MetaCognitions | American Skeptics: On Pandering to Bad Ideas


I’ve given up on a few American skeptics, especially certain so-called thought leaders. I wash my tentacles of them. I’m much keener on most UK, continental European, Canadian, and other skeptics abroad. For the most part, as well as American skeptics I follow and am friends with on social media, they totally rock.

It makes perfect sense to me to focus on bad science, hoaxes, urban legends, pseudoscience, and claims that do real harm to people’s lives, education, and health.

But I see absolutely no sense and no real point in being “skeptical” of feminism, of anthropogenic global climate change, in “skepticism” of whatever the f*** “cultural Marxism” in academia is supposed to be, and the denial of the existence or validity of transgender and non-binary people.

That is not the skepticism I have come to know and love through such podcasts as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Monster Talk, Skeptics with a K, and The Reality Check.

I don’t dislike those on the political right, not over something as petty as differences of opinion. I feel that how we relate to and treat each other as human beings is more important than politics.  But touting awful ideas, advocating already tested and failed policies as fair-minded and “controversial” is just giving the pseudo-skeptics, the far, far Right, the alt-Right, the armies of the night, and reactionaries who see skepticism as a threat, ready ammunition for their culture war.

I don’t even think it’s fair or necessarily true to many I know to use the phrase “right-wing” to label these ideas, as it’s more like “nut-wing” to me and at any extreme edge along a political compass.

Stop. Just stop. I don’t care about your political leanings. I don’t care how even-handed you’re trying to be. I’ve been down that road myself. The end result is that lending even token credence to terrible ideas feeds the illiberal enemies of a free state, and aiding those who would gleefully bring down organized skepticism and destroy the (((FREE SPEECH!!!))) you think you’re defending in trying to be edgy and calling yourselves (((THE INTELLECTUAL DARK WEB!!!)))

Not all ideas deserve equal time, and some ideas are terrible enough that once they have had their hearing and been found wanting, they should rightly be discarded in the wastebin of history, not to rear their ugly heads again.

But if there’s anything skeptics know, it’s that certain ideas are roundly debunked, only to rise zombie-like from the grave to walk the earth in later generations.

“Unsinkable rubber duckies.”

Guys, the culture warriors getting free press from you in magazines, blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, don’t really give a damn about free speech, except their own, and certainly not yours. And they’ll gladly bring you down along with every other hated enemy or useful idiot in their sights once they win the war.

After all, skepticism is not something one is. It’s a process to follow, a set of methods, of thinking tools, not an identity, not a set of claims or doctrines.

I think that those most vocally claiming to be skeptical of identity politics should be most wary, first and foremost, of their very own.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery


Scott Derrickson is a film-lover first and a director second, but he’s been quite successful at the latter — you may know him as the director and co-writer of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. (When I was younger, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic characters, along with Green Lantern. At least one of them got a great movie.)

Scott was gracious enough to take time from a very busy schedule to sit down for a chat about a wide number of topics. Using Doctor Strange as a template, we go in some detail through the immensely complicated process of taking a modern blockbuster movie from pitch to screen. But Scott’s genre of choice is horror — his other films include Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose — and we move on to discussing why certain genres seem universal, before tackling even bigger issues about worldviews (Scott is Christian, I’m a naturalist) and how they affect one’s life and work.

Scott Derrickson is an acclaimed director, producer, and screenwriter. He earned his M.A. in film production from the University of Southern California. His films as a director include Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil, and Doctor Strange. He has written or co-written numerous other films, including Land of Plenty (directed by Wim Wenders) and Devil’s Knot (directed by Atom Egoyan).

Mr. Eccles Presents | Cinema, Blockbusters, Horror, and Mystery


Scott Derrickson is a film-lover first and a director second, but he’s been quite successful at the latter — you may know him as the director and co-writer of Marvel’s Doctor Strange. (When I was younger, Doctor Strange was one of my favorite comic characters, along with Green Lantern. At least one of them got a great movie.) Scott was gracious enough to take time from a very busy schedule to sit down for a chat about a wide number of topics. Using Doctor Strange as a template, we go in some detail through the immensely complicated process of taking a modern blockbuster movie from pitch to screen.

But Scott’s genre of choice is horror — his other films include Sinister and The Exorcism of Emily Rose — and we move on to discussing why certain genres seem universal, before tackling even bigger issues about worldviews (Scott is Christian, I’m a naturalist) and how they affect one’s life and work. Scott Derrickson is an acclaimed director, producer, and screenwriter. He earned his M.A. in film production from the University of Southern California. His films as a director include Hellraiser: Inferno, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Sinister, Deliver Us from Evil, and Doctor Strange. He has written or co-written numerous other films, including Land of Plenty (directed by Wim Wenders) and Devil’s Knot (directed by Atom Egoyan).

Cruel Parodies | Inaugural Post – Dinathog-Trulg


Vanakkam. Welcome to the first in a new series of entries where I talk about… things… created from other things, without copyright infringement woes!

The title of this series is credited to SF writer S.A. Barton, who in a recent tweet showed such a parody of Larry Niven’s puppeteers – humans!

In like vein, I’ll be using templates from across speculative fiction, credited to their original sources, and from these create beings and creatures of my own only tenuously connected to the originals. I do this primarily by focusing on a particular distinctive trait, or set of traits, and use these to create the new creature or species from otherwise whole cloth.

So, for this inaugural post, let me present one I’ve already done, the vermoid Dinathog-Trulg:

The template for this species was Doctor Who’s genocidal alien mutants, the Daleks, originally created by Terry Nation. I decided to keep only the genocidal part and completely reverse their motivation: not hate, but instead love drives them to commit mass extinctions!

Dinathog-Trulg are anti-Daleks. See below:

Rather than essentially being tentacled brains in metal shells, these are free-standing two-meter long wormlike beings, with twenty-seven limbs in three sets of nine that look like worms themselves.

Yech!

But back to motivation!

Dinathog-Trulg are religious zealots, and in their theology see the universe as a place of pain and suffering. In their view, a kind of hell.

So their great mission is to save all life in the universe by sending it to the realm of their alien gods, one orbital cannon blast or planet-buster bomb, at a time, such is their sick, twisted love for all life.

Kind of like the Medieval Inquisition of Terra, and its drive to, among other things, save the souls of alleged heretics by torturing and burning them at the stake.

The species’ entire society is based around a system of nine clerical and monastic orders which serve different functions, lead by a shadowy supreme figure known as the Holiest.

But what keeps them from merely killing themselves off?

Humility, of a sort.

They are convinced that until they’ve sent everything else in the universe to paradise, they themselves are not worthy to ascend, and must remain behind to suffer for the universe’s life until the very end.

They make great villains, even though they love everybody, but it’s the kind of love most of us humans would rightly be creeped out by from those in our own species.

This series continues, with the next installment being a critter inspired by one of the Traveller RPG’s aliens in a hideously cruel parody indeed!

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Ubi dubium | That’s Absurd [1]


If it’s claimed that those who are not members of a given religion, ethnicity, status, ideology, belief-status, sexual orientation, species, national or planetary origin, parallel (or askew) dimension of residence, or gender identity will be consigned to unpleasantness in an imagined hereafter, whether in a kind of Hell, stuck in an infinite loop on a karmic wheel, inside Morgarn the Lizard God’s stomach, or the like, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the Piri Re’is Map of 1513 really shows Pleistocene Antarctica, and it is an uncannily accurate depiction of the earth as seen from space, it’s evident on the basis of the claim alone, given a look at the actual map in a museum in Istanbul, that that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that life, the universe, and everything were magically commanded, spoken, dreamed, or otherwise brought into being in their current form by a supernatural being literally in six or seven days less than 10,000 years ago, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that science is just a myth or subjective narrative no more valid than any other in factual accuracy or worth, that’s absurd. Science works, hence the science and engineering behind the computer servers hosting this blog.

If it’s claimed that the evidence for the paranormal is scientifically overwhelming, yet at the same time rejected by a hidebound Scientific Establishment™, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that having an open mind means accepting any claim regardless of the bad reasoning and lack of good evidence for it, that’s absurd, and  it confuses what it means to have an open mind.

Having an open mind means applying consistent standards to all claims, and proportioning belief to the evidence for the claim.

If it’s claimed that cratering on planetary bodies is really caused by scarring from giant electrical arcs in space and not the impact of asteroids, meteorites, or comets and other interplanetary objects, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the sun is really powered by giant, invisible, and otherwise undetectable electrical currents on its surface, lit literally like a lightbulb, and not by thermonuclear reactions in its core, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that nothing can really be known through science because it doesn’t and maybe can’t explain absolutely everything in excruciating detail, that’s absurd.

Everything we can really say we know about the world, regardless of nationality, culture, and period of time, we know through science in some form, from early science to modern.

If it’s claimed that Occam’s razor justifies the any claim desired as the simplest explanation for allegedly unsolvable mysteries, that’s confusing the unexplained for the unexplainable, committing an argument from ignorance. And that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that being an expert in one field instantly carries unimpeachable authority in another field, that commits an argument from authority, and that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that one can argue against reason, evidence, or science, using reason, evidence, or science without contradicting oneself and merely affirming these things in the process, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the Clever Hans effect isn’t real because it is used to invalidate much animal and some human paranormal research, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that subjective personal accounts are an accurate guide to what’s objectively true or works, because something merely seems to work, given what is known about errors in human thinking and perception, that’s absurd.

If I claim that science solves all problems, answers all questions, and that it’s fully immune to human error or institutional context, then that’s absurd, it’s dogmatic, and dogmatism is for fools.

So I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be as little of a fool as I can manage, and minimise my absurdities as much as possible.

For my part, it’s really the method used, the process of thinking, and not the conclusion reached, that really matters.

Tf. Tk. Tts.