We get a lot of people asking us who we are. Most of them are just interested, though some do it as a means to deride us for what they call “hiding behind a veil of anonymity”. The remaining others suggest that, especially where our blog is concerned, people (their casual debate opponents, for instance) would be less inclined to dismiss our articles and more inclined to take on board what we said if we made our education, backgrounds and identities public.
We have a fair number of readers now, and (we’re honoured to say), we do seem to have gained quite a bit of trust from many of you. So, since I (the female admin) am pretty much happy to “come out”, it seems like the right thing to do. However, though I’m sure the vast majority of you acknowledge this, I do feel the need to stress that our backgrounds are essentially irrelevant to the arguments we make and the posts we write – we never ask that you to take our word for it. Who we are has no bearing on our readers’ abilities to follow the sources we link to within our articles, and to engage in further reading. I will provide a little information about the other admin, but being the enigmatic chap that he is, he wants to remain anonymous, so you won’t get much on him, I’m afraid.
In The Beginning…
IFHP is made of two parts – an XY component from Ohio, USA and an XX counterpart (who is currently possessed of the voice in your head) from London, UK – and is the upshot of a Facebook glitch, caused by a happy coincidence. Before IFHP, we two had never crossed paths. But on February 1st, 2013, within just minutes of one another, we each happened to arrive at the decision to start a page called “I fucking hate pseudoscience”. (I know, cosmic or what??) Mr. US began sending invitations to his FB contacts, but found that they led all his invitees to my UK page instead. Within half an hour of IFHP UK’s birth, it had received a message from IFHP USA suggesting a merger to solve the problem.
Despite apprehensions from both sides, the merger went ahead after just a short initiatory grilling on the subject of “whether you hate pseudoscience as much as I do”. Amazingly enough, we’ve found we basically agree on everything, except things like how to spell “sceptical”, and, despite the fact that we’ve never met face-to-face, I have come to regard him as one of my best (and cleverest) friends. Don’t get the impression that because there’s more about me than him, he does less work. In fact, I’m much more of a dirty slacker than he is. So him first.
About the US admin:
Mr US is the only son of a family of horse ranchers. His mother is an artist, floral designer and interior decorator. His father is a master diesel mechanic (light truck and heavy truck) specialising in transmission repair and hydraulics. Although his parents were only moderately religious, he grew up surrounded by near-fundamentalist Christians and Amish people, which sparked an interest in counter-culture and, by his late teens, critical thinking.
He has a high-school equivalency diploma and a 2-year technical degree in both computer repair and software development. During his technical training, he was offered the chance to take a critical thinking course. Given his long-time interest in science and scepticism (sorry, skepticism!), he gladly took it up. However, to his disappointment, the course had a very narrow scope, dealing mostly with career planning and time-management. Although he did learn a few logical fallacies, the class taught nothing about skepticism. Impressed by his gusto when he complained about this, his professor invited him to help develop some lessons specifically on skepticism of the media and, for several years, he remained as one of the course advisors. Although the higher faculty insisted he not touch on religion or personal beliefs, he introduced to the course (which is still being taught) such topics as Occam’s razor, cognitive biases, errors in pattern recognition, the pitfalls of human perception, logic and memory, and media manipulation. His fluency in the language of skepticism and critical thinking is astounding, and, despite my science education, I’d wager that I’ve probably learnt more from him over the last year-and-a-bit than he has from me.
About the UK admin:
My name is Emily-Rose. (A lot of my friends don’t even know my surname.) I am the daughter of a family of musicians. My mum is a professional cellist, a harpist and the author of ‘The Silent-Footed Butler’. My dad is an orchestral and solo French horn and hand-held horn player. One of my aunts is a violinist, the other is a bassoonist. My uncle is a trombonist. My brother is a jazz drummer. Granny was a pianist and cellist, Granddad was a brass instrument repair-man. (You get the picture.) Fortunately, I never had to break free of a religious faith because I was never given one in the first place. My formidable, no-nonsense Scottish granny , (and her formidable, no-nonsense Scottish mother before her), were both staunch atheists. My dad was into weird stuff like the i-ching and macrobiotic dieting for a while in the 80s, until he discovered New Scientist magazine. In any case, I was born an atheist and have stayed that way ever since.
I am a hula-hoop dancer (I perform under the name “Swirlesque”), a singer and an aspiring scientist. There I am in the picture, spinning an LED hoop around me knee. I am known in social circles for my exhibitionism, unbeatable limbo skills, lipstick-wearing and inability to bite my tongue. Apart from running IFHP, I practise piano, take dance classes (in hip-hop, ragga, locking, popping and house – I’m still a beginner), cook, make a terrible mess, lose everything, write lyrics, sing songs, drink cider, nuzzle my cats, lament the death of Christopher Hitchens and rock out.
I did my degree at Magdalen College, Oxford, in Human Sciences, which is a diverse course covering a wide range of disciplines. For example, population and molecular genetics, evolutionary theory, human evolution and palaeoanthropology, statistics, neuroscience and cognition, zoology, mammalian physiology, ecology, demography, modern sociological theory (which looked at things like network theory and collective action and turned out, to my great surprise, to be one of my favourite papers), nutrition and disease, epidemiology, immunology, cancer genetics and classical anthropology (which I dropped as soon as I could). My two optional papers were in neurolinguistics and cognitive and evolutionary anthropology. My proudest achievement to date is winning the university dissertation prize, for my paper entitled: “Human Incest and its Evolutionary Logic: decoding the data and demystifying the taboo”. In it, I made and tested various predictions (some of them orginal), using a game-theoretic approach, as to when and where incest would be expected to appear in human societies, based on various branches of evolutionary theory. I then put forward what I argued was an explanation with enough power to completely account for cultural incest taboos, based on more evolutionary theory. Let me tell you that thinking, reading and writing about incest for extended periods of time does strange things to the mind.
I am set to return to Oxford (Wadham College this time) in October to do an MSc in Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology, providing I manage to raise the funds. (If anyone reading has £25,800 handy, I’d just love to hear from you.)
I hope that the above 1) is interesting to you, 2) shows that we’re not “hiding” anything untoward and 3) might reassure your friends that the things we say in our posts are at least worthy of a lil’ read!