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  Topic: Dealing with [S]Denialists[/S] People, Because denialists are people too.< Next Oldest | Next Newest >  

Posts: 6436
Joined: Jan. 2006

(Permalink) Posted: Nov. 30 2007,10:10   


LOL I like the jokes. Although obviously the joke about flamethrowering Phelps and co is an excorable piece of utter evil that means you should be punished for all eternity and excommunicated from polite society.

What I'm angling at is that often if one calls a kook a kook, or a liar a liar, one is villified for exposing the nudity of this particular Emperor. Very often atheists like Dawkins and Harris are accused of extremism or fundamentalism in the same sense others would accuse Falwell or Robertson or Osama bin Laden of fundamentalism or extremism. Needless to say I don't find the comparison remotely accurate. However, this speaks to a bigger issue: how to deal with people who simply refuse to participate in rational discourse AND YET insist on insinuating themselves into places and situations where rational discourse is occuring.

FTK is a classic example. She came to AtBC full of grandiose pronouncements about what a "crock" evolutionary biology is and utterly refused to discuss the topic in any meaningful manner. What can you do with someone like that? She delieberately insinuated herself here and caused no end of disruption and dispute simply because she refused point blank to deal with any comment or argument in a rational manner. Thus several people, myself included, ceased treating her as if she was capable of being rational. Now that is, to a degree, clearly an error. FTK is not propping up the wall of an asylum AFAIK, she is a fully functioning, sane human adult. But heaven help me, she behaves so irrationally regarding evolutionary biology and science that it is incredibly hard to treat her as a rational human being capable  of reasoned discourse on even a basic level. Even the more saintly members of AtBC would concede that.

Sadly ignoring people like FTK does not make them go away. The scientific community has tried ignoring the kooks and charlatans and what has happened is that said kooks and charlatans have done their level best to circumvent the scientific process and manufacture political controversy about a scientific matter that is not scientifically controversial. So "ignoring" as a strategy has limited value.

Then comes the series of strategies that fall into "damned if you do, damned if you don't". If one debates with the FTKs of this world one is accused of giving undue credence to kook claims (quite rightly), or by some sections of our own "team" (and I hate that phrase and the concept it represents, but I'll use it as a shorthand) of engaging in mental masturbation or self aggrandisement. If one doesn't debate one is accused of cowardice, arrogance etc etc etc, all quite falsely.

My question is aimed at this very thing. All of the briefly described strategies above rely on assuming that the person(s) involved on the kook side of the equation are rational, honest people capable of reasoned discourse, informed to some degree about the topics at hand. The simple fact is that they are NOT! When do we stop treating them as if they were rational? How much bending over backwards, careful explanation, polite conduct is enough?

Why do I ask, well one reason if obviously because I have a limited amount of patience and toleration. In my case, very limited! But the other more important reason is this: psychiatrists dealing with people who believe they have been abducted by aliens only enter into the delusion so far. To enter fully into a patient's delusion is to grant it false credence and tus the patient flase hope. It is actually a destructive thing after a point to treat a patient's delusion as reality. At some point that patient has to be weened off the delusion.

I'm not equating creationist kooks or fundamentalists or even UFO believers to people who are genuinely insane, I'm just tryin to highlight the fact that mental health professionals recognise that at some point in a therapeutic process it is positively harmful to continue to entertain the demonstrably false beliefs of the patient any further. The parallel I am drawing is with people like FTK where do we draw the line and refuse to entertain the demonstrably false contention that they are capable of rational discourse about a particular subject?

The accusation made by members of our own "team" (again, usual caveat) is that by not entertaining the demonstrably false contention that these people are equally and universally capable of rational discourse about a particular subject, after a certain point, that actual harm is done to the "cause" (whatever that might be). I've yet to see ANYONE advocate that the very moment a creationist opens their mouth that they should be laughed out of town and mocked unmercifully as a deluded, irrational fool they perhaps undeniably are. The word perhaps is quite important in that sentence!

The point is simple, at what point and under what circumstances do we decide to write someone off as a kook incapable of engaging in rational discourse.



  16 replies since Nov. 30 2007,05:15 < Next Oldest | Next Newest >  


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