play nice, skeptics

I love the Ramones.

Seems like a primary theme at TAM 8 was about how, if you want to change someone’s mind, it’s probably not effective to call that person a moron. That was Phil Plait’s talk. That was the thrust of Carol Tavris’ talk, and also a theme of the Sunday morning presentation by Steve Cuno. An astronomer, a social psychologist, and a marketing professional–who can argue with that team?

Actually, lots of people have responded on their blogs by commenting that screaming is sometimes necessary to get someone’s attention. It was also pointed out that sharp, pointed commentary gets noticed, gets media, and brings topics onto the national stage.

Personally, I like the wide spectrum of voices on the skeptic side. We love both our Phil and our P.Z. I have to come back to Phil’s suggestion of asking yourself, “What is my goal?” before speaking or typing. To win points in an argument? To engage in a sometimes long, long process of gradually changing someone’s mind? To entertain onlookers? To get as much press as possible? All are acceptable in a given situation. For example. I find that P.Z. is generally lambasting very public individuals who need to be answered and I appreciate it.

In most one-on-one situations, however, the find-common-ground-and-be-civil approach is more likely to change someone’s mind. The same is true for many public forums. Do some people really need shock treatment? You be the judge, but err on the side of non-aggression, because as I said in another post, we’re building a civilization here, right? That’s the whole point of this rational-thinking stuff—building a society worthy of being called civilized.

I’m off my soapbox now (thanks to my three readers for bearing with me through this) and back to my Ramones video.

3 Comments

  1. Pingback: TAM 8 Link Roundup « G.E.S.S.

  2. Pingback: bad astronomer not so bad « Dangblog

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