Finally …

July 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

… doing something I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I’m reading the Qur’an.

For the time being, all I’ll say is: Hmm …

When I manage to plough through the whole thing I’ll comment more extensively.

What do Religious Fundamentalists, and Skeptic Activists have in common?

June 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

They develop their opinions in echo chambers, and consider those human beings who don’t share them to be garbage.

‘“Get up on your feet and take out the garbage” [Mark] Edward told the audience during his [QEDcon ] talk on Sunday.’

Meanwhile, in case you didn’t know, there’s a ‘Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia’ organisation (GSoW), which has a private (i.e. secret) forum where they congregate and … who knows? It’s secret. You can apply to join, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll be accepted. Most likely not. Because they’ll ask you “what exactly have you got to contribute?” like they asked this woman who had contributed photographs in the past, and never get back to you. You might be deemed not skeptical enough. Who knows? Maybe they need to do a full background check to make sure you were never anything but fully committed to the “skeptical movement”. Maybe, once, you actually read an actual peer-reviewed paper on something they consider fringe and didn’t immediately label it “pseudo-science”, because, frankly, both the methodology and the statistics were far more rigorous than most mainstream papers that get published every day. (Trust me. I see dozens of the mainstreams ones, from beginning of composition, pre- publication, to-post peer-review, including correction processes.)

The article on the link above (here it is again), though due praise for recognising the potential problems of a secret cabal with an agenda on how to edit wikipedia, only seems to worry about how a secret cabal looks to people on the outside, rather than whether these potential problems listed are actually real problems. Hmm. Let me think … What are the chances that the problems afflicting any secret cabal with an agenda also actually afflict this one?

For some people, all this has finally been enough, and kudos to them for publicly explaining why they are done with the skeptic movement – without this meaning that they have surrendered their ability for critical thought.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I shall here make public that I spent quite a few years as a ‘skeptic’, sneering at lesser mortals with the best of them. I am no longer a ‘skeptic’, though I have not surrendered my ability for skepsis (thought, Greek). Thankfully, eventually it occurred to me that a) the ‘skeptic movement’ is an echo chamber, b) I am actually exercising less critical thought and reading less widely as a skeptic, than I did previously, c) the ‘skeptic movement’ is comprised of people as blindly certain that they are in possession of the one single Truth as any religious fundamentalist, d) the arrogance it presupposes is colossal. Also, once I started reading more widely I discovered that it also ruthlessly distorts reality. Probably not intentionally. But more about this unintentional distortion in another post.

Until then, I will just say that those who are perfectly capable of engaging in critical thought without feeling the need for labels, such as ‘skeptic’, or getting the urge to join secret cabals, and have no desire to sneer, belittle, or shout down other people – or consider them garbage – but instead engage in proper scientific dialogue, have my wholehearted approval. For example, Daniël Lakens.

On Self-Censorship

June 26, 2014 § 5 Comments

On Self-Censorship

It is perhaps ironic that I start my blog with a post on self-censorship, but self-censorship is the reason I am only now starting a blog. There are many things I would like to talk about, but have felt that I can’t, for fear of provoking rage, vitriol, threats, and derision – in the best case scenario.

It took me three days to pick the ‘theme’ for this blog, because there were so many factors to take into account. There was, actually, another theme that I liked better, but it involved pastel ochre and terracotta shades, and it had some very nice, vaguely geometric-shaped flowers. But I’m a woman, and if I picked something with flowers, entirely subconsciously almost everyone seeing it – both men and women – would file me under the category of girly, and fluffy, with fluffy, girly thoughts.

I can almost hear you all being outraged and crying out “No, I wouldn’t!”. But you would. And it wouldn’t be your fault. That’s what you’ve been taught, usually by people not even realising that that’s what they’ve been teaching you.

In any case, I knew I wanted to talk about important things, which also often happen to be controversial things, so I needed to choose something that wouldn’t immediately and subconsciously trigger in readers the conditioning that pastel, girly things (because flowers are considered girly things) are invariably the product of fluffy, shallow thoughts. I did not want to be dismissed because there were pastel colours and flowers on my blog’s theme.

I am absolutely certain that there are still some of you who are thinking that that is absurd. That it would never happen. That they would never be affected that way by the mere existence of pastel ochre colours and flowers. I don’t know how else to convince you that it would, except by saying that it would affect me exactly the same way had I seen it on someone else’s blog; only I am aware of it and would try to rationalise my reaction away. But it would affect me. It is the same assumptions and judgements that we make every day based on another person’s personal appearance. We do not have the other person’s personal appearance to go by here. The nearest thing we have is the personalised appearance of their blog. So I couldn’t ‘wear’ flowers and pastel ochre colours, if I hoped to be taken seriously. I had to wear something plain and no-nonsense. Preferably something that men would likely choose when deciding what their blogs would ‘wear’. Because men are serious and no-nonsense, as we all know, and it is only men that have serious, well-thought-out, well-substantiated opinions. Don’t flee just yet, dear reader. I’m not attacking men. I’m only saying that in our society we still take those things considered manly to be serious and deep, and those things considered feminine to be shallow and fluffy. It is so, though it is sad that it is still so.

So, really, what this blog needed to wear was a suit. But it also had to please me, and I’m not a man. So the suit had to be a nice, vaguely feminine, monochrome trouser suit. Without flowers. Or too many accessories (girly fonts). Hence the process took three days.

The great irony is that there is hardly a flower to be seen in my real-life wardrobe and not a single instance of pastel colours. Not because I feel I shouldn’t wear these things. Only because I have different preferences. But I’d have liked this blog to wear those nice ochre and terracotta flowers. Still, this is, I feel, a pretty good compromise. What do you think of my suit?