2013 was a hectic year, but it has finally ended. Actually, it ended several days ago; but as you can imagine, things were hectic. The news cycle never stopped and the stories kept coming in, which is why I updated my existing articles a lot more than write new ones. But that doesn’t explain everything, which is why I’ll take the opportunity to do so below. Along the way, I’ll also mention the top Skeptikai articles of the year.
The Top Ten Skeptikai Articles of 2013
Click on the pictures to jump to the articles.
★★★ The Secret to Happiness Revealed (No, seriously) ★★★
I think this is the best article I have ever written, and it took an absurd amount of time to research. Many lofty self-help books say that they have the “secret to happiness,” but they usually lack the scientific rigour to back up their claims. I took the time to use stories to explain my points, but in the end, everything is left towards the scientists who substantiate the points I make. In the end, there’s only one secret to happiness, and it’s all up to you.
★★ Scientific Consensus and the Obvious Truth about Global Climate Change ★★
Have you ever heard that climate scientists around the world almost all agree about climate change? Well this article takes literally every meta-analysis you’ve ever heard of (and those you haven’t) and puts them together. If you ever have to remind yourself – or someone else – just how much consensus among the scientific community there is, just point them here.
★ Everything You Need to Know About Prism, Internet Freedom, and Edward Snowden (Updated) ★
Clearly, this is the biggest story of the year. There came a point that I had updated it so many times that it would only make sense to make a new article about all the updates. In fact, this story may go on for years. The amount of leaks Snowden has been responsible for has allegedly accounted for approximately 1% of the gigantic amount of information that will condemn the NSA and their widespread illegal spying activities.
Are Vocal Homophobes Really Just Homosexuals in the Closet?
What is it about homophobes that make them so gay? If this questions sounds controversial to you, then you may need to hear the science behind the answer. New research is showing that there actually is a link between homophobic rhetoric and homosexual tendencies. This article is about the notion that if you’re homophobic, you might just be compensating.
The Whole Story on Japan’s 99% Conviction Rate, and the Corruption that Follows
The conviction rate in Japan is unbelievable. Some reports say 99.8%, others say 99.97%; but it’s clear that it’s above 99%. Why is this so? Are Japanese police really so perfect that they almost always arrest the real criminals and always have the evidence to prove their cases? Don’t bet on it. The Japanese legal system is corrupt, and the effects of this broken system can be felt by anyone in Japan who has ever been detained, regardless of innocence.
Tortured Confessions – The Science of Waterboarding, Torture, and “Intense Stress”
This article looked at the extensive 60 Minutes interviews with two people; one worked for the CIA, and one worked for the FBI. Both had totally different ideas of whether waterboarding worked to help find and kill Osama bin Laden, which was the topic of the film “Zero Dark Thirty.” Naturally, the science behind torture was investigated, and an answer was found.
The Church’s Underground Baby Trade
Imagine a women who successfully gives birth while being put under pain-killing anesthesia. After lucidly waking up from the anesthesia, she is informed that she had a miscarriage. Thousands of vulnerable mothers would never have suspected any sinister conspiracy; but that’s exactly the case. Nuns, nurses and doctors worked together to steal babies in order to sell them for profit. After all, there’s good money in the underground baby trade.
Rotten America – Big Prison, Arrest Quotas, and What Education Really Pays For
This may be the most disturbing self-fulfilling prophecy I’ve ever seen. That is to say: Now, more than ever, America needs its prisons… especially because the closing down of schools is likely to result in an increase in criminal behavior. As the great French writer Victor Hugo once said: “He who opens a school door, closes a prison.”
The Psychological Science of Storytelling
Somewhere between the comedy shows and alarming amount of documentaries I began watching, and the seemingly endless number of people I have met in the last few years, I realized that the social world spins on the axis of stories. It’s hard to believe this fact unless you’re actually in a position where you exploit it. For me, it has become a hard fact of life – if you’re a good storyteller, good things come to you, and people want to be around you. It seems like the most popular people are often the best storytellers, and if you’re a good storyteller, you’re probably good at other things too. But just how do stories have such amazing effects on our lives?
Are Religious People More Charitable, Generous, and Altruistic than Atheists?
According to a Canadian study from 2008, religious people are “more helpful, honest and generous;” and an American study from last year found that “religious states give more to charity than non-religious states.” As I explained in a previous article, the stereotype that religious people are more likely to be Good Samaritans than nonreligious people is highly suspect. In fact, a new study has thrown the idea of religious people being more charitable into question too. This might just be the nail in the coffin for stereotypes about religiosity and altruism.
The Year in Blogging – A Personal Conversation
It’s the time of year where I start talking a bit personally. 2013 just ended, and Skeptikai’s birthday is coming up in a week and a half. So for no reason, I decided to write a fake interview in which I answer my own burning questions, starting with this one:
Why so few articles recently?
This year has been an extremely busy one for me. Any long-time reader will have noticed that my output has slowed to one article per month, which I don’t think has ever happened before. The main reason for this is simply the fact that I have returned to school, which means I have to balance my time more than ever before. And unfortunately, the workload is such that something had to give. I chose to limit my blogging, which has saved up a ton of time (but still often seems like not enough).
Didn’t you expect this from the start?
When I started my blog, I was considering being a journalist, or at least a writer in some capacity (which I am still considering… but that would be many years in advance). So at the time, I thought of this as a kind of a “training grounds,” or a type of self-induced internship, in which I get paid nothing to do a bunch of hard work.
But it’s clear to me now that I will not be a journalist (I mean honestly, have you seen the job market for journalists?! No thanks!) and while I’m in Japan, unable to attend skeptical conventions that are put on abroad, I can see that my earlier hope of actually making some (even a little) bit of money is certainly unrealistic as is.
I was offered a good sum of money (twice) to write an article as an advertisement for a company/product I am essentially opposed to, which would have helped my finances a lot… but I declined on principle. Therefore, I’m proud to say… I am losing a lot of time and money through Skeptikai. And I’m not a sell-out. Somehow that sweetness is quite bitter.
Blogging has indeed become a liability for me. Both financially and as a function of my valuable time. Yes – time is valuable; don’t ever think that money is more valuable than time. A rich man will have died before spending all his money, but a poor man can live his life with enough time.
So has this all been a waste of time?
No, Skeptikai was never really a waste of time – I not only developed skills, but I also have several products out of it. That is to say, articles with extensive research on various topics which I can utilize for whatever reason in the future. But considering the time I spent blogging equates to time I can’t spend actually making money and supporting myself, Skeptikai has lost a lot of priority in my life. That’s what I mean by “liability.” The more I blog, the less I can get paid.
Why the glum face?
Oh, well thank you for noticing.
I have always been one to experiment on here – experimenting with titles, content, pictures, “marketing,” etc. I know many things that work and don’t work in order to get hits on the internet, and many things that make little differences. For example, I thought that content might actually be helpful. Nope! Not nearly as helpful as you’d think. Not nearly as helpful as a well-written title. How utterly disconcerting.
Anyways, as it turns out, in the past few months my hits have gradually dropped, which makes sense because my posts became infrequent, and I didn’t update my page at all. However, this trend was only slight. You may look at this and think “that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” But no. No it’s not.
Mixed with the fact that many of the people who come to my blog arrive by google searches of random pictures or totally unrelated phrases/terms that so happen to be picked up on my blog, it’s very clear that a huge amount of my “hits” are actually not here for the content. Considering the time spent preparing these articles, it’s not a nice thing for a blogger to hear. You’d hope that a huge amount of people stop reading after you stop writing. But if they don’t, then it suggests to me that there weren’t that many people reading in the first place.
I’m not asking for pity or sympathy, or even gratitude. I’m not asking for anything at all. But if anyone wanted to know why I went from three articles a week to one per month, I was 1) experimenting with views, and 2) studying for school in the meantime. It has been difficult to stay away from my blog, considering I went on it so frequently in the last three years… but it has been even harder to go on it, simply as a time issue. I’m always doing research, but never have the time to write about it. I suppose that’s another problem of mine – most bloggers will just say “here’s this thing I found” and then copy and paste a story that they didn’t write.
So… is this the end of Skeptikai?
I hope not. I don’t intend to stop writing, but it’s clear to me that Skeptikai will not have the same meaning or function as it once did, or the output. At least not for now. Maybe in the future, but not in 2014. I guess for now, maybe I’ll have to do more “here’s this thing I found” articles after all. Ugh.
Anything else you wanted to add?
Well it’s really odd how my interests kind of changed. My very first article mentioned that I wanted to stay away from politics, and if you look at my earlier articles, they’re more about skeptical science. But recently I’ve been getting into politics, and you can see it in my writing. So that’s a weird and unexpected change that came in 2013. I don’t even know what happened. Politics just suddenly became… interesting to me. Fascinating.
Also, I’ve been working on a project that I may eventually decide to combine with Skeptikai, though I’m not sure yet when or even if I will.
Now just how do you end this thing…?
Well I’ll end it like this: I hope that sometime in the future I’ll be in a situation where I can support myself and productively use my time to bring you quality content on Skeptikai.
Here’s a video of the top stories of 2013, from CNN: