Hello, World.

Don’t Hate, Cooperate

with 3 comments

Welcome to my blog thingy! I’ll do a proper intro post eventually, but I was inspired enough to write this so I thought I should just let it out before I get lazy.

PZ Meyers thinks being a dick is a viable strategy for skeptics to effect change. I disagree.

Behavior is determined by the perception of positive and negative consquences. Not intellectually, but sensually, in the moment. If you try to change someone’s behavior with abuse, YOU become their problem, not the behavior. The energy they could be putting into thinking about what you are telling them gets redirected to behaviors that will mitigate the violence being done to them. That probably means getting defensive and holding ground on the very beliefs you are trying to change.

To truly change someone’s behavior, you have to show them how the new behavior will reward them. This goes beyond just telling them, you have to get them to experience it subjectively. You have to listen empathically, learn their language, and express yourself in the most meaningful way from THEIR perspective. Much harder than to say “you’re stupid if you don’t get what I’m saying” and hope their feelings will be hurt enough to make them change.

That is the virtue of dickishness. It provides the social and psychological penalties that counter the draw of complacency.

Ignoring the arrogance of believing that annoying-ness will be interpreted as a “social and psychological penalty”, the question I’d like to ask PZ Myers is: would you like people to start thinking critically because they want you to stop being mean to them, or because they see that they can live richer, more authentic lives? Which do you think will stick better?


Written by xaqrox

August 27, 2010 at 5:42 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Sweet Post. You would think that would be inbred into human intaction, put most people are fail.

    David Pardo

    August 27, 2010 at 10:07 pm

  2. I don’t think to reduce PZ’s methods for effecting change to a strategy of dickery is really fair. It’s not like he’s saying you should use ad hominems in the place of a good argument. What he actually advocates is being forceful towards the people who just straight up won’t listen to reason, and being passionate and fiery when advocating for important issues. You can calmly and nicely explain all you want to some people and they’ll just yell over you and mis-characterize your position and, if you’re an atheist, call you a dick anyways. People do it to Dawkins all the time, and he’s completely soft-spoken and polite.

    A few sentences after the quote you included: “if bad ideas don’t have immediate consequences to the placid mob, and if everyone is being Mr and Mrs Nice Folk and reassuring everyone that they’re still good people no matter what foolishness they might believe in, where is the motivation to change?” If we treat anti-vaxers who are denying their children vaccines like their position is a respectable one, how do you expect they will come to the conclusion on their own that it is dangerous and stupid? Or how about with faith healing, or chiropractors who claim their services cure cholic, or symptoms of AIDs? Or with creationists who, no matter how many times they’ve been answered nicely and intelligently, keep asking the same ridiculous question over and over again as if they discovered this fantastic loophole that biologists have overlooked for 150 years? I really think sometimes you just have to point out to people that they are being absurd and stupid.

    And anyways, I would say that sometimes a little sarcasm and belittlement does penetrate where kindness doesn’t. It’s not really about getting those people to change their mind, its about making them uncertain so they can’t carry the beacon of stupidity for their followers as forcefully, and maybe won’t be as bold about saying dumb shit. I mean really, sometimes the only response that makes sense is mockery. Case in point: STEVEN COLBERT. I also think Voltaire did a great job of exemplifying this course of action.

    Kirin Furst

    August 31, 2010 at 4:07 pm

  3. BTW, this conversation vector was started inadvertantly by Phil Plait at TAM 8:

    And the follow up:

    And PZ’s first post:

    I mean, I basically agree with both of them. I think everyone agrees you shouldn’t be an asshole and kindness is the best policy, but some assholes just need to be put in their place. Even if it is more for the benefit of the audience, because the asshole being put in his/her place is simply too dense to absorb new information. Kindness can definitely be exhausted, and some people just plain don’t deserve it anymore!

    Kirin Furst

    August 31, 2010 at 4:16 pm

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