Debunking Debunkers

1. Dec 2, 2003

MirabileAuditu

There is an undeniable arrogance among the self-styled "scientific set."
Pejoratives such as "bible thumper" and "fundie" are two favorite pejoratives of such "intellectuals."

You don't march in Darwinist Lockstep?
"Idiot"!

You believe in a magical deity?
How quaint. How amusing.
Shut up and march to the scientific drum, or be forever ostracized.

I merely open with highly inflammatory words which have been hurled at me and my friends, not in an effort to call any of the doubtless fine people here such a name, but rather to expose you to the ugly reality facing many millions of people.
Moreover, our accusers are often far less well educated than we "rednecks" are.

Where was I? Oh yes. Debunking the Debunkers.

This Chessie Cat smiling "Skeptic" fellow, Michael Shermer, is always piously intoning the scientific method as if it were the sine qua non.
Consider: science is a man-made construct. Man defined the term, refined it, practices it as best he knows how. BUT, does science accurately define reality? Is truth invariably discoverable? Are all things we seek measurable, knowable, even conceivable? What arrogance to pretend that truth is so simple a thing, given what mankind has already discovered.

2. Dec 2, 2003

chroot

Staff Emeritus
This is usually the kind of prattle prattled by those who don't know much science.

- Warren

3. Dec 3, 2003

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
— Blaise Pascal

4. Dec 3, 2003

Ivan Seeking

Staff Emeritus
Myths of Skepticism.

http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/papers/skeptik.html

5. Dec 3, 2003

Njorl

Interesting article. I agreed with some, disagreed with some. It reminds me of some people I have encountered who are dogmatically skeptical or "religiously" scientific.

I would like to know how many self-professed skeptics fail to apply their principles in everyday life. Do they defenf evolution and then buy the extended warranty on their new stereo?

Njorl

6. Dec 3, 2003

einsteinian77

"This is usually the prattle prattled by those who don't know much about science"

Why do you automatically need to shut him down?

7. Dec 3, 2003

Mr. Robin Parsons

Shut down, ya mean I can't post here, Oooops here it is! so it wasn't 'shut down', aside from that, I come to this thread expecting something about "Debunking Debunkers" the 'opening' doesn't even ask the question well, nor is it based upon any 'specific' incident/case we can discuss, shut down? Nah! but ask a good question, please....

8. Dec 3, 2003

Nereid

Staff Emeritus
What a lot of deep questions rolled into one post!

However, I think you missed one: what is the purpose of science?

It may be that part of it is to help you understand that the antibiotic which your mother took when young no longer works to cure you of the same disease (Darwinian evolution at work); that a non-magical deity explanation for how the Earth was formed and changed over billions of years is better at finding deposits of oil than a magical deity alternative.

Some debunkers are arrogant? short-sighted? aggressive? Surely some are the opposite? Why would you expect any group of people - with the possible exception of marriage guidance counsellors - to not show the full range of human personalities?

9. Dec 4, 2003

zoobyshoe

I have never met anyone who refered to themself as a member of the "scientific set". I don't know who you know who is styling themself this way, but I wouldn't take anyone who does too seriously. It sounds like a pose.
I don't know who this person is, but your characterization of him is emotional. You seem threatened by what you percieve as an air of superiority. This stikes me as a side issue that just clouds any science versus faith debate.

10. Dec 4, 2003

MirabileAuditu

Re: Re: Debunking Debunkers

CHROOT clearly holds himself to be such a person - a member of the "scientific set."
I cite the arrogance of such people as Warren, and he wastes not a SECOND in exposing his narcissistic arrogance.

My characterization of such elitists as Michael Shermer is absolutely objective, if sarcastic. As to the "clouding" of
"any science versus faith debate," it is precisely such "clouding" that CHROOT interjected by his ill-informed attack at me personally.

I made a generic post, and Warren CHROOT got on his pedestal and pretended to be by scientific superior.

This is the error of logic called the Argument From Authority.
Obviously CHROOT is not familiar with it.

11. Dec 4, 2003

Jonathan

I'm not too interested in this topic, because it is just so hard to make such vague generalities about huge groups like this. I'm skeptical, but I'm not an a about it.
But I can say something about specific cases, like michael shermer. He is/was editor or something of Skeptical Inquirer and writes a column in Scientific American. There is one case that comes to mind, where he debunked the Bible Code. Then, one of the preeminate researchers wrote in about incorrect things he had said, some obvious to anyone who knows even a little about the Bible Code. BTW, I do know some, but am still torn as to it's reality.
Michael shermer is a very polarizing character. He has a sharp wit, is often sarcastic, and is very pig-ish and condesending in his various writen works. I very much dislike him.
There are many different claims of paranormal phenomena. So many in fact, that I am quite sure that it is an extreme statistical improbability that none of them are true. However, I have not seen one thing that people like shermer do believe in. There is a proponderance of 'evidence' for all these weird things, and I bet at least one out there is real. I personally think that for shermer not to believe in any unusual phenomena as having any merit or needing any further research, is proof that he doesn't ever critically think about anything he analyses. I think it is a resonable assumption, given his record, that he knows the answer to all questions before they are even asked. And if in fact he doesn't know the correct answer, the content of the question doesn't exist, but must be a fallacy of the person asking. His arrogance, pride, and vanity know no bounds.
EDIT: I see there's a post that got there in the time it took me to write this one, so I have one more thing to add: shame Chroot. As evidenced by your thread in the general disscussion forum, you are aware you have a problem with arrogance to some extent. Curb it!

Last edited: Dec 4, 2003
12. Dec 4, 2003

zoobyshoe

Re: Re: Re: Debunking Debunkers

I disagree that this is clear. It could only be clear if he had at some time specifically referred to himself as a member of the "scientific set". As it is, it is not accurate to call him a self styled member of the "scientific set". The term "self-styled" implies a kind of pose that isn't backed up with actual knowledge. Warren actually knows huge amounts about physics.
I don't believe "arrogance" or "narcissistic" are words that apply to Warren. What you see is a lack of patience on his part, that is expressed without tact.
Sarcasm and objectivity are mutually exclusive.
No, I would have to say that the sarcasm in your opening post is what set Warren off.

13. Dec 4, 2003

Jonathan

So he's mentally unstable then? Controlled by instincts set off by outside influences? Give him some more credit zoobyshoe.

14. Dec 4, 2003

zoobyshoe

You have misread my comment as an excuse. I am merely saying it is one thing, and not the other it was misinterpreted to be.

15. Dec 4, 2003

Jonathan

I disagree. That may not be what you meant, but I think it is a pretty straight forward implication from
to what I said.

16. Dec 4, 2003

zoobyshoe

You are confused about what I'm refering to. When I said it was one thing, and not the other it was misinterpreted to be, I meant it was impatience and not arrogance and narcississm. I wasn't trying to excuse his impatience by implying he is at the mercy of outside forces.

Further, if I suggest that his impatience was set off by someone's sarcasm, then I am only refering to that instance of it and should not be mistaken to be saying this always happens. It doesn't. I have seen Warren be patient more often than not.

17. Dec 4, 2003

Jonathan

Okay then, back to the topic.

18. Dec 4, 2003

Mr. Robin Parsons

Sure, as long as you remind us of just what that is, not the title, not so far.............after all the last line in the opening (Rant) is a statement, not a question....
So what is the discourse upon?

19. Dec 4, 2003

chroot

Staff Emeritus
Ah, my lesser children, close thy mouths and hear me speak...

*ahem* just kidding.

No, MirabileAuditu, I am not one of those people who calls people idiots for not believing in Darwin. No, I am not one of those people who ostracizes those who do not "shut up and march to the scientific drum."

The reason I took offense is simple: real scientists are very objective people, who try very hard to prevent the human tendency to have faith from undermining their objectivity. It has happened many times that a scientist's unwavering faith in some pet theory that was proven wrong has taken him firmly out of the scientific community. Scientists must be objective, even about their own work. It's hard to swallow when an experiment comes along and disproves the theory you've spent 30 years developing, but that's how science works. A real scientist has to be to step back, say "wow, you're right guys. I was wrong" and move on to better topics.

In other words, real scientists don't take anything as dogma. Real scientists don't immediately believe anything anyone says to them -- not professors, not textbooks, not colleagues. The ultimate authority for each individual is necessarily himself -- I decide what I believe. If I don't quite follow a proof that someone has shown me in a book, I don't just shrug and say "well, the book must be right." No, I go figure it out, and conclude that either the book is wrong, or the book is right. A good example of this is the fact that published science goes through peer-review. Just because one scientist says something is true does not mean it is; other people review it, find errors in it, and make their own conclusions about the work. Only when the panel of reviewers each personally accepts the work as valid science is it allowed to be published.

What bothers me, MirabileAuditu, is that so many people in the general public seem to think real scientists are dogmatic -- that we simply have some religion called "science" that we just feel is better than other religions. That we're supreme egoists. This is just not true, and probably just means you don't know any real scientists. I see it this way: on the internet, among the laypeople, there are two camps: anti-science, and pro-science. The pro-science camp feels empowered by the fact that really smart people also are pro-science (standing on the shoulders of giants, if you will). These pro-science laypeople are often very adamantly subjective -- they do believe something just because Hawking said it, or because they heard it on some website with NASA's name somewhere on it. These people are not real scientists -- they are wannabe's, and are often just out to boost their own egos by making others look stupid. Half the time these pro-science laypeople get going, they spout as much nonsense under the label "science" as any religious zealot. Real scientists find these people amusing.

Here's a simple litmus test to tell real scientists from pro-science laypeople: ask them a question that current theory cannot answer. Ask them something like "What's really at the center of a black hole?" If the person answers "well, stupid, just like Hawking said on page 168, a black hole has a point of infinite density at its center than rips a hole in spacetime, duh!" then that person is a pro-science layperson, and can be safely ignored. A real scientist will say something more like "well, no one is really sure. The existing theory is that there's a point of infinite density there, called a singularity, but that's probably not really true. We know the theory that predicts those singularities, General Relativity, is not compatible with other theories we also feel are 'on the right track,' so there's a good chance that our current ideas about the centers of black holes are wrong."

It sounds to me that you've come across one too many pro-science layperson in your life, and you've now decided, by extension, that real scientists behave the same way. I simply offer you the truth: they don't.

Does this make sense?

- Warren

20. Dec 4, 2003

While there are many who fit the exact description you show, this doesn't mean that they are incorrect in their assertions as to reality. Only incorrect in how they behave.

I've seen both atheists and science types get extremely agitated at the enforced ignorance of many. Not all, but many. You may have seen the type - the true believer that dismisses concrete evidence, just because it contradicts what they wish/need to believe. This occurs with many types, not just religious, they include such diverse folk as UFO believers, Holocaust deniers, people that believe in ghosts, magic, etc.

It is hard to keep acting civilly to people that will call green red when it contradicts what they believe. A good example of this occurred when I was dating my first girlfriend. Her family were religious fundamentalist, long before that was common. They believed drinking alcohol, in any form, was a sin. I found a quote in the bible which stated that, basically, wine could be used to ease stomoch problems. When I brought this up to the family matriarch, she proceeded as if I had not said anything. I had produced a contradiction in two things that she considered sacrosanct - the bible and her beliefs. How can a person that denies reality, just because it doesn't fit their view of the world, with respect?

No insult intended, but it's spoken like someone without much scientific background. Science works quite differently. Proving that widely held a scientific idea or ideas are wrong will make a persons career. It may take a lot of proving, but there's a lot of motivation to do so. You act as if scientists belong to a club, with everyone avoid stepping on each others toes. It's much more like a pool of sharks, each trying to make a name for themselves by discovering something profound. It does require objective evidence though. For a widely held view, a lot of strong evidence.

Overturning widely held views is a excellent way to make you career. Einstein is an excellent example.

Pons and Fleishman are an excellent example of science's self-correcting nature. There isn't a physicist worth his salt that didn't want thier discovery to be true - I new a few nuclear physicist that worked to confirm their discovery. They didn't see how it could work, but until they showed it wasn't so, they were like kids in a toy shop, it was all they could talk about. Ultimately, the evidence wasn't there. They were quite depressed over it.

As far as anti-religious, that's not the domain of science, whatsoever. Science will produce results that may contradict certain religious dogma - when that dogma say's something about objective, physical reality. It couldn't possibly say anything about the existence or non-existence of a diety that is non-corporeal and not reported to be readily detectable.

So you're acting in the proper christian manner and responding in kind? <tongue firmlly in cheek>

Science is designed to discover only objective reality, and then is highly limited to what we can measure. It says nothing about things such as finding purpose in life, a persons spiritual development, living a moral life, or much about how to be happy. These are, intentionally, outside it's scope.

It is designed to be self-correcting. And the last time I checked, produces quite a bit of useful information, used for things like creating the machines were both typing on, the cars we drive, the airplanes we ride in, and the television we watch.

You say this as if truth were one thing.

Probably not, which is why the scope of science is limited.

Very arrogant, and just a little foolish. If we had already discovered everything, then there would be no scientific researchers.

It's also quite arrogant to dismiss the vast areas of scientific evidence that supports the universe is well over 10 billion years old, that the earth is over 4 billion years old, that evolution is occurring as we speak, and that the most reasonable answer, which doesn't include the invocation of an all-powerful being (for which there is no objective evidence), to how life diversified and spread into all the known ecosystems of the earth, without thoroughly investigating that evidence.

You mention evolution as if you are a creationist. I've studied quite a bit of science and read a fair amount of the creationist literature (I was an attendee at that fundamentalist church for over three years). I've seen creationism produce a simple view of how the world was created, one that has so many flaws as to be almost comical. The flaws they point out about evolution, that aren't easily dismissed because they are addressing already superceded ideas, grossly misinterpreting experimental results, or committing the argument flaw of ommision of evidence, are at over a million to one ratio compared to the problems their theory introduces. When you make assumptions as to reality, then dismiss all evidence that doesn't match that assumption, this isn't scientific inquiry.

The atheists I've seen attack theists, I apologize for. However, in their defense, it's hard to be attacked, lied about, defamed, and generally abused, without responding in kind. It's not right, but I can understand it.

The number of atheists in this country are greater than that of Buddhists, yet atheists are much, much more subject to being insulted and reviled than Buddhists. I speak from the knowledge of being both.