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Skeptics a Dying Breed?

  1. Aug 7, 2003 #1
    Why is it that people these days look so badly upon anybody that doesn't immediatly believe every claim brought before them?
    One is urged to have an open mind, and this open mind is usually equated to believing without evidence.

    Psuedoscience is so hard for most to tell from real science. Now the majority of people believe that silliness like psychics are 100% real and proven scientifically.
    It's not that people are stupid or anything, well educated people fall into these same traps.
    Here's a paper by a french professor showing what I mean.

    http://www.unice.fr/zetetique/anglais/a_zetetique.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 7, 2003 #2
    The urge for being normal, like everyone else, should be a sickness as much as being too 'nuts'.
  4. Aug 7, 2003 #3


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    I knew the French were moro... Oops...
    Well, what can I say, people in general are mostly a
    stupid mob, nothing we can do about it (for now :wink:).

    Live long and prosper.
  5. Aug 8, 2003 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    This statement does not represent skepticism. What you state is a belief. I think you may have a problem with definitions. Why would you expect any less from people who have other belief systems?
  6. Aug 8, 2003 #5
    Well of course it is my belief. It can't be very well proven that no such thing exists. That doesn't make it any more existant or any less foolish to believe there is concrete scientific evidence of the existance of psychics.

    [edit added emphasis to make sure my point gets though]
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  7. Aug 8, 2003 #6

    Ivan Seeking

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    I can completely appreciate the requirement for proof. This is a good thing. First though I want to point out that while you ask where all the skeptics have gone, you make a highly biased statement which is an example of your complaint.

    Next, you are drawing conclusions based on a belief. By definition, using logic, we can never prove a negative. This means that we can never prove that psychics don't exist. If they do exist, we might be able to prove that this is true. In either case, even though you may be right, and even though your requirement for proof is admirable, what you are really asking is why more people don't agree with your unproven and un-provable belief.
  8. Aug 8, 2003 #7
    No actually I'm not. I'm talking about a style of thought. That people are more willing to stick it out as the underdog and have a chance at being proven right, (Not through realistic possibility, just by the fact that they can't be proven wrong.) than those who would doubt the existance of something until real concrete evidence appears.

    It's not a matter of religious faith to believe that leprechauns don't exist.
  9. Aug 8, 2003 #8

    Ivan Seeking

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    A style of thought? You mean where you draw conclusions based on no evidence?
  10. Aug 8, 2003 #9
    Not any more than believing someone is innocent until proven guilty is a belief unfounded on evidence.

    It is not smart for a scientific world view to accept every theory or phenomenon as right or true until proven otherwise. It must work the other way around for science to be in anyway tractable.

    My question is simply why do more people not try to apply the scientific principle and critical thinking in their lives? Yes it does take a concious decision to do so because that is not how the brain itself operates. I fail to see how this is an unfair question.

    If you have some agenda please come forward with it this is becoming tiresome.
  11. Aug 8, 2003 #10

    Ivan Seeking

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    Well, first I can assure you that no agenda of mine is hidden. I make my position on things abundantly clear [note the avatar]. In this particular case, I only want to distinguish between skepticism, and preconceived notions of reality. You don't know what is and is not possible. No one benefits from a closed mind. Tell me, how much time have you spent researching the subject of psychics?
  12. Aug 8, 2003 #11
    So you come on to this thread to say that I have beliefs unfounded in reality and then espouse your own beliefs that have no evidence like calling me closed minded.

    Note that all the beliefs you've accused me of are not in any way central to my entire belief structure. I could give any of them up at a moments notice given proper evidence. You're picking nits at insignificant things.

    Is it that you want me to say that I "withold judgement" until I have proper evidence. That may be easier for you to understand how I feel.
    This is closer to how I feel about certain things like alien spacecraft.

    If you want to debate the existance of psychic phenomena start a new thread. All I'll say here is that i've researched enough to be confident in my views on it. And if it helps you to not misrepresent my position I used to be a strong believer in esp as a child.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  13. Aug 8, 2003 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    I am not arguing for a belief in psychics; but that's what you seem to want to make it. This is a discussion about your predisposed beliefs being hidden under the guise of objectivity.

    You made your opinion on this clear. Since you don't know of any evidence the subject is silliness.

    I am not arguing for belief. I am arguing for an open mind. How much does your position on psychics leave open for personal testimony? How many people did you just call liars?

    According to some recent reports from a major university, I will dig up the link for another thread, proof of precognition in the order of 1/3 second has been reliably demonstrated. I just heard reference made to this by one of the guest physicists in a tribute to Stephen Hawking: PBS, "A Brief history of Time." But I will gladly save this proof for ESP for another thread.
  14. Aug 8, 2003 #13
    I think the point is, skeptics are open-minded to concepts, where are minds are 'closed' is when we decide what sort of evidence we accept. I don't belive in UFOs, ESP, etc. However, if there were 5-6 independent studies from reputable sources, claiming to have found valid evidence, I would be perfectly able to accept the provisional existance of those things.

    Personal testimony is the absolute least reliable source possible. Without corroboration, it is useless.
  15. Aug 8, 2003 #14

    Ivan Seeking

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    First, I didn't mean to get so agressive, sorry Joy, but this hits another sore spot for me. The evidence for some kind of precognition appears to be nearly solid. This is very new and I have resisted any non pseudo posts [I did make one about this is the pseudo section] until more information is available. However I clearly heard this referenced by a heavy weight just a couple of days ago on PBS. I don't know who he was, but the crowd was Hawking, Thorne, and other highly notables. I will be posting more about this when I can dig up some more good references. I should probably get what I posted before for a reference. I will start another thread in the pseudo section tomorrow.

    I don't think many scientists are sensitive to the personal elements of these claims. The science does not speak to the personal experiences. When you call this silliness you tell tens of thousands of people that they are fools or liars.

    Edit: please note also that just as personal experiences do not qualify as scientific evidence, science can't say anything about the credibility of the personal experiences [aside from occasional mental problems and what not]. The claim could be perfectly true, we just can't measure anything. This hardly qualifies as hogwash. It only means that we have no scientific evidence for such a thing.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  16. Aug 8, 2003 #15
    When you say I'm calling people liars, you're posting in the same tone when you say my beliefs are "unproven and unprovable".

    You're trying to make the way I think seem malicious when it's not.
    I give consideration to personal experiences but I have no way to corroborate or verify them. Also I know myself that even my memory of personal experiences is sometimes flawed and othertimes completely false. I don't think these people are often lying trying to fool people. That would mean that they know that they're wrong. I know however that it is easy to fool yourself, especially when you really want to believe. Look up ideomotor action for example of the ways in which we can fool ourselves.

    I will look into whatever stuff you put up but i've seen enough tv documentories that are just downright false , or try to push a certain perspective. It's been a long time since I've seen anything in the media that retains even a shred of objectivity.
  17. Aug 8, 2003 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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  18. Aug 8, 2003 #17
    You seem to be misunderstanding what's going on. There is enough doubt about testimonies and simple mundane explanations that make more sense. You seem to think that these accounts are just dismissed outright as if they didn't happen. This isn't the case, I don't doubt that these things actually happened or that people actually believed they happened. They are not however concrete evidence of the existance of psychic phenomena.

    The most satisfying explanations for these experiences are ones that don't assume people are crazy, lying or hoaxing, but instead offer rational explanations for what did happen.

    As for me calling psychics sillyness. Well that's just my opinion but it's formed from the fact that parapsychologists have been trying to prove that they are even have a phenomenon to study for 130 years to no real avail so far. Their methods are much better now but most research is still done behind closed doors making it hard to take seriously.

    I will admit that parapsychologists are in a unique spot that they have to proove that their phenomenon exists before they can study it. Nobody had to prove that gravity existed to try to explain it.

    To really and honestly prove that something is worthy of scientific attention you need to be able to put forward a theory for it that can be falsified.

    It takes more of an open mind to say you're wrong, when real evidence comes up that you are, and accept a new belief because of that evidence. That's the position a skeptic is in. Otherwise you've already accepted something as true because it cannont be falsified and then try to find a different reason why you are right when contrary evidence comes up.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  19. Aug 8, 2003 #18

    Ivan Seeking

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    This is only your opinion. This is not a scientific fact.

    I have never implied that this is scientific evidence. However, science is not defined in such a way so as to account for or even to address all truths.

    This may be satifying, but it may not speak to the personal claims.

    Perhaps we haven't done the right experiment. Perhaps some kind of Heisenbergian problem gets in the way. Many experiments are done in the open. The problem is, as soon as the subject is known attention is lost.

    Of course this assumes that all reality must meet our requirements for evidence. What if some truths can't be tested? Do we give people Prozac because we aren't smart enough to explain their experiences?

    Belief is a religious concept. This is the essence of my objection.

    However, you assign conclusions to our skeptic. This is not the job of the skeptic. The job is to question and doubt; not to conclude. Also, strickly speaking, science should be objective, not skeptical; this by the religious connotation indicated here:

    skep·tic also scep·tic ( P ) Pronunciation Key (skptk)
    One who instinctively or habitually doubts, questions, or disagrees with assertions or generally accepted conclusions.
    One inclined to skepticism in religious matters.
    often Skeptic An adherent of a school of skepticism.
    Skeptic A member of an ancient Greek school of skepticism, especially that of Pyrrho of Elis (360?-272? B.C.).
  20. Aug 8, 2003 #19
    Again you're just not listening. I said that any explanation that does address the personal claims as not being fradulent but due to some other phenomenon is a better explanation.

    See more excuses to continue YOUR belief. Any experiment that doesn't show signs of the phenomena they're looking for is dismissed as not being the right experiment. Not as evidence that the phenomena don't exist.

    You're the only one saying that everyone thinks these people are crazy and deserve to be locked away. I'm certainly not saying that. I'm just saying that their testemonials don't constitute scientific evidence because they're not subject to verification 100% of the time.

    You could say that. But again it's a misrepresntation. Whenever anyone makes a decision based on incomplete evidence it is a belief. The essence of applying the scientific method to your beliefs is that you're willing to change them when better evidence comes along.
  21. Aug 8, 2003 #20
    Faith is a religious concept. Be-
    lief is not. Faith and belief are
    not synonymous.

    I think your last sentence was well put and to the point.

  22. Aug 8, 2003 #21
    I think you are both right, one seeing a need to dismiss the overwhelming nonsense of pseudoscience for more attention to proven or hard sciences and it's continuation, the other seeing a need not to dismissing anything as trivial but trying to filter through the vaste refuse of human speculation for little gems. If someone were to go back in time and try to tell people all about the discoveries of this century and how we lit up the entire world by harnessing those tiny things Democritus was talking about, and we went to the moon, and supported 6 billion people on Earth... On the other hand, if we were to build a library dedicated to all the crackpot ideas of humanity throughout the ages we would probably have to live underground. For a long time people claimed that singing to plants helped them grow and some people didn't believe it because it wasn't science, until science proved it. I think people like mystiscism because it feeds the emotions and imagination and gives a sense of wonder and awe and perhaps it is a basic human requirement to be mystified a bit, but then you get people like that crossing over guy and they have some special talent but the explanation for it's cause is probably much simpler and not nearly as exciting more like how a horse can learn to do math. Anything is possible, but to consider everything is impractical.
  23. Aug 8, 2003 #22
    Originally posted by Joy Division:

    "Why is it that people these days look so badly upon anybody that doesn't immediatly believe every claim brought before them?
    One is urged to have an open mind, and this open mind is usually equated to believing without evidence."
    Joy Division,

    It isn't just "these days". These
    currents of belief in various un-
    scientific things run in cycles
    throughout history.

    I think the answer to your first
    question is that not believing
    someone's extrordinary claim is
    viewed by them as an aspersion on
    their credibility. They feel you
    are calling them a liar or a fool.

    I am always surprised by this, my-
    self. It seems that if peoples
    ego and identity are so tied up
    with potentially controversial
    beliefs that they would excercize
    more caution in bringing the sub-
    ject up.

    Your second observation about an
    open mind actually being a euph-
    emism for believing without evi-
    dence, is a point well made. Not
    even open mindedness is exempt
    from becoming perverted into an
    unofficially policed part of soc-
    ial conformity. Urging someone to
    have an open mind is sometimes
    a person's way of saying their ego
    is totally invested in a certain
    belief and you had better not
    cross them. Which is disturbing
    and sad.

  24. Aug 9, 2003 #23
    Thanks for the replys.

    The benefits of an open mind are quite obvious. The fact remains however. Scientists can still be fooled. Some even wrongly believe that their educations and intellects make them harder to fool than anyone else. This is also a dangerous type of thinking.

    I think it is true that everyone needs a little bit of mystery in their lives. Where you get that depends on who you are. It may be that science is partly to blame for the way people think. Perhaps scientists wanting to share the things that give their lives mystery have given people the impression that the universe doesn't make any sense and that anything is possible.

    I don't think everyone can think the way I do. I don't expect it. I would hope though that people had a little more trust in science.
  25. Aug 9, 2003 #24

    Ivan Seeking

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    It is an explanation. This surely accounts for many personal experiences. This does not justify the claim that all other options are silliness. You know, when I first objected to your statements, if you would have said, yes it is just my personal opinion that this is all silliness, I would have been done.

    What belief? What belief have I expressed here? It does seem as though you wish to make this the argument in order to make your position appear to be the objective point of view, but I keep telling you that I am not promoting any beliefs. I am promoting objectivity and open mindedness. The fact is, I think nearly all "psychics" are con artists. I tend to think that some truth lies at the heart of this issue, but I also think it is possible that there is nothing to it at all. I haven't made up my mind…of course this is just my personal opinion.

    I never said this; I said perhaps. If find it interesting that you refuse to keep my statements within the proper context. I was only offering alternatives. Should I assume that you can offer objective proof that all avenues for experiment have been explored here?

    I never said anything about locking people away. I never suggested that their testimony should qualify as scientific evidence. You only wish that this is what I said.

    I will defer to Seth Shostack and the SETI crowd: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” When lacking evidence to support or to disprove some particular claim of personal experience, science has nothing to say. We can speculate and we can form personal opinions, but to assert those opinions as objective truth is a misapplication of the scientific method. It is nothing less than pushing a religion under the guise of science.
  26. Aug 9, 2003 #25

    Ivan Seeking

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    Nothing can be proven beyond all doubt. Any belief is ultimately based on some leap of faith. Surely we accept many beliefs as true do to the overwhelming evidence for such. For example, I believe that if I drop a ball it will fall; being in normal gravity etc. However, Joy's example hardly qualifies as anything so obvious.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2003
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