It’s All Semantics – That Doesn’t Mean We Shouldn’t Argue It

You can handle one more article on this before it blows up all over again at Skepticamp, right?

Once again that membrane which has been pierced so many times on this blog, has been broken, allowing us to once again wade hip-deep into the demarcation between skepticism and atheism.  Joy of joys.  On the bright side, I think I can safely say that this time it wasn’t my fault, but that the lance wielder du jour has been my dear Mr. Rosch.

There’s this funny thing that happens whenever we start talking about where skepticism ends and atheism begins.  Someone brings up the word “agnosticism” and all of a sudden people pounce on that person shouting that they don’t want to get embroiled in an argument of semantics.  I have unfortunate news for those people: the discussion on atheism and skepticism already IS an argument about semantics.  The confusion people have, however – and trust me, I’ve had this one wrong in the past – is that the discussion isn’t really about the definition of atheism.

The definition of atheism is one that atheists have fought for a good long time about.  That definition, that atheism is a lack of belief in god(s), has been whittled into this sort of perfect non-positive statement.  By definition, an atheist doesn’t have to prove anything and believers are, by default, on the defensive side of the argument.  Any believer foolish enough to say “well why don’t you believe in God?” has broken the rules of argument, that the one with the claim is the one with something to defend, and can be summarily told so.  Well done, atheists. … continue reading this entry.

Skepticism = Skepticism, X = X

Michael Rosch posted an article on GS on Tuesday about another article by Jeff Wagg. The following was originally a comment I was posting to his piece, but it got so involved I decided to just submit it as it’s own piece. Please to enjoy.

I read the Wagg article, and I think you’re misunderstanding it (or perhaps I did, maybe), but I don’t think anyone is suggesting that atheists don’t belong involved in skeptical movements. A large proportion of skeptics seem to be atheists (I have data to support). But I think there’s an important distinction between atheism and skepticism.

I’m a lot of things: a feminist, an atheist, a liberal, a Joss Whedon fan, a grad student, a bisexual, a nerd, a gamer, a woman…a skeptic. And yes, I’d say there is significant overlap in the various things I am. For example, my experience as a woman might have made me more likely to self-identify as a feminist. My skepticism might led me to the sort of examination resulting in the conclusion that I’m an atheist. My general nerdom might have led me straight into the Whedonverse. However, if I found that a majority of feminists were Joss Whedon fans (he does favor strong, female characters), could I say that being a Joss Whedon fan and being a feminist are the same thing? I certainly couldn’t. Because even if the experiences and characteristics I had that led me to Buffy also inspired my strong feelings about the equality of men and women in society, they are still two different parts of who I am. … continue reading this entry.

Guardian Article Lists Same Old Movement Problems

Beat me, Alom! Beat me!

This morning, Page sent me an article from “The Guardian” where Alom Shaha complains about certain activities perpetrated by skeptics.  Alom spends the first third of his article making obvious strawmen about skeptics, attempting to get you and I pissed off before telling us that’s what he’s doing and actually starting to put together some sort of argument.  I have no idea if he actually means anything said in the first third of the essay or not so I’m going to do the adult thing here and leave it be.  For the rest of Alom’s essay, he goes into what he sees as failings of the skeptical movement, and some are valid points, but I can’t help but feel there is an unintended irony to the whole article.  Alom’s article points out a number of areas that skeptics like to talk about as problems without often posing solutions, and Alom winds up positing not a single viable solution. … continue reading this entry.

The Snail on the Edge of a Straight Razor

Recently I tend to start these by first providing some personal back story – and then the point I hope to make. I hope my GS writing isn’t becoming far too narrative in this way, perhaps just intellectual reflection.

Anyway, I’d like to begin by describing a bit more about my past. In the fall of 1998 I was 19, quite poor and on my own, working as a waitress in a little diner next to a L.I.R.R. train station on Long Island owned by a deeply religious Greek orthodox couple. So decidedly religious in fact, that when I started working there and they discovered I was new to the town as well, they wanted to know if I’d found a local church to belong to yet. When I indicated I had not, I found myself being picked up by them early the next Sunday morning to accompany them to their church. … continue reading this entry.

Bloggers Wanted

Gotham Skeptic is looking for contributors. If you have an area of expertise that you would like to share with the skeptical community, or perhaps you want to develop your expertise, blogging is a terrific way to to start a conversation. Perhaps you attended an event at the World Science Festival and learned about something that [...]

James Randi is telling YOU to do SOMETHING!

James Randi at NECSS 2010 (photo by Larry Auerbach)

James Randi at NECSS 2010 (photo by Larry Auerbach)

This weekend New York City Skeptics and The New England Skeptical Society held the second annual Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism (NECSS). The scuttlebutt from the event and Twitter (#NECSS) was that it was even better received by this year’s sold out crowd than last year’s sold out crowd.

After a full day of terrific speakers delving into important topics, the event culminated in one small man, sitting alone on stage with a mic taking questions from the audience. James Randi can be credited with popularizing skepticism, and from his frequent visits on Johnny Carson Tonight Show, he managed to bring rational thought to Americans all over the country. And they love him for it to this day. … continue reading this entry.

Why Skeptics Don’t Have to be Atheists


Michael De Dora speaks about atheism and skepticism at Skepticamp NYC 2009.

[You can read Michael De Dora's response to this post here, and an additonal commentary by Massimo Pigliucci here.]

A disclaimer.

It is Sunday Night.  I have just returned home from Skepticamp NYC.  It’s been a long day, I may not be thinking my best, and right now I’m getting ready to piss off… I dunno, maybe half of you.  Joy of joys.  Let me go back a step.  Right before we broke for lunch today, Michael De Dora Jr. gave a talk he called “Skepticism Includes Atheism (So Deal With It).”  After the talk, I pulled Michael aside.  “Hey Mike,” I said.  “I’ve been writing for the Gotham Skeptic and, well I’m like the only person still writing two pieces a week (okay, sometimes Page does too…), and I’m really trying to find a way to only write one this week.  So I’m going to write up why I think you’re totally wrong, and if you want, you can have my Thursday spot to refute everything I say.”  He agreed.

I’m an idiot.  I should have just found a way to turn some skeptical story into a dick joke.  Oy.

This is always true, but sometimes, like right now, I feel it should be stated loud and clear.  The views expressed here represent only me, Jake Dickerman.  They are not representative of everyone who writes on the Gotham Skeptic or the NYC Skeptics in general.

Why Skeptics Don’t Have to be Atheists … continue reading this entry.

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