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Troythulu’s Weekly Gnuz Roundup for July 20, 2012

Hello to you all! This week was, unfortunately, far from completely uneventful for my Troythuluness, and especially yesterday morning when the air conditioner died on us, though that’s been fixed…at some considerable cost to the rent. Never mind that, though. I’ve picked up a new book, and noted my plans for a full review of it as late as next Wednesday, though I’m going through it fairly quickly and it should be done sooner. Yay me.

This Monday, I posted a TED video on the future of crime in an increasingly technological world, and an essay, The Affirmations of Positive Unbelief, part of which I might post on my “What is a Skeptic?” page at some point. Still haven’t done much on the sitemap and media page for this site, though I’m hoping to have time later this morning to work on it.

…So many things piling up…Grrr! or as Mister Eccles would say, *Mew!*

I also had a game going on at a friend’s place, and had a blast with my antihero slowly morphing over time into a villain, which was loads of fun, though his transformation to the Dark Side is not yet complete!

On Tuesday the ‘rent came home from a trip up north during the weekend to see relatives and attend a funeral, so it was just me and the kitties until later that evening.

I posted another fractal image this Wednesday, this time, like several of the more recent images, generated using Mandelbulber, quickly becoming my favorite app for this sort of thing. Also, I posted on Wednesday a video of Dick Feynman talking about atoms as “little jiggling things,” in his highly accessible descriptions of nature at the subatomic scale — hearing him makes Quantum Mechanics see much less weird, and that’s a good thing.

Yesterday, I posted this tribute to my kitten and to actor Christopher Eccleston,
and a cat-themed installment to my favorite webcomic, xkcd.

On Left Hemispheres, there’s Secularism, It’s Just Atheism, & a NOVA documentary What Darwin Never Knew

On the Six-Pack blog, Kriss has posted The I’m Late for Work News Roundup and I Don’t Wanna Be Special in God’s Eyes

Finally, by dance group Quixotic Fusion,

Dancing with Light

Good morning, and have a great weekend! I’ll be posting stat updates in next Friday’s installment…See you then!

MNQ | Monday’s Noontide Query: Losing Faith in Faith

Hat Tip to @MexicanAtheist on Twitter for this.

I once believed things that now I would think foolish. I believed that a supernatural being who created the entire universe was scrutinizing my every move, and really cared about my life and conduct.

I’d never considered the logical issues of an all-knowing being who nonetheless needed somehow to ‘test’ my faith — wouldn’t its strength already be obvious to one who already knew everything? Why need to test anything? — Despite the critical aspects of the Church toward outsiders, and especially scrutiny of fellow churchgoers, questioning the basic doctrines of the Faith was a no-no.

I believed in belief, that it could make things happen all by itself if strong enough. I tried as a child to change the world with my thoughts alone. It never worked, and I blamed my lack of proper concentration for the failure, not that I was operating on false assumptions about the nature of reality.

I believed in things I’d now consider pseudoscientific, UFOs, psi abilities, the Bermuda Triangle, the fictitious Philadelphia Experiment and its associated conspiracy theories, Atlantis, the Loch Ness monster, ancient astronauts, and an assortment of other strange ideas no longer credible to me.

Is there a connection between supernatural religious belief and the likelihood of uncritical acceptance of pseudoscience and the paranormal? It would seem that prior belief in religious claims, and belief in the power of belief, can prime the mind to accept other strange claims as well, but I’m not an authority on psychology.

When I lost my faith, a gradual process over several years rather than a sudden ‘deconversion experience,’ at first there was a sense of loss, of being stranded on a ship in deep space without a navigation beacon.

There was an emptiness that called out to be filled.

I turned to reading, and my interest in science, both real and fictional, combined with my increasing doubts of what I could justly call reality, led to the writings of authors like Asimov, Sagan, Gardner, though scientific skepticism as such was unfamiliar to me.

It would be many years till that changed.

My reading filled the void left by credulity and ignorance, offering me instead a universe of knowledge to tap, a world lit by reason, of science, of humanity, not gods and devils, of reality and fact, not faith in the power of wishful fantasy.

There was pain from losing belief in belief and all that went with it, but what I learned in the meantime has compensated for that now trivial discomfort many times over.

So, for those of you without belief in supernatural or fringe claims who once believed:

Did you ever experience some sort of emotional trauma or pain from loss of belief? If so, what was it like?

…and for those who still believe and fear not to:

What sort of emotional pain or trauma do you think you would suffer from losing belief in whatever doctrine or beliefs you follow now? Why?

MNQ is a question that I pose to you, my readers, and is posted each Monday at 12:00 PM. Do feel free to comment, and don’t worry yerselves overmuch… I’m not an ogre and I don’t bite…much.

MNQ | Monday’s Noontide Query: Skeptical Humor

Tim Minchin

Image by nadworks via Flickr

“They laughed at my genius! They laughed at me! How dare they laugh…I’ll destroy them all! MuaHaHaHaHaHa!”

My experience has been that most pseudoscientists are a thin-skinned, humorless lot — they just can’t take a joke, or worse, if their delicate sensitivities aren’t offended, they don’t even get it, like with the infamous Project Steve a while back.
But sometimes a joke is the best weapon against nonsense, and against the ideas of pseudoscience, it’s one of the most effective.
It’s time to admit that there are a lot of silly ideas out there, unfortunately taken very seriously and believed by an awful lot of people.

On top of this, skeptics are often thought of as humorless curmudgeons, which really doesn’t help much for our PR when we occasionally lend credence to it by being scowlers.

It’s also time to admit that there are a lot of people who, while not innately stupid, knowingly & willfully embrace illogic, stupidity and ignorance as virtues, and worse, promote the same to others as well, using some very effective marketing strategies and fallacious rhetorical techniques that resonate well with those untrained in critical thinking skills.

Many of the claims such people promote are so absurd that they deserve a wee laugh now and then, to be showcased as the seething, brain-numbing idiocy that they are…

…especially when NOT mocking would be lending a dangerous amount of credibility to claims to those who might then uncritically accept them.

Humor as a weapon of skepticism, done rather well by skillful communicators like Neil deGrasse Tyson, Tim Minchin, George Hrab, and Dara O’Briain in performance and in the skeptical literature by fellows like James Randi and Richard Wiseman.

A rule I try to follow: Humor should be in good taste, even if the targets don’t “get it.” — never stoop to their level and adopt their tactics.

But a joke well-crafted and executed is a reward in itself, to be enjoyed as a fine work of art, ever more so if the one it’s directed at reacts well to it, that is, defensively and with much thin skin, for that shows it has its desired effect, perhaps even with their clientele.


What are your views on the use of humor as a tool to criticize nonsense and for public outreach?

How effective to you think it is or can be?


MNQ is a question that I pose to you, my readers, and is posted each Monday at 12:00 PM. Do feel free to comment, and don’t worry yerselves overmuch… I’m not an ogre and I don’t bite…much.

MNQ | Monday’s Noontide Query: Catching Up


Image via Wikipedia

There’s much reading I must catch up on, from Michio Kaku’s Physics of the Future, to my back issues of Skeptical Inquirer, Skeptic magazine, and Scientific American.

Also tops on things to read is a neat little book called Sleights of Mind, by Stephen Macnick and Susana Martinez-Conde, and something on an alleged New Atomic Theory, by Luiz G. Spoladore.

Fascinating how my reading list tends to snowball when life’s little surprises catch up with me — Cthulhu-possessed kitten, anyone?

Seriously, though, Eccles will grow into a fine cat…if only I can dissuade him from mischievous activities concerning my wireless computer mouse…

So, anyway:

What has priority on your reading list for this winter?

MNQ is a question that I pose to you, my readers, and is posted each Monday at 12:00

PM. Do feel free to comment, and don’t worry yerselves overmuch… I’m not an ogre and I don’t bite…much.


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