Saturday, December 13, 2014

What's it mean to be an honest skeptic?

{edited 3/8/15}
I had cause to reread a fun movie review I'd written last month.  Reading it again I was thinking I should be posting part of it over here.  Because... you know... all this Steele stuff (dealing with vid#4 now, yuck). The way he gives all that lip service to rational and complete science, but then he ignores tons of real Earth observations and instead goes off into totalitarian deep right field. His only defense being to reject the science outright, while conjured up ridiculous conspiracy notions.  

Scientists have it hard enough focusing on getting everything to work right, they don't have time for conspiratorial tweaking of data - that would be obvious to any trained, educated observer.  

There's the rub, notice how all these people, such as my pal Jim, don't understand the actual science fields they are attacking.  Like little kids with noses pressed against the window watching the train set run, without the first clue of what it takes to make that seeming magic happen. (guess i'm dating myself)  

They talk the Talk, but don't walk the Walk. 
So I ask: What's it mean to be an honest skeptic?

 From the closing paragraphs of

Taking questions, James Randi responded to one with something I'd already jotted down in my notes as the single best line in the documentary, "People need to believe.” Later, I had a chance to shake his hand and speak with him. I asked: “OK, people need to believe – what can we do with that? Where do we go from there?" 
He looked at me with those deep intense eyes, shrugged and shook his head for a beat, then perking up: “Teach the young ones.”  Then he reminded me of his foundation and invited me to check it out: -  
James Randi Educational Foundation - in particular 
After watching the documentary, I came to appreciate that (without knowing it) Randi had given me more than skills to deal with con artists. He'd helped me learn that I was my own toughest challenge – falling in love with my own notions and refusing to acknowledge my own blindspots, being afraid to be proven wrong. Fabricating bubbles of contrived realities in order to justify rejecting contrary evidence no matter how valid it is. 
Those are each of our worst enemies. 
And what of our allies? There's the passion to keep learning about this incredible world I inhabit for a short moment. Appreciating that no matter how much I think I may have learned or know, there’s more to learn. Besides, I could be wrong and need to remain willing to honestly listen to and digest new information – then base my belief on the strength of the evidence presented – not on my tender ego or desires.  
If I’m wrong it’s a learning opportunity and not an excuse to lash out against the bearer of better information. 
In closing, what I thought would be an entertaining, informative movie about one of the interesting characters of my time turned into an enthralling, even compelling journey of discovery and reflection. It gets my thumbs-up recommendation, with or without an accompanying glass of fine wine.

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For those that want to learn about James Randi's scholarly work, 
check out the Google Scholar search results:

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 "An Honest Liar"

Napa Valley Film Festival November 2014
Jury Award for Best Documentary Feature 
presented by Sullivan Vineyards goes to AN HONEST LIAR

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“An Honest Liar was a highlight of what had been a very strong documentary program at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival. “
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This week has four showings (Nov 12,14,15,16) up and down the Napa Valley during their Film Festival.

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