Saturday, June 18, 2011

Keep affirmative action out of skepticism

There they go again.

I really try to keep scientific skepticism and my politics separate. Sometimes it can't be avoided, like when politicians make flawed scientific claims through ideas like creationism or protectionism. But generally, I keep my value judgments and my cause-and-effect beliefs separate.

That can't be avoid here, because the progressives at Skepchick.com have picked up the banner again and are pushing their politics onto the skeptic community and declaring that racial and gender quotas need to be introduced at skepticism conferences when choosing speakers and panel members.

Good grief.

I signed up to fight misinformation, not appease someone elses white guilt. This idea, that with the right policies in place, these champions of equality can transform the world into the rainbow-colored utopia they dream about is absolutely unrealistic. White males are speakers so often in skepticism because white males make up a large chunk of the community and tend to be the movers and shakers as well.

Don't blame me, blame reality.

Infact, that's exactly what the same activists did this month when they had a scholarship contest to get more women to attend a conference, and all 12 winners were white. The poster Amy said:

I agree it is a problem but we only could pick from who applied. No women of color applied that I am aware of.
The obvious cost of pandering to diversity here is to elevate undeserving speakers. The potential gain is to make the movement slightly more marketable, so the question I have to ask is, at what cost?

As someone who's been trying to nail a small presentation slot at The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas about getting skepticism in the media, is it fair to deliberately hamstring me for being a white male? The main benefit they claim - a different perspective - is something I do indeed bring as a member of the mainstream media. Is that quest for a different perspective really worth the cost?

What about the speakers who are selected. I know Neil deGrasse Tyson was selected as the keynote speaker in 2008 for being a great scientist and the host of Nova. He gave a great talk and clearly deserved to be there. But, he's headlining this year again, which is pretty soon. I'm forced to think he got bumped up so quickly to appease these activists. I'm sure I'm not alone, and even if wrong, doesn't that question unfairly detract from the honor he is receiving?

I'm really sick of liberals treating skepticism like they own it. They don't. Science is about cause and effect, politics is about value judgments. Science can be very inconvenient for politic movements - like how the president is threatening to veto to save the discredited ethanol program.

As an experiment, I decided to not use any links in this post written by white males. If you clicked the "creationism" text in the second paragraph, you'll find a so-so dismissal of Intelligent Design by Dinesh D'Souza. It's not the best take down I could have linked, but its what I came up with after three times the normal amount of work in finding a supportive link. My ethanol link wasn't the best one either. I also had to keep some ideas unsupported by links, and cut out other ideas I couldn't find links for.

That, in a nutshell, is the cost of satisfying these activists.

2 comments:

  1. This is why I don't bother getting involved in skepticism conferences and the like. From what I've seen they quickly change from being about the scientific method and empiricism into being about politics.

    If I wanted politics, I'd go to a political conference or a political debate panel.

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