Here’s the scoop on Gelato Gate: ‘Atheists’ vs ‘skeptics’ at issue

A new controversy erupted on the skeptics/atheists front. At the Skepticon conference, a local business person refused to serve con-goers. Long story short, he apologized. And then, things went a bit nuts…

For details, see these posts.

Gelato Guy apologizes to atheists for discrimination

Hemant Mehta: A(n Honestly) Classy Apology from the Gelato Mio Owner Check the “UPDATE” portion and see the ensuing mess.

Further thoughts on Gelato Gate

Hayley Stevens: …& Sometimes skeptics don’t deserve ice cream

and for a post on aggressive communication, here is a good one

Mike McRae Tribal Scientist: A Ridiculous Essay on Rational Outreach

DN mostly excludes news about atheist activism because it has little to do with science appreciation, critical thinking about media presentation of news or skeptical outreach – our purpose. And, as we see, it gets REALLY ugly. But this is a story that affects the community of skeptics who participate in skeptical events, attend conferences and who read this blog. So, we included this story. I fully expect opinions run the gamut. But our policy is that you not be abusive in the comments. It shall not turn into a pit of evil minions. We try to be civil here. And we accept both skeptics AND believers.

I may be adding more links to this post as more is discussed online.

  8 comments for “Here’s the scoop on Gelato Gate: ‘Atheists’ vs ‘skeptics’ at issue

  1. idoubtit
    November 23, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    The person who runs the Skepticon conference does not subscribe to the same ideas of skepticism that I do. After many arguments, some with me personally, I see no open-minded skepticism there. To call someone a bad skeptic because they still may harbor religious beliefs is short-sighted – if your goal is to reach more people and get them to think critically. And, it excludes great skeptics such as Martin Gardner and Houdini. Why would you want to do that, other than to appear smug.

    I find this issue troublesome. Don’t alienate those who are largely on your side.
    http://indieskeptics.com/2010/09/22/a-bigger-tent/

    • November 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM

      I agree. When I bring up that argument they say “what about a skeptic that believes in Homeopathy or acupuncture, or any other woo”

      Truth is, we all have our sacred cow. Just because somebody hasn’t applied their critical thinking across the board 100% doesn’t mean they can’t learn from the process. Perhaps one day they’ll use it against their sacred cow and change their minds.

      Not to say that these things should be off topic (religious claims), but you shouldn’t beat people down with a giant stick, or in the case of PZ, just bash them constantly without fully understanding that person’s position or background.

      People can learn, and change. Best to help them along the way than to shut them out.

  2. November 23, 2011 at 11:50 AM

    I am among the minority of skeptics who believe in God. Fellow skeptics don’t always understand how I can dismiss the extraordinary “this” and yet believe the extraordinary “that”, but as long as I respect their beliefs, or non-beliefs, as the case may be, they rarely ridicule me, and even more rarely accuse me of not being a true skeptic. I believe it’s all a matter of presenting arguments without being judgemental.

    Still, extreme prejudice raises its ugly head more often than not, making it very difficult not to retaliate in kind. The prejudice escalates on all sides, and we have a war, where anything is said to be fair. In such wars, ridicule is employed in the name of critical thinking, and yet, in such wars, ridicule is always valued far above critical thinking.

    • idoubtit
      November 23, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Karl: thank you for commenting. Yours is the voice I want to hear.

      • November 23, 2011 at 2:09 PM

        Thank you Sharon. If I could only get my brother to say that.

  3. November 23, 2011 at 4:23 PM

    1.) I think, as seen in comments on one of the linked pages, this is a good example of “Forgive but not Forget.” I think the owner was wrong. I also have to say, and this is purely my guess/opinion, that there was possibly a bit more going on than curiosity without any hint he might be offended (I don’t know the guy, maybe he went in just thinking “something about UFOs” as he says in his mea culpa, but I am well, a touch skeptical of that). I wouldn’t blame anyone for not patronizing his business based on this, its their choice, but at this point there isn’t any point to furthering a campaign against the guy, except that it is mostly about ….

    2.) Internal politics of the skeptical community, and promotion of one’s identity. Is this how it’s going to be now? Skepticism and atheism activists, advocates, and interested parties, have had their profile and influence greatly increased with the rise of the internet, and especially of the blog. This is good. The downside, now it seems like the nature of this “marketplace of ideas” is that everyone has to constantly self-promote their “brand,” and it seems like a form of practice is slowly emerging. We get these big kerfuffles, and in at least a few cases, following cons (I know that at or right after professional conferences, I will often find myself alternately intrigued by what I saw, and annoyed by some trends in the field, as represented by either people or events at the conference I would not normally run into), when either by plan or by accident, an incident occurs that gets everyone yapping. Don’t be a Dick, ElevatorGate, and now GelatoGate. These incidents quickly become stand-ins for larger issues, often over identity and/or personal/group style, things that get people much angrier and engaged than an argument over disassociated easily quantifiable issues. On top of that, they involve the microcelebrities of the skeptical or atheist communities/fandoms.

    So the whole incident becomes an excuse/opportunity to dredge up issues that while often real, aren’t addressed on a routine basis. But they are then parsed, often badly, through the specifics of the incident, wherein we get a minutiae to rival the JFK assassination conspiracy theory industry (who was subtly alluded to as a “dick,” when was the elevator ride, how long was the sign up). And it all gets wrapped up in the webs of supporters, sycophants, critics, and haters of various microcelebrities, who either end up as the instigators, foci, or targets of efforts to either promote a brand or an issue, or to count coup.

    Look, every “community” has its inside baseball, its cliques. But if that is what ends up being the focus of your time, you need to step back a bit. Or realize that what you’re doing is politicking/marketing to an audience.

    • November 23, 2011 at 7:13 PM

      People have been politicking/marketing their opinions since they were able to freely communicate. But without anonymity, most people seem to lack the guts to do so. And now we have the internet, which provides plenty of anonymity, and plenty of opportunity for the gutless to anonymously push their opinions.

      I agree that the man who placed the sign in the window was wrong. It was a very bigoted act. It makes one wonder if he ever petitioned for drinking fountains to which all atheists would be restricted. But it was a mole hill, not a mountain, no matter what else may have been attached to it. We rarely get the whole story from internet reports, but most times we don’t need the whole story to know that it is only a big deal those who don’t feel complete until they have blown a little thing way out of proportion.

      Still, I must admit that it’s all relative: A little thing to me might be a very big deal to others. What I consider the inconsequential actions of one petty bigot could be looked upon as the beginning of an uncontrollable “belief” war which will inevitably divide skeptics into conflicting camps. Which wouldn’t be a problem, if like me, they simply dismissed the event as a superficial annoyance, and chased it from their minds. But then that’s just me politicking/marketing to an audience.

  4. PJ
    November 27, 2011 at 1:27 PM

    I respect people of faith, but there is a kind of believing skeptic that becomes offended by even respectful questions about religion. That is where I draw the line. It is a weak faith indeed that cannot tolerate self-examination, and a shallow skepticism, to boot.

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