Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
Apache Crown Dancers 1887:

A Special Message For All New New Visitors

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with this site, please feel free to read my "Diary of a Native Skeptic" page, especially if this is your first visit.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Using Science and Skepticism to Build a Better Tomorrow Today

I would like to leave a trail for others to follow like bread crumbs. If I could every once in a while drop a piece to help others stay on the path, that would be fulfilling. Whether it is through a story or shared experience, the end result is finding some common uniting factor and building upon it.

"The point of an argument or debate should be progress, not victory." 

With all of the focus on what is wrong with the world and the things in it, we should be turning our attention to what is great about the world and the ways we can make it better. That starts with becoming better thinkers and decision makers. Then, becoming leaders in anything we do. 

The initial intention behind the start of this blog was to help other people who were like me and felt lost amongst all of the spiritualness in the world. I could not find my place, but knew I was part of something bigger than just myself. Was I Apache, Navajo, or Hopi? Was I white? Where did my answers lie? In one of those tribal religions or perhaps in the white mans' religion? 

I am not trying to change people's minds about their beliefs or looking to debunk myths. I am trying to get people to think for themselves and become just a little more skeptical. But, when I say skeptical, I don't mean cynical. I mean scientifically-skeptical. A large portion of science and scientific skepticism is open-mindedness. That tenet should always be in the forefront, clear and present. A large part of understanding science is getting to know skepticism. It makes us better critical thinkers. 

"You don't change people's minds, you give them the tools to decide on their own."

That is what science, critical thinking, and skepticism have done for me. Not only are they the best ways for vetting new information and attaining knowledge, they act as self-defense systems for your way of thinking as well. 

So, my focus went from what we don't know to the things we do. Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? What is the meaning of these patterns I see in nature? These questions began to seem less relevant to me as my brain was now infatuated with learning as much as I could about the universe and our place in it. 

I started my journey thinking that science was all about math and facts. Along the way, I found out that it was much more than that, it was "a way of thinking." Now I see it as humbling, awe-inspiring, and elegant. 

"Who is making all the decisions about science and technology that are going to determine the kind of future our children will live in?" (Sagan 1996) 

Carl Sagan on Charlie Rose in 1996.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, are the implications to our civic duties to be informed citizens and engaged with the issues at hand. When we stop questioning authority, we leave ourselves open for them to take advantage of us. Then, people don't run the government, the government runs the people. Thomas Jefferson was a big fan of questioning authority because of these very reasons. 

Who will govern the governors?" There is only one force in the nation that can be depended upon to keep the government pure and the governors honest, and that is the people themselves. They alone, if well informed, are capable of preventing the corruption of power, and of restoring the nation to its rightful course if it should go astray. They alone are the safest depository of the ultimate powers of government. (Jefferson 1903-04)

Benjamin Franklin has been quoted as saying, "It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority." I hold a similar belief. Socrates believed that ordinary citizens were not fit to govern themselves. He didn't believe that the general public was informed enough to make big decisions and often voted against their best interests. But, I have more hope for people and would like to see a world where more people can think for themselves and are not afraid to question authority or the status quo. A place where we can argue constructively and find progress, despite any differences. The aim isn't to win debates, but to be just a bit more skeptical. About as much as you would be buying a car. It is especially important when we are most vulnerable. While scientists are busy doing real science, people like me are prepared to take on what is not like the paranormal and supernatural. That's the difference I would like to make in the world. The best part about living with today's technology, is we all have a real chance to make a change!

Original Artwork by Noah Nez.


Sagan, Carl. 1996. Charlie Rose. YouTube. Can be accessed online at:

Jefferson, Thomas. 1903-04. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson on Politics and Government. Memorial Edition (Lipscomb and Bergh, editors). 20 Vols., Washington, D.C. Can be accessed online at:

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Why I Care About Science and Skepticism and Why You Should Too

I get excited when I am talking about science, it's process, and the power it bestows. I am supremely passionate about the importance of critical thinking skills and the pivotal role scientific skepticism plays in making any endeavor successful. What draws me to both science and scientific skepticism, is how they can both be useful to everyone at any level. Kids, young adults, and up to professionals in any field. 

How does science and skepticism tie into your life?

I grew up hearing all kinds of stories from different cultures and as a kid I was a fan of reading scary camp fire tales. I was always a pretty avid reader and amongst the collection I consumed were books on the paranormal and supernatural. My cultural beliefs were full of the supernatural, so I already had a foundation in me for things like psychic, ghosts, and monsters like Bigfoot. Not too far removed from that, was new age mysticism. After I started getting into martial arts, I entered a world of eastern philosophy that is filled with energy charts and acupressure points. At some point, I just realized there must be a way to discern what is real and what is the truth as best as it can be defined. 

Being such a heavy reader as a child helped with my writing as I got older. The philosophy of martial arts from Bruce Lee lead me into studying Taoism, which prepared me for abstract thinking when I got to ethics and philosophy courses. I feel that my journey on the outside fringes of science ultimately lead me to where I am now. So, I speak from a place of personal knowledge on things I once believed whole heartedly. I make it a point to not dismiss the things I know nothing about. I usually only give my opinion on the things I have experience with and researched myself. 

After I got to college, my writing progressed from doing so many essays, technical papers, and projects. After college, I used those skills and combined them with a newfound love for science. Once I discovered how poor the general understanding of science was amongst the public, I quickly identified myself as being one of those people. Science literacy became my new interest. 

Why do I care? And why should others?

Carl Sagan was one of the most famous scientists to promote this brand of scientific skepticism. A large part of his work was in informing the public about the dangers of pseudoscience and the importance of being able to differentiate the good from the bad. "Our world is built upon science and technology that people do not understand." If people are not informed, who will make the important decisions that affect the future of where science will take us? That decision should be left to the people. With all of the misinformation on the Internet and the fact that some beliefs can have harmful consequences like those concerning health, the question should be, why doesn't everyone care? Why don't you?

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

The Greatest Accomplishments Have Humble Beginnings

One of my proudest accomplishments to date was for something that I did for the Committee for Scientific Inquiry and the Skeptical Briefs newsletter. I was asked to write some articles special for the subscribers to the Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. For my first article, I decided to investigate the subject of Native American Thunderbirds. 

I was proud of the work and how the piece came out, it was more exciting to see the finished product amongst other skeptics that I hold in high regards such as Sharon Hill of the Doubtful News website and one of the most prolific scientific paranormal investigators, Joe Nickell. I would print out copies to hand out to my friends and family. However, for this particular subject I got much more involved. For instance, I did not just include pictures for the sake of including them. I went out and around the city, even visiting a museum, to capture the Native American influences specifically depicting Thunderbirds.

Like most with most scientific investigations, I ended up spending most of the time in the library. I remember being excited to see that first issue come in the mail. It wasn't until months later that I received an e-mail from my then editor, scientific paranormal investigator extraordinaire Benjamin Radford, asking me if he could reference my article in his new book. I was floored. 

Somewhere down the line, I moved, got away from writing for a while and just when I forgot about the article, my Mom called me with the news that she had gotten the book, Mysterious New Mexico: Miracles, Magic, and Monsters In the Land of Enchantment. It meant more to me that she got to see it before I did. Once I got that copy in my hand, I found and flipped it to Chapter 7 Thunderbirds: Mysterious Giants in the Sky to find my name amongst the list of references. 

I guess there was never a feeling of real accomplishment until that moment. You don't really know if people are actually reading what you write. But, once someone contacts me or something like this happens, it makes it all seem like it was a successful endeavor. That was probably one of my most proudest accomplishments to date. It is weird to see my name in the work cited page of a published book, and at the same time, I always knew I would be in a book someday. Perhaps, I will write my own book next!

If you would like to read the Thunderbird article, click here.

Image from:

Friday, November 27, 2015

Enlightenment Through Empowerment

The thing that most consistently makes me happy, is helping others. I love it when people I know, or don't know, ask me questions. Whether it is about Native American culture or even things like the paranormal or supernatural, I am always intrigued to hear the next story. But, mostly my friends just ask me if a story is real or fake. I have had people write to me and introduce new mysteries and interesting research topics too.

People appreciate the thoughtfulness behind the responses more than the actual answers themselves. Usually, I think people are already leaning towards something not being true before they even ask me. Sometimes, things are just confusing due to all the noise on the Internet. Pick any subject, and like Alice go down the bunny hole where the information gets messy quick. Medicine has alternative medicine, astronomy has astrology, and physics has quantum new age mysticism. There is an imposter trying to cheaply imitate nearly every field of science. 

It is nice when people thank me for helping them find an answer, but the thing that makes me feel happy is when I can show them how to do it on their own. It's like helping others get fish by catching them myself. But, what my goal is for them to be able to catch their own fish. I would like it if people could better find things out for themselves. That is a good feeling. These are things I would do without being paid to do them. 

Ultimately, I like leadership roles and seek out teaching opportunities. That is probably why the most influential people in my life have been my Mother, philosophers, and science giants like Carl Sagan. Coaching is something I am passionate about because I understand the importance of learning and the ways that education can help people living in poverty to get out of it. So, there is no better feeling to me than knowing I have helped to give someone the tools to figure things out for themselves. That's real empowerment. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

What Makes You Angry About the World and What Do You Wish Was Different?

What constantly makes you mad about the world? What do you wish was different about it?

The thing that constantly makes me angry about the world is pseudoscience. It's misleading, often unethical, and even dangerous. People that use pseudoscience to knowingly deceive by operating off of others ignorance and vulnerabilities is the worst of the worst to me. The modern day snake-oil salesman. 

I wish that everyone could distinguish science from pseudoscience. I wish the world paid teachers good salaries, admired their roles more, and were held with more respect. Maybe that would turn out better science teachers and in effect improve general science education. 

I wish critical thinking was taught on a scale that rivals other subjects like the most common academic ones so that people would be given decision making and tools for reason to figure things out for themselves. It would make it tougher to be taken advantage of, and at the same time, easier to acquire new knowledge. Learning critical thinking is like self-defense training for your brain. Mental Jiu-Jitsu. 

I wish that science was as big a part of popular culture as any celebrity is today and scientific language was more a part of the public lexicon. A world with less pseudoscience, is a world filled with less noise. 

Science is something we all like to think we know, but my personal experience has shown me that nothing could be further from the truth. 

Back in 1989, American astronomer and science communicator Carl Sagan spoke about the problem of having such a lack of science literacy amongst the general public in an article for the Skeptical Inquirer. He cites a then recent survey which suggested that, "94 percent of Americans are 'scientifically illiterate'" (Sagan 1989). An example of it appearing in our culture came with a story about an encounter he had with a driver picking him up from the airport named Mr. Buckley who recognized his name and excitedly wanted to ask the popular scientist a few questions. 

"Mr. “Buckley”—well-spoken, intelligent, curious—had heard virtually nothing of modern science. He wanted to know about science. It’s just that all the science got filtered out before it reached him. What society permitted to trickle through was mainly pretense and confusion. And it had never taught him how to distinguish real science from the cheap imitation" (Sagan 1989).

That is the perfect way to describe pseudoscience, cheap imitation. 

Image from Pseudoscience and Science - Bullshit vs Rational Thought.


1. Sagan, Carl. 1990. Why We Need To Understand Science. Skeptical Inquirer. (Vol. 14.3). Available online: (