Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Geert Wilders interview on CNN about FITNA & freedom of speech

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 3, 2009

Rethinking Race In the Classroom

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: Newsweek]

The day my ninth-grade english teacher, Mr. Buzzell, assigned my class “To Kill a Mockingbird” still sticks in my mind, mainly because I remember being the only one in the room excited to tackle the Harper Lee classic. Unlike most of my classmates, I’d already read the book about a white lawyer representing a black man accused of rape during the Great Depression. I’d also seen the movie twice (my mother loved Gregory Peck). Mr. Buzzell was a British-born white teacher attempting to explain the complexities of racism and injustice at a mixed-race school in Augusta, Ga., so the class discussions were pretty lively.

Maybe it was because we were in the Deep South that most of my classmates weren’t much offended by Tom Robinson, the black field hand accused of raping a white woman. His slurred speech, substandard English and deference to the white people around him weren’t exactly foreign to many of us who knew elders who’d employed some of those same tactics in an effort to simply survive.

But that was more than 20 years ago, in the ’80s, when rap was just beginning on the streets of New York, Ronald Reagan was president and African-Americans were struggling to land significant positions within government. It is indeed a very different world today, a place where hip-hop dominates popular culture around the world and the president of the United States just happens to be an African-American man named Barack Obama.

In early January, just before Obama’s inauguration, John Foley, a white high-school teacher in Ridgefield, Wash., penned a guest editorial in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that suggested it was time to stop teaching books that readily use the “N word.” Stories that portray African-Americans as inarticulate and unintelligent souls in need of white America often offended both his black and white students. Foley identified “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Of Mice and Men” as three books that needed to be reconsidered immediately.

[Read the rest of this post at: Newsweek]

Curiosity and the “Shut Up, That’s Why” Argument

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: Greta Christina’s Blog]

Last week, I talked about the insidious assortment of “Shut up, that’s why” arguments that get made against atheists and atheism.

Today, I want to talk about where I think the “Shut up, that’s why” arguments come from.

There was a story on “This American Life” last week that hit me really strongly. It wasn’t about atheism, but I think it cuts to the heart of the “Shut up, that’s why” argument, so I’m going to sum it up here quickly, to show you what I’m talking about.

The story was about a family with a family legend. The grandfather of the family had been lost on a camping trip when he was a child, but was recovered eight months later, from (the legend said) the itinerant tinker who had kidnapped him. One of the granddaughters became intensely curious about this legend, and started doing research to find out more about the story — a story that had been widely reported in many newspapers, and which even had a folk song written about it.

[Read the rest of this post at: Greta Christina’s Blog]

Atheism and the “Shut Up, That’s Why” Arguments

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: Greta Christina’s Blog]

There’s something I’ve been noticing lately in theists’ arguments against atheists. When you start paying attention, you notice how many of them aren’t really arguments. And no, I’m not even talking about the “I feel it in my heart” or “‘Cause the Bible tells me so” non-arguments.

I’m talking about the “Shut up, that’s why” arguments. I’m talking about the arguments that are meant to stop the discussion entirely. I’m talking about the arguments whose main purpose is to try to get atheists to stop making their arguments.

[Read the rest of this post at: Greta Christina’s Blog]

Can people unlearn their naked shame?

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: BBC News]

Once we were all happy to walk around naked, now we’re not. But can an experiment in nudity help us understand why we are so embarrassed by being seen in the buff and help shed our inhibitions?

It’s a classic anxiety nightmare – you’re standing in front of a room full of work colleagues, your boss is there, maybe even that new colleague you’ve been trying to impress. And you’re stark naked. Ouch.

Why are we so ashamed of being seen naked? Is there something deep in human nature that finds naked skin abhorrent? Some prudishness inherited from our Victorian ancestors?

And how can you explain the rebels who shun convention to spend their weekends hanging out with similar-minded nudists, insisting nothing could be more normal?

Eight ordinary people – none of them nudists – were recently brought together for an experiment filmed by the BBC’s Horizon programme, to test some of the scientific theories that explain why naked bodies make us so uncomfortable.

[Read the rest of this post at: BBC News]

Darwin’s “One Special Difficulty”

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 3, 2009

[Originally posted at: Medical News Today]

Darwin identified eusocial evolution, especially of complex insect societies, as a particular challenge to his theory of natural selection.

A century later, Hamilton provided a framework for selection on inclusive fitness encapsulated in Hamilton’s Rule. Hamilton’s idea is robust and fertile, having generated multiple subdisciplines over the past 45 years.

His suggestion that eusociality can be explained via kin selection, however, remains contentious.

I review the continuing debate on the role of kin selection in eusocial evolution and suggest some lines of research that should resolve that debate.

[Read the rest of this post at: Medical News Today]