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What is The Scientific Skeptic?

In short, it is a science and philosophy education site. Our mission is ultimately to promote education on various subjects spanning the entirety of the scientific project and to engage in public discussion.  We believe that in order to become a better thinker, one must have a broad range of literacy across the gamut of scientific disciplines and a strong foundation in philosophy and formal reasoning. We also take a wide-angle lens when defining science.

What is science?

Science is not simply a discussion about the physical sciences, or even just about the physical and social sciences. It is greater even than that. Science is, writ large, a way of thinking, testing and evaluating ideas. Its primary tools are the scientific method, logic and reason. It is in that sense that we are not constrained to think of science as simply the sum total of work in the academic disciplines. Any intellectual investigation and exploration which includes a rigorous, methodical and evidence=based approach to drawing conclusions about how the world works can be included into a larger scientific discussion.

And that, my friends, is a perfect segue into the second fundamental function of The Scientific Skeptic, notably, philosophy education.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy, to use a standard definition, is:

“the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.”

It’s important to note that far too often people tend to misunderstand what philosophy is and either attempt to discredit it or differentiate it entirely from science. There is a valid and pragmatic reason to do so, in the context of segregating professional disciplines. There is clearly a difference between an academic philosophical faculty and an academic scientific faculty. There is a difference between an academic philosopher and an academic scientist. The crucial point, however, is that it is a false dichotomy to argue that they are not related, not based upon shared premises and not originating from a common function. There was a time when there was no distinction and it seems that, to forget that legacy, and common origin is to oversimplify and misunderstand both.

A more correct synthesis of these two areas of human inquiry is probably to understand science as a method of philosophy or even a subset of philosophy.  It might also be helpful to think of science as a particular epistemology – a particular method of understanding and gaining knowledge. A favorite expressions of ours is that “science is philosophy at work.” They each have their own sets of tools, but are nevertheless dedicated to a common endeavor, namely trying to learn about the universe, existence and the nature of reality.

There are four particular philosophical concepts which also figure prominently on The Scientific Skeptic and deserve specific definition: skepticism, critical thinking, logic and reason.

What is skepticism?

Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. An overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence. It is important to note that we favor the a particular philosophical school of skepticism, scientific or rational skepticism as opposed to philosophical skepticism.

What is critical thinking?

The intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

What is reason?

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It reduces to being able to provide and explain good reasons for holding any particular position.

What is logic?

The branch of philosophy concerned with the use and study of valid reasoning.

Who is The Scientific Skeptic?

I am 48 years young. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Although I am American, I was mostly raised by my Italian-side mother and grandmother. A European influence was very pronounced in my childhood and the lengthy trip that I was taken on, across Europe at the age of 9, was to have a profound impact on my future. From an early age, I was extensively exposed to literature, art, travel, language and culture.  My mother was an existentialist author turned educator and my father was a fine artist and also an educator. They both have their master’s degrees and everyone in my family promoted education. While we were not a wealthy family, there was always an emphasis on intellectualism. I have a profound respect for women, as I was primarily raised by two very competent, empathetic and strong women.

I hold a double master’s and bachelor of science degrees. My formal background is in economics, international law, political science and diplomacy. While I would certainly not consider myself a scientist, I certainly am qualified in the social sciences and academics. I am looking into getting my PhD in industrial psychology or cognitive science, but currently do not have the time.

I did my undergraduate studies in California and my post graduate studies in Geneva, Switzerland.  Please feel free to communicate in French here, if you are so inclined, as I am getting rusty and miss speaking it terribly. I began my career researching and consulting for various United Nations organizations in Geneva, including UNCTAD, WMO, EBU and ILO, concerning such issues as economic aid, third world development, refugee law, diplomacy and war, and human rights law. I’ve also done extensive research in corporate and contract law, corporate crime, economic theory, market and investment theory, game theory and information systems.

Working in an international setting with U.N. organizations and with other NGOs was fascinating and enlightening. I also taught language and academics in an international economics, law and banking context. Sadly, I became quite disillusioned with the U.N. bureaucracy and moved into the private sector. My 20 year career has since been in international business process and technology consulting, analysis and management. Over the years, I have taken an increasing interest and fascination in large scale systems, both technological and sociological.

I have recently moved back to the US, after 17 years in Geneva, Switzerland, where I live near the beach in tropical South Florida. I have travelled extensively all over the world, but I’m still missing two continents – Antarctica and Australia.

I would be remiss to not highlight the participation and background of the other Scientific Skeptic contributor. Tania is a final year medical student from Greece. She is far smarter than I, despite her fewer 28 years on this planet. In addition to her knowledge of biology and medicine, she has a brilliant, quick mind and is incredibly adept at formal reasoning. The fact that she was raised by a family of physicists and intellectuals shows! She makes me a better thinker on a daily basis and has been an invaluable friend and intellectual resource.

In addition, I have formed a private group of long time SCTS subscribers, among whom, we have a high level of expertise in various fields from philosophy, economics, political science, chemistry, biology, engineering, mathematics, physics, psychology and psychiatry.

La Raison D'Etre of The Scientific Skeptic

In my mid-30s, I woke up one day and felt that not only had I not contributed and participated enough, but more importantly, I realized I didn’t know enough! I suppose it might be referred to as something like an early mid-life crisis. At around that same time, I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking on a transcontinental flight from Geneva to Los Angeles. I had always loved the physical sciences, but it was at that moment in time, probably prompted by that particular book, that I had a personal epiphany – a cathartic moment.

From that moment forward, I decided that I wanted to know everything that we could say about the nature of reality. I wanted to learn as much as I could from the smartest people in the world, across time and from all of the major scientific and academic disciplines. I embarked on a private quest to read and consume everything that I could from ancient philosophy to quantum mechanics. It became quite obsessive and as I learned more, my hunger for knowledge increased and became more insatiable. When I moved back to the U.S., I decided to take four years off and pursue my hobbies and try my hand at a small business. In between building a business, exercising, playing and making music, I spent countless hours reading and watching lectures on biology, chemistry, physics, neuroscience, biochemistry, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, economics, political science and everything in between. In a certain stretch, I did nothing but watch science lectures and conferences for up to 20 hours a day.

A bit odd, I know! Fiction suddenly no longer interested me and I stopped watching television.

The other important piece of information which is relevant to a relentless interest in learning was a growing recognition of the consequences of anti-intellectual and anti-science sentiment. Europe had been almost exclusively secular and few people openly discussed politics or religion. My return to my country in a post 911, “war on terror,” religious fundamentalism resurgent and post-recession America was a rude awakening. My country of birth seemed to have lost its collective mind.

Tribalism, religion, fear, paranoia, star and cult of personality worship had reached alarming proportions. Television programming had turned inane and farcical, from educational channels morphing into postmodern reality TV, propaganda and pseudoscience programming to news channels becoming tribal centers, supporting partisan interests in an effort to gain rating and appease particular niches, instead of presenting relevant news and good journalism. The other impetus was an obvious reduction in respect for expertise, authority and all institutions.

This sort of retrenchment into distrust and fear is a well-known phenomenon in uncertain times and can be and was predicted. Various periods in history demonstrate that in times of economic and national insecurity, societies abandon progressive values in favor of conservativism, heightened tribalism, nationalism, religious extremism and anti-intellectualism.

The Scientific Skeptic is dedicated to provoking and reinvigorating reason and it derives from a love for education and educating.

The Scientific Skeptic's intellectual influences

In case you are interested in our main intellectual influences, please find below a small sample of the thinkers that have inspired us. It would be impossible to provide an exhaustive list.

Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Democritus, Epicurus, Seneca, Spinoza, Hume, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Smith, Payne, Rousseau, Hobbes, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Marx, Sartres, Heidegger, Russel, Kuhn, Popper, Singer, Harris, Dennett, Ingersoll, Rawls, Chomsky, Grayling, Mcginn, Ptolemy, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Bohr, Maxwell, Godel, Turin, Einstein, Sagan, Sapolsky, Bloom, Szostak, Ramachandran, Tyson, Hawking, Susskind, Carroll, Tegmark, Guth, Greene, Weinberg, Pinker, Dawkins, Feynman, Gould, Greenfield, Rees, Randi, Shermer, Novella, Gardner, Goldacre, Minchin, Gorski, Plait, Hitchens.

What is The Scientific Skeptic?

In short, it is a science and philosophy site. Our mission is ultimately to promote education on various subjects spanning the entirety of the scientific project and to engage in public discussion. We believe that in order to become a better thinker, one must have a broad range of literacy across the gamut of scientific disciplines and a strong foundation in philosophy and formal reasoning. We also take a wide-angle lens when defining science.

What is science?

Science is not simply a discussion about the physical sciences, or even just about the physical and social sciences. It is greater even than that. Science is, writ large, a way of thinking, testing and evaluating ideas. Its primary tools are the scientific method, logic and reason. It is in that sense that we are not constrained to think of science as simply the sum total of work in the academic disciplines. Any intellectual investigation and exploration which includes a rigorous, methodical and evidence=based approach to drawing conclusions about how the world works can be included into a larger scientific discussion.

And that, my friends, is a perfect segue into the second fundamental function of The Scientific Skeptic, notably, philosophy education.

What is philosophy?

Philosophy, to use a standard definition, is:

“the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.”

It’s important to note that far too often people tend to misunderstand what philosophy is and either attempt to discredit it or differentiate it entirely from science. There is a valid and pragmatic reason to do so, in the context of segregating professional disciplines. There is clearly a difference between an academic philosophical faculty and an academic scientific faculty. There is a difference between an academic philosopher and an academic scientist. The crucial point, however, is that it is a false dichotomy to argue that they are not related, not based upon shared premises and not originating from a common function. There was a time when there was no distinction and it seems that, to forget that legacy, and common origin is to oversimplify and misunderstand both.

A more correct synthesis of these two areas of human inquiry is probably to understand science as a method of philosophy or even a subset of philosophy. It might also be helpful to think of science as a particular epistemology – a particular method of understanding and gaining knowledge. A favorite expressions of ours is that “science is philosophy at work.” They each have their own sets of tools, but are nevertheless dedicated to a common endeavor, namely trying to learn about the universe, existence and the nature of reality.

There are four particular philosophical concepts which also figure prominently on The Scientific Skeptic and deserve specific definition: skepticism, critical thinking, logic and reason

What is skepticism?

Skepticism is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere. An overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence. It is important to note that we favor the a particular philosophical school of skepticism, scientific or rational skepticism as opposed to philosophical skepticism.

What is critical thinking?

The intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action.

In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.

What is reason?

Reason is the capacity for consciously making sense of things, applying logic, establishing and verifying facts, and changing or justifying practices, institutions, and beliefs based on new or existing information. It reduces to being able to provide and explain good reasons for holding any particular position.

What is logic?

The branch of philosophy concerned with the use and study of valid reasoning.

Who is The Scientific Skeptic?

I am 48 years young. I was born and raised in Los Angeles. Although I am American, I was mostly raised by my Italian-side mother and grandmother. A European influence was very pronounced in my childhood and the lengthy trip that I was taken on, across Europe at the age of 9, was to have a profound impact on my future. From an early age, I was extensively exposed to literature, art, travel, language and culture. My mother was an existentialist author turned educator and my father was a fine artist and also an educator. They both have their master’s degrees and everyone in my family promoted education. While we were not a wealthy family, there was always an emphasis on intellectualism. I have a profound respect for women, as I was primarily raised by two very competent, empathetic and strong women.

I hold a double master’s and bachelor of science degrees. My formal background is in economics, international law, political science and diplomacy. While I would certainly not consider myself a scientist, I certainly am qualified in the social sciences and academics. I am looking into getting my PhD in industrial psychology or cognitive science, but currently do not have the time.

I did my undergraduate studies in California and my post graduate studies in Geneva, Switzerland. Please feel free to communicate in French here, if you are so inclined, as I am getting rusty and miss speaking it terribly. I began my career researching and consulting for various United Nations organizations in Geneva, including UNCTAD, WMO, EBU and ILO, concerning such issues as economic aid, third world development, refugee law, diplomacy and war, and human rights law. I’ve also done extensive research in corporate and contract law, corporate crime, economic theory, market and investment theory, game theory and information systems.

Working in an international setting with U.N. organizations and with other NGOs was fascinating and enlightening. I also taught language and academics in an international economics, law and banking context. Sadly, I became quite disillusioned with the U.N. bureaucracy and moved into the private sector. My 20 year career has since been in international business process and technology consulting, analysis and management. Over the years, I have taken an increasing interest and fascination in large scale systems, both technological and sociological.

I have recently moved back to the US, after 17 years in Geneva, Switzerland, where I live near the beach in tropical South Florida. I have traveled extensively all over the world, but I’m still missing two continents – Antarctica and Australia.

I would be remiss to not highlight the participation and background of the other Scientific Skeptic contributor. Tania is a final year medical student from Greece. She is far smarter than I, despite her fewer 28 years on this planet. In addition to her knowledge of biology and medicine, she has a brilliant, quick mind and is incredibly adept at formal reasoning. The fact that she was raised by a family of physicists and intellectuals shows! She makes me a better thinker on a daily basis and has been an invaluable friend and intellectual resource.

In addition, I have formed a private group of long time SCTS subscribers, among whom, we have a high level of expertise in various fields from philosophy, economics, political science, chemistry, biology, engineering, mathematics, physics, psychology and psychiatry.

La Raison D’Etre of The Scientific Skeptic

In my mid-30s, I woke up one day and felt that not only had I not contributed and participated enough, but more importantly, I realized I didn’t know enough! I suppose it might be referred to as something like an early mid-life crisis. At around that same time, I read A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking on a transcontinental flight from Geneva to Los Angeles. I had always loved the physical sciences, but it was at that moment in time, probably prompted by that particular book, that I had a personal epiphany – a cathartic moment.

From that moment forward, I decided that I wanted to know everything that we could say about the nature of reality. I wanted to learn as much as I could from the smartest people in the world, across time and from all of the major scientific and academic disciplines. I embarked on a private quest to read and consume everything that I could from ancient philosophy to quantum mechanics. It became quite obsessive and as I learned more, my hunger for knowledge increased and became more insatiable. When I moved back to the U.S., I decided to take four years off and pursue my hobbies and try my hand at a small business. In between building a business, exercising, playing and making music, I spent countless hours reading and watching lectures on biology, chemistry, physics, neuroscience, biochemistry, anthropology, psychology, sociology, philosophy, economics, political science and everything in between. In a certain stretch, I did nothing but watch science lectures and conferences for up to 20 hours a day. That prompted me to create Science, Critical Thinking and Skepticism

A bit odd, I know! Fiction suddenly no longer interested me and I stopped watching television.

The other important piece of information which is relevant to a relentless interest in learning was a growing recognition of the consequences of anti-intellectual and anti-science sentiment. Europe had been almost exclusively secular and few people openly discussed politics or religion. My return to my country in a post 911, “war on terror,” religious fundamentalism resurgent and post-recession America was a rude awakening. My country of birth seemed to have lost its collective mind.

Tribalism, religion, fear, paranoia, star and cult of personality worship had reached alarming proportions. Television programming had turned inane and farcical, from educational channels morphing into postmodern reality TV, propaganda and pseudoscience programming to news channels becoming tribal centers, supporting partisan interests in an effort to gain rating and appease particular niches, instead of presenting relevant news and good journalism. The other impetus was an obvious reduction in respect for expertise, authority and all institutions.

This sort of retrenchment into distrust and fear is a well-known phenomenon in uncertain times and can be and was predicted. Various periods in history demonstrate that in times of economic and national insecurity, societies abandon progressive values in favor of conservativism, heightened tribalism, nationalism, religious extremism and anti-intellectualism.

The Scientific Skeptic is dedicated to provoking and reinvigorating reason and it derives from a love for education and educating.

The Scientific Skeptic’s intellectual influences

In case you are interested in our main intellectual influences, please find below a small sample of the thinkers that have inspired us. It would be impossible to provide an exhaustive list.

Aristotle, Socrates, Plato, Democritus, Epicurus, Seneca, Spinoza, Hume, Descartes, Locke, Kant, Smith, Payne, Rousseau, Hobbes, Voltaire, Nietzsche, Marx, Sartres, Heidegger, Russel, Kuhn, Popper, Singer, Harris, Dennett, Ingersoll, Rawls, Chomsky, Grayling, Mcginn, Ptolemy, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Bohr, Maxwell, Godel, Turin, Einstein, Sagan, Sapolsky, Bloom, Szostak, Ramachandran, Tyson, Hawking, Susskind, Carroll, Tegmark, Guth, Greene, Weinberg, Pinker, Dawkins, Feynman, Gould, Greenfield, Rees, Randi, Shermer, Novella, Gardner, Goldacre, Minchin, Gorski, Plait, Hitchens

2 Comments

  1. Who is heading this website….no names, no credentials…please supply. Thanks.

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