The End Is Here

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It is with a tinge of sadness that we announce the dissolution of the Moutons No More brand name.

Three years ago, we came together with the idea of producing regular content in Montreal on the theme of rationality. We hosted a number of stage shows and created many multimedia productions tackling pseudoscience, religion, and critical thinking. However, the upkeep on this work has been more demanding on some of us than anticipated. As such, it no longer makes sense to crowd out the local skeptical landscape with one more name with little value attached to it.

Television show producers are often accused of milking a profitable franchise well past its expiration date; we want to finish what we started while we are still proud of our recent accomplishments.

While Moutons No More as an entity is going away, we will continue to contribute to each other’s work as needed and to help each other out.

You can watch Guy Renaud’s videos on the intersection of Black culture and religion on his YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7lCu-ukFbCjlfuXpb5uXHQ.

Le podcast francophone d’Isabelle Stephen et de Christopher Hammock, Le monde merveilleux du scepticisme, continue d’être disponible à l’adresse http://www.lmmds.ca.

And The Body of Evidence will carry on looking at the science-based medical landscape and debunking health-related pseudoscience at http://www.bodyofevidence.ca.

We want to thank everyone who has supported us over the years and hope you continue to appreciate our contributions, big and small, on the Internet and in person.

 

Jonathan, Isabelle and Guy.

Your Brain Lies to You

We would like to think that our brain is reliable in its thinking, but that is far from the truth.

Our mind adopts a number of cognitive biases that skew our decision-making process.

Buster Benson and John Manoogian III recently put together this amazing representation of the various known cognitive biases of the human brain, clustered by categories.

You may not want to memorize them all, but we should all take a gander at this illustration once in a while to remember how deeply flawed our thinking is.

You can download the file here as well.

cognitive_bias_codex_-_180_biases_designed_by_john_manoogian_iii_jm3

A Better Class of Skeptical Organizations

Canada is home to a number of critical thinking associations, nonprofit organizations, and charities. Their goal is to promote some subset of the rationality spectrum, which includes scientific skepticism, secularism, and atheism. Some of these organizations employ part- and full-time individuals, and so end up frequently asking for money to cover the cost of their operation. While I strongly agree with the need for official voices on matters of rationality, from the municipal to the national level, I have asked myself over the years if these organizations begging for money really deserve it.

I am not pointing the finger in any particular direction, nor am I interested in publicly naming names. I am however frustrated by what I perceive to be a general lack of leadership and an absence of meaningful accomplishments coming from these organizations which often bill themselves as preeminent megaphones for our concerns and values. It has made me wonder why we continue to support major groups that either continually fail to accomplish their goals or coast on doing very little. Some supporters are probably satisfied with this productivity and might accuse me of being too demanding. While I do have high expectations, I am trying to hold these organizations accountable to the very mission statements they have written for themselves. I have heard from fellow skeptics who support these groups simply because of what they stand for. But shouldn’t we support them because of what they get done? Why do we not always apply that same skepticism that makes us leery of claims and compels us to ask for evidence?

I have considered myself a skeptic for approximately seven years. Through my volunteering and spending time with various associations promoting critical thinking, I have experienced my share of disappointments. New initiatives, widely publicized, which quickly peter out. A rapid succession of incompetent figureheads. A guest on a speaking tour who ends up skipping a city because no one on the ground would volunteer to organize the event. An interview process for an important leadership position that can only be described as either spectacularly inept or bizarrely manipulative. A delay of over half a year in processing membership applications and renewals. And, at a more local level, an event cancelled a few days early because the organizers could not find the time to book a room in the two-month period that was allocated.

Some of these incidents are downright embarrassing when tied to a group run entirely by volunteers, but when money is involved, I would call them appalling. My assessment of the situation is that these organizations begin with the best of intentions, spurred onwards by the desire to do good and spread the knowledge gleaned from the luminaries in the field. Very quickly, however, the executives find themselves unprepared for the mission they have chosen and retreat into survival mode. The organization’s raison d’être ceases to be to promote, educate, and advocate; it now focuses on continuing to exist. Thus, these executives reach out to their members and ask for donations to ensure they will keep their job for the next year. Of course, these pleas for donations need to be justified and frequently include a list of yearly accomplishments. I have seen many such lists that have made me laugh out loud. Attending an event some other group organized is not an accomplishment, nor is passing along information on the work done by other organizations. The sound I frequently hear is of a spatula scraping the bottom of a barrel.

Can we afford to give skeptical organizations in Canada a pass simply because they espouse our values and pretend to do good work? What I have witnessed over the years is an apparent lack of accountability on their part. While this statement may not apply to all of them, I believe it applies to most of them. Support for skeptical endeavours should be encouraged, but when money is involved, we need to take a hard, critical look at how the people claiming to represent our views are spending their time.

Petition against religious symbols worn by Canadian cabinet ministers

We were recently contacted by David Rand, who runs a local atheist group called Atheist Freethinkers, about signing a petition. As Moutons No More is a production collective and not a hierarchical organization, it didn’t feel right to sign anything as “Moutons No More”. However, the petition can be signed by individuals. Given the interest that some of our followers have for secularism, I am passing the information along without necessarily endorsing it. I want you, the reader, to decide for yourself whether or not you want to sign it.

Here’s an excerpt from the petition:

“The Rassemblement pour la laïcité considers that the Honourable Harjit Singh Sajjan and The Honourable Navdeep Bains, each wearing a Sikh turban while performing his function as representative of the Canadian state, are, by so doing, favouring one religion in particular and, as a result, are not respecting their duty of religious neutrality as required by the Supreme Court of Canada.”

You can read a blog post by David Rand explaining his position here.

You can sign the petition here.

Guy Renaud on the Haitian Free Thinkers Show

Guy from FYSTT 3

Our very own Guy Renaud was the guest of honour on an Haitian freethinkers’ live show, hosted on BlogTalkRadio. You can listen to him talk about growing up as a believer and how he became an atheist. Most of the conversation is in English, but props to you if you understand the English, the French, and the Haitian Creole!

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/hftshow/2016/01/12/show-58-6th-year-anniversary-of-haiti-earthquake-guy-renaud-stops-by

Important Announcement

Moutons No More is back on stage for a third season of shows!

Moutons No More is back on stage for a third season of shows!

Moutons No More is changing its game in 2016 and we’re excited to bring you the following changes.

But first, the sad news: our stage show, Funny You Should Think That!, is going on hiatus indefinitely for personal reasons. Our multimedia productions, however, are not affected in the least. The podcasts and videos we put out will continue to regale you this year.

While FYSTT is going away for the moment, we are not ready to step off the stage, especially since we found an amazing new location that we will surely come to call “home”. The Katacombes, on Saint-Laurent Boulevard, two steps away from the Saint-Laurent metro station on the green line, is welcoming our troop of freethinkers with a gorgeous stage, enough room for 125 people, and a column made of skulls (they’re not real).

Two new shows will be rising from the ashes of FYSTT. Here’s what they are, why you should be thrilled, and what to do to be kept in the loop:

THE BODY OF EVIDENCE: LIVE ON STAGE!

You listen to the podcast; you watch the videos; you read the blog. Now you can come and see us on stage! Dr. Christopher Labos, cardiologist, and I will be co-hosting a stage show version of the podcast three times a year at Katacombes. The comedy quiz show I hosted for FYSTT will return, with stand-up comedians and permanent panelist Chris Labos trying to answer my questions on health, medicine, and science. Plus short talks, Q&As, interviews, and bickering. Always.

To come to the show, 2 ways:

  • Find us on Facebook by searching for “The Body of Evidence” (if you see our faces, you haven’t landed on the Madonna movie fan page) and “like” the page. Stage shows will be created as Facebook events through this page.
  • Go to our website at http://www.bodyofevidence.ca and enter your email address under “Subscribe”.

LE MONDE MERVEILLEUX DU SCEPTICISME

Le podcast sceptique animé par Isabelle Stephen et Christopher Hammock fera un retour sur scène en début d’été aux Katacombes avec sa combinaison usuelle de contenu fantastique, d’invités hors-pairs et d’enthousiasme démesuré! Le seul spectacle sceptique francophone au Québec s’attaquera au paranormal, à la religion et à la pseudoscience et continuera de démontrer que le scepticisme n’est pas frustrant mais bien merveilleux!

Pour assister aux spectacles, 2 façons de procéder:

  • Cherchez “Le monde merveilleux du scepticisme” sur Facebook et cliquez “J’aime”! Les spectacles seront annoncés sur cette page.
  • Visitez le site Web du podcast à http://www.lmmds.ca et écoutez l’émission pour être informé des spectacles à venir!

 

A final word on the past two years: we extend our warmest thanks to all the people who have come to our shows. We have had a blast putting together 15 shows and seeing our audience grow, especially the friends and relatives who were invited even though they were not skeptics. We firmly believe skepticism should not be solely addressed behind closed doors but should be made accessible to all, and we will continue to apply this mantra with our newest stage shows by combining discussions, humour, education, and good, old-fashioned fun.

Our Meetup page will disappear in April, since we are no longer receiving money to keep it going. We don’t want to lose you, so please find Moutons No More on Facebook or subscribe to our website at http://www.MoutonsNoMore.com to see the content that we generate.

We hope to see you at the first Body of Evidence show in a couple of months and the Monde merveilleux du scepticisme show at the beginning of the summer. Thank you for supporting us and enjoying our productions. With your collaboration, we will continue to spread the word about critical thinking in the Montreal community and beyond… in both English et en français!

Merci,

Jonathan Jarry

http://www.MoutonsNoMore.com

http://www.bodyofevidence.ca

http://www.lmmds.ca