Monday, 24 September 2012


See? It's not that bad.

I’m bad at meeting deadlines even when my degree is at stake. Since university is back in full force, I fear this means that this blog might be getting a little bit neglected of late.

None-the-less, I’ll do my best to keep things updated as often as possible. Should I fuck this up, it’s likely because I’m trapped in a library somewhere weeping openly as I desperately attempt to learn about British immigration policies before the seminar on it the next day.

Ah, how I do miss first year.

Anyways, hopefully I’ll have something up again soon. In the meantime, bring on the immigration theory.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Monday Morning Musings #7

University kicks back in this week. Lots of Freshers to throw business cards at and an Atheist & Agnostic Society stall to man. Things are going to get busy.

The good Reverend Emily Heath has a lovely little article about how to determine whether your faith or religion is being actively persecuted or whether you’re just an asshole.

I understand that a lot of non-believers across the pond in the USA are disappointed with the Democrats’ backpeddling on the religious references in their Convention this election. Sadly that’s the nature of politics, friends; appealing to voters as much as possible will always trump ideological stances. It’s the same the world over.

Atheist blogger Jen McCreight has decided to stop her blog in the face of this Atheism+, ‘fuck those Freethought Blog guys’ shenanigans that continues to rage across the internet. I didn’t always agree with everything McCreight had to say, but I’m truly sorry that this controversy has ruined something she previously enjoyed doing. There’s no other way to say it; that fucking sucks.

And finally remember kids, dressing up in a Ghillie suit in an attempt to pretend to be Bigfoot might sound like a really cool idea. But when it ends with you standing in the middle of a highway in camouflage gear you really shouldn’t be surprised if you wind up getting hit by a car.

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Sceptics Need to Stop Trying to ‘Debunk’ Everything

It’s a fact of the human condition that we all really love it when we’re right. I do, you do, we all do.

I imagine a lot of people involved in scepticism thoroughly enjoy watching those videos in which James Rhandi blows some unfortunate psychic or telepath out the water with a healthy dose of scientific method. You also can’t deny there’s a certain kick to explaining to someone what cold reading is or how that guy who runs around wishing desperately he was a Ghostbuster is living in a fantasy world.

Unfortunately this love can often get in the way of proper scepticism if you let it.

Lately there’s been quite a lot of posts over at /r/skeptic throwing around the phrases like “hey guys, let’s debunk this crackpot theory”, or “can you help me debunk this viewpoint?” Now, a lot of what these guys are requesting ‘debunked’ are indeed steaming crocks of pseudoscientific shite that deserve all the scorn thrown their way, but that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.

My point is that scepticism isn’t about being close-minded. Scepticism isn’t about attempting to debunk every claim that you encounter.

Scepticism is about attempting to take the scientific method and apply it to things you encounter during your bizarre trip through this thing we call life. That means trying to take a fair and unbiased view to whatever you might be looking into, weighing up the evidence for or against and coming to a rational conclusion based upon this. When you set out to debunk something, you’re weighing into an issue with a pre-conceived notion of dismissal; you’ve already decided you don’t buy this shit, and now you’re out to prove why.

Now, you could indeed be right; it could be complete shit. Shit entirely lacking credibility, with no evidence to back it up. But if you’re coming in with the express intention of trying to prove it wrong, you’re little better than the nutter who completely buys the shit. What’s more, entering into a debate about these matters with such biases can actually damage your argument; you’re more likely to grab for evidence that supports your case, even if that evidence isn’t the most sound there is.

The net result could well be your pre-conceived notions and biases blinding you to the truth of the matter at hand. There could well be some, or even a lot, of credibility to whatever you might be discussed. The net result of such an outcome is that you’re both wrong and you look like a complete tit.

And another fact about the human species is that most people really don’t like being made to look like tits.

So remember, scepticism isn’t about trying to debunk everything, even if from the outset what you’re looking into seems ridiculous. It’s about taking a rational approach to looking into claims.

As the sceptic extraordinaire Joe Nickell puts it:

“In contrast to many paranormal proponents who are little more than mystery mongerers, or to some skeptics who call themselves ‘debunkers’, I hold that mysteries should neither be fostered nor dismissed. Instead, they should be carefully investigated with a view toward solving them.”[1]


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Monday Morning Musings #6

[This isn’t going up on Monday, sadly, but since I did technically start writing this post Monday afternoon I guess it can count at a stretch. Plus I really can’t be assed coming up with a creative title for this sort of post going up on a Tuesday. A most lazy non-believer, I am.]

I’ve heard Catholic apologists for the child sex abuse scandals use a lot of bizarre and utterly reprehensible defences, but the prize (if you can call it that; 'Badge of Shame' might be better) for the worst offender so far goes to Father Benedict Groeschel; he’s elected to go for the ‘blame the victim’ approach, claiming that in many cases it’s the child’s fault for being sexually abused. He’s since attempted to retract the comments (surprise surprise), claiming that he “did not intend to blame the victim”, but you don’t let an article reach publication unless you really do think like that.

‘beentrueandfaithful’ has uploaded a very interesting little article to /r/atheism about his experiences as a Mormon Missionary. Turns out some of them might dislike having to try and talk to you about the word of Jesus Christ even more than you dislike being talked to about it.

There was all that noise about Bruce Willis planning to sue Apple today, only for it to be revealed that the story was actually nonsense. Once again media sources forget that scepticism about a story can often be useful in preventing your paper/website/blog from looking extremely fucking silly before a national audience.

On a related note, I am aware of what a delicious irony it would be if the above story does subsequently turn out to be true. However, it was a story first reported by the Daily Mail; I think I'm safe.

Oh, and I’ve decided I’m going to drop an image at the bottom of these posts every week, since that’s always fun and totally makes these posts seem larger than they usually are.