Author Topic: Shermer continues to be a bum  (Read 1287 times)

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Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Shermer continues to be a bum
« on: January 27, 2019, 12:17:26 AM »
Michael Shermer recently tweeted:
"Last term I received 3 letters from my uni's disability office excusing students from taking tests in class, participating in discussions, & giving a talk (they all have to do an 18-min. TED talk in my class). Disability? Anxiety. My response: Good. You should feel anxious!"

It amazes me that this guy continues to be employed by a university. I'm glad Scientific American is ditching him.

Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #1 on: January 27, 2019, 08:29:24 AM »
I'm glad Scientific American is ditching him.
That's good news, wish they had done so twenty years ago. He's always come across as a jerk.

Offline Sawyer

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #2 on: January 27, 2019, 09:49:52 AM »
Michael Shermer recently tweeted:
"Last term I received 3 letters from my uni's disability office excusing students from taking tests in class, participating in discussions, & giving a talk (they all have to do an 18-min. TED talk in my class). Disability? Anxiety. My response: Good. You should feel anxious!"

It amazes me that this guy continues to be employed by a university. I'm glad Scientific American is ditching him.

There's a tiny part of me that wants to agree with the premise here - out of three students with anxiety, I suspect at least one of them could simply power through it in most situations - but who is a big enough dipshit about this to blab on twitter?  Plus the fact that even if one student is overplaying their anxiety, the other two likely still have a real disability.  "I think the guy on crutches I overplaying his injury, so I'm gonna make the two kids in wheelchairs stand to give their talks."

Is there a single "big name" atheist/skeptic from 10 years ago that has embraced twitter in a positive way?  Inability to use social media seems to their enduring legacy.

Offline superdave

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #3 on: January 27, 2019, 10:27:05 AM »
I get Shermer's point of view but he is totally wrong.
If they have applied for an received approval from the disability office, you have to assume that the disabilities are legit.
If he really thinks that giving such a talk is a vital part of the course, which is his right to decide, there are compromises available.  The students can give the talk to him during his office hours or perhaps record a video of themselves giving the talk which can be presented instead.

In general this attitude is growing since this article and book were published.
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

The article contains a lot of anecdotes, but I have yet to see convincing arguments that this coddling is actually a widespread problem. I did not read the book though, perhaps there is better data in the book.
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Offline Rai

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #4 on: January 27, 2019, 12:16:40 PM »
Is there a single "big name" atheist/skeptic from 10 years ago that has embraced twitter in a positive way?  Inability to use social media seems to their enduring legacy.

Phil Plait has been pretty good at it.

Offline Quetzalcoatl

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2019, 12:30:54 PM »
I'm glad Scientific American is ditching him.
That's good news, wish they had done so twenty years ago. He's always come across as a jerk.

Did they ditch him, or did he ditch them? If there is more info on this, I'd be interested in reading it.

Offline Bill K

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2019, 01:56:19 PM »
I suffer from a few anxiety-related disorders that prevent me from doing a lot. Obviously, to me, this is an obtuse statement he may have wrote and posted on the fly without consideration. I doubt, however, Shermer would dispute the validity of such disorders.

I'm not familiar with this man much, apart from now-vague memories of him on the podcast and the allegations of being sexually inappropriate. If he is the type to handwave away actual instances of mental disorders, he's a bigger asshole than I have assumed him to be.

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Offline DevoutCatalyst

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2019, 02:26:06 PM »
Did they ditch him, or did he ditch them? If there is more info on this, I'd be interested in reading it.

Wikipedia points to here,

https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/ama002/

I'm not going to listen, but the text summary says,

"Dr. Shermer also discusses his book publishing plans for 2019, including an essay collection of his last 70 Scientific American columns, which he is sad to report is coming to an end with the January 2019 issue of that august magazine, along with that of other popular contributors, such as the popular tech columnist David Pogue. Dr. Shermer reflects on his 18 years and reads aloud the final column, titled “Stein’s Law and Science’s Mission”.

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #8 on: January 27, 2019, 11:51:54 PM »
Is there a single "big name" atheist/skeptic from 10 years ago that has embraced twitter in a positive way?  Inability to use social media seems to their enduring legacy.

Phil Plait has been pretty good at it.

David Gorski from SBM does a great job, too.

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #9 on: January 27, 2019, 11:53:24 PM »
Did they ditch him, or did he ditch them? If there is more info on this, I'd be interested in reading it.

Wikipedia points to here,

https://www.skeptic.com/science-salon/ama002/

I'm not going to listen, but the text summary says,

"Dr. Shermer also discusses his book publishing plans for 2019, including an essay collection of his last 70 Scientific American columns, which he is sad to report is coming to an end with the January 2019 issue of that august magazine, along with that of other popular contributors, such as the popular tech columnist David Pogue. Dr. Shermer reflects on his 18 years and reads aloud the final column, titled “Stein’s Law and Science’s Mission”.

I listened to this episode, and it was pretty clear that Shermer was disappointed that Scientific American decided to not continue his column. He didn't mention the reason for their decision.

Offline fuzzyMarmot

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2019, 12:07:22 AM »
I get Shermer's point of view but he is totally wrong.
If they have applied for an received approval from the disability office, you have to assume that the disabilities are legit.
If he really thinks that giving such a talk is a vital part of the course, which is his right to decide, there are compromises available.  The students can give the talk to him during his office hours or perhaps record a video of themselves giving the talk which can be presented instead.

In general this attitude is growing since this article and book were published.
https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/09/the-coddling-of-the-american-mind/399356/

The article contains a lot of anecdotes, but I have yet to see convincing arguments that this coddling is actually a widespread problem. I did not read the book though, perhaps there is better data in the book.

I strongly disagree with Haidt and Lukianoff. One of their ventral premises is that a culture of victimhood among students prevents them from challenging themselves intellectually. Much of their writing, however, ends up casting professors as the true victims, which is ridiculous. H and L seem clueless and indifferent to how institutional discrimination hurts underrepresented groups on campuses. They just don't get it, and seem unwilling to apply the empathy that H advocates for in his other book, The Righteous Mind.

I also hate how they try to make their political arguments sound scientific by using the vocabulary of cognitive behavioral therapy. It is totally out of context, like invoking quantum mechanics to justify arguments about spirituality or religion.

Finally, I dislike how people focus on fringe incidents at places like Yale. The vast majority of higher education takes place at community colleges and state universities. Occasional incidents at Yale are not at all representative of college culture across the U.S.

Offline Eternally Learning

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #11 on: January 28, 2019, 12:38:29 AM »
I think adversity absolutely breeds stronger people, but if it does it at the cost of crushing others who might otherwise become valuable contributors in their desired fields then I say it's not worth it, or at least it's not worth mandating adversity for everyone as a means of instruction.  I mean, it's one thing if the problematic part of the class is directly related to their desired field (if you're majoring in communications, you probably should not get a pass from public speaking, for instance), but when the exercises and assignments are only such that they could prove useful but are not absolutely necessary then I wouldn't see the utility in potentially harming or washing someone out who can't cut it for legitimate reasons.

I'm really tired of this "common sense" approach to topics by people which isn't really common sense at all and is instead just a shorthand for not questioning their own preconceived notions and stubbornly maintaining a simplistic and non-nuanced views of complex issues demanding nuanced solutions.  I expect far better from anyone who's made a career of associating with the term "skeptic."
« Last Edit: January 28, 2019, 12:42:43 AM by Eternally Learning »

Offline 2397

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #12 on: January 28, 2019, 03:38:24 AM »
Personally, I hated all the "public speaking" tasks in school, and I don't remember it getting any better over time. I wasn't social, I'm not social, but I didn't have problems taking part in gym or things like that; I just hated having to be the focus of attention, and to be judged based on it.

I think adversity absolutely breeds stronger people, but if it does it at the cost of crushing others who might otherwise become valuable contributors in their desired fields then I say it's not worth it, or at least it's not worth mandating adversity for everyone as a means of instruction.

Breeds stronger people, or filters out people who aren't already adapted to the specific tasks.

Offline Rai

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #13 on: January 28, 2019, 04:17:41 AM »
I studied quite a bif of pedagogy at university and I can't recall anything about anxiety or stress being part of an effective learning environment. The reality is actually quite the opposite, and this has been understood for decades. Anxiety has a very strong, negative effect on performance and educators shoul not strive for it, even if this clashes with their grand idea of forcing students to do a TED talk.

It seems like Shermer is just a very bad teacher who has no idea what he is doing. Thought we've already known this, as being a rapist is incompatible with being a teacher.

He also comes off as quite a bit of an anxiety disorder denialist, which is a strange position for a so-called advocate of scientific scepticism.



Offline Harry Black

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Re: Shermer continues to be a bum
« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2019, 04:41:22 AM »
I know two people, one incredibly gifted, who dropped out of university due to anxiety. This was years ago, before accommodations were being made and they were pretty much shamed and ridiculed by those who werent close to them.
Im glad allowances are being made now. It just sucks that some people are still so dickish about it.

 

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