There’s Evil in Skepticville

As I mentioned earlier, I’m going to address another part of the blog I commented on  concerning skepticism.

I mentioned  that the writer took at shot at one of the bloggers on this network. I guess he was using it as an example of not being a skeptic or, in his words earlier in his own piece, hyperskeptical.

To catch up any of those not aware, Matt Cavanaugh of our network wrote a piece recently about a blog where our suspect scanned a letter he recieved and included it in his post. It was a letter about the bloggers book; you know, the one that’s been a huge bestseller on Amazon. The letter was dripping with praise. That’s okay, it’s always nice to get positive feedback.

He starts by, of course, insulting Matt. Well, that’s standard for any scientist, isn’t it? Then he really goes on a rant.

I think he misses the point of the post and never really addresses it in the nearly 400 words he devotes to trashing Matt.

My reading of Matt’s post was this: Isn’t it unusual, in this day and age, for some high school or college student to send a hand written letter to someone? With all the computers, whether at home or school, email readily available, why did this person send a hand written (block letter by the way) letter?

Sure Matt proceeds to dissect. Is he right or wrong? I don’t know. But the question above remains.

Then of course, he assigns some intent that was never in Matt’s post:

He mansplains the psychology of teenaged girls to assert that there’s no way a 15-year-old woman could have written the letter

I see! No one is allowed to question anything and if the person happens to be a girl or woman, it’s “mansplaining”. He’s not finished though:

On the basis of his own foul-minded speculations, he transformed a pleasant fan letter into a come-on from a small town Lolita. It’s a disgusting spectacle of hyperskepticism gone wild. Oh, and skepticism and atheism: Jebus, but you do have a misogyny problem. Please stop pretending you don’t.

Let me see if I have this straight: Matt is, 1) foul-minded, 2) hyperskeptical,and 3) a misogynist.

All of this based on a pretend quote (yes, he made it up) from the letter writer.

So the real point of this trashing was again, to forward his agenda that there’s something wrong in Skepticville, where all of us have a sexism problem and people like Matt are nothing more than misogynists.

7 thoughts on “There’s Evil in Skepticville

  1. “My reading of Matt’s post was this: Isn’t it unusual, in this day and age, for some high school or college student to send a hand written letter to someone?”

    I suppose we all bring our own set of biases to the reading of something. So maybe my take is wrong. But maybe your take is wrong. I certainly did not take away from this piece what you state as the central point of the blog piece. There is little doubt in my mind that Cavanaugh’s central point was that he thinks Myers’ likely fabricated the letter in question. But unwilling to come right out and say it directly, he chose a less direct route to say so. If you did not get this sense from the post then I don’t think you read it with unbiased glasses. Of course Cavanaugh could easily clear this up and state in clear, unambiguous words what his intent was in writing this post. Both you and I are only speculating.

    So what if it is unusual. It is not improbable. Do you and Matt actually think that there are no teens writing letters today? We know nothing at all about this teen. There are teens, some even in Indiana I strongly suspect, who do not have internet at home. I taught for 22 years in a wealthy district. You would think that computers and internet access would be in every home. But this most definitely was not the case. I can only imagine how many fewer students would have access to the internet at home in less affluent districts or poor districts. I think it just as unlikely that a teen without access to internet at home would go to the library or a friends house to write an e-mail letter. Simply easier and more convenient to stay at home, write a letter and post it via snail mail.

    Perhaps P.Z.’s post in response to Cavanaugh’s post was a little over the top and defensive. But for Cavanaugh to pick this topic to post on seems a bit like obsessive behavior. s it an example of what P.Z. called hyper-skepticism? This one is not so easy to call, at least for me. But the letter in question hardly seems to me like a worthy topic for displaying such a high degree of skepticism about its authenticity.


    • Randy, you seem to be forgetting a key component of skepticism: that the strength of one’s conviction be commensurate to the strength of the evidence.

      I suspect that the letter is a fake. I detect uncanny similarities in the writer’s voice and PZ’s. One plausible explanation is that PZ wrote the note. My style is satirical, and I ran with that plausible explanation. I’m not committed to any one explanation, and still leave open the possibility that the note is real. Myers and his Horde, with their black & white thinking, can’t cope with such a reasoned approach.

      I listed the various elements that, for me, constituted a preponderance of evidence. To nitpick at one or two, as some have done, not entirely without merit, does not negate the body of evidence in toto.

      I also find it amusing how people insist that, as I am not an handwriting expert, I am not allowed to form any opinion on the handwriting in this note. Yet in the very next breath they, though also possessing no handwriting analysis expertise, declare the note definitively genuine.

      So, I do not see this as me exercising an overly “high degree of skepticism”, rather the Pharyngulites displaying a complete absence of skeptical thought.


  2. What I wanna know is, why is The Fifth Horseman™ wasting his time heaping personal insults at lil’ ole me? Isn’t he busy ending religion and making atheism safe for radical feminists?


    • Bad skeptic! 🙂 It’s great he gave you some publicity! I mean, 381 words in a post a little over 1300? Man he hates you. You are now my hero!


      • “Man he hates you.”
        Then I’ve joined a company that is both august and legion.

        If PZ still aspires to become the Fifth Horseman™, then I aspire to be but a lowly hobble, if only for a day!


  3. “Randy, you seem to be forgetting a key component of skepticism: that the strength of one’s conviction be commensurate to the strength of the evidence.”

    You will need to explain just what it is I wrote that makes you think I have forgotten this component of skepticism.


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