The limits of tolerance.

| 63 Comments

Casey Luskin, over at the Discovery Institute’s Media Complaints blog doesn’t like the reaction that an Idaho crowd had to a PZ Myers quote. He believes that both Myers and the crowd were being intolerant.

Here’s the PZ quote at the center of the issue. Actually, as Paul points out in his own response to Casey, the “quote” is actually two separate quotes taken from two totally separate posts, and stuck together with a totally inappropriate ellipsis. (When two statements appear on two separate websites two months apart, you really aren’t supposed to link them with three little dots and pretend that it’s all one quote.)

Read more (at The Questionable Authority):

63 Comments

Wow Mike - maybe next time you will tell us how you really feel.

Seriously, that is a powerful post. Thanks.

I love it. They try to shock an audience with PZ’s “violent” words, but instead the audience cheers PZ’s words.

Why shouldn’t we be intolerant of being lied about, Swift-boated, smeared and having science distorted?

I suppose one does have to forgive ignorance and correct gently at first, but when that doesn’t work – you’ve got to get a little nasty.

http://normdoering.blogspot.com

…when that doesn’t work — you’ve got to get a little nasty.

Why?

Do you think it will be any more effective? Or is it just to make yourself feel good?

I certainly don’t think PZ meant to incite any physical violence with his comments. After all that might violate someone’s civil rights! However, I do think it is time to stop giving these people a pass when they are caught in illegal activity. For example, why are some members of the Dover school board not in jail? They committed perjury under oath repeatedly. Isn’t there some rule that says you shouldn’t do that? There should be consequences for these actions. If they are not going to jail, why don’t they pay the 2 million dollars that was effectively stolen from their school system? Why don’t people who violate the Consitiution of the United States ever get held accountable for their actions? If any of these consequences were to come to pass there would most likely be a drastic reduction in the number of problems across the country with creationists on school boards and illegal legislation proposed in state legislatures. As long as we let them get away with illegal tactics, they will just take this as encouragement and continue to cause trouble. It took more than ten years for Kent Hovind to get convicted of anything. During all that time the government was sending the wrong message to him, his family and every tax evader out there. We have religious freedom in this country because of the Constitution. Why let people abuse that freedom and get away with it?

PZ said:

…when that doesn’t work — you’ve got to get a little nasty.

Scott Belyea asked:

Why?

Do you think it will be any more effective? Or is it just to make yourself feel good?

No, making me feel good is side benefit. The purpose is to send a signal to one’s audience of what kind of people we are battling. No one benefits but the thief when he’s treated like an honest person. Certainly his next victim doesn’t.

The IDers/creationists are wrong, their most vocal proponents have proven themselves to be intellectually dishonest, and their movement is political, not scientific. Their intellectual mentor is not Einstein, or even Paley, it’s Barnum.

“Getting nasty” means calling them out on their lies, and their mangling of both science and theology, without apology. It means not pretending there is another “side”.

Since many people are Compulsive Centrists ™, by moving one’s position further away from the opposition, one moves the midpoint, and thus what most people perceive as the “fair middle”. Giving the other side more credit than their due justifies doing the same in your audience’s mind. It’s time that stopped.

Scott Belyea wrote:

…when that doesn’t work — you’ve got to get a little nasty.

Why?

Do you think it will be any more effective? Or is it just to make yourself feel good?

To let people know how you feel about being lied about, misquoted and Swift-boated. We’re not just debating the interpretation of facts, we’re fighting lies and misrepresentations.

And yes, it is more effective in certain cases.

Since MarkP beat me to answering a question addressed to me – and he did it better – I’d like to add something more on being nasty. A court case where you sue someone is nasty, it has a level of force and an implied potential for violence inherent in it. But can the writers of journal articles that Dembski distorts sue for slander?

Phrases like “butt-kicking” and “break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots” do have to be understood in context as metaphor. Behind the words though we really do want to do a kind of damage to the people and institutions that are now warring with science. We want to shred their credibility in the public eye, we want to force them out of high schools, we want teachers fired, we want their figureheads to look absurd and pathetic, we want their books not to sell, and we want to cripple their propaganda machine.

What’s lacking in phrases like “hammer on the lunatics and idiots” is a method to do that and therein lies the frustration.

The purpose is to send a signal to one’s audience of what kind of people we are battling.

This begs the question of just who you think the audience is.

The “IDiots”? Hardly. The scientists and scientifically literate? I don’t think so.

So just who is impressed by the insults, putdowns, and personal attacks? Beats me …

The audience is the majority of people out there who are fairminded, not completely scientifically illiterate, but have better things to do than follow the ID/creationist controversy as closely as many of us do, and therefore might be taken in by the snake charmers’ tricks. The idea is not to “impress” them, but to reveal the other side for the liars and scientific posers they are. Personal attacks are entirely appropriate when they are 1) Accurate, and 2) The point. There is no moral superiority in not calling a liar out, and there is no intellectual superiority in pretending a con is real science.

Hopefully the result will be fewer Dovers wasting millions of taxpayer dollars, and better quality textbooks and science instruction.

Scott Belyea asked:

So just who is impressed by the insults, putdowns, and personal attacks? Beats me …

Well, I’ve called people stupid on my blog - in fact I make a habit of it: http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

Deepak Chopra for one, and what else can one say about a guy who thinks they know everything science has to say on a topic after reading one pop science article? How do you not write about that without saying – good greif is that incredibly stupid!

I then try to point out why.

There is just a point at which you’ve got to call stupid those things which are stupid, and call lies those things which look like lies.

A more direct example, some guy called Amicus who had been posting in my comments just said some unbelievably ignorant and stupid things, like claiming that I “kneel at the alter of a rationality.” What are you suppose to do with statements like that?

For me it’s a prelude to ignoring them altogether when I can, but because others listen I want them to know what I think.

If you know a better way – explain it.

MarkP

The audience is the majority of people out there who are fairminded, not completely scientifically illiterate, but have better things to do than follow the ID/creationist controversy as closely as many of us do, and therefore might be taken in by the snake charmers’ tricks. The idea is not to “impress” them, but to reveal the other side for the liars and scientific posers they are.

Yes, of course that’s the audience. Where your statement goes right off the rails is when you say …

Personal attacks are entirely appropriate when they are 1) Accurate, and 2) The point.

This is misguided on several levels, I think. First of all, I have very seldom come across fairminded folks who are impressed by an “argument” that calls the opponents “stupid,” “idiots,” “morons,” “assholes,” “fucking jerks,” and the like. More typically in my experience, fairminded people will wonder about the strength of the argument being supported.

Are you familiar with the old anecdote about the sermon with the handwritten marginal annotation, “Point is weak … pound pulpit” ? That’s the way lots of folks tend to react to sort of ranting you seem to favour.

To give just one small example from a following post:

normdoering:

Well, I’ve called people stupid on my blog - in fact I make a habit of it: http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

Deepak Chopra for one

No, you’re dead wrong. I have no use at all for Chopra and the unsupported pseudoscience he preaches, but one thing he isn’t is “stupid.”

There are indeed times when an angry response is appropriate and effective. I posted this comment on a long thread at Pharyngula, and copy it here.

A case study in the effectiveness of anger.

Public comments

This is an audio file of public comments at the January 2006 meeting of the Ohio Board of Education, after a motion to remove a creationist lesson plan from the curriculum had been narrowly defeated. I was one of the angry speakers.

The next month, a similar motion was approved. I know that votes were changed as a result of our presentations.

Scott Belyea wrote:

No, you’re dead wrong. I have no use at all for Chopra and the unsupported pseudoscience he preaches, but one thing he isn’t is “stupid.”

Well, I have evidence to the contrary here: http://normdoering.blogspot.com/

Where’s your evidence that he is not stupid?

Sometimes when calling people stupid or liars one can gather enough objective evidence to support the claim.

Scott Belyea said:

I have very seldom come across fairminded folks who are impressed by an “argument” that calls the opponents “stupid,” “idiots,” “morons,” “assholes,” “fucking jerks,” and the like. More typically in my experience, fairminded people will wonder about the strength of the argument being supported.

Are you familiar with the old anecdote about the sermon with the handwritten marginal annotation, “Point is weak … pound pulpit” ? That’s the way lots of folks tend to react to sort of ranting you seem to favour.

You misunderstand me. I don’t advocate calling people names like you have suggested. I advocate exposing them for what they are via reasoned argument, not an ad hominem avoiding rational argument. For example, it is a lot easier to show that the IDers are not interested in science by showing that in 10+ years since Darwin’s Black Box they have done virtually no science, than it is to engage in the obfuscation of minutia they intentionally engage in to confuse those without the scientific know how to see their BS for what it is.

Show a liar for what they are, and I’ve found that fairminded people will understand that their proclamations deserve a more critical look. Give a liar more credit and respect than they are due intellectually, and fairminded people often give his charletanism more credit than its due, thus leading to disasters like Dover. Perhaps your experience differs.

This is not a fair fight, and they are the ones that made it that way. It is only intellectually honest to reveal that.

These Luskin posts are sickening.

Has anyone seen the IDEA Center website lately? Air sick bags required…

MarkP wrote:

Give a liar more credit and respect than they are due intellectually, and fairminded people often give his charletanism more credit than its due, thus leading to disasters like Dover.

Indeed, when it comes to liars you can sometimes expose the lie – but look how much trouble they are having doing that with Scooter Libby. He was a smart liar, maybe, and maybe not smart enough. Thus any lie or misstatement of fact I can dig out in less than half an hour would by definition be a “stupid lie” would it not?

But that brings us to the problem with stupid people:

The Problem with Stupid People is… http://normdoering.blogspot.com/200[…]ople-is.html

Well, I have evidence to the contrary here:

No, you don’t. I said I had no use for what he preaches, but if the man were stupid, he wouldn’t be where is is and able to (I suspect) buy both you and me several times over and never feel the effect.

Attack his pompous pronouncements by all means. Point out where he making claims where there is no empirical support, sure. But calling him “stupid” is pointless.

markp:

I advocate exposing them for what they are via reasoned argument, not an ad hominem avoiding rational argument.

Then we’re in agreement. My complaint is with the useless and counterproductive personal attacks.

Scott Belyea wrote:

Well, I have evidence to the contrary here:

No, you don’t.

Now you are being stupid. You didn’t read my Deepak posts and stupidly assumed I didn’t have the evidence I claimed.

I’ve got three of Deepak posts. I catch him saying things that are clearly and demonstrate wrong. For one example, Deepak’s claimed “…transformation of noise signals into meaningful music cannot be observed physically,” which ignores MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and other technologies which can brain scan while you listen to the music.

And Deepak Chopra is stupid and not just ignorant because he never learns from those who continually point our these errors on his blog. He just goes on and on repeating the same errors with different words.

Ack!! Bad editing:

I’ve got three Deepak posts. I catch him saying things that are clearly and demonstrably wrong. For one example, Deepak’s claimed “…transformation of noise signals into meaningful music cannot be observed physically,” which ignores MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and other technologies which can brain scan while you listen to the music.

And Deepak Chopra is stupid and not just ignorant because he never learns from those who continually point out these errors on his blog. He just goes on and on repeating the same errors with different words.

No, you don’t. I said I had no use for what he preaches, but if the man were stupid, he wouldn’t be where is is and able to (I suspect) buy both you and me several times over and never feel the effect.

LOL.

tell that to Chimpy McGrin. He’s so clever he managed to lose money with every single business he ever ran. Including the present one.

Ask Anne Coulter. She gets rich off of placating the stupid. Just like Depak Head-in-anus. it really doesn’t take intelligence to do that, just a complete abandonment of any sense of obligation or respect to your fellow humans.

I swear, I am so fed up with idiots in this country being convinced that large piles of money somehow relate directly with intelligence.

Really, this idea of associating wealth with wisdom and knowledge is one of the primary things that is driving this country into the ground.

I bet Donald Trump would even agree.

And Deepak Chopra is stupid and not just ignorant because he never learns from those who continually point our these errors on his blog. He just goes on and on repeating the same errors with different words.

I’m with Scott on this one. You are projecting onto Chopra a goal he does not possess and then attacking him for failure to achieve what he has no desire to achieve. And THAT qualifies as stupid far more than Chopra’s entirely successful (if entirely cynical) campaign to fleece the suckers.

If saying something known to be false rakes in the money *every time*, is Chopra “stupid” to keep saying it?

Flint wrote:

If saying something known to be false rakes in the money *every time*, is Chopra “stupid” to keep saying it?

I think in the case of his blog on Huffpo he is. The tide of comments is clearly turning against him and I’ve noticed a couple people reluctantly changing their minds about him because of it. I think attacking this windmill on Huffpo is hurting him with Huffpo readers. On his other blog he can delete us, but not on Huffpo.

If saying something known to be false rakes in the money *every time*, is Chopra “stupid” to keep saying it?

as i said, this is entirely unrelated to intelligence.

you can train a dog to ring a bell if it is associated with food.

Flint wrote:

You are projecting onto Chopra a goal he does not possess and then attacking him for failure to achieve what he has no desire to achieve.

Oh really? Then why does Deepak keep coming back for more by continuing to argue against science and evolution on Huffpo? Why does he think he has to do that?

And look over the history of his blogs and their comments on Huffpo, when he started he use to get a lot of supportive comments and just a lot of comments period. On his last post – only seven comments and they’re all negative.

The guy is trying to understand neuroscience and evolution and utterly failing because of his preconceived notions of “non-physical” causes and “non-physical” consciousness that blind him to all potential physical, brain level, explanations for human behavior and render him grossly incapable of learning anything there.

From my copyright 1947 desk dictionary:

stupid. 1. Wanting in understanding; in a state of stupor; stupefied. 2. Sluggish in understanding; slow-witted; crassly foolish. 3. Resulting from, or showing, mental dullness; foolish; witless; as, a stupid book. — Syn. Stolid, obtuse, doltish. See Blunt. — Ant. Acute, keen, alert, bright, sharp, shrewd, intelligent.

Perhaps a better description of many of these dolts is insane

normdoering:

Now you are being stupid. You didn’t read my Deepak posts and stupidly assumed I didn’t have the evidence I claimed.

I’ve got three of Deepak posts. I catch him saying things that are clearly and demonstrate wrong. For one example, Deepak’s claimed “…transformation of noise signals into meaningful music cannot be observed physically,” which ignores MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and other technologies which can brain scan while you listen to the music.

And Deepak Chopra is stupid and not just ignorant because he never learns from those who continually point our these errors on his blog. He just goes on and on repeating the same errors with different words.

Well …

You didn’t read my Deepak posts

Wrong.

…stupidly assumed I didn’t have the evidence I claimed.

Wrong.

You really like the word “stupid,” don’t you? You’ll apply it Chopra, you’ll apply it to me … where does it end?

I’m not sure it’s worth continuing this. But one last try - you seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between someone’s opinion and a judgment about the person. One can be a part of a rational argument, the other is just pointless personal insult.

Here’s an example - I think your last append was stupid. However, I have no evidence that you are stupid … in fact, I’m confident that you are not.

Maybe we should borrow from Ayn Rand and accept that Chopra is not stupid, but rather “shrewd without intelligence”?

Perhaps a better description of many of these dolts is insane…

I agree.

Scott Belyea wrote:

But one last try - you seem unable or unwilling to distinguish between someone’s opinion and a judgment about the person. One can be a part of a rational argument, the other is just pointless personal insult.

And you seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge that stupidity can be objectively determined via someone’s stupid opinion. It may not be a part of a rational argument, but it’s more than just a pointless personal insult. It’s a warning that your opinions aren’t going to matter if you don’t change your tune.

As Forrest Gump said, “stupid is as stupid does.”

And there is no evidence you’ve read my Deepak posts. Why doesn’t the evidence point to Deepak’s stupidity?

anonter reason not to pull punches: I heard on a radio show yesterday

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/[…]0703066.html

a comment regarding the “brilliant but cruel phenomenon, that if you say the same thing sort of with an extra personal insult attached to it, that you’ll be given extra IQ points rather than saying it nice. So, your folks who watch the American Idol, if you’ve seen Simon Cowell, who almost always adds a personal insult even when he says something nice, he’s viewed as the smart one, while the other two, Paula and Randy, will tend to be nicer and say often virtually the same thing, but we think he’s smarter. So there is part of this cultural myth where we think that people who are nastier are smarter”

so maybe we should always and a nasty bit to the end of our arguments.….something like “ my counterpart believes that ID is valid science, and should be tought in high school biology classes. my counterpart is lying and a smarmy SOB. ID is not science and here’s why.…”

So, your folks who watch the American Idol, if you’ve seen Simon Cowell, who almost always adds a personal insult even when he says something nice, he’s viewed as the smart one, while the other two, Paula and Randy, will tend to be nicer and say often virtually the same thing

I’m trying to think of an appropriate insult for the person who came up with this just-so mischaracterization.

Popper’s Ghost wrote:

So, your folks who watch the American Idol, if you’ve seen Simon Cowell, who almost always adds a personal insult even when he says something nice, he’s viewed as the smart one, while the other two, Paula and Randy, will tend to be nicer and say often virtually the same thing

I’m trying to think of an appropriate insult for the person who came up with this just-so mischaracterization.

Why would you do that? So you can look smarter than you actually are?

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This page contains a single entry by Mike Dunford published on March 2, 2007 11:16 PM.

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