Sunday, November 1, 2009

Happy November 1 or Post Halloween

Halloween has some roots in the Roman feast of Pomona and the festival of the dead called Parantalia.  The modern roots go back to Celtic culture called Samhain or Summers End.  It was co-opted by Christianities All Saints Day or the Old English Ellra Halgene aefen or eve of All Saints Day.  Ghosts, ghoulies and the like are now celebrated as primarily a secular celebration with the focus on children having fun and helping dentists make money from cavities due to the candy.

We start another month of skepticism and critical thought, of which in Minot I don't think there is much outside our society.  But our goal is not convert Minot, as that would be very difficult knowing the proclivities of the population in general.  But to have fellowship with other skeptics, associate with other rational people and to try and be the little voice in ones head saying "are you sure this is right?" As I read in Skeptical Inquirer recently there are three lines of argument for engaging in this endeavor.  I will try and paraphrase Massimo Pigliucci in his article "The Moral Duty of a Skeptic" in the issue of SI, I mentioned.  First, "is the observation that contrary to popular belief, gullibility literally kills."  Examples of this are the many, but stand ones are people unnecessarily dieing of AIDS in africa because government leaders in some countries on this contitent bought into the lies about holistic cures and conspiracies that it western plot to spread the disease.  A big one is the Anti-vaxers.  Here in our community we have a chiropractor, though she may be a nice lady, she is delusional and spreads the mantra that vaccines cause autism, leads to chronic diseases etc.  This is the same garbage that is spread by Jenny McCarthy and her ilk.  They like to say the science of Chiropractic.  There is none, you need to go back to the history of that subject to understand it.  Just saying that it is science doesn't make it so.  But it is civily and criminally liabil to spread such nonsence as it puts the public health at risk.  Second even if it doesn't kill it provides an easy mark for con artists to take advantage of other peoples feelings, fears and swindle money out of the gullible.  Examples here include psychics like Sylvia Brown, John Edwards and James Van Praugh.  Others are legion, but these are the best know and you see them from time to time on tv.  The third one is more philosophical, but can be stated as "we are ethically bound to seek the truth, and tell others about it."  But the analogy put into the article is what I call the a near perfect mode.  People often ask "What is the harm if people believe in things that do not exist?"  If you get that question ask that person to imagine a friend, relative or loved one beginning to take drugs or alcohol to escape some sort of painful reality.  Would he not consider it his ethical duty to try and help that person realize that he or she is going down the path of destruction, either financially, health or life wise?  We may not like or wish reality to be what it is, but it is better to face it, learn about it and try to work with it, than ignore it or deny it.  After all nature, reality or what ever you call it doesn't care what you think or believe, she will do what ever she does in spite of you.  To ignore her only invites suffering and destruction.   
As a side note there is a site called Whats the Harm and you can click on it from this site to get to it and see what real harm has been done to others by belief in Chiropractic, homeopathy, religion, antivaxers, etc.

We will have a meeting on Friday at CFM at 7pm.  The subject will be skepticism itself.  After this meeting we will have a hiatus through December and restart meetings in January.  Please look to this site in the upcoming meetings section for dates time, venues and topics.  See you Friday.

Skeptical DoDo

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