Monday, November 01, 2010

Penn Jillette Defines Respect

 
Here's an excerpt from an article in Saturday's Toronto Star [Penn Jillette and the gospel of disbelief ]. I agree with Penn Jillette about the meaning of "respect." This point about respect and confrontation comes up in a discussion on John Wilkins' blog [Tone Wars]. Penn may be impressed by how many people get it but I'm more impressed by how many people don't.
If you know Penn & Teller — the famed magicians, humourists and debunkers, stars of the cable series Bullshit! — you know, broadly speaking, what to expect from their long-running show in Las Vegas and their appearance Wednesday at Massey Hall. If not, you might be surprised by Penn Jillette: first of all by how positively evangelical a man can be about atheism, and secondly by how happy he is to clash with genuinely who fervently disagree.

“We get a lot of people coming up to us after shows and saying ‘I’m a Christian but I really enjoy your passion,’ ” Jillette, 55, says on the phone from Sin City, where Penn & Teller’s show has been running at the Rio Hotel for nine years.

“There’s a big difference between tolerance and respect. Tolerance is you saying something crazy and me smiling and saying ‘that’s nice.’ Respect is when you say something crazy and I say ‘you’re out of your f---ing mind.’ Direct confrontation, direct conversation is real respect. And it’s amazing how many people get that.”


[Hat Tip: Canadian Atheist]

7 comments :

  1. "Respect is when you say something crazy and I say ‘you’re out of your f---ing mind.’ "

    No. Respect is when someone says something that you disagree with -- and even strongly -- and you say "Really? I don't think that's right. Why do you think that's right?"

    And respect probably doesn't start with considering the ideas crazy at the start. Sure, some ideas may be crazy ... but then, having had some ideas that others consider crazy I can easily understand that sometimes it's our own perceptions that make it seem like that to us, and nothing about the idea itself.

    "direct conversation is real respect"

    Conversations don't start with "You're crazy! You're irrational! You're stupid!". Heck, DEBATES don't even start with that. ARGUMENTS start with that.

    If you only want to have arguments, feel free. But don't try to hide behind starting conversations if what you're doing is starting arguments

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  2. Conversations don't start with "You're crazy! You're irrational! You're stupid!"

    Well they can if the idea you are refuting is crazy, irrational and/or stupid and the person expressing said idea is so emotionally invested in it that you can't separate the person from the idea.

    Some ideas are so bad that they "are not even wrong" and as such do not warrant the waste of time a conversation would entail and a succinct "you're out of your fucking mind" is exactly what is called for.

    Life is too short to not prioritize your conversations.

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  3. Well they can if the idea you are refuting is crazy, irrational and/or stupid and the person expressing said idea is so emotionally invested in it that you can't separate the person from the idea.

    But the point is that asserting that something is "crazy, irrational, or stupid" isn't a conversation anymore that asserting that something is immoral, reprobate, or otherwise evil. It is a good way to begin a sermon, but it put those who you are trying to convince on the defensive, which is in general counterproductive.

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  4. Some ideas are so bad that they "are not even wrong" and as such do not warrant the waste of time a conversation would entail and a succinct "you're out of your fucking mind" is exactly what is called for.

    Although I agree with you completely, mind you, we are talking about respect here. Clearly, you and I, (because I do this too) do not respect the people we refuse to waste time with.

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  5. do not respect the people we refuse to waste time with

    While I think that people deserve respect (and ideas and institutions do not), you often can not separate the idea from the person.

    But that's not a problem for the person disagreeing with the idea, it's a problem for the person holding the idea.

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  6. Penn and Teller: "AGW is bullshit."

    Me: "You're out of your f---ing mind!"

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  7. Penn and Teller: "AGW is bullshit."

    They didn't do too well on the 2nd hand smoke episode either.

    I'm looking forward to the show at Massey Hall Wednesday evening.

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