Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks

Teen Skepchick’s Reality Checks 10.29

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Teen Skepchick's Reality Checks 10.30



Vy is a recent graduate working in a neuroscience lab with children and monkeys. She likes sewing, knitting, lifting weights, and reading in her free time. Especially reading about science!


  1. October 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm —

    I know that it was probably a word constraint issue, but it does drive me batty that “Follow-up studies corroborate these findings, showing that BPE also predicts the degree to which participants perceive the world to be dangerous and vile, the perceived need for preemptive military aggression to solve conflicts, and reported support for torture,” is the only mention of torture. Torture. I really think when an article is discussing the ramifications of belief in embodied evil and the data are brought up that torture gets a pass, some time should be spent on how sick and even self-contradictory that really is.

    It is alarming and horrific that people who think evil can be embodied and particularly the people who believe a devil is not only a real thing but a thing that will try to tempt you to damnation through various heinous acts have a particular cognitive dissonance when it comes to something like this. I don’t hold those beliefs, but if I did wouldn’t getting me to promote torture be a great way to win that devil bet? It’s torture!

    I get that there were some other points to make and hopefully the author, Valdesolo, thought it self-explanatory, but it is absolutely worth making explicit, especially when it’s noted in the US-based, English-language publication that 70 percent of polled residents believe a devil is a thing in the third freaking sentence. The third sentence! Come on! I mean, really? It’s just going to slide?

    • October 29, 2013 at 10:14 pm —

      And furthermore (because of course I would have a furthermore):
      I feel like the acknowledgement on page two of the very stuff I brought up backs away very quickly from the impact of the previous page’s conclusion. I think it’s the persistent use of “we” that feels like it’s trying to sweep that under the rug. Then it all ends with “Individuals who are not intrinsically and immutably motivated by the desire to intentionally cause harm to others. That may be the greatest trick the devil has ever pulled.”

      It may be a wink and a nudge, but we were just reading about frigging torture. I get the impression the author is going “here’s this genuinely horrible thing, but oh well, people are nutty. Someone should probably do some kind of thing about it maybe. Knock knock?” When it should be more like, “here is this horrible thing. Here are some even more horrible implications. What are we going to do about it?” It’s Scientific American, for crying out loud. Data isn’t all sunshine and rainbows.

      I actually see a bit of parallel between it and the Wikipedia transphobia article (only without the dialog), including an effort to pass the buck (to no one in the case of the SA article and to rules lawyering in the Sandifer). I think Sandifer does a fantastic job of laying out what the argument was, why it was infuriating, and why the outcome sucks. The focus on getting to the heart of the matter and really addressing the ethics of the situation over the wording of an imperfectly constructed rule really drives the point that just about each step in that process is so transparently anti-trans* it’s outrageous. By cataloging the events it is the “what am I going to do about it,” calling out bigots for bigotry and letting people know so that the bigots can be shamed into being halfway reasonable (for now) about this (on this one thing) (until they think they won’t get busted).

      I’m an optimist, can’t you tell?

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