Around a decade ago I stumbled across Terence Hines, James Randi’s and Michael Shermer’s books in the local library and was blown away. I didn’t have a strong science background and grew up with an interest in the paranormal, aided to no end by a fairly credulous parent. What first struck me when discovering that skepticism existed was that the “great mysteries’ I’d read about my whole life actually had solutions, or at least were not that mysterious after all, due to solutions and explanations that were far far more interesting, not to mention real!
It turned out the formula of every single Scooby Doo episode was modeled as close to reality as possible for a Hanna-Barbera cartoon, and there were snooping kids catching out those trying (and generally succeeding) in pulling one over the rest of us.
I delved into what skeptical books I could find, all through the same public library yet wanted more. I then started reading popular science books like Brian Greene, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Richard Dawkins, Simon Singh, and felt the same thrill of understanding, the increase in questions that knowledge brings, and I wanted more.
My interests spread in to psychology and social sciences, health science and finally philosophy. Philosophy took me the longest to really loose myself in, but one day something clicked and I’ve been hooked ever since (read A.C. Grayling and you’ll thank me latter). I then interspersed many books on Atheism and secular topics, eventually leading to Secular Humanism and the writings of Paul Kurtz.
My interests are now very broad but encompass all of the above, as well as a burgeoning interest in media and communications as I am now studying towards a Bachelor of Journalism, majoring in Science, Technology and Society, and Public Relations. I now make an effort to take my time and scrutinize decisions, rather than rushing in and/or relying on assumptions and my life is significantly better for it. I crave education and value listening to others, eagerly soaking up any information I can. I attempt to inform others of what I have been able to find out, and leave them to do what they will with that info. I’m not disappointed that people don’t instantly “wake up” and see that they have no evidence for this and that, or that they’ve been deceived, duped or ripped off by strangers or often those closest to them, whether unwittingly or not. I understand that to expect such a response is unreasonable to the extreme, not to mention sure to lead to allot of disappointment. I stumble and falter being only human, but I dust myself off and learn as much from those mistakes as from the occasional successes.
I point all this out only to demonstrate that I did not come to all these understandings overnight, that they were far from instant, or inevitable, nor do I ever expect a complete understanding of any topic. Like many I often resented my new found critical thinking and skeptical understandings, feeling they led to heartache, disagreements and conflict with little to no reward. However (and here I finally get to me point) I’ve managed to compile a series of links to articles that in one way or another helped me through the growing pains I’m sure allot of us have when newly joining the skeptical community (and for years after if I’m anything to go by). We are all always learning, we’re influenced by what we learn, so it makes sense to me that we should take the time to learn interesting, helpful and insightful things. Here’s a list of my favorites:
In my opinion this is one of the most important essays of the modern skeptical movement, a must read.
This re-inspired me years ago when I needed it most and brought some much needed apathy and respect for those we more often than not disagree with.
-A defining point in the skeptical movement, the best answer I’ve ever heard given for engaging in Skeptical Activism.
“Because people get hurt, and nobody does anything about it”
There are so many suggestions on this list that there has to be something everyone for anyone and everyone.
If you think what you’re doing is either like something on this list, or could even be perceived/interpreted as something on this list, stop. This is also a great example of why I read from a variety of sources, rather that purely skeptical literature.
Just brilliant and predating the recent tone debates by years.
Phil Plait gives some great advice, that led to many hackles raising around the world in oddly defensive postures. Strange.
A fantastic guide to just some of the science behind the discussions for a best practice approach.
Support the community that supports you and everybody wins, but written eloquently and with many more important points.
If you want to really gain an understanding of logical fallacies and how they apply, but from a really fun and funny locally produced Podcast, then you can’t go past Hunting Humbug 101. Speaking of Podcasts, if you haven’t yet discovered the plethora of amazing skeptic themed podcasts out there, you’re in for quite a treat. You might want to start with the Skeptics Guide to the Universe, Skeptoid, The Skeptic Zone, The Amateur Scientist Podcast, For Good Reason, Point of Inquiry, Actually Speaking, The Token Skeptic, Skepticality and there are many, many more!
I’ve run out of time and space before I could mention the many, many other superb Blogs and sites and what have you out there to find if you’re keen to explore, and it’s all right at your fingertips and half the fun is the discovery and you might even be surprised to realise how much is happening in your local community, as well as across the world!!
Jayson D Cooke