World of Goo, politics and skeptical philosophy

It was a madcap episode this week on the Virtual Skeptics. Bob and Eve were hosting Michael Shermer in Wisconsin but he was a bit too busy to appear on the show (so we didn’t even ask). His Junior Skeptic sidekick Daniel Loxton made an appearance in spirit as we discussed Dan’s latest essay on skepticism which appeared in eSkeptic earlier in the day. I’d received an advanced copy and found some really INTERESTING bits.

Get your full report here —Why is there a Skeptical Movement?

Why? Because we need one. Daniel gives us the history of skepticism in this VERY well researched piece. You can’t dispute the scholarship that went into this and the facts that came out.

Skepticism as a modern “thing” was developed in response to fringe claims that other scientists wouldn’t touch – the paranormal, pseudoscience, those things that the public was fascinated with or was taken by that needed a critical eye and a stern word of reason. Dan argues (and I totally agree) that even though we all have our personal values that we wish to endorse (feminism, gay rights, atheism, social justice), those are not the testable claims which are the realm of scientific skepticism.

In our discussion, we noted that you can certainly bring scientific skepticism to the pursuit of those values and it is a great tool but, as new JREF Senior Fellow Jamy Ian Swiss famously said, don’t come in and try to move my tent. Skepticism is at its most useful with a focused speciality at the core.

There is CERTAINLY room for the Atheism+ and Skepchick social justice agendas. But anyone representing as a Skeptic or speaking as a leader for the cause of critical thinking has a duty to learn best practices, study the literature, and not come storming in to overthrow everything that has been done before. Science, as well as many fields of practice, is not invented as much as it is built upon previous foundations. The skeptical movement has certainly evolved. (I mean, look at us on a Google Hangout just riffing on these widespread topics we love.) But we revolve around the idea of testable claims. It makes sense and it gets things done.

But we HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

So, the group of us did our thing on the show… Brian scared the hell out of us with more scary robots. Bob and Eve were destroyed (you have to watch). I talked about purple goo and goo in trees, frog spawn and star jelly (that was fun). Tim reminded us that political activities are SUPER important ways to make change happen. We totally drop the ball on this often and we certainly need more coalitions and active participation to make progress.

Our special guest Miranda Hale represented the humanities arm of the team this week also endorsing the fact that our message must be focused in order to get it across effectively.

I also giggled like Bob.

Neither Blue nor Pink appear but a cute black furry dog (my shadow) does. Good times. Check it out.

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