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In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Discussions about the James Randi Educational Foundation and its Million Dollar Challenge.

Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 13 Nov 2011, 23:49

Craig: are you arguing that the fallacy of Argumentum ad populum is NOT a fallacy?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 14 Nov 2011, 03:22

Craig: are you arguing that the fallacy of Argumentum ad populum is NOT a fallacy?


Here's my take on this: This argument is not meant to be technique to dismiss evidence, just irrational arguments. Otherwise you could throw the entire field of psychology out the window. The experiences of people have to count as evidence. When we deal with the population that believes in psi, particularly the 50% or so that claims to have had some sort of paranormal experience, we are talking about enormous numbers that are statistically relevant.

Psychology researchers do understand this, which is why an effort was made to narrow down the group for study and try to find some sort of psychological mechanism that could explain this. And in order for any conclusions to be valid, they have to show that skeptics are different in some way that could explain the belief mechanistically. It's all very well to show how people can be fooled, but if skeptics are as easily fooled as believers then being fooled is not a valid explanation.

What they found was that skeptics and believers were pretty much equal in their rational abilities across the board. Irrationality then, is not an explanation for belief in psi. Being tricked by the brain is also not an adequate explanation for the same reason. You can't show a cause and effect if it happens to everyone.

The only sensible explanation then, is that psi is something real. No other answer fits the data.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 14 Nov 2011, 03:46

craig weiler wrote:Here's my take on this: This argument is not meant to be technique to dismiss evidence, just irrational arguments.


Right: logical fallacies apply to logical arguments.

Otherwise you could throw the entire field of psychology out the window. The experiences of people have to count as evidence. When we deal with the population that believes in psi, particularly the 50% or so that claims to have had some sort of paranormal experience, we are talking about enormous numbers that are statistically relevant.

Psychology researchers do understand this, which is why an effort was made to narrow down the group for study and try to find some sort of psychological mechanism that could explain this. And in order for any conclusions to be valid, they have to show that skeptics are different in some way that could explain the belief mechanistically. It's all very well to show how people can be fooled, but if skeptics are as easily fooled as believers then being fooled is not a valid explanation.


You're mixing up two different questions.

The number of people who believe something is often a very relevant fact for certain questions that are looked at. But what it can't be used for is as part of a logical argument as to the correct interpretation of those beliefs and experiences.

Again: the argument: lots of people believe this so it is likely true is a logical fallacy. The fact that a lot of people believe in psi makes the topic of psi a relevant and interesting topic of study with the hope of figuring out whether the beliefs are justified.

Also, I may have missed something in this thread: what study are you talking about? Skeptics aren't neurologically different from anyone, they just use certain methods in trying to figure out what to believe. We can all be fooled. Skepticm is an attempt to introduce controls to help avoid it.

What they found was that skeptics and believers were pretty much equal in their rational abilities across the board. Irrationality then, is not an explanation for belief in psi. Being tricked by the brain is also not an adequate explanation for the same reason. You can't show a cause and effect if it happens to everyone.

The only sensible explanation then, is that psi is something real. No other answer fits the data.


I don't follow you at all, but maybe you can link me to the study you're talking about. You seem to be entrenching the appeal to majority argument. It just doesn't follow. History is filled with widespread beliefs that turned out to be completely wrong. No doubt we today are filled with widespread beliefs that will be found to be wrong.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 14 Nov 2011, 06:00

We're actually talking about people who report experiences of psi. It's about 50% in the US and as high as 80% in other countries. I have read about these surveys and studies, but I don't have any on line references and my internet is waaaay to slow to look for them. (It's a long story. I won't bore you with it. Basically, AT&T f**ked us up.) The point is, this isn't a belief system, it's conclusions people reached based on their own experiences. This isn't like believing in God. Belief isn't exactly an appropriate term. Sorry for the confusion. The fallacy argument doesn't apply here.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 14 Nov 2011, 06:13

Right: it's conclusions people reach based on their own experiences. But conclusions based on our own experience is not a great indicator of accuracy.

The argument: this conclusion is likely true because many people believe it to be true is a logical fallacy - no matter what the topic. It's the same for experiences. We can't say: this interpretation of people's experiences is correct because lots of people believe it to be correct. To figure out whether they are correct you need to look deeper. Parapsychologists recognize this. You see over and over: lots of people believe such and such or experience such and such - therefore we've decided to study the phenomenon. That's the correct approach. Lots of people telling a similar story is interesting, but its doesn't tell us much about what is going on beneath the surface and its a bad predictor of accuracy.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 14 Nov 2011, 07:12

If you are going to question billions of people all having the same experience, you had better have a damned good reason and it better be crystal clear because the statistical probability that you're right and they're wrong is infintesmal. As I've demonstrated, no such reason exists. You're left with "I don't believe them" and that is incredibly weak.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 14 Nov 2011, 07:17

Everyone experiences pain: how many people understand what's actually going on with pain? I'd gather very few, and some would argue none. Don't confuse the experience for the understanding of the experience.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby really? » 14 Nov 2011, 08:49

Arouet, save your energy and wash your hands of this fellow. He isn't about to admit the argument of numbers is a logical fallacy.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 14 Nov 2011, 08:51

I am amazed at your cheekiness. You are right and billions are wrong? Somehow you, who has never had a psychic experience, feel confident that your mental abilities are superior to the common sense and rationality of billions of people?

I don't understand that at all.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 14 Nov 2011, 09:17

Good example: yes, it is possible that I can be right and billions wrong. In fact, there are many things that I am right about and billions have been wrong. Take basic ideas about science - billions would have been wrong before those ideas were fleshed out. And there are no doubt things that are commonly believed by billions today that 1000 years from now will seem quaintly misguided.

We're not arguing whether I am right about psi (my position on psi by the way is that I'm not convinced of it - not that I think its impossible, but that's besides the point here). What we're arguing about is whether you've committed a logical fallacy or not. And I believe you have.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby craig weiler » 14 Nov 2011, 11:15

If you want to hang on to your logical fallacy argument, hey, go for it. It seems a bit absurd to me, but we're obviously going to disagree here.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Arouet » 14 Nov 2011, 11:23

craig weiler wrote:If you want to hang on to your logical fallacy argument, hey, go for it. It seems a bit absurd to me, but we're obviously going to disagree here.


Craig, I didn't invent this! We're talking about basic argument structure here! It's on every list of common logical fallacies because - well - its a common logical fallacy.

Let's put it this way: let's just say that somehow James Randi becomes enourmously influencial and someone convinced the entire world that psi didn't exist - except for you. Would you argue that since everyone didn't believe in psi that psi must not exist?
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby ProfWag » 15 Nov 2011, 00:38

craig weiler wrote:If you are going to question billions of people all having the same experience, you had better have a damned good reason and it better be crystal clear because the statistical probability that you're right and they're wrong is infintesmal. As I've demonstrated, no such reason exists. You're left with "I don't believe them" and that is incredibly weak.

If I may interject an opinion, I disagree with you that "...billions of people all having the same experience..."
Let's look at you and Craig B. If each of your were to explain your psi experiences, I'll bet you would describe them quite differently.
Similarly, ask John Edward, Allison Dubois, and Derek Acorah how they talk to dead people, I'll bet their answers are also quite different.
Finally, billions of people believe in some sort of God. I don't. Does that make me wrong just because billions of people do believe in God? As such, based on what you say, the statistical probability that there is a God is infintesmal. I just don't think that logic is valid. Sorry.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby Jayhawker30 » 15 Nov 2011, 16:31

craig weiler wrote:I am amazed at your cheekiness. You are right and billions are wrong? Somehow you, who has never had a psychic experience, feel confident that your mental abilities are superior to the common sense and rationality of billions of people?

I don't understand that at all.


Well, in that sense he could be like the one lemming not running his ass off the cliff like the rest.
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Re: In defense of the JREF Paranormal Challenge

Postby really? » 15 Nov 2011, 20:42

Jayhawker30 wrote:
craig weiler wrote:I am amazed at your cheekiness. You are right and billions are wrong? Somehow you, who has never had a psychic experience, feel confident that your mental abilities are superior to the common sense and rationality of billions of people?

I don't understand that at all.


Well, in that sense he could be like the one lemming not running his ass off the cliff like the rest.

:)
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