• Liveblogging TAM (Day 2)

    We are still recovering from last night in the Del Mar, but it’s just about time to start live-blogging in earnest. Watch this space.

    Max Maven is telling us that we lie much more often than we seem to think that we do, that we lie to ourselves about lying to everyone, and that perhaps we shouldn’t feel too bad about it after all.

    “The goal of fighting the fakers is worthwhile…” but Max tells us that perhaps we are too quick to create a sharp dichotomy between us and them. Max is encouraging us to think critically about how we do critical thinking, “Who is skeptical about the skeptics?”

    Cara Santa Maria is up next. She is talking nerdy to us about her personal history growing up LDS in Texas.

    “I understand why people swallow the bullshit in the Mormon Church.”

    “I baptized dead people.” – That’s not quite as weird as it sounds, in light of Christian Scripture.

    “It’s so hard to pretend that you’re something that you’re not.” – Amen, sister. So many of my friends growing out Christianity in Oklahoma have shared this experience of living in the closet and going through the  motions.

    Atheists are less trusted than rapists in trustworthiness. Here is the study she is talking about. Cara says that we can fix this problem by being as ethical as ever, but also being open about our unbelief.

    Breaking for lunch! Hope to see some of you there.

    Ardent Atheist – Live podcast recording


    Download this episode when you get the chance, it was a great time featuring the usual suspects and Father Guido Sarducci. Also, see if you can spot me in this pic. 😉

    Skeptical Scope and Mission Panel with Barbara Drescher, Daniel Loxton, Steven Novella, Jamy Ian Swiss, and moderator Sharon Hill.

    This is a subject near and dear to me, and they are handling it quite well. Every year, we need to read in the newcomers to the community in the conceptual differences between doing scientific research, doing science outreach and education, doing scientific skepticism, and doing skeptical activism, and we need to think seriously about how these related endeavors relate to the broader rationalist enterprise, which includes secular activism, counter-apologetics, and other aspects of the freethought movement. To paraphrase Drescher, it’s very easy to conflate our metaphysical conclusions with the set of methodologies and dedication to evidentialism and fallibilism which are at the core of scientific skepticism.

    “Expertise in nonsense” and pseudoscience are necessary, according to the panelists, to prevent people (even scientifically literate people) from being taken in. Drescher puts forward the idea of anti-pseudoscience as an interdisciplinary enterprise. Loxton puts this idea in the context of the founding of the skeptical movement in the mid-1970’s. Novella comes back to the theme that we need to focus on innovation, especially in terms of how we connect to our audience.

    Chas Stewart is going to take over the blog for a while, I’ll be at the Skeptic Ink Table.

    When I’m done searching through Damion’s password protected files, I will get to blogging about TAM2013.

    16:04 PM

    I love Susan Blackmore’s story as a reformed parapsychologist turned reasonable person. She seems like a spirited speaker as well so I think the coffee break plus her energy will do wonders for the atmosphere.

    Blackmore begins by telling us just how needed BioElectric shields are needed among the TAM attendees. I thin she’s going to teach us how we can know if it is working or not. I’m quite interested right now seeing as this computer is precariously close to the core interest of my psyche.

    Blackmore is giving us the data related to her experiments asking participants if they could tell when they were wearing the bioelectric shield or an inert pendant. Sufficed to say, the BioElectric Shield has spent for more money in the marketing department than the research department.

    But hey, BES does have an A rating from the Better Business Bureau so can we really believe Blackmore over the BBB???

    Finally learn why Blackmore titled her speech “Fighting the Fakers and Failing. She posted her research results on this absolutely scam product and BES is able to wave her results away by claiming that her research techniques were faulty and thereby allowing true believers to retain their faith. Now, I’m interested. How do we not throw our hands up and stalk off? Maybe Blackmore doesn’t have the answers but I’m excited to explore this topic.

    Blackmore finished with a personally dour note but I liked the honesty and she seemed to wish all the skeptics the best even as she feels somewhat defeated.


    Julia Galef’s co-host on Rationally Speaking, Massimo Pigliucci, is rocking and rolling now.

    Oh yes, this is a good topic. Talking about helping the social sciences to embrace falsifiability. How do historians, for instance, construct their projects in such a way that their narrative is subservient to the known facts? That seems easy until you try to write an article or book with an easy to understand direction for the audience to follow.

    I hope to never get stuck in a metaphilosophical assumption.

    He’s asking how do we create clear definitions for items. For instance, defining what a game is is not so simple as it seems. “It’s competitive.” “Not always.” “It is fun.” “Well, sex is fun but it’s not a game” etc. If it is difficult to create a clear demarcation for games and porn (I was going to link to a discussion defining porn but I entered “define porn” in the search bar and wilted under the pressure of so many eyes overlooking my shoulders) then how do we do this for science so that others can use this demarcation in their specific fields?

    Judge Jones’ decision in the Dover trial may have actually contributed greatly to how to create a demarcation for science. 1) ID goes against the centuries held position that natural phenomena should be explained by natural causes 2) (I can’t remember this second one but it was really good!) 3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution pale in comparison to the preponderance of evidence supporting natural selection.


    Susan Jacoby is ready deliver Friday’s keynote speech. How exciting!

    She’s going to analyze the phrase “you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own facts”. She says that acting as if we could only get other people to learn the facts, then our opposition would not be so destructive. Our country’s population has swelled with anti-intellectualism even as we reap intellectualism’s harvest. Says that more people than ever are attending some form of higher education but have less of an understanding of the world than our ancestors. Says that computers haven’t made us better thinkers but more efficient, quicker thinkers (e.g. forks made us more efficient eaters but not better eaters). She is thoroughly analyzing how commentators regard digital media today by highlighting quotes like “reading email and many websites is the same as reading literary novels because they are both text based.” Really speaks for itself. Talking about the reality that people tend to only read opinions from people who affirm their already held opinion.

    Jacoby really tugs at my heart strings by quoting Thomas Jefferson and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

    Junk science is a versatile term as it can be used by people who are ideologically driven instead of empirically driven (e.g. vaccines are junk science. Condoms’ ability to prevent STIs is junk science, etc.). They don’t realize that these are “their own facts” because they are not being exposed to the entire range of opinions and analyses. Says that Justice Ginsburg’s minority opinion in the recent Equal Rights Amendment decision will be regarded as one of the greatest opinions rendered in history.

    Jacoby says that when Obama says that the American people aren’t stupid is truly dense and that this is his greatest political downfalls (I don’t know Jacoby. The people voted in a constitutional academic twice and that seems pretty smart to me).

    Stressing that parents have a strong responsibility to foster a skeptical and intellectually curious foundation for their children and that allowing their children to be engulfed by digital media does not do this.

    “Just talking about science among each other in a convention hall won’t cut it.” Jacoby is making it very easy for these scientifically inclined people to care about how history is taught and propagated.

    She ends by quoting the 1-2 punch of Walt Whitman and Robert Ingersoll.

    Category: ConferencesSecularismSkepticism

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.
    • I can relate to Blackmore’s feeling of “losing.” Power-Balance bracelet wearing coworker used to wear two of them to work. She fell at home and had to take a week off. I don’t think it ever clicked in her brain.