It’s a Culture not a Movement

So there’s been a little bit of blogging going on recently following a piece written for the New Statesman by Robin Ince and Brian Cox where they state the importance of not conflating opinion with science, it’s an interesting piece and can be read here.  As you can imagine it focuses on the need not to forget why science is important, but with this being the internet someone didn’t like it and wrote a blog post ranting about it…..and it’s to that blog post, or the general nature of it, that I’ll be replying to.

To make it clear though I’m not going to do a point by point response, that’s already been done here by Martin Robbins, he responds paragraph by paragraph and really takes the writer to task and it’s definitely something worth reading.  What I want to break down is the guy’s misuse of the geek label, I had a brief twitter exchange with the writer of another blog post about this and Martin in which my gut call was confirmed……they used the term geek as a catch all bucket for anything they didn’t like.

So how did this person misuse the word geek?  Well in one sense he didn’t, he used it in a fairly derogatory way and given that geek was used as an insult for a long time, and still continues to be used today, it’s not a misuse.  But it’s when he conflates it with a movement…, geekdom isn’t a movement it’s a sub-culture/culture.  And I’m not talking the likes of prefacing geek with something like science geek (for which I do use to describe myself), as Kash rightly said in his blog post linked above a geek is someone, anyone, with a strong interest in that field.  So you can get sports geeks, car geeks, train geeks, food geeks etc and whilst they are all correct they are all slightly different to the Geek of geek culture/geekdom.

So what is the difference?  Well that’s potentially going to be something difficult to explain, but hopefully by the time I’m finished I’ll have done it justice.  As I said I am a science geek, I love science, it’s great, fantastic….all manner of amazing and this is something that I share with some of the STV boys.  But is that all it takes to be a Geek?  No, not really… interest/passion in science can be part of being a Geek but it’s not the be all and end all.  So what does it take to be a Geek and be part of Geekdom, Geek Culture and general Geekery?  Well let’s look at that…

For those of you that have either read our blog or seen our webshow it’s probably no surprise to you when I say that I’m a Geek, I’ve been watching Dr Who since I was a child I’m a massive fan of things like Star Wars and Red Dwarf.  That’s the sort of thing that Geek Culture is about, fandom in things that generally get snubbed by mainstream and are under rated by people as a result.  Things like Fox cancelling Firefly tend to annoy Geeks; there has also been off and on infighting over the phenomenon of Geek Girls with lots of moronic bewailing of supposed fake geek girls, see here and here.

For possibly the most easiest recognisable version of a Geek look at the characters in The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard and Raj are all Geeks/Nerds (depending on your choice of term).  They go to conventions, dress up in costume, have arguments over different cult programs… this instance they are all scientists and academics/researchers but that part is by the by.  Yes, some Geeks also wear a Skeptic hat, I’m one of them, but Mr Dayantis seems to be grouping the two together quiet erroneously…..indicating that he really doesn’t have a clue what a Geek is.

So for his benefit I’d like to say the following.  There is such a thing as a Skeptical Movement….however loosely defined that there may be.  There is also most definitely a Geek Culture/subculture and it contains people with a wide range of fandom’s.  The word geek can also be used to describe people with interests in many areas.  I googled Geek Movement and found that most of the results on the first page where either to the hissy fit blog post, its comments or others blogging about it.  The rest seem to highlight that a Geek Movement is more about Geeks than Skeptics/Skepticism….indicating that the geek movement you are bashing is really just in your head.  Yeah, the Geek Manifesto has a nice catchy title, but given that I don’t know the author I can’t discuss with them the specifics for their choice in wording.

What I’d strongly suggest is that as opposed to making stuff up you spent some time doing some study, some good places to go are things like the Geeks Are Sexy blog or the Being a Geek facebook group before you next try and sound off about a made up movement.  Not all skeptics/ scientists are Geeks….and not every Geek is a skeptic/scientist.