Skepticism is not a position; it's a process.
Dr. Michael Shermer, Founding Publisher of Skeptic
The problem of blind beliefPsychics deceive believers. (Sifry/Flickr)
On November 15, 2013, ABC News reported
on Stephanie Thomson, a 23 year old psychic from Florida who was arrested for lifting $115,000
from another woman.
The psychic convinced the female victim that Thomson needed to cleanse her money of a curse.
Deceivers like Thompson depend upon uncritical believers
, who seem to exercise no rational thought before giving up a fortune to a stranger. Such crimes happen frequently if you monitor the news, and the victims lack the skepticism that would detect the absolute nonsense of curses, spiritual conversations, and the like.
Such uncritical believing is prevalent in our culture, and sometimes journalistic bloggers fall into the same trap, following a story on the internet or a post idea that has no foundation in logic or reason.
I consider myself an objective blogger. I mean that, while I share personal experiences, I ground my articles in solid research, reason, and skepticism. I am a skeptic.
Some people consider skeptic to mean that one simply doesn't believe in anything or disbelieves everything. However, "believers" just twist the definition in order to dismiss skeptics. But, skeptics are essential in life and journalistic blogging.
Bloggers who consider themselves journalists must assume a mantel of skepticism
to maintain integrity and objectivity. Some writing will always be skewed by opinion, but a spectrum exists between total subjectivity and objectivity. Journalists should tend towards the objective end of that spectrum.
Not all bloggers must be skeptics, but those that write in a journalistic style need skepticism to provide a check on their subjective opinion. If not, people are swayed and manipulated by persuasive language to believe errors, just like the woman in Florida stripped of her money. Skepticism and the scientific method aim to determine validity and eradicate error.
Guest Post: Adam Prattler
The battle is yet to be decided
Facebook still ahead in users. Photo: Sean MacEntee/Flickr
Facebook says they have 1.11 billion users
, but some question this number due to the fact Facebook doesn't completely delete accounts and has a problem with spammers and automated programs signing up for accounts.
Still, Facebook have far more members than Google+ at 500 million.
The following compares the two giants head to head, examining positive and negative qualities of each.
Who benefits from a blogging website?
You do. Whoever you are you will benefit from blogging, but you must locate your reasons for blogging or you will fail. Most of you seek out blogging as a forum for expression, and this is the ideal, but not only motivation.
Everyone can benefit, but what I speak of here is how you can maximize the gains from a difficult enterprise. Yes, writing is challenging work because it engages the brain on multiple levels. But, this is also the reason why blogging can be so rewarding.
The literal answer is that people from all fields, interests, and hobbies, and they are successful. Human beings have an insatiable lust for knowledge in areas that interest them, and if you are interested, I can guarantee that others are too.
You have an audience waiting for you to write something brilliant especially designed for them. People blog on everything from sex to residential construction, and they have followings.
The difference between extroverts and introvertsPeople tend to believe that introverts and extroverts are opposites.
Maybe you are a shy person and are not sure if blogging is for you. Or, perhaps you just feel insecure in your blogging. In either case, this article is to empower you with reality and to dispel fear with facts.
When I was in high school, I took on the challenge of memorizing and reciting a passage from Shakespeare's Hamlet
in order to bump up my English grade. I was introverted, and I stood up in front of those 25 classmates, and froze.
A sentence into it, and I was lost. "I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth ..." I turned red, started sweating, and the teacher showed me no sympathy, not even throwing me a line. I knew that I was introverted, and I let it become a disability. As humans, we tend to think of things as either/or.
Either black or white, good or bad, hot or cold. We call these binaries, and they are almost never true opposites. Reality shows us that, between the colors black and white, there are infinite shades of gray. True binaries are rare, and computer programming is one of the few endeavors that finds them useful. So, if you are thinking you are an introvert, you are probably wrong.
You may be more introverted than some people, but you are not completely locked up inside your personal shell. The reality is that between introvert and extrovert there are infinite shades of sociality, and you lie somewhere in between the two. We also tend to place binary pairs in hierarchies.
For example, warm is better than cold, or sweet is better than sour. Reality shows that these hierarchies are inaccurate as well. So, extrovert is not better than introvert, just as black is not better than white.
Life is not so simple, but our brains categorize things this way to make decisions quickly. When we have time to sit down and think, we realize the complexity of life and the inaccuracy of simplicity.
I tend to be introverted and shy, as I was in high school, and I have even been diagnosed with Social Anxiety Disorder. However, this does not hold me back from writing. In fact, in many ways, this quality empowers my written words. John Green
has said that writing is an occupation for introverts:
“Writing is something you do alone. Its a profession for introverts who want to tell you a story but don't want to make eye contact while doing it.”
The reality of introversion and extroversion
I have found that the reality of introversion and extroversion is that they are not true binaries, and they are not hierarchical. One is not better than the other, and few people are totally introverted or extroverted. Most of us lie somewhere in between.
Since they are not binary opposites, if you are an introvert, blogging might just be your vehicle for self-expression. You are free to communicate whatever you like, without the burden of presenting it face to face, in front of people. The reality is that you have tremendous skills and assets
as an introvert that benefit your writing.
Hard to be found in the jungle of the web.
The deep rainforest jungle of the web
With the hyper-social nature of (we)blogging,
a truly unique social age has arrived, where all members of the community can participate in creating, changing, and recording history. Instead of obscure events long past, history has become yesterday’s blog social posts. We capture history in social media as we live it, and like a rainforest, our culture is thick with life.
When you think of a rainforest, abundant life and variety defines it. The tallest trees provide a canopy for other plants and organisms, the tree tops even buzzing with life. In the social ecosystem, (we)blogs are the gigantic trees of content that support the world below them, growing taller and larger because of the rich fresh content they provide. Bloggers also make up the thick lower levels of the forest.
This connection came to me as I reflected on a journey I traveled. I was 20 when I spent a year working in the Dominican Republic. You know, the country that shares a border with Haiti. On that tiny island, the ecosystems are diverse, desert to rainforest.
I remember well the first time I entered the jungle. It was disorienting at first, with the trees, mosses, plants, and creatures. There seemed to be no system, but random and unimportant plant life.
The quantity of life overwhelmed me, but I noticed a beauty in the chaos. I felt the words of Anton Chekhov:
A tree is beautiful, but what’s more, it has a right to life; like water, the sun and the stars, it is essential. Life on earth is inconceivable without trees. Forests create climate, climate influences peoples’ character, and so on and so forth. There can be neither civilization nor happiness if forests crash down under the axe, if the climate is harsh and severe, if people are also harsh and severe. ... What a terrible future!
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov
Isolation versus collaborationWe blog: The ultimate social network
Think of you and me right now separated by time and space, each individual thinking and working. If we had no electronic technology, we would be isolated and lack the ability to collaborate and communicate.
You have talents and knowledge that I don't possess. I have studied about literature, writing, and science, and more than likely you have ideas about these topics as well. If we were to collaborate, knowledge creation would increase exponentially because we could communicate ideas with one another. We would help each other.
Communication is essential to knowledge creation because two minds actively engaged are better than one acting independently. This is a generalization, but in most cases it stands true. Consider Columbus in 1492. If he were by himself with no crew or help, he would not have made the exploration that he is now famous for. A journey to a new land required collaboration, communication, and teamwork.
Humans are social creatures, and we function best when we work together. Not coincidentally, the tools we create work better when used in combination with other tools and workers. Computers are a prime example of the power that comes through collaboration.
Until the World Wide Web, computers stood in isolation, islands unto themselves, and while they had great computational power, the inability to communicate with one another hampered progress. Computer to computer communication revolutionized the way both people and technology do their work, enabling terrific advances because of the ability to collaborate.
Writing out your guts
You have felt this, the fear of exposing too much of yourself.
I panicked the first time I clicked the publish button. I knew that few people would read my words, but publishing requires bravery. Putting your words out to the public eyes is frightening.
Blogging on the edge embraces that fear and uses it to gain confidence and overcome obstacles. I first realized this when I wrote of my mother's death from breast cancer
, 16 years after the fact. Through those years I wrestled with demons that I could not exorcise, after more than a decade.
I possessed painful experiences that were so close to where I bleed that I could not speak of them. Emotions ate at me through the years of silence - anger, terror, horror, and heart break.
I decided to write it out, to see what happened. I relived torturous memories that I had spoken of to no one, and I prepared to publish my tears for the world to see. Clicking the publish button on that story is one of the most terrifying things I have forced myself to do.
Quest for a blogging community that does not suck.
Blogging is reaching for a community.
I began blogging over a year ago at ZipMinis.com, and the loneliness I felt writing stunned me. Especially in the beginning, I felt alone on a blank page. And, even once published, a hollow lingered. The reason is that the act of writing is a solitary business. Where are my readers and how will I find them?
It doesn't have to be, but for me and many others it is. I feel most lonely when writing the first draft at the keyboard, the reader not present yet, only a ghost, a wisp of air. I am filled with doubt as I punch out each word, and behind that doubt is the question: Will they like me?
This is a profound question for a writer who puts his soul to the public. If readers don't like what I write, then they don't like me because my words are all they know. I find the process like trying to make friends with people you can't see, touch, or hear. I am lonely as I write this entry. Lonely and anxious.
A blogging community should ground a blogger in rich friendship, discussion, and exposure, but most networks plaster Google, affiliate ads, and get rich quick schemes all over their sites. This indicates their value system. They feed on our loneliness and desire to succeed because they know we are vulnerable, and the vulnerable and money are easily parted. They are scams and pyramid schemes to take the money of bloggers. They care not for the individual.
Realistically, they have to make money, but there are many ways of doing so, and BlogCatalog has found a way to elevate bloggers on a pedestal and facilitate friendships. They tell Google and other mooch affiliates to screw themselves, and they are determined to make a community for bloggers. The VIB membership is the key to its success, and I'll let the video tell the rest of my story. Click "Read More" to watch my take on blogging communities.
David Foster Wallace, uncomfortable in front of the podium, unsettled in his own skin.
David Foster Wallace the genius
The really important kind of freedom involves attention and awareness and discipline, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. That is real freedom. That is being educated, and understanding how to think. The alternative is unconsciousness, the default setting, the rat race, the constant gnawing sense of having had, and lost, some infinite thing.
- This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life (2009)
If you are lucky, on occasions an author will touch you so deeply that you feel a personal connection. This happened with me when I learned that David Foster Wallace won (21 Feb. 1962-12 Sept. 2008)
won the MacCarthur Genius Grant, a year after writing his monstrously long novel Infinite Jest
in 1996. The 1,079 page novel represents his most famous achievement, but this book is not how I came to know this man,
with profound insights on existence and empathy.
When the Genius Grant was announced in 1997, I was suprised to hear that Wallace won the prize for literature because I hadn't heard of him.
This piqued my interest, and I researched him on the internet, finding that he was known for his quirky, self-conscious style and use of extended footnotes. His interests were diverse, like my own, extending from quantum physics to serious literature. I had to know this man.
I went to the public library in an attempt to pick the mind of this genius. My tiny library at Blackfoot, Idaho did not have Infinite Jest,
probably because it would have filled the library shelf space. But, the book I did find changed my thinking on life profoundly.
Wallace was fascinated by existence, and this led him to philosophy and mathematics. The book I found in my library possessed more philosophical weight than the Infinite Jest, as it probed the history and understanding of the concept of infinity. The book shook me to my foundation as I learned of the great conundrum in conceiving and dealing with infinity. There was so much complexity that, as a literature student, I had never considered.
The heritage of revolt
Thomas Paine the Revolutionary
Rage Against the Machine, recording artists embracing the guttural call for resistance to abuses.
Without Thomas Paine there would have been no revolution in the Colonies,
and it's possible we Americans would fly a British flag today. He was a rebel looking for a cause when he moved to the Colonies from England in 1774, just two years before the Declaration of Independence.
In those two years he was active fomenting dissent and hatred for Britain, writing the persuasive and bestselling pamphlets Common Sense
and The American Crisis
that swayed the opinion of Americans to favor revolution rather than withstand injustice
. The Founding Fathers recognized Paine's importance, and John Adams stated
, "Without the pen of the author of Common Sense
, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain." Words possess more persuasive power than weapons, and Paine's pamphlets lit a fire in the Colonies.
His quest for independence arose from noble intentions rather than a thirst for war. Thomas Paine
said, "If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace
." With an eye for peace and a sense of responsibility to future generations, he devoted himself to the cause.
Drawing on the intent of Paine, the Founding Fathers, and others, I write today to unsettle you, to breed discontent.
Bloggers and writers today bear the same master-slave relationship that so many people have labored under throughout the course of human evolution.
With our enlightenment and technology today, however, there is no reason for such slavery to persist. So, I call to writers, bloggers, and thinkers on the internet in the name Thomas Paine.
Bloggers currently have no collective voice, no power in finance, and yet they run the internet.
In making my call, I put my reputation as a blogger and writer at risk, but revolt is a burden that, once felt, is hard to shed.
My points here come from love and peace for present and future generations of bloggers across the world. I embrace Paine's vision:
The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
Paine was skeptical
of religious institutions, but claimed the world as his family and fought for justice.
I also draw power from contemporary sources such as the band Rage Against the Machine who, in resistance to governmental injustice and violence, scream of fighting manipulation and indoctrination in the song "Killing in the name of":
And now you do what they told ya, now you're under control ... Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me! Motherfucker! Uggh!
By this point you bloggers are wondering what the problem is, and that is where I am headed. I will point you toward the manipulation.