Friday, March 02, 2007

Anger Isn't The Answer

PZ Meyers is calling for the anti-creationism folks to "Get meaner, angrier, louder, fiercer", but I don't think that's going to get us anywhere.

More than anything else I was dismayed by the imagery in the quote, the "steel-toed boots" and the "brass knuckles". I realize that the quote is fabricated, but the fact that people responded positively to it is a little disturbing. It comes awfully close to what David Neiwert has termed "eliminationist rhetoric", demonizing ID supporters (rather than just their ideas) and suggesting that they are worthy targets of actual violence. I recognize that PZ is advocating metaphorical violence, but as David has pointed out such advocacy often serves as a gateway to more extreme measures. I don't really think it would ever come to that, but calling on people to "hammer on the lunatics and idiots" stinks of two minutes hate.

As far as ditching "civilized academic debate", here are some thoughts on that, in no particular order:

  • Maybe the problem is that the debate is taking place in journals. The people who vote for school board members don't, as a general rule, read those journals, so they need to be exposed to the "settled academic debate" in a more accessible forum. PZ doesn't like the idea of being more media savvy, but yelling louder and being more aggressive isn't going to do you any good if you're just preaching to the choir.
  • Yes, we're hamstrung because we follow the rules. Sure the bad guys cheat; that's what makes them bad guys. But it takes tremendous arrogance to think that the alternative, cheating for the greater good, is in any way more acceptable.
  • I've said it before and I'll say it again: By advocating non-rational mechanisms of persuasion (being meaner, angrier, fiercer, but offering no new information), PZ is tacitly acknowledging that he believes it will never be possible to reach the public through rational discourse. This view consigns a large segment of the population to an intellectual ghetto that logically ends with disenfranchisement and paternalism.

The answer is to just keep on keeping on. Dover shows that people are getting less stoopid; not just the ruling itself, but the fact that they tossed the idiots on the school board out on their asses afterwards. Reality has a liberal bias; unless you assume that people are totally dense you just have to keep restating your case day in and day out and, eventually, it'll get through.


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