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Straw Man Arguments

PseudoSkeptics commonly use what are called straw man arguments - a false claim you attribute to the other side in order to knock it down easily.  While all sides of a debate or controversy are sometimes guilty of doing this, including ours, the skeptics do it especially.  This goes against the image they tout of them being pinnacles of science and logic free of fallacies.

For instance, they constantly claim that paranormal supporters advocate that one should believe "everything they hear of every paranormal claim".  That is totally untrue.  NOT ONE paranormal supporter I know advocates such a thing.  Not one.  No one has ever said publicly "We should believe everything we hear" and I challenge anyone to find someone who has said that publicly.  All reasonable paranormal experiencers and researchers believe, just like true skeptics do, that one should consider all explanations first before concluding a paranormal cause.  Any smart human would do the same.  But nevertheless, no matter how many times this is explained to them, pseudoskeptics continue to claim that we advocate believing everything we hear.  It's gotten to the point of dishonesty on their part.

Even TV programs about the paranormal show eyewitnesses saying that they considered and ruled out all natural conventional explanations first, before coming to a paranormal one.  The problem is that these skeptics will never accept that "all natural explanations were ruled out" and will insist that you just haven't found one yet, because in their minds a paranormal cause is impossible.  But how would they know, since there's so much about the universe and about reality that we don't know?  Well they don't.  They are just arrogant know-it-alls who hate mysteries.

Another common straw man is when they claim that believers think that "if you can't disprove it, then it must be true".  Again, no one has ever said that.  What believers actually say is that their firsthand direct experience is all the proof that they need, and that they do not need to prove it to skeptics or get others' approval to validate what they experienced.  That's what they really say.  None of them ever say "Skeptics can't disprove it, so it must be true".  That's another pure straw man.

Probably the most ludicrous straw man that they use is the Invisible Pink Unicorn or Santa Claus gambit, where they compare every genuine sincere paranormal experience in the world with something they deliberately make up out of thin air, which is this case is Santa Claus, an invisible pink unicorn or the tooth fairy.  Of course, it is absurd to compare actual real life experiences with something they make up.  But that's another fallacy and straw man they use to ridicule and demean paranormal experiences.  And also, there are not significant numbers of credible people out there claiming to have experienced invisible pink unicorns, tooth fairies, or Santa Claus.  Where are the polls or studies showing that half of the population have experienced such things?  They aren't there, so this is an obvious bogus reasoning and argument on their part. 

For more on this Invisible Pink Unicorn / Santa Claus straw man, see Argument 4 of the debunking skeptics treatise.

My friend and fellow paranormal writer Michael Goodspeed made some colorful points against this straw man in his article Mission For ET: Kill Santa:

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Debunking Pseudoskeptics Treatise

"Everyone who has explored the UFO phenomenon has at some point been treated to the infamous "Santa Claus" analogy. Self-styled "skeptics" invoke it religiously (no pun intended) in discussions with anyone who believes there might actually be some evidence of alien visitation on planet Earth.

"If you believe that a UFO crashed in Roswell, then I'm sure Santa will leave some nice presents under your Christmas tree." Any number of variations of this analogy (unicorns, leprechauns, bogeymen, etc.) are used to dismiss on a priori grounds all phenomena that rely heavily on anecdotal evidence and/or human testimony.

The problem with the analogy is that it is pure fabrication. Yes, it is true that no empirical PROOF exists ether of aliens or of Santa (at least none that I know of), but only the willfully ignorant, the deliberately dishonest, or the cataclysmically stupid would ever claim that evidence of ET is no better than evidence of Santa."
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