Skeptical Limerick

There was a conspiracy nut
Who’s convictions confused him somewhat
Any which way he turned
A conspiracy burned
Thus he spun, with his head up his butt

The conspiracy nut had a friend
Who would ally with him till the end
An absurdity claimed
Would be sited and named
Room for two, derriere? (See a trend?)

Conspiracy lovers abound
Look for one – find a hundred around
G.I. tracts are impacted
Not a head is extracted
Yet conspirators never are found

Anomalies are bread and butter
To conspiracy nuts and to other
Ghost-hunting kooks
Who claim they find spooks
In each bright spot they snap with a shutter

But anomaly hunters don’t care
About facts even if made aware
That the points they thought strong
Are just out-and-out wrong
“All the experts Big Brother ensnares!”

So when faced with a rabid baboon
Crying, “We never went to the moon!”
These fools, nuts, and hicks
Evolution will fix
And it just cannot happen too soon!

The Fundamentals of Atheism

Someone should write a book with that title, a book describing what atheism really is, and what it is founded upon: Science. Atheism is not inherently an opposing force directed at the world’s religions any more than a mountain is an attacker of clouds. A mountain is rock upon rock upon rock, and if it stands so high it disrupts the passage of the weather, it is but a side effect of its existence. Science is the process by which knowledge is carefully build upon knowledge, and if it stands in the way of religion, it is but a side effect.

In a Telegraph article, Cardinal George slapped the label of “fundamentalism” upon atheism several times. And he’s not been along in that. It’s not that old of a word, only coined 60 years or so ago in regard to a Protestant movement. It’s since taken on the (negative) connotation of adherence to a basic set of beliefs in the face of all contrasting evidence. It’s even reached the level of slang with the use of the “fundie” epithet.

But the base word, fundamental, fits atheism and skepticism perfectly. In fact, most of the definitions of the word pertain to science and the physical world. If a fundamental is “something that is an essential or necessary part of a system or object” then what can be more essential and necessary to the universe but reality itself. And atheism and skepticism are all about reality…

The fundamentals of science are what the atheist view is entirely based upon. That simple, basic process by which information with measured and interdependent levels of confidence can be assembled and grown. The same process through which we have derived all of the knowledge and technology we use in our day-to-day lives. And not just our cell phones and automobiles, but “fundamental” things like the arch, the lever, the wheel, and fire.

Each thing we know suggests other things we might learn, all starting from those most humble of simple pieces. What happens when we burn wood? What happens when we burn a rock? What happens when we burn this smilodon? What if we just use the smoke?

And still there’s always more to learn, even from the simplest things. Little did our smilodon jerky-eating ancestors know, but spheres of 60 carbon atoms were drifting through their fire’s smoke. What’s a buckminsterfullerene to a Homo Erectus? Not much, but fullerenes are proving damn useful now.

The fundamentals of science are the fundamentals of atheism, and as some groups have deemed the atheist viewpoint their enemy, so they have waged war on science, knowledge, and the critical observation of reality. But this mountain isn’t going anywhere.

~ Chris Innanen
~ Nonsanity

Toolbelt of Consistency

Though these probably are not the first words you have read here, they are the first I’ve written so… Welcome to Skeptuppet.

The goal here is to combine some of my interests, and in the process create something of use for others. The first is a surety, the latter is still in question.

With Skeptuppet, I want to give out powerful skeptical tools in an easy-to-absorb and entertaining manner – with puppets! And here in the blog portion I’ll go on (and on) in greater, wordier depth. Perhaps the combination will work.

I am, first and foremost, a skeptic. This doesn’t mean cynic, which has its own combination of letters and meaning. A skeptic doesn’t, as a rule, dismiss new ideas out of hand. What a skeptic does is refrain from fully embracing a new idea until its proved its worth. And even more importantly, a skeptic will GIVE UP and idea that is sufficiently shown to be incorrect by the current weight of evidence.

The “sufficiently” and “evidence” parts often cause some misunderstanding, just as the work “skeptic” sometimes does. (Though that is thankfully changing.)

Evidence comes in a wide range of qualities, and there are many tools a skeptic can use to measure that quality and assign levels of confidence to an idea based on those measurements. Lots of poor quality pieces of evidence will never outweigh a single very high piece of evidence, for example – Something that doesn’t fit with most people’s common sense, particularly when we’re using metaphors like “weight”. (Perhaps I should try to come up with a different metaphor in this blog’s future…) And a sufficiency is simply the summation of those quality measurements and the resulting press of truth-hood or fallacy that results.

It’s all rather fuzzy, but darn if it doesn’t WORK! You see, it doesn’t matter if you measure that 2×4 in feet, meters, or your arm, so long as you measure the car you want to transport it in with the same rule.

Skepticism is the name for that consistent set of tools, rules, and techniques that helps us make good decisions. With consistency, we gain relative perspective. And with relative perspective, we can take great strides in the direction of truth.