Tag Archives: Skepticism

We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls)

Continuing from the previous conversation

I’ve written about this before (Shut up about everything all the time unless what you have to say is HITLER!!!!) and it relates to the previously discussed topic, as Godwin-Scaping is a way to tell someone to stop talking. Richard Dawkins told Rebecca Watson that her comments were not about the repression of women by Islam, therefore she should shut up. Numerous Nuclear Power Apologists have told Ana Miller and me to Shut Up about Fukushima because more people die in automobile accidents world wide every day than were killed by radiation at that power plant. Recently, Rebecca Watson wrote about how being told to “not feed the trolls” might sound like friendly and helpful advice (and may even be meant that way sometimes) but it is actually just another way to tell people to shut up. Continue reading We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls)

Calibrating and Recalibrating Sex Positiveness

Continuing our discussion (see Making sense of our fights on the Internet, Power and Presence on the Internet and Elsewhere, and A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!) …

I was at a local event recently where a group of sex-positive third-wave feminist women had traditionally used a certain amount of overt sexuality to raise some money. They had been doing it for a few years and had gained a certain reputation and a certain following. A friend of mine who knew of their work but did not know them personally joined in during this most recent event and volunteered to work the door, as it were, to help to relieve some of the visitors and participants of a little cash (this was a fundraiser). I was not present for that part of the event but some of the people involved, who had been involved for several years, later said to me that they felt my friend had gone a bit over the top in her performance. I asked for a description of what concerned them, and when I heard it I had to laugh a little. You see, over the years, these women have changed their own act from a more to a less sexy parody version of themselves, toning it down and calibrating, for a number of different reasons. The young woman who joined them this year had calibrated her own approach to their reputation and not to their current approach. She was a blast, as it were, from the past, and that was a little shocking. Continue reading Calibrating and Recalibrating Sex Positiveness

A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!

… Continuing with our discussion …

When Rebecca discussed a range of topics from being bothered by clueless gents to sexual abuse to rape, some of her critics scolded her for linking these different things together, and insisted that when she mentioned something about a guy asking her over at 4 AM for coffee being clueless that she was accusing him of rape. Even Richard Dawkins got that wrong and he is known for being smart and stuff.

This is one of those things where WikiThinking can muddy the waters. There are two named fallacies of argument discussed in The Wikipedia that people will refer to when someone discusses a range, or spectrum, of behaviors. One is the Slippery Slope argument. The other is the Godwin Principle. The former is only sometimes a fallacy … there are slippery slopes and there are times when people worry about slippery slopes that are not real. Either way, it does not matter. The spectrum of behavior exists, and it is a matter of discussion as to whether being fast and lose at one end of the spectrum makes it harder for society or individuals or whomever to deal with the other end of the spectrum. It is worth discussing. Presuming that because one senses that there is a slope that therefore there must be a slippery slope fallacy is sloppy thinking.

And you know what sloppy thinking can lead to if you are not careful. It can lead to a very slippery slope indeed! Down which we will surely slip! Continue reading A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!

The Skepties!

The Skeptic, as in The Magazine, is seeking nominations for the 2011 Skeptic Awards. GO HERE to submit your favorite skeptical blog, skeptical podcast, science video clip, skeptical video clip, and campaign/outreach program.

We all have our preferences, and you can ask me over a beer what my voting choices are, but I do think it would be great if this item won for Best Skeptical Video Clip:

Continue reading The Skepties!

Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What is it, and should we fund it?

Skeptics love to hate CAM. And often, with good reason. Alternative medicines or medical treatments, as is often pointed out, become “mainstream” when the available science suggests that they work, so it is almost axiomatic that “alternative” means “unproven” and it is probably almost always true that the kinds of things that end up as “alternatives” come from sources with poor track records. For instance, one of the most common forms of alternative medicine used over the last several decades is Extra X where X is some substance we know the body uses, and that we know a deficiency of is bad. The idea is that if something is good at a certain level, loading it on by a factor of anywhere from two or three to several hundred over the usually consumed amount must be REALLY good. If a substance is used in the body for something we like … an immune system function, tissue repair, muscle energetics, etc. … then consuming vast quantities of it MUST be good. And, in some cases, this turns out to be true. There are times when consuming huge quantities of potassium is medically indicated, for instance. But this does not mean that a daily intake of seven or eight hundred bananas is a good idea. It turns out that loading huge quantities of vitamins and minerals has very little or no positive effect and it can be rather harmful in some cases. (Though there may be some exceptions.)

Continue reading Complementary and Alternative Medicine: What is it, and should we fund it?

Mythbusters Cannon Ball Firing Mishap Animated

TV show Mythbusters has apologized after an experiment it conducted to measure the speed of a cannonball went wrong, leaving a trail of destruction across a California suburb. Instead of hitting its intended target, the cannon misfired, sending a six-inch ball of lead careening through one house, damaging another before ending up lodged in a minivan. No one was injured.

OMG. I so wish it was my house hit by the Mythbusters Cannon Ball!!!!!

Anyway here’s one of those zany animations of the event:

Continue reading Mythbusters Cannon Ball Firing Mishap Animated

Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

I remember, when I was getting to know Amanda, carefully exploring certain key issues such as this. It actually didn’t take long to find out that we had almost identical political views, and perspectives on science, rational thinking, religion, and so on. (I say “almost” only because there is room for variation, but I can’t think of any actual differences in perspective … only differences in level of attention to various issues).
Continue reading Should Scientists Date People Who Believe in Astrology?

Want a brain, Moran?

i-fee77ccb71bcaee4e8f90ed7b2714674-moran-thumb-340x250-65357.jpgIt is easy to make fun of other people with whom we disagree, but when it comes down to it, how do we really know when we are being smart about something vs. getting it all wrong? Gut feeling? Our friends agree with us? Some smart person tells us what to think? This is a problem that as plagued humanity since the first time anyone tried to establish ground rules for leaving flint chips around the camp where our unshodden Neanderthals brothers and sisters, who came by to visit now and then, would step on them1.

Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do the Right Thing by Swarthmore Professors Barry Schwartz and Kenneth Sharpe is meant to be a sort of field guide to Wisdom. I have not read it, but but it looks interesting. From the book’s web site:


The book is a culmination of Schwartz and Sharpe’s long-time academic collaboration on the contemporary, everyday applications of Aristotelian practical wisdom, based on knowing what needs to be done in ethical dilemmas and acting upon this knowledge for the greater good. The book cites modern-day successes of practical wisdom in health care, education and the legal system.

Aristotle is more relevant than ever today, according to Schwartz, as the “more heterogeneous society becomes, the harder it is to come up with rules that work for all people and all situations.” Wise qualities such as empathy, patience and self-integrity must guide modern professional and personal ethics, instead of an overreliance on rules.

The “wisdom deficit” in the modern age, he contends, lies in the “combination of excessive reliance on rules and incentives and a collective cynicism or embarrassment when it comes to talking about virtue.” Rules and incentives have only propagated overly bureaucratic, inefficient social institutions that discourage professionals from sympathizing and practicing personal discretion.

The reason I bring this up now is because Skeptically Speaking #114 is going to be an interview of the authors.

What exactly is “wisdom,” and how can we apply it in our daily lives? We’re joined by Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action at Swarthmore College, and Kenneth Sharpe, William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of Political Science at Swarthmore College. They’ll discuss their new book Practical Wisdom: The Right Way to Do The Right Thing. And we’re joined by Brendan O’Brien, to learn about :60 Second Science, the international science video competition.

This show records live on Sunday, May 29 at 6 pm MT. Email your questions now, or join the discussion on Sunday! The podcast will be available to download at 9 pm MT on Friday, June 3.

And don’t forget, a few days after that, on Sunday morning, Desiree and I will sit down on Atheist Talk Radio to hammer out some of the differences between skeptical and atheist factions in how to approach, well, skepticism and atheism.

110 points to anyone who can identify the literary allusion I’ve made here!