On Networking

Hey, everyone. Not dead, just incredibly busy doing things that will come to light next month and dealing with the gross(!) basic unfairness of two colds in one month. Plus holidays. Last night, I took to Facebook to post what I thought would be a random, short observation. It got big. People seem to find it helpful. So I’m sharing it here too. Hope to be back more regularly soon.

Right now, I’m working on two things that are incredibly ambitious. There is a a pretty good chance that I’ll manage to pull them both off, though neither is certain by any means. If I do, I will have succeeded in no small part because I am networked with a ridiculous number of skilled, passionate, and generous people. Chances are good that if you’ve just gotten to know me in the past few years, that network is one of the things you associate with me when you think of me. Chances are also good that you find the idea of networking intimidating, because some very large percentage of people do, and that percentage is higher in introverts, which describes a large chunk of my friend list.

Here’s what you need to know: This feels very foreign to me too. It is not “natural” to me in any way. This isn’t how I think of myself, though I’m trying to change that, because I’d like my self-image to be accurate now and again.
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Why I Am Not a Rationalist, Part 2: Questions and Answers

I hope everyone is comfortably recovered from both Skepticon and any holiday shenanigans. I’m not entirely, but it’s time to follow up on the reactions to my “Why I Am Not a Rationalist” post last week. There’s been a fair amount of heat in response to the post, as well as a good bit of confusion. Let’s see whether I can clear some of that up.

Here are the most common questions and objections I’ve come across. [Read more…]

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…]