Pharyngula

At last, some research in communicating evolution that I can agree with, because it corresponds to my prior experience and biases! Which is exactly the wrong reason to agree with it, of course, but it’s a start, and with some significant reservations, is an interesting foundation to argue over.

Here’s the abstract. It’s a paper describing general strategies for winning over participants in public debates about science, which basically says, in terms more familiar to us, that waffling accommodationists are losers.

Public debates driven by incomplete scientific data where nobody can claim absolute certainty, due to current state of scientific knowledge, are studied. The cases of evolution theory, global warming and H1N1 pandemic influenza are investigated. The first two are of controversial impact while the third is more neutral and resolved. To adopt a cautious balanced attitude based on clear but inconclusive data appears to be a lose-out strategy. In contrast overstating arguments with wrong claims which cannot be scientifically refuted appear to be necessary but not sufficient to eventually win a public debate. The underlying key mechanism of these puzzling and unfortunate conclusions are identified using the Galam sequential probabilistic model of opinion dynamics. It reveals that the existence of inflexible agents and their respective proportions are the instrumental parameters to determine the faith of incomplete scientific data public debates. Acting on one’s own inflexible proportion modifies the topology of the flow diagram, which in turn can make irrelevant initial supports. On the contrary focusing on open-minded agents may be useless given some topologies. When the evidence is not as strong as claimed, the inflexibles rather than the data are found to drive the opinion of the population. The results shed a new but disturbing light on designing adequate strategies to win a public debate.

So when you’ve got an argument going, and one side has the evidence but the other side has an inflexible certainty that the evidence is wrong, the inflexibles tend to distort the normal process of weighing the evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions — they suck in more uncommitted participants (called ‘floaters’) to their way of thinking, generating more inflexibles, strengthing the position of the anti-science side, leading to greater attraction to being wrong. The counter-strategy, suggested later in the paper, is to ‘get more inflexibles’ — winning over floaters so they drift over to your side has little long-term impact, it’s far better to build a larger army of forceful advocates for your position.

Now for the reservations, though. This isn’t real social science: dig into the paper deeper and you discover it is entirely theoretical, based on a mathematical model of human behavior. Hmmm. It’s all well and good to say that a population of autonomous agents with properties X, Y, and Z will behave in a particular way in a simulation, but, well, people tend to be very messy beings. I don’t have a background in this field to be able to say whether the model has good empirical support or not, so I’m not going to be able to say that the Pharyngula model for arguing over evolution, that is, by unreserved and loud advocacy that steamrollers the opposition as much as possible, has been proven to be correct.

But that’s what this paper says I should do anyway! If I want to persuade, it’s best to avoid those fuzzy little tentative words, go gung ho for the answer you want. Which in a lot of ways is undesirable, actually.

The results shed a new but disturbing light on Designing adequate strategies to eventually win public debates. To produce inflexibles in one’s own side is thus critical to win a public argument whatever the rigor cost and the associated epistemological paradoxes. At odds, to focus on convincing open-minded agents is useless. In summary, when the scientific evidence is not as strong as claimed, the inflexibles rather than the data are found to drive the collective opinion of the population. Consequences on Designing adequate strategies to win a public debate are discussed.

OK. We need more positive inflexibles. Got it. (Oh, and by the way, the paper has an annoying trait of capitalizing “Design” wherever it occurs. Don’t know why, it may just be grep run amuck.)

However, I have another reservation. What’s this “when the scientific evidence is not as strong as claimed” business? The author has his own peculiar blindspot, where he thinks biologists have been overstating the evidence for evolution. That isn’t true at all.

However the major outcome of our modeling is to confirm the rightness in overstating the validity of Darwin theory to oppose Intelligent Design in terms of success in the public debate. Afterwards our results suggest that in case opponents to Intelligent Design had been more circumspect about the “status” of Darwin theory, they would have lost the public debate. It is a somehow disturbing hypothesis with an embarrassing result for an honest scientist.

Except, no, we have not been insufficienctly circumspect at all. The evidence for evolution really is overwhelmingly in its favor. It isn’t proven in a mathematical sense, there is no illusion that we have accounted for every single possible mechanism, and there is still active exploration of all the details, but there is no doubt anywhere sensible that evolution, that populations change over time driven by natural processes, and that all life on earth shares a common ancestry, is a fact, amply confirmed and tested.

There’s nothing to be embarrassed about open advocacy of a well-demonstrated scientific position at all, and no one is hiding the interesting controversies within the boundaries of that truth. What this really is about is good debating strategies. You do not open a discussion by saying, “Well, we aren’t certain about the relative contributions of chance and selection, and maybe chemical properties dictate some of the outcomes of biological processes, but we’re pretty certain evolution happens.” That puts all the emphasis on doubt. No, you start by saying positively that “Evolution happens, period.” Then you can discuss, if necessary, the ragged edges of the science. The important point, though, is the reality of that core idea, and you have to realize that in many arguments with creationists, it’s not the ragged edges they’re talking about — it’s precisely that scientifically indisputable central fact.

No compromise of the science is required, only a recognition of the actual point being discussed. Where scientists are often handicapped is that they don’t recognized the depth of the denial on the other side, and that their opponents really are happily butting their heads against the rock hard foundation of the science. We tend to assume the creationists can’t really be that stupid, and figure they must have some legitimate complaint about some aspect of evolution with which we can sympathize. They don’t. They really are that nuts.

(via Ben Goldacre)

Comments

  1. #1 somewhereingreece
    April 29, 2010

    It would be sufficient to ask YouTube users you have been sucked into Thunderf00t’s channel. I am halfway through the “Why do people laugh at creationists?” playlist and I wonder who any fence-sitter would have the face to go over the the woo side after being blasted with the full force of the inanity that is creationism.

    Slightly OT, there goes my sleep time. I will miss it.

  2. #2 Glen Davidson
    April 29, 2010

    Nothing new about certainty winning out over caution and consideration of problems. It’s a fact long known to lawyers, and defense lawyers do best when they’ll believe (half believe, anyway) the most outrageous lies of their clients.

    Yes, I think many of us state the (near) certitude of evolution precisely because we know that’s how one wins. And, gee, how do you overstate the validity (more properly, soundness) of evolutionary theory?

    Looks like the certitude of the IDiots that there’s “weaknesses” or meaningful doubts has worked on this researcher. Not the best indication that he’s very good at it.

    Still, it’s not all good, because we’re generally quite willing to admit that there are unanswered questions and nothing’s certain. But we do well to point out that those are general “objections” to all of science, while pseudosciences like ID never answer a damn thing at all.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/mxaa3p

  3. #3 nigelTheBold
    April 29, 2010

    Still, it’s not all good, because we’re generally quite willing to admit that there are unanswered questions and nothing’s certain.

    I think it’s high time scientists stopped saying, “Well, this provides supporting evidence for the hypothesis that hippos in tu-tus are more graceful than hippos in sports jackets,” and other such namby-pamby, wish-washy, cutesy-futesy things.

    I say scientists should declare in loud and assertive voices, “By Grapthar’s Hammer, this proves my theory! Bite me, all you sports-jacketers!”

  4. #4 vanharris
    April 29, 2010

    The bishop of Liverpool, James Jones, did the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on BBC Radio 4 a day or two ago. He said that we were created by a god.

    I e-mailed him & said that he should know that we evolved by natural selection, & accused him of being a liar. I also sent him this verse:

    TRUE RELIGION

    The Christian?s Jehovah is Almighty God,
    a jealous, vain, cantankerous sod
    and, so far as I can tell,
    the Christian often is as well.

    The bible bogey, he?s taught to see,
    is three that?s one, and one that?s three;
    it?s a father, son, and a friggin? ghost,
    that with magic spells becomes wine and toast!
    With the problem of theodicy,
    it sure as hell is idiocy.

    The Jew?s Yahweh is a wrathful old jerk,
    setting strict rules on when to work,
    how to dress, and what to eat and sip,
    and giving baby boys the snip.
    Myths of Bronze Age, Mesopotamian nomads
    metaphorically get ?em, by the gonads.

    The Moslem?s Allah is a fierce great djinn;
    Submission?s the name of his religion.
    Apostasy?s treated just like a crime;
    they?ll threaten to kill you, to keep you in line.
    The religion of peace is what they call it,
    with warfare & terror, they zealously enforce it.

    Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Jain,
    Wiccan, Taoist, and the Born-Again,
    and those of every goddamned religion,
    are all steeped in stupid superstition.

    —————

    I haven’t heard back from this mendacious priest yet.

  5. #5 tsig0
    April 29, 2010

    IOW

    Cry havoc and loose the dogs of war!!!

  6. #6 monado
    April 29, 2010

    Good points! Evolution can’t NOT happen, as long as parents don’t all reproduce just exactly the same kinds and numbers of offspring that their parents had. And we know they don’t.

    I tend to try to be reasonable and listen the other side, expecting them to be the same. So I tend to lose arguments just out of politeness.

    However, for evolution I point out that people have spent 300 years realizing that it occurs, 250 years learning that there’s enough time for it to happen, 200 years correlating fossils and strata so that we can date them, 150 years working out the mechanisms of natural and sexual selection, 80 years adding DNA and genetics, and 40 years gearing up with molecular evolution, family trees of individual genes / chromosomes / mitochondria, gene regulation and evo-devo, so that the EXPLANATION of evolution is now now solider than ever.

  7. #7 Akira MacKenzie
    April 29, 2010

    …and crush your enemies into the dust

    PZ! WHAT IS BEST IN LIFE!

  8. #8 MadScientist
    April 29, 2010

    They may have to rethink their data on the global warming thing. I just don’t agree with scaremongering like “bigger badder storms” because it distracts from the claims which are supportable by evidence. The model predictions are another infuriating thing which distracts people from the facts. Only a few months ago I’ve seen articles about how a majority of people believe in global warming, but now there are claims that fewer people believe in it – perhaps they couldn’t wait more than a year or two for the world to be destroyed by monster typhoons?

  9. #9 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    At odds, to focus on convincing open-minded agents is useless.

    “Undecided voters are the biggest idiots on the planet. Try giving short, simple answers.”

  10. #10 darwinsdog
    April 29, 2010

    …so I’m not going to be able to say that the Pharyngula model for arguing over evolution, that is, by unreserved and loud advocacy that steamrollers the opposition as much as possible, has been proven to be correct.

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers. I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. To my mind, you’ve become the very thing you loathe. Think about it.

  11. #11 idiotiddidit#5116d
    April 29, 2010

    We tend to assume the creationists can’t really be that stupid…

    I’ve spoken with some pretty dim bulbs that came around knocking at my door, but when given the chance, I like to engage with the rare engineer (my background) who is a creationist.

    These people are not at all dumb, just massively invested in their position for whatever reason, and in deep deep denial. It doesn’t matter what evidence is presented; they use their considerable intellect to twist and reinterpret things to get into a superficially consistent state.

    One guy I had an exchange with, a PhD in information theory, explained why there are many more than 6000 layers of seasonal ice in the antarctic core samples this way: he once got in his car after a snowstorm and piled up against the window he could see many layers of clean and dirty snow. Those climate researchers simply are overlooking the obvious answer.

  12. #12 eric
    April 29, 2010

    two points:

    first, a little bias. The “evidence” in a public debate, are not the “evidence” in a scientific one. Tons of “paper” on evolution does not make an “evidence” in the public debate as they are not available for the large public.

    (I’m not discussing what’s true there, but what’s publicly admitted as true)

    Therefore, despite the huge amount of scientific-evidences for evolution, there are not “enough” public-evidences to settle the “public”-debate. One of the skeptic’s job, is to repeat again and again those scientific evidence, and turn them into public-evidence.

    Secondly, I’m not sure (in fact I’m sure of the contrary) that scientific should start beeing assertive, as nigelTheBold stated.

    This might lead to two catastrophes:
    first, one day or another, they will be caught beeing assertive on something that’ll turn out to be wrong. This cannot be avoided. But that day, every scientific in every public debate will loose a lot of credibility.

    second: politicians are eager to find ways to “manipulate” people (or more politically-correct, ways to convince the population of the fairness of their decision).

    Vocal scientist are a good pray for them, and are very easy to manipulate: “I give you credits, you answer out loud to my questions”.
    You don’t have to be very smart to understand that controlling the questions it’s controlling the public-debate (not the scientific one). In a fair trial, usually both have the right to ask questions.

    Science is complicated, and we shouldn’t try to make it easy for the public audience in order to win political debates, but rather help the public audience understand it’s inherent complexity.

    Let me take an example: Does the sun turns around the earth, or is it the other way around ? This was a huge debate. Vocal scientist stated that it was earth that was actually turning around the sun, not the contrary. Because, at that time, earth-centered theories were religious. But what does really science says about this topic (now the debate is over) ? It states that this question doesn’t make sense. Both are valid, it depends on the frame of reference you choose, and what’s interesting is how to convert from one to another, the inertial accelerations etc.

    When my daughter asks me why does the sun turns around “us” I didn’t simply tell her that it was the contrary. I tried to explain the complexity of movements etc. It’s funnier, richer, smarter, than to just know it “’cause my dad says so”.

    In conclusion, we should rather learn (or teach) how to live with complexity, than twist the truth to make it simple to win public debate, otherwise we are going to be called liars by people that will be believers in false over-simplified theories.

  13. #13 CJO
    April 29, 2010

    Why is it that every single fucking asshat who comes here to criticize PZ can’t spell his name? I mean, really, it’s bizarre. It’s like a union regulation or something.

  14. #14 MetzO'Magic
    April 29, 2010

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers.

    Somehow, I doubt the veracity of this person’s alleged credentials. Nevertheless… [runs for popcorn, just in case]

  15. #15 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 29, 2010

    a boorish lout, Meyers.

    Ah, a true concern troll. Can’t even spell PZ’s name right. What a loser…

  16. #16 Sastra
    April 29, 2010

    Darwinsdog #10 wrote:

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers.

    But look at the specific approach PZ’s advocating:

    What this really is about is good debating strategies. You do not open a discussion by saying, “Well, we aren’t certain about the relative contributions of chance and selection, and maybe chemical properties dictate some of the outcomes of biological processes, but we’re pretty certain evolution happens.” That puts all the emphasis on doubt. No, you start by saying positively that “Evolution happens, period.” Then you can discuss, if necessary, the ragged edges of the science.

    Are you really turned off by this? Or are you visualizing someone turning up at a debate and throwing chairs around? Be more specific.

  17. #17 Shala
    April 29, 2010

    Is it some sort of in-circle creotard joke to mispell PZ’s name?

  18. #18 B166ER
    April 29, 2010

    [quote=darwinsdog] I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers. I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. To my mind, you’ve become the very thing you loathe. Think about it. [/quote]
    I guess it’s a rule that all concern trolls MUST mispell Prof. MYERS’ name.
    Oh and darwinsdog, I guess you want us to be all nice and sweet and when the creationists are lying to children, training them to kill and be killed as actual soldiers for a fictional deity, you want us to shut our mouths and play soft ball? You sir, are a either a self hating moron or a creationist in disguise.
    I personally think we need to be more vocal about the truth of evolution. Don’t start talking about the quirky little things about evolution that a person not steeped in the science won’t understand. First expose them to the foundation of the science THEN expose them to the intresting quirks that will alter (yet not destroy) evolutionary theory.

  19. #19 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 29, 2010

    …you’re a boorish lout, Meyers. I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. To my mind, you’ve become the very thing you loathe. Think about it.

    Accommodationists get absolutely nowhere by being genteel and not ruffling anyone’s feathers. As noted in the linked article the cdesign proponentsists are perfectly willing to lie to make their case. We’ve seen that many times when cdesign proponentsists argue their cases here. They’ll tell us, flat out, that “many biologists” don’t accept evolution, that there’s no proof for evolution, that evolution is on its last legs, etc., etc., etc. What’s more, these cdesign proponentsists pretend their arguments haven’t been refuted when a glance at Talk Origins or Panda’s Thumb offers ample refutation.

    So maybe being a boorish lout is more productive than trying to be kind and polite to liars. If you don’t like being boorish, then continue to be sweet to people who shit on you every chance they get. We’ll do the heavy lifting so you can enjoy being shat on.

  20. #20 Nerd of Redhead, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Is it some sort of in-circle creotard joke to mispell PZ’s name?

    It must be. I think they feel it is an insult, but it just makes them look stoopid.

  21. #21 Kamaka
    April 29, 2010

    all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers.

    I just don’t get it. If you’re so alienated, why do you keep coming back? You have a mouse, no? Just click on the X, and presto, the boor goes away!

    Hemant Mehta is low-keyed about it all. You need nicey-nice? He’s got it.

    Why is it that every single fucking asshat who comes here to criticize PZ can’t spell his name?

    What he said.

  22. #22 Brownian, OM
    April 29, 2010

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers.

    How should PZ act in order to convince you of the reality of evolution and the importance of science education?

    I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. [Emphasis added.]

    Oh. So you’re not a creationist or otherwise anti-science. Then who the fuck cares whether or not you personally like PZ?

  23. #23 MetzO'Magic
    April 29, 2010

    Did some digging on previous threads, and darwinsdog may in fact be a biologist. But is also a tone troll.

    Ironic, given that we’re discussing the efficacy of tone/concern trolling when it comes to winning over the public opinion on matters with a significant amount of science involved.

  24. #24 tutone21
    April 29, 2010

    @Darwinsdog #10

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers. I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. To my mind, you’ve become the very thing you loathe. Think about it.

    Well then dearwinsdog, enlighten the rest of us. Since you are so knowledgable about things genetic and can convey your thoughts in a way that won’t alienate people. What’s your blog address? I am sure people here want to know if there are better methods of communication.

  25. #25 tytalus
    April 29, 2010

    On the bright side, re: #7 — glad I’m not the only one who thought of that when reading the title. :)

  26. #26 PZ Myers
    April 29, 2010

    Hey, guys, don’t worry about darwinsdog — it’s water off a duck’s back. Besides, the telling thing is this: he’s still reading the site. Ha ha!

  27. #27 Sastra
    April 29, 2010

    Tis Himself, OM #19 wrote:

    So maybe being a boorish lout is more productive than trying to be kind and polite to liars.

    Those aren’t necessarily two different strategies. Some of the wickedest disembowelments come from those clever, witty, exquisitely courteous chaps who, with scholarly air and all due consideration, gently cut their opponents, and their opponents’ arguments, to tattered shreds.

    I love watching that. And it’s very effective.

  28. #28 AJ Milne OM
    April 29, 2010

    all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me…

    (Emphasis mine.)

    … because, of course, he’s the only person in the world whose (alleged) reaction actually matters in any way whatsoever, here.

    … oh, also: the only thing of consequence your entire life has accomplished, Der Tonetroll, is to make me, personally, point and laugh at you.

    (/But thanks awfully, and you may now proceed to die; your work here is done.)

  29. #29 Sean O'Doherty
    April 29, 2010

    Chief: Conan! What is best in life?
    Conan: To crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the women.
    Peers: *cheering*

  30. #30 Jim Lippard
    April 29, 2010

    Galam’s paper is pretty wacky. He claims that in the climate change debate, the “alarmists” have won public opinion, because only their side of the debate has “inflexibles.” In the U.S., 51% of the general public believe that greenhouse gas emissions will cause the earth’s average temperature to increase, down from 71% two years ago. Does this mean that the “skeptics” (his term) have suddenly gained inflexibles? Seems to me there have been inflexibles on that side all along, which is part of the reason why the U.S. has been unable to approve any legislation or treaty to regulate greenhouse gases–the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases only came about through the judiciary (Mass. v. EPA), using existing statutes from the early 1970s (Clean Air Act).

  31. #31 neilo
    April 29, 2010

    Eh, I don’t know how many of you have actually read this paper but it doesn’t exactly sound too pro evolution (or global warming for that matter):

    “Issues of global warming and evolution theory have triggered intense
    public debates…”
    “However, only scarce and incomplete data are available.”
    “It was thus necessary to build ad hoc theories to produce a coherent explanation of the whole respective fields, embodying isolated facts, fuzzy measures and partial knowledge”
    “The major limitation of both evolution and climatology theories is their incapacity to make predictions, which could be refuted by setting an experiment.”
    “This is due to the huge timescales involved in each case…”
    “It thus prevents these theories to reach the status of hard science like physics
    and chemistry…”

    I got to it from the link on Pharyngula. This is just in the first couple of pages. I think the author regards evolution as being quite “fuzzy” and probably believes it’s on the same level as ID, needing debating strategies and rhetorical arguments to win, rather than actual science.

  32. #32 PZ Myers
    April 29, 2010

    Yes. And the methods are rather abstract, and his results have no empirical connection to the real world. Without some kind of empirical justification that his mathematical model is at all valid, it’s just about impossible to draw any specific conclusions from it.

  33. #33 Kevin.Gain
    April 29, 2010

    This has been nothing but a political battle for 130 years. Ivory tower epistemology has nothing to do with it. Political battles must be fought with political tools and people like PZ, Dawkins etc… have taken the unheard of step of firing shots back the other way. Thank you for that, as a foot soldier.

  34. #34 Epictetus
    April 29, 2010

    The creationists are opposed to evolutionary theory simply because it conflicts with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. Any science that contradicts their beloved holy book is challenged. And if it can?t be made to harmonize with ?sacred scripture?, well, then the science must go–it is rejected. This is what religious cretins have done for centuries. So a Bronze Age text, or whatever, is supposed to give us a more accurate picture of reality than the cumulative discoveries of modern science.

    In science a skeptical attitude is a necessity, it?s par for the course. Whereas among the religious a skeptical attitude is an unpardonable sin –at least when applied to their religion (whichever one it happens to be). It?s OK to doubt all those scientists but never ever question the veracity of, say, The Book of Revelations?

  35. #35 arabiaterra
    April 29, 2010

    From Monado @ 6

    Good points! Evolution can’t NOT happen, as long as parents don’t all reproduce just exactly the same kinds and numbers of offspring that their parents had. And we know they don’t.

    Question for creationists: Are you, or are you not identical to your mother (or father, for males).

    A: No

    Conclusion: Evolution is true!

    Explanation: If they are different, then they have a different “fitness”*, and only the fittest survive to pass on their genes.

    * fitness being defined as how well you fit into your particular species niche.

  36. #36 Azkyroth
    April 29, 2010

    Regarding darwinsdog and accomodationists in general

    One of the problems I believe I’ve seen cited with the “concern troll” concept is that it’s difficult to distinguish between false flag concern trolls, and sincere cowards, among accomodationists and especially among the “framing” cult.

    An easy solution: in practical terms, there IS no difference.

  37. #37 'Tis Himself, OM
    April 29, 2010

    Epictetus #34

    The creationists are opposed to evolutionary theory simply because it conflicts with their literalist interpretation of the Bible. Any science that contradicts their beloved holy book is challenged. And if it can?t be made to harmonize with ?sacred scripture?, well, then the science must go–it is rejected.

    Rick Warren has said if there’s a conflict between science and the Bible, then the Bible wins every time. This is someone who specifically and knowingly rejects reality in preference to a book of myths.

  38. #38 Pierce R. Butler
    April 29, 2010

    … uncommitted participants (called ‘floaters’) …

    What does this model say about the ups and downs of using terminology that invites crappy jokes?

    … the paper has an annoying trait of capitalizing “Design” wherever it occurs.

    How does it handle “Intelligent” (which, judging by its estimation of projected audiences & winning strategies, may not be a word that was needed much)?

    … grep run amuck.

    Better get that term (no, not grep!), and concept, clear and properly spelled before you venture into bear-shirt Viking territory!

    They really are that nuts.

    This may be a dangerous instance of overestimating creationi$t $incerity in particular cases.

  39. #39 a_ray_in_dilbert_space
    April 29, 2010

    Although I think the study is probably correct when it comes to winning a single debate, it would be foolish to allow determination of scientific trutn to come down to a single, winner-take-al debate.

    I think you might get some very different conclusions if you looked at repeated trials of “debates” with uncommited observers having a backlash when they find they’ve been lied to.

    Frankly, I would be loath to go one scintilla beyond the scientific consensus in trying to convince a layman–to do otherwise verges on misconduct. I really think that the key here is to be found in Mark Twain’s admonition:

    “If you tell the truth, you’ll eventually be found out.”

  40. #40 Porco Dio
    April 29, 2010

    this is remarkable, pure genius, revolutionary stuff….

    who would have thought that we could examine these concepts and their consequences better ourselves for knowing it.?

    A hundred years ago there were no public schools, logic and analytical skills were not taught to entire populations by legal statute.

    by learning to understand human function we’re making the first steps to determine our destiny.

  41. #41 MATTIR
    April 29, 2010

    I have squandered years trying to establish common ground with various religious people and conservatives I disagree with, and I will tell everyone: it is a TOTAL WASTE OF TIME to try to establish consensus with people who are 110% convinced that they are right because a magic spirit said so. It leads to ulcers and an overwhelming desire to punch the idiots. As a middle-aged-tone-troll-in-recovery, I strongly urge people not to waste years and years doing this. Figure out for yourself where the disagreements are, keep those in mind for yourself so that you don’t step into fights you aren’t trying to get into, and speak up clearly and forcefully when it’s something you care about.

    In science, as in romance, passion matters.

  42. #42 Charlie Foxtrot
    April 29, 2010

    Chief: What is it that a man may call the greatest things in life?
    Cohen: Hot water,good dentishtry and shoft lavatory paper.
    Peers: *muttered agreement*

  43. #43 Morse
    April 29, 2010

    It’s been discovered that the Bible is actually a mathematical and physical constant necessary for the very inner most workings of our universe. Christianity has also been found found among packs of dogs, and 11/10 astrologers will agree that the orientations of the planets are only explainable by God’s existence. These are all indisputable facts.

    I would ask you to bow before my inflexibility, but I understand that bowing is hard when you are likewise inflexible.

  44. #44 pjreiss
    April 29, 2010

    @Pierce R. Butler #38

    … grep run amuck.
    Better get that term (no, not grep!), and concept, clear and properly spelled before you venture into bear-shirt Viking territory!

    The word “amok” and the concept are from Malay you idiot, it’s got nothing to do the norse. And “amuck” is a perfectly valid English rendering.

  45. #45 Ing
    April 29, 2010

    “Is it some sort of in-circle creotard joke to mispell PZ’s name?”

    “Hi allow me to mispronounce your name to show my disrespect for you”~Nostalgia Critic.

  46. #46 Sister Mary FP
    April 29, 2010

    Seems to me this all depends on the assumption that a true debate is going, and that the truth actually matters.

    My encounters in this arena lead me to believe otherwise, the fanatic isn’t a liar (necessarily) the fanatic is a bullshitter. A bullshitter maneuvers the debate to the point where the truth no longer matters.

    From H.G. Frankfurt’s fantastic book:

    “Bullshitters seek to convey a certain impression of themselves without being concerned about whether anything at all is true. They quietly change the rules governing their end of the conversation so that claims about truth and falsity are irrelevant. Bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.”

    http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7929.html

    How do we counter /that/?

  47. #47 gould1865
    April 29, 2010

    So we are invited to look at strategies and compare notes. Seems like fun.

    I can’t decide what an inflexible is, must be, because, in the hands of a good speaker, what appears inflexible can me made to be, or at least appear, flexible, for either side, or a third side. Watching Prime Minister’s questioning in Parliament is instructive. They all are talking, both Q&A, for the public all the way.

    But I’m in the U.S. Because debate is an art, no one can teach it by exposition, but some exist who can show you some strategies by example. So peculiarly individual is the art that what one can say to a public, another cannot say the same without looking silly. Each has to be brave enough to try something and get feedback, for later use, in order to find your way.

    So I suspect this paper is saying essentially the same as said by Lloyd Paul Stryker, “The law is what is boldly and confidently maintained.” [surprise, people think it's stare decisis] except substitute “state of evolution” for “law” to get, “The state of evolution is what is boldly and confidently maintained.” [surprise, people think it's scientific facts, but we are in a debate here, use changes] So there are two elements, 1) boldly and confidently, and 2) maintained. Within ‘maintained’ is first the positive material prepared and presented, (facts if you will), and then are added reasonings around those facts, and then an idea of the cumulative effect, and a run right smack up to the necessary conclusion but give the public time to think of it on their own, then state it, and shut up for awhile as it sinks in, and sit down. Within ‘maintained’ may be, at your discretion, ‘inflexibles.’ ‘Boldly and confidently’ may be sharply dramatic or less so depending on who the ‘public’ is and the media involved. Radio and serried audiences can take a hotter approach than TV —TV is the place to keep your cool (you are a talking head) and the medium will carry your intensity for you.

    So who’s the designated public? PZ answers that it’s the other side, meaning fence sitters and creationists to persuade, even if for the night for now. My experience has been that the public mind is like concrete, creationist or not. What persuades them is, in my opinion, the ‘boldly and confidently’ of the maintaining, little else.

    So I say we’re SOL for learning by exposition. Still, in this look at strategies I can make a few suggestions then you do the discarding. Practice in front of a mirror. Practice phraseology you like and are familiar with. Get you some you can use any time. I always enjoyed Isaiah’s ‘How long, oh how long,’ as good standby phrasing. I know it’s ridiculous, so you must look dead serious, and it’s not for everyone. And last suggestion, while you’re speaking, tell yourself, many times, you love this public, and that will help you and the result.

    And that’s my addition to the look at strategies.
    Cheers.

  48. #48 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2010

    “The major limitation of both evolution and climatology theories is their incapacity to make predictions, which could be refuted by setting an experiment.”

    you may have found the real reason “Design” in all its forms is capitalized in this paper.

    My conclusion right off was that it was actually written by someone pro-ID.

    that said, I can still evaluate this paper on its merits.

    It has relatively few of them, frankly, so it’s not all that hard.

    it corresponds to my prior experience and biases!

    heh.

  49. #49 Ichthyic
    April 30, 2010

    * fitness being defined as how well you fit into your particular species niche.

    …just to be clear, that’s not actually how fitness is defined in terms of the ToE.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fitness_%28biology%29

  50. #50 paulmurray
    April 30, 2010

    I’m a professional concert pianist, and I’m well-versed in sharps and flats.

    I’m an aerodynamic engineer, and I’m well-versed in the Bernoulli’s principle.

    I’m a software developer, and I’m well-versed in while loops.

    How about:

    I’m a long-distance truck driver, and I’m well-versed in indicator signals.

    LOL. People who make there living in a discipline do not generally mention something fundamental and crucial to that discipline a) to make a point that they know it and b) to just blow it off with a “Yeah, I’m like – totally all over that”.

  51. #51 clausentum
    April 30, 2010

    quote
    JLippam @30: Galam’s paper is pretty wacky……..

    the Boss @32: Yes. And the methods are rather abstract……..

    Reading the extracts in PZ’s post, the first thing I thought was that this is a spoof la Sokal.

  52. #52 https://me.yahoo.com/a/O.jullMj0I2VvJaxMMVeNKSfOPf73voLSxJAe9PdlOWwi8Y-#258ec
    April 30, 2010

    PZ said
    We tend to assume the creationists can’t really be that stupid, and figure they must have some legitimate complaint about some aspect of evolution with which we can sympathize. They don’t. They really are that nuts.<<

    same goes for global warming denialists stupid as in ignorant or kind a slow maybe not but that they think they are correct because of who they are and what they think regardless of any evidence or reasonable arguments is a fact. Does it matter if we know why they are nuts help in any way to win the debate or change the facts. they are living in some kind of delusional illusional state and have absof’nlutly no interest in objective reality. They would rather live in a reality in which their believes make reality then accept reality the way it is. Funny thing about it reality it does not require belief in order to be true.
    A long time ago Thomas Huxley entered into debate I do not think he was to worried about how he might appear and was not afraid of not accommodating believers or their beliefs when defending Evolution and he did not have the evidence we have been able to build up.

    uncle frogy

  53. #53 chaseacross
    April 30, 2010

    This notion that certainty wins more converts than waffling or spiraling refinement of definitions has the ring of truth to me. A creationist only has to throw some unanswerable, irrelevant metaphysics onto the floor to put a scientist into “ummm,” territory, and then sweep up the “floaters” with their brimming confidence. Scientists need to develop some strong stock responses to metaphysical or other forms of chicanery, something along the lines of “that’s nice, but the grown ups are talking now.” Same reason why Republican message discipline trumps Obama-style “on the one hand…” lecturing every time. It’s just like the Big Lie theory- say it loud enough, strong enough, and the factual basis just doesn’t matter.

  54. #54 David Marjanovi?
    April 30, 2010

    I’m a biologist well versed in evolution and pop gen and all this approach of yours has accomplished has been to alienate me and come to the conclusion that you’re a boorish lout, Meyers [sic]. I agree with you on most matters scientific but couldn’t disagree more with your behavior. To my mind, you’ve become the very thing you loathe. Think about it.

    The thing he loathes?

    That would be someone who makes arguments from ignorance, from personal incredulity, from untested premises such as religious faith.

    Let me take an example: Does the sun turns around the earth, or is it the other way around ? This was a huge debate. Vocal scientist stated that it was earth that was actually turning around the sun, not the contrary. Because, at that time, earth-centered theories were religious. But what does really science says about this topic (now the debate is over) ? It states that this question doesn’t make sense. Both are valid, it depends on the frame of reference you choose, and what’s interesting is how to convert from one to another, the inertial accelerations etc.

    Wrong! Acceleration, you see, is not relative, and rotation is a form of acceleration (because it’s a constant change to the velocity vector). If the Earth stood still, nearby stars would be moving faster than light in the same frame of reference. I am seriously confident that nothing can move faster than light in any frame of reference, because the theory of relativity has been correct everywhere else so far.

    Einstein reportedly wondered whether he should call it “theory of invariance” instead of “theory of relativity” in order to drive the point home that the speed of light is identical for all observers.

    Hey, guys, don’t worry about darwinsdog ? it’s water off a duck’s back.

    So what? I have SIWOTI syndrome. :-|

    Some of the wickedest disembowelments come from those clever, witty, exquisitely courteous chaps who, with scholarly air and all due consideration, gently cut their opponents, and their opponents’ arguments, to tattered shreds.

    Well… I don’t think people like Grayling are actually all that nice. While they use nice words, they regularly accuse their opponents of being nothing short of stupid.

    I always enjoyed Isaiah’s ‘How long, oh how long,’ as good standby phrasing.

    Isaiah? Are you thinking of Cicero’s quo usque tandem, Catilina, abutere patientia nostra?

  55. #55 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    So maybe being a boorish lout is more productive than trying to be kind and polite to liars.

    Interesting theory, do you have some evidence to prove it?

    I’m a little confused, PZ Myers and several contributors here don’t seem to think much of the paper this blog entry is based on, so why use it as a reference point at all? I thought as skeptical thinkers we only dealt with evidence and reputable references. For a skeptic to claim state

    I don’t have a background in this field to be able to say whether the model has good empirical support or not….But that’s what this paper says I should do anyway!

    seems a little strange to me.

    I’ve argued with various woo advocates and have found the moment name calling starts the argument deteriorates, where as sustained rational debate countering each point does make a difference. It is also more likely to pull any fencesitters over to your side instead of theirs. Whereas aggressive tactics especially name calling is more likely to push fence sitters over to the opposition. my experience is that it is tenacity that helps rather than name calling in frustration.
    Call me a concern/tone troll or accommodationist if you like but follow that up with reasonable proof that name calling etc is more likely to attract people to the side of science and rationality.

  56. #56 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    apologies for the formatting of my previous entry. Not quite sure what I did.

  57. #57 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    We tend to assume the creationists can’t really be that stupid, and figure they must have some legitimate complaint about some aspect of evolution with which we can sympathize. They don’t. They really are that nuts. PZ Myers

    On the contrary, my impression is that most people on these blocks automatically assume that creationists are nuts.

    I think Michael Shermer’s ideas on intellectual attribution bias view this differently.

    http://disevangelists.blogspot.com/2009/01/metacognition-intellectual-attribution.html

    Do you really think that many people are irrational on purpose? Used to thinking in irrational ways, yes, lacking in knowledge, yes, but purposely irrational??

  58. #58 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    Apologies for my previous poor formatting and referencing, comments repeated below:

    Tis Himself, OM wrote:

    So maybe being a boorish lout is more productive than trying to be kind and polite to liars.

    Interesting theory, do you have some evidence to prove it?

    I’m a little confused, PZ Myers and several contributors here don’t seem to think much of the paper this blog entry is based on, so why use it as a reference point at all? I thought as skeptical thinkers we only dealt with evidence and reputable references. For a skeptic to claim state

    I don’t have a background in this field to be able to say whether the model has good empirical support or not….But that’s what this paper says I should do anyway!

    seems a little strange to me.

    I’ve argued with various woo advocates and have found the moment name calling starts the argument deteriorates, where as sustained rational debate countering each point does make a difference. It is also more likely to pull any fencesitters over to your side instead of theirs. Whereas aggressive tactics especially name calling is more likely to push fence sitters over to the opposition. my experience is that it is tenacity that helps rather than name calling in frustration.
    Call me a concern/tone troll or accommodationist if you like but follow that up with reasonable proof that name calling etc is more likely to attract people to the side of science and rationality.

  59. #59 Carlie
    April 30, 2010

    So maybe being a boorish lout is more productive than trying to be kind and polite to liars.
    Interesting theory, do you have some evidence to prove it?

    I don’t remember learning about how kind and polite and accommodating the suffragettes and civil rights activists were.

  60. #60 John Morales
    April 30, 2010

    mikee:

    I’ve argued with various woo advocates and have found the moment name calling starts the argument deteriorates, where as sustained rational debate countering each point does make a difference.

    Hm. I too have argued with various woo advocates, and have found the moment you stop calling them on their bullshit and disputing their assumptions, they think you’re conceding validity to their spurious claims.

    Call me a concern/tone troll or accommodationist if you like but follow that up with reasonable proof that name calling etc is more likely to attract people to the side of science and rationality.

    You don’t see a difference between aggressive tactics and name calling?

    BTW, telling someone they’re being obfuscatory or dishonest ain’t name-calling, if they’re being so and you can adduce evidence for it.

  61. #61 cosmicaug
    April 30, 2010

    “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women!”

  62. #62 nigelTheBold
    April 30, 2010

    For a skeptic to claim state (sic)

    I don’t have a background in this field to be able to say whether the model has good empirical support or not….But that’s what this paper says I should do anyway!

    seems a little strange to me.

    There seems to be a serious shortage of humoutrons these days. Are they interacting with the republitrons and being annihilated via the Palin effect?

    I’ve argued with various woo advocates and have found the moment name calling starts the argument deteriorates, where as sustained rational debate countering each point does make a difference.

    Ah, yes. In every job that needs done, there is only one kind of worker required. Why, in my company alone (which produces software), we are all finance people, because I’ve worked in many businesses and have found the moment bills stop being payed, and invoices sent, the business deteriorates.

    Thank Grue for self-programming computers.

  63. #63 MetzO'Magic
    April 30, 2010

    @Epictetus #34

    The creationists are opposed to evolutionary theory simply because it conflicts with their literalist interpretation of the Bible.

    Exactly. It’s usually that simple. Likewise, there are parallels with the AGW deniers. Their denial has little or nothing to do with the science. Either they have a vested interest in coal or oil, or some ideological conflict, or (probably the most common) they’re afraid of what comforts they might have to give up to preserve the Earth as we know it for future generations.

  64. #64 gould1865
    April 30, 2010

    @ David Marjanovi?

    “Isaiah? Are you thinking of Cicero’s quo usque tandem, Catilina, abutere patientia nostra?”

    No, what I am thinking of is much more mundane. At the 1956 Democratic convention the keynote speaker, Frank G. Clement of Tennessee, considered a great orator, used the theme, “How long, oh how long, America…” Huntley and Brinkley did the TV coverage for NBC. The how long, oh how long, phrasing was said to be from Isaiah saying ‘How long oh how long O Lord.’ To check that in 1956 would require a concordance and more interest than I had. That’s all I’m thinking of to cite Isaiah. If that was error it was national.

    Wiki has a good article on ’1956 Democratic National Convention’ which was the beginning of much politics, as shown in the VP race. JF Kennedy, Johnson, Humphrey, Al Gore Sr. (to be followed by his son), were all candidates, and four others.

    A quick check of google finds ‘How long O Lord’ in Isaiah 6: 11-13. However, I think you have a side point that if asked, it could come from either Cicero or.

    An example of the usage : How long, O how long, are we going to wait to put up a stop sign… until someone is killed?

    Cheers

  65. #65 Pierce R. Butler
    April 30, 2010

    pjreiss @ # 44 – dammit, you’re right!

  66. #66 David Marjanovi?
    April 30, 2010

    There seems to be a serious shortage of humoutrons these days. Are they interacting with the republitrons and being annihilated via the Palin effect?

    Day saved.

  67. #67 Gus Snarp
    April 30, 2010

    Looks like an agent based simulation study of human behavior. Which, having done agent based simulation of human behavior, is pretty much all crap research, including mine.

  68. #68 duckphup
    April 30, 2010

    I think there’s a simple concept that lies at the core of this issue, which really is a matter of religious ‘belief’… and this context, ‘belief’ is the ILLUSION of knowledge. ‘Knowledge’ is the ideal cure for cognitive dissonance. But as it happens, the ILLUSION of knowledge (belief) also cures cognitive dissonance… and it has the advantage of being much cheaper and much easier to propagate than actual knowledge; it also happens to be much less work and trouble for the victim target to process and assimilate.

    We occasionally hear speculation that we are ‘wired’ for God/religious belief. I don’t think that’s correct. Instead, I think that we’re wired for gullibility and self-delusion… which also happens to be an accurate descriptor for the ILLUSION of knowledge. The percentage of humanity that is able to overcome the biases imposed by this ‘wiring’ is distressingly and alarmingly small.

    With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, it should be obvious to anyone who is at least moderately smarter than a cauliflower that the abstract concept of ‘god’, in its pure form, functions as a place-holder for future ‘knowledge’. Where earlier man encountered the distress of cognitive dissonance (“Daddy… what holds the sky up?”), and was unable to quell it by extracting ‘knowledge’ from nature (which was mostly), the only available option was to invent an answer based in the supernatural (“Fred holds the sky up.”), and accept it as a matter of ‘faith’.

    At some point, unscrupulous people figured-out that if they could convincingly pretend that they were able to communicate with Fred, and convey what he wanted and warn folks about what pissed him off, people would bring them lunch and supper. Thus was born ‘religion’.

    ?Religion was invented when the first con man met the first fool.? ~ Dr. James Corbett

    In ‘phase space’ defined by ‘humanity’, religion exists and subsists as a parasite, nurturing this penchant for gullibility and self-delusion, and symbiotically sustaining itself. Like any successful parasite, religion debilitates, weakens and degrades its host (humanity) as it struggles to continue itself, without actually killing it; at least… not yet.

    The thing is… even today… we are still forced to contend with the fact that the ILLUSION of knowledge is in many ways superior to the ideal… ACTUAL knowledge… as a cure for cognitive dissonance and the psychological distress that comes of not ‘knowing’. I think that ‘sane people’ are best defined as those who are able to accept the actual state of affairs… “I don’t know”… without experiencing distress. The trouble is that in using that definition, we begin to see and understand that less than 15% of the adult population of the USA is able to accept “I don’t know”… and that 85%+ of anything defines what is ‘normal’. So… in the USA, at least… insanity is ‘normal’… sanity is abnormal… and the inmates are running the asylum.

    “When one person suffers from a delusion, it is called ‘insanity’. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called ‘religion’.” ~ Robert M. Pirsig

  69. #69 mikee
    April 30, 2010

    John Morales wrote:

    Hm. I too have argued with various woo advocates, and have found the moment you stop calling them on their bullshit and disputing their assumptions, they think you’re conceding validity to their spurious claims.

    Agreed, I don’t think we should ever stop calling them on their irrational arguments, but I think it is more effective if it is done without the namecalling that sometimes accompanies the debate.
    I’d much rather challenge them on the facts.

    Carlie wrote:

    I don’t remember learning about how kind and polite and accommodating the suffragettes and civil rights activists were.

    I don’t remember the suffragettes and civil rights activists specifically using name calling to make progress. They made some good rational arguments as well as emotive appeals to the injustice of inequality which won them support.
    Kate Sheppard who lead the suffragette movement in New Zealand used her intellect to win all New Zealand women the right to vote in 1893, ahead of any other country in the world.

    Yes, we have to challenge woo whereever we see it. My argument is that we need to be careful with our tactics. Rational debate -yes; civic duty – yes; creativity such as the 10:23 homeopathy challenge – certainly; namecalling and personal attacks – no, as I think this approach not only hardens the view of the woo advocates, it also pushes those who are currently undecided over to the side of woo.

  70. #70 gould1865
    April 30, 2010

    @ mikee # 65

    This thread is old but I will give you some attention.

    You write: “I don’t remember the suffragettes and civil rights activists specifically using name calling to make progress.”

    Your memory is selective here.

    You want to be nice. You can. But you need not think that that is persuasive by itself, as your sentiment is incomplete.

    Martin Luther King was not effective without Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, who “specifically used name calling to make progress.” Obviously you have not read these persons, since you are still learning, Honky.

    Ghandi was not effective without the militants in the north.

    As to suffragettes, your Kate’s dad was a minister, what do you expect. She got her start in the Temperance Movement. She wanted to vote, she had to show restraint. In the U.S. Carrie Nation took hatchets and went in and busted up saloons and drove the men out. What kind of name-calling would that be? More than name-calling, right? Carrie too transferred from temperance movement to suffragette. And in England one poor woman ran out on the racetrack and was killed. You think it’s recorded whether she called anyone a name? And when the English women chained themselves to ironwork and went on hunger strikes to be force fed, you think it’s recorded whether they called anyone a name?

    Were the civil rights workers in Mississippi killed because they called someone a name?

    Your concern about name-calling is misplaced and can be used against you so that you make no progress. If you’re hungry, if you’re deprived, you won’t find being nice so nice. But you are neither and that’s how your concern came to be misplaced.

  71. #71 abb3w
    April 30, 2010

    mikee: I don’t remember the suffragettes and civil rights activists specifically using name calling to make progress.
    gould1865: Your memory is selective here.

    I would be less charitable in my characterization.

    For any state to make sex a qualification that must ever result in the disfranchisement of one entire half of the people, is to pass a bill of attainder, or, an ex post facto law, and is therefore a violation of the supreme law of the land. By it the blessings of liberty are forever withheld from women and their female posterity.

    To them this government has no just powers derived from the consent of the governed. To them this government is not a democracy. It is not a republic. It is an odious aristocracy; a hateful oligarchy of sex; the most hateful aristocracy ever established on the face of the globe; an oligarchy of wealth, where the rich govern the poor. An oligarchy of learning, where the educated govern the ignorant, or even an oligarchy of race, where the Saxon rules the African, might be endured; but this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household – which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects, carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.
    — Susan B. Anthony

    A few American Treitschkes we have who know better than women what is good for them. There are women, too, with “slave souls” and “clinging vines” for backbones. There are female dolls and male dandies. But the world does not wait for such as these, nor does liberty pause to heed the plaint of men and women with a grouch. She does not wait for those who have a special interest to serve, nor a selfish reason for depriving other people of freedom. Holding her torch aloft, liberty is pointing the way onward and upward and saying to America, “Come.”
    — Carrie Chapman

    It is enough to silence forever the selfish addleheaded drivel of the anti-suffragists who say that working women can safely trust their welfare to their “natural protectors”!!? Trust the men who allow seven hundred women to sit wedged between the machines, in a ten-story building with no outside fire escapes, and the exits shuttered and locked? We claim in no uncertain voice that the time has come when women should have the one efficient tool with which to make for themselves decent and safe working conditions?the ballot.
    — Mary Ware Dennett

    I admit, the eloquence of the modern insult is degenerate by comparison; however, the denigration of folly is no less sincere, and further might be argued as necessary to insuring comprehension by the target audience.

    I would also note that insult is more effective when saved for special occasions.

  72. #72 mikee
    May 1, 2010

    gould1865 and abb3w

    you make some interesting points, certainly food for thought. It does strike me that the civil rights/suffragette movements made the most progress with group action, and that namecalling as it sometimes occurs on here, in isolation, by comparison seems pointless.
    Having taken part in the 10:23 protest of homeopathy in NZ, it worked extremely effectively and involved no name calling or denigration of our “homeopath” opponents. Through action alone we had the national homeopath organisation state for the record that there is no active component in homeopathic preparations and that they have no idea how it works. And a great media debate as well.

    You want to be nice.

    Not sure that opponents consider my approach “nice” as being challenged with facts is uncomfortable. I just see no advantage in namecalling when rational debate will suffice.
    If one accepts gould1865′s point that:

    Martin Luther King was not effective without Stokely Carmichael, Huey Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Malcolm X, … Ghandi was not effective without the militants in the north.

    I guess that at least means that you accept that non-name calling approaches can work as well?
    At least we all agree that “woo” has to be challenged.

    And good guess with the “honky” remark, though how you guessed I was not Asian, Indian, Maori etc I have no idea – you’re not psychic are you? (sorry couldn’t resist that in skeptic company).

  73. #73 John Morales
    May 1, 2010

    mikee, are you familiar with the concept of the Overton window?

    (Yes, it’s a political theoretic concept, but consider its possible applicability to other fields. In particular, think of how much more relatively acceptable such as you are than those who, ah, “name-call”.)

  74. #74 mikee
    May 1, 2010

    John Morales wrote:

    are you familiar with the concept of the Overton window?

    I am now :-) and what I have read so far is quite intriguing. Are there any specific sources of information about the Overton window that you would recommend? (all I’ve done so far is a quick google search)

    It seems to me that it is a societal version of some psychological theories that describe how individual behaviour can change and could possibly relate to some of the ideas in the educational theory of “threshhold concepts”

    Thanks

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