown to be nonexistent. No god who answers prayers of healing exists. No god who created the universe according to the Genesis stories exists. No god throws lightning bolts or appears to anyone who asks it into their heart with sincerity. These gods have been conclusively disproven, and it’s fallacious equivocation to suggest otherwise. After all, that’s what “god of the gaps” fucking means.

    @Ophelia Benson #115:

    Seriously? He called you stupid and a liar in a public talk??

    Obviously this will get Swiss pilloried in various otherwise unsavory parts of the Internet, because we all know that it’s incredibly inappropriate for a speaker to attack an attendee from the podium, and Rebecca Watson wasn’t nearly that antagonistic toward Stef McGraw. So I look forward to SkepticInk and Slyme Pit’s years of ongoing outrage against Swiss. Any moment now, I’m sure.

  107. Mark Faine says

    I’ve just watched his TAM talk from 2012 because of this post. Much of what he says is fine, it seems to be about scope, preventing scope creep and staying focused on the mission of the organization. However, on the other hand, if I wanted to destroy a skeptic organization like this, I’d do it from the inside by muddying the waters, watering down the message, which is the danger that Jamie seems be missing.

    To me. I believe that the overall message is misguided for two reasons:

    There are correct answers. The JREF should vocally support the correct answers by its actions. For example, someone that denies the holocaust, or is anti-vaccine, or a vocal religious leader, should not be recognized by the organization even if they have done amazing skeptical work in some other area. Doing so is very close to endorsement, even if it is stated publicly that you do not endorse such beliefs. In short, they need to be very careful of the company they keep.

    Second, and this one is simple, they need to focus more on the issues that cause the most harm to the greatest number of people. I’d be willing to bet that religion would lead by huge margins. I’m not saying they shouldn’t go after homeopathy, or astrology, or anything else but if I ran the organization we’d spend the majority of our time and money on those things that cause the most harm and if you look closely I think you’ll find that religion is as the root of most of them.

    As for atheism being a requirement for admittance into the tent. I do think that it should be so. Actually, as has been said by secular humanist for years, I think that atheism is a necessary but not sufficient condition. I would not care to hear from a speaker on any subject of skepticism if he were not an atheist as he would have no credibility on the subject of skepticism.

  108. says

    Also, religion is ALWAYS up for criticism, in many ways because of the sorts of teleological and epistemological claims it makes. Post-modernity is characterized by a search among heterogeneous claims to root knowledge, fundamental understanding and to narratives that justify existence.

    Religion is some SERIOUSLY low hanging fruit in that regard.

  109. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    It seems to me that skepticism should be concerned with issues that can be resolved based on evidence. This means not just that conclusions must be based on evidence, but that the problem must be posed in a logically sound manner.

    It makes no sense to require atheists to prove a negative. It makes no sense to require evidence against a concept that proponents of the concept cannot even define it sufficiently to tell us what would constitute evidence. That is true whether the concept is deities or invisible pink unicorns.

    The so-called “skeptic” movement is riven with folks who shun atheists, but who refuse to even entertain evidence for anthropogenic climate change. I know where to find my snake oil, should I ever need it.

  110. David Marjanović says

    ‘one third of our attendees are women so obviously women must feel welcome there’

    Wow.

  111. says

    David M: No kidding. “We’ve managed to get a few women therefore there’s no problem here.”

    Now where have I seen that sort of reasoning before…. oh yeah, anywhere women are grudgingly accepted.

  112. Steve LaBonne says

    A skeptical attitude is just the beginning of learning how to think critically and clearly, not the endpoint. By itself it represents merely a junior high school level of intellectual skill. It’s not surprising that people who think that’s all there is to thinking are not actually very good at thinking.

  113. Abdul Alhazred says

    John Morales:

    You are very confused if you don’t recognise the symptom of a social movement in that adumbration.

    The dynamic of the so called skeptic movement is more like a fandom than something along the lines of say the civil rights movement.

    Complete with drama queen exits.

  114. Steve Sirhan says

    It’s another tar baby type situation. No surprise. PZ may be 25 percent right on this but no more. A pox, in varying degrees, on both houses.

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot DOT com/2013/05/pz-myers-aka-phrayngula-and-scientific.html

  115. scarr says

    Perhaps you can see now why some of us are disgusted with Atheism + ?….nah, didn’t think so.

  116. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Perhaps you can see now why some of us are disgusted with Atheism + ?

    Why should you be disgusted with a group you must make an effort to join? Unless you are morally bankrupt?

  117. says

    P.Z.: Maybe if you’d stick to being a scientist… instead of moonlighting as a hate-filled bigot…

    Btw–AFAIK, you still haven’t corrected your misstatements regarding Anthony N. Jr. Nor do I expect that you ever will.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  118. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    issaaccomer-wyrd:

    Just curious if you have any actual quotes, with citations, of PZed being a bigot or being hate filled?

  119. anteprepro says

    It’s always fun when the trolls come in flocks. Though sadly I can’t these folks as doing much more than bravely dribbling on the carpet before running away, tittering in glee. You cheeky little rebels, you.

  120. says

    Technically speaking, the existence of God per se is NOT a ‘testable claim’ if we’re looking to see if it will meet the terms of the Randi Challenge. The challenge has to have something clear and specific enough to design a controlled test for.

    That’s actually a good point, and illustrates my problem. The Randi Challenge is a fine test for a very narrow range of phenomena –the problem with organized skepticism is that they have this distorted view of science that canonizes the Randi Challenge as the way to do science, and it’s seriously distorted their views.

    I have never in my entire life done a scientific experiment that could fit into the constraints of the challenge. Not once. It’s a protocol that only works for the most simplistic test cases, cases which are not going to represent the majority of phenomena out there. You can’t test the existence of god in the format of Randi’s protocol, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a scientific case against the existence of god.

    The escape artists have put themselves in a straitjacket of their own design, slipping it on so cunningly they don’t even notice that they’re wearing it. And when you challenge them to break out of it, they yell at you that they aren’t wearing one.

  121. says

    @Ogvorbis:
    It would be fun to try, but if you’re a big fan of P.Z. then you’d probably have a different idea than I do about what constitutes “bigot” or “hate filled”.

    Personally, I don’t feel that the communion wafer incident reflects well on P.Z.
    http://www.secularstudents.org/node/2168

    But some people might think differently.

    The main issue I have with P.Z. is his libelous statements regarding Anthony N. Jr. I can’t actually link to the site that I want to because if I do, I don’t think my comment will be allowed through.

    It was first mislabeled by P.Z. and Co. as some sort of religious zealot site (that’s laughable), and afterwards simply written off as another bunch of kooks.

    Personally I don’t think there’s anything too kooky about voicing one’s disgust at online marketing scams (that’s the main focus of the site), but P.Z. couldn’t be bothered to get into all that. He just happened to see some comment from a female blogger claiming that she was being threatened and took all of her story at face value because it allowed him to point out yet another example of a person being a crazy religious zealot.

    Except that’s not actually what was happening there.

    But nevermind about that. Facts don’t matter when you’re on a (non)holy Crusade against… religion…

    Right, P.Z.?

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  122. evilDoug says

    It’s always fun when the trolls come in flocks.

    I thought the collective noun for trolls was slobber not flock.

  123. Drolfe says

    Back at 35 Minestuck said,

    Instead of marginalizing me and people like me, he should be reaching out and communicating skepticism to atheists who aren’t skeptics because they’re already primed for it: they’re already skeptical of religion on some level. This is just another example of our culture’s long-standing tradition of downplaying atheists as intolerant extremists of no social value to any cause.

    I think this is an interesting point, because it looks like an example of religious privilege wielded by an admitted atheist against other atheists. Am I misunderstanding?

  124. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I can’t actually link to the site that I want to because if I do, I don’t think my comment will be allowed through.

    You were asked to quote the offensive part here, not just link to it. Funny how you quote zero. Makes me wonder what was really said, but I’m too busy to look. If you have a case, make it with something other than your OPINION. Or just fade into the bandwidth. The MRA crowd can’t put up, won’t shut up, which is why they are despised.

  125. Ulysses says

    isaaccomer-wyrd @131 & 136

    If you’re going to throw accusations of bigotry around then you need to have some specifics. First of all, who is Anthony N. Jr.? What did PZ say about him? Give links or other evidence to support your allegations. Don’t give nebulous ” I can’t actually link to the site that I want to because if I do, I don’t think my comment will be allowed through” because that tells me you’re just shit-stirring. If you’ve got a complaint then you need to give more than imputations of libel.

    In short, put up or shut up.

  126. says

    He could always link to the article I wrote to which he takes such offense. Does he think I censor links to my own web site?

  127. Owlmirror says

    It would be fun to try, but if you’re a big fan of P.Z. then you’d probably have a different idea than I do about what constitutes “bigot” or “hate filled”.

    Personally, I don’t feel that the communion wafer incident reflects well on P.Z.

    Oh!

    You mean the incident where Catholics were acting like hate-filled bigots by making death threats.

    See, you seem to have this weird mixup in your brain that makes you call people who receive death threats “hate-filled bigots”, instead of the the people making those threats.

    What the hell is wrong with you?

    The main issue I have with P.Z. is his libelous statements regarding Anthony N. Jr.

    Did PZ call him a classic crackpot?

    I can’t actually link to the site that I want to because if I do, I don’t think my comment will be allowed through.

    What’s the site? An attack site with hostile javascript? Maybe the site owner should clean up that crap.

  128. Stacy says

    Perhaps you can see now why some of us are disgusted with Atheism + ?….nah, didn’t think so

    Because Atheism + people tell other atheists “you’re doing it wrong, there’s just one way to do atheism and certain areas of concern are out of the bounds of The Atheist Movement”?

    O wait–A+ doesn’t do that. That’s more the sort of line their silly detractors take.

    You didn’t think this through, did you?

  129. says

    Oh, that site. Definitely banned for malicious code to plant key loggers on visiting computers. Don’t go there!

  130. anteprepro says

    Personally, I don’t feel that the communion wafer incident reflects well on P.Z.

    Crackergate: Still hurting fee-fees after all these years.

    As for Anthony N. Jr: I think it is Anthony Navarro, using google-fu. Relevant posts:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/09/30/anthony-navarro-is-an-evil-scumbag/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/10/05/i-get-all-the-obsessive-compulsive-kooks/

    Salty droid, the kook site from the second link, just posted about this post. Fancy that.

    (Finally is able to get computer to work enough to check thread before posting, sees PZ’s post at 147, cue “ffffffffuuuuu”)

  131. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    It would be fun to try, but if you’re a big fan of P.Z. then you’d probably have a different idea than I do about what constitutes “bigot” or “hate filled”.

    Personally, I don’t feel that the communion wafer incident reflects well on P.Z.

    I see. Pointing out that the communion wafer does not actually become the body of Christ through the magic of transubstantiation is hate filled bigotry. But the many Catholics who sent warm and fuzzy death threats and nice cuddly diatribes are not. Gotcha.

  132. irwolfie says

    Sceptic groups deal with testable claims seemingly for reasons of expediency; so as to appeal to a large a group as possible so as to show them how to critically analyze claims. Encouraging scepticism in relation to testable claims will lead to many applying the same rigor to non-testable beliefs with no basis in evidence. Grothe says it well here: http://www.randi.org/site/index.php/swift-blog/1081-new-atheist-directions-at-the-jref.html

    There are already plenty of groups for the critical analysis of religious belief, so I don’t see the value of all sceptic groups necessarily focussing on that area; it makes sense to have groups dedicated to testable claims.

  133. notsont says

    There are already plenty of groups for the critical analysis of religious belief, so I don’t see the value of all sceptic groups necessarily focussing on that area; it makes sense to have groups dedicated to testable claims

    And that would be fine, if that was where it ended but they then go on to attack atheists and call out other skeptic groups that feel like extending skepticism to everything and not just safe topics.

  134. says

    “There are already plenty of groups for the critical analysis of religious belief, so I don’t see the value of all sceptic groups necessarily focussing on that area; it makes sense to have groups dedicated to testable claims.”

    Now see that’s the line I always here but I don’t see anyone saying it. Saying that there are other topics skepticism as a whole should cover doesn’t mean skeptic A has to cover it. For example the site science based medicine is part of the skeptical movement. No one in the skeptical movement is saying they have to cover cryptozoology or global warming denial or skeptical topic X just because its part of the larger skeptical community. Similarly no one is saying that for example TAM has to start talking about religion but that the movement as a whole should be more open to applying skepticism to other topics.

  135. IRWolfie- says

    And that would be fine, if that was where it ended but they then go on to attack atheists and call out other skeptic groups that feel like extending skepticism to everything and not just safe topics.

    At the 20th minute of the video on youtube he appears to say that he is not saying for there to be special exemptions, but rather that he values skepticism, and then its application to religion, more than atheism alone.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “they” either; I wouldn’t make an overly hasty generalization from Swiss to everyone else.

  136. notsont says

    I’m not generalizing but I’m also gonna go do research on it for you, This is an old issue and it was hashed over at length. I believe the most recent incarnation was on neurologica, although I suppose I may have missed one since then. Its old and its tiresome and its always the same people spouting off about it.

  137. Ulysses says

    Anthony Navarro, Jr. is a fundamentalist who equates divorce with adultery. PZ wrote a post about his hatred for his brother and mother. isaaccomer-wyrd thinks it’s bigotry for PZ to point how what a hate-filled man Navarro Jr. is. Color me unimpressed.

  138. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    atheist, #93:

    Or you could try this: just show up and start speaking, without worrying about describing yourself. Let other people decide what you should be called. The words that people come up with to describe you will clue you in to who you’re associating with.

    Agreed. Labels may be useful shorthand, but they’re limited – as is the case here – once enough people start using them to mean different things and you end up having to be specific anyway.

    Do what you need to do; leave the labels to those who feel they need to apply them.

  139. Pierce R. Butler says

    Count me as another general-sympathizer who doesn’t follow the organized-skeptic scene very closely.

    Thus, a question: do “they” (however defined) dare to tackle the (material, testable) claims of American exceptionalism?

  140. Ulysses says

    There are several forms of skepticism. There’s the “examine everything with a skeptical eye” skepticism, there’s the “I’m a skeptic and better than non-skeptics” skepticism, there’s the “I’ll be skeptical about those things I’m comfortable being skeptical about” skepticism, and there’s the “skeptical organizations” skepticism. PZ and most people on this website belong to the first group. Swiss is in the last two groups. He’s not comfortable with considering theism skepticially, or at least he doesn’t want to do it in public, plus he thinks examining theism will hurt organized skepticism.

    I’ll continue to think skeptically about any topic I think warrants skepticism, which include theism. I’m not involved in any skeptical organizations so I don’t care if my atheism hurts the skeptical movement which Swiss wants to protect.

  141. says

    Well darn, I was wrong. I was almost sure it was some of the standard shit on talking about feminism.

    And the wafer thing reflects on PZ just fine, thank you very much.

  142. Owlmirror says

    I see that the one who thinks that hate and bigotry are not hate and bigotry when the hate and bigotry are religiously motived may have been correct in one particular:

    [From here]

    I’m sorry, but that saltydroid site is advocating harassment and worse. It is now on the blacklist, please don’t bother referencing it ever again. –pzm

    So a link to that site — assuming that is what was being referenced — would not have gone through.

  143. Ichthyic says

    The dynamic of the so called skeptic movement is more like a fandom than something along the lines of say the civil rights movement.

    you obviously know nothing at all about the civil rights movement, or the politics of it.

  144. Ichthyic says

    But the many Catholics who sent warm and fuzzy death threats and nice cuddly diatribes are not. Gotcha.

    don’t forget the catholics who tried to get a student expelled because they ran off with a communion wafer… that was given to them… AFTER THEY WERE ASSAULTED by the resident “protectors of the right way to use wafers”

    but of course, that reflects perfectly fine on catholics uh huh.

  145. mingusmingusmingus says

    Thanks for being continuing to be a role model for freethinkers Dr Myers

  146. says

    Some of my Facebook friends are talking about this post and linking this (TW: animated gifs). I basically reserve judgment on all this drama stuff, especially since I’ve never seen Swiss’s talk, but that link frankly struck me as off-base.

  147. throwaway, extra beefy super queasy says

    Some of my Facebook friends are talking about this post and linking this (TW: animated gifs). I basically reserve judgment on all this drama stuff, especially since I’ve never seen Swiss’s talk, but that link frankly struck me as off-base.

    Yes, it’s pedestrian and a meta observation for a phenomena which exists only to those who have an obsessive interest in the drama about the drama. It gives them a way to collectively react to something without doing all the dirty work of examining what was being said. What else did you expect from Bookface?

  148. sc_71ccb67ce0e00bd5da95cbe468b87689 says

    Isn’t this what you get for trying to bring dogma into the skeptic community? Lol twit. You got peer reviewed, and it wasn’t pretty. :)

  149. says

    P.Z. Myers wrote

    Oh, that site. Definitely banned for malicious code to plant key loggers on visiting computers. Don’t go there!

    So you’re claiming saltydroid .info has malicious code to plant key loggers on visiting computers?

    NateHevens wrote

    IMO, the communion wafer desecration reflects on PZ just fine, thank you very much.

    I’d say it reflects on him accurately. It accurately shows that P.Z. Myers doesn’t just not care about religion, but rather, he kind of actively hates it. As if it’s done something wrong to him personally. (Perhaps it has.) So now, much like a kid beaten up by a bully, he’s going to take every opportunity to get back at every single practitioner of any or every organized religion every chance he gets.

    Because P. Z. Myers is sure that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

    Ayn Rand would be proud.

    As to Anthony Navarro, Jr… so he didn’t send to his brother what was obviously (to any semi-intelligent person, anyways… oh and yes, the subtext/implication is deliberate; enjoy it) a death threat?

    As far as I know, what he sent to his brother was not a death threat, no. I agree it’s some severe looking wording.

    But take a step back and look at yourselves. Any minutes now you’re gonna nail me to a digital cross. And for what? Because I dared speak out against P.Z. on his home turf? I mean I get the “we’ll not suffer any fools here” attitude. But it seems like your definition of a “fool” is “anyone that doesn’t see things exactly the same way as us.”

    Ogvorbis wrote

    Just curious if you have any actual quotes, with citations, of PZed being a bigot or being hate filled?

    Og, (cool handle, btw) P.Z.’s inept handling of the Anthony Jr. situation was bigoted. Because P.Z. just took the information that was given to him at face value. When it was pointed out that the information was incorrect, he didn’t change his preconceived opinion. As far as I know, P.Z. didn’t even entertain the possibility that his initial assessment might not be wholly correct. That’s not critical thinking. That’s dogma.

    Isn’t dogma supposed to be bad or something?


    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  150. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    isaaccomyn-wyrd,

    It accurately shows that P.Z. Myers doesn’t just not care about religion, but rather, he kind of actively hates it. As if it’s done something wrong to him personally.

    I see; you can only resent wrongs done to you personally. Ayn Rand would be proud. PZ was reacting to the persecution of a student who – horror of horrors, atrocity of atrocities – went off with a bit of magic cracker.

    Any minutes now you’re gonna nail me to a digital cross.

    Ah yes, the martyr complex. How predictable, and how contemptible.

  151. Rey Fox says

    Any minutes now you’re gonna nail me to a digital cross.

    More weak trolling.

  152. says

    Nick Gotts wrote

    I see; you can only resent wrongs done to you personally.

    Incorrect. In the first place, this isn’t about resentment. In the second place, the wrong that I am concerned about is one that I think was done to Anthony N. Jr.

    You might try reading (and understanding) the whole comment next time.

    But probably you won’t. Knee-jerk reacting is oh-so much easier, yes?

    PZ was reacting to the persecution of a student who

    Reacting is fine. Please don’t get upset if people judge your character based on the nature of your reaction.
    Of course PZ and you and every loyal fan feels that PZ’s reaction was completely and 100% justified in every single respect.
    Whatever. Everyone gets to have an opinion. Mine is that one group’s zealousness doesn’t justify another’s. My opinion is that “desecrating the communion wafer” aka mucking up the cracker is a lot more about symbolically pooping all over someone else’s beliefs than it is about sticking up for someone who was persecuted. Because if it had really been about the persecution, then it would’ve been possible to stand up for the persecuted without doing something so dramatic and Jersey Shore/Jerry Springer-esque.

    The odd thing is that I’m usually in favor of making fun of peoples’ religions. In those cases though there’s always an air of levity to take away some of the sting.
    Is that something that I’m missing here? Was it all a joke? ’cause I got the sense that it was kind of a lot more mean spirited than that.

    But I don’t even care about wafergate. It was just a twofold example of
    1) PZ’s bigotry and
    2) the fact that you and I have a different idea of what constitutes bigotry.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  153. vaiyt says

    @isaaccomer-wyrd

    My opinion is that “desecrating the communion wafer” aka mucking up the cracker is a lot more about symbolically pooping all over someone else’s beliefs than it is about sticking up for someone who was persecuted. Because if it had really been about the persecution, then it would’ve been possible to stand up for the persecuted without doing something so dramatic and Jersey Shore/Jerry Springer-esque.

    We’re all allowed to stand up for injustice as long as it doesn’t annoy the perpetrators too much. How magnanimous of you. Not.

  154. says

    vaiyt wrote

    We’re all allowed to stand up for injustice as long as it doesn’t annoy the perpetrators too much.

    Could you possibly be any more pompous? That’s rhetorical–but I’m sure someone will answer anyway and prove the answer is “yes”.

    You think he was standing up for injustice? All I saw was someone being a dick. And, tragically, he wasn’t funny while doing it.

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

  155. Owlmirror says

    It accurately shows that P.Z. Myers doesn’t just not care about religion, but rather, he kind of actively hates it.

    Or rather, he hates the religion that deliberately persecutes people.

    Obviously, you’re indifferent to such persecution.

    So now, much like a kid beaten up by a bully, he’s going to take every opportunity to get back at every single practitioner of any or every organized religion every chance he gets.

    The communion wafer incident was in response to a specific incidence of religious bullying.

    Why do you take the side of the bullies?

    Because P. Z. Myers is sure that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

    And you are sure that the Catholic bullies are right, and everyone else is wrong?

    As far as I know, what he sent to his brother was not a death threat

    His own damn words: “You are guilty of the same sin as our mother and it cost her her life in the end… It cost her her soul. Her selfishness was her downfall. Do not fall into the same trap… The same spiral… The same death…

    Since the death she suffered was murder engineered by a family member, how is specifically writing The same death not a threat?

    I agree it’s some severe looking wording.

    Oh! Well then, putting it that way makes it all OK.

    Hey, the same defense works even better for PZ! Especially since PZ didn’t threaten anyone.

    Calling Anthony an “evil scumbag” and a “demented fuckwit” was just “severe looking wording”. There. All better! Problem solved! You can just toddle along now.

    Oh, and putting a nail in a cracker was just a “severe looking action”. Yay!

    But take a step back and look at yourselves. Any minutes now you’re gonna nail me to a digital cross.

    Pish tosh. If you long for crucifixion, you’ll need your own lumber, and your own hammer, and you can damn well nail yourself.

    Because P.Z. just took the information that was given to him at face value.

    Was the letter not written by Anthony?

    When it was pointed out that the information was incorrect

    No-one showed how the information was incorrect.

    There was this, as I see: “HeadsUp! PZ Myers … you just started a war with the exact wrong motherfucker …”

    Protip: The above is not how to begin an erudite and scholarly refutation. Trufax!

    As far as I know, P.Z. didn’t even entertain the possibility that his initial assessment might not be wholly correct.

    No-one offered any evidence that his initial assessment was not wholly correct.

    That’s not critical thinking. That’s dogma.

    Your bullshit is noted.

  156. Owlmirror says

    My opinion is that “desecrating the communion wafer” aka mucking up the cracker is a lot more about symbolically pooping all over someone else’s beliefs than it is about sticking up for someone who was persecuted.

    Since the persecution was precisely because of those beliefs, it was kinda both.

    Because if it had really been about the persecution, then it would’ve been possible to stand up for the persecuted without doing something so dramatic and Jersey Shore/Jerry Springer-esque.

    Both dramatic and non-dramatic support for the persecuted are possible. Oddly enough, it would appear that both types of methods have been useful in the past.

    Is that something that I’m missing here? Was it all a joke? ’cause I got the sense that it was kind of a lot more mean spirited than that.

    Did you read the original post, where he pointed out that Catholics used to set people on fire because of their beliefs?

    I’m just curious, do you actually think that cracker-nailing is more mean-spirited than incineration? Or more mean-spirited than the more modern persecution and bullying that he was reacting to?

    But I don’t even care about wafergate.

    Liar.

    It was just a twofold example of
    1) PZ’s bigotry and
    2) the fact that you and I have a different idea of what constitutes bigotry.

    Or rather, it demonstrates that you support Catholic bigotry, and oppose opposing Catholic bigotry.

  157. A. Noyd says

    issaccomer-wyrd (#175)

    Could you possibly be any more pompous? That’s rhetorical–but I’m sure someone will answer anyway and prove the answer is “yes”.

    Wait, you’re going to judge vaiyt more pompous based on what someone else answers?.

  158. A. Noyd says

    It just struck me how much issac here resembles Steve Carell’s character on The Office.

  159. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    Incorrect. In the first place, this isn’t about resentment. – isaaccomer-wyrd

    You said:

    It accurately shows that P.Z. Myers doesn’t just not care about religion, but rather, he kind of actively hates it. As if it’s done something wrong to him personally. Maybe it has

    That is, you attribute PZ’s attitude to personal resentment. I was specifically responding to that with a bit of snark. Either you’re too stupid to recognise that, or you’re being dishonest.

    But I don’t even care about wafergate.

    Ah, I see. That’s why you raised it, and keep going on about it.

    All I saw was someone being a dick.

    Lay off the gender-based insults.

    Everyone gets to have an opinion.

    Yes, and yours are exceptionally stupid.

  160. =8)-DX says

    @Mark Faine #119

    I’d be willing to bet that religion would lead by huge margins. I’m not saying they shouldn’t go after homeopathy, or astrology, or anything else but if I ran the organization we’d spend the majority of our time and money on those things that cause the most harm and if you look closely I think you’ll find that religion is as the root of most of them.

    Coming from a largely atheistic country (CZ: 79% atheist/none) I’m not really sure that’s true. Anti-vax, anti-science attitudes, as well as nonsense like homeopathy and acupuncture are much more prevalant here and actually really influence people’s lives. Bad politics, social policy and government corruption also have much worse impact on people’s lives. The main negative impact of religion here in my opinion, is the regressive approach it brings to sexual and marital mores, homosexuality, muddying the waters for science.

  161. =8)-DX says

    >> so to finish my point: religion isn’t necessarily at the root of the most harmful things, although religious/supersticious thinking may be.

  162. John Morales says

    isaaccomer-wyrd:

    Og, (cool handle, btw) P.Z.’s inept handling of the Anthony Jr. situation was bigoted. Because P.Z. just took the information that was given to him at face value. When it was pointed out that the information was incorrect, he didn’t change his preconceived opinion. As far as I know, P.Z. didn’t even entertain the possibility that his initial assessment might not be wholly correct. That’s not critical thinking. That’s dogma.

    Isn’t dogma supposed to be bad or something?

    You are an ignoramus who imagines otherwise, and I immediately see five stupidities in that little eructation of yours.

    First of all, taking information “at face value” is not to what bigotry refers.

    Second, not changing one’s preconceived opinion doesn’t entail dogmatism.

    Third, making arguments based on personal ignorance is a ridiculous tactic.

    Fourth, critical thinking and dogmatism are not antonymous, and making arguments based on affirming the disjunct is worse than futile.

    Fifth, dogma may be the opposite of bad, given context and scope.

    (AKA ‘doing things by the book’)

  163. John Morales says

    [meta]

    Chas, it’s blog-spamming.

    (The decompression is to remove the spaces)

  164. John Morales says

    This is too cute not to nibble upon:

    [1] Because P. Z. Myers is sure that he is right and everyone else is wrong.

    [2] Ayn Rand would be proud.

    1. Perhaps whoever wrote this is not sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. ;)

    2. She was! (Yes, she really thought she was right and everyone else was wrong)

  165. ChasCPeterson says

    The decompression is to remove the spaces

    but…but…that would be compression!

  166. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    Og, (cool handle, btw)

    Which part? “Broken failure”?

    The rest of it John took apart far better than I could ever even imagine myself achieving. Thanks, John.

  167. vaiyt says

    @isaaccomer-wyrd:

    You think he was standing up for injustice? All I saw was someone being a dick.

    Well, if you think defending a boy that got death threats for taking a cracker from church service isn’t an injustice, then I think you’re an asshole.

  168. John Morales says

    Ogvorbis, I only addressed elements of that evasive rejoinder; the salient fact is that no actual quotes or citations were adduced in the response to your inquiry.

    (Evasiveness evinces impotence)

  169. vaiyt says

    Yes, PZ was also pooping on other people’s beliefs on top of that, because he doesn’t feel obliged to pay special respect to bullshit just because someone believes it to be true.

  170. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    *Yawn* Boring troll was both trolling and boring. *Yawn* Defending the powerful bullies, typical illogical behavior, old news. *Yawn*

  171. ChasCPeterson says

    Seems this Wyrd guy has been nursing his grudge for, literally, years. Over at the site-that-shall-not-be-named (Saltydr*id), there’s a PZ-Myers-bashing thread that ends almost all-Wyrd, with comments dated:
    October 14th, 2011
    January 23rd, 2012
    July 21st, 2012
    February 15th, 2013
    5 May 2013

    This is, like, pre-slymepit hate.
    Move on, Isaac. Stop carrying this torch. You’ll be happier.

  172. =8)-DX says

    Furry cows moo and decompress.

    I give up. An anagram?

    It’s an online signature, most common on forums. On pharyngula comments, people usually personalize their username instead, but adding a static text signature (quote, joke, random nonsense) to the end of a post is just another way to sign yourself. If you google “Furry cows moo and decompress” you’ll come up with links to other comments by Isaac AKA Wyrd. on various forums/blogs/etc.

    =8)-DX

  173. ChasCPeterson says

    I was unclear. I see it’s the guy’s little ego-sig. I was searching for some meaning in the phrase itself.
    It could be a pop-culture or sci-fi or comicbook reference (I often don’t get those), or it could be a private little in-joke, where the in-crowd is, like, the guy and his imaginary girlfriend and maybe his wizard-guildie.

  174. Anri says

    isaaccomer-wyrd:

    I’d say it reflects on him accurately. It accurately shows that P.Z. Myers doesn’t just not care about religion, but rather, he kind of actively hates it. As if it’s done something wrong to him personally. (Perhaps it has.) So now, much like a kid beaten up by a bully, he’s going to take every opportunity to get back at every single practitioner of any or every organized religion every chance he gets.

    (emphasis added for WTF)

    So, um, by your simile, if you beat someone up, and they’re upset about it later, it’s their fault?
    Might wanna rethink that just a bit.

    Moving on, as far as I recall, PZ has not been exactly coy about his distaste for religion… I don’t remember him ever maintaining he was indifferent to religion, or anything of the like. Unless I am greatly mistaken about what has been said previously, he’d like to see religion go away or, more realistically, lose its status as a moral arbiter.

    More to the point, you haven’t actually demonstrated that disliking religion, and working against it, is a bad thing. Were you planning on doing so? Or were you just assuming we’d believe it to be so?
    Religion is bad.
    It’s bad because it’s wrong, it’s bad because it’s dehumanizing, it’s bad because it leads you to do things that aren’t consistent with reality.
    If you believe otherwise, that’s fine – make your case. If you agree, please indicate why opposing an immoral, incorrect, reality-denying worldview is a negative.

  175. says

    checkmate, Myers!

    Nice one. In which Martin Wagner hands Sara Mayhew her ass in 3 easily computable paragraphs.

  176. says

    Btw, Sara Mayhew,

    PZ Myers, a biologist who used to blog about science, announced he is “officially” divorcing himself from the skeptic movement.

    Non sequitur alert! Think harder Sara. Maybe google “science” and “skeptic” before you write blog posts, or phone a friend.

  177. Ulysses says

    Non sequitur alert! Think harder Sara.

    Sara Mayhew is not the world’s most thoughtful person, as evidenced by her tweets on harassment reported by Ophelia.

  178. eternallylearning says

    Sorry for the TL;DR, but hopefully it’s worth the read. E

    1. Jamy in no way gave a “special exemption” to religious folks; he used them as one example of how a skeptical mindset is more important to him, than any one particular view. Under that statement, I’d expect him to say that even an anti-vaxxer who desires to think critically about their views would be welcome into the skeptical community so long as they were prepared to have their views challenged and to change their minds with reason. Add to that Jamy’s example of skeptics being uniquely qualified over straight-up biologists to debate creationists and I simply cannot understand how PZ walked away from this talk TWICE with the apparently solid understanding that Jamy proposed giving a free pass to all religious belief.

    2. PZ seems to be making a very clear “special exemption” of his own within the new atheist camp for folks with dangerous pseudo-scientific beliefs in his mistaken criticism of Jamy’s position. In the comments he says, “He repeated his claim that he valued skeptics who believe in god over atheists who are not skeptics. He can have them — but that was another declaration that religion gets a special exemption,” and to me that seems to imply that his view is the opposite; he values atheists who are not skeptics over skeptics who are not atheists.

    3. PZ focuses on the existence of a god as a sort of sacred cow for skeptics (according to Jamy of course) while missing that such a claim is quite a narrow one which even Richard Dawkins is not willing to 100% commit to refuting (Referring to the Dawkins scale as listed in The God Delusion of which he said he was a 6/7). PZ gives no rationale for why ignoring a god claim means ignoring claims about a god and seems to lump both together as if one cannot be agnostic on a god’s existence while being firmly against something like faith healing which, incidentally, Jamy specifically spoke out against in his speech.

    4. You really cannot compare the damage someone like Bill Maher can do to the public understanding of science and medicine to the damage someone like Pamela Gay (only example of a well-known religious skeptic I could think of) can do to the public understanding of atheism. She’s a scientist first who barely even talks about her very personal beliefs whereas he is a very public voice on matters of atheism who has made a point of speaking on the same platforms about the supposed dangers of modern medicine. Like it or not, the very fact that he is one of the most prominent atheists in America (if not the world) means that atheists who like and agree with him on his religious views are way more prone to accept his views on other topics.

    5. Lastly, I cannot even begin to understand his reasoning behind stating that skeptics focus on consumer protection in defiance of actual “understanding.” What understanding is he referring to that skeptics are missing? How is consumer protection apparently some trivial thing in his book? I’m honestly lost and confused on this point.

  179. luciferratcliffe says

    As a feminist, you were never really a skeptic. Your usual collection of sycophants and true-believers may be kissing your ass but true skeptics are laughing at you.

    To steal someone else’s line, how can you reject a movement you were never really part of in the first place?

  180. CaitieCat says

    LOL, looks like the Sour Grape Connection are here for their tuppenceworth.

    Also, PZ, your beard is funny and you smell. So there. :P

    * Note for the sarcasm-impaired: I don’t actually find his beard funny, and have no idea whether he smells.

  181. says

    1. You agree that a skeptic with no deep knowledge of biology is better equipped to argue with a creationist than, say, me? And no, I didn’t say he gave a free pass: I said he provided a special exemption, a get-out-of-jail-free card with his naive “testable claims” bullshit to anyone who wanted to invent an excuse.

    2. Do you really think I give a free pass to atheists? How ignorant are you? Most of my hate mail nowadays comes from atheists.

    3. Beautiful example of the primitive naivete of the modern skeptic. It’s not a binary answer? Then fuck it, we can’t bother with it.

    4. Jebus. Keep parading that stupidity, guy. I do not defend Bill Maher; I can’t stand him, I didn’t care for his movie, and think he’s a great example of the awful atheist. I have defended Pamela Gay, and appreciate her expertise in one set of fields while deploring her gullibility in one narrow domain. I was appalled when a few people spoke of her as not a True Skeptic™.

    5. “I’m honestly lost and confused”. Good for you, you got one thing right.

  182. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    As a feminist, you were never really a skeptic.

    Sorry, he is a true skeptic, questioning male privilege and power structures, unlike you, who dismisses out of hand a plethora of evidence that such things exist. That isn’t skepticism, but rather presupposition. Not one MRA to date has refuted feminism, or shown that male privilege doesn’t exist. Your distaste for it isn’t evidence, but rather your bad judgment.

  183. says

    Obviously this will get Swiss pilloried in various otherwise unsavory parts of the Internet, because we all know that it’s incredibly inappropriate for a speaker to attack an attendee from the podium, and Rebecca Watson wasn’t nearly that antagonistic toward Stef McGraw. So I look forward to SkepticInk and Slyme Pit’s years of ongoing outrage against Swiss. Any moment now, I’m sure.

    I was going to say the same thing. Especially given that the “McGraw Principle” wasn’t a one-time excuse to whine at someone they don’t like. They complained about Stephanie Zvan using Giordana’s comment as an example in one of her “dialogue” responses on the same basis, saying that she had a large platform and he was just a commenter, therefore it was wrong to use his comment in the dialogue.

    So yeah; if they were any kind of consistent, they’d be complaining about Swiss at least as much as they did about Watson and Zvan, given that he did pretty much the same thing.

  184. says

    As a feminist, you were never really a skeptic.

    I’ve been reading a lot about the environment from which the Frankfurt School (the original creators of the concept of Critical Theory) emerged. It was striking how similar the early modernist thought is to contemporary skeptical thought: “we are rational; we have reason on our side; we are right” all the while being completely blind to the irrationalities, contradictions, and biases of the sociocultural systems that formed their worldviews.

  185. eternallylearning says

    Thanks for taking the time to read and respond to my post PZ :).

    1. I guess I’m not really making the distinction between “free pass” and “special exemption” so if there’s some subtlety I’m missing I apologize for confusing the two. The point I was making though was that the “special exemption” you see was couched in qualifiers like expecting them to be open-minded about their beliefs, expecting that they must anticipate having their beliefs questioned and even be mocked, and the anticipation that adhering to a skeptical mindset would lead one inevitably towards a more atheist worldview. As for the concept of you versus a creationist in a debate; I would not consider you a “straight up biologist” since you have specially prepared yourself by understanding the common nonsensical creationist arguments that might catch a non-initiated (yet still highly educated) biologist off guard and throw them for a loop.

    2. I will admit outright that I know very little about you beyond reading a couple of blogs here and there and knowing of your general reputation (which obviously varies depending on who’s talking about you :P). The comments I made here were more or less made within the context of Jamy’s speech and your response above.

    3. My aside on the Dawkins scale was just that, an aside. My main point was that making an allowance for the single claim of god-belief is not at all the same thing as making a pass for all the beliefs which usually accompany it, and it seemed very much like you were lumping them together.

    4. As I’ve already said, I don’t really know all your specific stances, but I also don’t think I even implied in this point that you did support or defend Maher. I’m saying that I don’t know how you can compare the damage someone like him does to the damage someone like Pamela Gay does. As I said, I couldn’t think of any other well-known religious skeptics so if you know of a better example, I’m open to considering them as well. That in and of itself though, raises another point; what is the reality of Jamy’s stance on accepting the religious into the skeptical fold? If no prominent skeptical activists are preaching publicly on their religious beliefs then what’s the problem?

    5. Thanks for clarifying?

  186. says

    In some ways, feminists are the ultimate skeptics. They doubt that society has to be the way it is, doubt that it is true that gender and class are fixed arbiters of potential, doubt that there’s only male and female, doubt that racism is ‘fixed’ because we elected Obama, doubt that capitalism is the only way to run things, doubt that the inequity in distribution across leadership positions means that there’s nothing wrong, doubt a version of history that makes it seem as if we’re going to progress smoothly into some utopian future, doubt that churches are necessarily the best contributors to social stability, etc.

    We doubt EVERYTHING, and we doubt it despite assholes telling us that we’re not allowed to doubt.

  187. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Add to that Jamy’s example of skeptics being uniquely qualified over straight-up biologists to debate creationists…

    *spews partially chewed fortune cookie on monitor*

  188. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    *Recovers* Oh my.

    Skeptics™ don’t seem to be uniquely qualified to do anything.

    would not consider you a “straight up biologist” since you have specially prepared yourself by understanding the common nonsensical creationist arguments that might catch a non-initiated (yet still highly educated) biologist off guard and throw them for a loop.

    The preparation required is in the stomach, not the head, hombre. What you are interpreting as being “thrown for a loop”, is in fact a countenance of mind-body discipline as one stifles an unexpected puke.

  189. Anthony K says

    Skeptics™ don’t seem to be uniquely qualified to do anything.

    I think that’s JIS’s point: Skeptics™, unlike biologists, have all the time in the world to waste debating creationists.

    That is, when they’re not busy photoshopping and making GIFs.

  190. consciousness razor says

    In the comments he says, “He repeated his claim that he valued skeptics who believe in god over atheists who are not skeptics. He can have them — but that was another declaration that religion gets a special exemption,” and to me that seems to imply that his view is the opposite; he values atheists who are not skeptics over skeptics who are not atheists.

    I think it’s safe to assume he had his bizarro-world definition of “skeptics” in mind, and that PZ interpreted it that way. If they’re not bizarro-skeptics but they are skeptics, then indeed, who the fuck cares?

    PZ gives no rationale for why ignoring a god claim means ignoring claims about a god and seems to lump both together as if one cannot be agnostic on a god’s existence while being firmly against something like faith healing which, incidentally, Jamy specifically spoke out against in his speech.

    Depending on what “agnostic” means to you, I’ll share one from Sean Carroll, not for ignoring them but for disbelieving in them. You show me how you think the math is supposed to work, then look in the mirror, and you’ll see someone who’s able and willing to seriously entertain a belief in souls or gods or whatever they may be. Until then, you’re just doing a half-assed impression of a “skeptic” or an “agnostic.”

    As for the concept of you versus a creationist in a debate; I would not consider you a “straight up biologist” since you have specially prepared yourself by understanding the common nonsensical creationist arguments that might catch a non-initiated (yet still highly educated) biologist off guard and throw them for a loop.

    I suppose it may be sad for you to consider that he is, in fact, a biologist, straight-up no less, and that it’s not just some kind of pissing contest between … what … some chosen set of “initiates” who can “win” debates in the creationist-whacking game? I’m sorry.

  191. eternallylearning says

    I had in my mind, a definition for “straight up biologist” that apparently did not translate very well. Let me put it a different way. Until this article, PZ Meyers in a debate with a creationist would have been a skeptic and a biologist and would already be familiar with common creationist arguments and thus would not be caught off guard by an argument which has nothing to do with actual biology. Most skeptics are something else too, even Jamy Ian Swiss is not just a skeptic. That’s all I’m saying.

  192. anteprepro says

    Heh. Really, some of the comments we’ve gotten prove that something is rotten in Skepticism better than the OP could have possibly done on its own. With “skepticism” like theirs, who needs gullibility and dogmatism?

  193. Owlglass says

    Due to the hands-off and laid back approach of the deistic deities, we could care less if some people believe they exist somewhere. It is however a rather eccentric view to leave monotheistic religions alone based on some definition issue. We already know that people come to believe in their particular favorite deity due to books, stories, revelations, eye witness accounts or some other testable kind of way. There is a direct proportion between detail of divine entities and their testability. The moment we know anything about them, we may ask how we can know about them where it usually falls flat already (in principle something can be still true while information about might be corrupt. But that’s irrelevant for all practical purposes).

    Other than that, from all the labels available, Atheism wins anyway. As much as some people seem to have issues with it, I think it’s useful. After all, the common belief of all 38,000+ christian denominations might be as little as “the bible is true in some fashion”. In that sense, despite not being a religion, skepticism, humanism, secularism and so on could be seen as pluralistic (and thus modular, not-mutually exclusive) “denominations” of Atheism.

    Labels are full of baggage though, and I tend to avoid or subvert them when possible.The Skeptics label never floated my boat. But I don’t have to worry about getting invited to conferences.

  194. chigau (違う) says

    shawn

    skepticism is at heart an all or nothing proposition

    …I’m sceptical.

  195. Hurin, Midnight DJ on the Backwards Music Station says

    PZ

    That’s actually a good point, and illustrates my problem. The Randi Challenge is a fine test for a very narrow range of phenomena –the problem with organized skepticism is that they have this distorted view of science that canonizes the Randi Challenge as the way to do science, and it’s seriously distorted their views.

    Personally I don’t see why that is a problem. If the Randi Challenge approach is still a good approach to a certain set of bad ideas, and if those bad ideas is still a problem for society, then why fight with the Skeptical movement for wanting to focus on that set of ideas?

    Also, I haven’t seen any indication that skeptics have “cannonized” the Randi Challenge as the way to do science. I watched the Jamy Swiss talk from TAM 2012 twice, and never caught an instance of him saying that Skepticism is the only movement influenced by a scientific world view, or that all experiments have to fit the parameters of the Randi Challenge. I also don’t think you have a “distorted view of science” for restricting your research to evolutionary and developmental biology (or however you would categorize your work) . I wouldn’t deride evolutionary biologists for the fact that they don’t generally synthesize natural products molecules or suggest that you have “cannonized” PCR on the basis that it is the only chemical reaction you do. I think distinctions like the one between evolutionary biology and organic chemistry are useful rather than threatening, and I think that the distinction between Atheism + and Skepticism is probably a good thing.

    If your primary interests as an activist are things that most skeptics don’t seem to be interested in*, then you are right to leave the movement. I’m pretty sure Jamy Swiss isn’t going to follow you into Atheism+ and insist that you should spend more time on psychics.

    *as evidenced by the traditional foci of the movement to date

  196. Breshvic Penicillin says

    It’s fair to choose whatever movements you do and don’t want to be associated with, of course. But your perception and your actual experience based on interaction with some skeptics, shouldn’t apply to all of the skeptical movement. It does sort of read that way to a casual observer.

    Just as there are many types of atheists and agnostics and Christians and Muslims, there are many different skeptics with their own shades of tolerance, attitude, politics and yes, even beliefs.

    If we don’t have a binary, concrete answer to a non-falsifiable question, then it is not my concern. But I don’t need to impose the null hypothesis on anybody’s philosophy. I say, let the people believe, practice, and preach whatever they like, so long as it does no harm to others. But when they start to make specific, testable claims, then it’s open season. Obviously I don’t want somebody’s ideology or philosophy or politics steering their research.

    We can’t all have doctorates in biology, but we can all strive to have basic (or hopefully more) science literacy. With some science literacy you can argue successfully against someone with none. To think otherwise is nonsense. Now, since you have more scientific knowledge than me, no doubt, I’m sure you could obliterate me in a debate about science.

    But calling ones self a scientist and a skeptic and an agnostic or even a deist is not incompatible. It’s like saying that believing in the flying spaghetti monster is mutually exclusive from discovering some new vaccine.

    And anyway, if one doesn’t like the way a movement (that is otherwise ideal) is headed, it’s better to change or steer it from the inside. That’s frankly why my criticisms of atheism have been so pointed as of late.

  197. Breshvic Penicillin says

    Reading through the comments, though, it seems the major point of contention with the should we/shouldn’t we take religion to task is over whether or not religions make testable claims. This is all very interesting to me.

    I do think religion makes specific claims which can be debunked, and I do think that atheists/scientists/skeptics do this. Of course, they also have their ‘invisible, intangible dragons’ that are such a high level of special pleading, no amount of argumentation or reasoning or critical thinking is going to overcome it (for many religious adherents, anyway). So then it comes down to fighting a rational war for the critical-thinking minds of those who can be swayed. I think it pays to focus criticism and skeptical eyes on the grand kooks, religious zealots, policy-makers and influencers… the sweat lodge practitioners, creationists, terrorists, what-have-you. It’s more productive and efficient and makes a better moral argument to win hearts and minds, especially if we leave the personal faith of some old grandmother out of the equation.

    I don’t know who these skeptics are that are “giving religion a pass” exactly, perhaps I’m just not keyed into them. But I do think that such vague generalizations are unhelpful.

  198. wantssentientbeingstobehappy says

    “It’s toothless science that fetishizes “consumer protection” over understanding.”

    Sigh. This makes me sad.

    Do you think understanding is an option that is (most of the time/always/often enough) on the table here? I honestly don’t know these people well enough since I have only ever consumed their output via the internet. It’s not that I fail to grasp the importance of understanding. From afar, the skeptics always seemed to be the blue collar workers of the enlightenment to me.

    I think putting religion into a different bag than belief in homeopathy or gnomes is nonsensical, especially since the behavior displayed in defense of these subject seems so much alike, suggesting similar psychological mechanisms. It’s the topic of accessibility of sceptical insight that greatly matters to me far greater though. I DO believe there is great need for shitloads of consumer protection

    What are your opinions on this topic?

  199. Ichthyic says

    Personally I don’t see why that is a problem. If the Randi Challenge approach is still a good approach to a certain set of bad ideas, and if those bad ideas is still a problem for society, then why fight with the Skeptical movement for wanting to focus on that set of ideas?

    Look again at what PZ wrote:

    the problem with organized skepticism is that they have this distorted view of science that canonizes the Randi Challenge as the way to do science

    PZ’s objection is not to the “randi challenge” approach being bad for skepticism, it’s that it’s being conflated with science, even for many skeptics, and that IS a bad thing.