Posted by: Loren Coleman on October 2nd, 2012
Daniel Loxton is such a famous skeptic.
Loxton in his newest Skepticblog essay tackles the topic of name-calling. In “Carl Sagan’s Crazy Train,” Loxton says he is interested in the
consideration of the ethics of “colloquial use of the term ‘crazy.’”
Loxton, in his piece, used my comments about this word to him from a 2004 interview. I thought I would share that part of his article, and you can travel to his blog to read the rest. If anyone wishes to comment here about this issue, I’d be interested in reading what you have to say. The comments he has posted, mostly from his associate “Skeptics” are good reading, as well.
Loxton writes: “I know from personal experience that the word “crazy” in particular can derail dialogue. In an otherwise fruitful 2004 email interview with cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, I asked this colloquial, lighthearted question: “Are cryptozoologists crazy?” (I was deliberately fishing for a quote to the effect that cryptozoology is a reasonable pursuit given x, y, and z.) I was taken off guard by Coleman’s response—not because I disagreed with it, but because I had failed to anticipate it.”
I’m sorry, but having worked closely with many people from various walks of life for over three decades, I find no humor in this question. Individuals with mental illness, bipolar disorders, and clinically defined personality difficulties are no joking matter.
To use words like “crazy” as a descriptor for anyone, let alone people that are conducting scientific research outside the mainstream, is demeaning and allows stigma to erect attitudinal, structural, and financial barriers.
According to Andrew Wahl, by the second or third grade children have already picked up on the fact “that people with mental illnesses are to be viewed less favorably than others” (Stigmatizing Media Images Affect Children). Mentally ill people are clearly not seen or treated as equal community members, and to reinforce this by labeling people that skeptics find silly or worthless is uncalled for.Loren Coleman. Email to author. Nov 23, 2004.
Loxton finishes that paragraph, thusly: “Well, fair enough. I apologized unreservedly, and rephrased my question. He was right—and I knew he was right, because of the challenges and sorrows of people I love.”
The “the challenges and sorrows of people” call forth more from us.
(I’ve also dealt with the unfortunate use of this word here, in 2011.)