Wednesday, March 25, 2009

105 ways to promote skeptical activism

Daniel Loxton of the Skeptic's Society has recently released What Do I Do Next?, which includes 105 practical ways to promote skeptical activism. There's a quick reference guide, a sixty-some page pdf, and a podcast interview with Daniel Loxton.

Well, this is great! While I am pretty enthusiastic about skepticism, I've always felt a little defunct as an activist. Well, I suppose I have this niche-within-a-niche blog called--you may have heard of it--Skeptic's Play. Item 86 of the guide suggests starting a blog which focuses on a very specialized part of skepticism. The problem is that though this blog is a niche-within-a-niche, it is not, and never will be focused or specialized. I am skeptical about the effectiveness of my blog as a tool for skeptical activism.

I'm also the secretary of the campus' skeptical/atheist club, BASS, and I've made the meeting minutes public online. I also use my written rhetoric to carry out my sinister plans in the background (you know, picking out discussion topics and stuff). But I wield no real power. I note that our group breaks one of the rules stated in item number 26: "Clubs should have a clear mandate for either skepticism or atheism but not both." Daniel says that groups which advocate both skepticism and atheism frequently go into conflict and "flame out." For what it's worth, our group strikes a good balance, and is fairly successful.

But if you ignore everything that I do, you'll find that I don't do anything to promote skepticism. How can we fix that?

One of the easiest things on the list is to write letters to editors, reporters, and politicians either approving or disapproving of their stories and actions. I write a whole lot anyways, so why not write letters, where people might actually read what I say? But what to write? Next time something comes along, I promise to write some sort of letter. Not because a single letter will change the world, but because all patterns and habits need to start somewhere.

The internet better hold me to my promise, or I'll never follow through.

There was one suggestion that I found vaguely intriguing, but also decidedly vague:
98. If you are a student, use your technological networking talents for skeptical activism — but get credit for it!
What's that?! How? I do not understand.
Online activity has the reputation of detracting from schoolwork.
Well, luckily, I have the advantage that I already know everything and therefore do not need to study.
Rather than pouring effort into undirected work at less-coordinated “social” blogging networks with no mission statements, some students find ways to reap academic rewards for their work online.

Students who are interested in this type of work should get in touch with science youth groups, education support, and monitored message boards so they are not only safe but also reaching an audience that needs to be reached.
I'm not really sure what that means, but it sounds like I would have to work or something? For some reason, my initial reaction is, "I don't have time for that!" And yet, here I am, wasting all my time blogging. Curse my internal double standards!


Daniel Loxton said...

I appreciate the response. Thanks for covering the project, and turning your thoughts to it as well.

Anonymous said...

I'm looking forward to reading the document myself. Like you, although my blog talks about skepticism (when I update it, but let's not talk about that…) I don't focus exclusively on a narrow niche. I kind of think that's okay; most of the blogs I enjoy reading are similarly broad.

Jeffrey Ellis said...

The problem with blogging about skepticism is that the people who are most likely to find it and read it are already skeptics themselves. Not trying to discourage you here, as I face the same problem myself. I'd like to promote critical thinking within public discourse in general, and have been struggling with how to go about doing that.

miller said...

I believe the idea is that there is a lot of demand for general skepticism blogs, but there is also a healthy supply. There is also a lot of demand for in-depth discussion of specific skeptical topics, but not so much supply. Furthermore, the people who read general skepticism blogs are mostly skeptical to begin with, while the people who read specialized skeptical blogs might be less so.