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Thoughts on Chasing El Chupacabra PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Alison Smith   

The JREF is quite an amazing organization in many ways - including, of course, that the organization's founder is, in fact, Amazing. One of the ways you may not have experienced, though, is the sense of close-knit fellowship found onboard the JREF hosted cruises, called The Amaz!ng Adventures. The Amaz!ng Adventures are different from The Amaz!ng Meeting in that the group is so much smaller, so much closer, and you never have an incident where you didn't actually say anything beyond "Hello" to someone you swore you'd hang out with (Sorry again, Loon).


Chasing El Chupacabra was the fourth cruise of the skeptical variety, and featured talks on the psychic industry, Mexican UFOs, and El Chupacabra (the Mexican goatsucker, who we were apparently chasing - though why anyone would actively follow a coyote with mange is a tad beyond me).

What you don't see about the cruise on the site or in the literature, though, is the intangible sense of happiness that comes from being around individuals who have the same interests, share in so much fun, and create these wonderful in-jokes that will probably be bouncing around the internets forever (Hello, Handy Nasty).


The thing that we might have a tendency to forget when arguing with other-minded people on forums or taking that annoying ghost hunting group to task is how much, even in the midst of all this critical thinking and heated debate, we are one huge family tied together by this strange search for truth.


I was taken ill on the cruise and missed many of the talks, which is why I'm not discussing them at length. But even so, I still got the enormous pleasure of sitting with Mark Edward, skeptic and mentalist, and learning about his art during some downtime in a bar called Vintages.


I also had the honor of sitting on a panel with Mr. Randi, Jeff Wagg, Soccergirl, and Tim Farley for a discussion on skepticism in general, which resulted in some interesting revelations. Jeff posed a question to all of us: What is your personal gris-gris?


I'm not going to list everyone's, because it was a moment that should be put into context. It's a fascinating question to pose to skeptics, though, because it seems that if you dig hard enough, all of us believe in something that isn't necessarily true. And that's why this community of skeptics is so important - we are all here to gently fact-check one another, and for the most part, we're all alright with that.


One of the attendees at the panel asked us, as a group, how we deal with friends and family members who have beliefs that we disagree with. And there is a member of my family who is anti-vax and believes in homeopathic remedies. The answer, for me, is that we don't talk about it on any significant level. The people I care about can believe whatever they want. But within this community, I expect to be practically slaughtered if, for instance, I utter the word ‘orb' on national television. And that's not only okay, it's a good thing.


We live in a world that's, frankly, full of crap. And it's so refreshing to sit around as a group and collectively mock Uri Geller - which we actually did. One of the group activities was a game called "Who Am I?" wherein participants imitated famous skeptics and famous believers to the guesses of their groups. Adam Savage's love for explosions made our group's pretty easy.


For even more excitement, we had Fun Size Music, featuring the musical talents of Sean McCabe, Mr. Randi's personal assistant. I particularly enjoyed the freestyle song Mexican Woo, which he performed with fellow skeptic Adam Levenstein.


I guess what I'm getting at here is... sometimes we lose sight of what's important in all this, and much of what is important is camaraderie. We live in a world that's full of crap, yeah, but together we can take a moment and laugh about it.


So, next time a cruise is coming, think about joining the group. In addition to an awesome dose of critical thinking, you'll also be part of the family. And I don't mean that in a cultish Mafia way.

 

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written by BillyJoe, March 16, 2009
And there is a member of my family who is anti-vax and believes in homeopathic remedies. The answer, for me, is that we don't talk about it on any significant level.


My daughter's new boyfriend, I just found out, is an anti-evolution, creationist, christian.

Hmmm...

I'm gearing up for battle but my initial gently probing forays into his belief system hasn't revealed anything substantial as yet.
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written by MadScientist, March 16, 2009
@BillyJoe: Good luck with that. Sometimes people make it easy though - like those who claim to be astronomers but believe in a young earth. This invariably leads to the invention of new 'facts' (such as sky fairy producing stars with their first rays of light already close to the earth). I am reminded of a line by Walter Scott (often incorrectly attributed to Shakespeare since it was posthumously plagiarized into one of his plays): Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive!
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written by Elexina, March 16, 2009
I have some very religious (anti-science, anti-evolution, anti-reproductive freedom) family-in-law members, and a few who I fear are buying into some of the anti-vax arguments and I make sure to correct them when they are making or spreading irresponsible and false information, but I try not to attack them personally. There is a difference between believing something and actively doing harm, so I try to choose my battles.

I do desperately want to attend TAM and the next cruise but I live in the northeast and, geographically and financially, it doesn't seem within reach. Maybe when I win the lottery. Or maybe there will be an essay-writing contest for free tickets? smilies/wink.gif
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written by Beamstalk, March 16, 2009
I had my parents read Finding Darwin's God by Kenneth Miller that helped squash the anti-science. My sister still wants nothing to do with it though and is a creotard. We just stopped discussing the issue. I let them have their silly religious superstition and just don't bring that one up.
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written by latsot, March 16, 2009
Much of my immediate family is intensely religious, my sister especially so. She confronted me a couple of times years ago to invite me to prayer meetings so she could save my soul, but I declined in the strongest terms and she's given that up now. I don't see her more than once a year, but when I do, she does her best to force religion down my throat without explicitly trying to exorcise me. For example, if she brings her family to my house, they will suddenly start praising god every so often for no reason I can determine in an almost hysterical fashion. They pray before eating and drinking and every so often they will suddenly start talking to their infant children about god's greatness. It's creepy, it's embarrassing and it's frankly unwelcome in my house, but I tend to let it lie. There's just no point in causing trouble and I grin and bear my way through it, as I do the odd religious wedding and funeral I have to attend.

This is a problem, of course. I'm expected to respect their overtly creepy religiosity with a smile, but I've been lectured by my sister for saying "Christ" and disapproving of certain religious views. I tolerate this in family members because it's just not worth the aggro. She has a few repugnant views that I can't and won't compromise on, however (I'm sure you can guess) and she's eventually learned not to bring these up.

I've come into conflict a couple of times with my (also religious) father, usually over email. He'll begin (and he almost always initiates it) pleasantly with every apparent intention of having a sensible discussion, but will inevitably fly into a rage at my pesky logic and superior bible knowledge. He'll finish by resorting to petulance and name-calling, followed by not speaking to me for a few months. I'm still happy to discuss religion with him on any terms, but I'm no longer under any illusions about the outcome.

There is no doubt that my family's religious beliefs are a major reason why we are not at all close. My sister's sinister behaviour aside, I'm more embarrassed by them than repelled: they seem to be the intolerant ones.
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written by BMN, March 16, 2009
if you dig hard enough, all of us believe in something that isn't necessarily true

Philosophically speaking, there is very little we believe that is necessarily true. Does the earth revolve around the sun? Or are we perhaps trapped in a computer simulation, and are both sun and earth merely an illusion.
But I suppose it is meant to be taken more in the sense of "all of us believe in things that aren't necessarily based on (empirical) evidence". The most interesting things in this respect might be personal relationships; especially considering you mention the importance of camaraderie. The image we form of person aren't really based solely on who they are. For example Nature Neuroscience recently published an interesting article about first impressions ( http://www.nature.com/neuro/jo....2278.html ).
As "things that aren't necessarily true" go, relationships are also something you shouldn't be too skeptical of. They're built on trust, and skepticism can be taken as a display of mistrust and can cause things to break down. (Perhaps that might also explain people's tenacity in clinging to a personal relationship with God.)
Which isn't to say too little skepticism in relationships is good; just consider the issue of domestic abuse.
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written by Willy K, March 16, 2009
LATSOT
I'm expected to respect their overtly creepy religiosity with a smile,

I think you should only show your family that kind of "respect" when you are in their home(s).

You should make it clear to them that they are being extremely disrespectful of YOU in your home. smilies/cry.gif
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I'll pass
written by Realitysage, March 16, 2009
If that what passes for entertainment at a skeptic's gathering....I'll do just that........
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State one's view but acknowledge that it could be wrong
written by Jon Nelson, March 16, 2009
I find that if I try to convince someone that their belief is wrong, I can very easily start getting all excited and end up saying things that are too absolute, and in all likelyhood, wrong.

Also, I've noticed that wiser people than me tend to avoid stating absolutes and instead express uncertainty about their opinions, while appearing generally good-natured. The world is an very uncertain place, so I think this approach is the most realistic.

However, it can still be good to express one's opinion on a matter. On the topic of religion, I think it is good for the atheist to state that he or she is atheist, if only so that others can see that atheists are real, regular people, but not try to make it sound like he or she is smarter than the other person. After all, the other person could very well be smarter than you in many respects.

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written by KingMerv00, March 16, 2009
Nothing smart to say. Just wish I had been there. Maybe next time.
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Not an Atheist
written by Son of Rea, March 17, 2009
Having been raised Catholic, and having been one to defend my belief passionately until the age of 25, I know how "Atheists" are perceived.

I suppose by definition, I am now an Atheist, but the term still makes me cringe. I hate to even say that I'm an Atheist because I know what the term instantly makes "believers" think about me.

So I've been debating what term I should use to describe my beliefs. I thought the whole "brights" idea was a good one, but it's not very catchy, and frankly sounds a bit gay smilies/wink.gif

So I think I'm going to go with "Realist". That word instantly implies that I feel the religious are not being realistic, and it doesn't have the negative connotations associated with Atheist.
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written by Willy K, March 17, 2009
Son of Rea
I suppose by definition, I am now an Atheist, but the term still makes me cringe.

Well Sonny, instead of declaring yourself an atheist, ask any inquisitive person what they think is the definition of an atheist. Let them rant on and on if they so inclined. If they are like a majority of those believer folks, their "definition" will be a hateful, negative stereotype. The you can set the Richard Dawkins trap. Ask them how many gods they believe in, if the answer is "one," you simply say "I only believe in one less god than you do." smilies/grin.gif
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written by Alan3354, March 17, 2009
It's a common saying that we should "respect a person's religion." If an adult believes there's a Tooth Fairy, or a Santa Claus, how is that different?
Religion = Superstition + $$$$$$
And, it's bad luck to be superstitious.
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@ Willy K
written by Son of Rea, March 17, 2009
Good advice. Lately, I can't get enough of Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins. I wish they were more prevalent in media, and that there were more people like them. Sam is a great spokesman, because he manages to come across very humbly, and very intelligently. Dawkins also comes across as intelligent, but not as charismatic somehow.

Anyway, it's funny. I saw Mr. Randi live once (10 years ago), and at the end of his presentation, he allowed for questions. One guy asked if he believed in God, and James said "Which god? Zeus, Thor, Apollo, etc."
So in essence, he gave the same response you suggested.

However that response just seemed a bit evasive. When you are religious, it is obvious that "your" god is the only real one, and referencing mythological gods just seems like you are not being serious....because of course nobody believes in *those* gods anymore.

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Get well soon
written by Mully410, March 18, 2009
Great post Alison. I sure hope you get well soon.
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written by Steel Rat, April 12, 2009
I suppose by definition, I am now an Atheist, but the term still makes me cringe. I hate to even say that I'm an Atheist because I know what the term instantly makes "believers" think about me.


Lol, I thrive on it!
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written by BillyJoe, April 12, 2009
That's the attitude. Out of the closet you ATHEISTS!
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