Tag Archives: michael shermer

Is Evil A Passé term? An Atheist’s Thought Experiment.

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Lately, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to be an atheist. Since I wasn’t always one, how might I feel differently than someone who never had faith to begin with?

For instance, there are people who behave as though they hate their respective deity, then call themselves atheists. I’d argue those people are deists who hate themselves, yet blame their god for their own shortcomings instead of accepting personal responsibility for the way their lives are turning out.

zeus_1[1]
Mythological Greek God Zeus
In my mind, an atheist wouldn’t have any stronger feelings about God, Jesus, or Allah than they would about Zeus or Odin. To me, the only difference between mythology and religion is that the latter still has people who believe in it.

But one thing has curiously struck me lately; the concept of evil. Is this a passé term?

For those who are religious, evil is something put forth by the counterpart of their chosen deity. But I feel this term thwarts understanding of these acts by blaming a being like Satan instead of the perpetrator.

So let’s break down humans for a minute; or as we’re affectionately known in the biological community;  Animalia (Kingdom); Chordate (Phylum); Mammalia (Class); Primates (Order); Hominidae (Family); Homini (Tribe); Homo (Genus); H. sapiens (Species).

Regarding the kingdom classification of Animalia, that means that despite our own desire to feel special, we are ultimately just an animal in the animal kingdom. We are certainly the most intelligent, but there are many animals that are stronger, faster, or otherwise better adapted to their environment, as natural selection dictates.

So while we are special for our intellect, all animals have their own unique specialties, making us all special in different ways, or none of us particularly special at all; depending on how you want to look at it.

Homo-sapiens have evolved as well or better than any other species to life on Earth in many unique ways. For instance, because of our intellect, we’re the best at customizing our environment to suit our needs, instead of having to adapt like all the others. We build houses with air conditioning and heaters, after all.

We’re also intelligent enough to not only be excellent hunters, yet also quite adept at growing our own food. When’s the last time you saw an elephant planting a row of corn?

One trait that many overlook however, is our unparalleled linguistic skills. Because we are social animals, our advanced ability to communicate with others, whether it be face-to-face, or using technology such as the phone or internet, strengthens our society in ways other animals cannot achieve. Every time you ask for help and receive it, you’ve exemplified this.

Oddly enough, we’re the only animal smart enough to have observed and understood natural selection and the benefits it brings to life as a whole, yet we’re compassionate enough to try to prevent it by helping the weak among us instead of allowing them to succumb to whatever their inferior traits might be. If that’s not an ultimate display of commonly accepted morally benevolent societal behavior, I don’t know what is.

This can be seen in the way we help the disadvantaged through charity, medical care, etc. Or simply the endangered species list, where we actively work to preserve an animal that seems incapable of adapting to its environment as natural selection dictates it should.

stalin-hitler_1644235c[1]
Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin
But back to the term “evil.” The term conjures up names like Adolf Hitler, Paul Pot, Saddam Hussein, Josef Stalin, et al., who are often touted out as examples, and it seems quite fitting on the face of it.

The reality is that if we define murder as the killing of an innocent life, the animal kingdom is full of mass murderers. Cheetahs are mass murderers of gazelles, but maybe we will give that a pass since they eat them to survive.

Lions however, will often kill cheetahs, not for consumption, but just to eliminate the competition for food. Not very sporting at all, if you ask me. So are they evil too? Of course not.

So what makes them different from human mass murderers? The fact that we are smarter, or that we understand the value of empathy and therefore can associate with the victim? In reality, it’s just that we are societal in ways that many other meat eaters are not.

The concept of morality is generally thought to be a religious one, where you are either with or against a particular dogma. Some people would argue that morals are universal, but this is a false premise. Whether it be gay rights, abortion, the death penalty, drugs, prostitution, gambling, etc., what is immoral to some is moral to others.

If we throw out the religious component, morality would generally describe behavior someone does for the good of society, immoral behaviors are to the detriment of it. While many deists would argue that without religion, there would be no morality, Professor of Psychology, Dr. Michael Shermer explains the evolutionary benefit of commonly held moral behaviors here. Evidence suggests we would be just as moral without religion.

When people think of natural selection, they often use the phrase “survival of the fittest,” which can be misleading. It conjures images of some unyielding beast who kills anything that gets in its way. But societal beings are actually “fitter.”

If a strong violent psychopath were going through the neighborhood killing people, he might be successful if everyone in the neighborhood were also a sociopath and failed to band together to combat him. But if the others unite, the psychopath would likely end up dead due to simple strength in numbers.

They wouldn’t do it for the thrill of killing as the psychopath does, but simply for the betterment of their group. Via the death penalty, war, self-defense, and vigilantism, we tend to weed out the violent psychopaths among us for our own mutual benefit.

Lethal Injection Table
Lethal Injection Table

Many like to think it’s because we’re exterminating evil, but if there is no deity or anti-deity, all we’re really doing is preserving our societal construct.

As for those we consider evil, they’re just psychopaths, pure and simple. People lacking empathy and the innate desire to contribute to the advancement of the human race through societal behavior.

When we think of them as evil, we feed their ego by giving them the impression that they’re somehow closer to a deity or otherwise superhuman. But if evolution has worked in our favor because we are societal, they are actually inferior—arguably, mentally handicapped beings.

As psychological research continues to advance our understanding of the human brain, there is hope we’ll find solutions to mental disorders like sociopathy and/or psychopathy. But in the meantime, it would be nice if we stop sensationalizing these people by calling them evil; they’re just genetically and behaviorally defective. Elevating their status to something superhuman by calling them evil, will only encourage their behavior.

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Internet Trolls Thrive On Attention—But Please Don’t Feed The Animals

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Political and religious discourse are often anything but respectful. One sweep of social media feeds will reveal personal attacks that would lead you to believe evolution has spawned a human sub-species known as Homo-Internet-trollius—I raise my glass to them succumbing to natural selection. Sadly, professional writers and TV analysts aren’t often much better.

Internet Troll
Internet Troll

To support my blog, I have Twitter and Facebook pages where I invite people to engage in respectful debate—emphasis on respectful. Most people do exactly that, occasionally even swaying me from my original opinion in light of new information. But far too often, the personal insults fly in like birds on a newly seeded lawn.

I choose not to engage these people, I just block them—such debate is not worth my time and aggravation. People may say that this is not very libertarian of me; but I’m not asking for legislation to prevent them from spewing their hateful rhetoric, I’m just walking away so I’m not tempted to lower myself by responding to it. Proper debate involves exchange of opinions, ideas, and facts—nothing else.

A while back, I watched a panel of people debate the idea of a creator in-depth at Chapman University after seeing a similar debate on Stossel—Dinesh D’Souza, Deepak Chopra, and Michael Shermer among the participants. They were compelling discussions largely due to the nature of the discourse. The fact that reasonable human beings could speak about something as passionate as religion; yet be respectful towards each other despite their vehement disagreement was refreshing. It inspired me to strive for more respectful dialogue in my own debates going forward.

The reason for the respectful dialogue is pretty easy to explain however when you understand one simple concept; opinions versus facts. Facts are truths, opinions are interpretations of those truths based on one’s own environment and life experiences. The people involved understood the difference, and debated accordingly. While you are not entitled to your own facts, opinions will always vary from person to person.

For instance, if we look at opinions; conservatives believe higher taxes are wrong, liberals believe that the rich can hardly be taxed enough—neither is right or wrong. While it may be true that historically, lower taxes have proven to be greater economically, to someone who is uncomfortable with freedom or whom religion trumps economics, more government can often reduce their anxiety by eliminating personal responsibility. For those people, authoritarian rule is better, and they’re willing to trade opportunity and freedom for security and forced theology. You often see this in nations who move from an authoritarian system to a democratic one. Rebels act as if they are fighting for freedom, when they’re so often just fighting over which authority they wish to be ruled by.

As political opinion talking heads bring on guests, they frequently lose sight of the idea that opinions simply have no proper answer. You can watch liberals go on rants about evil corporations only to be countered by conservatives going off on the president in a polar opposite diatribe—neither citing facts; merely opinions, but both insisting the other is wrong.

The fact that Jerry Springer, Steve Wilkos, and Maury Povich make a living doing what they do has shown that we like to be entertained just as much as we like to be informed. If we’re lucky, they may actually kill each other on the air, right? People insulting each other is far more exciting than two adults respectfully agreeing to disagree. If any of you watched the Chapman University video above and didn’t finish it, you probably got bored; proving my point.

As long as the market desires violence, the art of proper debate will be left to the scientific community, and us political consumers and voters won’t be nearly as well-educated as we should be because we’re getting debating’s version of the WWE—rich on entertainment, low on substance.

Bill O'Reilly vs Barney Frank
Bill O’Reilly vs Barney Frank

So what are some signs of improper debate?

  • If anyone refers to you as a “So-called  _______”

When someone uses the term “so-called” in describing you,  there’s no point in going further. I see Republicans call other Republicans RINO’s (Republicans In Name Only) when they disagree. I’ve had people tell me I’m no Libertarian because I don’t believe in anarchy. I’ve seen liberals attack each other because they don’t agree on gun rights or the evilness of corporations. I’ve even seen religious groups attack their own for how they vary in worship.

No one person is the sole arbiter of what is a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Christian, Muslim, etc. If you feel you most closely identify with a particular group, that’s likely how you’ll identify yourself. These aren’t private clubs you can be kicked out of, they’re names attached to a basic set of ideals. Someone referring to you as a “so-called” anything is simply displaying contempt—an ultimate form of disrespect where they feel you are inferior to them.

  • Inability to distinguish facts from opinions

If someone lays out facts that are incorrect, they should rightfully be corrected. If you really want to do it right; cite reliable sources. But when arguing opinion, anyone who tells you that you are wrong, laughs at your opinion, or cites opinion columns from someone else, are not debating respectfully.

I see people citing Paul Krugman articles to prove their point on economics, when he’s not done any science, but merely advancing an opinion. I’ve had people cite Ron Paul and Ludwig von Mises op-eds to tell me I’m wrong on my idea of libertarianism. In doing so, they haven’t proven their point, they’ve only proven someone agrees with them or that my libertarian views are different from others.

  • Citations of the same person repeatedly

Science requires that all opinions be considered, respected, and evaluated in order to come to one truth. If a person constantly quotes a particular politician, economist, TV personality, or anything else, this person is not doing anything scientific, it’s the opposite of independent thought. While I personally prefer my opinion reporting come from organizations that are “libertarian-friendly,” I’m at least aware of my bias, and honest about reporting it. I do call my page the Logical Libertarian after all.  

On my RSS reader however, I follow 85 different websites of varying opinions and genres. I make the effort to research any opinion I put forth from several sources when possible, and I will reevaluate such opinions if anyone provides me with new information. Being part of a cult-like group-think crowd is the polar opposite of independent and intelligent thought.

  • All or nothing

Anyone who has agreed with you 95% of the time, but now this 1 in 20 instance where you don’t sends them into a tirade is exhibiting serious signs of bipolar disorder. It’s the underlying root of the word bipolar where there is only a positive and negative, nothing in between. They believe that if you aren’t 100% in agreement with them, you might as well be 0% in agreement with them.

People who take this all or nothing approach aren’t interested in the truth. They want to be the leader of a cult, and expect you to be part of it. That may seem like hyperbole, but think about every cult you know of—how many allowed for varying opinions? There is nothing proper about such behavior. The scientific method relies on varying ideas. Those who view any deviation from their ideology as an insult should be avoided.

  • Anyone using logical fallacies.

Brian Dunning at skeptoid.com has done an amazing job explaining logical fallacies here and here (It was a two-parter).

Skeptoid's Brian Dunning
Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning

 These include straw man arguments, ad hominem attacks, appeals to authority, special pleading, anecdotal evidence, observational selection, appeal to ignorance, non-sequiturs, post hoc, confusion of correlation and causation, slippery slope, excluded middle, small number statistics, weasel words, fallacy of the consequent, loaded question, red herring, proof by verbosity, poisoning the well, and bandwagon fallacies.

I implore you to either read at the links provided, or listen to the attached audio podcast version for explanations. Brian has done a phenomenal job comprising them; it’s worth your time; as are all Skeptoid podcasts.

The golden rule of debating should be this: Explain your position until your opponent understands you. Let them explain their position until you understand them. If at that point you still don’t agree, the debate is over, you must respectfully agree to disagree—emphasis on respectfully. But whatever you do, remember that internet trolls thrive on attention, please do not feed the animals.

Entitlements are the seeds of socialism; sociopaths are the fertilizer

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Disclaimer: This article is not about everyone who collects entitlements; many of whom are good and honest people who truly need help. So before I get accused of attacking all of those who collect entitlements, I am only assailing the programs themselves, and those who abuse them.


During one of President Obama’s speeches, he made a statement that was patently false. He stated:

“Nobody wants a handout. Nobody wants something for nothing.”

obamabill1[1]In an ideally moral world, this would be correct, but America is not Utopia. Some people are burdened with a conscience, others simply are not; a basic form of sociopathy.

I saw the videos of a woman; overwhelmingly giddy, saying she couldn’t wait for her Obama money. I personally know people collecting various entitlements even though they are capable of being self-sufficient. These people aren’t urban legends, they’re just the Lazyburg population behaving as if they hit the lottery, and they are out there in droves. So Obama is either ignorant, delusional, disingenuous—or a combination of all three.

Sociopaths and psychopaths are often believed to be the same; these terms are somewhat loosely defined. But in general and for our purposes, we’ll define psychopaths as violent sociopaths, whereas sociopaths are simply people with little or no capacity for empathy, but non-violent. They know what society considers to be morally right and wrong, but only comply to avoid imprisonment or retaliatory assault; their compliance is not out of any sense of morality. They live a life that is exclusively self-serving.

Humans have evolved as social beings. Our ancient ancestors fought off and hunted larger and more dangerous predators and prey by virtue of our intellect and our social interaction with each other—strength in numbers. Being kind to one another is evolutionarily beneficial; a point Dr. Michael Shermer eloquently makes here. But while sociopathy is an anomaly in humans, it isn’t inherently bad, nor even all that uncommon. Scientific American published a great article outlining the silver linings of sociopathy; it’s interesting reading.

The purpose of going into all of this psychobabble is to point out that most entitlement programs are built under the false assumption that people generally do the right thing, but for a much larger portion of the population than these bureaucrats care to admit, this isn’t true. Most logical folks know there are a great number of people who will often fail to do the right thing.

Here are some examples:

  • Disability: Imagine someone hurts their back and can no longer lift anything heavy. Instead of learning a less physically demanding new career, they often opt for disability. The fact that they are living off their neighbor’s tax dollars doesn’t bother them. Why should they work if we’re willing to pay them not to?
  • Welfare: Imagine a woman having multiple children; collecting more from welfare for each one. By paying her more per child, we are assuring she’ll never have to work again. To her; being a baby mill is more desirable and profitable than working or at least finding a supportive spouse and creating a typical family unit. Why should she work when we’ll pay her not to?
  • Unemployment insurance: Imagine someone collecting UI until that perfect opportunity comes along instead of taking a lesser job to get off the government dole sooner. Why should they take a job “beneath” their skills when you’ll pay them to wait until they find something better?

In each case, many of us would see these examples as morally wrong. To the sociopath, it’s merely the path of least resistance. As such, it is quite natural. The questions I asked at the end of each one, are the questions they rhetorically ask to justify this existence.

Beggar_Saint_Elisabeth_Group[1]I do believe that many serial entitlement-collectors wouldn’t have the courage to go to a town gathering, look people in the eye, and ask for money personally. The guilt of knowing they are asking for something they don’t need nor deserve would be too much for most. But with government entitlements, they don’t have to. They can do it behind the anonymity of a government worker, or worse yet, by simply filing an application online or via snail mail. While some may have some semblance of a conscience and are not complete sociopaths, the anonymity shields what little moral fiber they have from any social pressure whatsoever.

So am I saying people shouldn’t get help? Of course not. Most Americans are generous, and willing to help one another. For instance, the Mormon Church is legendary for being the first on scene when a crisis occurs. As tragedies happen around the world, American charities easily out-donate the next most generous country. Charities designed to help unfortunate Americans abound as well. So the idea that Americans wouldn’t help each other if government doesn’t, isn’t backed by any data. Good people who truly need help would often get it, whereas the scammers would be rightfully quashed.

Government caseworkers are charged with preventing fraud, but it’s nearly impossible when they rarely, if ever, meet the claimant. But small social circles know each other. My ex-roommate for instance was someone prone to find a host, pay rent a few months, then fabricate a reason why he can’t find a job, and as such, can’t pay rent. I put a stop to his all-expenses-paid vacation by simply evicting him. But if I were the government, booting him would have been significantly more difficult, lest they be accused of unlawful bias and then sued accordingly.

As the left push for more assistance, I wish to point out that one cannot fraud a program that doesn’t exist in the first place. If we continue to offer free money based on a simple set of criteria, and that money is enough to support a lifestyle, ingenious sociopaths will find a way to meet that criteria, regardless of whether they actually need assistance. It’s the path of least resistance, a phenomenon all of nature generally and understandably adheres to. These people aren’t evil, they’re just not encumbered by social pressure like the rest of us.

when-the-people-find-they-can-vote-themselves-money-that-will-herald-the-end-of-the-republic[1]America is the land of the free, and as heartless as it seems, freedom means being allowed to fail as well. Charities, churches, social groups, and loved ones will find a way to help the truly needy. That was never something this government was intended to do. I say that entitlements are the seeds of socialism, but Benjamin Franklin said it best:

When the people find they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic.

We cannot let quasi-socialists redefine our love for freedom as heartlessness. Good people will almost always help other good people. They just need the government to stop stealing the money they would otherwise have to do so.

 

We need science, not knee-jerk reactions

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

Previously, I showed that stats don’t add up when making the case that gun owners are dangerous. Conservative estimates show that for every one person who murders with a gun in a given year, there are approximately 100,000 that own guns without incident—1:100,000 does not a  pattern make, by any standard.Armalite AR-15

I do not subscribe to the, do-something-even-if-it’s-wrong mantra. If the desired outcome is a positive result, doing the wrong thing is fundamentally illogical, and will in all likelihood make matters worse—the infamous Washington DC Gun Ban is a prime example.

When children die, it’s always tragic. Being the intelligent beings we humans are, it’s in our nature to solve problems—that’s a basic part of our evolution. A tragedy such as Sandy Hook would push anyone to action, even if that action was contrary to their own long-held beliefs.

For instance, the famous skeptic Dr Michael Shermer, someone whom I greatly admire and partially credit for shaping my way of thinking, wrote this article  in January of 2012, only to reverse course a bit in the wake of this recent tragedy; he now compassionately asks for a restriction on guns.

I respect the passion with which people have decided to come out in favor of banning so-called “Assault” rifles (a made up term), their concern is understandable. The fact that someone famous for always putting logic over passion like Dr. Shermer can change his opinion shows this issue can move anyone.blog4

But, I believe removing guns from law-abiding and sane citizens will only save one potential victim while making a potential victim out of another. It seems more of a knee-jerk reaction than a logically deduced solution.

We know how many lives were ended by guns, however we can never know the lives saved because a killer was stopped by a good Samaritan with a gun.

For instance, if the Sandy Hook shooter had been shot by a teacher immediately after killing his first victim, there would have been no way to know he would have went on to kill 25 more. As such, you should be wary of anyone who says they have data proving that guns kill more lives than they save. Such numbers are purely theoretical and often swayed by the writer’s opinion.

One common attack levied at gun control dissenters is, “Yes, let’s do nothing.” Sadly, this is a straw man argument that does nothing to further intelligent discussion. Most rational people are not proposing we do nothing, certainly not me. So making that statement towards gun control skeptics as if we advocate doing nothing, then attacking us for being do-nothing people is insulting and wrong.

So in the wake of this awful tragedy, I am proposing we use good science to improve this issue.

In order to keep this story reasonably short, I’m going to focus on spree killers such as the Sandy Hook shooter (for the record, I am purposefully not mentioning the name). If we are to get serious about reducing all violent crime, repealing “vice” laws against certain drugs, gambling, prostitution, etc., is needed. We know this because repealing prohibition worked, yet for reasons of religious ideology, we continue to ban many other victimless crimes because zealots consider them to be immoral.

One of the traits that seems very common amongst spree killers of any type, whether they use a gun, bomb, arson, or any other deadly means of attack, is that they often had a documented history of mental illness and/or psychopathic behavior.

Based on this information, I believe there is usable data that is not being fully taken advantage of. What I am proposing is that the American Psychological Association (APA) have a convention where an open invitation is sent to any psychiatrist who has treated a patient who went on to commit these heinous acts. americanpsychoass[1]

Those doctors would confer and collect data about common traits that were exhibited amongst most or all of the attackers they worked with. This data would be published in medical journals for other mental health professionals to review and provide relevant feedback. The APA would then assemble a list of traits they feel are consistent among spree killers while ruling out those traits that were consistent among killers and non-killers alike. Once we have done this, we should have a reasonable collection of warning signs that can be shared with the public so that we can be aware of what to look for amongst society.

This approach is similar to what was asked of us after 9/11 where the public was given warning signs to look out for to prevent terrorism. If a family member, friend, or acquaintance is behaving in a manner consistent with the behavioral patterns of these killers, we can be more prepared to act.

Gun owners like me for instance, might lock up our guns in a secure safe or remove them from the house altogether. We could call a local medical health facility about what we’ve seen to determine if the person in question may need evaluated. If the person has already been diagnosed and prescribed medication for their issues, we must be diligent about reporting if they go off their meds, which may result in violence.

One look at the Giffords shooter’s (Also not mentioning his name) YouTube videos was rather convincing that the man needed help. I feel that if mental health professionals worked harder at getting info to the public about what to look for and when to report it, the caring among us would do exactly that, and unlike gun bans, lives could be saved with few deadly unintended consequences.

Murder rate statistics of the United States show we are well below average among the rest of the world, so being an alarmist is hyperbole at best—we are not experiencing an epidemic, and immediate action isn’t needed. Other studies have shown that violent crime is simply in steady decline around the world. As we evolve as a species, we become more intelligent, and less violent.

But politicians use hyperbole to advance a political agenda like Gordon Ramsay uses swear words to make a point. There is no epidemic, spike in violence, or reason for panic. What is needed are clear thinking medical scientists applying the scientific method towards mental health issues, then educating the public on how best to deal with them.

As a libertarian, I cringe at the notion of government locking someone up on the premise they might be a threat before they’ve actually done anything wrong. So I believe incarceration should only be done at the behest of licensed medical professionals, and there should be appeals in place to help these people get a second opinion if they feel they are being unfairly detained.

While I’m advocating for advancements in mental health science, and using those advancements to identify threats and potentially get them out of society until they are no longer deemed a threat, it is imperative that like our prison system, we take every step to not detain someone who is of little threat to society.519x361[1]

Logical Americans must demand we use science, not knee-jerk reactions and politically motivated legislation to solve our problems. There’s a reason we have cures for thousands of diseases, rovers on Mars, and mobile phones the size of a playing card—it’s called the scientific method. Unlike politicians and hyperbole, it leads to truths and it actually works—let’s stick with it.

 

Science and Skepticism – Don’t allow democrats to claim it as their own

Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)
Gary Nolan (and THE Scrappy Doo)

I consider myself to be agnostic/atheist.  I am not a devout atheist who has an active believe that there is no God nor am I a true agnostic who maintains that it is impossible to know if there is a God.  I am in the middle—I readily admit that I personally do not know if there is a God.

I must also confess that other than my public K-12 education, I’ve received no formal training in science. I am however, a science geek, and I’d like to point out a basic tenet of science and skepticism that I’ve learned:

A person should not assume something to be true until they have evidence to support it. We humans, especially politicians, have this incessant need to purport to know everything. When we don’t understand something, we often opt for a reason of convenience instead of just saying those three beautiful words: “I don’t know” or the three even more lovely words, “I wonder why…”

Politicians on both sides have been conditioned to act as though they know it all because ignorance appears weak, but this is wrong! Lack of curiosity is weak.  Ignorance just means there is more to be learned!

Curiosity is one of mankind’s most amazing qualities. It’s the reason why we know how to cure a vast array of illnesses that befuddled us no less than a hundred years ago. Have you ever seen a bear solve a problem it couldn’t have solved a century ago? I didn’t think so.

To give you a practical example of why this is important, look no further than the American criminal court system where you are “Innocent until proven guilty”.

Imagine if John and Jane are at a party. Jane says to her friends, “John is a murderer”.

John will of course exclaim, “I’ve never murdered anyone!”

“Prove it” replies Jane.

Think about that. How would John PROVE he has never murdered anyone? The fact is that he can’t. Proving a negative is often impossible. So the burden of proof should always ride on the person making the claim.

This leads me to skepticism, a word that is often mischaracterized. I consider myself part of the skeptical movement thanks to people like Dr. Michael Shermer. Don’t worry—it’s  not a club, cult, or anything else. It’s more of a mindset. The common misconception is that skeptics don’t believe in anything.  The truth is that skeptics resist believing anything without supporting evidence. They gather as much data as possible, then make a decision if they believe they have enough evidence to do so.

What does all this have to do with politics you might ask?

The Democratic Party asserts that they are the party of science and skepticism while painting Republicans out as cavemen even though many conservatives, like me, embrace this philosophy as well. Because I’m a small government conservative, I get very annoyed when pseudo-intellectuals (people who assume they are smart with no evidence to support that claim) assume that  I must be anti-science and therefore not very intelligent because I’m conservative.

Many of you are reading this and saying, “Yeah, I’ve had people assume that about me once or twice”. Right?

But conservatism and science have NOTHING to do with each other. Being a conservative should mean that you are for little government intervention in your personal and professional lives and that strict adherence to the constitution of the United States is important to you.

Many Republicans wrongly believe that, by acknowledging science, they are admitting to being aligned with atheists, man-made climate change proponents, etc. Don’t sell yourselves short!

The fact is, we as conservatives must embrace accepted scientific evidence.  Things like eyeless/pigmentless fish that exist in caves, the human appendix, and countless other examples are proof of some form of evolution whether you believe in a creator or not. To deny evolution exists in some form means to deny much of which we learned in basic high school biology. Conservatives cannot afford to be seen as the “Flat Earth Society”.

Before you think I’m about to tell someone they should not be a creationist, stop! I always feel it is appropriate for me to tell you what I believe, but it is NOT acceptable for me to dictate to you what you should believe.

Here’s where science AND skepticism come in. It is possible that a creator put evolution in motion isn’t it? So it is possible to have a belief yet be open to new information. That open-mindedness is the definition of being an intellectual.
As for climate change: You have Al Gore doing his best Harold Camping impression. Convincing everyone the world is going to end soon rarely helps your career. But, if climate change is man-made (There’s evidence to support both sides), then it’s worth addressing with an open mind.

Democrats claim skepticism, yet they’re in lock step regarding this issue. Objectivity left them years ago. This is where conservatives should capitalize, but instead, Republicans are also in lock step, just in the opposite direction. Conservatives could hit a home run by acknowledging the data, acknowledging the claims are possible, but pointing out that it’s still a theory and not universally accepted fact.

Conservative should make a statement like this:

“I believe the data is real and worthy of concern. However, there’s still research to be done. Until that research is proven beyond any doubt and other contributing factors that we can’t change have been ruled out, I have no interest in breaking the backs of American businesses and bankrupting our country to combat it. Had we done so not that long ago when scientists believed there was an impending ice age, millions would have been wasted for no good reason. So I’m not about to do that to America now.”

My simple statement acknowledges the scientific data, yet responsibly demonstrates skepticism in a way that any reasonable party should welcome. I believe conservatives that do this will display a superior attitude and intellect than most, attract those who are also skeptical about such issues (most Americans are), and will bring the Republican party out of the “dark-ages” pigeonhole that Democrats have worked so hard to put us in.