First rule of holes…

I can only think that what was on Richard Dawkins’ mind when he composed his most recent series of tweets was that he hoped to reassure critics of his, erm, often problematic approach to social issues that he wasn’t really saying or suggesting the awful things they thought he was. The result has, I fear, made an awkward situation worse. For starters, the tone of scolding condescension doesn’t help.

Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think.  Mild pedophilia is bad. Violent pedophilia is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of mild pedophilia, go away and learn how to think. X is bad. Y is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of X, go away and don't come back until you've learned how to think logically.

Someone might have tapped Dawkins on the shoulder at this point and gently suggested that addressing rape survivors as if they were creationist numbskulls who never grasped the whole thinky thing might have been the wrong approach. So he attempted to clarify some more.

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An observation on the concept of “callout culture”

So if you call yourself a skeptic, that means — or should mean — that you embrace the notion that no idea is sacrosanct, there is no dogma, and every idea and statement should be subject to criticism and rebuttal.

Crazy talk, right? But check it: there are some people, even in our august society of self-styled skeptics and freethinkers, who don’t actually hold to this. Oh, sure, they pay a great deal of lip service to it, but that’s easy to do as long as safe ideas are all that are brought under critical scrutiny: young earth creationism, Stanley Kubrick faked the moon landing, UFO abductions and crop circles, “I had a three-way with Bigfoot and Slenderman,” or whatever fortune cookie word salad Deepak Chopra tweeted today.

But the minute they say something stupid, suddenly, the core principle of skepticism doesn’t apply. It is a thing to which they should be immune, because how could they be wrong!? Dammit, they are rationalists! Says so right there on their T-shirt.

So what happens is that sometimes a person like this will say something other folks think is really stupid, and instead of doing what skeptics pride themselves on doing — entering into a dialogue involving argument, rebuttal, and counter-rebuttal — they’re just so sold on the complete unassailability of their ideas that the only rational conclusion is that their critics must be just doing everything wrong in every way.

Well, that's settled then.

Well, that’s settled then.

See? It can’t be that one of our own might be a fallible person who doesn’t actually get everything right all the time. You’re just getting something wrong. Haven’t we already established that we’re the skeptical community, which my character sheet tells me gives us an automatic +20 on our “smarter than everyone else” die rolls? Indeed, if someone from within the ranks is criticizing your ideas, well, they are simply malcontents and agitators who are looking to create…


So it’s like this.

To sum up:  Atheist YouTuber makes humorous video mocking the worst aspects of callout culture.  Atheist public figure tweets said video.  Atheist callout culture warriors freak out and overreact, pretty much like in the video.

Atheist YouTuber: Here is my new video in which I put on a wig and mock people I think are wrong.
Response: Okay, but this whole thing is a big straw man fallacy. If you’re going to criticize people, why not just criticize what they actually say?
Atheist YouTuber: SEE? CALLOUT CULTURE! And I totes predicted it. Where is my million dollars, Randi!?

All you have to do is slap a dismissive term on anyone critiquing your critique, and voila, you are immune from critique. Anyone who disagrees with me is just wrong about everything, because SKEPTICISM.

Let’s see how else we can play this game.

Creationist: “Look, I posted another video about how the universe is only 6000 years old, and evolutionist callout culture warriors freak out and overreact, pretty much like in the video.”
Psychic: “Look, I went on Montel and talked to the dead relatives of everyone in the audience, and those James Randi callout culture warriors freak out and overreact, pretty much like in the video.”
Moon landing hoaxer: “Look, Alex Jones posted another video about how the government totally faked all this shit, and the brainwashed sheeple callout culture warriors freak out and overreact, pretty much like in the video.”
9/11 Truther: “Look, I posted another video in which I scientifically explained how exploding jet fuel burning at thousands of degrees could never in a million years structurally weaken a skyscraper and cause it to collapse, and the police state callout culture warriors freak out and overreact, pretty much like in the video.”

Huh…when those people talk that way, suddenly it sounds kind of stupid.


Well, fuckin A.

Here’s an idea.

Be a skeptic.

Step one: realize that you could be wrong too!

If someone else’s ideas are stupid, then it should be enough to address them accurately, not misrepresenting them, and on the sole basis of their merits. And if someone thinks you are wrong, then you should listen to what they say, and pick apart their criticism based on its merits, rather than simply slapping labels on them that are little more than the rhetorical equivalent of “lalalala I can’t hear you!” Because maybe it isn’t “callout culture” coming after you after all. Maybe you actually just said some stupid bullshit. People do. And you’re a people.

I know. No one ever said this skepticism thing was easy, or that handling its sharp edges would mean you’d never get cut yourself.

Sorry if that’s what someone told you when you came on board. But some men will just tell a pretty lady anything. You should have been more skeptical.

Open thread on episode #869

Top Ten list of things I learned at the Sye Ten Bruggencate debate

10. “Everyone knows that God exists”
9. “It requires God to doubt the existence of God”
8. “I don’t do Bible studies with non-believers”
7. “Adam and Eve *did* die that day — they died spiritually”
6. “Stealing is wrong because God is not a thief”
5. “I don’t do Bible verses, bro”
4. “Because the Bible is true, the Quran is false”
3. “God will not be mocked”
2. “God loves you so he’s sending you to hell”
1. “Brain in a vat, brain in a vat, brain in a vat!”

Open thread on episode #868

A very enjoyable show today, I thought, and always nice to be back in the cohost’s chair. As for the YT channel running behind, yes, I know, sorry everyone. But I am already underway in getting caught up — stuff is uploading as I type this — and the plan is to be completely current once more within a few days at most.

Here are the two G+ hangouts I mentioned partaking in last week.

Atheist Analysis:

A Debate Show Without an Interesting Name:

Update: To discuss the debate between Matt Dillahunty and Sye Ten Bruggencate, please go here.

ReasonCon Materials Going Public

The material that was produced in Hickory, NC, at ReasonCon earlier this month, is beginning to post for public consumption. The majority of presentations are not yet available, but one is, along with something that has become informally dubbed The Drunk-Cast. Below are the audio files that are currently accessible, with descriptions. I will post the remaining material as it becomes available to share.

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