Pseudoskepticism

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Pseudoskepticism

#1  Postby Kenaz » Mar 08, 2014 2:10 am

As someone who values doubt and skepticism, I found this article to be a helpful reminder in our search for the truth, one that we may neglect more than we'd like to think at times. :think:

http://www.anomalist.com/commentaries/pseudo.html
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#2  Postby Deremensis » Mar 08, 2014 5:47 am

I'm honestly not sure how I feel about this.

Why take an agnostic position when there's no evidence to prove existence of something? I don't have any serious distaste for religion, I simply don't believe it. My only distaste is when religion finds its way into places where it shouldn't, such as biology. But even so, I don't take an agnostic position. Why should I? I have no reason to believe there is a God, none has been given to me, so why should I be agnostic?

Then again, the author is only clarifying the usage of a term. Perhaps I am not a skeptic.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#3  Postby laklak » Mar 08, 2014 5:57 am

I see no reason to take an agnostic position. I don't do that for leprechauns or elves or bigfoot, why should I do so for any other woo? The anomaly IS the extraordinary claim. I particularly dislike the idea that even should an experiment be shown to be poorly designed or data faked the anomaly isn't "proven" false. If I state "leprechauns exist" and show you a photo for proof, and the photo turns out to be a cut-out from a Lucky Charms box, would you not dismiss my contention?
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#4  Postby Kenaz » Mar 08, 2014 7:05 am

I rather like the notion of taking things on a scale of probability.

Highly improbable or highly probable as opposed to a belief [positive or negative] at all.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#5  Postby hackenslash » Mar 08, 2014 8:33 am

Not a bad article, aside from the usual erroneous definition of 'agnostic' and misapplication of 'proof'. I largely agree with it.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#6  Postby Oeditor » Mar 22, 2014 10:20 pm

laklak wrote: If I state "leprechauns exist" and show you a photo for proof, and the photo turns out to be a cut-out from a Lucky Charms box, would you not dismiss my contention?
As indeed happened with the Cottingley Fairies incident, which had Conan Doyle fooled.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cottingley_Fairies
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#7  Postby Kenaz » Mar 23, 2014 12:28 am

laklak wrote:I see no reason to take an agnostic position. I don't do that for leprechauns or elves or bigfoot, why should I do so for any other woo? The anomaly IS the extraordinary claim. I particularly dislike the idea that even should an experiment be shown to be poorly designed or data faked the anomaly isn't "proven" false. If I state "leprechauns exist" and show you a photo for proof, and the photo turns out to be a cut-out from a Lucky Charms box, would you not dismiss my contention?


It simply shows that we have no credible evidence to weigh our level of probability to a claim. Why even make a negative claim such as "Leprechauns don't exist." How can we be sure? Well, it certainly is not highly probable, but we can't be certain. In the end, it comes down to "I don't know, nor do I really care." :mrgreen:
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#8  Postby Veida » Mar 23, 2014 1:08 am

Agnostic isn't the right word or attitude. It's simple, really. One shouldn't give any weight to unsubstantiated claims. One should at most point out that they are unsubstantiated - usually nothing more is needed.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#9  Postby Kenaz » Mar 23, 2014 1:11 am

If something is unsubstantiated and something of interest to someone, why not give any 'weight' to it? One has to be interested enough to make a hypothesis or claim and give enough 'weight' and time dedicated to finding out what there is to be discovered concerning it. By saying "this is not so" rather than "I don't know", we already close ourselves off to this process.

People don't like uncertainty. They want something to be or not to be. Too bad. Reality isn't limited to our understanding or beliefs, for or against something.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#10  Postby igorfrankensteen » Mar 23, 2014 2:00 am

Sean Carter: Why take an agnostic position when there's no evidence to prove existence of something?


In case you read the short article and forgot, he explained the exact answer to your question in it. That was the whole point, really. The reason you should remain "agnostic," is that you (at least claim to) want to get to the correct logical and factual answer to things, and not to substitute one bit of misapplied faith, like a cheap competing circus poster, over the top of another bit of misapplied faith. In short, if you only PRETEND to adhere to logic in your refutations of "woo," you are identical to the people who you think you are debunking.

Laklak: I see no reason to take an agnostic position. I don't do that for leprechauns or elves or bigfoot, why should I do so for any other woo? The anomaly IS the extraordinary claim. I particularly dislike the idea that even should an experiment be shown to be poorly designed or data faked the anomaly isn't "proven" false. If I state "leprechauns exist" and show you a photo for proof, and the photo turns out to be a cut-out from a Lucky Charms box, would you not dismiss my contention?


You are also making the very mistake described. You aren't fighting FOR reason, if you simply substitute your shoddy thinking for another person's shoddy thinking. This is the very sort of sloppy substitute for rational skepticism that I have regularly tried to point out and suggest be corrected a number of times here, almost every time, having several people angrily demand that because I support ACTUAL scientific refutation, that I am somehow supporting the "woo" instead.

Hak: Not a bad article, aside from the usual erroneous definition of 'agnostic' and misapplication of 'proof'. I largely agree with it.


I'm starting to like you more. I'm not sure which specific errors and misapplications you refer to (I suspect we agree about the fuzziness of those word definitions), like you, I find that the main thrust of this is correct and much needed.

For those who seem not to understand the import of all this, and who fear that by recognizing the actual limits of science and reason, that we will be admitting defeat to the "woo" pushers, settle down and pay better attention to how real science and real reason answers such concerns.

That is, if someone comes up with a claim of fantastic something or other, and we can't show that it ISN'T true, science and logic STILL gives us an appropriate response that allows us NOT to give in to the nut-brigade. That is, if someone claims that the world is really controlled by a cabal of evil gnomes (my personal explanation for why I APPEAR to make mistakes at work), without proof positive that they DO exist, and ARE in authority, there is no logical reason to adhere to any changes proposed to deal with them. The fact that we can't prove they don't exist, is functionally entirely unimportant.

In other words, people who do fail to provide the fantastic proof to support their fantastic claims, can simply be told "come back when you DO have appropriately fantastic proof, and we will allow you to persuade us." There is no need to proclaim them dunces, and attack them. Worst of all, is to make real skepticism and real rationalism look like it's just the fantasy name of an alternate "woo" club.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#11  Postby hackenslash » Mar 23, 2014 2:09 am

igorfrankensteen wrote:There is no need to proclaim them dunces, and attack them.


I certainly don't do that, though I feel free to attack their assertions rigorously and without mercy. ;)
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#12  Postby igorfrankensteen » Mar 23, 2014 11:20 am

Yes, thank you again, hack. I should have said more specifically, "no need to conduct a personal or ad hominem attacks on them," or some such.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#13  Postby Spearthrower » Apr 15, 2014 4:23 am

Kenaz wrote:
laklak wrote:I see no reason to take an agnostic position. I don't do that for leprechauns or elves or bigfoot, why should I do so for any other woo? The anomaly IS the extraordinary claim. I particularly dislike the idea that even should an experiment be shown to be poorly designed or data faked the anomaly isn't "proven" false. If I state "leprechauns exist" and show you a photo for proof, and the photo turns out to be a cut-out from a Lucky Charms box, would you not dismiss my contention?


It simply shows that we have no credible evidence to weigh our level of probability to a claim. Why even make a negative claim such as "Leprechauns don't exist." How can we be sure? Well, it certainly is not highly probable, but we can't be certain. In the end, it comes down to "I don't know, nor do I really care." :mrgreen:



Because the proponent equally has no credible evidence, so whence cometh the claim?

We can imagine up all manner of beliefs, if we so choose; that doesn't mean we're obliged to hold a neutral position because we personally don't possess evidence to overturn the claim. There's also an intellectual obligation to question the validity of the claim in the first place.

In terms of divine beings, I question the very notion itself. I don't think the category of being has even been sufficiently defined, without even considering all the individual and conflicting purportedly divine beings, so I don't feel obliged to take the central claim seriously enough to hold a position on it.

In effect, i really don't think agnosticism is a solid position to take on all topics where one is unconvinced; nonchalance is perfectly sufficient. If and when evidence for a claim is raised, it can be treated in isolation. In effect, 'I don't know, nor do I really care.' is a rationally skeptical position to take.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#14  Postby Kenaz » Apr 16, 2014 2:11 pm

Agreed. Unfortunately people make the mistake of not only claiming that someone has no sufficient evidence for their positive claim, but they make a claim that it is not real or true in return. Once that is made, then the individual claiming it to be false, must also prove their point. It makes more sense to remain agnostic, or without knowledge, because that is essentially where one would stand if they neither had sufficient evidence for or against said element in question.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#15  Postby Thommo » Apr 16, 2014 2:29 pm

Consider generalised "psi" claims as mentioned in the article, people have been looking for them for literally hundreds of years. Millions of papers have been written on the subject and yet never has the phenomenon been found. If it exists, it becomes ever more unlikely that we could observe this state of affairs. The level of certainty grows with each failure in proportion to the chance the test would have found evidence if the phenomenon was real.

In other cases it is legitimate to take a probability of 0 as as starting point, if someone guessed the exact number of stellar bodies in the observable universe without any form of reasoning or calculation the chance they get it right is vanishingly small (due to the large number of possibilities) in unrestricted cases where drawing from infinite sets the probability is actually 0.

My point is that active disbelief (as opposed to merely withholding belief) is usually justified in the situations where people apply it, even if the reasons aren't always articulated. There are of course situations in which disbelief is not justified e.g. if someone claims that there is life somewhere outside our solar system, since we know that life is possible but we have absolutely no means of assigning probabilities within the small finite set (only two options - there is or there isn't).
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#16  Postby Kenaz » Apr 16, 2014 2:58 pm

Thommo wrote:My point is that active disbelief (as opposed to merely withholding belief) is usually justified in the situations where people apply it, even if the reasons aren't always articulated. There are of course situations in which disbelief is not justified e.g. if someone claims that there is life somewhere outside our solar system, since we know that life is possible but we have absolutely no means of assigning probabilities within the small finite set (only two options - there is or there isn't).


Indeed. Science definitely deals with objective, observable phenomenon. It gets trickier when we are talking about elements that may be a bit harder to observe and define in a normal state of consciousness. I certainly don't believe many of the claims, but I don't disbelieve in them either. I simply don't know, and really, without my own experiences to validate, I will continue not to know. Most of the claims I could care less about. Some are interesting, but nonetheless, I do not believe in them.

One weird example would be the idea of lucid dreaming (once thought to be woo), what some call the 'out of body experience' is another that I have experienced as a child. I do not claim to believe that I am actually out of body, but it certainly felt that way. Some people claim to be able to do it more frequently and have found ways that confirm to themselves that it is more than just a dream by finding something they experienced or influenced while 'out of body' back when they were 'in their body.'

It's weird shit. I experienced the feeling of being out of body, traveling to my neighbor's house and so forth as a child. I had lucid dreams. These all scared me as a kid. I didn't have a name for them. I simply acknowledge that the experience exists, but I have not been able to do it since with intent in my adult years with a scientific mind to actually test and explore how 'objective' or matching up to my experience right now of being 'in body', so I cannot claim more than that the experiences are real and match up to accounts I have read about it.

Again, I do not claim that they are more than that, an experience of being out of body or being lucid in a dream and being able to fly, influence the dream experience, and so forth. They both felt quite real and different in their own way.

Now, I don't expect anyone, without these experiences, to believe me by my anecdotal account on an internet forum. I may be lying, I may not be. You will never know, and it really doesn't matter. The issue I raise, both in this sense and any other, is that lack of personal evidence or scientific evidence does not immediately justify a disbelief.

It's much healthier and rational to simply acknowledge a lack of knowledge or possession of knowledge/evidence about a claim or subject of interest. It's quite hard to prove a negative, if not impossible, so let's not try. Let's also watch for when we attempt to do so. If a claim is made, show the proof. But let's also be open to things if we possess an interest. If one does not hold an interest in a claim or subject in an area, and many will not ever agree upon what is interesting or important, then simply acknowledge that one does not have sufficient evidence or a desire to invest time to explore it, and move on.

Things like the existence of a God as described in many Abrahamic religions, which so far has had no proof, and being utilized as a basis for social law in a secular society (I can't imagine any other type of society that I would want to be a a part of) is quite different. I will adamantly oppose that. However, I could care less if people wish to pray or claim that they can travel to their neighbor's house through being out of body or other sort of experiences. If they feel they have them, and do not bother me, harm themselves or others, then it is not something I feel I need to get up in arm's about.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#17  Postby Thommo » Apr 16, 2014 3:10 pm

I have lucid dreams about once a week on average, I have to admit I'd boggle if someone was sceptical at the idea that you could realise you are dreaming.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#18  Postby Kenaz » Apr 16, 2014 3:16 pm

I feel equally the same to those who feel that an out of body experience in itself is woo. It happens. How do I know? I experienced one. I guess my point is that a lack of evidence does not constitute a falsity outright. But, alas, we must go off what we can verify. I certainly oppose faith and belief. One does not need to have faith or believe in reality for reality to be true. Reality is what it is, whether or not we wish to believe (or disbelieve) in it. Hence my emphasis on sharing the concepts of not only pseudoscience but pseudoskepticism, which is believing or disbelieving what we wish rather than actually looking for things as they are.

These things are personal interests of mine because (a) they are fun and fascinating and (b) I experienced them but have no idea what they may mean. So, naturally, for someone such as myself with an inquisitive and probing personality, I wish to explore them. I certainly don't care if others feel its an important or worthwhile endeavor, it is enjoyable and worthwhile to me. It may turn out to be completely bollocks in terms of 'objective reality', or in other words, something I can share with another. Either way, I will have had fun and mastered a useful (to me) skill.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#19  Postby Thommo » Apr 16, 2014 3:31 pm

Kenaz wrote:I feel equally the same to those who feel that an out of body experience in itself is woo. It happens. How do I know? I experienced one. I guess my point is that a lack of evidence does not constitute a falsity outright. But, alas, we must go off what we can verify.


I think you need to be careful here though, because I don't regard the idea that you felt as though you were out of your body as woo, but the claim that you had experiences that you could not have had inside your body is complete woo. I am 100% sure that people do not actually leave their bodies and have experiences, which is testable in at least limited form by things such as this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... ences.html and again the results are pretty clear, people look for the phenomenon and it's not there.

Kenaz wrote: I certainly oppose faith and belief. One does not need to have faith or believe in reality for reality to be true. Reality is what it is, whether or not we wish to believe (or disbelieve) in it. Hence my emphasis on sharing the concepts of not only pseudoscience but pseudoskepticism, which is believing or disbelieving what we wish rather than actually looking for things as they are.

These things are personal interests of mine because (a) they are fun and fascinating and (b) I experienced them but have no idea what they may mean. So, naturally, for someone such as myself with an inquisitive and probing personality, I wish to explore them. I certainly don't care if others feel its an important or worthwhile endeavor, it is enjoyable and worthwhile to me. It may turn out to be completely bollocks in terms of 'objective reality', or in other words, something I can share with another. Either way, I will have had fun and mastered a useful (to me) skill.


Fair enough.
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Re: Pseudoskepticism

#20  Postby Kenaz » Apr 16, 2014 9:51 pm

Thommo wrote:
Kenaz wrote:I feel equally the same to those who feel that an out of body experience in itself is woo. It happens. How do I know? I experienced one. I guess my point is that a lack of evidence does not constitute a falsity outright. But, alas, we must go off what we can verify.


I think you need to be careful here though, because I don't regard the idea that you felt as though you were out of your body as woo, but the claim that you had experiences that you could not have had inside your body is complete woo. I am 100% sure that people do not actually leave their bodies and have experiences, which is testable in at least limited form by things such as this: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/ ... ences.html and again the results are pretty clear, people look for the phenomenon and it's not there.


Perhaps this was a miscommunication but I did not intend to claim that I had any evidence that this was more than an experience I had. I did not claim that I was truly 'out of body' in the sense that I was experiencing a reality I could effect as I do while 'in body' in terms of identity and experience.

However, some do claim they have confirmed this. That is their experience -- lie, truth, or error albeit honest belief. However, again, I do not have any desire to call the possibility 'complete woo.' People can say all they want, for or against, but I remain open to it. If I wasn't interested in it for the reasons discussed earlier I would just ignore it, but I find value in it so I do continue to explore it on my own as a personal pursuit. If you think it a waste of time, that's completely fine. Don't waste your time. :cheers:
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