HOWTO ask good skeptical questions

In this Richard Dawkins Foundation video, Skeptic Magazine's Michael Shermer explains the ten criteria we can use when confronted with claims about how the world works that serve as a "baloney detection kit."

RDF TV - The Baloney Detection Kit - Michael Shermer (via 3 Quarks Daily)

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  1. My best friend believes in almost every pseudo science crap that comes down the pike. And his favorite show to this day is Unsolved Mysteries.

    Among his favorites are:

    Bigfoot – they can’t find some planes that crashed decades ago, so how can you find an animal.

    Mr. Rodgers was a Vietnam sniper and his body is covered in tattoes – why does he always wear long sleeve shirts.

    Evolution doesn’t exist – its not in the bible.

    UFOs and ghosts exist – I’ve seen them man, that one time as a kid in that house and the other time we went camping and saw stuff in the sky.

    I feel bad posting this, because I really do love him, but all the crap drives me nuts. (The Mr. Rodgers one is exceptionally irritating)

  2. In a similar vein, the first time I listened to Noam Chomsky Massey Lectures, I was struck by the number of times the Mr. Chomsky said: “I don’t expect you to believe me, you should go look at the actual documents yourselves.”

    (Like reading an actual study, rather than a newspaper article about a study, until you know you can trust the reporter. Witness the recent story about the ocean’s currents somehow affecting the earth’s molten core – I don’t think so…

    If you do it often enough, you can develop a reasonable reliable feel for what’s reasonable, believable, but still enough skepticism to be able to tell yourself: “Y’know, I have no idea… I’ll go find out.”

    The Massey Lectures are presented by CBC Radio’s Ideas program.
    http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/massey.html

    Not-very-good recording of one of the lectures here here:
    http://noam-chomsky-massey-lecture-necessary-il-mp3-download.kohit.net/_/302716
    (A Massey Lecture Ringtone? Really?)
    Purchasable here:
    http://www.cbcshop.ca/CBC/shopping/product.aspx?Product_ID=ERDOC00209&Variant_ID=ERDOC00209&lang=en-CA

    Though, if I were you, I’d get Manufacturing Consent:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_Noam_Chomsky_and_the_Media
    Link to a downloadable copy.

  3. Quite amusing commercial for their magazine, repeatedly mentioning the product. Science is not skeptical, but rather — well — scientific. It has its limits, as do all thought tools of man, which is not to say that it is not a wonderful tool. Yet, economics is also a thought tool, sometimes held in the hands of a less than honest man. This infomercial is not for science, but for a magazine.

    The Baloney Detection Kit advises me that Mr. Shermer is actively working to get us to buy his product, in a world stuffed with products. Science does not need his assistance, though he needs subscriptions to his product.

  4. In a similar vein, the first time I listened to Noam Chomsky Massey Lectures, I was struck by the number of times the Mr. Chomsky said: “I don’t expect you to believe me, you should go look at the actual documents yourselves.”

    Yeah, because he knows that 99% of people listening to him will take his confidence as evidence enough and won’t actually go and chase down his sources — which are almost universally unreliable, unverifiable, misleading, or simply don’t say what they claim that they do. Chomsky is the biggest fraud of our times.

  5. I don’t think you examined their claim of possessing an actual “Massey Lecture Ringtone” with the ten criteria, did you?

  6. Michael Shermer and Richard Dawkins each give pat answers to very difficult questions while engaging in reasoning that is facile at best. Shermer is particularly bad; Dawkins only-so when he’s trying to do philosophy. I wish the atheists and skeptics had better spokespeople (Hitchens and Maher aren’t too great, either).

  7. Ok so I have to believe science. Does that include the tobacco companies, food companies, drug companies and the economists?
    They all employ science.

    what about all that nonsense about nuclear energy being safe?
    What about the fact that carbon dioxide makes plants grow?

  8. I think the douchiest thing about R dawkins and S Harris, etc is the way they discredit belief by comparing it to ‘indigenous’, ‘primate’, ya know, ‘obviously laughable’ faiths. Note the stock footage of unnamed native people dancing in some “superstitious” ritual with spooky drumbeats.

  9. Ok right. Science:
    those goofs at the FDA?
    The tobacco company scientists?
    Monsanto?
    Economists – they think they are scientists, and we are all fine now.
    How about the nutritionists in the pay of food industry giants?
    What about Carbon dioxide? Doesn’t that make plants grow?

    How about the nuclear physicists employed by power companies to tell us that nuclear power is safe and cheap , when it is fully subsidized, deadly and very expensive. You can replace a single nuclear reactor with less than a square mile of solar collectors.

    It uses 12 olympic swimming pools of water per second to cool a reactor. The water is polluted for 4 1/2 billion years by this process.

  10. @ 5, M:

    I think that any scientist that claims they know everything or that anything they don’t know doesn’t exist knows nothing of science.

  11. Encouraging skepticism is a good idea. Part of me wishes, though, that it wasn’t coming from people that have declared so strongly as atheists — and that it wasn’t put in a way that seems so strongly against belief.

    I have nothing at all against atheism: but many theists do, for obvious reasons, and they need skepticism as much as any other group — and I don’t mean, to make them atheists.

    Skepticism and belief aren’t incompatible. “You shouldn’t believe anyone based on authority or whatever position they might have” is *at least* as useful for a religious person as it is for an atheist.

  12. Just from reading the posts in this thread at least 5 of the alarms on my new baloney detector kit have gone off.

    Have to stop reading…hurting…ears…

  13. Science is just a part of philosophy. And there are different kind of theories of the best way to acquire knowledge – Epistemology. In this video just one view is presented, different exist. I don’t like the way science is described, it somehow feels unscientific. But I like the way the comparison is made with medicine.

  14. @shadowfirebird –

    Thats why the religious should be forced to sit down and be quiet.

    If they arent willing to think critically we need to just go on developing our society without them but we need to make sure their stupidity doesnt hinder the process.

    This is a problem with modern liberalism that makes me mad, this idea that everyone deserves an equal say, they dont.

    If someone believes in creationism they deserve to be ignored at best and told that they are stupid at worst.

    So sure the religious should be more skeptical but there is nothing the truth can do to help someone who prefers to be ignorant.

    It would be nice if the world was intelligent, its not and the stupid need to have their power to ruin things removed.

    Throw someone the life vest, if they ignore the life vest LET THEM DROWN, we dont need to turn our ship around every time someone jumps over the railing.

  15. Wow. All you folks dissing “science” by invoking the tobacco companies, monsato, oil companies and global warming, could have bothered to press “play” on the video before complaining. The video has 10 questions to ask when confronted with a claim. THe very first question would have cast doubt on the veracity of what some oil company says about global warming.

    Here are all ten points from the video:

    1) How reliable is the source of the claim?
    (global warming critics who work for oil companies)

    2) does the source make similar claims?
    (New-Age person believes everything new-agey)

    3) have the claims been verified by someone else?
    (cold fusion claim could not be reproduced)

    4) Does this (claim) fit with the way the world works?
    (nigerian spam promising a pile of money for money. pyramids were built by aliens)

    5) Has anyone tried to disprove (falsify) this claim?
    (you won’t try to disprove your own theory as much as a independent critic)

    6) Where does the preponderance of evidence point?
    (the theory of evolution is based on a preponderance of evidence. Creationists will cherry pick a few bits that go the other way and ignore the rest)

    7) Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
    (UFO proponents don’t play by the rules of science, SETI people generally do)

    8) Is the claim providing positive evidence?
    (Are they presenting positive evidence that supports their theory? Or are they only trying to cast doubt on the counter theory?)

    9) Does the new theory account for as many phenomena as the old theory?
    (Does a new “theory of everything” explain as much or more than Newton, Einstein, Hawking?)

    10) Are personal beliefs driving the claim?
    (Global warming can be very idealogically driven. Follow the data and evidence, not the politics.)

    The video concludes by saying that prety much everyone agrees on science when we’re on the internet, using google, listening to our mp3 player, watching our high def TV, flying in an airplane, or goign to the doctor.

    Where we start to disagree on science is in a few rare corner cases: What is the meaning of life? where did we come from? what is the future? Stuff like that.

    Overall, I’d say it’s a pretty good checklist of questions, and a good assessment of how people relate to science. We generally believe science in our day to day life as we drive our computer designed cars to work in human designed skyscrapers and do our computer-powered jobs. Where we start to disbelieve it is where we are poltically or religiously or similarly motivated to disbelieve it because it contradicts what we want to believe.

  16. shadowfirebird: Encouraging skepticism is a good idea. Part of me wishes, though, that it wasn’t coming from people that have declared so strongly as atheists — and that it wasn’t put in a way that seems so strongly against belief.

    You can believe in whatever god you want. Just don’t use that god to try and “prove” something in science.

    Evolution versus creationism is the ultimate example of this. The world started out with various religious explanations of how life began on earth. It wasn’t until relatively recently that science began to push back against those religious-based stories and start to come up with empirical-based theories.

    If you don’t want to work on Sunday, or you want to pray at certain times during the day, or you want to avoiding eating certain foods during certain times because of your religious beliefs, that’s your choice.

    But if you think that religion has been neutral towards science and science is the big bully in history, then you haven’t been paying attention.

  17. Justpassingthrough, did you even bother watching the video? All your questions are answered in the video. No, we shouldn’t believe propaganda because it supposedly comes from scientists.

  18. “7) Is the claimant playing by the rules of science?
    (UFO proponents don’t play by the rules of science, SETI people generally do)”

    “SETI people think that a culture which has evolved completely separate from earth, all human interaction and thought processes, as well as possible environment alterations…would use some sort of communications that we can detect.

    That, is not science. That’s as culture-bound an idea as the idea that UFOs represent a extraterrestrial presence. There is no more evidence for the UFO phenomena as an E.T. culture, than for the SETI goal.

    I find Shermer to be yet another ideologist, like many of the UFO proponents. All have forgotten one simple thing: this is an experience, not an ideology. The people, not the phenomena make it that way. Anyone bothering to take more than a casual look will see that the UFO phenomena is not new, and not culture bound to the current time in history. But it’s also been unquantifiable.

    Is it real? Who’s to say, when there’s not enough information about any given experience in that arena. Examine what surrounds the phenomena, such as the anti-structure and marginality. Stop asking why, and ask what happens surrounding the phenomena.

    As far as Shermer, I’ve seen him time after time try to “refute” all sorts of UFO accounts, clearly without all the factual data presented. Not particularly scientific. And, this is the face of SETI. There is no more supportive data for his endeavor of listening for E.T. than there is for the existence of an advanced culture visiting us in flying saucers (especially when we don’t know what flying saucers even represent). Shermer has never seen a UFO, so how is it he can speak so authoritatively on events and a phenomena he admits he’s not very informed in.

    There’s a difference in an opinion, and an educated one. Shermer seems to ignore that when it comes to the UFO question.

    Science in some departments, as far as I’m concerned have been nothing but a long running set of contradictions. As McKenna said, “every branch of science has physics envy”. However now, physics is telling us that our Newtonian physics is in for serious revision.

    It’s not particles it’s waves, well, not exactly…it’s both…ummm, what we really mean is…

    And you realize quickly that some science is being shook by it’s thin neck. Scientific collapse? I don’t like to think so…but I wonder what the next incarnation will be.

  19. #8 “I think the douchiest thing about R dawkins and S Harris, etc is the way they discredit belief by comparing it to ‘indigenous’, ‘primate’, ya know, ‘obviously laughable’ faiths.”

    The shoe fits. Many millions of people are willing to think it was silly for our ancestors to believe that magical faeries in the sky talk to them and guide their lives– as long as nobody criticizes OUR magical talking sky faeries, who are of course very real.

    Print versions:

    http://www.scribd.com/people/documents/1502051/folder/100648

  20. There’s a difference in an opinion, and an educated one. Shermer seems to ignore that when it comes to the UFO question.

    You fail question 8, providing only negative data. And based on how strong your reaction is, I’m inclined to think that you would fail question 10, that there is some personal motivation going on here.

    As for the distinction between SETI and ufo-ologists, I’ve never heard SETI come out with an official statement saying that life exists on another planet. UFO people have.

    Listening for a signal isn’t the same as saying the signal must be there. There is an entire realm of “not knowing yet” that we must operate within.

  21. I, for one, have no access to many documents that might prove or disprove some theory.

    As a lay person, I have no access to astronomical data (for instance). There is no way I can examine such data to prove or disprove the existence of (say) a remote planetary system.
    Moreover, I couldn’t understand the data even if I had it.

    Some scientists lie. Falsify data, etc etc for whatever reasons — political, profit.

    Bottom line: on many issues, I am just going to have to trust somebody else on most matters. I think most people are in the same position. No one can understand everything.

    ====
    It seems to me that most proponents of “baloney” tend to dwell in the trivial: bigfoot, bending spoons, magical crystals, ETs, and on and on.

    That should perhaps be the 11th baloney detection principle. Does the claim have any real importance?

  22. Shermer doesn’t only encourage extreme, scientific method-centric skepticism, he teaches you how to be a tool. Shame, first it was stupid stupid people, now intelligent stupid people.

  23. Wow, guys. I used to think it was only conservatives who choose to deny reality when it contradicts with what they want to believe, but this thread shows that liberals are also quite capable of doing the same. Some of you sound like Stephen Colbert with this “the jury is still out on science” crap.

    Look. OBVIOUSLY science is not perfect. It is, however, the best source of information within its realm. Complaining about how “scientists used to say this, now they say something totally different!” is missing the point entirely. The fact that models are overturned and replaced with better ones is the exact reason why science works, and why it is different from religion (or politics).

    (Also, not to derail, but the guy talking about nuclear power has his facts seriously wrong. For example, at no point does coolant water come in contact with radioactivity. Ask yourselves what the basis is for your belief that nuclear power is so dangerous. Seriously.)

  24. And of course..

    11) Which episode of Mythbusters did they cover the topic in question?

  25. I believe skeptical thinking and theism ARE incompatible. You can do all sorts of intellectual gymnastics to say otherwise, but this is just sophistry.

    I do think that the scientific establishment often overstates it’s case, especially the medical establishment. This is unfortunate, since it gives the woos plenty of ammo. However, it does not invalidate scientific THINKING, which is leads to the occasional, “oops, I was wrong”.

    Also, I think it’s stupid to call people stupid for believing stupid things. Some very intelligent people get taken in by attractive beliefs.

  26. Lots of people foaming at mouth just because somebody asks uncomfortable questions. What is wrong with asking questions before accepting as truth massive amounts of crap? What is wrong with correcting one’s mistakes?

  27. On a similar note, Obama unveils his new plan for education in America – public scornings for failing students.

  28. Whoops!
    Silly me. I forgot how all those alternative doctors predicted using astrology and proved using pyramids, crystals and homeopathy that tobacco indeed causes cancer. And, oh lord, how they brought shamans from the Amazonian jungle to prove that global waring is real, using ayahuasca plants. And hey, do you remember that guy that proved radiation is bad for you using a pendulum?

    Science is worthless, indeed.

  29. @Greg London:

    “You can believe in whatever god you want. Just don’t use that god to try and “prove” something in science.”

    Yes! Exactly! Don’t you think that that is an idea worth communicating to people who don’t count themselves as atheists?

    I suspect that there are millions of theists out there for whom the idea would be perfectly acceptable. After all, belief and proof are mutually exclusive: no one “believes” in Newton’s laws, gravity, or that the sky is blue — because these are things that are easily proven. Belief is for things that can’t be.

  30. Here is a headline from today’s posting of “New Scientist.”

    Gluttonous black holes power ancient cosmic ‘blobs’

    Amusing, no?

  31. The first point is a bit problematic: Cassandra was right, after all. I thought generally truth claims were to be evaluated on the validity of the claim alone, not the claimant. I’d say that the first point works better as a heuristic than as an absolute law: even a climate-change denier could be capable of making a truthful statement about climate change, given the chance. (Conversely, James Hansen might make a mistake sometime: at the very least, it’s possible that he’ll make a mistake, and his credibility and history, while valid guidelines as to assessing the probability of his making a mistake or no, aren’t exact determinants of his doing so.) Phew!

    Imajication, tell the shades of Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson that theism and skepticism don’t go hand-in-hand. Obviously, rational people are quite capable of believing any number of things. Fortunately, Frankiln thought more-or-less scientifically when doing his experiments, and didn’t try to explain electricity as so much Godlike phlogiston: he observed it and measured it…. no doubt thinking of the Watchmaker God from time to time as he did so.

    Moriarty, it’s not nuclear power per se that’s so dangerous and frightening: we all love our lovely Sun! It’s human use of nuclear power that’s problematic, and that has proven disastrous on several occasions. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl are valid enough reasons to at least have some skepticism as to the safety of humans’ use of nuclear power.

  32. “After all, belief and proof are mutually exclusive: no one “believes” in Newton’s laws, gravity, or that the sky is blue — because these are things that are easily proven. Belief is for things that can’t be.”

    Well, sort of. You don’t really “prove” anything in science. You just fail to falsify it. If your theory survives all attempts at falsification (which never actually stop), it’s provisionally accepted. When it is falsified, it is dropped. When more than one theory explains all the observed phenomena equally well, you come up with experiments that will give you different results depending on which is true. And so forth. But yeah, at no point does “belief” really enter into it, except in the very, very, very abstract philosophical sense.

  33. “Moriarty, it’s not nuclear power per se that’s so dangerous and frightening: we all love our lovely Sun! It’s human use of nuclear power that’s problematic, and that has proven disastrous on several occasions. Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Chernobyl are valid enough reasons to at least have some skepticism as to the safety of humans’ use of nuclear power.”

    And I say that logic is flawed. Those things are reasons to question the safety, sure, but those questions have actual answers. Modern nuclear power plants are nothing like Chernobyl, and so a comparison is not valid. It’s like saying the Hindenburg disaster is evidence that modern airlines are unsafe.

  34. Skepticism is great, but… maybe this science vs. religion thing is like trying to compare a car to a house plant.

    Science or the scientific method has a pretty clear purpose, but religion has all kinds of… I was going to say purposes, but for some religious people their religion is not a tool with a purpose at all. Some people simply say religion has only one purpose, social control, but that hardly covers all of it. We can certainly see that not all of the adherents to particular religions behave the same way. And you can easily identify other “purposes” within religions.

    Religions often contain oral histories of an ethnic group for instance. They can contain rhetorical exercises, moral thought experiments, traditional knowledge of plants or animal behaviour.

    I’m not about to open up the Bible to find out whether the Canadian government should try to get the Maple II reactors working to produce medical isotopes. I might open the bible up if I’m diagnosed with cancer and need to find some faith get through it.

    It bothers me that people take a useful tool such as the scientific method or skepticism and then say things like “That’s why the religious should be forced to sit down and be quiet.” Forced?
    Forced?

    Where would you like us to sit? Will there be fences to keep us there? Got anything else in mind for us to do there?

    Science, skepticism, objectivity good. Zealotry of any stripe is bad.

    Oh yeah and I guess I’ve violated Godwin’s law here so obviously you win the argument. Science rules, religion is useless. You might want to give up that lifejacket metaphor… metaphors and analogies are fictional and so they can’t be of any use.

  35. Any true religion is 100% compatible with real science.

    False religion and bad science are incompatible with both.

    Bigots come in many flavors; this post to be misinterpreted and misrepresented in 5..4..3..2..

  36. Hadn’t known that about nuclear reactors: can you cite that? Were they all retrofitted and made safe following the Chernobyl disaster? Do mean that all new power plants are safe, or that the old one have been made safe, or what? I’m simply saying that nuclear reactors have humans in them, humans are prone to error, errors when dealing with nuclear power are potentially dangerous: it would be good of you to show where new developments in the technology, practices, etc., of reactors have lessened, or done away with, the potential threats of human error.

    And I think the ever scary threats of nuclear annihilation, war, terrorism, etc., are still present, however unlikely we might think (wish?) them to be.

  37. This is a problem with modern liberalism that makes me mad, this idea that everyone deserves an equal say, they dont.

    If someone believes in creationism they deserve to be ignored at best and told that they are stupid at worst.

    A discussion of skepticism and nobody’s called out ArghMonkey for this underhanded juxtaposition of liberalism with creationism? We really do need lessons on what questions to ask.

  38. JDavid wrote:

    “SETI people think that a culture which has evolved completely separate from earth, all human interaction and thought processes, as well as possible environment alterations…would use some sort of communications that we can detect.

    That, is not science. That’s as culture-bound an idea as the idea that UFOs represent a extraterrestrial presence. There is no more evidence for the UFO phenomena as an E.T. culture, than for the SETI goal.

    If you’re going to claim that SETI is making wild and unreasonable assumptions about its search, you’ll have to do a lot better than that.

    It’s perfectly reasonable for SETI to only search the “sort of communications that we can detect”. Honestly, what’s the alternative? If other life in the universe communicates via ESP, quantum entangled particles, etc., they are undetectable to our technology, case closed.

    But that doesn’t mean that the search is hopeless, because we already know that EM radiation is an excellent way to communicate over long distances. We didn’t start using them because the unique physiology, environment, and culture made radio the most likely path for our species. It was the laws of physics themselves that made radio ideally suited for communication.

    Nor is SETI based on the belief that we will find something. It is entirely possible that the search will discover nothing. If that happens, it won’t disprove the idea that other life is out there, but it will give evidence about where they live (not nearby), what they want (not interested in contacting us), and the technology they use (not radio waves).

    It’s absurd to draw this false equivalence between SETI and UFOlogy. The former is grounded in the scientific method. The latter has to explain away a mountain of negative evidence before it can even get off the launchpad. Why no artifacts? Why no bodies? Why do UFO abductees come back with messages of peace and harmony, but never fundamentally new insights into any field of science?

    In the end, you’re trying to draw a parallel between “we know that aliens are out there, and visiting us” and “hey, maybe we should try looking for evidence.” That parallel doesn’t work.

  39. “Any true religion…”

    #42,

    How can this possibly be misinterpreted? Nobody knows WTF it means.

  40. I find it ironic that there are so very few things that free thinkers are actually free to think about.

  41. Buddy, it means that if your religion contradicts your science, one or both of them is false.

    To put this in a computer geek analogy – If I add two plus two using a digital circuit, I get four. If I use an analog circuit instead I still get four. Unless one of my circuits is defective.

    There are plenty of religions that are completely comfortable with science and do not contradict scientific principles in any way.

  42. jdavid@24: Seti is looking for evidence of aliens on another planet. If you don’t understand that looking for evidence is not the same as saying they already exist, then you don’t understand science in teh first place.

    me: “You can believe in whatever god you want. Just don’t use that god to try and “prove” something in science.”

    shadowfirebird@36: Yes! Exactly! Don’t you think that that is an idea worth communicating to people who don’t count themselves as atheists?

    Uh, yeah, I don’t see why religious people would have a problem with that, unless they’re religious people who use their religion to explain evolution or some other topic better explained by science. The thing is you seem to be presenting this as if it is science’s problem for telling religious people to back off. for thousands of years, people used religion to explain why it rained, why it snowed in teh winter, why people got sick, why crops did or did not grow, why people suffered tragedies, and only in the last couple hundred years has science made any serious foothold in human consciousness.

    Science says “We can explain why it rains.” And religious people who think their god makes it rain get all bent out of shape. How the hell is science supposed to deal with that other than to say, no, you’re completely and absolutly wrong?

    The issue isn’t scientists saying “science can explain this”. The issue is generally those subset of religious poeple who refuse to give up the myth that their god somehow did it.

    Should scientists simply say, ok, you’re right, it’s god? Stop blaming scientists for a problem created by the religious fanatics.

    Moriarty: You don’t really “prove” anything in science.

    That isn’t the language of a scientist.

    Anon@41: It bothers me that people take a useful tool such as the scientific method or skepticism and then say things like “That’s why the religious should be forced to sit down and be quiet.” Forced?

    Yeah, when it comes to why it rains or how life started on earth, people using religion to explain it should sit down and shut up. In your defense of the usefulness of religion you’ve managed to completely avoid anything that might reflect badly on religion. It’s the bad uses of religion that peope should be forced to give up. And yeah, “forced”, as in with the force of law demanding a separation of church and state kind of force.

    Forced as in the kid in Minneapolis who was ordered by a judge to undergo chemotherapy when his parents argued that god would heal him.

    If you don’t want to acknowledge that religion has had negative impacts on the world, then you’re not really engaging the conversation, you’re engaging in a strawman.

    tdawwg@43: Hadn’t known that about nuclear reactors: can you cite that? Were they all retrofitted and made safe following the Chernobyl disaster?

    The design of the Chernobyl plant was a design that was never used in America. It’s a very bad design. American nuclear plants are not designed anything like the plant in Chernobyl. They never needed upgrades or retrofits because they were never like chernobyl in teh first place.

    it would be good of you to show where new developments in the technology, practices, etc., of reactors have lessened, or done away with, the potential threats of human error

    It would be good if you’re going to make assertions about American nuclear power being no different than Chernobyl that you actually knew what you were talking about before you made that false assertion.

    Don’t be spreading lies and then tell others that we have to educate you.

    I’m thinking you would fail question 10, that there is some personal beliefs driving your position about nuclear power that has nothing to do with empirical evidence.

    Try reading about nuclear power from the evidence first, not from your beliefs and fears about it, and see where the evidence points you.

    Take a look at all the poisons that coal mining and coal burning electrical plants produce and get back to me. Oh, and solar just isnt’ cheap enough. Wind has some decent numbers, but what do you do when the wind stops? What do you do when the sun goes down? We don’t store gigawatts of electrical power so you can use it later. We can’t. We produce it as we need it. That’s all we can do. That’s the restriction we’re working with.

    If you come up with some high temperature superconductors for storage and transmission, then sure, you might be able to cover Arizona with solar panels of some kind, store power during the night, and transmit it across the US without much loss. But that’s non-existent technology. Plants take years to build. We have to build based on what we know and can do now, not based on what we imagine might be possible some day.

  43. “Nor is SETI based on the belief that we will find something.”

    Excuse me?
    http://www.dailygalaxy.com/my_weblog/2009/04/humans-predicte.html

    Yeah, ok.

    “It’s absurd to draw this false equivalence between SETI and UFOlogy. The former is grounded in the scientific method. The latter has to explain away a mountain of negative evidence before it can even get off the launchpad. Why no artifacts? Why no bodies? Why do UFO abductees come back with messages of peace and harmony, but never fundamentally new insights into any field of science?”

    You assume that I believe that the UFO phenomena represents something extraterrestrial. I do not. However I do see it as some sort of external manifestation. Of what? Who knows, but not a productive question at this early a stage.

    “It’s perfectly reasonable for SETI to only search the “sort of communications that we can detect”. Honestly, what’s the alternative?”

    Well, I mean we could feed a lot of people for what SETI spends. Or devote it to the space program. I interviewed one of the scientists working on the solar sail not long ago, and I’m sure that could use the money. The way to find life is to devote time to getting out there and looking.

    Again, it’s a very pedestrian answer to say that any alien civilization out there even might be using anything we can detect. Most people don’t seem to get their head around the idea of a culture developing completely separate from the confines of their own culture-bound mindset.

    Completely alien. Not a shred of similarity. Possible? I guess anything is, but to me it’s science fiction. Any advanced civilization out there is likely as Carl Sagan once said -far stranger and more bizarre than we could ever imagine.

    I completely agree with you on the idea of no solid evidence to the typical UFO-nut info. However, there is a phenomena there-and not all of it is negative evidence. The problem is labeling a particular case “unknown” is not an option for most legitimate scientists who look into the subject. Most already have their mind made up after seeing the 60+ years of UFO “research”-which amounts to a knee jerk reactive answer or theory of the extraterrestrial. There’s no evidence for that, again, I’m with you there.

    I would say to look into Jacques Vallee’s work for more interesting possibilities. Not at all your fault, but the UFO phenomena to more than a few of us in the interested category, is not what the general public thinks. More and more people are seeing a connection to consciousness and the nature of perception. Trust me, I see where everyone comes from when the subject of UFOs comes up….the majority of what has been publicly touted is absolute garbage. There is however a large body of interesting data.

  44. Well, I mean we could feed a lot of people for what SETI spends. Or devote it to the space program. I interviewed one of the scientists working on the solar sail not long ago, and I’m sure that could use the money.

    WTF???

    From the opening section for SETI’s entry in wikipedia:

    “The United States Government contributed to SETI early on, but recent work has been primarily funded by private sources.”

    If you’ve got a problem with some rich people from Microsoft giving SETI a couple million dollars so they can keep doing what they’re doing, maybe you should write Balmer a letter and tell them to stop making private donations.

    Basically, I think you’ve got some weird personal thing against SETI. Deal with it, cause right now, it’s making you make patently false statements and oddball claims.

    And if you wanna play the “we shouldn’t spend any money on program (blah) as long as people are starving”, then you’re making a purely nonrational emotional pleading case. Stop it. Anyone who owns a TV, a computer, a cell phone, a car, or any other non-essential equipment, does not get to tell other people what is essential.

    I would say to look into Jacques Vallee’s work for more interesting possibilities.

    Also from wikipedia: “Vallée has suggested a multidimensional visitation hypothesis. This hypothesis represents an extension of the ETH where the alleged extraterrestrials could be potentially from anywhere. The entities could be multidimensional beyond space-time, and thus could coexist with humans, yet remain undetected.”

    The guy may have a day job as a scientist, but that right there isn’t any kind of science. It’s completly unfalsifiable. And there isn’t any way to find positive evidence either. It’s nothing but speculation. It doesn’t even qualify as a hypothesis.

    We can look at distant stars and tell they’re made out of the same elements that we have here. If that’s the case, then the electromagnetic spectrum operates similarly there as it does here. Listening for radio waves at least has a scientific basis and is a potential for positive evidence.

    Vallee’s got nothing to prove or disprove his speculation. And if his speculation were true, that aliens simply travel from other dimensions, then he has to explain why no aliens have wanted to make contact with anyone on earth other than to do anal experiements on rednecks on some deserted road.

    SETI assumes that if we want to make contact with aliens, that there is at least possibility that other aliens want to make contact with us. But they assume normal physics, that faster-than-light travel is impossible, and the only way to communicate is through radio waves that last long after tehy were sent.

    If Vallee’s speculation were true, that aliens could multi-dimensional into our space with no effort, why has none done so on any scale? None have come here for peaceful purposes, for war-like conquering purposes, to use our resources, nothing. Vallee’s got a speculation that makes no sense. It assumes the existence of dimensions we cannot detect in any way.

    SETI at least assumes the world is as we know it now, and then tries to figure out if there were life on another planet, how might we detect them.

    If you want to fund Vallee to build Buckaroo Bonzai’s rocket truck to explore the 8th dimension, and possibly find Red Lectroids imprisoned there, by all means, its your money. But if you want to compare Vallee’s speculation to SETI’s scientific approch, I cannot take you seriously.

  45. UFO abductions actually bear a lot of similarities to reported cases of people being abducted by the faerie folk.

    Flying saucers are really nothing more than the hats of giant invisible fey.

  46. Wow, GregLondon!

    I don’t think I ever explicitly stated an opinion as to the safety or not of American nuclear reactors. I simply cited Chernobyl as a case in which human mistakes handling nuclear power were disastrous in the extreme. Hence my question to Moriarty: I honestly didn’t know about what he cited, and honestly asked for more information.

    I also wasn’t limiting my question to American nuclear reactors: I asked if “all” of them, worldwide, were as safe as Moriarty claims them to be. So, yay, American reactors are well-designed, safe, and error-free: howzabout them Pakistani reactors? North Korean ones? Israeli? Others that haven’t been built yet? It seems a reasonable question, and undeserving of your flood of bitter ad hominem accusations (and illogic). Obviously, not all nuclear reactors are alike. Whatev.

    Since you spend so much time projecting about my attitudes and prejudices re: nuclear power, I’ll state for the record that I’m cautiously optimistic about the benefits nuclear power, properly harnessed, has for mankind. Sure, there’s a Promethean fear there for me, “Steal not from the fires of the gods,” but it’s one I’m aware of, and one I wouldn’t let intrude on a rational, fact-based analysis of the data, insofar as a layman like myself could grasp it. I agree with you on the “coal is bad,” greenhouse gases, yaddayadda. So chill, man, chill.

  47. Ok so I have to believe science. Does that include the tobacco companies, food companies, drug companies and the economists?
    They all employ science.

    They employ scientists. Scientists != science.

    I know I’ve mentioned this once before on bb, but after watching the part of the vid on “Theories of Everything”, I was reminded of the “scientist” Nasim Haramein and The Resonance Project, one of the most wonderful examples of pseudoscience on the market today.

  48. @Greglondon

    I would never in a million years suggest there are no negative aspects to religion. Clearly there are many.

    I don’t see why after so many posters have enumerated the negative aspects I have to re-iterate them. I think this whole thread has shown examples of people misusing science too.

    I think I touched on them obliquely though when I said I wasn’t about to consult the bible to determine my political support or lack thereof for continued efforts by the Canadian government to fund the MAPLE II reactor. There are lots of other public policy issues where religion and science clash such as stem cell research or abortion. Very often people deciding public policy invoke religion when they talk about decisions that really involve science. To say that this is not a very good idea, that they are not well served by religion in making their decision is an understatement. Of course they aren’t.

    My point is there’s a lot more to religion than explaining thunder and lightning or whatever. Often what happens in these debates is people make this leap from “science is the best way of learning about our surroundings,” to “Thats why the religious should be forced to sit down and be quiet.”

    Glad you added that force of law bit.

    That separation of church and state stuff that’s a bit thorny though. You would have the state forcing religious people to abandon their beliefs or at least not act upon them. It’s for the good of the kids right? So when some atheists say that teaching children a religion (indoctrinating them, brainwashing, whatever you want to call it) is child abuse does that mean the state can step in and put a stop to Sunday School? If not why not?

    Is it because it’s not clearly demonstrable that religious instruction is really a form of mental child abuse, but it is clearly demonstrable that chemotherapy tends to make cancer go into remission?

    My point is science is a system for examining and learning about the world, but religion is a whole lot of different things. I don’t think it’s very useful to engage in a debate over who’s world view is better.

    If I’m taught in church that generally it’s better to forgive transgressions than to seek revenge I’m guessing that has very little impact on my view of particle physics. I suppose someone might want to construct a behavioural science experiment to see if revenge really is such a bad thing? But how do we evaluate bad?

  49. #6 posted by Anonymous:

    Chomsky is the biggest fraud of our times.

    Whoa! That’s a pretty big crowd of people to vying for the title! Is it the polysyllabic that

    He provides the sources for his claims. What are your footnoted sources for your claims?
    Or in Wiki/XKCD-speak:
    http://images.encyclopediadramatica.com/images/3/31/Webcomic_xkcd_-_Wikipedian_protester.png

    Telecustard @ 7:
    I can’t upload ring tones to the company phone and I don’t have a personal cell phone, so I didn’t pursue the ringtone option, so my skepticism might have been misplaced. But I’m curious what such a ring tone would sound like.

    Mind you, I’d seriously consider getting a cell phone – just in install an Organ/ASLSP ring tone.

  50. @Greg London:
    “The thing is you seem to be presenting this as if it is science’s problem for telling religious people to back off. for thousands of years, people used religion to explain why it rained, why it snowed in teh winter, why people got sick, why crops did or did not grow, why people suffered tragedies, and only in the last couple hundred years has science made any serious foothold in human consciousness.”

    Not what I meant to imply at all, apologies for the confusion (I certainly didn’t *say* it, but then you didn’t say that I did).

    I’m simply trying to say that everyone deserves the opportunity to make use of skepticism, and so couching it the terms that the RDF did (understandably considering their natural bias) is not optimal.

    A mindset that compares any sort of non-rational belief to savages doing a war dance, or whatever that was, is hardly going to leave the door open for the many, many theists who could use a good dose of skepticism — for example, to sort out the difference between what chapter of the bible their priest is selling this week, and what *they* actually believe.

    Like some other posters here I honestly believe that *some* religious or spiritual beliefs are compatible with a rational, skeptical, inquiring view of the world around us.

    I do get a little tired of hearing atheists insist that theists *prove* their beliefs, as if they were scientists who had gone astray somehow.

    Rest assured, though, I get equally angry at theists who insist that they can prove the tenets of their religion, and anyone who doesn’t believe as they do are somehow flawed.

    Reason. Faith. Two different animals.

  51. Man, a fight on the Internet – who knew! Science examines the how, and religion examines the why. How did the earth form? Space gas! Why? Cuz god said so!

  52. “But if you want to compare Vallee’s speculation to SETI’s scientific approch, I cannot take you seriously.”

    I did not, and would not, ever do such a thing. But, nice attempt at moving the goalposts.

    Until you address the culture-bound idea of aliens using communications we could possibly hear – I can not take you seriously either.

  53. Rats: I hit the Submit button too quickly! That line should have been:

    Is it his use of polysyllabic discourse that tipped you off to his lies? His habit of talking in paragraphs? Or is it when he quotes his foes’ own sources and documents to support his theses? What’s your proof that he’s a fraud?

    Oops, sorry. The “biggest fraud of our times”?

  54. Why the fact that an Alien intelligence could use physics to communicate is culture bound? Can you elaborate that? We know for sure that they could be using other methods we cannot detect, but I fail to see how using or not the EM specter is restrained by our culture.

    Would people from tribes in New Guinea be bound by culture if they assumed that Europeans would be using speech to communicate with them? Or just because we have a common physiology?

    PS:
    Yeah, right. WMD in Iraq are certainly less of a fraud that damn Chomsky…

  55. “But if you want to compare Vallee’s speculation to SETI’s scientific approch, I cannot take you seriously.”

    I did not, and would not, ever do such a thing. But, nice attempt at moving the goalposts.

    What I said was it provides interesting possibilities. If you patently rule them out, that’s purely your issue.

    I have no axe to grind with SETI…perhaps Shermer more than SETI. Funding source is irrelevant-I was asked what else could be done if not SETI…that’s what I’d do instead.

    But please go for it, and listen for the next 20 years…you’ll get your alien says SETI. What’s the basis of that? WTF indeed.

    My guess is much like the UFO communities constant “they are going to land soon!” this will never materialize.

    “If that’s the case, then the electromagnetic spectrum operates similarly there as it does here. Listening for radio waves at least has a scientific basis and is a potential for positive evidence.”

    Hmmm, so “they” have ears or machinery that work off of vibrational frequency, that process the waves of audible sound just like us huh? Yeah ok. Scientific basis or not, there’s plenty of wild speculation there.

    Until you address the culture-bound pedestrian idea of aliens using communications we could possibly hear – I can not take you seriously either. So we’ll leave it at that.

    Have a good day.

  56. jdavid, Physics does not equal culture. It’s been addressed that EM waves are an excellent way to communicate and you’ve not addressed that. Unless you think there are different laws of physics in other galaxies?

    justpassingthrough, [citation needed]

  57. Why are the proponents of science/atheism here coming across so wild-eyed and intolerant? Is that normal?

    Seriously, you guys sound like the Grand Inquisition holding court. She is a witch! Bind her limbs, stop her mouth and burn her! She has not the true faith!

  58. In eighth (?) grade we got excellent baloney detection training via a game called Propaganda. Our school not only got the game, but the teachers had some materials to teach us about various forms of propaganda.

    This not only provided BS detection skills, but also provides some antibodies against advertising (which is just another form of propaganda).

    Highly recommended, if anyone needs such a thing.

  59. Surely any attempt to communicate with anyone must, by definition, use physics.

    As does nearly any other activity I can think of (for example, thinking doesn’t really involve *you* using physics, but physics is going on in your head).

  60. While I like this video and Shermer’s regular Scientific American columns, I really cringed to see stock films of Native American ceremonial dances presented with narration about “false superstition” and “childlike credulity.” Ugh!

    Seems kind of unnecessarily scornful of a minority group’s spiritual values, especially if his goal is to get people to think more critically/skeptically or to foster a greater interest in science.

    Folks should look into to Stephen Jay Gould’s idea of Nonoverlapping Magisteria.

  61. Why is relgion more relevant than science in some situations? What makes theologists and the like more qualified than some scientists? It makes no sense.

  62. Anonymous @6, and yet you yourself seem to think that an anonymous post that cites no actual evidence is somehow credible.

  63. tdawwg: I asked if “all” of them, worldwide, were as safe as Moriarty claims them to be.

    What needs be done is compare nuclear to coal. 50% of the electricity in the US is generated by coal. Here’s a list of all the shit coal creates (from the union of concerned scientists):

    http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/coalvswind/c02c.html

    The question is not “how safe is nuclear?” But “How safe is nuclear compared to coal?”

    anonymous@56: You would have the state forcing religious people to abandon their beliefs or at least not act upon them. It’s for the good of the kids right? So when some atheists say that teaching children a religion is child abuse does that mean the state can step in and put a stop to Sunday School? If not why not?

    Maybe now would be a good time to point out that America’s population of atheists (5%) and agnostics (15%) are far outnumbered by those who believe in religion (80%), so given that, I think youre concern about atheists getting sunday school declared to be child abuse to be not just a little bit of slippery slope fear mongering silliness.

    It’s not even a legitimate concern in any real world sense, so I assume you’re bringing it up to portray religion as the poor helpless never-did-anything-wrong minority that is unfairly picked on by those big, bad, use-government-to-stamp-out-religion atheists.

    Uh, no.

    My point is there’s a lot more to religion than explaining thunder and lightning or whatever

    But people use religion to explain thunder and lightning (and various other natural physical processes). And in those cases, yeah, they should sit down and shut up.

    When the situation does not involve thunder and lightning, natural processes, science, medicine, archeology, biology, evolution, and such, then yeah, go right ahead. believe whatever you want to believe.

    Maybe if you had a specific example of where you think science is unfairly telling religious people to shut up and what you think science should be saying instead, that might help clarify.

    shadowfirebird@58: A mindset that compares any sort of non-rational belief to savages doing a war dance, or whatever that was, is hardly going to leave the door open for the many, many theists who could use a good dose of skepticism

    OK, lets say it was a war dance. What should a scientist say to someone like, oh, say, the president of the united states, who decides he’s going to go to war, and not even bother making any plans about it, because god told him to go to war?

    Should science “leave the door open” for war dances to war gods? What, exactly, do you want science to say to something like that?

    “Sure, dance to your war gods. That might help. And maybe, if you’re not too busy, you might consider looking at these maps? But don’t think we’re closing the door on your war god dance thingy.”

    ???

    I do get a little tired of hearing atheists insist that theists *prove* their beliefs, as if they were scientists who had gone astray somehow.

    when people have a high level of certainty about something relating to this world, proof is a reasonable request. And if a religios person is holding some religious belief about some non-physical-world situation, then a request for proof shouldn’t cause offensse because none can be given, because it isn’t an empircal topic anyway.

    But when some starts spouting religious beliefs and those beliefs start creeping into explaining how something works in the physical world, a request for proof is reasonable and shouldn’t be considered rude. If the religious person brought his religion into a natural physical process, then he should retreat to a level of certain proper for a belief, not something scientifically proven.

    jdavid@60: Until you address the culture-bound idea of aliens using communications we could possibly hear – I can not take you seriously either.

    What the hell? Dude, there are only like four fundamental forces in physics that we can work with. Gravity, EM (radio-light-xray-etc), and weak and strong nuclear forces. The nuclear forces only work within a range of a molecule, so they’re kind of useless for communicating to another planet. We haven’t figured out a good way to modulate gravity yet. So all we’re left with is electro-magnetic waves.

    THat is all we’ve got to work with. That is all we have to send some kind of signal or receive a signal to another planet. Now, it could be that aliens are sending a signal by modulated gravity waves, and we’re not hearing it because we’re not listening on that level of physics. But assuming that at least some aliens are stuck where we are and they can’t modulate gravity either, that’s all there is.

    What Vallee is speculating is that there are other forces that we don’t even know about that aliens are using to move about and communicate through. How, exactly, do you propose that we search for extraterrestrial life using forces that we don’t even know exist? Use a P-U-238 Space Modulator? Pipe Lightning through a Flux Capacitor in a Delorean?

    You’re not talking anything science related at this point. Nothing.

    No, really, you need to get this. YOU. ARE. NOT. TALKING. SCIENCE.

    As for “communications we could possibly hear” I don’t even know what to say to that. Go read “communications theory”. It’s a standard course for physicists and engineers.

    You can communicate through a physical medium, like a wax string under tension between two paper cups. You can communicate through air and have some physical device vibrate on one end, and another physical devices that picks up those vibrations on another end. But physical connections are sort of hard through the vacuum of space.

    So, back to E/M waves. You can communicate with light. Get a mirror and reflect the sun and use it to flash the search helicopter so they can find your lost ass in the woods. You can put a mirror on the moon and bounce a laser beam to the moon and back and figure out how far away the moon is. You can create an electrical spark that will create an E/M burst that will cover a wide range of frequencies. YOu can use the presence of E/M as a 1 and the absence as a 0, and send binary data. If you pointed an antenna into deep space and picked up a pattern of binary counting, you’d have something worth considering to be of alien origin. The natural processes of stars and planets don’t generally generate an incrementing pattern from 1 to 255 that then repeats.

    And you don’t “listen” to binary numbers that are bursting in E/M waves in the hundreds or millions of megahertz. You could, but you’d probably not even see the pattern of counting numbers. It’d just sound like noise, a high speed modem squawking garbage at you.

    So, I don’t know what to tell you.

    Physics only has four forces to work with: gravity, E/M, weak and strong nuclear. teh nuclear forces are useless for long range. We can’t modulate gravity without moving planet-sized masses at millions of hertz, so the only force left is E/M. Radio waves of various frequencies. THAT IS IT. The only other option is to pretend there is some other force that science hasn’t discovered yet, speculate that aliens use those forces, and go “la, la, la, you keep talking but I can’t hear you”.

    And as far “listening” to radio waves, well dude, every signal we send via radio waves has patterns. HDTV, analog TV, FM radio, AM radio, Morse code, cell phones, wireless microphones. And all they’re doing is looking for some kind of pattern. You look into deep space and you just hear background noise. Stars and black holes and quasars and stuff make EM noise. Some natural processes make simple patterns. Pulsars send out repeatign bursts of E/M. But if you look into space and get an EM wave that has a complex pattern that can’t be produced by natural means, then you’ve got somethign that would make you famous for being the first person on earth to discover life on another planet.

  64. Richard Feynman explained the scientific method another way: anyone making an extraordinary (probably any) claim is obligated to investigate all other possible explainations for that claim. How can you honestly defend your claim if you fail to do so? (Paraphrased)

  65. guidodavid@62: Why the fact that an Alien intelligence could use physics to communicate is culture bound? Can you elaborate that? We know for sure that they could be using other methods we cannot detect, but I fail to see how using or not the EM specter is restrained by our culture.

    I explained this in my last post to jdavid. There are only four forces in physics to work with. Gravity, E/M, weak and strong nuclear forces. The nuclear forces only have a range of within a molecule. So they’re useless for inter-planetary communications. Gravity could work if we could figure out hot to make a planet modulate at a couple hundred megahertz. Until then, the only force that can go any distance is E/M.

    Would people from tribes in New Guinea be bound by culture if they assumed that Europeans would be using speech to communicate with them? Or just because we have a common physiology?

    We don’t have to understand aliens to know that they are there. You don’t need a cultural connection. What you need is to see some kind of pattern in the E/M spectrum that cannot be explained by natural processes. Mostly you look into space and you hear background noise and some things make periodic e/m bursts like pulsars.

    If anyone were to see our AM or FM radio transmissions on their recievers on another planet, they might not be able to translate it into something they could “hear”, but they would see a pattern that could not be explained by natural astronomical processes like stars and black holes and what not.

    TV signals, analog and HD, both have repeating patterns that are just plain weird compared to astronomical noise. Cell phones. Satellites. You name it. Anything we use that uses a radio frequency will have a pattern that is not explainable by natural astronomical processes.

  66. I think you misunderstood me, or I explained myself in the wrong way, Greg:

    “I explained this in my last post to jdavid. There are only four forces in physics to work with. Gravity, E/M, weak and strong nuclear forces. The nuclear forces only have a range of within a molecule. So they’re useless for inter-planetary communications. Gravity could work if we could figure out hot to make a planet modulate at a couple hundred megahertz. Until then, the only force that can go any distance is E/M.”

    I know that. Thus, my point is that is stupid to claim that SETI has a “cultural bias” because we do not listen to gravity waves. In any case what limit us is technology, not culture.f Oh, maybe he means that we do not try telepathy, therefore we have a cultural bias…

    “We don’t have to understand aliens to know that they are there. You don’t need a cultural connection. What you need is to see some kind of pattern in the E/M spectrum that cannot be explained by natural processes.”

    Sure, but that is my point. New Guineans would not be culturally biased if they assumed that Europeans can talk and communicate. The fact that they think that is not because of culture, it is because we all ave common biology. Europeans and aboriginals cannot understand each other, but they could hear shouts in the forest. Same with Aliens, but based on a common physics rather than a common biology.

  67. @14

    “I think that any scientist that claims they know everything or that anything they don’t know doesn’t exist knows nothing of science.”

    I certainly think that the legal criteria for what constitutes science excludes a lot of what scientists actually do. It certainly excludes string theory.

    My feeling is, science education in this country is already in too bad of a shape to start pushing people and their beliefs out the door. If science wants to have something relevant to say to modern culture, it needs to begin with the commonly held understandings of modern culture and work from there to more scientific understandings.

    If you take Dawkins’ line, yeah you get to prove how smart you are, but you don’t convince anybody. The question to me is not finding the most effective put-downs to be used against, say, creationists–but how to lead people to ask scientific questions of their own.

  68. “The question to me is not finding the most effective put-downs to be used against, say, creationists–but how to lead people to ask scientific questions of their own.”

    Which I think this video does very well.

  69. @greglondon

    “It’s not even a legitimate concern in any real world sense, so I assume you’re bringing it up to portray religion as the poor helpless never-did-anything-wrong minority that is unfairly picked on by those big, bad, use-government-to-stamp-out-religion atheists.”

    No, I’m saying separation of church and state is a two way street. I’m saying we have to tread carefully. In Canada we decided to send Native Canadian kids to residential schools run by churches for their own good. The objective was to erase native Canadian culture and assimilate the kids because White Canadians believed the aboriginal populations were backward and uneducated and superstitious. Of course it was a disaster on many levels. I will venture residential schools would have been just as much a disaster if they were completely secular as their objective would still have been the same.

    Freedom of religion and separation of church and state doesn’t just protect atheists. If it is followed it can protect everyone.

    I’m not sure why you think I’m saying religion has never caused any harm since I agreed with you in my last post that it certainly has.

    On the sit down and shut up thing:

    So some people explain things like lightning with religion. Who are they explaining it too? And why? Maybe you are taking this religion thing too literally – sort of like the literalist religious people who vex you so.

    Audience and context is everything. I tried explaining the way thunder works to my three year old one night, the scientific explanation of it involving lightning quickly heating the air and causing a shockwave and he didn’t believe me.

    “Daddy are you joking me?”

    “No”

    “You are joking me.”

    I don’t think he would have believed it If I said it was angels bowling or thunderbirds flapping their wings, but I think he might have had a good laugh and not been so scared if I’d told him a story. If I told the story well. A story sometimes helps the medicine go down as it were. Screw up the story and you’ll give the kid nightmares.

    Complaining about religion not meeting scientific standards is like complaining Superman isn’t realistic. It’s not supposed to be.

    And yes I know there are lots of religious people who think the whole thing is literally true and do all kinds of bad things as a result. Much like you they don’t get that there’s more to it.

  70. @78 Yeah I agree with it completely!

    But over and over again it says: “this is was you believe. over here is science. you’re wrong.”

    It doesn’t say: “this is what you believe. here is a piece of that belief which IS scientific. how can we work together to extend the domain of what we agree on?”

  71. @49

    “Buddy, it means that if your religion contradicts your science,one or both of them is false.To put this in a computer geek analogy – If I add two plus two using a digital circuit, I get four. If I use an analog circuit instead I still get four. Unless one of my circuits is defective.”

    Both circuits tested, neither is defective.
    Digital circuit 2 plus 2=4
    Analog circuit 2 plus 2=5
    Now what ?

  72. Good video. he’s not asking you to buy his magazine,he asking you to question the world and how to do it more scientifically. All science is skeptical.

    Thats what drives one to purse and idea or theory.

  73. anonymous@79: No, I’m saying separation of church and state is a two way street. I’m saying we have to tread carefully. In Canada we decided to send Native Canadian kids to residential schools run by churches for their own good. The objective was to erase native Canadian culture and assimilate the kids because White Canadians believed the aboriginal populations were backward and uneducated and superstitious.

    similar stuff happened in America.

    But, dude, that was religious people messing with other religious people. It wasn’t atheists trying to turn natives into atheists, it was christians trying to turn “pagans” into christians.

    Show me where aetheists are using the force of law to turn anyone into atheists. Otherwise you’re concern trolling about a nonexistent situation.

    Atheists using separation of church and state to get religion out of public school does not prohibit you from practicing your particular religion at home. School should be about reading, riting, and rithmetic. And chemistry, and biology, and physics. Public schools shouldn’t be teaching you to worship one god or another. And making a public school stick to science isn’t the same as sending christians to “atheist camp”.

    So, again, show me where there isn’t a two-way street. Show me where atheists are ganging up on the religious and forcing them to give up their religion.

    Don’t give me a story about christians messing with native americans. Don’t give me hypotheticals about how it might happen in the future. Give me a specific example of atheists forcing religious poeple to surrender their religion and become atheists. Give me positive evidence supporting your claim that it is not a two-way street, positive evidence of atheists forcing religious people to become atheists.

    Otherwise, you’re concern trolling about nonexistent issues.

    Otherwise, I submit to you that it is a two way street.

    So some people explain things like lightning with religion. Who are they explaining it too? And why?

    Uh, maybe you slept through the last few years, but we’ve had a bunch of creationists repeatedly try to shove creationism into public schools as if it were science. Those people need to sit down and shut up. Thankfully, the Supreme Court recently ruled that they should sit down and shut up as well. Hopefully it will stick for a while.

    The creationist’s argument was simple: you can’t tell us to sit down and shut up. The jury is still out on evolution. What you must do is “teach the controversy”. Teach both evolution and “intelligent design” as if they were both equally valid, both equally scientific.

    Those knuckleheads need to sit down and shut up.

    And your refusal, again, to acknowledge the existence of religious knuckleheads like this who need to be told to sit down and shut up, continues only to reinforce my notion that you’re not engaging this conversation honestly.

    Sure there are religious people who might tell their kid that thunder comes from angels bowling. But that’s a strawman argument as far as representing how horribly screwed up religion can try to twist science into their own dogma.

    They need to sit down and shut up. If you can’t acknowledge that these knuckleheads exist and if you can’t acknowledge that they really do need to sit down and shut up, then you’re strawmanning religion. You’re downplaying the realities and the dangers and trying to present it as a dad harmlessly telling his kid that thunder comes from angels bowling, when the fact is that religious knuckleheads have been trying to turn biology into a bible lesson.

    You either accept that as part of religion’s issue and acknowledge it as a problem that deserves teh “sit down and shut up” response, or you continue to strawman religion and pretend it is purely harmless.

  74. teufelsdroch@80: But over and over again it says: “this is was you believe. over here is science. you’re wrong.”

    You didn’t even watch the video. Or if you did, you watched it but filtered everything through some personal bias.

    The video presented a list of questions to ask when someone makes a claim to ascertain the baloney factor of that claim. Whether it is true or not.

    My post at #20 lists all the questions and lists one example they mentioned.

    1) How reliable is the source of the claim?
    (global warming critics who work for oil companies)

    Yeah, global warming critics who get money from oil companies are not reliable. If you believe global warming is not happening, then yeah, you are wrong.

    I think global warming is happening, so I didn’t experience the video the way you describe it at all.

    It doesn’t say: “this is what you believe. here is a piece of that belief which IS scientific. how can we work together to extend the domain of what we agree on?”

    Why should it?

    If you want science adn religion to “work together” and agree on stuff, then the first thing science needs to do is get religion out of science.

    Religion shouldn’t explain how life started on earth. Religion shouldn’t explain why it rains, or why the earth’s climate is doing what its doing. People making claims about bigfoot need to be explained why they aren’t dealing with science. People claimign UFO’s are real need to be explained why they’re not supported scientifically.

    You want science and religion to coexist? Then religion needs to get out of science’s front yard and living room.

    Fences make great neighbors. Right now there are a bunch of religious people living in science’s house, eating their food, and making a mess of their living room.

    This video does nothing but establish science has its own home and religion has to move back into it’s own place.

    It’s kind of hard to peacefully coexist with your neighbors when they keep using your lawn for keg parties.

    So, yeah, this is the “get off my lawn” video. Once religion gets off of science’s lawn and out of their house and returns the lawnmower, then we can talk about peaceful coexistence.

  75. Both circuits tested, neither is defective. Digital circuit 2 plus 2=4; Analog circuit 2 plus 2=5; Now what ?

    Now you fire the guy who said 2+2=5 is not defective and get one who can do math.

  76. I’m sorry, but I can’t watch even the entire first minute of this video – what is the point of the viciously racist image of American Indians (in a verrry vintage film clip) illustrating ‘superstitions’, for fuck’s sake? How could that possibly be legitimate, necessary to the point he’s trying to make later? Wouldn’t school-children skipping over cracks in a sidewalk illustrate that ACCURATELY, without the racism??!?

    It’s so baffling and gratuitous that I can’t suspend my disgust long enough to get to the rest of the film. Huge heaping dose of ‘what the fuck?’ here.

    ~hallie

  77. viciously racist image of American Indians

    just when I thought this thread couldn’t degrade any further, someone tries to play the race card.

    1. GregLondon,

      Sometimes your navel-gazing perspective is breathtaking. Racism exists. Referring to it is not ‘playing the race card’.

  78. Greg you expressed what was essentially a pretty anti-free speech sentiment saying, “Thats why the religious should be forced to sit down and be quiet.” In a follow up post you add this force should be through purely legal means.

    My point isn’t that there’s a real threat to religious people in the U.S. from atheists. My point is that even “legal” suppression of religious practice can have extremely negative consequences. I can’t give you a U.S. example of atheism running amok, but I did give an example of a legal, state sanctioned attack on a religious and cultural minority, an attack that violated the principle of separation of church and state. An attack that was motivated by a notion (one I do not share) that Native Canadians were backward, superstitious, uneducated and in need of assimilation.

    You seem to think religious people are backward, superstitious, and need to be forced to sit down and shut up. Now you say this is a straw man argument because (I’m guessing here because you never actually say) it doesn’t directly contradict your argument that religion can’t speak intelligently about evolution or creation or whatever topic, but I don’t really take issue with that. I take issue with the your idea that religious people should be forced to sit down and shut up.

    Religion can be dangerous, so can the media, so can free speech in general. Look at hate radio in Rwanda (yeah I know religion was mixed up in that too, and colonialism and politics). Don’t pretend that what you say here in this thread is harmless. When you say force, you mean forcing chemo on a kid with backwards parents or presumably banning female circumcision/genital mutilation. But that’s not what you were talking about to begin with. You were talking about creationists not genital mutilators or faith healers.

    You tack on the whole legal thing later in your follow up to my post. In the initial post you say that really not everyone should get an equal say. “This is a problem with modern liberalism that makes me mad, this idea that everyone deserves an equal say, they don’t.”

    Now reading it again and after hearing everything you’ve had to say I guess you are trying to say there that not every view or idea should be given equal credence or credibility, but your first line in your initial post got my dander up and coloured how I read the rest of what you had to say.

    You have it right later in the post. Ignore them. Tell them they are stupid. Fine. That’s free speech (something we only sort of enjoy here in Canada) . Don’t force them to shut up (Here we have human Rights tribunals that try to do just that, not to religious people so far, but a few reporters have had to defend themselves. It’s a very bad road to go down). I won’t give you an example of someone trying to stop sunday school. This is about what YOU wrote here in THIS discussion thread. You live in a democracy.

    Your supreme court didn’t tell the religious people to shut up. It heard their arguments and decided it wouldn’t give them what they want. So the religious people got to say their piece and the world didn’t come to an end and the religious people got to maintain their democratic right to free expression.

    I had another point about there being more to value in religion than it’s opinions on science, but to you that’s a straw man. To me it was just something I thought would be an interesting point to make in a discussion that seemed fairly rigidly framed around one dialectic.

  79. Antinous, asserting “Racism exists” doesn’t mean every time someone makes an accusation of Racism that it really is Racism.

    If Alice says “That’s racist”, and Bob says “No, it isn’t”, and people like you come out of the woodwork and dog pile on Bob, then, I find it hilariously ironic that you decided to come out fo the woodwork on a thread about the science over myths and religions and baloney.

    Tell me, Antinous, if someone says they discovered cold fusion, can anyone refute it? Challenge it? Demand evidence? Or call it baloney?

    I’d hope so.

    So, why is it when someone asserts “that is racism” that it is impossible to ever refute it without the poo-poo-ers like you crawling out of the woodwork and telling them to worship the dogma: All accusations of racism are true. To refute an accusation of racism can only be racism. (Or as you so open-mindedly put it, navel gazing)

    Here’s an idea, how about we follow the evidence rather than personal vendetta? How about we allow independent verification rather than allow one side to dogpile the other.

    As far as this particular video goes, I say calling it “viciously racist” is completley off base. It’s ruthless about dogmas and false beliefs and dogmas. But I don’t see it as being racist.

    Now, if you want to disagree with that and say you see racism, by all means, go for it. But if you want to assert that I can’t refute someone’s claim of racism because “racism exists” therefore any accusation fo racism anyway must be true, then I recommend you review the logical fallacy called “hasty generalizaiton”.

    Sure, racism exists. that doesn’t mean all accusations of racism must be worshipped as dogma. That doesn’t mean this particular video is racist.

    But if you really just want to completely squelch the discussion, and allow the charge of racism to stand unquestioned, keep doing what you’re doing.

  80. I can’t give you a U.S. example of atheism running amok

    Then you’re concern trolling. making slippery slop arguments.

    When you say force, you mean forcing chemo on a kid with backwards parents or presumably banning female circumcision/genital mutilation. But that’s not what you were talking about to begin with. You were talking about creationists

    Yeah, force, as in prevent a kid from dying because his parents think god cures cancer. Prevent genital mutilation because it’s based on ignorance and fear. And force creationists to keep their crap out of public schools because it’s flat out wrong.

    I won’t give you an example of someone trying to stop sunday school.

    Because it never happened.

    This is about what YOU wrote here in THIS discussion thread. You live in a democracy. Your supreme court didn’t tell the religious people to shut up.

    Un. Be. Leave. A. Bull.

    Do you realize that for a number of years in recent history some states in the US actually required that public schools in america had to teach “intelligent design”? Had to “teach the controversy”?

    What do you want to me to say to that? That I can’t have an opinion about that? THat I have to leave it to the courts? That I have to allow the religious people to push as much as they want, but I can’t push back?

    When it comes to public schools, religious people need to keep their myths out of biology class. They need to shut up.

    Obviously they didn’t. They still haven’t. At the moment, the courts have kicked them out of biolgy class, but that doesn’t mean they’re not trying to get back in right now. And it doesn’t mean I can’t say I think they’re completely and absolutely and totally wrong, wrong, wrong.

    You seem to have taken up as your holy war the fact that I said “shut up”. Apparently it wasn’t polite enough for you, or wasn’t “democratic” enough for you, or something.

    When religious nutjobs murder abortion doctors, I think the world deserves a little “shut up” now and then. When religious nutjobs want to teach kids that men and dinosaurs walked the earth together 4,000 years ago, I think a little “shut up” is warranted.

    You didn’t hear me anywhere saying that I’m advocating for a suspension of the rule of law anywhere. I’m all for democracy.

  81. antinous: If you chant a meme instead of making an argument, what do you expect?

    Oh, give me a break. Your post starts with a personal insult at me. And your only “argument” is a red herring/non-sequitor.

    More importantly, tell me, exactly, where is the “argument” in hallie’s post at #86??? Her post boils down to:

    I can’t watch it. it’s viciously racist. Scare quotes for ‘superstitions’. for fuck’s sake. It’s not legitimate. How about kids doing something superstitious, so they don’t have to resort to such vicious racism. It’s so baffling and gratuitous that I can’t suspend my disgust long enough to get to the rest of the film. Huge heaping dose of ‘what the fuck?’ here.

    That isn’t an “argument” by any sense of the meaning. It asserted the film was “viscioiusly racist” in the first sentence, and then insults the film for being so racist for the rest of the post.

    I responded by saying hallie “played the race card”. Here’s a definition for you: the issue of race magnified and injected into a situation which might otherwise be non-racial. WHich is exactly what I think hallie did. The video was certainly not made with the intent of being viciously racist towards native americans. She is overblowing the issue.

    And what do you, oh ye antinous/moderator, do in response to my post? You bandy about a nice little personal insult at me, and then resort to complete illogic about “racism exists”.

    When I call you on the insult and the illogic, rather than disemvowel your insults, you attempt to twist a phrase with textbook definition into “chanting a meme” and try to blame me for “not making an argument” when Hallie and yourself both failed to make any argument at any time during this little interaction.

    If hallie can express her opinion without being insulted by the likes of you, I should be able to express my opinion as well. If I need to provide a logical argument with evidence or be insulted by the likes of you, then you should have insulted hallie’s post as well.

    The only consistency to your action is you agree with hallie’s opinion and disagree with mine. Hallie and I did the same thing as far as expressing our opinion about the video, but you go after me and leave her unmolested.

  82. the opening archival clip of North American Aboriginal ritual dance is presented in an arguable racist context because of the context of the voice-over. The immediate obvious implication is dismissal of that culture and its practices as “superstitious”.

    wiki:
    “Superstition (Latin superstitio, literally “standing over”; derived perhaps from standing in awe;[1] used in Latin as an unreasonable or excessive belief in fear or magic, especially foreign or fantastical ideas, and thus came to mean a “cult” in the Roman empire)[2][3] is a belief or notion, not based on reason or knowledge. The word is often used pejoratively to refer to beliefs deemed irrational. It is also commonly applied to beliefs and practices surrounding luck, prophecy and spiritual beings, particularly the irrational belief that future events can be influenced or foretold by specific unrelated prior events.”

    Significant word: “pejoratively”. Now, current defense via the overly “politically correct” defense can be dismissed itself since the speaker is obviously educated and should know better. I suspect the speaker was not the visual image editor. So perhaps we can put aside the assertion the speaker is a racist fuck. Though he may be. I don’t know. Also note the dance shown could be anything; ritual to influence a future event, interpretation of a past event or just “let’s rabble-rabble together and work up our nerve before we go kick the asses of that other tribe stealing our game”. Anyone know?

    It pays to be sceptical about these things.

  83. “…and it doesn’t mean I can’t say I think they’re completely and absolutely and totally wrong, wrong, wrong.”

    Greg, I don’t want to jump in on dogpiling on you, but can you really speak in absolutes and totalities about something you know so little about? Every religion carries some deep truths. It wouldn’t take much study on your part to realize that.
    I’m a born-again Christian. Do you really understand that well enough to determine that it’s “completely and absolutely and totally wrong”? You don’t have to make such decisions about things you don’t understand, and determining that people who believe differently than you are idiots makes you your own standard of intelligence. Are you the most intelligent human? Maybe so, but you don’t have to hate and insult everyone else because they’re sub-standard, or believe in things that you don’t.
    I suspect that if you had walked beside me thru my life, you would think much the same as I do. Maybe not. Either way, I admire your tenacity. Hang tough, buddy.

  84. So, if they had started the video with a peregrination to Lourdes they would be anti-catholic?

    1. So, if they had started the video with a peregrination to Lourdes they would be anti-catholic?

      Given the source, I think that it’s quite safe to assume anti-Catholic bias. However, showing a Catholic ceremony would be very different than showing a historical Native American ceremony. For one thing, most viewers of the film would have a basic understanding of the meaning of the Catholic one, and could draw their own conclusions. In the absence of that understanding, showing the Native ceremony becomes, “ZOMG, look at the savages being superstitious.” Read Wikipedia on various religions and you see how Abrahamic religions seem to have ‘beliefs’, while other religions have ‘mythologies’.

      See: dominant discourse.

      “Dominant discourse is that collection of socializing influences that shape our interdependent behavior with Others. Dominant discourse includes language and culture and normative expectations across our institutions, such as family, school, spiritual gatherings, work and consumption or distribution organizations.”

      Greg,

      You could have made an argument that the description of the segment as racist was incorrect. Instead you accused the commenter(s) of “playing the race card.” “Playing the race card” is a phrase that people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O”Reilly use to try to silence political dissent.

  85. The first point in my boloney book is:
    A person who devides people in to destinct groups.

    The UFO-people
    Conspiracy theorists
    etc..

    You are way off the good scepticism charts creating these stereotypes.

  86. antinous: You could have made an argument that the description of the segment as racist was incorrect. Instead you accused the commenter(s) of “playing the race card.” “Playing the race card” is a phrase that people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O”Reilly use to try to silence political dissent.

    zomg, how many times are you going to dance around this: hallie never presented an argument. Do you understand that? Your choices are: (1) yes, hallie never presented an argument or (2) no, hallie presented a logical argument and this was her premises, these were her arguments, and that was her conclusions. which is it antinous?

    What hallie did was express her opinion. That’s it. Nothing more. What I did was express my opinion. Nothing more.

    Your problem is that you insulted me, quite plainly, because you disagreed with my opinion.

    If you insult anyone who makes an assertion with a suporting argument, you would have called hallie some ad hominem as well. But you didn’t. You reserved it for me. not because I didn’t present an argument, but because you didn’t like my opinion.

    So, feel free to take your “You could have made an argument” fallacy and file it where it really belongs. If you don’t have the guts to admit that hallie and I both expressed opinions and the only reason you insulted me was because you didn’t like my opinion, then, chose the next best thing and stop this nonsense about how I could have made an argument when you have yet to beseech hallie with equal vigor for her to make an argument to support her unfounded assertions.

    Your bias here is clear. Pretending you’re just askign me to conform to your arbitrary rules that you don’t apply equally to those whose opinions you happen to agree with isn’t fooling anyone. Well, maybe you really honestly believe that you’re being consistent. But your consistency is “hassle people whose opinions I don’t like. Let slide people whose opinions I agree with.”

    And even now, you’ve never made any kind of logical argumetn that you so dearly want to hear from me.

    Hallie expressed an opinion. I expressed an opinion. Either start insulting hallie and demanding she present an argument, or get off my case.

    “Playing the race card” is a phrase that people like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O”Reilly use to try to silence political dissent

    oh?

    really?< ?i>

    Tell me, antinous/moderator, what exactly are you trying to do to me?

    You wouldn’t be trying to silence my opinion, would you?

    Was your “navel gazing” insult really meant to encourage further discourse? Do you expect me to believe that?

    Hallie expressed her opinion. I expressed mine. You didn’t like my opinion. So you insulted me and tried to silence me with your own arbitrary rules about how I”m not making a proper “argument”.

    Oh, and you redefinition games don’t fly. “playing the race card” has a dictionary definition. If you don’t like that definition, I can’t help you. But using the phrase as per its definition is perfectly acceptable.

    hallie overinflated the accusation of racism where none existed. She “played the race card”. That’s what the term means.

    The only way that phrase is invalid is if you are trying to imply that no charge of racism is ever overinflated, that every charge of racism is always absolutely and completely true.

    If you’re trying to imply that, well, that’s fine, but you’re wrong. And if you’re going to use that implication to “argue” that the phrase “playing the race card” can only be used how you think it would be used, well, you start with an invalid premise, make some logical leaps, and come to a faulty conclusion.

    So in short, hallie said the film was racist, I said she overinflated the charge, you insulted me, I called you on it, you then try to tell me I need to make a logical argument, I point out hallies complete lack of logic or argument, you then yet again move the goalposts to the complaint that I used a phrase that you now assert would only ever be used by bill o’reilly and limbaugh, with the added implication that no one could ever possibly make an accusation of racim where none existed.

    And why do you continue to shift these goal posts around? Because you don’t agree with my opinion and you’re trying to suppress it with insults and logical fallacies.

  87. troof: can you really speak in absolutes and totalities about something you know so little about?

    later in my same post, I mentioned religious nutjobs who murder abortion doctors and religious nutjobs who want to teach kids that men and dinosaurs walked the earth together 4,000 years ago, Yeah, in those particular cases, I feel I can speak in absolutes.

    I’m a born-again Christian.

    I don’t have a problem with that, so long as you don’t try to put it into my government or public schools or courtrooms or whatever.

  88. “Dominant discourse is that collection of socializing influences that shape our interdependent behavior with Others. Dominant discourse includes language and culture and normative expectations across our institutions, such as family, school, spiritual gatherings, work and consumption or distribution organizations.”

    There is a big problem here, Antinous. You and I cannot agree on that. While I consider myself to be a happy mutant, I have read tons of SF, I care about human rights and and civil liberties, and I have lot in common with the average Boinger, I was raised in a completely different society. Native blood is running in my veins, along the black and white. I am a mongrel. A cultural one, too, and even if we have a mostly westernized society, a lot of our native heritage is still here, disguised, but present and powerful. And, sadly, a lot of it is crap, mere superstition, exactly as valid as the Spanish heritage concerning religion. So, you are telling us that it is OK to call bullshit and superstition some things, but no others that are equally absurd? Is that valid for me too? What about for an atheist Yanomamo or an atheist Pemon? Can they say “those rituals are mere superstition”?

    I agree, there might be a component of racism in such declarations. But not necessarily, and I think it is too extremist to go straight to shoot to the person that makes such arguments, even less if those arguments are being told along other criticizing major religions. That really stifles debate.

    Of course, I might be babbling crap and the positions that we have might be too different to be reconciled, and I might be too obtuse to see what is really racism. But, I still cannot grok American attitudes to race. That is the most alien part of American culture to me. Intellectually, I understand it, and I have managed to avoid a faux pas now and then, but emotionally, is completely absurd to have different groups of people with different rights to use different words. But again, I recognize I might be insensitive.

    1. GuidoDavid,

      My point was that Greg’s statement was an unsupported and hegemonic attempt to stop discourse.

  89. stating dominant discourse exists is like observing the currents of the ocean. It acknowledges fact, not value.

  90. antinous: My point was that Greg’s statement was an unsupported and hegemonic attempt to stop discourse.

    ZOMG!

    dude, how many times do I have to say this to pound this into your head? Hallie expressed an opinion. I expressed an opinion. You cannot dismiss my opinion as unsupported without dismissing hallies as well, or you’re a hypocrit applying one rule to opinions you like (hallie says whatever she wants and you leave her alone because you agree with her) and another rule to opinions you don’t like (I have to present a logical argument to defend my opinion. My opinion is “unsupported”. I’m doing nothing but trying to “stop discourse”.)

    Seriously. you’re being a hypocrit.

    And every time I call you on this hypocricy of yours, you try to move the goalposts with a new reason why you molest me but leave hallie unscathed.

    in #88, you insulted me, and then try to argue that “racism exists” means that racism must exist here.

    in 92, you ask me what should I expect when I “chant a meme” instead of “making an argument”. dismissing “playing the race card” as a phrase that is only used by racists to stop discussions on racism while demanding that I present an “argumetn” when hallie did no such thing herself.

    in 99, you add that “playing the race card” is only used by Rush Limbaugh type people.

    and now in 106, you try to revert to your insistence that i need a logical argument or my opinion is “unsupported” (while hallie’s opinion remains equally “unsupported” without a single outcry from the protectors against unsupported opinions, the great and neutral antinous/moderator) and that my opinion can only be a “hegemonic attempt to stop discourse”.

    Tell me, oh antinous, aren’t you trying to stop me from discourse with your insults and demands for arguments? Do you think you’re encouraging discourse? You’re the moderator here, not me. You’ve got the power, not me. and what are you doing with that power? Insulting me for expressing an opinion you didn’t like. Trying to dismiss my opinion because you don’t like it. And then inventing all manner of nonsense requirements that I didn’t follow in order to justify your insults and your repeated attempts to suppress my simple opinion that this video is not racist.

    I say the video is not racist and that hallie is overinflating the issue.

    And for that you freaked out, insulted me, and are now trying to justify how I’m not allowed to express my opinion because it doesn’t meet your arbitrary rules.

    Your first sentence in #88 is nothing but pure insult. If you want to exercise some moderator powers on someone, disemvowel yourself.

    But if you want me to jump up and down and shout “what the fuck” and express disgust and dismiss the entire video as “viciously racist” the way hallie did, then you and I are at an impasse. Cause I ain’t doing it. My opinion is that the video is NOT RACIST. My opinion is that hallie is OVERINFLATING THE ISSUE OF RACISM where there is no such issue.

    You want to ban me for expressing that opinion, well, you’re the moderator with the hegemonic power to suppress conversations here. Not me.

  91. Antinous:
    Actually, I’d say the opposite is true. Too foten this kind of thing is used to stop legitimate debate.

  92. I suppose they could have used a video clip showing a modern day church trying to exorcise gay demons, but then homophobes would have been insulted and the church would probably have sued them.

    The short of it is that there is no video they could put at the front that wouldn’t piss off someone.

  93. Greg London…I’m sold. You can sleep with my wife.

    And please pound the Catholicism out of her.

  94. I almost never comment here, but Greglondon – I don’t know how you do it. These people with their psudo-logic and well rehearsed talking points… Trying to educate them just makes me dizzy. I wish there were many more like you.

  95. I often wonder if those who label themselves skeptics, often challenging ufo claims, aren’t just debunkers unwilling to remain objective, while demanding it of others. As a researcher in the behavioral sciences even the hint of bias creates a credibility issue necessitating time consuming and expensive research to be repeated. The problem with debunkers, as apposed to skeptics, is they are intellectually lazy. Stay objective, ask demanding questions and don’t accept flippant answers from anyone especially the so-called experts.

  96. I liked the video, the points are well made and the questions are good ones to keep in mind. (Or in my mental toolkit rather :)

    I can’t say I saw anything necessarily racist; that’s a difficult point to argue without knowing the editor’s intention. If I stop to think about it it’s a fairly good choice for a clip: it’s recognizable and would generally be thought by a viewer to be a war-dance or a rain-dance; either way it’s something the viewer would probably hold with skepticism. And that’s a point about the perception of the *beliefs*, not of the race of people involved.

    I also don’t think the video unreasonably called into question any held beliefs, as far as Science is concerned.

  97. I also liked the video, and I think the message stands whether or not you agree with Shermer’s bias against ufo-ologists, New Agers, and Creationists. He did not ask anybody to believe what he believes, he asked them to analyze what they hear and read before they accept it.

    As for the ongoing debate about the issue of racism in the video, personally I’d say that the clip was a very bad choice and to me it did seem racist. That said, I also agree with Greg London’s argument that he has the right to express his own opinion on the matter. As much as I dislike the way he phrased some of his earlier posts, I believe he was bang-on with his argument against Antinuous/Moderator.

    If Greg’s post was:
    “an unsupported and hegemonic attempt to stop discourse” what was Hallies? Look at her post:

    “I’m sorry, but I can’t watch even the entire first minute of this video…”
    “It’s so baffling and gratuitous that I can’t suspend my disgust long enough to get to the rest of the film.”

    She dismissed the whole video because she disagreed with one clip. I actually agree with her that the clip seems racist and I still think her comment is ridiculous. If Greg is guilty of “attempting to stop discourse”, then Hallie is too. Fair is fair.

    As for people who feel that their religious beliefs are threatened by this type of thinking, I would say that your beliefs cannot be threatened, only your influence on other people can.

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