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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #240

By The Staff
Posted on: 6/14/2009

Completely idiotic, hunting witches, Oprah's whacky world of health, em are deity, opinions are like... and more!


Week ending June 13, 2009 (Vol 6, #22)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.



Forum Highlights:
The list of complete idiots - Not to be confused with the much longer “Complete List of Idiots.”

Witch hunt! Destroy the evidence at once! - If it ducks like a quack…

The world according to Oprah - It’s actually a sick, sad world.

Editor’s Choice: Mr. Deity season three, for god’s sake! - He’s still got it.



Kil’s Evil Pick:
My Opinion on Opinions,” by Robert T. Carroll. Excerpt from the essay:
Since first using Kahane’s text I have been sympathetic to the view that critical thinking instruction should be about more than just skills like recognizing contradictions and identifying fallacies. I tried to encourage my students to develop a disposition to critically examine the presuppositions of their own culture as expressed in textbooks, TV news, daily newspapers, political speeches and policies, religions, science, and in their personal values and beliefs. I wanted my students to have no sacred cows and to become skilled in making judgments about whatever subject they were investigating. I wanted them to understand that a critical thinker doesn’t just have opinions, but has cogent reasons for those opinions. Skepticism is a useful tool in the process of evaluating evidence and arguments, but it is not the goal of critical thinking. Suspending judgment until all the evidence and arguments have been fairly evaluated is essential to arriving at the most reasonable judgments. Suspending judgment, which may have been the goal of some of the ancient Greek skeptics, is not the goal of critical thinking. Making informed judgments is the goal.

A question I was asked frequently over my thirty-five years of teaching college students was:
Do you want our opinion in our essays? My stock answer was: Of course. I want your well-reasoned opinions. But I don’t want a list of your beliefs. Many of my students had been wrongly taught that facts are good, opinions are bad. How many times have we heard: “that’s not a fact; that’s just your opinion.” We’ve seen this sentiment expressed by many creationists, who think that theories are opinions and evolution, being a theory, is not a fact but an opinion. Evolution, however, is both a fact and an opinion (a theory). It is a fact that evolution has occurred and there are various theories that try to explain how it occurred. There is a common misconception that facts are opposed to opinions. This error seems to be one of the chief cognitive deficits of those who think they have offered a meaningful criticism of something they disagree with by simply asserting that their opponent is expressing his opinions.
We have had several discussions here at SFN on the subject of opinion. Some have been contentious, to say the least. So here Robert Carroll puts the role of opinion into perspective as it applies to critical thinking and skepticism. That’s my opinion of his opinion, anyhow…

SkeptiQuote:
Beliefs are scarcely more private than actions are, for every belief is a fount of action in potentia.
— Sam Harris


Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: We started the night off with a quote by David Hilbert, “We must know. We will know.” From this emerged a philosophical discussion on math and science, as well as whether or not math is a science. Once everyone fulfilled their geek quota for the day, talk moved on to Yellowstone and supervolcanos. I suppose if anything is close to a “Rapture,” that has to be it. With people getting married, moving across the country and various job changes, chat became mostly about future plans of members, both short and long term. Especially short term with TAM7 coming up in just two weeks.

Come chat with us.


New Members This Week:
podcat
14hatemachine

(Not a member? Become one today!)




Elsewhere in the World:
5 Diabolical Animals That Out-Witted Humans

Cocaine study that got up the nose of the US

The ethics of vaccine refusal: Vaccine refuseniks as freeloaders

Galileo, the Leaning Tower, and Bull@%#$!

Good Lord

The psychology of crankery

Scientists again see natural selection in real time

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #104

Summer of Loving

Surrounded by Paganism

What Darwin said — and was he right?

What’s New by Bob Park

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.



Book of the Week:
Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace, by William Lobdell.



“A former religion reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Lobdell recounts in this plainly written memoir how he became a Protestant evangelical, nearly accepted Catholicism and, in the end, rejected faith altogether. Central to the arc of this memoir is the unfolding sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, which Lobdell covered in depth during his time as a religion reporter, beginning in 2000. Despairing of the role of priests and bishops in that scandal, he refashions his identity as a crusading reporter out to cleanse the church of corrupt leaders. But after finding that his investigative stories about faith healer Benny Hinn and televangelists Jan and Paul Crouch appear to make no difference on the reach of these ministries or the lives of their followers, he gives up on the beat and on religion generally. Lobdell subjects his faith to the rigors of rationalism. If Christians are no more ethical than atheists, why belong to a church? It’s a curious utilitarian argument that sounds more like a rearview explanation than a revealing account of loss of faith. Still, the memoir’s strength lies in the wrenching emotional toll exacted by the Catholic abuse scandal. If nothing else, it suggests reporters may have been victimized by the scandal, too.”

— Publishers Weekly




This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. New World Order happening right now!
  3. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  4. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  5. Funny FAILS
  6. Possum on the half shell
  7. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  8. The world according to Oprah
  9. Beelzebufo ampinga
  10. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
Articles:
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Mesmer, Casino Monkey, and Video Sex
  5. Skeptic Summary #152
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. Cold Reading
  8. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  9. Miracle Thaw Tray
  10. Quantum Age Water
There were 14,627 daily visitors this week.


More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.



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