Archive for the ‘Activism’ Category

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“A Place for your stuff” – a quickie

February 10, 2009

One of my favorite George Carlin bits is the one where he talks about his “stuff” (For those of you who haven’t heard it, watch this.  NSFW, BTW. For language).

Well, just like George, I’m always looking for a place to put my stuff, in this case – skeptical podcasts.  For a few years now, I’ve kept an html file with the ones I listen to saved on my desktop.  Hi-tech, I know.  Since I haven’t graduated to the level of uber-geek that many of you have (using iTunes), I just used this page to organize my downloads.  I even made it my start page for awhile.

This weekend I attended the first ever Atlanta Skepticamp.  It was an evening and a day of local skeptics giving talks on subjects ranging from Theater Superstitions to Neural Plasticity.  I was impressed not only with how diverse a group of presenters we had, but how ridiculously smart the audience was.  Our local folks are awesome!

Beat that Colorado!

Friday evening there was a joint podcast with Derek and Swoopy from Skepticality and John and David from American Freethought.   At one point, Swoopy commented that she was surprised no one had created a directory of skeptical podcasts.  72 hours later, here it is:

Skeptcast.com

Yes it is plain and ugly (sorry Phlebas).  Yes I did it in a blog generator (WordPress).  Let’s face it, the design isn’t going to win any webbies (or “A” webby, for that matter).

But that’s not why I created it.  I did that because: 1.) I’ve been extremely lazy about updating this blog and felt a little guilty when all these people at skepticamp were doing so much for skepticism; 2.) I suck at design.  I (use to) write code for a living, not make things pretty and finally 3.) I’m cheap.  WordPress hosts it for free.

For now, I really want to limit the site to just skeptical podcasts, at least on the main page.  That might evolve over time, though.  If you have suggestions for podcasts for me to include (or remove) please do so here.

For now, well I gotta go finish season one of Battlestar Galactia.

-J

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Only Thing We Have To Fear Is Fear Itself

August 23, 2008

Imagine the scene:

With seemingly out of control inflation and unemployment figures; facing bleak real estate and stock markets; saddled by war debt and a tarnished global reputation, the newly-elected president, a Harvard graduate, former attorney who served as a Democratic State Senator steps up to the podium to give his inaugural address:

I am certain that my fellow Americans expect that on my induction into the Presidency I will address them with a candor and a decision which the present situation of our people impel. This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.

Of course by now you realize I’m not talking about a potential future speech by Barack Obama, I’m talking about the January 1933 speech given by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. His first of four, a feat no President has or ever will repeat.

He certainly had his detractors – called both a warmonger and a fascist. It has been said that his economic policies actually prolonged The Great Depression by infringing upon Adam Smith’s notion of The Invisible Hand. And ok, sure, today his numerous calls to the divine and asking for the “blessing of God” later in the speech would have the ACLU filing a separation of church and state lawsuit faster than you can say Flying Spaghetti Monster.

But despite his political and philisophical shortcomings, I see in FDR’s speech a call for critical thinking:

This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today.

And he channels Thomas Paine with

Restoration calls, however, not for changes in ethics alone. This Nation asks for action, and action now.

So what action am I alluding to? Thinking critically in the face of fear. Do you have friends who are afraid to have their children vaccinated? Show them articles like this.  We all have a relative who doesn’t trust doctors and seeks out so-called alternative medicine.  What can it hurt, right?  Think pseudoscience does no harm? Take a look here.

Of course you can’t just preach at them.

While talking to Dr G tonight about what I hope to do with this blog, she told me about a valuable lesson she learned while running for office. Her strategy to win started with discussing solutions to issues at hand in the same way she always had – with her closest friends.  Initial polling showed of course, that she already had their votes. The eureka moment came when she realized that she had to convince the remaining 99.9% of her constituents to support her.  And while her personal circle adored her (as do I, Doc), to win the election she had to reach the masses on their own terms with their own language.

We cannot change the way people think overnight, we must be patient yet diligent, persuasive, yet gentle. A century and a half before FDR, even Thomas Paine knew he had to speak the language of his audience.

Thanks to The Bad Astronomer, WhatsTheHarm.net and orDover for writing what they write, fighting what they fight and inspiring so much in me. And of course, to Dr G.

She did win her High School Student Council Election, BTW.