follow up to Pathologizing Dissent
Well, following on from mr Corner’s apparent attempt to present skepticism as a psychological disease to be “understood”, I tweeted him to see if he’d be prepared to reassert his rather damaged objective credibility by doing the same for the other “side” (I really hate talking in such terms) in the debate.
Here’s the exchange:
QuidSapio @QuidSapio @AJCorner I'm proposing a discussion to analyse the "psychology of Belief"
- would you like to take part?
Adam Corner @AJCorner @QuidSapio possibly. But am not keen on how personal its getting
(Barry Woods pics etc; comments on Bishop Hill), so wary of taking part
QuidSapio @QuidSapio AJCorner well if we both agree to keep it non-personal (I always prefer that) -
how about that? We can do it any way you're ok with
QuidSapio @QuidSapio Adam Corner @AJCorner @QuidSapio but reading your post you've already
called me (personally) 'smug' and patronising. So why would I want to talk to you?
QuidSapio @QuidSapio @AJCorner nothing personal - psychoanalysing one side in a debate can
seem smug, which is why I'm inviting you to analyse AGW Belief too
I haven’t heard anything from him since this – and that was about 17hrs ago, so I am assuming he’s following through with his last tweet. I’m not worth talking to because I called him “smug” – though of course if you look at my post I didn’t actually do anything as direct as that.
But I’m not sure of the ethics on display here. Mr C seems now to be reacting as if he were some private citizen taken to task unfairly for simply stating his views. That’s nonsense. He runs a blog. He published his “Understanding the Psychology of Skepticism” on that blog. By doing that and by presuming to present skepticism as a disorder to be “understood” he was publicly standing by a position. if that position is subsequentluy questioned he has to be prepared to either defend it or retract.
What he can’t ethically do -in my view – is decline to engage on the grounds his feelings are hurt.
And if we add to this the events unfolding on his blog – where he has actually posted his intention to censor any comment that discusses the rational basis for skepticism – then we have legitimate basis for asking, is this a real academic process he’s engaged in, or a rather silly and unpleasant PR stunt?
Can Mr C rescue his “Understanding the Psychology of Skepticism” as a legitimate enquiry? Only, I think, by being prepared to answer questions like a responsible academic. If he continues to use censorship and cries of “you’re being personal” to control legitimate responses to his work then he has relinquished the right to be taken seriously.
I posted this on Mr Corner’s blog. It pretty much sums up why I care about this as much as I do and can probably stand as my final word on the matter pending some new development:
Adam — hi
We talked on Twitter remember. I suggested a reciprocal discussion in which you and a prominent proponent of AGW discuss the Psychology of Belief.
You said you might be interested but were worried about it becoming too “personal”.
I’m sorry if my use of the word “smug” contributed to your sense of alarm. I certainly didn’t intend it in any deeply personal way. At least no more personally than your assumption of the right to diagnose shades of opinion as more or less symptomatic of illness.But I think anyone you debated with would be happy to remain as impersonal as would be commensurate with “understanding” your deeper reasons for feeling the need to bellieve.
With that in mind, have you had any more thoughts on the suggestion I made?
Let me explain more about why I’m here asking you that.
See, from my POV, I feel as if the most important thing we have as human beings is not faith or Belief and all the pretence we use to defend those things, but the preparedness — always — to accept we may be wrong and the willingness to embrace the massive importance of Uncertainty. I think we all agree if we could all do that then there’d be no more insane ideologues, drunk on certitude, persecuting the Different. No more hubristic claims of Absolute Truth. Ad indeed no more insidious attempts to reclassify unpopular opinions as a basis for psychoanalysis.
I don’t think you intended what you’re doing to be an open invitation to bigotry — but that really makes no difference. And even if you’re not aware of the uses that such casual denigration can be put to, you can rest assured there are others who are.
So, that’s why I think it’s important you acknowledge the full ramifications of the position you’re taking and that you deal responsibly with the urgent need to reassert Uncertainty. To remind yourself and everyone else that being absolutely damn sure you’re right is not a guarantee of anything but a degree of estrangement from reality.
The best way to do that reasserting would — IMO — be that reciprocal analysis of the psychology of belief we talked about.
So — how about it?
Perhaps you and Geoff could meet up again with roles reversed?
If you did that it would show that even though you have equated dissent with sickness and even though you’ve effectively censored defence of skepticism from your website — you can still see the need for balance.
Hope you don’t censor this — because that *would* be ironic wouldn’t it