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The Sciences

Don't Be a Dick, Part 2: links

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitAugust 18, 2010 4:00 PM

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[Note: please first watch the video of my TAM 8 talk. This'll make more sense that way.]

After my "Don't Be a Dick" talk at TAM 8 -- and even during it, thanks to Twitter -- people were talking about it. I found a lot of the people were grossly misinterpreting what I was saying, and that was coming from people who weren't actually at the talk, but felt they could still render an opinion on it. Most of that elicited a wry chuckle from me. But there have been strong opinions on both sides, agreeing and disagreeing with me. And sometimes both of course; issues like this rarely are so cut and dried. I thought it might help to put all the posts I found in a list so you can check them out yourselves. I'll note: I disagree in large part with the ones who disagree with me -- even some I respect. That's not too surprising, of course. Some make legitimate points here and there, but overall I still think my message is best in general when dealing with a believer. I've made brief notes after some of them if I think it's necessary. Those Who Agree: - Ooblick - Atlanta Skeptics - Woo Fighters - Thoughts from Kansas - Geo-geek - Preliator pro Causa - Everyday Atheist - YouTube video with a Winnipeg skeptic - Billtannica - Geo-geek again - Bad Engineering - Atheist Ethicist - Rather Friendly Skeptic - Dang Blog - Almost Diamonds (again) - Music, Medicine and the Mind - My friend Daniel Loxton's Skepticblog post -- highly recommended! - I want to make a special note of what Barbara Drescher said at ICBS Everywhere:

I spoke to several people who admitted to fleeting thoughts that they had prompted this speech somehow and I could not help feeling this way myself. That is testimony to the timeliness of it.

This captures something important: a lot of folks saw themselves in my talk. I made it general, not referring to any particular incident (except the ongoing New Atheist vs. Accommodation argument), so perhaps like pareidolia people saw a pattern in it they recognized. I am fascinated that people who disagreed with me read far more into what I said than was there (for example, many thought I was throwing major skeptics under the bus, which I emphatically and categorically did not do).


Those Who Disagree: - Ashley F Miller - This Hollow Earth: I'll note that the basis of this article -- that I was attacking PZ specifically -- is incorrect. I don't think my talk was vague, either. I was saying pretty much what I meant: don't be a dick (which the author agrees with). Keep your goal in mind, and try to be as polite as you can about it. I had literally hundreds of people come up to me after the talk and thank me for broaching the subject and saying what I did, so as far as I can tell, the majority of people at TAM understood just what I meant. - Almost Diamonds - Angry Atheist Geek - Atheist Climber - Nerdista - Uncredible Hallq - Atheist Experience: The author of this one says I don't give specific examples, and therefore because he hasn't seen the insults they don't exist... and then accuses me of a strawman argument! I find that funny; finding examples about which I was speaking is trivially easy. The author also says I set up a false dichotomy and call people who don't agree with me dicks... all without the benefit of having heard my talk. I talk specifically about people who are insulting and demeaning, and talk at length about passion and not backing down. Yet he seems to think I am calling for everyone to not be passionate. I'm not. I'm calling for them not to be dicks. As far as appealing to emotion... hello! It's an emotional issue. That's the point. Note that my appeal to emotion was logical because it sets up my premise that being a dick doesn't help. Again, I don't tell people to simply back down from a fight. I just don't think we need to insult our opponent.


Those Who Are Neutral: - Natural Biologist (not neutral, but both agrees and disagrees) - Friendly Atheist - Dilution of Fact


I urge you to read what these other folks have said. You may disagree with me, or them, or you might agree, but either way, I'm glad a conversation has started. Also, if there are more links, feel free to add them in the comments. [Note: There is one more part of this saga coming up soon, about the talk's aftermath.]

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