Sunday, January 28, 2007


Posted by olvlzl.
So, you might have asked, why did he open that can or worms? Well, there was the series of flaming e-mails all because of this sentence in the innocent little post about the dreadful, “This I Believe”:
I do remember that Penn Jillette’s was about the least obnoxious thing he’s done in years, even that self-promoted iconoclast got into the tepid spirit of the thing.

If it’s a crime to say that Penn Jillette is obnoxious then what can be said? It’s his shtick. Without obnoxious, what’s left of him? That got it going.

The next thing I knew I’d started writing about his show, which I’d not known about until researching to see if I’d wronged the guy. I concluded I hadn’t. That brought up the subject of skepticism and the sorry state that professional skeptics have brought that wonderful mind set to. That introduced Blackmore and Hyman and, in response to a point in the flaming e-mails, that loveable rogue but very dubious man of science, James Randi. After that it was a matter of using Dawkins and his “meme” and “smart genes” and his shoddily researched book as an example. If the high priest of skepticism is above question we may as well all genuflect and be done with.

Well, I won’t. I won’t pretend that their deficiencies and discrepancies are anything but what they are. I won’t suspend judgement just because they call themselves skeptics and they have disciples who think they are above the commonly accepted standards of proof and scholarship. I won’t suspend skepticism for the likes of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris.

Having done this before it didn’t surprise me when what I said was distorted and words were put in my mouth. I’ve argued with fundamentalists of different beliefs and non-beliefs and know the routine. I once argued while mucking out a goat pen on a hot day in June with an increasingly agitated Jehovah’s Witness who couldn’t explain why Elisha calling the she-bears out to tear apart the little boys for calling him “baldy” wasn’t black magic. I once argued about the contents of the biblical cannon with a young Mormon who kept distracting me by looking remarkably like John Payne’s* better looking younger brother. After that what’s there to fear from a few distortions of something posted in public, there to be read by anyone who cares about accuracy? Nothing.

People who really care to read something will read it. Some of those won’t get it right. Some only skim and fill in with their prejudice. It’s pretty much the way it is for anyone who writes anything. Why hide from that danger by parroting cliches or received viewpoints, especially fashionable ones that are found everywhere? Why pretend in an attempt to ingratiate? I won’t. I’ll tell you what I think, that’s all. Why else would anyone would want to read something?

* What can I say, back then John Payne wasn’t classified as white bread. Tastes evolve too.