Season of Reason 2010

By Phil Plait | December 10, 2010 6:49 am

Although I’m no longer President of the James Randi Educational Foundation, I’m still a strong supporter! They are continuing the fight against unreason, and have been venturing quite strongly in the field of education, something I endorse whole-heartedly. So I’m very pleased to let y’all know about the 2010 Season of Reason donation drive. This annual drive means a lot to the JREF, which is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization (tax-deductible, folks!).

Even better, an anonymous and very generous donor has offered to match all donations up to $100,000! So every buck you give does double duty.

And even better even better, when you donate $100 or more (or pledge to give an ongoing $25/month or more) you’ll get a cool tree ornament designed by Surly Amy — which is hanging from my tree in Chez BA in a place of honor:

Season_of_Reason

[Yeah, I have Enterprise-D and Klingon Bird of Prey ornaments -- they light up, too, and it's perfectly OK for you to seethe in jealousy of my awesomeness.]

So if you’re looking for a year-end deduction, or just want to do a good deed, then please donate what you can. Make this a true Season of Reason.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: JREF, Skepticism
MORE ABOUT: JREF

Comments (30)

  1. Kevin

    Phil…. did you put that ornament up between the Enterprise and the Klingon ship just to show that in the future even the Federation and the Klingon’s become friends?

    (I think the only ornament I am missing is the first one that came out in 1991(?) )

  2. I have a collection of little bronze-effect plastic Enterprises (sans D) packed away in the loft somewhere. I should adapt them to ornaments. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. Douglas Troy

    Yes, but do you have a Wil Wheaton ornament?

  4. alfaniner

    I just saw a TV ad for Acura touting the Season of Reason! Of course, they probably have a different meaning for it.

  5. noen

    “They are continuing the fight against unreason”

    But you try to do it with a scientifically false theory of human reason — Enlightenment reason. Which posits that reason is conscious, that it can fit the world directly, that it is logical, that emotion gets in the way of reason, that reason is there to serve self-interest, and that language is neutral and applies directly to the world.

    Every bit of this conception of reason is false.

  6. Ferris Valyn

    Dr. Plait

    Yeah, I have Enterprise-D and Klingon Bird of Prey ornaments

    The real question is, do you have an Enterprise-E ornament? And more importantly, do you have the NASA ornaments? Like of Buzz on the moon?

  7. Sadly, they seem not to understand what the word “reason” means. It’s a much bigger word than simply observing the empirical.

    Basically, they seem to be a dull bunch of knee-jerk anti-Christians with a high school-level understanding of metaphysics.

    Side note – why can’t the Season of Reason occur during Ramadan, or Rosh Hashanah? I’m just askin’.

  8. Martha

    @8 Because in the U.S. Christmas is the holiday that gets in everybody’s face and produces some of the nuttiest mixtures of fairy tales which we are all supposed to acknowledge. For instance my neighbor who has a nativity set in his yard where Santa Claus is praying over the manger. It is reasonable to laugh at such nonsense. I celebrate the fact that in the U.S. we can mock Christians and their deity with utter impunity.

  9. Ron 1

    @6. noen says “Every bit of this conception of reason is false.”

    If you want to start a debate, you could at least offer a rebutal with a reasonable alternative, which you’ve not done. Why is this conception of reason false?

    @8. ElZarcho – Sigh, your typical moronic statement.

  10. RJ

    metaphysics? *rolls eyes. Another word for seudo-science, akin to astrology and intelligent design. Anti-Christian? Here we go again. “Help I”m being oppressed!” And there’s an attack on Christmas too, right? Get a grip.

  11. Martha

    When they say “attack on Christmas” it usually means they object to other winter holidays being given equal footing especially in public venues. Since we live in a secular nation then one religion cannot get favoritism in places like state capitols or town squares. Citizens who want to have a display for Hanukkah, Solstice or Kwanzaa have equal access in state owned spaces. In the U.S the government cannot give Christians priority over anyone including atheists. That is why a few years ago in the State of Washington the local atheist group was allowed to have a display in the state capitol building in the same area where there was a Christmas display. America belongs to Jewish people, Pagans, Muslims, Atheists, and Pastafarians as much as it belongs to Christians. America is not a Christian nation and was never intended to be such. If it were declared a Christian nation I would refuse to pledge my loyalty to it.

    Article: The Christian Nation Myth: http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/farrell_till/myth.html

  12. noen

    @ 10. Ron 1 — “at least offer a rebutal with a reasonable alternative” — Reason is physical, it does not fit the world directly but only through the brain and body, it uses frames and conceptual metaphors, it requires emotion, it serves empathic connections and moral values as well as self-interest, and language fits frames in the brain not the external world in any direct way. If you really want there to be a “season of reason” then you need to convince others to join you. You need to market your conception of what that entails. You have a product, you need to get our there and sell it.

    In order to do that you have to appeal to how people actually think as opposed to the false enlightenment ideals of how we would wish they did. Humans are emotional and moral creatures so if you really want to convince them to follow you then you need to target their moral, ethical and emotional centers.

    1. Do not try to negate their (anti-evolutionists, climate change denialists) arguments. Use your own arguments that are extensions of *your* moral and ethical beliefs.

    2. Appeal to empathy, responsibility and a culture of excellence. Examples: It is our duty to help others. It is our responsibility to be stewards of the Earth. Scientists represent an ethic of excellence etc.

    3. Learn how to frame political and policy goals. Framing is *not* propaganda. It is placing what you really belief the truth is within an understandable framework that can be more readily assimilated and accepted.

    4. Do not ever mock, ridicule or try to humiliate your opponent. All you accomplish is that you cement their beliefs in permanently. Have you or anyone *ever* won an internet argument?

    It seems to me that these kinds of things are what need to be done in order to have a “Season of Reason”. Engaging in the same old tiresome debates seems pointless to me. They never convince anyone who is truly on the other side to abandon their beliefs. I want to change minds, I don’t care about “winning” arguments.

  13. noen

    @ RJ Says:
    “metaphysics? *rolls eyes. Another word for seudo-science”

    met·a·phys·ics: The branch of philosophy that deals with the first principles of things, including abstract concepts such as being, knowing, substance, cause, identity, time, and space.

    Science depends on a certain metaphysical understanding in order to function. The belief that science is superior to all other views is scientism. Which means that you elevate science into a god. It is a quasi religious ideology and makes you little different from fundamentalists.

  14. Jeff J

    “…it’s perfectly OK for you to seethe in jealousy of my awesomeness.”

    Pffft. I have a shuttlecraft Galileo ornament that says, in Spock’s voice, “Shuttlecraft to Enterprise, shuttlecraft to Enterprise. Spock here. Happy holidays. Live long and prosper.”

  15. PayasYouStargaze

    I usually put a Jim Bamber* pit crew figure in my mum’s nativity crib. She doesn’t mind. I usually put him just behind the 3 kings. I might put Lara Croft there this year though.

    *Jim Bamber is the cartoonist for Autosport magazine and he draws his racing drivers simply with big full face helmets.

  16. Aerimus

    Wow ElZarcho, you’re absolutely right. I didn’t see it at first, but now I see all the anti-Christian messages in Phil’s post there. Obviously the Enterprise is the Antichrist and the Bird of Prey is the Beast. See how Phil wishes us to worship them! Bravo on exposing him for what he is!

    @noen – Hmm, or maybe they are using the word reason as in “sound judgment; good sense”. Make sencse to me give the JREF’s charge of ” exposing charlatans, encouraging critical thinking and educating the public”. Philosophical definitions of reason not required.

  17. KiltBear

    I have the original Hallmark shuttlecraft with Spock’s voice saying “Live long and prosper”

    NOW who’s jealous?

  18. @Jeff J, @KiltBear I came to brag on our Galileo. Happy holidays!

  19. iBoojum

    I have the Romulan ornament. :)

  20. JB of Brisbane

    @Jeff J #15 and KiltBear #18 – yeah, I got wunna those… I can’t run it directly off the tree lights I am using, but it works fine if I hook up a 9V battery to it.

  21. Rats. All I’ve got is a TOS phaser ornament. (And a brand-new Randi Claus, flying pig Surly :-)

  22. Charles Sullivan

    Put your phasers on funky!

  23. FluffyBob

    @RJ – Metaphysics is just as legitimate as Physics. Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant and even Bertrand Russell stand out as figures of reason and rationality because of their work in Metaphysics. Arrogance is not reason.

  24. Chris Pemberton

    My wife and I actually put up a seperate “Trek Tree” this year for all of our ornaments :)

  25. Noel

    Sweet. I have the Bird of prey too: Along with a Borg Cube, Deep space Nine, and the USS Reliant from Star Trek II.

  26. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (6) said:

    “They are continuing the fight against unreason”

    [snip]

    Every bit of this conception of reason is false.

    And you make no effort to demonstrate how or why, so – once again – you are merely an empty noise-maker.

    Either put up or shut up.

  27. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (13) said:

    @ 10. Ron 1 — “at least offer a rebutal with a reasonable alternative” — Reason is physical, it does not fit the world directly but only through the brain and body,

    Reason is not purely physical. It is an abstract concept.

    It is physical in terms of producing concrete results, though, whereas other world-view choices do not.

    it uses frames and conceptual metaphors,

    How and in what way?

    it requires emotion,

    Outright wrong.

    it serves empathic connections and moral values as well as self-interest,

    And why should it not? You make this claim as if (a) it were self-evident and (b) as if this were some kind of flaw with the processes of reason.

    How about you delve into it, instead of making sweeping claims without support?

    How does reason serve “empathic connections”? Why should anyone consider this to be a flaw of reason? And what exactly is an “empathic connection” anyway?

    and language fits frames in the brain not the external world in any direct way.

    This is mere semantics.

    If you really want there to be a “season of reason” then you need to convince others to join you. You need to market your conception of what that entails. You have a product, you need to get our there and sell it.

    So, why do you think the BA wrote this blog post then?

    In order to do that you have to appeal to how people actually think as opposed to the false enlightenment ideals of how we would wish they did. Humans are emotional and moral creatures so if you really want to convince them to follow you then you need to target their moral, ethical and emotional centers.

    Or maybe you are just appealing to those people who already esteem the processes of reason as having value in and of themselves.

    1. Do not try to negate their (anti-evolutionists, climate change denialists) arguments.

    Why not? One thing that reason allows us to do is to use reality as an arbiter of truth through the medium of physical evidnece.

    Use your own arguments that are extensions of *your* moral and ethical beliefs.

    This, then, would boil down every dialogue to a game of “he said / she said”, which is not any way to achieve a consensus that closely matches what can be shown to be true. So in what way can this be better than reasoned fact-based argument?

    2. Appeal to empathy, responsibility and a culture of excellence. Examples: It is our duty to help others. It is our responsibility to be stewards of the Earth. Scientists represent an ethic of excellence etc.

    And in what way does this address the propaganda spread by those who oppose the teaching of a reality-based worldview in America’s schools?

    3. Learn how to frame political and policy goals. Framing is *not* propaganda.

    Depends on how you define propaganda, but very often framing is a tool of propagandists.

    It is placing what you really belief the truth is within an understandable framework that can be more readily assimilated and accepted.

    Assuming that everyone playing the game is a moral and conscientious being, of course.

    4. Do not ever mock, ridicule or try to humiliate your opponent. All you accomplish is that you cement their beliefs in permanently. Have you or anyone *ever* won an internet argument?

    I’ve certainly demolished your arguments a time or two. Did I get you to change your mind? No. Did I show to all and sundry that your arguments were a load of hogwash? Yes. How do you define “winning”?

    What you fail to recognise here is that there is a substantial sector of those who argue in internet fora – yourself included – whose opinions will never be changed by rational argument. Those of us who stand up for reason and evidence do not expect to change the minds of these individuals. What we instead aim for is to supply arguments to the bystanders who don’t know whom to believe. It is this silent audience that is the target of the reasoned refutation of the “arguments” that reality-deniers attempt to assemble.

    It seems to me that these kinds of things are what need to be done in order to have a “Season of Reason”.

    So, in order to have a “season of reason”, you seem to be suggesting that we ditch reason and resort to emotional arguments to get our point across, is that right?

    Engaging in the same old tiresome debates seems pointless to me. They never convince anyone who is truly on the other side to abandon their beliefs. I want to change minds, I don’t care about “winning” arguments.

    Judging from the past quality of your argumentation, you will never change anyone’s mind. Perhaps you need to examine the position from which you argue more critically before joining the discussion.

    And if you don’t care about “winning” arguments, whyever do you keep commenting in this blog? I can assure you that, if your past arguing technique is anything to go by, you won’t ever win an argument here when you take the anti-reality stance.

  28. Nigel Depledge

    Noen (14) said:

    Science depends on a certain metaphysical understanding in order to function.

    Such as what?

    AFAICT, science depends on one assumption: that what we observe correlates with a reality that is external to the self. And it seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable assumption to make, because without it, one would never do anything.

    The belief that science is superior to all other views is scientism.

    That’s a mere label. Does it actually really mean anything?

    After all, science has proven itself to be superior in terms of achieving an understanding of how reality works. In any other area of endeavour, science is not an appropriate tool.

    Which means that you elevate science into a god.

    I’ve never met anyone who does this. It sure sounds like a strawman argument to me.

    It is a quasi religious ideology and makes you little different from fundamentalists.

    And who has behaved in this way? when? and why does their behaviour make you draw this conclusion? Without answers to these questions, your claim is nothing more than hot air.

    Let’s see now . . .

    Without the successes that science has delivered:
    1. Medicine would not have progressed beyond the “four humours” idea; and disease would still be believed to be caused by “bad air”.
    2. We would still have no idea of what the world is made of – so, no plastics, no artificial materials (of any kind – we’d still be building from stone and wood, and wearing hemp, wool, linen or silk), no bright-coloured dyes and so on.
    3. We would have no electricity – neither understanding its nature nor control of it for our benefit.
    4. No industrial revolution – so nothing could be transported that a horse could not pull on a barge, and nothing could be manufactured or processed that required more power than could be derived from a water wheel or windmill.
    5. No international trade and communication to speak of – these would probably still be at the level they achieved in the 16th century. And ships would routinely be lost at sea, because it took science to solve the problem of determination of longitude.
    6. Agriculture would still largely be in the same state it was in during the early 19th century, so it is unlikely that the planet could support more than about a tenth of the present world population. But that’s OK, because about one-third of all people would be dying of smallpox anyway.
    7. Our understanding of the world would still, for all practical purposes, be mediaevel.
    8. On the “plus” side, no-one would have bothered to mine much coal or dig for oil (with no market to demand it), so we wouldn’t have caused anything like as much pollution as we have.

    To put it another way, look around you. Look at the things that surround you, and look at the building in which you sit at the computer. Would you have any of that without the achievements of science? Most likely not.

    So, before you accuse someone of “scientism”, be sure to check that they are not merely according science the respect that it has earned.

  29. Nigel Depledge

    I have no Trek ornaments.

    But I do have the Liberator out of Blake’s 7.

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