Hello Skepchick friends, lovers and lurkers alike! I’m happy to bring you another edition of Get To Know Your Skepchicks! Sorry there has been a lag between these posts but the Skepchick jet was “in the shop” and so I had to book a regular flight to Chicago. But it was completely worth the hassle of flying with the masses it because I had a total blast photographing and spending time with gorgeous and super-smart Elyse and I hope you will enjoy the results!
Click below to read the interview!
What was the first experience that got you thinking about skepticism?
I’m getting better at making this ridiculously long story shorter, but I’m not getting better at making it less sad.
In 2002 my sister died and, shortly after, the Catholic Church rape brouhaha erupted.
Dead sister + raped babies = God, dude? WTF? Who are you?
This was not the same guy who helped me find my lost Carmex when I was in high school. He changed. And I was ready to move on… at least on to a different religion. I liked Buddhism for about a week, then realized that I’d rather be Catholic. At least as a Catholic I got to drink during Sunday mass. I also strongly believed that you can’t just change religions. You don’t get to choose what kind of god exists. You don’t get to tell God what you want him to think and how you want him to act and how you want his world to function. He tells you.
I went back to school during this time. I took a genetics course and psychology course back to back and suddenly I was realizing that one, God didn’t do it and two, it’s pretty easy to trick yourself into believing whatever you want. So I walked away from God. And that was hard. I had to come to terms not only with the fact that everything I believed about myself, my life, and the universe was wrong, but also with the fact that most everyone I loved and respected and admired… who are all far smarter than I could ever pretend to be… were wrong, too.
From there I realized that no god meant no afterlife meant no ghosts meant no spirits meant no psychics meant no connections with lost loved ones meant no encounters with the departed meant no Ouija boards meant no tarot cards meant no one knew the future meant no one controlled or could change the future… and it spiraled on and on until I discovered that even vitamins were bullshit. And I spent like a week reading every single article on Snopes. At some point you just give up and you and your brain just agree to start asking more questions.
Summarized: My sister died. A bunch of kids got raped. Snopes was awesome. I got skeptical.
I think it’s fascinating how you look at skepticism as a way of protecting yourself from making mistakes. Could you explain that a little?
I’ll believe anything at all. Anything. Really. I can make it make sense to me. So I’ve forced myself to stop and ask, “Does this really make sense? Find the holes in this.” Because if I don’t, I’ll be wearing magnet necklaces on my next ghost hunt and asking a phone psychic where I should spend my money.
And not even kidding, before I was a skeptic, I consulted a phone psychic on how to treat a chronic illness. Now that I’m a parent, I have a responsibility to not do stupid shit like that. I have a responsibility not to lose our house and all of our money seeking bad advice and chasing pyramid-scheme money. I need to not take crap medicine because I need to stay alive. No one is going to question everything for me. I’ve got to do it myself.
You recently organized a Skepticamp in Chicago. Skepchicamp was extremely successful and I was very happy to be a small part of it. An event like that takes hours and hours of planning.
What motivates you to do all that hard work for free?
I love it. I love every second of being a part of the skeptical community and I want more of us.
Also, I spend a whole lot of time doing a whole lot of nothing. Most days I don’t have an excuse for neglecting my child and my housework. Coming up with a plan like Skepchicamp gives me the opportunity to say, “I can’t do it. I’m working.” And that’s really cool because saying I’m working makes me feel like I’m a grown-up.
Oh yeah, and I’ll murder people if I have to use Facebook apps to pass the time. When whatever you’re doing to otherwise kill time is less fun than pretending to farm, it’s time to put yourself on a project.
What advice would you give to someone interested in organizing a similar event?
Get a great planning team together. Keep everyone motivated. Don’t take your event planning too seriously. Don’t take your event too seriously. Only bother fixing the fixable stuff.
Ask your venue if they have enough chairs for at least half of your attendees.
Get Tense Kids to play at your camp. I think the band was one of those extra touches that made the day/night amazing.
You are one of my favorite bloggers because you have such a sharp wit and you are so funny and honest. That isn’t a question, I just thought you should know that.
You’re one of my favorite artists because you’re so awesome. I just thought you should know that back.
And I’d say that I’m probably more “lacking a filter” than “honest”… but it works for me. And it’s harder to change than to not. So I run with it.
On a similar note, I really enjoyed the “What Pregnant Women Won’t Tell You” post, and I was wondering: will you carry my baby for me?
Yes. Because I love you. But I’ll be charging you a hefty fee. And you have to agree to give up booze with me.
How do you plan to respond when the Oprah network offers you a daily talk show on skeptical parenting?
I sell the fuck out and tell you all that it’s your jobs to think for yourselves cuz I’ll be too rich to care.
Oprah, don’t read this next part:
And I’ll secretly funnel money into Skepchick and leak information… but really quietly because you don’t fuck with Oprah. No one cares about the mafia anymore in Chicago. You don’t need Capone when you’ve got Oprah running your town.
If you did get a network television show and could book anyone, who would you chose as your first guest and why?
I want to say Jon Stewart. Because I love him. And I want to make out with him. And I really want to talk to him… and pick his mind. He’s brilliant.
My problem is that I can’t be funny in front of Jon Stewart. I guess I don’t have to be if we’re making out. So yeah, Jon Stewart.
What do you think are the most important issues in skepticism today? Where should we direct our energy?
Vaccines. There is no reason that the children of wealthy, educated, insured parents should be dying of the fucking measles in 2010. The measles. Does anyone even get how absolutely crazy that is? No, seriously. Grab your iPhone. Open the calendar app. Look at the date today. Close your calendar. Open your Chipotle app. Order me a burrito. Check the weather. Check what traffic is like between your house and Chipotle. Set the burrito pick up time for how ever long the traffic app will say it will take to get there. Open Echofon and update your status as you get my burrito #livetweetgettingElyseaburrito. Open your Facebook app. Write on my wall that you’re home with my burrito.
After I eat the burrito, look at your phone and think about what you just did and how easy it was, and put that into perspective that KIDS ARE STILL DYING OF THE FUCKING MEASLES. In America. In homes with 6-figure incomes. Go back to your iPhone. Look at the calendar again. Enter a note on today’s date saying, “This makes me sad.”
You walk outside and encounter Sylvia Browne and Jenny McCarthy in a hot oil wrestling match on your lawn. What do you do?
Light a match.
No no no… that’s not nice.
Light a match then try to put the grease fire out with water.
Wait. That’s not nice either.
Light a match, throw some water on the grease fire, come to terms with the fact that I’m not a nice person, then make a dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and read a book by the fire. If the smell starts to bug me, I’ll call 9-1-1 and let the news media report on how I’m a hero for trying to save their lives… but that, tragically, I failed.
And wow, by the way, the homeowners association is going to be pissed when they see that I’ve burned up all the grass. I may have to rent out some womb space to pay off that fine.
What online resources do you use on a regular basis?
Fortunately for me, I’m part of this incredible group of brilliant women bloggers. And behind the scenes, there’s absolutely nothing you can ask them that’s off limits. Sometimes I feel like I’ve managed to infiltrate a team of super-human women. When you’re a part of that, your resources take care of themselves. If one of you can’t answer my question, one of you knows where to point me to find that answer.
And if that’s not working, the second best way to find information is to go to Yahoo Answers, find the question you need to know the answer to, read the answer, and do exactly the opposite of that. I’m not even kidding. Yahoo’s birth control advice to me was “get drunk and have unprotected sex”… two weeks later, First Response and First Response Digital both told me that I should have done the opposite. As it turns out, not getting drunk and not having unprotected sex is a great plan for not getting pregnant.
Also, YouPorn is good for not getting pregnant. Despite what Y!A says, you cannot get pregnant from watching porn by yourself.
Unless my husband is reading this… then it’s totally possible to get pregnant from watching porn by yourself while your husband is out of town. And internet porn specifically gives you a 93% chance of that baby being Hispanic. And that thing about the drunk sex was me being funny. I do that a lot. I make jokes. You know that, Brian. We live together. I’m always making jokes. Like that one time I sent you a bouquet of “get well soon” balloons at work… that’s good stuff! One day you and me and Moose and Rosita are going to laugh like crazy over this question.
What one book and one podcast would you recommend to people who want to learn more about skepticism or science?
Okay, I’ve spent 3 days trying to come up with a good answer to this. And really, I can’t come up with one book and one podcast… at least nothing that everyone isn’t already reading and listening to already.
But mostly Podcast Beyond Belief. Because we’re new. And we need love.
And we deserve that love. Gimme sommadat love!
Thank you so much for taking the time out to let me chase you around with my camera, Elyse! You are definitely one of the reasons Skepchick rocks so hard! And until next time, this has been Surly-photo-happy-Amy with another edition of, Get to Know Your Skepchicks!