Skeptiathiesm: The Solution

An internet poll is clearly the solution. The poll will figure out how much of a Skepticon is allowed to be about religion. It is a flawless solution.

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About ashleyfmiller

I write, give occasional speeches, and am currently getting my PhD in Mass Communications from South Carolina. Before going back to school, I worked in Los Angeles in reality tv, web series, and film.

Posted on November 21, 2010, in atheism, skeptic and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 106 Comments.

    • Why, what on earth is there to lulz about? O:)

      • Atheists being childish is always about the lulz.

      • Jinx,

        “Atheists being childish is always about the lulz”

        Says someone who believes in all powerful imaginary friends.

        I guess you haven’t been to a church lately and seen the childish infighting that goes on there. Often these schisms have turned deadly in the past.

        Finally, it’s not a fight between atheists. It’s the religious skeptics that are being childish here.

        Hope you feel ignorant, stupid and irrational for your comment now. Because it was all three.

        If anything is about the lulz it’s the religious (and other irrationalist like you like say the communists) killing each other over how many angels dance on the head of a pin. Although maybe not so much because they end up killing the innocent.

      • … and by “past” I mean whatever event last occurred where a Muslim blew up mosque of another sect, a Hindu rioted, or a Christian burned a witch in Africa. That’s how recent I mean.

  1. How about as much or as little as you want? Its stupid to put an arbitrary limit on it.

  2. I voted for the second-last option, because I guess if all of it is about religion then it would be better called something else than Skepticon.

    • Hmm….. Maybe Religicon? :) I wonder how many will miss the joke at the end of that name. hehehe

    • And if all of it happens to be about UFOs then its name should be aUFOcon, and if all of its about water dowsing it should be aWaterDowsingcon?

      That means any year the convention focuses exclusively on one subject it irrevocably becomes about the subject instead of scepticism as it relates to the subject?

    • Well that’s why the title isn’t just “Skepticon”. This year the title was “Skepticon: Confrontation vs. accommodation”.

      Elaborating on another persons point. It’s as if Trekkies have a conference where the topic is spock and call it “Star Trek: Spock vs McCoy”

      What’s your problem again?

  3. Irrationality, obviously, involves much, much more than religion. But religion is, obviously, about irrationality.

  4. Well this looks like sound methodology to me. Where do you plan to publish the results?

  5. How many times can a conference called “Skepticon” be about little other than atheism and criticism of religion before it’s more accurately referred to as an atheist conference than a skeptics conference?

    By the time you get to three in a row, I think it’s established itself as an atheist conference.

    If a particular group has a conference devoted to a single topic, that doesn’t mean that the group isn’t devoted to broader interests, but if all of its conferences are devoted to that topic, it becomes less likely that it really has the broader interest.

    The poll misses the point, in my opinion.

    • Your comment would make sense if it was at all true. This year’s Skepticon featured a whopping 20% of its speakers speaking about religion. The other 80%, not so much. Saying it was “about little other than atheism and criticism of religion” reflects that you didn’t pay much attention.

    • What is there was a skeptical conference that was all about skepticism towards homeopathy and nothing else. Should that also not be called a skeptics conference? Because that would be the exact same situation.

      The only reason to avoid having only religious skepticism at the same conference is that it becomes too one dimensional but at no point would it cease to be skeptical.

  6. “Allowed”?

    You’re “allowed” to have a Star Trek convention and make it all about Spock if you want. That doesn’t mean Spockcon wouldn’t be a more fitting name for what you’re about.

  7. Can you blame skeptics for focusing on religion when the Catholic church calls for an increase in the number of exorcists? If religious people start being more rational and reign in their kooks then the focus can be focused more on Jenny McCarthy, one-trick pony types.

  8. Your poll has been Pharyngulated!

  9. This is a poorly worded question. Of course “All of it” can be abut religion, as there is lots of ground to cover debunking that superstition.

    As long as none of the topics are *defending* religion, you are fine!

  10. The only correct answer is “none”

    This is not because of the issue of religion, or how much religion, or how much atheism. Rather, I question the concept of “about” at a skeptics conference.

  11. At least 1% should be reserved for debunking Bigfoot.

    Tradition, y’know?

  12. Choosing numbers solves nothing. The correct answer is “who cares?”

    I voted 100% because of the “why not?” clause. I like that.

    Has anyone done a breakdown of Skepticon by subject? Surely things like psychics and homeopathy get a fair bit of coverage too?

  13. Why some arbitrary limit? It depends on the topics of the day and who might be doing what work at the moment. It seems to me that very little might be about religion some years while religion might fill the agenda other years.

  14. …oh, yeah: let’s not forget Uri Geller. True skeptics must remember what’s really important!

  15. Religion is a wonderfully rich theme for a skeptic’s conference, just like alternative medicine or conspiracy theories. Now if it had a theme of one topic and then another topic dominated the conversation, that might be a little disappointing, unless the conversation were very stimulating. I wish I had gone to Skepticon, sounds like a blast!

  16. Non-overlapping magisteria is nonsense when applied to homeopathy or reiki just as much as when it is applied to jehova, zeus or allah. Why do otherwise great critical thinkers ( like the team from SGU) insist on giving a get out of jail free card to the biggest spruikers of nonsense around.
    Can you imagine them saying “homeopathy fails whenever we test it BUT we are agnostic about the ability of water to remember things in a way science cannot examine or understand”

    That seems pretty close to the way they treat religion.

  17. How much of a skepticon can be about med quackery? Or UFO’s over New York? Isn’t the answer: As much as necessary and relevant and interesting

  18. Since you asked how much *can* be about religion, I’m answering All of it.

    If you’re going to ask how much *should* be about religion… I’d say as much as people want and respond – whatever draws the most skeptics and is interesting.

  19. *’and respond to’ is what I meant to type.

    (apologies for the double post)

  20. Religion is on of the biggest problems in the worlds, does nothing but divides.

  21. I know! I know! Maybe if we debunk homeopathy again they’ll stop believing it!

    Actually, I just realized how pointless “let’s have one half of the choir sing to the other half” conventions are. Maybe skip the skepticism entirely and just get drunk and complain about how stupid everyone is.

  22. Hey, I’ve got a better one for you:

    “Should an in-group’s poll be allowed to exist if it deliberately tries to maneuver out-groups into unwittingly advocating censorship?”

    O — I believe in Santa Clause.
    O — I believe in the Easter Bunny.
    O — I believe in the Tooth Fairy.
    O — No in-group would ever be so dishonest.

    Please place your votes in the “Straw Man” file and leave it on my desk.

    • Are you claiming this poll “deliberately tries to maneuver out-groups into unwittingly advocating censorship?”

      How is that? This is a private organization. If everyone the question were “How much of a so-called skeptic convention can be about ballet?” then do you think answering “none” would make you a censor? That’s silly.

  23. What’s the difference between Buddhism and exorcism of spirits? Scientology and homeopathy? Where is the cutoff between religion and woo? Seems to me like there is none.

  24. It can not be 100%!!!! That would leave no room for drinking, partying, and squeeing.

    And FOOD!

  25. Better question: how much of a skeptic convention will ever be about atheism?

    a) zero percent
    b) 0 percent
    c) 0%
    d) none

    • I’m a little older and unfortunately they didn’t used to touch religion at skeptic conventions in the past. Thankfully that has changed. If you believe in talking snakes I don’t think you can truly call yourself a skeptic.

      • No True Skeptic. Gotcha. Do you like sugar on your porridge?

      • If you believe in talking snakes and demons then why do you even want to be called a skeptic?

        I don’t think you understand what “No true Scotsman” is all about either. I think not being skeptical about talking snakes counts as evidence of not being a skeptic.

      • And not putting sugar on your porridge is evidence of not being a True Scotsman.

    • I’m skeptical about atheism. Does that count towards being classified as a skeptic?

  26. Can you do another poll please:

    - I’m not skeptical and not an atheist

    - I’m skeptical and atheist

    - I’m not skeptical and an atheist

    - I’m skeptical and not an atheist

    Agnostics and Deists can lump themselves into either “atheist” or “not atheist” categories as they like; this is not meant to be an exhaustive breakdown of beliefs, more a quick feel for how tightly skepticism correlates with atheism.

    • Yes, I imagine an internet poll would give a very accurate result, I’ll get right on it.

    • Here you go, your very own poll to do with as you like!

      http://poll.fm/2gfp5

      • Thanks, with only 34 votes so far we’ve got 88% both, only 1 vote skeptical and not atheist.

        Ignoring the silly meat popsicle option it’s actually 97% of voters are both … which is somewhat more pronounced than I would have expected.

      • Nick,

        Why would you think it less pronounced? I’m hard pressed to understand how someone could call themselves a modern skeptic and believe in the fantasies in the Bible, Qur’an or any other ancient text.

        Some people might need to flip a coin also because your poll did not allow for the Einsteinian type skeptic. Was he an atheist or not? Certainly an atheist about certain religions but then everyone would count as an atheist.

        You need other answers. I was hard pressed to be a meat puppet but finally choose atheist. I am an atheist about notions of personal, or anthropomorphic gods. I’m not sure how I feel about Einsteinian notions of gods.

        I am forced to believe in “The Logos,” in the sense that it seems reality and existence is dependent on obeying some unknown (an possibly incomprehensible) logical restrictions. Is that “theistic”? I don’t know, perhaps, but I don’t like to think so because it becomes confused with childish sky daddy notions.

      • “silly meat popsicle option”
        Hey, I would beg some respect for my beliefs and choices.

        And by the way, point is it is a useless poll, as Ashley’s is and she is not going to pretend that, wathever the result is, it is an accurate representation about skeptic’s opinion

      • As the inspiration for that “silly meat popsicle” question, I am offended by your derisive attitude toward my deeply-held belief that I am, in fact, a meat popsicle. Unfortunately I suggested the option after already voting, so I didn’t get the opportunity to register said belief.

      • Turbofool,

        I thought the Jolly Green Giant was a vegetable Popsicle, or at least sold them.

      • Brian Macker: “Why would you think it less pronounced?”

        Simply because of the high proportion of believers in the general population. My hypothesis was: as religious people move toward skepticism they will be unlikely to give up their faith, at least initially, and so more likely to be skeptical about topics other than religion. The poll results seem to refute this (ignoring the obvious problems with internet polls) and show a very strong correlation between skepticism and atheism.

        As for understanding how someone could call themselves a modern skeptic and still believe the biblical nonsense, you’ll have to ask Pamela Gay that, cause it’s a mystery to me too.

        Regarding the Einsteinian type skeptic … that’s a Deist, and I said Deists could answer however they like. I didn’t want more answers, I wanted people to commit themselves: either you believe in some religious-type woo or you don’t. Same deal for skepticism – either you’re a skeptic or you aren’t.

        If you might be a Deist and you are a skeptic, I suggest you should think more skeptically about your feelings. There is absolutely no evidence for deism (nor can there be) and it behooves not a skeptic to adopt such a baseless proposition.

        To Francesc and TurboFool … grow a thicker hide. Your meat popsicle religion gets no free pass from criticism. Although I hope you’ll understand that I won’t spend much time on it compared to the effort I will spend criticising the evil Jehovah.

        To Francesc … nobody suggested that the poll would be an accurate representation of anything.

  27. Honestly, I did vote for the second-to-last, only because I tend to think if the topic becomes EXCLUSIVELY one category then it seems silly to label it as a broader topic than that. Purely a technical view from a point of logic without injecting personal beliefs into the situation. Luckily from what I understand the event in question fits my criteria already, so I win! (“Tell him what he’s won!” “A date with me!”)

    I do love the poll, though, in all its [purposefully] senseless glory. It just takes all the noise on the topic from an incomprehensible mess of opinions with no hope of anyone finding a real answer from mostly several loud people repeating their opinions in a bunch of places and appearing to be a much larger group of opinions and distills it into a neat little poll which represents exactly the same pointless noise in a neatly digestible form. Where was this for DBAD when we needed it?

    • Here, we can solve DBAD as well: http://poll.fm/2gfos

    • “then it seems silly to label it as a broader topic than that.”

      But it wasn’t labeled a broader topic. It was labeled “Confrontation vs. accommodation” Oh and last year it was properly labeled “Atheism vs. Christianity Debate”

      Why is everyone getting confused on this? Didn’t you bother to check the titles?

      • I was unaware of the subtitle. So while I already didn’t disagree with the makeup of the convention based on what I’ve heard, I now disagree with it even less, if that’s possible.

      • Turbofool,

        I got no problem with that. Just though you were arguing a moot point.

      • Also, keep in mind that it didn’t fit my description of what needed a label anyway. My opinion was that if it was EXCLUSIVELY one topic it warranted a different title. This wasn’t, so didn’t, but got one anyway, so double win.

  28. I just realised that I voted wrong :(

    I said “All of it, why not”, but I forgot about the drinking and eating and partying and the display and inspection of cephalopodian and science geek paraphernalia.

    Oops. Now the poll is invalid. Oh wait, I can vote twice. That will fix it!

  29. Skepticon shouldn’t be about offending people. Anything that offends people with deeply-held convictions should be off-limits. There are plenty of other topics to discuss. Why go out of your way to offend Christians (including Fundamentalist Baptists), or Moslems, or Scientologists, or Raelians, or people who deeply believe in such things as naturopathy, herbalism, or homeopathy. Why?

    • You’re absolutely right. UFO believers, Cultists, Bigfoot searchers, ghost hunters, acupuncturists, chiropractors, moon landing denialists, Reiki practitioners, world class athletes who use balance bands, Mona Vie sales reps, David Icke, and many more people have very deeply-held convictions that we should respect and steer clear of. Next year Skepticon should discuss only the issues that nobody will be offended by, such as:

      Puppies – Cute, or VERY cute?
      Rocks – Are they REALLY that hard?
      Ottomans – They don’t ACTUALLY jump in front of your big toe in the dark.
      Cream cheese – Not as deadly as some might have you believe. Unless you’re extremely lactose intolerant.
      Cornbread – Not actually a bread.
      The sock monster – fact or fiction?

      I know I’m booking my hotel reservations now!

      • OMG, I love you!
        * Puppies – Cute, or VERY cute?
        * F-ing Magnets, How Do They Work?

      • That’s just silly. There can’t be a convention where a topic is about how magnets work because NOBODY knows how they work. Duh.

      • Can’t stand puppies myself.

        Not enough meat on them.

      • I have a deeply held conviction I’ve had moments of perfect long-distance telepathy. I had a daydream that was an exact match of a friend’s dream she was dreaming during a nap that, allowing for time difference, would be approximately simultaneous with my daydream. It was a weird thing, and I verified it with her on the phone with nothing more leading than, “Were you thinking of me this afternoon?” My husband saw and heard me react to this daydream, and my friend described the exact sequence of events.

        HOWEVER– I would be highly disappointed if a group of skeptics didn’t suggest I was lying or deluded. They aren’t supposed to take a stranger’s word for strange events. Yet I also consider it offensive to be accused of lying.

        The difference seems to be that I would expect my beliefs, and the basis for them, to be challenged, and you, otoh, are too much of a special little snowflake to handle skeptics acting skeptical.

      • “Cornbread – Not actually a bread.”

        BLASPHEMY!!!! Not only is cornbread bread (it even says so in its name), it is the only TRUE BREAD.

      • Listen to the wisdom of BlackCat! Not only is cornbread an actual bread it is the only bread known suitable for producing stuffing for the turkey.

      • It appears that even my list of issues that nobody could be offended by has managed to inadvertently include a topic that holds great personal meaning to some. As such, it has been stricken from the topic list from my skeptical convention and will be replaced with the following:

        Chewing gum – Doesn’t actually stay in your digestive system for 7 years.

      • I’m also offended by the suggestion that the sock monster isn’t real. First off it isn’t a sock, and second, yes it’s real. Ask my wife.

    • Reformed latter day unitarian corn bread of the sacred 9th dough is the one true bread you infidels !

  30. Problem here. I think the poll is broke. I voted None four times and it still says 53 votes.

  31. When the dong explodes in your mouth, that’s when you know you’re done! Then you can brush your teeth and go to bed.

  32. Next Poll: “Do you have a sense of humour?”

  33. As long as Scepticon addresses superstition it really doesn’t matter wether it is stupid religious or just plain stupid superstition, right?

    But frankly – how big an influence can we honestly say that UFO sightings have on people’s everyday life, either positively or negatively? Religious superstition on the other hand – may result in a nuclear mayhem simply because some nutjobs are convinced that killing several million infidels will grant them a special place in Paradise. Conferences should address important questions, an right now religious superstition is a major concern for our future existence here on our fabulous planet. UFOs are simply not that important, neither is water dowsing, aura photography, spiritual healing or whatever …

  34. I voted for “all of it, why not?”, but I do think if it is all of it, that the convention should be promoted in a way that makes its specialization clear. Otherwise it would be like going to a science fiction convention and finding out it’s 100% Trek, when you were all excited about Babylon 5. Or going to a progressive politics convention and it is all about feminism, when you were really hoping to attend panels on race issues.

    • You mean like putting it in the title? Something like “Skepticon: Confrontation vs. accommodation”, maybe?

      And of course, it needs to be in the title. We wouldn’t want anyone’s beliefs challenged at a skeptics conference, would we?

  35. I voted 50%. There is too much irrational thought (or, rather, lack of it) on matters more important than religion.

  36. It’s like the vegan who claims to be 100% vegan except for pork products.
    The skeptic should be willing to doubt ANYTHING at any time. Since theistic ideas are founded on some level of credulity, it’s the perfect place to begin and sometimes to establish an understanding of skepticism.
    Anyone claiming to be a skeptic holding beliefs should understand their beliefs to be a provisional level of understanding and awareness that best represents the preponderance and convergence of evidence from their particular perspective.

  37. I draw the line at critical thinking about leprecahuns. There definitely should be no skeptical conventions about them.

    I’m sick of those a-leprechaunists co-opting the skeptical movement for their own self-serving agenda.

    And besides it would be wise not to piss off the leprecaunists amongst us.

  38. This is such a … weird topic. Skepticism can apply to anything no? How does it really matter what skepticism is applied to in this years conference circuit? And C’mon, 20% of the speaks were directly on religion, if we apply that as a rule, I’m betting there are a looot of conventions that now have to change name now since they have a MASSIVE concentration of A WHOLE FIFTH on a single subject. And I mean, religion is a HUGE subject to approach from a sceptic standpoint. There is the supernatural beliefs, then there are all the questions about why, what is the result, what does it lead to etc. And a TON of different religions. Compared to say, bigfoot, religion should damn well take up 20% of a scepticism conference, if not more.

  39. This is scary: “Should an in-group’s poll be allowed to exist ”

    If the answer is no (according to the poll) we would need to create a race of robots capable of enforcing the results.

  40. And only 1 part per trillion of Skepticon should be about homeopathy.

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