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The dangers of JAQing off in public

Illustration for article titled The dangers of JAQing off in public

A common tactic among science contrarians is to JAQ off in public. How are we supposed to respond to this tactic?


What is JAQing off?

VespaGuy, a poster on the JREF forums, defined the term as:

1. the act of spouting accusations while cowardly hiding behind the claim of "just asking questions". 2. asking questions and ignoring the answers.
"He said he was going to present evidence, but instead he was just JAQing off."


What's a recent example of it?

On Tuesday there was a discussion between a science educator and a science contrarian. Multiple times during this discussion, both sides engaged in JAQing off in public. Before the discussion, presumable young-Earth creationist patrons at the young-Earth creationist institution hosting the discussion were asked to write up questions that they would like to ask the science educator. These questions, to anyone who has ever engaged in the Origins Debate, were primarily boring for a few reasons. One of these reasons is that most of these questions have easy answers, which have been known for decades.


Why is it not helpful?

There is no such thing as a stupid question; to borrow a phrase from Carl Sagan, "every question is a cry to understand the world." The only thing truly stupid about a question is not being interested in the answer. When people JAQing off are just being intellectually non-curious, that's disturbing enough. But some people use JAQing off as a debate tactic: they present ridiculous questions in order to frustrate their opponent, winning the debate by default.


When a man representing a young-Earth creationist institution asks "Where you there?" to an opponent, the opponent has to waste time explaining why evidence from the past is actually useful. The young-Earth creationist inspires a nihilistic response to evidence, and the scientist or science educator or advocate has to actually spend time, in the 21st century, explaining why evidence is not just something that humans should throw away if it makes an ideology look bad.

What to do about people JAQing off in public?

The bad thing about JAQing off is that it's tough to tell if someone is doing so without engaging them. My new response to potential JAQ offers is that when I see someone bravely displaying their ignorance for the world to see, I ask if they're interested in learning why they're ignorant (...usually not in those words). If the person is being a troll, they'll just respond in a trollish way. Lesson learned, do not engage.

If a person continues to ask questions that have obvious answers, there's not much that can be done besides informing them of the existence of lmgtfy.com.


This post inspired by this sequence of images, from which the top image was taken, and this post at Friendly Atheist. Be kind to those around you, only JAQ off in public if you have consent to do so.

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