Tuesday, August 29, 2006


One of the most interesting things about the internet is that there are fora for people with just about any interest. I find things like skeptical examination of paranormal, religious and pseudoscience fascinating. Much of the time, I just find myself nodding in agreement with what I find written. Occasionally, I find myself alarmed at what people will believe, or angry at how people prey on the poor critical thinking skills of others. And occasionally, I'll find something both delightful and challenging, like the forum at skepchick.org.

Skepchick is a forum for women about skeptical inquiry. To be blunt, it never occurred to me to think that women would have any particular take on the issues involved. I try to be egalitarian- not rascist or sexist, while not patting myself on the back for my 'enlightenment' and not overly nationalistic, while not adopting some overweening 'trans-nationalism' that I rarely find sincere. Nevertheless, as I read posts at skepchick, I find myself guilty of making assumptions along with male posters there, assumptions which are often exposed for what they are in short order. It is interesting to see this, because the shock of recognition of something in myself that I have tried to avoid reveals something interesting, something hidden from my view. It's a mystery being uncovered, in a way.

I have been married for 14 years, so I have had plenty of time to see how my wife's mind and my own are different, though I wouldn't overgeneralize it as exclusively gender- or sex-related. Both she and I take somewhat unorthodox approaches to things. In my case, it is both cause and effect with regard to my scientific career. Being a scientist makes you think about stuff in a somewhat hyperanalytical, instrospective way. These habits of mind, however, are probably necessesary for a person to want to be a scientist.

My wife fits the traditional female role well, yet she overflows its banks, to be as good a carpenter, or handyperson as most anyone I know. She's petite and pretty, yet (and I say this with no hint of irony) there are few men I would rather have at my back in a throwdown. (You'd have to know her. She can use a gun and a club with skill and without compunction. And we really are not that kind of people, honest. But it's nice to know we could be, in a pinch. Are my Kentucky roots showing?) I think I have seen much that would dissuade me from much sexism. But she always hands me the map when we travel. Even when she won't let me drive.

So, thus prepared, I still find myself going along with suggestions made by posters at Skepchick that women are more susceptible to, as one person put it, 'woo woo' psychic nonsense. Perhaps, it seems that there are cultural/gender dimensions to what kind of "Bullshit" one is inclined toward, but I think that it is pretty clear that everyone has inclinations to believe stupid crap that makes one more comfortable, or feel more powerful. The world is big and bewildering, and it isn't surprising that verbal primates (hey, that's us!) would use verbal means (myths, folktales, lies, you name it) to make sense of it.


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