Monthly Archives: April 2014

Illegal Drugs In Your Skeptical Toolbox?

In my experience with skepticism, there seems to be a cultural reluctance to utilize drug experiences when dealing with issues of the mind and perception. I am going to focus on the stigma of illegal drugs and their users. Also provide examples of the perception of the drug and use as a skeptical tool.
Users:
The image of the ‘junkie’ in popular culture is a prevalent stereotype of most hard drug users. This strawman does exist, especially when it comes to highly addictive stimulants or depressants. The depiction of a morally stripped, drug zombie capable of killing on a whim is definitely a small minority and the more sympathetic and sad character of a person who’s brain chemistry has been hijacked is maybe a larger percentage but still not the whole.  The dichotomy of these views are missing the great ‘middle class’ of heavy addictive drugs that navigate the extremes. The hallucinogenic drugs enjoy a more moderate view as having ‘recreational’ users and is becoming more mainstream with the recent changing laws and attitudes. Unfortunately, the alternative perception attained, from these drugs, convince the credulous mind that their experiences are ‘real’ and therefore special and outside of the known world of non users.
Stimulates:
Our society has a strange acceptance of stimulates when deemed legal or socially acceptable. Caffeine is readily  consumed and celebrated while at the other extreme methamphetamine is shunned and stigmatized. Now I am not trying to equivocate them as the same. Simply caffeine is safe to use daily and methamphetamine is not. This kind of scale is useful to skeptics when explaining how a new unregulated herbal supplement is affecting ones health. By using the studied know negative effects of these drugs to draw parallels with the seemingly innocent supplement. (Anyone remember the Effedrine abuse in the late 90s?)
Depressant/Pain Killer:
While sharing many similar addictive traits with stimulants, pain management and mind states resembling partial awareness really address motivation and bias that could be generated from physical states but expressed in their choices. (Nirvanas Kurt Cobain’s back pain became a severe heroin addiction.)
Hallucinogens:
The claims of receiving ‘knowledge’ and ‘enlightenment’ seem to come mostly from the hallucinogen category. Many ‘experiences’ of altered perceptions do provide a skeptic with tools to understand our flawed perception of events and memories.  Many of these drugs effect our fact checking and stimulate or suppress parts of our brains that help construct our reality. When claims of strong emotional responses or sensations are put forth as evidence, many similar experiences has been replicated through these drugs. Claims of Near Death Experiences, false memories, and all sorts of emotional and physical responses from Psychics and false medicine can draw parallels with the known to be false sensations through these drugs.
Conclusion:
While this is not an endorsement to take drugs (or not to, it is a moot point to me but I would suggest googling Sam Harris on drug use for an in depth read on the subject) to understand how they can be used to further skepticism. It is a plea to understand the wealth of knowledge and data that can truly be used when fighting pseudoscience and our flawed perceptions.


Random shit for Friday (#triggerwarning: #TheSecret #bullshit)

A tale of doing….

Atheist Asshole

It’s no small secret that I hate The Fucking Secret. What pisses me off even more is that author Rhonda Byrne was able to convince millions upon millions of gullible chumps to buy her terrible book, thereby at least in part validating her claims, if only in the eyes of millions of chumps.

It’s also no small secret that Byrne’s bullshit more than passingly resembles the core teachings of the Unity Church. Interestingly, probably because I had a good time there, I don’t resent the church, while I do Byrne. I think too, Unity never really came right out and said, “Anything you imagine will literally come true.” They more said, “Um, well, if you imagine it, and you work hard, and you have some modicum of talent, and you’re lucky, and you’re in the right place at the right time, or you know someone, then it’ll literally…

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Noah Movie (NOT Review) Christians/Atheists Dichotomy

The new Noah movie debuted to a mix of reviews and diverse opinions within christian/atheist circles . I expected my fellow atheists to have a problem with the making of  the homicidal bible story into a movie. I found that a great deal of them (myself included) had no issue with, what we would consider a myth anyway.  One could argue that these religion based movies promote that worldview but that argument holds up as well as a correlation between committing violence and playing violent video games as an adult. Furthermore people who gather their deeply held beliefs from movies probably will be not be the audience to accept the scientific explanations of why a wooden boat made of gopher wood (whatever that is) could not possibly be built that large, on where all the water went after the flood, animal math problems or how quickly the world was repopulated by inbreeding.

The reaction of many fundamental christians (I would say that a vast majority of christians are sophisticated enough to take the movie as pure entertainment) was to accuse the movie of being inaccurate(even known books 0f fiction change when made into movies) ,to being blasphemous and the  National Religious Broadcasters campaign to have a disclaimer put up on its authenticity. While artistic licence has been taken with the numerous translations of the bible and the historicity of the Old Testament only has one source and that is itself (circular logic). If the movie “JFK” includes a unproven conspiracy theory, I think Noah would be presentable without a disclaimer.

I grew up watching the Ten Commandments on TV, every year of my childhood and youth. My family were not church goers but held some unspecific christian beliefs, and we never discussed the realism of the movie.  I just thought it was an awesome movie, with an interesting story line. I have not seen Noah but I seriously doubt that one movie will destroy or install a belief system. Religious indoctrination or loss of faith is usually a long term process, with many factor that combine into a conclusion. So enjoy the movie, at least it will be good for a laugh.

 


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