Tag Archives: dichotomy

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.


Belief Equality Dichotomy

I have noticed a common response to criticism, of  belief systems of a  religious, philosophical or ideological origin,  is to assert  that the beliefs is equal to or just as valued as any other type  and is therefore protected from scrutiny.


Advocating protection of the belief systems will ensure a more peaceful and non intrusive society to live in. Beliefs themselves do not harm people, harm is the responsibility of the individual carrying it out. Extreme beliefs are just that, extreme and cannot be used to criticize similar or connected views. Attacking beliefs causes offence. Tolerance is only achieved though respecting ones beliefs. Intolerance of beliefs equals intolerance of said person. A persons beliefs are personal and therefore cannot be criticized without harm to the person. Challenging ones beliefs usually entrenches them deeper  into it.


It is possible to examine ones beliefs without attacking the person. Beliefs influence a persons bias and actions when interacting with others. A persons beliefs can be objectively judged as harmful. Respect is reserved for a people but not always their beliefs.  Dogmatic following of  beliefs, without evidence stunts personal growth. Challenging a person or group beliefs may cause others in society to examine their own.  Having a personal belief does not protect one from being criticized for partaking in a negative action.


I personally am a strong proponent of challenging religious, philosophical and ideological beliefs (including my own). If a belief is to be deemed valid, it is only fair to examine that belief as objectively as possible. Accepting a majority or tolerating an aggressive belief out of respect, is intellectually dishonest and only protects people with a unchallenged agenda that is enabled by our passivity. (an extreme example) Through critical thinking and debate, we have an open market for society to choose our values.  Instead of unchallenged and  uncritical acceptance of beliefs that, if were adopted, might take that right away or deem it unquestionable.

A Moderated Conversation With Ban Bossy and Bossy

*Please note that I cannot confirm the true existence of ‘Ban Bossy’ or ‘Bossy’. The conversation may be purely satirical.

Didgya: I would like to thank, Ban Bossy and Bossy for having this, no doubt, spirited discussion on whether to allow Bossy to retain her position in the youth vernacular.
Ban Bossy: Yes, of course.
Bossy: It is not a question, but thanks anyway.
Didgya: OK, Ban Bossy, what is your best reason on excluding Bossy?
Ban Bossy: First of all, by her mere presences, others good influences like Leadership and Aspiration, will only spend time with the boys.  They have told me this over and over again. Also without them Self Esteem will never associate with the girls.
Bossy: Wrong. You contradict yourself. If Leadership and Aspiration only hang out with boys, then how is it that you and me both know them well? On another note, me and Leadership might look similar but are much different from each other. I know that you have confused us many times in the past.
Ban  Bossy: Then why is it that I never see you together?
Bossy: That is your problem, you are looking for either one or the other. Once you find one of us, you stop looking.
Didgya: To get us back on track, Bossy, how about Self Esteem?
Bossy: We are BFF’s as far as i’m concerned.
Ban Bossy: I would say that you ‘think’ you are friends…
Bossy: Wrong again. I and whoever else that tries to associate with Self Esteem, can. I am not stopping anyone.
Didgya: Ban Bossy, do you think that it is possible that Bossy is a scapegoat for other negative players, young ladies have to deal with? Such as Sexism and Discrimination.
Ban Bossy: To me, those two are just as bad as Bossy herself but have proven to be difficult to get rid of. Why should we not exclude Bossy and maybe those two will follow.
Bossy: I find it insulting to be so flippantly associated with those two. I admit that I can be unpleasant and obnoxious at times but I am my own entity. Not to be conflated with anyone else we spoke of today.
Didgya: Thank you ladies for clearing up your positions today.  Hopefully, in the futures, we can bring together all of players involved to get a complete picture of the situation before taking ineffective and over simplistic action.

Arizona SB 1062: Religious Freedom/Discrimination Dichotomy

(Note: I found it difficult to understand both sides equally but I find it important to not straw-man one side. I can empathize but not agree. )

     When the Arizona SB 1062 bill was vetoed by Republican Governor Jan Brewer, many (including me) were relieved. The bill seemed to support blatant discrimination under the cover of ‘free exercise of religion’.  On the actual bill it reads:

2. “exercise of religion ” means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

For the religious this probably seems like a reasonable protection. They fear having to accept people that are inherently unacceptable in their beliefs. Also a fear of their holy places being infiltrated if they accept certain people in their businesses. Fear from change and tradition. Unfortunately, included are the bigots who use their religion to segregate and discriminate.  Many times we feel that all who would support them are of of the last ilk but people are well versed in cognitive dissonance and fail to see the ramifications for themselves.  For example, someone quoting anti-gay scripture in Leviticus but ignoring similar passages about not wearing blended fabric.  In scripture both are equally wrong yet I find it unlikely that I will be turned away for my polo shirt.  Selection bias combined with the ability to manufacture any belief system possible, negates any type of special right to discriminate. I would find it interesting to find out how two religions directly opposing each other would be?  Which side would the law be on? 
     Another part of the bill would protect the religious from:

D. A person whose religious exercise is burdened in violation of this section may assert that violation as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding…

This overprotection would empower bigotry and leave the discriminated against no legal recourse. Some might say that the refused customer could just take their business elsewhere. In a large metropolitan area, that is an option but in a small community where resources are controlled by a small nucleus of businesses owners, there would be no option other than to to move.  Making an already insular community more isolated and displaced people who’s only crime is non conformity.
  When entering  into a public business it is inherent that an array of differing people are going to access that business.  It is not an infringement for you to treat them equally.  If not, make your business private and only available to others in your belief system.   Let people who truly treat people equally have the right to benefit from a public business.

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.

Bill Nye/Ken Ham Debate Dichotomies

The showdown between Bill Nye and Ken Ham over the validity of Creationism in schools occurred last week in a southern U.S. location not far from a dinosaur with a saddle(yes, that actually exist).  I encourage everyone to watch it on YouTube to hear their specific arguments. Their dichotomies were fairly straight forward Nye presented a Discovery/Authority dichotomy to Hams Authority/Ignorance view.  Notice Authority is on the negative spectrum for Nye and the opposite for Ham, displaying how the same concept can have differing values.
Nye described a great many positive attributes to scientific discovery that is directly stifled by the authoritarian view of Creationism.  Once an answer is found in science,  no matter who discovered it, that view can be modified, built upon and even disregarded upon new repeatable evidence. The top down authoritarian view, places borders around discovery, confining it to a small insular view that will retard our progress and stagnate our nation.
Ham views the height of virtue and truth is Authority (his is the Christian god and scripture). Without that base of assumed truth,  discovery has value but only for issues and information that has not been eternally fixed by his authoritarian. This simplifies his view of the world and shrinks his perceived ignorance with this assumption. When Nye admits ignorance on a question, Ham is quick to quote or equivocate his unfalsifiable authoritarian. To Ham,  ignorance is not acceptable when convenient truths are fixed and unchanging.
Conclusion :
The absence of predictive value and evidence forces me to disregard the authoritarian view, by creationist,   that is required to follow their logic.  I believe creationist are being logical in their view but it involves to many assumptions to be an objective view, especially promoted in our school systems. Science had once been in a similar state of authoritarianism, to other scientist in the past,  and had to overcome that failing to become a (mostly)  objective discipline.  Unfortunately Creationism is bordered by dogma where it will perpetually stagnate.

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.  

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