Sunday, October 25, 2009

Picking Your Moments

One of the most important things a critical thinker can do is admit they're wrong when they are wrong.  That is most important in cases where you consider the evidence and realize that the position you've been taking is in fact bunk.  If you don't, then you aren't being open minded.  But you can extend that to your general demeanor too... especially if you happen to be an Asshole Skeptic.

I know who I am.  I believe that leading with my emotions is an important aspect of who I am and how I handle my skepticism, but there is an issue associated with that; I can at times be a bit of a loose cannon.  Quite honestly, I'm not willing to temper that, and even if I were, there's a platitude about old dogs that springs to mind.
Sometimes this means I get carried away.  And seeing as that isn't really going to change, I have to chose to deal with the fall out of that in other ways.  Learning to apologize and/or to admit when you've gone too far is a core part of that.

I blew it this weekend.  In an online discussion I got fed up with someone and had something insulting and, in my mind, amusing to say.  I said it.  And I contend that the recipient of my ire had it coming.  He was not behaving well either.  He was failing to provide evidence or citations when asked, he was deliberately poisoning an information source with his opposing worldview when it was fairly clear what the intentions of the source was.  And when asked to voice his opinions in an appropriate place on the same site, he repeatedly failed  to comply.  He was not playing well with others and I simply had to comment upon it, though not in the most constructive of ways.  He followed up with some sweeping generalizations about everyone who opposed him, when really it was me who was poking him with a sharpened verbal stick. 

When the dust settled, he did start playing fair - to his credit he recognized that if I had to play nice, so did he - and he did stay in the conversation.  So in the end, my actions didn't actually hurt anything except for his fragile feelings. (Honestly I think he wasn't hurt at all, but was just needing to grab on to some kind of straw.)  But here's the thing - I know damned well that I got lucky on that one.  All rationalization of how my action ultimately led (with intervention by an admin) to a good end, doesn't really change that I didn't pick my moment well at all.

I am convinced that this particular woo-monger will never come around, and there is a point where the only value these sorts can serve is to be the object of well placed ridicule.  But this was not well placed on my part.

Upon reflection, I'm thinking that riducule is most appropriate when used generally (I.E. "Homeopaths' insistence that the known laws of the universe be changed so that their medicine can work is an un-reasonable demand from a vocal minority.")  or when used against a distant individual who has gone far beyond the pale (I.E. "You would think that Sylvia Browne could have forseen the disgusting ravages that chain-smoking would have on her body - even without her psychic powers."), but not in direct engagement.

Anyhow, I know I'll blow it again someday - it's an inevitable part of the loud-mouth I inherited.  But I've had some insight that will hopefully winnow the places I mis-apply my Irish.

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