Drinking Skeptically…For Night People!

8 Jul

by Brianne Bilyeu aka biodork

First, I love summer. A lot. Also, I love Minnesota Skeptics for scheduling tonight’s Drinking Skeptically…For Night People! so close to my house so that I could enjoy a lovely evening bicycle ride to and from the get-together.

I arrived at Fusion in uptown Minneapolis this evening around 9pm. I like this space – it is set up well for moving around and meeting new groups of people, and at 10pm they have a pretty snazzy happy hour. Unfortunately they also crank up the music at 10pm, which isn’t so good for conversation. But ah well, such is a night in a bar. Solution: Grab another drink and shout a little louder!

Tonight I ended up meeting a lot of new (to me) people. Hello new skeptical friends! I met a nurse, three engineers, a past member of the Secular Student Alliance, some Tim Minchin fans, some people who are pretty excited about going to The Amazing Meeting next week, and a whole mess of atheists (deconverted Catholic over there, former Hindu over there, raised Fundamentalist Christian in that corner, past altar boy in that one – the list went on and on!).

This evening was interesting because I met people who had different takes on alternative medicine, the science of belief, and our understanding and perception of reality than I do. I had a chance to engage in some debates and idea-sharing, but I was a little frustrated with myself at a few points because I kept wanting to fall back on arguments that had been made in presentations, blogs and podcasts by various well-known skeptics and scientists (Michael Shermer said this, on Science-Based Medicine they totally debunked that, etc.). At times it was a challenge to say and defend what *I* thought without falling back on an argument to authority.

I think that any time I’m not “preaching to the choir”, I find out how well I really understand a position and I learn how to make stronger arguments for the position that I’ve taken. Also, when there’s no shared experience or language (I’m sorry…Science-Based what?), I have to find different ways to communicate ideas. Dang it, this critical thinking stuff is hard!

Thanks for the kick in the pants, MN Skeptics. Nights like this evening remind me why I first became interested in the organized skeptical community, and why I keep coming to meetups!

8 Responses to “Drinking Skeptically…For Night People!”

  1. Robyn Wheeler July 8, 2011 at 12:43 am #

    It was such a pleasure talking to you as well, and being new to this world I feel very much as you stated- that actually putting into work my own beliefs can be difficult! However I feel that it is though those discussions that growth and understanding, of both your own and others perspectives, can occur. Thank you for the conversation and perhaps we can kick it up again, in a less stimulating and loud environment next time. Thoughts?

    • biodork July 8, 2011 at 7:30 am #

      YES to a quieter environment! I hope you can make it to next Thursday’s Drinking Skeptically at Be’Wiched Deli. That location is much better for conversation.

  2. Pieter B July 8, 2011 at 3:24 am #

    Brianne, the “appeal to authority” fallacy isn’t in citing legitimate authorities, like people who specialize in the subject under discussion, it’s in citing an authority in one field as if s/he were an authority in all. If the subject is evolutionary biology, citing PZ Myers is legitimate. Citing his opinion about investment strategies is probably not.

    If, on the other hand, you realized that you have been quoting arguments made by Shermer nd the crew at SBM without really understanding them, that’s good.

    None of us can be expert in everything, and creationists especially are very effective in drawing us reality-based folk out until we’re past our own knowledge, and then making us look like fools. It’s perfectly OK to say “I don’t know that much about _____ , but I have enough confidence in the scientific method that I’ll trust the people who’ve spent their lives studying this question” — while muttering under your breath “as opposed to some self-described engineer and inventor who didn’t finish high school and holds no patents, who claims he knows more about physics than they ever will..”

    • biodork July 8, 2011 at 9:55 am #

      Yes, you’re absolutely right. I mis-used the argument from authority fallacy, and I thank you for the correction.

      In this blog I wasn’t trying to imply that I was quoting arguments without really understanding them, but rather I was trying to call out the danger in making arguments that sound like this: “So and so said this, and I heard that speaker say that, and on this podcast I heard this.” I’m reminded of the scene from Good Will Hunting when Matt Damon’s character makes the college student look like a pompous dick for quoting a textbook from memory and passing it off as his own original thoughts.

      I have no problem with sprinkling in a quote here, a speaker’s story there. But it can be a challenge to fully process a respected and proven expert’s arguments, to mix them in with the unique knowledge and experiences that we already have and then to grow new, innovative ideas and concepts from there, rather than quote the same old arguments verbatim. This is what we as critical thinkers can attempt to acheive.

  3. Benjamen Johnson July 8, 2011 at 12:58 pm #

    I agree it was a good meetup. It was cool meeting you and other skeptics that I hadn’t previously met at other events.

    What puzzled me about the music was that they seem to have the volume the loudest in the room the meetup was in. The restaurant section was definitely quieter. I also thought the bar was somewhat quieter too, but it was harder to judge that one. Maybe we can see if they can turn down the music in the meetup room to a bearable level next time.

    Now I just need to find a video of the Book of Mormon on Broadway

    • biodork July 8, 2011 at 4:51 pm #

      Yes! Do it! My favorite song (but not the funniest) is probably “I Believe” – Andrew Rannells has some PIPES on him!

      • Robyn Wheeler July 8, 2011 at 5:33 pm #

        Fans of the Book of Mormon… I have found a group after my own heart. Yes, I do plan on being at the Thursday event, however I probably wont be able to come by until 6:30. I assume things will still be in full swing?

      • nihiliad July 9, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

        Absolutely things will still be in full swing by 6:30. After Be’Wiched closes at 8 PM, many of us re-convene at Club Jäger just down the street. We’re usually in the back or on the patio, and often there quite late.

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