Thanks for Encouraging Scientific Literacy John Oliver

John Oliver Science

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scientific Studies (HBO)- Screenshot- Used under Fair Use Act

Here’s the thing about science… for the most part, scientific progress is generally a slow process and boring to almost anyone who isn’t a scientist. That dynamic begs the following problem: With an Internet Culture that demands to be constantly wowed by new, provocative, stimulating, but not-too-intellectually demanding information, and click-bait news articles and blogs, how should media outlets, “news” sites, TV talk shows, and professional bloggers, all thirsty for advertising revenue via views present science and scientific studies? Well, for the most part, the answer is to propagate complete bullshit, hack interpretations of data, push non-peer-reviewed studies as proven facts,  or to re-package peer reviewed studies so that they fit nicely on the low shelf and can be married up with exciting buzz worthy titles.

Before moving forward, let me give you complete disclosure. I am not a scientist. I am a writer, poet, and ebay entrepreneur. But, I love science and highly esteem its value to humanity as an empirical method of discovery. Because of that, I cringe when the revelatory power of the Scientific Method and complex findings of scientific studies are wielded about by the unlearned in media like a toddler with a .357 revolver.

Too strong of an analogy? I think not. Maybe too weak. Toddlers with revolvers would only have six shots each to do damage with. A scientifically flawed online article or news story has the power to dangerously deceive millions. The thing is, the propagation of pseudo-scientific bullshit can and does kill people. That is particularly the case when people have an aversion to traditional, proven medical treatments for various cancers and other deadly afflictions and turn rather to the magical promises of unproven (and sometimes inherently dangerous) “natural” remedies. On the flip side, otherwise healthy people can be MADE ill via untested supplements and the like. Sure, a healthy and varied diet is to be lauded and applied in one’s life. Yet, when you need modern medicine and/or treatments backed by vetted scientific research to cure a particular malady, don’t presume that merely eating more of this or that and/or taking some crap the salesperson at your local supplement shop assures you is the miracle cure-all will fix your problems. You may well avoid traditional medicine, relying on “natural remedies” until the situation is too late to reverse. Do traditional treatments always work? Nope. But they have at least been tried and tested via trial, error, and peer-reviewed research. I’ll take that over some magic beans any day.

So, when I read or watch pseudo-science presented by news anchors, Internet article writers, and bloggers, I get a bit angry. I get angry when people are given false hope for their sicknesses by modern day snake oil salesmen. I get angry when energy is wasted in society filtering out the bullshit AND when people, even fairly well educated people, are fooled by said bullshit. Lastly, I get angry that our modern society is left intellectually weak by being allowed to hit baseballs off of the tee like children when we should be swinging at fast, difficult pitches like adults- metaphorically speaking. Though, I can’t blame only those who are selling snake oil. As a society, we are buying it time and time again.

Because of all that, I am thankful to the John Oliver Show people for their new related segment. Please, please, PLEASE, my fellow humans… let the scientists do their work. Give them time and funding to do it. Let the scientists re-test and peer-review the experiments and data. And, when their findings are a bit outside the realm of our own layman’s understanding, we should let the scientists explain it to the rest of us rather than the news anchors.

Please watch and enjoy the following video:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scientific Studies (HBO)

I encourage you to seek to expand your own understanding of the Scientific Method and various areas of scientific exploration as a part of your own personal study and life-long learning. I assure you, having a finely tuned bullshit detector is a very handy thing in this world. You may also find some merit in this handy poster from a previous blog:

Keys to Sound Thinking Chart

“Keys to Sound Thinking” Poster by: Luke Austin Daugherty

 

 

Five Tips for Making Your 2016 Resolutions

res·o·lu·tion
ˌrezəˈlo͞oSH(ə)n/ noun
1. a firm decision to do or not to do something.

Before starting to create my own resolutions for this new year, I asked myself, “What have I learned about creating resolutions and completing goals during my life?” Then, I created the shortest list possible. I hope some of what I have learned can help you to refine your list for 2016 as well. As always, thanks for reading and sharing! -Luke

1. Go for quality resolutions over quantity of resolutions- 

One of the biggest mistakes when setting goals is to have too many of them at one time. You only have so much time and energy. The focus that each individual goal requires will diminish how much you can focus on the other goals you have. It is much more advantageous to succeed in fewer goals than to fail at many. Also, different goals require different levels of attention and commitment. Attempting to complete lots of “big” goals during the same time span is a recipe for failure. Don’t shy away from some life-changing or lofty resolutions. Just avoid trying to tackle too many at once.If your New Year’s Resolution list reads something like, “Lose 50 pounds in six months, read a book a week, write a poem a day, do 6 half-marathons, learn to play a new instrument, learn a new language, and save 20% of my income,” I hate to be a downer, but you’ll very likely not finish that list. BUT, more than that, being partially focused on so many difficult goals may keep you from completing even one goal successfully. Don’t spread yourself too thin. Choose few and choose wisely.

For consideration, divide your life up into three primary realms with three subcategories each: 1. Self (intellectual, emotional, and physical), 2. Relationships (family, romantic, and friends), 3. Work/career (current job or the next hopeful job transition, continuing formal or informal vocational education, and/or entrepreneurial pursuits). Next, try to consider what goals, if set and achieved, would measurably improve your own personal health and happiness, the quality of your relationships, and the satisfaction and rewards you get from your current vocation or a potential new one. Shoot for choosing one manageable goal for each subcategory, for a total of nine overall goals. Then, toss out any less important goals that may significantly distract you from the more important. If you think all nine are worthwhile and manageable, keep them. For me, I am a big fan of bubble graphs when it comes to this activity. See my own work in progress, sketched out on packing paper from my ebay shipping table…

20160104_152839[1]

Luke’s 2016 Resolutions- first draft on packing paper

2. Avoid “fad” and/or acquaintance inspired resolutions- 

Don’t pick a resolution only because you saw it on a meme that your friend shared on Facebook or some random goal that was suggested in a magazine article. If fad excitement is the reason you choose a resolution, the eventual lack of fad excitement will likely be the reason you stop following the resolution later. So far as activities go, choose things to do that you actually like to do already. Just commit to do them more regularly and/or with more dedication than you previously have. Do you enjoy reading? Read, but read new and/or more books. Do you like to ride bikes? Ride more often, to new places, and farther than before.

3. Choose resolutions that are challenging, yet achievable- 

You know yourself better than anyone. Based on your history of keeping previous goals, are the goals you’re setting now way too overboard for what you will or can actually keep? For instance, if you have set lofty weight loss goals for the last five years and then failed to  keep them, gotten discouraged after a few months, then dropped them all together for the rest of the year, perhaps more realistic goals are the way to go this year. It is much more advantageous to set a two pound loss per month goal and KEEP it, than an eight pound goal, not hit it, get bummed out, and forget about it. Don’t make your actual, present self the whipping-boy for a grandiose internal idea of your future “improved self.” Set goals, that though they are challenging, you will enjoy the process of keeping the goal as much as the end result of achieving it.

4. Don’t commit to new resolutions too quickly-

If you already have all of your goals for the next year committed to by January 1st of the year, you may want to give yourself some extra time for reflection. To commit a year of your life or even months to achieving a goal is a big deal. You don’t get time back after it is gone. I suggest coming up with a tentative list of goals by about seven days into the year. Then, contemplate on that list and get a feel for what it is like to work that list for another week or two. About the third week of January, grab a coffee or lunch alone in a relaxed setting to do a final draft of your resolutions in an unhurried fashion. Tweak your list if needed and then get some real traction on your firmed-up goals. Once your resolutions are set, type them up on a sheet of paper in a large, bold font. Then, post that paper somewhere conspicuous in your home so you’ll see it every day as a reminder of the commitment you made to yourself. Hold yourself accountable to that printed list. Remember, a goal is just the beginning. Each of the goals you come up with and commit to will require you to devise an intentional plan of attack for you to be successful completing them.

5. Consider if completing your resolutions will inspire lasting satisfaction- 

You’ll have to use your imagination on this one. Think about whether each of the goals you are setting now, if achieved, would still matter to you looking back in hindsight five years from now. Not only that, but would any of your new short-term goals potentially work AGAINST any of your more important long-term goals? Last, “more” doesn’t always have to be part of a goal. Simplifying life, decreasing distractions, and minimizing what you don’t desire in life is just as important as increasing what you do.

It is much more advantageous to succeed in fewer goals than to fail at many.

As you are working though your potential list of resolutions, some comedy relief may come in handy! Check out the new segment by John Oliver 🙂

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Revised Resolutions

 

The Sunday Sermon: “Bertrand Russell’s Message to the Future”

 

I have watched this old video clip many times. I have never read or heard a more condensed, powerful, and comprehensive bit of spoken wisdom. Russell’s message speaks to humans of all religions and no religion. Listen carefully and more than once. Then, share! 🙂

For more information on Bertrand Russell:

Bertrand Russell on Wikipedia

Text of video clip:

“One last question: Suppose, Lord Russell, that this film will be looked at by our descendants, like the Dead Sea scroll, in a thousand years’ time. What would you think it’s worth telling that generation about the life you’ve lived and the lessons you’ve learned from it?

I should like to say two things, one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this: When you are studying any matter, or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe, or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only, and solely, at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple. I should say love is wise; hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more closely and closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way; if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.”

– Interview of Bertrand Russell (1872-1970), British philosopher and mathematician and Nobel laureate, on BBC’s Face to Face (1959)

Here is a version of the video with Spanish subtitles:

“An Astronaut’s Guide to Optimism” By Astronaut Chris Hadfield (VIDEO)

This is a very good, condensed, and positive message by Canadian astronaut, Chris Hadfield. It is easy to focus on all the negative situations that are paraded before us daily, yet to forget that many aspects of life are steadily improving in most nations. Yet, there is still work to do. So, we can take Mr. Hadfield’s admonition to heart and do what we can to make things better.

“When thinking if you’re going to be optimistic this year, remember, nobody changes the world on their own. It all starts with a resolution… what’s yours?” -Chris Hadfield

If you have an extra twenty-ish minutes, you may enjoy this closely related video by Dr. Steven Pinker. It is a talk called, “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” about the decrease of violence over the centuries. It presents some very comprehensive material regarding the subject.

I Poll Atheists- 97.6% Don’t Care if You Wish Them “Merry Christmas”

During the last few weeks I have had and also overheard multiple conversations about the supposed, “War on Christmas,” and how atheists supposedly hate people telling them, “Merry Christmas.” As an atheist myself who enjoys the Christmas season, I was curious what other atheists think about the situation. Personally, I have no problem with a person wishing me, “Merry Christmas, “Happy Holidays,” “Happy Hanukkah,” “Merry Kwanzaa,” or, “Happy New Year.” So long as you are sincerely wishing me well in your own way, I am cool with that.

When I was enjoying a cup of coffee and reading some Carl Sandburg at Waffle House several days ago, I got to be a fly on the wall when a few employees had their own ideological battle over what phrase is appropriate this time of year. As a customer was leaving, their server said loudly, “MERRY CHRISTMAS!” The customer answered in kind. A few moments later, another employee mocked the first server, “Christmas isn’t for four days! You don’t need to say, ‘Merry Christmas.’ You can just say, “Happy Holidays.’ It covers everything.” The first server then replied, “I can say, ‘Merry Christmas,’ if I want! It is my Constitutional right!” As the two went back and forth, another server joined in on the side of the non-“Merry Christmas” side and the first server got even more agitated. It ended with some dishware being tossed angrily into the sink bin and the second server announcing, “You say what you want! It’s your job!” with the implicit warning that saying, “Merry Christmas,” could get you fired.

After the conversation cooled down, I asked all three, “Does your company have a specified policy on what to say during the holidays?” All shook their heads in the negative and one replied, “No, I don’t think so.” I said, “Just for the record, I am an atheist, but, I have no problem with a person saying, ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Holidays,’ or whatever to me during the season.” Oddly enough, the second and third servers from the previous conversation did not seem happy to hear my interjection. Yet, not upset enough to argue with me. I also asked the three of them if they had experienced any negativity from any customers to being told a particular holiday phrase. They all said, “No.” It was strange to see people getting so riled up about what seemed to be a non-issue. I felt like the ironic atheist, publicly defending, “Merry Christmas.”

With my interest peaked even more about the issue, I decided to poll some of my fellow atheists to see what they thought about it. I did an informal poll on two different secret atheist groups on Facebook that I participate in.

My poll was simple. I posted,

“I’d appreciate the Club’s help with an informal poll for a Christmas article I’m working on. Here is the question…

As an atheist, does it offend you when a stranger says, “Merry Christmas,” to you, rather than, “Happy Holidays” or something more generic for the season? Please start your response with, “Yes,” (that it does offend you) or, “No,” (that it doesn’t)”

I got responses from atheists from all over the United States and in multiple other countries. The responses totaled 84 votes between the two Facebook groups.

The results were:

– 82 atheists had no problem being wished a, “Merry Christmas.”

-2 said that the phrase did SOMETIMES bother them.

The two voting that the phrase was at times offensive to them added,

“Yes, sometimes, I do get offended, but only because I live in the south where everyone just always assumes everyone is Christian. I’m tired of always having to live by their rules. I also am aware that it’s a small thing that I don’t need to sweat, so don’t anyone go off on me.”

and, “Yes, depending on the person saying it. If they know me personally, then they know I’m an atheist and I would expect them to respect me enough to say happy holidays as I would do the same in return as my wish for them would reflect whatever religion they observe. From a stranger, no, doesn’t bother me at all.”

All said and done, over 97% of the atheists polled did not mind people telling them, “Merry Christmas,” at all. The two people who did find it offensive, only did under certain circumstances. Though my sample group was not very large, it did offer great variation in culture and geography. That said, I don’t think that the whole, “War on Christmas,” by atheists is everything the media cracks it up to be. Heck, the vast majority of the atheists polled even celebrate Christmas to some degree.

I have rarely every found an atheist that had any problem with another person’s personal expression of their own religious beliefs. But, we do tend to get upset when religious dogma is imposed via federal, state, or local government. As much as we value the rights of individuals, we also value the Constitutional restrictions regarding government pushing or showing preference to any religion. Again, I speak generally and not for every atheist in the world. We don’t all live on an island, have an atheist Pope, or think the same thing… and, we’re more like a herd of cats than a herd of sheep.

You have the right to say whatever holiday season well-wishing you want to people. They may like it or may not. Likely, they won’t even care.For me, I generally respond to a person with what they offered me. If, “Merry Christmas,” I respond with, “Merry Christmas.” If, “Happy Holidays,” I answer the same back. Still, I do think that, “Happy Holidays,” is the most comprehensive and inclusive benison. It includes all holidays and and excludes none. Yet, I know that some Christians feel excluded when not specifically blessed per their specifications. They don’t give much credence to the holidays of other faiths during this season and have tunnel vision for Christmas. Only wear that shoe if it fits. I am not trying to ruffle your feathers. Let each search their own conscience regarding this issue.

There is enough drama in life. There is no need to spend December pissing on one another’s holiday campfire and fighting battles that don’t exist. So cheer up! The, “War on Christmas,” is just a sham. Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! And, have a great New Year!    -Luke

The US Embargo Against Cuba is Ending- Better Late Than Never

I am looking forward to smoking my first Cuban cigar! Today, President Obama spoke about the changing of the United States’ official approach and policy toward Cuba. For the full speech, see the video above. The U.S. will end the decades-long embargo and be immediately working to re-establish diplomatic relations which have been severed for over fifty years.

For some more relevant information and a good laugh, check out this recent segment about the Cuban Embargo from, “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.”

How to Make Easy and Tasty Red Potatoes with Chili

Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili Recipe by Luke Austin Daugherty

Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili Recipe by Luke Austin Daugherty

This dish is a family favorite around our house! Our “Red Potatoes with Turkey Chili” is a complete meal when served in a larger portion and easy to make. The total time required from prep to service is less than an hour. This meal is a nice twist on regular chili cheese fries!

Homemade chili can be used in this recipe, but I’m giving you the “easy” way in this case via canned chili. You can also not use some of the ingredients I have listed and add some others of your own to suit your tastes or based on what you have available.

Ingredients:

-Large Red Potatoes: about 1 1/2-2 potatoes per person eating for a decent size “meal” serving.

– Canned chili- I like using Meijer brand turkey Chili: use about 1/2 a can per person

– One small onion- quartered and then thinly sliced

– 1/2 a bell pepper- chopped (color of your choice)

-2 cloves garlic- minced

-2 tbsp butter

-Shredded cheese

-Sour cream

-Cilantro

-Siracha

-Chili powder

Instructions:

-wash and thinly slice red potatoes leaving the skin on

-Using a large frying pan, add the potatoes to an already simmering mixture of the butter and 1 1/2 cups of water on slightly over medium heat. Cook covered for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are done (but not mushy or breaking). Stir occasionally for even cooking.

-As potatoes are starting to cook, chop bell pepper, onions, and garlic and add quickly to cooking potatoes . Add a couple shakes of salt and pepper.

-Heat chili in another pan on medium/low (you want it at a sufficient temperature to melt the shredded cheese when plated)

-Prepare toppings as potatoes finish cooking

-When potatoes are finished, plate the meal with chili on top, adding some shredded cheese, a dollop of sour cream, a few leaves of cilantro, thin bell pepper slices, chopped onion, a shake or two of chili powder, and some drizzled Siracha hot sauce (all toppings optional)

Enjoy!

How to Make Tasty Turkey Vegetable Soup After Thanksgiving

Photo- Luke Austin Daugherty

Photo- Luke Austin Daugherty

As we all tend to do a day or two after Thanksgiving, I found myself trying to figure out how to use some of our leftovers. I have always loved making soups of all kinds, so, I decided to create a unique Turkey Vegetable soup today. Total time from prep to serving was under an hour.

In a 6 qt. pot, I added:

-2 1/2 quarts water

-1 1/2 pounds leftover turkey (light and dark meat)

– about 15 sliced baby carrots

– 1 large yellow bell pepper

-1/2 a stalk of celery

-6 leaves of napa cabbage

-one medium onion

– one can of green beans (I actually had about a can’s worth of leftover green beans to use)

– about 10 sliced mushrooms

-3 chopped cloves garlic

-1/2 a handful of chopped cilantro

– a few shakes of thyme, marjoram, salt, and pepper.

-3 chicken bullion cubes and the two turkey leg bones cooked in for broth flavor. Having some dark meat in the mix also helps with the flavor.

-Topped with a dollop of sour cream, cilantro, carrot shaving, and paprika. Celery stalk end floral garnish.

Combine and bring all ingredients to boil. Allow to boil for about 15 minutes and then reduce heat to simmer for about 30 minutes, or until fresh vegetables are tender. Serve with or without garnish. Salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy! Also, adapt to your own recipe or based on what ingredients you have available. -Luke

Keys To Sound Thinking (An Educational Poster)

"Keys to Sound Thinking" Poster by: Luke Austin Daugherty

“Keys to Sound Thinking” Poster by: Luke Austin Daugherty

“Keys to Sound Thinking,” is a poster I created to sum up three weeks of homeschooling lessons that I taught my four younger children. I just took a quick picture of it on the wall, so please forgive the imperfect alignment and lighting. I will try to get a scanned version posted asap.