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Assistance with research?

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Description: Assistance with research?
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PaulN
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« on: April 07, 2010, 12:51:20 PM »

Hi

I am doing research and would like to ask the SA skeptics a few questions, about skepticism and this group if thats alright.
   
Thank you for your time.
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Owen Swart
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« Reply #1 on: April 07, 2010, 12:55:50 PM »

I'm game... shoot!
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Mefiante
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2010, 13:03:04 PM »

Ditto.  If you’d like public answers, you can pose your questions in this thread; if private you can make use of the board’s private messaging facility.

'Luthon64
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GCG
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2010, 13:04:09 PM »

gooi. i like talking about myself. and to myself....
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2010, 13:11:34 PM »

I am doing research and would like to ask the SA skeptics a few questions, about skepticism and this group if thats alright.

Hi PaulN, and welcome. Wink

I'm sure most here will be thrilled to participate in a survey. Being one of the few  psychics on this forum, I have taken the liberty of answering your questions so long.

1. Yes
2. Dark chocolate
3. Herding cats
4. No - except on Tuesdays
5. Edible

Mintaka
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Faerie
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2010, 13:28:38 PM »

Why not? As long as its not sexual of nature I'm relatively easy!  Cheesy
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Lilli
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2010, 13:46:52 PM »

I think you will find that people here are generally eager to discuss things (that includes answering questions) And those who don't wanna answer you, can simply ignore this thread... hehe.
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2010, 14:35:23 PM »

Shoot.
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PaulN
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« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2010, 14:46:17 PM »

Thank you for the kind welcome and enthusiasm.

The reason why I have chosen the SA skeptical community for this project is because I believe that freedom of thought is the only real freedom that is possible and also the only freedom which we may achieve. This led me here, with the understanding that skeptics embody the pursuit of this freedom and take it seriously; removing false beliefs and disarming deception.
I see that there are many problems with the world at large and society, many caused by faulty thinking.
If this could be addressed on a global scale, it would benefit many that current charities and interventions merely assist without addressing the root of the problem.

On to questions:

Thoughts about my above statement?
Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?
Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?
What are the goals of this group and skepticism?
What actions are taken to achieve these goals?
Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?
Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?
Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?
Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?
What qualities define a skeptic?
What is the typical skeptic demographic?
Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?
Is atheism a requirement?
Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?
What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?


Thanks again for your time and interest.


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Faerie
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« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2010, 15:33:02 PM »

I'm going to go all religious here and be selective on the questions answered.

Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?
Some, but not much, we're often likened to herding cats.
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Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?
there's the sceptics in the pub, but I've never managed to attend one (thus far).
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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?
Depends from which side of the fence you're looking at it. We're all for educating people, and pointing out the obvious (obvious to us that is) Its certainly constructive in the sense that we'd like people to stop going to psychics and wasting their money or using alternative medicines which would surely put them in their graves at an earlier date than conventional medicines would. On the other hand, taking away a crutch from a grieving mother who believes she will see her kid in heaven someday could be extremely destructive. Overall, I think we try to be constructive in these cases.
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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?
I'm not sure if there is any movement as such, but I do know that the secular charities I support have far more success in re-integrating people in society than traditional religious charties do.
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What qualities define a skeptic?
Curiosity, love of learning, ability to analise, questioning, plenty of logic.

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Is atheism a requirement?
probably not, but I've never met a religious skeptic.... bit hard to combine the two mindsets.
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Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?
probably, at least becoming agnostic I'd imagine.
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What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?
Organised Religion
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GCG
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« Reply #10 on: April 07, 2010, 15:47:31 PM »

Thoughts about my above statement?
I agree with all of the above.  The world is built upon assumptions.  like assuming the bible was written by anything else but human beings hearing voices.  I refer to myself as an anti-theist, cause religious pokes its nose everywhere, and so often a problem is addressed by praying to god, as opposed, as you say, getting to the root of the problem.

Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?
I cannot answer that, as i dont really belong to any kind of organised community apart from this forum.

Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?
as in a leadership structure?  not really.  i would say, mutual respect, and respect for those more knowledgeable than yourself.  there are no meets, where koeksisters are served, and notes taken, where particular elements are discussed.  i think, cause its a kinda taboo area for most people, individuals kinda hash things out for themselves, and sometimes find a like-minded person to debate with.

What are the goals of this group and skepticism?
i cant speak for anyone else, but i would think, to find the truth.  or at least, reveal the untruth.  to dig through years of crap propaganda and mindfucking. to not be blinded by promise of burning in hell, if you dont do x, y and z.
the goal of this group, i should imagine, is for like-minded people to air ideas, discuss relevant issues, and maybe find clarity on an issue they have doubt about.

What actions are taken to achieve these goals?

a forum was started.  and there are Skeptics in the Pub.

Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?
religion, in general, is a very fragile thing, and one doesnt go and bugger around with someone who doesnt want to know anything else.  its like trying to wish the sky red.  and, the goal is not to change anyones opinions.  we dont canvas for 'followers' as religions do.  if you have half a braincell, and you own the internet, you will eventually find some kind of forum to speak your mind.  we dont go about posting skeptic propaganda on religious websites, as our own mega-troll does.  and, quite honestly, i dont think any of us gives a rats smelly ass who believes in what, as long as they dont try and sell it to us.

Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?

see skeptics in the pub

Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?
destructive if you are of a religious opinion (cause we are all going to hell, and threaten the church), constructive, if you consider, that if religious tensions are no longer around, the world will have less to fight about.

Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?
as any new movement, things start small, i am, however, observing a growth in people becoming increasingly skeptic, about everything from government, medicine, religion, you name it.  people are asking questions, and the bible, or medicine, cant answer then anymore, or sufficiently.  in the long run, hopefully, enough people will realise that religion is making more issues than its worth.  and maybe countries will be ruled with a clear mind, not jaded with the threat of burning in eternal hell.

What qualities define a skeptic?
an open mind and ear.  thirst for knowledge.  ability to question anything and everything.  need for logical, concrete answers.  and the ability to learn, and admit erronous thinking, and adjust the mindset accordingly.

What is the typical skeptic demographic?
as far as i can ascertain, not generally white afrikaans.  i would think, intellectuals, nerds and geeks, people who generally dont fit within the 'normal' frame of society.  then again, there are dominees that have taken up the atheist banner, so i think, its neither here not there.  but in the circles i move, generally arty people, graphic designers, musicians, and the like,  crusty old bachelors who reads a lot, poets... they seem to not fall for a bull story as easily, and very few of them are religious, more likely spiritual.


Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?

take your pic, oodles of books have been written, blogs enough to drive you nuts.  songs, poetry.  i wouldnt say there is either one or another specific messiah of skepticism, and there are oodles of nutters to boot.  you dig through it all, and make up your own mind as you go.

Is atheism a requirement?
i wouldnt say so.  so people might not believe in the xtian god, but may believe in a higher being of sorts.  the might be a complete atheist, but believe in aliens.  or believe all is bollocks.  as i said before, the movement is diverse, and nobody could care to put boundries to it, so you follow what you can rationalise, and tweak and adjust it as you receive information.  im sure, that any skeptic worth his name, would adjust his mindset when some deity would appear, and it be real, honest truth.  we are skeptics, not idiots.


Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?

no.  if you are xtian, and you are happy like that, and you dont find the need to explore that, then you can be skeptic about pretty much anything else you like.  skepticism, in my opinion, isnt limited to religions.  its all kinds of things,  if you want to doubt it, then you can.  you can be skeptic about whether riaan cruywagen is immortal.  which he is by the way.  or whether barack obama is actually being controlled by the pope.  take your pick.

What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?
religious nutters. internet trolls with no life. (you know who you are you gay pansy ass)
i have yet to meet an intellectual who doesnt have some form of skeptic thinking, even if he is religious.
i think that religions, and i mainly refer to christian here, are very insecure about their flock being lead from the light, by the likes of us, so they have fits and try and scare us back into the fold.
suffice to say, they fail. epically.
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BoogieMonster
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« Reply #11 on: April 07, 2010, 16:09:01 PM »

I'm answering this without looking at other answers, hopefully I won't repeat too much...

Thoughts about my above statement?

Changing the way people think on a global scale, a-la "1984", "Equilibrium", etc? There's a point to be made for diversity of opinion forming a basis of our humanity. And who would you be to say what constitutes "faulty thinking"?

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Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?

Some of us have drinks together sometimes. However skeptics are allowed to disagree at will so, are you referring to us holding more-or-less the same viewpoints most of the time? I would think we, by definition, wouldn't be very unified in "dogma", but we do tend to agree on the most clearly woo-driven phenomena (Homeopathy, Ghost hunting, Danie Krugel, etc.)

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Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?

What you see here is it I think, I wouldn't say we have a "leader" or any structured governance.

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What are the goals of this group and skepticism?

Many come here the first time just to seek some like-minded company. Others have endeavored to expose false claims, but I think mostly, they do so in private capacity, perhaps recruiting a few others to help. It relates closely to previous question. Without structured governance I wouldn't say we've developed a "charter" or anything like it. Nor would we necessarily want to.

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What actions are taken to achieve these goals?

Some examples would be CptKlingon taking a whole bottle of Homeopathic sleeping tablets, surviving, and posting the video on youtube. Some of the went to give out skeptical pamphlets to the audience of John Edward when he was in SA, but they were tossed out....

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Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?

Probably the biggest output we give is a contrary viewpoint that some in could find out here on the interwebs, and perhaps we could stimulate their thought. Like I said, we're mostly just here to converse with each other.

The effect we have is entirely unmeasurable. What is the impact of Dawkins' Atheist bus campaign? Could you quantify it? Has it had any impact at all?

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Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?

Skeptics in the pub is happening tonight actually.

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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?

Is destroying negative things constructive? I guess that's a question of philosophical perspective.

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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?

Has the UK government changed direction on the use of Homeopathy? YES!

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What qualities define a skeptic?

I think before all else, curiosity. Probably combined with a lack of gullability, or an intense desire to uncover TRUTH. I would say we're not really a sentimental bunch, we value hard truths over convenient feelings.

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What is the typical skeptic demographic?

Anecdotally I've noticed:
We tend to (seem to) be a bit smarter than average.  (That would be subjective though, I'm sure the local church-goers think those atheists are pretty stoopid)
So far I've only met white people.

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Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?

Yes.

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Is atheism a requirement?

No, but it seems to be largely a product.

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Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?

Hmm, got ahead of myself there.

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What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?

Lack of skepticism.

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Owen Swart
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« Reply #12 on: April 07, 2010, 16:28:00 PM »

Thoughts about my above statement?

I think it's pretty much on the ball. I'm not sure "freedom" is the word most sceptics would use to describe their goal, but the way you've defined it certainly encapsulates what I perceive to be the general direction  most sceptics seem to move in.

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Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?

It seems to me that we're starting to see some measure of cohesion starting to bubble up. This forum, Sceptics in the Pub, Sceptic South Africa and various informal coalitions have added a measure of cohesion within certain limited circles. I predict that, given the current trend, in two years' time we'll likely see considerably more of that.

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Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?

I see the structure of this community as being something akin to computer models depicting early forming galaxies: a few dispersed clumps surrounded by a sea of free-floating stars.

The wider sceptical community (internationally and in the US and UK in particular) is a lot more organised. There are a number of formal organisations (e.g. JREF, CFI, CSI and so on) operating in the space, as well as some well known sceptical people who have amassed relatively large fan communities (the SGU crew, Skepchick, PZ Myers, Phil Plait etc). There's still no overriding structure to it all, and all of these groups are only loosely affiliated with each other. I also understand there's a strong overlap in their memberships, in that a member of one cluster will likely also be a member of several others.

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What are the goals of this group and skepticism?

I'm not sure it's possible to describe the members of this forum as a "group" per se, but insofar as we are a bunch of individuals who congregate around this website, I'd say our goals are something like "To evaluate, discuss and expose the manifestations of harmful bad thinking in our society".

The sceptical movement as a whole could probably be described as having a similar over-arching goal, but varying in detail from one group to the next.

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What actions are taken to achieve these goals?

Discssion and fleshing out of ideas in forums like this one. Some among us use social media (blogs, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter etc) to try and spread our message to a wider audience, hopefully bringing the attention of our friends and families to the issues we're interested in.

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Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?

I suspect that achieving the goal is an ongoing process. If, at any time, a particular purveyor of harmful bad thinking is exposed and rendered helpless, another will spring up to take his place.

Have we succeeded in exposing any such purveyors? To some extent Danie Krugel and Johan Prinsloo. But neither of them so successfully as to drive them out of business.

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Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?

The only one I know of is Sceptics in the Pub, which is now run in 5 South African cities on a monthly basis.

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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?

I consider it to be ultimately constructive. Although in order to build something up, it is sometimes necessary to break down something that was standing in its way. In this case, I'm referring to the practice of "debunking", which is often perceived by non-sceptics as our only activity.

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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?

I would hope so... assuming we're succeeding at our endeavour at least to some extent.

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What qualities define a skeptic?

In the sense in which we use the term, a sceptic is someone who is devoted to the pursuit of the best possible information on a given topic, and who will only accept that information provisionally, pending the arrival of even better information.

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What is the typical skeptic demographic?

For some reason, the typical sceptic seems to be a white male, aged over 20. That's not to say there are no exceptions to that rule, but I'd say at least half of the sceptics I know fit that description.

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Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?

There are a few authors whose work was and is relevant and largely inspirational to the modern sceptical movement: Carl Sagan, James Randi, Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Ben Goldacre and Stephen Pinker (and quite a few more).

In terms of sources for more current information, the most popular sources appear to be sceptical bloggers like Phil Plait, PZ Myers, Orac and the Skepchicks, as well as a number of podcasts like the SGU, Skepticality, Skeptoid and the Skeptic Zone.

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Is atheism a requirement?

No. There are a number of prominent sceptics who aren't atheists (and many more who one might describe as atheists, but who refuse to self-apply the label).

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Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?

To me it was, and it was to many others I know of as well. But apparently not everyone agrees on that point.

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What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?

I suppose that would be the people we describe as "believers": people who determinedly and resiliently stick to and advocate positions that are either not supported by evidence, or for which there is a preponderance of contradictory evidence. Some of these would be people like "Alternative Medicine" advocates, religious fundamentalists, conspiracy theorists, UFO believers and cryptozoologists, scam artists, "psychics" and so on.


Quote
Thanks again for your time and interest.

No prob!


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Lilli
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« Reply #13 on: April 08, 2010, 08:14:33 AM »

Quote
Thoughts about my above statement?
Agreed that ‘faulty thinking is to blame for a lot of problems in the world, but I do not think that these problems you refer to can be solved by rational thinking alone. Rational thinking is merely the first step, and will have to be translated  into action at some stage.
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Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?
A trade-mark of many people who call themselves skeptic that I have come across is a remarkable talent and desire for debate. Often people will argue simply for the sake of looking at the topic from a different point of view, even if they would normally agree with whatever was said. Don't know about the whole 'skeptical community' thing though. Generally I don't like social groups being too formalized and organized
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Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?
No structure here – anything goes.
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What are the goals of this group and skepticism?
To fuel debate – to create a platform where thinking people have the opportunity to throw ideas around. Without prejudice, without expectations, without bullshit.
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What actions are taken to achieve these goals?
We argue a lot  Wink The best thing about this forum is that anybody can post anything they would like to talk about, and usually there is some kind of response – often throwing your thought pattern in a direction that was wholly unanticipated.
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Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?
I think we achieve these goals every day.
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Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?
Some of us meet about once a month – I myself have not yet attended such a meeting, but will if the cosmos aligns properly… Wink
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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?
Both, in different categories
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Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?
Yes, rational thought never hurt anybody in the long run. The aim is to get people thinking. Thinking is important for a community to grow.
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What qualities define a skeptic?
Desire to think, learn, research, debate, re-think, discuss etc etc.
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What is the typical skeptic demographic?
No idea
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Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?
Yes, somewhere on this forum there was a ‘recommended reading’ post I think. Generally, I believe that all information is equally important to gather, dissect, and then use (ie used in a rational argument, or thrown out.)
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Is atheism a requirement?
No I don’t think it’s a requirement, but it is not at this time possible to make a rational, scientific argument for theism, so that leaves a bit of a problem.
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Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?
More often than not, yes.
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What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?
woo-woo nutjobs like... yeah never mind  Cheesy
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Rigil Kent
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« Reply #14 on: April 08, 2010, 09:45:02 AM »

Thoughts about my above statement?
The skeptic’s thoughts are all but free. It is shackled by reason and logic. But we like it that way. And if everyone liked it that way, the world would be a wonderful, if slightly boring, place.

Is there any cohesion within the SA skeptical community?
Probably not much compared to that of, say, the ANCYL. I think our cohesive properties are of the Van der Waal’s type.

Is there a particular structure to this group / the skeptical community?
I’m telling you this because I like you. Please don’t let it get out. We have a leader called The Great Pim, who secretly lives inside a hollow mountain somewhere in Namibia. Pim has a ring of 42 privileged generals, all quite invisible, who spend the day reading Nietzsche and playing D&D. The rest of us make the tea.  Wink
   
What are the goals of this group and skepticism?   
Having a good chat mostly. Swapping ideas. Asking advice. Giving flippant answers to serious questions. And providing an alternative to watching TV or weeding the vegetable patch.
    
What actions are taken to achieve these goals?
Does a lot of passionate and outraged typing in my bedroom count?
    
Have you, as a group, achieved any of the goals?
Oh, yes! 400+ members, more than a thousand topics – just do the math. My mind has been changed many a times on these hallowed pages, and that with mere debate! (Usually my better half changes it right back afterwards by brute force.)
    
Are there any meetings or activities which this group attend?
There are a number of get-togethers as stated. But no national event like a Free-thought Parade through the main street of De Aar, followed by a braai and tug-of-war that I’m aware of, no.
    
Would you consider the skeptical movement to be constructive or destructive?
Always constructive.
    
Would you consider the skeptical movement to be beneficial to the community / population at large?
Yes. If only to balance out the “other side”.
   
What qualities define a skeptic?
A pursuivant of knowledge who doesn’t get upset with uncertainty.

What is the typical skeptic demographic?
... I think there is also this other oke somewhere near Pretoria ....
   
Are there reference materials or important sources of information for skepticism?
Go have a look at the science section in most good bookshops. But you’ll have to look carefully.
   
Is atheism a requirement?
No, but it helps. Atheism is more of a conclusion than a prerequisite.
   
Is atheism the logical outcome of skepticism?
For me it was that way, yes.
   
What is the main opposition to the skeptical movement?
Any irrational quest for certainty.

Mintaka
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