I got a link from Sensible Erection (NSFW) a “smart” collaborative blog with a porn bent that I’ve read for ages. It’s primarily a video link to a talk made by Phil Plait about how Skeptics should try to not be dicks about their cause. More behind the cut.
For those of you following along at home, I come from a very firmly atheist family that has a lot invested in Empiricism (father: biochemist, mother: nurse). My Mom (Hi Mom!) is very firmly atheist and skeptic (though I don’t think she’s a member of the Skeptics Activist Movement or of the James Randi Educational Foundation – though she has similar views). I had a lot of Empiricist training as well (got as far as being a grad student in Physical Chemistry, but switched over to Information Technology for a living). I started out a born Skeptic, but I eventually turned back to ancestral beliefs – mostly from China – I was an atheist Unitarian Universalist, then an agnostic Unitarian Universalist then a Taoist (if you want details, ask. Please don’t assume you know what I believe).
Because of my early Empiricist training I actually know where some of the faith-driven holes are in the foundations of science, and I will be happy to go toe to toe with Skeptics about this. If you are a Skeptic, it behooves you to know where the holes are in your argument. As a taste, if you are a Skeptic, and you do not know the terms “postulate” or “axiom”, you should look those up and figure out where they live in your arguments. Because one of the great empiricists, GÃ¶del, proved that if you have a self-consistent system, then your system is not complete. An incomplete system relies on postulates and axioms, which are, I believe you will find, articles of faith. The difference that I see between these articles of faith and the ones that non-skeptics take on board is that they are tiny articles of faith among great architectures of careful science and that they link well with the whole great amazing macrostructure of Science that is so reassuring. But they’re still there.
Also, lately what I’ve been pissed off about in Medicine and Science is the sloppy science we seem to be doing in the name of money. You can see a lot of it going on in realms of research funded primarily by pharmaceutical companies. The presentation of findings is usually comprised of hard to read and misleading summaries filled with very poorly done statistics that the researchers claim justifies putting lots of people on different kinds of expensive meds. On the other end of science, the findings and recommendations end, I’d love to see some Skeptics put their hard earned skepticism back in the community by organizing laypeople review committees of medical science research, findings and recommendations. You’ve got the skills. Use it to do some good against the harm that the Medical/Pharma industry is potentially doing to us. Statistics aren’t always true, and I think it’s well past time we did something about that.
I also spend a lot of time reading and contributing to MetaFilter, another collaborative blog NOT porn-oriented. One of my big gripes about MetaFilter is that it has a strong, vocal contingent of Skeptics, and they are simply awful to those of us who have something faith-based to say. When I found this link, I thought initially about posting it somehow to MetaFilter, but then I figured it would cause a flame war and I didn’t feel like I had the time or energy to shepherd the discussion or participate in it, so I just posted and wrote about it here. So here it is. Deal with it.