October 12 – Free Thought Day

Posted on October 12, 2013

There was a terrible, horrible, unimaginable thing going on in Salem, Massachusetts, back in 1692. People had been accused of witchcraft, and there had been trials, and more accusations, and executions, and more accusations.

In all, about 25 people died horrible deaths because of the Salem Witch Trials—and more than 150 additional people were arrested and imprisoned—and why?

As you know, it turned out that nobody was a witch. Everybody arrested, imprisoned, and tried—and everybody killed—was innocent.

It turned out to be a case of conspiracy and lying and/or mass hysteria. People had been hateful, worried, upset, fearful—and wrong, wrong, wrong. It was a case of religion taken to a very horrible extreme—and extremism is pretty much never a good thing.

More than anything, it was a case of not using the best ideas that we humans had, even at the time. People were not using logic and reason, and they were not using due process rules of fairness, notice, and an open hearing.

On this date in 1692, the governor of Massachusetts, William Phips, wrote to the Privy Council of the British king and queen, and he outlined the ways in which the trials had gone so terribly astray. He wrote that the court was relying on non-evidence. Like an accuser saying that she saw a devil and other phantasms hanging out with the accused.

Phips's letter basically ended the trials, and someone decided to honor the triumph of reason over unreason every year on this date.

Freethought is a philosophy that says that opinions should be formed on the basis of logic, reason, and empirical evidence (you know, things we can observe, measure, test, and replicate). When all your friends are saying that the world will end on a certain date, or that stepping on a crack means bad luck, or that Facebook is removing all privacy settings—well, when you hear stuff like that, you should think twice before believing it, and check the facts before passing it on to others, and think three or four times AND check the facts before acting on it!

Don't be the victim of urban legends! Check them out at Snopes

Don't be superstitious! Check out what Mythbusters found when the superstition was tested. 

Looks like logic.
But it's not.
Don't be gullible! How likely is it, really, that a Nigerian prince needs YOU to send him money, and that he wants to give you tons and tons of money? If it sounds too good to be true...it probably is!

Don't be trapped by common logical fallacies. Check out this handy logical fallacy website!  You can roll over the various icons to see what logical fallacy each represents; then click the icon to see some great examples.

Also on this date:

(officially observed in 2013 on Monday, October 14)

National Day of Mourning, aka 
Dia de la Raza  
(officially observed in 2013 on Monday, October 14)

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