Monday, January 18, 2016

Skepticism vs. Pseudoskepticism

We have had arguments about the purpose of skepticism and what it means to be a skeptic. I have often thought it odd that the skeptics seem to embrace the explanations for UFO sightings with little or no skepticism but continue to demand boatloads of proof from those who believe UFOs might be alien. Sure, I get that the bar for the believers is higher because of what that belief is, but that doesn’t absolve the skeptics from presenting rational thought. The best example that pops into my mind is Project Mogul. They seem to embrace it even though the documentation suggests that there was no Flight No. 4. They point to the cluster of balloons as a real, full array, but the documentation doesn’t support that. It would seem to me that the skeptics would be as skeptical of this “official” answer as they are of the alien answer (okay, not quite as skeptical given that the believers must create interstellar flight but the documentation does argue against Mogul).

Although I really don’t want this to devolve into another endless and somewhat mindless discussion of all the minutia about Mogul (though I’m sure there will be those that just have to say something about it), the real point is what skepticism should really be and how it should really work. If I came up will all that follows, I’m sure it would be rejected simply because I was the one who came up with it. To prevent that, I suggest that everyone take a look at:



Now you all can argue about what is skepticism and what is pseudoskepticism, but the point is that many of the arguments made here are outlined in the article. I could say more about it, but the arguments made in the article are more elegant than anything I could do here.

40 comments:

Steve Sawyer said...

I found these two wiki entries, below, to be useful in better defining the difference between objective, honest skeptics and skepticism vs. pseudoskepticism (which is also a form of debunking), particularly the latter, as clearly defined by Marcello Truzzi in an issue of Zetetic Scholar from 1987:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_skepticism

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pseudoskepticism


cda said...

I tend to agree with the points in that article, or most of them anyway. But delving into them would consume an awful lot of space and time here.

Regarding Mogul flight 4, I wonder how important it is whether such a flight took place or not. Is not the most important item the fact that balloon-like debris or fabric closely matches the contemporary descriptions in the press (plus of course the Ft Worth photos)? We can argue forever whether flight 4 took place at 3 AM, 4 AM or on another day or not at all, and what sort of equipment it did or did not carry. And even if it did not take place, something similar obviously DID take place (as is evidenced by the accounts of what was recovered at the time).

Kevin: If you were a scientist, interested in and actively searching for, evidence of intelligent extraterrestrial life, what sort of evidence you would demand before you accepted it as virtual proof that such life not only existed but has visited our planet? Would the decades old Roswell testimony (without any hard evidence) really be enough for you? Or would you demand something much firmer and solid?

I suppose the answer to that is given in your articles & books. But you may, just MAY, have second thoughts now. Remember nearly 70 years have passed and there is STILL no official admission of any kind to what was perhaps the greatest scientific discovery of all time.

As I wrote earlier the whole Roswell scenario, with more and more ifs, buts and speculation, is becoming more like a comedy.

erickson said...

Clearly skepticism is needed. If some were not skeptical of the Slides, a lot of people would still be talking about photos of an alien body. Some prominent researchers should have been more skeptical from the start.

Some of the best work I have seen comes from people who are skeptical, but how many times do people dismiss critical thought as "debunking" (used as a negative term) - I am note sure that "pseudoskepticism" works any better.

Still, who can argue with the basic premise? As Sharon Hill (from the Doubtful News site) recently wrote on Twitter: "Skepticism should not be off the cuff dismissiveness. It should be an attempt to understand and present in a rational light."

In too many instances people are presented with claims and take it for face value, saying "wow!" instead of "really?" So we should all be challenging our own beliefs and conclusions - regardless of which side of the fence we are on.

Anthony Mugan said...

I would value any thoughts from those with a background in psychology on the following thought.
It seems to me that a large percentage of the population have difficulty dealing with uncertainty with many turning to belief systems of many types to create a degree of certainty that simply does not exist. The extreme pathological sceptic appears to me to be using science as a form of psychological support in much the same way as religious fanatics, proponents of astrology or the 'true believers' in space brethren etc are also seeking psychological support against uncertainty and partial information.
A critical rationalist approach, following Popper, considers all knowledge to be provisional and potentially falsifiable. Some knowledge is much more secure and unlikely to be falsified than others but the principle applies.
When some people continue to cling to the Mogul hypothesis despite its utter and total falsification, as discussed in this blog in the past, they are not following a critical rationalist approach to science.
Of course there appears to be a second layer to all this. Some issues go beyond being simply a scientific question and involve national security or political consideration. In these circumstances it may be hard to distinguish between pathological scepticism and cynically pragmatic abuse of science for what some would argue are much more significant objectives.
Anyway...just my working hypothesis at the moment

albert said...

@Anthony,

"...A critical rationalist approach, following Popper, considers all knowledge to be provisional and potentially falsifiable. Some knowledge is much more secure and unlikely to be falsified than others but the principle applies...."
.
Since there is a large range of probabilities (from metaphysical certitude to highly unlikely) for the 'truthfulness' of all knowledge, there must be a large range of attitudes toward that knowledge (from violent fanaticism to banal cynicism). Whereas the cynic may be willing to assign probabilities to a particular theory, the fanatic will never accept anything less than metaphysical certitude.

In the case of the Mogul balloon theory, most folks (present company excluded) would consider it a teapot tempest. However, if Congress decides to pass a law that prohibits criticising religions (BTW, clearly unconstitutional), the public outcry would be tremendous.

I agree that some folks need psychological teddy bears to comfort them in their beliefs, but real* fanatics don't have any uncertainty about their beliefs; they have their faith in God or Science.

That's my working hypothesis.

..........
* as opposed to the cynics and poseurs. I worked with a fellow, very much an atheist, who continually pumped me for Bible information, just so he could argue with the fundamentalists in the company. He got to be pretty good at it. :)

Mark said...

I'm curious: do you have examples of people who you would consider legitimate skeptics, who do not support the alien hypothesis for UFOs? To be open about my own biases, I'm agnostic-leaning-towards-skeptic on the alien hypothesis.

erickson said...

Sharon Hill (Doubtful News) recently tweeted, "Skepticism should not be off the cuff dismissiveness. It should be an attempt to understand and present in a rational light."

As one who is skeptical about many things within ufology, I certainly agree with that. But it is also a standard that should be applied to the things that we believe. We should not accept claims without critical thought simply because something conforms to a belief system.

Critical thought should be the starting point on either side of the fence.

Gal220 said...

Thoughtful post and maybe even helpful to some, but the cynic in me doesnt really believe it. Most people appear to have leanings one way or another, like liberal or conservative, never the twain shall meet. Its unfortunate the small margin of swing voters, who really dont know what they believe, usually decides things.

Anthony Mugan said...

@Mark
Michael Persinger would be a good example of a sceptic who has done outstanding work in this area.

albert said...

@Mark,
Were you directing your question to anyone in particular?
. .. . .. --- ....

Gilles Fernandez said...

Hello,

I readed the other publications by Tara MacIsaac... Like the one titled "Using Psychics in the Courtroom: Parapsychology Consultant Discusses" Wow!!, she is definitivatly the person one ufologist may have as mentor, and then Kevin ^^

I have encountered many ufologists in my humble "immersion" using "the call to Truzzi" only for the rethoric they seem to have as a last argument because their ETH/fortean hypothesis is not convincing at all, from the starts to the end.

That's only why they call to Truzzi, and use "pseudo-skeptic", only to seduce their fans. When using its argument -sic-, they have not to adress and to discuss the case they have as a "mantra". It looks like, for their fans, they are right, and the ones not "spousing" the thesis they are defending (offering no scientific arguments) the bad ones, the pseudo-skeptics. Poor crashology :( It is an economy here by Kevin: Call them pseudo-skeptics because I have not proven was an ET crash! Kevin is then economist as a last resort because he didn't proove Roswell as an ET Crash or he have NOT refuted the Mogull explanation. A classic call then in ufology.

I'm not suprised Kevin now using it, after he doesnt convince Mogull CANT explain Roswell after so many books, articles, entries in his blog And then personal cost/load (Dissonance cognitive theory at his best concerning Kevin).

I'm sad in fact about "old geezers" now proposing to readers the very old bad argument consisting to call "skeptics", "pseudo-skeptics" and "call to Truzzi" they have not readed in all.

Maybe Kevin thinks he have "re-invented the wheel" concerning his Roswell Mantra, here?

The ones calling to Truzzi are the first to not have readed him and the ones to learn to others what Truzzi defended and they dont apply to themselves...

Well, that's ufology, after all. ;)

Gilles Fernandez

Brian Bell said...

Some ET proponents here might be surprised to know that much of psychology also defines their conspiracy theories (governments hiding the truth about aliens) as a form of "motivated skepticism". Yes, that means even UFO believers employ skepticism of their own brand, that being extreme "skepticism" of plausible or rational scientific explanations.

While skeptics tend to dismiss the conspiracists' theories, the conspiracist also does the same in response.

Some excerpts from the link below:

http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/science/2013/11/conspiracy_theory_psychology_people_who_claim_to_know_the_truth_about_jfk.2.html

"The more you see the world this way—full of malice and planning instead of circumstance and coincidence—the more likely you are to accept conspiracy theories of all kinds."

"Public Policy Polling asked 1,200 registered U.S. voters about various popular theories. Fifty-one percent said a larger conspiracy was behind President Kennedy’s assassination; only 25 percent said Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone. Compared with respondents who said Oswald acted alone, those who believed in a larger conspiracy were more likely to embrace other conspiracy theories tested in the poll. They were twice as likely to say that a UFO had crashed in Roswell, N.M., in 1947 (32 to 16 percent) and that the CIA had deliberately spread crack cocaine in U.S. cities (22 to 9 percent)."

Also, conspiracists tend to have particular personality traits as discussed here:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/insights-into-the-personalities-conspiracy-theorists/

"Scientific theories, by definition, must be falsifiable. That is, they must make reliable predictions about the world; and if those predictions turn out to be incorrect, the theory can be declared false. Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are tough to disprove. Their proponents can make the theories increasingly elaborate to accommodate new observations; and, ultimately, any information contradicting a conspiracy theory can be answered with, “Well sure, that’s what they want you to think.”

KRandle said...

Gilles -

You are the second self-labeled skeptic (and no, I don't mean that in a pejorative sense, only that it is how you identify yourself) who commented on the "Using Psychics in the Courtroom: Parapsychology Consultant Discusses," and wondered if you actually read it or were using the title to dismiss the discussion of pseudo-skepticism. The article is not advocating the use of psychics in the courtroom, only commenting on cases in which psychics were used. While the article doesn't really address any skeptical claims about psychics it isn't actually advocating that they be used.

And I labeled no one as a pseudoskeptic, merely pointed to an article about it and wondered, as it seemed to me, that sometimes skeptics embraced a solution without questioning the merits of that solution. Mogul, to me, seemed to be a case in which there was a reliance on one opinion or another without many looking at the total picture, which would be skepticism of the solution but also those advocating that Mogul is not the answer should be skeptical of that position as well. I mean that before jumping to a conclusion that many, but not all on either side, bothered to read through all the documentation for that solution. We can go through that and find support for almost any position.

And contrary to what is being said, I am not using the article to reject the Mogul solution, but suggest that some of the points of the article are relevant to the discussions here. I can point to many posts in which it is suggested that we're all conspiratorists as a way of dismissing a point of view. I was suggesting that maybe we all should raise the bar (realizing that those advocating alien visitation have a higher bar than those suggesting none).

I also notice that you descend into the idea that I am so wrapped up in the Roswell must be alien idea that I am unable to digest information that suggests otherwise, which simply is not the case.

I did expect push back on this, but certainly not in the form it has taken, nor that there would be those who attempt to dismiss the article by quoting the title of an article by the writer but did not bother to read the article at all.

Mark said...

@Anthony Mugan: I'm not familiar with Dr. Persinger, but just googling his name, I'm getting a bunch of hits saying he claims to have proved the existence of telepathy and ESP...

@albert: I'm especially curious about our host's opinions, but I'd be interested in anyone's responses.

Gilles Fernandez said...

Hello Kevin and all,

TU for your comment.

Kevin wrote: "I also notice that you descend into the idea that I am so wrapped up in the Roswell must be alien idea that I am unable to digest information that suggests otherwise, which simply is not the case."

So, Kevin, I'm sure you will maybe play with me/us a simple game (I have asked to play several French ufologists, prior you).

Please, present here what are/had your arguments that Roswell was not an alien crash as crashologist concerning Roswell yourself. So, if you had been a "skeptic" concerning the Roswell case, what you will point?

If you dont comment my "challenge" (thing I understand), I'm sure you will do it facing the mirror ^^

Best regards,

Gilles

Brice said...

well adressed points on pseudo-skepticism in this article, about which so called "skeptics" should definitely think of...

albert said...

@Brian,
"....psychology also defines their conspiracy theories..." Psychology doesn't 'define' anything. Deriving data form polls might be better suited to politics rather than science.

"...Yes, that means even UFO believers employ skepticism of their own brand, that being extreme "skepticism" of plausible or rational scientific explanations..." What's the difference between 'ET proponents' and 'UFO believers'? Who determines if 'plausible or rational scientific explanations' are plausible, rational, or scientific?

"..."The more you see the world this way—full of malice and planning instead of circumstance and coincidence—the more likely you are to accept conspiracy theories of all kinds."..."

One of the dumbest statements I've ever read. News flash for Mr. Saletan: The world -is- full of malice and planning, and if you're not able to see that, then you're not able to comment on it. And this guy's a -political- writer....wait, maybe that explains it.

"..."Public Policy Polling asked 1,200 registered U.S. voters..." ...". We can stop reading right there. This is 'science' by polling, i.e., utterly meaningless, unless you're studying the influence of media on a micro-sample of the populace, in which case, bravo! There's your thesis topic.

"..."...Scientific theories, by definition, must be falsifiable. That is, they must make reliable predictions about the world; and if those predictions turn out to be incorrect, the theory can be declared false...." True, but 'science' often rejects 'incorrect' data in order to preserve the paradigm, and we hardly ever hear about it.

"...Conspiracy theories, on the other hand, are tough to disprove. Their proponents can make the theories increasingly elaborate to accommodate new observations; and, ultimately, any information contradicting a conspiracy theory can be answered with, “Well sure, that’s what they want you to think.”...".

There's that loaded term again: 'Conspiracy theories'. Let's have a definition please. Is it because they are difficult to disprove? Is it because "...Their proponents can make the theories increasingly elaborate to accommodate new observations..."? This is -exactly- what 'science' does when confronted with data that challenges to paradigm.

Clearly, history has shown that governments, indeed, any group of concentrated power, have an uncontrollable fetish for secrecy. Without openness, conspiracy theories are bound to grow. That's why they are so hard to disprove or (God forbid) prove.

Nevertheless, it's possible to discuss ET theories without resorting to 'conspiracy theories', as long as -all- sides agree to disagree, and don't point to inaccessible boxes full of secret information, or rely too much on the pronouncements of the power groups (which insist that those secret boxes are empty).

Until those secret boxes are opened, the impasse will continue.
. .. . .. --- ....

KRandle said...

Gilles –

If I understand your question, you wish to know about the evolution in my thinking on UFO crashes. Well, like nearly every other sane person, I was convinced that the Aztec crash was a hoax and a not very clever one. It was so thoroughly destroyed that I thought there was no such thing. I saw the article by Robert Spencer Carr in the mid-1970s when he claimed five witnesses to the crash, but when Mike McClelland destroyed the Aztec crash again; Carr said that it might not have been Aztec, which I thought was a not very clever way of keeping the story alive.

In the early 1980s, somewhere I saw a copy of The Roswell Incident, looked at it quickly and believed it was the Aztec crash story in a different guise. I paid little attention to it. When CUFOS decided to look into the Roswell case, I was invited in because of my military background and it was thought I would have some insights into the military mind and I might connect with them in a way that a civilian would not.

I thought we would go to New Mexico, find a solution and be done with it. The first few investigations didn’t work. One evening we were at the home of a New Age group claiming communication with some outer space entity and had nothing of value. In Roswell we met with Cliff Stone who was quite knowledgeable about UFOs but didn’t provide us with much about Roswell. On our last day, we met Bill Brazel and he had information, seemed credible, and helped us out. All he did was suggest that there might be something more to the story, and we had no solution. We decided that we needed to return for further work.

We met with Walter Haut, who told his story. We met Glenn Dennis and Frank Kaufmann who told us their stories and provided some documentation. We met the family of the sheriff, other soldiers who had been in Roswell, and civilian witnesses to some of this. A story developed providing an interesting array of coordinated tales that seemed to dovetail. We also met with historians and officials at White Sands, at Holloman AFB, the space museum in Alamogordo, museums and archives in New Mexico and Texas. Given all that, it seemed that a solid case was being built… and then we learned about Glenn Dennis and Frank Kaufmann and Jim Ragsdale. The documentation that we believed existed could not be found. The physical evidence that should exist was beyond our grasp.

With all that, it seemed the Roswell case was not as strong as we thought. Add into that the nonsense of MJ-12, the Plains of San Agustin, the Not Roswell Slides, and a dozen other diversions, and it is clear that things needed to be reevaluated.

I hope this answers your question.

Don Maor said...

Kevin said

With all that, it seemed the Roswell case was not as strong as we thought. Add into that the nonsense of MJ-12, the Plains of San Agustin, the Not Roswell Slides, and a dozen other diversions, and it is clear that things needed to be reevaluated.

Excuse me Kevin, but, are you saying that now you are a Roswell skeptic?

brumac said...

One thing about the skeptic approach to UFO sightings is that very often the explanation proposed by a skeptic is "automatically" accepted as valid by other skeptics even when the explanation is wrong or at least unconvincing. You find "pro" ufologists arguing over whether or not a particular case was actually a sighting of a "spaceship" but you rarely,if ever, find skeptics arguing over whether or not a particular explanation is "the" explanation. Instead, skeptics often/generally approve of the first explanation that is offered and published. They sometimes act as if "any explanation" is better than none even when the proposed explanation is clearly wrong (e.g. violates physics) or is, at best, unconvincing. (You may not be able to determine whether or not a particular explanation is correct but you can decide whether or not a particular explanation is convincing.) I tackled the proclivity to propose "prosaic explanations" in http://www.brumac.8k.com/prosaic1.html

Gilles Fernandez said...

Hello,

Thank you very much, Kevin for your reply and time allocated to respond to me and "the challenge" offered/proposed.
Very much appreciated from/despite the UFO-skeptic I'm (and mainly Roswell-Skeptic).

Vous êtes quelqu'un que j'apprécie vraiment, même si nous ne serons jamais d'accord.

As a Roswell Myth-story tales/taler you are, I wanted only to ask you what in the Roswell myth you may doubting for Roswell as an ET-crash.

I have always appreciated when you have reevalated many things concerning the "Roswell Myth".

Respect,

Gilles.

Anthony Mugan said...

@ Mark
In terms of Persinger's UFO related work Google Persinger and Derr (Dr John Derr) and their work on tectonic strain lights / earthquake lights. He has also done some work on EM effects on human perception which may have some relevance in CE cases, but that isn't totally convincing in my opinion.
In terms of psi effects, again he has done some interesting work, but that needs to be seen in the much wider context of the overall dataset on psi research, and would be best described as a useful contribution to that field.
Apologies for not giving full references ( typing this at my kids tennis lesson!) but off memory Persinger wrote a chapter in Jacobs (ed) 2000, 'UFOs and abductions' and authored or co-authored a series of papers on the subject. There was one in the Journal of Scientific Exploration (1990 off memory) which is accessible on line amongst others, for example.

TSLs do not provide a complete solution to the unknowns, but they help explain a lot of the noise in the dataset, in my opinion, and I think this work is a major contribution.

Hope that is useful

cda said...

Don:

Before long it will be only David Rudiak and yourself who remain as the true Roswell believers. Even the 'slides group' are strangely silent now.

The Roswell believers are a dying breed. It is time to bury the past.

KRandle said...

All -

To be clear here, I was merely suggesting that some of the most exciting testimony in the Roswell case has fallen... Glenn Dennis and his missing nurse, Frank Kaufmann and his first person investigation with his "nine", Jim Ragsdale and his late night rendezvous with a married woman and Gerald Anderson with his nasty black sergeant. We do have some interesting testimonies and to keep everyone from pointing out they are based on memories decades old, I will note here that they are based on memories that are decades old.

Brian Bell said...

@ Albert

"Nevertheless, it's possible to discuss ET theories without resorting to 'conspiracy theories', as long as -all- sides agree to disagree, and don't point to inaccessible boxes full of secret information..."

The problem is the entire basis of modern thought on UFO visitors from outer space hinges on the anchor that the world's governments know the truth and are hiding the facts - by definition that's a "conspiracy theory".

KRandle said...

Brian -

I think we can kick one of the legs out from under that stool (well, maybe dent it slightly). In UFO Dossier I look at an Australian investigation of UFOs. In the beginning one of the authors cited Donald Keyhoe's book as evidence. The RAAF consulted with the USAF about that and was told that Keyhoe didn't have the contacts he claimed and that his information was inaccurate. I will assume here that the USAF officers responding to the RAAF were providing the best information they had, but they simply didn't have all of it. Turns out that Keyhoe's information was accurate, but the RAAF officers didn't know that. So, the RAAF wasn't actually hiding the truth but were drawing their conclusions based on inaccurate information.

Yes, a very fine hair and certainly doesn't argue against conspiracy, but I think that most of the world's governments are taking their lead from the US and not looking at the subject... France, Great Britain would be two exceptions.

cda said...

Timothy Good propounds the idea that several world governments know the truth. The USA, UK and France are the three principal ones but there may be others. He also refers to certain agencies within these governments (CIA, NSA and such), but avoids mentioning actual individuals (surprise!). Apart from Good, I believe other writers & researchers confine their ideas about conspiracy solely to the US government. I don't believe anyone has suggested China & Russia are in on it (not yet anyway).

Yes, conspiracy theory is an integral part of ufology, at least as far as ETH is concerned. Those who believe more in other explanations such as inter-dimensional travel, time travel, psychic projections have no need to bring official conspiracies into their thinking.

zoamchomsky said...


"conspiracy theory is an integral part of ufxlogy" says Chris.

Conspiracy theories of some sort have been an integral part of the "UFO" myth from its beginning in the Great Airship mania of 1896-97. It was suggested then that various wizards in secret mountain laboratories had perfected flying machines--first in California, then New England. Even real-life Thomas Edison was accused of being behind the Airship mania and the contemporaneous "Electric Star" hysteria.

One should be wary of various wishful-thinking "Advanced technology" hypotheses.

And what was the Shaver mystery except the grand cosmic conspiracy theory of a full-blown paranoid, Richard Shaver, the man who invented "flying saucers!" And that grand cosmic conspiracy theory of 1945 is, with elaboration, still that haunting the minds of believers in the "UFO" myth to this day. So much so that Fox Mulder gave it the complete run-through in the premier episode of the new X-Files! (g)

One should be completely skeptical of the ETH because it is a complete fiction.

zoamchomsky said...


"Skepticism vs. Pseudoskepticism"

Scientific skepticism of extraordinary claims is founded on the Null hypothesis:

A Scientific skeptic takes the position that an extraordinary claim is NOT true until it is shown to be true by its advocate.

"Pseudoskepticism" misapplies fundamentally flawed old-time philosophical Radical skepticism about knowledge of the world to known pseudoscientific topics so that they are always and forever under consideration and undecided. This position has also been called "agnosticism" (about pseudosciences) but in reality is a sort of new-age Gnosticism, believing in things that cannot be seen or be shown to exist.

This "pseudoskepticism" is the perfect complement to pseudoscience because belief in pseudosciences is fixed and finished, and believers want nothing more than to dwell on the sacred object of their fascination and condemn nonbelieving heretics as "pseudoskeptics." See how that works? And that's the source of the confusion!

It's actually very simple: "UFO" Skeptics are skeptical of extraordinary claims.
"UFO" Pseudoskeptics are NOT skeptical of extraordinary pseudoscientific claims.

Skepticism is a philosophy of science; pseudoskepticism is new-age antiscience.

zoamchomsky said...

Kevin; You write, "I suggest that everyone take a look at:

http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/603148-what-is-unhealthy-skepticism/

"... I could say more about it, but the arguments made in the article are more elegant than anything I could do here."

Do you have any idea who these people are? Let's take a look.

>>"SCEPCOP," is a website created by "Vinstonas Wu" (aka Winston Wu), an admitted diagnosed schizophrenic, to help champion every crazy idea which lacks any corroborative evidence whatsoever. It is the woo and crank answer to CSI, formerly CSICOP. The heart of the site seems to be based around a screed written by Wu in 2001 that purports to show why standard skeptical arguments against the paranormal are wrong. Apparently not one to shy away from self-promotion, most of the site is a shrine to how wonderful the document is and how it is the single greatest thing to happen to the anti-reality movement since hallucinogenic drugs.<<

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/SCEPCOP

Don Maor said...

Zoamchomsky:

I don't think that guys at the "rational wiki" can be considered to be serious.

So far, the arguments presented in
http://www.theepochtimes.com/n3/603148-what-is-unhealthy-skepticism/
seem to be resonable, not really mattering whether they are based on an author which suffers from schizophrenics. In the medical sense, the effects of such illness can be contained with medication, and the illness does not prevent the people from thinking well (remember mathematician John Nash). (I know that I have said sometimes that some skeptic arguments are schizophrenic, but it was clearly tongue in cheek, and not refering to the medical condition).

Steve Sawyer said...

"One should be completely skeptical of the ETH because it is a complete fiction."

Zoam/Aaron, I think it should be pointed out that since "the ETH" is a hypothesis, not a claimed or established fact, for you to say "it is a complete fiction," is both illogical and naively presumptuous.

You don't know what you don't know, and seemingly either can't admit that or simply can't conceive of the distinct possibility that you may be wrong in your unsubstantiated claims. I also see you misconstrued and inverted the term "pseudoskepticism" above -- perhaps you should review the wiki link I provided above for Truzzi's explicit definition thereof.

Since you cannot prove what you claim ("a complete fiction"), and misunderstand (apparently) the difference between a claim, a fact, and a hypothesis (or theory), I would suggest, as an honest, objective skeptic and "ufo agnostic" myself, that your comments in this regard are both deeply biased and as a result reflect either a deliberate or mistaken misunderstanding of the definitions of both terms, hypothesis and pseudoskepticism, and that further your past comments both here and elsewhere show pretty clearly that you are in fact a pseudoskeptic of an extremist variety.

And you are a materials scientist and educator, but are not logical or objective in the sense that you simply cannot even consider the possibility your claims and beliefs related to UFOs may just be either inadequate, irrational, or simply wrong. How do you square that obvious contradiction?

Daniel Transit said...

Don,

We are not supposed to use the word 'sceptibunker' about the likes of zoamchomsky, because it is supposed to be a childish word. Yet, he, in all his would-be rational splendour, quotes infantile stuff like this:

'..to help champion every crazy idea which lacks any corroborative evidence whatsoever. It is the woo and crank...'

KRandle said...

Zoam -

What is ironic here is that most of the criticism is based on the overtones of the web site and not on the content of the article. I would be more impressed if you all would respond to the specifics in the article rather than dismissing it because you don't like the web site that presented it.

zoamchomsky said...

Don; The people at RationalWiki are completely serious: Winston Wu is a notorious Internet crank.

The Epoch Times article is a mindless SCEPCOP (Winston Wu) puff piece that simply repeats a kind of popular-culture antiscience nonsense we’ve heard since the 1980s.

As I said, self-styled counter-culture author Robert Wilson’s new-age pseudoskepticism misapplied fundamentally flawed old-time philosophical Radical skepticism about knowledge of the world to known pseudoscientific topics so that they are always and forever under consideration and undecided. This position has also been called "agnosticism" (about pseudosciences) but in reality is a sort of new-age Gnosticism, a phony excuse for believing in things that cannot be seen or be shown to exist.

This "pseudoskepticism" is the perfect complement to pseudoscience because belief in pseudosciences is fixed and finished, and believers want nothing more than to dwell on the sacred object of their fascination and condemn nonbelieving heretics as "pseudoskeptics." And that's the source of the confusion.


Steve; The ETH is not falsifiable, it’s simply false! Short of producing something unambiguously ET, nothing will falsify the Null hypothesis for ET visitation. The ETH is not a scientific proposition, so we are left with the trivial assertion of belief. It’s a belief of our time, a projection of ourselves based entirely in fiction and speculation. The ETH is a complete fiction. All the rest of your typical diatribe is unfounded ad hominem.


Kevin; We could address the points, but why, when the overview I’ve described debunks it all at once for the obvious nonsense it is. It’s all never been anything but a lot whining about Skeptics by those who can’t make their case for the extraordinary; and it's an excuse to believe in anything however evidenceless.

There is a mundane background of knowledge composing the real world on which we make judgments about all claims and practice extreme doubt about extraordinary, world-changing claims before accepting them. Advocates must make their case.

Don Maor said...

Daniel Transit wrote:

"Don,

We are not supposed to use the word 'sceptibunker' about the likes of zoamchomsky, because it is supposed to be a childish word. Yet, he, in all his would-be rational splendour, quotes infantile stuff like this:

'..to help champion every crazy idea which lacks any corroborative evidence whatsoever. It is the woo and crank...
"

Yes Daniel, it seems that in order to be serious and rational, debunkers require to label other people as "woos" and "cranks". One might also assert that the boys at "rational wiki" are not admited even in wikipedia.

Steve Sawyer said...

"The ETH is not falsifiable, it’s simply false!"

You mean, in your humble opinion. And, if it's "simply false," prove it.

You cannot. You make an absolutist claim that is not proven. It is simply faith-based, or a belief of yours. That does not make it true.

Therefore, your opinion is invalid, non-objective, and unscientific. In a word, biased. Thus, you are a pseudoskeptic as Truzzi defined the term.

The Null hypothesis, btw, is related to inferential statistical probabilities and analysis of natural, measurable phenomena -- it would not necessarily apply to the possibility of an advanced non-human intelligence [ANHI] being potentially present on earth, regardless of origin and nature, as a sufficiently advanced intelligence might be able to avoid being proven to exist by a less intelligent species, such as humans. Bostrom's simulation hypothesis is a similar example of a hypothesis that, as yet, like the ETH, has neither been proved or disproved. Ockham's fabled razor may not apply to something an unknown multiple of intelligence far beyond ours may have.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Null_hypothesis

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statistical_inference

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

I am not an advocate of the ETH, either.

It is simply one of many hypotheses that relate to the idea and possibility of ANHI, whether of a resident or non-terrestrial kind. You don't seem to be able to discriminate that subtlety or understand clearly the definition of hypothesis.

You might be right. Or, I might be right. The point is neither you or I can prove whether the ETH is correct or not, as it's just a hypothesis, not an established fact nor disproved, so for you to claim the ETH is "a complete fiction" is logically indefensible.

You don't know for certain, nor do I. That's the conundrum. You claim otherwise.

But your claim of some omniscient verity that the ETH cannot possibly be true is on its face both irrational and illogical, since you really don't know and can't prove your claim but just presume, and so are therefore wrong to so vehemently assume.

This is really just simple logic 101. The ETH cannot be ruled either true or false at present in lieu of proof (or the means to prove it) either way. Do you get it now? It could also be rationally argued that some circumstantial and anecdotal evidence exists to suggest the presence of some form of ANHI.

Another example is the multiverse hypothesis -- we may not even be able to ever establish factually whether the multiverse exists or not.

See this link for an intriguing article on the limits of physics and science in attempting to resolve that question, "The two most dangerous numbers in physics":

yhoo.it/1JVlPv1

To me, this is like arguing whether "God" exists (or once existed) or not: it has never been proven or disproved either way, which is why, based in logic, I'm an agnostic rationalist, about whether UFOs may represent some form of ANHI or not, the multiverse, the simulation argument or God.

I just don't know, with certainty, and neither do you. These are all still very open questions. You seem unable to accept that fact.

zoamchomsky said...

There you go again, Steve: assuming the answer, ignoring the obvious, and appealing to ignorance and wild and wilder speculations to keep your belief in this dead myth alive. Now it's "advanced non-human intelligence," an undetectable ET presence. Why not drag out Keel’s “ultraterrestrials,” Vallee and Hynek’s “interdimensional entities,” or any of a dozen other worthless speculations from decades past?

Steve, what does that tired rhetoric get you? How does that help explain even one very worldly and apparent "UFO" report. Appealing to hypothetical ET, plausible and real but remote, or present but undetectable gets you absolutely nothing. This very point has been covered a thousand times in the literature over decades: the ETH for "UFO" reports is NOT falsifiable, so is not a scientifically viable hypothesis for why people make “UFO” reports. It is simply a pseudoscientific fiction of our time that’s part of the larger popular-culture “UFO” myth and delusion.

But thanks for illustrating with "an undetectable ET presence" hypothesis how the ETH is just as worthless as the "Angels' Halos" and "Invisible Unicorns From Outer Space" hypotheses.

You’re still laboring under the misconception that supernatural entities might exist simply because they’ve been suggested, an “hypothesis” asserted. But what kind of “hypothesis,” Steve? Again, non-falsifiable hypotheses are worthless.

The failure to identify—a negative--does not create an unknown supernatural entity or real unknown of any kind. A failure is simply a negative. An hypothesis about the mass of reports of failure to identity that is not testable, falsifiable, is nonsensical.

Now get this, Steve: Until one shows evidence of a phenomenon that can be considered, tested, potentially falsified, there’s nothing scientific to discuss—there is only the popular-culture fiction and its history, which is the subject of the Psychosocial hypothesis.

____________________________________________


Steve says, “The ETH cannot be ruled either true or false at present in lieu of proof (or the means to prove it) either way.”

No, Steve, it’s a negative, FALSE until it’s shown to be true. We don’t assume it’s true until proven false. By your "logic" anything--however nonsensical--could be true until proven false; but that's simply not the way the world works. In logic, probability, and in real-world practical skepticism, the absence of evidence is evidence of absence. Extraordinary things aren't true until they're shown to be true!

Then it’s more worthless appeals to “an undetectable ET presence” again, “the multiverse hypothesis,” Bostrom’s “Simulation hypothesis” and whether "God" exists.

None of which has much if anything to do with why people make very earthly “UFO” reports or the journalistic history of the “UFO” myth.

“I just don't know, with certainty, and neither do you. These are all still very open questions.”

No, Steve, that’s merely your wish and wishful assertion. I do know with certainty that the ETH is fiction; I’ve explained why.

I also know with certainty that there is no “UFO” phenomenon, there never was; it all been nothing but a mass media-manufactured myth and collective delusion, a social fiction.

cda said...

Zoam:

Whilst on your side in general, I would put to you this:

You know "with certainty" that the ETH is fiction. OK, so I now ask you: Do you know with equal certainty that no ET life exists elsewhere in the universe? The only possible answer to this is 'NO'.

Therefore, since there exists the possibility (maybe probability) that ETs exist elsewhere, presumably there is also a slight (much lower) possibility that this ET has at one time visited planet earth.

So we are getting near to the possibility, no more than that, that this ET has visited earth in recent times, aren't we?

What would be YOUR criteria for accepting this as a fact? UFO sightings obviously are nowhere near enough evidence. My question is: What WOULD be enough evidence?

zoamchomsky said...

I said, "Appealing to hypothetical ET, plausible and real but remote, or present but undetectable gets you absolutely nothing. This very point has been covered a thousand times in the literature over decades: the ETH for "UFO" reports is NOT falsifiable, so is not a scientifically viable hypothesis for why people make “UFO” reports. It is simply a pseudoscientific fiction of our time that’s part of the larger popular-culture “UFO” myth and delusion."

cda said, "What would be YOUR criteria for accepting [that this ET has visited earth in recent times]?

Evidence that was unambiguously ALIEN of course.