Sceptics, a little less snark please?

I’ve always found reading about reported supernatural events and those ‘Mysteries of the Unexplained’ type things fun and interesting.

Part of that is learning what the mundane and plausible explanation behind each incident actually is. However I personally find the aggressive and unpleasant tone of many of the sceptics off-putting. What could, and should, be a calm discussion of the likely explanation seems instead to be a chance to be as nasty as possible. It tends to be 90% snark, 10% content.

Take this entry on RationalWiki on the Travis Walton case for example:
“on the off chance that some guy dressed like the construction worker in the Village People will wander close to their spaceship.”

Is that really necessary?

I realise I’m probably alone on this but its something I’ve been thinking about.

It’s a corollary of the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory. Basically the anonymity of the internet causes some people* to get into an escalating race to see who can be the biggest jerk. It causes the testing of lines of decent behavior. And if there are no lines to cross, then it quickly develops into a hand-squeezing, head-butting, pissing, dick-waving contest**. It’s all about winning and nothing else.

*Usually a male H. sapiens at or past puberty.
**See previous asterisk.

Okay. But what about skeptics? (Kidding. I know “sceptic” is a valid spelling of the word.)

But seriously, RationalWiki is all like that, and personally, I really like that about it. The entire thing is written with a sarcastic, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” attitude that is, IMO, appropriate to the subject material.

Skeptic. It has a K in it.

Bill Nye was guilty of that shit in his “Bill Nye Saves The World” show. I was going to watch it just to fill in some gaps and catch up on the latest pro/con arguments about whatever. I couldn’t make it through 2 episodes, he was so nasty and condescending. Pointless–only the converted could watch it without being directly insulted, and anyone clinging to bad information would be mocked away from the TV. I think it comes down to those in the know about a particular topic being tired of hearing the same objections and counterhypotheses over and over. They’re short-sighted enough to think that just because they explained it to 10 other people that the other millions of similarly misinformed people should magically ‘get it’ without whatever being explained to them as well. People just get burned out with tryng to spread the good word, so they turn into impatient assholes and then wonder why the unwashed think people in the know are impatient assholes.

Penn can lay it on pretty thick sometimes.

It’s most commonly spelled (or spelt) “sceptic” in British English.

Fuggin Brits…so do I get a Gaudere medal for that or is that just a simple bumblefuck ribbon?

And yet, the Merseyside Skeptics Society located in Liverpool, UK has a podcast called Skeptics with a K.

Explain that !

Yeah, he’s a bit overly-opinionated sometimes, but I can give him a pass when he’s slamming people using parlor tricks of which he is very familiar to convey the supernatural. When he’s, say, slamming anti-vaxxers, I can give him a pass because I don’t want old-school diseases making a comeback and potential hurting me and my loved ones.

I found that article pretty funny, maybe 6.7 out of 10.

This. It comes from hearing the same idiotic bullshit trotted out over and over and over by morons who think that they have pulled off a “gotcha ya.”

Attempts at tone policing have come up in this context before.

Often, those who protest snark/rudeness have an uncanny ability to ignore numerous polite (or at least civil) responses employing factual refutations, in order to zero in on the minority of sarcastic comments.
At its worst, this amounts to tone trolling, wherein those sympathetic to woo attempt to denigrate skeptics while avoiding substantive discussion.

In defense of those who employ derision (as I’ve been known to do on occasion), after the eighty-umpteenth time someone breathlessly announces a stupidnatural event or praises ludicrous quackery (and then resists initial attempts to educate him/her), it’s hard to avoid temptation to wield the snark-hammer.

Science is unable to explain this mystery!

Quick, someone call Leonard Nimoy!!

The biggest problem that the average skeptic has when facing off against believers is successfully conveying that they don’t see a reason to take the belief in question seriously. It’s not my job to disprove it; it’s your job to prove it - and until a certain amount of credibility has been established it doesn’t require the effort of a considered disproof to dismiss it. I need only inform you that your idea doesn’t justify belief.

So how do you convey to somebody that their belief is not to be taken seriously, and have them understand that’s what you really feel?

You did quite well.

Yeah, but you’re inclined to listen. To many people who are hewing strong to a belief it’s unthinkable to reject the idea that, say, God exists, or that God is good.

Not that mockery works then, either - nothing does. But if you’re not going to get anywhere anyway you can at least let off the steam a bit.

I read the link and I think that the author has earned the right to a bit of harmless sarcasm. What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

This. Focusing on the tone of a response is an attempt to distract from the content.

Using snark in these cases is also a form of public shaming. Even if the content of the argument doesn’t sink in, the fact that one is being shamed does, and may make them rethink their position on those grounds. I say MAY because we know that people tend to double down when challenged. And we know that no matter how out there someone’s beliefs are they will find a supportive cohort online, however small, so public shaming is losing potency in today’s world.

As a skeptic, I would never read nor add to RationalWiki. It’s less silly than Encyclopedia Dramatica, but that’s not a high bar. I’d put it more on the level of Conservapedia.