Giving Ideas the Respect They Deserve

Which in many cases, is none at all. Elizabeth Stoker Bruening on complaints about style (boldface mine):

Which is another way of putting: discuss this as though it’s ordinary. Some people were upset about the Rand post [which argued that Rand and Christianity are fundamentally opposed], saying that the way in which it was written was too mean or too severe, too snarky, bitchy, un-funny; uniformly arguments of bad style. The good style, one concludes, would have all the opposite elements: detached or passionate in the genteel way of friends who debate in pubs; subtle, searching, uncertain, just one proposal among many. That’s the way people tend to like to read about positions in politics, because that style makes everything seem very ordinary. If we’re discussing Christian attachment to Rand in the way that we discuss things which have merit, which are part of the landscape of valid and legitimate opinions, then it’s perfectly fine that Christian politicians can claim both Jesus and Rand. In that case, the pro-Jesus+Pro-Rand crowd is part of the schema of the normal, a regular feature of the status quo. Nothing to see here, nothing to change.

But it’s madness… And I don’t think Christian Rand apologia is legitimate or valid, and I don’t want to write as though it might be among those things we can reasonably disagree about, and I don’t want anyone to see it as ordinary.

One great con the right pulled is ‘shifting the goalposts’: they successfully mainstreamed utter lunacy, whether it be creationism or supply-side economics. Ideas should be given the respect they deserve, and many deserve no respect at all.

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3 Responses to Giving Ideas the Respect They Deserve

  1. anthrosciguy says:

    People with loony and/or unsupportable ideas hate head-shaking laughter directed at their ideas. In my critiques of one particular brand of fringe/pseudoscience, I’ve found that’s what the proponents hate most (especially when it’s combined with accurately quoting them and their idols). I was interviewed for a podcast a few years ago and one of the major complaints I heard from the other side was that I chuckled several times when I answered questions.

  2. Bill Seymour says:


    Thursday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a front-page article (below the fold, at least) about a Shroud of Turin conference in the St. Louis area Thursday through today (Sunday).

    “Forty experts, scientists and enthusiasts” are, presumably, making their credulous audience ooh and ahh.

    The article does mention carbon-dating a piece of the cloth to medieval times; but that’s just a couple of paragraphs in the otherwise twenty double-wide column-inch gush. The rest of the ’article is just what you’d expect: it’s an “unsolved mystery”…Popes have revered the shroud…unsurprising arguments from ignorance.

    One fellow was quoted as saying that the piece of cloth that was carbon-dated was a medieval repair, not part of the original shroud. I hadn’t heard that before; so I checked it out. It took just a single Google query to find out that Joe Nickell already has that one covered.

    The article is behind a paywall; but the conference has a Web site.

    As I write this, I find that the main story on CBS News’ Sunday Morning will wonder whether the fact that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died on the fiftieth aniversary of the Declaration of Independence has some deep metaphysical significance (*sheesh*).

    OK, before I actually posted this, the story started. It turns out to be about coincidence generally. “Wow! What’s the probability of that?” OK, the law of really large numbers just got mentioned. OTOH, “Mathematicians will always have an answer for everything.” (No mention of whether it’s a correct answer.)

    This is Mike’s forum, not mine; so I guess I should quit live-blogging now. 😎

  3. Bill Seymour says:

    Ouch…an extra ’ didn’t get proofread out. Can you give us a preview button, Mike?

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