THE ISLAND OF DOUBT
An irregular exploration of the ongoing struggle between the power of rational discourse and the scientific method on one hand, and the forces of superstition and dogma on the other.
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
by Carl Sagan
The Doubter's Companion:
Skeptic Magazine: www.skeptic.com
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal: www.csicop.org
Chris C. Mooney
The Meaning of
the Island of Doubt
May 2, 2005There are those who place a premium on blind faith and absolute certainty. In their world, our actions are either right or wrong. There are no shades of grey, only black and white. Tolerance of diversity is a sign of weakness. They prefer the simple to the complex, ignorance to education, revealed wisdom to the scientific method.
Those who embrace this betrayal of the Enlightenment, and those who exploit it for their own ends, constitute a grave threat to the principles of freedom and equality on which democratic society was founded. No less at risk are a livable planet and the tentative peace, where it exists, that so many have died to preserve.
This site represents a humble attempt to contribute to the campaign against the growing forces of irrationality. Subjects tackled will range from the intrusion of religion in the public sphere to the presentation of research by the media and the social implications of recent discoveries. I will not pretend to be an expert in everything, merely an attentive observer who appreciates the value of informed skepticism in both journalism and science. Samples of my published work and a brief biography can be found at www.cyamid.net.
The phrase "Island of Doubt" comes from a Talking Heads song, "Crosseyed and Painless" (found on the 1980 Sire Records recording Remain in Light). While David Byrne's lyrics are intriguing, catchy and occasionally intellectually provocative, they are not my primary inspiration. For that, I have drawn on the writings of Richard Dawkins, Stephen J. Gould, and Carl Sagan, among others. In 1995, Sagan wrote:
I worry that, especially as the Millennium edges nearer, pseudo-science and superstition will seem year by year more tempting, the siren song of unreason more sonorous and attractive. Where have we heard it before? Whenever our ethnic or national prejudices are aroused, in times of scarcity, during challenges to national self-esteem or nerve, when we agonize about our diminished cosmic place and purpose, or when fanaticism is bubbling up around us -- then, habits of thought familiar from ages past reach for the controls.I think it safe to say recent events have proven his fears well-founded.