Hayley is a Ghost

Being nice really isn’t a bad thing.

Posted on: July 13, 2010

In episode 56 of Righteous Indignation I made some comments about the attitude some listeners held towards the guests we’d had on in the past who held beliefs in certain things that didn’t stand up well the skeptical scrutiny.I said:

“I got annoyed that there were some people in the skeptical community that have a bad attitude towards people who have opposing beliefs, and ideas that aren’t scientifcally viable. Rather than debating with them and being polite there is name calling and stuff. It does nothing proactive for the skeptical community whatsoever.”

In response to the discussion on the episode about attitudes we have had some interesting comments left on the Righteous Indignation wesbite. One reads:

There’s no polite way of letting people know that you you think they are fooling themselves– that the thing they think is true is a thing that you think is woo.

Whether someone is rude or not is an opinion. I’m much more interested in what is true.

I love the show; keep up the great work! I like my truth “straight up”.

I wasn’t necessarily talking about the way in which believers and peddlers of bad ideas percieve skepticism because unfortunately that isn’t something that people who identify themselves as skeptics can always control.

However, it doesn’t mean that you can’t be polite and structured in the way you approach a debate or a discussion with the people in question.

I also wasn’t talking about sugar coating the truth, I also like my truth straight up, but not in an aggressive smug way. You can be truthful without being rude and pushy. Two great examples of people who work in a respectful and polite way while still getting the reasonal point across would be Michael Shermer from ‘skeptic’ and Richard Saunders of ‘skeptic zone’ and ‘Australian skeptics’.

It’s true that a lot of people who believe in weird claims and ideas will not listen to people who are skeptical of those claims and ideas, it is also true that in a discussion they will sometimes get hot headed, rude and insulting.

What better position is there to be in other than one where you have been consistently polite and nice to them? Who looks the fool then?

Thinking that to be heard, or to get your point across you have to be loud is wrong, you can be heard just by being there and providing the information people need.

Of course, I’m not big headed enough to think I’m only one of few people who understand and know this. I’m not smug enough to start preaching at people because they’re doing it “wrong”, I’m just wanting to get my thoughts across because I have seen people who are rude and aggitated when they communicate with proponents of weird and bad ideas.

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7 Responses to "Being nice really isn’t a bad thing."

I think it can be tricky sometimes. A couple of weeks ago you pulled me up for describing one of the guests on Twitter as a ‘poor deluded fool.’

While I take the comments made on the most recent podcast into account, and can see how describing someone in that way could offend, I was not saying it to be insulting. I don’t know where you precisely draw the line at whether someone is a fool or not, but if someone says foolish things and demonstrates foolish reasoning then it’s probably not too much of a stretch to accurately call them a ‘fool.’

Now, it doesn’t mean they’re a fool in all walks of life, or that they are stupid and have some sort of incurable lack of reasoning ability, of course. Everyone’s stupid about something-or-other, I tend to be a fool when it comes to politics and economics and various other things. I’d lose debates about those things every time. If someone called me such when I was talking about those, it might sting a bit but the first thing I’d want to know is why they think I’m a fool. If I’m not interested in finding that out, I’m not just a fool, I’m an idiot.

What my point is, I’m not quite sure, except that these aren’t terms that I use without thought. But I do take the point that it might possibly help fuel a reluctance for people to take part in the show.

I think one of the best ways to handle this issue is to be polite and respectful, in the sense of respecting the person, not the belief. When we start name calling, we are essentially employing the ad hominem logical fallacy. As skeptics, we should be avoiding all logical fallacies as this only weakens our arguments and lowers us to the level of the woo woos.

Hayley – thanks for this. I think you are so right.

Personally, I sometimes find it hard to be polite and respectful in the face of ignorance and stubbornness – I’m one of those people who can’t help but get cross.

That said, I am always aware that if I allow myself to slip into anger or sarcasm, I will almost certainly lose whatever ground I might have gained with that person.

So yes, when confronting or questioning someone with a belief considered to be “woo” – one must be nice! It’s the only way to guarantee coming out of a nasty argument on top.

In private, though, and at our own gatherings (i.e. skeptic events) I think we’ve every right to mock and ridicule. After all, you can be sure that ‘they’ do the same when we’re not around. And it’s funny.

Exactly. In private is different, it’s when we’re debating and discussing that logical fallacies can’t be allowed to slip in.

Hayley,
You have patience well beyond your years. It is very pleasing to hear that you can be and that you promote being polite, kind and logical with dealers of non-scientific ideas.

Me I just really want to shake them by their shoulders and scream in their faces “You effing idiot! None of that makes bloody sense!”

The best I can seem to manage is to get snarky or sarcastic.

Keep up the good work.

Steve

Dear SurplusGamer,

I doubt there’s any way someone could use the term “poor deluded fool” of someone else without coming across as insulting, whatever the intent. It’s not merely saying the person has a particular mistaken belief, it’s saying (whether pityingly 0r belittlingly) that the person is lacking intelligence. Saying “fool” isn’t the same as saying “That was a foolish thing to say.” It is directed at the person. It also implies that the person saying it is smarter, more rational, etc – in other words, making the speaker sound smug (which your post here shows you aren’t, btw).

Best not to make judgemental remarks at all. Just debate the points in question would be my suggestion.

[...] Being nice really isn’t a bad thing. July 2010 6 comments [...]

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Hayley is a ghost

Hayley Stevens is an advocate for science-based research into seemingly paranormal experiences and occurrences. With a background in the pseudo-scientific research into ghosts, Hayley offers a unique insight into the strange world of ghost hunting through her experience.

She describes herself as 'a ghost hunter who doesn't hunt for ghosts' and this is her personal blog where she writes about ghosts, people, and other interesting things. Read more here.


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