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What is wrong with this site

Postby spoirier » 13 Jan 2011, 09:13

Now that I have introduced myself, I will enter here the core of the problem: I want to make a constructive criticism of your site because I agree with, and appreciate so much, most of what I found here, so I think it is a pity that some of its aspects are harming the credibitity of this site in the eyes of many scientists. The criticism I will write here may seem harsh, however I think it is the truth you need to understand if you want the situation to progress. I'm not trying to downsize you. I will just try to express what I think some other scientists reading this site may think and feel anyway, and after which they may just dismiss your views without bothering to explain these things to you.

Winston, the founder of this site, mentioned his psychological type as ENFJ. And that, if I understand well, he has many skills but his technical and logical background mainly consist in playing chess and developing web sites. But, while he may be one of the most amazing chess players on this planet, this is not all what science is about.

On the other hand, scientists, especially in hard sciences, are mainly of the types INTP (like me), INTJ, ENTP.
Do you know, as I read in some web site and as I will confirm from my own perception, the INTP are a quite rare type of people, that usually hardly ever communicate with anyone else except other INTPs, because, in their perception, peer INTP are more or less the only authentic truth seekers and worthy debaters.
So, your openness and skills, as an ENFJ, in communicating with people, your familiarity with the ways of thinking of the overwhelming majority of people, who are not scientists, as well as your understanding of many social, relational, religious, political and mediatic troubles, do not qualify you to understand scientists and how to communicate with them.

A characteristic of the INTP is that they directly look at the rational strength and consistency of arguments, disregarding their origin, the context and appearance around them, and the official scientific degrees of the author.
So, in principle, they should be able to directly go and check the core of the arguments present on this site, their internal logic, strength and validity disregarding anything else, and thus notice the rational strength and validity of most of these arguments.
But... there is a but.

While they are not sensitive to appearances in the same way that other types and non-scientists are, they have their own, different kind of sentitivity to appearances - based on some good reasons I will try to explain - and you seem to have completely missed this.

I know that, what you are trying to put forward, is mainly scientific works, made by other scientists (paranormal researchers).
Thus, if scientists are curious about the scientific works that have been done in parapsychology, they should not only look at this site but also refer to these other, effective works.
But still, their time and attention is limited, thus, as you name your site "Scientific comittee...", this will be interpreted by scientists visiting this site, as a claim of scientific-level quality for the contents of this site. So, they will visit this site and expect to only see contents of scientific quality; and if this is not what they find, then they will be tempted to dismiss your claims of being a "scientific committee", as a false advertising, and conclude that you are not being serious in your views.

Let's sum up the situation:

"Skeptics" claim that you (paranormal believers) are not true scientists, and that there is a gap between you and science.
You claim that the gap is not between you and science, but between "skeptics" and true rationality.

You claim that this world is full of lies, manipulations and deceptions.
"Skeptics" think the same; they see manipulations and deceptions all over the place, and they focus their attention on all the ridiculous superstitions that they find in society, and they dedicate their time debunking them.

Most "mainstream scientists" would not disagree with the same observation. However they usually gave up trying to fight against it, because they think such a fight would be hopeless and a waste of energy for them. Instead, they forget about this world, and decide to focus their energy and develop their life in their inner world, a sort of "ivory tower" of scientific knowledge. They are protecting themselves from the harrassment of nonsense, manipulations and deceptions that you can find widespread in this world, by ignoring them altogether and taking refuge in this other world instead.
While our scientists seem to be physically present in this world, they are mentally absent from it, and living in another world instead, the world of the real search for truth that is the development of their scientific knowledge. All your understanding and familiarity with the mediatic, administrative and political problems, deceptions and manipulations in this world where you see most humans living; as well as all the popularity of your site you could get, remain vain if your purpose is to link yourself to, and be found in harmony with, the world of science as it really is.

"Skeptics" make another choice, by dedicating their energy to public communication, fighting against the worldly nonsense they can see. But this wastes their energy and somehow disconnects them from the deep understanding of science (as well quantum physics as works in parapsychology).
When "skeptics" want to speak about parapsychology, they don't examine it thoroughly (as it would be too big, since they dedicate most of their time to debunking other things), but instead they review a large panel of absurd superstitions, and as the paranormal claims somehow "look the same" and are found in similar contexts, they lightly assume that it should be the same.

And you, what do you do ? Well, you somehow fall in the same trap. You don't examine science thoroughly. You focus on "skeptics", you see their arguments to be weak, so you do as if it was all what can be said on the subject. You claim your positions to be scientifically solid, yet you focus on debates with the public and with skeptics, but this wastes your energy and cuts you off from the scientific community too.
You can't altogether dedicate your energy to impressive public communication, debates with "skeptics", and hope that it will link yourself with science and give you a true scientific credibility by the same method. You will have to make a choice.

(I'll continue explanations tomorrow)
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Re: What is wrong with this site

Postby G. ADAM » 13 Jan 2011, 10:47

Your subject line is very apt, because you didn't actually say anything that was wrong.
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Re: What is wrong with this site

Postby spoirier » 13 Jan 2011, 22:21

I did not yet specify what was wrong because I did not complete what I meant to say, so please be patient.

When exploring forum discussions about pseudo-skepticism ("zététique") in French, I read an interesting description I will translate for you:
Social phenomenon ? The Zetetic perhaps assuage their need for denial within us all.
For most of them it looks like a teenage attitude that sticks itself a label: "I am zetetic."
I personally had that attitude when I was younger, like when one starts to learn to use one's brain, and understands that people who look friendly are not necessarily so, one believes that one understands everything in life. With a little science... but not too much, it is like butter: the less you have, the more you spread it.
... and when one begins to deny our religious education, one becomes "the ultimate atheist" :lol:

And you ? You are indeed much wiser than pseudo-skeptics as well as than many people on many issues; however there are a few remaining issues for which you fall in the same trap of immaturity in comparison with what some other people (including many scientists) know on other issues, and this spoils the picture and the opinion they may have of you.
For instance, some of the claims I saw are... not exactly false, but an incomplete, immature picture of things, that may lead you into serious errors and discredit.
Here is an example:
Dean Radin points out in the beginning of his book The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena, that new scientific discoveries tend to go through stages. He writes: (page 1)
“In science, the acceptance of new ideas follows a predictable, four-stage sequence. In Stage 1, skeptic confidently proclaim that the idea is impossible because it violates the Laws of Science. This stage can last for years or for centuries, depending on how much the idea challenges conventional wisdom. In Stage 2, skeptics reluctantly concede that the idea is possible but that it is not very interesting and the claimed effects are extremely weak. Stage 3 begins when the mainstream realizes not only that the idea is important but that its effects are much stronger and more pervasive than previously imagined. Stage 4 is achieved when the same critics who previously disavowed any interest in the idea being to proclaim that they thought of it first. Eventually, no one remembers that the idea was once considered a dangerous heresy.
The idea discussed in this book is in the midst of the most important and the most difficult of the four transitions - from Stage 1 into Stage 2.“

First one can note this is a rather biased account of facts because quite awkward and revolutionary new theories against prior beliefs, like Quantum physics, Special and General relativity theories, and the Big Bang theory, while they were not "immediately" accepted, did not have so much troubles to become accepted either.
On the same issue, is a quote of a reader response:

2)PseudoSkeptics are totally ignorant of the sociological/philosophical problems of science: For example, they like to use terms like "pseudoscience" or "pathological science", but don't explain the conceptual and theoric problems of these terms and the fact that past theories called "pathological" are now recognized as good scientific theories:
Also, they ignore that scientific establisment tend to be conservative and, many times, hostile to unorthodox theories. For example, there is experimental evidence of confirmatory bias in peer-review system used in scientific journals:
And the methods used to suppress the scientific dissidents are never discussed in pseudoskeptical magazines:
And the existence of monopolies and scientific research cartels (and their influence in scientific enterprise) are systematically ignored:
The pseudoskeptic's solid and consistent ignorance of these sociological/burocratic problems of science makes him very credulous and uncritical of accepted scientific practise. They have a very naive idea of science.

3)PseudoSkeptics are uncritically accept almost all "official" stories: As an example, pseudoskeptic Michael Shermer uncritically accepted and defended the official story of 9/11, in spite of massive evidence of the inconsistences and valid criticism of the official story:

4)Religious agenda: as you have shown in your article, most pseudoskeptics are atheists and scientific materialist. (...)

5)"Scientific witch-hunting" and fascistic behaviour. When the pseudoskeptic has the opportunity, he uses "witch hunting" practiques, intimidation, censorship, etc. to fight "enemies". As an example, look at pseudoskeptics actions against Wilhelm Reich:

6)Debunkers are supporters of obsolete and refuted philosophies (e.g. positivism): most pseudoskeptics are dogmatic supporters of positivism: the philosophy that states that the only authentic knowledge is scientific knowledge, and that such knowledge can only come from positive affirmation of theories through strict scientific method:

Sorry to disappoint you but in this way of accusing skeptics to be immature, you are being visibly immature yourself.
You seem a little bit less immature in this sense, in another page (I forgot the reference, probably a forum message) when you admit that there are other cases of crackpot ideas that scientists have good reasons to reject because it is really crackpot. However, this remark is still quite naive and immature, as you are missing the real situation that scientists are facing.

This situation is that, for each idea or theory that first happened to be rejected as crackpot but finally turned out to be true, there are hundreds or even thousands of other crackpot ideas that it is right to reject as crackpot because this is what they really are, in a more or less obvious way from a scientist's viewpoint, which lay people may not be able to understand. But you may not be familiar with this overwhelming presence of crackpot ideas that were rejected by scientists for very good reasons, because... precisely this made them unworth of being recorded in history.

This is a general problem that has nothing to do with the question of whether an idea remains contained in a materialistic wordview or points to a supernatural dimension. So, please stop being paranoid about the single duality of the material/spiritual debate, because, for scientists, this is but one dimension of the world's questions among many others, and the problems of rational debates are the same with many other issues.

Now: the question of how many stupid crackpot ideas could appear for every genuine idea first considered crackpot before turning out to be true, may seem a minor issue at first sight, but it has dramatic practical consequences that you need to understand, if you don't want your views to be rejected as naive and immature.

The dramatic practical consequence of this situation, is that scientists cannot afford to pay a lot of attention to fringe ideas, or to give them a right a right of speech in their working space. Censoring crackpot ideas out of their working space, rather than paying much attention to them or trying to debunk them, is a matter of survival for the chances of their work to ever be "free" and productive for the development of scientific knowledge. Cleansing their working space from any BS, is a normal "intellectual hygiene" practice that they need to follow, and which they expect fellow "worthy debaters" to respect as well.
It is right for them, when they see BS, to censor and ignore it rather that try to debunk it, because they consider the debunking work to be a pure waste of time, for 4 excellent reasons:

1) For any sane other rational person (scientist), the fact this "alternative" idea is BS, is self-evident and does not need any explanation
2) For the others, unable to see it by themselves (which may as well include over 99% of humans on this planet), no work of debunking, however clear and true, will ever suffice, because they are stupid and irrational anyway, and won't be able to discern the validity of any genuine argument that may be presented to them, but would lead them to mistake the scientist who would dare sacrificing his time trying to explain his reasons and debunking BS, for a stupid irrational and dogmatic person, which would be a very unfortunate illusion that the scientist wishes to limit by the method of silence.
3) The explanations why it is BS, may be much too complex and too hard to explain in any reasonable amount of time. These crackpot authors are just scientifically illiterate, so that it is up to them to go to study and understand science if they can, or find another job otherwise, but scientists cannot help.
4) Once a crackpot author would be debunked, he will automatically be replaced by another crackpot author with a "completely different" idea that will feel unconcerned with the previous debunking, so that the debunking work was vain and the problem comes back to the same point it started with.

So, what would happen if they paid attention to alternative "theories" and gave them a right of speech in their working space ?
Then, their working space would be full of hundreds of BS for one truth, so that the voice of truth would have no chance to be heard anymore, and their quest for truth would be doomed to remain sterile. There could never have been a progress of scientific knowledge in such conditions.

As for the issue of "positivism", are you familiar, for example, with the Sokal affair, and what Sokal was trying to explain in this way ? It does not deal with any issue of the supernatural and materialism, but it can let you better understand how science works in general, and what the debate between science and non-science can look like, and thus help you revise the form of your arguments so as to not seem so scientifically illiterate.

I will keep developing further important points later.
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Re: What is wrong with this site

Postby NinjaPuppy » 13 Jan 2011, 23:29

Wonderful post! Thank you.
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Re: What is wrong with this site

Postby spoirier » 14 Jan 2011, 02:36

Scientists who really try to communicate some of their science with the public (yet only targetting a quite enough educated public, to be realistic) are relatively few.
One example is John Baez.
As a way to deal with the tide of crackpot alternative theories of everything, he gave a few simple clues how to make a fast preselection of the (extremely rare) ideas or "theories" that may deserve attention, vs. those (so much frequent) that are just dumb and can safely be ignored, in the form of his famous, semi-humorous "crackpot index". So you should visit this to get a glance of examples of "external appearances" that can make something look serious or unserious to scientists.
While our world is supposed to be dominated by science, most people still have no clue what science really is, so that they can easily be abused by many false claims about it. So, I recently started writing myself a long text to explain the main features of science in relatively simple terms, as the second part of a 4 parts global presentation of my views; it may still take me a week or two to complete this Part II, and a couple of months to complete the whole series, but I wrote other important texts before which you can visit as well. (you can also check my first post here)

(more remarks later)
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Re: What is wrong with this site

Postby spoirier » 14 Jan 2011, 10:18

Now I'll specify a few appearances which I guess scientists will be sensitive to. As I said, many scientists visiting this site will not dedicate a lot of time examining the validity of the arguments, especially if the first impression is not right. So, here are things that will make quite a negative first impression on scientists visiting this site:

It is primarily designed for the general public, rather than for scientists. It goes against the scientific deontology for a "theory" to address itself directly to the public and try to get approval and support from there, when a prior support from the scientific community is lacking, and as if it could serve as a sort of subtitute to it; as if such a method of seeking for public support to make pressure to the scientific community (expecting to draw this way some credit or attention from scientists, could be fair. It is not fair because the public is generally less qualified than scientists to assess the validity of an idea. Therefore, this method is perceived by scientists as a strategy of public manipulation that goes against intellectual honesty. The resulting effect on scientists is self-defeating.

It is all designed as a commercial site, whose purpose is for the author to make money. It is fully linked to the datingabroad site that offers paying matrimonial services.
It has books to sell. You canot be an honest truth seeker and sell your ideas at the same time, because seeking the truth and making money from the public (well-known to be stupid and ignorant and to better believe nonsense than the truth), are incompatible puposes. No sane rational person can decently be required to buy a book for finding there arguments supporting a thesis to which one is not convinced yet, because for the a priori expected case that the book won't convince him, he will want his money back, and no guarantee is offered for this case. An argument that requires to buy a book to be read, just cannot be a valid argument.

One book on this list, "Everything you know is wrong", is just one of most ridiculous BS of the world, an outright insult to science. I agree that, in general, "attitude fanatism" is wrong, but once seen this display of the worst possible disdain to science, it would just be foolish to expect any decent scientist to take seriously anything else in this site.
I did not check the other books (how can I ? I don't want to pay for a book, just like most other scientists visiting this site), so I cannot give a review.

The site is infested with a sort of intrusive advertising system that turns many words from the contained text into advertising links.
It is proud of having impressive videos to show. Impressive videos are a tool of trickery and manipulation, not a method of intellectual honesty and rational understanding.
There is no space for any hard scientific content in this site. For instance, it claims to have its positions supported by quantum physics, yet tries to convince its readers about it without requiring them to have any mathematically accurate understanding of any effective aspect of quantum physics, from which to draw the conclusion. How can you pretend to deduce anything from what you have no clue of ?

Winston claims to follow a New Age ideology. But New Age is generally an antiscientific BS. There even is another pro-spirituality author (whose spirituality I do not endorse, but...) that debunked many New Age authors, and in particular, the main spirituality book promoted by Winston.
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