Myths of Skepticism

  • #1
Ivan Seeking
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Myths of Skepticism.
What is a skeptic? If you ask a skeptic you're likely to get an answer that involves science, rising tides of nonsense and debunking the paranormal. If you ask a UFOlogist, or a parapsychologist, you are likely to hear something about negative naysayers and closed minded critics.

In this article, I'm interested in how skeptics define themselves, and the accuracy of those definitions. Skeptics form a sub-culture in western society, and like all cultures they have their own core set of beliefs and mythology. It is those myths that interest me, as a skeptic.
the article continues to include:
Myths about Science and the Scientific Method.
Mahoney found two things: First, reviewers were more likely to reject papers that did not support the theory they favored. Second, reviewers were on average more critical of the methodology in the papers that did not support their prior views---even though the methodologies were identical. That is, the reviewers in Mahoney's study held conflicting theories to a higher standard.
Also,
Myths of Problem Solving and Decision Making.
Myths about Belief Systems.
Myths about Skeptics.


Prior beliefs affect our acceptance of the data, and it could be argued that skeptics such as Gardner, Klass and Nickell are good skeptics because of their prior beliefs. They know going into an investigation that there is a prosaic explanation, and are determined to find it. What's wrong with that? Well, it can (and has in some cases) lead to incorrect or premature conclusions.32 It also doesn't do much for skepticism's reputation when a researcher goes in falsely, and obviously so, proclaiming neutrality. Why not just be honest and say: ``I don't believe it. It is possible to convince me, but I don't think that is going to happen because in my experience, the world doesn't work that way.'
For the entire discussion, please see this link:
http://www.rpi.edu/~sofkam/papers/skeptik.html

For other skeptical links:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Skepticism
 
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Answers and Replies

  • #2
Zero
Uh huh...it is a dangerous thing to start claiming absolutes. I would comment specifically on one area that you highlighted:
Prior beliefs affect our acceptance of the data, and it could be argued that skeptics such as Gardner, Klass and Nickell are good skeptics because of their prior beliefs. They know going into an investigation that there is a prosaic explanation, and are determined to find it. What's wrong with that? Well, it can (and has in some cases) lead to incorrect or premature conclusions.32 It also doesn't do much for skepticism's reputation when a researcher goes in falsely, and obviously so, proclaiming neutrality. Why not just be honest and say: ``I don't believe it. It is possible to convince me, but I don't think that is going to happen because in my experience, the world doesn't work that way.'
This could be called a bias, but it is the good kind, I guess. It is the bias of someone who is open to new evidence, and completely skeptical of the "same old stuff". James Randi's "Million Dollar Challenge" is a good example of this. His main restriction is that you must agree on the exact testing procedure before you can begin the challenge. This allows him to weed out the most common of magician's tricks, that have been debunked so many times that it is simply a waste of time to debunk them yet again.

As a skeptic, I attempt to be a neutral as possible. However, if I have seen 1000 frauds, it is hard not to be biased against another example of the same 'phenomenon'. How many more times do we have to test obvious nonsense before we declare 'case closed!'?
 
  • #3
Ivan Seeking
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Originally posted by Zero
How many more times do we have to test obvious nonsense before we declare 'case closed!'?
Here's the part that must drive the never-was-an-ET crowd nuts. Even if we all agree today that there has never been a case of any ET visititation, I can assure you that by tomorrow ET will have landed once again. Muaahhaahhaahaahaa! It's never going to end Zero! You can kill Ivan, but you can't kill the alien. Muaahhaahhaahaahaa!

I try my best to be intellectually honest. I believe that from this comes skepticism, objectivity, and perhaps at times the acceptance of a new world view. Of course, no one can be completely objective about anything.
 
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  • #4
Zero
Originally posted by Ivan Seeking
Here's the part that must drive the never-was-an-ET crowd nuts. Even if we all agree today that there has never been a case of any ET visititation, I can assure you that by tomorrow ET will have landed once again. Muaahhaahhaahaahaa! It's never going to end Zero! You can kill Ivan, but you can't kill the alien. Muaahhaahhaahaahaa!
It would be nice if it wasn't the exact same rubber alien every time, don't you think? Couldn't people create a new story every once in awhile?

I try my best to be intellectually honest. I believe that from this comes skepticism, objectivity, and perhaps at times the acceptance of a new world view. Of course, no one can be completely objective about anything.
I can be completely objective...gives me a headache though.
 
  • #5
Njorl
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Part of good science is attempting to be completely objective. Another part is realizing that you failed.

Njorl
 
  • #6
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Zero

It would be nice if it wasn't the exact same rubber alien every time, don't you think? Couldn't people create a new story every once in awhile?
OK, taking the bait, how about if I told you that planet Venus had a build-in brake that caused its present state and secondly, there have not been ice ages in the Pleistocene, just wandering ice sheets. Care to debunk that?
 

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