Discuss PseudoSkeptics and their Fallacies. Share strategies for debating them.
Another new entry I added to the home page. This one you will want to save and spread around!
Characteristics and Behaviors of Pseudo-Skeptics
Regardless of how they define themselves, a pseudo-skeptic is a pseudo-skeptic if their actions and behaviors fit the characteristics of one. Here are some lists of criteria that define what makes a pseudo-skeptic.
In my treatise introduction, I list these primary differences between the true skeptic vs. the pseudo-skeptic:
True skeptics / open-minded skeptics
* has honest doubt and questions all beliefs, including their own
* seeks the truth, considers it the highest aim
* seeks open inquiry and investigation of both sides
* is nonjudgmental, doesn't jump to rash conclusions
* weighs evidence on all sides
* asks exploratory questions about new things to try to understand them
* acknowledges valid convincing evidence
* possesses solid sharp common sense
* is able to adapt and update their paradigms to new evidence
Pseudo-skeptics / closed-minded skeptics
* automatically dismisses and denies all claims that contradict materialism and orthodoxy
* is not interested in truth, evidence or facts, only in defending orthodoxy and the status quo
* ignores anything that doesn't fit their a priori beliefs and assumptions
* scoffs and ridicules their targets instead of providing solid arguments and giving honest consideration
* has a know-it-all-attitude, never asks questions about things they don't understand, never admits that they don't know something
* insists that everything unknown and unexplained must have a conventional materialistic explanation
* is judgmental and quick to draw conclusions about things they know little or nothing about
* uses semantics and word games with their own rules of logic to try to win arguments
* is unable to adapt and update their paradigms to new evidence
Wikipedia's original entry on pathological skepticism listed these defining behaviors of pseudo-skeptics (before it was botched and changed to an inferior entry):
The difference between pseudoskepticism and skepticism appear in the conduct of an
individual's actions. Among the indications of pseudoskeptical actions are:
1. Resorting to various logical fallacies (usually in an attack against those disputing a theory).
2. The assumption of facts (such as, stating theories determine phenomena).
3. The obfuscation of facts.
4. The use of attractive or neutral euphemisms to disguise unpleasant facts concerning their own positions.
5. Insisting that fundamental framework and theory of science hardly change.
6. Unwavering belief that science is a consensus and run on majority rule.
7. Maintaining a stance of hostility and intolerance.
8. Instituting hurdles against new theories by "moving the goalposts".
9. Ignoring intellectual suppression of unorthodox theories.
10. Judging a theory or phenomena without investigation and insisting on ignoring the details thereafter.
On my forum, Steve observed these five consistent patterns observable in pseudo-skeptics:
As a skilled observer you will also note that Pseudo-skeptics:
1. Seldom, in fact almost never, ask questions, reflecting Zero Curiosity thus learning difficulties
2. Practice a very high level of self deception and mistakenly believe they can lie to adults as they did in childhood
3. Display markedly deficient reading and comprehension skills
4. Display inability to connect thoughts sequentially and plan an argument- often defeating their own case
5. Depend on bluster and bullying and name calling to make up for lack of argument content
In short, these pseudo-skeptics are materialist fundamentalists and fanatics driven by dogmatic beliefs and views that are unquestionable, which they seek to proselytize to the world, such as:
* The paranormal is impossible and ALWAYS disproven
* Everything unexplained or unknown MUST have a natural materialistic explanation
* If someone makes a paranormal claim, they MUST be wrong
* ONLY natural reductionist explanations are acceptable
* If mainstream science doesn't understand or accept something, then it MUST be false or doesn't exist
“Devotion to the truth is the hallmark of morality; there is no greater, nobler, more heroic form of devotion than the act of a man who assumes the responsibility of thinking.” - Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged
I am in the process of compiling my own list of CSIOPtic tactics and psychological traits. On the JREF forum I found a gold mine of information. It is aimed at us, but what made me LOL is how most, if not all, of their 'rules' apply to them. It's like they are projecting their 'shadow self' on to another group instead of having to deal with that part of themselves.
The first link is the main thread and then the next ones are posts withing the thread. See if you notice the same kind of psuedoism I do.
Rules of Woo
The operative laws of psuedo-science
The woo woo credo
Skeptico - The woo handbook
http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2007 ... dbook.html
Debunkers think all UFO photos are fake,
especially the real ones.
Excellent, if you have an official list, send it to me or post it here, and I will link it from the home page!
I don't know about "true skeptics" (I think the concept of skepticism is pretty silly either way), but I agree on your list of "pseudoskeptical" (i.e. people who call themselves skeptics) traits and indications. That is in general what I have observed as well.
Another thing is, they have little sense of humour (this might be exclusive to JREF people though, not sure). If you poke fun at their ideology, they get mad pretty quickly.
Banned by the JREF Board for calling them on their "bullshit"...
I live in Seattle, Wa, and we have an interesting fellow here who has an outstanding web site dealing with everything under the sun pertaining to fringe science in particular, but also paranormal in general.
His name is Bill Beaty and this is the link to the main page: http://www.eskimo.com/~billb/weird.html
This is a link to the "Skeptic's Section". http://amasci.com/weird/wclose.html
I heartily encourage to check this site out. Bill has gone to great lengths researching all of the material and it is a wealth of information for your average agnostic skeptic that is into fringe science and paranormal stuff.
Debunkers think all UFO photos are fake,
especially the real ones.
I think one of the things you need to mention is the PS dependence upon the straw man argument.
For those unfamiliar with this in depth, I'll try to explain.
Suppose an event or experience that is out of the norm. Call it A.
The PS in good faith or with deception produces something that looks like A. Call is SM.
The PS debunks SM.
The PS then falsely equates A with SM.
Since SM is false, A must also be false.
If you think about it, this is like saying that all oranges are sour because you can prove that another fruit, a lemon, is round and grows on trees just like an orange is sour. Therefore, oranges must be sour.
Now, a more practical example.
Woman A wave her hand over a spoon. The spoon bends (what a useless talent that is).
A PS waves his hand over a spoon and it bends.
The PS reveals that what he did was a trick.
Therefore, the PS claims that what A did was also a trick.
However, they missed the step of proving that what PS did was identical to what A did.
PS' action was a straw man. They debunked the straw man and thus "debunked" A. Only they didn't at all.
For three years I served as the editor-in-chief of FATE magazine.
Shortly after I took the post we ran an article on an amazing case of Spontaneous Human Combustion.
We listed possible explanations for all the evidence, but drew no conclusions.
Shortly after the issue was published, I received a letter from two well-known and very public "skeptics."
They wrote that they had debunked this case in an earlier issue and wanted to know why we didn't include their debunking.
I read the issue where they had their debunking.
Did they investigate the case? No.
Did they see any of the evidence? No.
Did they interview anyone about the case? No.
So how did they come up with their debunking?
They talked to each other on the phone about it!
I printed their letter and my response to it in the next issue.
They're both still big names in the debunker community, but they never wrote for FATE again.
Their debunking consisted of setting up a straw man--their made up version--and debunking it, then equating the straw man to what actually to place and saying that since they debunked the straw man, they has also debunked the real case.
No. No. And no.
i found it quite funny
and i find it funny
because believers.. sorry i mean.. ¨true skeptics¨
always go and do the jump based on nothing but faith
using words like ¨irrefutable¨ and thus creating a DOGMA
THEY STOP ASKING QUESTIONS when they say ¨is irrefutable!¨
seems to me
like true skeptics just want to believe
so they dismiss evidence and stay with their beliefs
i just think believers
are a little bit naive of how the world works
and is ok to ask questions
but is better if you ask questions WITH KNOWLEDGE about the subject
(to know how uri geller does his tricks is better if you know magic and mentalism)
i guess on this forum
i am a PS full of BS
For every person who reads this valuable book there are hundreds of naïve souls who would prefer to have their spines tingled by a sensational but worthless potboiler by some hack journalist of the paranormal. You who now read these sentences join a small but wiser minority. Martin Gaardner (Psychology of the Psychic)
That's called inductive reasoning, and pseudo-skeptics use it all the time.
All crows I've seen have been black.
Therefore, all crows are black.
That's a false conclusion.
No one has won Randi's 1 million dollars.
Therefore, psi is false.
That's also a false conclusion.
Last edited by quantumparanormal on 05 Sep 2009, 01:26, edited 1 time in total.
This is another example of inductive reasoning (motivated by bias). Please demonstrate, via evidence, that "believers always go and do the jump based on nothing but faith." I certainly don't. I base my psi related beliefs on empirical evidence obtained via scientific disciplines and methods. In contrast, you are taking it on faith that "believers always go and do the jump based on nothing but faith." Seems hypocritical to me.
Again, inductive reasoning here. You are essentially saying that believers are are 1) using the word "irrefutable" which 2) results in the creation of some sort of "dogma", and 3) they "stop asking questions" as a result of saying something "is irrefutable."
Regarding #1, you pseudo-skeptics use just the opposite, the contrasting "refutable card." If something is irrefutable, it's "impossible to deny or disprove." What evidence do you have that it's "impossible to deny or disprove" that psi not exists (i.e., prove that psi doesn't exist)? See how that works both ways? If you have it, please post the data/evidence here, and we can deductively analyze it in an open forum.
Regarding #2, how does saying something is "irrefutable" create a dogma? Isn't it hypocritical of you to say that given you outright dismiss psi without having first justified such a stance via empirically evidential, deductive, objective reasoning behind it? It's hypocritical because you belong to this dogmatic system that says psi is not real, not bothering to critically analyze the data/evidence beforehand. I have not seen you once post data and critically analyze it in such a way that aims to backup your beliefs. If you have, please post the data/evidence here so we can have a more objective debate about it; otherwise, your belief that psi is false is faith-based, not deductively based.
Regarding #3, again, your sort does the same thing. You outright dismiss psi evidence and simply conclude it's false, without apparently reasonable justification for such a dismissal.
Your sort does the exact same thing. You're stuck in your preconceptions, convictions, and biases. Talking about evidence, what evidence do you have that psi is not real? If you have it, please post it, and please post actual published research references and data, not opinion-based sources & data. I'm interested in the actual data, the experiments done by real researchers.
Again, you're being extremely hypocritical.
Are you really interested in "evidence" or were you really asking for "proof?" I'm fairly certain that I can find you evidence. Proof that it does not exist, on the other hand, will most likely always be elusive unless the opposite is, well, proven. Evidence? Yes. Proof? No.
Would you like to see evidence?
Now it just sounds like you're repeating what I typically say. Absolutely. I would like to see the evidence that demonstrates psi is not real. After all, it would be hypocritical of anyone to only accept/consider one side's evidence and not the other's. Proof, as I've mentioned so many times before, is in the eye of the beholder, and I'm pretty sure my statements above do not state I'm seeking "proof."
Unfortunately, I have ran out of time for today and don't know what I'll be able to do this weekend. In any event, here's the first article of evidence:
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
January 2008, Vol. 20, No. 1, Pages 182-192
Posted Online October 25, 2007.
© 2008 Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Using Neuroimaging to Resolve the Psi Debate
Samuel T. Moulton and Stephen M. Kosslyn
PDF (580.133 KB)
PDF Plus (419.52 KB)
Parapsychology is the scientific investigation of apparently paranormal mental phenomena (such as telepathy, i.e., “mind reading”), also known as psi. Despite widespread public belief in such phenomena and over 75 years of experimentation, there is no compelling evidence that psi exists. In the present study, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used in an effort to document the existence of psi. If psi exists, it occurs in the brain, and hence, assessing the brain directly should be more sensitive than using indirect behavioral methods (as have been used previously). To increase sensitivity, this experiment was designed to produce positive results if telepathy, clairvoyance (i.e., direct sensing of remote events), or precognition (i.e., knowing future events) exist. Moreover, the study included biologically or emotionally related participants (e.g., twins) and emotional stimuli in an effort to maximize experimental conditions that are purportedly conducive to psi. In spite of these characteristics of the study, psi stimuli and non-psi stimuli evoked indistinguishable neuronal responses—although differences in stimulus arousal values of the same stimuli had the expected effects on patterns of brain activation. These findings are the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena.
No worries. Take your time. At first glance, however, I don't see how fMRI imaging can demonstrate psi does or does not exist (as it's confined to looking at physical brain properties), not where it matters (testing the actual hypotheses involved), then there's the wild assumption that "If psi exists, it occurs in the brain," something smart scientists shouldn't be saying unless they know that for sure, but I'll take a critical look at the paper. Thanks.
Then, of course, there is this study: http://books.nap.edu/openbook.php?recor ... 8&page=601
I've posted it before, but I don't think you were on the board at that time. It's the study by the National Academy of Sciences that essentially says that in years of research, there is nothing that has been shown to suggest that there is any need for further research into the paranormal.
I'm glad you provided this study, as it shows how even ivy league graduate students can suffer from logical incorrectness, all at the sake of attempting to reinforce a dogma, that being the conviction that psi is not real, despite the overwhelmingly available evidence to the contrary. I'll address the various problems I found with this particular study in the following list:
1. One of the problems with this study is what they are using to test for the existence of psi: fMRI. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging uses strong magnetic fields and radio waves to produce detailed images of the body, specifically blood flow. It determines what parts of the brain contain freshly oxygenated blood to determine what areas of the brain are active at the time. The device uses known physical properties (i.e., magnetic fields; radio waves) to examine known physical properties of the brain.
fMRIs do not test the hypothesis that a person's thoughts can be "received" by another person while both are separated by barriers wherein sensory input from each other is not possible. What fMRIs can do, however, is look at physical brain properties (e.g., blood flow) at the time supposed psi is occurring. If certain brain activity shows no discernible correlation between correct and incorrect guesses, does that mean psi is not actually occurring? Perhaps, but it's a presumptuous assertion considering "we only understand how 10% of the brain functions."
However, other experiments have shown correlations between fMRI brain activity images and psi, so perhaps fMRI imaging can "detect" brain activity at the time psi is occurring, but if it doesn't, does that refute psi altogether? Absolutely not, especially considering that it doesn't actually test the hypothesis.
Here are some fMRI studies done which show positive correlations:
* Achterberg J, Cooke K, Richards T, Standish LJ, Kozak L, Lake J. Evidence for correlations between distant intentionality and brain function in recipients: a functional magnetic resonance imaging analysis. J Altern Complement Med. 2005 Dec;11(6):965-71.
* Standish LJ, Johnson LC, Kozak L, Richards T. Evidence of correlated functional magnetic resonance imaging signals between distant human brains. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Jan-Feb;9(1):128, 122-5.
* Bierman, D. J. & Scholte, H. S. (2002). Anomalous anticipatory brain activation preceding exposure of emotional and neutral pictures. In Proceedings of Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson IV.
* Todd L. Richards, Leila Kozak, L. Clark Johnson, Leanna J. Standish. Replicable Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging Evidence of Correlated Brain Signals Between Physically and Sensory Isolated Subjects. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. December 1, 2005, 11(6): 955-963. doi:10.1089/acm.2005.11.955.
So, there are many more studies showing positive correlations than there are negative ones, but either way, positive or negative, they don't actually test the hypotheses involved.
2. The researchers assume that biologically and emotionally related participants will improve their chances of inducing psi effects. While there is some evidence that biologically and emotionally related individuals can produce psi effects more so than those who are not, there's no evidence (to date) that it will, or should, occur with all, or most, such related individuals, or amongst an evenly distributed population. Therefore, they took a gamble assuming that this would improve chances of psi occurring. What they should have done to increase the chances of psi occurring is select subjects who claim to have such abilities, but they didn't, and it's no wonder why they didn't: they don't want to show psi exists!
3. It could very well be that the individuals tested simply did not have prominent psi faculties, or not enough thereof, to produce noticeable effects. As I've mentioned before, psi are a mostly subtle, unpredictable, intermittent, and rare phenomena. If the researchers would've selected individuals purported to demonstrate psi more prominently, the results might have produce positive results supporting psi. It's been shown empirically that certain individuals can demonstrate strong psi effects, while others can either show very subtle, random effects or none at all. Therefore, it's best to test those who purport to have strong psi abilities. However, most people who have such abilities don't even know it, and it's often by mistake, during experimentation, that such individuals are discovered. This is why positive results are not extremely high--they are mixing into the experiments the two types of individuals.
4. Another "fundamental flaw" observed and published in the following paper is as follows:
5. What interests me the most about this study is not that fMRI scans did not find correlations between correct and wrong guesses, but that it showed psi did not occur, period. This study simply failed to demonstrate psi effects occurred amongst these 19 pairs of individuals. Out of 3,687 total guesses, 1,842 were correct, or 50%, right at chance levels. Does this consequentially reveal that psi does now not exist? Absolutely not. There are many more experiments showing true psi effects than those that do not. All you can do at this point is add this one experiment to the entire database and analyze the numbers. Statistically speaking, adding this experiment to the database lowers the odds against chance of psi being real only very slightly. The evidence for psi, despite this experiment, is still very strong.
So, in conclusion, this study in no way demonstrates "the strongest evidence yet obtained against the existence of paranormal mental phenomena."
Last edited by quantumparanormal on 06 Sep 2009, 01:16, edited 4 times in total.
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