D.J. Grothe: skepticism and humanism

By Phil Plait | May 10, 2010 2:25 pm

I missed the NECSS meeting last month, but my pal (and JREF President) D.J. Grothe was there, and gave a great talk about the meaning of skepticism, and how it relates to humanism. And, wonderfully, the whole thing is online!

I agree with pretty much everything he said there. The idea of why we do what we do in the skeptical movement has come up a lot in my life (online and IRL) lately, and I have been doing a lot of thinking about it. I may write a post (or more likely a series of them) outlining my thoughts on this. It’s important, and the movement itself has been debating it internally recently as well. Certainly D.J.’s calm, rational discourse on this can only help.

MORE ABOUT: D.J. Grothe, Skepticism

Comments (14)

Links to this Post

  1. Unnamed – ICBS Everywhere | May 26, 2012
  1. Good Talk!

    I will be looking forward to read your take on skepticism. Mine is simple though; Just questioning the claims, merits of anything, be it belief in X where X can be replaced by whatever belief one person may hold. Simple enough. If they are right they are right, if they are wrong they are wrong. Vice Versa… But that is after thorough verification of said claims.

    Over my short life I have come to understand how we perceive reality looking through some nice colored glasses. There are so many shades to be removed. Luckily being a skeptic helps me see clearly. I am pretty sure most of my shades are removed or in the process of!


  2. Great talk! While I could nitpick about some of DJ’s terminology, it’s great to see people highlight the distinctions between the methods of vetting claims for nonsense, and the moral positions guiding how and where those methods are applied.

    Many moderately religious individuals (at least in the U.S.) are just as much humanists as some of the atheists they would otherwise consider immoral or unethical.

  3. Cory Albrecht

    It was definitely a good talk – D.J.’s speech was something that I could identify with and agree with in many ways.

    NECSS 2010 was the first (and so far only) skeptical event I ever attended and, to be honest, I was anxious about how I would fit in with the other people there because I am a theist (if not strongly) skeptic and I figured it would be just my luck to end up at the Speakers Dinner tabled with others of a more extreme attitude and be made to feel unwelcome. But that was just my own insecurities talking and I had a wonderful time at NECSS, the dinner afterwards and the bar-hopping until 3am after that. Pity the rooms at the karaoke bar were all booked. :-)

    Anyways, I booked for TAM8 a bout week after coming back NECSS 2010 and I am really looking forward to it. :-)

    However, those special dinners at TAM8 are little expensive for my taste ($1000, WTF?!?), so Phil, here’s to hoping that you will be at NECSS 2011 and that I can sit at your table at the speakers dinner after. :-)

    Your blog and the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast were my introduction to the fact that there was a community of like-minded people out there. Even though I have been involved in the on-line creation vs. evolution debate for 20 years, I had no clue that the skeptics movement even existed, and some day I hope to be able to thank you for making that introduction.

    I’m glad I started reading your blog, even though it turned out not be the pure science blog I was looking for at the time. :-)

  4. I’ve been a humanist for as long as i can remember, my attitude has always been the same;
    ‘wow, interesting…. tell me more , how did it happen, why and are you sure?’
    If you believe what people tell you without question, you could very well end up with a small furry creature with a long tail, as opposed to an optical mouse. lol.
    If something seems illogical to me i will always question it, by doing so you not only can make a better judgment on the likely hood of it being correct, you also learn from this and a lot of the time can have a nice debate whilst doing so.
    Science however, in comparison to proven things such as ummm writing say;
    you know if you put together certain letters you make a word and this is fact.
    Scientists produce theories, For no matter how far we think we have advanced or think we know… It is only when we find a theory that is more believable than the last that we consider the previous idea as wrong.
    Well, at one point we fully believed the earth was flat.
    Einstein when working upon the theory of relativity actually 1st came up with what was to be now known as special relativity.
    This was based on space alone not space time was curved.
    Einstein continued to test this idea to try + prove himself wrong until he decided that he was right.
    It was only when mathematician David Hilbert found a problem that general relativity was discovered. Hilbert , being a gentleman gave credit to Einstein , he did discover this 2 days after anyway. Hilbert himself admitted it was Einstein that put the time into this, Hilbert only found the fault which led him to the theory of relativity.
    So it was then we found out that space time is curved, that when met by mass and its energy ; the space time becomes flat and propels the mass away to avoid collision.

    Although like i say we can only call this a theory as we can not see space time to prove it, we cant even see the whole spectrum lol, we need Hubble for that.
    Skeptic…humanist – common sense i say.

  5. Monkey

    …Point of Inquiry just isnt the same without him.

  6. jcm

    Great speech!

  7. Thameron

    “However, those special dinners at TAM8 are little expensive for my taste ($1000, WTF?!?)”

    Considering that it is part of human nature why would you think that skeptics would be less celebrity fixated than other human beings? The problem only comes when their names and public images become more important than their actual deeds or messages.

  8. Moose

    Interesting talk, although his speaking style rubs me a little. I’m not a fan of repetition. More importantly, I can’t say I’ve ever been comfortable with letting other people pick labels with which to define me. “You’re a humanist. We’re all humanists”. Speak for yourself, on a visceral level.

    I think I’d have preferred it had he better explain what he means by “humanism”, and then let me decide if the label applies and if I want to use it, thanks all the same.

    I mostly agree with his longer descriptions of the core values of skepticism. It is indeed about what is right and what is wrong.

  9. Amanda

    Loving comics makes him that much cooler! Thanks for the link.

  10. George

    Grr. Unviewable bloody vimeo. Can’t this be offered as a torrent or put on youtube?

  11. Considering the many online “discussions” and even “blog wars” going on about “Skepticism” (notice the big “S”) as a social movement in the few weeks prior to NECSS, I found his keynote to be very timely.

    Please notice he distinguished “humanism” from “secular humanism”.

  12. Maggie

    If anyone’s having trouble seeing the video embedded here, just go to the vimeo link and you can view it in flash, html5 or download it.

  13. Wayne on the plains

    Posted to wrong thread. Nothing to see here. Move along.


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