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  1. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    FYI What is the skeptical community?

    Discussion in 'Debate Room' started by GingerCoffee, Nov 1, 2013.

    It's come up in another thread, and to elaborate any further on it there would be a classic hijack. Whether people are interested or not, the point of this thread is to describe what the international skeptical community is.

    Like any movement that is longstanding and extremely diverse, the skeptical community is no exception. It's odd to be a member of a group that doesn't have one official organization. Rather the idea one belongs to the skeptical community comes from as little as interacting with like-minded people to membership in one of the well known organizations associated with the movement.

    I started my off-topic diversion with this example of skeptical groups and people who identify with the movement:

    The "skeptical community" is a very large diverse international group of loosely (and sometimes more tightly) knit people that self identify as rational thinkers who promote critical thinking.

    The James Randi Educational Foundation
    Skeptics Meetup Groups across the planet
    Skeptics in the Pub groups
    CSIOP and The Skeptical Inquirer
    Skeptic, Michael Shermer Editor
    Skeptical, Scientific, & Critical Thinking Links

    The point is, this is an extensive community with a significant online presence and many local groups in cities all over the world.

    The replies to my post suggested people didn't look at these links, but rather chose to focus only on individuals labeling themselves as "skeptics". It's not about what one calls oneself. It's about identifying with likeminded people involved in a worldwide movement.

    As an example of what I mean by "movement", here are some accomplishments of two individual members and one organization of the skeptical community (there are hundreds more examples of people and organizations, with thousands of specific accomplishments I could cite):

    James Randi is probably one of the most famous skeptics, this is from his bio:
    I think that's enough for people to get the picture.

    Center for Inquiry
    Simon Singh, a member of the CFI fought to get an important law changed in the UK after he wrote an article using scientific evidence to debunk chiropractic care. As counterintuitive as it sounds, in the UK at the time it was libelous to publish evidence against such professional claims, even when the claims were demonstrably fraudulent.


    The point of this exercise is these people are community activists, they are not just running around self identifying as 'skeptics'.

    It's fine for people to approach anyone claiming to be a skeptic with skepticism. ;) A lot of irrational thinkers use the terminology all the time, and certainly everyone who believes themselves to be a rational thinker is going to vary by degree how rational they really are. The community is loosely knit, there is no true Scotsman test or organization. But the point is, an international movement exists which is best referred to as the skeptical community. One should not dismiss these thousands of people who have accomplished as much as they have. Doing so ignores the fact a very large community of people who interact with each other exists.
     
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  2. GingerCoffee
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    Like any large group, there are those that like what Hitchens had, and Dawkins has, to say and those that don't. Some skeptics may take the word of the men as dogma, but that's not very common in the skeptical community. Rather, if people agree with either man it's because they agree, not because they blindly follow the person. That's how confirmation bias works.

    As for donations, the formal organizations are all non-profit, as far as I know, so I'm not sure what the problem is there asking for donations. I don't know if Skeptical Inquirer and Skeptic are profitable publications or not. Certainly Michael Shermer (founder of Skeptic) earns a decent living off his books and appearances. James Randi's organization is non-profit, but also raises funds through events like TAM (The Amazing Meeting) and world cruising events. The Million Dollar Challenge is funded by a millionaire (billionaire?) who is a member of the community.

    There is no one set of beliefs in the community except for the loosely defined belief in rational thinking. Some members argue to give religious beliefs a pass and others argue it's hypocritical to do so. Some are more interested in debunking charlatans and others are more interested in promoting scientific evidence based medicine. Phil Plait has a whole branch of followers of his own interested in correcting astronomy myths. He was the one who introduced me to the whole community when I contacted him after hearing him on George Noory's "Coast to Coast" radio show debunking Nancy Lieder and her Planet X scam.

    I can't say it enough, it's a very diverse group. There is no one set of beliefs or values the community holds, rather it's a more fungible and overlapping continuum.
     
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  3. JJ_Maxx
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    JJ_Maxx Banned

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    Why? This isn't a forum for PSA's. This is a debate forum for issues that have different positions and are able to be discussed using evidence to support our positions. What is the alternate position here and what position have you offered?

    It seems you advocate for this group, and were upset that some people hold negative opinions regarding them. Also, if anyone held any opinion other than glowing praise, you labeled them 'uninformed'.

    This is interesting, because of this:

    So the question is, why is it any different for your opinion to be different, yet informed while others who disagree with you are uninformed?

    Regardless, this thread doesn't belong in this forum and there's no positions to be discussed or debated.

    It's a commercial.
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Like I said before, I like the idea of skeptic/atheist/whatever groups. But my feeling toward them is sort of like my feeling toward formal education: it has the potential to be extremely useful, but it's not at the moment. The money issue I can sympathize with. Outreach programs do require funding, so I'm not completely against raising money. For the record, I wasn't talking about large groups (which get funding from other places) but more about small, local groups. Again, it's understandable, but it reminds me a lot of church. Just my opinion.

    The biggest problem I've seen is that some of these skeptics/rationalists/atheists (again, talking about the general public here) take the word of famous scientists/skeptics as gospel. Rather than advocate education, a lot of these famous scientists advocate a particular ideology but don't seem to encourage people to look into that ideology. I've played devil's advocate several times before in debates about religion and atheism, and it always surprises me how bad some of the arguments your average atheist makes are. This is, of course, all based on my personal experience.
     
  5. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Now I have too many ideas for PSAs! Bad JJ. :(


    As a question for Ginger, do atheist communities donate to any organizations outside of themselves? Pretty much every house of worship I know of does huge charity work, but do atheist origination?
     
  6. thirdwind
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    I'm sure there are a few atheist organizations that have volunteering events. Volunteering isn't only restricted to religious communities. There was this recent controversy involving a few atheist volunteers who were told they couldn't volunteer at a soup kitchen simply because they were atheists.
     
  7. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    I know, I help with a lot of secular organizations too. There's plenty of good orginazations that aren't religious out there. That's kind of stupid on the soup kitchens part, it's not like soup kitchen volunteers are coming out your ears.
     
  8. GingerCoffee
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    :confused:
    It has nothing to do with any PSA. I said something about the skeptical community in a different thread and two people had a limited understanding of what the community was.

    In light of your confusion about the purpose of this thread, I see nothing else in your out of context quote from another thread entirely, that I should reply to.
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2013
  9. GingerCoffee
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    I would say that whomever you speak of, they are individuals within the community and not the community itself.

    I do not wish this thread to be about atheism. There are many theists within the skeptical community, and many atheists who would prefer the skeptical community never address most god beliefs.

    In addition, I know quite a few members of the local atheists groups and a fair number of them are not also in the skeptical community. Just being an atheist doesn't make you rational, and being a theist doesn't preclude it though personally, I consider it skepticism with a blind spot.
     
  10. Duchess-Yukine-Suoh
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    Annnnnndddddddddddd I feel a bit like an idiot now.
     
  11. GingerCoffee
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    Again, the skeptical community is not the same as the atheist community. And I don't spend much time with the local atheist groups. Those local groups, however, are very big on working for charity causes. They have recently promoted food banks, blood donations, the gay rights issues, and a host of other causes. It's a big thing among the Seattle Atheists/Agnostics group.

    The split in the skeptical community over the extremist feminism brouhaha resulted in a splinter group pretty much led by PZ Myers called Atheism+ where the plus is an interest in promoting all sorts of causes from gay rights to stopping sexism in scientific circles. I'm not involved though unlike some skeptics, I've not disowned Meyers. It's pretty much soap opera stuff, definitely fodder for a fiction book of some kind if that's your thing. :p
     
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    No no, your post was answerable while staying on topic, not the same as suggesting a theism v atheism debate. :)
     
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  13. JJ_Maxx
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    Then why don't you clearly explain the issue and your position and also, what is the opposing position? What evidence could be stated and what studies could be used as evidence to support either position.

    They can't, and the fact that you ignore questions about your hyposcrisy just shows everyone how true they are.

    This thread is propaganda, and it is a perfect exmple of why threads shouldn't have been allowed until the rules were posted.
     
  14. GingerCoffee
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    Good grief, JJ! You just posted yourself about this topic in the other thread, you know exactly what the reason was for my starting the thread, to clarify what I meant by "the skeptical community" and describe what I meant, and, you should know it was off topic there to discuss.

    I truly can't figure out what you're issue is, so I can't properly reply.
     
  15. GingerCoffee
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    Wait, a better idea came to me. Since there's not much more to say about the international skeptical community, how about you explain why describing a loose knit organization that promotes a broad spectrum of causes surrounding rational thinking is the equivalent of posting propaganda?
     
  16. JJ_Maxx
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    @GingerCoffee, I will ask again:

    You called two other members of this forum 'uninformed' because they held an opinion that was contrary to yours. Yet in another thread, when you had a different opinion, it was the complete opposite.

    Never have I seen such blatant hypocrisy from someone who claims to look at things rationally.

    This says it all right here. This wasn't a thread for discussion or debate as much as it was a thread for you to infodump about a group you advocate for.

    Which is not what this forum is supposed to be for.

    Perhaps you're just uninformed as to the purpose of this forum.
     
  17. GingerCoffee
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    Your analogies are sorely lacking.

    It started with,
    Followed by
    Followed by
    Followed by
    Followed by
    Followed by
    At which time it was time to move the off topic discussion about what the skeptical community was to another thread.


    I snipped the rest of your post as it still makes no sense to me why you think this thread is something it is not.
     
  18. GingerCoffee
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    So the thread is in the wrong sub-forum? :confused:

    I was just trying to resolve an issue that was off topic in another thread. Which forum should the thread be in?
     
  19. minstrel
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    This thread is where Wreybies put it. It's not going to move.

    He put it here in anticipation of the intellectual discussion that was likely to arise from Ginger's original post. I guess he didn't anticipate an argument over where the thread actually was.

    If that's all you want to say, then great! You don't have to respond. Then this will be a thread that simply contains some information for anyone curious about the "skeptical community" and then stops. That would be just fine. :)
     
  20. Steerpike
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    I'm familiar with the skeptic community, most of the sites mentioned (which I tend to like, particularly skeptic.com) and I'm familiar with a lot of the people mentioned (certainly Randi, Shermer, Hitchens, Dawkins, et al.). Ginger's comments to the effect that people who take a different view from her own of the whole thing are 'uninformed' illustrates perfectly my previous assertion that people who self-identify with the community, and as rational thinkers, are often as heavily entrenched in their dogma and pre-conceived world view as those they are most critical of. If anyone can identify a forum member less likely than Ginger to be open-minded or consider (or sometimes, it seems, even carefully read) the viewpoints of others, I'd like to hear it.
     
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  21. GingerCoffee
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    Bit of a distortion don't you think, describing one single thing I referred to, which I quoted in full, to this much broader generalization, "people who take a different view from her own of the whole thing"?

    Let's read that post again: "if a person has to go out of their way to self-identify as [a skeptic], they're likely compensating for something."

    There are thousands of people who self identify as belonging to the skeptical community, which your point of view belittles with a baseless stereotype. Stereotyping people is one definition of uninformed. But not only that, you dismissed all the accomplishments of the community with a hand wave and an insult. That's uninformed and I felt the need to post examples refuting your dismissal.


    But it sounds now like you are softening your stance. Why, if you like some of the things/people in the skeptical community, did you lump so many thousands of people into your stereotype of overcompensating irrational thinkers?


    For the record, it was Maia's comments I initially said were uninformed. It was this she said that I was referring to: "'skeptic' is my middle name, but since i'd also be skeptical of any 'skeptical community' ".

    Maybe I read that wrong, but saying one is 'skeptical of any skeptical community' certainly sounds like a person who is uninformed about said community.
     
  22. thirdwind
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    Oh yes. Absolutely yes. (However, I would say that it's only a few people who do this.)
     
  23. mammamaia
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    i think you need to look up the definition of 'skeptic' and 'skeptical' before labeling me 'uninformed' as if it's a failing of some sort...

    please note the 'winker' that you seem to have ignored [on purpose?]... do you enjoy taking jesting comments out of context and then slamming the originators to bolster whatever position of your own you seem to want to legitimize?

    duchess...
    i don't know that atheists are generally into forming 'communities'... and atheism is certainly not a 'religion'... so i don't see judging atheists' charitable activities against religion-following folks' as being a valid [or fair] comparison...

    that said, i'm an atheist and i wouldn't join any atheist 'community' mainly because i don't join any 'communities'... but in 1995, i made a vow to dedicate the rest of my life to helping others for nothing in return, which i have been doing ever since... though a year ago i did have to start taking on a paying client now and then in order to be able to continue helping all those i mentor for free, 90% of my time is still spent helping folks for nothing at all in return... isn't that the same as donating money to charity?... or even more charitable, perhaps? ;)
     
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  24. Steerpike
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    Yes. But that's why I like to look at individuals, not groups or labels. I suppose the latter are useful for identifying with certain basic principles as a starting point, but on the whole I find labels are a poor way of categorizing human beings in a meaningful way. Most commonly you'll see labels by political or religious affiliation, and the corresponding assumptions that all members of a group are largely the same. You really run into trouble, in my view, when you start conveniently labeling yourself or your own group as 'rational thinkers," to the exclusion of others. I know liberals, conservatives, religious people, and atheists who are all very intelligent, rational thinkers, but if you use labels as a shorthand to assign characteristics to a group of people it is easy to lose sight of that and define only oneself and like-minded individuals as intelligent or rational.
     
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    I'm in love with you. Swear to god.
     
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