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Maybe Sometimes its Good to be a Dick

November 17, 2010

Not long ago I posted about how I objected to Richard Dawkins acting like a dick towards the religious. Well now it seems that I have gone and acted like a dick towards a 9/11 truth denialist.

I behaved towards a certain poster in much the same way that Mr Dawkins has behaved towards religious extremists, which I criticised. In my defence I did try to remain respectful in response to shoddy science and accusations of childish games. Yet, eventually, a line was crossed and I simply could not tolerate the nonsense anymore so I let it be known very clearly my opinion of the poster.

Normally I do not condone dickish behaviour. I would even go so far as to say, its counter productive because resorting to insult is normally the last refuge of the wrong. The exception is when the argument being countered is so outlandish in its ridiculousness that the only suitable response is ridicule. This is because the person behind the argument is so ingrained in their belief that common sense and rational thought are incapable of penetrating. Banging heads onto brick walls is a far more useful activity.

Discourse with such immoveable density is pointless.

In my original post about Mr Dawkins, I complained that he used the same sort if dense person in his reasoning that religion is evil. I still maintain that using extremes to make a point is silly at best and dangerous at worst. A more balanced perspective is needed.

Yet the question still remains, how to deal with the incorrectly held view that refuses to be educated, and worse still, continues to peddle its nonsense to others? This latter part is the very dangerous bit.

I agree with many sceptics, including Mr Dawkins, that engaging in discourse with the wilfully ignorant gives too much credit to their bunkum ideas and elevates them to a level of intellectual acceptance that they utterly do not deserve. However, I also subscribe to the view that if you don’t engage with nonsense in a dignified manor, then you can’t help the misguided to learn the truth. The challenge is finding the distinction between the two.

Where do you draw the line between these two points? At what point do you give up and say “that’s enough, I shall not tolerate this idiocy anymore”?

In my case it was the suggestion that the passenger planes that impacted the twin towers were not actually the planes claimed and was something smaller, possibly remote controlled and explosives on the walls created the rupture that the planes flew into.

For me this marked a point where intellectual discussion simply could no longer happen with the individual concerned and public mocking was the only device left.

Does that change how I feel about my original posting referencing Mr Dawkins? A little, but not much. I still maintain that his logic is flawed; you can’t call something evil because a fringe element is evil. I have no sympathy for the targets of his scorn in the programme discussed, they utterly deserved it. However, I don’t think all those who subscribe to religion should be targeted with the same disrespect.

Likewise with the September 11th truth denialists. Not all deserve to be mocked and ridiculed and insulted, some simply don’t understand why the official report is true and have been misdirected, these people deserve more respect and should have the truth patiently explained to them.

Its when the immoveable dense object is encountered that the rules change. This will be a different point along the scale for different people and yesterday I was surprised when I discovered where my point was.

Well now I know and I feel strangely liberated by it. Let the dicking commence.

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2 Comments
  1. Indeed, sometimes it’s hard to determine when to stop discourse and when to continue. I think it’s important to note that I it’s fun to talk about stuff, especially when you disagree with said stuff. It’s also important to combat nonsense because so few are willing to do it. Finally, it makes skeptics and rational peeps look badass when a decent discussion can be held with no punches thrown!

  2. limey permalink

    I agree with all that, especially the last sentence.

    I’d have loved to have been able to stick by it as well because losing your rag over stupidity is not very dignified.

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