aku-aku: v.. To move a tall, flat bottomed object (such as a bookshelf) by swiveling it alternatively on its corners in a "walking" fashion. [After the book by Thor Heyerdahl theorising the statues of Easter Island were moved in this fashion.] source: LangMaker.com. Aku Aku also has another meaning to the islanders: a spiritual guide.
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skeptic
Posted by dav at 2003 December 15 05:02 PM
File under:

There's a PBS show I like to Tivo called "Closer to Truth: Science, Meaning and The Future." The format is a hosted round table where the moderator gathers (often) diametrically opposed experts on a particular topic and records the ensuing conversation/argument. My favorite episode is one which poses the question "Can Religion Withstand Technology?" The guests were a christian expert on the sociology of religion, a muslim technologist and a skeptic named Michael Shermer. Being a skeptic myself, I thoroughly enjoyed Mr Shermer's rational arguments. It turns out that Shermer is not only a skeptic, he's sort of The Skeptic, being the leader of the Skeptics Society (motto: Devoted to the Promotion of Science & Critical Thinking and the Investigation of Extraordinary Claims and Revolutionary Ideas).

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a copy of Skeptic magazine (published by Shermer) at Cody's Books in Berkeley with great teasers on the cover such as "The Future of Intelligence: Are we geting smarter or dumber? Why smart people believe dumb things" and "Science v. The Media: Why can't we just be friends?"

Also inside I found a great essay in the reader's forum discussing the difficult journey most of us have to take in order to move from customary acceptance of whatever media and culture tells us to the critical thinking of the skeptic:

To expect a single conversation or event to cause this profound transformation is unrealistic. The impact it has on a person's life can be devastating, and may require a grieving period. It is much easier to stop at "denial", when that is an option. (I certainly would have liked to stop at "denial" when I heard that my mother had died in an accident.)

Voluntarily slogging through a reconstruction of one's psychological, and philosophical foundation, I think you will agree, lacks appeal to all but the most personally motivated.

People gravitate toward the "skeptical movement" when they are strong enough or open-minded enough to accept the responsibility, effort, and personal sacrifice (socially, and spiritually) that it requires.


You can read the whole thing here (it's the second section): E-Skeptic.

Comments:

Dav, while I am much closer to the skeptic/atheist side of the spectrum in the grand scheme of things, I just don't see religious people giving up what they believe in.

For better or for worse, religion is a part of humanity, (maybe it even helps to define what it is to be human) and I'm not sure we'd be better off as a race if we were all aetheist.

I just hope that within my lifetime we receive definitive proof of extra-terrestrial life. That would really shake things up ;)

Posted by: Gen on December 15, 2003 10:44 PM

Yes, I certainly do believe that religion can play a positive effect on many people's lives.

A good old friend of mine is probably the smartest person I've ever known. He earned three bachelor's degrees (physics, chemistry and mathematics) and then to my surprise became a devout fundamentalist christian. He nows believes every word in the bible. -Every- -word-. I can appreciate that as he delved further into the nature of the universe he began to see that while science cannot yet prove the existence of God it certainly can't disprove it either. But the reason I'm totally OK with him 'switching teams' is that he always had a bit of a devious streak, and he told me that if he could not believe in the christian mythology (well he didn't call it a mythology), with it's rewards and punishments for the devout and sinners, he would probably be a rather evil person and disrupt society in various negative ways. I believe him, and I believe it's better for him to believe in God.

Religion was discussed much in the book The Lucifer Principle which I blogged about a few entries back (read it, I doubt you would be disappointed). It has played a major part in shaping our global societies, for better and for worse, by acting as a transport mechanism of memes much as RNA transports genes around. Religion and War are tightly linked in that regard.

Most of my friends and family here in California, while I love them dearly (and one of them wholly), are total fruitcakes. They believe in all kinds of stuff from new age astrological psychic power nonsense, to chinese ghost stories, to homeopathic medicine. I don't spend a lot of time trying to make them apply some critical thinking to their beliefs (well, I've mostly given up).

As for extra-terrestrial life, I wouldn't be surprised if we find some simple forms of it right here in our own solar system.

Posted by: Dav on December 16, 2003 05:30 PM

I've been a fan of the Skeptical Inquirer for years but I wasn't aware of this Skeptic magazine. I'll have to check it out.

Uber-skeptic The Amazing Randi continues to kick granola-crunching new-age ass, and not just because he's based in my hometown of Ft. Lauderdale. And the meta-skeptical Fortean Times can be good for chuckles...

Here are two sites that are handy to link to for quick refutation of fruitcake friends' boneheaded e-mails about everything from astrology to zombies: The Skeptic's Dictionary and urbanlegends.com

-Sean (a Californian and a freak, but NOT a fruitcake.)

Posted by: sean on December 21, 2003 12:36 PM

shit, why do you command the Baby Jesus to strip html from akuaku comments? well here are those URLS:

http://www.randi.org/
http://www.forteantimes.com/
http://skepdic.com/
urbanlegends.com

Posted by: sean on December 21, 2003 12:42 PM

> People gravitate toward the "skeptical movement"
> when they are strong enough or open-minded
> enough to accept the responsibility, effort,
> and personal sacrifice (socially, and
> spiritually) that it requires.

And sometimes they gravitate to skepticism when they are obtuse enough to lack a significant spiritual sensibility to begin with, to have any feeling for what it is that draws thinking people to religion.

That said, atheists are usually as devout as they come.

Posted by: alexis on January 13, 2004 10:05 AM

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