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Old 20th January 2004, 11:07 AM   #1
shanek
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Why Penn Jillette’s remarks really, REALLY bother me

For those of you who attended TAM2, you’ll recall some remarks made by Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller, saying (in effect) that any skeptic should be an atheist and calling people who believe in a deity "f*cking retarted," a remark which seemed to have a good amount of support from the audience. This didn't really bother me at first, since I'm not exactly a theist, but the more I think about it and the more I discuss it with others, the more it bothers and upsets me.

Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge P&T fan and admire them both greatly. But Penn is human, after all, subject to the same failings and foibles as the rest of us, and the impression I'm left with is that he needs someone to whack him upside the head (metaphorically speaking—I would never condone violence) to remind him of it. Skepticism is NOT about the conclusions we draw; it is about the process we use to come to those conclusions. Reasonable people can disagree, as long as they disagree reasonably. And Penn's disagreement is NOT reasonable. Is he saying that everyone who joins the skeptics movement must agree with every single conclusion held by the majority? And if not, then why is this one issue so important?

Even worse, who the ***** is he to go calling people who disagree with him "f*cking retarded"? Here's a little tip for you: The assertion that there definitively is no god is exactly as irrational as the assertion that there definitively is a god. You could make the argument that it is reasonable to conclude the absence of a deity in the lack of evidence for the existence of one, but the absolute rejection of the idea that a reasonable person could believe in a god is as unreasonable and intolerant as the Christian Fundamentalists that get (and deserve) so much vitriol. I believe that, if you're going to rely solely on skeptical thought to reach a conclusion on this issue, the most reasonable conclusion is, "Who the ***** cares?" It doesn't seem to make any difference to anything at all that we have ever scientifically, skeptically, and rationally observed whether there is a god or not. That is obviously not the conclusion Penn has drawn. But I would NEVER call him "f*cking retarted" for it. He isn't; he is obviously an extremely intelligent man.

But he's an extremely intelligent man who should know better. He knows perfectly well of the lizard-brain we all have inside us; he's mentioned the effect in his show many times. But now, all of a sudden, this one issue becomes a litmus test for who is a skeptic and who isn't? And who is retarded or who isn't? Are we now only to allow people to join us who think the way we do? As a skeptic, I find that idea highly offensive, and so, I think, should other skeptics. This is about free thinking, not saying the right thing to please other people; and in that, we have to allow for the fact that some people just aren't going to agree with us even if we are a 6'7" celebrity with a loud voice. But the lizard-brain that lurks in the depths of our evolutionary past can swell up when we're not looking, especially in areas that have a particular emotional attachment for us. I don't know if such is the case with Penn or not, but there certainly seems to be a disproportionate amount of repulsion for theists, which for Penn is saying a lot. Was the surprisingly delightful Julia Sweeney "f*cking retarded" for most of her life? Did she suddenly stop being retarded when she switched to atheism? Is this a litmus test?

I, as most of you know, am a Libertarian, as is Penn. I came at my Libertarianism through years of skeptical examination of government and government programs. I fully believe that Libertarianism is the logical result of a skeptical examination of government, since it is such an abject failure in so many ways that it's bizarre to think that it could be relied on or be "reformed." And as many of you know, I don't have any qualms whatsoever about loosing my vitriol on those who engage in sloppy thinking and even disingenuity to try and avoid that conclusion. I am much like Penn in that regard. But I would NEVER call non-Libertarians "f*cking retarded," and no one here has ever seen me make such a blanket statement. The only time I get bent out of shape is when people abandon skeptical thought to do so.

All of this really bothers me, and I'd hate to think of Penn's position as being the perception that outsiders have of our movement. I admire him no less, although I do see him as a little more human than I did before, but more and more I have the desire to go shout in his face, "What the ***** is wrong with you? Disengage the lizard-brain that brought us tragedies like 9/11 and realize that reasonable people just might be able to come to a different conclusion to the one you have arrived at, and realize that there are many different paths to get to the same place, and that people need to think freely in order to use the tools of skeptical though to arrive there. As such, we will all be individuals who may not agree 100% of the time, but recognizing that the opinions of other skeptics deserve respect and consideration even when we do disagree. If we do that, who knows? We just might be able to come together and reach an even greater conclusion."

After all, isn't that what skepticism is really about?
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:13 AM   #2
Cleopatra
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Has anybody of you expressed his/her disagreement to him?


Cleopatra the retarded.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:18 AM   #3
Nyarlathotep
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I am kind of torn on his comments myself. I don't like the idea of calling anyone who disagrees with ones view a retard, because so doing adds nothing to the debate except to make it more emotional, but I otherwise agree with his opinion. As you said, skepticism is about a process and not about the conclusions we draw, however I don't see how a skeptical process that leads to rejection of paranormal claims cannot also lead to the rejection of deities, provided that one is being equally honest with oneself in examining both things. In short, I agree with what he said, just not the way he said it.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:20 AM   #4
Mercutio
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cleopatra
Has anybody of you expressed his/her disagreement to him?


Cleopatra the retarded.
I am an atheist, and I disagreed with Penn. Among my notes from that talk:

The claim that "they're mentally ill"
Is the worst kind of ignorant swill.
The way the brain works
Covers all kinds of jerks
Just as well as a "genius" it will.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:32 AM   #5
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I think many skeptics have trouble understanding how a fellow skeptic could possibly believe in the existence of a god, just as it would be odd to hear a skeptic saying that he or she believes in astrology or reflexology.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:33 AM   #6
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Cleopatra
Has anybody of you expressed his/her disagreement to him?
As I said, it didn't really bother me at first, only after I thought about it awhile. So the couple of times I had a chance to speak to him was before I really sat down and thought about it.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:33 AM   #7
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I don't ever agree with calling people names, especially retarded - that is a sore point with me anyway due to my disabled child. But other than that, I have to say Penn Jillette's attitude is very similar to my own, he is just less nice about it. I agree completely that one must be honest in their viewpoints and should share those honestly.

Skepticism is about the process - to look at the facts and evidence and base your decisions on those rather than some etheral, magical excuse. I personally don't see how anyone who is a skeptic can not be an atheist - there is no evidence what so ever to point to the existence of a god, and to assume one may or may not exist or that one can not decide is as absurd to me as saying that I must withhold a solid opinion on whether fairies exist. I will say resolutely that no fairies or gods exist. If evidence to the contrary should appear, then I will reconsider my position, but I am positive in my own mind that no such evidence exists. I think it is important that we use our critical thinking skills, and I don't think that we should stop being skeptical about a particular issue just because we want to believe or because a good majority of people insist that it is true. That being said, I can accept that others may hold a different opinion.

Do I think you are an idiot to believe or to withhold an opinion on whether a god exists or doesn't exist? No, but I also don't think you are completely rational on that issue either. But god is a prevalent belief in our world, and I think that unfortunately clouds many people's judgement on the issue and I can understand that.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:43 AM   #8
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nyarlathotep
I am kind of torn on his comments myself. I don't like the idea of calling anyone who disagrees with ones view a retard, because so doing adds nothing to the debate except to make it more emotional, but I otherwise agree with his opinion. As you said, skepticism is about a process and not about the conclusions we draw, however I don't see how a skeptical process that leads to rejection of paranormal claims cannot also lead to the rejection of deities, provided that one is being equally honest with oneself in examining both things. In short, I agree with what he said, just not the way he said it.
That isn't the point, though. His remarks were very exclusionary and heavily implied that you couldn't be considered a skeptic if you believed in God. It was a real us-against-them rant, that had more to do with the lizard-brain than the skeptic.
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:55 AM   #9
Girl 6
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Shane,

I totally agree with what you have said in your opening remarks in this thread. In fact, I was planning to start a thread on this yesterday, but I was still too tired from all of the events.

Let me just add that I observed what is close to what I would call a REVIVAL during Penn's comments. Yes, people. I felt like I was in a church! And, yes, I know about these things because I was once a believer. All the congregation needed to do was to say "Amen."

Further, I stood up to address this very same thing during the last chance we had to ask questions of Randi. But, unfortunately, Hal decided that we were "behind" schedule. So, I never got a chance to express my disgust for the name-calling and bashing that I saw in full effect at the conference.

I also overheard, to my dismay, that some deists were so uncomfortable that they declared they would stop supporting the JREF. That is NOT a good thing and we should address this.

G6
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Old 20th January 2004, 11:59 AM   #10
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Chanileslie
I personally don't see how anyone who is a skeptic can not be an atheist - there is no evidence what so ever to point to the existence of a god, and to assume one may or may not exist or that one can not decide is as absurd to me as saying that I must withhold a solid opinion on whether fairies exist.
There is a difference: If fairies exist, then there are ways of testing that. Photographs (like the ones taken by those two little girls who fooled Arthur Conan Doyle) would be nice, provided they could be shown not to be faked. There are ways we could try to find fairies, mermaids, unicorns, etc., so those are examinable claims, and in the absence of such corroborating evidence it is very reasonable to conclude that fairies don't exist, and that those who believe in them are not skeptics.

Likewise, many of the claims of theists are testable: the healing power of prayer, for example. Again, in the absence of corroborating evidence, and in light of studies that show no statistical effect, it is reasonable to conclude that prayer does nothing for healing, and that those who believe it does are not skeptics.

The god thing itself is an entirely different manner. How would you test, for example, the Deist version of God, as being one who jump-started the Universe and then just left it running? How does the existance or otherwise of a god or gods have anything to do really with how we view the universe? We reasonably conclude that there is no god, not because the idea has been tested and not verified, but because the idea cannot be tested at all and we're going solely by Occam's Razor. That's a fine, debatable point, but again, saying that it's a logical conclusion of skepticism is NOT the same thing as saying that theists aren't "true" skeptics. That's the point I was making with Libertarianism above: Libertarianism is arguiably the inevitable result, I believe, of a skeptical examination of government, but I would never say that non-Libertarians aren't "true" skeptics or are "f*cking retarded."

It's one thing to reach a conclusion. It's another thing entirely to use that conclusion for an "us-against-them" exclusionary worldview. Every human being is intelligent and capable of rational thought, and ideas you've grown up with your whole life aren't easy to just discard. Further, intelligence is no guarantee of anything—I know of many intelligent people who believe all kinds of weird woo-woo stuff.

It's fine to conclude there is no god; that is my conclusion as well. But it is NOT fine to exclude others solely on the basis of one issue that doesn't seem to really measure up to things like homeopathy. It's hateful, it's disrespectful, and it accomplishes nothing.

Quote:
Do I think you are an idiot to believe or to withhold an opinion on whether a god exists or doesn't exist?
I never said I was withholding my opinion. I've concluded that there is no god. But again, that's not the point.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:02 PM   #11
Nyarlathotep
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Quote:
Originally posted by shanek


That isn't the point, though. His remarks were very exclusionary and heavily implied that you couldn't be considered a skeptic if you believed in God. It was a real us-against-them rant, that had more to do with the lizard-brain than the skeptic.
I guess it depends on how you define skeptic. For example could I say I am a skeptic but I believed in the Loch Ness Monster, even though I have no evidence for the Loch Ness Monsters existence? What makes a claim that God exists any different than a claim that the Loch Ness Monster exists? I don't see it as us-against-them so much as I see it as not giving a specific claim (the existence of God) a free pass. Granted, I still wouldn't call a believer in God a "mentally ill retard" anymore than I would call a believer in the Loch Ness Monster a "mentally ill retard" but anyone who claims that God does exist should expect that claim to be met with the same level of skepticism as would the person who claims that the Loch Ness Monster exists. That's my opinion on it anyway.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:04 PM   #12
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Girl 6
Let me just add that I observed what is close to what I would call a REVIVAL during Penn's comments. Yes, people. I felt like I was in a church! And, yes, I know about these things because I was once a believer. All the congregation needed to do was to say "Amen."
That is absolutely the impression I got as well. I was wondering if I was the only one.

Quote:
I also overheard, to my dismay, that some deists were so uncomfortable that they declared they would stop supporting the JREF. That is NOT a good thing and we should address this.
I hadn't heard that...that IS bad.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:04 PM   #13
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I wish someone had asked Penn if he considers deist (and co-CSICOP founder) Martin Gardner a "f*cking retarded."

And why not call non-atheists "stupid" rather the (now gratuitous insult that I thought only "stupid" people used) "retarded"? "Retarded" is actually a specific word for a specific disability--one that has nothing whatsoever to do with one's belief system. Not a very impressive skeptical "critique".

Narrow-minded bigotry is far worse, imo, than a non-proselytizing belief in God could ever be.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:10 PM   #14
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nyarlathotep
What makes a claim that God exists any different than a claim that the Loch Ness Monster exists?
Because the latter is a testable claim and the former isn't. We know where Nessie should be, what size, etc. We have photographic, sonar, ultrasound, and other technologies that should tell us if something big is down there. With every real test, we have seen nothing. Again, although many of the tenets of believers are testable, the core belief in god is not, and therefore outside the realm of what we can skeptically examine. How would a universe with a god be any different than a universe without a god? How can we answer these questions when people can't even get together and agree on what god is?
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:10 PM   #15
Girl 6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Clancie
Narrow-minded bigotry is far worse, imo, than a non-proselytizing belief in God could ever be.
No.

Our lack of confronting Penn and others about their intolerance is the worst thing of all. I certainly don't want to think that my silence means acceptance.

G6
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:11 PM   #16
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Perhaps you're making too much of this.

I agree with Ny and Chani. Loud and forceful is the way he presents his ideas. Penn is an admitted carnival freak, a fire-eater, a huckster type, a barker for god's sake. You say you're a fan, so you know that he's an in-your-face entertainer. He had an audience, man. He was speaking in front of four hundred fairly like-minded people and he used the opportunity to get a reaction. That's all.

He's no more a top leader of the skeptic movement than Al Franken or Bill O'Reilly are political leaders. They're entertainers. Period.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:12 PM   #17
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I would not have a problem with Penn's comments, in general, as I of course support his right of free expression. If he chooses to make himself look like a bigoted jackass, hey more power to him.

What I do have a problem is with him using the panel discussion as pulpit to endorse his political and religious beliefs. And mark my words, Penn's particular brand of atheism is just as dogmatic, fundamentalist and intolerant as any conservative X-tian or Muslim fundie.

Such ranting does nothing to further the mission of the JREF. I even heard one anecdotal report of a conference attendee not wanting to have anything to do with the JREF as a result of his outbursts. Not good.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:13 PM   #18
Girl 6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Phil
Perhaps you're making too much of this.

I agree with Ny and Chani. Loud and forceful is the way he presents his ideas. Penn is an admitted carnival freak, a fire-eater, a huckster type, a barker for god's sake. You say you're a fan, so you know that he's an in-your-face entertainer. He had an audience, man. He was speaking in front of four hundred fairly like-minded people and he used the opportunity to get a reaction. That's all.

He's no more a top leader of the skeptic movement than Al Franken or Bill O'Reilly are political leaders. They're entertainers. Period.
He's not a leader, but he IS a role model to some people.

And yes, I'll allow for the fact that he is an entertainer, but other presenters shared his viewpoint. So, for all intents and purposes, he was representing the mainstream opinion.

Besides, we need someone to pick on besides, Hal...

G6
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:15 PM   #19
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Phil
I agree with Ny and Chani. Loud and forceful is the way he presents his ideas. Penn is an admitted carnival freak, a fire-eater, a huckster type, a barker for god's sake. You say you're a fan, so you know that he's an in-your-face entertainer. He had an audience, man. He was speaking in front of four hundred fairly like-minded people and he used the opportunity to get a reaction. That's all.

He's no more a top leader of the skeptic movement than Al Franken or Bill O'Reilly are political leaders. They're entertainers. Period.
Not really. One of the things that makes me such a big P&T fan is the respect that they have for the truth. And when I see him make a blanket statement like that that borders on bigotry, I feel I just have to call him on it.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:19 PM   #20
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I agree with Shanek on this topic.

If it was proven that god doesn´t exist, I´d have no problem with Penn calling deists whatever invective he likes.

But as things are, the existence of god is a (though probably very unlikely) theory - which I chose to consider wrong, by the way.

Okay, it is, IMHO, not possible to disprove god´s existence, but I guess proving that there is no "divine influence" anywhere in the universe would achieve just about the same. Since that did not yet happen (god might, for example, have been the one who "set" the laws of physics), I think it is too early to call deists names.

On the other hands, had Penn limited his remark to fundamentalists of any kind, I would have agreed whole-heartedly.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:19 PM   #21
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I hadn't even given Penn's comments a second thought until I read this post.

Being a guy that is used to heavy, heavy sarcasm, I laughed and clapped at his ranting. I admit, I found it amusing. It was nice to have someone slamming (har-de-har) christianity for a change. A turning of the tables, so to speak. My circle of friends has a wide range of beliefs. We call each other all kinds of nasty names, thinking very little of it. So a tangent like Penn's isn't nearly as surprising to ME as it probably was to many in the audience. Obviously, this doesn't make it right.

Usually, I have a hard time sympathising with christians over their percieved woes. But after reading through some excellent points brought up by Shanek, I think I agree with him. The comments made by Penn were much more suitable for one of the after-parties at the bar and not an educational conference.

If some of the christian members of the JREF were so offended by Penn's remarks that they are considering withdrawing their support, then perhaps he was more out of line than I first thought.

I would like to remind any christian members reading right now, who were well & truly offended by Penn's remarks to try to keep in mind that like any large body of people, we have our extremes. Obviously, everyone will not agree with some aspects of Penn's rant, just as some people will contend with certain aspects of Mr. Randi's opinions, and so on & so forth. Just because he said some offensive things at TAM doesn't mean every atheist skeptic agrees with him.

More on this later, provided the flames don't get too hot.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:22 PM   #22
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Re: Why Penn Jillette’s remarks really, REALLY bother me

Quote:
Originally posted by shanek
For those of you who attended TAM2, you’ll recall some remarks [...] calling people who believe in a deity "f***ing retarded," [...]
Start with the statement, "A person who believes in a deity is not a Bright."

Start making statements that are more emphatic and, before you know it, you arrive at the remark.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:22 PM   #23
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I guess I’m in the minority here, but I rather appreciate Penn’s style. He elicits a strong reaction from people, which I think is great. Whether one agrees or disagrees with him, he gets people thinking. It’s easy to get complacent with our ideas and I like the thought of someone shaking things up. It would be a shame if some deists pulled support for JREF just because Penn’s remarks were not polite and many of the audience agreed with him. It’s not the Penn Jillette Educational Foundation, after all. Anyone that thinks the job that James Randi is doing is vital should support JREF, regardless of the opinions, and style of expressing those opinions, of Penn or anyone else. We’re all different with diverse views and I think that’s good. If we politely agreed with each other all the time, life would be terribly dull.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:24 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally posted by Girl 6
Shane,

I also overheard, to my dismay, that some deists were so uncomfortable that they declared they would stop supporting the JREF. That is NOT a good thing and we should address this.

G6
I think it would be sad if someone were to choose not to support the JREF because they disagree with the opinion of another person, but the point is that it is tantamount in my opinion to emotional blackmail - I don't like his opinion, so I'm taking my ball and going home. There were several other members of the panel that took an opposite stance from Penn's. I think these are sad people if they choose to eshew an entire organization based on one opinion or a differing opinion. Quite frankly, during the panel discussion, several panel members voiced opinions with which I completely disagree.

I don't agree with name calling though.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:25 PM   #25
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Quote:
Posted by Shanek

One of the things that makes me such a big P&T fan is the respect that they have for the truth. And when I see him make a blanket statement like that that borders on bigotry, I feel I just have to call him on it
Ummm....well, its good you brought it out into open discussion here...but who's going to share this constructive critical feedback with Penn?
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:27 PM   #26
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Originally posted by Foofer
If we politely agreed with each other all the time, life would be terribly dull.
If we politely disagreed with each other, would life be terribly dull?
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:29 PM   #27
Girl 6
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Quote:
Originally posted by Foofer

{snip}

It’s not the Penn Jillette Educational Foundation, after all. Anyone that thinks the job that James Randi is doing is vital should support JREF, regardless of the opinions, and style of expressing those opinions, of Penn or anyone else. We’re all different with diverse views and I think that’s good. If we politely agreed with each other all the time, life would be terribly dull.
It's one thing to disagree and another thing to resort to name calling. I disagree with believers, but I have tried not to get to the point of calling them names or disrespecting them. I have only flamed ONE person on this forum since my inception. Frankly, I have regretted that.

Respect should be given to all people unless they are absolute monsters.

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Old 20th January 2004, 12:29 PM   #28
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Originally posted by Foofer
I think many skeptics have trouble understanding how a fellow skeptic could possibly believe in the existence of a god
Since when skepticism means atheism?

I understand that since PJ felt that he was talking to a friendly audience he felt that he could exaggerate a bit. I understand that skeptics felt comfortable in resorting to name calling. These are normal.

What interests me is the feeling the Girl 6 observed. The feeling that she was in church

Was Michael Shermer present to this discussion? How come he didn't remind him of Michael Gardner as Clancie said, after all Shermer mentions Gardner to his books as an example of a skeptic-theist all the time.
edited to add: Personally I don't care at all if people think that I am retarted because I am not an atheist.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:35 PM   #29
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Originally posted by shanek


Because the latter is a testable claim and the former isn't. We know where Nessie should be, what size, etc. We have photographic, sonar, ultrasound, and other technologies that should tell us if something big is down there. With every real test, we have seen nothing. Again, although many of the tenets of believers are testable, the core belief in god is not, and therefore outside the realm of what we can skeptically examine. How would a universe with a god be any different than a universe without a god? How can we answer these questions when people can't even get together and agree on what god is?
Yes but the real gist of my question is could someone honestly call themselves a skeptic if they said they accepted the Loch Ness Monster's existence even though they have no proof? If the answer to this is no, why should a claim about the existence of God be treated any differently? The fact that God may be unprovable (especially if he is unprovable because he has no effect on the universe) isn't relevant in my opinion because if he isn't provable, what reason is there to suggest his existence in the first place? I still don't see a reason to treat the question of God's existence differently than any other supernatural claim.

I also think the context of the statement is getting lost here. Granted, what I have just said in the previous paragraph isn't quite "Religious People are a bunch of mentally ill retards" and I never could agree with that particular statement (heck, the friend we had watching our kids while we went to TAM is religious and I would never put my kids in the hands of a mentally ill retard for four days) but his statements were in the larger context of a discussion of whether atheism and skepticism are the same thing and he was saying (in an unfortunate manner) that they were. I still agree with him on the larger point.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:40 PM   #30
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I find it fascinating that atheism and skepticism are being equated. If anything, this very fact will cause a schism in the so-called skeptical movement.

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Old 20th January 2004, 12:45 PM   #31
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Originally posted by Cleopatra
Has anybody of you expressed his/her disagreement to him?
I believe the phrase was more like "brain-dead retards"

I'm sure he knows. I'm sure he just said it to provoke a reaction.

But, I'm sure he wouldn't care if anyone called him a brain-dead retard for his opinion Miles Davis. It's just another umprovable belief after all.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:49 PM   #32
darling
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Originally posted by Girl 6
I find it fascinating that atheism and skepticism are being equated. If anything, this very fact will cause a schism in the so-called skeptical movement.
I know at least three Christians who were there. I'm sure there were more deists.

I figure if you want to turn it into an atheist meeting, you should at least have the decency to say so up front.

On the other hand, I could never see Mr. Randi inviting an astrologer, or a homeopath onto the board of directors of JREF. The invitation to Hal is proof that deism isn't considered to be on that level.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:50 PM   #33
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My thoughts:

1. I was embarrassed. If anyone I knew outside of JREF had heard that, I'd think they'd wonder "is this the kind of belief system that skeptics adhere to?"

2. Penn & Teller doing magic tricks = Entertainment
Penn & Teller sitting down talking to an audience at a conference = Public Speaking.

Even if Teller isn't there because he's feeling unwell, even if Penn's words are somewhat entertaining... it's not for show. I hold him to the same standard I hold to anyone else up there. Even Randi.

3. Skepticism only concerns itself with testable claims. If a person's beliefs about a diety are not testable, then skepticism has nothing to say on the manner. Therefore, calling theists 'retardos' is not a skeptical conclusion; it is an ad hominem. Ad hominems are logical fallicies, and as such, are supposed to be avoided by skeptics.

4. The skeptical movement has an extremely hard time getting it's message across. "What if there were ghosts?" will always trump "what if the claims of the existance of ghosts are untrue?" in the media. We are in a war with nonsense; one of us will get more airtime than the other.

One of the effective talents of a general is the ability to pick his battles. Is making skepticism a battle not only between science and pseudo-science, but also between science and religion a sound strategy? Do we really want to take on the majority of the world, and tell them that they must choose between science and their faith, especially when their faith doesn't necessarily conflict with science? How are we going to get our message across if we shoot ourselves in the foot this way? What if the news media decided to run with Penn's remarks in their headlines? Do we really, really want them associated with the JREF?

5. By Penn's logic (or nomenclature), most of the Founding Fathers of our Country, who created the Constitution and Bill of Rights to guarantee the Freedoms that Penn is so happy to enjoy... are retardos. The majority of men & women who are willing to defend our country, and Penn's freedoms, at the risk of death... are retardos. The majority of the his neighbors (ie the citizenry) and the government are... retardos.

How can Penn stand to live in such a place?

6. Finally, and most importantly, there are WAYS that GENTLEMEN behave. To call non-theists names that denigrate their thinking processes is RUDE and BOORISH. The mark of a civilized society is it's ability to agree to disagree, without resorting to violence. When our arguments are reduced to calling each other names, then we are heading away from reason and civilization, and back to caves and savannahs.

Since when does a "Marketplace of Ideas" necessitate rudeness?
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:53 PM   #34
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His remarks were very exclusionary and heavily implied that you couldn't be considered a skeptic if you believed in God.
I have most of the skeptical traits (including being an atheist) and yet I wouldn't care less if I am considered a "skeptic" or not. It sounds like a cult characterization to me, and a poorly defined one for that matter.

In any case, calling theists "retarded" is not a skeptical thing to say since we all know that many bright scientists have been believers. How unskeptical of him...
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:53 PM   #35
geni
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A sceptic producing a statement that does not show critical thinking? And this is ment to suprise me how?

Most people on this forum claim to be soft athiests/agnostics and yet when someone posted a poll on a varation of pascals wager that got round the which god problem most of the respondents did not act rationaly within the framework of their postion.

Sure there are plenty of sceptics around but there is also a worrying group who have created a dogma of sceptism to take the place relgion. It is a very attractive dogma because you will almost always be right but it is a dogma non the less.
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:54 PM   #36
shanek
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nyarlathotep
Yes but the real gist of my question is could someone honestly call themselves a skeptic if they said they accepted the Loch Ness Monster's existence even though they have no proof? If the answer to this is no, why should a claim about the existence of God be treated any differently?
Because belief in god is a much more personal thing than belief in the Loch Ness Monster. People believe in god because it gives them certain feelings, or a certain power, what they consider to be definite tangible benefits. We may say they're deluding themselves, we may say they're acting with no proof at all, and that's fine. But again, that's not the same as being all divisive and exclusionary based on what someone personally chooses to believe. What if that someone freely acknowledges that they have no rational basis for their belief, but they choose to believe because of the benefits that belief gives them? Who are we to slam the door on them?
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:56 PM   #37
Clancie
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Quote:
Posted by Nyarlahotep

...his statements were in the larger context of a discussion of whether atheism and skepticism are the same thing and he was saying (in an unfortunate manner) that they were. I still agree with him on the larger point.
Actually, I think you'd have a hard time philosophically making the case that "atheism and skepticism are the same thing". Skepticism is a method of thinking and analyzing; atheism is a conclusion.

If Penn had said that, to him, atheism was the logical outcome of skepticism applied to religious philosophy...well, that would have been a significantly different point, a personal opinion and point of future discussion...debate...etc.

When he says instead, in effect, "anyone who doesn't agree with my conclusion about God, not only isn't a real skeptic, he is a f*cking retard!" he is making a very different point.

I'm sort of surprised/disappointed that in a room with hundreds of skeptics no one spoke up....
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Old 20th January 2004, 12:59 PM   #38
Phil
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Quote:
Originally posted by geni
A sceptic producing a statement that does not show critical thinking? And this is ment to suprise me how?

Most people on this forum claim to be soft athiests/agnostics and yet when someone posted a poll on a varation of pascals wager that got round the which god problem most of the respondents did not act rationaly within the framework of their postion.

Sure there are plenty of sceptics around but there is also a worrying group who have created a dogma of sceptism to take the place relgion. It is a very attractive dogma because you will almost always be right but it is a dogma non the less.
Well said, geni. And you even used capital letters.
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Old 20th January 2004, 01:00 PM   #39
geni
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Quote:
Originally posted by bignickel
with nonsense; one of us will get more airtime than the other.

One of the effective talents of a general is the ability to pick his battles. Is making skepticism a battle not only between science and pseudo-science, but also between science and religion a sound strategy? Do we really want to take on the majority of the world, and tell them that they must choose between science and their faith, especially when their faith doesn't necessarily conflict with science?
The battle between science and relgion was fort a long time ago. Since then major religions have altured their position to acomidate science. Sure there are still a few people who haven't quite got to grips with this and they can be debated with. But the major religions have pretty much made themselves science proof for anything short of the invention of a time machine.
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Old 20th January 2004, 01:04 PM   #40
Phil
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Originally posted by Clancie
. . . If Penn had said that, to him, atheism was the logical outcome of skepticism applied to religious philosophy...well, that would have been a significantly different point, a personal opinion and point of future discussion...debate...etc. . .
But this is what he did say. But he said it as Penn Jillette would say it, not as Clancie would say it, or as Randi or Michael Shermer would say it.

I ask each of you again to consider the source.
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