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Sep 26 2011

Skepticism Serving Broader Audiences

Today, I came across three posts that highlighted what people are talking about when they say we need to broaden the scope of skepticism if we want to reach new audiences. Two of these posts are aimed at groups you’ll see underrepresented at Drinking Skeptically events and skeptic conferences, and one demonstrates how useful it can be to know that our brains fool us. I come across posts like this all the time, but seeing so many today, I had to collect them in one place.

First, in a post I’d had on my to-read list for a few days, Danielle Lee questions how useful simple statistics are in teasing apart cause and effect. What she finds gives her serious reservations about the effectiveness of the No Wedding, No Womb campaign. Can you create social change if you haven’t clearly defined the problem?

73 % African-American children in the United States are born to unmarried parents, but why is that necessarily a problem?  From the onset, the architect of the argument (who is also advocating for a particular solution) sets up the topic as a problem.  So, what if a majority of black babies are born to unmarried mothers?  What about this number tells you anything about who any of these people are? What kind of people they are? What they value, hold dear or understand about life to come? Nothing.  Any assumptions you may make about their morals or values or thoughts is all conjecture. Your assumptions may be based on a lot of personal knowledge of people like them, but you don’t know them. As a such you are only projecting your own [classist] assumptions on them.

The out-of-wedlock birthrate isn’t the problem.   The problem is the suite of ‘Societal Ills’ everyone to talking about.

Then, Debbie Goddard answers a question from a female-to-male transsexual about a “natural alternative” to testosterone in transitioning.

This isn’t about us, though. When it comes to gender identity and transsexualism, where you want to go, who you want to be, and how you want to do it is up to you, of course. But since you asked, here are some of my thoughts on the links you sent.

So there’s a book: Natural Transitioning: an FTM alternative:

Natural Transitioning™ was founded by Tristan and Sicily Skye and is what they label the process of transitioning from female to male (FTM) by raising the testosterone levels your body naturally produces, without injecting testosterone or other methods. This book contains years of research on the 3-step NT plan: supplements, diet and weight training.

Good, “Natural Transitioning” is trademarked. Wouldn’t want someone else using that phrase illegitimately. Let’s take a closer look at what they’re peddling.

Finally, Greta Christina gives us a personal look at how critical it has been for her to understand intellectually that her brain isn’t consistently rational and how that has helped her get and keep her depression under control.

I want to talk about depression, and the difficulty of perspective. And I want to talk about how rationality has helped me deal with it.

I’ve dealt with mild to moderate depression off and on for much of my adult life. It’s mostly situational: it rarely comes on for no external reason, but once it’s triggered, it can be hard to shake, even when the external trigger has passed. I’ve had it pretty well managed for a while now, but it’s something I always have to pay attention to, and many of the routines of my life — getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, making sure I get out of the house and outside on a regular basis, etc. — are deliberately designed to keep it at bay.

The news about my dad’s stroke triggered a pretty bad episode of it.

It’s always good to see that while some people argue about what is and is not part of a movement’s mission, there’s generally someone there to just step up and do it.

1 comment

  1. 1
    jamessweet

    Hadn’t heard about this silly NWNW campaign. I think I disagree ever so slightly with Danielle Lee that these statistics are not suggestive of a problem: I think the hypothesis is that the number of children born to unmarried parents is a reasonable proxy for measuring the number of children born to undercommitted parents… and I thought the research was fairly solid that children in two parent households (regardless of the gender of the parents) tend to do better on average than their counterparts — correct me if I’m mistaken!

    Saying, “Get married first!” does absolutely nothing to address this problem, of course. It addresses the proxy metric without addressing the underlying metric one would want to manipulate. Lee gets at this, of course, but I’m somewhat more inclined to believe that the statistic is indicative of a problem, even if the NWNW “solution” is absurd.

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