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On Skepticism: Its Definitions and Scope

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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 […]

The Must-See of TAM2012 & Some Thoughts on Good Neighbors

The highlight of TAM2012 was an easy pick. That does not mean that the talks were bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, despite what some felt was a scarcity of “big draw” speakers (e.g., high-profile science communicators like Neil deGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye or high-profile atheists such as Richard Dawkins), the talks were as excellent as always. This was no surprise to me, though, because I have come to expect that kind of quality from those in the line-up.  I could list the talks I particularly enjoyed, but that would be far too long a post and my Twitter feed recorded some of the highlights. Many will be also posted by the JREF in coming months. The meeting was smaller than last year […]

Are Atheists More Compassionate or Prosocial Than Highly Religious People?

I hope I grabbed your attention with that title, but do not expect to find the answer to that question here. What I am going to discuss today is a study that many people seem to think answers that question, but it doesn’t. As I noted in my last post, the study I’ll be discussing was grossly misreported, starting with its press release. Since the study itself appears to be behind a pay wall for most people, I’ll describe as much detail as I can in a blog post as I discuss the study’s validity and findings of the study, published in the Journal of Social Psychological and Personality Science and titled “My Brother’s Keeper? Compassion Predicts Generosity More Among Less Religious Individuals”. But for those who are not at all interested […]

Take Back Skepticism, Part III: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

First, if you have not read Parts I and II, please read them now. The most important parts of those posts are: Arguments over scope and the conflation of atheism and skepticism have reached a fever pitch, as have arguments over tone. I will talk about some of this, but I will not attempt to explain all of the issues in any detail because everything that needs to be said has been said here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here… Well, you get the picture. In fact, if you want to argue the definition of skepticism or Skepticism* in the comments of this post, don’t bother. Instead, read what I wrote about it last year, which I […]