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The Psychology of the Skeptic

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

The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 02 Oct 2011, 00:08

Here's a fascinating article I ran across: Psychology of the Skeptic:
http://monkeywah.typepad.com/paranormal ... eptic.html

This guy does a great job of pointing out some rather interesting psychological things about skeptics and he's not nearly as ham handed as I am. :roll: It's really well written. Here's the first three paragraphs. (The whole article is rather long.)

When I first got interested in parapsychology I spent quite a lot of time reading debunking books by people like Martin Gardner and James Randi, and my delicate sensitivities were shocked - I wasn't used to scientific controversy, and I'd no idea that serious authors could the way they do about professional scientists and thinkers.

Most of us would probably agree that a lot of paranormal belief is silly and shallow. The gullibility displayed by participants in some of these TV programmes embarrasses us. But it seemed to me that parapsychologists were on the whole serious, conscientious and intelligent - often scientists or university academics. So it puzzled me to see them constantly excoriated as gullible idiots, or peddlers of woo-woo, the insult de jour on Randi's website, their abilities and motivations subjected to such ferocious and unreasonable criticisms.

At the more polite end of the spectrum we find James Alcock, professor of psychology at York University, Toronto, calling them 'mystagogues in search of a soul'. British psychologist David Marks thinks they are 'shamans' or 'medicine men'. In his bluff, straightforward way, James Randi calls them psi-nuts, wide eyed nincompoops who are not rowing with both oars in the water. Not one to hog all the credit, he also remarks: 'Perhaps Dr Börje Löfgren, writing in the Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, had it right when he described Eisenbud and other parapsychology enthusiasts as 'decaying minds' with 'thinking defects and disturbed relations to reality'. (Flim-Flam! 227)
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby ProfWag » 02 Oct 2011, 02:49

The primary reason I don't hang out much on the JREF board is the insults and the "woo" comments directed towards those that take parapsychology seriously. There's no place for it in serious inquiries and research. On the other hand, there are some...no many...that deserve it. Just not everyone and it definitely shouldn't be a stereotypical response.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby NinjaPuppy » 02 Oct 2011, 03:00

ProfWag wrote:The primary reason I don't hang out much on the JREF board is the insults and the "woo" comments directed towards those that take parapsychology seriously. There's no place for it in serious inquiries and research. On the other hand, there are some...no many...that deserve it. Just not everyone and it definitely shouldn't be a stereotypical response.

Yes, but ProfWag... to quote SCEPCOP, "Did you read the article?" :lol:

Thanks CraigW for the link. It was a good read for my Saturday afternoon break.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 02 Oct 2011, 03:15

PofWag,
I applaud you from staying away from the JREF board and in particular, "woo" insults. They do no good.

During the New Age Movement I plied my trade as a psychic healer for a short time before I realized that I was in way over my head. At any rate, I worked psychic fairs for a number of years and got to know quite a few professional psychics during that time. I also took classes from a psychic who lived in my area and was exposed to still more very psychic people. In other words, I have known the people that you're talking about.

As a general rule, psychic people are not drawn to the sciences except a few who get into medicine. Many are artists and extremely talented at it. I never ran into a single one that was a fraud or intentionally deceived anyone. Certainly, some people suck at being psychic, but that is just a matter of skill and talent, not a character defect. You wouldn't call a carpenter a fraud if he was bad at his job. There are also believers who cannot distinguish between chance and real psychic ability; but there are also skeptics in the same boat and they are about equal in proportion. The actual frauds are few and far between and they're not really psychic are they? They're frauds.

So I disagree that there are many that "deserve it." If you looked closely, I think you would find the nearly all of these people deserve some understanding for simply being different.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby Twain Shakespeare » 02 Oct 2011, 10:29

Thanx for an enjoyable read, Craig, and a comprehensive review of the factors that make for dogmatism, and of the subjective experience of paradigm shifts.

The following is not really on thread, but I had read it right before reading your comment, "You wouldn't call a carpenter a fraud if he was bad at his job" Yes, I would call the carpenter a fraud.

http://www.apenotmonkey.com/2011/09/23/ ... fraudster/
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 02 Oct 2011, 10:39

Twain Shakespeare, (out of respect for both)
Fraud requires intent to deceive. If there is no intent, there is no fraud. If your carpenter was mentally disabled and incapable of framing a wall correctly even though they thought they could do it you would not call this person a fraud.

However if the carpenter misrepresents his skill level or decides to do fast and incompetent work with the intention of collecting the money when he knows that he is going to produce inferior work, then that's fraud.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby Craig Browning » 02 Oct 2011, 23:34

ProfWag wrote:The primary reason I don't hang out much on the JREF board is the insults and the "woo" comments directed towards those that take parapsychology seriously. There's no place for it in serious inquiries and research. On the other hand, there are some...no many...that deserve it. Just not everyone and it definitely shouldn't be a stereotypical response.


AGREED!

Though the spin doctors have changed elements of the tale, CSICOPS tossed Randi out of their ranks in the 70's because of his insulting attitude and lack of cooth. Unfortunately his "take no prisoner" evangelism appealed to a greater base (and you can take that both ways, in that the majority of his patrons are very "base" in their mode of processing, somehow leading me to see Randi as another L. Ron Hubbard for some reason.)

Fanatical thinkers/patrons from either side of this issue (any issue, actually) create "the problem" -- they present the ugliest of all public face and typically cling to an extreme "all or nothing" dogma which actually weakens their claim and legitimacy in the mind of those who stand more towards the median and have the ability to HONESTLY weigh perspectives and alternative insights.

The "Stereotypical Response" unfortunately, is quite universal given how it is imposed via sources other than "the group"; just look at Crime Shows on Tv and how characters react when a psychic gets involved, look at how they deliberately paint most psychics as some kind of deluded fool or in situations like the show "The Mentalist" they not only bash the whole idea of psychics (even "faith") but run a very fine line when it comes to exposing techniques used by entertainers (Mentalists) that aid us in creating our illusions. Yet, I even roll my eyes when I meet the majority of self-professed Psychics because few of them really are anything remotely close (less than 5% if my personal investigations host any remote sense of validity).

It's a very frustrating thing, regardless where you stand. :ugeek:
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 02 Oct 2011, 23:43

One thing that I particularly liked about the article was that it demonstrates the incredibly emotional nature of cognitive dissonance. It showed how strong skepticism can warp a person's reality to the point that they cannot distinguish what is real what is fiction.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby Craig Browning » 02 Oct 2011, 23:56

Since we're on the topic of defining Skeptics let's look at a recent interview with one of Randi's chums

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id3IjrxpBPg

This is a guy (Jamie Swiss) that bashes Readers for being immoral and yet uses "Cold Reading" to get laid, alluding to his being genuine; but look at the "mans" assholiness on the air, how he tries to twist the direction of things and avoid key-points. Look at the intelligence.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 03 Oct 2011, 00:01

Craig,
Your link took me to Doug Henning, Kermit the Frog and a dancing Kerchief. While it was very entertaining, it didn't match your description.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby Twain Shakespeare » 03 Oct 2011, 05:32

craig weiler wrote:Twain Shakespeare, (out of respect for both)
Fraud requires intent to deceive. If there is no intent, there is no fraud. If your carpenter was mentally disabled and incapable of framing a wall correctly even though they thought they could do it you would not call this person a fraud.

However if the carpenter misrepresents his skill level or decides to do fast and incompetent work with the intention of collecting the money when he knows that he is going to produce inferior work, then that's fraud.



I respect your definition, but I do think it is fundamentally flawed. By that def. "Fraud" is a "thought crime." The very concept of thought crime is nonsense to me, at least as far as human jurisprudence goes.

Miriam Webster's first definition agrees with your usage, thus confirming my impression that words are mostly used to distort reality. The 2 def "a person who is not what he or she pretends to be : impostor; also : one who defrauds : cheat b : one that is not what it seems or is represented to be" is a more semanticly accurate definition, as it excludes intent.

I judge actions. If a person tells me they can fix my roof, and after their work, my roof is in worse condition, I would tend to regard them as a fraud, and myself as defrauded. It is immaterial rather they were merely incompetent, or maliciousness was involved. I'll grant there may be extenuating circs, but in there absence, my roof still leaked, and I am pretty sure the idiot who did the work was simply incompetent.

The biggest frauds and most deceptive people I have personally known seemed clueless as too just how full of shit they were, but the only word I can think of to describe them other than frauds is sociopaths.

For example, I regard Ronald Reagan, Dubya, and Obama as complete and utter frauds on par with Piltdown. That they may be no more capable of being aware they are frauds than the Piltdown bones were does not make them any less fraudulent.

Similarly, I tend to regard all priests of virtually all forms of Belief Systems to be frauds, even MLK, because they represent bs that deceives.

I see my definition is beginning to border on the useless, as I tried to think of something I did not consider fraudulent, and immediately heard the Preacher say "All is vanity," and Siddhartha reply, "No, all is illusion." and Twain and Shakespeare mutter to each other "All we can say for sure is language deforms as well as it informs."

For example, if one believes the paranormal does not exist, then by definition all alleged manifestations and practitioners would be fraudulent, whatever their intent.

I do not "believe the paranormal does not exist". I think certainty does not exist, and anything that claims it does is fraudulent to that extent, which makes paranormal research, which admits to its uncertainty, less fraudulent than Dawkins or the Pope, or even Hawkings.

So you should probably stick with your practical def, Craig, but call no one Fraud unless you are certain beyond a reasonable doubt of his intent.

Orgone therapy may be "wrong" and thus "fraudulent", but by your def. Wilhelm Reich would still not a fraud, although he would be a “cancer-quack” by mine and yours. Dianetics may be "wrong" and thus "fraudulent", and, by your def. there is plentiful evidence L. Ron Hubbard was a conman, but I suspect that sociopathic sack of shit was no more aware of his true nature than the sociopaths I have known. I would still not call him a fraud, as that defames mere idiots who think they are more than they are, but I would not dispute the description..
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby ProfWag » 03 Oct 2011, 21:35

craig weiler wrote: I never ran into a single one that was a fraud or intentionally deceived anyone.

Unfortunately, I must wholeheartedly disagree with your assessment. Perhaps it's just because I'm a news junkie and my skepticicism leaking through, but my opinion has been formulated through such stories as:
Sylvia Browne (no reference needed, but will give many if asked)
Janet Adams: http://www.baskeptics.org/blog/09/02/09 ... fraud-case
Nancy Marks: http://io9.com/5542011/colorado-psychic ... il-spirits
Madam Vivian: http://iteamblog.abc7news.com/2009/07/p ... ation.html
Sylvia Mitchell: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/05/2 ... 67414.html
And many, many others: http://www.crimes-of-persuasion.com/Cri ... _scams.htm
Finally for this post, there is my personal experience with an astrologer (I know, not a psychic, but paranormal just the same). If you're new to the board, the results of that experience can be found on this forum by searching "My 100% accurate horrorscope."
I could keep going on and on. Conversly, I don't find many stories of honesty among the psychic stories. I'm sure there are a few, but...
Please remember that I do think many people honestly believe they have a paranormal ability, and that doesn't make them a fraud, but then again, this "science" has been described by some (myself included) as simply unlicensed guidance counselors.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby Craig Browning » 03 Oct 2011, 21:54

craig weiler wrote:Craig,
Your link took me to Doug Henning, Kermit the Frog and a dancing Kerchief. While it was very entertaining, it didn't match your description.


That's strange... this is where it was supposed to go http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ahc1m0IlSAg

Please remember that I do think many people honestly believe they have a paranormal ability, and that doesn't make them a fraud, but then again, this "science" has been described by some (myself included) as simply unlicensed guidance counselors.


Ok, I think I've pointed this same thing out a few times, especially the fantasy of "I own a tarot deck e.g. I am psychic" or something quite close to said delusion; few, and most especially the merchants within the industry, negate this myth. ANYONE can learn how to decipher most any of the oracles, it's really not rocket science but pseudo-sciences developed by quasi-intelligent persons of their day but primitive nonetheless. Much of what those oracles are based on no longer connects to society as we know it today -- a social "norm" that was lost in the year decades of the 20th century, as we transitioned from the simpler farm-based (nature connected) way of things and embraced the more industrial "big city" course of idealism and cold disconnect from all things "natural".

Tarot, Runes, Palmistry, etc. are just tools or "keys" that help an individual learn how to both, focus and become more aware of what surrounds them. . . literally unlocking their "Psychic-self" and making them "sensitive" to the environment and empathic when it comes to the person or thing they are working with -- AWARE -- EXPANDED SENSORY PERCEPTION. It's 100% natural and with a bit of training anyone can cultivate said abilities. BUT, this is not the same thing as "being psychic" though it is a "first step" of sorts, down the path of getting there.

When it comes to the fulfillment of their "job" as "counselors" you are right again, but then there are far more uncertified, untrained "counselors" in the world than there are licensed crooks with shingles that can be posted most anywhere. . . and I say it that way simply because I've seen far more evil, deception and cruelty from the "legitimate" side of this coin than I have from those not having a piece of parchment in a frame.

The majority of "counselors" in our modern world are composed of Bar Tenders, Hair stylists/Barbers, Taxi Drivers, and total strangers and their direct opposite, the "BFF". Then we come to a strange mix -- the "Spiritual Advisors" that include ministers & clergy who at least have some level of counseling training, but it's quite limited. Then there's the Psychic which as I've noted, is a far more rare bird than all the neon signs would lead us to believe. . . as I've stated time and time again, the real psychics make up far less than 5% of those promoting themselves to be such, at least based on the testing and footwork I've done over the past 30 years or so. Of that minority we find people that really aren't chasing the buck or any sort of public recognition; very low profile, humble characters, few of whom fit that romanticized idea of what a Psychic would be.

In order to confront the cynical side of things more and more of the new generation coming into the Psychic/Counselor role are going after "proper" credentials. While many of my generation and prior did take similar initiatives here and there, mostly under the banner of "clergy" certification or being board certified in hypnosis, it has been the new 20-35 year old New Age/Pagan types that are pushing for degrees in psychiatry/psychology, counseling of various types, as well as alternative healing techniques. They do this not just to remove one of the biggest arguments of the naysayer arsenal, but to likewise establish a new level of expectation for their patrons -- the professionalism that seems in short supply with things running as they have over the past millennia or two.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby craig weiler » 03 Oct 2011, 23:11

Profwag,
Have you tossed your brains out the window? Every single one of the examples you cited are con artists posing as psychics.

Con artists pretend to be all sorts of things that they're not. If they pretended to be chemists would you then conclude that all chemists were frauds?

Making illogical leaps like this tends to reinforce the point of the article I linked to.

Craig,
It took me all of five seconds of listening to that guy to size him up. I cannot distinguish his tone of voice from a Teabagger.
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Re: The Psychology of the Skeptic

Postby ProfWag » 04 Oct 2011, 18:22

craig weiler wrote:Profwag,
Have you tossed your brains out the window? Every single one of the examples you cited are con artists posing as psychics.

Con artists pretend to be all sorts of things that they're not. If they pretended to be chemists would you then conclude that all chemists were frauds?

Making illogical leaps like this tends to reinforce the point of the article I linked to.


No, Mr. Weiler, I haven't tossed anything out the window and I won't comment on the maturity of your post other than to say my point was not understood by you.
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