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Tip of the Hat

by Ryan Johnson, Aug 25 2009

So some of you may have noticed my absence on the blogosphere as of late. I could give you a hundred excuses why but the two main ones are: I’ve been very busy working on productions for my “real” job, and I haven’t had much time to research topics to blog about.

The Skeptologists TV series is still a very active part of our work here but sometimes we go through a phase where there’s not much to report on. That’s the case at the moment. We’re reworking a few show details, and preparing some new pitch materials to adjust to the current TV climate. We’re also looking into self-financing the program to get us into production, so those are pretty exciting developments.

But this blog isn’t about that. I just wanted to offer a thank you to all of my colleagues who continue to provide countless hours of fresh and interesting material for The team hasn’t let me down, and judging by the comments and the very active group of regulars that we have online here, we’ve got a great community of people who all have some very exciting things to discuss.

I’ve just found out that Brian Dunning has just completed three episodes of his newest endeavour InFact. It’s a short video podcast easily found on iTunes. I commend him for his continual pushing of the skeptical edge! Please check it out and subscribe!

Each of the contributors to this site are all making great individual strides to further the cause of science, reason and critical thinking. I want to take a moment to say, “Great work guys, I’m honored to call you my friends and I appreciate all your hard work!”

I’m not one of the typical Skeptical Storehouses of Infinite Wisdom, like my cohorts here, so for me finding an engaging subject to write about is not an easy task. I hear people tell me all the time that my line of work is “so interesting” and “I wish I could shadow you for a day” etc. etc. The glamour of showbiz, albeit a giant smoke screen, seems to captivate people’s imagination. Maybe there’s something to this that I should talk about.

So, as we work forward on The Skeptologists, and our newer companion Web-Series “TruthHurts” I’m interested to hear from you. What topics interest you the most? What aspect of the process would you all like to learn more about. I try to be conscientious of your time, and so I want to find topics and subjects that are of interest of you.

I find that it’s easy to write about what you know, and in this forum, I know less about the current Skeptical community, and more about trying to tie that community into a larger media machine. It’s kind of sad really, the thing that I’m trying to promote, Skepticism, I now have almost no time these days to devote to researching and learning more about because I’m trying to make it happen. The mechanic’s car is never fixed.

I’d love to hear from you.

15 Responses to “Tip of the Hat”

  1. Beelzebud says:

    Will the show have a Libertarian bias, like some of the articles here? I’ve been more than disappointed with the biased articles here that uncritically promote a political ideology. If you want a successful show, you should stick to debunking woo, and leave the political ideology behind…

    • kabol says:

      I’ve been more than disappointed with the biased articles here that uncritically promote a political ideology.

      maybe you should go out into internet land and spend some time mucking about with the woo folk on their sites. then perhaps you’ll again come to appreciate this blog for the breath of sanity and reason that it is and stop nit-picking over political differences.

      • Beelzebud says:

        It’s not nit-picking when posts here are made that are biased toward one political ideology, without anything scientific to back them up. And you suggest I got read “woo folk on their sites” because I don’t like the woo woo bullshit that is posted in regards to libertarianism here?

        Get real!

      • Rob says:

        How is libertarianism “woo woo bullshit”? Just because you disagree with it does not make it invalid — it is a legitimate political position based on facts and well crafted philosophy (I am not a libertarian, btw). “Woo woo” is used to describe a belief system either based on no facts, or based on demonstrably untrue assumptions. Libertarianism is neither of these. Now, I know that the ideology in and of itself is not the heart of your objection, so I will address the substance of what you have to say next:

        Your objection to the voicing of political ideologies in skeptical literature is something that can be discussed, but you don’t get to decree that everything on this site should be entirely devoid of opinion and be scientifically provable — these articles are written by human beings and I enjoy seeing the writers’ thoughts and opinions come out a bit. Not everything can be scientifically proven either, I apply the scientific method to all of my thought processes when applicable, but sometimes this is not possible, particularly in the realm of politics. For example, if we simply crunch the numbers, we might find that the most efficient way to run a society is under a totalitarian, fascist dictatorship. In this case, we need our human thoughts, feelings, and opinions to tell us that despite the loss of efficiency, democracy is a far better way to go.

      • Tuffgong says:

        To a certain degree, certain areas of politics and culture can be and are verified somewhat if not wholly by scientific principles, theories, findings, and ideas.

        The ways systems work sociologically is indirectly or directly depending on how much you know, is a verification of why free markets work and are preferable to top-down economies. Is it a scientific conclusion? Hell no, but ultimately when we skeptics provide hypotheses and theories, the degree of plausibility and verifiability is important. It’s why certain political opinions make more sense or are adopted more by skeptics such as Libertarian ideas because they’ve happened to fit much easier or the most with what a person has established has making sense skeptically and scientifically.

        I’m strongly opposed to forcing people to have no political ideas at all in the area of skepticism. Do I prefer a more politically independent skeptic? Sure I do, less opportunity for bias and such. But that’s highly impractically to expect, but what is much is practical to expect is self-skepticism, which is much more important in establishing when one is a skeptic and talks politics.

      • kabol says:

        And you suggest I got read “woo folk on their sites” because I don’t like the woo woo bullshit that is posted in regards to libertarianism here?

        no, i believe i actually stated you do should muck about with them for a while so you’ll come to appreciate this blog for the breath of sanity and reason that it is.

        perhaps i wasn’t clear. no, actually – what i stated looks about the same.

      • kabol says:

        give or take a typo.

    • MadScientist says:

      I’m fairly confident there will be no libertarian bias. I can’t even goad Brian and others into discussing politics. Just don’t mention any politics to you-know-who because you know there’s only one political ideology worth pursuing.

  2. No, our TV & video projects are science vs. pseudoscience, not political opinion.

  3. Tuffgong says:

    I personally fiend for grayer subjects that actually require skepticism in order to even think straight. The woo are a powerful force, but ultimately a polarized and obvious enemy to critical thinking. The nitty gritty however, should call everyone into question, including the skeptics themselves.

    I’m talking about areas where self-skepticism and subtle differences in argument are what matter. Namely debates surrounding the environment, genetic engineering, Global Warming/Climate Change, the culture at large and politics. Those are debates that require a good skeptic to make sense of. Otherwise personal bias, sentiment, or logical fallacies are employed, often without notice. It’s important to use woo to establish a base but it’s good to be ready to tackle things that are a little grayer.

    Politics is the most gray because the only science it’s related to is social science, which isn’t as concrete as others and hence self-skepticism is required in order to prevent misinformation from ruling the day. There aren’t clinical trials to make sense of politics. Too many times have I seen “studies show” used by both sides to just jerk themselves off and throw poo at their perceived enemy. A little severe but accurate from what I’ve read.

    I usually don’t have a problem with Shermer’s points because they either generally make sense or fit with what I understand about the areas of social science. Being a skeptic, he found to be most at home with Libertarian views and has enough self-skepticism that it hasn’t been a problem really. Sure points or paragraphs here and there are too severe for me to justify, but you got to give the man credit for that being an exception given the potential for political bias.

    It’s easy to just say that Shermer should just be indepedent but guess what, some people are more politically active than others. Shermer eventually saw that sum of his views verified to a certain degree by his scientific and skeptical experience, would benefit politically by adopting a label as mentioned in a post of his. That label happened to be Libertarian. Personally I would see label adoption politically as a flaw if it weren’t for his self-skepticism. I don’t want to give the impression that I’m riding Shermer’s you know what, but I have to give credit where credit is due. That doesn’t mean I haven’t disagreed with him, but a vast majority of the time, he’s alright in my book.

    Oh and down with woo and such.

    • MadScientist says:

      I think that’s a great point. Perhaps we should start out with some fundamentals of advertising such as:

      1. plausible deniability (smoking does not cause cancer)

      2. manufacturing concern (vaccines cause autism)

      Those are just two old, well known dirty tricks commonly used. You see both constantly used by global warming deniers and creationists. I wish I knew a little more about why these cheap and dirty tricks work.

      • Tuffgong says:

        How is plausible deniability and manufacturing concern not overtly used by Anthropogenic Global Warming proponents? I’m always curious how Global Warming skeptics are brandished as holocaust deniers or simply crazy.

        Skeptics aren’t polarizes, they are truth seekers. Polarizing is the field of party politics, not skeptics.

        As an addendum, I would like to see skepticism associated with the idea of treating a situation as a different case. At least to promote the idea of not painting different situations the same color and basing a conclusion on that.

  4. Brian M says:

    I would like to see direct ideas for fellow skeptics to further the movement. Things we can say to people who claim that “you should go to a chiropractor for those allergies”. I always just want to say “you are an idiot”, and walk away. Perhaps a series or episode focused on “what can you do in this type of situation” would be nice.

  5. kabol says:

    woo person: “you should go to a chiropractor for those allergies”
    skeptic: “you are an idiot”

    another tee shirt slogan!!!!