CORI

Central Ohioans for Rational Inquiry promotes critical thought and science education in Columbus, Ohio. More →

New Year’s Prediction Party – 2011

Greetings, David Maxwell here… As part of the discussion on our last podcast, Mark Plaid, one of our CORICast members, granted me permission to post his Facebook note regarding his 2011 New Year’s prediction party. I do so without comment, below. If you’d like to hear the discussion, please subscribe to CORICast, CORI’s official podcast.

Take it away, Mark!
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Off the top of my head I don’t remember the exact year I started having New Year’s Day Prediction Parties. It may have either been for 1999 or 2000. I just moved into my own apartment and was eager to have guests. Many people I knew either worked New Year’s Eve or had plans. So, inspired by the annual opening of predictions on the Art Bell radio show, that I was a big fan of at the time, I took the idea and made a theme party out of it for New Year’s Day. The parties are usually mildly attended, so far we’ve had no more than 9 or 10 people, but they are always pretty fun.

These are the general guidelines for the Mark Plaid’s New Year’s Day Prediction Party. The predictions made the prior year are not to be viewed at any time after they are made at the prediction party until the following year’s prediction party. The only predictions filed are ones made by those attending the party, no phoned, texted, emailed, or any other way of sending prediction from outside the party will be filed.

Two lists are made. Neither list should have anything personal about the attendees or anyone they know, unless the attendees know famous people. One is a list of 100 celebrities that might pass away in the coming year. Celebrities are pretty much anyone who is in the public eye, be they entertainer, political figure, athlete, author, artist, etc. Although this may seem morbid to some, when we didn’t make a separate list for celebrity deaths, the prediction list will fill up with them. This streamlined the predictions and it is quite strongly stressed that the list is neither a betting pool nor a wish list. Either way, I’m not a superstitious person and if you have a problem with talking about death, don’t come to my parties. Avoiding talking about death isn’t going to eliminate death, it’s a part of life no matter how hard you deny it. This is more disclaimer than necessary.

The second list is a general prediction list which can have things that range from disasters to pop culture fads and all sorts of things that are not celebrity deaths. We don’t have a limit on the number of these predictions they just go until we get tired of making them.

I’m not going to name those who attended the party, but if they choose to reveal themselves that’s okay. This years party had nine total people including me.

There were 6 correct predictions out of 100 for celebrity deaths made at the 2010 prediction party for 2010, they are:

1. J. D. Salinger
2. Rue McClanahan
3. Dino DeLaurentis
4. Dennis Hopper
5. Norman Wisdom
6.Peter Graves

There were 6 correct predictions made out of 52 for general predictions, they are:

1. Recession continues.
2. Public option for health insurance.
3. New Popeye movie announced.
4. An “I love the…” show aired on VH1 about the past decade
5. Sasquatch still unavailable for comment
6. The 2010 list will be opened in 2011 (This has been a standard last prediction made for many of the parties).

As you can see the numbers aren’t too big. There are thankfully few correct celebrity deaths and a lot of fun is had in reading incorrect general predictions like:

-Canada chic!
-Disney buys Catholic church
-Dan Quayle comeback!
-Big Monkey news!
-Sarah Palin defects to Russia!
and more

Thanks to all who attended. It was a blast and I hope to have you again next year. The one thing i find it hard to predict is where in the hell it will be then.

– Mark Plaid

Skepticism and Atheism – An Open Relationship

There seems to be an interesting series of comments flying around the info-sphere regarding the relationship between Atheism and Skepticism. I’m not going to pretend to be an authority on either one, so I’m just going to give my two cents here, and hopefully the discussion will be productive. I realize I’m taking a Ginsu knife to the can of worms, here… but that’s kind of what I do. My question here is not, “Should Atheism be a part of Skepticism?” I think it’s fairly obvious that it should, though I wouldn’t make it a requirement, since not all Skeptics are Atheists and vice-versa . My question is, “Should Atheism be the focus of Skepticism?”

First, I want to talk for a second about my own takes on both Atheism and Skepticism. What does each one mean to me, and how do I use each one of them in my daily life?

Let’s start with Atheism. Atheism has been defined many ways, and I’m sure there are those who will disagree with my definition, but I define it as a lack of belief in the existence of a god. How does Atheism inform my daily world view? How do I make decisions from an Atheist viewpont? How do I choose to treat others based on my Atheism? How do I live my life according to Atheism? The short answer is: I don’t.

Atheism has no place in my decision making process. I am an Atheist because I do not believe that there is a ‘god’. There are a multitude of reasons to be nice to people, or to make certain decisions, but the absence of a god isn’t one of them. Good decisions and bad decisions are irrespective of my lack of belief in a god. The only relevance that Atheism has on my life, is that I have one less variable to consider in my decision making process, that being “How does ‘god’ want me to act?” And wow, talk about a variable. Not only would that depend on my particular flavor of religion, but on my own personal views of what ‘god’ wanted. So no, I don’t consider my Atheism anywhere outside of a religious discussion.

Skepticism, though, is an all-together different matter. Skepticism is the process of applying critical thinking skills to, well, just about everything. Note that in this case, I’m talking about scientific skepticism, and not philosophical skepticism, which are quite different, in my opinion. I would encourage the study of both, but please don’t get the two of them confused.

I live in a skeptical frame of mind. I apply it to everything. Being in the IT world helps, where troubleshooting and experimentation are part of my daily course of events. Determining where the faults are in a complex system takes an analytical touch, and my training as an IT professional and a skeptic tend to compliment one another quite well. In fact, I find examples of places where skepticism serves me, just about everywhere. Grocery shopping, reading the news, studying for tests, talking with others, being a parent… there’s no limit to the things that skepticism can inform and benefit.

Here’s the crux of my argument. Skepticism is applied critical thinking. However, to apply something is a choice. You can certainly choose not to apply critical thinking if you don’t want to, and ‘go with your gut’. I do this a lot. You have to have some training or ability to think critically about things. How much training does it take to be an Atheist? How much research does one have to do in order to say, “I don’t believe in god.’ None. In fact, it is entirely possible to be an Atheist, yet accept all manner of thinks which most skeptics would otherwise eschew. Likewise, there are many scientists who practice scientific skepticism in the lab, yet attend church on Sunday. Are we to dismiss them or their work, because they believe in a god? Of course, not. So why do we dismiss skeptics who are not Atheists? Put simply, we have four possible quadrants in our skeptic / atheist matrix. Skeptical and Atheist, Skeptical and NOT Atheist, NOT Skeptical and Atheist, and finally, where most people unfortunately lie, NOT Skeptical and NOT Atheist.

Put even more simply, Skepticism is a method. Atheism is a position of belief,or non-belief, if you prefer. One may include the other, but they certainly do not require each other. You can be a Skeptic without being an Atheist. Sadly, many people disagree with that but the position does exist. Even worse, some people resort to non-skeptical arguments to belabor that point. See if you can spot the “No True Scotsman” logical fallacy in Hemant Mehta’s piece on this very topic.

Skepticism requires testable evidence. What testable evidence is there for religion?
Can religion be discussed? Sure. Should it be a focus? If you’ll pardon the expression, “Hell No”. (Sorry. The Devil made me do it.) Talk about intercessory prayer studies. Talk about faith healing. Talk about the cop-out explanation that is, “god did it.” In fact, I encourage you to talk about any place where religion attempts to enter the scientific arena. But to just tear down religion as a topic in and of itself makes us look a bit silly, as skeptics. How do we apply the scientific method to religion? You can argue that Atheism is the Null Hypothesis, as Jen McCreight does, but without evidence either way, where do we take the discussion?

Jen also mentions the separation of Atheism and Skepticism as a PR move. If we’re honest with ourselves, I think that both of them could use a bit of PR assistance. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could bring more people to Atheism via Skepticism? Of course it would! But in order to do that, we have to start with the Skepticism, not the Atheism. Most people who practice any sort of debate, know that you have to lead people to a conclusion, not start with the conclusion, especially if someone is predisposed to the opposite conclusion. If every gathering of Skeptics turns into a denouncement of religion, as I have seen many of them do, there’s little chance of us creating any new Skeptics, let alone new Atheists.

In conclusion, I’ll just reiterate that yes, Atheism is a part of Skepticism, but it is a conclusion of Skepticism, and not the method of Skepticism. Since it leads you to the conclusion, the method is the more important of the two.

Thanks,
-David.

The Black Hole of Science News

Black Holes are formed when a star with a mass of 3 – 4 times that of our Sun, no longer has enough fuel for the energy it generates to withstand the gravitational pull of it’s own mass. It collapses in upon itself, and becomes so dense, not even light particles can escape it’s pull. You can’t ‘see’ a black hole visibily, because it doesn’t give off any light, and you cannot reflect light off of it because the light is simply swallowed by it. Therefore, it looks, quite literally, like a black hole in the middle of space. While the properties of such a strange object are certainly ripe for conjecture and speculation, we do have a good way to observe these objects, and learn more facts about them. Read more →

Letter to the Editor in the Dispatch

CORI’s letter to the editor in response to Dr. Phillip DeMio appears in today’s Dispatch.

The article was edited, which I expected, and the three references I sited were left out. Here is the original version: Read more →

Skepticism in All Things

Over the past week or so, many skeptics online have probably seen the Telegraph UK’s report on the new film Creation, which is a biographical account of Charles Darwin’s life and, specifically, his crisis of faith. The claim made by the Telegraph report, sourced from comments by the film’s producer, is that the film has no US distribution because of mainstream America’s religiously-based aversion to Darwin. Now, maybe it’s just because I’m a resolute film snob and know way too much useless information about the film industry – but I didn’t buy that as the real reason. And so I looked into it. Read more →

New Podcast in Town

For those of you who have not noticed, there’s a new skeptical podcast in town. A couple other CORI members and I have launched CORICast, and you can get it at http://ohioskeptic.com/podcast, or subscribe via your favorite MP3 player at http://feeds2.feedburner.com/coricast. Please give us your feedback on CORICast either at the webste or email us at coricast@gmail.com. You can also follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/coricast.

Talk with you later!

-David.

Rusty Feet

*This is a post from a new blog made by Jeni, Kim C, and me.  Please wander over and check us out at negativentropy.*

My husband and I packed up the kids a couple weeks ago and went to the Ohio State Fair.  My favorite part of the fair–aside from the fried food and rides–is the marketplace building.  They sell all sorts of wacky things, and I love walking up and down the aisles seeing all the weird stuff.  This year I saw something particularly weird: a booth selling Ionic Foot Detox Baths. Read more →

Science and Love of the Natural World

This is a combination of two posts written by Jonathan Weyer, a SkeptiCamp 2009 presenter, for his blog The Thomas Society. With his permission, I’m reposting them here for the OhioSkeptic.com audience. Please visit Jonathan’s blog for more writing!

PZ Myers and the Love of the Natural World

So, I got to meet the (in)famous PZ Myers this weekend. As has been said on on numerous blogs, he is a much nicer guy in person than on his blog. I liked him. Read more →

TAM7 and the Skeptic Community

As many of you know, I recently took a bit of a last-minute opportunity to dash off to Las Vegas and attend The Amazing Meeting 7, the annual conference of the James Randi Educational Foundation. Due to time restraints and other duties (like being a bridesmaid), I didn’t have the chance to engage much with the conference sessions and workshops. But I still took away from TAM a clearer understanding of something I think I’ve been trying to define here in central Ohio for the past year or so – namely, what exactly it means to be a skeptic community. Read more →

Bump In The Night.

Much as I’d like the title here to refer to dancing at our last Drinking Skeptically event, we’re talking about ghosts, the people who experience them, and those who hunt them for a living. My own experience with ghost hunting on a personal level was rather unremarkable, or at least, the explanation proved to be. I was away at college, which was my first time living away from home. I thought it might be a fun idea to do some exploring at night around the campus area, and get the ‘lay of the land’ so to speak. Read more →

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