Accommodation VS Confrontation: A Debate


Welcome Readers to the Accommodation VS Confrontation Debate. As you may be aware, there is a bone of contention amongst members of the skeptical community that continues to surface on a regular basis. That being, how much leeway do we give believers in the supernatural? Do we accommodate those beliefs for the sake of building the community? Do we reject or ridicule those with beliefs in the paranormal because they are not using critical thinking? Is there a balance? Should we even attempt to strike that balance? These and other related questions will be addressed in this debate.

We invite you, the reader, to add your own views and perspectives in the comments section.

As my colleague and I have previously decided, I will give my answers first and he will respond with his ideas.

First, how much “leeway” do we give believers in the supernatural? This question is dependent on multiple factors. Is the believer breaking the law? If so then that person should be prosecuted in accordance with the laws of their country. Is the believer knowingly perpetuating a fraud the way the Fox Sisters or Peter Popov did? Those people should be confronted with the evidence of their hoax by someone who has properly investigated the situation. If they have broken the law, prosecute them.

If, however, the believer in question is not defrauding people with the purposes of making money and only has personal beliefs, there is evidence that implies a gentle approach to helping them see these beliefs for what they are is more effective. Psychologists interviewed in this article in the New York Times state that the brain is evolutionarily hard-wired for magical thinking. Magical thinking is another way of saying that correlation equals causation. An example of this would be, as shown in the NYT article, a young woman applies to the University of Michigan. Later that day she sees someone carrying an umbrella with the U of M isologotype on it. She sees that as a sign because such things are not typical for her area. Instead of chalking it up to coincidence, she ascribes a larger meaning to what she saw.

Dr. Wegner (in the NYT article) said. “This feeling that your thoughts can somehow control things can be a needed feeling” — the polar opposite of the helplessness, he added, that so often accompanies depression”. People need to feel that they are in control because their lives are unpredictable or unstable.

Because of those factors, I think that a gentle approach to this type of person would be more effective. If we are talking about someone who is already emotionally wounded, taking an abrasive approach could, depending on the person’s situation, make their depression or feelings of helplessness, worse. By an abrasive approach, I mean being insulting. People find it difficult to separate themselves from their beliefs. As we’ve seen above, the human brain is hard-wired for this type of thinking. Extricating ourselves from that and overcoming our evolution takes time. This is why I advocate for education.

“Do we accommodate those beliefs for the sake of building our skeptical community?” To some extent, yes. For the reasons above, we should be aware of the situation of the individual involved. This really should be evaluated on a case by case basis.

“Do we reject or ridicule those with beliefs in the paranormal because they are not using critical thinking?” No. I advocate for education. If the person involved has not been introduced to critical thinking, then take the time to educate them. Introduce them to Skeptics Guide to the Universe. Suggest they read Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan. I have heard so many people ask what they can do to help further skepticism. THIS is something anyone can do. Talk to people.

That being said, there are people like Peter Popov and Sylvia Brown who knowingly perpetuate the lie that they have special or divine knowledge given to them by a higher power. This type of public figure is definitely worthy of ridicule. A person who causes emotional harm with their supposed powers SHOULD be ridiculed. Loudly and publicly. Why? Because they KNOW they are perpetuating a lie.

Is there a balance? I think this depends on the situation. If someone has critical thinking skills and is choosing not to use them, or has made blatant errors in the critical thinking, then being blunt in pointing that out is acceptable.  Why? Because that person has probably already overcome the insecurities or need for control that accompanies magical thinking. However, if we are talking about someone who is immersed in magical thinking and has not begun to overcome our evolution, a more gentle approach is called for. If we chose not to take a gentle approach, there is a possibility of causing harm to someone who is depressive.

Should we even attempt to strike that balance? For me, this is a difficult question. I don’t want to make a blanket statement. I also do not want to tell people what or how to think. As with the approach to various types of believers, I think that skeptics taking the time to find that balance is up to the individual skeptic. How we act is, barring mental illness or disability, our own personal choice.

***************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

****************************************************************************************************************************************************************************************

Hi everyone,

Thanks to Maria for setting this up, I hope we’re interesting.  By way of a brief introduction, my name is Rob Smith and I’m a Computer Scientist at Leeds University in the UK.  I’ve been a skeptic and an atheist for around 30 years and have been becoming steadily less of an accomodationist throughout that time.  I have a number of issues with the accomodationist stance, which I hope to hint at here and discuss in more depth in round 2.  First, I’ll answer Maria’s questions:

1.      How much leeway should we give believers in the supernatural?
I’m not much concerned with people’s private beliefs.  I’m not even much concerned if they don’t keep them private.  I become concerned when people’s views harm others, but the problem is to determine what constitutes harm.  It’s not easy.  Consider the example of Rhys Morgan, winner of the James Randi Award for Grassroots Activism at TAM London 2.  Rhys successfully campaigned against a scam cure for Crohn’s disease to the benefit of all. However, in doing this, he posted on the Crohn’s Disease Support Forum warning people of the dangers of this product, and received a lot of sustained personal abuse from alternative medicine supporters.  These people were – to the best of my knowledge – not trying to deceive for profit, and yet I think it’s fair to consider their actions harmful, even though I’m sure it was not their intention to harm anyone.  Their belief in a fake product caused them to attack overwhelming evidence that it was a scam.  How much leeway should we give these generally well-meaning people who might unintentionally cause harm?  I think it’s our duty as concerned citizens to attack their beliefs and their positions at every opportunity.  This might not change the minds of true believers, but this isn’t the only goal we can aspire to: we can also go after the low-hanging fruit, such as fence-sitters or those who haven’t been exposed to much skeptical thinking.

2. Do we accommodate supernatural beliefs for the sake of building the skeptical community?
The problem with accommodating something is that by definition we must pay a price.  In accommodating supernatural beliefs as a tactical position, we must determine whether this price is too high.  This is the central issue of accomodationism and the thing we’ve really been arguing about all this time.  The various aspects of this equation are too numerous and complex to discuss here, but hopefully we can get to that in round 2.  For now, I’ll only ask people to consider what the price might be and what we might actually buy with it other than some additional supporters (on paper at least) of skeptical thought. Are we converting people or redefining them?  Are we educating people in skeptical thought or demonstrating that there are some things they don’t have to be skeptical about?  Do we expect all skeptics to toe a party line and disapprove of those who don’t?

3.      Do we reject or ridicule those with beliefs in the paranormal because they are not using critical thinking?
I think the issue here is to attack the belief rather than the person. To people with deeply held beliefs, this can seem like almost the same thing, which accounts for the sense of persecution among the religious, but this should not render those beliefs immune to attack.   I have no difficulty in considering someone as generally skeptical but with a blind spot.  It concerns me when people don’t apply the same level of skepticism to all things, but that doesn’t mean they don’t do useful work in other areas.  Francis Collins is an obvious example: a scientist who has made some important contributions, but doesn’t apply the scientific approach to his religious beliefs.  I would certainly attack those beliefs and one of the tools I might use is ridicule – there hardly seems any other way to react to many supernatural beliefs, particularly religious ones, other than with ridicule – but I would try not to ridicule Collins or anyone else for holding them.  Some sensitivity is required, but we’re all adults and if people are going to be over-sensitive, they lose the argument.  This might not attract them to our cause, but then we need to examine our goals: are we trying to convert die-hard believers or to demonstrate the absurdity of supernatural beliefs for the benefit of fence sitters?  Isn’t helping to break down taboos about questioning religion in particular a valuable thing to do, even if it alienates people without a sense of humour?

4.      Is there a balance?
I think ‘balance’ is the wrong word.  I’d say instead that there’s room for many different approaches and I’m deeply suspicious of anyone who suggests a party line.  Humour and ridicule can be useful tools, but they’re not the only ones.  So is careful logical reasoning, but that’s not likely to influence die-hard believers much either.  Different skeptics have different goals, methods and tools.  We’re a diverse bunch with different strengths, each interested in doing different things.  I don’t think there’s a cause or a single goal and I’m not convinced there ought to be.

In round 2, I’d like to examine some of these issues in more detail.  In particular, I’d like to look first at the issue of the cost of accomodationism and what we might actually buy with it and second at a comparison between a rag-tag community with a diverse approach and a movement employing common tactics to achieve shared goals.  Both approaches have merit, but they’re not equally suited to every situation.  I’ll argue in favour of the former.  It’s perhaps the easier position since it incorporates the accomodationist view

MY REPLY:

1) I am familiar with Rhys Morgan’s story. Since I do not know him, I can’t say whether any real harm was done beyond emotional discomfort and upset. In an interview I heard on SGU, he talked about people on the Crohn’s Disease forum being abusive and generally in denial because they had experienced a placebo effect from the product.

Joe Nickel has talked about this phenomenon among believers in his interview with D.J. Grothe on Point of Inquiry. Nickel said that when he became a paranormal investigator, he thought that people would be grateful to him for finding out that there was no ghost, etc. Just the opposite happened. It sounds like it was the same in Rhys’ case. People were unable to separate themselves from their beliefs and so they lashed out.

Here, I would like to point back to the NYT article in my initial post. The people in Rhys’ case were suffering from a disease and feeling helpless. At that point the magical thinking kicked in because they so desperately wanted ANYTHING to work. Even though they were abusive to Rhys, who was doing his best to help, they are also deserving of compassion. I do think that, for the most part we agree on this point. We need a good definition of what causes harm.

2) The questions you pose are, as you said, at the core of this apple. Shall we agree to tackle those questions after you have replied to this?

3) We seem to have a basic agreement here. These were the same ideas that were put forth at Skepticon III. The only issue I see is: What do we do once we have plucked all the low hanging fruit?

4) I’m not certain how many different approaches there CAN be. From an anecdotal standpoint I’ve seen only three: Educational (calm and polite – but it takes a long time and usually only is used on an individual basis unless at a skeptical event), Humor (effective and sort of a middle-ground approach. It seems to be minor ridicule but focused on the belief, not the person in many cases) and Ridicule (this is the “You’re a moron for believing that bullshit” approach).

If there are other approaches you’ve seen, I would love to hear about them.

ROB’S REPLY:

> 1) I am familiar with Rhys Morgan’s story. Since I do not know him, I
> can’t say whether any real harm was done beyond emotional discomfort
> and upset. In an interview I heard on SGU, he talked about people on
> the Crohn’s Disease forum being abusive and generally in denial
> because they had experienced a placebo effect from the product.

I’m not sure you understand the point of my example.  For the purposes of my argument it doesn’t matter whether the nett result of the exchange was positive or negative (whatever that could mean).  As it happens, I’d be quite prepared to suggest it was positive since it probably bolstered Rhys’ skepticism and brought the plight of Crohn’s sufferers to the public eye.  But this is beside the point.  The point is that this type of behaviour is potentially harmful, even if there’s no *intention* to harm.  My suggestion is that we should give absolutely no leeway at all to people making these arguments.  What do I mean by ‘leeway’ in this respect?  We don’t pretend that their arguments make sense.  We don’t pretend they are exhibiting skeptical behaviour.  We treat their arguments as nonsense whenever and wherever we encounter it.  We don’t focus only on those intending to cause harm: the genuinely deluded can be just as harmful.  Their insanity does not excuse them from criticism.  We don’t sit around after the fact judging whether the behaviour was harmful, we recognise it as potentially harmful and do something about it by attacking it in one way or another.

> Joe Nickel has talked about this phenomenon among believers in his
> interview with D.J. Grothe on Point of Inquiry. Nickel said that when > he became a paranormal investigator, he thought that people would be
> grateful to him for finding out that there was no ghost, etc. Just
> the opposite happened. It sounds like it was the same in Rhys’ case.
> People were unable to separate themselves from their beliefs and so
> they lashed out.

Yes, it’s understandable.  Nobody likes their crutches kicked from under them.  But that doesn’t excuse hateful vitriol.  It doesn’t excuse ganging up on someone who’s trying to help you.  I understand, but I don’t sanction the behaviour.

> Here, I would like to point back to the NYT article in my initial
> post. The people in Rhys’ case were suffering from a disease and
> feeling helpless. At that point the magical thinking kicked in
> because they so desperately wanted ANYTHING to work. Even though they
> were abusive to Rhys, who was doing his best to help, they are also
> deserving of compassion. I do think that, for the most part we agree
> on this point. We need a good definition of what causes harm.

How sympathetic can we be to people who set themselves up as sole arbiters of reality?  Well, I’m sympathetic to any suffering, but the question here was about leeway.  Their suffering is not relevant to whether we pretend their nonsensical thinking is true or whether we should hesitate before attacking their broken arguments.  Philosophers have been arguing about what constitutes ‘harm’ for several thousand years.  I’m not sure the answer lies that way.  I think we’d be better off defining “leeway”.  What leeway am I personally willing to grant the abusers in this situation?  None.  Will I temper my takedown of their arguments with sympathy for their condition?  Of course.  But I won’t wear kid gloves.  If you put nonsense into the public domain, you’re fair game as far as I’m concerned, regardless of any unfortunate circumstances.  Remember, I’m not talking about what’s effective here, but about what leeway should be granted.  None.  Absolutely none.

> 2) The questions you pose are, as you said, at the core of this
> apple. Shall we agree to tackle those questions after you have
> replied to this?

Sure.

> 3) We seem to have a basic agreement here. These were the same ideas
> that were put forth at Skepticon III. The only issue I see is: What
> do we do once we have plucked all the low hanging fruit?

I hope you’re pleased with yourself: now I’m going to have to push the metaphor far further than I ever intended :)

When you pick low-hanging fruit, more grows in its place.

Now I’ve got that out of my system, I want to purge the metaphor entirely.  Perhaps the people we need to convince are the fence-sitters rather than the die-hards.  I’ve had hundreds of conversations with each.  I’ve rarely made much headway with true believers (perhaps because of my bad attitude, who knows?) but occasionally considerable strides with others.  As you’ve pointed out, magical thinking is the default setting for humans.  I suspect it’s a misfiring of a useful adaptive trait and we probably can’t easily help it.  We’re immersed in magical thinking from the cradle and many people don’t think to question it very much.  It’s pernicious: even people who don’t actively pursue magical careers do objectively crazy things like read their horoscopes in the paper or play the lottery.  I suggest that these are the people that need educating.  We need people like Randi to go after the big hitters because that certainly draws the crowds.  But we weaker creatures could do worse than work at the grass roots, remind people to question everything and attack bad arguments wherever we encounter them.  I’ve no idea whether this will eventually marginalise magical thinking, but I suspect it might if it’s sustained.  It seems to be working with religion in the UK: we have our share of loonies, but we’re becoming more secular all the time, perhaps because as a nation we don’t really trust people who say they know what they’re talking about.  Fewer people each day are raised to believe that criticising religion is taboo and perhaps that’s contributing to religion’s slow and creaky decline. I’m inclined to suspect it’s a factor.

I don’t expect ever to run out of low hanging fruit and I’m not convinced that the aim should necessarily be to move on to the tougher nuts (now you’ve made me mix metaphors).  I strongly suspect that the big guys are enabled more by the fence-sitters than the true believers.  We permit them to exist because we’re too polite. We shouldn’t be be polite to the likes of Sylvia Browne or Uri Geller at all: they are frauds and deserve nothing but contempt.  By being impolite, perhaps we can show a few people that we don’t have to tolerate these hateful buffoons.

> 4) I’m not certain how many different approaches there CAN be. From
> an anecdotal standpoint I’ve seen only three: Educational (calm and
> polite – but it takes a long time and usually only is used on an
> individual basis unless at a skeptical event), Humor (effective and
> sort of a middle-ground approach. It seems to be minor ridicule but
> focused on the belief, not the person in many cases) and Ridicule
> (this is the “You’re a moron for believing that bullshit” approach).
>
> If there are other approaches you’ve seen, I would love to hear about
> them.

I find the suggestion that approaches be carefully classified rather amusing.  There’s plainly a lot of leakage between categories which suggests to me that they’re not very useful.  By ‘approach’ I mean horses for courses.  Do whatever you think will be effective in every particular situation.  Change your strategy according to who you’re talking to.  Different approaches work in different situations.  Do what you’re good at, play to your strengths.  Do something well that only reaches a few people rather than do something badly that reaches nobody.

Or do everything badly, I don’t care.  I resent the idea that there should be a party line that skeptics should toe or a cause that we should all support or an attitude we should all embody.  You say that various categories of approach are more or less effective than others, but you don’t say what they are effective *for* and as I’ve suggested, I think this lies at the heart of the issue.  It seems like you’re assuming a common goal and I resent the idea that such a thing does – or should – exist.

So here’s my ‘alternative’ approach: I’ll fight my own battles in the way I see fit and hopefully be smart enough to adapt my tactics to achieve the goals I set for myself.  I won’t tell anyone else what battles to fight or how to fight them, although I’ll wade in with criticism if I want to, just as I’d expect people to criticise what I say.  One of the main problems with accomodationists is that they seem obsessed with telling everyone how to behave, what approach is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ according to their own mysterious criteria – which they expect everyone else to share – and with shrieking about ‘tone’.  No accomodationist has been able to back up their petulant assertion that I’m Not Helping.  They haven’t often been able to explain what it is that they think I OUGHT to be helping.  And they have on no account been able to explain WHY I should be helping their particular cause. In the meantime, I’ll carry on doing things as I see fit.

**************************************************************************************************************************

***************************************************************************************************************************

There are points I would love to comment on. However, we have agreed to a limited number of replies. So that wraps up Round One. Since I was the first to comment, my worthy opponent had the last word in this round. We will come back and touch on part of this rebuttal in the future. Now, we are moving on to Round Two in a separate post to make for ease of reading.

We hope you are enjoying the debate. Please tell your friends. We would love to hear your comments.

About these ads

30 Comments

  1. sgerbic said,

    December 21, 2010 at 12:12 am

    I guess it totally depends on the situation and how much time you have with that person. Someone you are going to be spending a lot of time with ie a boyfriend, in-law, ect you might want to start really small with questions like “why do you think that?” or “If that is true how is that possible, what mechanism would make that work?” and then keep the discussion going.

    If it is someone you rarely see and have limited time with then those same questions might still be good starters but get at the point quicker…”you know there has never been any evidence that life after death exists” or “stories about haunting are fun, but really they are just stories, science needs testable repeatable proof”.

    I think being “rude” is uncalled for at all times unless we are talking about someone who is a fraud, then they deserve a kick in the pants.

    I’ve run into a lot of skeptics that might be thought as being rude, when actually these are people who lack some social skills and are not as skilled in discussing something so passionate as woo beliefs. They are not patient and sometimes loud, and kinda ruin it for others who want to calmly bring a challenge to the question.

    I recently attended with IIG LA a ParaCon made up of ghost hunters, that was amazing. We did not challenge anyone, but we were calm and told them about our 50K award for anyone who could prove their claim. We even have a 5K finders fee. Once that was out in the open for discussion then they looked for ways that they could “prove” their claim under testable conditions. That was eye opening for them, several had never thought about it that way. Continuing to just spout off eyewitness stories as proof, once they thought about it they realized that was a awful way to prove something.

    I look forward to your discussion of the topic.

    Susan

    • latsot said,

      December 22, 2010 at 11:04 am

      Susan, the reward approach as pioneered – if not invented by – Randi is largely unassailable and highly enjoyable. But it’s a stunt to refer to rather than an argument against. I love that you’ve had success with it, it’s inspiring and awesome. But does it have much to do with the accomodation debate?

      By the way, I wonder why Miira didn’t point out that:

      “I’ve run into a lot of skeptics that might be thought as being rude, when actually these are people who lack some social skills and are not as skilled in discussing something so passionate as woo beliefs. They are not patient and sometimes loud, and kinda ruin it for others who want to calmly bring a challenge to the question.”

      Is an anecdote.

      This seems like an opinion run riot without evidence, so it’s odd that she chose to demand evidence of Paul’s relatively innocuous comment and not for this one.

  2. Paul Davis said,

    December 21, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I think “accommodation” is the same as “enabling”.

    I don’t think there is anything I can add to that.

    • December 21, 2010 at 11:53 pm

      Paul,

      Your comment is anecdotal. Do you have evidence from a reputable source to back up that assertion?

  3. Paul Davis said,

    December 22, 2010 at 7:44 am

    Maria,

    My comment is not any more anecdotal than a psychiatrist telling their patient their delusions are real. Every time we accept a religious viewpoint, which is *entirely* anecdotal, we are enabling their delusions.

    I always challenge a believer when they make any claim. Everyone should. Only by this way do the religious get to realise that they can’t just claim anything and think it will be accepted as valid.

    Anything other than challenge is enabling.

    • latsot said,

      December 22, 2010 at 10:44 am

      Paul’s point is an opinion rather than either an anecdote or an assertion. We skeptics can take the burden of proof a little too seriously in normal discourse: it’s OK to express opinions without having to back them up, providing we don’t claim that our opinion has special merit.

      There’s no problem I can see with Paul’s comment. The problem comes when religious people decide everyone else has to respect their personal opinions and anecdotes regardless of whether they have evidence.

      That’s the difference between what Paul is saying and what the various religious communities are saying.

    • December 23, 2010 at 10:36 am

      We don’t have to accept the belief to accept the person into the skeptical community. As long as they are willing to attempt to be skeptical, why would there not be room for them? Everyone starts somewhere after all.
      Look at me. Four years ago I was a practicing Reiki Master, hypnotherapist, and I thought I was psychic. I’d like to think that I am the poster child for the idea that anyone can learn critical thinking.

      • latsot said,

        December 28, 2010 at 3:46 am

        You’re splitting hairs, I think. If ‘accepting into the skeptical community’ means ‘conversation’, then I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who disagreed. If it means suspending disbelief in a particular delusion, then I could hardly disagree more.

        Besides, every single woo practitioner I’ve ever encountered in the course of three decades has said they’re willing to attempt to be skeptical. However, their skepticism shuts down at some point, very often in the face of actual evidence. They start making exuses. This is simply the antithesis of skepticism.

        So talk to these people, of course. Encourage them to be skeptical, outstanding. Just don’t call them skeptics, they’re not.

      • December 28, 2010 at 6:30 pm

        I think that if someone is trying to learn to be a critical thinker and wants to wear the label “Skeptic” then I think that should be respected. As long as they are making an attempt, then rather than suspending disbelief in their delusions we should patiently offer them information and resources.
        If or when they stop those attempts, then we can withdraw use of the label “skeptic”.
        It takes patience though. Cognitive dissonance can cause stops and starts in the progress.

      • latsot said,

        December 29, 2010 at 9:07 am

        Perhaps we have a distinction without a difference. I’m not big on labels, personally. I can’t get very excited about whether a person calls themself, or is called by others, a skeptic. However, to self-identify and be taken seriously as a skeptic, I think a person probably needs to be skeptical about all areas of their life. I don’t know what it means to be accepted into the skeptical community. If we’re talking about encouraging unskeptical or skeptic-curious people to follow and post on skeptical sites, I’m unreservedly all for it. If they want to call themselves or be called skeptics, then I’m not particularly concerned.

        However, there’s a price. A community is something that’s bound together by mutual and reciprocal rules and protocols, however informal. People with crazy beliefs often insist that their particular delusion is off-limits and shouldn’t be questioned. Within a skeptical community, surely *everything* should be up for debate. Nobody should get to say let’s go after the dowsers, but lay off religion. Or chiropractic, or acupuncture or whatever it is.

        As far as I’m concerned, a non-skeptical person (or an otherwise skeptical person with an unfortunate delusion) is very welcome indeed to consider themselves part of the skeptical community, providing they don’t insist that their particular belief (or any other, for that matter) is off limits. It would otherwise be rather like welcoming a community into your country only to find that they start insisting on their own special privileges and laws.

  4. latsot said,

    December 22, 2010 at 11:40 am

    By the way:

    “I’ve run into a lot of skeptics that might be thought as being rude, when actually these are people who lack some social skills and are not as skilled in discussing something so passionate as woo beliefs. They are not patient and sometimes loud, and kinda ruin it for others who want to calmly bring a challenge to the question. ”

    *THIS* is an anecdote. Do you see how people like Susan make unfounded generalisations?

  5. jwalker1960 said,

    January 2, 2011 at 11:43 am

    It seems that the more we debate this issue, the muddier it gets, and I think it is because every situation is different. What is important is to avoid blatant accommodation of the kind where we are afraid to criticize someone’s beliefs. Beliefs can always, and must always be criticized if they are based on superstition and magical thinking. The important thing is to show respect to the person(s) who’s beliefs you a re criticizing. Unless, of course, you are dealing with the Sylvia Brown’s, Rush Limbaugh’s, and assorted religious leaders who are doing real harm. But for your average believers who have only a personal stake of their own beliefs, respect the person, but criticize the beliefs.

  6. latsot said,

    January 3, 2011 at 4:47 am

    > It seems that the more we debate this issue, the muddier it gets, and I
    > think it is because every situation is different.

    In my experience, this is usually an indication that we’re asking the wrong question.It might be more productive to ask why we have an instinct to accomodate, why we tend to think skepticism should organise around a common cause etc. than to ask whether or not it’s something we ought to do.

    > The important thing is to show respect to the person(s) who’s beliefs you
    > a re criticizing.

    Personally, I’ll respect anyone who is interested in genuine debate and open to evidence and reason, regardless of whether they entertain irrational beliefs. I don’t and won’t respect people who refuse to question their beliefs; who deny or manufacture evidence; or who indoctrinate or otherwise try to force their beliefs on others rather than trying to persuade them using reason and evidence. I don’t respect them in the same way – to an extent – that I don’t respect racists or homophobes.

    But I don’t argue that anyone else should feel the same.

  7. January 3, 2011 at 7:00 am

    [...] dear friend Maria has an ongoing debate on her blog, The Fledgling Skeptic, about Accommodation VS Confrontation in the skeptical [...]

  8. Robert said,

    January 21, 2011 at 10:43 pm

    I suppose im not looked at here as a skeptic because i believe in god.However i do not believe in physics,mediums,faith healers or physic surgery.I also do not believe in ghost,or people who claim they can talk to the dead,or anybody who tells me they know when the world is going to end.Why am i such a skeptic when it comes to all of the things i just mentioned.Because the bible tells me that all of these things are hogwash!!Thats right.The bible teaches not to believe in any of these things.Why do so many people who call themselves Christians believe in some or all of these.Because they do not read the bible.In fact i have gotten in arguments with people who say Christians are closed minded because we don`t believe in people like Silvia Browne or John Edwards or UFOs kidnapping people out of there beds at night.In fact a lot of people who believe in some of those things may think they have more in common with an Atheist than with me!So i call myself a skeptic because my belief in god gos hand in hand with it. If i can get more Christians to read the bible for them selves and not just listen to what someone tells them it says,maybe they will stop believing in some of the hogwash.

    • latsot said,

      January 22, 2011 at 12:02 pm

      Nice work, Robert. The way to stop people believing in stupd things is certainly to point them to what the bible actually says.

      Keep up the good work.

      • Robert said,

        January 22, 2011 at 1:06 pm

        Thank you.I can tell you one of the main reasons believers in god fall for people like Peter Popov,or Sylvia Browne is because there ignorant about there own faith.

      • latsot said,

        January 22, 2011 at 1:08 pm

        Really? How do you know that, Robert?

  9. January 21, 2011 at 11:52 pm

    Robert;

    You are correct in your statement that you would not be considered a skeptic by most here. But not for the reasons you may be thinking. A skeptic is someone who uses logic, critical thinking skills and the scientific method to reach a conclusion by examining the data.
    You, on the other hand do not believe in psychics, etc because you are told not to by the Bible. The Bible is not backed by science or critical thinking. And so even though you have come to the right conclusion, it is through flawed thinking.
    There are lots of skeptics who still maintain a belief in a divine being, but they also use the tools that I have talked about numerous times in this blog to reach their conclusions.
    Please feel free to take a look around my blog. I hope the tools here will help you.

    • Robert said,

      January 28, 2011 at 5:53 pm

      I did not explain myself very well.I don`t believe in psychics because i have not seen any proof that psychic powers are real.I mentioned the bible as a way to show believers one of many reasons to stay away from the faith healers,psychics,etc.

      • latsot said,

        January 28, 2011 at 6:03 pm

        This is why you look like a troll. You have some good reasons for people to disblieve horrors like browne and edwards and I thank you for that, but then you inexplicably bring the bible into it. What has the bible to do with believing things that have no evidence, other than as a prime example of what not to believe?

  10. Robert said,

    January 22, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Because,too many believers sit in a church and listen to someone tell them what the bible says.Or worse,they listen to a friend or some televangelist.Im not asking any atheist to believe in anything they don`t want to believe in.But if you want to shut down the hucksters you need to educate the masses on what these people are about.There are different ways to do that depending on who`s mind your trying to change.For Christians that would be educating them on what there own faith teaches them.You know in the dark ages the people were not allowed to read the bible.Only the head of the church,or the minister could read it.That way they could tell people the bible said whatever they wanted the people to believe.That way they had control over them.What im trying to say is Sylvia Browne exist is because of the ignorance of people who follow here.

    • latsot said,

      January 22, 2011 at 2:21 pm

      Robert, you’re either a moron or a troll. I can’t be arsed with you either way.

      • Robert said,

        January 22, 2011 at 3:00 pm

        Wow you be sure and keep that mind of yours closed.Thats the way to keep the hucksters operating.

    • January 29, 2011 at 4:47 pm

      Latsot and I have different views, obviously. Your approach has validity as far as I’m concerned. In order to change people’s minds you have to be able to speak to them in their own “language” so to speak. Religious people like yourself have terms or “language” that is fairly exclusive to those who believe in a god or gods. When you can address things like psychics and the paranormal couched in that familiar “language”, it’s less confronatational for the people you’re trying to teach. Yes this is purely anecdotal. I wish there was evidence on this sort of thing, But I wonder, do you spend time teaching people at your church about critical thinking and how to be skeptical?

      • latsot said,

        February 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm

        “But I wonder, do you spend time teaching people at your church about critical thinking and how to be skeptical?”

        Ah, well that’s an excellent point. People like m….well, probably not people like me, but people like Maria could give excellent talks to your church group about skeptical points of view. If you like, since Maria is really busy with her new role, I could try to track down some skeptical groups in your area. Would you like to get together with those guys?

  11. latsot said,

    January 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

    It’s not a mark of a closed mind to recognise someone as a moron. It’s a recognition that someone is a moron. For example, a recognition that no sensible standards of evidence or reason are being used. Moronically.

    By this criterion, you, Robert, are a moron.

    If I’m wrong and you’re not a moron, prove me otherw… oh you know what, I honestly don’t give a fuck. If you really want to claim I’m closed minded, go ahead. Say so in as many idiotic websites as you like. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. I for one couldn’t give a fuck. But you know perfectly well that you don’t have anything approaching an argument. Sigh.

  12. Robert said,

    January 28, 2011 at 5:45 pm

    If you must call me names or use foul language then i think maybe you are the one without an argument.If you are going to have a debate with an adult you should at least learn to communicate like an adult.I have been respectful to you.I have not called you any names.If this is an example of logic,I will take faith any day.

    • latsot said,

      January 28, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Not really an argument, is it? You speak as though I should be ashamed of calling you names or using foul language. I’m not and I don’t understand why you think I should be.

      It is moronic to accept an elaborate argument as fact when you’ve no better evidence for it than someone said so. This is exactly the argument you seem to think I’m without. Use my rudeness as an excuse to pretend your faith isn’t moronic if you like, but I think you’ll find that you’re the one without the argument. Trite sobbing about how people don’t agree with you doesn’t really constitute an argument, I’m afraid.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,158 other followers

%d bloggers like this: