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‘Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation’- (my latest post for the JREF’s Swift Blog)

Tonight, as I started to ponder what to write about in my next post for the JREF‘s Swift Blog, I realized that I’d forgotten to share my previous Swift post here. It’s called “Idealism as Intrinsic Motivation“.

A brief excerpt:

However, although idealism is a powerful intrinsic motivator for educators and skeptical activists alike, it is not enough. If we wish to be successful in our attempts to inform, educate, persuade, and promote critical thinking and evidence-based decision making (inside or outside of the classroom) we first need to accept that our passionate idealism is only a start. Idealism is a valuable, admirable, and useful personality trait, one that indicates a principled refusal to succumb to the apathy and cynicism that pervades much of contemporary society. That being said, though, we must also acknowledge that while our idealism motivates us to inform, enlighten, and promote evidence-based decision making (in the classroom or otherwise), in order to turn motivation into action, we must be willing to be both idealists and pragmatists. Idealism alone doesn’t accomplish anything. Although this may not be something we often consider when analyzing our own contributions to skeptical activism, the professional educators and/or skeptical activists who we admire and respect the most are almost certainly the ones who acknowledge (through their words and/or their actions) that pragmatism, discipline, and hard work are just as important as idealism.

The rest of the post is available here.

Thanks for reading!


A caress leads us from our infancy


If pressed to answer questions like “What is love? What is lust? Is there a precise moment when they independently intertwine, or does one necessarily lead to the other?” I wouldn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t be able to fully articulate my answers to such questions. Words wouldn’t be and could never be enough.

So, instead of attempting to answer these questions, I’d just play this video for the inquisitor. I’d hope that they would understand. I’d want them to see what I do: that the answers to each of these questions can be found in these 3 minutes and 15 seconds of cinematic perfection from Jean-Luc Godard‘s Alphaville, a French dystopian science fiction film.

This is love. This is desire. This is the beautiful and terrifying moment when the two intertwine. This says it all in a way that words alone never could.

And this resonates with me right now, more than I can say, more than anyone knows, more than it ever has before:

Your voice, your eyes, your hands, your lips… Our silences, our words… Light that goes, light that returns. A single smile between us. In quest of knowledge, I watched night create day while we seemed unchanged. O beloved all, beloved of one alone, your mouth silently promised to be happy. Away, away says hate; Closer, closer says love. A caress leads us from our infancy. Increasingly I see the human form as a lovers’ dialogue. The heart has but one mouth. Everything by chance. All words without thought. Sentiments adrift. Men roam the city. A glance, a word. Because I love you, everything moves. We must advance to live. Aim straight ahead towards those you love. I went toward you, endlessly toward the light. If you smile, it enfolds me all the better. The rays of your arms pierce the mist.

Derrida Zombies! (Bob and Eve and I giving postmodernist nonsense a smackdown at TAM2012)

For your delectation: my favorite 1 minute and 25 seconds from the “Skepticism and the Humanities” panel at TAM2012.

In this clip, my lovely co-panelists (and friends) Eve and Bob and I give postmodernist nonsense a well-deserved smackdown and manage to be pretty damn hilarious in the process. Think of us as the brainy goofy lovechildren of a one night-stand that the Sokal Affair/Fashionable Nonsense once had with The Three Stooges (Or something. Just roll with me here).

And I haven’t even mentioned the best part yet. Are you ready? Okay, here goes: the best part is the moment when Eve and I collectively coined the term “Derrida Zombies”, which became the hilarious (and apt) coup de grâce of our collective smackdown of postmodernist bollocks.

Alas, because it’s just a short clip from a much longer video, I can’t embed it, but it’s available here. Go! Watch! Giggle away! It’s lots of fun, I promise. (And try not to be put off by the mildly disturbing Tom Waits-esque voice I had that morning (I love Tom Waits, but I don’t want to sound like the chap.) I had a nasty sore throat, and that caused my voice to be a little less girly than usual.)

And, lastly, here’s a screenshot from the video. Funtimes! :)

Me, Eve, and Bob on our TAM 2012 panel

More soon! Thanks for reading.

Pope Francis is no friend to the poor

The puffs of white smoke have arisen. Habemus Papam and all that. Pope Benedict is out, and Pope Francis is in. And although Francis’s proclaimed concern for issues of social justice, poverty, and economic inequality is certainly admirable, in various articles and stories lauding these traits, many commentators and media outlets have constructed a narrative that is far from complete. Rarely mentioned is Francis’s history of vehemently opposing the free distribution of contraceptives in Argentina or his extreme (even by Papal standards) opposition to a woman’s right to an abortion, even in cases of rape.

My argument is this: Francis’s opinions on and actions taken against contraceptive use and access to abortion cancel out his proclaimed desire to remedy poverty and economic inequality. One of the simplest and most efficient ways to help the economic status of women (and, by extension, their families) is by providing access to effective methods of contraception (as the linked study illustrates, women who live in places where extreme poverty coexists with hardline Catholicism are the least likely to have access to effective means of contraception. And here’s the clincher: the study’s authors found that poor women in Latin America (Pope Francis’s domain) suffer the most from this lack of access).

So, no, I’m not buying the argument that “Pope Francis cares for the poor” or “Pope Francis has a deep concern for social justice issues and human rights”. Far from it. Pope Francis is, I’d argue, indirectly (and perhaps even directly, in some cases) responsible for the economic inequality, poverty, and social injustice he so disingenuously claims to oppose. His culpability in these matters must not be swept under the rug. Please expose it and shine a light on it wherever and however you can.

Virtual Skeptics- Episode #25

Exciting!: I was a guest on tonight’s episode of The Virtual Skeptics, a weekly web series produced by some seriously dedicated, brilliant, and admirable skeptics ♥. Tonight, I played the role of Bob Blaskiewicz, who was off galavanting around with Michael Shermer in the middle of some snowy Wisconsin cornfields (or something like that ;) )

I had a wonderful time and I’m very grateful to my Skeptic Superhero friends for inviting me to take part. I’ll embed the recording below. It can also be accessed here and here, and the show notes are available here.



The Virtual Skeptics airs live each Wednesday night at 8 p.m. EST (1 a.m. GMT), and the recordings are posted shortly after. Both the live show and the recordings are available here and here. You can also find The Virtual Skeptics on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

Enjoy the show! (^‿^)

Favorite 2012 travel photos, part one: Washington, D.C.

I’d planned to post my ten favorite travel photos of 2012, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten (too much loveliness!), so I’m going to divide the photos up into two or three different posts instead.

First up is Washington, D.C., where I visited in February 2012. The rest of my photos from the trip can be found on Flickr.

Most of these photos were taken at two places that absolutely stole my heart ♥: the Library of Congress and the National Gallery of Art. Also, along with the photos, I’ve included links to interesting/useful/educational information, so be sure to click on them if you’re interested.

(& One last thing before the photos: sadly, I didn’t get to see my Imaginary Boyfriend Joe Biden while in D.C. Darn! ;) I still associate that trip with him, though: last month, I dreamt that Biden bought me Christian Louboutin stilettos & gelato & wandered around the Library of Congress with me. I have great dreams sometimes (^‿^))

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