Tell all the truth but tell it slant?
So to return to the core of the issue that Ben was talking about – the utility of atheism for atheists, science communication, conflict as a way into discussion rather than an impediment to it, passion as a motivator. I talked to him about it at Facebook, and tried (not for the first time) to take a hard look at why I feel so strongly about the subject.
I said that I have a visceral reaction to advice about framing. I do. Why do I?
First of all, I’ve had it for a long time; maybe as long as I’ve been thinking about anything. I dislike all the manipulative “professions” – advertising, PR, political operative stuff. I dislike trickery and pandering. I dislike them in an objective sense; I think they’re harmful. I can see their utility for some purposes, but I think they do some harm in the process even so. For some jobs and vocations, they’re simply disastrous – they’re the exact opposite of what people should be doing. Scholarship, teaching, and journalism are among those vocations.
And that perhaps explains why I dislike them even more in a subjective sense – why that’s not what I want to do. I want to spend my time trying to tell the truth about things, to the best of my ability, as I see it, and all the other qualifications. I want to do that, I don’t want to coddle or manage or mollify. I also don’t want to be coddled or managed or mollified.
And I think that’s a reasonable commitment. I think the opposite commitment is more dubious, because it’s more apt to damage people’s cognitive abilities. I think in general clarity and honesty are better than tactful arrangement when it comes to public discourse.