Why I Am Not a Rationalist

I am not a rationalist.

I have friends who are rationalists. I do my best to think of it as a nice little hobby of theirs. I do cryptograms and other puzzles in my down time. They spend time hacking their thinking processes, or trying to. We’ve all got our thing.

Every once in a while, though, they’ll promote some argument or another from another rationalist, and I have to speak up. Why? Because the argument is a dreadful bundle of wrong wrapped up in a “logic” bow. Why? Because it doesn’t matter how well you regulate your thinking. You could overcome the limitations of the human brain and turn yourself into a computer. (You can’t, but bear with me here.) You’re still going to get garbage out if you put garbage in. [Read more…]

“Sins of Our Fathers”, Shawn Lawrence Otto on Atheists Talk

Shawn Lawrence Otto is a local writer who adapted the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated movie The House of Sand and Fog. Otto is also a co-founder of “ScienceDebate,” the effort to include science in the debates and discussions of pre-election politics, and has written a non-fiction book on the topic of using science to drive public policy, Fool Me Twice. Otto recently published a novel on the subject of relationships between the Native American and white cultures in Minnesota. He will be in our studios to talk about this new book, Sins of Our Fathers, a tale of race, money and the American Dream.

While this is not an atheist novel, atheists may relate to the themes of alienation and exclusion from public life. Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich will be in the studio with Shawn.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

An Open Letter to the Grassroots Party

After the most recent election, a Minnesota-grown party candidate had some interesting things to say. In a letter to the editor:

Now we know how to win and diminish the votes of the two-party tyranny. We’ll be back to mess with you little Dutch boys. In the meantime, the cracks in the levee are widening, the flood is coming and the inevitable wave of Hemp for Victory will sweep away your injustices.

In a comment for the news:

Wright said that until marijuana is legalized, he will contemplate running again, and that one day it could make a difference.

“If I can take away another 30,000 or more votes, that’s gonna hurt them,” he said of the major parties. “That would really change things for these guys. They’re gonna want these votes, and to make me irrelevant they’d have to come out for legalization.”

So here’s the thing: No. And I say that as someone against continuing prohibition and someone who once voted for a Grassroots candidate. No. [Read more…]

Not Just Fundamentalism

There’s a refrain out there, frequently applied particularly to Islam. It says, “Religion isn’t the problem. Fundamentalism is the problem.” It’s wrong.

It isn’t wrong that fundamentalism is a problem. There’s plenty of stuff in religious texts that was never meant to be taken literally. There’s plenty that’s contradictory. Hewing to a strict literal interpretation of all of it is impossible. Demanding that others do so is abusive. Taking it a step further into theocracy, using political power to enforce the adherence of people who believe differently, is unconscionable.

However, even religious sects and practices that are significantly looser in their scope can still cause damage. Even liberal sects still expect conformity to some rules. Even religious groups that focus on serving others still recognize a divine authority, even as they say that authority commands them to pro-social behavior.

As long as that authority exists, religion will continue to damage people. Yes, even liberal, non-fundamentalist religion. [Read more…]

Ally Skills Training at Skepticon

This weekend is Skepticon! (Have you donated yet?) Skepticon means lots of great speakers, Skeptiprom, and of course, Friday workshops.

Friday workshops means the Ada Initiative Ally Skills Training workshop at 10 a.m. on Friday. The Ada Initiative put this workshop up as an incentive in their annual fundraiser this year, and skeptics raised the target the day it was announced. In return, we get some knowledge transfer from the open tech and culture spheres. Valerie Aurora from the Ada Initiative is coming to run the workshop–and attend the rest of Skepticon as a bonus.

Because this workshop is structured to be a safe space, both for brainstorming ideas and for marginalized groups, there are a few things you should know if you want to attend the workshop. [Read more…]

“Just a Shirt”: Sexual Imagery in the Workplace

They really ought to know better.

Who, you ask? The people trying to say that Matt Taylor’s shirt, the one covered in fetishwear Bond girls, the one he wore on camera to talk about landing a probe on a comet, was nothing worth noticing. The people trying to tell you that feminists are overreacting when they object to the shirt. The ones telling you feminists are picking on some helpless guy who dared to be a little different.

Really, they ought to know better. Why? Because this is how it goes when we find sexual imagery* in the workplace.

[Read more…]

“#AtheistVoter”, Nick Fish on Atheists Talk

Voting matters. Voting as an atheist or nonbeliever matters, even when all the candidates are religious. Yet Millennials, the generation known for being far less religious than prior generations, had incredibly low turnout this election. The impact of that was felt when votes were tallied.

This Sunday, we’ll talk to American Atheists Development Director Nick Fish about the election results, what those results mean for the causes usually championed by atheists, why we need to pay more attention to state races, and about the future of American Atheists’ #AtheistVoter campaign. Fish feels so strongly about the importance of voting that he helped to register 5,000 voters for the 2008 election. Join us this weekend as we talk about why.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to radio@mnatheists.org during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

A Skeptical Statement from CFI on PTSD

Yesterday, the Center for Inquiry Management Committee put out an unprecedented statement.

We, the management committee of CFI, believe it is appropriate to confirm that Ms. Hensley is suffering from PTSD. Among other reasons, both Ms. Hensley and CFI receive comments on a regular basis that assert or imply that Ms. Hensley’s statements that she has PTSD must be false. For example, just the other day, CFI received a communication stating “Your organization is terrible for having people on its staff that claim to have PTSD from Twitter!” Some communications on this issue, especially those directed to Ms. Hensley, have themselves been abusive and harassing.

This reaction is disappointing on a number of levels. As explained below, these communications are based on mischaracterizations, false assumptions, faulty reasoning, unscientific attitudes, or misunderstandings. (And, of course, the subset of these communications that are abusive are intolerable.)

This is important for a couple of reasons. [Read more…]

Why Millennials Should Vote

Avery has a post up over at Teen Skepchick about why Millennials, in his opinion, didn’t turn out to vote in this last election. To be blunt, they’re terrible reasons not to vote. Not at all surprising reasons, but terrible nonetheless.

When I say the reasons aren’t surprising, I mean that the reasons Avery gives for abstaining from elections are hardly unique to Millennials, much less to Avery. They’re pervasive in U.S. politics. I also mean that it’s very easy to trace those ideas to their source. [Read more…]

Five Things #Gamergate Needs to Know About Twitter

Looking at bad arguments is a hobby of mine. So when I discovered Milo Yiannopoulos (@Nero) had been suspended from Twitter last night, I had a look at what people were saying about it. Long story short, it was a combination of “Nero was suspended for no reason” and “Ooh, now you’ve messed with the wrong person”. (Irony much?)

The Twitter logo.Along with that, however, were a whole bunch of conspiracy theories and a lot of placing blame based on really, really bad assumptions about how Twitter works. So let’s fix some of those. Based on what I saw last night and what I received from a sealion this morning, here are five things gamergaters really need to understand about Twitter terms-of-service (TOS) violation reports that they don’t.

Also, five attempts to teach gamergaters some vocabulary lessons. [Read more…]