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If you buy into scientism, does that make you a scientist?

While I was on vacation, I missed a post by Sharon Hill on Skeptical Inquirer online. She recently re-shared the piece on Facebook, so I had an opportunity to give it a good read. Sharon’s pieces are usually filled with thoughtful reminders to reign in arrogance and do more than just tolerate other view points, embrace them and learn from them. I highly recommend following her regular columns there or at her blog, Doubtful News. This recent piece seems to be in response to the current discussion about the limits (and lack thereof) of science, such as this piece by Steven Pinker. However, it lacks the nuance I’ve seen in criticisms of Pinker’s piece. Hill’s piece seems to define scientism, science, and several other terms somewhat vaguely, […]

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On Skepticism: Its Definitions and Scope


Several people have asked me if I plan to respond to PZ Myers, considering the “beating” he gave me and others in a post last week. No, I don’t. I may if I see a good reason, but the truth is that responding to him is a bit like debating a creationist. Sometimes one should, but this is not one of those times. In this case, PZ has so grossly misrepresented my writings and statements that it is very clear that no productive discussion can occur with him on the matter. This is not the first time he has done so and not the first time that I have essentially ignored it. The post is almost entirely built on mischaracterizations, straw men, and falsehoods. If anyone else […]

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On Oversimplification and Certainty

Responses to requests, demands, and criticism in the blogosphere in recent months has prompted a great deal of discussion, most of it terribly unproductive. In fact, most of it has been downright silly – a childish back-and-forth which, to an outsider, might appear to be violent agreement. In other words, camps do not appear to disagree, in general, about foundational issues, yet the bloodshed continues. Need I provide examples? I don’t think so*. I hate to harp on a point (I really do), but oversimplification and shallow treatment of issues appears to be at the source of so much of the animosity that I think that rational discussion could be had if a short checklist were followed which included keeping one’s mind open to the possibility the […]

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Definitions, Data, and Poverty

‘Infographics’ seem to be the hot thing lately and they really, really bother me. I am usually fine with funny ones, but too often they portray a warped view of the world which is designed for the advancement of an agenda. I may even agree with that agenda, but whenever I see summations with percentages and shocking titles, my skeptical senses tingle. My example is not quite an ‘infographic’, but the problems are the same: where do the numbers come from and do they mean what they appear to mean? Campaigns rely on the fact that people, in general, are cognitive misers. We generally will not go out of their way to analyze information, especially if it speaks to our world view. Today a friend posted this […]

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Mission Drift, Conflation, and Food For Thought

In my last post, I took issue with the a number of problems with a particular straw man complaint that organized skepticism is too narrow. As part of that post, I wrote: …skepticism, secularism, and atheism are different things. Among them, secularism has the closest ties with liberal ideology, but even secularism is not liberalism. Shane Brady left a comment which included: The one panel from last year’s TAM that DJ seemed to take the most criticism for, seemed to be because he resisted an overt support of a particular political idealogy, not a hesitance to attack claims. The intersection of these two strikes me as important. That post addressed a specific comment in a much longer piece by Ashley Miller, a comment made my many, so […]

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