Blog awards, and the science & skepticism blogroll

A little housekeeping & paying of temple taxes follows. First, the 15th edition of the Carnival of the Africans is out, consisting of Blaize’s picks of the best scientific and skeptical blogging for the last few months. Second, the 2010 South African blog awards nomination process has begun. While it’s unlikely that anyone other than the usual suspects will win, if you’d like to participate in an attempt to buck that trend, go and nominate a blog (or a particular post) by August 27. Lastly, Michael Meadon kindly maintains a list of African scientific & skeptical blogs over at Ionian Enchantment, and I’ve pasted the current list below. If there’s a blog missing that you believe should be included, let him know (his email address is on his website).

To ask for evidence is not (necessarily) scientism

As submitted to The Daily Maverick

Respect is due to people, rather than to ideas. While it may be politically incorrect to say so, there is no contradiction between saying that someone has a misguided, uninformed or laughable point of view, and at the same time recognising that person’s worth or dignity in general. But our sensitivity to being challenged, and to having the intrinsic merit of our ideas questioned, often leads us to conflate these two different sorts of respect.

Respecting a person is partly a matter of not causing them unnecessary trauma through ridicule or contempt. It also requires not prejudging their arguments or points of view, but rather judging those arguments on their merits. But if it is established that those arguments lack merit (when compared with competing arguments on the same topic), there is no wrong in pointing this out. It is perhaps even a duty to point it out, assuming that we care for having probably true, rather than probably false, beliefs about the world. Continue reading “To ask for evidence is not (necessarily) scientism”

Orthorexia, Pollan and fear of food

Originally published in The Daily Maverick.

As that master epistemologist (and occasional US defence secretary) Donald Rumsfeld reminded us in 2002, “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”
Some of these unknown unknowns are probably harmful to us, but seeing as we don’t know what they are, there’s little we can do to safeguard ourselves against them. But as my earlier treatment of the moral panic relating to DStv and porn implied, a known unknown (in this case, the harmfulness of porn) can be treated in two entirely different ways. Continue reading “Orthorexia, Pollan and fear of food”