Archive for skeptic

Skeptic North

Posted in Science, skepticism with tags , , , , on October 1, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Anouncing a new project that has been coming together between a number of Canadian skeptics that first got together at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7, and picking up more along the way.  We have started our first project Skeptic North (not to be confused with myself your humble Northernskeptic).  We will be contributing to our group blog on the site with a decidedly Canadian focus.  The battle for reality starts at home, and Skeptic North will be one of the first outposts on the northern front.

Atheists, Theists and Skepticism.

Posted in atheism, skepticism with tags , , on September 26, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Gather a group of skeptics together and you will find that they will talk about almost anything with a critical outlook.  Whether it is the latest alternative medical claim, psychic expose, or quantum gizmo the conversations flow like a floodgate released.  Many in the community revel in such discussions since often it is difficult to be able to talk with the average person on the street and have equal understanding.  The one topic however that is considered taboo by some is that of religion.

Many skeptics self identify as atheist or agnostic as well and as such have no problem delving into the dubious nature of many theistic claims.  There are times though where we encounter the Theistic Skeptic, and when this happens there is and admonishment against making them feel uncomfortable.  This was the message that we recieved from TAM 7 in July from Master of Ceremonies Hal Bidlack.

On a recent episode of The Non-Prophets, Matt Dillahunty talked about the separation of skepticism and atheism.  Matt was pointing out that atheism can be traced to a skeptical outlook.  It is a valid observation, I myself credit my burgeoning skepticism with my own deconversion from Mormonism.   The problem with equating skepticism to atheism however is that not all atheists are skeptics.

To be an atheist is simple, just lack a believe in any god(s).  To be a skeptic requires a more critical approach to life separate from personal beliefs.  I have known atheists who are anti-vax, follow “spiritualism”, believe that 9/11 was an inside job and more.   Some equate science to being a religion, and groups of atheists getting together for a common goal as indoctrination.

There is of course a lot of overlap between the 2 but at least in our local groups in Edmonton we felt that the distinction was enough to separate them.  With this separation we have drawn some to the Edmonton Skeptics and others to the Society of Edmonton Atheists.   Both of these groups are great to attend but they also have different dynamics.

As for the theistic skeptics however their unease of more theological discussions occurring in social settings should not be a call to quash such talk, but rather for them to examine their own position a bit more critically.  Free and open discourse is key to the skeptical movement, it may be better for official organizations like the JREF or Michael Shermer’s Skeptic Society to steer away from heavy involvement in religious debunking.  On the social one on one level however such limits can push people away.

A Skeptics Oath

Posted in Random, skepticism with tags , , , on September 1, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Tip of the hat to the Green Lantern’s Oath for inspiration.  To those who think that skeptics shouldn’t have an oath, I’m just a geek having fun so NYA NYA.

In woo filled days, In spook filled nights

No flim-flam will escape my sight

Let those who schill the crackpots blight

Beware my reason, my skeptic light

Twitter Experiment in Follow-Bots

Posted in Random, Science, skepticism, twitter with tags , , , , on June 16, 2009 by Northernskeptic

On Saturday night (June 13) I decided to perform an experiment.  I sent  3 tweets to see what sort of followers I would gain, and today I present the results.

First the tweets that I sent the fourth was suggested by the totally awesome @SurlyAmy who you should be following:

  1. Network Marketing Opportunity
  2. HHO Water Power
  3. Subluxation align chiropractic
  4. Hippy Idiot Liar

Since that time which was about (9:00 pm mst) and now (10:00 pm mst) I have gained 27 new followers, I’ll break them down below.

  1. Tianna Lynn (TiannaLynn78): Generic pretty girl account already suspended
  2. Virginia Green (LuTachison): A single tweet and a link to the Library of Congress
  3. belle (belletyler111): average adolescent tweets, no deep details on the bio or linked site
  4. Mike Hobbs (mikehobbs): Network Marketing/MLM/Internet sales and he has a “Seminar” to sell too
  5. Jarod M Farnham (jarodmicah): Another Network Marketer
  6. Pam Thompson (bewellbypam): And another Network Marketer
  7. UC Chiropractic (bharshe):  Apparently he is a Chiropractor
  8. Rich OBrien (itsrichobrien): Network Marketer
  9. Mladen Bartolić (mbartolic): no tweets, no bio, no link
  10. MikeTheInfidel (freeplay): Skeptic/Atheist/Critical Thinker (my kinda guy)
  11. Joe Dawson (plumberjoeohio): A Plumber who tweets exclusively about…plumbing
  12. Greg Kelley (edumaster): A science educator
  13. zeta hanif (airempire95059): Suspended account
  14. plumbing guy (prettypipeplumb): Another plumber???
  15. Average Albertan (averagealbertan): Umm, an average albertan I guess.
  16. Edmonton Alberta (EdmontonFans): Generic gimick account
  17. Jenny Green (arithmeticsweep): Suspended account
  18. ilovebing (ilovebing): no bio but links to 4chan (please don’t hurt me anonymous)
  19. Marcus Richter (MarcusRichter): Vitamin pushing wootard
  20. Spray Adaptogens (SprayAdaptogens): The health product woo is strong with this one
  21. Néstor Pabón (HealthBeatToday): CAM homeopathy and Aromatherapy wootard and medical science denier
  22. Vancouver Canucks (canucksnews): A Vancouver Canucks fan
  23. Kerstin’s Chocolates (kerstinschoc): Edmonton based specialty chocolate shop
  24. Stargate Universe (stargateuverse): Fan of the as yet unreleased new Stargate spinoff
  25. pulseproject (pulseproject): Another Skeptic and follows the Awesome @SurlyAmy
  26. Nicole Draper (nicoleeislegit): another Myspace cam girl advertising for new “friends”
  27. Andy Lambros (andylambros): Internet “consultant”

From the looks of it I pulled in 4 network marketers, 2 supplement junkies, 1 homeopath, and 1 chiropractor.  I didn’t even get a free energy fanatic.

On the plus side I did gain 2 new skeptics and a science educator so that’s cool.

On the weird side 2, I repeat 2 followers who tweet about PLUMBING????

To fill things in I got the usual follow junkies, fansites and cam girls.  I haven’t checked to see if any of them are still following me I only went on the e-mail alerts so this is really an unscientific test but then again my targets weren’t that scientific either.  It is interesting to note that the keywords do tend to bring the woo-bots down on you.

Oh and in case you missed the subtle hints earlier follow @SurlyAmy.

A Song for a Friend

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by Northernskeptic

I wrote this for a friend who has had an incredibly stressful time recently.  This one is for you Des.

Skeptic’s Rhapsody (Tune Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen, with utmost respect to Freddie Mercury)

This is the real life
This is not fantasy-
On late night TV
No time made for reality-
Open your mind
And think Critically like me-
I’m just a skeptic, I need no sympathy-
Because I won’t buy it from a quack
Reasoned thought is on attack
Anything the woo sells, smells just like a scam to me,
To me

Sylvia  just lied again
She said “your son is dead,
Your desparate search has been misled”
Sylvia making lots of cash,
With Montel Williams right there on TV
Sylvia ooo,
Won’t  admit she lied-
But She’ll be back again same time tomorrow-
Carry on, carry on to Rob Lancaster’s web site

Peter, he claimed to heal
Heard from a voice above
Claimed he channeled godly love
But soon everybody-was bound to know-
His wife was broadcasting it from the booth-
Peter ooo-(What a douchebag)
I don’t want to die,
But you will never get a penny from me-

I see Uri Geller racheting a key
“I don’t know how I do this, now please give me some money”
But if he’s not faking, the cash is for the taking, see-
There’s a Challenge, There’s a Challenge
There’s a Challenge, There’s a Challenge
There’s a Challenge, from James Randi don’t you see
“but I don’t believe you so I’m going to sue you”
He’s just a loser, after YouTube users
Spare him a life of undue scrutiny
“Money’s tight if you know-, will you let it go”
You Scammer! no-, we will not let it go- let it go
You Scammer! we will not let it go- let it go
You Scammer! we will not let it go- let it go
We will not let it go- let it go
We will not let it go- let it go
no, no, no, no, no, no, no-
Don’t you see, don’t you see, don’t you see, you need to know-
James Randi has had a Million set aside for years, for years, For Years!!!!

So you think to cold-read, spoon-bend and lie-
So you think that this BS I’m ready to buy-
Oh Scammers-can’t do this to me scammers-
Just got to think, Just got to think Critically

Thinking really matters,
Skeptics do believe,
Thinking really matters-, thinking really matters to me

Anything the woo sells…

Who is the Northern Skeptic?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 2, 2008 by Northernskeptic

It is funny, I write this post to launch a blog, yet I don’t know the answer to the question.   My life and ideology has taken many winding turns to arrive where I am now, the number of adjectives I have used to describe myself covers a large range.

Redneck, Capitalist, Fundamentalist, Mormon, Christian, Right-Wing, Faithful, Saved, Chaste, for my youth these are some of the words that defined me.

Unsure, Agnostic, Doubting, Lost, Aimless, Searching, Incomplete, Gullible, Ignorant, these words covered a time after I lost my faith but still couldn’t define myself.

Conservative, Libertarian, Liberal, Socialist, the range of political ideologies I have entirely embraced at one time or another.

Then a few years ago I was poking around websites that had information about space, and space phenomena.  As a kid I loved Sci-Fi, and I loved hearing about the manned space program, so every so often I poked into a website that talked about misconceptions, myths and outright lies about the space program.  For those who are in the skeptical community you should already have figured out that I discovered the website of astronomer Phil Plait http://www.badastronomy.com .  I couldn’t stop reading the site, I absorbed everything there from Phil’s debunking of Nancy Leiber’s ridiculous Planet-X claims, to Richard Hoaglands paranoid ramblings about aliens on mars and NASA covering it up.  It was amazing.

For a while it was enough to just read the debunkings over and over again, however that all changed when I began to read his blog.  Phil talked about more than just space and science, he talked about creationism and schools and critical thinking.   I started to see that there was more going on in the world that just my floundering on the internet absorbing random websites.  This was the beginning of a new chapter in my life.

Phil started a brief series of educational videos that he posted to YouTube, this placed me on an unalterable course.  From Phil’s small YouTube channel I followed links to other youtubers and they linked to yet other youtubers, for example from the channel of Skepchick Rebecca Watson I found the “Blasphemy Challenge”.  What this led me to was the YouTube Atheist Community.   I discovered that people like me were talking about their lives and others were listening and commenting.  I felt the need to speak and so I registered a username http://www.youtube.com/truenorth15.

Again it was an amazing paradigm shift for me, this did lead to one of the biggest realizations in my life.  I am an atheist, those words were terrifying to me for many years I thought atheists were to be despised, ridiculed, mocked and now I realized I was one as well.  I put out a couple of videos as an ardent agnostic before my self realization, by that point my new course was set.

I began participating in video chains, and projects.  I logged into Stickam and spoke with other atheists live, but there was always something in the background that was calling to me.  I realized not all atheists were there via the same path I took, I continued to read Phil’s blog but added others to my list too including PZ Meyers, Orac, Skeptico, and most notably James Randi’s Swift blog.

I was still an atheist but I found that I was identifying with the skeptic community too.  I coasted along in this state for some time, until I was laid off from my job.  I suddenly had loads of free time between job hunting and found something to do with it.  I joined the local atheist society http://www.edmontonatheists.ca.   Regular events kept me busy, and I enjoyed the company however something was missing, and that fortuitously came along in the form of a new local skeptical society edmontonskeptics.org.   Little did I realize this was another major shift in my life.

In my unemployment I began to listen to podcasts, lots of podcasts.  I listened to months worth of Skepticality, Non-Prophets, Atheist Experience, Skeptoid, and the venerable Skeptics Guide.  I wanted more, so imagine my suprise when I found out that there was a local skeptical call in radio show qtransmissions.wordpress.com.  I was hooked on the first episode I heard, and I had to call in.  Pretty soon it became apparent that I had called in every single episode since I first started listening.  You could say that I became the official fanclub for the show, in fact I purchased a small AM/FM radio so that if I was out I could listen to the show no matter what.

While this excitement was carrying on there was great political upheaval going on south of the border.  We were about to see which direction our powerful neighbor to the south would take after 8 years of disasterous leadership.  In the end the canidate I was hoping for won without question, but somebody lost.  The loss that occured was to same-sex couples and their right to marriage.   I remember thinking that they didn’t deserve rights that they were an abberation, I remember thinking they should be happy with civil-unions and no more.  What changed? Me.  I got to know a couple of gays and lesbians, and it got harder….no impossible for me not to see that they were people too deserving of the same equal rights that everybody else was.  I started to empathize to the point that I could imagine the heartache that these fellow human beings were feeling.

It turns out I took this violation even more personally that just the frienships I had made, I also felt guilt.  No I didn’t vote for the proposition, I didn’t campaign to remove their rights, but I had indirectly allowed my name to be associated with this campaign of hatred.  At this time I am still listed as a member of the mormon church, this same church from the pulpit mobilized to abolish gay marriage completely in California.  This was a violation of the separation between church and state and I was a quiet accomplice because I did not take the time to remove myself from the member records of this church.  This is where I define myself again.

I have written a letter to member records in Utah using resources from http://www.mormonnomore.com, and timely input from my favorite activist Desiree.   I will be mailing it within the next few days.  With this act I become an activist.

So Who am I?  I am an Atheist.  I am a Skeptic. I am an Activist.

Take me as I am for I am Nathan Hinman.