Respectful Insolence

You know, I really know the feeling described in this song:

I really do. How about you?

Comments

  1. #1 Aaron
    March 18, 2011

    Is it really true that a minority of the population are critical thinkers? I’d like to know what percentage would be considered skeptical.

  2. #2 jenbphillips
    March 18, 2011

    It’s a little freaky how many of those conversations I have actually had. ‘People sure believe some crazy shit’ pretty much sums it up :-P

  3. #3 Candy
    March 18, 2011

    I’m rarely the lonely skeptic in my room, because I tend to surround myself with like-minded people, but sometimes . . . yeah.

    What I always have trouble with is that I’ll be having a conversation with someone with whom I am in agreement on many issues, and all of a sudden they will come out with some absolutely batshit crazy conspiracy theory, like “chem trails is teh skeery gubmint spraying us with mind-control molecules!” or the earthquake in Japan was caused by the top-secret (although you can hear all about it on YouTube) HAARP program, and I feel like they’ve suddenly ripped off a mask and instead of my friendly political fellow-traveler, I’m suddenly looking at the face of some giant alien bug-like creature. Brrrrr.

  4. #4 Candy
    March 18, 2011

    Good grief, I made the mistake of reading the YouTube comments.

  5. #5 prn
    March 18, 2011

    Is it really true that a minority of the population are critical thinkers?
    Yes.

    I’d like to know what percentage would be considered skeptical.
    Fewer than think that they are.

  6. #6 Lorie
    March 18, 2011

    This video is right on the money! “Jerk” = close-minded, opinionated, reductionist, flat-earther, destroyer of hope, etc. I’ll be viewing this video often when I feel a need for support.

  7. #7 Thomas
    March 18, 2011

    Even skeptics tend to have their blind spots. Randi, Penn and Teller who are usually considered skeptics have said some pretty stupid things about global warming, for example.

  8. #8 Pieter B
    March 18, 2011

    The problem is that some of the more interesting people I know — and some that I love — have some wooish beliefs. When things are going badly and one of them says “does anyone know if Mercury is retrograde these days?” and someone else says “I can e-mail you the schedule for this year when I get home” I just keep quiet.

    If they were not making important decisions without an astrologer’s input I might say something, but that’s not the case, and such people would not be my friends. It’s a harmless bit of folklore, and does no more damage to the common weal than saying “Must be a full moon” when something strange occurs.

    If I see potential harm I speak up; if not I don’t see the point.

  9. #9 sharon
    March 18, 2011

    Try being the mother of a child with Autism and finding a support group without a bunch of woomeisters (online communities aside). Harder than finding the proverbial needle in a haystack.

  10. #10 lordshipmayhem
    March 18, 2011

    @thomas #7: You are surprised at some sceptics’ global warming concerns? While for the past 20 years we’ve been told about the dangers of anthropogenic global warming, 20 years before that I can clearly recall being warned about anthropogenic global cooling.

    Environmental scientists, armed with graphs and models and experiments and the impact of Krakatoa on global temperatures for the decade following that eruption, were warning us that our factories and power generating statons were spewing out so much particulate matter that we were increasing the albedo of the Earth and reflecting solar radiation. At this rate, by the middle of the next century, we’d be seeing the start of a man-made ice age. We had to reduce consumption of fossil fuels as soon as possible!

    Suddenly everything turns on a dime. Now I’m being told by environmental scientists armed with graphs and models and experiments and (etc. etc.) that our factories and power stations are pumping out greenhouse gasses and trapping solar radiation. At this rate, in a few centuries Earth would be another hothouse planet like Venus. We have to reduce our consumption of fossil fuels as soon as possible! Instead of sheets of ice and a Northwest Passage frozen year-round, I’m seeing ads with a polar bear going, “Yo, man – where’s my floe?”

    I note that the same people who claimed we needed to reduce factory and power station output, and the same people who thought it all tosh, are basically the same groups now as they were then. I don’t trust the groups saying it’s all tosh, as they have a vested interest, but I find myself distrustful of the other side as well.

  11. #11 Todd W.
    March 18, 2011

    @lordshipmayhem

    You appear to be misinformed. The scientific community has been pretty much concerned with warming trends all along. A few fringe folks and the media hyped the global cooling meme.

  12. #12 peicurmudgeon
    March 18, 2011

    @lordshipmayhem
    There are two factors at play here. First of all, you are reacting to media portrayals of the science. This can be very different from what the actual research indicates. The supposed vaccine controversy is a perfect example, the only controversy is in the media.
    The other is change due to new knowledge. As skeptics, it behooves us to keep abreast of new scientific knowledge as it develops. One thing we know for sure is that knowledge evolves. Even if 35 years ago climate science indicated a cooling trend (which is not true), that is meaningless today as much has improved in climate models.

  13. #13 Pieter B
    March 18, 2011

    Even in the 1970s, far more climate scientists predicted warming rather than cooling. The argument that everything “suddenly turned on a dime” is codswallop.

  14. #14 Angie
    March 18, 2011

    Oh yeah. I was at a child’s birthday party and got into a conversation about a couple’s “haunted” house. They were explaining how their daughter had an imaginary friend, which was really the ghost, and the husband could see it because he had had a near-death experience. So, now he’s “sensitive” to ghosts. Then someone who goes on ghost hunts popped into the conversation. I asked some questions about when/where they see this ghost, then just moved away.

    And you know, it seems more people I meet believe in ghosts than not. When did this happen? It’s not normal to believe in ghosts! If there are ghosts, why don’t they show themselves to a group of thousands of people all at once and make no doubt about their existence?

    I like the song, it’s catchy.

  15. #15 klem
    March 18, 2011

    “Its a drag to be the only skeptic in the room”

    Ya, just ask Drs. Marshall and Warren who discovered that Helicobacter pylori caused peptic ulcers instead of the prevailing medical explanation ‘stress’ (whatever that meant). It was based on speculative belief more than fact. They were the skptics in the room back then, they were reviled and laughed at for years, and virtually shut down by the elitist medical establishment. These two guys know what it’s like to be the only skeptics in the room.

    The same can be said for early climate skeptics, who were reviled and laughed at for years and virtually shut down by the climate and environmental alarmist elite. They used to be the only skepics in the room, now at least they are being heard.

  16. #16 JohnV
    March 18, 2011

    Oh hey what a shock someone invoking H. pylori to defend their denialism de jour.

    Quick let me take a picture for my gallery of type cast cranks.

  17. #17 Militant Agnostic
    March 18, 2011

    Thomas @7 Penn and Teller are Libertarians. Since capital L Libertarianism requires a rejection of the possibility of externalities, it is essentially just like fundamentalist religion. Randi is getting old and I think he is unduly influenced by Penn & Teller. Also, I think Penn has started to back away from AGW denialism.

    Todd W

    A few fringe folks and the media hyped the global cooling meme.

    During the 70s the free rural weekly (Rocky View News)that my parents received used to regularly have scare stories about an impending ice age. The headlines implied the glaciers were already grinding their way southwards. It was obvious crankery.

  18. #18 Orac
    March 18, 2011

    @klem

    Regarding the myth of “ostracism” and mockery of Marshall and Warren, you are laboring under a delusion:

    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/bacteria_ulcers_and_ostracism_h._pylori_and_the_making_of_a_myth

    Nice try, though. Well, not really. The “Warren and Marshall” trope among pseudoskeptics becomes tiresome really fast.

    As for climate “skeptics,” the reason they are reviled and laughed at is because they twist the science, misrepresent the data, and use every trick in the denialist book.

  19. #19 Orac
    March 18, 2011

    Penn and Teller are Libertarians. Since capital L Libertarianism requires a rejection of the possibility of externalities, it is essentially just like fundamentalist religion. Randi is getting old and I think he is unduly influenced by Penn & Teller. Also, I think Penn has started to back away from AGW denialism.

    To some extent. At TAM7, Penn was on a panel in which he was asked about global warming. He started asking a bunch of questions, such as, “Is the climate getting warmer?” to which he answered yes, but when he came to the question of “Is human activity causing it?” he retreated to raising his voice and emphasizing, “I JUST DON’T KNOW.”

    I suppose that’s better than denying it, but only marginally.

  20. #20 Denice Walter
    March 18, 2011

    test

  21. #21 Denice Walter
    March 18, 2011

    While you may assume that you’re the “only” skeptic there, perhaps the others are not be speaking up. I compare it to being the “only” atheist / agnostic at a holiday party- how do you know that you don’t have “company” who might feel it rude to speak up or buck the prevailing trend? Thus the movement for us to “out” ourselves.

    Most social situations allow for you to make mild forays towards self-expression: gradually over many encounters, you can progressively find your voice. It’s easy to muster a jaded-sounding, ” Welllllll, I don’t _know_ about *that*…..” while smiling. Remember Rome wasn’t built in a day ( although some woo-ish theories may have been).

  22. #22 Pieter B
    March 18, 2011

    James Randi’s AGW article in Swift was not well written, and was followed a few days later by a clarification. He admitted to having been taken in by the Oregon Petition and apologized, but once again said that he simply did not know. I AM NOT “DENYING” ANYTHING

    Penn admitted that a good deal of his ‘skepticism’ about AGW was based on a personal dislike of Al Gore. Because of people’s tendency to simplify everything, both Penn’s “I don’t know” and James Randi’s “I don’t know” have been seized upon by ‘climate skeptics’ as examples of “respected skeptics who say AGW is crap.” Admittedly, when I heard Penn’s remarks at TAM, I heard something more like “I believe it’s total crap (but I don’t really know a lot about it).

    Unfortunately, the discussion is not one in which nuance is taken well by either side.

  23. #23 peicurmudgeon
    March 18, 2011

    I think “I don’t know” is a perfectly valid one for a skeptic. I know I don’t know everything, and I don’t have the time to or the expertise to understand all topics.

    I am educated in biology and understand most aspects of medicine reasonably well,and I link to think I can spot a lot of health garbage. I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories simply because I know human nature, and if a large number of people know a ‘secret’it doesn’t stay secret very long. On the other hand, I know absolutely squat about nuclear reactors. People labeled as experts are predicting everything from “it’s under control’ to worldwide radiation. Who is ‘right’ in this case? Honestly, I don’t know.

  24. #24 Liz Ditz
    March 18, 2011

    Turning aside from seriousness, this song reminded me of “I Can See Your Aura and It’s Ugly”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yOeORWf0XE

    (disclosure: singer is my daughter’s uncle)

    I’ve done lots of spiritual healing
    I’m in touch with all my feelings
    I’ve read palms and read the stars for kings and queens,
    And I hate to bum you out, but you have without a doubt
    The ugliest aura that this poor boy’s ever seen

    ‘Cause I can see your aura and it’s ugly.
    Your Spirit must be rotten to the core,
    And to a new age guy like me
    You’ll bring pain and misery,
    So dear, I cannot love you anymore.

  25. #25 Thomas
    March 18, 2011

    Penn and Teller had a program in the series Bullshit where they claimed global warming was a hoax. Then later on they backed off and changed the message to “Why ask us, we don’t know anything about global warming?” One might just wish they had thought of that before making the show.

    As Todd points out, libertarians have their own particular prejudices, just like christians or socialists. I doubt it is even possible to have a proper skeptic attitude about everything, there just isn’t enough time to study every issue so some stuff you have to take on faith, because people you trust say they are true.

  26. #26 Pieter B
    March 18, 2011

    I don’t claim to know a lot about climate science either, but when I notice that ‘climate skeptics’ use the same debating techniques as creationists, it strongly inclines me to the view that they don’t have a lot of science on their side.

    re: nuclear-reactor ‘experts,’ last night I saw Dr. Michio Kaku weighing in on the subject. He needs to learn the sentence “I really don’t know a lot about that; why don’t you call _________ ?”

  27. #27 seanhegz
    March 18, 2011

    The song rings true, although personally I tend to hold my tongue unless the topic is dangerous (such as anti-vax and alt med – although like Tim Minchin there is occasionally the perfect Storm).

    Just in case the last line of the chorus needed some additional support, I came across a new (at least to me) dimension in the wooniverse this week in a local newspaper. In their “Health and Wellbeing” section they had an article on Evolutionary Astrology.

    “Evolutionary Astrology offers tremendous insights into where the soul has been, its’ current life purpose, and ultimately where the soul is going. In much of traditional astrology, the sun, moon and ascendant are emphasized. They undoubtedly play a role in the big picture, however, by diving deeper and addressing ‘soul’ intentions, one can uncover past dynamics, which may have prevented optimal growth and joy. The focal point in Evolutionary Astrology therefore is the position of Pluto, the soul. It is vitally important to understand where the soul has been, for just as with a book, you do not read the last chapter first. Evolutionary Astrology will assist in explaining certain tendencies and attractions. If something is not working in your life, it may continue to express itself as a repeating theme until the lesson is learned and the pattern is finally broken. Often times we simply re-create what’s familiar, not necessarily because it’s good for us. Evolutionary Astrology unveils the ‘why’ in these patterns and offers insights and guidance into a soul’s evolutionary path enabling one to self empower and create a reality reflecting a Soul’s deepest desires and intention for this life.” (quote from kristinfontana.com)

    MInd you the local blurb added the salient point that it can help you discover which lilypad will hold your weight and which is likely to sink………..

    I’ll grant though that it was a well balanced section with an article on kinesiology as well to offset the articles on phsyiotherapy and podiatry.

  28. #28 Laura
    March 18, 2011

    Beautiful women can be scientists. That song might give you the impression that they aren’t.

  29. #29 augustine
    March 18, 2011

    Beautiful women can be scientists. That song might give you the impression that they aren’t.

    Beautiful women can be honest scientists. But they can’t be skeptical sciencebloggers. The bitterness makes your skin wrinkle and the jadedness makes your front teeth grow long like a beaver. The hours at the library make your back hunch. These are not aesthetically pleasing qualities to the male species. Hence they (female skeptics) tend to mate with inferior quality males and produce inferior quality offspring.

    Evidence: Before becoming a morality pushing skeptic

    http://www.mhrrg.com/bm_harriet_hall.shtml

    Years after becoming a skeptic

    http://www.skepdoc.info/

    Uh, this is just a strictly darwinian scientific observation. No emotional feelings should be attached.

    Of course all jaded bitter women aren’t science bloggers.

    Yet we could start a thread on the masculinity of the male science blogger….for equality and balance.

  30. #30 Chris
    March 19, 2011

    I don’t normally read Little Augie’s idiocy, but I had to check this out.

    You idiot, those are two separate people!

    You must be confused because they both went to a U of W. What in the world makes you think that Wisconsin and Washington are the same state? Do you have any clue how stupid this makes you look?

    Oh, wait, you don’t. You probably think that every 884,000 result from googling “Chris Haynes” is the same person.

  31. #31 lilady
    March 19, 2011

    @ Chris It’s past Little Augie’s bedtime and the both states start with a “W”. Even though he failed 2nd grade “geography”, he knows they are both adjacent to each other, between Florida and Alabama.

    Both are doctors; one is a PhD and the other is an M.D.; interchangeable in Augie’s mind.

  32. #32 Reading Frame
    March 19, 2011

    This is very much how I feel about an argument I had with my deluded parents who are constantly trying to get me to take more vitamins, go to the chiropractor, and use every single logical fallacy in the book (‘toxins’, pharma shills, AMA doesn’t know anything about nutrition and they don’t want you taking vitamins!, FDA is bad! and appeals to authority, antiquity, ignorance, begging the question, etc. etc. ad nauseum) to get me on their side. And then they say I “take the science thing too far.”

    *sigh*

  33. #33 augustine
    March 19, 2011

    Chris/olnurselady

    You must be confused because they both went to a U of W. What in the world makes you think that Wisconsin and Washington are the same state? Do you have any clue how stupid this makes you look?

    It’s a spoof num nuts! It pretty obvious that they are not the same. I thought you were brighter than that. Don’t take yourself so serious.

  34. #34 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 19, 2011

    Nice try, Goofus.

    Not only are you stupid, but you’re a sexist pig.

  35. #35 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 19, 2011

    Orac, um

    Do vaccines increase cancer risk?

    NEW Studies Reveal Alarming Hidden Cause of Breast Cancer

    http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/18/vaccines-increase-cancer-risk.aspx

    Not sure anything could be more in your wheelhouse.

  36. #36 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 19, 2011

    Comment got help up for the link probably, but Orac I sent you a link in email to an article on M3rcola.com about vaccines increasing Cancer risk.

    prepare for self for the fear mongering!

    NEW Studies Reveal Alarming Hidden Cause of Breast Cancer

    It was posted yesterday my M3rcola.

  37. #37 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    March 19, 2011

    Judging from the comment above it is apparent I need coffee and to slow down when typing.

  38. #38 Laura
    March 19, 2011

    I actually get skeptical as a way of keeping myself clear of people who have a lot of psychological stuff they aren’t dealing with. Believing in strange things is a way of being a nut, although people can also do skepticism out of psychological problems.
    Like the raw vegans I know. A shockingly large number of vegans don’t take B12. Jack Norris RD, a vegan dietician who runs a very good website http://veganhealth.org writes about evidence that a lot of vegans have marginal B12 deficiency, which raises homocysteine levels. I had always thought, well of course if you’re vegan, you take B12, right? But no. There are a lot of people out there who rationalize not taking B12 in various nutty ways. There’s a guy I see around town, whose head was shaking uncontrollably. I start talking to him and find out he’s been vegan for years and of the blithe crowd so far as the need to take B12 goes. I told him his head tremor might be from B12 deficiency and maybe it’ll help.

  39. #39 Laura
    March 19, 2011

    “Beautiful women can be honest scientists. But they can’t be skeptical sciencebloggers. ”

    Huh. I’m a beautiful woman, and also a very good mathematician. And a skeptical sort. Perhaps my eyes have a more direct and piercing look than the convention of beauty, but I don’t wish to be beautiful as an object. Rather, as a subject.

  40. #40 Laura
    March 19, 2011

    ps Maybe Orac is a beautiful woman with big knockers. How would you know?

  41. #41 sadmar
    March 19, 2011

    Cute song. A couple things… The appeal to ‘common sense’ at the beginning is unwise IMHO. And I wonder how Eddie approached his friends Dave and Tina. Did he act like ‘a jerk,’ or with understanding and compassion about their having been scared about autism by Jenny McBimbo? The skepticism works better when the audience is not already around the bend (like Thomas), and when the skeptic employs some empathy along with scientific evidence.

  42. #42 John Nevard
    March 19, 2011

    Lol.. I did wonder where augustine found a sense of humour.

  43. #43 lordshipmayhem
    March 19, 2011

    @ Todd wW.: you appear to have missed the past tense.

    I was confused. I wasn’t misinformed as much as underinformed. I remain underinformed, because so much new data is coming down the pipeline that it’s hard for the layman to keep up, but what I have learned supports both concepts that “the world is getting warmer” and “human use of fossil fuels is a significant reason for that”.

    I’m still not eager to believe we’ve screwed everything up as irreparably and fatally as is being painted, but the evidence certainly supports that conclusion.

    And yes, I do remember back when I was tem years of age (the early 1970’s) being told in lurid detail that humans had triggered the Next Ice Age. Now those were the misinformed.

  44. #44 herr doktor bimler
    March 20, 2011

    I remember Nigel Calder banging on about the global-cooling theory in “Weather Machine”; Fred Hoyle was claiming in 1981 that the world was heading into an ice age and we should increase our output of greenhouse gasses to ward it off. And there was a 1978 episode of “In Search Of…” that looked into global cooling, though I don’t know whether that should be considered authoritative even though Leonard Nimoy read the narration. But in terms of actual climate scientists concerned about ice ages, I can’t think of any.

    So if journalists were warning “in lurid detail that humans had triggered the Next Ice Age”, then they were engaging in sensational bullshit, for surely the first time in human history.

  45. #45 Dave
    March 20, 2011

    MANY OF YOU are mistaking critical thinking for irrational disbelief of what might be possible.

    MOST PEOPLE think very critically. Some are willing to believe anything, but they are the slim minority. At the other end of the spectrum are people like you, who think the rest of world are a bunch of dummies who need you to set the record straight for them. We don’t. We find people like you irritating as hell and incredibly opposed to objectively assessing the validity of something you have previously determined as impossible.

    Yes, the world has a category for you too: Arrogant twits.
    But, that makes the world a colorful place, doesn’t it?

    Give your heads a shake and see it as it is.

  46. #46 Mephistopheles O'Brien
    March 20, 2011

    Dave,
    Did you have some specific examples?

  47. #47 Militant Agnostic
    March 20, 2011

    MOST PEOPLE think very critically

    Citation needed (and none will be forthcoming).

    A substantial fraction of Americans believe Genesis is literal account of the origin of the earth and of life on earth. This is in spite of the fact that is self contradictory, never mind the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of evolution. Add in the old earth creationists, and ID propensists and you have around 50% of the population. Throw in the non-overlapping portion of the population that are AGW denialists, Birthers, Free Market Fundamentalists, Randroids, Astrology believers, poeple who think lie detectors work, anti-vaxxers and it is clear that your statement is false.

    Methinks your head has been shaken a little too hard.

  48. #48 Eddie Scott
    March 21, 2011

    I would like to thank everyone for their positive responses to my little song. I’m kind of new to the blogospheric discussion chamber, but I find it amusing that my little effort has spun off interesting and (more or less) substantive side discussions about libertarianism, global climate change, and the purity of Penn and Teller’s skepticism, among other things. I’m sorry if I gave the impression that I think beautiful women can’t be scientists – that was not my intent and it is certainly not what I believe.

    Cheers!

  49. #49 tütüne son
    March 21, 2011

    Citation needed (and none will be forthcoming).

    A substantial fraction of Americans believe Genesis is literal account of the origin of the earth and of life on earth. This is in spite of the fact that is self contradictory, never mind the overwhelming scientific evidence in favor of evolution. Add in the old earth creationists, and ID propensists and you have around 50% of the population. Throw in the non-overlapping portion of the population that are AGW denialists, Birthers, Free Market Fundamentalists, Randroids, Astrology believers, poeple who think lie detectors work, anti-vaxxers and it is clear that your statement is false.

    Methinks your head has been shaken a little too hard

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