Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Is What I See Groupthink?

I have to say that I'm really happy that I discovered the atheist blogosphere a few months ago.  There some blogs that I like more than others, but I enjoy reading most of them.  I'm particular fond of Rationally Speaking and Russell Blackford's Metamagician blog because they are usually the most well-reasoned and interesting blogs I read.  I am not as big a fan of PZ Myer's blog and Jerry Coyne's blog, but they often have some insightful things to say.  The main problem I have is that it seems that within the comment sections of these latter two blogs and some others, I often witness what I think are textbook examples of groupthink.  I have often noticed that if someone comes into the comments and disagrees with the author of the blog, everyone jumps on him and will often rip him to shreds with insults and the like.  This will occur even when someone presents a well-reasoned argument.  Sometimes the argument won't even get addressed once the sharks sense to blood in the water.  And often the victims of this are fellow atheists who merely disagree with the author.

This may be a symptom of the Internet and the ability to be anonymous.  But I expect more out of a community that is supposed to hold reason and evidence in high regard.  I expect people in this community to address the arguments without name-calling or any other childish stuff.  You don't necessarily have to be nice, but at least address the argument.  The argument can be right or wrong.  That doesn't matter to me.  I just want people to care about the argument first rather than attacking the person who disagrees with them.  And I don't think it's that hard either.

Maybe the Internet just brings out lowest common denominator out of every community.  It's probably true.  But I don't buy it as an excuse for bad behavior.  And I'm certainly not going to accept that it is just the way things are done.  What I am going to do is make sure that the people who do a good job on these blogs know that they're doing a good job and to keep up the work.  And I'm going to remember to not feed the trolls.


  1. I think it's a very odd phenomenon, especially for those who claim to be skeptics and rationalists. It demonstrates to me that everyone is susceptible to cognitive biases and group fallacies. It's really tough to keep on the look out for these things all the time, especially when you're a minority group with a strong sense of identification with you heroes (like PZ). But I think you're right - we should hold ourselves to a higher standard.

  2. Try with Hement or with Jen. They both have a younger crowd and the people tend to be good with one an other, more likely to have a discussion. People feel free to disagree with either one, no one is bashed because the two aren't hero worshiped like PZ (probably because they're both so young); and Hement and Jen encourage it.

  3. I've been reading Friendly Atheist for awhile and just started reading Blag Hag recently. I do notice their comments sections are better.