Thursday, June 30, 2011

Contest Winner #5: "The Ethical Obligations of Skepticism," by K.O. Myers

There is an inherent power in holding a skeptical worldview. Skepticism adapts tools of reason and weighing of evidence, designed and refined by science, and applies them to everyday life. It’s arguably more likely than any other to get us close to something resembling objective truth. But becoming a skeptic also turns intellectual rigor into an ethical responsibility.

I believe that skepticism, conscientiously applied, obligates us to do two things as consistently as possible: to apply the rational, reasonable thought process to our own lives, and to acknowledge, both in ourselves and in others, the cognitive pitfalls that make complete rationality practically impossible.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Noteworthy, 29 Jun 2011

Barbara Drescher's Swift article, Need Advice? Ask an Expert, is an excellent reminder that in our enthusiasm to to help others through our skeptical outreach, we should be careful not to go beyond the limits of our own knowledge about a topic.

Do you have something to say about skepticism and ethics? Consider writing for S&E.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Contest Winner #4: "Ethics Compels Skeptical Outreach," by Tim Farley

You are standing at a busy street corner in a bustling city. Traffic zooms by as you wait for the light. You notice that a person nearby, distracted by a cell phone conversation, is about to step out right in front of moving traffic. Do you reach out and pull them back?

Of course you do.

This is basic human decency. It doesn't matter what religion or philosophy to which you subscribe. Unless you are a time-traveling Captain Kirk, you should feel ethically compelled to pull the person back and save them from harm.

It is my contention that this same ethical compulsion applies to skeptics.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Noteworthy, 21 Jun 2011

We're always looking for articles relating skepticism and ethics. If you run across one, even if it isn't brand new, please send us a link at admin at, and we'll check it out for posting in the next Noteworthy. Thanks!

You can now follow us on Twitter as @skepticethics to get info on updates to the site. We also now have a fan page on Facebook, which receives the blog feed.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

On Fathers and Forgiveness

One of our readers was inspired by Sharon's first post to tell her own story about applying skepticism in difficult emotional situations. She requested that we post this anonymously.

Father's Day used to be difficult for me. I would stress about it: Should I send my father a card? Just ignore him? Call him on the phone? Send a present? I had a very difficult childhood because of my abusive father. As an adult, I've tried to reconnect with him, and he has proved, again and again, that he has not changed at all. In fact, he feels he should have been “tougher” with his children. I can't imagine how he could have been tougher without killing us. Indeed, he came close a few times. (His stepdaughter even took out a restraining order against him, after he had "disciplined" her child.)

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Contest Winner #3: by Mike Wagner

How skeptical must I be, to sit reading a page on skepticism and ethics and wonder at its legitimacy? It has appeared, as though summoned from the void by anonymous hands, to challenge readers to compete for a prize one can't even be sure exists.

The inspiration of poetic hyperbole aside, what trust should we grant to the author, or authors, who may be using us as proverbial rats in a maze of ethical study?

Therein the answer lies, posed by a simple question. What's the harm?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Noteworthy, 13 Jun 2011

We're always looking for articles relating skepticism and ethics. If you run across one, even if it isn't brand new, please send us a link at admin at, and we'll check it out for posting in the next Noteworthy. Thanks!

You can now follow us on Twitter as @skepticethics to get info on updates to the site. We also now have a fan page on Facebook, which receives the blog feed.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Contest Winner #2: "Hypocrites Wasn't a Philosopher" by Blake Smith

"A scientific (or empirical) skeptic is one who questions beliefs on the basis of scientific understanding. Most scientists, being scientific skeptics, test the reliability of certain kinds of claims by subjecting them to a systematic investigation using some form of the scientific method." -- Wikipedia, Skepticism

I am a skeptic and science enthusiast. My world view has evolved over my lifetime, but adopting the term skeptic as a short-hand to describe my personal philosophy has been tremendously helpful both as a reminder to myself to in turn be skeptical, and to explain to people I encounter why I don't necessarily believe whatever it is they're telling me about.

Like most people I know who thus self-identify, skepticism is something I learned. One can be taught how to evaluate the world. I don't accept many things on faith - yet I have faith in the tools of skepticism to help me figure out what is real and what should be doubted.

Coming from a fundamentalist protestant background, it is thus ironic to find myself in a position where I have to remind people in my community that many of the values which are core to "being American" are better served by logic and reason than by the traditional delivered wisdom of religion.

Or at least that's how I see it. Perhaps you'll disagree? Read on.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Getting Along, by Steve Cuno

OK, so I’m a little slow. Only recently did it dawn on me that most of my very close friends are mega-conservative.

It’s a fact. I spend most of my time fraternizing with people who: believe in creationism; think climate science is bogus; think President Obama is the antichrist; want to throw undocumented Mexicans out of the country or in jail; oppose equal rights for the sexes; oppose equal rights for the LBGT community; believe in a god, spirits, auras, ghosts, astrology, reincarnation, resurrection, karma, etc.; aren’t too worried about the environment because the Second Coming of Christ will come along before we have a chance to finish ourselves off; aren’t worried about injustice because all will be set straight in the Hereafter; think that what consenting adults do in private is their business; confuse believing what the evidence doesn’t support with being “open-minded”; and who to think that anyone who disagrees with them is at the very least just plain wrong, and at the very most just plain sinful.

Take all of the above, flip it 180 degrees, and you have a pretty fair description of me.

Cool, isn’t it?

I mean, the fact that they and I can still be, not just friends, but close friends.

There’s a word for that, and it applies to both of us, to our credit. The word, I believe, is “maturity.”

Steve Cuno is the founder and chairman of The RESPONSE Agency, Inc., a direct response marketing firm, and the author of Prove It Before You Promote It: How to Take the Guesswork Out of Marketing. He is a popular speaker (including several talks at TAM), and contributes to the SWIFT blog at He also has a personal web site at

Noteworthy, 09 Jun 2011

This has been out for a couple of weeks, but this SWIFT post by Steve Cuno is worth a read. Steve has kindly agreed to contribute articles to S&E (regularly, we hope), the first of which should be up on the site soon.

And here's another good one from Steve's personal blog.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Noteworthy, 07 Jun 2011

In case you've missed them, here are a couple of articles worth checking out:

Friday, June 3, 2011

Contest Winner: "This is not a Good Essay", by Mike McRae

You won't like me very much. I'm not a nice man.

I helped a girl pay for an abortion when I was 19. It probably wasn't mine, but to be honest, I think I'm more confident in that claim than I really have a right to be.

I was married at 23. Divorced at 24. Remarried at 31 (she was initially a one night stand).

I don't believe in your god. Or any god, for that matter.

I mean it when I call illegal 'boat people' asylum seekers, think gay people have a right to marry and adopt children, see benefits in open marriages and might accuse you of being a bigot if you disagree with me.

I've been known to stand up for the rights of criminals and scowl at the praise lavished on public heroes.

I don't always believe in democracy.

I eat meat.

Maybe most damning of all, I'll take your most personal beliefs and tease them apart until all that's left are threads of truth and threads of wishful thinking. Depending on my mood, I might even do it in front of you.