The Condescending Tone

I post on a number of topics, and sometimes I obtain feedback in the form of comments posted by readers. Some of the responses are helpful—they fill in where I failed to provide adequate coverage, and sometimes a comment will set me straight on an error I have made.

Many of the comments I receive are from people who reject completely the point I am attempting to make, and on rare occasions these comments are thought out and well put. It’s the “rare” aspect that worries me. Too often the person so terribly offended is:

  • Completely fact-deprived and indicates no knowledge of the topic under discussion.
  • Knowledgeable, but nonetheless skilled in making his point.
  • Comes off as completely unhinged.

It is this last case I want to discuss. The example for today relates to a post from last July. The original post carries the title 44 Reasons Why Evolution Is Just A Fairy Tale For Adults. My post does not provide 44 reasons evolution is a fairy tale. The title is from an item posted by Michael Snyder on a site called D.C. Clothesline and subtitled “Airing Out America’s Dirty Laundry.” How this site came to be a vehicle for a creationism-oriented rant is a guess for somebody else. I felt it worth a response.

Snyder did list 44 reasons, and I (read the original post) took each of the 44 and penned a short response. Many of my responses reduced to stating that Snyder had not provided any evidence to support his point. He had quoted somebody else, and following  which he went on to his next point. My response to such attempts was to point out this fact and to note that repeating what somebody said in the past does not count for evidence in science. An example is Snyder’s point number 3. My reply is the bold text following Snyder’s point:

#3 Even some of the most famous evolutionists in the world acknowledge the complete absence of transitional fossils in the fossil record. For example, Dr. Colin Patterson, former senior paleontologist of the British Museum of Natural History and author of “Evolution” once wrote the following

“I fully agree with your comments about the lack of direct illustration of evolutionary transitions in my book. If I knew of any, fossil or living, I would certainly have included them …. I will lay it on the line – there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument.”

Again, it’s interesting to note that Colin Patterson said this, but again speech is not scientific evidence.

Anyhow, that has been out there for several  months, receiving one helpful comment almost immediately, and finally another one today. Here it is, exactly as posted:

idiot..i have one thing ti say…al the hearsay and lack of evidence you attack the writers of the article you were going after, you did as well. i can quote several times you didn’t explain..give examples…evidence…but guess what..just spoken or “written” words in your case. you did nothing and achieved nothing for most of this long article. use circle reasoning thru-out, of which im sure you will use again to rebuttal this. asking some one to use evolution based world view foundation to disprove evolution or else anything said is wrong by inherent basis is like me requiring you to use creation based world view ” as the science is the same, just different world views direction how evidence is interpreted or rationalized”, to completely disprove creation. neither theory can be proven or disproved via the scientific method of observable and repeatable”,and neither are fact. where we get pissed of is your blind faith and enforcement of your theory as fact…when only reason you do so is cause the only other option besides everything made it self is some one else made everything.

In the past I have refuted people’s arguments and have been accused, in turn, of using condescending language. Here is an excerpt from a previous post. I had previously obtained a copy of Ben Shapiro’s small book How to Debate Leftist and to Destroy Them. Shapiro considers the science behind anthropogenic global warming (AGW) to be a leftist (his term) agenda, and he frets that leftists attack by calling their opponents stupid, mean, corrupt, and maybe all of the preceding. Here’s how the discussion unfolded earlier this year:

Shapiro’s response to fiery criticisms of his stance on AGW and also his stance on a number of other issues is to note the quality of his attackers. Continuing the section quoted from the book above:

This is a more useful question, and it also avoids the left’s preferred line of argument on global warming, which is a variation on their preferred line on gun control: “Global warming is man-made. Don’t agree? That’s because you’re stupid and hateful.” As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt. Sarah Palin is supposedly stupid; Mitt Romney is supposedly mean; Dick Cheney is supposedly corrupt. Take away those lines of attack and watch the discomfort set in.

[Page 24]

Yes, it really is bad form to start calling names and making wild accusations in response to a philosophical affront. In a debate, in a dispute over a point of fact, the person who throws an insult is revealing he has no facts. However…

Shapiro says, “As a general matter, the left’s favorite three lines of attack are (1) you’re stupid; (2) you’re mean; (3) you’re corrupt.” The last two are way out of line, but number 1 is a valid argument. If you are arguing with a person who says the Earth is flat, then, “You’re stupid” might be an appropriate response. I run into into this at times:

Daniel G. Kuttner You have no idea of my qualifications. You throw your ample supply of tomatoes at me, rather than my assertions, which are backed BY science (e.g. that engineering reference link). Thus, you were replying ad hominem, literally.
I could be a bum on the street and still report correct – or incorrect – science. My lack of a white lab coat has no import.
If you are so full of science, where is your scientific refutation of my numbers? All I see from you is condescension and sarcasm.
Saying something is “clearly wrong” is not refutation, it’s disagreement; an opinion. You are, of course free to have those.

I have highlighted the operative text. Because Dan’s information was ridiculously false, and I pointed this out, I was being condescending and sarcastic. Bad form? When is being honest and forthright being condescending and sarcastic?

It’s that latter part that is critical. I found Dan taking the same stance Shapiro does. In point, Dan makes a completely ludicrous statement, one that galls the intellect. Then when somebody responds by pointing out the obvious, Dan comes back by chiding the other party for being condescending. And other terms. That’s what we are about to have here.

Snyder, in responding to my argument, appears to  have gone completely off the rails, beginning with a typographical monstrosity before settling down to a face-deficient rant. It’s usually at this point that I begin to become condescending.

I am not going to call Snyder a creationist nut case, partly because the phrase contains an obvious redundancy. My object is to approve his comment as posted and then allow it to hang out there as evidence of whatever anybody wants to conclude about Snyder.

After approving Snyder’s comment I sent him an email asking him if he would care to elaborate, hopefully to improve, on his comment. If ever I hear back from Snyder I will revisit the matter in another post.

There may be more to come. Keep reading.

And may Jesus have mercy on my soul.


2 thoughts on “The Condescending Tone

  1. Pingback: Response from a Creationist | North Texas Skeptics

  2. John, apart from the (indisputable) fact that it’s a hopelessly quixotic quest, getting through to the Bible-nuts, or the Koran-nuts, or any other of the absolutists, assumes they rely on the same logical processes which you and I and western civilization (for the past eight centuries or more) take for granted.

    This is, for me anyway, of little interest. I avoid such attempts at a logical exchange, in part because of cultural / political considerations where I live (the Xtians here in Indonesia are actually worse than most of the Muslims I know).

    What I do find compelling is the way that the internet has catapulted the potential for communication / exchange / confrontation / challenge immensely. Traditionally, a standoff between two opposing points of view – Marxism vs. capitalism, germ theory vs. spontaneous generation / phlogiston, Ptolemaic / Heliocentric / shit man the walls fell away and every time I look outward a new aspect of vastness yawns away – would be confined to the academy, the university classroom, perhaps the monastery.

    Now it’s a fucking free-for-all. That’s a social-seismic tremor of around 9.0 on the Richter Scale. The ramifications of this are yet to be discerned (although I am sure some busy little bee in academia is putting together his circle-jerk peer-reviewed study). Take an obvious (painful) fact that the daughter of one Darth Cheney, coming from a state where they murder queers, is an open lesbian. And the whole world knows it, discusses it, debates it and challenges him with it. This would not have come to pass without the web. That’s just one small example.

    The whole Mohammed cartoon brouhaha from Denmark exploded around the world of 1.3 billion moon-worshipping Islamonuts thanks to the internet. Compare that to the rather more restricted terror campaign against Salman Rushdie when THE SATANIC VERSES came out (no internet then).

    It’s almost like telepathy or maybe a better analogy is schizophrenia, where the secret-drinking little-girl-diddling Baptist preacher is knocking all these realities around in his poor little noggin.

    Any thoughts on this? Of interest to you?

    I have a little engineering calculation I would like to help me with, for a piece of fiction I’m writing. Shouldn’t take long to figure.


    I’m writing a narrative based around a set of really awful photos I came across on the web some years back. Later I found they were from a police report in Mexico. Yes, it does seem alcohol must have been involved. Note that there was a (hapless) passenger riding behind the carefree (but helmeted!) rider. Now studying these rather repulsive police shots all I could assume was that there was no attempt whatsoever made by the bike rider to brake, swerve or even shut off the throttle when he buried his noggin in the solid steel front bumper of that innocent dump truck. He was probably not even alive when the fuel tank on the bike, suddenly compressed, exploded.

    What I’m curious about is the type of force, and speed, required to bash in the front of that truck (helmet still firmly jammed into it). I can write up an account of the rest.

    Hope I did not disturb you at breakfast . Don’t let the missus see this or she’ll have a cow. ​ ​ ​


    On Tue, Mar 7, 2017 at 5:09 AM, Skeptical Analysis wrote:

    > John Blanton posted: ” I post on a number of topics, and sometimes I > obtain feedback in the form of comments posted by readers. Some of the > responses are helpful—they fill in where I failed to provide adequate > coverage, and sometimes a comment will set me straight on an err” >

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