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  1. But where to stop if you are a true sceptic? Libertarianism? Socialism?

    Any clump of dogma, any aggregate of supposed wisdom should not form part of the tag by which you identify yourself. Though irredeemably wired for left of centre values I cannot in all conscience identify myself in terms of a set of pre-packaged solutions. It is no longer rational.

    (I am more prepared to identify by values, which I can’t directly manipulate, and by favoured mental processes, like scepticism, the scientific method, evidenced reason…etc. Thus, I am a Harm and Fairness Concerned Evolutionary Anarcho-Rationalist favouring change through Informed Consensus and Democratic Means when in my youth I used to vote Labour.)

    Perhaps being a sceptic is like being an alcoholic. At our best we may all wish for sobriety, but failures happen quite often.

    “Yet again, in a brain dead moment, I quoted Rand rather than think things through for myself….” or whatever.

    If sceptical meetings were suffused with an understanding of these perpetual failures, perhaps a circle where each could confess their sins in turn, then the odd Quaker or Unitarian could ‘fess up” and still belong.

    No Atheist plussers, though. There is a limit to how much brain fritz is tolerable…. :)

    • My Skeptical Confessions: Sometimes I reject an idea outright, without listening to the arguments. There are too many conspiracy theories out there for me to give time and energy to every Bigfoot and evil government claim. I just see if they try to knock down one of NCSE’s pillars and move on.

      Confession #2: Despite outward appearances, I am not all that cynical. Goodness help me I do believe that I can teach young people to learn and love science and that we can change the world if we all just buckle down and go for it. Naive? Maybe, but hey, this is confession, right?

      In reply to #1 by phil rimmer:

      But where to stop if you are a true sceptic? Libertarianism? Socialism?

      Any clump of dogma, any aggregate of supposed wisdom should not form part of the tag by which you identify yourself. Though irredeemably wired for left of centre values I cannot in all conscience identify myself in terms of a s.

      • In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

        My Skeptical Confessions:

        Thank you, Brother BigDy. Self knowledge is the job half done….

        But seriously there is a heap of shit out there and we have to use heuristics to junk the junk and get to the better stuff. Using rules of thumb and Bayesian probabilities gets the job done and the only harm is to us if we miss something good because of it. No, it is the scepticism we must use about what we say to others and the level of confidence we attach to it where scepticism is the real issue, where a failure harms others. Self scepticism should rule our lives…well,…erm… I’m fairly certain it should be pretty important.

        There was a lovely study, I can no longer find, trying to test whether group efforts at problem solving really did deliver better results than the sum of individual efforts. The outcome was yes indeed groupthink beat summed individualthink IF the group members were honest about the quality of their contributed knowledge. Saying that you thought X but weren’t entirely confident that was true (you read it in Nuts rather than Nature, say) meant that your piece of information could be used appropriately.

        People playing status games screwed things up badly for everyone by giving spurious authority where none was deserved, dropping group performance below summed individual performance.

        Now your second point gives me pause, because yours is a circumstance where appropriate use of heightened confidence can work wonders in the teaching of Science, etc. Because the material is in an approved curriculum and vetted by wise authority figures (unless of course you are in Texas) you can concentrate on your job of selling the real possibility of understanding the subject. I buy in to Feynman’s approach to education. For him the task was to create the illusion of understanding so that people felt less intimidated about a subject and were more likely to educate themselves which is the only way he thought real education happens and that only happens when they work it through in their own minds and start to have the confidence to make little predictive extrapolations or interpolations. Thus, teachers are salesmen and women, first finding that little problem you may want to invest in solving, then telling stories about some solutions. Salesmen, like standup comedians need to have unbounded confidence. A stand up comic can survive indifferent material if he or she has nerves of steel (and yours will be worthy stuff). No one panics or loses focus or feels sympathetically bad for them. Your confidence here is fully justified, and it will help change the world.

        • Thank you for your kind words sir, though I think I should clear something up. I’m not a science teacher, I’m actually a researcher that will begin mentoring at risk kids (poor/crummy area) as they enter high school this fall. I have to have faith in my ability to do this successfully, because I have no proof that I can.

          Of course these kids will have science teachers, and they will have their own faiths which I will not screw with, but I do want to get the idea if critical and long term thinking across as I think it will keep them from falling into the wrong choices.

          Sorry for the rant, can you tell I’m a tad nervous?

          To the larger point I agree with both your statements. There are people dedicated to Bigfoot (this autocorrects to a capital letter, while god does not…interesting) that if one is discovered I wouldn’t feel bad for not giving it extra thought.
          And I do hope more people are optimistic. I try to temper what I say(thanks google), but many I chat with seem very interested in science. I think curiosity is the natural state, religion tries to turn it off, but you can’t really. Even a creationist friend if mine loves to chat about how animals are built.

          In reply to #3 by phil rimmer:

          In reply to #2 by BigDyTerminator:

          My Skeptical Confessions:

          Thank you, Brother BigDy. Self knowledge is the job half done….

          But seriously there is a heap of shit out there and we have to use heuristics to junk the junk and get to the better stuff. Using rules of thumb and Bayesian probabilitie…

  2. Reductionism is no good on it’s own, and normal science (model & method), are in the midst of a Revolution of Paradigm as I write this- the DSM-5, FractalFrequency/NegativeResonance (get ready for a parallel biological system to the chemical one)… not to mention the world has been patiently waiting for science to come up with it’s new version of truth for quite some time… Sam Harris says that Nuclear Proliferation is due to the orthodox fighting for their version of right, well I say it’s probably due to the ethics of books like ‘The Selfish Gene’ being used by the business community to justify and honor an age of moral relativism, and it is directly related to science.

    http://ravicher.me/2013/06/18/the-paradigms-of-revolution-pt-1-of-the-scientific/
    http://ravicher.me/2013/07/09/the-paradigms-of-revolution-pt-2-1-of-the-scientific-scientific-morality-2/

    • Ok, soooo…
      A nano technologist found that waves Interact with chemicals and this is going to rewrite biology?

      Please explain further. Use small words, I’m only a scientist after all.

      Oh, and while scientists have morals, science does not, nor does it claim to have any (it can explain morals, but that is different). So I don’t know what you are claiming really.

      In reply to #5 by SpaceDaveRavicher:

      Reductionism is no good on it’s own, and normal science (model & method), are in the midst of a Revolution of Paradigm as I write this- the DSM-5, FractalFrequency/NegativeResonance (get ready for a parallel biological system to the chemical one)… not to mention the world has been patiently waitin…

  3. Excellent parody of the other side’s position and arguments. Bloody brilliant, as always. I especially liked the bit at the end:

    But to you Mr and Mrs skeptical believer, I say stay strong! Even if you are doing it wrong…

    • In reply to #7 by Peter Grant:

      Excellent parody of the other side’s position and arguments. Bloody brilliant, as always. I especially liked the bit at the end:

      He skewers on the fly. Loved the helmeted “forMon” at the door.

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