MetaCognitions | Skeptic: a Promise as Well as a Label

Vanakkam. Last week, I posted my decision to let go of the word “skeptic” as a personal descriptor. Not just because of bad skeptics who’ve tarnished the brand, there’s that, but also out of respect for the good skeptics, and I mean bad and good not necessarily in the ethical sense, that too, but in terms of the methods and thinking used by either.

It should be apparent by now that I have always had deep issues with labels. To me, labels should mean something. And there are those with definable criteria.

“Skeptic” is one of those. It has an implied rhetorical power even recognized by the enemies of science and skepticism. It has force. That’s why even science rejectionists try to cloak themselves in the mantle of “scientific skepticism” of well established scientific or historical findings using wholly dishonest means to deceive the rhetorically vulnerable.

But it’s not just because of a few bad apples, science deniers, and conspiracy cranks. It’s also why I left Twitter some months ago, likely for good, barring some unforeseen future need to use the platform. That, and some poor personal decisions that weigh heavily on me, even without lasting and serious consequences.

No TMI though. I’ll spare you that.

Here’s the thing: the word “skeptic” is more than just a label: it’s also a promise, implying the adoption, and the striving for, a definable set of intellectual values, intellectual strategies, and an approach to evaluating testable claims of fact, the “Three Faces of Skepticism.”

When you call yourself a skeptic, you are telling others something about yourself, intended or not, to different people, things positive and negative, and what general sort of intellectual strategies you might be expected to use. On the positive side, some level of intellectual honesty, open-mindedness, and intellectual humility is implied, individual thinking styles aside.

This ties into my leaving Twitter on December 4 of 2018.

Since starting on Twitter in March of 2010, up until the end, I had far too often experienced the loss of those no longer with us from various causes, ranging from those leaving organized skepticism for less community drama, harassment, and fractiousness, to the actual passing of good people from a number of causes, usually illness, but some few by their own hand. The last nine years have not been kind in that regard.

I make no secret of the fact that I don’t take that kind of personal loss well, even with a fair degree of resilience when problems are my own, when striving for equanimity in the face of losing those I care for, when knowing them mostly or solely online. Empathy and the loss of others has been brutal on me, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I’ll take my lumps as they come, thank you very much.

In the meantime, I won’t call myself a skeptic, not in the near future, but also won’t take it as an insult even if and when it’s intended as such. I’ve gotten much better at meeting things like that with humor, and again, there are those I greatly respect who do the skeptic-thingy well indeed, with and without the label.

So from now until then, still skeptical in outlook, just not a self-described skeptic,

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Cat Thursday | The Riccle-Man Cometh

Welcome to the weekly meme that celebrates the wonders and sometime hilarity of cats! Join us by posting a favorite LOL cat pic you may have come across, famous cat art or even share with us pics of your own beloved cat(s). It’s all for the love of cats! Enjoy! This meme is hosted by the True Book Addict!

MetaCognitions | Skeptic: A Problematic Label

I have something to tell you: I’ll no longer refer to myself as a skeptic, though I remain skeptical in outlook and practice. I will no longer use the label. I don’t need it.

2006 was a momentous time. I had come far during the twenty years prior, since the time between my late teens to my early twenties when my mind pretty much fell apart. It took the two decades in between then and 2006 to reassemble the pieces, remaking that mind and sense of identity with the help of a lot of good people, and on occasion, the unwitting “help” of some pretty awful people as well. Lots of life lessons from both, good and bad. In rebuilding a shattered self, there’s a certain amount of resilience that’s acquired, as you do. I don’t believe that’s at all exceptional or especially meritorious.

Yes, you can learn things from awful people too.

But 2006 was the first time I had enough understanding of modern scientific skepticism to adopt it as an adjunct to my treatment plan, to be followed in the 2010s by the addition of mindfulness and other meditative exercises.

And I still use these, with full intention to keep all for the foreseeable future. But the “me” that existed up until the 1980s and early 1990s is gone, replaced by the “me” from the late 1990s and early 2000s, to again be replaced by the current iteration, with a better sense of purpose and priorities, and enough of the mental toolkit needed to realize both.

Lately, some prominent leading skeptics have been behaving in less than reputable ways, associating with less than intellectually reputable company, and promoting a lot of alarmist sociopolitical nonsense as figures in the so-called Intellectual Dark Web.

Once good skeptics who’ve done valuable work in the past have gone to the Dark Side. “Why Darwin Matters: the case against intelligent design” informed my very first forays into scientific skepticism. I considered “The End of Faith” a masterwork of the writer’s craft. What the hell happened? But I’m much better informed now than then as to what happened along the way. It’s no longer any great mystery.

I no longer use the label “skeptic” for myself – it’s become tiresome to over and over explain what I mean by it, and that I’m not like those “other” guys who commit free speech hypocrisy and seem woefully unaware of their own biases while showing the same – forever whining about how persecuted and victimized they are, or how “naughty” or “forbidden” their “ideas.”

For those who are more headstrong than I am about using the label, those resolute enough to keep it despite its tainting by disrepute, then all the more power to you. I salute you and remain alongside you in the ongoing fight against woo, scams, hoaxes, and nonsense disguised as “alternative facts.” You have my support and my respect.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Logico Fractatus | Halley’s Method: Pitchfork Infinity

Vanakkam. Here’s a recent image, created using a Halley Julia set and some really cool pseudo-3D effects via Ultra Fractal 6. I’ll be using the original PNG file to make poster prints on my DeviantART account. I dislike how this one turned out less than I might. I grant it a stay of execution…this day!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Sean Carroll’s Mindscape Podcast: On Morality & Rationality

In this podcast by Sean Carroll, he gives a deep dive on the topics of morality and reason’s role in it. He also discusses the so-called Intellectual Dark Web (IDW, not to be confused with the comic book label) in a mildly critical but fair way, without taking things out of context, without straw-manning, and without being too evenhanded.

Carroll lays out his views of some of the claims, ethical stance, and moral priorities of the IDW, but he says them much more nicely than I would, and more articulately in an audio format than I’m currently practiced at.

One downside to being a snarkitudinous eldritch entity from beyond space-time like yours truly is that sometimes I can be a bit rascally in my approach, which understandably rubs some the wrong way.

My old post from 2013 on the archaic morals and whiney privileged homophobia of Orson Scott Card is a case in point. One of my snarkier, and more satisfying, moments at the keyboard. While the late Carl Sagan is one of my role models, up to a point, I have to confess that no, Virginia, I just ain’t him.

I like how Carroll measures his words without inauthenticity, and in a way that would outrage only the most easily outraged IDW fanboy. He takes the “don’t-be-a-dick” approach here, which is commendable and wise, even though it’s not a big part of my own skillset.

You can listen in stages, or in one sitting, or you can simply turn your podcatching client to and subscribe to his podcast, then listen to this episode at your leisure.

Whatever works for you.

I recommend listening to the entire show using whatever means is most convenient. The IDW discussion really gets underway at about the 58 minute mark.


Quid Novi? | I’m Taking a Week Off.

Vanakkam. I’m taking next week off from blogging as I’ve a situation that needs my attention, but I’ll be back after it’s resolved. No long blogcation this one, and no drama needed. I’ve plans for posting here for at least one more year, but I’ll announce any plans for afterward once the proper time window arrives. I’d really like to get back to posting on my other sites, Checkerboards of the Gods and The Collect Call of Troythulu. I’ve got plans for some new post series on this site, and further posts on logical fallacies and cognitive biases that beg completion.

See you then!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Logico Fractatus | Quoted in Character: Inaugural Post

Vanakkam. Today, I begin a series of entries involving quotes from my fictional characters who, using their own perspectives in the Gods of Terra setting, capture something of modern scientific skepticism. Future installments get their own title, but since this one uses a recent image, it piggybacks on Logico Fractatus. The image I used for this is a Julia set of the Burning Ship fractal type , via Ultra Fractal 6. Today’s quote comes from one of my oldest Gods of Terra characters, Dasaelos Gurao, Warlord of the Rj’lt’ar species.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

All JPEG, PNG, Tiff, & GIF images in this post are original works by the author, created by way of various fractal apps, and these are copyright 2019 by Troy David Loy unless stated otherwise. 

Feel free to save or distribute these images for private, noncommercial use, or elsewhere online with a link to the original source and/or credit to the author.

Thank you!