Category Archives: Logic

Atheist / Secularist Conflation

I would say that many atheist are secularist also. Unfortunately these terms are seen as one but definitely represent fundamentally different viewpoints.

Atheist: Simply means; a person who does not believe in a god/gods.  The reasons are varied and cannot be nailed down to one point. (By the way, it is not a religion either. * insert blank stare here*

Secularist: A person who support the principals in secularism, the separation of government institutions and persons mandated to represent the state from religious institutions and religious dignitaries. (Yes, I copied from Wikipedia)

 
Using these definitions, it seems obvious that they need not be applied together to an individual or group. The propensity for people to assume others beliefs based on one aspect of their personality seems to be a common trait in the human condition. (I know that I a guilty of this but I will admit this could be confirmation bias.) It suggests an oversimplification is made when assesing others when part of a group and leading to generalizations that fit the narritive already established by the one piece of information. This can be a useful shortcut in reasoning when the assumptions need to be grouped together to be true. Yet, without skeptical assesment, this shortcut becomes fallacious thinking.

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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.


Quantum Dichotomy

   Having a productive conversation on Twitter can be challenging, to say the least.  Currently I am engaged with a user about Quantum Physics.  Initially he expressed, to another user,  that his reason was invalid since you cannot prove ‘reason’ exist materially and then stated ‘reason’ proves a deity. He moved away from that position to then assert a ‘cosmic mind’ existed proven by Quantum physics.  I admit that I am not an expert in physics so I focused on this point,  since the claim seemed to be a provable one and I was willing to accept the evidence. When I did ask for proof,  he provided a fascinating video: Double Slit Experiment It basically says that an electron behaved differently when observed or measured.   Still I found this repeatable experiment lacking a direct correlation in proving the extraordinary claim of a ‘cosmic mind’. He then argued that, ” yes, how else does it change from a wave to a particle? what changes it from a wave to a particle?” and I do not have a clue but it is a huge logical jump to assign a ‘mind’ to a reaction. People are good at humanizing nature and giving it attributes that we express.  Greek Mythologies contains gods with unashamedly human features. They also were credited with affecting the weather, health and about any unexplained happenstance. Science is helping to remove these false associations.  Meteorology, science based medicine and rigorous skepticism has closed the information gap of many of these issues but it is unlikely, moreover,  unrealistic that every mystery will be solved or is solvable. 
What I believe his point is that there are currently unexplained processes, shown by Qutantum Physics and he has reasoned out that a mind is at work here.   I find that there are to many assumptions to agree with his view.  The dichotomy of Assumed Knowledge/Unknown Knowledge is not only found here but with debates about the origins of the universe/life,morals and purpose.  My assumption is that the unknown is unnerving to people.  Evolution has equipped us with this problem solving, reality deriving brain that could not possible process every mystery that confronts us as humanity’s knowledge base grows exponentially. It is easier to assign arbitrary answers instead of admitting, the humble truth of ignorance.


They Have It Easy: Job Dichotomies

     I would like to diverge from my usual scheme of picking dichotomous issues from the headlines and reflect on something that almost everyone is guilty of: accusing others of having an easy job (especially compared to us). This common practice stems from a empathy/observation dichotomy we experience (or more importantly do not experience) when at work, shopping, dining or receiving a service in the public sphere.
Empathy:
Empathy, or more accurately lack of, contributes greatly to a flippant attitude towards other peoples jobs.  In reality, we can only perform a certain number of jobs ourselves. We lack experience in a far greater range of employment and find it hard to comprehend the complexity of a unfamiliar situation.   For those who have performed the job they usually display a higher amounts of empathy but can also fall into a false sense of knowing what the current situation and duties truly entail.
Observation:
What we observe of a person’s job Is most likely not a representative sample of their duties.  As experienced in our own careers,  the long list of responsibilities and nuances are rarely displayed to others. While it is easy to strawman, or criticize a simple portrayal of their job, and dismiss their difficulties as trivial for lack of effort or care.
Conclusion:
The over simplification we make is common and is closely tied the rational of the ‘path of least resistance’ when exuding effort to understand others. It takes much less effort to assume a simple, easy situation for another than use time and energy to tease out the intricacies of their situation.  
Didgya


…Walks like a Duck Dynasty – Control/Privilege Dichotomy

     It seems not long ago that’s me and my wife (mostly me) started noticing Duck Dynasty swag everywhere.  Being from Missouri, I recognized the stereotypical, camo covered characters that I have dealt with (positively & negatively) for most of my life in the Midwest.  I, not watching the show, was guilty of lumping them in with other harmless reality shows. Being an avid ‘Cheaters’ fan at one time, who was I to judge?  After the ridiculous comments Phil made, still I was not too surprised at his fundamentalism.  The network reaction (a face saving maneuver) again typical and unsurprisingly proper to the (profit saving maneuver) thereafter.  Although the public’s response was definely a telling snapshot of our American culture.
Moderates in this discussion are intentionally (self evidently) excluded from this post. As most of us do, I would like to concentrate on the dichotomy between control and privilege.
Control:
Proponents of having Phil fired, socially shunned and possible litigious responsibilities see the larger issue as an intolerance/tolerance dichotomy.  In this view, this behavior is a threat to their cultural belief system that needs to be quelled swiftly and decisively. To project a social solidarity within our culture and a rejection of these dated ugly beliefs to the rest of the world.
Privilege:
Advocates for Phil’s right to express his beliefs, without consequence rely on the suppression/freedom dichotomy to express the promotion of their dogmatic base.  Value of a majority (though heavily varied) religious status excludes Phil of the responsibility or burden of socially unaccepted views.  Holding up the issue of free speech while suppressing the values and rights of the network as a business entity or of a minority entity within the same circumstances.
Conclusion:
Phil can express his, in my opinion, hateful intolerance until the proverbial ducks come home. Yet there are consequences for that action, much as I would be disciplined for a similar action.  We also need to realize that life is not fair (see Baseball players vs Social workers salary) and all things are not equal.  This said, drawn from this, is an example of assumed  privilege and ignorance that should be discussed and examined in our culture.  Heavy handed action is not the way to social progress.  Many times in our past, segregation and suffrage were violently suppressed partly due to it being socially unacceptable at the time. I advocate for open arguments on a rational, logical basis.  That includes unhindered scrutiny on the issue and in the arena of ideas we can truly come closer to the ideal of fairness.   Unfortunately, for Phil, dogma loses in that arena every time.

Didgya


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