Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 6: Is Skepticism Right For YOU?

This is a partial transcript of the talk I gave at St. Charles Community College on December 2, 2014.

  1. Amazing news!
  2. Nobody loves a critic
  3. Why skepticism is healthy
  4. What about religion?
  5. Evaluating information in the internet age
  6. Is Skepticism Right For YOU?
  7. Some advice on community building
  8. Q&A

I’ve pitched the value of skepticism for a lot of reasons: Being skeptical keeps you from being conned, it can be a safety issue, it prevents wasting taxpayer money on bad ideas, it protects you from jumping to unwarranted conclusions. But in a time where there are all these people and web sites and fake news sources who are actively trying to lie to you, how do you figure out what’s true and what’s not?

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Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 5: Evaluating information in the internet age

This is a partial transcript of the talk I gave at St. Charles Community College on December 2, 2014.

  1. Amazing news!
  2. Nobody loves a critic
  3. Why skepticism is healthy
  4. What about religion?
  5. Evaluating information in the internet age
  6. Is Skepticism Right For YOU?
  7. Some advice on community building
  8. Q&A

To discover a solid truth, you need careful investigation and analysis. Believing something just because of blind trust takes no time at all. Mark Twain once said: “A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.” Urban legends and rumors appeal to people. Claims that speak to our secret prejudices, that confirm things we want to be true, spread quickly and efficiently through gossip, and at any given time there are thousands of things that “everybody knows” which aren’t actually true.

We live in an interesting time. It’s only since I was a computer science undergraduate that the internet stopped being a weird hobby for mega nerds, and started being used by everyone everywhere, to transmit information as fast as we can think about it. We all carry magic boxes in our pockets that we can use to immediately tap into the largest repository of knowledge in human history.

But a lot of it is lies.

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Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 4: What about religion?

This is a partial transcript of the talk I gave at St. Charles Community College on December 2, 2014.

  1. Amazing news!
  2. Nobody loves a critic
  3. Why skepticism is healthy
  4. What about religion?
  5. Evaluating information in the internet age
  6. Is Skepticism Right For YOU?
  7. Some advice on community building
  8. Q&A

That reminds me… I’m already halfway through this talk for the Secular Student Alliance and I haven’t really mentioned religion yet. Now, I understand that there are probably a number of Christians here today — in fact I hope there are. Let me be clear that when I say I’m skeptical of religious explanations and stories, I don’t mean they’re definitely not true. Just like it’s possible that there could be $15 million sitting in a bank account for me to claim, and it’s possible that Sylvia Browne might have had secret information about missing children, I would never say that I’ve ruled out religious explanations completely. But the explanations they offer do often seem just a little bit too neat and convenient, and not adaptable to new information that comes up.

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Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 3: Why skepticism is healthy

This is a partial transcript of the talk I gave at St. Charles Community College on December 2, 2014.

  1. Amazing news!
  2. Nobody loves a critic
  3. Why skepticism is healthy
  4. What about religion?
  5. Evaluating information in the internet age
  6. Is Skepticism Right For YOU?
  7. Some advice on community building
  8. Q&A

Needless to say, making wild, unprovable claims is not a new trick. People have claimed they could talk to the dead for thousands of years. Here’s one of my favorite Shakespeare quotes, from King Henry the Fourth:

Hotspur (left) and Glendower

Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man; But will they come when you do call for them?

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Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 2: Nobody loves a critic

This is a partial transcript of the talk I gave at St. Charles Community College on December 2, 2014.

  1. Amazing news!
  2. Nobody loves a critic
  3. Why skepticism is healthy
  4. What about religion?
  5. Evaluating information in the internet age
  6. Is Skepticism Right For YOU?
  7. Some advice on community building
  8. Q&A

Being gullible is a problem that affects everybody. If you think you’re not capable of falling for something, that’s exactly the time when you’re most vulnerable. The world is full of people trying to take advantage of you in some way. It doesn’t even have to be a life or death situation. Any time there is a motivation for significant personal gain, you’re going to find someone willing to delude themselves or lie to others in order to rake in a profit.

With that in mind, you would think it’s just common sense to be careful of how easily you accept what you are told. But you’d be surprised at how many people are opposed to skepticism itself, attacking the very idea that you should be critical of new information.

Deepak Chopra

Deepak Chopra is a new age guru who promotes alternative medicine, and tells people that you can directly manipulate the nature of reality using only the power of your mind. Deepak says:

“I’ve debated skeptics, and am amazed that they mistake self-righteousness for happiness. A sort of bitter satisfaction is what they reap. No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others. Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads ‘You’re Wrong’ so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism.”

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Embrace Your Inner Skeptic 1: Amazing News!

I gave a talk yesterday for the Secular Student Alliance Group at St. Charles Community College in Missouri. The group was wonderful to me, and the turnout was very impressive. With about 80 people in the audience, it is probably the largest live lecture I have done so far. There was an experienced audio/video guy on hand, and I am confident that I will be able to make a high quality video available fairly soon. In the meantime, I’m going to be transcribing the seven sections of my talk, aiming for one post a day for the next week. The title of the talk was “Embrace Your Inner Skeptic!”

The Secular Student Alliance of St. Charles Community College


 

Welcome, everyone! My name is Russell Glasser. I’ve been invited to talk about skepticism by the local chapter of the Secular Student Alliance here at St. Charles Community College.

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Some recent and future Russell related events

As I mentioned on the show, I’ll be doing a talk in Abilene next month. Here are the details I have so far. The event is being hosted by the Abilene Atheist Alliance. It will happen on Saturday, July 26, at 1:30 PM. It will take place at the Abilene Public Library Auditorium located at 202 Cedar St., Abilene TX, 79601. The room can seat up to 140 people, Christians are expected to show up, so your presence is welcome and appreciated.

Last night I followed in Martin’s footsteps and appeared on the new video chat show, Atheist Analysis. We had fun despite some early problems centered around me having an extra window open like a fool. :)

Before doing Atheist Analysis, I also did some Twitch streaming. What I really wanted to do was make myself finish watching the debate between Matt and Sye, so I picked Diablo 3: Reaper Of Souls as a game that doesn’t require much thinking, and streamed myself playing while watching and commenting on this video. I had a lot of fun, got a pretty good audience chatting about the experience, and encouraged people to tweet with hashtag #ReaperOfSyes. A couple actually did, but it was mainly a joke.

It’s split up into three videos because of the way that it’s recorded, but I may jam them together into one big YouTube movie later. Unfortunately if you want to actually watch the game, you will have to skip to the third video. A glitch caused the video screen to stay locked on a menu for some reason, so it looks incorrectly as if I’m just clicking on static buttons for 40 minutes. But the Sye video and my talking head are fine, so feel free to go throw the whole thing if you just want an alternate take on the debate.

Part 1 (5 minute intro)

Watch live video from rglasser27 on TwitchTV

Part 2 (40 minutes of debate commentary with not much visible gameplay)

Watch live video from rglasser27 on TwitchTV

Part 3 (The other 80 minutes with everything working.)

Watch live video from rglasser27 on TwitchTV