If empathy is wrong, I don’t want to be right

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It’s been a downer week. I feel, like many others, that I need to withdraw from the insanity going on in the news. If you notice this week’s Virtual Skeptics (linked below), we are all kind of frustrated and down. There are ups and there are downs. That’s life.

I care what people think of me. Personal criticism by people I admire does sting but I try to improve. But this post is different. This is me, it’s who I am and in this case I don’t particularly care what people think about it. I’m just sharing a piece of me. We’re all people first and people are complicated.

I don’t get people who are right now reveling in Schadenfreude – joy in the misfortune of others (Brian Dunning right now and Mr. Randi a little while back.) That’s sickening to me and I actually think less of you as a person because of it. Why is it that people feel they have to give an opinion and comment on everything and that it should be taken seriously? Why so quick to discard all the good someone has done for something not directly related? It makes me wonder how you get along in the world at all – we all screw up, we all make mistakes. Do you punish everyone on a permanent basis whom you feel has screwed up? How short-sighted and shallow of you.

For those of you who call me a “bad skeptic” I don’t care. My work stands for itself. Opinions are like… well, you know. Opinions from several that I used to admire have ceased to be important to me now. I don’t even read that stuff. My goals are not the same as yours. I don’t see the world the same. I won’t be in the audience of the latest performance of outrage theatre that is just designed to gain attention for the performer. It’s been unconstructive and divisive. It’s not necessary or desirable to spout your opinion about everything to everyone. You begin to sound like Rush Limbaugh – a big bag of hot air. Go do something worthwhile that appeals to the public. WHAT A CONCEPT! Try it for a change.

If you have heard me speak or read my writing, you know I am NOT of the opinion that everyone who does not agree with me is wrong. There is no way I could draw lines like that. I am not a black/white thinker. People are complicated, everything is shades of gray and depends on context. I am very willing to change my mind when warranted and amenable to cooperate with those who want to work positively, even if we’ve had disputes before. I don’t hold grudges. Burning bridges is a stupid social strategy.

I steer clear of the places that sow hate and divisiveness. I want to keep on learning. If you think that’s a good idea, stop participating in endless facebook dustups and vitriolic blog post comment threads. I’m going to do less responding. So, yeah, those of you sending me emails about how idiotic I am or how I was wrong, thanks for your comments but don’t expect an answer. If you don’t like my stuff, don’t follow it. It’s a free society. If you don’t like my decision to cut out comments or not engage in a debate, take off – go write your own blog, go argue about it on a forum. This is my space, not your platform, and not a debate forum. And the world keeps turning…

Find me on this past episode of Strange Frequencies Radio and Token Skeptic talking about the Media Guide and the scope of my skepticism.

Finally, people have gotten on my case for being human. They don’t like it when I lose my temper, or when I don’t apply skepticism to every  situation all the time (such as supporting friends who are in trouble). That’s absurd! Stop it. We are human first, skeptics/atheists/whatever is secondary or maybe even tertiary. If we only decided based on logic and didn’t let emotions drive things we do, we’d hardly get anything important done. Attempting to understand the social aspects of humanity plays a large part in who I am, what I do, and how I behave. Empathy with all kinds of people is a quality we all need to nurture. Atheist and skeptics especially need to work on this because, frankly, we generally suck at it. And, that seems an obvious reason why we can’t go much beyond one day without drama.

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3 thoughts on “If empathy is wrong, I don’t want to be right

  1. snoma

    Well said. I don’t understand the people who are dismissing people’s work based on something that’s not even related to their work. I also find it highly ironic and hypocritical that some of the people who are going on about how we should apply skepticism to every situation all the time, tend to react to A LOT of situations based on emotions (which is usually anger, outrage and/or schadenfreude) more often than not. Not that it’s inherently wrong to react with such feelings (and it could be warranted) but then don’t go around calling people idiots because they react with empathy or sadness to a situation you might find justified, good or funny or whatever.

    We are humans and whether we like it or not, we are emotional beings before anything else.

  2. RDW

    You’re an excellent Skeptic, Sharon, of the most important kind : accessible. People who are Atheists and/or Skeptics already don’t really need anyone to explain why it’s unlikely that there are Bigfoots, Flying Saucers, Loch Ness Monsters, or Ghosties in their attic. It’s the people who actually DO believe such things that really need a person such as yourself. It’s a real shame that you have to take crap from so many fronts ; both the people who say you’re ruining their fun by explaining away their beliefs in unfounded, psuedo- scientifical theories, and the straight-edged, uncompromising “You’re not serious minded enough” aspect of the Atheist “Community”. I can think of a couple of other groups who seem fond of stirring up trouble and harassing people who are trying to do good things for Humanity. To steal a line from Neil Young, Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Sharon. You’re a truly remarkable individual. You’re critics are all misguided. Some of them probably should be locked up. But all of them should just Shut Up. Dave

  3. One Eyed Jack

    I guess I don’t frequent the same internet places that you do. I haven’t seen people “reveling” in Brian Dunning’s plea agreement, though I’m sure there are some.

    What I find interesting about this story is how some dismiss his crime as “just a mistake”. From the documents I’ve seen, he knowingly created software to exploit E-bay’s programming (the fact that others do this does not make it right). Would people be so dismissive if the target was elderly retirees? I think we are more forgiving when the victim is a company rather than individuals. Should we be?

    As I said at Doubtful News, he should not be vilified, but he deserves the same criticism anyone would receive that commits a crime.

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