Friday, January 1, 2010

Staking Ground

Uh, happy New Year!

I've been a bit remiss in my posting.  Usually I get at least one post out per week but, this season has not been kind to me.  At least not as a blogger.  It has been a great holiday season for the most part - if you don't count the fact that the airline my Dad worked for for forty years burned to the ground.

The holidays were excellent and relaxing for the most part, and my New Year is promising to be busy until at least the spring.  A week from now we do an invite only cast & crew screening of my Ogopogo movie; the next week I move into the latest building in Vancouver to be the 'hippest residence in the city' (a mantle it will bear until the athletes' village opens up for residency after the Olympics) and then... its the Olympics!  Hopefully shortly there after there will be other cool film news.  But let's face it, all of that is really only tangential to skepticism.  I don't tend to get too much into the personal life here, so there's a New Year's tip of the hat into my inner world.

I really do have something to say of skeptical import though...

As the holiday season was ramping up I went for a drink with a friend of mine - my roomate at TAM 7 in fact.  He mentioned something to me about asshole skepticism that had never even occurred to me.

An important aspect of asshole skepticism - the truly provocative sort of asshole skepticism - is that it contextualizes the domain of rationalism.
The olive branch skeptic has much more power in a world where there is a good sampling of asshole skeptics.  The asshole skeptics push the outer boundaries of skeptical presentation and come off as the extemists of the movement.  (And in a sense, we are.)  Which then allows the olive branch skeptics to come off as relatively reasonable.

In a sense it becomes an effort of making the fallacy of the Golden Mean work in our favour.

The asshole skeptics dress up our rationality in strident statements that appear to be on the bleeding edge of sanity to the credulites and fundies of the world, so that when the olive branch skeptics come along and appear all reasonable (yet promoting the exact saem agenda) they have a much better chance of coming across well as they are no longer the extremists.

It's an interesting idea.  And I think there is something to it, though no doubt some of the olive branchers will still curdle at the thought and toss forth the standard "attract more flies with honey than vinegar" pleas for diplomacy.  And it's not that they are wrong, it's simply that the appearance of the message is all relative, and by pushing the boundaries we are making the sweetness of their version the honey, 'cause otherwise it IS the vinegar in many people's eyes.


  1. It sounds like you're shifting the Overton Window:

  2. Ah ha! Yes Fred. That is exactly what we are talking about here.

    Had never heard of the theory before, but that is precisely the intent and desired effect.