It occurs to me that people might think I’m (Kimbo) kind of an asshole because of the way I write and the nature of the things I say on this blog so I thought I’d provide a little clarification for those of you who may have met me at TAM7 or know me in real life and may say “buh?”.
See, there’s a blog me and a real life me. And they are both me, but I think blog me misrepresents real me on the grounds that I parse out very little of myself to this medium.
For example, I say things here that I would never say in real life. When I’m in a discussion with someone, I would never call them a fucktard or say their beliefs are ridiculous. But I do that here on a regular basis. Why? Simply put: This is my outlet. I live in a relatively rural area with woo and not-quite-fundie-but-basically-intolerant religion running rampant. I don’t have anyone close to me, other than my husband, who is a critically thinking skeptic. On the other hand I know many people who go to naturopaths, or who believe in ghosts, or who consult their horoscopes sans irony and feel the need to tell me about these things at length. I live in a place where even small towns have 3-4 chiropractic/acupuncture/naturopath/homeopath offices (I refuse to call them “clinics”). I have to pick my battles a lot. Frankly if I didn’t have this blog, I’d probably go insane.
So as much as I try to make the blog interesting for people to read, it’s really a place for me to let of steam — skeptically. It may be in the form of a somewhat-reasonably-researched article or it may simply be a rant such as this. So when you’re reading this blog, keep that in mind. What I say here is not necessarily how I approach skepticism. Even though we discuss other topics (video games etc), we try not to include rampant bullshit on here as much as possible. It is still a skeptical blog. But also realize that you are reading only one representation of me.
While I appreciate the suggestions of Tim Farley et al. about parsing out topics and making more of an internet impact, that’s not really what I’m about. The internet is not where I’m trying to make an impact. The internet is simply my therapy. So the reason I talk about a variety of things, that are the same old things every other skeptic is talking about, is because that’s what I encounter so that’s what I have to bitch about. If I’m encountering those topics again and again, maybe there isn’t enough skeptical coverage on the topic. We may think there is because we read it all the time, but other people doing a Google search might not because they have to sift through prolific woo. The internet is a big place and I don’t have the time or inclination right now to start something specific and awesome like What’s the Harm, Stop Jenny, Stop Sylvia, Quackwatch, etc. Instead, I write about what I encounter almost every day and try to make a impact in real life — a lot of times with friends.
Sometimes it’s as simple as being the “asshole” who insists on looking everything up. When something comes up (“Did you know that [insert something completely wrong]?”) and I am within range of a computer, I will look it up. Some people may perceive that as “ruining the fun”, but sometimes others in the group get into the same habit on their own. It’s a relatively nonconfrontational and objective way to halt the spread of woo. In other cases, I try (try really hard — not always successfully) to have a calm discussion, asking lots of questions, and inserting doubt. Or I at least try to promote the skills of critical thinking. I don’t have to change their minds about astrology in one conversation, but if I can share some skills of critical thinking maybe I can insert doubt and/or get them to think critically about other things. Most importantly, maybe I can get them to keep woo to themselves so they aren’t spreading rumours and urban legends around. If they keep it to themselves until they look it up, they will self-correct or maybe even forget about the topic before they have a chance to spread falsehoods.
I know my strategies at least partially work, because sometimes I’m the “go to” person for my friends to ask about something they are skeptical about because I “know about these things”. That tells me that at least they are using their brain — although they shouldn’t take my word for it either, but it’s a start.
I’m not saying that I’m a saint in real life. I am an assertive person, so sometimes that comes across as arrogance or attacking even when I don’t mean it that way (which is almost all the time). Some discussions also get me a bit more heated than others. We all have our buttons and it does get tiresome to deal with this on a daily basis and feel like you’re making no impact at all because you keep hearing the same stuff over and over and over again. But I feel this “everyday skepticism” approach is an important one, because unfortunately the more people get famous in a “movement”, the more skepticism becomes another group of “beliefs” with “leaders” (from the perspective of outsiders) and the more excuses we give them to ignore what we have to say. I’m not saying it’s right or that it’s a fair assessment, but I can see how that would seem to be the case from the outside.
Skepticism, we know, isn’t made of a card-carrying group of believers. It’s a way of life, of looking at the world. It’s critical thinking — that’s it. There’s no grand conspiracy or agenda — just critical thinking. Including critically thinking about our own “beliefs” and biases. But if people don’t have those skills, I can appreciate how they wouldn’t see us that way. If they are religiously inclined or otherwise wooful, why wouldn’t they assume that we’re the same way? That’s all they know. It’s up to us, the lowbies, the everyday schmoe, to promote the fact that we don’t subscribe to fame and we don’t have equivalent “spritual leaders” that we take at face value. Every skeptic is fair game for criticism. This can be done with everyday skepticism (real life me) — and although it might not make an impact on the vast expanse of the internet, I write about my experiences anyway for anyone who is willing to read them (blog me). So I don’t go crazy.