Thursday, 2 June 2011
How to Point and Laugh at Irrational Nonsense
Having been duped into agreeing to give a talk at Cheltenham Skeptics in the Pub back in April, I was forced to cobble together a talk. But what to talk about?
At last year's Amazing Meeting, Phil Plait gave a great talk entitled "Don't Be A Dick". He argued that within the skeptical movement, reasoned and polite arguments are increasingly being replaced by "vitriol and venom".
I also asked Frank Swain to come along to Winchester Skeptics in the Pub last year to give a, not dissimilar talk, entitled "A Critique of Skepticism". Frank effectively argued that simply calling a believer a big fat twat, is unlikely to cause them to slap their palm to their face in the instant realisation of how deluded they had been prior to being insulted. I paraphrase of course.
Both Phil and Frank are clearly right, we are not going to achieve the skeptical epiphany of any individual by simply calling them names, however gratifying and superior it may makes us feel. Assuming we have a united goal of a more rational and reasonable world, we are not going to achieve this with mere smug arrogance and ad hominem attacks.
Looking back at the past posts on this blog, I can't help but notice a slight hint of smug arrogance and the occasional ad hominem attack. So, other than preaching to the choir, or entertaining the troops, is this blog therefore completely ineffectual in the larger war against irrational nonsense that I so passionately wage?
Well largely perhaps yes, but I hope, it's not completeley ineffectual. I would like to argue that considered ridicule and satire can be a very powerful ally to the skeptical activist. I will attempt to explain how, and give some examples at my upcoming Skeptics in the Pub talks. The next one is in Reading on 16th June 2011. You'd be most welcome.