Category Archives: Philosophy

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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.

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.


My hangout|WITH @DIDGYA

My hangout|WITH @DIDGYA.

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, 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.
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.
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.  

The US government is watching… Safety/Intrusion Dichotomy

      Many stories of government surveillance and/or what steps to be made to curb the feast of information initiated by the NSA has inundated the headlines since mid 2013.  Hero/Villain such as Snowden and his odessey has brought the specter of the Patriot Act into full view.  The strawman terrorist the act was intended for has fallen away to reveal the American people in its shadow, shone through the light of surveillance. To be clear,  neither is this an Orwellian state or a conspiracy theorists dream/nightmare come true. The dichotomy of Safety/Intrusion helps to inform us of extremes presented but not of its origins. .
Many legislators (until public scrutiny), law enforcement and government agencies prescribe to a Safety/Risky dichotomy.   Through unhindered access to information the US is safe and will continue to stay that way. True patriotism requires access to even the most mundane of personal information which will be kept inaccessible but to only the essential government agencies. Risking another 911 by honoring public privacy is unacceptable and by sacrificing privacy, America gains security.
US citizens, legislators (under public scrutiny), and civil liberties advocates draw a Intrusion/Privacy dichotomy.   NSA monitoring of non-suspicious citizens stifles rights, freedoms and privacy endowed to the people by the constitution.  The right to privacy has been circumvented for the apparent need of a ‘police state’ of communication. The intrusion into public communication is a herald of other rights to fall by the wayside in the name of public safety.
As this inevitable exposure of our suppressive public policy is debated and discussed from local diners to Capital Hill. Hopefully a reflection of the dubiously named Patriot Act will transport us back to the time of September 11, 2001where America was faced with the dichotomy of Patriotism or Personal Rights. The crowbar of fear under the banner of patriotism (intentionally or not) manipulated America. Under the pressure of terrorism, death and uncertainty we psychologically retreated into the perceived haven of restrictive legislation.   Hopefully, now that time and perspective has passed we can objectively evaluate the suppressive laws passed under duress and I shudder to think of what oppression we could have shackled ourselves to in the name of patriotism.


…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.
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.
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.
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.


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