Tribalism and Internicene Discourse

Just a really quick link to No Se Nada.
Part I of a continuing series

Isn't it ironic? Sb 's Thursday frontpage is filled with notices about the 31st meeting of the Skeptic's Circle. Orac says, "...time for the most dedicated skeptics of the blogosphere to gather once again to try to apply critical thinking in an environment where credulity is usually the order of the day..." Skepticism is something clearly to be valued.

Directly above Orac's excerpt on the front page is Chris Mooney's latest post, this also about skepticism. Except this time skepticism isn't a virtue, it's a sin: "I see that George W. Bush is sounding more and more like an out-and-out greenhouse skeptic." Mooney is talking about dubyah, but the skeptic labeling is as used in the climate research community.

Hat tip to Cyberspace Rendezvous, where I left a comment before even clickin' to Kevin Vrane's site.

Who needs such labeling? Certainly science researchers within the climate community should not and beyond the science camp there are only four groups I can identify who either use or might need such labels: journalists, decision-makers, advocates and the public.

Scientists: this is the group not only least in need of personal labels, but is the group that should be actively fighting them. Any self-respecting scientist should be able to discuss another's work without getting caught up in irrelevant labels. Every scientist who engages in labeling puts herself at risk for unwanted and unwarranted turnabout. My plea: do your job without the labels. Represent your science without assuming the views of others or being personal.
Journalists: you also should not need to rely on labels to get your message across. How about presenting messages in terms of agreement, disagreement and consensus? Every journalist about to use the label of skeptic should first determine where the label came from. If given proudly and first-hand by the scientist himself, go with it. If provided by others, take a breath. My plea: don't be lazy. Do your job: find the nuances and explain them clearly without the labels. (Thankfully there are a small handful of you out there who don't need me to tell you this.)
He's got similarly constructed messages for Decision Makers, Advocates and the Public.

It's a pretty important idea, mostly because tribalism is within and amongst us no matter what. How we choose to deal with it is how we evolve.


  1. But is the skeptics circle really a circle?

    You have to question this.

  2. Good question! I kinda doubt it.

    I'd guess it's more of an open loop; perhaps a parabola of some sort.

    It's not like they're knittin' or quiltin' or something.. .)

  3. I prefer to remain skeptical at this juncture, until we have conclusive proof, one way or another.

  4. How about skeptical about skepticism? Is that a loop too? I never thought of skepticism as a negative term or a label; I use it to mean "pro-critical-thinking".

  5. Well, I think it's just important to maintain a sense of humor, so one's skepticism doesn't evolve - naturally, of course! whatever way is there? - into mere and tiresome, cynicism. Ya gotta maintain a healthy skepticism of cynicism.

    After all, there may not always be hope.

    But there's always hope.

    errrum, or somethin'... {-;


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