Afternoon InquisitionRandom AsidesSkepticism

AI: Help Me Care Again

Well, it has finally happened. I’ve lost a part of myself. All work and no play has made Sam a something something or other. . . . See, I’ve been working so much I can’t even remember how to finish that. And you know what? I don’t care. I just don’t care.

I don’t care about anything anymore. Especially things skeptical. I just don’t. Like those smug, pasty, inbred British Petroleum executives don’t give a damn about the damage they’re doing in the Gulf of Mexico, I can’t bring myself to care about anything skeptical. And I need your help.

Maybe if I saw you guys being passionate and hilarious about something it would re-ignite my own passion about critical thinking and skeptical issues. Please, help me care again.

How do you stay jazzed about this work? What issues are sure to get you on your soap box/protest line/blog interface? Can you share with us an over-the-top, passionate tirade about those issues (please rant, curse, and use hyperbole to extremes)? Is there any discernible difference between the cold, empty vacuum of your heart and the lifeless void of deep space (smug, pasty, inbred British Petroleum executives only)?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 3pm ET.

Sam Ogden

Sam Ogden is a writer, beach bum, and songwriter living in Houston, Texas, but he may be found scratching himself at many points across the globe. Follow him on Twitter @SamOgden

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37 Comments

  1. Nasty judgmental Christian types! A friend of mine has recently been struggling with what sounds to me like either imposter syndrome or some sort of depression, not that I know that much about psychology, but she has been asking for advice on what to do to be able to stop telling herself that she was fat/worthless/stupid, etc. A Christian friend of hers told her that she was being selfish and this was a form of pride, which was sin. This Christian told her to go help people with “real problems” until she could stop being selfish.

    That’s why I’m a skeptic. I can’t stand a society in which it is okay to tell people that they are nasty sinners and anything bad that might be happening to them is entirely their fault for being nasty sinners. Rejoicing in the Lord, my pretty ass, these people are out to cause suffering.

  2. Hm…I’d try to help if I didn’t feel almost the same as you just at the moment. And it can’t be all work and no play for me; I’ve been playing plenty, which, I think, is part of the apathy. I finally have some time to myself after months of hard work and Fable II is just plain more engaging at the moment, even though it’s only about halfway good.

  3. Fall. Not “risk of falling” or “likelihood of fall”, I had to add the word FALL to an informed consent. The only change. Now you would think “that’s not such a big deal”, except you would be wrong. The consent already includes the risk of “fainting, dizziness or light-headedness” so one would think that wasting an entire forest (OK, 260 pieces of paper) would be sufficient reason not to add ONE FUCKING WORD to a consent that does not give the potential subject any more information about their fucking risks of this fucking trial…. There. I feel better.

  4. It’s that moment when your friend, to whom you showed a science or skeptical article one day, has an AHA! look on their face. And then a week later, they show you another article they found, or they ask you for advice on some weird medical thing that their aunt is into. When you become the first stop for your friends and loved ones when they are trying to find some truth and objectivity in this muddled world. When you become a research vehicle and then show others that they too can be a part of it, part of the growing tide of people who will use their heads and check their facts and not jump to conclusions anymore. That is the moment that makes every heartbreak, every head desk and every faceplam more than worth it.
    When you can come online, to a blog post written by someone who you have never met or even spoken with, and it inspires you to do better, to give a helping hand to someone in need, or just to give them a rant, a pick-me-up. For the sense of community. Because we’re all in this together. Even if I’ve never met you, you still affect me and I still affect you. And I am grateful for that. Every fucking day.

  5. Religious fundamentalism.

    Thinking about it makes my blood pressure jump. I really want to find a creationist and just say, “Really, are you that effing stupid? Were you born last night, or yesterday afternoon?”

    And then there are those who what prayer back in schools. “Who’s prayer? Catholic prayer? Baptist prayer? The Lord’s Prayer? Is everyone going to have to face mecca and pray towards it? Maybe we should set out mats so you can medicate meditate.”

    And those who say that we were founded on christian principles or as a christian nation. Really? Is that why our motto for almost 200 years was “e pluribus unim”? Its tradition? really? Its only 60 years old. They really didn’t give a dam about tradition then. Why should we? Is the concept that no man is above the law, not even the president a christian principle? If you want to claim that the declaration of indpendence proves it because it mentions a creator, fine, then. let me get married, that’s my pursuit of happiness. Oh, btw, the DOI isn’t a legally binding contract, its a note. It can be summed up in 6 words:

    Dear England:

    F*ck off!

    Love,

    America

    And was Aquinas really that great a thinker? Was it the fact he labeled beaver as fish that made him a great thinker? And where the hell do you get your concept of the end of days from? What you think of as the rature and the tribulation isn’t in the bible. That’s folklore that’s been handed down. You want a nation with laws more in line with christianity? Fine. Make divorce illegal, kill any bride that isn’t a virgin, and stop wearing hybrid shirts. Either all cotton or all nylon. Make all the female managers all over the country resign and go back to being a receptionsit. And they are to remain quiet in church.

    Oh, yeah, one last thing. Capitalism ISN’T a christian value. Communism is. Because the apostles ran a commune after christ ascended.

    I could keep on going, but I have to go and pretend to do something.

  6. Things that get me worked up? Deniers. Holocaust deniers, global warming deniers, whatever. Those people that have heard the evidence, had their face slapped with the cock of information, and still don’t get. Still think nothing has changed. Still think the world can go on the way they want it to without a single revision. Still think that everything will be all right. Still think they can go ahead and have 30 or 40 kids and expect my one kid not to kick all their progeny’s asses for being selfish little bastards just like their parents. While at the same time these idiots feel perfectly fine saying that poor people should be fixed before they can breed, that homosexuals have no right to any child in any form, that every child that is conceived must be born and then tossed under the bus of poverty, and that they shouldn’t have to pay one red cent for anyone that needs any help what so ever. Rant over. Now I need a shot so I can go blog belligerently and without inhibition.

  7. Since someone else took deniers, I’ll rant about conspiracy theorists, which are related. Arguing with a conspiracy theorist is like arguing with someone from another dimension. They have all this indepth information, but none of it is based on our reality. You can’t counter their points because our earth-logic is not applicable.

    If you say “There’s no evidence of that” you hear “Well you would think that because Big Pharma/The Government/The Illuminati/Jim Henson’s Creature Shop are covering it up!”
    If you provide evidence that counters their claim, that information is just part of the conspiracy of highly paid academics ripping us off for tax funded grants, not like their information which is free and untainted by greedy scientists.

    They have websites and public meetings and all this person-power dedicated to their cause and to a lay-person it sounds believable. An untrained person can’t tell the difference between a Skeptic and a Denier, so they don’t vaccinate, don’t support efforts to reduce carbon emissions and they vote to remove fluoride from the water supply.

    This is why we do this! Skepticism can save the world, but we have to get the word out there. If everyone was just a little bit more skeptical think how much better off we all would be.

  8. Oh and I also hate it when you disagree with someone and they pull the “I have the right to free speech! You have to respect my beliefs!”

    BULLSHIT.

    Firstly, they often pull this on a private website where free speech does not apply.
    Secondly, I am not required to respect anyone’s beliefs.
    Thirdly, that’s how free speech works- you say something, I say something back. I did not edit your comments, delete your comments, threaten you or force you to change your comments. I just disagreed with you!

    I get it, those are your sacredly held beliefs. But your sacredly held beliefs do not automatically deserve respect. If you go on MY facebook page and comment about homosexuality or evolution, you should be expecting a reply that contradicts your beliefs. Stop acting so fucking surprised.

  9. @Advocatus Diaboli: OH THIS IS RELEVANT!!

    So just now I got into an e-fight on Facebook with some dumbass who tried to say that You Tube violated his 1st Amendment rights when they banned him after “criticizing Muslims” (I can only imagine what he said to get banned).

    I posted the 1st Amendment, and told him that, no, You Tube did not violate your 1st Amendment rights.

    And he got all butthurt and started getting all condescending and sexist, so I basically told him to fuck off. Then he sent me a message calling me a cunt. Nice. So I banned him. Probably going to piss off the friends I know him through (he’s their cousin) but I don’t care.

    Anyway, I really hate when people talk about the 1st Amendment when they clearly have no idea what the fuck they are talking about.

  10. I like to think that the world around me is more amazing that the peddlers of woo want you to believe.

    So I don’t think of skepticism only fighting against woo. It’s also showing the true wonder of the world around me. That never fails to inspire me.

    If you need a break, take it, Sam. We’ll be waiting for you when you’re ready.

  11. Well, sometimes getting all angry and ranting works to get me back in the game. There is a lot of stupidity out there to rant about – the sister-in-law who died cause she went to Mexico for alternative treatments for her cancer, the niece who doesn’t accept evolution – who looked me in the eye and said “The bones were put in the ground to fool us”, Texas – ’nuff said.

    But sometimes it isn’t the angry ranty stuff that gets me going. Sometimes it’s that I genuinely want to help when a family member gets sick and maybe find them realistic treatments, or that I dearly love that particular niece and want more than anything to see her flourish, or … well, can’t even pretend I care about Texas, but the evangelical christian guy in my office – who is funny and smart and totally worth talking to – lived there for a while…

    And every now and then, I play with the dogs, watch some TV reruns and forget about the whole thing for a while.

  12. @Cygore:

    That’s exactly my problem though. I’ve been on a forced break for too long now, and it’s getting difficult to maintain any momentum.

    I thought the added pressures of my day job would dwindle eventually, and I could get back to kicking ass. But a year and a half later and there’s no end in sight. The good news is, you guys are always entertaining, and that will always at least keep me floating around the periphery, no matter what.

  13. @marilove:
    Oh tell me about it! Once I was in this argument about, of all things, World of Warcraft. Basically one guy said that ‘girls’ prefer playing healers in MMOG’s because all the healers in his guild were female. I told him that it was rubbish to claim that, because the people in his guild are not a representative sample of all the players in WoW. So some other guy jumps in and says I should stop trying to prevent people from sharing their opinion and brought out the free speech card. Oh and also, I was too angry.

    Then somehow it turned into how he loved and respected women, but they fulfill different roles in life. He also felt sorry for me because “a man has never left roses at my door”. He must have assumed that based on my profile picture, I guess. Apparently, if women are being romanced by uber-studs like him, we’re too happy to question a man’s authority.

  14. It is easier to react to something stupid that is happening nearby than to go out and seek extra work for yourself. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that necessarily. You just have to put yourself in the position where people come to you or you know what is going on in the area.

    I think the biggest shame is when people (especially religious or non-scientific people) think that explaining or understanding something makes it boring. i.e. “Oh, the rainbow is just the electromagnetic spectrum, never mind, I thought it was all whimsical and interesting”. These are very often the same people who have a deep appreciation for nature, so it is ironic that they don’t get naturalistic reality. If people can the idea of having an honest understanding of the universe as the real profound experience rather than making up baseless mystical ideas as the profound experience, they will live richer lives because of it. I think one thing I can get passionate about is what skeptical thinking has to offer on a personal level, not just what it has to take away on some abstract intellectual level.

    Oh, I forgot to curse…well, fuck.

  15. @Advocatus Diaboli: Basically one guy said that ‘girls’ prefer playing healers in MMOG’s because all the healers in his guild were female.

    That’s hilarious!! I have a level 80 night elf hunter as my main and a friend of mine, also a woman, has a draenei mage of the same level. Both DPS (damage per second). Now she’s leveling a warrior (while her boyfriend is leveling a healer, and they run battlegrounds together) and a rogue while I’ve been leveling myself a mage and my boyfriend’s hunter(’cause I’m a nice girlfriend… and because I really -really- like the hunter class and I find leveling one this time around so much better, so much more fun now that I know wtf I’m doing!!! I like to think I’m not a huntard anymore!). My Guild Leader, a woman, does have a healer for a main character. But there are also other girls in the guild who don’t favor healer classes.

    So yeah… that was my WoW rant.

    Now to what gets me going skeptically: the catholic church. But I’m not going to rant about it cause it’s still making me very angry and upset to think of how I was fooled for so many years and to think of how many times I’ve humiliated myself and subjected myself to great pain… for nothing!

  16. @Izzy: You didn’t go through it for nothing though. It’s probably what made you a really good skeptic. Nothing like a good dose of gender inequality and made up fairy tale bullshit to help you distance yourself from it all.

  17. @BeardofPants: Hahaha! True!

    Oh, this reminds me a funny story! This happened after my deconversion(wow! major shocker… spellchecker doesn’t recognize that word!). This friend from a catholic forum knew that I was “struggling” with my faith (probably because I wrote him a long rant on how experimenting with weed was making me question my faith like never before). He also was a friend on Facebook and every now and then he’d invite me to join his new forum he created called The Daily Bread… or something. I would just ignore his request without raising a hue. Just… respectfully decline. Then after a few weeks I’d see another invite and I’d decline that one as well. That kept on going on for months… until the smoking gun was uncovered in the story of the pope’s involvement in the church’s sex scandal. I posted a few news link on the subject on Facebook and joined a few FB group on Atheism, etc. The invites I was receiving and ignoring increased in frequency. Until one day I received THREE invites!! With barely an hour passed between them. Once it became spamming, it was fair game for me. I posted my own invite to a group: “Time to Arrest the Pope!”

    He blocked me within MINUTES!

  18. Just now what’s burning my @ss is the way people consistently misrepresent important issues – most recently abortion.
    If i hear one more person say it all could be avoided if “they” could just be bothered to use birth control, in that condescendent judgmental tone that silently adds that every woman who has ever had one was a heartless bitch, I’m going to do something crazy. Like telling them exactly how I feel about judgmental bigots.

  19. @gwenwifar: That one gets me angry too. Partly because I feel guilty about not doing my part to fight it. The people who could really educate these idiots are the women who have had to abort pregnancies they very much wanted to hold on to. I am one of them, but when faced with someone with that attitude I cannot find my voice. There are a lot of us out here but I think that the stories are just too personal to share with assholes.

  20. What pisses me off more than ANYTHING is when people have to SUFFER because some jagoff made some stupid fuckin bullshit up.

    It’s completely unacceptable to be that careless.
    I’ll never rest and I don’t want to.

  21. Lack of clear thinking, especially by those who mistakenly think they exemplify it, is at the root of so much injustice, suffering, and plain old inefficiency it is hard no to be infuriated by almost everything.

    It starts with those who would tell us who to love and what to do with our own bodies based on the most ridiculous set of unexamined assumptions about the existence of a creator and its inclination to write bad literature. People who have loved and lived together for decades have been legally kept apart on their deathbeds. And that’s just in the US. At least they weren’t killed by their own government.

    Large aid organizations in Africa actively fight the most effective method to stop the spread of AIDS and even deny its efficacy. These same organizations promote behavior that intensifies the very poverty they are supposedly trying to alleviate. And these organizations are BELOVED BY MILLIONS.

    Even substantial secular organizations actively fight advances which have or can save millions of people, often children, from disease and starvation based on an inability to think.

    Lack of intelligent skeptical thought has a huge impact on real people all the time. It’s a serious problem. Its a frustrating problem. People are loosing their money, their livelihood, and even their lives due to a lack of critical thinking and these problems will only be magnified in the years ahead.

    If we cannot learn to apply skeptical thinking to the challenges that are coming we will not survive as a species let alone thrive as individuals.

    The work being done to popularize critical thinking is of real importance and that isn’t going to happen unless those who promote skeptical thinking do so with women as well as men.

  22. Sam, I assume you mean you’re becoming disaffected or bored by “organized skepticism,” not becoming less skeptical.

    If I’m right, I feel your pain. Blogged on this myself not long ago. There is very little to do for someone who’s been part of this for awhile that really stirs the blood.

    When you’re a new skeptic, everything is exciting. You absorb the books, podcasts, blogs, everything. At every turn, there’s some new fascinating challenge.

    For bigger-name skeptics — the ones like those who appear onstage at TAM – it must also be exciting. New places to visit, new people to meet, more opportunities, etc. I am only guessing here, because I am barely fame-adjacent.

    For everyone else, what is there? We’ve read the books, we follow the blogs, we subscribe to the podcasts, we’ve met the big names and discovered many of them are silly d-bags. We bicker among ourselves on whether a particular topic is “a skeptical topic.” When there is something new, we all comment on it and then pass each others comments around. We throw conferences for each other, which are always fun, but then we go home. Back home, we throw local meetings for each other.

    In all these cases, we end up talking about the same things. Personally, I don’t care if I never sit through another demonstration or lecture on cold reading.

    So we have this mass of skeptics all over the world, and the most common driving force is one thing: outreach.

    Not that outreach isn’t important. Of course it is. But it’s not a particular passion for everyone. Unfortunately, I’m no longer sure what we have to offer new people once the initial excitement has died off. Is meeting once a month in a sports bar to vent about Kevin Trudeau fulfilling?

    It’s a little disappointing. I see all these new groups filled with energy, ready to go, and they meet and meet and meet and then hope that Fred Phelps comes to town so they can join the hilarious counter protests. And if their group keeps growing, they may be big enough someday to host a Skepticamp.

    I am impressed when some groups take charge. The Simon Singh case in the UK was amazing. A small group in Mississippi got some fake medicine shill prohibited from selling his crap in their state a couple of years ago. But those opportunities are few, and the window is easy to miss when you also have a day job.

    Anyway. Gone on too long, and there’s no point in repeating myself here. (Like I said, my thoughts are on my blog: http://www.themanversion.net if anyone is interested)

    So I understand where I think you’re coming from, Sam. If you find a cure, let me know.

  23. @phlebas:

    Well, I have to admit I was using a bit of hyperbole myself in this AI in hopes of igniting the discussion. I am indeed having a hard time caring lately, but only because I don’t have a lot of time to care. Work responsibilities have gotten blah blah blah. . . . . You know the story.

    But you raise a good point; one that may be best discussed in another post. We could discuss the psychology behind the enthusiasm of individuals within groups and how it changes over time.

    I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve actually stayed involved longer than I ever thought I would.

  24. @Advocatus Diaboli: Basically one guy said that ‘girls’ prefer playing healers in MMOG’s because all the healers in his guild were female.

    That’s hilarious because I HATE playing healers and magic users. I have to be a barbarian — anything with a big-ass sword or club.

    I was in a table top EQ game for a while where the GM let me play a Drachnid barbarian. Best. Character. Ever. My dexterity and strength were through the roof and the other characters depended on me to inflict the most damage ;-)

  25. I saw this last night and wasn’t sure what to post so after some thought I’d say for me it boils down to people. They matter to me and I care about what happens to those make dangerous decision because of ignorance, delusions, and hubris. What got me into skepticism initially was the whole repressed memory issue and seeing situations where innocent people were being sent to prison and having their lives taken away from them because of tenuous beliefs that were not backed up by facts or research. Because this issue is also part of my profession/work and the job has a high burn out rate I have had to develop some strategies just to manage my job which also helps with my passions regarding skeptical issues. The times I know that I cannot make a difference or change something I’ve learned to not waste my energy, I no longer spend time on projects or activities that I consistently regret doing afterward or if they are not more fulfilling than reading a good book or spending time with my family. I’ve even stopped attending our local Skeptics in the Pub evenings because of an incredibly oblivious offensively smelly couple. When the effort and irritation has no commensurate reward or payback I have better things to do (like golf).

    All that said…, fuck the self righteous know it all’s who think their passion and care is sufficient to make important decisions absent facts or asking hard questions. Screw the professionals who go with their gut when the evidence before them says the opposite. And to all the little bureaucrats and do-gooders who cannot be bothered to take the time to listen because they’ve heard it before, I hope you choke on your own vomit.
    …I’m feeling better already.

  26. Okay, so the break isn’t working. How about starting a new skeptical-based project that lights a fire in your belly? When stagnation or burnout occurs, the best thing you can do is change tacks.
    For instance, I write http://fledgelingskeptic.com It’s an educational resource for new skeptics. I try to keep it relatively simple, but after about 9 months of regular posts I’m running low on topics.
    So, I started a new project. A non-profit organization called The Great Experiment Scholarship http://thegreatexperimentscholarship.org
    I also attempted to actually RUN my own science experiment.
    Try changing it up. Do something different that has been poking at you from the back of your brain and let the rest of the world take care of itself for just a little while.

  27. I see this thread has been taken over by the gamers. For the record, I never said the guy was wrong. It’s not impossible that women prefer to play healers. I just said that he can’t base that assumption on the dozen or so people he knows in his guild.

    In my guild we have people who play all kinds of different roles. Most of us have tried to level a tank and a healer and a dps so that we can fill the role as needed. I’m a bit more casual than a lot of my guild (haven’t even killed the lich king yet) because I have kids and I’m trying to finish my degree, so I only have dps toons at 80.

    I hate healing. I don’t like the responsibility of keeping everyone alive. I like to relax and kick some butt. But that’s just me.

    Oh, I play Alliance. Only because I love Gnomes. How could you not? They’re little mad engineers who use science to solve problems instead of The Light. Until Cataclysm anyway.

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