Skepchick Quickies 4.11

Jen wanted to be here to deliver the Monday Quickies, but she’s gone (literally) underground to investigate the rumors about albino alligators in New York’s sewers. So I’ve taken over!

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon mstdn.social/@rebeccawatson Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky @rebeccawatson.bsky.social

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  1. To the films I would like to add Paul – it actually has a skeptical bent (except for the alien part). Very fun and a must see for any sci-fi nerd.

  2. I feel so sorry for that poor kid that was raised by an Ayn Rand zealot. Her father stole so much from her life…

  3. @QuestionAuthority: I feel so sorry for that poor kid that was raised by an Ayn Rand zealot. Her father stole so much from her life…

    I agree. I disagree with title though. Ayn Rand didn’t ruin her life. Her father ruined her life using Rand as an excuse. If you are committed to douchery there are plenty of sources to draw inspiraion from.

  4. All the albino alligators are a myth. They were displaced or eaten by the giant rats and the mole people long ago.

  5. @mrmisconception: Well, at least the C.H.U.D.s don’t ask me to swing by the Times Square Church some time like that guy I was on line with for the bus after the NECSS Drinking Skeptically meetup. They usually keep to themselves.

  6. Wow. HUGE traffic spike. Thanks for the link love, Rebecca! Glad I could do my part in documenting the ridiculous bullshit coming from the paid representatives of an org that should be on our side.

    (This probably has nothing to do with me white-knighting for Stephanie Zvan and Bug_Girl. The fact that I think they’re both awesome is secondary! I swear!)

  7. On the train to NECSS, I started reading the next book for the Boston Skeptics book club, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson.

    I wasn’t really looking forward to this book, because I’m more of a hard-sciency kind of guy, but wow! Maybe all this stuff is obvious and well-known to people well-versed in psychology, but it (so far through the 1st two chapters) is mostly new to me, and it fits in perfectly with both the Lawrence Krauss and the CFI-Michigan controversies.

    Tavris and Aronson explain how when people accept conflicting beliefs, they can work themselves into extreme positions while attempting to resolve their cognitive dissonance. The obvious solution to a third party (and the essence of a scientific evaluation of any claim) is say “Oh, that’s interesting. The world is different than I thought. I was wrong about this. I need to re-evaluate everything in the light of new knowledge.” But

    … most of us find it difficult, if not impossible, to say “I was wrong; I made a terrible mistake.” The higher the stakes — emotional, financial, moral — the greater the difficulty.

    They go on to explain why this is (the theoretical basis for this claim) in chapter 1, and the evidence that this is true in most of the rest of the book. The introduction ends with a little teaser that in the final chapter they will explain how, by understanding the mechanism of self-justification (which is what allows people to fool themselves into thinking that any error is not in their own thinking, but must lie elsewhere), we can defeat the wiring.

    This is exactly what Krauss is doing in the way he is attempting to defend his friend. Isn’t it incredibly ironic that he thinks he is using science to do it? (Or am I one of the people who seems to not understand irony?)

    It is the same with the CFI-Michigan people, who seem to be digging in their heels rather than admit to the relatively minor mistake of failing to include a very routine disclaimer (of the sort included at the station breaks on all sports talk radio shows, so we aren’t talking rocket science here) on their web site that the events they are listing are not all sponsored by the CFI, that some of them are controversial, that the views presented are those of the speakers and not necessarily the views of the CFI, and maybe even that they go out of their way to include controversial topics because their intent is to encourage scientific discussion and evaluation of any claims made.

    If they had posted a talk by a cryptozoologist discussing recent elasmosaurus sightings in Lake Michigan, I think everyone would have assumed such a disclaimer, and if someone had noticed that no disclaimer actually existed, they would probably have said something like “Don’t be pedantic, but yeah, we probably should put words to that effect on the site just in case someone is confused”, and it would have been no big deal to anyone. But instead it attaches to an issue of great importance with high emotional and moral stakes, and they’ve worked their way into defending a proposition they may never have agreed with in the first place (that rape is adaptive) and are reduced to using ad hominem attacks instead of logical arguments to do so.

    (I really need to skip ahead to that last chapter…)

  8. As far as the women leaving academia due to low publication rates, I’m surprised grant reviewers don’t adjust the rate by correcting for maternity or paternity leave. i.e
    (# of papers)/(years since phd – years of leave) or something similar. It seems like an easy enough solution to implement.

  9. Ayn Rand was one of the worst hypocrites the 20th Century ever produced. When I discovered her Objectivist philosophy a few years ago, I was shocked that she pulled the stunts she did and that supposedly rational people could fall for such rancid bullcrap as that. After investigating Objectivism for a long time, I made this blog entry all about it:


    Did you know that Rand was a heavy smoker for most of her life? It’s hard to understand how anyone can be a champion of reason while also being an addict. Addiction by nature is not rational!

    And her disdain for altruism ignores that it is very common in nature.Without it, we might never have become civilized in the first place.

  10. @Brian G: I met several Brians… Maybe one of them was you?
    @scribe999:, I knew you were from NYC and think I remember you saying you would be there. Maybe I did meet you but didn’t connect the name? I’ll try better next time!

  11. @angrymonkey: That metric is, for so many reasons, terrible. Grant reviewers need less lazy ways to determine funding overall anyway, and this just highlights the problem.

  12. @scribe999: That actually sounds pretty cool. Lord of the Whiskey Sours.

    @Buzz Parsec: From what I can gather, of the 500 or so attendees at NECSS, there were approximately 326 Brians. It’s possible we met. Do you look anything like your avatar? I look exactly like mine. From the side, at least.

  13. I do a weekly (sure, let’s go with that) segment for the Dulles Triangles blog (which I run…poorly) about movies. When I first saw Troll Hunter, the first thing I thought was “Blair Witch done right! If it’s dubbed, I’d love to see it (sorry, not interested in subtitles). The preview I’ve seen has shots that would would expect out of a big-budget movie, like a vehicle being throw from beyond the tree line.

  14. "Additionally, DJ Groethe, the current president of the James Randi Foundation, liked both the Skeptics / Thought Police Facebook thread and the statement by Jefferson Seaver proclaiming their support of Shackelford's work."


  15. Full text of posts that DJ "liked" on facebook, pre-strawman-filter:

    "Jason Pittman
    I don't believe that CFI Michigan should only host speakers with whom we agree. I understand that we are not hosting Shackelton or Shackelford or whatever his name is but we have had plenty of speakers in the past who believe that we all deserve to roast in hell for all eternity or other such nonsense. We read a disclaimer when we introduce them, listen to what they have to say, and then skewer them in the Q&A. Ideological purity is just plain boring."

    "Jason Pittman
    Furthermore, CFI Michigan's promotion of this event gave people like the Skepchick bloggers a heads-up about the event and the opportunity to speak out about it. This is CFI at its finest and they should be thanking, not criticizing CFI."

    "Jefferson Seaver
    Jeremy, Jason, and Jennifer have clearly and accurately articulated our approach here in Michigan. We do not shy away from engaging — and sometimes collaborating — with individuals and organizations in the community with which we may disagree on one or many issues. We value finding common ground and working for common cause when possible. We value civil discourse with those with whom we disagree. We value challenging our own viewpoints — and challenging the viewpoints of others. We respect the ability of our members to evaluate ideas and reach their own conclusions. And we value education, which includes becoming educated about how others — with whom we may disagree — think about and understand the world.

    A couple points of clarification: While the event being discussed was, as has been mentioned, organized by the Evolution for Everyone (E4E) group at GVSU, CFI Michigan unshamedly assisted with publicizing the event and we feel that it is a valuable contribution to educational programming on campus and in the community. We respect and value the work of E4E and hope to continue collaborating with them on similar programming in the future. We respect and value Dr. Shackelford and his work, and his role as a faculty adviser to the Atheists at Oakland University student group. I have previously invited Dr. Shackelford to speak to CFI and he was unable because of scheduling conflicts. We welcome the opportunity to host a talk with him when schedules align.

    The discussion that has arisen from criticism of Dr. Shackelford's ideas, and criticism of CFI Michigan's involvement in publicizing an event, is a valuable one to have. Not only is it valuable, it is the sort of dialogue that we try to engender between people and groups with competing views on religion, science, and many other topics. It is the sort of dialogue that we work to foster among CFI members, and hopefully from time to time even draw out conflicting opinions within ourselves"

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