The relevant segment has been posted on youtube; try this:
thank you for that. Okay. I'm revising my position. Oprah's not an anti-atheist. She's just the stupid woo-pusher I thought she was before all this. Though I do find her a little more presumptuous and condescending with her "well I don't consider you an atheist" bullshit than I did prior. Pony absolutely nailed it.
We are absolutely in agreement there.
And while I think it's great that Nyad would come out and say she's an atheist, I find her to be a little flaky in the interview. She was definitely speaking the language of woo if not buying into it, which I find disappointing. I think a lot of people do that for social reasons. They don't want to be completely hated by ignorant apes, so they say things to camouflage themselves.
Sure; been there. For most of the first decade that I recognized myself to be an atheist, I hardly ever mentioned it to anyone else. Much of the time it was because it just wasn't relevant to anything that was happening at the time (how many people introduce themselves to you for the first time by saying, "Hi, I'm Bob, and I'm a Jew," or "Pleased to meet you; I'm Mary, a practicing Zion Coptic."
But there were other times when to say "I'm an atheist" would have started a conversation that I just wasn't prepared to have at that place and time, or would have made either me or other people needlessly uncomfortable in a particular social situation.
Yep, camouflage, absolutely.
It not that there was woo. It is that rationality was not spelled out, exactly. "We have inherent biases in our brains. They are x, y, z. In order to combat these biases, we must follow these principles..." That was lacking. We got formulae and theories, but not how to be critical thinkers, exactly. I think some of it transferred by osmosis, but not enough. The Less Wrong site has helped a lot, as has my time here.
I get what you're saying. I personally found that critical thinking was implicit in a lot of what I was taught as an engineering student, but no, it wasn't really explicitly spelled out there. It was spelled out in much of my philosophy curriculum, though, although there were no courses specifically called "critical thinking".
And I encountered woo in both departments. On EE I knew, a brilliant student in his field, was also wholly committed on the side to Wilhelm Reich's "orgone energy" theories, and went so far as to build "orgone collectors," which he swore he was able to use to cause cloud formation. And in the philosophy department was to be found the "New Age" clique, with their "cosmic consciousness" and such. Otherwise intelligent people who, IMO, should have known better; but there we are.
Two of my personal pitfalls are I tend to jump to conclusions too quickly and I tend to initially see things in very black and white terms. I see these as flaws. But, one of my strengths is I also reconsider my position and am able to change it after more thought.
Being able to reconsider in light of new information is a key part of critical thinking. It is exactly on that point which most dogmatists -- religious and otherwise -- fail.
That is, I think, one of the things that the seriously religious have trouble with. They would like there to be one absolute, true, immutable explanation for things, and they would like to have certainty that they either know what that is now, or will know it at some predictable future point. This makes many of them restless and mistrustful of science, which can only offer the best explanation we have so far
based on available evidence, and is subject to change as new previously unknown evidence is acquired.