Discuss PseudoSkeptics and their Fallacies. Share strategies for debating them.
9 posts • Page 1 of 1
Following a recent controversy re Bruce Hood debunking all paranormal research in the UK TV Christmas Lectures - here comes the pin up boy of astronomy Professor Brian Cox, doing much the same on A Night With the Stars (Google it to watch if you want) which I've just got around to viewing.
I can understand academics slagging off the zany end of the the paranormal but get very frustrated when they lump it all together as if it's all seaside pier fortune tellers and tarot readers. And probably through total ignorance, they show no respect at all for the dozens of top quality scientists who treat as serious research.
There are people like paranormal researcher and UFO witness British scientist Peter Sturrock, whose research in nuclear physics at Engand's Atomic Energy Research Establishment led to Stanford University, California, where he was appointed Professor of Engineering and Applied Physics in its School of Engineering and its Physics Department. Since 1961, Sturrock has worked primarily on plasma physics, solar physics and astrophysics, as well as gravity research and studying the history and philosophy of science.
Or there's Bernard Carr, a professor of mathematics and astronomy at Queen Mary University, London, or Prof Archie Roy, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, the British Interplanetary Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Both are past presidents of the Society for Psychical Research with immense knowledge of the paranormal.
In the celebrity Night with the Stars show, Cox outlines Quantum Theory by telling us that things can be in an infinite number of places at once and "describes the world with higher precision than the laws of physics laid down by Newton."
But he adds: " It doesn't therefore allow mystical healing or ESP or any other manifestation of new-age woo woo into the pantheon of the possible. Always remember quantum theory is physics and physics is usually done by people without star signs tattooed on their bottoms."
Now it might be right or wrong to equate Quantum Physics with paranormal phenomena but how 'scientific' is it to rubbish a whole area of research like ESP, which he obviously hasn't studied in any kind of depth?
Ironically he began his lecture with a quote from chemist Sir Humphry Davy :
“Nothing is so fatal to the progress of the human mind as to suppose our views of science are ultimate; that there are no new mysteries in nature; that our triumphs are complete; and that there are no new worlds to conquer.”
Such a pity that people like Cox and Dawkins don't take this on board regarding psychic mysteries....
Cox has every right to say what he wishes. His sidekick on the show Dara O'Briain is also much of the same mind if you read his recent book.
I dislike it only when they deviate away from what they're actually meant to be doing and put their own "opinions" when they're not called for in the actual programme.
plodsie wrote: I dislike it only when they deviate away from what they're actually meant to be doing and put their own "opinions" when they're not called for in the actual programme
Well that's exactly what he did do!
You must understand that the majority of folks that call themselves "skeptics" really don't know what they're talking about and thus, most of what they spew is based on assumption and thus, a big umbrella covers all things "paranormal" or "abstract". Like the good Sunday go'n to meet'n Christians these folks tend to ignore the details and deliberately bend the semantics/linguistics around an issue that THEY don't want to believe in. The more radical within this niche have proven to be Evangelic Atheist with an axe to grind; they believe in nothing and so they expect the rest of the world to see things as they do . . . just like two of the big 3 Abrahamic traditions tend to do (Jews aren't as into "missionary" work as their younger cousin sects tend to be).
The "In-Put" of personal belief, views & opinion such as you've both noted, is how skeptical types confound the mind of the typical person who has casually come into the conversation; these personal views become "facts" because they are being connected to an analytical cornerstone.
Here's an example as to what's happening. . .
I work as a Psychic Entertainer or "Mentalist" (don't snicker, I was doing it way before Criss Angel & David Blaine made it a trendy path for magicians). When I'm presenting a demonstration on Telepathy let's say, I will cite this and that scientific study as well as quotes from well known researchers that intimate the validity behind Telepathy and how it would be the most likely of all psychic talents to be proven. This association lends to my performance "legitimacy" and thus, allows patrons to willingly believe that what I do as a Mind Reader is genuine vs. the trickery that is actually involved with a greater portion of the bit. That's not saying that I don't incorporate natural intuition, only that I do deliberately cheat so that I look good and similarly, so I can deliver the kind of encounter my patrons paid to see and be a part of.
Just as I and other Mentalists exploit this "associative deception" so do the supposed "experts" that wear the mantel of skepticism. They simply don't take in ALL the data as they come to their conclusions. . . again, just like those radical religionists out there that keep the world in chaos.
The Problem However isn't that these detractors employ this technique but that the technique of association has become so socially accepted; it is part of the huge pile of lies we are fed daily via advertising, political campaigns, the various facets of the media (none of which are "Fair & Balanced"). When we step back and see this greater portrait we can see why the cynical sees no wrong in what they do when it comes to twisting the truth . . . but then FOX News offers us the same type of justifications and to a lesser degree, so do our friends at CURRENT. (Hell, Stephan Colbert and John Stewart give us more honest news these days).
Obviously this is an issue that sticks deep within my crawl. . .
Thanks Craig for your input here - unusual coming from a mentalist I thought.
But then I remembered reading some survey which had a high proportion of magicians accepting the paranormal as reality.
I wonder if at any time after citing real studies and then 'faking it', you feel you are in any way dishonouring the subject?
Do you suspect the majority of your audience wind up believing in telepathy because you've proved it or do they realise you're an entertainer and come away thinking the real research you've cited is also baloney (maybe that's too English an expression to an American - how about B/S?)
Anyway thanks again for your fascinating post.
I am not your typical present day Mentalist, I come from the older school of thinking and as such I seek to give the public material that validates my claims; not for cruel purposes mind you, but because of the fact that my personal and personal history link with the esoteric (in this case). Others however do the same when it comes to the more Analytically Valid claims as well as pseudo-sciences like NLP, alluding to their validity as well as the claims by the performer that such techniques are what allow he/she to do what they do. Quite frankly I feel that a bigger con than claiming you do telepathy -- same lie but different costume.
I would love to see where you found the demographics on magicians & belief, my experience after 40+ years in the trade is quite different from what you're suggesting; most magic buffs tend to hold to atheistic perspectives and disbelief in any and all things miraculous -- it's kind of a Napoleon syndrome you might say, in that these folks get a wee bit of knowledge in their head and suddenly assume that there is nothing in the world but deception, gullible people, and misunderstood superstition. While, prior to the mid and late 1970s magicians exhibited a more "honorable" sense of reverence when it came to the spiritual and magickle, that is not the case with the present generation; a factor that can be traced directly back to the rise of influence by James Randi and the CSICOP element who actively recruited young minds by way of a simple logic puzzle; Intelligence Negates the Need for Faith and Requires One to Make Decisions Based on Pure Carnal Logic.
I emphasize the term "Carnal Logic" in that their arguments are generally designed to both, confound and insult anyone that is not Left Brain oriented vs. a more balanced and realistic mode for things in which Belief & Personal Experience are part of the equation rather than being negated and belittled. Let's face it, no one wants to see themselves as being "ignorant" and when handed an overwhelming amount of "long hair" explanations that can make sense of things, we are psychologically swayed to see things more and more from that perspective even when it goes against our intuitive nature. It's almost exactly the same technique used by present day Evangelists and "Christians" when they use the odd "logic" set within their scriptures in order to guilt people into submission/conversion.
I believe in building up the illusion of validity as a showman but I am likewise obligated to give folks a bit of contrast, which is why I use such associations as a way to make the "Psychic" a thing that is far more down to earth and less amazing than most fantasize about. Even the skeptics tend to exaggerate the abilities of psychic practitioners (though for ulterior purposes). My only agenda is to give the public reason to question both sides of the same argument; question the so-called Skeptics as well as the believers in order to find their own truth. Traditionally this is what Mentalists are supposed to do vs. the horse pucky we see Derren Brown and others pull on the public.
Craig wrote: "I would love to see where you found the demographics on magicians & belief, my experience after 40+ years in the trade is quite different from what you're suggesting; most magic buffs tend to hold to atheistic perspectives and disbelief in any and all things miraculous "
I thought I had read this somewhere Craig but I either must have been misinformed or mistaked - sorry.
I have found the following surveys on the web which kind of proves your point
http://www.pitzer.edu/offices/public_re ... _nardi.pdf
http://jenny-ashford.suite101.com/magic ... ic-a244054
In the major survey on that first PDF link I found the results slightly perplexing just the same.
I got the idea that belief in the paranormal among magicians was very low - except when it comes to religion, which it seems even the magicians don't seem to realise, is also very much paranormal!.
For instance 35% believe in life after death but only 2% accept communication with the dead.
ESP is believed by only 7% of magicians and clairvoyance by 2%.
But 28% believed in the Devil, 27% in angels and 39% regularly prayed - perhaps for their tricks to work!
Yea, I've often found it funny (and yet an echo common to the Judeo-Christian element) that one's personal religious views, so long as they held to the more orthodox ideology, was completely different from Psychic type claim e.g. if you can speak and translate Tongues, Discern Truth from Falsehood, Decipher Dreams, Dowse for Water, Heal by Touch & Prayer amongst a few others things you do so by way of the "Holy Spirit" which is not the same as those who are obviously from some alternative mode of faith . . . for an example, a Christian looking at a Muslim or Catholic towards Protestants or . . . well, you get the gist.
This is, as I've stated, quite common and actually stems from an arrogance found early in church history, as the Orthodoxy became more and more politically situated. . . we do have to bear in mind just how well they used the ideas of Witchcraft against other Christians let alone the "heathens" of the world; many of which used forks & knives at a dinner table long prior to the good Christian folks that loathed all things outside their particular niche.
This double-standard is applied in many ways, not just in religious directions however. A great example is how it is considered normal, professional business to keep client files, to follow-up with birthday & holiday greeting cards, etc. and yet Psychics that do this very same thing are painted in a dim light because it's done for ulterior reasons. . . as if the dentists, relator's and lawyers who do this same thing aren't baiting folks for the same exact thing A salesman that uses psychological and linguistic tactics in securing and closing a deal, even when their questionable deals (take a gander at our economy and how we got into this mess) is far more legit, at least to these "moralists" out to "debunk" psychics than those trying to help others overcome their personal issues; if we use those same tactics (which according to them, we do) we are again, in the wrong and not just frauds but dangerous predators. . . yet, the same scrutiny is not applied elsewhere in the world? The same "moral" and "ethical" rules aren't imposed across the board for some reason.
The Counter-Argument typically focuses on "claim" i.e. Psychics claim to have certain abilities which is the misdeed. Though others, such as stock-traders who forecasts futures as well as fortunes; who have special training in order to do their job alongside "secret" knowledge don't fit this same niche for some reason. . . and who between the two vocations has done the most evil in our world, I wonder? Even when it comes to counseling, who has preyed on the public more and prolonged family agonies, the Psychic or the Mental Health & Pharmaceutical Industries? Last I checked Psychics weren't getting people addicted on pills or running scams on the insurance industry so as to double-bill on treatments, etc, etc, etc. But hey, the psychics are evil because we say they are. . .
Banachek the so-called "successor" to James Randi is an acquaintance of mine and I've tried to get him to help me understand why there are exceptions made around the miraculous when it comes to people's religious views and related testimony but why it is only the big money corporations for Jesus & Co. that are so exempt? We do not see the same type of leniency when it comes to those that follow Sai Baba, the Wiccan & Shamanic traditions, Science of Mind, or other such traditions. To date I've not been given anything other than more double-talk though there is a turn in the works. . . more and more so-called skeptics ignoring this long held taboo when it comes to attacking faith, much of this about face initiated from within the JREF and its kindred elements as well as the on-stage antics of people like Penn & Teller . . . admittedly, I've rolled on the floor when it comes to some of their bits, but at the same time I feel they've gone too far in certain cases and more so, by way of certain actions; actions and thinking that has now become "business as usual" within a new generation of "entertainers" that think it their right to walk out on stage and call everyone in the room that believes in anything that they are psychological unstable fools. . . of course, there are others that helped usher in this attitude, such as the late, great George Carlin and I'm certain we could trace this trend even further back. The irony (and brewing tragedy) is how these actions have emboldened the believers and brought about a new kind of religious fanaticism here in the U.S. especially that we now how an extreme right (fascist) political system perched to take greater hold on things and take the social & human rights gains this country is known for, back to Victorian times if not further back, by force if need be . . . if we are to believe the rhetoric of key players within or allied to the famed Tea Party.
I've rambled sufficiently. . . we live in a society rife with double-standards, everyone wanting their cake and the ability to eat it as well with few (it would seem) capable of realizing that can't be.
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