Category Archives: freethought community

Beliefs Don’t Change in “Real-Time”

culture, Education, freethought community, psychology, science Leave a reply

An acquaintance of mine sent me a link to a conversation between Dan Dennett and Sam Harris, wherein Dennett attempts to explain the holes in Harris’s puerile arguments against the concept of “free will”.

In any case, this particular post isn’t about Harris, but a particular point he reiterates repeatedly: that we can (and should) change our beliefs “in real-time”.

This view, regardless of who holds it, is incorrect, and here’s why.

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Boundaries and Abuse

culture, ethics, freethought community, health, personal

I’m going to start with a recent pair of conversations in my life, and use that as a jumping off point to talk about who gets to define what abuse is, and who gets to set boundaries. People in my local community may well recognise the people involved from their behaviour, and while backlash due to that bothers me, it bothers me more that the abusive behaviour is tolerated.

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Vegetarianism, Skeptics and Cognitive Dissonance

culture, ethics, freethought community 1 Reply

We all have blind spots in our thinking, and sometimes they can be pretty interesting. Other times, not so much. I’ve noticed that when I post an article about vegetarianism on facebook, a number of people can’t help themselves but make ignorant comments, people who I’ve had fairly informed conversations with on other topics. I’m going to use this space to call out that behaviour, and I’ll be blocking out the identities of the people involved (because it’s not about them, but the nonsense they were spouting). Continue reading

“Rational” Should be Treated like a Four-Letter Word

culture, ethics, freethought community, Rhetoric 8 Replies

[This is primarily a talk I gave at a Vancouver Skepticamp recently, with some expansion/clarification at the end in response to some feedback I received]

I’d like to talk about how we use the word ‘rational’ in everyday conversations, and how we use it in skeptic/atheist/freethinker circles. I don’t consider anything I say here to apply to academic disciplines, as they are usually pretty good about operationalising their definitions (or should be, at the least).

I think ‘rationality’ is a profoundly problematic word, as used in the vernacular, and I’d like to encourage you all to drop it from your vocabulary. Now, before ye get all het up and start acting irrationally, hear me out.

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The Right to Walk Away

Atheism, culture, freethought community 2 Replies

Sue Blackmore has an article up on Richard Dawkins’s website regarding a hundred or so students who deigned to walk away from a lecture on memes she was giving. She expected “people to listen and then argue and disagree if they wished to” as opposed to exercising their right not to be denigrated or insulted by walking away. Note that she wasn’t prevented from speaking, though she was accosted afterwards (which was entirely not-cool, please don’t misunderstand me as being in favour of post-lecture ambushes….).

Her article is an exercise in bullshit and spin. Here’s why:

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Rhetoric and Context

Atheism, freethought community, philosophy, psychology, Rhetoric Leave a reply

How we argue with people sends signals to those around us. We are socially signalling the kind of person we are, and giving them cues as to whether or not they want to engage with us. This is, I think, an important point in rhetoric and persuasion, and can determine how we approach an argument. We can, of course, choose to remain ignorant of the signals that we send (thus sending the signal that we hold the people around us in contempt), or we can go too far and focus too much on ‘how’ the argument is presented such that the content is diluted to nothing.

An example of the former is a tweet by Secular Outpost (@SecularOutpost):

This is, frankly, sending up a flare that displays to all and sundry “I am a giant asshole, and I am not here for constructive conversation, but to have fun at the expense of those around me”. Disagree? Alright, let me walk you through it. Continue reading

Anti-Abortion Arguments, Including the Secular Ones, are Uninformed Drivel.

Atheism, civil rights, Conceits, culture, Education, ethics, feminism, freethought community, liberalism, philosophy, politics, science 32 Replies

I’ve had something of a writing block for the last month or so, so I’m thankful to Hemant Mehta over at Friendly Atheist for providing me with some fodder to dissect. I’ve always figured that there had to be some folk out there whose anti-abortion stance wasn’t built on a foundation of religion, as the latter simply isn’t logically necessary for the former. Plenty of people hold ignorant and poorly thought-out positions, appeals to god are simply gap fillers: people can also either fill in the gaps with a non-religious non-explanation, or just ignore them.

Such is the case in the guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them“. An alternative title would be “I’m unaware of how shallow my arguments are, but here they are anyway”. That is, perhaps, unfair: it’s possible that Kruszelnicki is aware of how shallow these arguments are, but she claims that they are compelling….

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What Zombie Movies Can Tell Us About Racism

culture, freethought community, skepticism Leave a reply

A good buddy of mine, Ian Cromwell, has uploaded he did a talk a while back on racism in society, and how Zombie-ism (and zombie movies) can help us understand how we should deal with the problem as it occurs in the wild.

It’s broken down over a couple of youtubes, and can be found here, at Ian’s blog. It’s well-worth taking a look at, Ian has some smart things to say.

Mr. Deity and His Epic Skeptifail

civil rights, culture, ethics, feminism, freethought community, philosophy, skepticism Leave a reply

I don’t typically watch Mr. Deity videos, as they’re a little contrived for my tastes, but they’re generally well-received in the Skeptic/Atheist community. They’re light, usually well-informed, and poking fun at believers is bound to raise a few chuckles. Low-hanging fruit.

But clearly I was mistaken as to the quality of the skepticism at play. I mean… I thought the Ad Hominem Fallacy was Skepticism 101 (it’s certainly Philosophy 101 (Critical Thinking)), so if Brian Dalton can’t even get that right, then what the hell is the point?

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Islamophobia, a discussion

culture, freethought community, philosophy, religion 66 Replies

Depending on who you read or listen to, either Islamophobia simply isn’t real, or it’s not as pervasive as people think it is, or sometimes it’s a legitimate criticism, but it’s often used incorrectly to shut down someone legitimately criticising Islam, or else it’s just some word (without any legitimate meaning) that people use to shut down conversations. To which I say: bullshit. I have to grant, of course, that there is possibly some people out there do these things, but I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen any of them. Even in articles where these claims are made, no evidence is provided.

Most often, people who haven’t ‘picked sides’ in this particular debate are left wondering what this term means, exactly. So I’m going to sketch out what I think it means, and how I see it used (which are, oddly enough, the same thing). Note that ‘what the term means’ isn’t the same as ‘what the word is defined as’. Continue reading