Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Creationism and the Fraud of the 2 sides mantra.

Check out a real scientist and 2 "creation scientists". Notice how the other 2 do their best to try to poke holes in evolution. The only people who say evolution is unproven or lacking proof/missing links are people who are not in the field, do not understand the explanations/evidence, argue from ignorance/fraudulent appeals among other things. Instead of trying to knockdown evolution, develop a model which co-insides with the evidence to explain observable phenomena and stop trying to make the evidence fit with a personally satisfying conclusion. The other 2 do have Ph.D's and you may want to give them instant credibility because of that, but check out their explanations within the field of evolutionary biology with respect to the people and evidence within that field. Beware of quote mining by the the first guy in the second video. If you forget to ask critical questions, you may begin to worship.

Alternative Narratives: A Quick Breakdown of Conspiratorial Nuttery.

Please check out the article above and the article at the end of this post. I am addressing the 5 sections in the first piece. 

Check out the "us" vs "them" pitch line very early on, the supposed mockery (much of it is deserved) but this person/group is suggesting mockery is all that they and their fellow compatriots receive (untrue), and the appeal that they have already won but have failed to present a compelling case with solid reasons and evidence. 

1. Note the beginning of the narrative with respect to the 3 dimensions listed. 

A. The cosmic dimension, which the author just puts out there like you and I should know what the fuck he is talking about, is not evidence against the "official" story. It operates solely as her/his opinion about why a lot of people are unwilling to adopt the alternate explanation of the events of 9/11 by the truthers.  

B. Social; No evidence is presented towards debunking the official story. Instead the author claims the skeptics of the 9/11 truth movement do not want to be associated with the conspiracy theorists because they do not want to look crazy. It's a damn good concern in my view, but perhaps they do not want to be associated with people who make a ton of claims regarding a catastrophic event but fail to produce evidence for such claims. That's not mockery. It's making sure you do not uncritically accept any explanation for events or phenomena without solid reasons/evidence presented to you. 

C. Death; the narrative is extremely funny to me. Surely the people who put out the official story could find out what this person is posting and come get him and put him to death for exposing them, right? It's particularly stupid for the author to post it but the person gets to act like a hero for doing what other people are afraid to do. No evidence against the official story is presented there either. 

2. Ignorance; Seen any evidence against the official explanation? I have yet to see it. Other than claiming some ominous blackout of the REAL evidence (which itself is a knowledge claim for which he/she needs to produce evidence to warrant acceptance), the author is just bitching. There is also talk of laziness due to the rejection of whatever version of 9/11 truther nonsense he/she accepts. In other words you need to disprove whatever she/he believes and their explanation stands until knocked down. This person has assumed the truth of their conclusion already. If you do not accept their hypothesis, you are ignorant. They need to produce evidence. See the theme? 

3. False Superiority/Knowledge; this part begins with an outright falsehood. Simply because we do not accept what you say because you said it does not mean we are hostile in any way to new information/knowledge. The author makes a comment about the article not judging you. I do not think the person realizes the whole post is just that. It's a judgment against those people who do not accept their hypothesis. Even if it were the case that I or anyone else were hostile to new information or knowledge, that alone is not proof of some grand cover-up by the United States government. The part about accepting new views is self-serving. The author is only open-minded to the extent of which she/he will accept new info/knowledge as long as it supports the desired conclusion. 

4. Brainwashing; In other words since I have yet to get produce a damn thing for what I think happened, there is a systematic campaign to dumb down the masses and cover up the real truth. In order for you to cleanse yourself, you need to step away from what the big evil powers that be are putting in front of you and accept my hypothesis instead. Yea. Okay. 

5. Cover up; I knew this one was coming down the line. Everybody is in on the whole thing including entire governments, media outlets, academia, and even your damn cat or dog. People like to talk. Someone would have snitched by now but if they had the conspiracy theorist would still claim victory. He/She would say "ah ha! I told you". If no one says anything "they are paid to keep quiet and we will never know the truth".

Check out the book plug at the end of the article. Just damn.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Black Folk Don't do Atheism? Wrong. I'm Black and I 'do' Atheism

Black folks in the US, if you believe the polling data (Pew, 2008) and Black women in particular report believing in a god/spiritual/creator. Black folks usually claim to attend church services more so than other groups and Black women lead in that category as well. The video does suggest that atheism is lacking in the Black community and I agree. People tend to believe as their parents do as well as their own community. Quite often we uncritically accept the thoughts and musings passed on to us because we trust the messenger and there may be some kind of benefit associated with accepting the message. I do not offer the previous thoughts as a excuse for why Black folks appear to accept Christianity, the god hypothesis generally or any spiritually/supernatural oriented claims, but the words are offered as an explanation for holding such beliefs. I think the explanation could apply to other types of beliefs people hold with respect to psychic predictions, mediums, astrology, homeopathy, etc. When critical inquiry is not encouraged or in some cases discouraged in regards to beliefs in a deity/supernatural claims, people will go on believing those beliefs. I'm not suggesting in any way that the promotion of skeptical inquiry alone would prevent people from believing at all. There are people that want to believe because they want to believe. What I am saying is increased visibility and outspokenness may eventually strike down the whole "Black Folk Don't Do Atheism" theme and some people and organizations are doing something about it. There are many groups, such as Black Non-Believers of Atlanta run by Mandisa Thomas and Black Atheists of America run by Ayanna Watson just to name a few. They are saying "we are here, you can come speak to us, you can help out in whatever way you can" etc. Change does take time. I'm often baffled when some accept the previous sentence with respect to biological evolution but devolve into disappointed idealism when change is not immediately on the horizon within other areas. An example of this kind of chatter I have seen is "why are Black folks are still Christians when the Bible was used to promote slavery". This line is trotted out as though the target will drop the belief within a few seconds and that just does not happen. It took me 5+ years to completely rid myself of Christianity, supernatural claims, the apologetics which went with it and my own attempts to intellectualize the material to present a slightly more sophisticated view than what Toure presented in the video. If you want people to be skeptical of their beliefs, lead by example, allow yourself to be open to discussion and understand you may not see the fruits of your labor. Sounds disconcerting and you may wonder what the damn point is if you do not see the results. I happen to think that is the wrong goal. You are there to plant the seed and to continue the work done by others which does not necessarily entail you standing back in awe of the finished product. I know Black folks will not give up their religious/supernatural beliefs overnight or within my own lifetime (28 years of age now), but I do expect to see more Black atheists and skeptics within the next 20 years. It's why I do this blog and what I spend most of my time tweeting about. If I have gotten 1 person to question her/his beliefs (the irrationally held beliefs or any others), then I have done my job and they do not have to tell me personally in order for me to continue what I do. I want others to think critically in all facets of their lives and to hold beliefs which are rationally justified when it concerns big questions. There are many others like me.  I am Black, and I do Atheism. Proud, unapologetic, outspoken, and I am visible. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Conspiracy Theories; Panel Discussion and Calls

The link below is the audio file of the discussion in which I was invited to participate. You may hear a little background noise but the discussion is well worth your time and I encourage you to listen. I thank Raina Rhoades, @RaiElise, Kim @BlkFreeThinkers, and MC @MCBrooks for offering their words and insight to this topic. I will probably post a follow up blog post with respect to the audio and some additional commentary on conspiracy theories in general. I hope you enjoy the show! If clicking the link does not work, just copy and paste it into your browser. The show will pop up and you can listen from there.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Racing & Skepticism; The Rev's Guide

I love racing. I keep up with all sorts of disciplines ranging from NASCAR, Formula 1, Indycar, NHRA Drag Racing and the Rolex Sports Car Series just to name a few. I love playing racing games and driving high powered go-karts. When I first started playing, I was excited and inexperienced which led to being reckless while on the track. I operated with the misconception that merely by watching racing on television, I would know what I'm doing. Watching racing on television is one thing and actually doing it, even at a lower level and online requires attention to detail, smooth operation with respect to steering, accelerating, corner entry, corner exit and braking. In order for you to be good at it, you need to practice with the best methods available to you, find people who are better at it than you so you can learn their methods and apply them, revise your own technique to limit ill-advised actions, and take care of your equipment. What I have learned by racing online and the little I have raced offline is the skill does not come naturally. Racing, like many other things requires time, revision, good practice, sharpening skills, hanging out with people who are smarter/possess better experience than you, and tossing habits which are not conducive to laying down solid, fast, consistent and smooth lap times. I think the same technique applies to skepticism. In order to be good at it, you must know what it is and understand how the process works, apply that process in the best way you can achieve and know what skepticism is not. The following is a quick guide to how I do things and what I think you ought to avoid.

What is skepticism?

Skepticism is not a process of disbelieving things. It is a process to seek a supported conclusion(based on evidence) and not to bolster a conclusion based on naive intuitions, ignorance, unsophisticated thoughts, or to establish support for a particular conclusion you want/feel to be true. You go where the evidence takes you and you develop a model or an explanation which bears out where the evidence guides you. You do not make the evidence fit or justify a preconceived conclusion. Critical thinking and applying reason when evaluating claims is extremely essential.

Know which battles are worth fighting:

I think part of being a good skeptic and maintaining your sanity is to know when it's time to fight and when it's time to tip your cap and go home. Sometimes your input is not necessary and you can decide to "sit this one out". That does not mean you lack the intellectual veracity to engage. Part of this tactic is to reject invitations to arguments. You are not obligated as a skeptic to fight each time you are invited to participate. You can and should decline some party invites, especially if the topic does not interest you, a discussion may lead to nasty personal barbs, or you have no opinion to share and have no interest in obtaining one. Determine what matters to you, learn about it, talk to others, adopt meaningful and useful methods to facilitate discussion/action and know when to shut the fuck up and have a drink with your friends, enjoy a good book, play a game, sleep, have some awesome sex or whatever.

Experts are useful: 

We defer to experts all of the time. When the issue is our own health, or the health of a loved one, maintenance on our vehicles, recipes etc, we rely on the expertise of 1 or more people in that particular field to help us make sound decisions. As laypersons we can and should examine the work/advice of the expert and compare her/his work with other experts in the same field and see how their work is received by their peers. The thought here is the better the expert, more likely than not, you are going in a solid direction when you accept their advice/direction within that particular field. If their advice/direction is useful in a number of different areas, it may warrant usage there too. The tactic is not fool proof and it is not meant to be but I think it can be useful. There are lousy experts and there are some people who exhibit expertise in a particular field but they absolutely suck when they attempt to venture into other areas.

Denial and cynicism is not skepticism: 

Simply being cynical is not skepticism even though some cynics can use skepticism. Cynics attach ulterior motives to phenomena and events of history which I argue leads to debilitating solipsism and inaction by other people if they adopt and believe the what the cynic is suggesting. Examples of cynicism are claims which suggest the government is necessarily evil and consequently unable to redeem itself, doctors enjoy sickness and they need people to remain sick or they will not have a job, political parties are evil in principle and in action, etc. Denial of the Holocaust, HIV/AIDS, climate change, among others are paraded as acts of skepticism. They are not.

Just Asking Questions:

Posing questions is not necessarily skepticism. The form of the question matters and questions which lead you to a desired conclusion by the petitioner ought to be met with concern. There are misleading questions with erroneous assumptions and naive intuitions which seek to obfuscate, bullshit, and destroy your critical faculties. When I have dealt with 9/11 truthers, Ron Paul supporters and generally anti-structure types, the tactic of just asking questions is normally displayed as skepticism. I find the tactic to be nothing more than a convenient way to spout specious, spurious, and unsupported claims in order to promote alarmism, denialism, potentially inciting others to riot(while you sit on your ass and document the event and wish to lead after the chaos is over), and cynicism. Questions like "how does X function" or "what does this tell us about existing knowledge/phenomena" are far better suited to get your critical wheels rolling than something like "when did you stop beating your wife" or "why is the government still poisoning your food". The last 2 contain accusations which are meant to alarm you.

Could be or possibly:

Both have the potential to be covers to launch absurdity. Could the government or possibly some mysterious entity be poisoning your food without your knowledge? Sure, but where is the evidence which suggests the question merits serious attention? It's possible, but is it probable? It's also possible or could be the case that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim working for the cult of Scientology.

Appeals to Open-mindedness: 

Open-mindedness is not an uncritical acceptance of a claim or a set of claims merely because someone  presents them to you. Being open-minded is the willingness to consider new ideas. Usually when I'm told to be more open-minded, the charge is thrown at me because I did not accept a claim which was presented to me. Either I asked questions which the presenter could not answer, he became frustrated and was unwilling to say "I don't know" or "I will try to get back to you". You may also be told that you lack curiosity or respect for ideas when you demand evidence for the claim brought to you. The fact you take on the idea and apply it to reality and our understanding of existing knowledge shows the charge to be absolutely false. You can reject bad ideas and remain curious and open-minded.

Burden of Proof:

You make the positive claim then it is your job to substantiate that claim with solid evidence. It is not the job of the other person(s) to falsify your claims for you. For example, you say "God exists". I say "show me". You say "well do you have evidence to suggest God does not exist"? I have made no such claim. I am simply asking for verification of your claim. Do your job.


Learn types of fallacies/errors in reasoning. The following is a good list with examples. Try to find some in your local paper/magazine, listen to the news or yourself and even friends/family.

If you want to be good at something you must practice with good tools, revise methods, challenge yourself and ditch bullshit. My racing opening can be easily substituted with whatever you like to do. With the right tools and methods and good practice with good people, you will improve and I think you will be better off because of it.