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Daily Archives: October 19th, 2010


It often pays to be skeptical, to doubt, but there are some things that it pays to normally accept until reasons for doubt present themselves…

We skeptics are occasionally accused by those impatient with us as being true believers in the lies of Big Science, Big Government, Big Pharma, and a veritable host of other wealthy, powerful institutions that present easy targets for criticism by our opposition, or that we are deniers of or naive about the Truth that the antiskeptical hold with such certitude.

Well, I’m perfectly aware of the fact that nobody can be totally skeptical of everything, for if we were, making no assumptions and accepting nothing as true, we’d be unable to interact with the world around us.

I’m also perfectly cognizant of the fact that I cannot be totally rational, but reason is not some ideal I hope to achieve, a goal to reach, an objective — it is a tool, a means of acquiring knowledge and making decisions together with my memory, perceptions, introspection, and when they serve me well, my intuitive faculties — reason is a means to an end, not something I ultimately aspire to.

I let reason and awareness be my guide when I determine if something or someone I trust requires me to exercise my doubt, not mere suspicion, and I’m very conscious — there’s that introspection thingie going on, when it’s reliable — about allowing ideology, my personal belief-system and values to contaminate my assessment.

So, here are a few things, some in all seriousness and some in jest, that this skeptic does not question unless a need to do so presents itself to my scrutiny.

  • my cats, especially Mistykins and our Katrina-refugee mamas-boy, Gumbyman…
  • skepticism, especially when my introspective ability is more acute during moments of mulling over something, like scrutinizing my own ability as a critical thinker…
  • experts in a field with real, relevant, and verifiable qualifications, unless evidence of questionable competence or motivations is apparent…
  • the need for evidence over faith and anecdotes in assessing claims, and the evidence had better damn well be sufficient to the requirements of the claim…
  • factual claims with a consistently successful previous record of verification…
  • the existence of the probable consequences of human activity on global climate change, though with the concession that there is still much room for debate on the matters of the exact effects and what should be done about them…
  • the general human need to have an immediate answer, even if it’s wrong…
  • the existence of delusions, especially paranoid ones, as a real psychological phenomenon in a universe where things can be whole or mixed truths and falsehoods…
  • those limits on what is possible stemming from the laws of the universe, the laws of logic, and the limits of human beings with regard to those laws…
  • quantum mechanics, as physicists understand it, not as mystics or paranormalists claim to…
  • the fact that I too can be fooled, and must stay alert to possible scams and other assorted attempts at deceptions…
  • conventional explanations for allegedly supernatural occurrences, provided that they are both plausible, probable, or better yet, confirmed beyond reasonable doubt…
  • that protecting the biosphere of our only current homeworld is more important than short-term, short-sighted, and inefficient, economic growth…
  • both the fact of evolution and the theory that describes it – not only as Darwin saw it – but as it exists in its modern form today far beyond what he imagined…
  • the fact that the Earth is round, even if not a perfect sphere, and that the Earth revolves around the Sun, not vice-versa, and that we are not at center of the universe…
  • the existence of atoms as the basic constituents of chemical elements, as opposed to all matter in the universe being composed of jesutrons and only four elements…
  • the existence of gravity, even Newton’s theory, even though it was essentially conceptually wrong, but still produced useful working predictions that we make use of today in launching spacecraft…
  • that AIDS is caused by infection by the HIV virus, and not any god’s wrath for a sinful lifestyle or diet, or caused by sitting on dirty toilet seats…
  • that vaccines to not have any causal connection with autism disorders…
  • that astronauts have landed, walked on the moon, left things there and brought back samples…
  • that the ‘face on mars’ is really just a rock formation that looks nothing at all like a face in photos with superior resolution…
  • that conspiracies happen, though the successful ones you never even know exist…until they’re no longer successful, then everybody knows about them…
  • that the alleged evidence for the paranormal even over time just gets bigger, not any better over the years despite claims of proponents…
  • that mainstream astronomers neither ignore nor deny an electromagnetic cause for anything in the universe when observations show this to be most likely the case…
  • that the universe began some 13.7 billion years ago in an explosion of spacetime called the Big Bang, until a better model of the universe’s origin is confirmed and established by future observations…
  • that the establishment is not bad or sinister just because it’s the establishment…
  • that facts we can know about reality are not absolutely yes or no, not really completely true or false, but come in degrees of truth and falsehood…
  • that reason is far superior to irrationality in complex decision making with important consequences…

I’ll finish this in two more parts, part II this Thursday evening, to note a few other things I’m less critical about, and explore different intellectual approaches to doubt, those of denial, credulity, and sound critical thinking in part III. Take care, and I’ll see you then. Fnord.


More astronomy goodness from AndromedasWake, on the question of life elsewhere in the universe. Hopefully, this will inspire future scientists, and in any event, enlarge one’s view of the cosmos with really awesome footage. My view? We might be alone, but I sure as hell hope not.

AndromedasWake | January 08, 2010

When you look at innumerable galaxies in space, does it leave you feeling more or less lonely?
Hubblesite press release: http://is.gd/5VTVD
Full resolution JPEG (6455×2848, 4.11MB): http://is.gd/5VU14
The music, titled ‘Endless’ is available from http://andromedaswake.com/sonics

Image credit;
NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst (Arizona State University), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Institution of Washington), R. OConnell (University of Virginia), the WFC3 Science Oversight Committee, S. Cohen, M. Mechtley, and M. Rutkowski (Arizona State University, Tempe), N. Hathi (University of California, Riverside), R. Ryan (University of California, Davis), H. Yan (Ohio State University), and A. Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute).

Massive props to CosmicSpork for rendering me a HD LoR logo on request. A galaxy of your choice for you sir.

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