Author Topic: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists  (Read 1769 times)

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Quote from: PZ Myers
Skepticism will not fix its problems by denying their existence:

There is a fair amount of diversity in the skeptical movement. There are a substantial number of skeptics who buy into scientific racism, for instance, or are climate change denialists, or even, I’ve discovered, a few who believe in flying saucers. At least those latter people get laughed out of the movement, but the others have been dealt with by largely avoiding the topics, because they would bring on too much dissent. And when they do deal with them, they tread far more carefully than they do when addressing psychics or Bigfoot hunters.

As for climate change denial, I think some skeptics leaned that way, but as the science has become more compelling, it is no longer the case that it has substantial traction among skeptics. At least that's my impression.

As for the scientific racism thing, my impression is that skeptics are on average less racist than the population at large (which should be expected). Is there any truth to PZ Myers' claim, or is he just talking out of his ass?
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Offline nameofthewave

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 04:14:21 PM »
I'm not sure, his article is a little vague - what is scientific racism exactly? Using "science" to justify discrimination based on racial characteristics, or as an explanation of sociological differences between groups?

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2017, 05:47:01 PM »
These days it seems like PZ Myers is little more than a troll when it comes to online discussions at least.
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Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2017, 08:01:20 PM »
Without defining what he means by racist, there really isn't much to respond to on that point.
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Offline nameofthewave

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2017, 10:15:41 PM »
Science is just science. If he fundamentally disagrees with the underlying premise of whatever it is he is talking about, maybe he should call it 'pseudoscientific racism'?

Online gmalivuk

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #5 on: February 19, 2017, 11:13:16 PM »
I'm no big fan of PZ either, but c'mon guys, words sometimes mean things.
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2017, 08:39:27 AM »
I think that "scientific racism" is an oxymoron. At one time (maybe a hundred years ago?) it was possible to find plausible-seeming sciency justifications for racism. Before such things as data-mining and researcher bias were understood. But today there is no science behind racism. I know this sounds like the No True Scotsman fallacy. But I think that nobody could look at the evidence and conclude that there was any scientific evidence to justify racism.

That said, skeptics are people, and people are very good at holding contradictory opinions. Racism occurs at different levels, and the negative emotion many of us feel towards people of different groups requires more than scientific evidence to dispel. So there are skeptics and scientists who are racist. But their racism is not scientific even if they cling to outdated and discredited "evidence."

Likewise, there is misogyny in the skeptical movement. And there are people who practice skepticism generally, except in one area where they cling to unscientific beliefs. People are complicated.
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Online gmalivuk

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #7 on: February 20, 2017, 11:43:26 AM »
Sure, it's pseudoscience, but that area of pseudoscience is still what the term "scientific racism" generally refers to. Just like we all know what "global warming skeptics" are, even while they're not actually skeptics.

I'm not saying it's the best name for it, or that it's not an oxymoron. I was just taking issue with the apparent bafflement the term was causing to previous posters.
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Offline Andrew Clunn

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #8 on: February 20, 2017, 11:48:19 AM »
I'm no big fan of PZ either, but c'mon guys, words sometimes mean things.

I'm pretty sure he's not talking about phrenology.
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Offline daniel1948

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2017, 03:08:35 PM »
Sure, it's pseudoscience, but that area of pseudoscience is still what the term "scientific racism" generally refers to. Just like we all know what "global warming skeptics" are, even while they're not actually skeptics.

I'm not saying it's the best name for it, or that it's not an oxymoron. I was just taking issue with the apparent bafflement the term was causing to previous posters.

Okay. Accepted.
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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2017, 06:01:18 PM »
I'd assume he really means scientific racism when he writes so.

And of course it's not scientific, but it's still called what it's called due to historical reasons. Just like Christian Science is not scientific at all either, despite its name.
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Offline Redamare

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #11 on: February 20, 2017, 11:39:26 PM »
I think there are a few stats that point to small differences between races. None large enough to bother plugging them into one's worldview, but they seem possibly real for all of that.

Personally, I don't care if Ashkenazi Jews are slightly smarter than other groups, or not. The difference is probably too small to matter, anyway. For this reason, I've never bothered looking into the stats any further to judge their veracity.

But, they could be true. There are probably lots of folks out there who say, "Well it looks like Ashkenazi Jews really are slightly more intelligent than other groups, on average, but who cares? It's not going to mean much of anything on the level of individuals, so I'm not going to change my behavior over it." 

PZ is just the kind of ideologically purist asshole who would call these people racists and a scourge, even if what they say is perfectly true and doesn't really amount to anything.
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Offline Johnny Slick

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I'm sure there are scientific racists in the atheist community because I've met them. I also don't think they're that prevalent. I think misogyny is a lot more prevalent, in part because misogyny is more prevalent in general but also, let's face it, because the atheist movement is dominated by (cis) men.

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Offline Quetzalcoatl

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I'm sure there are scientific racists in the atheist community because I've met them. I also don't think they're that prevalent. I think misogyny is a lot more prevalent, in part because misogyny is more prevalent in general but also, let's face it, because the atheist movement is dominated by (cis) men.

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But the atheist community is not the same as the skeptic community. So referring to the former is not really an argument about the latter, I think.
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Offline Johnny Slick

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Re: PZ Myers claims "a substantial number of skeptics" are scientific racists
« Reply #14 on: February 23, 2017, 10:40:54 PM »
Sure, but a lot of atheists - perhaps even most who use labels beyond "atheist" in fact - identify as skeptics and vice versa. The Venn Diagram is, like, really really close to overlapping. Yes, there are Raelians and kind of sort of Scientologists but these are edge cases. Also, Myers' larger point - and the "scientific racists" thing was almost a throw-away line although I see what he's saying there - is that skeptics tend to be waaaaaaaaaaaaay nicer to people who, for example, come onto their message boards and spew racist BS than people who come on and talk about Bigfoot as though it might be real. I've seen this very phenomenon on this board, recently WRT transphobia as opposed to straight-up racism, but we have a couple of old-school "black people are inferior" racists who come on in and post from time to time and, well, there's disdain from some but not from others.

I do think that Dr. Novella takes more of a Professor X style approach to these people as opposed to PZ Myers' Magneto. And I mean, Professor X is the leader of the good guys for a reason...
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 10:45:22 PM by Johnny Slick »
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