Category Archives: Skepticism

“Gated Communities”

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.

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Including Social Justice in Skepticism

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.

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“Well At Least They Allow Comments”

For a while now I’ve found the trite complaint of a closed YouTube comment section to be vapid. (Equally so the stale honor or praise of leaving it open.) But just today I took another step in my understanding of the issue.

When a comment section is closed, to a YouTube user, it feels like their only method of communication (or complaining, harassing, etc.) with the YouTuber has gone. That’s in part why it’s perceived as valuable. It’s the habitat they’re used to; it’s what they see as the clearest, most direct form of feedback.

And to a certain extent it certainly is. My Pavlovian response to a YouTube video ending is to scroll down. This is something I fight, because in the vast majority of comment sections, there is nothing of value below. It’s still the most immediate place to see responses, though.

YouTube comments for a long time have been treated as this “standard discussion forum” across the Internet, available around most videos online, when in fact its evidentiary purpose is for hurling shit and making jokes so lazy they’d make Reddit cringe. The comment box is ubiquitous on the Internet Locus For Viewing Moving Pictures, so it makes sense that it became the collective dumping ground. To see a space carved out to not be made messy (by closing comments) seems counter to the entirety of YouTube culture. PewDiePie crossed that line and quickly went back.

This YouTube culture is the same one that would bring the phrase “free speech” into the equation, even though YouTube is a company that can do whatever it wants with your comments, and comments are on another person’s channel who has full right to delete them or ban people for any reason. Comment spaces are only as free as its owner allows them to be, and they don’t Hate Freedom if they choose to curate more closely or close them altogether.

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After 8? years, a visit to the doctor

I’ll be talking in detail about some minor medical procedures (involving needles and blood) you commonly get done during a check-up. These are things I have strong phobias of, but this is my way of trying to get past them. If that’s not stuff you can read about, I feel you. See you next time.

I went to the doctor yesterday for a wellness visit. Haven’t done that in many years, and never independently. Even the doctor remarked that I was a rare case being a male in my 20s coming in.

He’s an MO, which means he is trained in osteopathy:

Osteopathy is a type of alternative medicine that emphasizes the physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones. … Osteopathic medicine in the United States differs greatly in scope and approach from osteopathy as practiced in Europe elsewhere. The USA recognizes a branch of the medical profession called osteopathic physicians, trained and certified to practice all modern medicine.

I was a little concerned about this, since I very much value science and evidence in medicine. I’m a fan of Steven Novella and the Science-Based Medicine blog. (I was wearing my SGU “placebo band” that morning.) Words like “holistic” or osteopathy being linked with so many alternative medicine treatments made me a bit skeptical. With more reading, I learned that opinions vary, and MOs can be just about identical to MDs.

I stumbled into this two weeks ago when I was getting STI tests done. I agreed to the recommendation the nurse practitioner gave that he sign me up for one of their doctors as a primary care physician, so I didn’t have much input into whom. (Still an adulting win, though!)

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#GOPDebate #JonVoyage

There’s a need in me to synthesize what I’ve seen tonight, August 6, 2015: the Republican party had a debate among ten of their seventeen primary candidates, followed immediately by Jon Stewart hosting his last episode of The Daily Show.

It was notable that Stewart did not engage in much comedy about the debate itself. Obviously the show is taped earlier than the debate, so there was an ongoing gag about that. The debate was ripe for ridicule, though, and the viewing audience was, for the first time, made to realize that this man (and his writing staff and correspondents) wasn’t going to be there each night to make sense of it all.

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