Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A brief word on Phil Plait's talk at The Amazing Meeting 8.

I encourage you to watch this video, skeptic or believer.  It's about thirty minutes.

I don't really keep up on JREF news, and I wasn't aware of this speech until yesterday.  Plait tells a very important message, one that I hope I'm shown to believe in this blog.  You are not going to change anybody's mind by getting in their face, and being rude.  If you actually want to get a message across, treat the person like they are an intelligent human being..

Summed up: Don't be a dick.

Phil Plait - Don't Be A Dick from JREF on Vimeo.


  1. Why the need to prostletize (sorry-sp) skepticism? Some people are psychic and visionary, some are not. I am but I frankly don't care if someone else is not. Once you have seen the "unseen" you can't stop seeing it just because it makes some people uncomfortable. I start with skepticism even as I make accurate predictions for people who come to me for Tarot card readings. Skepticism is easy. Clairvoyant vision is rare and therefor hard. It isn't about faith but experience. Its not about religion, but about experience and validation of that experience by others.
    I always think that people who have to sell their beliefs to others are insecure.
    I am also quite capable of critical thinking and use it all of the time.
    Why the need to show people "why they are wrong"?
    This is reductionist, materialistic thinking,left brain domination. Some people are right brain dominant.
    He keeps using childrens stories and films as examples.
    This talk is condescending in the extreme.

  2. Thanks for your thoughts, Arlene.

    Now, in order to sympathize with Phil Plait a little bit, you have to see this from his perspective. You, yourself, might (this is an assumption) feel irritated by the skepticism of some, when they (we) are so confident of what you, yourself, know to be false. I don't mean to put words in your mouth, but I believe you can relate to that, in one way or another.

    As he said, he is very excited about science, which he, at a very deep level, equates with skepticism. He sees beauty in it, and wonder. When a person has a passion for something he/she wants others to understand, whether it's Star Trek, bonzai, or skepticism. The basic belief, that he has the truth and wants to give it to others, is condescending, yes, but I assure you, his intentions are good.

    You have to keep in mind his audience. He's in the company of fully like-minded folks, and is speaking his mind freely.

    His message, of Don't be a Dick, is, to me, refreshing in the extreme. I sometimes feel all alone, in my own little island, as a "Polite Skeptic." There is so much derision from skeptical writers, and condescension well beyond what was shown in this speech. I was surprised and disappointed when I Googled the two simple words, "Polite Skeptic" and my blog, with only nine posts at the time, was the first result. And I've only got one hit from a Google search, and I assure you the person hadn't typed the word "Polite" into the search bar.

    Maybe skeptics are wrong about the paranormal. I can never put that possibility completely aside. All I personally want is for people to consider my side of the argument, and to have that in mind as they build their views of the world. If I'm wrong, then hopefully they will see past my fallacy. If I'm right, then I helped someone know the truth.

  3. I surprised at how many people have taken offence to this speech, with 300+ replies on his blog about it (and the first commentator on this blog) when his message can be boiled down to "Be nice. It's not too much to ask." That doesn't seem too controversial to me.

    If someone tells me I need to be more polite, I assume it's because I've been impolite in some way. I don't puff myself up with indignation and say "How dare you! You have no right to say that!"

    Nice blog, by the way.

  4. Ersby,

    Thanks for the compliment on my blog.

    In a general sense, people tend to get more worked up when they know what they're hearing is true. They use anger as a shield from the realization.

    I think, in the end, it's wrong to assume that every skeptical blog is out there for education, even when they use that word. Many of them are just for entertaining other skeptics. I think the distinction is obvious when you look at the writing with a critical eye.