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Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical review

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

Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical review

Postby Arouet » 25 Aug 2010, 07:35

So I just noticed the Fallacies tab at the top of the forum, and clicked on it to see Scepcop's "Characteristics and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics". Not sure how far I'll get, but thought I'd start a critical analysis thread on it.

I'll start from the top:

True Skeptics / Open-Minded Skeptics

1) Asks questions to try to understand new things and are open to learning about them
2) Applies critical examination and inquiry to all sides, including their own
3) Are nonjudgmental and do not jump to rash conclusions
4) Seeks the truth and considers it the highest aim
5) Thinks in terms of possibilities rather than in preserving fixed views
6) Fairly and objectively weighs evidence on all sides
7) Acknowledges valid convincing evidence rather than ignoring or denying it
8) Possess solid sharp common sense and reason
9) Are able to adapt their paradigms to new evidence and update their hypothesis to fit the data
10)When all conventional explanations for a phenomenon are ruled out, are able to accept paranormal ones


I've edited it slightly just to add numbers for easier reference.
Ok, so let's go through these:

1) I guess this is fair enough, but to me, the focus is not on asking questions, but rather on what we accept as true. To be skeptical means only accepting propositions as true based on reliable evidence (I'll get into a definitions discussion in another post, but i will use this definition for now). Now, this often involves asking questions, but theoretical, one could be presented with reliable evidence and come to a conclusion without asking any questions. In practice, however, a skeptical approach will involve asking questions, so I won't quibble too much with this. I just think the emphasis should be on evidence, rather than questions.

2) Again, while this will often be a part of a skeptical analysis, the emphasis if off. A skeptical approach involves looking at the evidence for a given proposition, and trying to come to conclusions.

3) While a skeptic should not jump to rash conclusions (which by definition means they will not be rationally evaluating the evidence), I don't see what being judgmental or not has to do with a skeptical mindset. I don't think being judgmental or not has anything to do with whether one is a skeptic or not.

4) Well, I agree that a skeptic should seek the truth, but really its not as much about the TRUTH, but likelihood of what is true. But that's a quibble. I don't know why a skeptic must consider seeking the truth to be their highest aim. A skeptic will certainly consider it important, but they could have other values they consider more important. Again, a quibble.

5) This is poorly worded but I think its getting at the concept that a skeptic should always be ready to analyze new data and be prepared to change their views if the evidence warrants it. If that's what this means, then I agree.

6) Sure, I could quibble with the wording, but I agree in principle. (I don't like "all sides" there can be an infinite number of sides for certain issues)

7) Again, awkwardly worded, but this seems to be a rephrasing of my basic definition of being a skeptic, which is to draw conclusions only upon reliable evidence. Necessarily this means not pretending to not be convinced by reliable evidence. This does not mean, however, that two people can't look at any given piece of evidence and not come to very different conclusions.

8) While I do consider reason to be an integral part of a skeptical thought process I do not hold the same regard for "common sense". While this can depend on definitions, common sense is often not logical and depends on common ideas which may not be based on logic, reason, or evidence. Some things are not intuitive and if we follow our "common sense' we may be led astray. We should put common sense aside, and focus on reliable evidence.

9) This is part of the definition of skepticism, imo, so yes, I agree

10) The smacks of an argument from ignorance. Just because the current conventional explanations do not adequately explain something, doesn't mean we default to the paranormal. If there is reliable evidence for some phenomena being paranormal then we should accept it as such. But as written, this is a gaps argument. If we don't have a reliable explanation for something, then it is fine to say: "we don't know". We don't fill in the gaps with the paranormal. The paranormal must be evaluated in the same way as anything else: with reliable evidence.


Ok, that's a good start for discussion. When I feel like it i'll move my way to the next section.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Arouet » 26 Aug 2010, 11:19

OK, let's move on to the pseudoskeptic section. First let's see who Scepcop identifies as pseudo-sketpics:

* James Randi and his JREF crowd
* Michael Shermer
* CSICOP and their crowd
* Penn and Teller
* The Mythbusters
* Phil Plait and his "Bad Astronomy" folks

Ok, so let's try and see whether some of these guys fit. I'll probably do just a few at a time, since this involves finding examples.

1. Does not ask questions to try to understand new things, but judges them by whether they fit into the established order.

Ok, so to see if this is falsifiable I have to find someone from that list asking questions to understand new things, and not judging then based on whether they ft into the established order.

This one is pretty easy to shoot down, since all of those folks constantly ask questions to try and understand new things. I'll give the example of the Mythbusters. Let's look at their first season episode topics:


Can a 1967 Chevy take off with JATO rockets?
Can Pop Rocks & Soda, when eaten simultaneously, cause the eater's stomach to rupture?
Can an airplane toilet create enough suction to cause a person to become stuck on it?
Can a can of biscuit dough explode in a hot car?
Can a person throw himself through a skyscraper window?
Can a person take to the skies using only a lawn chair and weather balloons?
Can someone test positive for heroin by eating a large amount of poppy seeds?
Can being painted with gold paint actually be deadly?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_My ... s_episodes

Lots of questions, then experimentation to learn new things, then conclusions.


Let's do one more:

2) Applies "critical thinking" only to that which opposes the status quo, but never to the status quo itself

This one isn't clear in its meaning. Let's try and suss it out. Wiki defines "status quo" as:

Status quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" - literally "the state in which" - is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs.[1] To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are.


So Scepcop is saying that these skeptics apply critical thinking only to that which opposes the existing state of affairs, but never applies critical thinking to the current state of affairs. Given that we live in a world that is always in flux, I'm not sure this is coherent. Especially that skeptics tend to be fans of science, which really is always in flux. There is no status quo.

But let's just take the statement as is and see if I can find example of one of these apparent "pseudo-skeptics" not doing that.

Scepcop will be delighted to learn that Michael Shermer himself, (or someone working with him on his website) has addressed this very issue! http://www.skeptic.com/about_us/

Some people believe that skepticism is the rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse “skeptic” with “cynic” and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges the status quo. This is wrong. Skepticism is a provisional approach to claims. It is the application of reason to any and all ideas — no sacred cows allowed. In other words, skepticism is a method, not a position. Ideally, skeptics do not go into an investigation closed to the possibility that a phenomenon might be real or that a claim might be true. When we say we are “skeptical,” we mean that we must see compelling evidence before we believe.


He continues:

But all facts in science are provisional and subject to challenge, and therefore skepticism is a method leading to provisional conclusions. Some claims, such as water dowsing, ESP, and creationism, have been tested (and failed the tests) often enough that we can provisionally conclude that they are not valid. Other claims, such as hypnosis, the origins of language, and black holes, have been tested but results are inconclusive so we must continue formulating and testing hypotheses and theories until we can reach a provisional conclusion.


And of course he lauds the scientific method, which is the essence of challenging the status quo: to test the status quo and see if it holds up. And to see if our view of the status quo needs to be changes.

Ok, that's good for now. I'll continue down the list later.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby ProfWag » 26 Aug 2010, 17:39

Great points Arouet! I'm sure they'll be more crickets from the peanut gallary however.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Craig Browning » 26 Aug 2010, 21:36

Chirp, chirp, chirp


Ok... I just wanted to point out one thing... the "Umbrella" scenario in which all things of a similar flavor get tossed into the same exact pigeon hole... seems that the good ole boys of the skeptic's cult do this very thing; rolling their eyes the instant they hear someone call themselves a Psychic, claim to have some kind of connection with ET or believes that Big Foot lives in a Cabin a few miles up the road from them.

Every time I've presented any one of these groups or their "educated" patrons with certain experiences of mine, daring them to explain such things away and/or replicate them under the same exact conditions not only can they not do so, they instantly go into dodge & parry mode, seeking to not just invoke their favorite cop-out (a.k.a. Russel's Tea Pot) but likewise paint me as being delusional, a junkie and so forth... this is their "auto-pilot" mode with anything that would challenge THEIR CLAIMS.

When you consider that the bulk of the world has some kind of spiritual belief as well as something resembling magick/psychics, etc. it would seem that the original scholastic challenge is more applicable and the onus of proof lays in the hands of the cynic... even by their own spin with things, it is they that are making an extraordinary claim when it comes to how most of the world has and still does function... so where is their proof that, for an example, God and miracles don't exist?

If dowsing, as an example, isn't "valid" and has been proven beyond the shadow of doubt to be bogus, why do so many government agencies the world over, including the military and countless survey teams, still rely on it?

Fanaticism exists on both sides of this issue as does blindness, bigotry, ulterior motives and social-political grandstanding. Both sides have a huge amount to gain as well as loose should one end-up taking the dominant position over the other (just look at history). On the other hand, both have a great amount to gain if and when phobias and preconceptions are shelved and middle-ground not just recognized, but encouraged.

Just because you may have an explanation as to how a "trick" works does not make it any less magickle... or important. To think otherwise is to be selfish, self-serving and very much inhumane... and that is a rule of thumb that applies to those on either side of the issue.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Arouet » 26 Aug 2010, 22:16

Craig Browning wrote:Chirp, chirp, chirp


??? not sure if this is editorial or not...I get the sense its not complimentary in any event.

Ok... I just wanted to point out one thing... the "Umbrella" scenario in which all things of a similar flavor get tossed into the same exact pigeon hole... seems that the good ole boys of the skeptic's cult do this very thing; rolling their eyes the instant they hear someone call themselves a Psychic, claim to have some kind of connection with ET or believes that Big Foot lives in a Cabin a few miles up the road from them.


Whether they roll their eyes or not, they are certainly justified in questioning the veracity of the claims.

Every time I've presented any one of these groups or their "educated" patrons with certain experiences of mine, daring them to explain such things away and/or replicate them under the same exact conditions not only can they not do so, they instantly go into dodge & parry mode, seeking to not just invoke their favorite cop-out (a.k.a. Russel's Tea Pot) but likewise paint me as being delusional, a junkie and so forth... this is their "auto-pilot" mode with anything that would challenge THEIR CLAIMS.


That's the problem with anecdotal evidence. You present me with a depiction of an experience you've had and challenge me to explain things away or replicate it. Problem is, I have no idea how accurate your retelling of the experience is. I wasn't there, haven't been able to examine the evidence, etc. etc. etc. Also, there is no way I can replicate a perception you have had. Anecdotes are very difficult to deal with and evaluate. All I can do is ask you what supporting evidence you have. If you have none, then unfortunately it will be very difficult to substantiate your claim.

I mean, we can throw out all sorts of speculations and possible alternative explanations: but unless there is evidence of those alternative explanations then why accept those? That's how Massimo Puglisi defines a pseudo-skeptic (or armchair skeptic). Just throwing out explanations without evidence is not valid either (although they can be useful brainstorming sessions, or thought experiments, or just option exploring).

When you consider that the bulk of the world has some kind of spiritual belief as well as something resembling magick/psychics, etc. it would seem that the original scholastic challenge is more applicable and the onus of proof lays in the hands of the cynic... even by their own spin with things, it is they that are making an extraordinary claim when it comes to how most of the world has and still does function... so where is their proof that, for an example, God and miracles don't exist?


This is a logical fallacy. The burden of proof is always on the one making a positive claim. No matter how many people believe they've perceived something. The human mind is capable of great self-deception, and our observation skills have been demonstrated in scientific experiment to be poor (I can dig up that ball throwing experiment if you want). I can't ever prove that God doesn't exist. That is absolutely impossible. What i can do is evaluate particular claims of evidence for God, and see if it stands up to scrutiny.

If dowsing, as an example, isn't "valid" and has been proven beyond the shadow of doubt to be bogus, why do so many government agencies the world over, including the military and countless survey teams, still rely on it?


First of all, the standard of proof is never "beyond the shadow of doubt" (outside of mathematics). What we are trying to evaluate is degrees of confidence, or likelihood. Dowsing has been shown through experiment not to work. The fact that some people (including some in government) believe that it works, in no way validates it. What you've laid out here is an Argumentum ad populum (or appeal to popularity), which is a logical fallacy: (from wiki)

In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges: "If many believe so, it is so."


Fanaticism exists on both sides of this issue as does blindness, bigotry, ulterior motives and social-political grandstanding. Both sides have a huge amount to gain as well as loose should one end-up taking the dominant position over the other (just look at history). On the other hand, both have a great amount to gain if and when phobias and preconceptions are shelved and middle-ground not just recognized, but encouraged.


Who are the sides? And what do they have to gain? Also, we don't just take two positions and split them down the middle to find the middle ground and accept that as truth. I think you can see how this would not be a very reliable method of truth seeking. That works in a business deal, not in determining how the world works.

Just because you may have an explanation as to how a "trick" works does not make it any less magickle... or important. To think otherwise is to be selfish, self-serving and very much inhumane... and that is a rule of thumb that applies to those on either side of the issue.


I don't follow.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby wjbeaty » 27 Aug 2010, 18:31

Arouet wrote:Ok, so let's try and see whether some of these guys fit. I'll probably do just a few at a time, since this involves finding examples.

1. Does not ask questions to try to understand new things, but judges them by whether they fit into the established order.


The original is wrong, since classic pseudoskepticism isn't about rejecting all new scientific discoveries. Instead, it's about rejecting revolutionary discoveries: rejecting things which either would require adding major extensions to contemporary physics, or which would expose enormous hidden errors in the knowledge considered to be solid.

In other words, pseudoskepticism seems directly connected to "Horganism" or "End of science" thinking: the worldview where Science has already figured everything out; where all that's left is brushing up the details. In such a world there is no room for such things as Telepathy for example, since if Telepathy was real, that would mean we'd have to rewrite all the textbooks. (Yes, all the textbooks were rewritten because of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics, etc. But if Any New Physics Revolutions Are Impossible, it means that telepathy cannot exist.)

Instead if a person believes that we're still living in the earliest times of scientific discovery, and that vast unplumbed scientific unknowns surround us, then things like telepathy are no longer abhorrent heresies, since they could easily fit with future revolutionary physics discoveries.

Same with bigfoot: if your worldview includes forests which are still a vast unknown, that's different than a world where every square inch of global forests have been under constant satellite surveillance for years. In the tiny remaining Unknown, there is no room for enormous revolutionary discoveries.

Maybe number one above should read: "Rejects new things which don't fit into the established order, but for things that do, asks questions and tries to understand."

The key of course is "established order." If we could somehow know that the science of the next 100 years is going to completely overturn the established order and rewrite all the physics textbooks, then anyone who fiercely defends the established order would be an obvious Pseudoscientist whose fear of the unknown leads them to halt the next round of scientific progress. BUT, if we could somehow know that science is 99.9% complete, with only very small revolutions waiting in the future ...then anyone who doesn't defend the status quo is a Pseudoscientist whose hatred of authority figures leads them to destroy Science by letting the corruption of the lunatic fringe pour in.
-----------------------------------------------
'Skeptic' does not mean scoffer
'Skeptic' does not mean debunker
'Skeptic' does not mean csicop member
'Skeptic' does not mean Atheist
'Skeptic' does not mean cynic
'Skeptic' does not mean woo-woo-hater
'Skeptic' does not mean anti-paranormalist
'Skeptic' does not even mean self-declared Skeptic
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby really? » 27 Aug 2010, 21:22

wjbeaty wrote:
Arouet wrote:Ok, so let's try and see whether some of these guys fit. I'll probably do just a few at a time, since this involves finding examples.

1. Does not ask questions to try to understand new things, but judges them by whether they fit into the established order.


The original is wrong, since classic pseudoskepticism isn't about rejecting all new scientific discoveries. Instead, it's about rejecting revolutionary discoveries: rejecting things which either would require adding major extensions to contemporary physics, or which would expose enormous hidden errors in the knowledge considered to be solid.

In other words, pseudoskepticism seems directly connected to "Horganism" or "End of science" thinking: the worldview where Science has already figured everything out; where all that's left is brushing up the details. In such a world there is no room for such things as Telepathy for example, since if Telepathy was real, that would mean we'd have to rewrite all the textbooks. (Yes, all the textbooks were rewritten because of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics, etc. But if Any New Physics Revolutions Are Impossible, it means that telepathy cannot exist.)

Instead if a person believes that we're still living in the earliest times of scientific discovery, and that vast unplumbed scientific unknowns surround us, then things like telepathy are no longer abhorrent heresies, since they could easily fit with future revolutionary physics discoveries.

Same with bigfoot: if your worldview includes forests which are still a vast unknown, that's different than a world where every square inch of global forests have been under constant satellite surveillance for years. In the tiny remaining Unknown, there is no room for enormous revolutionary discoveries.

Maybe number one above should read: "Rejects new things which don't fit into the established order, but for things that do, asks questions and tries to understand."

The key of course is "established order." If we could somehow know that the science of the next 100 years is going to completely overturn the established order and rewrite all the physics textbooks, then anyone who fiercely defends the established order would be an obvious Pseudoscientist whose fear of the unknown leads them to halt the next round of scientific progress. BUT, if we could somehow know that science is 99.9% complete, with only very small revolutions waiting in the future ...then anyone who doesn't defend the status quo is a Pseudoscientist whose hatred of authority figures leads them to destroy Science by letting the corruption of the lunatic fringe pour in.


You look at scientists and see creative people. I look at the same group
and see that their creativity could be a hundred times greater. I see
that the sciences could have immensely more variety than they do
currently. If only more people would intentionally try to march out of
step, try to care less about reputations and about what people think, and
try to constantly test out viewpoints that are commonly disparaged as
offbeat or crazy.


I seen this arument before from many other people which can be reduced to just a few words and they are imagine the possibilities. Therein lies the problem in pursuing ideas that have produced highly suspect data. Regardless of what any proponent says the evidence for psi is problematic. Psi researchers seem to lead the evidence.

A small point that's not evident to you. Scientists aren't afraid to trek into new territory neither are skeptics. Scientists are always looking for finer truths, by testing new ideas too see if they uphold current theories that's the marching out of step part Take for instance the Large Hadron Collider with that machine, when it is running at full power later in 2012 might just discover new physics and no one's afraid that it might.
A greater point you've missed is this: evidence leads the scientist instead of the scientist leading the evidence.

Remember this
Science truth is provisional
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby really? » 27 Aug 2010, 21:25

Arouet wrote:
I don't follow.



I just did a read through. You are doing a fine job.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Arouet » 27 Aug 2010, 21:48

wjbeaty wrote:
The original is wrong, since classic pseudoskepticism isn't about rejecting all new scientific discoveries. Instead, it's about rejecting revolutionary discoveries: rejecting things which either would require adding major extensions to contemporary physics, or which would expose enormous hidden errors in the knowledge considered to be solid.


You are talking about scientific discoveries, right? These are discoveries that have been scientifically analyzed and that there is a scientific consensus about them?

In other words, pseudoskepticism seems directly connected to "Horganism" or "End of science" thinking: the worldview where Science has already figured everything out; where all that's left is brushing up the details. In such a world there is no room for such things as Telepathy for example, since if Telepathy was real, that would mean we'd have to rewrite all the textbooks. (Yes, all the textbooks were rewritten because of Relativity, and Quantum Mechanics, etc. But if Any New Physics Revolutions Are Impossible, it means that telepathy cannot exist.)


I would certainly agree that if someone were to say that science has figured everything out, then that would not be a very wise statement - in fact, it would be dead wrong. If Randi, and Shermer, for example, were saying that telepathy could never exist, then that certainly wouldn't be a skeptical appraoch - you would need reliable evidence that its impossible - which doesn't exist at present. But I've heard them say explicitly that these things could be possible, there just isn't reliable evidence about them. So I guess we're good here.

Instead if a person believes that we're still living in the earliest times of scientific discovery, and that vast unplumbed scientific unknowns surround us, then things like telepathy are no longer abhorrent heresies, since they could easily fit with future revolutionary physics discoveries.


Certainly, but until reliable evidence of its existence arises, a skeptic is justified in saying: I don't believe its true. I agree that a skeptical approach acknowledges that there is much we do not yet know about the universe.

Same with bigfoot: if your worldview includes forests which are still a vast unknown, that's different than a world where every square inch of global forests have been under constant satellite surveillance for years. In the tiny remaining Unknown, there is no room for enormous revolutionary discoveries.


But have any of these so-called "pseudo-skeptics" that Scepcop has listed argued that the existance of Bigfoot is impossible? I don't believe so, quite the opposite. It's whether there is evidence that supports it or not that is the question.

Maybe number one above should read: "Rejects new things which don't fit into the established order, but for things that do, asks questions and tries to understand."

The key of course is "established order." If we could somehow know that the science of the next 100 years is going to completely overturn the established order and rewrite all the physics textbooks, then anyone who fiercely defends the established order would be an obvious Pseudoscientist whose fear of the unknown leads them to halt the next round of scientific progress. BUT, if we could somehow know that science is 99.9% complete, with only very small revolutions waiting in the future ...then anyone who doesn't defend the status quo is a Pseudoscientist whose hatred of authority figures leads them to destroy Science by letting the corruption of the lunatic fringe pour in.


We are learning new things all the time. Do you have a quote from any of Scepcop's pseudoskeptics which indicates that they believe that we've figured everything out?

I mean, I'm agreeing with you in what you're saying, essentially, I just don't know if any of those guys would be doing what you are criticizing.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Craig Browning » 27 Aug 2010, 23:41

Craig Browning wrote:Chirp, chirp, chirp


??? not sure if this is editorial or not...I get the sense its not complimentary in any event.

Actually, it was a pun in reference to the previous post concerning “Crickets”

Ok... I just wanted to point out one thing... the "Umbrella" scenario in which all things of a similar flavor get tossed into the same exact pigeon hole... seems that the good ole boys of the skeptic's cult do this very thing; rolling their eyes the instant they hear someone call themselves a Psychic, claim to have some kind of connection with ET or believes that Big Foot lives in a Cabin a few miles up the road from them.


Whether they roll their eyes or not, they are certainly justified in questioning the veracity of the claims.

Certainly! Everyone is entitled to their OPINIONS and points of view. Likewise everyone is due the same level of RESPECT as the naysayer insinuates he/she is deserving of, due to their elevated position in life. :roll:

Every time I've presented any one of these groups or their "educated" patrons with certain experiences of mine, daring them to explain such things away and/or replicate them under the same exact conditions not only can they not do so, they instantly go into dodge & parry mode, seeking to not just invoke their favorite cop-out (a.k.a. Russel's Tea Pot) but likewise paint me as being delusional, a junkie and so forth... this is their "auto-pilot" mode with anything that would challenge THEIR CLAIMS.


That's the problem with anecdotal evidence. You present me with a depiction of an experience you've had and challenge me to explain things away or replicate it. Problem is, I have no idea how accurate your retelling of the experience is. I wasn't there, haven't been able to examine the evidence, etc. etc. etc. Also, there is no way I can replicate a perception you have had. Anecdotes are very difficult to deal with and evaluate. All I can do is ask you what supporting evidence you have. If you have none, then unfortunately it will be very difficult to substantiate your claim.

I mean, we can throw out all sorts of speculations and possible alternative explanations: but unless there is evidence of those alternative explanations then why accept those? That's how Massimo Puglisi defines a pseudo-skeptic (or armchair skeptic). Just throwing out explanations without evidence is not valid either (although they can be useful brainstorming sessions, or thought experiments, or just option exploring)


I believe this is called an EXCUSE… a way out for the “critical thinkers” when they know for fact they can’t meet the standards in question. In my case such challenges become exceptional because they are dealing with someone exceptionally well-schooled in the art of illusion as well as the esoteric. I am and have been directly involved in several investigations over the years when it comes to exposing predatory fraud… in other words; I’m not your typical “average’ observer who instantly jumps at the conclusion that something “must” be real.

If you are familiar with a now non-existent company in Las Vegas known as Creative Illusions then you have some idea as to my personal credentials in this arena. Add to that the fact that Ken Whitaker, myself, Ayala and a handful of “Hollywood” type experts have all tried to replicate one of these manifestations and after investing hundreds of hours and tons of cash, came to the conclusion that it simply couldn’t be done under the same environmental conditions I and at least one other person in this R&D team, experienced; even under controlled “theatrical” conditions it was nearly impossible.

When you consider that the bulk of the world has some kind of spiritual belief as well as something resembling magick/psychics, etc. it would seem that the original scholastic challenge is more applicable and the onus of proof lays in the hands of the cynic... even by their own spin with things, it is they that are making an extraordinary claim when it comes to how most of the world has and still does function... so where is their proof that, for an example, God and miracles don't exist?


This is a logical fallacy. The burden of proof is always on the one making a positive claim. No matter how many people believe they've perceived something. The human mind is capable of great self-deception, and our observation skills have been demonstrated in scientific experiment to be poor (I can dig up that ball throwing experiment if you want). I can't ever prove that God doesn't exist. That is absolutely impossible. What i can do is evaluate particular claims of evidence for God, and see if it stands up to scrutiny.

Notice the underlined section…this is known as Russell’s Tea Pot… an invented excuse borrowed from author Bertram Russell by the cynical and turned into an official mantra of sorts. Truth is, it is a relatively “new” axiom introduced by an admitted atheist in the attempt to bolster academics who were not part of the primary scholastic community.

As to the whole human mind and self-deception line… again, look at what I’ve shared pertaining to who I am and my background and add to this the fact that I’ve been a professional Mentalist for a bit over two decades now and likewise grew-up in an environment filled with double-talkers and horse-thieves. I believe it safe to say that I’m all too aware of how we can fool our own mind, how emotions and despair can lead us to make inaccurate conclusions/assessments, etc. But I’m likewise aware of how the most ardent of cynic has found themselves face to face with “the real thing” and suddenly made impotent – having to back-peddle form their long held venom.

If dowsing, as an example, isn't "valid" and has been proven beyond the shadow of doubt to be bogus, why do so many government agencies the world over, including the military and countless survey teams, still rely on it?


First of all, the standard of proof is never "beyond the shadow of doubt" (outside of mathematics). What we are trying to evaluate is degrees of confidence, or likelihood. Dowsing has been shown through experiment not to work. The fact that some people (including some in government) believe that it works, in no way validates it. What you've laid out here is an Argumentum ad populum (or appeal to popularity), which is a logical fallacy: (from wiki) {Which everyone knows to be an authoritative source on all things}

In logic, an argumentum ad populum (Latin: "appeal to the people") is a fallacious argument that concludes a proposition to be true because many or all people believe it; it alleges: "If many believe so, it is so."


Again… another dodge & parry move by someone that doesn’t want to extend any form of recognition towards anything that goes against personal assumption and the “need” to not believe. In the case of Dowsing it is not a matter of “belief” but example after example of success that can be mapped and extends deep into the annals of human history.

Yes, there is an ideomotor factor in the majority of cases when it comes to Dowsing or working with a Pendulum, etc. I’m quite familiar with this fact and rely on it in some of the things I do as a performer. But I also know that there is a bit “more” to it all and though I’ve not done the work in years, I have had it happen and seen the “Yoke” get physically pulled out of a person’s hands when the sought after field is strong enough.

No, you cannot replicate this under “scientific” or “Lab” conditions for many reasons, some of which actually support the ideomotor theory but in a manner that is quite extended. This however, proves only that the jury is still out when it comes to the skill in question, because there really is “more” to it than the “research” has been designed to show and too, that the researchers desire to allow (they have a preconceived opinion on how they want the tests to turn out and thus, a foregone conclusion proves the real “control”)

Fanaticism exists on both sides of this issue as does blindness, bigotry, ulterior motives and social-political grandstanding. Both sides have a huge amount to gain as well as loose should one end-up taking the dominant position over the other (just look at history). On the other hand, both have a great amount to gain if and when phobias and preconceptions are shelved and middle-ground not just recognized, but encouraged.


Who are the sides? And what do they have to gain? Also, we don't just take two positions and split them down the middle to find the middle ground and accept that as truth. I think you can see how this would not be a very reliable method of truth seeking. That works in a business deal, not in determining how the world works.

The “sides” are essentially seen as the Believers vs. the Naysayers with the latter making themselves as being the all wise and knowing, looking down on anyone that disagrees with their opinions or “findings” as well as the various patterns of invoking “logic” when it comes to confusing matters.
Yes, the world does work by finding middle ground; it has been at the core of most major philosophies and successful societies time and again. The problem comes when people insist on a Black & White world vs. grey, which is the greater truth. It doesn’t matter if you are arguing “science” vs. “faith” or the differences found in the petty squabbles of this and that religious cult, which ultimately bring the world to hell in a not so nice hand-basket.

In the case of Intellect vs. Faith it might be best to invoke the Star Trek parallel – people who base everything on quasi-logic are of course, the repressed Vulcan society that simply doesn’t understand the “ill-logic” of humanity and being “human”. Yet, within those parameters we have those half-breed type (even Androids) seeking to reconcile their human-side with that more anal-retentive (and frequently affrontive) side of their being.

Just because you may have an explanation as to how a "trick" works does not make it any less magickle... or important. To think otherwise is to be selfish, self-serving and very much inhumane... and that is a rule of thumb that applies to those on either side of the issue.


I don't follow.

:lol:OMG! I so want to laugh right now, but I’ll be kind... :lol:

The self-styled intellects of the world would have us believe that by explaining how something “magickle” actually works that they have exposed the illusion and thus, removed from the “intelligent” people in society, the need to believe in it or of it. On one level this is akin to the Buddhist concept of not seeing carnal existence as ‘real’ and understanding it as being nothing but a temporary illusion via which we are able to learn and hopefully grow through. The problem is, most of the world feels safer when it comes to the effect and its affect upon them, which makes the magick “real” ... I can take anyone back stage and show them some of the amazing machinery that goes into making someone fly or float in the air but that does not take away from how enchanting that illusion can be when presented by a master showman… or “shaman” as the case might be.

Hmmm… here’s a bit of anecdotal perspective of current vogue;
America’s Got Talent (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/) has four or five magic acts in the line-up representing different styles of presentation. Michael Grasso (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/week-12-michael-grasso/1244735/); Dan Sperry (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/week-11-dan-sperry/1243463/); Murry (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/week-10-murray/1242360/); and Antonio Restivo (http://www.nbc.com/americas-got-talent/video/week-8-antonio-restivo/1239880/) I have little doubt that the typical non-magician would be somewhat impressed by each of these acts simply because few of us ever really get to see magic performed at this level. But when you view what these acts are doing as one educated in the art of deception, it’s not the “trick” you’re witnessing but rather the “magick” created (or not) – how the audience reacts to how they present the effects, how well they execute things as well as the pride they take in their props when it comes to quality… there’s a huge list of things I and other experts like I, who do consulting work and technical troubleshooting for acts, look for and at… which is where the frustration factor comes in…
… listening to Piers Morgan gush over Restivo, for an example, I find to be quite insulting given the caliber of magicians that have been on that show, that’s he’s done nothing but pan (Kevin James, comes to mind – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NxXfGHMwzjw&feature=player_embedded) as far as major stage magic is concerned Restivo is sadly lacking. Murry on the other hand (though not one of my favorite performers) has a panache that is appealing to the public at several levels, which allows him to “seduce” the audience and as we say “create magic”

(errr… I hope I’m able to help you understand what I’m saying through all of this)… the point being that as an informed individual I am able to see the strengths and “truths” if you would, in a performer and not see the weaknesses behind the act that are actually there. Here’s a great example from this season’s AGT

Grasso – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLRCDUnVQhc

This is a genuinely horrid illusion; the sort that the average person could figure 90% of it out without having any background in magic and yet Grasso as well as Restivo both presented it in their programs, framing it as if it were something special.

How can anyone be enchanted by this effect? Puzzled, perhaps but certainly not enchanted in that the thing has no sense of “grace”… even a dramatic escape has that going for it most of the time.

The point I’m trying to make via these few examples, is that the typical human being wants magic to exist and it is up to the presenter, be it a showman on stage, the minister in a chapel or some statistician working for a Market & Research team… it is on their shoulders to disguise the secret and present the right placebo to the target audience in a manner that makes is “sound”

You can preach all day long telling folks that blood is actually blue, back it up with all kinds of analytical data but you will not convince the larger number of folks that KNOW blood is red… which is actually a faux perception… but so is the blue-blood adage; both arguments are correct and yet not. This is the reality of all things in life; coins have two sides and where they meet is where the greater “answer” exists.

I’ve rambled sufficiently and even confused myself with things at the moment… I know where I want to go and what I’m trying to explain, but not functioning well this morning… will try later. :oops:
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Arouet » 28 Aug 2010, 01:41

Craig Browning wrote:Actually, it was a pun in reference to the previous post concerning “Crickets”


Ha ha, should have got it! But the crickets are still silent since it was Scepcop I was referring to! I'm not sure why he's ignoring my posts.

Certainly! Everyone is entitled to their OPINIONS and points of view. Likewise everyone is due the same level of RESPECT as the naysayer insinuates he/she is deserving of, due to their elevated position in life. :roll:


If I'm reading you right, you are saying that all ideas and opinions deserve the same amount of respect. I'm not sure that's true. Opinions and ideas deserve respect based on how well founded they are. There are all sorts of ideas and opinions which deserve very little respect, IMO.

I believe this is called an EXCUSE… a way out for the “critical thinkers” when they know for fact they can’t meet the standards in question. In my case such challenges become exceptional because they are dealing with someone exceptionally well-schooled in the art of illusion as well as the esoteric. I am and have been directly involved in several investigations over the years when it comes to exposing predatory fraud… in other words; I’m not your typical “average’ observer who instantly jumps at the conclusion that something “must” be real.

If you are familiar with a now non-existent company in Las Vegas known as Creative Illusions then you have some idea as to my personal credentials in this arena. Add to that the fact that Ken Whitaker, myself, Ayala and a handful of “Hollywood” type experts have all tried to replicate one of these manifestations and after investing hundreds of hours and tons of cash, came to the conclusion that it simply couldn’t be done under the same environmental conditions I and at least one other person in this R&D team, experienced; even under controlled “theatrical” conditions it was nearly impossible.


Well, when it comes to investigations, then we are talking about looking for evidence. My point is that if you tell me a story about something that happened to you and then say: well explain that away, then all I can do is speculate. I was not talking about controlled situations, where evidence is carefully recorded. I was talking about someone just telling me a story, and asking me to explain it away.

Notice the underlined section…this is known as Russell’s Tea Pot… an invented excuse borrowed from author Bertram Russell by the cynical and turned into an official mantra of sorts. Truth is, it is a relatively “new” axiom introduced by an admitted atheist in the attempt to bolster academics who were not part of the primary scholastic community.


Well, Russel's Teapot is simply an example of why the burden of proof must be on the person making the positive claim. You call it an excuse, but you don't explain why you don't accept it.

I'll give you some more examples:

10 years ago you sexually abused a young girl. Prove to me you didn't.
Humans, animals, and everything around us is really controlled by the trees. Prove to me they don't.
I just levitated in my room! Prove to me I didn't.
God just appeared to me in the flesh, and told me that I am the messiah. You shall now obey me. If you don't you will be disobeying God and will go to hell. Prove to me this isn't true.

Do you see? You can't just call it an excuse without explaining why. What alternative do you propose?


As to the whole human mind and self-deception line… again, look at what I’ve shared pertaining to who I am and my background and add to this the fact that I’ve been a professional Mentalist for a bit over two decades now and likewise grew-up in an environment filled with double-talkers and horse-thieves. I believe it safe to say that I’m all too aware of how we can fool our own mind, how emotions and despair can lead us to make inaccurate conclusions/assessments, etc. But I’m likewise aware of how the most ardent of cynic has found themselves face to face with “the real thing” and suddenly made impotent – having to back-peddle form their long held venom.


If they (or you) believe they have reliable evidence of the "real thing" then that's great. I'd like to hear it.


Again… another dodge & parry move by someone that doesn’t want to extend any form of recognition towards anything that goes against personal assumption and the “need” to not believe. In the case of Dowsing it is not a matter of “belief” but example after example of success that can be mapped and extends deep into the annals of human history.


Again, if you have reliable evidence that dowsing works, then present it. But just saying lots of people think it works is not evidence of truth. Lots of people have believed all sorts of things over the years. It's just not an argument for truth. If you feel otherwise then make an argument. When done under controlled conditions, dowsing has failed to produce reliable results. Worse, people have died from it (see the Iraq "bomb" detectors.)

Yes, there is an ideomotor factor in the majority of cases when it comes to Dowsing or working with a Pendulum, etc. I’m quite familiar with this fact and rely on it in some of the things I do as a performer. But I also know that there is a bit “more” to it all and though I’ve not done the work in years, I have had it happen and seen the “Yoke” get physically pulled out of a person’s hands when the sought after field is strong enough.

No, you cannot replicate this under “scientific” or “Lab” conditions for many reasons, some of which actually support the ideomotor theory but in a manner that is quite extended. This however, proves only that the jury is still out when it comes to the skill in question, because there really is “more” to it than the “research” has been designed to show and too, that the researchers desire to allow (they have a preconceived opinion on how they want the tests to turn out and thus, a foregone conclusion proves the real “control”)


I can accept that there may be further research that could show that dowsing works, and that "something else" is going on. However, until it is reliably demonstrated then I will not accept it. The upshot of the "jury being out" is that that means we are not justified in accepting it as reliable as of yet.
The “sides” are essentially seen as the Believers vs. the Naysayers with the latter making themselves as being the all wise and knowing, looking down on anyone that disagrees with their opinions or “findings” as well as the various patterns of invoking “logic” when it comes to confusing matters.


See, skepticism is not about knowing, it is about what do we believe. A skeptic will not say they have all the answers - anyone who does is wrong (I've never heard anyone do that, it would be ludicrous). The division between skeptics and believers is over the standard of proof. The standard of proof for many believers is lower than that for skeptics.

Yes, the world does work by finding middle ground; it has been at the core of most major philosophies and successful societies time and again. The problem comes when people insist on a Black & White world vs. grey, which is the greater truth. It doesn’t matter if you are arguing “science” vs. “faith” or the differences found in the petty squabbles of this and that religious cult, which ultimately bring the world to hell in a not so nice hand-basket.


Don't confuse systems with truth about phenomena. There are many situations where finding the middle ground is a good strategy. Politics, for example. But that's not the case with scientific facts.

In the case of Intellect vs. Faith it might be best to invoke the Star Trek parallel – people who base everything on quasi-logic are of course, the repressed Vulcan society that simply doesn’t understand the “ill-logic” of humanity and being “human”. Yet, within those parameters we have those half-breed type (even Androids) seeking to reconcile their human-side with that more anal-retentive (and frequently affrontive) side of their being.


Sure. emotion is great. Just not when it comes to determining truth!

The point I’m trying to make via these few examples, is that the typical human being wants magic to exist and it is up to the presenter, be it a showman on stage, the minister in a chapel or some statistician working for a Market & Research team… it is on their shoulders to disguise the secret and present the right placebo to the target audience in a manner that makes is “sound”


Sure, we all would love magic to be true. I've been a big fan of fantasy novels since I was a kid. I used to dream about flying (sometimes still do). I would love to have "powers". And I appreciate being taken away to another world by the entertainment industry as much as anyone. And enjoy "magical" feelings as much as anyone.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Craig Browning » 28 Aug 2010, 23:59

Sure, we all would love magic to be true. I've been a big fan of fantasy novels since I was a kid. I used to dream about flying (sometimes still do). I would love to have "powers". And I appreciate being taken away to another world by the entertainment industry as much as anyone. And enjoy "magical" feelings as much as anyone.

And yet, you would take that fantasy away from the world by saying "it doesn't compute"

The fantasiful possibility tied to "Magick" is based entirely on innocence and hope. When the public is constantly told to grow-up and stop believing in imaginary friends (god) and miracles because science doesn't support such things, you remove the possibilities -- the hope and inspiration such imaginative tales give us.

Some years ago when I was working in Reno I had a couple of situations that were on a collision course; one one front I had two sisters doing Readings in town that were 100% predatory, focused on the local Indian and illegal immigrant (Mexicans) population... people known for being superstitious as well as those in a position that would make it highly unlikely for them to report extortion/grand larceny to the authorities.

On the other front I had that handful of "clients" coming into the store who were fortunate enough to have friends or family that saw through the game these two sisters were playing but couldn't figure out how to help them out of the situation they found themselves in; typically, the need to remove a curse or some other pal set around them (supposedly) according to one of these two sisters, who would gladly remove it for $5,000.00 or whatever they thought they could get out of the mark.

Understand, most of these targeted people have deeply ingrained beliefs when it comes to magic, spirits, demons, etc. they have a very unshakable sense of faith and thus, telling them that these "psychics' can't hurt them, that its all "fake", etc. won't only be met with opposition on their part, causing them to dig their heels in deeper, it can cause serious psychological damage... far more damage than their faith in such things. That's where I find the chance to build some bridges...
the first thing I have to do is gain the trust of both, the victim and their support network; the best way of doing this is to not ask for any cash... I do mean ANY cash, including my normal fee for doing Readings. I express honest concern & empathy and then empower them by showing them several inexpensive ways of banishing whatever evil it is the other psychics were suggesting to them... in other words, I was empowering them and giving them the ability to weld magick... the kind of magick that is very real for them.

Frequently, the family or friend that brought such victims to me, knew of my show biz background and understood that my views to all this stuff was a bit more down to earth and analytical and yet, understanding of tradition as well as people's need to believe in the fantastic. This is another reason I was trusted and that's the key here -- trust!

How would a skeptic deal with this kind of issue?

Would you respect the deep level of belief shared by the victim? Would you be able to express empathy and understanding while helping them claim their own power, in a manner that fits their cultural sense of belief?

When we create a world in which magick is not real in the minds of the majority, then that majority loses its ability to communicate effectively and be of service to the balance of the population, such as this example shows. Our "logic" taints our ability to heal... it's the same in the converse; people of faith seem to think that "prayer" (as an example) can heal everything and failing that, conversion to whatever flavor of Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors of Faith happens to be, will give you ultimate salvation/protection... I an tell you from experience, that's not so. BUT, I can also tell you from experience that one can find a median at which faith and "logic" can work hand in hand and too, it's been doing so for a very, very long time.

In regards to the case above, I was able to collect enough information on these Sisters to aid local authorities in busting up their little operation. Interestingly, it was the local Psychic professionals that lit the fuse in this case, by holding a press conference (magician free, I might add) in which they boldly pointed fingers and expressed ardent concern over public safety and of course, how such negative operators hurt the image of the more honest professional. While this was one of the more bold actions I've ever seen taken by working psychics on their own behalf when it comes to actual charlatan issues, it's not the only such effort I've seen over the years -- they have their own way of cleaning house that usually works without dragging in the authorities.

While I've bounced about here, the moral of the tale remains the same... people need to believe in magick & miracles, when we take that away from them we find a greater degree of general frustration, stress, agitation and the sense of 'void' as it were. While some that take the road of the skeptic/atheist do end up reflecting the kind of serenity most of us wish we could obtain, this is not the norm... just look at how bitter Randi is after a life time of stirring this pot.

Magick is very real even by the perspectives shared by the analytical mind; the "bridge" I keep speaking of likewise exists IF we are willing to give ourselves permission to understand and work with what is also out there in the world that people KNOW... it's not a "belief" as most assume the context of that term, but more a matter of KNOWING beyond any doubt, that this is what is and anything stating the contrary is a lie... a ploy by the devil, as they would say. Interestingly, the skeptical actually taint the beliefs or claims of those who stand in opposition to their views, in a similar light... but "faith" does that to people, doesn't it?

By coupling my knowledge of 'scientific" perspective as well as my background within metaphysics and shamanism I am able to HELP rather than hurt or insult people of faith. I'm also able to help them claim their own power and HEAL the circumstances they face rather than making them co-dependent or feeling impotent. Finally, I am able to start spoon feeding these people with the more honest way of seeing such things because they've learned to trust me and know that my only concern is helping them grow and be able to better protect themselves from predators of the sort noted in this tale. I've yet to meet a skeptic or rationalist capable of doing this and 90% of the reason is that they've lost their own ability to believe in magick. ;)
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby Arouet » 29 Aug 2010, 00:11

If I'm reading you right, you're simply saying that it's alright to believe in fictions if its comforting. Is that right? I don't want to oversimplify but that's the crux of it?

My way of dealing with someone who believed they were cursed, or some such, would not be to foster the delusion, nor would it be to mock them. I would want to teach them think critically about why they believe what they believe. I would acknowledge their belief, then try to help them dissect it, break it down, question it, back it up, etc.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby really? » 29 Aug 2010, 04:47

Duplicate post deleted
Last edited by really? on 29 Aug 2010, 11:07, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Chars. and Behaviors of PseudoSkeptics - a critical rev

Postby really? » 29 Aug 2010, 04:53

really? wrote:
Craig Browning wrote:Sure, we all would love magic to be true. I've been a big fan of fantasy novels since I was a kid. I used to dream about flying (sometimes still do). I would love to have "powers". And I appreciate being taken away to another world by the entertainment industry as much as anyone. And enjoy "magical" feelings as much as anyone.

And yet, you would take that fantasy away from the world by saying "it doesn't compute"

The fantasiful possibility tied to "Magick" is based entirely on innocence and hope. When the public is constantly told to grow-up and stop believing in imaginary friends (god) and miracles because science doesn't support such things, you remove the possibilities -- the hope and inspiration such imaginative tales give us.


Yet some of us manage somehow to make it through life without fantasiful possibilities. Can you explain why ?
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