January 07, 2012

The Dark Side of the Internet: #Gnus, #skeptics, #strawmen

As Gnu Atheists and "professional skeptics" exemplify, setting up strawmen isn't just the provenance of the Religious Right, antivaxxers or New Agers.

And, as they also exemplify, they can engage in some specific strawmen that they should know better about, if they're as rational as they claim.

One in particular is the "you're jealous" phenomenon.

Recently, on Google+, I heard somebody claim that philosopher/real skeptic/humanist/traditional nontheist Massimo Pigliucci was jealous of Gnu Atheist Jerry Coyne, in part over their different takes on Christopher Hitchens. When I commented that I agreed, and posted my blog link about Hitch being a "brat" on smoking in non-smoking areas, etc., he said I must be envious of those who get more comments on their blogs than I do. Of course, John Loftus pulled that when I one-starred his review of Sam Harris' "The IMmoral Landscape." Supposedly, "professional skeptic" Ben Radford is doing this a bit. I imagine this was done a bit in pre-Net days, but I think it's gotten a lot worse now.

And, a second point: Where do some of the more libertarian "professional skeptics," or libertarian Gnus, get some of their money from? Michael Shermer has known racialists on his masthead at Skeptic. Does a place like Pioneer Fund send him money? Or, on another bent, does a neocon like Sam Harris get money from, say American Enterprise Institute?

That said, there are some better "professional skeptics."

Bob Carroll of the Skeptic's Dictionary comes immediately to mind. To the degree he ventures into skeptical issues, Pigliucci does, too.

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