Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Why Do You Climb The Mountain?

It’s William Shatner’s 80th birthday and I think I speak for many of us when I say, happy birthday, Bill! Keep on going where no man has gone before and please live 80+ more!

In celebration of this momentous and idyllic, geeky-landmark in time and space I present to you one of my  all time favorite youtube videos.

Your question will follow.


Yes, it is a fun and silly video but we really can look at the mountain as a lovely metaphor for life in general. Why do each of us do what we do? Why do we struggle and fight for what is right and good. Why do we battle our way against adversity and against the majority opinion to do what is better  for each of us and for the world in the long run? Why fight the skeptical fight when it is so much easier to simply believe? Heck, why hike a mountain when you can lay on the floor and eat bon-bons?

Why do you climb the mountain?

*PS I am totally going hiking now.

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.

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Why fight the skeptical fight when it is so much easier to simply believe?

    No it isn’t. _I_ simply can’t believe. To believe I have to be not me. So why am I me? Just lucky, I guess.

  2. Why do I climb the mountain?

    I don’t like bon-bons. I like mountains. When you get to the top the view is magnificent.

    If you’re lying on the floor eating bon-bons the only thing you’ve got to look forward to is another bon-bon. Which won’t be any better than the one you just ate.


  3. I climb the mountain in the hope that I might get a brief glimpse of what is on the other side. And if I don’t make it before my time is up I can still romanticize about what I think might be there, on the other side, in the promised land of reality-based living.

  4. Those who do not try to climb the mountain will find that, gradually, their opinion matters less and less to those around them.

    Eventually their peers will not want to share bon-bons with them, sometimes without even realizing why.

  5. This is a bullshit false dicotomy, I’m taking my bon-bons up the mountain with me.

    Got to keep up one’s energy you know.

    Besides, that guru who seems to be on the tops of all the mountains demands payment.

    IN BON-BONS!!!

  6. Lighthearted >> Because Captain Kirk is on the mountain!

    Serious >> Because Captain Kirk is on the mountain!

    Someone, someday will be exploring new star systems, seeking new life, new civilisations ONLY if we struggle for science. The other side won’t stop, so we can’t. Plus, some really cool stuff has been done on the way like landing on the moon, unprecedented health & wealth. Basically “It’s about the future, madam chancellor”

  7. Well, I have to start by saying that my experiences at climbing actual mountains have been less than inspiring. The first time I went on a real climb, I got food poisoning some 7 miles from the nearest dirt road, and far too many feet above civilization. That wasn’t fun. But the hike this question brings to mind is my second adventure in mountain climbing.

    I was invited along on a field trip with the entire 5th grade of the school where I was doing my student teaching. It’s kind of a long story, but here are some of the factors involved: 120 kids, give or take a few, and about 20 parents, a lot of them severely out of shape. 6 teachers, 1 about to retire. 2 hours in which to hike a very steep 1.5 mile trail, eat a bag lunch, and get back in the buses. 90 F, and no shade to be found for most of the trail. There were two backpacks on the trail – mine and a parent’s. None of the teachers had a first aid kit, or even so much as an extra bottle of water (fortunately I carried a couple of gallons). I spent the entire hike passing around water, my emergency supply of sweets, and helping kids cool down and get off the mountain. One of the parents who had come along to supervise actually said my goodies had saved her life (I’m sure she was exagerating, but she is at least 100 lbs overweight, so she was in real distress. Also, she is a doctor, so she is qualified to assess her condition). In short, it was not pretty.
    So… why do I climb the mountain? Not for the view, as I haven’t had a chance to enjoy it yet. Because I seem to be the only one around to have emergency supplies, and at the end of the day I give a crap what happens to the kids. I won’t always be able to help them, but I have to try.

  8. I didn’t really climb the mountain. I sort of stumbled up it, and when I sobered up, I found myself here.

    But since I’m here, I’ve planted my flag. And hell if someone’s gonna take away my fucking mountain.

    I stumbled up it; it’s mine, motherfuckers!

  9. Screw climbing the mountain. If I wait long enough, it will be stripped mined down to ground level and a turned into a mall with a well lit parking lot. Then I’ll go shopping there.

  10. @gwenwifar:

    The first time I went on a real climb, I got food poisoning some 7 miles from the nearest dirt road, and far too many feet above civilization.

    So mountain climbing causes food poisoning?

  11. Bjornar, I’m with you. The cognitive dissonance is not, in fact, easier.

    That is something about believers that fascinates me. I know many people who are totally rational, skeptical and evidence-based in every other aspect of their lives, but then somehow manage to just ignore all that when it comes to religion. And I’m always subtly investigating: how are you comfortable with that dissonance? How do you manage to avoid feeling a need to reconcile? What defense mechanisms are at work in there?

    Maybe it’s because I’m a psychologist (not the therapy kind though), or maybe just because I myself am totally unable to live comfortably with that much cognitive dissonance, but this is an aspect of belief that draws a lot of my interest and attention.

  12. Last mountain I climbed (Cannon, before the Old Man fell down) there was a torrential thunderstorm halfway up. I stood there for about an hour, basically in a river inclined about 50 degrees, because it was too hard to move and I wasn’t sure if I should continue on or go back down. Then the rain stopped and the sun came out and the other side of Franconia notch was laced with silver threads from all the water running off it, blue sky, green trees, white puffy clouds, and it was one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen.

    Then I went on to the top, had a sandwich at the restaurant at the summit, and walked back down, admiring the same view the whole way.

  13. @Buzz Parsec:

    I was stupid and climbed Cannon during a hurricane once.

    I think the last thing I climbed was Mt. Marcy in NY.

    I think I want to make love to some Bon Bon’s.

  14. P.S. For some reason this comment thread and the “Philosophy is dead” thread remind me of the Allman Brothers Mountain Jam, which is a Donovan song based on a Zen koan

    First there is a mountain,
    Then there is no mountain,
    Then there is!

    Naive people see reality all around them (they see the mountain, therefore it exists.) Post-modernists know a little about all the neuroprocessing involved in perception and that looking at things from different perspectives alters your perception and some vague stuff from quantum mechanics that observing something alters it, and decide “reality” is constructed and one “reality” is just as good as another. (There is no mountain.) Scientific skeptics realize that if this was true, then there would be no reason for consistency of observations, and evidence-based science wouldn’t work, but it does, so there must be an underlying reality to provide this consistent basis. (There is so a mountain.)

  15. @DiscordianStooge:

    No, mountain climbing doesn’t cause it (nor did I claim it did). Improperly packing a picnic lunch that contains chicken does. However, the highest point in the country (Portugal), a 7 mile hike from the nearest spot an ambulance could get to me, is rather a terrible location to contemplate the dangers of salmonela. The paramedic that picked me up at the road told me that if it ever happened again I should call for the search and rescue helicopter. This is probably the reason I am now paranoid about taking emergency supplies when I hike (even if it’s not up a mountain).

  16. Crap. Not enough time to edit the above comment.

    Seriously though, after all the years I wasted being enmeshed in Woo, I don’t want to waste any more time. I don’t want to NOT be involved in skepticism. It just simply is not longer an option NOT to climb this particular mountain.

  17. Believing took work and made my brain hurt. In the end it was much easier to think and come to rational conclusions. So I suppose my decision to climb skeptical mountains is purely a reasonable, necessary and philosophical one given my world view.

  18. I climb the mountain because it is there and I like to climb. Climbing the skeptical mountain is not an arduous task but a recreational activity. When you reach a point to rest, the view is always so much more beautiful than it would be from the stepping stool of superstition.

    If skepticism and science are mountains, consider me the perpetual hikers from the Pokemon games!

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