Quantcast

«

»

May 05 2013

Confession time: dental hygiene edition

In comments on PZ’s “divorce” post, Antiochus Epiphanes sez:

Skepticism™ the movement and skepticism, the practice of thinking critically, shouldn’t be conflated. The latter is no great intellectual achievement and should be in the skill set of grade schoolers. That it isn’t may be the motivation of the former, but we shouldn’t expect any intellectual advances to emerge from the movement, because what it’s doing is necessarily remedial.

I wholeheartedly agree with the above, and a couple years ago it struck me that skepticism (small-’s’) is essentially a form of basic intellectual hygiene, something that everyone is capable of to varying degrees and something that everyone should do.

“Kind of like brushing your teeth,” it occurred to me back then, and ever since I’ve quietly replaced references to Skepticism Writ Large with “Tooth Brushing” in my mind.

alessi otto

Don’t forget to keep those deep rifts flossed

Though it might seem to trivialize skepticism to compare it to brushing your teeth, that’s not at all what I intend. Brushing your teeth is incredibly important. Most people don’t do it diligently enough, and when they do many of them get it wrong. Failing to engage in proper dental hygiene can shorten your life significantly — not only can bad teeth consign you to somewhat less healthy diets, but gum disease and heart disease have been conclusively linked. And not brushing your teeth has certain social ramifications too, not to mention a likely legacy of personal discomfort.

So dental hygiene is crucial for proper health, and while we can rely on experts for some advanced treatment the responsibility is on each and every one of us to take responsibility for our own teeth.

Skepticism is to the intellect as brushing is to teeth. Sometimes we need expert assistance, but the only way it really does us any long term good is if we engage in the practice of mental hygiene as a  habit, preferably after each bout of consuming something that might cause problems down the road, whether it’s a bag of chips or an article in the New York Toast.

As A.E. says in the above-blockquoted blockquote, that’s pretty basic stuff. We really ought to learn the basics of each at around the same time in our lives. Basic doesn’t mean unimportant, as I’ve said, and there’s nothing at all wrong with devoting a substantial portion of your life campaigning to educate people who aren’t quite where they should be in their hygienic practice. People concerned with better tooth-brushing have associations and conventions. They devote a lot of time to the topic, some of it paid (and likely quite well, depending on location) but some of it on a volunteer basis spurred by their personal commitment. Again, much like skepticism.

But I’m not aware of too many people who describe themselves as “toothbrushers.” Dental hygiene seems to be something that even its most fervent advocates do, not something that they are. There seem to be no videos on YouTube by users with names like W0ndert00th decrying other Toothbrushers for getting Toothbrushing wrong, diluting Pure Toothbrushing, or threatening to destroy the Toothbrushing Movement.

It’s a trivial exercise coming up with ways in which the practice of skepticism is important in daily life. People who work in the sciences constitute one large, obvious example. As someone who writes about environmental issues and is beset by not only the whole chemtrail and HAARP crowd but also non-comprehension of basic math and science, skepticism is something I find opportunities to use every hour of my life. The same was true when I worked as a landscaper and as an (accidental) IT person. Directed at my own feelings and motivations, it’s helpful in getting through troubles in interpersonal relationships. It helps keep me from buying sugar pills when I have a cold. It’s crucial practice.

But I have to confess that for the last couple of years, every time I hear someone announce that they’re A Skeptic™ as though no further explication is necessary, this is how my brain parses that. Tell me what you actually do with your skepticism, and I may well be really interested. But claiming that the practice itself is enough to define you? Call me skeptical.

92 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Steve LaBonne

    Excellent post- right on the money.

  2. 2
    aleph

    How old is The Skepticism Movement (note Very Important Capitals), actually? Because I suppose it’s possible that all of the DEEP RIFTS in the community might be its baby teeth falling out (and oh, the metaphorical parallels one can plumb from that analogy). Hopefully, one might thing, they will be replaced by adults who can behave as such and form a cohesive whole.

  3. 3
    scarr

    Instead of calling it SkepticTM, maybe we should call it SkepticPlus

  4. 4
    Steve Sirhan

    Hah! on Scarr.

    More seriously, it’s another tar baby type situation. No surprise. PZ may be 25 percent right on this but no more. A pox, in varying degrees, on both houses.

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot DOT com/2013/05/pz-myers-aka-phrayngula-and-scientific.html

  5. 5
    gridironmonger

    I’m LOLing at how butthurt Official Skeptics are acting because PZ had the gall to tell them “I’m just not that into you.”

  6. 6
    chigau (違う)

    A pox, in varying degrees, on both houses.

    http://xkcd.com/774/

  7. 7
    nerok

    Do you also think “being an atheist” means nothing other than not believing in a god?

    I thought I recalled some discussion here to the effect that this was some kind of “dictionary atheism” and very bad, and that we should realize that atheism should be wed with reason and skepticism. This is just my vague recollection, mind you. I’d be interested to know though.

  8. 8
    Dutchgirl

    Like forming any long term, healthy habit, I learned a lot from the Skeptics when I was in middle school, and it helped me to accept myself as atheist. But the scope was much too narrow to have sustained interest other than as a general mental housekeeping tool. I agree 100% with the tooth-brushing analogy, and I am going to shamelessly steal it.

  9. 9
    Dutchgirl

    nerok, here is a link to help, since you say you are interested:
    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Atheism_Plus

  10. 10
    smipowell

    I wonder about that assertion that skeptical thinking should be in the tool kit for grade schoolers. It does seem that we are hard wired to accept uncritically what parents and other authority figures tell us. “Don’t swim in that river as there are crocodiles in the river and they will eat you.” “Don’t run into the street as cars are moving quickly there and the drivers may not see you in time.” Many argue that such uncritical thinking has survival value and has, therefore, evolved to be part of the human condition. One powerful argument suggests that religion arises, in part, from that hard wiring.

    As one gets older, critical thinking becomes more important. At what age does one begin to think critically and skeptically? It has been my experience that it is difficult to teach those skills even to older teenagers. Some do not develop the skeptical tool kit. And, certainly, such a toolkit is unevenly applied. Clearly, one feature of being human is that one can maintain contradictory ideas in different areas–to whit, there are highly successful scientists who are also devoutly religious.

    So, I argue that it is difficult to develop a skeptical viewpoint and it is especially difficult to develop that intellectual stance among the young.

  11. 11
    Chuck

    The latter is no great intellectual achievement and should be in the skill set of grade schoolers.

    Looking forward to the day when this applies equally to atheism.

  12. 12
    Dutchgirl

    smipowell: in my experience young children are naturally curious and can be steered into critical and skeptical thought very easily. They are always asking “why” and “how”, and by encouraging their questions they can be taught to find out answers for themselves, through thinking and experiments and later by research. But they need to shown the way, and that takes a lot of time and work not all parents/caretakers can manage.

  13. 13
    vexorian

    ” but gum disease and heart disease have been conclusively linked”

    Couldn’t it be because of sugar and meat comsumption though?

  14. 14
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Couldn’t it be because of sugar and meat comsumption though?

    Show those are linked to your claim with a link….

  15. 15
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    “Don’t run into the street as cars are moving quickly there and the drivers may not see you in time.” Many argue that such uncritical thinking has survival value and has, therefore, evolved to be part of the human condition.

    Right. Because the way I did it Boy and Girl was completely wrong.

    Me: “Boy, stay out of the street.”

    Boy: “Why?”

    Me: “Because cars move fast and can’t stop fast.”

    Boy: “Why?”

    Me: “Because they are big. Big things stop slower than small things. You can stop faster then me. I can stop faster than a car. A car stops faster than a truck. What do you think would stop even slower than a truck?”

    Boy: “A train?”

    Me: “Good job.”

    See? Teaching a safety message through encouraging critical thinking. And it worked.

  16. 16
    gridironmonger

    @13 vexorian

    The suspected mechanism is gum disease –> inflammation –> heart disease. In such a scenario, it would be independent of dietary factors except to the degree that they differentially lead to gum disease.

  17. 17
    vexorian

    “Show those are linked to your claim with a link….” Then I’ll first ask for a link to the link between gum disease and heart disease?

  18. 18
    vexorian

    We seriously NEED a quick guide to skepticism in the same stlye as the “I can brush my teeth” one.

  19. 19
    Dutchgirl

    Ogvorbis: guess we just don’t know what we’re doing when we don’t impose authoritarian rule.

    gridironmonger: I don’t disagree, but “inflammation” seems to be the new it-word in the medical lit, just as “keystone species” was for environmental lit a while back (maybe still is, don’t read it as much anymore). Inflammation is brought up as a possible genral mechanism for all kinds of things, and while not wrong, not elucidated either.

  20. 20
    vaiyt

    There is one thing where skepticism differs from toothbrushing.

    There aren’t legions of non-toothbrushers who pour support and money towards cranks that tell them to keep their mouths dirty. There isn’t power in not brushing your teeth as it is in unskeptical thought. Skepticism(tm) exists because, unlike toothbrushing, it’s something that needs defense in the larger context of society.

    But still, you can defend skeptical thought without being a Skeptic(tm).

    @nerok:

    Do you also think “being an atheist” means nothing other than not believing in a god?

    I thought I recalled some discussion here to the effect that this was some kind of “dictionary atheism” and very bad, and that we should realize that atheism should be wed with reason and skepticism.

    You do realise PZ is making the exact same point about skepticism, right? Or maybe not, you’re just looking for some inane gotcha and can’t even understand what you read.

  21. 21
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    Nerd
    Roles of sugar consumption in
    Cardiac disease , and in oral diseases. That took all of 2 minutes, and I found loads more but I don’t want to put this in moderation with linkdumps.

  22. 22
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Ogvorbis: guess we just don’t know what we’re doing when we don’t impose authoritarian rule.

    I had no idea a family was supposed to be authoritarian. Oh, wait. The bible says that the father/husband is the dictator of the family and can dispose of his property as he wishes. Sorry. I forgot that even atheists are still expected to kowtow to the dominant patriarchal Abrahamic paradigm.

  23. 23
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    smipowell

    I wonder about that assertion that skeptical thinking should be in the tool kit for grade schoolers. It does seem that we are hard wired to accept uncritically what parents and other authority figures tell us. “Don’t swim in that river as there are crocodiles in the river and they will eat you.” “Don’t run into the street as cars are moving quickly there and the drivers may not see you in time.” Many argue that such uncritical thinking has survival value and has, therefore, evolved to be part of the human condition. One powerful argument suggests that religion arises, in part, from that hard wiring.

    That’s an authoritarian approach to parenting.
    Usually the disobedience to The Rules™ isn’t actually met with a fast moving car or a crocodile, but with drastic sanctions, often corporal punishment.
    It still might safe them from the car, sure, but it also means that they’re lacking the tools to evaluate situations themselves later in life and leads to the “I can do it now, nobody’s looking approach”.
    As Ogvorbis mentioned, you can also raise your kids to understand. You can show them when you’re in the car how long it takes before you STOP. You can show them how little you can see in the car. you can throw a piece of meat to the crocodiles. You can show the why and encourage their question. You can value the process of thinking over the outcome.

  24. 24
    Dutchgirl

    vexioran: http://www.kaiserberg-klinik.de/_pdf/paro-herz-en-Bahekar_et_al_AmHeartJ_2007_CHD_sign_increase_in_Perio_-_Meta.pdf

    not the best article, but no pay wall. There are also articles and statements saying there is limited or no effect. Larger trials are needed to determine the overall impact of PD on CHD.

  25. 25
    unclefrogy

    A skeptic is not who I am it is one of the things I have learned to do it is very natural extension to the cautious attitude one sees in most wild animals when confronted to anything new.
    That there are no gods as defined by any religion past or present is a conclusion not a thing I am.

    I simply do not understand all this how all of this in group out group stuff has any relevance to reality at all. It is what people do it seems but what good does it do. It just sets up opposing groupings who can then be defined from the outside and then discounted. Is it really just some kind of variation on “the game of thrones”? deciding who gets to be boss?
    if that is the final reason for all this conflict about why some things can not be questioned or challenged then fuck you I do not want to play that game any more. It has been done to death and all ways progresses in the same way.
    the king is dead long live the king

    uncle frogy

  26. 26
    Dutchgirl

    (p.s. do my links work? first time I tried posting links)

  27. 27
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Dutchgirl:

    Wife and I figured that our job, as parents, was to teach our children how to make their own decisions. This had the added benefit of also giving the opportunity to learn cause and effect relationships. Which are both part of critical thinking.

  28. 28
    consciousness razor

    I very much agree with the point I think you and Antiochus are making; but I’m not sure it’s clear to me what exactly the analogy is in “we can rely on experts for some advanced treatment,” the extent which skepticism isn’t simply a lot of elementary-level intellectual exercises.

    We’ve got no gods, no masters, so the kind of authority our “experts” really have is at best limited, and that’s not where I want to take that line of thought anyway. What I’m concerned with instead is that skepticism has a very long history, meaning a lot of different things depending on who you ask, and also that skepticism (or whatever it is we’re doing) ought to have some better intellectual foundation than what a grade-schooler could provide. The implication seems to be either that we only need that much, or else that anything beyond that doesn’t even exist.

    I suppose it’s easier to think of some of my identity being due in part to a long tradition with a rigorous modern framework, as opposed to simply agreeing on some points of fact with a crowd of bigfoot-debunkers or stage magicians or what-have-you. So what I identify with in some way and what you’re comparing to dental hygiene are pretty clearly two different things to me. That’s definitely not to say that I could call myself a skeptic “as though no further explanation is necessary,” but a lot of this apparently comes down to defining terms, which simply hasn’t been much of the focus in the discussion so far. What’s a god? What’s skepticism? What’s testability? Etc.

    When you talk about it an individual level, sure, people ought to be learning how to think critically and methodically as early as possible. However, at a social and intellectual level, I don’t think the substance of it really is just kid’s stuff or basic common sense, when you get down to it, even if we should have already passed that point as a society because so much of it is practically ancient history. That just seems to be ignoring how we’ve made so much progress over the centuries, from many intelligent people who weren’t in fact a bunch of schoolchildren when they worked very hard their whole careers to make their contributions. That sort of work really isn’t like brushing your teeth. More like rocket surgery, perhaps.

  29. 29
    anteprepro

    More seriously, it’s another tar baby type situation. No surprise. PZ may be 25 percent right on this but no more. A pox, in varying degrees, on both houses.

    http://socraticgadfly.blogspot DOT com/2013/05/pz-myers-aka-phrayngula-and-scientific.html

    Speaking of Hah, the same exact thing was sharted out in the previous thread. Gotta love it: A smug philosopher spambot. It just seems so right .

  30. 30
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Brilliant post, Chris ;)
     
    Also, what Ogvorbis said (#15) in regard to teaching critical reasoning to children. My six-year old knows that when her mother or I bark a command like “Stop!” or “Come here!” that 1) she is well served* by following the command, and 2) that an explanation and Q&A session are forthcoming. We have a pretty staunch “We promise to fill you in” policy.
     
    Her obediance is not the result of respect for my authority, but rather reasoned self-interest.
     
    She also knows that she should distrust improbable claims and that adults are often arbitrary, unfair, and wrong. She also knows that she is capable of being arbitrary, unfair and wrong, and that there is no harm in second-guessing herself. We didn’t really have to do all that much teaching to get her to this point.
     
    *We are outdoorsy and we live in a place where encounters with fireants, copperheads, and rattlesnakes aren’t uncommon.

  31. 31
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    When you talk about it an individual level, sure, people ought to be learning how to think critically and methodically as early as possible. However, at a social and intellectual level, I don’t think the substance of it really is just kid’s stuff or basic common sense, when you get down to it, even if we should have already passed that point as a society because so much of it is practically ancient history. That just seems to be ignoring how we’ve made so much progress over the centuries, from many intelligent people who weren’t in fact a bunch of schoolchildren when they worked very hard their whole careers to make their contributions. That sort of work really isn’t like brushing your teeth. More like rocket surgery, perhaps.

    I have to disagree somewhat. It isn’t ignoring or dismissing the talent, hard work, and discipline of people in various fields to say that the same basic techniques of thinking can be applied by almost anyone in almost any situation. Like anything else, the fundamentals are, well… fundamental! It is the same as most other disciplines, where everything is based on relatively simple techniques that are refined and enhanced and built upon as you move deeper into it. Critical thinking, cooking, basketball, playing violin… to be a master at them is “rocket surgery” (and a metric shit-ton of luck), but being a competent amateur isn’t all that far off from brushing your teeth: regular practice of basic moves.

  32. 32
    brive1987

    #14 Nerd

    The original I’m was unrefernced by ChrisC. But I guess that’s Ok.

    None that I’ve noticed* your continual habit of “reference or shut up” it is becoming annoying.

    * no reference to be supplied.

  33. 33
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    cr: You make a good point in that the philosophical foundation for careful thinking wasn’t laid in a day, nor is it complete. Further, even if one has the tools to assess claims logically, some claims are legitimately more difficult to assess than others.
     
    Anyway, I certainly didn’t want to demean the work of scholars who did the heavy lifting in building the foundations of reasoned inference. We stand on the shoulders of giants and whatnot.

  34. 34
    vexorian

    So, PZ has officially divorced himself from the modern skeptical movement.

    One part of me says, “well, boo hoo for PZ.”

    However, his criticisms, as well as those of a Pharyngulac in this follow-up guest post, aren’t 100 percent wrong.

    Oh, they’re almost surely 75 percent wrong, if not higher.

    But not 100 percent wrong.

    Such a richness in content. This was 45% of the post.

  35. 35
    nerok

    @20 vaiyt

    You do realise PZ is making the exact same point about skepticism, right? Or maybe not, you’re just looking for some inane gotcha and can’t even understand what you read.

    This article is by Cris Clarke and while it’s possible PZ supports it 100% I don’t know that. My point about the earlier discussion on dictionary atheism was not specific to PZ. I don’t personally see how the point about dictionary atheism and this point about skepticism gel; to me it seems this post tries to divorce skepticism from any movement connotation, which in my mind is the opposite of arguing dictionary atheism is bad.
    If someone does hold both to be true, I’d like to know how that makes sense as a whole.
    I don’t get the instant hostility either.

    @9 Dutchgirl

    nerok, here is a link to help, since you say you are interested

    I’m not sure how the Atheism+ forum link helps me. I was specifically addressing the people here.

  36. 36
    Margaret

    Little children ask questions. Someone who actually cared should be able to help children ask better questions and evaluate the answers. That is the basis of skepticism. Instead children are subjected to years of “schooling” consisting mostly of “sit down, shut up, don’t ask questions, don’t think, do what you’re told, and quit complaining about not being treated fairly because you have no rights.” Years of that nearly destroyed my ability to even think a question, much less ask one out loud. Decades later I’m still fighting that early training. Ogvorbis and others here who encourage their kids to think and question have my greatest respect (and make me envious of their kids).

  37. 37
    Dutchgirl

    nerok: I clearly misunderstood something. perhaps you could state your position/point more clearly. I had a bit of a hazy morning, and I’m not sure what you were “specifically addressing the people here” about.

  38. 38
    consciousness razor

    I have to disagree somewhat. It isn’t ignoring or dismissing the talent, hard work, and discipline of people in various fields to say that the same basic techniques of thinking can be applied by almost anyone in almost any situation.

    Well, okay. I’m not trying to make some claim about people’s intellectual abilities or how those are developed, or that skepticism can’t be done by nearly everyone because some of it’s only within reach of “the experts” who have “talent,” or something like that. Instead, they’re really not the same thing at all. They belong in the same category, they’re analogous to each other, but that does not make them the same.

    I’m saying that the way it should be done (ideally, as much as it’s practical) is not the way a child would do it, even though it’s granted that they can do the basics and that those basics are certainly important. It’s much more complicated than that when you have skepticism out there in the real world, arm it with scientific or other evidence, and see how it works with all the different kinds of claims people actually make. Generally, it requires lots more work, lots more background knowledge, etc., than what a critically-thinking child or a novice has the opportunity to do or is even willing to do.

    I don’t think the tooth-brushing analogy lends itself well to that kind of distinction. You can be very rigorous in your thinking and well-versed in all the nuances of some particular fact-claim, how all the pieces of evidence fit together, making sure to have some way to account for every last possibility or objection. That’s quite a lot of work, and it’s not simple by any means. With tooth-brushing, as just some kind of good habit everyone should (and basically does) have, you either do it or you don’t. You can do it while you’re half asleep. It doesn’t take any special amount practice. No one’s especially good or bad at it, assuming they’re doing it in the first place. It’s all very mundane. So, if despite brushing and flossing daily, you could have somehow had a slightly better technique, it really doesn’t seem like there’s any sort of obligation or even a general preference for going to the trouble of making that kind of improvement. Why bother?

    Although the “standing on the shoulders of giants” thing is also part of the criticism, as AE acknowledged, it’s also about what kind of stress we put on it to get people to move forward. The more we diminish it and make skepticism or science seem really easy and rudimentary, the less it seems like there’s any imperative at all to do better (or even to actually do it at all, since it’s being confused with its rudimentary version). You tell them it’s child’s play, and people will assume they’ve got it in the bag. Of course we have something that simple figured out — how could we not, if we’ve managed to get through life reasonably well so far? When in fact we don’t, because we’re never actually done improving.

  39. 39
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    None that I’ve noticed* your continual habit of “reference or shut up” it is becoming annoying.

    Who the fuck cares what you think. Evidently you aren’t evidence based, and don’t want evidence based discussions. Any old unevidenced OPINION is good enough for you. Science says otherwise.

  40. 40
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    CR:

    “I’m saying that the way it should be done” is part of what I find objectionable. Let’s please NOT assert that skepticism requires the sorts of things that lead to class-based discrimination. I’d rather make it seem easy and accessible, rather than only something for mostly upper-class white academic men to engage in. Try to remember that aspect of the larger conversation, please?

    And I’m really fine with doing skepticism “like a child”… when I was a little kid I “disproved” the Tooth Fairy by setting a trap that my mom walked into.

  41. 41
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Dalilama, not the smoking gun you thought in your links. It was peridontal disease (which your link indicated no relationship to diet) that was linked to cardivascular disease, but the ADA and AHA say no correlation in a 2012 meta study. Interesting. I understood the link was low level chronic inflammation.

  42. 42
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    cr: all good points.

  43. 43
    consciousness razor

    “I’m saying that the way it should be done” is part of what I find objectionable. Let’s please NOT assert that skepticism requires the sorts of things that lead to class-based discrimination.

    I’m not sure what I said to make you think that, but I said nothing at all about class. I don’t think any of it lends support to any kind of prejudice or discrimination.

    I’d rather make it seem easy and accessible, rather than only something for mostly upper-class white academic men to engage in. Try to remember that aspect of the larger conversation, please?

    I’m certainly aware of those issues and I take them into account as much as I can. I just don’t see how claiming that it ought to have standards somewhere above “in the skill set of grade schoolers” implies anything of the sort. Grade schoolers (upper-class whites or not) can do basic arithmetic, but that doesn’t make them mathematicians and doesn’t mean that they’re doing fundamentally the same kind of work that professionals do with advanced forms of mathematics.

  44. 44
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    CR, are you saying that skepticism is only for professionals with advanced knowledge? Because I see skepticism as useful for everyone, not just people with advanced degrees and decades of practice.

  45. 45
    michaeld

    @Nerok
    “I don’t personally see how the point about dictionary atheism and this point about skepticism gel; to me it seems this post tries to divorce skepticism from any movement connotation, which in my mind is the opposite of arguing dictionary atheism is bad.
    If someone does hold both to be true, I’d like to know how that makes sense as a whole.”

    The problem with dictionary atheism as I’ve always understood it isn’t the rejection of a movement (many dictionary atheists are part of the atheist community) but a denial of the wider implications atheism has on morality and how we view the world. ie If we don’t believe in god then how should we be treating each other and what are our responsibilities in this world etc.

    Similarly the problem with some very vocal elements of the skeptical movement is that they deny some of the reach and impact skepticism should have. Divorcing yourself from the movement is not the same divorcing yourself from all the ideals, principles etc within.

    That help?

  46. 46
    evilDoug

    For me, “skepticism” is one very simple thing: asking “do I have reason to believe this is correct or true?” That’s it, nothing more.
    Once the question has be raised, “skepticism” is laid aside and a battery of methods that exist on their own are applied to arrive at the answer.
    For example, I make frequent use of spreadsheets for engineering calculations. When I write equations for something, it is easy to leave the pi on the window sill, or slip left or right by 3 or 6 orders of magnitude. This means I must be vigilant and think about and independently test the numbers that fall out. Depending on what the calculations are regarding, I can often “eyeball” a result and recognize it as reasonable on unreasonable. If I can’t do that, then I resort to using additional calculations, often “by hand” or with a calculator, to attempt to verify correctness. Eventually, the calculations get embodied in real physical circuitry. At that time, out come the instruments and tests are devised to verify that all is as it should be (which actually does happen sometimes!). Skepticism may enter again, but only to make me question whether my observations are reasonable. The “real” results come from my personal knowledge and experience, mathematics, and careful empiricism and critical analysis. None of those things, as far as I am concerned, “belong” to skepticism. Each is its “own thing.”
    I don’t have a big problem with using “skepticism” as a sort of a wrapper, but I see no need to do it.
    The skeptical “movement”? Ye clocks and bowels! My impression is that a great deal of it is an elaboration of The Tuesday Beer Club. Get together, talk long and loud (and to the annoyance of others) about Important Things. And have Important People.

  47. 47
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    None that I’ve noticed* your continual habit of “reference or shut up” it is becoming annoying.

    * no reference to be supplied.

    Isn’t providing evidence for a claim part of what critical thinking is all about? But I guess that’s okay.

  48. 48
    nerok

    @47 Ogvorbis

    Isn’t providing evidence for a claim part of what critical thinking is all about?

    Can you provide evidence for that?

    (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

  49. 49
    Chris Clarke

    but the ADA and AHA say no correlation in a 2012 meta study

    Ah. I obviously overstated with that “conclusively” in the OP.

    Just this morning my father mentioned his cardiologist had ordered him to take a spot dose of amoxycillin before getting some dental work done. That’s what was on my mind: should have checked more thoroughly. Also, I need to go floss.

  50. 50
    consciousness razor

    CR, are you saying that skepticism is only for professionals with advanced knowledge?

    No, I’m not saying much about who or what it’s “for.” I’m concerned with what it is, and I’m saying it’s not like some other thing — brushing your teeth — in ways that I think are relevant to (1) how it’s been identified and how it’s formed historically and in our society, (2) how as a social movement it gets its legitimacy and is supported by a vast intellectual history and practically every corner in academia, with which literally everyone in or outside of it is ignorant about at least some part, (3) whether or not it can contribute to some aspects of personal or social identity, and (4) which assumptions we’re making about “what skepticism (or critical thinking) really is” which could affect whether and how people identify with it and contribute to it. I’m not trying to pretend this is revolutionary stuff, just saying the analogy, like any other, can only be taken so far.

    Because I see skepticism as useful for everyone, not just people with advanced degrees and decades of practice.

    I’d agree with you that it’s useful for everyone, just like arithmetic is useful for everyone. But again, the foundations of mathematics do in fact go a bit deeper than that. And it’s useful too – useful for everyone, even though not everyone does it.

  51. 51
    kerrymaxwell

    As Rebecca Watson commented on SGU, “Shouldn’t we all have bionic teeth by now?”

  52. 52
    nerok

    @45 michaeld

    Thanks for the answer.

    The problem with dictionary atheism as I’ve always understood it isn’t the rejection of a movement (many dictionary atheists are part of the atheist community) but a denial of the wider implications atheism has on morality and how we view the world. ie If we don’t believe in god then how should we be treating each other and what are our responsibilities in this world etc.

    I’ve liked the “strict” definition because I think it captures a lot of people who are de facto atheists, but wouldn’t call themselves that, or might not even care enough to form a position (they just don’t believe in a god actively). By your account it sounds like the criticism of “dictionary atheism” has less to do with that position and more to do with prodding those community atheists into further positions with the assumption that those positions follow naturally from atheism.
    Which actually makes me understand why people would protest it, since those positions seem to (again from my reading) very often be liberal political positions in general, which would of course turn away right wing atheists. (Obviously not including more general values such as human rights, which I am sure they’d agree on).

    Similarly the problem with some very vocal elements of the skeptical movement is that they deny some of the reach and impact skepticism should have. Divorcing yourself from the movement is not the same divorcing yourself from all the ideals, principles etc within.

    Which to me sounds more like a schism as to what those principles and ideals should be, with PZ and Clarke diverging from it by way of abandoning the Skeptic label/movement. Which is fine. I guess I read more into this post than I perhaps should have.

    That help?

    Yes, very much so.

    By the way, I love that Alpha Centauri avatar. I wish they’d make a real sequel.

  53. 53
    nerok

    @51 kerrymaxwell

    As Rebecca Watson commented on SGU, “Shouldn’t we all have bionic teeth by now?”

    I’d settle for dentists being able to grow us new teeth from stemcells. My enamel has worn badly. You’d think an intelligent designer could have thrown in some remineralization. Or maybe just more sets.

  54. 54
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    nerok:

    I no longer have the text book I used in college in my critical thinking course. I clearly remember (yes, anecdotes are not data) my professor explaining to us that without evidence, logic and problem solving techniques are useless. If we go down that path, we might as well argue over the number of angels doing a striptease on the head of a pin.

    Here are three disparate descriptions of critical thinking. All three of them do mention the importance of utilizing actual evidence in one’s arguments.

    From Wikipedia :

    Critical thinking calls for the ability to:

    Recognize problems, to find workable means for meeting those problems
    Understand the importance of prioritization and order of precedence in problem solving
    Gather and marshal pertinent (relevant) information
    Recognize unstated assumptions and values
    Comprehend and use language with accuracy, clarity, and discernment
    Interpret data, to appraise evidence and evaluate arguments
    Recognize the existence (or non-existence) of logical relationships between propositions
    Draw warranted conclusions and generalizations
    Put to test the conclusions and generalizations at which one arrives
    Reconstruct one’s patterns of beliefs on the basis of wider experience
    Render accurate judgments about specific things and qualities in everyday life

    From Critical Thinking Co.:

    The Critical Thinking Co.™
    “Critical thinking is the identification and evaluation of evidence to guide decision making. A critical thinker uses broad in-depth analysis of evidence to make decisions and communicate his/her beliefs clearly and accurately.”

    From Dictionary.com

    critical thinking
    the mental process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion

  55. 55
    nerok

    @54 Ogvorbis

    Solid effort for answering a joke.

    I guess this could veer off into epistemology by questioning what constitutes evidence and how we can know what’s true. (Let’s not). :)

  56. 56
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    Sorry. Didn’t realize it was a joke.

  57. 57
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    CR,

    I think you want to emphasize the (mostly irrelevant) elitist underpinnings, while I’m focused on the useful and valuable purpose of skepticism to create positive change in the lives of every person who comes across the foundational concepts. Which is fine… because the useless elitist scum need to keep occupied too! (I’m KIDDING!) But seriously, the reality is that the academic elites are only barely useful in that they can create formalized rules. The real and only significantly valuable use of skepticism is in the daily informal applications that the majority of people can and should use. Word games and logic puzzles might make the elites feel really clever, but what good is that? The good that skepticism can do is where it keeps average folks from being swindled and from making bad decisions.

  58. 58
    Matthew Stief

    I get the sentiment but I don’t agree. Skepticism, to me any way, is just short-hand for a commitment to evidence-based thinking. Evidence based thinking is a value, a framework for understanding the world. It’s not just a ubiquitous life skill. It does become ubiquitous, but it requires that you have those values and those commitments first. Many many people don’t share that value, and many people don’t understand the world in that way, and to some degree or another are opposed to evidence-based thinking.

  59. 59
    Chuck

    Just this morning my father mentioned his cardiologist had ordered him to take a spot dose of amoxycillin before getting some dental work done.

    This is typically done to prevent people with heart valve damage from getting those valves infected. We shower our bloodstream with bacteria when we clean our teeth (temporarily anyway), especially during dental procedures. To those with pre-existing valvular problems, this temporary presence of bacteria in the blood can lead to endocarditis, which is often fatal.

  60. 60
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    Improbable Joe: It’s not that only the highly educated can be critical thinkers, it’s that there’s a process in higher ed that is designed to force you to practice it and to force you to come to the conclusion that your opinion does not matter nearly as much as the evidence.

    It’s entirely possible to self-educate, it’s just that many people don’t go past reading a few philosophers, let alone the constant re-educating oneself and learning about the ways in which your own opinions can ruin your ability to reason.

  61. 61
    consciousness razor

    I think you want to emphasize the (mostly irrelevant) elitist underpinnings, while I’m focused on the useful and valuable purpose of skepticism to create positive change in the lives of every person who comes across the foundational concepts. Which is fine… because the useless elitist scum need to keep occupied too! (I’m KIDDING!)

    It certainly doesn’t sound like you’re kidding. If this whole thing about “(mostly irrelevant) elitist underpinnings,” claiming that I’m supporting classism, or even this whole conversation — if it’s all just a joke to you, then let me say in all seriousness that I’m not amused.

    But seriously, the reality is that the academic elites are only barely useful in that they can create formalized rules.

    So now you’re saying this seriously, and it’s the same shit as before, which you were kidding about. Fascinating.

    I don’t think we should conflate anti-classism with anti-intellectualism. That does not help one bit. Your turn: you explain how you’re not doing exactly that, or why it isn’t wrong, or else why it is wrong along with a retraction.

  62. 62
    Koshka

    It does seem that we are hard wired to accept uncritically what parents and other authority figures tell us.

    My 14 month old daughter, when told to drop a rock she has picked up to suck on, simply laughs and continues.

    Accepting what I tell her is certainly not hardwired (In this and similar cases I wish it were). It is learned behavior.

  63. 63
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Nope… you class-bigots are wrong. That’s CR and accidentally mouthyb, who think that getting a degree makes you smart, even though we keep seeing that people with degrees can easily be idiots and abuse their education as a way to bolster ignorant positions.

  64. 64
    consciousness razor

    Nope… you class-bigots are wrong. That’s CR and accidentally mouthyb, who think that getting a degree makes you smart, even though we keep seeing that people with degrees can easily be idiots and abuse their education as a way to bolster ignorant positions.

    Jebus, this is pure, strawmanning bullshit. Totally out of left field.

    I’ve said nothing at all about “getting a degree” or what “makes you smart,” as if that were the same as skepticism or that any such thing came automatically by virtue of having a diploma. I’m saying it’s not like brushing your teeth, for fuck’s sake, in some fairly significant ways — hardly controversial, and it’s such an obviously humorous comparison that I figure it was practically begging to be dismantled (though maybe Clarke is very upset with me right now, who knows).

    But if you want to talk about elitism or classism, fine. Let’s have that conversation. Just please drop the strawmen.

  65. 65
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Improbable Joe:

    That’s CR and accidentally mouthyb, who think that getting a degree makes you smart, even though we keep seeing that people with degrees can easily be idiots and abuse their education as a way to bolster ignorant positions.

    You are doing a lot of generalizing here, and you have unfairly misrepresented cr’s and mouthyb’s contributions.The point isn’t that people without advanced degrees can’t think critically. The point is like everyone else, they have to be taught to do so. The fundamentals can be learned by most people during compulsory ed, were this part of a standard curriculum. However, even a person with solid fundamentals may find some claims more challenging to assess than others; this can only be helped by a continued effort to master more sophisticated forms of inference.

  66. 66
    ChasCPeterson

    class-bigots…who think that getting a degree makes you smart

    depends a lot on the degree. (Some actually do involve training to think critically. It takes practice, depending, again, on what you’re applying it toward.)
    And almost not at all on “class”.

  67. 67
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    The fundamentals can be learned by most people during compulsory ed, were this part of a standard curriculum.

    This was actually my own contribution, so I have also misrepresented contributions.

  68. 68
    Antiochus Epiphanes

    Improbable Joe: You want to accuse people of class-bigotry based on a complete misrepresentation, bordering on fabrication? And then flounce because you feel unsafe and uncomfortable? How fucking fair is that?

  69. 69
    consciousness razor

    I don’t think of skepticism (or science) as one method or toolkit. I think different fields have different tools to solve the kinds of problems faced in their disciplines (and that these can and should be improved) based in part on similar problems and solutions in the past, so that altogether there are many different tools each serving a particular function. In some cases, the physics toolkit works best, sometimes it’s the biologist’s, the sociologist’s, the mathematician’s, the philosopher’s, the linguist’s, the artist’s, the economist’s, the political theorist’s, etc. These can all work together to produce critical thinking about whatever the topic may be, no matter what it may be.

    What kids learn when they develop critical thinking skills is not all of the above. It’s an introduction at best, to allow them to engage with the harder issues, in specific domains, to best of their ability. The fact that no person has mastered all of them is not a particular concern of mine, but I guess it’s worth saying that I’m not claiming you must be an expert in any or all fields to be “part of the movement” or do something useful in it. I think of it as democratic, which is to say we have to give everyone a seat at the table, to do what they can. We need the tools they can offer, whatever they are, even though no one has the tools for every single task.

    If somehow you still get “elitism” out of that, fuck you — you aren’t even trying to read what I’m saying.

  70. 70
    Chris Clarke

    consciousness razor:

    (though maybe Clarke is very upset with me right now, who knows).

    Oh, positively seething. Trust me.

    ChasCPeterson:

    depends a lot on the degree. (Some actually do involve training to think critically. It takes practice, depending, again, on what you’re applying it toward.)
    And almost not at all on “class”.

    I skipped class. I have no degree. QED.

  71. 71
    musical beef

    “…something they do, not something they are.”

    I very much agree. I don’t want to be defined by all the things I doubt are true. Including god. I rather resent that there’s this artificial “other” category I have to occupy because I’m not a theist.

    Seeing as atheism really is a subset of skepticism, I have to ask how this post jibes with the whole “dictionary atheist” thing.

  72. 72
    Chris Clarke

    I have to ask how this post jibes with the whole “dictionary atheist” thing.

    Here’s how: it was written by a completely distinct person with a different set of opinions from the person who wrote the dictionary atheist stuff, on a blog in which the two co-bloggers do not actually take pains to make sure nothing one blogger publishes ever contradicts a single word the other blogger has ever posted.

  73. 73
    changerofbits

    Well, it’s clearly strident and militant to call out the Toothers that have never brushed half their teeth for their entire life. After all, those teeth are by definition unreachable by any toothbrush. I’d rather have these folks in my tent than those who aren’t brushing during every waking minute of their lives!!!

  74. 74
    vaiyt

    @nerok:

    I don’t personally see how the point about dictionary atheism and this point about skepticism gel; to me it seems this post tries to divorce skepticism from any movement connotation, which in my mind is the opposite of arguing dictionary atheism is bad.

    Actually, what the post says is that skepticism is way too basic to be sufficient, which actually does gel with PZ’s point that atheism alone is too low a bar for a movement.

  75. 75
    Azuma Hazuki

    @vaiyt

    Why do we need a movement based on atheism? Much as PZ loathes “dictionary atheism” I think there’s a kind of safety in it. Atheism is a negative, a simple lack of something. Why would you enshrine a negative?

    Atheism+ has a name already. It is called secular humanism. And we should all rally around that.

  76. 76
    John Morales

    Azuma:

    Why do we need a movement based on atheism?

    Why, you think it’s pointless unless it’s needful?

    Much as PZ loathes “dictionary atheism” I think there’s a kind of safety in it.

    Thoughtlessness is its own reward.

    Atheism is a negative, a simple lack of something. Why would you enshrine a negative?

    There is no enshrining; the lack of something is an attribute no less than the possession of that something.

    Atheism+ has a name already. It is called secular humanism. And we should all rally around that.

    What a silly conclusion; since you’re claiming they both refer to the same thing, rallying to either is rallying to the same thing.

  77. 77
    ischemgeek

    Completely off-topic here, but: Can you folks change the background? it’s an animated gif that twitches and I can’t read articles here anymore because the background gives me a headache and is distracting.

  78. 78
    ChasCPeterson

    I’ll have what that person’s having.

  79. 79
    faehnrich

    I remember when PZ gave a talk in Cleveland. It was for an award dinner honoring a long-time member of a local skeptic group. It was the first time I’ve been to anything with that kind of group. I was surprised when the awardee was talking about his work and mentioned something about how they don’t touch religion because you just don’t do that.

    Not being a part of skeptic groups, I didn’t know there was an exception. And that made me not want to identify as a Skeptic™. If you go after only big foot or aliens because it’s easier to question since there aren’t many people to go up against, then that means you also won’t affect that many people. For me, you go after the bigger problems first, and that means religion.

  80. 80
    carlie

    ischemgeek – I only see a static picture of water as a background, and that only at the side edges because the main background behind the text is white. The water with waves image is one I could imagine might give an optical illusion of movement if your eyes are scanning it quickly, but if you honestly are seeing it as constant movement, you should probably get your eyes checked out if at all possible.*

    *I say this as someone who just went straight from “gee, darkness is a bit harder to deal with” to “oh, so it’s glaucoma and we’re doing laser surgery then”, so I’m a bit quick on the “get any eye problems checked out right quick” trigger finger at the moment.

  81. 81
    Lofty

    ischemgeek, set your browser window to the width of the text, then the waves disappear. Anyways, for some reason the water feature doesn’t extend much below 80-100 posts on a page, perhaps that’s where PZ’s pet Kraken lurks.

  82. 82
    carlie

    I think Dinosaur Comics must follow current topics of interest in the Pharyngulosphere. :D

  83. 83
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    ……

    Improbable Joe: I’ve made less than $10k most of my adult life, as a single mother. I agree that going to college does change your economic class (unless you keep doing what I’m doing and go back for more pieces of paper). It also changes your behavior.

    The point of my comment was that there’s a process for learning that sort of thing embedded in higher education, not that everyone takes advantage of it. (I’m looking at you, business majors.) Many people find it easier to practice the necessary disciplines of critical thinking when someone is making them do it. This does not exclude people who are motivated on their own, it’s just that not everyone will be motivated enough to educate themselves.

  84. 84
    musical beef

    Chris, #72:

    Fair enough.

    Also, I should’ve read the comments before posting.

  85. 85
    nerok

    @72 Chris Clarke

    Here’s how: it was written by a completely distinct person with a different set of opinions from the person who wrote the dictionary atheist stuff, on a blog in which the two co-bloggers do not actually take pains to make sure nothing one blogger publishes ever contradicts a single word the other blogger has ever posted.

    Fair enough. Does this mean you don’t agree on the “dictionary atheist stuff” then? If so, what is your stance?

  86. 86
    notsont

    The point of my comment was that there’s a process for learning that sort of thing embedded in higher education, not that everyone takes advantage of it. (I’m looking at you, business majors.) Many people find it easier to practice the necessary disciplines of critical thinking when someone is making them do it. This does not exclude people who are motivated on their own, it’s just that not everyone will be motivated enough to educate themselves.

    I know a lot of college graduates none of them are critical thinkers, also I have been reading forums like this for 20 years now people often tell stories about their childhood a rather large portion of them describe how they were critical thinkers from a very young age. I know this is anecdotal but I wonder how many here would say they were critical thinkers long before higher education. I think it may be that more that critical thinkers seek out higher education than it is that higher education makes critical thinkers.

  87. 87
    Kevin

    I know I’m late to the party, but I think the issue lies in the word “skepticism” itself and how it’s being used and, frankly, misused. (I’m going to ignore the use of “skeptic” in the sense of “denying settled science”, and so should you. Those aren’t skeptics — they’re reprobates.)

    If I am “skeptical” about something, that should be an invocation of agnosticism. A skeptic is open to new evidence that will change her mind about whatever hypothesis is under discussion.

    What the “skeptic movement” is talking about is something completely different. They’re not agnostic about the existence of Bigfoot and anal-probing aliens. They’re “dismissive” of the concepts. The evidence for such things is either entirely lacking, obviously fraudulent, or not “evidence” in the sense of overturning the null hypothesis in favor of a specific alternative hypothesis. No “skepticism” is needed to dismiss such hypotheses.

    In fact, I’ll go so far as to say the only “skeptics” about the existence of Bigfoot are the cryptozoologists who are out there looking for evidence that Bigfoot exists.

    Now, I’m “dismissive” of the existence of Bigfoot as well. What would change my mind would be … well … a Bigfoot carcass (or a live capture). Pretty much nothing else would satisfy me. But things like anal-probing aliens and Bigfoot have a pretty low hurdle to pass between “dismissal” and “acceptance”. Just show me an example that satisfies an antagonistic critic, and I’ll gladly concede I’m wrong.

    With supernatural claims, it’s different.

    I’m also dismissive of supernatural claims — not skeptical of them. There’s no agnosticism involved. But further, we now can say with certainty that no claims of supernatural entities that interact with planetary systems can possibly be true. They have been disproved.

    Frankly, I’m at a loss as to how we’ve missed this monumental news. With the confirmation of the Higgs field, we can declare that the quantum field theory is complete. Which means that we have a complete picture of the physics of everyday objects. And, importantly, we know that there are no additional fields. Any supernatural entity or object that interacts with planetary systems would be an additional field. And since there are no additional fields, supernatural objects are proved to not exist.

    No ghosts, no angels, no demons, no afterlife, no soul, no pixies living up my nose. Those all require something that we know does not exist — an additional field that is not part of quantum field theory. And physicists know that if such a field were possible, it would not only be predictable and predicted — it would already been detected.

    I do not need to be skeptical about supernatural claims anymore. I can be dismissive of them. With 100% certainty that no additional data will be forthcoming to overturn that dismissal.

    That’s what the $9 billion Large Hadron Collider really proved. No supernatural entities (fields) exist. They are ruled out. Dismiss those claims with certainty.

    BTW: Same goes with any “deity” that interacts with earthly systems. No quantum jiggering of DNA to arrive at humans (theological evolution is a lie). No prayers are answered. No water was walked on. No stinking corpse came back to life. No prophet existed — EVER! Because any of those requires a new field and we know that such fields do not exist.

    Frankly, I think “skeptics” have been running away from the Higgs field because of the incredibly poor misnomer. It’s not a “god particle”. First off, the Higgs isn’t a particle at all. It’s a field. And second, it’s a “no-god” field at that. Whoever so egregiously misnamed it should be boiled in oil for all the damage he’s done.

    So unlike with Bigfoot, with supernatural entities the hurdle to clear between dismissal and acceptance isn’t just high — it’s frankly impossible. It would require overturning a century plus of the most-studied, well-evidenced theories in physics: quantum field theory, quantum mechanics, and relativity theory.

    Overturning those theories wouldn’t be like finding a fossil bunny in the Cambrian. It would be like finding a fossil crocoduck in the Cambrian while watching a dog give birth to a cat and at the same time directly observing a deity make a human male out of mud and a woman from that man’s rib.

  88. 88
    G Pierce (Was ~G~)

    #79 faehnrich :
    I was at that Cleveland dinner as well. It was hosted by CFINO, the local branch of CFI which is not a skeptic group per se but its president is an awesome skeptic and fighter of religion who embraces feminism and has praised what he’s learned about it here from the hoarde. I recommend you get to know him. Outstanding person to get to know.

    The person being honored was Page Stephens who created the first Skeptics group in Cleveland (Southshore Skeptics) which is now long defunct. The active local skeptical group in Cleveland is The Cleveland Skeptics (which I founded and run). We are about to have our 5th anniversary picnic June 8th.

    In the last year we’ve made a lot of changes for a variety of reasons I won’t get into here but a) We definitely take on religion, and I think a lot of other local skeptical groups do too. (Skepchick certainly does and they are a major skeptical force on the internet). I don’t know who all these skeptical theistic people are. None have every joined my group! We welcome skepticism outside of the “safe zones” and embrace Paul Kurtz’s brand of skepticism http://youtu.be/LF5uT5LrTAY Paul Kurtz was more instrumental in founding the movement than them, and he had a very different view of it from them, one that included social science, philosophy, political and religious issues, and one’s self.

    We don’t have any allegience to the JREF’s although the classic bigfoot, psychic and ghost stuff is still part of the mix from time to time (I think they can be instrumental in many ways especially for newbies). We also aim to increase diversity, have a code of conduct policy including sexual harassment and hostile environment portions. We had a speaker from the rape crisis center on rape myths, plan on a talk on privilege, have a diverse book club- more clearly skeptical reads but also The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, Animal Farm, or anything people want to read. We do gaming, dinners, Darwin Day, museum visits, tour of the first Mormon Temple, trips to judgment houses at Halloween and debated them when they tried to witness to us, you name it.

    This is what I take issue with PZ on- the JREF doesn’t own skepticism or even the movement. The above essay by Chris is spot on. Matt Dillahunty’s talk at the AA convention was spot on about both skepticism and atheism. Skepticism is about humilty, not mutual back slapping. It is a discipline most importantly directed at one’s self. It requires practice, not just memorizing a list of logical fallacies and adding a notch in the bed post with every internet smack down you hand someone. I also just started one of the first affiliates of Secular Woman, my husband and I are both students of psychology and I have an MA in bioethics, so no, we don’t reject anything outside of the big three natural sciences and we challenge this when we hear it from our members.

    Anyone out there in Cleveland who has been afraid of joining a skeptic’s group because of DJ Grothe or Jamy Ian Swiss, I assure you, they don’t own skepticism and I want people in my group who want to support “progressive skepticism”. to join- http://www.meetup.com/clevelandskeptics (our main website is in transition but available http://www.clevelandskeptics.org ) Hope to meet another Pharyngulite!

  89. 89
    mouthyb, Vagina McTits

    (sigh) Yes, of course college graduates can be dumbasses. Really, I don’t think anyone is arguing that.

  90. 90
    Uncle Ebeneezer

    But I have to confess that for the last couple of years, every time I hear someone announce that they’re A Skeptic™ as though no further explication is necessary, this is how my brain parses that. Tell me what you actually do with your skepticism, and I may well be really interested. But claiming that the practice itself is enough to define you? Call me skeptical.

    Just yesterday I was having lunch with a couple friends. The gal is real into some Ayurvedic Imuno-boost Supplement and started going on what was damn-near a sales pitch. Her husband added “I’m as much of a skeptic as anyone, but I tried it when I felt like I was about to get sick and so did two of my co-workers with the same result!” I bit my tongue and resisted the urge to ask about double-blind studies, sample size etc. Anyways, yes, everyone’s a skeptic.

  91. 91
    Crissa

    However, if you want to replace your curtains with solar panels, you could totally do that.

    …Which I did at my prior apartment. I had solar panels I was using on weekends and camping, and I made hangers for them in the front window (which got afternoon to sunset sun). Not very efficient, but I never had to plug a single battery-operated device into a wall outlet…

  92. 92
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    The one thing that I kept thinking of through this thread is following through the metaphor.

    Even if you brush, floss and use mouth wash, if you can’t afford dental care when things go wrong, you’ll end up going down a bad path. It’s not enough for parents to teach their kids to brush their teeth when they are young, there needs to be dental health coverage to continue encouragement and help. So, we need to correct/fix our education system, which I know everyone here agrees with.

    Also, I’ve got actual, really bad dental problems that didn’t come from a lack of brushing so dental problems aren’t always the fault of the person. Like having my coverage end before a root canal was completed, my wisdom teeth didn’t come up right, which left them covered partially by my gums, and the cracked teeth from being beat not being fixed, which left a hole for infection/pain. Doesn’t mean I’m slovenly or too stupid to pay attention to dental health, I’ve just been screwed by being poor and not having a proper social system.

    Yeah, I’m really liking how extending the metaphor works.

Comments have been disabled.