Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

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Friday, August 27, 2010

A Discussion Between Free-Thinkers: The Dr. Laura Incident

This is partly a discussion between Venus and Myself on the topic surrounding Dr. Laura, which lead to a runaway train of thought that was eventually long enough to contribute into a full post.

Posted by LaVerne Angela Knight-West

And now my opinion. As a journalism major and a former journalist, I find the level to which Dr. Laura lowered herself insulting not just to my race but to my profession. The(publicly) written and spoken word should exist to elevate, enligh...ten and liberate the human condition. It should not be allowed to espouse hate, bigotry, and continued ignorance. I believe that the purpose of the First Amendment was to allow the champion of the people...(the press) to keep a keen eye on government. The other part, I believe keeps the church and the government separated. Both good things. While people have a right to say what they want...they should also understand that others have the right to hate what they say. I hate the word Dr. Laura used. The same way I hate the word that Jennifer Anniston used on Regis a few days ago. The "R" word when referring to her lack of intelligence. I hate the words used to describe Native Americans, Jews, Italians, Asians, Irish, and Latinos. Those words men use to describe women as dogs and cats and cuts of the skin. Those words everyone uses to describe the beauty of the human body. But keep in mind, I speak only for me. My taste. The bawdy language of bars and taverns are foodstuff of comedy. I like that too in its place. The very idea that a person of letters would speak this way in public is awful. People of breeding don't talk like that in public. People of education should be held to a higher level. Of course saying the word or not does not mean an absence of bigotry. The use of such words does however indicate, at least to me, a lack of open-mindedness. Some of my ancestors could have been in chains. I know some were aboriginal peoples of the all of those words can never sum up the suffering of them both. But at the end of the day, Dr. Laura,...just because you call me a chair... it doesn't make me one. It only makes you an idiot.

My response to Venus

To sum up my perspective on this, I really liked the quote from Keli Goff where she stated,

“Those who choose not to vote can't complain about the government they get -- ever -- because they're not doing their part to make things better, maybe we should implement a rule that anyone who uses the N-word is no longer permitted to complain about racism from a public soapbox ever again, because they're not doing their part to make things better either.”

This really rang true with me because I have just become familiar with my own skepticism and often find an epiphany through scientific inference as I emerge from ignorance. The vaccine information, or disinformation, can be perceived as scary. But, when the research is done, the reasons for panic or hysteria fade as understanding grows. The often cloudy filters of the human senses can alter the reality of what we “think” that we experience. Scientific reasoning or critical thinking allows the subjective truth to shine through a little bit more clearly. We begin to see things for what they are, not for how we “perceive” them to be.

Assumptions are a big part of our brains wiring and most operations are done without us even knowing. The myth about “people only use 10% of their brains” has been thoroughly debunked, but I think that saying has just been misinterpreted. It should have gone more like, “90% of our brain functions, we don’t even notice.” Like interpreting the information sent in photons in through our retina from the suns light reflecting into our brains. We aren’t actively aware of our brains performing these actions, just like when we smell or hear it all seems in stride and fluid with no break in between. Our brains subconsciously make assumptions all day everyday, so it is of no surprise or stretch of the imagination to recognize that people consciously assume all the time as well. As in the case of Dr. Laura, she combined a local radio career with a private practice as a marriage family councilor under the assumption that she is a psychotherapist, but her doctorate is in physiology. But, as I often point out, at some point people just stop asking questions like, what is her area of expertise and how does she know this? Or, why should I even begin to believe what she is telling me? Without serious inquiry, we cannot reach what it means to truly understand.

Understanding can often lead to empathy.

Personally, when I have come to a subject or issue that I do not understand, it can appear to be erratic or without cause, so I question the rational behind it. When I became interested in Martial Arts like Muay Thai, I did not understand the dynamics of how people could do that kind of damage to their bodies, kicking and punching each other, then hugging it out afterwards. People frequently say that it’s fake or not a genuine showing of respect. This is just like misconceptions about science. People often think it’s too hard or too complicated. People often think that Martial Art is simply the act of learning to beat people up. But it’s a process much like science in that it’s a collective body of knowledge (Style or Art) that gets constantly refined through experimentation or practice. Before or even during a fight, assumptions of how the opponent might attack are always in mind, and our assumptions serve as our hypotheses that get re-evaluated and possibly re-vamped with each attempt or failure. To steal a term and concept from D.J. Grothe from the Point Of Inquiry on a Scientific American podcast, our critical thinking skills are much like “intellectual self-defense” because it’s a methodology that we implement to protect ourselves against bad information, con artists, and pseudoscience. The reason why we hug it out after we punch each other in the face is because we understand that we are actually learning more about each other than what’s apparent to outsiders. During these times, not only can I feel someone else's heart, but I can actually see it as well. In this light, we learn something about each other and ourselves. After truly showing someone your heart, all that’s left is respect.

The subject of racism comes from these assumptions that people make. Whether they are judgments or labels toward a particular ethnic group like stereotypes, they are still assumptions. We could go into the reasons why or how people become influenced by their environment, maybe through some evolutionary psychology, but I think it has mostly to do with simply not knowing. A very fundamental and simple concept of psychology is the notion that people do not like what they don’t understand. People fear the unknown, and that fear unchecked can often turn into hate. Understanding is how we free ourselves from that trepidation of emotion. Much like evolution can be described as the change in inherited traits of a particular organism population through successive generations, I feel this can be applied to the evolution of thought as well. Metaphorically, our beliefs or hypotheses are the organisms which inherit traits that change through successive generations. The most scientifically sound ideas live to adapt and possibly integrate older or even new ideas into its development.

The First Amendment provides protection and rights to people, not their ideas or words. I agree with your assessment of these rights wholeheartedly. I like the point that people have the right to say whatever they want, but they should also understand that others have the right to hate what they say. This misinterpreting of the Constitution can be considered just another example of not understanding. When I found out that the dehumanizing term “Redskin” originated from a notion that the dead bodies of Native Americans resembled the dead animals that were skinned. It was nothing more than a way to dehumanize a group of people to portray them as being savages, soulless, and even less than human. But without that knowledge of the way things really are, we are left with others making assumptions like Dr. Laura did when she assumed that what she was saying made sense and rationalized all of her prior assumptions which more than likely confirmed that bias. But as I digress, it’s not so much the words but the contexts in which we use them, after all, words are just groups of symbols but it’s the meaning behind them that gives them power. Your example made me think of something I heard George Carlin once say regarding the N-bomb,

“There is absolutely nothing wrong with the word, in and of itself. It’s the racist asshole who’s using it that you ought to be concerned about”.

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