This blog is about science and skepticism because I love to talk about these topics.
I find the sciences to be endlessly fascinating and I have dedicated a sizable chunk of my life to academically studying their history and philosophy (if you were wondering, I have an MA in history). The topics I enjoy researching the most are: the history of the Scientific Revolution, Galileo's life and ideas, instrumentalism, consilience, and teleology. Aside from my historical and philosophical interests in science, I find classical mechanics to be endlessly enchanting. This led me to take a couple of physics and calculus classes so that I could understand my history better and snowballed into me (as of now) attempting to attain a degree in mechanical engineering.
While I did not get into skepticism (science-based critical thinking) until I was an undergrad in college, I find it to be absolutely necessary. This is because it helps us navigate through the baloney that saturates nearly every aspect of our lives. Some of this baloney simply wastes our time, but much of it can cause great personal and financial harm to us and our loved ones. This means that you and I need to spend at least some of our time learning about the fine art of baloney detection. To help you, I have dedicated a large chunk of this blog to pontificating what I have learned over the years.
What are you skeptical about?
I am skeptical about extraordinary claims that either have insufficient supporting evidence or go against our best understanding of the world. This is why I do not believe in astrology, homeopathy, Tarot, perpetual motion machines, haunted houses, anti-gravity spots, emotions in plants, auras, fung shui, creationism, 9/11 conspiracies, or the Loch Ness monster. It should be said, however, that I am entirely willing to change my mind if their is a dramatic shift in the direction that the preponderance of evidence points.
My dedication to evidence makes me different than those who do not accept evolution, the holocaust, global warming, or vaccinations. This is because these people will never accept these claims no matter what evidence you show them. Many scientific skeptics use the label "denialist" to separate out these people who reject claims that have sufficient supporting evidence. As you may have guessed, denial typically stems from preexisting commitments to a worldview that would be undermined or substantially challenged by the acceptance of one of these ideas.
Why do you post under the name Sagredo?
In Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Galileo discusses the heliocentric (the Sun-centered) and geocentric (the Earth-centered) models of the cosmos by having two fictional characters debate their strengths and weaknesses. While both of these men are passionate believers in their positions, there is also an onlooker who merely seeks to know the truth. Galileo named this truth-seeker after his dear friend, Giovanni Francesco Sagredo. Sagredo, who had died before the release of Galileo's book, was known for his wit and fairness.
While I may occasionally get my feathers ruffled, I hope that my postings on this blog embody Sagredo's virtue of fairness. Intellectual charity is something that is often non-existent in our discussions about reality and I hope to do my small part to bring it back. As the philosopher Dan Dennett once wrote in Free Inquiry that:
Anatol Rapoport… once promulgated a list of rules for how to write a successful critical commentary on an opponent’s work. First, he said, you must attempt to re-express your opponent’s position so clearly, vividly and fairly that your opponent says “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.” Then, you should list any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement), and third, you should mention anything you have learned from your opponent. Only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism. I have found this a salutary discipline to follow– or, since it is challenging, to attempt to follow. When it succeeds, the results are gratifying: your opponent is in a mood to be enlightened and eagerly attentive.