I had an interview today (yes, I know – here I am blogging about what I do and I wanted to take a break from blogging…) that really gave me some food for thought and I guess I’m at a bit of a loss as to if (and it’s a huge if) something does happen as a result of that interview – do I want to make that leap?
Which makes it difficult to then hop online start telling people – strangers, none-the-less! – what they should be doing with their lives – certainly when it comes to people saying great things like “we want to promote education” and saying they want to encourage creators of educational resources for promoting critical thinking… as I know people who do that and currently work with many people who do just that. You may have even seen a few videos by a group who are currently working towards making curriculum changes nationally with their work.
Which I guess then leads me to wonder “must I be labeled something to do what I’m already doing”?
You and I appear to agree on the vast majority of points, but I don’t label myself a secular humanist. And you do not label yourself an A+. (in truth, A+ has not existed for long enough for me to label myself that way, either.)
And that is perfectly cool.
In the weeks, months, and years to come, you or I may maintain our positions or change them. But it does look like, as Wowbagger suggests, we may be witnessing the birth of something.
Okay, then I have the right to eschew any A+ label over the weeks, months and possibly years to come; happy birthday to whatever fledgling idea is being born and I’ll get back to work on the numerous things I’ve already committed myself to that (not unlike the NSCE), are part of a wider movement towards a more productive world for everyone.
I am reminded of an interview I did with Desiree Schell in that regard:
Skeptics collectively are very new to operating on the public stage. We’re only just starting to incorporate these kinds of initiatives into our playbook, and it’s inevitable that we’re going to screw some things up as we figure out what we’re doing.
Really, I think that this is actually an argument in favor of careful planning in advance of an action or campaign. If you’ve really thought about what your goals are, what methods are best to achieve them, and how you’re going to measure success, you can sit down after your action and assess how well you did by your own standards. If you didn’t achieve what you wanted to, you’ll be more easily able to determine why and what you could do differently next time.
And it’s not just important for your own group. If we as organisers take the time to realistically assess our actions, we can add to the existing body of knowledge about what methods are best [for] furthering our specific goals and help other groups and activists to be more effective. It’s certainly more work, but the extra effort benefits not only each individual action but skeptical activism as a whole. It has the potential to make our overall message more appealing, more relevant, and more effective. Which, when you’re trying to make a difference in the world, are all very good things.
In closing, if you’d like some links as to why practices like dowsing and homeopathy are still highly relevant for us to investigate:
* Bruce M. Hood on bomb-detecting by dowsing;
* Dr Steven Novella on Friends of Science in Medicine and CAM being taught in universities in Australia;
* An interview with Australia’s Dr Rob Morrison on Friends of Science in Medicine – a blogger called Rob Cullen has transcribed some of my interview (thanks Rob!);
* Dr Steven Novella’s course on Medical Myths, Lies, and Half-Truths: What We Think We Know May Be Hurting Us
* There’s also an interview with Andy Lewis of Quackometer on On Stanislaw Burzynski, the Streisand Effect, and Standing Up for Skeptical Bloggers (audio version here) and finally;
* The damage caused by in healing campaigns for HIV/AIDs in Africa and the damage caused by belief in witchcraft, as reported by George Ongere and Leo Igwe;
If you’d like some more skepticism 101 resources, you might like to check out:* Talk by Dr Steve Novella for the New York Skeptics – Introduction to Skeptical Activism (podcast);
* What Do I Do Next – 105 Ways To Promote Skeptical Activism – Skeptic.com;
* Skepticism 101 – The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center (lessons, resources,university courses, etc);
* SkepTrack 2011 – Derek Colanduno With Eugenie Scott And Steven Novella (podcast);
* Skeptical Activism 201: The Skeptics Strike Back – Desiree Schell moderating, features Debbie Goddard, Maria Walters, DJ Grothe, Brian Brushwood and Kylie Sturgess (podcast);
* On The Separation Between Scientific Truth And Belief – Interview With Dr Pamela Gay (podcast);
* Dr Steve Novella on Scientific Skepticism, CSICOP, and the Local Groups (“Scientific skepticism defines skepticism around the principles of scientific investigation. Specifically, scientific skepticism addresses testable claims; untestable claims are simply outside the realm of science.”);
* Paul Kurtz on Should Skeptical Inquiry Be Applied to Religion?
and I’m sure there’s plenty more that I can add in the future or overlooked – you might also like to check out my top 20 skeptic booklist, also featured on the Token Skeptic: “On Great Books In Skepticism”. Tremendous thanks to Embiggen Books for that show:
* Why people Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer
* Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design by Michael Shermer
* Beyond Belief: Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal by Martin Bridgstock
* Bad Science by Ben Goldacre
* Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts about Alternative Medicine by Simon Singh and Ezart Ernst
* Bad Astronomy by Phillip Plait
* Flim Flam! Psychics, ESP, Unicorns, and Other Delusions by JamesRandi
* Faith Healers by James Randi
* Quirkology: How We Discover the Big Truths in Small Things by Richard Wiseman
* 59 Seconds: How Psychology Can Improve Your Life in Less than a Minute by Richard Wiseman
* The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceives Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons
* 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology by Lilienfeld, Lynn, Ruscio and Beyerstein
* Making Sense: Philosophy Behind the Headlines by Julian Baggini
* Do You Think What You Think You Think by Julian Baggini
* The Skeptic’s Dictionary by Robert Todd Carroll
* The Skeptic’s Guide to the Paranormal by Lynne Kelly
* The Science of Superstition (aka Supersense) by Bruce M Hood
* Crimes Against Logic by Whyte
* Denialism: How Irrational Thinking Hinders Scientific Progress, Harms the Planet, and Threatens Our Lives by Specter
* Doubt: A History by Hecht
* Sleights of Mind by Stephen Macknik, Susana Martinez-Conde and Sandra Blakeslee
* Suckers: How Alternative Medicine Makes Fools Of Us All by Rose Shapiro
* Voodoo Histories: How Conspiracy Theory Has Shaped Modern History by David Aaronovitch
* Panic Virus: Fear, Myth and the Vaccination Debate by Seth Mnookin
* Autism’s False Prophets by Paul Offit
* Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition by Stuart Vyse
* Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be by Daniel Loxton
* Scientific Paranormal Investigation: How to Solve Unexplained Mysteries by Benjamin Radford
* Science: Good, Bad, and Bogus by Martin Gardner
…and now? Back to work.