13 October, 2010

As For Being Shrill, Strident, Etc.

Once again, the "tone" argument's making the rounds (does it ever cease?  It circles like a dog attempting to capture its own fugitive tail).  Ophelia Benson's already pointed out a few of the more annoying examples.  And she led me to this delightful bit by Jason Rosenhouse, which comes just in time, because a dear (and horribly neglected) friend of mine posted rather more sensibly on the issue (hi, Paul!).  I'd meant to come up with something thoughtful and considered that would explain my position, but find I don't have to.  All one has to do is read Jason's post and imagine me standing there jumping up and down going, "Me, too!"

I'd quote from it, but I can't find a single bit I want to excerpt because I want to excerpt it all.  But if you've ever wondered what we shrill, strident, unabashed defenders of evolution, atheism, and all things rational are thinking, this is pretty much it in a nutshell.

And remember, my dearest Paul, that we're not trying to convert the unconvertable.  Nothing we do will reach the men and women who spend their days swearing Jesus rode a dinosaur.  Politeness won't do it, any more than a good sharp smack will.  Think of the old psychologists-changing-a-lightbulb joke: the only way anything works is if they want to change.

No, we're rallying the troops and aiming at the fence-sitters.  And as one of those who got knocked off the fence and had some good sense jolted in to me by those horrible shrill Gnu Atheists, as a person who disavowed woo for science because PZ, Orac et al didn't have any trouble calling a spade a silly little shite, I can testify that being contentious sometimes does more than raise morale for the choir.  Sometimes, it awakens passion, wonder, and courage in people who might've sat it out.

It takes all kinds.  Changing the world isn't a simple task!

(For those who haven't had the pleasure, I can wholeheartedly recommend Paul's lovely Cafe Philos blog.  After a long day in the trenches, it's nice to sit with a cup of coffee and just enjoy some thought-provoking serenity.)


Paul Sunstone said...

Well, I agree it takes all kinds, my bright and beautiful friend!

I think the difference between us is a matter of the tactics we prefer and when, or to what ends, we prefer them. I confess, though, that I enjoy your scorched earth, take no prisoners, approach to it. You have me rolling on the floor some days.

Woozle said...

Paul's "salesman" analogy, despite being a reasonable point to make, is the wrong analogy to explain the so-called "stridency" of the Gnu Atheists.

We're not trying to "sell" anything to anyone; we're merely demanding the right to openly own it ourselves. Politeness is appropriate if we're being treated politely in kind.

If we're being told we'll go to hell if we don't accept Jesus (ever driven much in rural areas of the South?), then I think it's entirely appropriate to say "That statement is full of it, and you know it." If they take offense at the truth, then obviously they need more of it -- not less, otherwise they will just keep running away from it.

Perhaps someone would be hurt or offended by my saying that (who? and why?), but history shows the consequences to be far worse if I don't. Does anyone really think they'll stop where they are now -- a lot of obnoxious roadsigns and a few faith-"justified" murders here and there -- if we just meekly accept that it's okay to threaten people in public like that?

(P.S. Wow, Blogger is being a pill today. I had to clear all my Google cookies and log in separately before it would let me comment. Maybe if I'd been less shrill and strident in my demand to use its commenting feature, it would have let me in the first time.)