Better Know a Skeptic: 10 Questions for Dana Peters

“Better Know a Skeptic” is a series of articles introducing the members of the Ottawa skeptics by asking ten questions.

Dana Peters
Screen name: dana

Member Since:
Day 1

Chosen quote:
“Take the RED pill.”

1) Briefly describe yourself.  What do you do for a living, etc.
I’m a software designer in my early 40’s. I’ve lived in Ottawa for 20 years.

2) Why are you a “skeptic”?  Was there a “wow” moment?

A couple of years ago, I decided to buy an iPod, and then was looking for some podcasts to listen to. I selected the “Skeptics Guide to the Universe” podcast because the title intrigued me, not knowing what a “skeptic” was. After listening to a few episodes, I found that the topics resonated with my own thoughts and realized that I was a skeptic, but didn’t know it.

3) What are your hobbies/interests?

I love technology. I spend a lot of time writing free software for mobile devices. I attend live theatre frequently.

4) What are you passionate about at the moment?

I am curious about science in general. My favorite topics are physics, astronomy, evolution, behavioral psychology, and brain science. It is a shame that human intelligence is subverted by the acceptance of the untrue. Why live in a fantasy world when the actual world is such a rich and dynamic place?
5) Do you have a hero?  Why him/her?
Einstein. He epitomizes the triumph of human intellect. He showed that a single person can uncover great truths of the universe with thought.
6) If you could have dinner with 5 people, dead or alive,  who would they be and why?
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs (together) – I’d would like to hear what they say to each other
Assuming dead people don’t know what happened since they died:
Charles Darwin – I’d tell him about the discovery of DNA and how it explains heredity
Albert Einstein – To tell him that the cosmological constant might be his greatest triumph rather than a mistake.
Alan Turing – I’d show him what computers and the internet have become
7) Do you have a favourite: album, musician, sports team, movie, TV show, book? (Feel free to list one, some, or all.)
I’m currently reading “Death from the Skies!” by Phil Plait. I’m proud that Rush is Canadian; I appreciate their intelligent lyrics. Unfortunately, I lack any interest in competitive sports. I’m not sure why.
8) What grinds your gears?
News stories which support pseudo-science. Anti-intellectuals who take pride in ignorance. Religious opposition to scientific truths.
9) Tell me something I don’t know about you.
I like to speculate about the future. For example, suppose that within the next century, humans succeed in creating intelligent machines. How would that change the world? While it might sound like a sci-fi fantasy, machine intelligence may ultimately be our only surviving progeny. Humans are ill-suited for survival outside the bounds of the Earth, but intelligent machines will not suffer the same limitations, and thus will be better able to continue to exist into the distant future.
10) Why are we here?
I see no particular purpose for our existence. Why should there be a purpose? We tend to see agency in all things, but this need not be true. This is probably why evolutionary theory is opposed even today… because people want to believe that their existence is somehow due to the supernatural rather than the natural. But I say that there is nothing wrong with accepting that humans are a product of nature, even if that means our existence is without purpose.

19. January 2009 by Pat
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