Tag Archives: Steve Jobs

We would not be alive today if not for skeptics. So what is one?

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

Although my writings are largely political, the other subject I’m passionate about is science and skepticism—the value of logical thought cannot be overstated. It seems that all too often people will believe what they’re told by a single media source, a politician, a political party, a professor, etc. But as the brilliant fictional “philosopher” Dr. Gregory House always said, “Everybody lies.”

Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House M.D.
Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House M.D.

Yet when I tell people I’m a skeptic, I get looks of confusion and apprehension. It’s as if I just told them I’m about to profess we never landed on the moon, that Bush was the impetus behind 9/11, that aliens are here among us, or that I’m part of some religious cult. So as a result, I wanted to put some of these myths to bed, but let me address the issues above before I go any further.

  • I believe anyone who believes we didn’t put a man on the moon is ignorant. Click here to see the Mythbusters dismantle these issues on the faked moon landing.
  • I believe anyone who thinks George W. Bush spearheaded 9/11 is disgusting, hateful, and ignorant. This has been thoroughly debunked by many members of the scientific community. National Geographic addressed the 9/11 conspiracy here involving several universities conducting independent studies—please watch. I’m not going to elaborate, they’ve covered it well enough. This nonsense is insulting to the military who would never follow such an unlawful order, even if it were given to them. Our military are far more thoughtful than these hateful idiots ever care to give them credit for.
  • What I know about odds and probabilities leads me to believe there is life in our universe outside of Earth. What I know about physics tells me it would have almost no way of getting here in tact. So yes I believe there is alien life, no I do not believe it has ever inhabited Earth.
  • I’m an agnostic/atheist. I do not believe in any supernatural or spiritual beings. The burden of proof is not on science, as such claims are not falsifiable. The burden lies with the people claiming such phenomena exist. I’m open to the possibility, provided there is any scientific evidence presented to support it—such evidence has yet to be presented.

So if it is not a cult and we don’t have meetings with strange customs like a secret handshake, wrapping our heads in tin foil, or creepy Gregorian chants, what is a skeptic?Tin_foil_hat_2[1]

Saying you are skeptic just means that you question everything (not doubt, just question), and apply the scientific method to answer any questions you might have. Here are a few statements I feel would accurately tell the tale of being a skeptic and some simple rules of thumb to bear in mind.

  • Rule #1 – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Skeptics will have an evidentiary based belief system. The greater the claim one makes, the greater the evidence required to support it.
  • While we will often admit a creator is possible, skeptics are often non-religious. This is due to the overwhelming amount of anecdotal evidence and the underwhelming lack of scientific evidence.
  • A skeptic will start from a null hypothesis—the idea that nothing is true until reasonably confirmed with evidence. If you tell me that magnetic wrist band will cure my headaches and increase my sperm count, you’d better have more than a testimonial, which of course are discredited by the placebo effect. Nothing less than a proper peer-reviewed study will do.
  • If we read some random meme on Facebook or Twitter which makes a provable claim, yet seems dubious in any way, we’ll usually assume it’s bunk and not even bother sharing it. If we’re curious, we might check it out on Snopes or other reputable sites, then share if we can confirm it to be true.070e54aedcf606e53698b9f0f2528a9e3f9ecd80b3cf90cd9ca6deb7f0eac351[1]
  • We place our trust in the science. Almost everything we enjoy in life, from gadgets to health care, we have because this method works—it has for centuries.
  • Skeptics are not conspiracy theorists. We don’t invent fantastic tales for shock value or ideology, we present logical arguments, we separate facts from opinions, and we let the chips fall where they may.
  • A skeptic would rarely believe in alternative medicines. If they really do work, proper scientific studies will confirm as much. At which point they’ll cease being alternative medicine and just be actual medicine.
  • A skeptic wants both sides of the argument. In politics, if a Democrat makes a claim, I want to hear a Republican’s or Libertarian’s rebuttal and vice-versa. If a scientist presents an idea, I want a similarly qualified scientist to challenge their findings. One side of a story is rarely accurate and you should be wary of anyone making a claim of absolutes in this manner.
  • We largely will often point out that shows about cryptozoology, astrology, alien abductions, ghost hunting, etc. belong on the The Sci-Fi Channel, not The Science Channel. While presented as science, they’re all largely full of utter nonsense. One cannot make scientific claims about Bigfoot if one does not have a living or dead Bigfoot standard to test.

So why is it important to be a skeptic? If you like being duped, skepticism isn’t for you—ignorance is bliss, right? But as Steve Jobs proved in 2003 when he opted for a homeopathic solution to his cancer instead of what his doctors recommended, being a skeptic can save your life. Jobs’ had been advised that his cancer was treatable and survivable if he were to undergo proper science-based medical treatment. By the time he realized his homeopathic option was bunk however, it was too late.

Steve Jobs - Apple Founder
Steve Jobs – Apple Founder

For those not familiar with homeopathy and why it is junk science, here’s a phenomenal article from Donald Prothero from skepticblog.com. As are all articles on their site, it is worth a read.

But let me go back further into history and explain why I believe mankind owes its very existence to skepticism.

When the black plague was running rampant, many had believed that this was God punishing humanity as he did during the flooding in the tale of Noah’s ark. As such, they felt that there was no way to intervene and stop this deadly scourge, and potentially that it was blasphemy to even try. While they may not have understood the scientific method or the concept of modern skepticism as we do today, it was indeed skeptics who decided that the plague might simply be a biological process with a cure instead of the will of God, applied scientific-like methods to the problem, and proceeded to eventually quash this most devastating of diseases.

While faith gives people comfort, and I would never try to take that away from them, when you start feeling the onset of a heart attack, a stroke, or any other medical emergency arise, who will you call first? 911 or your priest? If you answered 911, you’re already a bit of a skeptic. The next time you hear a claim that seems too fantastic to be true, grab your computer and do some research. I think you’ll find the scientific method quite rewarding once you get the hang of it.

*Please look to the left. You will find a header with a list of sites dedicated to science and skepticism. I encourage you to read as much as you can. While I’m an amateur who is just priming your skeptical pump, these are professionals who do this for a living. Learning is addictive, I hope you’ll check them out.

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Money isn’t a cure for poverty; it’s a morphine drip

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

As someone with an extensive background in automotive repair, I can tell you there are two types of technicians: those who use science and logic to diagnose a car, and those who merely throw parts at it in hopes the condition goes away.

The former is efficient and precise while the other costs the car owner a lot of money in bad guesswork—rarely fixing anything other than occasionally by blind luck. This is also true of well-meaning politicians who think that throwing money at the non-rich (average income people like me, and the poor as well) will be the most efficient way to solve all our economic woes. They’ve racked up trillions of debt dollars; yet our economy is far from fixed.

Bad MechanicOne way to win an election is to promise people free money. Convincing the masses that government would be there in their time of need was Obama’s most effective election tactic.

It’s easy to understand why this campaign strategy works, just look at the abundance of people who play the lottery. The idea of something for nothing is alluring, but just as physics dictates you cannot create energy from nothing, free money is an equally ridiculous notion—it came from someone who earned it, not thin air,  and not an endless well of cash in Washington.

Most reasonable people agree corporatism is immoral; good investment or not. But what about subsidies to the average and poor? As heartless as this may seem, throwing money at the non-rich is a horrible investment of our tax dollars; plus, it is also immoral.  Just because I’m smiling as I steal from a “have” and give to a “have-not,” doesn’t magically make it something other than theft.

Many of us believe that if we were awarded a fortune, we would be on easy street forever. Yet, average people who win a substantial sum often end up filing for bankruptcy. Stories on this phenomenon are here, here, and here. This happens because the non-rich, as obvious as it should seem, are just not good at investing, budgeting, and maintaining wealth.

If you won the lottery, who would you want investment advice from? Steve Forbes or your uncle Sam who’s currently down $16 trillion on his E*Trade account but is patiently awaiting for those penny stocks to go crazy? I have news for you, Sam isn’t investing his money, he’s investing yours and mine. Can we please agree he should stop?

Uncle SamMost people who earn a 4 or 5-figure salary are simply not as motivated to be rich commensurate to those who went to college for 8 years and attained a degree they actually use, nor as courageous as those who took the plunge and invested their money into a business idea like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. They don’t bother reading books on investing, they don’t strive to get promotions at work, they spend more time partying than focusing on their career, and ultimately, they’re content being an average Joe whether they admit it or not.

Sacrificing all of one’s free time to grow a business or get a difficult degree requires a dedication few have. They don’t need to be pitied or pandered to by politicians who act as though making an average income means you’ve failed. Many people who are not rich, love their life as it is. It is disgusting for statist-like politicians to try to convince these people that they are being taken advantage of by the rich in order to solicit votes.

Obama would have you believe that the only difference between people like you and I versus Bill Gates and Warren Buffett is opportunity. As much as I’d like to believe that those business giants are no better than me, they just are. I’ve never had an idea as good as Microsoft Windows, and despite all of the educational trading information available to me, Warren Buffett has had bowel movements with better investment ideas than me.

The fact is, if we gave Warren Buffett one million dollars to start with today, based on his record, he’d likely double it in 5-7 years. If we gave the smelly young panhandler who lives on the streets because his parents “just don’t understand him” a million dollars, he’d likely be back on the street in less than a year with a bottle in a bag and some awesome party stories.

Honest Panhandler
Honest Panhandler

The plethora of self-made entrepreneurs in this country who started with nothing are proof that you can go from meager to millionaire if you do the right things; opportunity abounds here. But, America can’t guarantee happiness; we only guarantee the right to pursue it. No politician should endeavor to do anything more.

If the needy need help, their family, friends, local church, or some other community group will find a way, that’s what we did before social programs, and to some extent do today. If none of those people wish to help that person, then we need to have an honest discussion about why. By and large, good people help other good people. Bad people are properly shunned without assistance; as it should be.

Our forefathers never intended for the people to have a federal safety net. Liberty only exists when we allow people to succeed and to fail at their own hands. Gambling with our money (which is ultimately what investments/subsidies are) is wrong, no matter how well-intentioned. We are free-market capitalists, not statists—at least not yet.

So I love you Uncle Sam, but please understand what our forefathers (men who knew what tyranny was like, and worked so hard to prevent it) understood—you should protect our rights and our shores; then politely get the hell out of our way.