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A Question

  1. Jul 3, 2007 #1
    I've considered myself a serious skeptic for a few years now and I have to say that I am a bit disappointed.

    Why the preoccupation with the paranormal? Why is the modern skeptics movement so bent on analyzing the claims of those on the fringes of society? Why not apply ourselves towards those things that affect a greater percentage of people and are perhaps more relevant to current events? Why not discuss such topics as the Iraq war or political documentaries which influence people's voting habits or the grossly inequal distribution of money in America? Are such things innocuous? Why are they not rigorously questioned by modern skeptics?

  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 4, 2007 #2
    because most people a stupid sheeps
  4. Jul 5, 2007 #3
    I'm surprised to have no other explanation than "because most people a stupid sheeps" and a bit disappointed.
  5. Jul 6, 2007 #4


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    We all grow up enjoying being scared occasionally by "paranormal" mysteries such as ghost stories, magic tricks, lights in the sky, etc.. It is mildly entertaining (when it doesn't degenerate into something downright pathetic that is) to see and hear other people who are still experiencing this old familiar sense of mystery, and to watch them (and maybe help them) eventually get over it as they gain more of an understanding of science.

    We do, it's called "work". :biggrin:

    That's not physics though, and this is a physics forum.
  6. Jul 6, 2007 #5
    And we do, have you browsed our forums lately?
    Physicsforums is not strictly debunking. This is but a tiny fraction of the discussion that goes on here.
  7. Jul 6, 2007 #6


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    There is no such thing as a "skeptics movement". The vast majority of scientists simply ignore crackpots, and that is actually a bad thing - there is no voice of reason speaking to most people.

    What give you the idea that the movement exists and can you provide some references?
  8. Jul 6, 2007 #7
    Probably because it's easier to scientifically analyze calims of the paranormal rather than the social, psychological, or political.
  9. Jul 6, 2007 #8
    I think all of these topics have at least one thread on them...and in each thread, there are several skeptics.
  10. Jul 6, 2007 #9
    First, science is not Skepticism. Skepticism is a philosophy independent from science. Most modern Skeptics use science because most have found it to be the best tool for rationally understanding the world. Not all do though (however, I've usually found those who don't to not be true Skeptics in the first place. But, likewise, I have found that many people who believe in science to not be true Skeptics either.).

    Second, how would you know what scientists do and what philosophies they espouse? What sociological study did you read that lead you to that claim?

    As for there being a modern skeptics movement, there are several of them. Some are bigger than others, some are ringed groups, others are separate but still affiliated with the other, and some are completely independent from all others. You will see them out in the open when they send representatives to speak on talk shows. James Randi is seen everywhere from talk shows, to documentaries, to even my psychology book. Here are a few examples of websites:

    The Center Of Inquiry - http://www.centerforinquiry.net/
    Committee for Skeptical Inquiry - http://www.csicop.org/
    Resources for Independent Thinking - http://www.rit.org
    The Skeptic's Dictionary - http://skepdic.com/

    You can look on google for more, there are thousands.

    The problem that I've noticed is that there is nearly no conversation on issues dealing with non-paranormal claims. I think that the essence of skepticism is to bring nonsense to light and to weave a thread of rational argument for those things one believes in, in order to benefit society. Skepticism is an ethical philosophy as well as a practical way of questioning. It involves endlessly questioning that which is around you and to bring whatever understanding you might muster to light so that others may benefit. Although I think that paranormal claims should be evaluated, why the preoccupation? I find it to be very disappointing.

    In the absence of any real skeptical inquiry into such topics as 9/11, the war in Iraq, the inequality of money in America, crackpots and charlatans fill the gap and "inform" the public.

    Are we skeptics such cowards to hide our tails between our legs rather than tackle such pressing subjects?

    This is not a physics forum. This is a Skeptics forum that is a subset of a cluster of forums, catagorized on a webpage called "Physics Forums." If "Physics Forums" really were literally only physics forums, then there would be no section for Skepticism, because Skepticism is a philosophy completely separate from the study of physics. Even though one may go hand in hand with the other at times, they are different schools of thought with different goals.
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2007
  11. Jul 6, 2007 #10


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    Well, I've only heard of one of those sites, but perhaps that supports my point? Besides - you're the one claiming the movement isn't big enough, aren't you? My point, however, is that since skepticism is built-into the scientific method, every science journal deals in skepticism and no integrated "skeptics movement" is required - or even desired.

    You are asking about widely separated fields, from various conspiracy theories on different subjects, to economics, to political science. It isn't possible for a single coherent organization to go after all of them at once because they require specialized scientific knowledge to address correctly. But there are plenty of engineering journals that have tackled the 9/11 conspiracy theories(not necessarily by design), plenty of economics journals that tackle the income equality issue in the US, and plenty of political science journals that tackle the war in Iraq.

    It wouldn't be appropriate to try to unify these under the header of a philosophical "skeptics movement" because these are highly specialized issues for specific fields. But the idea of skepticism is built-into the scientific method, so the issue doesn't need a cohesive movement anyway.
  12. Jul 6, 2007 #11
    First, read: http://www.temple.edu/isllc/newfolk/skeptics.html

    Second: I wasn't saying anything about the size of the various Skeptics movements, I was referring to the direction they take. "Fields" means nothing to Skeptics movements. Skeptics movements have various members who work in various fields and they question various topics. I'm guessing we should break the FDA up because they study drugs that do more than cure than 1 disease. We will say, "It's too separate." Do you think Socrates only tackled one or a few subjects? No, he questioned any claim. That is what Skepticism is.

    Third: Do you consider yourself a Skeptic? If so, perhaps you should learn more about the philosophy and what is out there. You really shouldn't speak out of ignorance about things you don't know about. I would imagine that the fact that you haven't heard of Skeptics movements would mean you are not an expert on the matter. If I am wrong, correct me.

    Fourth: "Political science" is an oxy-moron. They are not Skeptics organizations that rely on such things as, oh, I don't know, "proof." Their goal is to sell magazines and appease their readers, not get to the root of any matter.

    Fifth: Again, Skepticism is not Science. The scientific method was influenced by Skepticism but is totally separate from Skepticism. A Pyrrhonian Skeptic would be abhorred by the rigorous nature of modern science.

    Sixth: Science has the goal of knowledge only. Skepticism is an ethical philosophy as well a way of thinking. The scientific method is not meant to be a way of everyday thinking, but Skepticism is. The scientific method has no goals other than to futher understanding, Skepticism has the goal to improve society. A scientist is not a Skeptic, unless they choose to be. They can use the scientific method all they'd like, but they are not a Skeptic unless they identify with the actual philosophy.
  13. Jul 7, 2007 #12


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    The purpose of this forum is explicitly defined here:

    Topics such as the Iraq war, political documentaries, and the distribution of money in America don't typically have anything to do with "unexplained phenomena". These topics may be discussed elsewhere. The philosophy of "Skepticism" per se may also be discussed elsewhere.
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2007
  14. Jul 7, 2007 #13
    I find the Iraq to be an unexplained phenomena. ;)

    You are right that this forum is restricted and censored (which I think entirely defeats the point of Skepticism). I don't see anywhere that this is a specifically a physics forum though.

    Wow, I sure don't belong in this forum. I was originally concerned that popular Skepticism was merely pointed towards only the fringe claims, but this forum actually forces it's members to focus on those claims and will delete any post not deemed to be focused on fringe claims if the moderator arbitrarily decides to. What sort of Skepticism is this? This isn't a Skepticism forum after all. The whole point of Skepticism is to never restrict one's questions, but to always wear the burden of proof whenever making a claim. This forum should be called the scientific inquiry into fringe claims, not Skepticism (or Scepticism, whatever). Skepticism is something much larger, much more complete, and much more profound. I can't believe those who call themselves Skeptics (or Sceptics) would be so adverse to such topics. What a mockery of the philosophy.

  15. Jul 24, 2007 #14
    The word "Skepticism" seems to have a lot of emotion behind it. My experience with "skeptics" is that they simply don't believe until proof is laid in their lap. Then it gets merky, because what is proof to one person, is different to another, as is what constitutes "scientific" proof etc. I have been very skeptical of my own experiences until I felt secure in the validations that I found that satisfied me and that was proof enough. Does that make sense?:confused::uhh:
  16. Jul 26, 2007 #15
    No two Skeptics are exactly the same. Being "skeptical" and being a "Skeptic" is different though. One is a word meaning "stubborn disbeliever," and the other is an entire branch of philosophy. Modern Skepticism has a major focus on why people believe what they do, especially for irrational beliefs. (I recommend "Why People Believe Weird Things," by Michael Shermer)

    I see my brain as a belief engine. I gather information and make temporary agreements to believe certain things for the sake of practicality (and I do act on them), but I am always willing to re-evaluate anything and I know I can never understand anything perfectly. These ideas and conclusions are constructs of a very human brain. ;)

  17. Aug 10, 2007 #16
    I don't think there is an exclusive preoccupation with the paranormal on the part of skeptics. The frequent inclusion of topics like bigfoot, lake monsters, UFO's and notions like free energy and anti-gravity leads me to question your assumption that skeptics are preoccupied with the paranormal.

    All these issues are endlessly examined and debated all the time. I don't think there's any gap that needs filling here to complain about.
  18. Aug 10, 2007 #17
    Where did I say Skeptics have the "exclusive" preoccupation with the paranormal? Don't put words in my mouth to create a straw man fallacy. What is the point of that? I asked why the modern Skeptics movement (which I mean as the general direction of the combined Skeptics movements that are out there) focus so much on the paranormal rather then spend more time on other issues that may be far more important.

    Also, Yes, I know that the other issues are tackled by people. That is obvious.

    Skeptics, who tend to have intellectual backgrounds, who are learned and capable questioners, might be better suited for such questioning though. Look at all the Skeptics movements out there and see what their directions are. They don't make attempts to cover anything that is of very great importance. It's mostly paranormal things that are covered. (My guess is that it is safer to do so, but I certainly don't think it's more beneficial to do so.)
  19. Aug 11, 2007 #18
    I may have overqualified the notion of a preoccupation here, but I think it's evident that I wasn't trying to create a straw man. Repeating what I said without the word "exclusive", doesn't change my meaning much:

    "I don't think there is a preoccupation with the paranormal on the part of skeptics. The frequent inclusion of topics like bigfoot, lake monsters, UFO's and notions like free energy and anti-gravity leads me to question your assumption that skeptics are preoccupied with the paranormal."

    To the extent skeptics promote clear thinking, which I think is what most of them are up to, they are doing something that ranks quite high in importance.
  20. Aug 11, 2007 #19
    Using the word "exclusive," fundamentally changes the meaning and so the point of the sentence. If I say, "Every now and then I like a beer," then you tell someone else that I've never drank a beer in my life and never will.. Well, I happen to think that is a big difference. And it wasn't a question of whether you were trying to create a straw man fallacy or not, you did create one..

    "The frequent inclusion of topics like bigfoot, lake monsters, UFO's and notions like free energy and anti-gravity leads me to question your assumption that skeptics are preoccupied with the paranormal."

    How does this make sense? You question my "assumption" that skeptics are preoccupied with the paranormal because there is the frequent inclusion of paranormal topics? What is the point you are making here? That's like saying, "I question whether you eat ice cream sometimes because you eat ice cream sometimes." Also, this isn't an "assumption" of mine, it is an observation. Again, you word your argument using a straw man fallacy to weaken my position in order to argue against it.

    I didn't realize I brought into question whether or not the clear thinking promoted by modern Skeptics movements was worthwhile or not.. You're doing it again. I never said anything about the methodology of questioning. I was talking about the topics that are focused on, not the methods used to analyze the topics.

    Last edited: Aug 11, 2007
  21. Aug 11, 2007 #20
    No, it merely modifies it mildly. "Preoccupation" already implies exclusivity.
    The lack of intent to do so should dull some of your grumpy, prickliness.

    Bigfoot and Lake monsters are not paranormal. They come under the heading of cryptozoology. Free energy and anti-gravity come under the heading of pseudoscience

    A straw man. It's as if you're bored and have No Life, BoredNL.
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