Doubt and About: I dream of animals (Spring 2015)

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.

Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/satyros-/2058232092
Photo from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/satyros-/2058232092

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.

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news. Doubtfulnews.com SpookyGeology.com

0 thoughts on “Doubt and About: I dream of animals (Spring 2015)

  1. “This has been greatly dismaying and a sign that there isn’t a vibrant community.”

    This line stuck out to me, especially in reference to the TAM Educator Grants.

    From my past experience being involved peripherally with TAM, and even the educator grants, it’s never been a popular program. I don’t find it odd at all that you’re having trouble getting traction for this.

    But, from a more practical standpoint, I find it odd that you’re blaming the community for the failing of you go get people to share this.

    Either it’s not interesting to people, the don’t feel involved in it specifically, or it could be possible that you’re not engaging the right people.

    To put a positive spin on this, try widening the net. Try sharing this within educational, but non-skeptical communities. Reach out to specific schools of all levels and let them know that this is available.

    Sometimes it’s hard for people in a community to realize just how small and isolated it is. I’ve been very involved in skepticism for nearly a decade now, but it’s not surprising to me that people don’t know there’s a skeptical community, that there’s people that have no idea who Randi is, or why this work is important to me.

    1. It could very well not be interesting to them but these are the people who become members of the orgs and (hopefully) share the values so of course I would reach out to them. (It’s several thousand people.) I don’t really have connections to educational networks since that is a HUGE area and I’m not directly working in that area.

  2. “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?”

    Yes, imagine that.. There’s people that don’t know about your project.
    There’s people in this community, that are not new to it, that don’t
    know about a lot of popular things. Things that are more popular than
    Doubtful news. I meet people that don’t know about Skeptoid, or The
    Skeptic Zone, or that there’s a local skeptic group in their community
    that’s been around for years and posting stuff all the time.

    But just to put things in perspective.

    FB Likes:

    Doubtful News – 6,149
    Sharon Hill – 23
    JREF – 58,489
    James Randi – 217,932
    Skeptoid – 20,729
    Ben Radford – 286

    And to go outside the skeptical community:

    Snooki – 11,690,215
    American Pickers – 2,625,057
    Sig Hanson – 614,920

    So a captain on Deadliest Catch has 100x more FB fans than Doubtful
    News. The skeptical community is a fringe group of people, and
    anything, even the most popular thing, is going to be the fringe of
    that community.

    “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?”

    People share stuff that’s important to them. They share stuff because
    it’s interesting in some way. They don’t share things because you ask
    them to. The only exception to that is probably a personal friend.

    People share engaging, interesting, things because they WANT to, not
    because they’re ASKED to. That’s just basical marketing, especially
    when it comes to dealing with marketing via social networking.

    “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.”

    This is going to sound mean, but I really don’t mean it that way…
    But why would they? What do they owe you? Again, produce things they
    want to share and they will share it. Does it even come to mind that
    what you’re trying to share isn’t enticing people to read it, let
    alone share it?

    I get it, I did blog posts on the Granite State Skeptics site and
    really wanted people to share it, but it just didn’t work. We still
    have a small, but good community of people and still do interesting
    things. When those things have actual interest they make the rounds
    and I get interviewed by local papers and podcasts. You can’t force
    interest if what you’re presenting doesn’t interest people.

    “My feelings are that internal skeptical summits are seriously needed
    to hammer out the personal issues, objectives, and goals.”

    I have personally tried to get some kind of local skeptic group
    “summit” to happen at TAM7… and TAM8… and TAM9. Even trying to get
    buy in from the JREF. I heard positive feedback, but no real interest,
    so they never happened. I think it’s important for local groups to
    help each other out, especially when it comes to speakers. But again,
    you can’t force interest and I eventually let it go.

    “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.”

    Somebody needs to take their own advice.

    “The orgs need to be open to new ideas and doing things differently.”

    The orgs have been trying new things, and it hasn’t really been
    helping. The JREF had two different presidents after Randi stepped
    down from that role, and they currently have nobody. They tried doing
    local workshops, ebooks for schools. CFI has done all kinds of, what I
    think are weird, projects. They did the art thing for Amy, they did
    Women in Secularism.

    Some things had positive results (like the RDF offering child care for
    TAM), others fell flat. That’s how things work, but to think that the
    orgs are not open to new ideas or trying things differently seems
    strange to me, because I’ve seen them doing different things.

    “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.”

    Her not being in the paid capacity of the JREF is news to me, but lets
    get real. She made it known to anybody that would listen that she was
    contracting for the JREF and working for them and had all kinds of big
    plans. If there’s misinformation about this arangement, it came
    directly from her.

    “Try making positive suggestions. All the negativity is drag.”

    I personally see “criticism” as positive suggestions. Others disagree.

    “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.”

    I’m sorry, I can’t fake being positive when I don’t have something
    positive to contribute, but of course I just said I see criticism as
    positve while others find it to be negative. So be it.

    But I will finish up with something positive. I’ve done a lot of
    projects, and I would say most fell flat. But if your motivation is
    something other than wanting to be famous, you have every motivation
    to keep plugging away and learn from each “failed” project and build
    from that to create one that works. I’ll also add that it’s up to you
    to do it, and not up to others to hold you up. Nobody owes you
    anything, and if you can’t do it, that’s on you, not the community.
    That’s not a bad thing, or a negative one. It’s a learning experience
    that you grow from. So regroup, examine why things that were under
    your control failed, and try better the next time. To worry or
    complain about things you have no control over is a waste of time in
    my opinion, and that includes people liking and sharing your content
    with the masses.

    1. I would add that these observations are not mine alone but ones I have discussed with others including Ray Hyman who noted that the skeptical community does not appear to rally around goals but around people and popular topics.

      Yes, I expect that since I make an effort to share other people’s work that they share mine too (if they agree). That’s what a community is good for. One person’s efforts can hardly go as far as a group effort. I suppose I was naive to think that we could all drive the bus in the same general direction. I was also very naive about social complexities. I still don’t get it.

      Sometimes you have to say something tough to get to the positive. I can’t be Sally Sunshine. I can identify lots of things that got mismanaged and evolved into something worse. Those issues should be addressed. But many people seem too burned out to muster up the enthusiasm. We wasted a ton of energy on useless stuff like infighting and joining “teams”.

      There is a lot of background info that is not my place to talk about regarding the skeptical orgs and various people. I do wish it can be about the goals but it hasn’t been. I’m not in this to be “famous” Travis, that’s absurd. I would, however, appreciate being acknowledged for the 20 years of involvement and effort. I hardly care about facebook “likes”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *