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Forms of Skepticism

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Forms of Skepticism

Postby really? » 31 Jul 2011, 04:14

...here's a book reviewed you may want to read.

Most anti-skeptics probably think of skepticism in the sense that emphasizes doubt and the impossibility of knowledge as opposed to the new skepticism, which focuses on inquiry and the real possibility of knowledge.

Paul Kurtz: A Titan of Skepticism
PETER LA MAL
Exuberant Skepticism. By Paul Kurtz. Edited by John R. Shook. Prometheus Books,

This set of previously published writings by Paul Kurz, spanning three
decades, can serve as an invaluable introduction for those who are unfamiliar with contemporary skepticism. And there are doubtless many inthat category. The first of Exuberant Skepticism's four sections,
"Reasons to Be Skeptical," asks what a skeptic is. The answer: a skeptic is a person who is willing to question any claim to truth and to test truth claims by the criteria described in this book and the work of other skeptics.

So, just what is skepticism? Kurtz identifies three varieties. Nihilistic skepticism is the complete rejection of all claims to truth or value; it claims there is no truth at all. Mitigated skepticism is the view that ultimate rrurhs about what is real cannot be established with any
certainly. The experiences of living require us to make some generalizations, but we cannot make any ultimate claims as to their truth. Kurtz calls the form of skepticism he champions skeptical inquiry. He says that, contrary to earlier forms of skepticism, skeptical inquiry is positive and constructive; it is an essential part of the process of inquiry but
Peter Lamal is an emeritus professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina*Charlotte and a fellow of the Division of Behavior Analysis of the American Psychological Association.

Skeptical inquiry maintains that we should never a priori refuse well-based investigation of claims. At the same rime, when adequate justification for claims is not forthcoming, this form of skepticism will assert that such claims are unproved, unlikely, or false. "The key principle of skeptical inquiry is to seek, when feasible, adequate evidence and reasonable grounds for any claim to truth in any context" (p. 21).

How do we search for adequate evidence, and what are "reasonable grounds" for accepting truth claims? We search by means of the scientific method,and in the chapter
"Scientific Method and Rational Skepticism," Kurtz describes
what he considers its three important criteria: 1) collection of relevant evidence, 2) logical consistency, and 3) technological and experimental consequences.

The chapter "Skepticism and the New Enlightenment" maintains that in recent years there has been a massive retreat from Enlightenment ideals, exemplified by a worldwide resurgence of fundamentalist religions. The world needs a New Enlightenment whose distinctive characteristics would be: an extension of scientific methods and reason to all areas of human interest, a response to the existential question about the meaning of life, humanistic ethics as the basis for a new morality and universal human rights.

The need for a New Enlightenment is also underscored by the growth of anti-science, and Kurtz describes ten kinds. One basic reason for the growth of anti-science is the failure to educate the public about the nature of science. It is time, Kurtz says, for scientists and the scientifically literate to come forward to explain what science is as well as its practical effects. Last July I pointed out in an article in the Charlotte Observer, 'A Need to Engage the Public in Science," that according to a National Science Foundation report, science ranks behind ten other subjects in terms of people's interest. Politicians are an important part of the problem. By and large they reflect their constituents' and society lack of interest in science. Following Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum's proposal in their book Unscientific America; How Scientific illiteracy Threatens Our Future, I pointed out that communicating the relevance of science to the public has been a low priority for scientists. Mooney and Kirshenbaum thus advocate development of a group of scientists who can be "ambassadors" to our larger society. A critical societal segment needing science education is, as Kurtz points out, the mass media.

The book's second section, "skepticism and the Nonnatural," consists of four chapters: one on skepticism and the paranormal and the other three on skepticism and religion, the last of which concerns the question of whether science and religion are compatible.

The third section, "Skepticism in the Human World," consists of a chapter concerning the need for skeptical inquiry in the political domain. Another chapter is devoted to skepticism and ethics. Kurtz describes three types of ethical skepticism. The one favored by Kurtz, ethical inquiry "involves a skeptical component that is never fully abandoned" (131). And in this view, the basic subject matter of ethics is behavior. Moral faith and ethical skepticism are the focus of the next chapter in which a modified form of ethical naturalism is proposed. In the last chapter in this section, Kurtz introduces a new field, eupraxsophy. Eupraxsophers will aim to be generalists able to understand, to the extent they can, what the sciences tell us. They will concern questions about the meaning of life and the relevance of the sciences and the arts to the choices we make. Universities and colleges need to develop the profession of eupraxsophy.

In the book's fourth section,"The Skeptical Movement, Past and Future," Kurtz recounts highlights of the new skepticism's history including his most significant personal activity in developing the enterprise. The book's last chapter is a "Statement of Principles" of the new skepticism.

Those of us of a certain age can remember when any person known to be a skeptic was considered at least deranged and probably unpatriotic, if not dangerous. Because of the indefatigable work of Paul Kurtz and some others, however, I suspect that many skeptics feel less compelled to keep their views to themselves. 'this conjecture is, of course, subject to inquiry. Most anti-skeptics probably think of skepticism in the sense that emphasizes doubt and the impossibility of knowledge as opposed to the new skepticism, which focuses on inquiry and the real possibility of knowledge.

Parts of this book are understandably repetitious-after all, they concern some topics addressed over the course of thirty years. But this could be beneficial for those being introduced to skepticism
SKEPTICAL INQUIRER July / August 2010
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby ProfWag » 31 Jul 2011, 16:02

So what the artricle is really saying is that Scepticism is a method to a conclusion and not a belief system, right?
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 31 Jul 2011, 23:53

A rose by any other name is still. . .
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby really? » 01 Aug 2011, 01:24

ProfWag wrote:So what the artricle is really saying is that Scepticism is a method to a conclusion and not a belief system, right?


Yes, for those that know what skepticism is.
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 02 Aug 2011, 01:03

Sorry, but it sounds like dogma to me... :twisted:

Skepticism has become a cult movement and as it is observed, practiced and preached in our present time it can only be viewed as the essence from which a Cult can be realized, such as what is found through fellowships & brain trusts like the JREF, PSICOPS (or whatever they're known as now days), etc. You see, wherever "like minded" people gather you end up with more than the essence of what they agree on, you end up with egos in conflict energized by arrogance and thus, the political face emerges which always seems to favor the lower common denominator over the path of higher mind and higher purpose. Once we toss in the economic factor and social networking (which actually existed long before the first home computer was born) you have an iconic body with an agenda that has little to do with its original analytical studies and more to do with shifting the way the masses process information.

Much of what today's Skepticism element employs mirrors the tactics and actions used by the early church, one of the primary entities skepticism has focused on when it comes to breaking down the fantastic and as a byproduct, weakened the publics reason to believe and/or have faith in what has been tradition for a couple of millennia if not longer in some cases. But like the Church, the Skeptic's fraternities would speak out of either side of their ass by creating "exceptions" that were strange as well as fickle; if your claims were based on accepted religious views then technically you were safe and viewed as being different from those with the exact same sense of testimony that had nothing to do with religious perspective or, to be more correct, a religious perspective that was of an Abrahamic foundation. . . the religions of Wicca, Shamanistic paths, etc. simply do not qualify when it comes to this elusive and fluid "safe zone".

Most of what is viewed as Skepticism in today's era is simply a welcome mat and "conditioning" phase being used at the missionary level by the various Atheist groups around the globe. Several of the key personalities associated with contemporary skepticism have been given noted awards & kudos through the Atheist networks, some of which have been covered by the general media, which has made it more difficult for those, such as Randi, to deny their affiliation let alone ulterior motives when it comes to their pronounced efforts in destroying public belief in anything even remotely outside the accepted analytical norm, be it psychic miracles, UFOs or Alternative Medical Care.

Sorry, but Skepticism is the evangelic arm of the Atheist movement in that it is the best form of a Chinese finger puzzle one can exploit when it comes to the analytical arguments used to manipulate the faith-filled. Let's face it, no one wants to be seen as being dumb, stupid, gullible, ignorant, etc. so when you find yourself faced with a circular debate you will eventually be forced to concede for sake of sanity but likewise, ego; again, no one wants to look stupid and by caving in to what's presented you keep from loosing face. Ironically, the Christian foot soldiers on the street with all those little comic books attempt to do the same sort of mind game. Thanks to the Skeptic's movement in the past 15 or so years however, Christian "youth leaders" have had to create a 24-hour intensity program that targets the same 14-25 target group skeptics like to focus on; get them while they are young and still malleable and your side can win! Kids in this age group are each searching for self-definition, most are in a state of rebellion and so susceptible to biting any one of the primary hooks out there trolling the waters they swim in. There's not a single cult element in all of time and society that does not seek to exploit this very thing, which is why military service, political bodies, etc. are all zoomed in and tracking them. . . and brother, it really is a matter of agenda; the groups with the most indentured minds wins! Probably why so many of today's most outspoken cynics come out of the UK & US college communities -- the chief petri-dish of the scholastic element used for breeding (programming) said mental focus and perspectives. If you doubt there's an agenda within this area, take a look at how much religious influence, even by those institutions that "own" said universities; see how much the emphasis on biblical perspective has declined while the analytical or "rational" view has been exaggerated and expanded upon. You will see it in the curriculum as well as the perspectives of graduating students.

St. Thomas was a Skeptic and even after placing his fingers into the famed nail-holes of Jesus he was still hesitant in accepting what he beheld. Maybe that is the same form of "faith" (acceptance of what it offered but with reservation) that has lead us to know a long list of theories and explanations when it comes to the Crucifixion ordeal; was it really JC that was killed or a body double? Was he really on the Cross and simply Drugged only to be nursed back to health in the tome by his secret helpers? Did he actually leave the Holy land with Mary, his wife and their yet born daughter, only for him to leave them in the South of France as he returned to Kashmir as Issa?

I do not support the lie of Blind Faith though I do understand how, in certain situations, blind faith is the only thing one can clinch to. If we do not ask about what we are being taught, we have failed to honor the divine, whatever that may be. It is only the profiteers that insist on total and complete obedience and trust, not the Gods; they seem to welcome those that would challenge their authority and strive to accomplish greatness in life without begging of them, for mercy, help and hope. So faith is a thing of value but it is likewise a very small part of the gospel's wisdom; we must ask, we must knock on the door, we must take the first step in order to know a journey for in doing such we LEARN and we gain wisdom/answers by way of experience in life, not by wrote or oratory when the essence of such things seem to wane and die.

I'm shifting too far into my theosopher's mode, but hopefully I've been able to reveal just how Skepticism in our present time is nothing remotely close to what so many skeptics keep affirming, their affirmations & proclamations being akin to someone insisting that his mule is a horse; you may want to believe that but the facts state otherwise and are quite apparent should you choose to see them. When we are seeing more and more individuals walking away from today's Skeptic's element out of disgust and the belief that it's lost it's way and become far too fanatical, not to mention "cruel", it is quite apparent that something is amiss and not as you claim or would insist on being the case.

Nonetheless, one cannot be a devoted member of any of the 3 main Abrahamic sects while likewise claiming to be a Skeptic based on our present-day attitudes and discourses found within popular skepticism; the two negate one another, PERIOD! Skepticism has become an actual belief system though no divinity other than maybe some idealized human or deified hero like Randi exists. It has its doctrines and covenants as well as its sense of ministry; officers of the "church" as it were. You can likewise find a variety of denominations that differ only by degree when it comes to practice & standards while holding to and promoting the primary gospel agreed upon by the greater majority.

Deny it all you wish, but from the outside looking in, skepticism has become a genuine Religious order.
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby ProfWag » 02 Aug 2011, 01:38

You're entitled to your opinion, but what you're saying is based on nothing more than stereotyping from what I'm reading. There's a hell of a lot more skeptics in the world than there are people who make smart-ass comments on the jref.org site.
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby really? » 02 Aug 2011, 21:42

Craig Browning wrote:Sorry, but it sounds like dogma to me... :twisted:

Skepticism has become a cult movement and as it is observed, practiced and preached in our present time it can only be viewed as the essence from which a Cult can be realized,


Your view is very parochial and you don't have any idea of what you are talking about
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 03 Aug 2011, 01:16

Well, I do have more than a solid idea as to what I'm talking about and ProfWag I'm well aware that there is "more" to it all.

I've always claimed to be a skeptic but one that likewise has a sense of belief. That side of my nature is what gets attacked constantly by skeptics (just look on this site at the back & forths that have happened).

Before skepticism turned into the social-political monster that it's become in recent years it had (at least in the magic world) more of a Consumer Protection sense of agenda, which is where much of my personal views come from; expose & prosecute the charlatans, educate the public BUT in the same course, RESPECT the public when it comes to their beliefs. This is the biggest thing that has been removed from the older tradition tied to skepticism; big mouthed jerks like Penn Jullette and of course Randi & Co. get in front of an audience and start demeaning people because they believe in psychics/prophecy, faith healing, and communion with the deceased. But they likewise paint these believers as being gullible fools even when they are highly educated and frequently persons that earn top pay in their fields. The "sin" here centers on how young people have seen these examples, gotten caught-up in the "be a skeptic" trend (for reasons previously noted) and believe it is perfectly alright to not just mimic these jerks but to move things up a peg or two when doing the insults and mocking; taking pride in having people leave their shows sobbing, as the result of this assholiness that's become the face of present day skepticism whether you want to believe it or not. Just as the magic world has to overcome the plethora of tarnish it knows as the result of drunks, womanizers and perverts of various sort, so the Skeptic's community must somehow segregate itself from these negative "in your face" representatives so as to prove they really aren't what I and many other people have come to see them as being, or else you need to take a deep breath and accept the fact that 95% (probably more) of all persons boasting a skeptic's label these days are simply smug, narrowly educated punks

"Narrowly Educated" does not mean they lack education or intellect, only that what they "know" is not balanced on any level; they tend to slander things based on what they've been taught to believe rather than what they have directly looked into and "experienced" first hand. Then again, I've known more than a few hardcore skeptics that had a sudden change of mind upon learning how to work with a system like the Tarot and doing their first handful of Readings according to that system. . . some actually find themselves afraid when it comes to the accuracy in their Readings even without all the Forer-Barnum horse pucky thrown in. But what hits them hardest is when they discern hard hitting details that they have no alternative means of explaining.

Ignoring Readings there's an abundance of similar manifestations that have brought about a change of heart in many a detractor, once they were willing to actually learn and openly experience the other side of the proverbial coin. But this is likewise why I insist that there is a way by which to balance the two extremes.

Regardless, I have my doubts that you all will run out and give things an honest try and too, I'm not going to budge from my rock, so let's just grab some hot dogs, burgers, beer and smore's fix'ns and have a night of it. :lol:
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby ProfWag » 03 Aug 2011, 17:58

Craig Browning wrote:Regardless, I have my doubts that you all will run out and give things an honest try and too, I'm not going to budge from my rock, so let's just grab some hot dogs, burgers, beer and smore's fix'ns and have a night of it. :lol:

Let's do it! (gotta be the good beer though. Sam Adams or something like it...) Oh, and Craig, I was up your way a couple weeks ago. My wife was graduating from the Kripalu yoga school in Lenox and then, being the Hoosier born and bred guy that I am, had to spend an afternoon at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and then front row seats at Fenway, but I wish I had some extra time as I would have like to have stopped in for a visit to talk magic history (probably be more productive than if we discussed psychics...). Oh well. Next time! Oh, and Boston is my new favorite big city.
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby Craig Browning » 03 Aug 2011, 21:40

ProfWag wrote:
Craig Browning wrote:Regardless, I have my doubts that you all will run out and give things an honest try and too, I'm not going to budge from my rock, so let's just grab some hot dogs, burgers, beer and smore's fix'ns and have a night of it. :lol:

Let's do it! (gotta be the good beer though. Sam Adams or something like it...) Oh, and Craig, I was up your way a couple weeks ago. My wife was graduating from the Kripalu yoga school in Lenox and then, being the Hoosier born and bred guy that I am, had to spend an afternoon at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield and then front row seats at Fenway, but I wish I had some extra time as I would have like to have stopped in for a visit to talk magic history (probably be more productive than if we discussed psychics...). Oh well. Next time! Oh, and Boston is my new favorite big city.


DAMN, that would have been quite cool. Because of where I'm located (literally less than a mile off 91) I have many folks dropping in as they move up and down New England. You guys ought to treat yourselves to an autumn visit when the trees do their big show (this year should be great given the rain we've had). The only place I've seen that does as good a job is the Ohio Valley but damn if New England ain't a breathtaking experience. ;)
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Re: Forms of Skepticism

Postby NinjaPuppy » 03 Aug 2011, 22:11

I wanna go, I wanna go! We need to plan a SCEPCOP convention!
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