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Phil Plait, "Don't Be a Dick" (Part 1 of 3)

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Uploaded on Jul 24, 2011

This speech by astronomer and atheist Dr. Phillip Cary Plait was given at the TAM8 Conference which took place from July 8-11, 2010. Phil Plait is the author of _Death from the Skies_ and is President of the James Randi Educational Foundation as well as creator of the online blog "Bad Astronomy," hosted by discovermagazine.com. He served for a decade on the Hubble Space Telescope.

This video was obtained at this web address:
http://vimeo.com/13704095

The topic of the speech pertains to effectiveness of approach when involving oneself in the discussions related to "winning the hearts and minds" of the great majority of humanity to critical thinking, atheism, and science. It is an offer of constructive criticism and an examination of not only the counterproductive effects of employing needless insults and hostility as a methodology but also of the proper orientation one must take to the process of raising consciousness and both engendering and cultivating a society capable of scientific reasoning.

The ironic note is that he mentions Skepchick Rebecca Watson having concurrently published writings on the same theme, though with a different trajectory. Watson presently is embroiled in petty inflammatory exchanges regarding her "elevatorgate" experience and is campaigning for a boycott against the pioneering atheist and accomplished biologist Richard Dawkins for simply not "getting it," as she wantonly declares. Instead of taking an educational approach to the matter to raise consciousness and advance both feminism and atheism, she has chosen instead to antagonize, divide, and ultimately damage the atheist community and its most prominent spokesperson... and has in effect alienated feminists and feminist efforts therein. This would appear to contradict a "don't be a dick" approach, of course, and, in fact, after Plait's speech came out, she and PZ Myers denounced it. In a later speech Watson even declared, "I realized I am, in fact, a dick, and I should just embrace it." So clearly she takes a different tact...

As Dr. Plait states in this lecture, we're already facing tremendous difficulties in overcoming the resistance of irrationality. So infighting and "cheap point scoring" simply and needlessly add to the already daunting challenges we face as a members of a movement to enlighten and empower other minds.

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Disclaimer: The maker of this video is in no way associated with Dr. Phil Plait, The James Randi Educational Foundation, www.randi.org, TAM conferences, or vimeo.com. This video is intended for information purposes only.

Highlights from Part 1:
"There's some alarming developments in the way skepticism is being done... The tone of what we're doing is decaying, and instead of relying on the merits of the arguments- which is what critical thinking is really all about, is what evidence-based reasoning is about- it seems that vitriol and venom are on the rise."

"How do you convince someone that they're not thinking clearly when they're not thinking clearly?"

"The message we're trying to convey is hard all by its lonesome, and it's even worse when we're trying to peddle this idea... of no magic, no afterlife, no higher moral authoritative father figure, no security, and no happy ever after... This is a tough sell."

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