Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The bedrock of civilization

It's not marriage that is the bedrock of civilization ... it's ... wait for it ... CIVILity.
- someone named John Lyon, somewhere in one of Dan Gillmor's weblogs' comments*

Mine seems to have been sagging, and I apologize.

Saturday's Advice for citizen journalists post has been updated, rather substantially. Apologies, again...

Not unrelated, some wonderful comments in the discussion on this Pharyngula post - you should go and read them all, and the post that incited them, but here were some that struck me:
you can sit around glorying in your own smug superiority, or you can go out and influence people and change the world for the better. If you choose the latter course it pretty much mandates, on a humane *and* a strategic level, that you choose kindness, compassion and understanding.
...The fact that one person overcomes a given obstacle should not be translated into a moral demand that *everyone* faced with the same or similar obstacle also overcome it or be judged morally inferior for their inability...
1) Rudeness is an ineffective way to convince people. I don't believe you convince people to change their beliefs by belittling them and calling them stupid. You've raised the stakes: in order to change their mind now, the person also has to admit they were stupid, not merely mistaken. You've also identified yourself as an arrogant jerk who's viewpoint need not be taken seriously.
2) Rudeness is rude....
3) A skeptical attitude requires that you accept the possibility you could be wrong....
It's one thing to say that you find an assertion made by another so improbable that you must disbelieve it until evidence for it is presented. It is quite another to say that the assertion must be false because you don't think it can be true.
if what you mean by "credulous" is to believe things we can't prove, then we are all credulous in one way or another. If you find this point incredible, read Hume.... he points out the limits of our knowledge and how we routinely go beyond these limits. We have absolutely no knowledge of the future, for instance, but we all routinely and confidently state things about it that we can't prove.
The kinds of bad reasoning people typically fall prey to usually are at a level quite a bit above raw association, and much more interesting. The heuristics that make people reasonably smart in most situations have failure modes that make them stupid in others.
...People are smarter than you think, being smart is harder than you think, and you're not as smart as you think you are.
...If you're interested in winning an argument rather than provoking an unwinnable flame war, it's usually best to focus on that argument rather than berating and insulting people in an over-the- top way.
And this from Daniel Conover:
We're engaged in a messy business -- sorting out a jigsaw puzzle under a strobe light -- and periodically someone enters the room and throws a bunch of new pieces on the floor. That's modern civic life, dude. It is what it is, and if it looks all clean and clear to you, I'd suggest you're standing in the wrong room.

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