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How "skepticism" been hijacked to mean its opposite

Discuss PseudoSkeptics and their Fallacies. Share strategies for debating them.

Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 16 Aug 2010, 23:01

If that had been all you had written I would indeed have had no problem with it. I would point out that you do not need to visit these groups to investigate whether this is can be the case or not. Would you not be interested in finding that out? As for the JREF thing, well if you read and understand my original post it would be clear that this is not something that someone else can just tell them not to do. (To clear it up, I was not susceptible to this as I had joined out of scientific interest rather than anything else. My friends who had joined for other trauma related issues were). It is a psychological tendency, and one which is co-exploited within groups.

And the false dichotomy thing is a cop-out i'm afraid ;P
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Arouet » 16 Aug 2010, 23:18

Ellie wrote:If that had been all you had written I would indeed have had no problem with it. I would point out that you do not need to visit these groups to investigate whether this is can be the case or not. Would you not be interested in finding that out? As for the JREF thing, well if you read and understand my original post it would be clear that this is not something that someone else can just tell them not to do. (To clear it up, I was not susceptible to this as I had joined out of scientific interest rather than anything else. My friends who had joined for other trauma related issues were). It is a psychological tendency, and one which is co-exploited within groups.


I've seen a lot of generalizing and, frankly, demonizing going around people who don't like skeptics. I'm not knee deep in the skeptical movement, but I do listen to a number of podcasts and read some blogs and what you were describing sounding very different from how I understood skeptics in the pub to be. I raised some potential things to think about, and stated that if they really were being like that that that was unacceptable. I suggested you post on the JREF site since there would be people much more likely to have participated in these kind of things, and who might actually know the people in question. I'm not sure what more I would want to do on this issue. As I think I said, I've never been to a skeptics in the pub myself. (although I would like to go to one in my area sometime, just hard to do with work, family, etc.).

And the false dichotomy thing is a cop-out i'm afraid ;P


No its not. I don't think you were lying. I have no reason to think you were lying. I did consider that it could be true. I also suggested some other interpretations. I wasn't there.

In the vast majority of the topics described on forums such as this, we are talking about analyzing data. As a scientist, you know that data can be interepreted in many different ways. I'm assuming that when you disagree with a fellow anthropologist you don't go in with: "why are you lying about this?" Rather, you suggest alternative interpretations of the data.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 16 Aug 2010, 23:52

Well yes. We appear to be agreeing. Hadn't you noticed? :P

Seriously though, I very rarely see people questioning (or the demonising of) sceptics in actual fact. So it's interesting that it does happen and i've somehow missed it. I had to search hard to even find this site, and one of the reasons I did was to see if anyone else had noticed this phenomenon. Offering a suggestion which you thought might help was a nice thought, so genuinely thank you for that. I'm afraid it's something that people have to sort out for themselves though - it's not that these groups have some sort of evil master which is controlling the members like puppets (apologies if it is somehow possible to get that from what I said). Like I said, it's a co-dependancy thing and it's up to an individual person to decide when they want out (like alcoholism etc), and that takes the courage of self-awareness, something which unfortunately appears to diminish in members over time.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Arouet » 17 Aug 2010, 02:55

Ellie wrote:Well yes. We appear to be agreeing. Hadn't you noticed? :P


Ok, hard to tell sometimes over these here interwebs! :D

Seriously though, I very rarely see people questioning (or the demonising of) sceptics in actual fact. So it's interesting that it does happen and i've somehow missed it.


I never saw it either until I started hanging out in the Skeptiko forum (where proponents and skeptics debate - you might want to check them out too, they bring up the term pseudoskeptic all the time) and here, and looked at some of the literature from proponents.

I don't really like the term pseudoskeptic. The fact is, we're all skeptical to varying degrees, and on different issues. We can't always research something to the full extent, though I believe we can always try to apply some skeptical principles to our thought processes, even if sometimes we take short cuts.

I think what people really mean when they say pseudoskeptic, is cynic. Someone who just won't accept something like psi no matter what the evidence. I think that's a more useful differentiation than pseudoskeptic. Or else maybe the term needs to be defined a little better. Massiom Pugliosi described in in a podcast along the likes of people who hear about, say a ufo, and then say: it must have been X, Y, or Z, and they didn't do a lick of research. I think that's a fair description, although again it borders on cynicism.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby ProfWag » 17 Aug 2010, 03:05

Arouet wrote:
I think what people really mean when they say pseudoskeptic, is cynic. Someone who just won't accept something like psi no matter what the evidence. I think that's a more useful differentiation than pseudoskeptic. Or else maybe the term needs to be defined a little better. Massiom Pugliosi described in in a podcast along the likes of people who hear about, say a ufo, and then say: it must have been X, Y, or Z, and they didn't do a lick of research. I think that's a fair description, although again it borders on cynicism.

I'm diggin' you guys. :D

One thing that I believe is that skeptics want to see proof of something while skeptical critics seem to think it's okay to believe based on evidence. Evidence, at least the way I've been taught, is not proof. I've seen all sorts of evidence for psi, astrology, dowsing, etc., but haven't seen a shred of proof. Myself, I can't believe in something that would ultimately change the course of humanity without some kind of proof. The "Believers" (for lack of a better term), don't seem to need proof and they want us to believe based on evidence. My personality just won't let me do that.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 04:07

I'm diggin' you guys too :D

As far as i'm aware, scepticism involves making your own mind up about things, but doing it honestly and with integrity and hard work/research. If someone shows you something which genuinely affects the dataset you have used to assess the validity of something, then you must amalgamate that new data with what you have already, and if you are logical, your findings (opinions) will alter appropriately. Dead simple. If you do not have enough data on a subject then you must remain open to possibility until such a time that you have researched it to the satisfaction of your personal (and sometimes professional) integrity. Even then, always be prepared to accept new data.

Some of the ways in which I have seen some people claiming to be 'Skeptical' but failing miserably follow:
1. Not exercising personal or professional honesty (not treating all data fairly on it's own merits).
2. Not wanting to do hard work/research.
3. Expressing a strong opinion about something which they have not themselves sufficiently researched, and which cannot be altered through discussion, whilst not accepting any other opinion as valid.

I don't like the idea of fixing people into groups and calling them 'believers', 'skeptics', 'pseudoskeptics' etc. But yeah, either your reasoning stands up or it doesn't. An inability to change if it doesn't is a worry.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Arouet » 17 Aug 2010, 04:51

ProfWag wrote:One thing that I believe is that skeptics want to see proof of something while skeptical critics seem to think it's okay to believe based on evidence. Evidence, at least the way I've been taught, is not proof. I've seen all sorts of evidence for psi, astrology, dowsing, etc., but haven't seen a shred of proof. Myself, I can't believe in something that would ultimately change the course of humanity without some kind of proof. The "Believers" (for lack of a better term), don't seem to need proof and they want us to believe based on evidence. My personality just won't let me do that.


I break it down even simpler: a skeptic is someone who only accepts a proposition based on reliable evidence. I don't really like word "proof" which really only applies to mathematics. What we're talking about is probabilities and whether something is more - or less - likely to be true.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Arouet » 17 Aug 2010, 04:57

Ellie wrote:I'm diggin' you guys too :D


Yeah, some good discussion going on! Let it never be said again that skeptics just band together and agree with each other! There is plenty of room for diversity of opinion amongst skeptical people.

As far as i'm aware, scepticism involves making your own mind up about things, but doing it honestly and with integrity and hard work/research. If someone shows you something which genuinely affects the dataset you have used to assess the validity of something, then you must amalgamate that new data with what you have already, and if you are logical, your findings (opinions) will alter appropriately. Dead simple. If you do not have enough data on a subject then you must remain open to possibility until such a time that you have researched it to the satisfaction of your personal (and sometimes professional) integrity. Even then, always be prepared to accept new data.


I agree with you in principle, with the small caveat that we don't need to reinvent the wheel with every topic. It is perfectly acceptable to rely on the work of others, so long as it is reliable. We're not going to do experiments on every topic out there, or vigorously research everything. And while I agree with you that without sufficient data you must hold out the possibility of various hypotheses, the corollary is that without sufficient data you must also withhold forming a firm conclusion.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 05:16

Yup :)

However, there is a tendency amongst some to rely on the work of others as long as it confirms their preconceived ideas. The trouble is that this 'scientific consensus' that gets talked about is not enough - well for me at any rate. As a scientist I am only too aware of how drastically different data can be produced for various reasons. If the majority of scientists believe something that does not mean they are right. What is published more often is not automatically right by virtue of that. I would always like to see if there are any alternatives or holes before starting to assess something. And if possible, check the PRIMARY data rather than other's interpretations of it. Essentially, your last sentence was what I was saying really. I do not always consider what the majority of papers say to be sufficient data.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby ProfWag » 17 Aug 2010, 05:26

Ellie wrote: I once asked why the groups had adopted the American spelling, being Scottish.

On a side note Ellie, Although I'm American, I'm a proud, card-carrying member of the Scotch Whiskey Appreciation Society... 8-)
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 05:45

Nice one :) pass us a wee dram then? Mines a Laphroig ;)
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby ProfWag » 17 Aug 2010, 08:00

Ellie wrote:Nice one :) pass us a wee dram then? Mines a Laphroig ;)

Great choice! Next time I'm in your wonderful country, perhaps you can point me in the direction of a quaint little pub and the drinks'll be on me! I'm a highland single malt fan myself, usually Glenmorangie since that's about the best I can get here, but Islay's are top of the line as well.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby really? » 17 Aug 2010, 10:48

Arouet wrote:
Ellie wrote:Well yes. We appear to be agreeing. Hadn't you noticed? :P


Ok, hard to tell sometimes over these here interwebs! :D

Seriously though, I very rarely see people questioning (or the demonising of) sceptics in actual fact. So it's interesting that it does happen and i've somehow missed it.


I never saw it either until I started hanging out in the Skeptiko forum (where proponents and skeptics debate - you might want to check them out too, they bring up the term pseudoskeptic all the time) and here, and looked at some of the literature from proponents.

I don't really like the term pseudoskeptic. The fact is, we're all skeptical to varying degrees, and on different issues. We can't always research something to the full extent, though I believe we can always try to apply some skeptical principles to our thought processes, even if sometimes we take short cuts.

I think what people really mean when they say pseudoskeptic, is cynic. Someone who just won't accept something like psi no matter what the evidence. I think that's a more useful differentiation than pseudoskeptic. Or else maybe the term needs to be defined a little better. Massiom Pugliosi described in in a podcast along the likes of people who hear about, say a ufo, and then say: it must have been X, Y, or Z, and they didn't do a lick of research. I think that's a fair description, although again it borders on cynicism.



Demonizing skeptics well just look at then the Treatise. Even the url implies such a thing www.debunkingskeptics
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby really? » 17 Aug 2010, 11:14

Ellie wrote:following only conventional views in the name of science, and self-congratulation/superiority.



You may well understand- maybe not- why I thought as I did when you start off your post with this followed by biased generalizations. Your words reminded me of similarly put anti-skeptic arguments I've heard before. You came off looking like someone with an axe to grind too.

Although I'm not involved with any skeptic group I feel I know the mind of the skeptic very well, some skeptics understand the word better than others. With that said the door to what's possible and plausible is not as wide open as it used to be when I was much younger.

Arouet extended an invitation to Skeptiko I think you should sign up because we need someone with knowledge of neuroscience & psychology.

Welcome here too. New blood is good.
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Re: Has the term "skeptic" been hijacked and mind controlled

Postby Ellie » 17 Aug 2010, 20:31

Yes indeed :) Thanks

EDIT: Oh and the debunkingskeptics link was the first thing I found and how I ended up here. However, I don't really believe in 'debunking' people as such. The problems i've found are not a matter of using logical argument or evidence to show someone the error in their reasoning, because that was never the most important factor for them anyway. (Speaking of the 'Skeptics' I have had close experience with here). It's also not about being right, or making someone else back down. It's about looking at the traumatic experiences and various coping mechanisms that cause people to act in this way, and if possible helping people to confront that and deal with it, both for their sake, and for the sake of science (some fairly high profile 'scientists' have this limiting problem). If someone uses this as a coping mechanism, putting that in danger in any way, by questioning it, or presenting them with a dichotomy, will result in them feeling threatened and they will merely entrench further.

But yeah, good site :)
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