The Sciences

Welcome, Seth, to the club

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitAug 8, 2008 9:58 PM

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My friend and fellow astronomer and skeptic Seth Shostak recently appeared on the Larry King program to talk about UFOs. Also there was Bill Nye, as well as several UFO proponents. I didn't see it (grrrr, didn't find out until too late) but I have heard from several who did that the UFOers comported themselves rather less than civilly. I'm not surprised. Check the comments in any of my UFO posts and see what the average level of discourse is from people who disagree with me. Check the antivax posts to see how really awful some people can be. Seth is obviously unhappy with this, and wrote an article for space.com about it. What can I say? It can be tough to be civil when attacked viciously and without reason. But you have to deal with it, as galling as it might get. That's part of being a skeptic in the public eye, at least, it is for me. I might tease, or gently mock, and I might get very stern if the comments get out of control. But I never give back what I get from the worst of them. It doesn't help my argument, and being polite can accentuate what jerks the others can be. So welcome to the club, Seth. It's a select membership, maybe even an elite one. But we have a wonderful advantage: we're right. And if we're not, we can do something the worst of those commenters never seem to be able to do: we can change our minds. And we're even nice about it.

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