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Posts Tagged ‘social media’

Please, Disagree With Me!

February 3, 2014 Leave a comment

ImageI write a semi-regular blog on the Skeptoid website, as well as post regular musings and ramblings on Twitter and Facebook. In these writings, I am usually inspired by some set of data. As a scientist, data is something that removes much of the bias we carry as humans. Even if the data analysis or the conclusions drawn are manipulated, the raw data is harder to manipulate. Yes, people can outright lie, or can use poor data collection or design a poor test, but that is usually revealed by the design itself, or data from someone else. So I always use this as my core in forming my beliefs and opinions.

Over the last year, I have had people unfollow me on Facebook and Twitter over my opinions. I do come across strong in my conclusions. If you don’t know that about me – please take this as your notice. It catches people off-guard at times. It can offend them. Please just know that is in almost every case not my intent. I want to learn new things. I post things because I want them to be challenged. I also am not going to simply accept your conclusion because you say it. I am going to need convincing. It needs to be logical. It needs to have supporting data. I don’t hate you nor do I mean to offend you. Let’s talk. And if we don’t agree – then we don’t. I bet on many other things we do agree.

I often get classified politically as a bad libertarian. It fits pretty well. The ideology of being libertarian makes the society as a whole stronger. But I also believe the weakest of the society would be left far behind if we followed those ideals perfectly. So to me I always fight the liberal part of me and the libertarian part of me. The hardest part is in many cases, we don’t have good data on what would work best, only economic theories which simply cannot account for all variations of real-life. So I’m a bad libertarian. I’m ok with that.

I have changed my opinion on many things over the years. I used to think we should punish drug users and sellers more. Now, after seeing the data and understanding the idea of personal freedom – I understand that drugs, while still harmful, should be legal. What should be illegal is putting others in a potentially harmful situation because of drugs (driving while under the influence for example). So I am for stopping this insane war on drugs. That’s a huge turn-around for me.  I used to think we should ban violent video games (we have plenty of data showing it doesn’t affect crime). I have a number of positions that have changed over the years – because I enjoy learning.

So yes, my mind can be changed. But it can’t be changed if you won’t talk about it. I can be swayed by good data. I can be swayed by good logic. It might take some time. If you really feel you need to unfollow me because we disagree – then that is your personal choice. I for one would love to have a reasonable conversation about our disagreement. We may not come to an agreement, but maybe we will better understand our own position. We can try again another day.

Oh – and I know I ramble sometimes. I hope you can like me for who I am. 

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My not quite full day away from Twitter and Facebook

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Occasionally, I find a few hours or a day away from social media is just easier than trying to fight what one of my Twitter friends calls the “outrage prism.” (Note: I love the term and have previously asked permission to openly plagiarize.) The ignorant statements, the political gamesmanship, and the misdirected outrage was enough to simply make me stop reading about the events of early this morning.

As pretty much everyone should know by this point, a young man marched into a midnight showing of the new Batman movie and killed 12 people and injured several more. What a horrible thing to happen to people who did nothing other than seek a couple hours away from reality by immersing themselves into a movie. It is truly a sad story. I know every time I see an incident like this, my thought is always to the family and friends left behind, and to those people who survived and have to relive that incident in their minds forever. We truly need to support the family and friends of those lost and those victims who are still here who will need our support to help them heal.

One story that made me truly tear up was the one of Jessica Redfield. As a person interested in hockey, I found out pretty early about her being one of the deceased victims via Twitter. What really made me tear up was the poignant piece Jessica wrote just a few weeks earlier as she narrowly avoided another shooting up in Canada. Thank you Jessica for reminding us to enjoy every minute.

What had me so upset in an angry way is the way some of the media responded. Today was not the day to play politics. Why can’t we wait even 24 hours to speculate on the motives and talk about how we should change laws to prevent future events. The first 24 hours should be dedicated to make sure all involved are apprehended. The first 24 hours should be dedicated to setting up support for the victims and families, including counselling, monetary support, planning for funerals or medical care, and helping businesses in the area while their customers avoid the area. Today is not the day for blame.

And yet it was. Within an hour, I saw posts on Twitter calling for tighter gun control. I saw posts saying if someone had been allowed to carry many people would have been saved. Mayor Bloomberg, from another city and state, immediately blamed the lack of strong gun control, without any details on how the weapons were obtained. All these posts came without context that in Colorado, you are allowed to carry openly without a permit. Concealed carry does require a permit. There are countries with gun bans that have lower homicide rates than the U.S. There are also countries like Switzerland where owning a military rifle and having it in the home is mandatory that also have a lower homicide rate. Correlating gun control with homicide is not as simple as proponents on either side would have you believe. How about taking some time to research the situation before posting. How about 24 hours of worrying about the families? Today was not the day to worry about gun control, especially when no one seemed to care what the circumstances actually were.

Also, within 6 hours of the crime, there were claims of the murderer being from both parties. I’m not sure which “accusation” came first, but this article addresses both (James Holmes, the suspect arrested in connection with the mass shootings… in Aurora, CO, could be a registered Democrat). ABC News speculated with very little information that Holmes was a Tea Party member. Breitbart News countered with speculation that the shooter might be a registered democrat. My point is, does this matter? In fact, that shouldn’t matter no matter if either was true. There is no political party saying “please shoot people for our political gain.” The shooter wasn’t targeting any specific party. Today was not the day to worry about political parties.

These accusations stemmed from more idiotic statements. Before the movie was released, Rush Limbaugh tried to claim this movie was a slight against Mitt Romney directly because the villain’s name in the movie is Bane, which is a homophone of Romney’s former company Bain. Limbaugh provides no other context or details, including the fact that Bane first showed up in a Batman comic in 1993 or that the word “bane” makes a great villain name due to its normal meaning of “a person or thing that ruins or spoils.” There were tweets then claiming that the shooting was Rush’s fault because of this statement. It was easy to see very early that this was planned by the shooter much before Limbaugh’s statement. Besides, today was not the day to put the blame on anyone but the shooter.

The idea that a political affiliation could cause this is a blatant logical fallacy. There are a few categories of fallacies this could fall under, but one that fits well is the “Questionable cause” fallacy. Even if a majority of shooters in these type of crimes belonged to one party or the other, one can reasonably state that the parties are not preaching to people to commit crimes, thus party affiliation is not the cause of shootings. The other fallacy is the “Post Hoc” fallacy – that just because someone spoke about the Batman movie that it somehow caused Holmes to target that movie. Logical fallacies are to be avoided on any day, but today especially was not the day to commit obvious ones.

If anyone hears of victims’ funds being set up or any way that those of us can help, please let me know and I’ll be happy to spread the word as best I can. Today is a day we should support those who need us after such a tragedy. That is why I chose to get away from social media for a few hours – I’d rather reflect on the victims, spend some extra time close to my family, and not speculate on the why. At least not today.