Doubt and About is personal contemplation about stuff going on in my sphere.
I’ve been dreaming about flying rays, monitor lizards and leeches. These days, I have a surplus of tiny spiders on the back deck that enjoy crawling on me and using me as a launching pad for their silk ballooning. I should have been a zoologist, obviously. Meanwhile, my job is to keep writing up rational responses to crazy news stories on Doubtful News.
Does anyone not know that I do DN? It’s not unusual to come across skeptics who have never heard of DN. How does that happen? I do all I can to promote it. I’m pretty passionate. This stuff means a lot to me and has for 20 years. Well, this relates to a worsening problem I’ve noticed in the past few years – lack of support and cooperation among skeptical advocates. There are many good groups and bands of individuals that get together to do projects. But it seems like asking for a blog post, Facebook share, a retweet or even a mention of your latest project or important post is met with the sound of crickets. Why is that? Shouldn’t we be helping each other to spread the word about positive stuff?
I’ve sent out a few emails to big name skeptics lately asking to mention or support my new site Practical Skepticism or the TAM educator grants. Sadly, no response. It’s impossible to get regular contributions to websites. This has been greatly dismaying and a sign that there isn’t a vibrant community. But meanwhile, I send love to the retweeters and to those who send good wishes and pictures of kittens and cannolis. That helps.
In order to make any difference, you have to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and just keep doing things that matter. It’s pointless to keep banging your head and hope things change. My feelings are that internal skeptical summits are seriously needed to hammer out the personal issues, objectives, and goals. I’ve suggested such but… as I said, crickets. For progress, we need to stop bickering with each other, start a new page and move in the same direction, namely forward, instead of backsliding. The orgs need to be open to new ideas and doing things differently. Until then…
I’m trying to keep moving forward; I can’t stop the new ideas from forming in my head. I would love to do a Fortean meetup and a Monster conference. I wish I could write more for PracSkep, there is SO much that could be done. Outreach is needed to niche audiences like teachers, parents, kids, teens and twenty-somethings. IMO, small meetups, workshops, lectures, and local involvement is the way to go for now – strengthen the roots and connections and revive enthusiasm (especially my own).
I’ll be at TAM in July representing myself, DN, PracSkep, and helping as best I can. Contrary to some misinformed gossipers, I am NOT the program chair or calling the shots about speakers. I no longer act in a paid capacity for the JREF. You may have noticed the SWIFT blog is not active anymore but I help keep the social media accounts active. There is a highly capable event team running the show – as it should be for such a huge undertaking. Due to the lack of communication from the JREF, several people ask me or the event team what is going on. I simply can’t say, it’s not my place – I’m not a board member and do not know plans, details, or what the future will bring. But, I have informed the org of public comments, and encouraged them to provide updates to members and interested parties. Inquiring minds want to know. Meanwhile, you should come to TAM, it’s bigger than any one org or person and it’s an opportunity to network and learn like no other. Don’t miss it.
At TAM, I will be doing a panel during the workshop sessions with Simon Singh and Susan Gerbic on everyday skepticism, practical applications, and good thinking. We have some thoughts and experience in that. Plus, we want to hear from others. So, a good part of the panel will be Q&A discussion. Bring your comments and ideas! I strongly feel everyday application of critical thinking should be a main thrust of modern activism. It’s not that hard to demonstrate the good that a little skepticism can do, everyone should try it. I don’t care if you go to church or don’t support gay marriage – the world is an incrementally better place if more people understand why kids need to be vaccinated and are doubtful of advice from psychics and astrologers.
While I’m writing less lately, my current reading material has been on poltergeists. I have both Roll and Playfair’s books on the topic. So far, I’m not impressed. Something unusual is going on, for sure, but something psi-related or paranormal is unlikely. I still contend that research into paranormal topics is VERY important because belief is so widespread, has always been and will always be. It’s an integral part of our modern culture. SOMEONE needs to think rationally about it and put that out there for the public.
I’ve been getting away from the computer too. My garden looks fantastic this year. There is much joy to be had in cultivating flowers that no one else has and to have a rainbow of color and an array of wildlife in the yard. I like to sit and watch the dinosaurs, I mean, birds, take advantage of that. I encourage others to try it.
It’s OK to just let people have their opinions, you don’t ALWAYS have to reply. Let it go. Try making positive suggestions. All the negativity is drag. I’m generally not a very positive person but I’ve learned to fake it. I’ll tell you what, just like forcing yourself to smile often makes you feel happier, practicing being positive actually does combat the negative.