8/22/2010

Raspunsul lui Dawkins la lectura lui Phil Plait - Don't be a dick


Din moment ce lectura este in engleza, nu are rost mai traduc raspunsul.
Lectura lui Phil Plait se poate vedea aici: http://dumnezero.blogspot.com/2010/08/nu-fii-un-nesimtit-cu-victimele.html




Two points. First, Plait's opening question was ludicrously loaded, biased to produce the answer that would gladden his accommodationist heart. "How many of you changed your mind because a skeptic screamed in your face . . . and called you an idiot and a retard?" Well, obviously, if you put it like that there is only one possible answer. But suppose he had said, "How many of you changed your mind because you saw your beliefs being devastatingly mocked, ridiculed, surgically taken apart with razor-sharp wit . . . ?"

As Jerry said, Plait quoted no examples of skeptics who scream insults in people's face. I don't think I have ever met, seen or heard one. But I could quote plenty of skeptics who employ ridicule, who skewer pretentiousness, stupidity and ignorance using wit. Listening to such ridicule, and reading it, is one of the great joys life has to offer. And I suspect that it is very effective.

My second point is that Plait naively presumed, throughout his lecture, that the person we are ridiculing is the one we are trying to convert. Speaking for myself, it is often a third party (or a large number of third parties) who are listening in, or reading along. When Peter Medawar destroyed Teilhard de Chardin's The Phenomenon of Man, in the most devastatingly barbed book review I have ever read, he wasn't trying to convert Teilhard. Teilhard was already dead in any case. Medawar was trying (and succeeding, in spades) to convert the large number of gullible fools who had been taken in by Teilhard.

Similarly, when I employ ridicule against the arguments of a young earth creationist, I am almost never trying to convert the YEC himself. That is probably a waste of time. I am trying to influence all the third parties listening in, or reading my books. I am amazed at Plait's naivety in overlooking that and treating it as obvious that our goal is to convert the target of our ridicule. Ridicule may indeed annoy the target and cause him to dig his toes in. But our goal might very well be (in my case usually is) to influence third parties, sitting on the fence, or just not very well-informed about the issues. And to achieve that goal, ridicule can be very effective indeed.

At the end of his talk, Plait pats himself on the back for his patient rebuttal of the ridiculous arguments of a young woman creationist. He congratulates himself that after a long conversation she was laughing. Whether she changed her mind, we are not told. But he evidently wasted a lot of time 'respecting' the regurgitated idiocies of one creationist enough to answer them, patiently, one by one. Mightn't that time have been better employed in answering more intelligent questions from other members of the audience?

Richard


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