I’m an Ass
Apparently, I’m an arrogant ass. I kinda figured this. But the reasons that other people call me an ass continue to make fear for the future of our species.
Because I ask questions and don’t believe everything that someone says immediately without any doubt, I am, therefore, an ass. Because I do research, talk to experts (and am an expert on a few subjects), then question the claims of others, I’m arrogant.
I think maybe our biggest problem as skeptics isn’t that we’re arrogant asses, but out entire culture (possibly the majority of the world’s culture) are authoritarian. They (that nebulous ‘they’) expect people to do what they are told, think what they are told, hold the same opinions as the leaders, and do so happily. This has become so ingrained in our culture that it’s considered rude to say, “Really? Can you confirm that?” or “How does this apply to this other thing you said?” or (Cthulhu forbid) “My research (here, here, and here) suggests that you are wrong. What do you base your opinion on?”
Honestly, I don’t understand why these are rude. Of course, I have lived the life of a scientist and a researcher for the fun of it. Not because some teacher makes me. I love learning and HATE being wrong. I am wrong sometimes, but I try to own up to it when I am.
One thing about being skeptical though, is that you are rarely wrong. I very rarely say things that I can’t back up with some kind of evidence. Good evidence, not “I saw it on Unsolved Mysteries.”
I work bloody hard to keep up to date in several fields of research. And I’m not talking about a 60 second feature on the evening news. I read three or four journal articles a week. Not as many as a real scientist, but I have other commitments and can’t just do research all day.
I’ve studied evolutionary theory for about two decades. I’ve changed my mind on something when presented with evidence. I used to hate cladistics, now I’m a huge fan. I’ve studied climate change for about a decade and changed my mind about a number of things involved in it. I’ve studied educational research for almost 10 years. I’ve contributed to educational research. All this in addition my normal job and daily life.
I don’t say this to be arrogant or to be taken as an authority figure. I say this because it’s an accomplishment that anyone would be proud of. Just as someone else may be proud to come in the top ten at the Boston Marathon or catch a record breaking fish or shoot a perfect 300 in a competition. These aren’t brags, they recognizing skill and knowledge and ability.
So, if I sound arrogant or act like an ass, maybe I am. Of course, maybe I’m tired of hearing the exact same argument that I personally have debunked a hundred times. Maybe I’m tired of people believing a news story by a reporter who talked to a local teacher about a subject for 5 minutes and claims to understand quantum chromodynamics. I’m tired of being a recognized expert in a field and ignored by people because their cousin’s mother’s step-daughter-in-law’s psychic said something and everyone knows psychics ‘know stuff’.
I think our society, our people, would be much better off if believing something without questioning where the rude bit. If everyone thought that being asked to defend claims and thoughts was a good thing, then we would be well on our way to being a more rational, better society. If, “I don’t believe you.” wasn’t an attack, but a statement of “I think enough of your idea to consider it and would like to know why you think so.” And that last bit being considered polite and nice.
Intelligence and reason need to stop being considered as bad things by people.
If I’m an ass because I question and think and do the work and learn for myself… fine. I’m an arrogant ass. And I prefer it that way.