quarta-feira, 30 de abril de 2014

Take at least 30 minutes to read this, if you want to know more about skepticism or speed reading

You may need to take a few hours if you want to know about both.

This could be my "smallest" post so far, because it could be just this link.

But since I don't like relying on links too much, because they will eventually break, I'll paste almost all of it here and then add a whole lot more...
    Take about 15-25 minutes to "read" this. Best case scenario. Speed reading won't help you here.
    TED talks to the rescue: https://www.ted.com/playlists/1/ho...    The first talk says it all needs to be said here IMHO. The brain have 1 function, and one function only: to generate movement. Don't try to understand my very short description here, go on the link and watch the first talk if you really want to comprehend this. Something around 15-20 minutes gone, until now, depending on how much of the video you've skipped without missing the point.
    We somehow adapted this amazing tool to do other stuff as well, such as calculations. It's almost like using the computer's video processors to do math calculations. It works, but you can't use both at the same time in extreme situations.
    While amazing, our brain is way more limited than some people would like to believe. It just isn't able to be quickly trained in doing something it wasn't meant to do. It is that simple. It isn't a computer and it isn't doing boolean operations.
    With that piece of skepticism in mind, you can quickly drop almost every single snake oil idea about the brain out there. Including this whole speed reading vs subvocalization and skimming idea.
    The other piece is offered by SGU: https://www.theskepticsguide.org/    Now, you either know about them already or you don't. If you don't know add, at the very best case scenario, some 2 hours to this "read", among listening to 1 episode, studying about skepticism from their point of view and, with some good coincidence, identifying the concept with one you had previously. In the worst case scenario in which you'd still get there, this could easily take years.
I meant to talk just about speed reading when I started writing that comment. But, as you can realize by the last paragraph, it inspired me into talking about skeptics.

The "skeptic" word was widely used by Carl Sagan (I like how old this link feels) in the first Cosmos voyage (which I didn't watch). Now we got a new awesome Cosmos odyssey thanks mostly (I think) to Family Guy's Seth MacFarlane, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Carl's wife and fox. In it, there is no usage of the keyword "skeptic" anywhere (at least in the first 5 episodes) anymore, as Evan observed

I believe that's because "skeptic" has now a wide variety of usage and many people will miss-define it as "hard minded" or something in those lines. So they will also associate it with people who don't listen, which couldn't be farther from the true skeptic, as still defined by SGU.

Anyway, skepticism is actually closely related to science. I've talked about this (in portuguese, with english translation link in the bottom, which I haven't read-proof) few weeks ago. Although it's not as closely related as we'd like, because too many self proclaimed scientists aren't really skeptics. But let's begin from the basics. I'll basically repeat some of my linked post there...

In short:
Science (from Latin scientia, meaning "knowledge") is a "systematic enterprise" that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe. In an older and closely related meaning, "science" also refers to a body of knowledge itself, of the type that can be rationally explained and reliably applied.
To illustrate the scientific method, I love this video about "what is sea level":

The point is, defining even something that might appear as simple as "sea level" is actually far more complicated than we can intuitively anticipate. And if we don't study it hard enough, it will be defined wrongly. Going through all that tough job of doing it properly is what scientists do.

Now, there is big a danger there. A good skeptic will be a scientist by heart, and a good scientist must be always skeptic. But what is skepticism after all? If you missed my wikipedia link there (or if it broke):
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.
So, basically being a skeptic is being a curious potentially annoying kid. Thus the wrong definition many people have about it. The danger in science happens every day. Scientists forget to cast question and doubt in their fields. They often begin to think they have expertise in other fields. Science isn't easy and practically all of who have attempted showing they know way more than their narrow field of study have failed.

The scientific method shields nobody against logical fallacies. Skepticism does. But a skeptic is no scientist. A great skeptic will spend days, weeks or even months studying a subject before talking about it. A scientist will spend years or a whole life in just 1 subject (we usually associate science with physics, but that's just 1 field).

Each one have his role, and I am not either a scientist nor a good skeptic, as most of us. I just find it elucidating to realize their existence. I also think it helps me on my own personal quest while trying to understand the cosmos. And it helps to filter out the junk.

In the end, all this is just an attempt to illustrate concepts through defining words. I often find it's one of the worst methods for illustrating concepts, but ignorant as I am I know not many better practical ways. I hope you could grasp some of what I meant to transmit here.

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