Mocking religion

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sTeamTraen
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Mocking religion

Post by sTeamTraen » Sat Apr 03, 2021 8:23 pm

As mentioned by Fishnut in the online meetup earlier, Professor Alice Roberts has been getting some pushback over this tweet (for future readers of this thread: it was sent on Good Friday).

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Some of this pushback is from the usual "We are a Christian country, you wouldn't dare say that to the Muslims" idiots, but it also seems to have led to quite a split in liberal/progressive opinion among her followers. A lot of scientists who are also believers are muttering about it (mostly, I have to say, in a very British and understated way), and there are also people who are not themselves Christians saying that she should have been kinder, that she is at risk of becoming as curmudgeonly as Richard Dawkins (who probably would "say the same thing about the Muslims"), etc.

I'm absolutely unsure what to make of this. It seems to me that 10-15 years ago a big chunk of the skeptical/pro-science/anti-woo movement was based around a rejection of religion, and that rejection was perceived—certainly in the United States—to carry social costs for the person doing the rejecting. I'm wondering what (if anything) is different here: The fact that most of Roberts' audience is in the UK rather than the US, or some change in attitudes about what one can say on social media, or maybe the idea that religious believers are now a (protection-worthy) minority, or something else?
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:10 pm

I don't really know if things have changed really, not sure I've personally spotted whether attitudes are really different now than 10-15 years ago. The tweet you quote would have been idiotic then as well, and I've had long and protracted arguments with people like Deano about this on some grubby now defunct science based internet forum. So I'm kind of glad to see that this sort of thing gets called out as stupid now, obviously people have been reading my arguments with Dean and reached the obvious conclusion that I was right and adjusted their opinion accordingly.

I'm cool with that
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:19 pm

Ok so joking aside, I had prepared a long explanation of why it's silly, but then realised that wasn't what your question was. I don't know, as I said I don't think I've noticed a change particularly, but I'd see that as a good thing. Happy to go on with the originally planned rant if there's an interest in that here though
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Fishnut » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:26 pm

ETA - show us your rant warumich!

I know my attitudes have changed about this sort of thing (which I'm rather relieved about tbh, the idea of holding the same views now as I did 15 years ago would suggest an immense lack of growth). Back in the mid-00s I'd have probably approved of something like this. Now, I just don't really see the point. It seems to be needlessly antagonistic and also kinda misses the point. Christians know that dead people don't come back to life, that's sort of why Jesus is so important.

As I mentioned it in the call I might as well share the tweet by (historian, not spider-man) Tom Holland,
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:41 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:26 pm
ETA - show us your rant warumich!

[...] Now, I just don't really see the point. It seems to be needlessly antagonistic and also kinda misses the point. Christians know that dead people don't come back to life, that's sort of why Jesus is so important.
It would have been mostly something along these lines to be honest! It's an almost wilful misrepresentation of what Christians believe in order to score a cheap point; as you say the fact that it would have been an extraordinary thing is kind of the whole point. And yes, it's difficult to see what this will actually accomplish other than antagonize people needlessly.

My rant would then have taken off on to the tangent of incredulity that people with "public engagement in science" in their job title seem to be so ignorant on any research on how to effectively engage people in science, though I do kind of enjoy the irony.

Eta, maybe it's our fault, maybe people who research public engagement in science need to be better at public engagement in public engagement in science. But one would hope that scientists interested in public engagement in science would not need to be externally engaged in public engagement in public engagement in science, and would be instead capable of engaging in public engagement in science themselves. Ah well.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Fishnut » Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:58 pm

warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:41 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:26 pm
ETA - show us your rant warumich!

[...] Now, I just don't really see the point. It seems to be needlessly antagonistic and also kinda misses the point. Christians know that dead people don't come back to life, that's sort of why Jesus is so important.
It would have bee mostly something along these lines to be honest! It's an almost wilful misrepresentation of what Christians believe in order to score a cheap point; as you say the fact that it would have been an extraordinary thing is kind of the whole point. And yes, it's difficult to see what this will actually accomplish other than antagonize people needlessly.

My rant would then have taken off on to the tangent of incredulity that people with "public engagement in science" in their job title seems to be so ignorant on any research on how to effectively engage people in science, though I do kind of enjoy the irony.
Sorry for stealing your thunder :oops:

I do find it very frustrating how much excellent research there is about effective engagement and how much of it is ignored by supposed science communicators. There seems to be a sense among a subset at least, that because it's 'soft science' it doesn't count and they get to ignore it and trust their instinct and 'experience' instead. Which I do find particularly ironic when they're arguing against pseudoscience. I don't pretend to know much about sci-comms - I've read a few papers and been to a couple of workshops - but the evidence I've seen is that mocking people and dismissing their views is a great way to get people to ignore you. Understanding their position, empathising, finding common ground and then trying to expand that common ground seems to be much more successful a strategy.

As an aside, it's only been in the last few years that I've realised why "woo" is so popular with women. All those alternative health treatments, the GOOP stuff, etc. It's not that women are more credulous than men, it's that our health concerns are routinely dismissed by doctors. Take endometriosis for example - it's a debilitating condition that affects 10% of women who have periods and takes an average of 7.5 YEARS to get a diagnosis. That's 7 1/2 years of monthly debilitating pain before someone accepts that you're not exaggerating and bothers to investigate. And that's just one of a multitude of examples of systemic dismissal of women's health concerns I could have picked. So if you're faced with that and then someone comes along and takes you seriously and says they can help of course you're going to investigate. I don't think this aspect has ever been explored, at least not in the skeptical circles I've been, yet it's fundamental to not only understanding why people turn to woo, but figuring out how to get them back to conventional medicine.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by lpm » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:05 pm

warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:41 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:26 pm
ETA - show us your rant warumich!

[...] Now, I just don't really see the point. It seems to be needlessly antagonistic and also kinda misses the point. Christians know that dead people don't come back to life, that's sort of why Jesus is so important.
It would have been mostly something along these lines to be honest! It's an almost wilful misrepresentation of what Christians believe in order to score a cheap point; as you say the fact that it would have been an extraordinary thing is kind of the whole point. And yes, it's difficult to see what this will actually accomplish other than antagonize people needlessly.

My rant would then have taken off on to the tangent of incredulity that people with "public engagement in science" in their job title seem to be so ignorant on any research on how to effectively engage people in science, though I do kind of enjoy the irony.

Eta, maybe it's our fault, maybe people who research public engagement in science need to be better at public engagement in public engagement in science. But one would hope that scientists interested in public engagement in science would not need to be externally engaged in public engagement in public engagement in science, and would be instead capable of engaging in public engagement in science themselves. Ah well.
Huh? What's it got to do with science? What's it got to do with public engagement in science?

You seem to be making huge assumptions on what the 12 word tweet was about, what it was for and who it was for.

What Christians believe and what Christians pretend to believe are different things. Holding 2 contradictory beliefs simultaneously seems to be well handled by the human brain, but that doesn't mean it's good.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:06 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:58 pm
warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:41 pm
Fishnut wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 9:26 pm
ETA - show us your rant warumich!

[...] Now, I just don't really see the point. It seems to be needlessly antagonistic and also kinda misses the point. Christians know that dead people don't come back to life, that's sort of why Jesus is so important.
It would have bee mostly something along these lines to be honest! It's an almost wilful misrepresentation of what Christians believe in order to score a cheap point; as you say the fact that it would have been an extraordinary thing is kind of the whole point. And yes, it's difficult to see what this will actually accomplish other than antagonize people needlessly.

My rant would then have taken off on to the tangent of incredulity that people with "public engagement in science" in their job title seems to be so ignorant on any research on how to effectively engage people in science, though I do kind of enjoy the irony.
Sorry for stealing your thunder :oops:

I do find it very frustrating how much excellent research there is about effective engagement and how much of it is ignored by supposed science communicators. There seems to be a sense among a subset at least, that because it's 'soft science' it doesn't count and they get to ignore it and trust their instinct and 'experience' instead. Which I do find particularly ironic when they're arguing against pseudoscience. I don't pretend to know much about sci-comms - I've read a few papers and been to a couple of workshops - but the evidence I've seen is that mocking people and dismissing their views is a great way to get people to ignore you. Understanding their position, empathising, finding common ground and then trying to expand that common ground seems to be much more successful a strategy.

As an aside, it's only been in the last few years that I've realised why "woo" is so popular with women. All those alternative health treatments, the GOOP stuff, etc. It's not that women are more credulous than men, it's that our health concerns are routinely dismissed by doctors. Take endometriosis for example - it's a debilitating condition that affects 10% of women who have periods and takes an average of 7.5 YEARS to get a diagnosis. That's 7 1/2 years of monthly debilitating pain before someone accepts that you're not exaggerating and bothers to investigate. And that's just one of a multitude of examples of systemic dismissal of women's health concerns I could have picked. So if you're faced with that and then someone comes along and takes you seriously and says they can help of course you're going to investigate. I don't think this aspect has ever been explored, at least not in the skeptical circles I've been, yet it's fundamental to not only understanding why people turn to woo, but figuring out how to get them back to conventional medicine.
Definitely, as far as I remember the most common reason for people choosing alternative medicine was a bad experience with a conventional doctor.

The problem is that “understanding their position, empathising, finding common ground and then trying to expand that common ground” doesn’t give someone a delicious feeling of intellectual superiority. Which seems to be the motivation behind a lot of the mockery.

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:11 pm

Fishnut: No worries :D

To be fair there are a lot of great science communicators who do pay attention to the research (and/or even do some themselves), I know and respect a lot of the profession.

Re your second point, damn right!!!!
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:23 pm

lpm wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:05 pm

What Christians believe and what Christians pretend to believe are different things. Holding 2 contradictory beliefs simultaneously seems to be well handled by the human brain, but that doesn't mean it's good.
On this point in particular, my rant wasn't on Christian beliefs or whether they are justified or not, though I'm happy to go there if you want. Justified or not, you don't talk down to people if you want to engage them with your point of view, and if you're a "professor for public engagement in science" it's counterproductive to what you're employed to do.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by lpm » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:30 pm

She is also head honcho of the UK humanists club.

My opening assumption would be that she was tweeting these 12 words as a humanist thing, not a public engagement in science thing.

The word "mocking" appears to have come from this thread's opening poster. That's blatantly pre judging - what else is there to support the claim that it was a mocking tweet?
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by FairySmall » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:31 pm

warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:11 pm
To be fair there are a lot of great science communicators who do pay attention to the research (and/or even do some themselves), I know and respect a lot of the profession.
I'm glad you said this - as someone who genuinely has Public Engagement* in her job title, I was about to go off on one. Some of us work bl..dy hard to combine our lived experience as practitioners with academic pedagogy (not least because we end up being part of your research some of the time). I'd love to do more publishable research myself but I don't get any recognition for publishing. I even got into a massive barney with my uber boss who refused to let me be a PI/Co-I on a research grant on public engagement because I'm "not a researcher". I nearly told him where he could stick his Frascati definition.

* Not with science, cos that's too 1990s. With all research of course. Even the soft bits ;)

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Grumble » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:32 pm

Surely she’s reminding dead people not to come back to life? That what the punctuation suggests anyway.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Woodchopper » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:32 pm

lpm wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:30 pm
She is also head honcho of the UK humanists club.

My opening assumption would be that she was tweeting these 12 words as a humanist thing, not a public engagement in science thing.

The word "mocking" appears to have come from this thread's opening poster. That's blatantly pre judging - what else is there to support the claim that it was a mocking tweet?
That was my interpretation when I read it. Appears to be the same as many others.

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:38 pm

FairySmall wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:31 pm
warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:11 pm
To be fair there are a lot of great science communicators who do pay attention to the research (and/or even do some themselves), I know and respect a lot of the profession.
I'm glad you said this - as someone who genuinely has Public Engagement* in her job title, I was about to go off on one. Some of us work bl..dy hard to combine our lived experience as practitioners with academic pedagogy (not least because we end up being part of your research some of the time). I'd love to do more publishable research myself but I don't get any recognition for publishing. I even got into a massive barney with my uber boss who refused to let me be a PI/Co-I on a research grant on public engagement because I'm "not a researcher". I nearly told him where he could stick his Frascati definition.

* Not with science, cos that's too 1990s. With all research of course. Even the soft bits ;)
Gosh I'm really glad I clarified that then! Sci com is damn hard work and not appreciated enough. Which is also why I'm easily getting upset that (some of) the plum professorships tend to go to those who look good on TV rather than those who know what they're doing.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:43 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:32 pm
lpm wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:30 pm
She is also head honcho of the UK humanists club.

My opening assumption would be that she was tweeting these 12 words as a humanist thing, not a public engagement in science thing.

The word "mocking" appears to have come from this thread's opening poster. That's blatantly pre judging - what else is there to support the claim that it was a mocking tweet?
That was my interpretation when I read it. Appears to be the same as many others.
Yea, I don't really know how I can answer that lpm, if you don't really see this as clearly mocking, then we two really do appear to look at it from different angles.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by lpm » Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:07 pm

I've a feeling that says more about you than it does about the 12 word tweet.

Religious faith doesn't get a free ride: it is criticisable, mockable, provokable, challengeable. And every faith is liable to face competition from rivals faiths, e.g. in the marketplace for teenage beliefs. Why shouldn't the humanist lot try to win over adherents from the christian lot?
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by noggins » Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:18 pm

Well i’d like the humanists to behave better than the god-botherers.

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Nickynockynoonoo » Sun Apr 04, 2021 2:02 am

noggins wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 11:18 pm
Well i’d like the humanists to behave better than the god-botherers.
Which they're not doing IMO. I joined a few years ago. I'm fed up with the enormous text, upper case emails.3 or 4 words per line. I just CBB to scroll, scroll, scroll to see what they have to say. Other than the fact I would like a Humanist funeral, I would discontinue my membership. (This should be in the FOVARKD thread) Nihgt night xxx

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Fishnut » Sun Apr 04, 2021 6:36 am

Just wanted to clarify, in case I seemed to be dismissing professional sci-commers, I'm really not. I know there's a lot of great work being done out there that is evidence-based and effective. What I have a problem with are the small subset of people who seem to have fallen into a sci-comms role despite not having any expertise and rather than engaging with the research, ignore it or worse dismiss it, and continue using tactics which have been shown to be unproductive or even counterproductive.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Allo V Psycho » Sun Apr 04, 2021 8:26 am

warumich wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:43 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:32 pm
lpm wrote:
Sat Apr 03, 2021 10:30 pm
She is also head honcho of the UK humanists club.

My opening assumption would be that she was tweeting these 12 words as a humanist thing, not a public engagement in science thing.

The word "mocking" appears to have come from this thread's opening poster. That's blatantly pre judging - what else is there to support the claim that it was a mocking tweet?
That was my interpretation when I read it. Appears to be the same as many others.
Yea, I don't really know how I can answer that lpm, if you don't really see this as clearly mocking, then we two really do appear to look at it from different angles.
I don't see it as mocking. I see it as confrontational, and that seems to me to be quite a different thing. I personally also agree that it is true that dead people don't come back to life. Of course, sometimes it is unwise to say things which are true: due consideration might be given to how they are said and where they are said.

I would ask, quite sincerely, what are the identifying features which make it clearly mockery, rather than a blunt statement of opinion? Is the intention of the speaker self-evident from the words themselves?

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by snoozeofreason » Sun Apr 04, 2021 9:16 am

That sort of struck a chord with me because, over Easter, I have been worrying that my mum isn't going to church any more. I'm not a believer, and I am not worried about her soul. It's just that it's been a big part of her life, and it doesn't seem to be that any more - I speak of it as an activity rather than a belief.

It's an odd thing, but atheists often have a more "theological" view of religion than believers. For many practising Christians (and, I suspect, those of other faiths) religion is more about what you do than what you believe, and the conclusions they come to on that score are not so different to those of us who don't believe but still want to do the right thing. When I am with my mum, I generally accompany her to services and hang around for the coffee and chat afterwards. I doubt that anyone in the congregation has twigged that I don't share their theological beliefs, because it's not the sort of thing anyone talks about much.

I wouldn't worry about the tone of Roberts' tweet though, because I doubt that many believers would be bothered by it. In fact I can imagine her tweet being used as the basis of sermons - by vicars who are just as likely to agree with Roberts' view as to disagree with it. Most christians don't believe that the bible is literally true, nor do they believe that it is some sort of instruction manual that will tell you how to live your life in the way that a Haynes manual will tell you how to fix the carburettor on a Ford Focus.

Obviously not all religion is like that. I was brought up in the wishy washy C of E tradition where, as St. Jeremy Hardy used to say, you don't exactly lose your faith, just forget where you put it. There are people who take a more fundamentalist view - people who need there to be an absolute truth, and refuse to believe that anyone can disagree with this truth in good faith. But fundamentalism is as much a way of believing as a belief, and there are plenty of people who have abandoned religious belief, or never had it in the first place, but still operate fundamentalist mode.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by Tessa K » Sun Apr 04, 2021 9:33 am

My first reaction to her Tweet was that it was a request or command to dead people not to come back to life. But then, I'm a humanities grad and stuff like punctuation and grammar matter.

Once I saw all the fuss it generated my second reaction was to wonder why she bothered. It's not mocking but it is confrontational for no good reason. If you want people to embrace humanism, show them the good things about it. Negative campaigning in politics is looked down on and it's the same here.

She does appear to have had a Dawkins moment. Calm down. Eat chocolate.

And btw, dead people do come back to life. Exhibit 1: Doctor Who*



*Within limited parameters of 'dead'.

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Re: Mocking religion

Post by warumich » Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:16 am

Allo V Psycho wrote:
I would ask, quite sincerely, what are the identifying features which make it clearly mockery, rather than a blunt statement of opinion? Is the intention of the speaker self-evident from the words themselves?
Oh come on really? Whether something is true or not has not much bearing on it being mockery. If a schoolchild gets bullied because of the shape of her nose, pointing out every day that "you've got a weird nose" is mockery, even if it's objectively true. It's not as if she doesn't know.

In this case, it's not as if Christians don't know people don't come back from the dead, otherwise it wouldn't have been much of a miracle when Jesus did it. And Roberts knows that they know, she just chose this example as a way of making others' beliefs look silly.
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Re: Mocking religion

Post by snoozeofreason » Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:31 am

warumich wrote:
Sun Apr 04, 2021 10:16 am
In this case, it's not as if Christians don't know people don't come back from the dead, otherwise it wouldn't have been much of a miracle when Jesus did it. And Roberts knows that they know, she just chose this example as a way of making others' beliefs look silly.
Going of on a slight tangent - I am not religious but, for various reasons I sometimes end up listening to sermons, and sometimes miracles crop up in them. In my experience the sermon is never about whether the miracle story is true or not. It's about why the bible tells that story, and not some other story, and why it tells it in the way it does - for example why the Marriage at Cana is a story about Jesus helping people to get pleasantly inebriated rather than a story about him saving their lives by diverting the passage of an asteroid that was about to land on their village. Nobody cares whether the transformation of wine into water happened because of Jesus' intervention or through the genuinely miraculous processes of photosynthesis and fermentation.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them. The human body was knocked up pretty late on the Friday afternoon, with a deadline looming. How well do you expect it to work?

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