This image was widely shared from the I Fucking Love Science twitter and facebook pages. It was posted in March, but Mayim Bialik is regularly praised by many skeptics as a great role model for young people or an entertainer who is something more.
When some people brought up the fact that Mayim Bialik promotes pseudoscience, many said that she still deserved to be on the image because none of us are perfect and we’re all wrong about certain things. Phil Plait just posted a Slate piece stating that it wasn’t so black-and-white and mentioned the pros of including her, even though he pointed out that she does promote harmful ideas.
But why is this a grey area, even with some of my fellow skeptics? Many of us regularly criticize Dr. Oz. He’s profited from promoting quackery. He also has a background in Cardiothoracic Surgery and has done good work helping others. Much of the advice he gives on his television show is based on real medicine and helpful, but because he’s done so much harm in introducing pseudoscience to the public, we don’t include him in lists of people who inspire others to get into the medical field. He doesn’t just have a few bad ideas, it’s many. Same with Mayim Bialik. Why do we say the good outweighs the bad with her but not others like Dr. Oz?
I agree that having some disagreeable opinions shouldn’t automatically dismiss the good work someone does. Most of us are wrong on some things and we have our weak spots. For example, I have a friend who is a scientist but believes in Astrology. But it’s a mostly private belief she doesn’t promote and doesn’t believe in it to the point of it controlling her life, so I don’t let it affect my high opinion of her. If she were strongly promoting that, I may still promote her but with a disclaimer. But if she had a blog about that plus other harmful ideas, I may still respect the good work she does, but not fully endorse her. I may share an individual act of good work she did, but not include her on any lists of influential scientists. I have another friend in STEM who is the same with Christianity. She’s a liberal Christian, mostly for cultural reasons, doesn’t promote it, and still chooses evidence over dogma for the majority of her beliefs. Not perfect, but not a disqualifier.
But these examples are not Mayim Bialik. She has a website and blog network with plenty of pseudoscience, and is a spokesperson for Holistic Moms, which promotes homeopathy and discourages vaccinating children. If she’s endorsing woo on such an extensive level, why should we endorse her? I do respect her intelligence, talent, and hard work. I was a huge Blossom fan as a kid and it was cool to later find out that an entertainer I liked as a kid went on to pursue science. But I also know what it’s like to not be a skeptic and fully understand critical thinking. As recently as five years ago, I still believed in alt med and other woo. So I know just how harmful promoting Mayim Bialik can be. When I was an alt-medder, I saw people with a science background promoting woo. One of two things happened. Either I thought, “See, this person who has a background in the field believes this. There must be something to it!” or I didn’t even know what they were promoting was considered an “alternative” opinion and thought that it was an evidence-based belief.
I think it may be hard for some skeptics, including Phil Plait, to fully realize that at first. Plait has done a lot of great work and he’s helped me in my understanding of why Astrology is hogwash. Based on his history in the Science and Skepticism fields, he’s likely been a skeptic and had critical thinking skills for many years. I’m sure there are beliefs that he’s examined and questioned throughout his life, but he’s been working in the public understanding of science for a long time. But I have a somewhat recent memory of what it’s like to not understand how to decipher good info from the bad. This is a case for the promotion of critical thinking skills and skepticism in general, but since many people don’t understand this, seeing people like Mayim Bialik endorsed by science pages and skeptics – those who usually criticize people like her – can give the impression that her pseudoscience writings are actually science. Skeptics look at this and know the background behind it. But most of the people who follow IFLS, or who saw the image shared by a friend, do not.
The majority of my friends are not skeptics. Before I became involved in the skeptic community, I was mostly involved in the music scene. I love my artistic friends dearly and since most of them aren’t skeptics, I see how they view the promotion of science. I have several friends who are anti-vaxxers and have mentioned that even Mayim Bialik, who has a PhD in the medical field, does not believe in vaccinating. They then see IFLS promoting her as a shining example of someone to be admired. In their minds, this is further confirmation that she’s right. IFLS didn’t say not to vaccinate children, but they connect those dots. It’s not the fault of IFLS if some people aren’t thinking critically, but it does help people strongly hold onto these harmful beliefs. And it can cause further confusion in people who may be on the fence.
On one hand, I understand that many skeptics have mainly skeptic friends and colleagues. It may be hard for them to see how most people think. But I also don’t understand why they think Mayim Bialik gets a pass and Dr. Oz does not.
But I will say, as Phil Plait mentioned, that this has at least created a dialogue, since many skeptics brought up the hogwash she believes. I just hope that it’s not mostly skeptics seeing that commentary.
Update 12/23/14: Phil Plait has changed his mind and I wrote my thoughts about it.
Here is the new music video for Skeptoid’s 400th episode! I am happy to be a part of this video as a nurse, dancer, and posse member.
Skeptoid #400: It’s Just Science
Check out the Skeptoid website for the podcast, blog, and more. There is also a facebook page. The 400th podcast episode and the lyrics for the song are here.
Skeptoid is currently the 13th most popular podcast on iTunes in the “Science & Medicine” category. Congrats to Brian Dunning on his 400th episode and all of his success. He has helped provide the public with essential critical thinking skills and information.
Here are some photos from the shoot:
Thanks to all the cast and crew. And check out NewRuleFx for your special effects props and equipment needs!
Here is my new song, “Unborn Ghosts”, featuring the spoken word of Richard Dawkins. I did this as both a tribute to and a way to share the beautiful words of Dawkins from
Unweaving the Rainbow. As I’ve written about before, I want these words said at my funeral. Actually, now that this song exists, I’d like the song to be played.
Richard Dawkins has so profoundly changed the way that I look at the world – from applying skepticism broadly (not just to religion, like I had done before), to having a much deeper understanding and appreciation of evolution – that he’s actually changed my life.
Here are photos and videos of the Richard Dawkins/Neil deGrasse events I attended on September 28. I was waiting until the video was released before I posted about this, so here you go (Videos and descriptions from http://richarddawkins.net):
The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science ( http://richarddawkins.net ) presents: “The Poetry of Science: Discussions of the Beauty of Science.”
Two of science’s luminaries converse on the beauty of science. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of NOVA and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins will explore the wonders of the Cosmos and of Life, its origins, its inspirations, and why science is not just an option, it is the only reality we possess.
Link to the video: http://is.gd/gccdf
Here are some photos I took from a presentation Tuesday night in DC by Sam Harris. He was speaking about his new book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values.
These two photos were taken by @brucefp:
I’m currently in the middle of reading Sam Harris’ new book, The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. I had to take a few minutes to pause and look up something he mentioned, called The Monty Hall problem. Here is part of the Wikipedia article on this:
The Monty Hall problem is a probability puzzle loosely based on the American television game show Let’s Make a Deal. The name comes from the show’s original host, Monty Hall. The problem is also called the Monty Hall paradox, as it is a veridical paradox in that the result appears absurd but is demonstrably true.
The problem was originally posed in a letter by Steve Selvin to the American Statistician in 1975. A well-known statement of the problem was published in Marilyn vos Savant‘s “Ask Marilyn” column in Parade magazine in 1990:
Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?
Although not explicitly stated in this version, solutions are almost always based on the additional assumptions that the car is initially equally likely to be behind each door and that the host must open a door showing a goat, must randomly choose which door to open if both hide goats, and must make the offer to switch.
As the player cannot be certain which of the two remaining unopened doors is the winning door, and initially all doors were equally likely, most people assume that each of two remaining closed doors has an equal probability and conclude that switching does not matter; hence the usual answer is “stay with your original door”. However, under standard assumptions, the player should switch—doing so doubles the overall probability of winning the car from 1/3 to 2/3.
The Monty Hall problem, in its usual interpretation, is mathematically equivalent to the earlier Three Prisoners problem, and both bear some similarity to the much older Bertrand’s box paradox. These and other problems involving unequal distributions of probability are notoriously difficult for people to solve correctly; when the Monty Hall problem appeared in Parade, approximately 10,000 readers, including nearly 1,000 with PhDs, wrote to the magazine claiming the published solution (“switch!”) was wrong. Numerous psychological studies examine how these kinds of problems are perceived. Even when given a completely unambiguous statement of the Monty Hall problem, explanations, simulations, and formal mathematical proofs, many people still meet the correct answer with disbelief.
Today is the 30th anniversary of the original airing of the first episode of Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. I first watched the series as a child and it definitely piqued my interest in the world of science and outer space.
The content below beautifully explains it all. It’s an email I received today from CFI (The Center for Inquiry). I’m a friend of the center, and you should be, too. The necklaces that are linked are by SurlyRamics. Some of the jewelry I wear are Surlys.
Happy Birthday, COSMOS!
Thirty years ago today, millions of Americans sat down in their living room and watched a revolution in television programming: the first episode of Carl Sagan’s masterpiece, COSMOS. Written by Sagan, Ann Druyan, and Steven Soter, the 13- part series won an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and was the most watched PBS series in the U.S. for twenty years.
Since then, COSMOS has gone on to reach almost a billion viewers in over 60 countries, and it’s still the most widely-watched PBS series in the world.
But of course it didn’t just transform television, it transformed us, our understanding of ourselves and our place in the cosmos. It taught us some physics, some history, some chemistry and biology, and lots of astronomy, but it’s greatest gift was teaching us—us Earthlings sitting at home watching television—how to feel at home in the cosmos.
Using state-of-the-art effects and the tools of both modern science and ancient storytelling, COSMOS eased an entire generation from the abyss of cosmic insignificance to an understanding of our unique significance to each other.
We’ve been reveling in the cosmos ever since, and it’s that wonder and appreciation that we celebrate today, thirty years later.
Join us over the next few months as we take out our COSMOS DVD’s and gather for viewing marathons, astronomy lectures, and star parties. We’ve made some beautiful pendants to commemorate the Anniversary, and we might even have an apple-pie baking contest (from scratch, of course!)
Look for events already planned near you and check back with us for updates at carlsaganday.org!
Happy Birthday, Carl! — Carl Sagan Day 2010
Next, be sure to wrap up the Anniversary with your very own Carl Sagan Day celebration, November 9th, Sagan’s birthday. Last year’s inauguralevent in Ft. Lauderdale was a fantastic success, and now groups around the world are planning their own tributes with science fairs, planetarium shows, teacher workshops, and more, all to say “Thanks!” to Sagan, and to bring his gifts to another generation of “star stuff.”
Whether you’re an independent skeptics group, an astronomy club or a science department, a researcher, a teacher, or a student, let us know how you’re planning to commemorate Carl Sagan Day 2010 and we’ll add your event to our Carl Sagan Day event calendar to help spread the word.
Please email your event information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
COSMOS imagery and logo copyright © 1980 Druyan-Sagan Associates, Inc. formerly known as Carl Sagan Productions, Inc. This material cannot be further circulated without written permission of Druyan-Sagan Associates, Inc.
For more information about CFI or Carl Sagan Day, please visit carlsaganday.org or email@example.com.
I’ll be attending an awesome nerdfest tomorrow and I am really excited. Richard Dawkins and Neil deGrasse Tyson are both rockstars in the science world. I will be at both events.
|The Secular Students at Howard University invite you to these two special events:
The Poetry of Science:
Discussions of the Beauty of Science
Tuesday, September 28, 12:00 pm
Cramton Auditorium, Howard University, Washington, DC
Two of science’s luminaries converse on the beauty of science. Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist and host of NOVA, and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins will explore the wonders of the cosmos and of life, its origins, its inspirations, and why science is not just an option, it is the only reality we possess.
Neil deGrasse Tyson is the recipient of twelve honorary doctorates and the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal. His contributions to the public appreciation of the cosmos have been recognized by the International Astronomical Union in their official naming of asteroid 13123 Tyson. On the lighter side, Tyson was voted Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive by People Magazine in 2000. Tyson is the first occupant of the Frederick P. Rose Directorship of the Hayden Planetarium.
Richard Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and former Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. With his strong, determined, and tenacious advocacy of science, he has taken on his critics with wit, humor and, most of all, evidence. Among his books are The Greatest Show on Earth, The Ancestor’s Tale, The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Unweaving the Rainbow, and The God Delusion.
There will be a book signing immediately after the lecture.
This free public event is hosted by the Department of Physiology & Biophysics of Howard University, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and the Secular Students of Howard University.
Tickets can be ordered online through Ticketmaster.
Dialogue of Reason:
Science and Faith in the Black Community
Tuesday, September 28, 6:30 pm
Cramton Auditorium, Howard University, Washington, DC
Faith has traditionally played a significant role among African Americans, while science has been marginalized. It is time to confront the issues that have kept Blacks out of the halls of science and confined to the pews. Richard Dawkins along with Anthony Pinn, Sikivu Hutchinson, and others will meet at Howard University to discuss the issues surrounding science within the Black Community as well as the impediments imposed by superstition and religious dogma.
Anthony Pinn is the Agnes Cullen Arnold Professor of Humanities and Professor of Religious Studies at Rice University. He is the executive director of the Society for the Study of Black Religion. His teaching interests include liberation theologies, black religious aesthetics, religion and popular culture, and African American Humanism.
Sikivu Hutchinson is a writer and intergroup specialist for the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission. She is the editor of blackfemlens.org, a contributor to the New Humanism magazine and a Senior Fellow for the Institute for Humanist Studies. She is currently working on a book entitled Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics and Secular America.
Todd Stiefel is a secular humanist, an atheist and full-time freethought activist. He is the founder and president of the Stiefel Freethought Foundation. His mission is to gain respect for freethinkers and ensure the complete separation of church and state. He serves on the development committee of American Atheists and the advisory board of the Secular Student Alliance.
Candace Shannon Lewis is a lecturer in the School of Communications at Howard University, and assistant to the Dean. Her constant contact with Howard University students gives her a unique insight into how religion and science are viewed by young adults in the Howard Community.
Mark D. Hatcher is a PhD candidate of Neurophysiology at Howard University. He started Secular Students at Howard University (SSHU), which is the first secular organization to be held at a historically black college or university.
There will be a book signing immediately after the lecture.
This free public event is sponsored by the Department of Physiology & Biophysics of Howard University, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, Secular Students of Howard University, African Americans for Humanism, CFI On Campus, Secular Student Alliance, and other local and national secular groups.
Tickets can be ordered online through Ticketmaster.
Tickets are available at the Cramton Auditorium box office, local Ticketmaster outlets, and Ticketmaster online. To order tickets for the Dawkins/Tyson event,click here. For tickets to the Dialogue of Reason panel, click here. There is no charge for admission, but Ticketmaster outlets and online charge a service fee.
Secular Students at Howard University is a CFI On Campus affiliate. For more information about these events, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (716) 636-4869 ext. 421.
If none of this convinces you to attend, then perhaps this will: