I regularly have a problem when trying to fix problems with physical objects that do mechanically things[1]. In attempting to solve the problem, I learn that the problem I thought was the problem is not the problem and discover what the actual the problem is. Not that I then necessarily have any idea how to solve the new the problem, but at least I know what the problem is now.

Its like an episode of House, without the erroneous suggestion that it might be lupus[2].

Or, maybe its like Atheism[3].

One of Atheism’s major problems is that not enough girls are showing up to their parties. Recently, there was a great deal of attention focused on the issue of sexism in Atheism after a dust-up erupted around the reporting of events during a predominantly male “women in atheism” panel. Briefly, a female audience member took vocal issue with some of the panel’s statements and left in some distress feeling that the panel’s responses to her concerns were condescending and mocking.

I’m not sure there is much to learn from this event. There is a lot to learn from the response.

Continue reading “Community”

Skeptically Speaking Interview

If reading my ramblings is not enough rugbyologist for you, you can listen to me ramble melodiously as I attempt to explain my first ever blog post,“Why People Believe Silly Things”, in a interview with Desiree Schell for the “Speaking Up” segment of Skeptically Speaking Friday, 27 August 2010 at 6PM (MDT). For those of you not lucky enough to live within the broadcast radius of 88.5FM CJSR in Edmonton, Alberta, you can listen to the pre-recorded interview live-ish on the Skeptically Speaking UStream feed or download the podcast come Monday.

Why People Believe Silly Things

In a paper in Science from October 2008, Jennifer Whitson and Adam Galinsky report that placing people in situations where they lack control increases the false perception of patterns because of a need to impose structure on even random events.

This study is very interesting because it helps us understand why we develop superstitions and the like, which are based on false pattern recognition. It does not, however, speculate on why some of those superstitions take hold and last (e.g., buildings without thirteenth floors) and some do not (e.g., my efforts to get my tee ball team to wear pink socks after a 3-4, 4RBI game and a laundry accident).

I, however, am not above some wild speculation. The defense of superstitions, quack medical treatments, etc. frequently goes like this: A medical treatment works or it does not work. If it works, people who use the treatment are more likely to live, people who don’t are more likely to die and the treatment keeps getting used. If it does not work, people who use the treatment are more likely to die, people who don’t are more likely to live and the treatment stops getting used. That makes intuitive sense. It sounds a lot like selection, and we like selection. Continue reading “Why People Believe Silly Things”

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