This post is pretty late, well into December, but please enjoy.
This morning (afternoon over there!) I watched Kate Donovan’s presentation “Recruitment and Retention on Hard Mode” at Effective Altruism Global in Oxford. Her thesis was that diverse movements work better, and she shared many practical techniques to attract and keep people while avoiding common pitfalls that could do the opposite. It was great!
One anecdote she shared that really grabbed me was her reference to “Elevatorgate”. She doesn’t go into needless detail, and I won’t either, but this was an incident within the atheism, skepticism, and secular movements that became an ongoing albatross around their necks.
Jamy Ian Swiss, a prominent member of the skeptical community and magician, was interviewed recently for premium content for The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast. The conversation moved to several topics in its fifty minutes. Much of it was focused on the skeptical movement as a whole and its past, present, and especially future. Some great, high-minded ideas on what the movement lacks and where it needs to focus its efforts were brought up and played with, like the need to form permanent resources, and organizations that are respected and known enough to be called upon by government or outside of skepticism.
One subject that bubbled underneath the conversation was whether the meaning of “skepticism” should be broadened or kept narrow. For example, should the definition of a “good skeptic” include the requirement of atheism? Swiss says no, in order to broaden the tent of people allied against the real enemies: pseudoscience, mysticism, conspiracy theory, misinformation, and all manner of bad thinking. To require nonbelief would exclude otherwise helpful individuals.
I’ll acknowledge that Swiss has been in this movement for quite some time, and so he likely has a long-term perspective on this that I don’t. It doesn’t make sense to me to embrace skeptics who don’t exercise their skepticism on all areas of their life, since that’s one of the core aspects of the promotion of critical thinking, but I won’t pursue that point right now. It’s not only not the point of this post, but it’s also me deferring to a person who might know a thing or two about what works and doesn’t in capital-S Skepticism.
Still, like me, he is someone who does not have mastery of all perspectives. And this is where I think he’s truly mistaken.
A lot of my podcast listening in April was on the road or while playing games. It’s funny that I’m already associating the video game The Talos Principle with the podcast Wham Bam Pow because of how much those overlapped!
At the beginning of this month I also failed to but ultimately succeeded in installing a new stereo in my car! My old car cassette adapter system for playing podcasts through my iPod would always overheat in these coming hot spring and summer months. Now I don’t have to worry at all with a direct aux cable! Year after year of frustration about this has finally come to an end.
I’m happy to present to you my top list of podcasts for April of 2015: