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254: Mindset of the True Believer


This week's episode features a conversation about True Believers with Tom Naughton, the author of Fat Head, a film which takes a critical look at Morgan Spurlock's Super Size Me and the dietary orthodoxy it represents.

At the beginning of the episode KMO reads from Tom's essay, The Vegan True Believers.

Bob Hartwig described it as "a really insightful and challenging episode of the C-Realm podcast. KMO and guest touch on misinformation, postmodernism, libertarianism, and all manner of True Believers. They even discuss those among my fellow vegans who are not above propagating misinformation in the interest of advancing their agenda."

Music by Fernando Tarango.



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Simon K. Jeppesen
Apr. 22nd, 2011 01:29 am (UTC)
Belief systems
Hello KMO

Thanks for a great show! Listened to episode 254 with Tom Naughton today, while gardening (thats the best way to take in the C-realm :-))

It truck me that the attitude of exstreme scepticism og anti-belief-systems is in itself a beleif system.

I have no doubts about Tom being a very clever fellow, and I would like to see his movie "Fathead"... What struck me was the segment about human-induced climate change... You said yourself (with a little nervous shiwer in your voice :-)) that you expected comments on that segment where you and Tom both expresses doubts about climate change (CC)...

well here is a comment:

Sceptisism is a good thing, to some degree. But isn't sceptisim also very close to denialism when you can dismiss about anything, because science per definition is never 100% sure. Secptisim can become a sleeping pillow for doing nothing and meaning nothing in a consistant way.

I myself am very sceptical to a lot of the memes in current consumer culture and I guess, I am what you might call a doomer. But a somewhat happy doomer though - I enjoy the simple life, I have a job where i spend most of my time outside with students, I have a garden... But, what makes me a very gloomy doomer is the lack of will to take CC seriously... And it makes me tired to hear very smart guys like Tom and you express your sceptisim about CC being real. Yes, you are free to think what you want and say it out loud... Wasnt there a congresswoman resently saying that radioactivity is actually healty for you - well she might be right you know we can never know for sure - and she has all the right to utter such nonense.

I'm sure you know about the consequenses IF CC i real... I'm also sure that you know that what we do today will only have impact in 30-40 years - because of the inertia in the climate system... Well - if we want to be 100% sure before we take action, then we will never take action. There is no such thing as an exact science, its all about probabilities...

I'm sorry that my first comment on your show is a rant, I very much enjoy to have my mind blown week after week... But this short segment made my mind implode... I promise next time i write I will be the happy doomer again :-)

Have a peak day :-)

Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:40 pm (UTC)
Re: Belief systems
I would describe my own position as agnosticism rather than skepticism. The word 'skepticism' has been hijacked and abused to the point where it no longer means what it means.
Simon K. Jeppesen
Apr. 22nd, 2011 07:57 pm (UTC)
Re: Belief systems
Hello again KMO

Thanks for the answer!

I read the definition of sceptisism and agnosticism on wikipedia - the definitions a quite close.

I guess originally agnosticism was confined to spiritual matters and that we can never be sure about the existence of god... I think the position have developed somewhat in the last century, so now it means that you can never be certain of anything...

Which means that it is, for a agnostic point of wiev, completly fair and respectable to dismiss the findings of a overwhelmingly large body of researh to any subject - for instance CC, or holes in the ozone layer, or evoulution or, plate-tectonics, or if smoking causes cancer, or the shape of the planet (maybe earth is banana-shaped, we can simply not know for sure)... Are politicians/energy companie CEO's dedicated agnostics when they say that science know nothing about how the climate system works, that there are 300 years of natural gas in the US og that fracking is clean and safe aso. I guess you have to be fanatical agnostic (or a denialist, or ignorant or stupid) to dismiss some things. To me agnosticism sounds like a belief system that is well suited to spread doubt about anything.

I'm ranting again... quess you and Tom provoked my own belief-system.

Apr. 22nd, 2011 09:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Belief systems
What happens if you modify your understanding of agnostic to mean "don't know" rather than "can't know?"
Simon K. Jeppesen
Apr. 22nd, 2011 10:28 pm (UTC)
Re: Belief systems
Well... can you as an agnostic always tell if you chose not to know, dont want to know, simply dont know, or just dont give a damn?... I guess, as an approach to living your life, its a good thing to have en open mind and be willing to listen, but also to be on your toes and have a fine-tuned BS-alarm... I think your ability to be open-minded is part of the reason you make good interviews, and I remember you saying in an earlier episode that you try not to hold any particular belief-system. You should do an interview with somebody from the flat-earth-society - maybe that would put your agnosticism to a test :-)

Apr. 22nd, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)
what a hippocrit!
This guy is exactly what he's raving against!

Apr. 22nd, 2011 01:41 pm (UTC)
Re: what a hippocrit!
Tom has strongly held beliefs, but the immediate and obvious difference I see between him and crusading True Believers is that Tom can make and TAKE a joke. True Believers are humorless, quick to offend and boil with rage before breakfast.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 05:43 pm (UTC)
Re: what a hippocrit!
But, he clearly showed himself to be a true believer, as well. His criticisms of people who oppose capitalism were text book ad hominin and straw man fallacies.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
Re: what a hippocrit!
It's really interesting that you should say that. You heard broad straw man sorts of absolutist statements, while I recall Tom qualifying his remarks by saying things like, "Now, I'm not saying that everyone who believes X is a True Believer, but..."

But then I appreciate that sort of nuanced, fair-minded communication, so I may be more prone to notice it.
Apr. 23rd, 2011 02:40 am (UTC)
Re: what a hippocrit!
Labeling people who you, for whatever reason, disagree with as "fanatical types" or "hard-liners," etc. has been a common tactic with politically right-leaning folks. It's a way of side-stepping what one's opponent is actually saying.
Ian Longfield
Apr. 22nd, 2011 02:13 pm (UTC)
Sorry KMO. But that is rubbish
I've been listening to the C-Realm for a few years now and am generally open to listening to many points of view. But that rubbish last night about climate change being unknowable just demonstrated Tom Naughtons willful ignorance of the subject.

At 43 years of age, I AM doing the science degree, so I can understand how to decipher the reams of evidence and data that has been collected and processed. Just because Naughton is too lazy to study the subject, he has decided that it is too hard so therefore must be not true. When was the last time you understood exactly what was going on inside your computer, yet the evidence suggests it works, so the technology must be true. Climate science is the same. Just because you don't have have the intellectual capacity to grasp it does not mean that other more learned than you have discovered things too complex for you to understand. And just like complex electronics, nobody understands the whole, but many understand enough about the individual parts to be able to make it all come together. Climate science works the same way.

Any more of this sort of rubbish and I'll just stop listening.
Apr. 22nd, 2011 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry KMO. But that is rubbish
Your computer analogy reminded me of this bit from Isaac Asimov:

"Consider. I drive a car, and you drive a car. I do not know exactly how an engine works. Perhaps you do not either. And it may be that our hazy and approximate ideas of the workings of an automobile are in conflict. Must we then conclude from this disagreement that an automobile does not run, or that it does not exist? Or, if our senses force us to conclude that an automobile does exist and run, does that mean it is pulled by an invisible horse, since our engine theory is imperfect?"


He was writing about the tension between the theory of evolution and creationism. I'd be curious to read or hear what old uncle Isaac would say about the climate change debate were he still around.

As to your closing comment, Tom will be on again next week.

Edited at 2011-04-22 04:41 pm (UTC)
Simon K. Jeppesen
Apr. 23rd, 2011 01:25 pm (UTC)
Re: Sorry KMO. But that is rubbish
Maybe the analogy would be something like this:

Two cars are driving towards a cliff and one drivers yells there is a cliff and suggests both of you should change your course or at least slow down... the other driver wants to stay the course and keep the speed (maybe even accelrate a little bit) because he a) is blind, b) very short sighted, c) dont believe in cliffs, d) see the cliff, but likes the course to much to change it e) see the cliff but thinks we have to hit the cliff to be sure its really there f) believe Jesus (or somebody else) will make the cliff evaporate before you hit it...

Apr. 25th, 2011 07:55 am (UTC)
Native Americans whose land was being stolen and Africans who were enslaved to work that land weren't individuals in Thomas Jefferson's view.
Apr. 28th, 2011 11:56 am (UTC)
I'm not a spammer
I'd appreciate it if you'd release my comment which was submitted yesterday and seems to be embargoed by LJ as a "suspicious comment.". I promise I'm not a spammer (or even a troll). Just trying to make a thoughtful contribution to the discussion.
Apr. 28th, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm not a spammer
Hi mainewayne, I don't see any previous comments from you, and if LJ has consigned your message to limbo, I don't know how to liberate it. I certainly welcome your participation in the on-going discussion. If you're willing to re-compose your message, you are welcome to send it to kmo@c-realm.com, and I'll post it here. You can also post your comment to the discussion section of the Friends of the C-Realm group on Facebook.
Jun. 9th, 2011 12:42 pm (UTC)
Re: I'm not a spammer
Hi Mainewayne,

I looked around for a way to end the LJ embargo against you and have come up blank. If you have this problem again, feel free to send the comment to me at kmo@c-realm.com, and I'll post it to LJ with correct attribution.

Thank you for making the effort.

Jun. 9th, 2011 12:25 pm (UTC)
True BS'ers

Mildly amused by your True Believer episode. According to your guest:
1) “We” are logical and rational. “They” are illogical and irrational.
2) “We” have irrefutable “iron clad arguments” proving the validity of our point of view.
3) The 95% plus of climate scientists who have been convinced by the overwhelming evidence of anthropogenic climate change are illogical, irrational and have obviously been corrupted by the funding from governments (Who allegedly want to prove it because they want to take away … our freedom to destroy the planet???) The less than 5% (I’m being generous, probably less than 1%) of climate scientists that apparently have not been convinced by the evidence are logical and rational and have not been corrupted by the funding from big coal, big oil, and other players who benefit financially from our continued use of fossil fuels.
4) There are not any situations in which the rights of the individual should be subsumed to the rights of the group. This, apparently, includes situations where the actions of the individual threaten the survival of the group.
5) Outright denial in the face of overwhelming evidence is what scientists should do.
As Mr. Spock would say “Highly illogical captain.”

Jun. 9th, 2011 12:35 pm (UTC)
Re: True BS'ers
You know, I almost edited out the Climate Change portion of the discussion. It was off topic from the perspective of what I was hoping to capture when I went into the interview. I'm glad I left it in, as it has provoked a lot of response.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )

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