Category Archives: Philosophy
Just yesterday, PA Nonbelievers released a video of my talk from last September at their conference. Now, I was hesitant to speak at an atheist event because promotion of atheism is NOT what I do. I do skepticism. But Brian graciously allowed me to talk about whatever I wanted so I talked about skepticism in the crossover – the skepto-atheism conflation that was happening. It’s still happening. Just this past weekend, Matt Dillahunty gave a talk about skepticism and atheism. He is a great speaker, but the message, I felt, was flawed and weak. While it sounded fantastic, if it was written out, it would not stand up the same.
Skepticism is NOT atheism. He pooh-poohed the Media Guide to Skepticism. He even got the name of the website wrong. But I didn’t expect to see an uptick in downloads regardless because he told people what he thought about it so it was not an encouraging promotion of the document.
But THAT’S the thing. SKEPTICISM IS NOT ATHEISM. Atheists are going to possibly have an issue with it because it’s not written for them. This was a community document, an ideal, for skepticism. Read the rest of this entry
About half of all amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGs – those self-forming groups that do ghost hunting, Bigfoot searches, cataloging of UFO sightings, and other paranormalia) on the Internet say they use scientific methods and equipment and/or their field is based in science. 
As one who actually did scientific work in a lab (geochemistry) and geologic investigations, I had a hard time with their claims about scientificity. To be scientific, in a strict sense, there is no substitute for academic training. Long ago, we exhausted all the relatively simple ways of learning about the world and science rocketed out of the reach of amateurs. Now, like it or not, science takes a big effort – careful planning, funding, collaboration and eventual publication so that results can be critically evaluated by the community. In Western society, science is a privileged method of inquiry. The public generally understands that the methods of science are rigorous and the results are authoritative. So, to say that one is “scientific” is to set a very high bar. I could not help but wonder just how close to the bar these ARIG participants could get. So, I looked at their websites and read their publications. Read the rest of this entry
The Internet allows people like me to put my views and opinions out there. In return, I must accept criticism of them. Criticism is the primary means to locate and fix errors; to make progress.
Everyone gets commentators that simply don’t like what you said in your post. It’s a struggle to know when to be “fair” in accepting and addressing criticism and where to draw the line, rejecting there ever-lengthening, obfuscating remarks?
Call me traditional, but if I disagree with a blog post or article, I like to have backup for my opinion – a reference or a coherent argument, for example. Not so for many people who comment on a science-based post. I think the problem is that they are not on the same page. Literally. They do not read it with the same worldview in which I wrote it.
Read the rest of this entry
In the past two years, as a participant in the University at Buffalo’s Science and the Public masters’ degree program, I’ve had a number of people ask me what it’s like. At least two people [one a complete stranger] sought me out to answer their questions and concerns before deciding to enroll! I guess I was convincing. Full disclosure: I’m not a recruiter. I get no kickback from this.
Specific details about the program are hard to find – the workload, the classes, the “feel” of it. So, I thought it might be helpful to other curious people to provide a first hand account of what you might expect and, in my opinion, what to consider when deciding if it’s for you. Read the rest of this entry
Throughout the day, I’m reading books and news stories and listening to podcasts. This week, I saw a recurring theme in my media selections: values and the entrenched position.
I guess I was predisposed to thinking about it. I spent last week preparing a lecture on ethics for a professional licensure exam review. I included a bit on bias in science and the ooze of politics into the scientific endeavor.
I came across an article about last week’s EPA hearing on regulating greenhouse gases where opposing sides (which happened to be along party lines…surprise!) brought their scientific experts to argue their points. Read the rest of this entry
I prepared a presentation with narration for a graduate class. It’s about antiscience – a rather complex social topic, actually. This is about 31 minutes long with my narration. You can also skip slides with the forward button and the narration will still sync with the slide you are on. Questions are welcome!
Besides proofing my Twitter posts for errors and potentially misconstrued verb use before updating, I’ve resolved to improve my communication and skeptical relation skills for 2010. I’m well on my way. I don’t really need people to tell me what to improve on since my self-critical conscience screams at me after a bad experience and lingers much longer nagging me never to do that sort of thing again.
It takes practice, I guess. One must start somewhere; recognizing some aspects to work on is the place to start. Here are my objectives: Read the rest of this entry
I’ve noticed over the past year, many changes in the skeptical community. There has been a huge surge in communication, podcasts and internet activity that allowed for growth and exchange among the 3 groups – Center for Inquiry (Skeptical Inquirer/CSICOP/CSI), Skeptics Society (Shermer’s Skeptic) and JREF (Randi’s). I always thought they each provided a different perspective and approached the philosophy with different tools and, certainly, different personalities. That is a great thing. Read the rest of this entry
There has been a concerted effort to package creationist views in such a way as to sound so convincing and correct (at least politically) in order to gain public support and demonize evolution. Read the rest of this entry
Now, everyone calm down. I don’t think emo kids are crazy. But, I do wonder about a few. I have posted before that the most hits I get are for the pictures of Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. It’s obvious people Google images of G and visit my site (just the photo) and comment (on just the photo). I can’t tell you how many say “I luv U Gerard, marry MEEEEE!” I get scared at that.
Yo, I am not affiliated with the band. I am not them. I do not want to hear your love odes to your fantasy man. Please. Stop.
So, I am removing the picts. Administration of comments like this is getting old. I don’t authorize most because they are in some foreign language or are too odd to allow.
It does make me think that there are many kids who have seriously lost touch with reality (srsly!). I think they need help and I’m not the one to do that. Life between 12 and 20 are pretty gnarly times – your body and your brain are on natural drugs, you are trying to find your place in the world, the world pretty much sucks all around. Sorry about that. But, you mellow out and things get better. MUCH better. I am hoping those kids make it through OK.