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Feed Your Head Wisely!
June 2, 2009 9:41 PM   Subscribe

In light of the recent threads about questionable scientific claims endorsed on Oprah, the belief that some vaccines cause autism, and the effectiveness of herbal remedies, here's a wonderful video to set you straight about the real meaning of open-mindedness.
posted by wretched_rhapsody (82 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
I love the "Skeptical Inquirer meets 1960's Marvel Comics" animation style.
posted by benzenedream at 9:49 PM on June 2, 2009


Huh, Kal-El is almost identical to that young Jor-El.
posted by TwelveTwo at 9:50 PM on June 2, 2009


I believe virtually everything I read. I think that makes me a more selective person.

This was really wonderful, thanks.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:52 PM on June 2, 2009


This video is awesome, and a beautiful explanation on what scientific discourse and discussion is really about.

Now I need to figure out a way to make it into a magic card to counter my Tin Foil Hat Guy one. It would have to be a Blue card, or an colorless artifact.
posted by mrzarquon at 10:02 PM on June 2, 2009 [2 favorites]


Speaking of which...
posted by Bromius at 10:04 PM on June 2, 2009 [4 favorites]


Learning with young Marlon Brando has never been so much fun. I hope they do one on butter next.
posted by Bernt Pancreas at 10:04 PM on June 2, 2009


Found this a couple months ago and enjoyed it immensely. His other videos are also quite good.
posted by knave at 10:06 PM on June 2, 2009


This is actually quite nice for what is basically a SLYT. The other videos by user QualiaSoup are equally good.
posted by fuq at 10:07 PM on June 2, 2009


I love these.

I have on numerous occasions been told that I could not possibly have morals because I was not raised a Christian, and this is exactly what I wanted to say to the people that told me that.
posted by louche mustachio at 10:20 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


Being open minded doesn't mean having a hole in your head.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 10:25 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I quite enjoyed that, thanks. At the same time, I have this nagging feeling that it's just, um (forgive the ill-chosen cliche/metaphor that's about to follow) preaching to the choir. A non-critical thinker would likely turn that off pretty quickly -- on the surface, it kinda does sound like a lot of insular jargon, and it goes by very fast.

I'd love to see the skeptical movement start producing material that really aims to engage the non-skeptical rather than just making the skeptics feel better and the non-skeptics feel lost and stupid. Whether or not the non-skeptics are lost and stupid is another matter, but you certainly don't start a real dialogue by making them feel like you're talking down to them. And, from a rational point of view, real and rational dialogue is what it's all about.
posted by treepour at 10:27 PM on June 2, 2009 [3 favorites]


I liked that, sums up the "I believe" versus "I know" difference quite well.
posted by jeblis at 10:33 PM on June 2, 2009


So this is a video that's been out there for 2 months, with 250k views, that could have been posted in any one of the open threads you cited? So is this just a matter of thread padding or a stunt post? Might have bought it as a SLYT, but as is...flagging and moving on.
posted by cjorgensen at 10:52 PM on June 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have this nagging feeling that it's just, um (forgive the ill-chosen cliche/metaphor that's about to follow) preaching to the choir.

Oh, absolutely. Despite (or perhaps because of) the clear, rational approach, those with tightly-held beliefs won't be swayed by these videos. Well, at least this was true for me, with a sample size of 1.
posted by knave at 10:52 PM on June 2, 2009


Very nice video. Having a difficult time imagining it making a difference to those in need of it most. But make sure your kids and young adults see it.
posted by maxwelton at 10:53 PM on June 2, 2009


This video was brought to you by the Asperger's Syndrome Foundation. Or if it wasn't, it might as well have been.
posted by shii at 10:55 PM on June 2, 2009


I definitely can't imagine a non-choir member seeing that and going, "you know, you're right, and I've been an insufferable ass. My apologies." On the other hand, it was quite nice, well put together, and I'm glad you pointed it out to me.

and, well, everyone knows, women don't live in radiators.
posted by Ghidorah at 10:55 PM on June 2, 2009


Girls don't live in radiators? Prove it!
posted by chillmost at 10:56 PM on June 2, 2009


It seems appropriate that the video ends with a picture of a model of the atom that scientists once believed in, but now reject due to overwhelming evidence.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 11:26 PM on June 2, 2009


OK, I only watched about half of it. But.

There is a mistaken assumption that people cling to irrational beliefs because they either don't know any better or haven't thought things through. Bullshit.

People cling to irrational beliefs because it makes them feel better. Because they WANT to. Because they think they need those beliefs to be who they see themselves to be. We know this is so, because they have enshrined irrational behavior at the very apex of their moral system: FAITH. Faith is only possible where there is doubt. Faith necessarily transcends rationality, or it wouldn't be faith -- it'd be knowledge.

And you can't reason with that. You can't produce an airtight argument that will defeat LA LA LA LA LA I CAN'T HEAR YOU.

I find it easier to nod in enthusiastic agreement with whatever drivel they're spewing and then forgetting all about it immediately afterwards.

Of course, when these are the morons in charge of your money, your health, or your country (or all three), you have to speak up. But do so knowing that YOU WILL NOT CHANGE A SINGLE MIND. The best you can hope to do is to move the goalposts a few inches closer to rationality. I fear that fighting a holding action is the best we can hope to achieve.

Don't try to teach a pig to sing, you'll waste your time and annoy the pig. (Yes, I just quoted Heinlein. But he's right.)
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:39 PM on June 2, 2009 [10 favorites]


Chocolate Pickle: "Being open minded doesn't mean having a hole in your head."

Ssshh! You'll cruel the chances of my "Trepanation: Your Key to Your Degree" book and DVD...
posted by Pinback at 12:19 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice video

Needs to be in Stephen Frys slightly amused voice though.

The guy sounds slightly exasperated and so I imagine him having an argument with his neighbour about a lamp and then stomping home and spending 5 hours recording what he wished he had said into Flash.

But I digress. Nice video.
posted by memebake at 12:30 AM on June 3, 2009


Faith is the assured expectation of things hoped for, the evident demonstration of realities though not beheld. Hebrews 11:1

Faith is founded on hope. The rational approach does not sway the believer unless there is hope. The rational approach often neglects the very important, very human need to have and hold onto hope.

Faith is based on evidence from a trusted source. Evidence that the source can fulfill whatever promise has been made. This evidence may be faulty or misleading. There is room for skepticism. However, it is not enough to attempt to destroy the evidence, one must also acknowledge (and replenish if possible) the hope.

Then there is blind credulity (often confused with genuine faith). Sometimes people just want to believe in something, and they aren't careful with what they choose. Sometimes by believing so strongly they create a self-fulfilling prophecy which only reinforces the tendency to be credulous. Many times they are simply taken advantage of and hurt. While they may eventually abandon that false belief, the need for hope doesn't go away, and they will latch on to the next hopeful theory or cause.
posted by Danila at 12:44 AM on June 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ah, QualiaSoup. These are fun clips, I went through them all when they made the rounds at reddit. Be sure to check out the rest. The evolution one is pretty good. I agree that someone not acquainted or actively hostile to these concepts wouldn't make it 10 seconds into one of these, but I still enjoy watching them.
posted by cj_ at 12:46 AM on June 3, 2009


> Needs to be in Stephen Frys slightly amused voice though.

No! Peter Jones (here is the equivalent Stephen Fry version) - both links are the Hitchiker's Guide entry on bablefish and the proof of non-existance of god...
posted by nielm at 2:12 AM on June 3, 2009


Unfortunately, the human mind craves certainty. There has to be some things which we can be sure of, or most of us turn into quivering wrecks. Once you settle on an idea on which you then base other ideas, it's hard to overturn the original hypothesis.

The key is to question everything. If you are sure that what you believe is the truth, you should be unafraid to question it. If you find yourself rigidly standing by your certainties, in the face of evidence to the contrary, you have to ask whether you have fallen prey to that need for certainty.

It's natural to need something to cling to. Unfortunately, in a variety of circumstances - from daily suppositions to quantum mechanics - the laws break down and without a reevaluation you'll be trapped in an apparent paradox. It happens all the time, you just have to learn to recognise it.

Of course, the above hypothesis is in all likelyhood also false, as I'm sure I'm about to be told - so I think I'll stop thinking about it before my certainties dissolve and turn me into a quivering wreck.
posted by Acey at 2:23 AM on June 3, 2009


People cling to irrational beliefs because it makes them feel better.
Yes, you're absolutely right. People believe in the devil, hell, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, that big pharma is out to kill their babies and that diet coke will make your head explode with brain cancer because it makes them feel better.
posted by edd at 3:06 AM on June 3, 2009


Isn't it cozy and warm in here by the fire, while the cold wind howls out there, edd?
posted by ook at 3:42 AM on June 3, 2009


I have more unexplainable personal anecdotes than I think you can imagine.
posted by orme at 4:01 AM on June 3, 2009 [16 favorites]


I was thinking about this just this morning. Yet Another Way Discourse Is Slanted In America (At Least On TeeVee): On one side, you have priests and shamans. On the other side, you have rationality. Who do you see on TV? Priests and shamans and a wishy-washy third group that says "rationality has it's place, but priests and shamans are really really important".

To sum up: I'm glad the Internet exists.
posted by DU at 4:25 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I want to know why he used Greg Morris as one of his characters.
posted by nax at 4:42 AM on June 3, 2009


diet coke will make your head explode with brain cancer

I dunno about brain cancer, but diet drinks fucked me up. They tested me heavily for MS -- it was that bad. Couldn't walk heel and toe, eyes didn't track together, pupils different diameters, weak, sick, constant brain fog. The diet caffeine-free Coke was pretty much the last thing I eliminated from my diet, after being ill for many months, and when the intense aspartame withdrawal headaches eased, I immediately started feeling better.

If you're sensitive to the stuff, it can turn your brain into swiss cheese. I don't know why I was so vulnerable when others don't seem to be, but that stuff just wrecked me.
posted by Malor at 5:09 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


People believe in the devil, hell, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, that big pharma is out to kill their babies and that diet coke will make your head explode with brain cancer because it makes them feel better.

Well, doesn't it? I mean, I'm sure I'd be much happier believing big pharma is out to kill my babies than believing big pharma doesn't give two shits about my babies, and their deaths are merely the result of a complete and utter disregard for anything but their bottom line. That's intangible. It's hard to get mad at the intangible.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:14 AM on June 3, 2009


...where they'd be lost in the salivastrom of 500 comments?
posted by Decimask at 5:23 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Wonderful message, woeful execution.

I really wanted to like this, but from the moment the voiceover intoned about his conveniently dim bulb ghost-in-the-lampshade neighbor: "....when he finished his little outburst I reached down & switched off the fan heater..."...I felt a familiar despair.

Condescension is a killer.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 5:47 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Someone who seriously argues, with no investigation whatsoever, that a wiggling lampshade is evidenceproof of ghostly activity deserves condescension.
posted by DU at 5:50 AM on June 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I don't believe it.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 5:52 AM on June 3, 2009


People believe in the devil, hell, vampires, ghosts, werewolves, that big pharma is out to kill their babies and that diet coke will make your head explode with brain cancer because it makes them feel better.
Absolutely, yes--believing that these are the things that make the world a bad place makes bad things understandable, and, hence, avoidable. Believing that there really are werewolves out there, and that there are effective countermeasures against them, is more pleasant than believing in the uncontrollable randomness of existence. Believing in 9/11 conspiracy theories is more comforatable than believing that 19 random dudes could hijack a couple of planes and kill thousands--for some people, yes, believing in the existence of easily identifiable causes of evil does, indeed, make them feel better.
posted by MrMoonPie at 5:54 AM on June 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


Someone who seriously argues, with no investigation whatsoever, that a wiggling lampshade is evidenceproof of ghostly activity deserves condescension.

Seriously?
posted by symbollocks at 6:02 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


> Someone who seriously argues, with no investigation whatsoever, that a wiggling lampshade is proof of ghostly activity deserves condescension.

Are you trying to help the guy to stop being wrong or are you content to merely make him feel bad?
posted by ardgedee at 6:03 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Good, as far as it goes. But as with so many self-styled skeptics, he completely evades the point that being unscientific in which beliefs you accept or reject is only a problem when you're purporting to make scientific claims, ie., claims about sense experience that could be replicated by a third party.

Some New Age truth-claims are like this, but others are not.

If some crazy person on Oprah claims that her potions will send your cancer into remission, that's a scientific claim, and if there's no evidence for it, she is indeed closed-minded, wrong, ignorant, and fully deserving of the skeptics' condescension. (And boy is the guy in this video condescending.)

But the understanding of 'God' that comes from introspective contemplation, or the knowledge of reality that comes from a Zen enlightenment experience, say -- these aren't beliefs that make any claims about their testable, replicable, sense-experience-based nature in the first place. To point out that they fail to meet the criteria of scientific truth is therefore not really relevant.

Although I don't subscribe to them myself, I'm pretty sure that many of the angels-and-shamans-and-spirits beliefs held by lots of New Agey folks belong to the second category, not the former.
posted by game warden to the events rhino at 6:06 AM on June 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


Are you trying to help the guy to stop being wrong or are you content to merely make him feel bad?

First of all, the condescension was not directed towards the guy in person. He was telling US about it.

Second, the preceding argument he had with the neighbor already failed to help him stop being wrong.

Third, not all persuasion happens via logical means. Social stigma puts a lot of craziness out of bounds. That particular guy may not be convinced in that particular situation, but it could vaccinate other people or that same guy for the future.
posted by DU at 6:26 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


That particular guy may not be convinced in that particular situation, but it could vaccinate other people or that same guy for the future.

With respect DU, that's a belief without evidence.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 6:40 AM on June 3, 2009


That's how overt racist, sexist and creationist talk has been (somewhat) stamped out. We know from our collective crazy uncles that these people exist and yet rarely do they emit their craziness in public. Social stigma.
posted by DU at 6:43 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's really hard to advocate rationality to someone without being condescending. Because the single best analogy is that of the way a child sees the world, or a privative man sees the world. Add to that people who aren't rational are wrong. Really. Just wrong. Like if you got in an argument with someone about what the capital of New York was and they said New York City, and you said Albany and they were like but New York is much bigger and more famous and more sitcoms are set there and you were like, but Albany is the capital because it is. What are you going to do? You are right about a matter of fact and there's nothing more to it. Of course you sound condescending. You are talking down to them because as far as the argument you are superior. They're also talking down to you of course. But from below you. This might seem impossible but it's magic. And their belief in magic makes it so.
posted by I Foody at 6:44 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


The video's OK. I guess I don't get into arguments with nutty people enough to appreciate it; it just seems kind of tedious and uninteresting, and largely obvious, to me. It sounds like the author of the video's hasn't been as lucky as me in terms of who and what he gets into arguments about. Or he makes different choices.

Either way, the video gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton:

"So we shouted at each other and shook the room; because metaphysics is the only thoroughly emotional thing. And the difference between us was very deep, because it was a difference as to the object of the whole thing called broad-mindedness or the opening of the intellect. For my friend said that he opened his intellect as the sun opens the fans of a palm tree, opening for opening's sake, opening infinitely for ever. But I said that I opened my intellect as I opened my mouth, in order to shut it again on something solid. I was doing it at the moment. And as I truly pointed out, it would look uncommonly silly if I went on opening my mouth infinitely, for ever and ever. "

--The Extraordinary Cabman.

Ironically (in the context of this video), G.K. Chesterton was a big believer in the supernatural, and his open-minded friend was a progressive science and science fiction writer.
posted by edheil at 7:00 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Someone who seriously argues, with no investigation whatsoever, that a wiggling lampshade is evidenceproof of ghostly activity deserves condescension.

DU,
I'm going to go to town on this comment.

1. It's unclear whether stupid neighbor knew about the blow heater before Mr Clever revealed its existence.
2. Mr. Clever's exasperated condescension was based, by implication, on having more basic information than Stupid Neighbor.
3. You are making self-serving assumptions about Stupid Neighbor's capacity for rational thought. I don't think we can plausibly assert anything about the extent of Stupid Neighbor's "investigation" into the matter.

The reason I am taking this insufferable approach is because I just saw anti-Creationist biology prof Ken Miller - who takes the the opposite approach to Mr. Clever - give an electrifying talk about Darwin to a very mixed audience (boffins & non-boffins).

When he had finished his stunning capsule explanation about the molecular evidence for the fusion point at human chromosome 2 - which brought the house down - I heard Stupid Neighbor types talking to each other over coffee about "telomeres".
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:00 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Nice post title.

Irrationality is Twinkies and donuts for the brain. Rationality is tasty nourishing meat and fruit.
posted by kldickson at 7:01 AM on June 3, 2009


What are you going to do? You are right about a matter of fact and there's nothing more to it.

Stop arguing maybe? Is it so important to be right that you have to be a dick about it? That you have to force the point? Are you that righteous? Science (or any "matter of fact") doesn't need defending. It defends itself. That's the beauty of it. There's no point in getting all insecure about it.
posted by symbollocks at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


One might make an analogy between irrationality and obesity.
posted by kldickson at 7:02 AM on June 3, 2009


MrMoonPie, it occurs to me that they're taking the easy way out of dealing with randomness more than the hard way out, and to a certain extent, there is a right way out of it, but it doesn't totally get rid of the randomness. It requires education and mental discipline and extremely highly developed critical thinking skills :D

I am one of those who thinks the randomness is pretty nice, actually. It makes for a more fun existence.
posted by kldickson at 7:08 AM on June 3, 2009


I don't think we can plausibly assert anything about the extent of Stupid Neighbor's "investigation" into the matter.

As a first pass and for the purposes of discussion, we can take Mr Clever's recitation of events.

The reason I am taking this insufferable approach is because I just saw anti-Creationist biology prof Ken Miller - who takes the the opposite approach to Mr. Clever - give an electrifying talk about Darwin to a very mixed audience (boffins & non-boffins).

OK, once again we have no data at all on how condescending Mr Clever was to Stupid Neighbor. We only know that he was condescending about Stupid Neighbor to us. But you yourself are doing exactly the same thing when you call him "Stupid Neighbor". I thought you were trying to convince.

Science (or any "matter of fact") doesn't need defending. It defends itself. That's the beauty of it. There's no point in getting all insecure about it.

No need to argue about global warming. It defends itself! We will somehow magically avoid rising sea levels by the incontrovertible self-evidenceness.
posted by DU at 7:10 AM on June 3, 2009


No need to argue about global warming. It defends itself! We will somehow magically avoid rising sea levels by the incontrovertible self-evidenceness.

I think you're confusing politics and science.
posted by symbollocks at 7:17 AM on June 3, 2009


That you have to force the point? Are you that righteous? Science (or any "matter of fact") doesn't need defending. It defends itself. That's the beauty of it. There's no point in getting all insecure about it.

symbollocks,

How do you think people get their PhDs?

Oh yeah, they defend their arguments.

Science is based on making your case.

And, in order for your case to be compelling (as the scientists in the 2005 Dover trial figured out) you have to know your audience.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:18 AM on June 3, 2009


I think you're confusing politics and science.

So what are you suggesting? That everyone Just Agree On The Science somehow and then argue about the politics from there? Nice idea, I'd like to see you get the climate deniers on board with it.
posted by DU at 7:23 AM on June 3, 2009


How do you think people get their PhDs?

Oh yeah, they
defend their arguments.

Science is based on
making your case.

But they don't simply defend them. Their "defense" amounts to nothing more than offering evidence to the skeptical. It doesn't require confidence or any amount of personal assurance. It doesn't require your case to be compelling.

I think you're talking about politics, too. Which is trying to get people to accept the idea you're interested in proving.

But maybe this is semantic nonsense? Coulda sworn I was on to something.
posted by symbollocks at 7:29 AM on June 3, 2009


Metafilter: It's so important to be right that you have to be a dick about it
posted by electroboy at 7:30 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


"Condescending" is one of those words like "prejudice" or "discrimination," where it is usually prefaced with "unfair/unfairly" to the point where the word has become shorthand. Just as certain prejudices are OK when applied fairly/correctly, and an ability to discriminate is not a flaw (a discriminating consumer, for instance), condescension can be OK at times. A professor must condescend to students, and a parent must condescend to children. If someone states an obvious untruth as fact rather than farce (the moon is made of cheese), there is no way to explain it without at least a touch of condescension.
posted by explosion at 7:34 AM on June 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


> The words "may" and "could" place DU's statement squarely in the hypothetical.

When some con-artists wants to sell you tap water to cure your allergies (or your malaria) , or magnetic bracelets to treat your cancer, or ground up tiger-penis tea to cure your impotence - for real folding money - and when charlatans tell AIDS sufferers that condoms will not help prevent the spread of the disease and may make it worse - I think a little condescension is the least of our worries.
posted by device55 at 7:37 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Second, the preceding argument he had with the neighbor already failed to help him stop being wrong.

DU,
To reach my goal of 100% insufferability, I shall add that your statement above also appears reckless.

It's at least strongly implied - with no evidence to the contrary - that Mr. Clever's rather thin "preceding argument" made no mention of the blow heater explanation.

In the film, Mr. Clever's initial "preceding argument" to refute the ghost theory consists ONLY of the voiceover statement "it wasn't [a ghost]" and a helpful cartoon bubble, saying "no, it isn't".

It is only AFTER this eloquence, that he - ta-daaa! - unplugs the "small" (data point!) blow heater, thus giving his neighbor the proof of no supernatural cause.

Mr. Clever, in fact, fails to be sufficiently open-minded himself to wonder - perhaps - whether his neighbor was simply incredibly short sighted?
posted by Jody Tresidder at 7:48 AM on June 3, 2009


A professor must condescend to students, and a parent must condescend to children.

Speaking of obviously untrue things... :) But seriously, you're making some pretty big assertions here.

If someone states an obvious untruth as fact rather than farce (the moon is made of cheese), there is no way to explain it without at least a touch of condescension.

Is it ever necessary to be condescending? According to you: when you want to say you're right. Ok, but is it ever necessary to say you're right?

I think a little condescension is the least of our worries.

Er, nope. It would be the least of their worries (because they're purposefully spreading lies). But it should definitely worry us. I want to live in a culture where people believe no one deserves to be condescended to. Don't you?
posted by symbollocks at 7:50 AM on June 3, 2009


It doesn't require your case to be compelling.

symbollocks

I think you've lost me? Are you saying PhD candidates don't get guidance (from faculty advisors) on how to most compellingly present a thesis?

I'm not using "compelling" in any weird, dumbing down sense here either. (I'm not even talking about how terrific advisors can effectively promote a graduate student's work at conferences etc - which would be getting more into the PR arena.)
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:03 AM on June 3, 2009


I want to live in a culture where people believe no one deserves to be condescended to. Don't you?

I'd rather live in a culture where AIDs patients are treated with medicine instead of bullshit with an ulterior motive.

This is exactly what I mean. Wringing hands about being too condescending is a serious misplacement of priorities. Real people are really dying from real diseases because we're too damn nice to con-men, liars, and bullshit artists.

Every homeopath should be mocked right out of business, Jenny McCarthy should never work in media again, the author and publisher of The Secret should be brought up fraud charges, and every practicing Catholic should loudly call for the Pope to step down.

But heavens! Don't be condescending about it! Some of these frauds might get their feelers hurt.
posted by device55 at 8:05 AM on June 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


Jody Tresidder, the difference between a PhD defense and a public talk is the amount of education of your audience. You expect your committee to know a considerable amount of basic information about what you're talking about. The public, on the other hand, may be full of idiots. You don't have to politick a lot with your defense. You do have to politick a lot with public people.
posted by kldickson at 8:07 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


And device55, you said, somewhat more eloquently, what I want to say.

You know what? Fuck being nice. THEY'RE WRONG AND THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE.
posted by kldickson at 8:08 AM on June 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think you've lost me?

Possibly. I meant to make a distinction between politics (which i hastily defined above as "trying to get people to accept the idea you're interested in proving") and science (which i'll hastily define here as "trying to prove an idea").
posted by symbollocks at 8:10 AM on June 3, 2009


Jody Tresidder, the difference between a PhD defense and a public talk is the amount of education of your audience.

kldickson,
I am aware of that important distinction. Which is why I mentioned how critical it is to know your audience.

By all means, shout if you think I'm not getting your point.

I understand, you want the scientific consensus to compel people's behavior.
I want people to find the consensus compelling.
posted by Jody Tresidder at 8:22 AM on June 3, 2009


I'd rather live in a culture where AIDs patients are treated with medicine instead of bullshit with an ulterior motive.

I'm pretty sure we can have both. I certainly hope we can.

This is exactly what I mean. Wringing hands about being too condescending is a serious misplacement of priorities. Real people are really dying from real diseases because we're too damn nice to con-men, liars, and bullshit artists.

You know what? Fuck being nice. THEY'RE WRONG AND THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE.

If you feel so strongly why aren't you out there butchering the con-men, liars, and bullshit artists? No, seriously. Or is that being too mean? What about other drastic actions? How do we stop these things from happening?

And why not distinguish between those two things (being wrong and killing people)? Are they necessarily connected? Are they killing people because they're wrong? Or is it because they've convinced themselves that being right means you can do whatever you want to people who are wrong?
posted by symbollocks at 8:29 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Uh, I think it's a great virtue of the great explainers out there that they manage not to come across as condescending. It takes a bit of effort (and lots of listening) but I think it's eminently doable.

Perceived condescension only fuels people's preconceptions against science and rational thought, and I believe it's wise to try and avoid it.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 8:50 AM on June 3, 2009


> Third, not all persuasion happens via logical means. Social stigma puts a lot of craziness out of bounds.

Peer pressure only works if you're a member of the peer group. An outsider acting like an asshole is easy to shun, ignore and mock. They think you're wrong, regardless of whether you actually are wrong. The more assertive you are, the easier you are going to be to mock. You could be the scientific skeptic's version of the Westboro Baptist Church and... well, see how successful they've been converting you?

Sales pitches aren't limited to the extremes of pure reason and pure aggression. If you want to appease a group of people you think are wrong, try doing something besides being an asshole. I mean, it sucks that they're wrong and you're right, but their celebrities are getting on Oprah and your celebrity is famous on the Internet (maybe). You're going to have to work harder, and work by their rules of persuasion and sales, to reach them. Otherwise to them you're just another disagreeable asshole on the Internet.
posted by ardgedee at 8:51 AM on June 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a nice video, and I'm glad to have seen it, and I'd love to believe that supernaturalists and sloppy thinkers will watch, understand, and take something away from it, but…let's just say that, after wasting years talking to supernaturalists of all stripes, in every way I knew how, I understand why this guy chose closed-mindedness as the topic of his video.
posted by ixohoxi at 8:54 AM on June 3, 2009


> Yes. Clearly mockery and disdain are the moral and categorical equals of murder so equivocating between the two makes for a solid objection. Clearly.

Are they necessarily connected? Are they killing people because they're wrong?

Sometimes, yes. When the pope advises people not to use condoms one of the outcomes is the spread of disease followed by death. In this case he is morally and factually wrong (or dishonest) and people die as a direct consequence.

Sometimes no. If you take your woo-y neighbors advice and try a homeopathic remedy for your cold you may find that you get better in seven days - whereas by doing nothing you would have suffered for a whole week. The only difference is with the homeopathic remedy you have the privilege of paying $75 for tap water.

Again, while taking a condescending tone may be a poor strategy in an argument, the moral implications of condescension are of no practical or ethical concern when you're talking being robbed of $75 or dying over religious imperative.

Simply put, there are bigger fish to fry.
posted by device55 at 9:11 AM on June 3, 2009


Fuck being nice. THEY'RE WRONG AND THEY'RE KILLING PEOPLE.

I believe the technical term for this style of debate is "screaming bloody murder." In light of recent events, I would think the value of such a style is clear.
posted by effwerd at 9:20 AM on June 3, 2009


Really? Should the consequences of something be disregarded if those consequences are too severe? How bad do the consequences of a practice or belief have to be before we must disregard them when discussing it?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:37 AM on June 3, 2009


What's the harm?

368,379 people killed, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 11:47 AM on June 3, 2009


Data point: I had to watch the video with the sound off (night time browsing in bed). I though it worked pretty well as a silent movie.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:27 PM on June 3, 2009


I highly recommend the QualiaSoup video on coincidence. It's linked on his YouTube page and I found it far from "condescending," quite illuminating in a non-jargony way too.

"non-jargony"? really?!
posted by joe lisboa at 12:36 PM on June 3, 2009


Really, no, it's not that I have any desire to kill anyone. Because I don't.

I'm just sad that education doesn't include a considerable critical thinking component, because apparently a lot of people don't know how to do any critical thinking. The fact that there are people who are so stupid and/or so uneducated and undisciplined to say these things that are bullshit says something about our society.
posted by kldickson at 3:55 PM on June 3, 2009


There are certainly days when I feel like the guy at the end with the dead fish in my head. I don't know if this has anything to do with my beliefs, but I'm willing to change them if it will get rid of the fish.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:02 PM on June 3, 2009


The skeptical viewpoint towards supernatual phenomenon is a correct one. Most people interested in supernatural phenomena would probably describe themselves as skeptical. I just think there are extremes on both sides. There are the beleivers, who base their beliefs on faith. And then there are the debunkers, who will reject any reject any evidence that subverts the commonly-held scientific view. Both sides are being "closed-minded", in my humble opinion.
posted by zardoz at 6:50 PM on June 3, 2009


In my humble opinion, you have no idea what "scientific view" actually means. Go watch the QualiaSoup video several times over. Learn it, love it, be it.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:10 PM on June 3, 2009


So zardoz, which evidence of the supernatural would this be that the skeptics are ignoring?
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:21 PM on June 3, 2009


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