Posts Tagged 'Skepticism'

I Had a Chance to Exercise my Skeptical Chops in Real Life the Other Night

It’s not often (in real life) that I get to use all of these skeptical tools and pearls of wisdom that I spend so much time learning about, so when I do get into this type of conversation my heart will start racing and I’ll get excited to where I have to concentrate on keeping a calm demeanor so that I don’t end up coming across as a crazed denialist!

The other night my husband had his friend over, who also happened to be one of my former high school teachers, so we sat around chatting for hours and touched on a lot of different topics. At one point in the conversation Dr. Oz (one of Oprah’s spin-off shows) came up, I guess because teachers get to watch lots of daytime TV during the summer!

I’m in no way a fan of Dr. Oz. I’ve tuned  into a few of his episodes when there’s been nothing else on, and my main reason for disliking him is the way that he talks down to the audience, as if he’s addressing a room full of kindergartners. He gives these ridiculous demonstrations that add nothing to the conversation and dumb down already easy to understand things. Medicine is such an interesting field, and the human body is so diverse and complex that it just makes him look ridiculous to me when he talks to grown adults in a way that would have bored me when I was 10.

But obviously enough people enjoy it, so to each his/her own. What also gets me goat about Dr. Oz is how he lends his credibility to alternative medicines that don’t have supporting evidence (Reiki, for example). I brought this up and that’s what sparked a discussion with my old teacher on alternative medicine.

I wouldn’t say that Teacher (that’s what I’ll call him from now on) was full on into alt med or anything, but he came across as neutral on the subject. He seems like one of those people “in the middle”, who believes in the value of using herbs to treat minor ailments but would turn to actual medicine for big things like cancer. We touched on a lot of things that seem to pop up in every online discussion on alternative medicine, so I think I’ll break it down into some of the areas we hit and what was said.

I’ll just mention that everything I was responding to Teacher with was from memory, and I’m going to write it here as it was said so it’s possible, actually it’s likely, that I was wrong about many things and welcome criticisms and feedback.

1. “The placebo effect is strong, so alternative medicine helps even if it shouldn’t really work” There is a common misconception that the placebo effect is some kind of mind over matter thing, where your brain is actually healing your body, and so doing something like acupuncture is therefore helpful, even though there’s no such thing as “chi” or “meridians” in the body. I was three glasses of wine in, so I wasn’t going to try explaining the placebo effect in detail, especially since I don’t fully understand it sober.

Instead, I talked about how things like acupuncture can be helpful for issues like infertility or back pain because just going to a practitioner, having them pay attention to you and validate your problem, and having something physical done to you can alleviate the stress that might be causing the problem. But relying on these things can get dangerous if you start relying on alt med for problems that need proper medication.

2. Confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine. There are some types of alternative medicine that are so ridiculous that they can’t possibly work, and homeopathy is one of them, but people don’t understand what it actually is and so trust that it must work for whatever reason. Teacher was definitely confusing homeopathy with herbal medicine.  I explained that homeopathy means that the active substance is diluted until there’s not even a molecule of the original substance in the solution, so there’s nothing actually in it that would have an effect.

3. Confusing proper diet with alternative medicine. I’m not really sure that this was what was happening, but at one point when we were having the discussion about using herbal medicine he brought up how cutting milk out of his diet helped him to feel better. Lots of people think of diet and nutrition as alternative medicine, maybe because pretty much every diet book out there will recommend taking some type of supplement. In fact, though, diet and the effect of different foods on the body are studied by science, and therefore perfectly in line with medicine.

4. Pharmaceutical companies are out to make a buck and want you to take medicines you don’t need, so turning to herbs is preferable. Pharmaceutical companies do plenty of shady business, but at least the drugs that they put out have standards for evidence, and will be pulled from the shelves if the drug is shown to be dangerous. With the various herbal supplements out there, they have no standards for evidence if it’s called a supplement, and there aren’t nearly as many strict controls, so you really don’t know how much of the active ingredient is contained in each pill. Not to mention many pharmaceutical companies have gotten into the supplement business, so you’re not necessarily circumventing “big pharma” when you decide to go for alternative remedies. The companies that sell those supplements and natural remedies are in the profit business too!

5. Lots of drugs were developed out of traditional healing substances, so herbal medicine must work. Sure, a lot of drugs came about because the substance used in them was traditionally used in healing the ailment. But the reason why they’re drugs now is because they were subjected to scientific testing and found to work, so the active substance was isolated or synthesized, and put into pills with specific dosages in a bottle that lays out the possible side effects. This doesn’t mean that all traditional herbal medicines work, though. Some are tested and found to do no better than placebo. There may be some out there that will be shown to work once they’re adequately tested, but I wouldn’t rely on those to medicate myself because a) possible side effects are unknown, and b) how would you know how much you need or how long you need to  take  it for if the substance has never been properly tested?

 

That was pretty much it, it was a fantastic discussion and I hope I gave Teacher (and you?) something to think about.

Sorry about the scatter-brained posting!

The More I Learn, The More I Realize How Little I Know

Well, damn it’s been a long time. I never wanted to be one of those people who let their blog fall into disrepair, but here we are. My last post was made in February. FEBRUARY!

I always enjoyed writing and putting in my own two cents on things, but for awhile there it was beginning to feel like a chore. I think that I was trying too hard to blog on a regular basis, and to make scheduled posts and so on, so it started feeling like homework instead of an enjoyable passtime. After a certain amount of time had passed it felt like I had let the blog die and I was a bit ashamed about all of the promises I didn’t fulfill, and the comments that I didn’t answer. I definitely let myself down.

So here I am about 6 months later hoping to rectify the situation. I want my blog to continue, and I want it to be fun again! So I’m starting with this post, and I’m resolving to make no promises about future posts. I don’t promise to post on a regular basis, I don’t promise to post about certain topics, and I don’t promise to respond to all comments although know that I read them all and take them to heart and appreciate the feedback and challenges! I’m just going to write about what I feel like, whenever I feel compelled to.

Now to the title of this post: The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. It’s a saying I’m sure you’ve all heard in some form or another (I feel like it’s something I read in the Bible once upon a time, but I’m not sure), but it’s related to why my posts here started tapering off. It might have just been my experience, but when I suddenly realized that I no longer believed in God and started going down the path of skepticism, I felt like everything was clear and that I understood that all of those paranormal things were bunk and I was prepared to handle every argument thrown my way.

I felt like suddenly I was in on the big secret, like I became that one kid in a group of kids that didn’t believe in Santa. I was given some special knowledge that all of these weird things the people around us believe and preach are simply the result of thousands of years of storytelling and indoctrination. I have to admit that it made me a bit arrogant. I didn’t become like that caricature of the atheist as the person who can’t keep his/her mouth shut when someone says “god bless” after a sneeze, but whenever something of a religious or paranormal nature would come up in conversation I had thoughts running through my head saying how can someone really think this crap and that’s so ignorant, and so on.

My blog became a bit of an outlet for that. When I read something loony or came across a ghosty website I would post it up and poke fun without giving it any kind of serious thought, secure in the knowledge that my naturalistic world view was right and that I didn’t have to give these things any further consideration. I even found myself parroting things said by some of the leaders in the skeptical community, without thinking twice. I cringe at that, because as a person who is trying to be a good skeptic, that’s the worst way I could go about things.

But, I’m not worried about that now, because skepticism is a learning process. As someone who previously would believe just about anything if it was under the guise of Christianity or if it made even a little bit of superficial sense, learning to think critically and to think for myself was a long process, and one that’s still ongoing. The more I learn about the universe, about science, and about how to think critically, the less I realize I know, and the less I feel qualified to be repeating things on my blog, so consequently the less I began to write.

In recent times I think I got a lot better at just writing what I knew, taking things at face value and thinking about arguments on my own without just re-hashing someone else’s. But after awhile I felt like I was completely over-stepping my bounds by trying to speak authoritatively on anything besides my own personal experiences. I stepped away from the skeptical community for awhile, I even stopped reading Pharyngula for awhile (shocking, I know), plus all of the other atheist and skeptical blogs that I used to love reading.

I think it’s good to step out of your little world for a little while, but I’ve definitely missed blogging and I’m back to trying to keep up with all aspects of the skeptical community, and it’s great to be back! Sometimes you get stuck in a bubble of only seeing and hearing things that you agree with, so stepping out of that helps you to get a better perspective and to see things from other peoples’ points of view for a change. Here’s a really great TED Talk that’s somewhat related:

Wow, well I’ve been writing for a long time and who knows if anyone will even read this! I completely forgot where I was going with this…hmmm…

I’ll try to conclude here, what I’ve been trying to say is (and I want to be clear that this only applies to me and not all skeptics) that I was getting a little too wrapped up in the skeptical community, to an extent that I was turning off my critical thinking at times and just following along with what I read and heard from people I admire. I’ve tried to expand my influences and gain some better perspective and understanding, so now I fell ready to pick up the blogging game again and think for myself more rather than constantly deferring to authorities. Sound good?

Even if none of that made sense, I had fun writing it and that’s what it’s all about! Right? Right???

Every Cold and Flu Treatment That Has Been Recommended to me in the Past Two Months (And What the Evidence Says)

Hey everyone, I’ve been out of the blogging routine for way too long now, so I’m going to try to get back into the swing of things by writing about all of the cold and flu remedies that I’ve been told to try in the past couple of months. I’ve been sick since midway through December. First I had a cold, and just when I was getting over that I caught a nasty cough virus that’s been floating around Winnipeg this winter, and now I have a cold again as well as remnants of that damn cough combined with the return of my asthma. Party! And when you’re coughing and your voice is all nasally people tend to tell you what you need to do to get better.

The following are all of the remedies (alternative and mainstream) that have been recommended to me, as well as the best non-propagandaish information I could find on each:

Vitamin C

  • Rose to popularity as a treatment for the common cold in the 1970s after this book by Linus Pauling was published.
    • The Cochrane Collaboration is an organization that looks at the body of evidence for a given health care intervention and publishes reviews based on what the results of multiple trials say when considered as a whole. Here‘s the Vitamin C review. In a nutshell:
      • Regular ingestion of vitamin C had no effect on common cold incidence in the ordinary population.
      • It had a modest, but consistent effect in reducing the duration and severity of common cold symptoms.
    • If vitamin C doesn’t reduce my likelihood of coming down with a cold then I wouldn’t bother with taking a daily supplement, since it’s pretty easy to find foods that contain more than enough vitamin C, however it seems to me that it may be worth it to take 0.2g of Vitamin C per day to reduce the length of a cold.
    • Here‘s a podcast episode on the subject.
  • It is also frequently recommended as a way to “boost your immune system”
    • I’ll link to a few articles explaining why the idea that you can boost your immune system is little more than a marketing gimmick, but I’ll try to summarize: if your immune system is working normally it can’t be boosted, but exposure to illnesses (ex. vaccination) will improve your chances of not getting sick. I really think you should read the articles though: One, Two and Three.

Oil of Oregano

  • A few different people recommended Oil of Oregano to me, but nobody really had a clear description of what it’s supposed to do, or what illnesses it’s supposed to treat. There are all kinds of claims made about it but the evidence is lacking. Here‘s a good summary from Science-Based Pharmacy:
    “There is no published evidence to demonstrate that that oil of oregano is effective for any medical condition or illness. There is some very limited evidence to suggest that it might be useful for parasite infections – but given the evidence consists of only one study with 14 patients, and no placebo comparison, we really have no idea if the oregano oil was effective. The bottom line is that despite all the marketing, press, and sales, there is no research that exists to demonstrate that oil of oregano does anything useful in or on our bodies.”

Echinacea

  • A recent study (published in December, 2010) concluded that “illness duration and severity were not statistically significant with echinacea compared with placebo. These results do not support the ability of this dose of the echinacea formulation to substantively change the course of the common cold.”
  • Here‘s an assessment of the evidence for Echinacea by Steve Novella of the Skeptics’ Guide podcast. It’s from 2007, so it was written before that most recent study was published.
  • I should mention that I found both of these links on Skeptic North’s article, Coughs, colds and the “appealing but mistaken concept of boosting the immune system”

Garlic

  • I think this may have been the first time that somebody recommended garlic to me as a cold remedy, but basically it was just recommended that I eat a ton of garlic. I love garlic, so I have no problem incorporating it into my diet, especially when I’m going to be home sick from work for a few days and nobody has to smell me. But will it treat my cold?
  • There is a Cochrane review on the use of garlic for treating the common cold, but there was only one study that fulfilled the criteria for the review and it was a small one (146 participants). The study found that people who took garlic every day for 3 months had fewer colds, but it would take a larger trial to confirm these findings. There were other studies claiming that garlic is helpful in preventing the cold, but they were poor quality so they didn’t meet the Cochrane review standards.
  • I wouldn’t take or recommend garlic based on such poor evidence, although I wouldn’t advise against adding it to spaghetti sauce either.

Cold-fX

  • I have a friend who swears by Cold-fX, which means that for the past couple of months every time I converse with her and I sniffle or cough she tries pushing it on me. I know she means well, but I’m skeptical of any product that makes vague claims like “strengthens the immune system.” To me, that’s meaningless. It’s also fairly pricey, so it’s not worth it to me to spend money on something that has poor supporting evidence.
  • Science-based Pharmacy has an article looking at the evidence related to Cold-fX.
  • My Cold-fX loving friend always tells me “when I take it my colds don’t last as long,” but that’s not something that convinces me because: a) colds don’t always last the same length, b) personal testimonials aren’t helpful because there’s no way of knowing whether an individual would have gotten better without the treatment (this is why trials need large numbers and placebo groups), and c) who keeps track of how long their cold is anyways? People recover from colds whether or not they use a treatment, but without proper trials it’s impossible to say for sure whether something like Cold-fX has an effect.

Buckleys/NyQuil/any cough syrup

  • Personally, cough syrup did nothing for me. Buckleys provided 5 seconds of cooling in my throat before I had to start coughing again. All it did was put me to sleep, which was definitely welcome. But it made me doubtful that cough syrup does anything to alleviate symptoms.
  • I always thought of cough syrups as being efficacious just because they’re pretty mainstream medicine (not that that is a good argument for any treatment), but even Wikipedia has this to say: “There however is no good evidence for or against the use of these medications in those with a cough. Even though they are used by 10% of American children weekly, they are not recommended in children 6 years of age or younger due to lack of evidence showing effect, and concerns of harm.
  • The Cochrane review on “over-the-counter medications for acute cough” concludes: “There is no good evidence for or against the effectiveness of OTC medicines in acute cough. The results of this review have to be interpreted with caution due to differences in study characteristics and quality. Studies often showed conflicting results with uncertainty regarding clinical relevance. Higher quality evidence is needed to determine the effectiveness of self-care treatments for acute cough.”

Neti Pot

  • I actually can’t talk about the Neti Pot without gagging. The thought of sticking something up my nose and pouring a saline solution through my sinuses to wash snot out into my sink is so off-putting to me that I’ll probably never try it.
  • Neti Pots are an example of an alternative medicine practice that has been validated (to an extent), although evidence has shown that using it on a regular basis can increase your risk of sinus infections.

It’s funny that when you’re sick everyone around you puts on their doctor hat – all of a sudden they’re all medical authorities. I have this compulsion too, I recommended my “treatments” of Advil for the sore throat and NyQuil to get some sleep – who knows if that combo is even safe! I think it’s hard to see someone suffering from any kind of illness and not want to help, so we offer up treatments in the hopes that it will make them feel better. Unfortunately this probably does more to line the pockets of drug and supplement companies, who play on peoples’ beliefs in certain treatments in spite of the poor evidence for their efficacy, than it does to soothe the symptoms of a virus.

The Moment I Stopped Believing in Santa is Preserved in Writing

I’ve always preferred communicating with people in writing, even when I was a little kid. I suppose that’s why it’s only natural that I have a blog! Even before I could write my mom would have me communicate my feelings through drawing or painting. So when I wanted to broach a difficult subject I would always write her a note.

I remember writing to her when I found out my classmate was shoplifting and smoking, I wrote to her when I wanted to stop going to Church with the rest of my family, and I vaguely remember drawing her a picture representing my feelings about a war I heard about on the radio (I think it must have been the Gulf War).

My husband and I recently moved, and when I was unpacking I started to dig out my old correspondences and read through them. I found one cute little journal that was full of notes back and forth between my mom and I. Most of it was her guiding me on how I could learn to tolerate my annoying little brothers, and I was also very concerned about a wallet I had lost (I remember finding it in the couch, that was a good day). But my heart skipped a beat when I saw this:

I think that for many children, the first time they really think about and apply skepticism and critical thinking is when they consider the existence of Santa Claus and the other various characters that our parents make up to make our childhood more fun. My mom had the perfect response to the above query:

My response:

And her again:

And me again:

At this point she knew I had figured it out, so the next response from her is her explanation about what Santa Claus is, and about how he represents the spirit of giving.

I have the best mother!

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I enjoyed finding it!

Happy Holidays everyone :)

Positive Thinking

So, December is proving to be a terrible month to do an anything “of the month”, but I’ve been trying to fulfill my intentions to read up on the subject of positive thinking, and to inform myself on the evidence for its efficacy. I hope to go more in depth at what science says about positive thinking, but for now here are some of my initial thoughts on the topic.

When I told my husband that I would be doing positive thinking as my skeptical topic of the month, he thought it was a little bit strange because of his experience as an athlete. He plays and coaches hockey, so he’s familiar with the effects that a positive attitude can have on the outcome of a game. If your team is convinced that they’re going to lose, they aren’t going to over-exert themselves to try in futility to score. It’s easier for the players to get over their own insecurities and to play their best if they’re feeling confident.

I was an athlete myself back in my highschool and university days. I was a competitive swimmer, and my best event lasted less than 30 seconds. I had to be positive about my training and abilities, otherwise I would get caught up in making sure my hands were positioned correctly or making sure I didn’t breathe too often. But here’s the thing, no amount of positive thinking would have allowed me to go faster than I was physically able to go. If I hadn’t worked hard enough in practice I couldn’t count on my optimistic brain to push me into the lead. I could visualize myself springing from the blocks the moment the gun went off, but it wouldn’t change the fact that I had terrible reaction time.

Thinking about something doesn’t make it happen, no matter what Oprah tells you.

Out of curiosity I Googled “Positive thinking can”, and here are some of the results that came up:

·       Help you feel better, longer
·       Reduce stress
·       Ease back pain
·       Change your life
·       Increase your wealth, health and happiness
·       Help you attract success
·       Help children feel confident
·       Help you lose weight
Etc…

How can thinking possibly do all of this magic? I have back issues myself, and let me tell you no amount of positive thinking is going to dull that sharp pain like loads of ice and an anti-inflammatory. Though I might be able to distract myself from the pain by thinking about how annoying Deepak Chopra is…

Positive thinking may be helpful in some of these instances. Being a positive person might make people want to be around you, which will increase your chances of having a friend that can help you find wealth or success. But looking at websites and videos that promote positive thinking make it seem as though if only you start to think more positively you’ll suddenly find yourself in a beautiful green meadow with a big blue sky and rolling clouds, basking in your own success while you spin around with your arms in the air in loose, white clothing.

Google Image search results for "positive thinking"

Thoughts aren’t magical. Conjuring something up in your mind isn’t going to make it happen. Positive thinking isn’t going to help you pass that test unless you study. A good attitude won’t shrink that tumor. Optimism won’t give you the money you need to buy your dream home.

Yet there’s an entire industry out there of people who want to sell you the idea that you can get anything you want by sending your positive thoughts out into the universe. On the surface it’s a nice idea. Just be positive! Your dreams will come true! But what really disgusts me about these ideas is the implication that if good things don’t happen for you it’s your fault.

Terminally ill? Maybe you should have a better attitude. Didn’t get the job? Keep sending those positive vibes and you’ll get a job eventually. Depressed? Well maybe you should smile more.

This is what protects the cult of positive thinking: it’s immune to criticism. If it doesn’t work for you it’s because you weren’t doing it right.

Postitive Thinking – December’s Skeptical Topic

Every month I (and anyone else who wants to join me) will be exploring one topic that’s commonly looked at by skeptics, to try to get a good feel for it. I/we’ll be looking at the arguments for and against the subject, reading blogs or listening to podcasts to do with both sides of the issue, and trying to gain an understanding of what science says on the topic.

In mid-November I posted a poll asking what the first subject should be and the winner was positive thinking, so all throughout December I’ll be getting better acquainted with the idea that by thinking positively you can improve your life, heal yourself, and attract good fortune. Of course I’ll also be blogging about it!

If anyone has any suggestions for resources I’d love to hear them!

So far, Gem Newman of Startled Disbelief has agreed to join me. If anyone else would like to join us let me know and I’ll link to your blog. By the way, the Winnipeg Free Press did a fantastic piece on Gem and the Winnipeg Skeptics in today’s paper. It’s rare to see a skeptical group written about so fairly and accurately, I love it!

The First Skeptical Subject of the Month

Starting December 1st I’ll be focusing attention on one particular subject that’s of interest to skeptics, as a way to expose myself to things that I either don’t believe in or have doubts about. I’ll be looking at one topic every month so that I can expose myself to the arguments for and against the things that I dismiss as implausible. Here‘s the blog post where I proposed the idea.

So, since December is approaching fast I thought it’s time to post a poll asking you all what topic you think I should cover. It’s in your hands! I’ve never used a poll on WordPress before, so I’m hoping this works. If you have trouble just let me know what topic you’d like me to cover in the comments! Your options are Organic Food, Positive Thinking or Near-Death Experiences. I also take write-in votes ;)

Also, if anyone wants to join me in the goal of covering a skeptical topic every month, let me know and I’ll link to your blog or I’ll post your “adventures” as guest blog posts!

Pseudoscience of the Month

You may have noticed that lately I’ve lacked inspiration for posts – I’ve been feeling a bit like all I ever talk about is atheism. I have so many ideas for upcoming posts about atheism, but I didn’t want this blog to only be about my skepticism of religion, I want it to be about my skepticism in general. I suppose the reason that I’ve resorted to posting mainly about atheism is that I spent most of my life immersed in religion, so I have a lot to say on the subject.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with writing what you know, but I feel like if I’m going to continue to identify myself with the skeptical community I ought to give these things that I dismiss as pseudoscience a fair shake. I think my reasons for dismissing things such as astrology or ghosties as pseudoscience are sound, and I don’t feel that I need to spend years researching the subjects to realize that they’re just not plausible. But I recently started reading Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer, and it has helped me to realize that there’s a lot to learn about science and nature and humanity from critically examining these weird things that people believe.

So here’s the plan. Each month I’m going to choose a pseudoscience or a topic that’s popular for skeptics to look at, and immerse myself in it. I’ll read blogs about ghosts, listen to podcasts about cryptozoology, I’ll subscribe to relevant Google Alerts, and I’ll look at the best evidence in favour of those things I don’t believe in. I’ll also read what the skeptics have to say on the subjects, and I’ll form my own opinion by blogging about what I learn. Sound like fun?

“Pseudoscience of the Month” is a poor name – any better ideas?

Here are some ideas for months I have so far (I’m taking suggestions):

  • Astrology
  • Creationism
  • Ghosts
  • Psychics
  • Near Death Experiences
  • 9/11 Truth
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Climate Change Denial
  • The Anti-Vaccine Movement

Oh btw: I’m not doing homeopathy ever! It’s been beaten to death by other people and there’s no way I can spend a whole month reading about dilutions and sugar pills.

I also want to tackle some common sense ideas, things that I go along with but that skeptics are…uh…skeptical of. I can only think of two for now:

  • Organic Food (is it really healthier/better for the environment)
  • Positive Thinking

December will be the first month, what do you think would be a good topic for that holiest of months? The historicity of Jesus? Creationism? The “America is a Christian nation” myth? Although all of those things may go against my initial push for starting this “of the month” thing – which is to not limit myself to talking about religion all the time.

I also want to invite any of you that have blogs to join me – the more the merrier! I’ll link to your posts and we can all learn from each other.

Sound like a plan?

Women and Skepticism

If you’ve ever been to a meeting of skeptics, chances are you’ve noticed a big gap between the number of men and the number of women in attendance. When I started this blog I remember trying to think of what would set my point of view apart from the thousands of other skeptical blogs out there. All I could think of was that it might be interesting that I was formerly a believer of many of the things I now criticize, but it took some comments on my gender to make me realize that being a female skeptical blogger is actually pretty rare.

I’ve never gone and counted, but in my anecdotal experience most skeptical, atheist, and science-related blogs are written by men. So why is this? Skeptifem recently blogged about this, and her thinking was that it’s because women are busier, as we are generally tasked with looking after the kids or the home. I have no doubt that this contributes to the lack of ladies at skeptical gatherings, but I think there has to be more to it than that, otherwise we should expect women to also be underrepresented at things like Mind, Body, Spirit Festivals and in Church activities, no? Thankfully, PZ Myers recently posed the question on his blog:

So I’m going to try something a little different. Instead of telling you my opinion, I’m going to forgo the essential principle of blogging (which is “Me! Me!”) and just ask people, especially women, to leave links to their godless/skeptical feminist blog or make suggestions or gripe or tell me what these stupid male-dominated conventions have to do to correct the imbalance.

There was a lot of interesting discussion, so I recommend looking at the comments. Personally, I think it largely has to do with it being less socially acceptable for a woman to be outspoken, confrontational, and intellectual. I’m not sure what the solution is to this issue, maybe you can post your suggestions in the comments, but I think that promoting female skeptics is a good place to start. If more women are seen to be participating in skepticism at least online, then maybe we won’t be seen as a novelty simply by virtue of our gender.

So I’ve gone through the comments on that thread on Pharyngula and compiled this list of skeptical blogs/podcasts/websites that happen to be created by women (hopefully I didn’t miss any, there were over 600 comments). Enjoy!

Feel free to add more links in the comments!

I also want to take this opportunity to say that I’ve been wanting to find other contributors to this blog since my posts are so sporatic, and this whole topic of women in skepticism has made me think that it would be great to get some other women posting on my blog. If you’re interested (even if you want to cross-post from your own blog), shoot me an email through my contact page.

The Frustrations of Skeptical Blogging

I never wanted to be one of those people who started a blog only to abandon it when I got bored, but here I am just over a year into my blogging and I haven’t posted or responded to any comments in a couple of weeks. I have been reading the comments and I thank you for your feedback, but I just haven’t been able to find the motivation to come here and respond to anything, or to come up with any new material.

I just want to do a little bit of thinking out loud…

When I started doubting my religion and that lead me to the wonderful world of skepticism, I felt like the fog had been lifted from my brain. I was free to ponder whatever I wanted, no longer worrying about a tyrannical god monitoring my thoughts, and I began to exercise my curiosity. I felt so much joy in the clarity that skepticism was bringing me, something that I had never felt when I was held back by religion and faith. So, of course, I wanted to share that with people, so I started this blog.

I think maybe people have a tendency to assume that others think the way that they do, so when I started to think skeptically I couldn’t understand how someone could, for example, believe that psychics were legit, when it was so obvious to me that they’re lying or deluded. So when I started my blog I would just kind of post things to make fun of the silly woos without really backing up my thoughts, things that I thought other people would agree with. Now when I look back at that I’m just embarrassed, so part of my lack of motivation to blog lately has had to do with me wanting to distance myself from my past mistakes. I’m considering deleting some of that old stuff, but I don’t want to feel like I’m just hiding my errors.

It’s also a struggle to get across some of the things I’m discovering that help me wade through the vast amount of information that’s out there, to get to the true stuff. I’ve never been particularly good at teaching, but I really want people to know the things I’ve been learning in books (recent ones I’ve enjoyed are Godless, Letter to a Christian Nation, The Demon-Haunted World, and I’m currently reading Voodoo Histories and it’s fantastic). I guess I have trouble understanding that not everyone is as into these things as I am. So I’ve tried to steer my blog more in the direction of discussing my own everyday experiences and how they relate to my skeptical outlook – I hope that’s come across. I think my favourite post of mine has to be the one about my childhood Bible. I guess I’m a little unclear about what I wanted this blog to be, so maybe that’s why I’ve just opted to be silent the past little while? I don’t know…

What really frustrates me, is when people just don’t get the point of what I’m trying to say. I admit that that’s as much (if not more so) my own fault as it is the reader’s, but, okay I’ll give an example… I recently posted about some red flags that could help someone spot bullshit. One of them was about how testimonials aren’t reliable evidence, and then someone comes and posts a testimonial! I just had to laugh after I saw that, and then I started thinking “what am I even doing with this blog?” It feels like nothing!

I guess over the past couple of weeks I’ve been more and more feeling like this whole Struck by Enlightning project has been an exercise in futility. I was going to just shut the whole thing down, but now I’m reconsidering. As Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living”, and if anything this blog has forced me to examine my life, my words, my beliefs, my flaws.

So I think I’m going to keep plugging along. I overloaded a little bit and now I’m rebooting and I’m going to try to take it easy. I’m going to try to get back to blogging about things that interest me, and I hope some of you are entertained.

Alright thanks for letting me indulge in that rant!

I’ll wrap this up now but I do want to make it clear that I really appreciate everyone’s comments, there have been some thoughtful and some provoking ones lately and although I haven’t responded to them due to my little blogging detox, I have read them all and discussed many of them with my husband.

Okay I’ll shut up now! I’m not even going to read over this so sorry for any spelling errors or if it doesn’t even make sense. I just wanted to put it all out there.


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