Dale Smith was born and raised in Ponca City, Oklahoma, but left there as soon as legally permissible to study humanities at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. He graduated, settled in Portland with his wife and son, earned an MBA, picked up a distance running habit, and invented blogging - arguably - in 1997 with Confessions of a Commuting Private Sector Insurance Bureaucrat (not necessarily in that order). He blogs at Faith in Honest Doubt under the colourful moniker of 'Dale'.
Why do you blog? > I love to approach topics in writing and toy with drafts of ideas, and doing so in public nudges me to try to make it count. Also, nothing I've found matches the vagaries of my own interests and mood swings, so I write to fill the deficit.
What has been your best blogging experience? > Overhearing people laugh at something on my blog.
What has been your worst blogging experience? > I have often second-guessed the harshness of my ridicule. My targets have not always been the most deserving.
Who are your intellectual heroes? > David Hume, Voltaire, Tom Paine, Charles Darwin, Bertrand Russell, Noam Chomsky, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins.
What are you reading at the moment? > I just finished The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and I'll be casting about for something new at the library shortly.
Who are your cultural heroes? > Shakespeare, Nietzsche, and Matt Groening... but ask me again in 15 minutes.
What is the best novel you've ever read? > Moby Dick – there's no predicting what the next sentence will bring, let alone the next chapter, and yet it hangs together beautifully and tells a great yarn.
What is your favourite poem? > Donne's 'A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning'. It is a first love of sorts.
What is your favourite movie? > Raising Arizona.
What is your favourite song? > 'Remember the Mountain Bed' by Woody Guthrie/Wilco/Billy Bragg.
Who is your favourite composer? > Neko Case (contemporary); Franz Schubert (classical).
Can you name a major moral, political or intellectual issue on which you've ever changed your mind? > For a long time I embraced Thomas Kuhn's philosophy of science and a corresponding moral relativism. And then I got serious.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to disseminate? > Sapere aude! That we really can think and find answers if we dare to put aside false modesty, superstition, prejudice and pride.
What philosophical thesis do you think it most important to combat? > Social Darwinism, tribalism, anti-intellectualism, credulity and kindred ideas that stem from the failure of imagination and the denial of empathy.
Can you name a work of non-fiction which has had a major and lasting influence on how you think about the world? > Sam Harris's The End of Faith broke me of a shoulder-shrugging agnosticism in favour of an unapologetic atheism. Since then I have not found it possible to shut up about the shortcomings and dangers of religious faith.
If you could effect one major policy change in the governing of your country, what would it be? > Genuinely embracing human rights, as by stopping torture and adopting a system of universal health care comparable to that found in other Western nations.
What do you consider to be the main threat to the future peace and security of the world? > The combination of religious certainties and 21st century weaponry
Do you think the world (human civilization) has already passed its best point, or is that yet to come? > Science is inherently forward-looking, but of course there is no guarantee that scientific advances will outpace the ongoing destruction of the biosphere. Time will tell. In terms of the arts, I think it's equally a cop out to say the best is yet to come or that the best is already past - it sounds to me like empty blabbering about either Heaven or Eden. I do wonder what happens after everything has been thoroughly parodied. Do we then parody the parodies? How many iterations are possible?
What would be your most important piece of advice about life? > You can't polish a turd.
What do you consider the most important personal quality? > The capacity for self-criticism combined with a sense of humour.
What personal fault do you most dislike? > Bullying. Instinctively I respond to bullying with my own, which seems hypocritical. I also dislike hypocrisy, but I prefer it to bullying.
In what circumstances would you be willing to lie? > It's easy to think of situations where the foreseeable consequences would favour lying, and where I'd do so without hesitation or regret - to hide someone from a lynch mob, for example. But strictly speaking, the lying would still be wrong - so much for strictly speaking.
Do you have any prejudices you're willing to acknowledge? > I am pretty quick to think poorly of a person who speaks too much and without any apparent filter. People with southern (American) accents probably have to work a little harder to win my esteem. Talkative southerners stand little chance with me.
What, if anything, do you worry about? > That I'll give up and settle for what I can reach.
What would you call your autobiography? > Should I ever write it, I have a long-standing pact with myself to title it Enjoy Your Turtle.
What talent would you most like to have? > Small talk with people I don't know well. I'm incapable of it.
Who is your favourite comedian or humorist? > At the moment, Seth McFarland.
If you could have one (more or less realistic) wish come true, what would you wish for? > That George W. Bush and Dick Cheney would be impeached and removed. It would set a wonderful and necessary precedent.
How, if at all, would you change your life were you suddenly to win or inherit an enormously large sum of money? > I would relocate, probably to the Oregon or Washington coast, and then try to find ways to use the wealth to promote wider social change in keeping with my values. It would be difficult to know what to do, and of course I'd be assailed from all directions. This is not a pleasant fantasy. I'd probably end up doing what others have done in similar circumstances - give a big 'f*** you!' to the world by pouring all the money into a stupid vanity like circumnavigating the world in a balloon.
What animal would you most like to be? > Sperm Whale.
[The normblog profile is a weekly Friday morning feature. A list of all the profiles to date, and the links to them, can be found here.]