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Within atheist and skeptical ranks there’s been a growing schism between ‘accommodationists’, and, for lack of a more appropriate term, ‘dicks’. In recent times the ‘accommodationist’ side has started speaking more loudly (which it has to, in order to be heard over the din of the ‘dicks’), with the likes of Daniel Loxton and Phil Plait promoting more civil debate rather than P.Z. Myers-ish schoolboy tirades. But the cognitive dissonance that the skeptical movement is currently experiencing may in turn just reinforce the childish behaviour: in a new entry on his blog titled “Are We Phalluses?“, Jerry Coyne has taken Phil Plait to task for his ‘Don’t Be a Dick’ speech’:

What struck me most strongly about the DBAD talk, and reminded me of the Tom Johnson affair, was Plaitโ€™s complete failure to provide evidence for what he was saying. Not only did he not give a single instance of the rudeness and stridency that he finds so ubiquitous, but also gave no evidence that skeptics who behave that way have been less effective than others. This was curious because, after all, the prime requirement for good skepticism is that you give evidence for what you think, and demand it from others.

And the dickish comments come fast and furious after the blog post, including one from an actual Dick – Richard Dawkins. I had a good giggle at his curt response to the Bad Astronomer’s talk:

As Jerry said, Plait quoted no examples of skeptics who scream insults in peopleโ€™s face. I donโ€™t think I have ever met, seen or heard one. But I could quote plenty of skeptics who employ ridicule, who skewer pretentiousness, stupidity and ignorance using wit. Listening to such ridicule, and reading it, is one of the great joys life has to offer. And I suspect that it is very effective.

I’m sorry…you “suspect” that it’s very effective? What happened to this evidence-based reasoning that Jerry Coyne and yourself were just singing the praises of? You might like to do some studies on that before you start criticizing others.

Here’s a data point for Jerry and Richard. I regularly encounter dickish behaviour from ‘skeptics’, and I find it offensive. I find it very difficult to read anything that the likes of Myers and Dawkins write, no matter how intelligent, without an inherent bias due to my previous experience of their dickishness. And I’m not a fan of organized religion, so I should be their target audience.

Being offensive is the easiest course of action – it just requires unstopping any filters of civility and letting the garbage pour out of your head. It takes no intelligence at all, and rarely achieves anything other than to falsely stoke the ego of the offender. I am disinclined to listen to the ‘rational’ arguments of a ‘skeptic’ that can’t act rationally themselves.

On the other hand, the way things are going, organized skepticism will tear itself apart soon enough…