Activism / Atheism / Skepticism

SkeptiCamp Kentucky 2012, part 2

Continuing with the speaker summaries and reviews from part 1…

Brian Barnes

Brian Barnes spoke about a model for critical thinking provided by the Foundation for Critical Thinking. Most people do not closely examine their own thought processes and rather blindly adapt them from others in their social groups. A main point in his presentation is that we need to examine our own thought processes to ensure that we are not being blinded by our own biases and missing the truth. Using a model such as what is provided by the Foundation for Critical thinking can help to accomplish this goal.

Ed Hensley

Ed Hensley’s presentation was titled Evidence of Evolution for Non-Biologists and focused on pictorial evidence that points towards the common ancestry of all life on Earth. Such examples included the movement of the blowhole in fetal dolphin from the front of their face (as in other mammals) to the back of their head, humans with tails or multiple functional breasts, and the strange path of the recurrent laryngeal nerve in mammals which is explained by their commend ancestry with fish.

Why would cave fish have non-functioning eyes unless they descended from fish that could see?

Carla Bevins

Carla Bevin’s presentation was titled the Humanities’ Contribution to Skeptical Inquiry.

Skepticism normally focuses on the hard sciences crowd. Carla asks “What do the humanities have to do with skepticism? Skeptical humanities study the human experience.

Carla demonstrates how this works by examining the this statement: “Faith is like wifi–it is invisible but has the power to connect you what you need.”

Stop and examine the idea. It may sound plausible on the surface, but when you dig in deeper:

WiFi is invisible? It is invisible, yet unlike faith we have evidence for it.
Wifi is unseen but unlike faith understandable and predictable.
But faith is belief in something that is unknown. We know wifi exists.
And what does “connect us to what we need” mean?

Like that statement, often the things that resonate the most are the things that seem the most “simple” common sense but rely on a lot of untested assumptions.

We respond viscerally when a new idea either
-Fits easily in an existing schema that we are familiar with.
-Confounds us by not fitting anywhere into our existing way of thinking.

To critically engage a text or statement is to engage in the humanities.

Carla and Robert Bevins concluded the presentation with a  bonus powerband demonstration.

To be continued…