Poor professional manners

Standard

My “Mooning” post generated a rant from an unconventional “writer, scholar, …ologist” and his followers. I get another copy of the same comments practically everyday. I won’t post them because they are ad hominem attacks with no substance behind them. Since they contain poor grammar as well as veiled threats, the incoming address has now been labeled spam.

I will not post his name but it strikes me as very odd that one would attempt to be heard or gain respect via a spam attack. Gain attention, perhaps. But, indeed, the wrong kind. I would expect better from a “professional”.

I appreciate the comments from others, for and against, that I have received for my posts. I have replied to some of you directly or edited the reply slightly to correctly portray our off-blog discussion. It is very hard to put your ideas out there for criticism and to take your blows but it is necessary in order to refine and strengthen one’s view.

“Science is organized common sense where many a beautiful theory was killed by an ugly fact.” Thomas Huxley

I’m not a fan of the “skeptic” label since it holds some negative connotations. I have a mild, genial type of skepticism that is pretty open to hearing about your view (even if I don’t accept it) and I won’t be dismissive of new ideas with a sound basis. Those who rant and rave about my skepticism must not be very fun people to be around. Seems that if you disagree with them, they will have no patience for you.

“I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything.” Thomas Huxley

Contrary to popular notions about scientists being closed minded or know-it-alls, the true nature of science is ever-changing. You can’t have progress if you cling to one theory, so in love with it that you can’t let it go no matter how much evidence shows that it is faulty.

Call me naïve or overly polite but if I was to rebut an argument or challenge another’s position, I should be prepared to support my position with some references or evidence. I would hardly think that name calling, stereotype-labeling, and shouting (or the internet equivalent of such) would be very convincing nor would it get my point conceded. Of course, I could be trying to make the point that I am a pompous ass, in which case that would work. But, I can’t think of any circumstances right now when I would do that.

Once upon a time, back in college, I asked a professor a rather obvious question about plate tectonics to which he didn’t know the answer. I was stunned. It seemed so obvious that question would have an answer but he didn’t hesistate to say “I don’t know. Science doesn’t know.” Therefore, the lesson I learned was that we don’t know even some basic things about the world.

Many professionals of all topics claim to be experts – a word I detest. I can’t ever feel comfortable labeled as an expert in anything because the more I learn, the more questions I have and the more I realize what isn’t known. Here is a definition of expert that I can agree with:

“An expert is someone who knows some of the worst mistakes that can be made in his subject, and how to avoid them.” Werner Karl Heisenberg

I’d never consider myself or claim to be some “scholar” on any topic. This avoidance of “expertism” is not shared by all. There are many experienced, well-read, even well-respected professionals out there with various letters after their names or publications to their credit who simply mess up and make mistakes. Worse, there are those who get paid to express a certain view and use their credentials to buoy that view no matter how ridiculous.

Now I’m not talking strictly about “scholars” of paranormal, fringe or Fortean topics. And, I’m not saying that I know any more about my personal spammer than what I can Google about him. My point is: what happened to reasonable discussion, logical argument and fair debate? Regardless of your publications, credits, income, status, titles bestowed upon you by yourself or others, etc., we can all be civilized and argue our position in an educated fashion.

“The deepest sin of the human mind is to believe things without evidence” Thomas Huxley

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7 thoughts on “Poor professional manners

  1. oldbutnotstupid

    I don’t Know I would admire that professor you mentioned from that point on. A real scientist. It is because we don’t know that science exists at all. Because I usually try to weed out the obvious and look for a logical explanation first I have often been labeled a skeptic or called much worst by die hard believers in some areas. The truth is sometimes hard to face. It is my personal opinion that the one’s who do the talking without thinking are the, I have a degree because daddy had money types, not the real scientists that care.unfortunately our universities turn out more no brain scholars then real scientists .a flaw in our system to be sure.

  2. Jim Boyd

    Good morning,
    I was upset to hear you are being spammed, because of your posts to Forteana. We are well used to Skeptics and are ourselves cautious of accepting anything at face value. By thae same token, I don’t spend any time bothering the Skeptics over on their lists. We welcome honest criticism of course. And we need it. That said, I often wonder what motivates the true Skeptics to even visit the Fortean sites.

    I would like to know who is crass enough to spam you, if only so I can give him a wedgie in your name.

    Have a good day,

    Jim

  3. Thanks, Jim. I’m waiting to see if he/they continue to post or just give up. (I have found that ignoring a toddler who is having a tantrum really works!)

    I have been thinking about a post topic sort of in line with what you said. I have been a member of a skeptical mailing list on and off since the first text internet browsers (around 1993?). And, I have visited many paranormal/Fortean themed web sites, message boards, discussion lists, and blogs. I’ve made it a point to frequent both sides of the issues I’m interested in. More people should, it’s enlightening. Perhaps, I’ll work that up into a post. Thanks again. Stay tuned.

  4. “I’m not a fan of the “skeptic” label since it holds some negative connotations. I have a mild, genial type of skepticism that is pretty open to hearing about your view (even if I don’t accept it) and I won’t be dismissive of new ideas with a sound basis. Those who rant and rave about my skepticism must not be very fun people to be around. Seems that if you disagree with them, they will have no patience for you.”

    Well, I’ve found that most of those types are just looking for validation of pet beliefs, the stronger the belief the less inclined they are to discuss it. That can extend into another belief that others should not discuss their beliefs in terms other than that which is favorable to them. This kind of thinking has become epidemic in our society from the Office of the President on down.

    “Contrary to popular notions about scientists being closed minded or know-it-alls, the true nature of science is ever-changing. You can’t have progress if you cling to one theory, so in love with it that you can’t let it go no matter how much evidence shows that it is faulty.”

    Ha! That’s so misunderstood. Many people never seem to encounter real scientists or scientific thinking. They might have muddled memories of closed-minded science professors in high school or collage. I keep running into this concept that an acceptance of any number of strange beliefs is a sign of open mindedness when, usually the opposite is actually true. Being open minded is often about NOT accepting some assertion about something without at least some evidence.

    Call me naïve or overly polite but if I was to rebut an argument or challenge another’s position, I should be prepared to support my position with some references or evidence. I would hardly think that name calling, stereotype-labeling, and shouting (or the internet equivalent of such) would be very convincing nor would it get my point conceded. Of course, I could be trying to make the point that I am a pompous ass, in which case that would work. But, I can’t think of any circumstances right now when I would do that.

    Only in a climate like the one I mentioned, a society that lauds closed-minded belief riddled people, elects them to high office and ruthlessly condemns the scientific process. Much of our society is based on a suspension of belief, we buy products based on the flimsiest of evidence, someone shouting endorsements of a product on the tube is enough to entice us to buy. Lame ad-hom attacks sway political races, what we have is a public that’s being systematically conditioned to remove their thinking caps, kill their internal skeptic and just follow the herd, right off the next cliff!

  5. Very nicely said, and a subject that seems to be quite popular lately in many places, including my own blog. There’s never anything wrong with listening to other people’s ideas and then thinking for yourself about them. It’s really too bad that leads to such negative comments these days.

  6. Odd Emperor: I’m with ya. Very sad to see people running our country blatently censoring advisory councils because they don’t like what is being said. That simply infuriates me! Won’t go there.

    I find there are variations of two kinds of skeptics – one set is skeptical of the skeptics so to speak and only believe what they have set in their minds because only they are correct. Dislike those kind, won’t associate with them let alone try to have a reasonable debate. Second type are those who are very open to listening. They may have heard it all before and sort of made up their mind about things but they are still curious about new facets that come to light. They are interested in lots of things. I like those; smart folk, witty, fun to talk to – unless you are a creationist, I guess. Although, in a large group, they can also get somewhat smug. Perhaps we all can fall into that trap in certain company.

    Dustin: I read your blog sometimes too. Thanks for taking a look at mine. I’ll check it out more frequently now.

  7. The spammer has not returned. However, I am still getting some traffic from the counter post to mine. Only one comment was on his blog in response to his rant – a positive.

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