Posts Tagged 'Critical Thinking'

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???

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 :)

Another Bigfoot Photo

My bullshit detector went off as soon as I saw this story…what a pathetic bit of journalism.

It begins…

A Kentucky man said his surveillance camera captured something in his back yard last week, but no one is sure what it is.

Here’s the picture he captured:

Bigfoot

Ok…why is this in the news? It’s a fuzzy black blob, and you can’t tell what it is. The owner of the picture says:

“It looked like it had the outline of a head, and, like, gorilla-type shoulders, and then the arms crossed is what it looks like to me,” Mahoney told WAVE-TV Monday.

Yeah it vaguely resembles that, but gorillas in Kentucky? The story goes on…

Mahoney said he doesn’t think he captured Bigfoot on film. But that doesn’t explain what the camera saw, either. Mahoney said whatever it was smashed down weeds and grass as it passed.

If he doesn’t think that it was a Bigfoot picture, where did the reporter get the idea to put the word “Bigfoot” in the headline?

Where are the pictures of the smashed down weeds and grass?

The story also links to a slideshow of images which are telling. The first image is this one:

Bigfoot BS

And then they keep getting more and more zoomed in (they get more and more blurry). When you see it to scale it’s obviously not big enough to be a gorilla as it barely goes any higher than the low brush.

One commenter on the story suggested that it may be a bird coming in for a landing. I can see this as if you look at the more zoomed in picture above it looks kind of like a bird coming towards and to the right of the camera with its wings folded in front of it. The makes sense to me as the camera is meant to take wildlife photos (according to the article), and a bird is fast-moving enough that it would create a blurry image whereas land animals would be slow enough that he could get a clear picture of them.

The story concludes with this gem:

His wife took the photo to a wildlife expert on black bears, who said that whatever it was, it was fur-covered. But she told Mahoney’s wife that she couldn’t say for sure it was a bear, either.

How anyone can tell that that’s anything fur-covered from such a blurry and far-away image is beyond me. And then of course since they can’t say for sure that it’s a bear, the person writing the headlines decided to go with Bigfoot.

I wonder how many of my fudged up photos I could get published in the newspaper?

There’s even a poll attached to the story…

Poll

Come on, WLWT.com, not even an “I don’t know” option?

Can Your Beliefs About Religion make it Across This Intellectual Battleground?

The Philosophers’ Magazine has an interesting little test to see how reasoned your beliefs about religion are.

Give it a try: Battleground God

I suggest you try the test before reading my results below.

I was awarded this:

It’s given to about 46% of people who complete the test, because I didn’t take any “hits”, and only “bit one bullet”.

Here’s what it said about me:

You have been awarded the TPM medal of distinction! This is our second highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity without being hit and biting only one bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. The bitten bullet occurred because you responded in a way that required that you held a view that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, because you bit only one bullet and avoided direct hits completely you still qualify for our second highest award. A good achievement!

The question I bit the bullet on was this one:

You answered “True” to questions 6 and 13.

These answers generated the following response:

You stated earlier that evolutionary theory is essentially true. However, you have now claimed that it is foolish to believe in God without certain, irrevocable proof that she exists. The problem is that there is no certain proof that evolutionary theory is true – even though there is overwhelming evidence that it is true. So it seems that you require certain, irrevocable proof for God’s existence, but accept evolutionary theory without certain proof. So you’ve got a choice: (a) Bite a bullet and claim that a higher standard of proof is required for belief in God than for belief in evolution. (b) Take a hit, conceding that there is a contradiction in your responses.

I chose option a, because I feel that the evidence for god would have to be exceptionally strong to convince me. If I were asked the question again though I would probably have to change my answer. The evidence for evolution is so good that an equivalent standard of evidence for god should be enough to convince me, and I hope would convince me that there’s a god.

As far as I know, no scientific theory has “certain, irrevocable proof.” I’m pretty sure that proofs only exist in mathematics. My logic faltered there, but I know that I should hold the same standards of evidence for anything that I hold to be true.

I’m Back!

I haven’t made any new posts in awhile, but I’m missing blogging so I’m back!

I suppose that the reason I stopped was that I was making mistakes in my reasoning and getting off track of what I wanted my blog to be about, and I was getting frustrated with myself. But that’s not a good reason to stop, so I’m going to make a commitment now to start blogging regularly again. Thank you to the people who have commented recently, it’s these comments that have encouraged me to start up again. I’ll try to respond to many of the recent comments.

I just want to comment on a few things before I get back to my regular blogging…

I found that a lot of my recent posts were just poking fun at strange beliefs, and that’s not what my goal was with this blog. I also want to express my excitement with regards to learning about science. I’m a very positive person, so I want to make an effort to blog about what I enjoy. I’ll still be pointing out pseudoscience and bad reasoning, but I want to balance that with talking about cool discoveries and interesting things I’m learning about.

In one instance I posted in the comments section of a post that I wanted someone to show me the evidence they had for the paranormal. They responded with several links to studies, and I didn’t give them much more than a cursory glance. I asked for the evidence (though I should have specified what I was looking for evidence for) and I should have given the responses to that request more of a look, but I was dismissive. I wasn’t worried that I would see evidence that would challenge my world view. I welcome a challenge to my world view. Rather, I had no interest in reading over what was given to me. From now on, when I ask for evidence, I’ll look at what’s given in response to that. And if I’m feeling particularly ambitious one day, I’ll read over what was given to me in the comments of that post. I also want to add that my response to that situation was not representative of people in the skeptical movement. I’m a rookie at this, and I’m learning more and more each day.

Some people had said that I had swapped Jesus for James Randi, and this is not true. I admire Randi, sure, as I admire many other scientists and skeptics, but I do not worship him, I do not follow him blindly, and I do not believe that he has all of the answers. I just wanted to make that clear.

I think I’ve dealt with everything I wanted to talk about for now, but if anyone has any questions or comments about my hiatus please post them here :)

I’m happy to be back, now on with our regularly scheduled program…

The Amazing Meeting 7 in Las Vegas

I haven’t posted much new lately, but I have a very good reason for that!

I’ve been in Las Vegas for the past week for The Amazing Meeting 7 (TAM 7), an annual conference on critical thinking.

It was a fantastic experience! I met some cool people, saw some of the skeptics I admire most speak, and also had a fun visit to Vegas.

I’ll be posting lots about what I learned at the meeting, so watch for that over the next couple of weeks!

TAM7

Bigfoot and a Critical Thinking Exercise

Martin J Clemens posted a link to his article on the evolution of Bigfoot on a forum I frequent, and I thought it woud be a fun opportunity to exercise my critical thinking skills. I had frequent nightmares about Bigfoot as a kid, so I have to say I had fun picking apart the arguments in this article…Here goes:

Since the presentation of the Patterson Video from October 20th, 1967, Bigfoot mania has swept the globe.  As a cultural phenomenon, or more accurately, an urban legend, Bigfoot’s popularity has skyrocketed, since that cold autumn day, when two business associates, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin, happened to encounter what is arguably the most controversial anthropological find of modern science.

I don’t think you can call a film that’s probably a guy in a bigfoot costume anthropological evidence. And maybe it’s controversial in your circle but I doubt many (if any) anthropologists are losing sleep over it.

As possibly the most famous entry in the anthropological category of ‘Cryptid’, the Sasquatch, or more commonly, Bigfoot, has garnered more than its fair share of attention, both from believers and sceptics alike.

Among the sceptical arguments against the existence of this oft-described monster of the woods, is the pseudo-scientific claim that such a creature, if it could have evolved in the first place, could not survive for such a long period of time and remain unknown to modern science.

I don’t think any skeptic would say it’s impossible that this creature exists, I certainly wouldn’t. But people have been looking for it for a long time and no evidence has been found. It’s unlikely that a population of these creatures could have gone undetected for such a long time especially with people actively looking for it. After such a long time without any evidence it’s reasonable to be dismissive of claims that there’s a bigfoot until actual evidence is brought to light.

What I hope to show in this article is the fundamental flaw in the above reasoning, and to demonstrate, through an abstract examination of the currently known ethos of the Sasquatch, that it is not only possible for such a creature to exist and to flourish, but that it may even be likely.  In other words, I hope to debunk the debunkers.

Just because something is possible or even likely doesn’t make it true. Without evidence there’s no reason to think it’s true. The people who debunk bigfoot are simply looking at the evidence and pointing out that it’s not actually evidence for bigfoot.

Continue reading ‘Bigfoot and a Critical Thinking Exercise’


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