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Random finds: Comedy vs. anti-science

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At Salon, Sarah Gray offers “10 amazing videos that show how humor can make a difference,”

Climate change, vaccination and evolution — each of these are things that the scientific establishment overwhelmingly agrees on. But the anti-intellectual fury of climate deniers, anti-vaxxers and creationists is such that any empirical consensus gets overshadowed.

I have a literary interest in the further development of satire. Perhaps the Salon writer is underselling the comedians by her presentation. Sorry, but people who can be funny aren’t in this kind of a dudgeon.

Humour is the cosmic banana peel. So the first law of humour is that dudgeon turns the comedian into the butt of the joke. Gray does not, for that matter, come off as a person who would know a joke if she heard one.

For better or worse, comedy has emerged as one of the most visible platforms for laying bare the insanity of anti-science reactionaries. Jon Stewart and his “Daily Show” correspondents, for example, have been scrutinizing such people for years, while John Oliver has emerged in recent months as a veritable pro-science powerhouse. Stephen Colbert has interviewed Neil deGrasse Tyson at least 10 times!

Ten times? Stewart should make the man his co-host. One wonders if he often features people who disagree with Tyson.

There’s never been a shortage of qualified experts to debunk anti-science, but few have generated the kind of heat that comedians have of late. Perhaps is the viral-friendly nature of social media, or the intrinsic advantage that satire enjoys over the cut-and-dried recitation of facts. Whatever the case, let’s take a lesson from these witty minds. Below are 10 sterling examples of comedy as an antidote to science-denialism. More.

Gray offers no evidence that comedians have generated a lot of heat in these areas, though perhaps they have.

A potent satire demands that the satirist correctly understand the position he is sending up. If he despises his opponents too much to learn what they are actually saying, he would be wise to pick another topic. Otherwise, his audience may just as well be rows of mirrors. Some comics like that kind of audience, but if they are cause-oriented, they can forget reaching folk who are not already convinced. And then they are puzzled and angry when, year by year, most polls disappoint them.

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Satire and comedy rely on caricaturing. The rather sad reality is that when so-called "science deniers" employ the tactic of caricaturing they are lambasted for inaccurate description (I.e. - where is the missing link?). Meanwhile those who employ caricaturing of "science deniers" are considered satirical heroes. This makes honest debate an impossible moving target. IDists have bent over backwards to stop their satirical jabs. To avoid the dismissiveness of evolutionists they've resorted to increasingly serious forums, increasingly rigorous argumentation, and insistence on very simple empirical prediction. What's the retort? Comedy. You just can't make this stuff up. The way I see it, this is indicative of a rapid retreat. The first tactic is to dismiss your opposition (e.g. - well, you just don't UNDERSTAND evolution). The second tactic is appeal to authority (e.g. - well, most of so and so agree with me). The third tactic is concession and goalpost shifting (e.g. - it doesn't actually violate such and such law; no it's not testable in the normal manner; we haven't observed macroevolution, but look at this example instead). If scrutiny persists, and someone just won't own up to reality, there is only one tactic left: turn it all into one big joke (e.g. - Bill Maher; Ricky Gervais; George Carlin; and Salon's goofballs as well). Anyone can tee up an opponent and annihilate him. It's just that IDists tend to play too nice. Every time I think about that I watch something like this: http://vimeo.com/ondemand/htatf/82426759 jw777
It doesn't matter if the comedians understand that which they are satirizing/ridiculing; it's a marketing campaign. Getting a sale has nothing to do with truthfulness. William J Murray

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