I keep seeing that word, "arrogant", being thrown around by the religious. Scientists are arrogant. Atheists are arrogant. And those invitations to debate - "talk with me, but don't be arrogant!" What they mean is, don't show me up, don't make me look like a fool, don't push my out of my comfort zone. Don't be confident, don't be informed, don't behave like you know what you are talking about. Don't be "arrogant". It's wielded like a weapon, like a threat - and there is no self-reflection about how it gets used. I  keep seeing that word being trotted out against rational, reasoned, informed speakers, with utter hypocrisy, and I keep thinking the same thing:
Who are you calling arrogant?
Today I wrote this in a comments thread, and it seemed too good to lose, so I'm reposting it here. It's in response to this post from "Melly":

"This is so true! I am currently taking a Geology class at a Christian university and they give us both sides. So different than what a regular university would give you. I am shocked at how the scientific community continues to use unreliable dating methods. It just goes to show how arrogant most of them are."

My reply:

Arrogant? Let's see...

"Accept what I say, because this book made by fallible humans, written down between 1,800-2,500 years ago, says that this is what God did. Do not argue with it, do not question it, and do not expect any burden of proof on what it says, because it is true. I believe this human-made artifact, moreover a translation of multiple books in multiple languages, all of which are the surviving selections from an oral history of multiple (fallible and human) generations, which has been edited at known times during our history - this book is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. Never mind the known history of the actual book itself, never mind that what history we have of the times it speaks of have no reference to support that what it says happened, it is true and everything else is false. And the proof that this is so is because this very book itself says it is the true word of God."


"We follow the scientific method, we observe something about the world and we strive to find an explanation for why it happens. We set ourselves certain rules - the explanation should fit everything that we observe, it should explain what we see without relying on something we do not have evidence for, and we recognise that our idea about what is going on may be wrong. So we offer our idea, and we try to see if we can prove that it is wrong. The moment we have any data that indicates we are wrong, we revise our explanation - because we are humans, we cannot know everything, we will get things wrong - and we can learn from our mistakes. We recognise that people are not perfect, and that situations will vary, so we come up with ways of testing our ideas that other people can replicate, to see if they get the same result. We recognise that the universe is a complicated place and it rarely works in yes/no answers, so we embrace the discipline of statistics and variation to comprehend and make sense of it.

But above all, central to the tenants of scientific theory, we could be wrong and that is not a bad thing - it just means we need to rethink what we are assuming, look at our new information, and try to come up with a better explanation that takes it all into account and can work. And if something else comes along that shows our new idea is still not right, we'll do that again - and again, and again, and again. Because we recognise that people are not perfect, and cannot know everything, and we recognise that the world is not simple, and cannot be quickly and easily explained.

So we - not as individuals, but as an entire, world-wide community, not as a single generation, but as a lineage of people, each building our knowledge on that of those who came before, each generation able to find new solutions because we have access to what our predecessors knew with the addition of all we have since found out - we share our knowledge and ideas, we question each other to help get us all closer to a good, reliable answer, and to help us find the those answers that are incorrect, and we collectively and global strive not to be right, but to find the best answer we have now. Because humanity can never claim omniscience, but we can strive to learn more."

You want to tell me which stance is more arrogant?

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Comment by John Aultman on February 28, 2013 at 10:02am

Good job Anwyn loved it.

Comment by Loren Miller on February 27, 2013 at 6:05pm

What's more, the average scientist / researcher will tell you when he or she doesn't know something.  Certainly, they may be well-versed in their own particular specialty, but when asked about issues outside of that focus, far more times than not, they will defer to someone who is traveled in that field.  Dr. Richard Feynman actually seemed to revel in the idea that he didn't know something ... though my suspicion was that, if that something was of interest to him, it wouldn't be long before he knew SOMETHING about it!

Comment by The Flying Atheist on February 27, 2013 at 5:59pm

Two thumbs up!  A great reply. 



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