Is Democracy What people Think it is?

Hallo Skeptics,

Today’s post comes to you from a quote I read from Isaac Asimov recently which got me thinking about democracy. “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” This quote is an extremely well written way of saying what has been said for a long time by skeptics. When I saw it, it made me think about what democracy truly means. For obvious reasons, as pointed out by this quote, ignorance and knowledge are not equal in a good society.

A meme around in the religious/atheist interplay is the notion that in most cultures, the percentage of people who believe in god, and those who believe in creationism is extremely high. A study in the United States showed that 43% of Americans believe the earth was created in its current form less than 10 000 years ago. Apparently, to the religious, this points towards the truth of creationism. They say “Surely 43% of Americans can’t be wrong!”, as a good skeptic, you would immediately point this out as an argument from popularity, ad populi (latin makes you sound much smarter). No amount of belief makes something fact. The universe doesn’t care what people think, it just does what it does.

The view that many people have of democracy is that everybody has an equal say in the running of a country. However, as highlighted by Isaac Asimov’s quote,  this doesn’t seem like the right think to do. If 40% of the population believe in a talking snake, oh wait, they do, bad analogy, if 40% of  the population believe that the best thing to do in today’s evil society is flood it… Damn it, another bad analogy… if 40% of the population believes that toothpicks would be the best weapon for army soldiers, it is the job of the logical people in society to tell them that’s retarded.
A real democracy is not about having an equal say, it’s about having a fair say. And what is important about a fair say is open discussion and debate. It doesn’t matter what 40% of the population think, if they can’t defend what they think in a debate, then their fair say shouldn’t be as much of a say as those who are better at defending their position.

The ideal democracy is one with plenty of open debate and criticism of all views and opinions, and this is how society should be run.

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Science is the Only Way to Test Reality

Hello there skeptics,

Today I am going to be blogging about the wonderfulness of science, and how it is not some abstract way of looking at the universe (as the post-modernists will have you believe), it is actually a fundamental part of the universe, and is THE way to test reality.

Something my mother has told me for a long time since I came out of the closet about being a skeptic and an atheist, is “Science is not the only way of knowing things, there are plenty of other ways.” I’ve never asked her what these other ways might be, but should could be talking about either of two lists of ‘ways of finding out things’ :-
1. The ignorant list – she could be talking about things like logic, philosophy etc., in which she is just being ignorant and does not know that both logic and philosophy stem from science.
2. The post-modernist list – She really means what she says, and thinks the other ways of knowing are things like belief, spiritualism, mysticism etc., in which she is also being ignorant, because these things are either testable by science or not real.

I will start with a distinction, the fact that science is able to test anything is not just some blatant statement, its true. Anything which is real (reality), is testable by science. Now you may say, “Supernatural things are not testable by science”, this is a common misconception, supernatural things like ghosts and spirits are testable by science, but once they are testable by science they are not supernatural. A common misunderstanding is that there are things that science can test, there are supernatural things which cannot be tested, but are real, and there are things which don’t exist. This is wrong. Things are either real, (have some sort of measurable effect on the universe) or they are not real. Ghosts, for example, they could be real, and in which case, they are testable by science, or they could not be real, in which they are not testable by science. If something can be measured, (demon possessions, spirit hauntings, homeopathy, acupuncture etc.) then it is part of the real world and can be tested by science. There is no possibility of something having an effect on the universe around us (curing a patients cancer, making a possessed person’s head spin 360°, create the universe etc.), and not be testable by science.

That is because science is just measuring the world around us, in the purest and simplest form, and this is amazing to me, because it is the only discipline where you know that the same thing will be found over and over again. Think of the greatest three scientists of the last two centuries, Darwin, Tesla, Einstein. If these people were never to have existed, then somebody else would have made their discoveries instead. Somebody else, probably Wallace, would have published the theory of evolution, somebody else would have invented the Tesla coil (albeit with a different name) and AC electricity, and somebody else would have theorized special and general relativity. This is true because the outcomes of science are based on reality.

Science by definition, is the measuring and describing of the world around us, and it is the one and only way to find out things about the reality of the world we live in. I will eave you with a quote from

Why don’t people like evolution?

Hello to my skeptical follows in the world,

Over the years I have seen that those who do not like evolution have decided to not like evolution, and then find some facts to try to back it up (not saying that is their thought process, but it seems that way sometimes). A lot of people just have a generally negative attitude to the whole idea of evolution, and it really does get on my nerves. It also depends on the context of the situation, and this has been shown by many scientific surveys on people’s beliefs about evolution, but I will get to that topic on another blog post.

Some people do not like the whole concept of evolution for the plain fact that it is incomprehensible. Some people are unable to understand the gargantuan amount of time that evolution takes, nor can they understand how things can change so much in that time, because they cannot understand it. They don’t get how much change occurs, they don’t get how much time it takes, they don’t get how long 3.9 billion years actually is, they don’t get any of it.

As I mentioned before, the context is very important. When Somebody is sitting at home in their armchair, watching the fireplace with a glass of red wine, they have their own beliefs and world view that they will vow to stick to, but almost never will when in a challenging social situation. The human brain is very malleable in its thoughts, and because of emotions and mood, somebody’s thoughts can be altered quite a considerable amount when they are posed a question a specific way or by a certain person. When in a discussion about science and advancements in technology, most people will show a belief in evolution if asked about it, but if they are asked what they feel about evolution in a theological discussion where choosing evolution is ‘to go against god’, most will show a disinterest in evolution.

Many people also hear the words evolution and just roll their eyes and don’t bother to look at it any more because it is just complex science and they will never be able to understand it. This is the approach most of my family seems to take when dealing with any science which may go against Christianity, (whether intentionally to get out of a religious discussion or not) and it gets on my nerve sometimes. It usually goes a little like “Oh, well, this is all to complicated for me, I should have a crash  course on evolution or quantum mechanics before you talk to me about that stuff. I get this one more than the others, but I have dealt with the first two, and they seem to be posed by those with stronger attitudes against evolution.

I will leave you with a quote from Will Provine, ” As the creationists claim, belief in modern evolution makes atheists of people.  One can have a religious view that is compatible with evolution only if the religious view is indistinguishable from atheism.” , an atheist and science historian of some note.