Guest Post on Brute Reason: Thoughts on the Assumption of Good Faith

My second guest post for the ever-wonderful Brute Reason blog is up. If you want to read some of my thoughts on recent events in the skeptic community and their implications for my feelings on whether to assume that people are acting in good faith or not, check it out:

Thoughts on the Assumption of Good Faith


4 comments on “Guest Post on Brute Reason: Thoughts on the Assumption of Good Faith

  1. Interesting and generally reasonable post over on Brute Reason, and you’ve certainly given some indications of attempts to be fair. But always a bit of an issue in asking whether our interlocutors are arguing in good faith or not. However, I think one might reasonably ask whether your premises are entirely valid, whether you are really asking the right questions, that is, for examples and respectively:

    … I am forced to acknowledge that an environment in which criticisms made by women are routinely gaslighted in this way is one in which women would find it more difficult to criticize problems like sexual harassment. ….

    I put the question to the audience: at what point is the assumption of good faith not deserved? How do you decide when trust is overly naïve or mistrust is overly cynical?

    While you did suggest some reasonable level of circumspection with your “if the truth is uncertain”, I think the problematic issue or aspect is that you, and many others, more or less abandon that position and rather dogmatically and unskeptically insist that your position is in fact the only real, genuine, solid-gold truth with a capital T. Rather difficult to be expecting good faith if one is not arguing from that position oneself, and it would seem that a dogmatic insistence on the truth of one’s own position hardly qualifies – at least for anyone who wishes to call themself a skeptic.

    And as a case in point, consider one of the ones you described which might well be considered paradigmatic, that of Michael Shermer’s “it’s more of a guy thing” which Ophelia Benson proceeded to mischaracterize, I think, in rather odious and inflammatory if not libelous terms:

    The main stereotype in play, let’s face it, is that women are too stupid to do non-theism. Unbelieving in God is thinky work, and women don’t do thinky, because “that’s a guy thing.”

    Don’t laugh: Michael Shermer said exactly that a week ago on a video panel discussion on The Point.

    Apart from the brute fact that Shermer said nothing of the sort, that led to all sorts of accusations of sexism on Shermer’s part without there being the least willingness to address the question of whether that statement qualified as such. Hardly seems like a particularly untenable position that there might well be differences in outlooks and values that segregate in general by sex. Even Don Kane, a geneticist who PZ Myers defended against the onslaught of his own “Horde”, suggested the same concept (1):

    And the idea was to ask about that the idea that something more than cultural bias might explain the simple observation that women are in church more than men. What something in the female phenotype is, on average, different from the male phenotype?

    You know, genetic differences between the sexes, like most other animals on the planet.

    And in that case, with the rather notable if not egregious unwillingness to address that rather fundamental issue, one might reasonably argue that those criticisms of Shermer look rather much like witch hunting. And that your charge of “gaslighting” is predicated on a very questionable assumption.

    While I will readily admit that there is more than little evidence that both “sides” are guilty of that process, I might suggest that accusations of bad faith be proceeded with a question as to whether one’s own position is all that tenable.

    1) “_”;

      • That’s my whole point: you and many others are quite sure – dogmatically sure – that that qualifies as sexist yet you are not at all prepared to defend or argue or support your case in any way. You just insist – ipse dixit – that it is true, and expect, rather arrogantly if not pigheadedly one might suggest, that everyone else fall into lock-step behind you.

        And then you turn around and insist that others are “arguing in bad faith”? ’Tis to laugh. Although it has an edge to it.

        • Agreed. You know who else is dogmatic? Those physicists. Always thinking they know more than me because they studied their field for 10 years and I studied it for one year in undergrad. The arrogance! The dogmatism! Never taking the time to explain their years of study of a complicated subject to me in blog comments! They say the universe is governed by quantum mechanics, and yet when I point out that the universe doesn’t look very quantum to me, they scoff! Not at all prepared to defend or argue or support their case in any way! How dare they insist we follow them in lockstep, taking their word as gospel?!

          Stepping outside of the sarcasm for a moment: it should not be a difficult concept for you to grasp that the more you read about something, the more you know about it. You display all of the hallmarks of someone who has not put even a cursory effort in to read about the nature of sexism. I can recognize these hallmarks because I have been reading about sexism and engaging with people exactly like you for a while now, and there is, I assure you, absolutely zero novelty in the things you’re saying here. Use Google. It helps. Everything you have said has been addressed on the Internet countless times before, and if you wouldn’t only avail yourself of the resources available to you you would realize that. Come back here when you’re capable of sounding less like an introductory physics student who thinks they can disprove quantum mechanics.

          Until you can do that, your comments are no longer going to be approved for posting. Because they are both ignorant and boring. If it makes you feel better, though, you are in good company with respect to being ignorant about this stuff and not realizing it. Unfortunately, the fact that you are in good company is what makes it so boring.

          If you don’t feel like educating yourself, that’s fine with me, but don’t expect me to take you seriously or give you a forum to spout useless ignorance. Being taken seriously on this stuff is something you learn by not sounding ignorant.

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