Tuesday, 17 May 2011

So I have an upcoming birthday :D and the lovely Yolande O'Brien may have bought me a Kindle! I've been super excited about the idea of getting one since a friend paraded one around in front of my nose. Well, I've been excited about the idea of getting one for years.

So obviously, when you sync up your account to your brand new unit to your Amazon Account, you go browse their offers and see what you can get cheap! There's the usual Amazon catagories - Recommended for you, and Bestsellers. Now, poking around through the bestsellers, there is a lot of woo & religion. A LOT. Probably not as much as the General Fiction stuff, but a lot none the less. Worse is when it turns up in the "Recommended for You" list. I buy a lot of stuff through Amazon. I rate it all, accurately. I put up reviews & rate Authors I like, as well as "liking" books on Facebook that are important to me. You'ld think it would be fixed by now, although I know its all to do with behind-the-scenes "meta"-tagging that I can never influence.

There's been a lot of talk recently about who's "winning" the attention and mindspace of the general populace in the Skeptics/Woo Spectrum. Even in articles like this one from the ScienceBit, shared on our Facebook group by the redoubtable John Birrane, while purporting that Science and Skepticism is winning, holds the implication, in Ben Goldacre's tweet and other date, is that it is a little more complicated than that. Brian Dunning put up an article on Skepticblog that goes with his vote is that "we" are "losing".

I'm naturally inclined to assume the best in my endeavours & the causes I support (although I do usually prepare for the worst). My optimistic side is quite dominant these decades. So, what do I think? Let's say, what do I think of the transition in the last decade, 2001 to 2010 or so? I think the biggest percentage gain in terms of starting position has *definitely* been made by the Skeptic end of the equation. There's Skeptic groups appearing everywhere. NUI, Galway is even home to our sister group, The NUIG Skeptics. When I was there, that would be an unthinkable proposition. It just would never have gained ground. There is a lot to celebrate, and the journey undertaken has been immense. I personally think Mike Hall's point that Skeptic groups need to flourish to give the community spirit to rational thinkers that church gives to the religious, and I think that that part of the movement is expanding like crazy. Just have a look around, or indeed at the Birmingham Skeptics Groups Page.

But I do agree with Brian, mostly, sort of. While not expanding at the same rates as the Skepticism movement (and indeed being beaten back in places), but man, there is a lot of money in being "alternative". It's frickin everywhere. The prices paid to alternative therapy vendors, magic talisman wielders, church bats ad nauseum, gives them a lot of clout. If anyone tries to convince you that they're the friendly, down-home option when compared to "Big Pharma" or whatever, be in no doubt that they're a GIANT INDUSTRY. A giant, very profitable industry. Maybe individual proponents represent a mom-and-pop version, but they are holding the minority stake in the practises of selling hope to the gullible.

I'm economically liberal. If you work out a way to profit from what you preach or peddle, more power to you. The woo sells on message. Even as a sort-of-founder of a Skeptics group (this one), I can't imagine selling Skepticism on message. As Brian says in his piece, our message is usually don't give away your money.

So I suppose I'm mostly winding up to a question here, and that is, what do you think? Which way do you think the spectrum is heading? To be honest, I think the vast majority of people have no opinion in either direction (with the exception of religion, which is still very dominated by pro-church sentiments). To follow up on my starting points, I bought a copy of Flim-Flam for my Kindle and skipped on the "Recommended for You" Randi's Prize (What?) and Heaven is for Real (C'MON AMAZON).

PS - don't forget our next get together is next monday, the 23rd of May!

PPS - I'm still writing a bit on some academic... things... and some courses that have attracted my attention. Proper institutions are, as I said last time, slow to respond over the summer. Another, less proper place, seem to have googled me and refused to send me information. Highlarious. One fake email address later, I fixed that and had what I needed. Maybe so many of my social network profiles shouldn't say "skeptic" in the descriptor. :D

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