What else do you call it when someone knows nothing about science and thinks they can blather on and on about it anyway? What do you call it when someone refuses to change their beliefs when faced with evidence? What do you call it when they try to tell us there’s some nonexistent “controversy” to be debated? What do you call it when they think their own intuition and baseless conjecture are more reliable than any research? And what do you call it when they don’t even care that this lack of acceptance makes life so much worse for trans people? I sure wouldn’t call that a secular value.
How is believing I’m a woman any different from believing in God? Really? Here’s a question: How is believing that transitioning is “mutilation” any different from believing that vaccines cause brain damage? How is believing that trans people have an unfair advantage in sports any different from believing the earth is 6,000 years old? How is believing in an epidemic of transgender rapists any different from believing in “irreducible complexity”? And how is believing that trans people are “deluded” any different from believing that atheists are just angry at God?
Sorry, but you’re not Neil deGrasse Tyson giving a science lesson to middle America. You’re Ken Ham telling an audience of faithfully ignorant sycophants how Adam and Eve rode around on a T. rex. Science and observation and reality should matter to everyone, and I hope they matter to you. But if you’re leaving out the science, the observation, and the reality, you suck at being a skeptic.
Obviously, the ultimate goal here is to call off the War on (Some People Who Use) Drugs, which is run on magic and bigotry, and does more to destroy communities than to prevent drug addiction. But in the more immediate future, we must demand an immediate end to all use of drug dogs, certainly until it can be demonstrated in double blind studies run by experts that the dogs are detecting drugs and not reacting to subconscious signals sent by police
Wow, I’d never even thought to question that assumption.
AIDS Denialism on World AIDS Day
For all the intellectual and financial damage that pseudoscience does nothing in the realm of skepticism really compares to the colossal harm that can be and has been done by the spread of misinformation about AIDS. The South African government’s AIDS denialist policies alone are estimated to have caused more than 330,000 premature deaths. Fortunately those policies ended when then end of Thabo Mbeki’s reign as Prime Minister in 2008 but it demonstrates that even a handful of ill-informed individuals in positions of power can devastate a population.
The good news is the misinformation surrounding HIV/AIDS is largely divorced from the types of political and religious baggage which makes combating creationism and climate denialism extremely difficult. There are also numerous internet outlets outlining the basics of HIV/AIDS, and a short list of those can be found below, so there’s little reason why anyone should continue to be lead astray by repeatedly debunked myths and by conspiracies about drug companies. Just as the spread of HIV can be limited by knowing basic facts the spread of AIDS denialism, which in turn leads to the spread of HIV, can be largely curtailed by creating an informed population.
AIDS Denial is Pseudoscience - Perhaps the largest collection of articles and resources about AIDS denialism on the web
General HIV/AIDS Information
Avert.org - Likely the most popular site online regarding HIV/AIDS information and with good reason as it’s information is plentiful and easily understandable for a layperson
Mental Illness and Why The Skeptic Community Should Give a Shit: JT Eberhard’s Talk at Skepticon 4
[tw: frank discussion of mental illness, disordered eating, self-harm, ableist slurs]
This video was very difficult for me to sit through because it runs very close to my own triggers but I think it’s important for the skeptical community as a whole.
We would never think of going to our doctors and saying ‘Gee, treat me the way doctors treated people in the nineteenth century.’ Yet that is what we are demanding in food production for the world, and at the same time we are seeing the number of people who don’t have enough to eat grow and grow.
A Reminder In Honor of Columbus Day
No I’m not honoring Columbus himself but a day in his name is a good reminder of the dangers of disease and the triumph that are modern vaccines.
I’d like to remind everyone to get your flu-shots if you haven’t already done so. Remember the flu-shot protects more than just you but helps to create herd immunity to the virus and helps to prevent others, specifically the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, from contracting the flu.
The U.S. government actually has a pretty good article on the common flu myths and covers the basics of why these claims are indeed myths with some links to research which supporting the effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
That is all.
Oh, I mean to talk about this the other day. Not Columbus because he was an ass.
My workplace was offering vaccines for people in my category for $5. So, I totally got my flu vaccine. After living through H1N1 Novel, I did not want a repeat. Vaccination is great if you can afford it. $25 is a bit too much for me to spend on it, but there was a chance to get it for $5 so I did.
If anyone has any hints on how to get the vaccine for cheap without using a time machine and becoming my co-worker, share it and I’ll reblog.
tl;dr: get vaccinated if you can.
9/11 Really Was A Conspiracy… But Not Like That: New York
The Twin Towers
“Controlled demolition” are the words of choice for many who don’t believe the damage done by the planes crashing into the buildings and the ensuing fires were enough to bring down the towers. Is this claim supported the evidence? In order to know we’ll have to consider a few basic facts. Though there were some initial rumblings in the initial 9/11 truth crowd about what actually hit the towers on September 11, 2001 few now disagree that a Boeing 767 hit each one of the Twin Towers which had a steel frame. Steel melts at 2732° Fahrenheit (1500°C) and despite being started by jet fuel the fires couldn’t have reached these temperatures say some doubters. They claim without temperatures of near this level being reached the steel would have maintained structural integrity despite the structural damage indisputably done by the planes that crashed into the towers.
Well the first part is actually agreed upon, the fires didn’t reach temperatures required to melt steel, but they wouldn’t have to in order to bring down the building. What would need to happen to bring down the building from the fire and initial structural damage is the steel frame be sufficiently weakened to expand causing the trusses to sag before that compromise would bow the columns inward causing collapse. After the collapse began a process known as pancaking would begin cause the floors above to slam into those below with progressively more weight leading to what some have seen as giving the impression of a demolition . Official estimates suggest the fires rose as high as 1800°F (1000°C) a temperature well above which the steel columns would have lost most of their strength and at which the heat would deform materials putting additional pressure on the already weakened strained support columns supporting additional weight because of the damage done by the initial collision. Even if you argue it never made it near 1800°F you can literally see that this process of steel weakening leading to floors sagging in pictures like the one below so it’s very difficult to argue this process was not happening.
Doubting Marcus: Amazing.
Bertrand Russell in a 1959 interview on the BBC gives some advice to future generations:
I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed. But look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.
The moral thing I should wish to say…I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world which is getting more closely and closely interconnected we have to learn to tolerate each other, we have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”
I hope I’m that clear headed when I’m that age. Or now even…
Print “Bertrand Russell is my homeboy” shirts, stat.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows nails it
I haven’t read this (I R BAD TUMBLR RESIDENT), so someone who has correct me if I’m wrong: I’m willing to bet that Hermione ends up being wrong, following the popular tradition of the skeptic…
I think I must have communicated my point badly. Apologies. My complaint is not with Harry Potter or genres. My complaint is about an insulting and irritating story writing trope.
I am not opposed to fantasy, science fiction, or horror as genres. I freaking LOVE them. I’m opposed to the overused trope of skepticism as bad, and credulity as good.
When I said “the problem with fantasy,” it’s not a problem WITH fantasy, it’s a problem with characters who insist that magic isn’t real and dragons can’t exist, in a world swarming with werewolves and fairies and ghosts and stuff.
In a fantastic setting, being overly skeptical isn’t really skepticism, it’s just being dense and stubborn. The reason this irritates me is because it communicates clearly that the writers (and the audiences who seem to experience joyful catharsis when the naysayer gets killed in a glorious shower of guts) clearly think that real skeptical people are stubborn and dense. Everyone’s tired of someone saying “that can’t be real.” It bugs them. Because it’s more ~fun~ to believe in unicorns and gods.
It wouldn’t bug me as much if it didn’t seem like this happened an unfair amount of times. There are certainly merits to building a character who IS dense and stubborn and doesn’t want to admit that things are weird. The problem is that there seems to rarely be alternatives to that archetypical idiot, in anydirection.
Very rarely are the credulous people, the ones who believe in the witch/ghost/demon/alien/virus without any evidence, punished as gruesomely as skeptics.
Even rarer is a skeptical protagonist who, upon seeing evidence for the mystical thing the story is about, changes their mind and believes whole-heartedly in the concept. Generally speaking, they tend to experience the entire story, and if they haven’t died horribly while still denying the thing that is currently killing them, they walk away at the end, shaking their head and saying “there must be a reasonable explanation for this…” and end up in the loony bin for it or something. The audience is supposed to pity them and their incredulity. They don’t learn, which is really what skepticism should be all about.
And the rarest of all, the diamond in the rough: The protagonist who refuses to believe in something until they have been presented with enough evidence to do so, and they ended up being right while everyone else panicked and was harmed by their own unjustified beliefs. As Tim Minchin points out, one of the best shows to ever manage to do this was Scooby Doo.
That’s all. I took that picture and I launched off of it into a different rant. That’s why I tagged it #this went a different direction sorry. I do that a lot. ;)
I totally agree with your complaint in general. I tried watching X-Files from the beginning and was turned off pretty quickly. At least in the first two episodes, it’s absolutely offensive to anyone with critical thinking skills.
Stuff like that is the bread and butter of skepticism in fiction.
Like the episode of House where House spends the entire episode convincing a woman she needs to have an abortion if she wants to live and saves her life without killing the fetus anyway. While he’s doing the surgery, the fetus reaches out and grabs his finger … and for the rest of the episode House refers to the fetus as “your baby” and seems to have a change of heart.
What a crock of anti-choice, anti-skeptic shit. The character, Dr. House, knows better but the writers decided to give his character a change of heart.
Hermione is seriously the only example I can think of where a writer wrote a skeptic well and in a non-derogatory way. There should be an award for good skepticism in fantastic writing (The James Randi Literature Award?) and that she should win it for Hermione.
Seriously, who puts a scientific thinker in a fantasy story and shows that scientific thinker thrive because of her adherence to the rules of evidence?
Well, aside from me anyway. Though that story may never see the light of day at this rate. Haha.
Anyway, you’re right and totally awesome for bringing it up. :D