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.

Enjoy.

Mr Eccles Presents | Kavin Senapathy – A Science Mom’s Path from Reason, to Oz, and Back Again


If skeptics are diametrically opposed to one thing, it’s woo.

That’s why Kavin Senapathy took on her new Woo Watch column for Skeptical Inquirer, which explores the alternative health, clean food, and spurious parenting worlds, examines what drives these movements, and, of course, cites the evidence that condemns them. But even though she relishes wielding data and evidence, Senapathy fights woo not only because it’s wrong.

What took this mommy blogger from buying Dr. Oz-endorsed supplements just a handful of years ago to her third time on the CSIcon stage? From being raised staunchly atheist by former Hindu immigrants from India to today, this Science Mom will explain why Woo Watch and CFI are part of her fight.

The Center for Inquiry is a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit organization. CFI’s vision is a world in which evidence, science, and compassion—rather than superstition, pseudoscience, or prejudice—guide public policy.

You can join CFI and find out what we do to protect critical thinking and science by visiting: https://centerforinquiry.org

Kavin is an author and public speaker covering science, health, medicine, agriculture, food, parenting and their intersection. Her work appears regularly at Forbes, SELF Magazine, Slate, and more.

Her chapter in the recent MIT Press book “Pseudoscience” is entitled “Swaying Pseudoscience – The Inoculation Effect.”

When she’s not writing and tweeting, she’s busy being a “Science Mom”—also the name of a recent documentary film in which she’s featured—to a 7-year-old and 5-year-old.

This talk took place at the CSICon 2018 in Las Vegas on October 20, 2018

Reasoned Disagreement: Antidote for Unreasoning Bullheadedness


map of democracies

Image via Wikipedia

Disagreement can be annoying. It can try anyone’s patience, and there are times and situations where people express disagreement with our claims, our views, our opinions, on matters that we ourselves see as de facto self-evident but others not so.

We tend to prefer others to agree with us, since this agreement comforts our egos when others acknowledge our correctness (real or imagined) in our claims, opinions, and our often highly personal beliefs, the last of which we are often most, and I think needlessly, protective.

On the other hand, we may experience discomfort when we are feeling particularly thin-skinned, when others see not as we, and in some cases evoking (self)righteous indignation at being questioned, sometimes at length, about the validity of our claims, suggesting the possibility that we may be wrong, or worse, lying or delusional.

The problem with getting upset about this disagreement is that it is pointless. It is inevitable that we come to disagree, and so we must live with it, not rail against it.

I remember my years as a believer, the youthful dismay I felt at not having my statements uncritically accepted by those skeptical of them — if I’d only known then what I do now! — at time when I had yet to appreciate the importance of rigor and clear thinking in any discussion in a real world where standards of argument and evidence were much higher than I’d naively supposed, and the need for that in a vibrant, free, pluralistic society.

In time, I learned that disagreement resting on a foundation of agreement is essential and healthy for any functioning democracy.

Now, before anyone starts lecturing me in the comments about the ‘States being a federated republic, or whatever, and not a democracy, and how 300 million people can’t have a meaningful discussion, or decides to expound upon their own political opinions regarding democracy and alleged connections between it and the American Democratic party, I’ll lay out for the sake of this post what I mean by democracy:

Any system of government in which leaders are chosen through a process of elections in which the collective votes of a citizen electorate are cast and tallied. This is more or less modeled after the early democracies of ancient Greece, but I’m not specifically referring to either Athenian or representative democracies in this post.

Genuine controversies, not those  merely manufactured by the journalistic media or ideologues with an agenda, are absolutely needed for a healthy democracy, one with a reasonably equitable electoral process and an adequately educated, critically reasoning and vigilant electorate with a keen skepticism of those in authority.

I realize this is more an ideal than the real, considering the political climate in the ‘States, but it’s something to strive for.

Neither agreement nor disagreement is wholly good or bad, but neither can be completely avoided, so we must live with them and use the one as the grounding for the other in resolving disputes, which will happen no matter how much alike we seem to be on the surface.

A society in which we seek only the company of the like-minded, feel that any disagreement is unbridgeable and unresolvable, in which we watch only those media outlets that support our views, where credulity is rampant and reason is shunned is a very dangerous one, and this is what I see this country becoming.

I think that 300 million people can have a meaningful discussion, maybe not yet, but it’s possible through dissemination of information and an open willingness to look at and consider it.

Argumentation done well, done productively and effectively is not rancorous, destructive to others’ self-worth, nor quarrelsome at all — those are mere shadows and misconceptions of argument.

Ignorance, irrationality, and a breakdown in social discourse are the disease, and I for one strongly suspect that knowledge, understanding, and the practice of reasoned argumentation are the cure.

My own view is that no matter how annoying it may be, if we cannot bother to rationally defend our statements, beliefs, views and opinions, then perhaps they are not worth holding at all.