Life as a skeptic is summed up in this parody documentary
This parody documentary skewers both the skeptic and the superstitious, and accurately shows what issues skeptics face.
- A video from QED 2018 has made the rounds on the internet, poking fun at skeptics and the credulous alike.
- It features a nearly perfect impression of Sir David Attenborough, jabs at peddlers of pseudoscience, and sharp British humor.
- The clip reminds us that while it can be difficult to be a skeptic in a superstitious world we must take a moment to laugh at these difficulties.
Living as a skeptic in a superstitious world can be difficult. Luckily, the brilliant minds at QED 2018, a conference for skeptics, created the five-minute masterpiece The Migration of the Skeptic to give us a laugh and a good look at some of the issues facing people who look at the world without superstitious mindsets. It even has voice actor Adam Diggle doing a spot-on impression of Sir David Attenborough's narration style.
Did you catch that?
The "bell ends" shown at the start of the video include Dr. Oz, who is so fond of pseudoscience that he won the Pigasus Award for pseudoscience three times. Despite having a fine record as a surgeon, he likes to promote unscientific health practices, such as miracle cures involving coffee beans and reiki, all the while acting like a single scientific truth cannot be found.
Jordan Peterson and your sister's aura
Photo: 'Migration of the Skeptic' (2018)
One of the things that the mixed-faith couple decides they agree on is if "Jordan Peterson is a bit of a dick." Peterson, who has been interviewed by Big Think, is controversial for some of his views, such as asserting that women on the pill are "a new biological entity" or that it is hypocrisy to wear makeup and not want to be catcalled. He also isn't above pseudoscience himself with his strange understanding of DNA, archaeology, or how people can quit smoking without being religious.
Both Jordan Peterson and Dr. Oz are very popular, but earn the ire of skeptics the world over for their statements. The chance to get a jab in at them couldn't be passed up.
The magnets holding up the list the mixed-faith couple made feature both famous writer and religious skeptic Christopher Hitchens next to Will Smith as the romcom movie character Hitch, showing how very differently skeptics can interpret even a five letter word from the typical person.
Being a skeptic in a superstitious world
The video, jokingly, brings up some of the various issues that skeptics can face in everyday life. Most Americans don't trust people who are skeptical about the existence of God and wouldn't vote for them. Mixed faith couples and couples where one partner is a skeptic are increasingly common, presenting new challenges for everybody.
Showing that some people can still make fun of themselves, the video also points out how insufferable some skeptics can be as a result of having to deal with these things. It shows, accurately, how despite the existence of organizations for skeptics and those who take a scientific view of the world, most people who would be interested in them don't bother to participate. This is a shame since such organizations can provide the community and social capital that religious organizations offer others.
By means of a funny video, the people at QED remind us that the world and the people in it aren't quite as rational as we often think and that it can be challenging to live in it with a dedication to skepticism, rational inquiry, and an unending desire to tell other people they're wrong. It might never become the sort of viral video that encourages people to re-evaluate how they see the world, but it is good for a laugh and a reminder not to take your rationalism too seriously.
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What can 3D printing do for medicine? The "sky is the limit," says Northwell Health researcher Dr. Todd Goldstein.
- Medical professionals are currently using 3D printers to create prosthetics and patient-specific organ models that doctors can use to prepare for surgery.
- Eventually, scientists hope to print patient-specific organs that can be transplanted safely into the human body.
- Northwell Health, New York State's largest health care provider, is pioneering 3D printing in medicine in three key ways.
Can dirt help us fight off stress? Groundbreaking new research shows how.
- New research identifies a bacterium that helps block anxiety.
- Scientists say this can lead to drugs for first responders and soldiers, preventing PTSD and other mental issues.
- The finding builds on the hygiene hypothesis, first proposed in 1989.
Are modern societies trying too hard to be clean, at the detriment to public health? Scientists discovered that a microorganism living in dirt can actually be good for us, potentially helping the body to fight off stress. Harnessing its powers can lead to a "stress vaccine".
Researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder found that the fatty 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid from the soil-residing bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae aids immune cells in blocking pathways that increase inflammation and the ability to combat stress.
The study's senior author and Integrative Physiology Professor Christopher Lowry described this fat as "one of the main ingredients" in the "special sauce" that causes the beneficial effects of the bacterium.
The finding goes hand in hand with the "hygiene hypothesis," initially proposed in 1989 by the British scientist David Strachan. He maintained that our generally sterile modern world prevents children from being exposed to certain microorganisms, resulting in compromised immune systems and greater incidences of asthma and allergies.
Contemporary research fine-tuned the hypothesis, finding that not interacting with so-called "old friends" or helpful microbes in the soil and the environment, rather than the ones that cause illnesses, is what's detrimental. In particular, our mental health could be at stake.
"The idea is that as humans have moved away from farms and an agricultural or hunter-gatherer existence into cities, we have lost contact with organisms that served to regulate our immune system and suppress inappropriate inflammation," explained Lowry. "That has put us at higher risk for inflammatory disease and stress-related psychiatric disorders."
University of Colorado Boulder
This is not the first study on the subject from Lowry, who published previous work showing the connection between being exposed to healthy bacteria and mental health. He found that being raised with animals and dust in a rural environment helps children develop more stress-proof immune systems. Such kids were also likely to be less at risk for mental illnesses than people living in the city without pets.
Lowry's other work also pointed out that the soil-based bacterium Mycobacterium vaccae acts like an antidepressant when injected into rodents. It alters their behavior and has lasting anti-inflammatory effects on the brain, according to the press release from the University of Colorado Boulder. Prolonged inflammation can lead to such stress-related disorders as PTSD.
The new study from Lowry and his team identified why that worked by pinpointing the specific fatty acid responsible. They showed that when the 10(Z)-hexadecenoic acid gets into cells, it works like a lock, attaching itself to the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor (PPAR). This allows it to block a number of key pathways responsible for inflammation. Pre-treating the cells with the acid (or lipid) made them withstand inflammation better.
Lowry thinks this understanding can lead to creating a "stress vaccine" that can be given to people in high-stress jobs, like first responders or soldiers. The vaccine can prevent the psychological effects of stress.
What's more, this friendly bacterium is not the only potentially helpful organism we can find in soil.
"This is just one strain of one species of one type of bacterium that is found in the soil but there are millions of other strains in soils," said Lowry. "We are just beginning to see the tip of the iceberg in terms of identifying the mechanisms through which they have evolved to keep us healthy. It should inspire awe in all of us."
Check out the study published in the journal Psychopharmacology.
We were gaining three IQ points per decade for many, many years. Now, that's going backward. Could this explain some of our choices lately?
There's a new study out of Norway that indicates our—well, technically, their—IQs are shrinking, to the tune of about seven IQ points per generation.
An ordained Lama in a Tibetan Buddhist lineage, Lama Rod grew up a queer, black male within the black Christian church in the American south. Navigating all of these intersecting, evolving identities has led him to a life's work based on compassion for self and others.
- "What I'm interested in is deep, systematic change. What I understand now is that real change doesn't happen until change on the inside begins to happen."
- "Masculinity is not inherently toxic. Patriarchy is toxic. We have to let that energy go so we can stop forcing other people to do emotional labor for us."
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