Pushing Deeper Into the Bubble

After the election last year, I wrote about the conservative epistemic bubble that left Republicans so utterly blindsided by their defeat. At the time, I wondered whether the magnitude of their loss would force the GOP to bow to reality, or whether they'd respond by retreating deeper into self-delusion. Well, I have some developments to report on.First, there's this message from James Dobson, one of the most powerful voices of the American evangelical right (HT: Right Wing Watch, a site I sho … [Read more...]

Miracle on 34th Street: The Value of Empiricism

Yes, you get a Christmas post! Atheists don't take the day off just because people think a mythological savior-god was born on this date thousands of years ago.So my wife and I were watching Miracle on 34th Street last night (the original, not the remake). In spite of everything I'm about to say, it's still one of the better holiday movies.* As Greg Olear points out on Salon, it's remarkably egalitarian, secular and anti-consumerist even by modern standards, much less by the standards of the … [Read more...]

The Republican Stupid-Party Spiral Dilemma

In an interview late last month, Republican senator Marco Rubio, who's widely viewed to be laying the groundwork for a 2016 presidential run, announced that he doesn't know how old the Earth is:I'm not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that's a dispute amongst theologians and I think it has nothing to do with the gross domestic product or economic growth of the United States.I can't help suggesting that perhaps … [Read more...]

Piercing the Republican Epistemic Bubble

I've written some overarching thoughts about last week's presidential election, but I wanted to dwell on one of its more fascinating aspects: the extent to which the Republican party was blindsided by the outcome. Going into Tuesday, countless Republicans had predicted a solid victory for Mitt Romney, and it's clear that this wasn't just a political ploy to sway media coverage. On the contrary, Republicans at every level sincerely believed this - ordinary voters, professional pundits, and … [Read more...]

Because I’m An Atheist…

This post was originally written for the "Because I Am An Atheist" series at The Crommunist Manifesto. Thanks to Crommunist for the inspiration! Because I am an atheist, I don't have to spend my energy justifying the unjustifiable. As I've written before, I can imagine how I could have been a religious person. A different roll of the dice, a few chance encounters that happened differently - there are possible worlds where I became a believer rather than an atheist. I could have become … [Read more...]

Free-Floating Certainties

Most of us, especially if we follow the principles of critical thinking, go through life slowly building up a patina of evidence supporting the beliefs that matter to us. Under normal circumstances, the more that our experiences confirm the truth of a proposition, the more confidence we place in it. For a simple, everyday proposition such as "my wife loves me", or "I live in New York City", which is reinforced by countless facts in one's experience, one eventually builds up a certainty so firm … [Read more...]

Why I Identify as a Skeptic

My friend Sarah Moglia has written an essay, titled Why I Don't Call Myself a Skeptic, that's been making waves in the atheist blogosphere. She's got a thought-provoking argument with which I agree in part and disagree in part, and I thought I'd share my reaction to it. But first, let me echo her disclaimer: I'm not promoting what follows as a normative view that everyone should hold. I'm talking about why I choose to identify in a specific way. Actually, I tend to use "atheist" as my … [Read more...]

Is There Progress in Religion?

I wanted to pull this exchange out of the comments, because I thought it was worth highlighting:"Science is constantly evolving and improving on itself". I AGREE. The same as our understanding of God is constantly evolving and improving.In response, I came back with what I thought was a perfectly reasonable request:If that's really the case, then please list some of the new things we've learned about God in the past few hundred years.Unsurprisingly, this occasioned much … [Read more...]

The Purview of Skepticism

I may have mentioned that, at Skepticon IV, JT Eberhard gave a fantastic talk on why the skeptical community must concern itself with mental illness. For the most part, the response from the community has been enthusiastically supportive - but there were a few sharp notes of dissent, like this post by Gina Colaianni. Most of Colaianni's criticisms are so off-base, I can't help wondering if she saw the same talk as the rest of us. (She thinks that JT, of all people, is calling for us to stop … [Read more...]

Worshipping the Holy Hair Dryer

My previous post, "The Blinding Fog of Religious Moderation", drew some criticism from people who felt that I was unjustly lumping moderate believers together with fundamentalists. So, in this post, I'm going to try (again) to illustrate why I find even moderate religious beliefs to be wrong-headed, by means of an analogy. I'd like to take credit for this analogy, but it isn't mine: the concept originally came from Sam Harris in his book Letter to a Christian Nation, though the proximate source … [Read more...]